Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Permission, Or Forgiveness

Rate this topic


IAmMetaphysical
 Share

Recommended Posts

I got involved in a thread on another site which deals with the photography business. Someone started a thread about "tresspassing". They wanted to know if a certain instance was or was not tresspassing. After describing something that was, to me, obviously tresspassing they continued to complain about that fact and proposed a solution in the form of this quote: "It is easier to be forgiven then to be given permission" which I guess applied to tresspassing means: It is easier to violated someone's rights and then ask their forgiveness, than to not.

I was wondering if anyone knows the origin of that quote, or if they have any ideas about it. I find it incredibly evil. The situation they proposed was:

"A few years ago a group of co-workers wanted to get together and sing Christmas Carols in the buidling lobby. When someone asked if that would be OK, they told them "no, because it might offend a non-Christian, blah, blah, blah".

Justice would have been much better served if they went ahead and did it, as most reasonable people would assume they could. I would have loved to have seen someone say no then, and look a true A-hole!"

Notice the perversion of the concept of "justice". Justice to this person means the right to do anything as long as "most" people agree.

Also, they are concerned with "looking" like an A-hole rather than actually BEING one. That sentence of theirs was in response to my original response to them which was:

"Easier to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" is the mantra of an a-hole.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was wondering if anyone knows the origin of that quote, or if they have any ideas about it.
Well, here, here and here (Grace Hopper), here, here, here, here, here. Probably the same person who cleverly discover that if you assume, you make an ass of you and me. So I think you've nailed it.

It's commonly called "Stuart's Law of Retroaction", here, here inter alios. Stuart is probably a fictitious name.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, here, here and here (Grace Hopper), here, here, here, here, here. Probably the same person who cleverly discover that if you assume, you make an ass of you and me. So I think you've nailed it.

It's commonly called "Stuart's Law of Retroaction", here, here inter alios. Stuart is probably a fictitious name.

The link density of your post blows my mind! :nuke:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting quote, Meta. I don't think the quote is that bad, so long as it's not meant as some iron law. "Easier" is a vague word (natch,) but I suppose it is true (that in some instances it's easier to obtain forgiveness than to obtain permission.) It does sound a bit shady, though.

A couple of other ones I dug up while looking into the the forgiveness/permission one -

There are two rules for success...

1) Never tell everything you know.

Law of Reality: Never get into fights with ugly people, they have nothing to lose.

Iron Law of Distribution: Them that has, gets.

War doesn't determine who's right. War determines who's left.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It only promotes the bad if you somehow think that "easier" means "better".

It's HARD to be good; goodness is an ACHIEVEMENT. So, if anyone ever hits you with the quote, just ask them if they make a habit out of taking the path of least resistance. That's nothing that anyone could be proud of.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Easier to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" is the mantra of an a-hole.

I think this is right on point and I would like to add something.

I think it is actually easier to ask for permission, if you care about yourself. It's much easier to spend a little time asking for permission and sometimes deal with the consequences of being denied it than it is to deal with the mental strain of being someone who lacks respect for the property of others (and therefore lacks it for himself. If your own life is not important to you, then yes, it would be "easier" to just do whatever you want for whatever reason whenever you felt like it. Of course, if your own life is not important to you, that is the very definition of a-hole.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It only promotes the bad if you somehow think that "easier" means "better".

While I agree that it's easier to die rather than to live I do think that the implication of such a sentiment is that "easier is better". Its a very primitive form of Pragmatism, it seems. The implication is that while getting permission is the moral, getting forgiveness is the practical, and one should act immorally ON PURPOSE and then simply ask for forgiveness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's bad because it promotes wronging someone in order to get your way when you know thast you won't get their permission. Its like raping someone then asking for forgiveness. "Sorry, you didn't say I couldn't, my bad."
I certainly agree that in some cases the quote would imply immorality or be false.

But I do think it might be applicable in other cases e.g. draft dodging. I do not plan on looking up the specifics on it, but I'd guess that it might be easier to seek "forgiveness" if one's draft-dodging were brought to the surface than to seek permission to be excluded... and not get it.

Or any other similar example, if someone insists on ruining my night by negating this example.

I think it is actually easier to ask for permission...
I would agree with that in most cases.

I do think that the implication of such a sentiment is that "easier is better".
Mmm, maybe, maybe not.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or any other similar example, if someone insists on ruining my night by negating this example.

I'll really ruin your night :P

Your example and any other similar example where you are acting to avoid having your rights violated (life, in this case) is not a proper scenario for what is being discussed.

The question is: is it easier to violate someone's rights to achieve some result and then ask forgiveness or to ask the person and have the result depend on their willingness.

The moral is the practical, Groovenstein has it answered. It is easier to ask permission and deal with people by reason. Dealing by force, whether you ask for forgiveness after or not, is immoral and impractical. What if you are not forgiven? You lose someone to trade with, you gain a reputation of violating people's rights, you can get sued, you can even be subjected to revenge - including the retaliatory use of force by the offended party, even if such revenge is as immoral as your crime.

mrocktor

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I’d rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission” is a very prevalent phrase in the navy.The military is a very chain of command oriented “clear it with your superiors first” kind of organization. Sometimes decisions have to be made fast and there is no time for bureaucracy. Its times like these that the phrase is usually uttered. I’ve never heard it used outside the navy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But I do think it might be applicable in other cases e.g. draft dodging. I do not plan on looking up the specifics on it, but I'd guess that it might be easier to seek "forgiveness" if one's draft-dodging were brought to the surface than to seek permission to be excluded... and not get it.

You're confusing the actors invovlved.

In the case of a military draft, it is the government who is doing something without asking for permission from the people it should. Not that it would even seek forgiveness later.

It is moral to resist the draft. not necessarily by dodging it, but I would not condemn draft-dodgers for refusing to serve against their will.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think this is connected to whether ignorance is a valid excuse. If you want to do something which requires someone else's permission, but you dont think think they would give you it, then it may be tempting to just do it anyway and claim that you made a mistake.

An example might be if you hadnt bothered finishing a college project on time, and wanted to extend the deadline by one day. If you ask the professor if that's acceptable then you know theres a good chance he'll say "no", and then if you hand it in late youll be screwed since you'll have explicitly disobeyed him. But if instead you didnt bother asking and just handed it in late anyway, claiming that you made a mistake and thought the deadline was actually the day after it was, then theres a reasonable chance that he might not care and just tell you to be more careful in future. Basically, if you ask someone and then say 'no', then you rule out the possibility of claiming ignorance, and people will sometimes accept ignorance as being a decent excuse if they believe its genuine. Obviously the best solution would be to actually finish the project on time though.

A related idea is "dont force people into giving you ultimatums". When a person tells you that you "must do X" (eg "you must hand this project in on time") then they will generally get angry if you disobey, since they lose face - if they let you away with it then they would look weak. But if they havent explicitly told you that you 'must' do X, then they may be less annoyed if you dont do it since it doesnt necessarily look like youre disobeying/disrespecting them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The question is: is it easier to violate someone's rights to achieve some result and then ask forgiveness or to ask the person and have the result depend on their willingness.
How can you say that this is the proper scenario to test the principle and another is not? There's no point in saying the permission/forgiveness premise shouldn't be applied to particular situations, unless it's admitted that the premise is valid in some of those particular situations.

I agree with Rearden Steel (and Hal) that the quote seems to apply strongly to "bureaucratic" situations (the question of whether certain bureaucratic situations should exist is a different matter.) I also agree with Jenni that "easier" doesn't necessarily mean "better" here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have used that phrase myself on a number of occasions and actually like it. I can see the point others have made regarding the issue of trespass...the only problem is, that property rights in this country are fairly vague. A great deal of property is government owned and as such is subject to all manner of rules and regulations.

As an example, I play paintball with some friends occasionally and find that national forests make excellent locations. If you were to ask a park ranger if you could play, there'd be a good probability he would say no. If you get caught, since there is no actual law disallowing it, you could apologize and make a hasty retreat.

I think my main use of the phrase is for circumstances where I know that the answer would be no and that is unacceptable. It is easier in the sense that you are guaranteed to obtain the value you seek with a possible consequence as opposed to being gauranteed not to gain your value at all.

Just the other day, I was at home depot and had to utilize this strategy. I needed an item in an eisle that was blocked off because of a forklift in use. The two guys using the forklift were standing there having a discussion(not using the lift). So after a few moments, rather then ask whether I could pass the baracade clearly designed to keep me out, I ducked under grabbed the nails I needed and went on my way. I had to endure their dirty looks for a couple seconds, but it was a small price to pay for getting back some number of minutes of my time. To me it seemed easier and more sensible. Obviously, these are duly appointed representatives of home depot, and as such, have every right to keep that eisle blocked off for as long as they wish, but I needed nails and saw no possible harm to anything but their own misplaced senses of order. So I took my liberties.

I have always heard it used in these sorts of circumstances. I don't think many would use it as a defense for more serious crimes. "...but there wasn't a sign that said not to rob the bank..."

...which leads me to another question. I have heard it said quite often that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. On the surface, that sounds sensible, but in a country with 3-4 million laws on the books, including such notables as "it is illegal to trip a horse on purpose"-california or "it is illegal to serve wine in a teacup"-kansas it seems completely reasonable. So in a country with more 'objective' laws would that rule apply? and if so,as i assume it would haveto, should there be a limitation on the number of laws that could exist?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...