[ExI] The What and the Why/was Re: libertarians and inheritance

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue May 5 16:12:57 UTC 2009

--- On Tue, 5/5/09, John K Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net> wrote:
> "Dan" <dan_ust at yahoo.com>
>> My statement was and remains that you're _not_ a
>> libertarian [.] The
>> ability to draw conclusions about some point of view
>> does not mean one is
>> an adherent of that point of view.
> So according to you to be a supporter of an idea a belief
> in good results
> derived from that idea is not sufficient to become a true
> adherent. You
> think there must be something else, something more
> important than the
> conclusions derived from a point of view. I can't imagine
> what that
> something else could be except faith.

Not at all.  A libertarian is someone who believes in and follows (as much as possible) libertarian principles -- with the defining principle being non-initiation of force.  To be a libertarian is to fit that definition.  Now, why one is a libertarian is another matter all together.  One might be one, for instance, because one is basically a neo-Aristotelean (e.g., Eric Mack) or an Objectivist (e.g., George H. Smith) or a neo-Kantian (e.g., early Robert Nozick) and has worked out philosophical reasoning for this.  (Reasoning from principles does NOT mean one ignores experience or consequences.  Neo-Aristoteleans and Objectivists would call that a false dichotomy between reason and experience or theory and fact.  Neo-Kantians might offer that all experience has to be funneled through pre-experiential intuitions or models.)  Or one might be religious or even just accept the principles out of habit.

But my point is you've already told us you would lay aside these principles and under what circumstances -- particularly, that you'd murder someone if enough money were involved.  How is that different from someone saying, "Well, I'm no libertarian at all.  I won't use force in most cases, but when it suits me -- if, say, enough money is involved or I just don't like the shirt you're wearing -- I'll initiate force."?
> I don't have faith in anything and think it's a vice not a
> virtue. If I come
> to the conclusion that one of my ideas is not as productive
> as a competing
> idea I have absolutely no loyalty and will switch sides in
> one second flat.
> If somebody has a better argument than I have I will drop
> my old point of
> view and embrace the new one as my own. I'm a libertarian
> but even that
> doesn't get a free pass, it has to earn its way.

See above.  I believe you're making a category error: confusing the reason for adhering to a principle with the actual adherence to it -- conflating the What with the Why...

Perhaps an analogy might prove helpful here.  Imagine someone were to be a Neptunist -- basically, the view that rocks formed by crystalizing from seawater -- not just some, but all.  One might hold that view because one has looked over a lot of evidence and heard and seriously believed the arguments.  This wouldn't be irrational.  After all, Neptunists one time held sway in geology AND their evidence and reasoning was not off the wall: it fit a lot of the known facts.  Now, imagine this Neptunist stumbles on to more modern theories and more recent evidence.  She becomes convinced that Neptunism really doesn't explain much; at best, it only works for sedimentary rock.  Now, is she still a Neptunist?  Or has she moved on and become a non-Neptunist?

In your case, you've already admitted moving on.  Whether this was the right thing to do is open to debate, but why maintain that you're still a libertarian?




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