Thursday, November 24, 2005

... also they live on cheese

To: Billy Beck
Subject: An apparently unrelated matter

Quoth you:

> I stopped calling myself an Objectivist nearly fifteen years ago.
> However...
> >... or at least subscribe to certain Objectivist tenets,
> > including Rand's theory of concept formation.
> ...I am convinced that *that* very thing is *the* premier
> philosophical
> achievement of the 20th century, bar none.

Actually, I rather agree. I find it odd, however that, having said such a thing, you'd then forego using that method of concept formation in favor of Humpty Dumpty's.

> The person who originally established that as the definition of
> socialism
> so that simpletons like you could tear it off the dotted-line for
> rote
> recital should have been *shot dead on the spot*.

Because: "When _Billy Beck_ uses a word, it means just what Billy Beck chooses it to mean -- neither more nor less." Humpty's Conceptual Method is convenient, I'll give it that. Its utility, however, is limited -- it's not good for much except letting people convince themselves that they can have their way at the expense of reality.

> Now, look: you can be insulted if you want to. It makes no
> serious
> difference to me, because I'm the one dealing in facts and truth.
> But you
> shouldn't be. That's because there is something for you to learn
> in all
> this -- whether *I* can teach it or not -- and you could *stop*
> being a
> simpleton.

You're right. There _was_ something for me to learn. I'm not sure that I wanted to know that the War Party was composed of initiates into some kind of secret Lewis Carroll cult, though. Frankly, I could have slept a bit easier thinking y'all were just a bunch of closet Moonies or Shachtmanites or something.

> I will not require history of theory.

Of course not. You're too busy spinning your new reality to let silly things like the existing one get in the way. What was I thinking?

> Serious people, Thomas -- whether you like it or not, or want to
> cartoon it
> as something like "foot-stomping" -- will understand and be able to
> come to
> grips with something like Tibor Machan's argument that "the debate
> between
> the collectivist and the individualist is at heart a *metaphysical*
> debate".

Yes, it is. And I could probably write a short book on your error from that very perspective. You want to treat epistemology as _independent_ of metaphysics, and in particular as independent of the requirements of _identity_. You want concepts to mean exactly what you want them to mean -- neither more nor less.

> This is an assertion -- a competent and, I say, true one -- that
> places the
> matter in a domain necessarily logically prior to the *derivative*
> context
> of political economy.

It's a competent and true assertion, but it's not a _necessary_ assertion if all you're wanting to do is place the matter in a domain logically prior to the derivative context of political economy. Political economy focuses on the economies of states. Since there are at least two broad tracks of socialist thought (state and non-state) which one cannot deny the existence of without completely wiping history's slate (of, for example, the Proudhon/Bakunin-Marx/Engels split, the collapse of the First International, etc.), then yes, the matter of socialism's definition ust logically fall prior to that split into areas in which political economy is relevant and areas in which it is irrelevant.

> Whether one endorses Machan's assertion or
> disputes
> it, or how, the debate certainly cannot be *predicated* on an
> "essential"
> like "collective ownership of the means"

In other words, if you can't wave a wand and make a concept mean something other than what it means, then dip into a more fundamental level of philosophy to try and find a debate you _can_ win.

> and this fact is
> demonstrated with
> the case of two men who own a plumbing business together and which
> case
> would only do manifest absurdity to any debate in which *that* was
> seriously
> introduced as an example of "socialism".

I'm not sure what you mean by "seriously." You trolled that example in front of me -- without details -- in the hope that I'd swallow some kind of unidentified hook. Reel all you like, but all you'll be pulling back in is your own bait.

> That's called a
> "business", in
> plain terms, and it is distinguished from socialism in the plain
> fact that
> either of those two men can sever his relationship to "the means of
> production" -- which he "collectively owns" with his brother -- on
> his own
> authority and people in socialism don't get to do that.

In some instantiations of socialism they can, in fact, do exactly that. You're also missing an important element there, which is whether they can sever their relationship with the "collective" _and_ take some portion of the "means of production" -- or some compensation for a pro rata share of it -- with them when they do. The anarcho-syndicalist cooperative I belong to includes that feature as well.

> This is a
> poltical
> consequence of logical integrity down to metaphysical assertions --
> completely different conceptions of what the world is.

Indeed it is. One point that your missing is that sometimes variant metaphysical assertions arrive at the same destinations as others. That's why you'll find adherents of schools as varied as those of Rand and Kant in the libertarian movement -- their premises are certainly very different, but their conclusions in one or more specific areas are the same, or at least similar enough to create similar interests.

For example, my metaphysical and epistemological grounding is, for all intents and purposes, Objectivist and my orientation is individualist rather than collectivist. However, from this I derive not some "spiritual" fight between "individualism" and "collectivism," but rather an ethos of in which any manner of economic organization -- including the nominally collective -- is acceptable so long as coercion is not among its features.

> (And don't
> try to
> pull any 'god' or 'religion' crap with me. I don't know that you
> would, but
> I'm just telling you. None of that has anything to do with it.
> *Certainly*
> not necessarily.)

Wouldn't dream of it.

> A statement of the *political arrangement* of
> socialism
> is not an "essence" of the thing: it's a high-level implication.

Precisely. And the *political arrangement* falls into one of two categories: coercive or non-coercive. That categorical is logically above and beyond the essential definition of the thing.

> And you
> can prove this to yourself by reflecting on the fact that everybody
> knows
> there is a difference between a business -- which fits your
> so-called
> "essential" definition -- and socialism.

If "everybody knows" something which happens to be false, that's their cross to bear. I don't intend to make it mine.

> "You can't get there from
> here"
> without tracing back down the conceptual hierarchy -- all the way
> back down
> to *existence* itself, if you have to -- to find out why you're
> asserting
> something that every intelligent person is going to tell you is
> just wrong.

Wow. I don't recall even Humpty asserting that words would mean _to others_ exactly what he wanted them to mean, neither more nor less. Don't ever let anyone tell you you ain't got balls.

> > -- and even the "the" part is debatable as a possible
> > case of omitted measurement.
> It is ridiculous to entertain that so-called "definition" and I
> will not do
> it. Certainly not with technical tools of Objectivist
> epistemology.
> They're worth a lot more than that, and not even necessary at this
> point in
> this.

In other words, "don't get technical with me, dammit [stomp] -- when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."


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