Arkadi

prohibition to initiate violence

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Hello, all--I'm new to Ayn Rand and this Forum, so I apologize in advance for a possible naivete of my questions:

(1) Is the ethical prohibition to initiate violence against any individual is accepted in AR's philosophy as a self -evident principle (=axiom) ? Or is it deduced from some principles that are considered more basic?

(1.a) If the latter, what are those principle and the logic by which the inference in question is made?

(2) Is any taxation whatsoever considered in AR's philosophy as a violation of the tenet indicated in (1)?

(2.a) If not, what are the exceptions?

Thanks.

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Not axiomatic, but based on a chain of reasoning.

Rand called for "voluntary" taxation but didn't dwell on the subject. I suspect because you can't get there from here for there is no there.

--Brant

read VOS and CUI

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Here is an interesting letter on the subject of the non initiation of force principle.

Peter

From: AchillesRB@aol.com
To: atlantis@wetheliving.com
Subject: Re: ATL: Did Ayn Rand discover the NIOF principle?
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 14:22:09 EST

I have a definitive Rand quote to help settle the dispute summarized in the following comments:

Ellen Moore:
> It is only libertarians who want to call the Objectivist politics "Libertarianism". They want to grasp onto the Objectivist premise of "non-initiation of force" identified by Rand. They want to grasp onto her moral premise of "individual rights".

Bill Dwyer:
>Is Ellen suggesting that Rand was the first to identify the non-initiation of force principle, and that libertarians simply appropriated that principle after she discovered it? As I recall, Rand did claim that she was the first to discover the principle that rights can only be violated by the initiation of force (or fraud).

Morganis Chamlo:
>I'd be very interested in any verification (or, as some would demand: "proof") of this, Bill.

Bill Dwyer
>Well, I ~heard~ her claim it in her own words on tape, but it's been a long time and I can't remember the precise source. So if anyone asked me to back it up with a citation, I'd be hard pressed to do so. What I remember is that someone asked her {Ayn Rand} a question about what she considered original in her philosophy, and I just remember her saying that in the area of politics, not much except the NOIF [NIOF} principle -- that she considered that an original contribution.

Barbara Branden:
>It is possible that you are correct that Ayn Rand was claiming the nonaggression principle to be her original contribution, but it is highly unlikely. I never heard her make such a claim, nor, to the best of my knowledge, is it present in her written work. I think it much more likely that she was claiming originality for her integration of the nonaggression principle with the whole of her philosophical system.

Bill Dwyer:
>it is nonetheless clear that the non-aggression principle is not one that Rand originated, and for her to claim that she did sounds just a bit disingenuous, Morganis Chamlo:
>Pardon me if I interject here, but, I do believe that Rand never claimed anything of the kind. She *claimed*, if anything, to have made a rationally-based metaphysical and epistemological Logical justification of the idea properly being a basic tenet in the arena of Morality. No small feat! She did not claim to have "originated" the *idea*, any more than she did of the *idea* of Pegasus. She... merely...showed the logical Integration of the idea in any rational "Philosophy of Life"; something no one else had managed to do. Whoever came up with the *idea* of the non-aggression principle is of interest to only historians. Whoever came up with the Justification of it; now, that's of interest to all freedom-lovers.

In Leonard Peikoff's 1975-76 lectures on Objectivism, Ayn Rand took part in some of the question-answer sessions, and in lecture 8, she corrected a questioner about what were the "important" concepts of her philosophy, and she said:

"I would say the most important parts of my philosophy are my definition of concepts, of concept-formation, my ethics, and my discovery or definition in politics that the violation of rights consists of the initiation of force."

Peikoff underscores this point in lecture 9, where he says:

"Now, how can rights, speaking of proper, individual, political rights, be violated? In essence, by one method only, by compulsion, by the involuntary -- in other words, by physical force, directly or indirectly. THIS IS ONE OF AYN RAND'S MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES IN THE FIELD OF POLITICS. THE ISSUE OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS WAS GRASPED IN THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES, BUT EARLIER THINKERS LEFT OPEN THE ISSUE: HOW DO YOU KNOW ~OBJECTIVELY~ WHEN A RIGHT HAS BEEN VIOLATED?

Just prior to this (also in lecture 9), Peikoff was discussing "the Objectivist principle of the evil of the initiation of force," which he regarded as "a final principle necessary to understand before we turn explicitly and systematically to politics." Now, it's important to note that even though, as Peikoff says, Objectivism holds this as "a fundamental social principle," neither Peikoff nor Rand (so far as I know) made any claim that the NIOF principle is original to Objectivism or Ayn Rand.

What ~is~ original to her and/or Peikoff, and I find it very impressive, is the explanation of NIOF in terms of the objective-subjective-intrinsic trichotomy. And their thorough philosophic justification of this principle -- even apart from the further connection to individual rights violation, and even granting that NIOF itself was not Rand's discovery -- is a genuine philosophic contribution.

So, Bill is correct (and Ellen Moore is incorrect), in regard to Rand's "identifying" the non-initiation of force principle. As Bill has noted, its roots are deep in our Western, individualist heritage, and it is clearly absurd to say that Rand "identified" NIOF, in the sense of originating it.

However, Bill is incorrect in saying that Rand plagiarized the idea and/or claimed to have originated it. What she claimed as her original discovery was not the identification of the NIOF principle itself, but instead identification that the violation of rights with the initiation of force. Since the latter concept is an ethical concept and the former a political concept, this amounts to the core of Rand's bridging the gap between ethics and politics. As such, it is a highly important contribution. And my own reading of Auberon Herbert and others Bill cites does not convince me that they really hit the nail on the head. Instead, it appears that they very eloquently and inspiringly danced all around it, while Rand gets the cigar for thinking in terms of fundamentals. She really ~was~ an integrative, systematic thinker, as Barbara and Morganis state. (And there, Morganis, is your "proof" that Rand did claim, as Bill originally, correctly stated, that she discovered the principle that rights can only be violated by the initiation of force (or fraud) -- and the "proof" that she did ~not~, as Bill later, incorrectly stated, claim to have discovered the NIOF principle itself.)

Best to all,
Roger Bissell

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There's another consideration, also.

Just because individual rights can only be violated by initiation of force (if you agree with Rand, which I do), that does not mean all initiation of force violates individual rights.

I recall John Hospers talking about boxing, for instance...

:smile:

Michael

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Boxers start force, not initiate it. A ditch digger starts using force too--not initiate.

--Brant

"start" is the broader, dominant concept. "Initiate" is derivative of it; more specialized.

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Boxers start force, not initiate it. A ditch digger starts using force too--not initiate.

--Brant

"start" is the broader, dominant concept. "Initiate" is derivative of it; more specialized.

Brant,

In all due respect, horseshit.

:)

Let's try to parse reality and split deadly germs and things like that, not synonyms.

Words are supposed to reflect reality, not create it.

Michael

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Michael--

An interesting point. However, as I understand AR (via Peikoff) what is essential is whether or not it is by consent. Thus forgery is an (indirect) initiation of forcing one to consent to something one does not want to.

Otherwise, sex would be as good an example as is boxing.

p.s.

Distinguishing between "starting" and "initiating" reminded me of my Landmark Forum experience, where someone, in a response to me, said that "promise is not a guarantee" :)

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Arkadi,

So you think NIOF should become NIOFEWC (Non-Initiation Of Force Except When Consensual)?

:)

I can come up with other cases, too. Even ones that are not consensual. Suppose a person is freaking out and damaging himself or getting ready to commit suicide. Someone initiates force against him and restrains him. After he comes to, he is grateful. He would have died had someone not initiated force against him against his will at the time. Is that immoral? Saying that's immoral doesn't make any sense to me.

So shall we extend the acronym to include these cases as well?

:)

And I could go on.

My point is it's a slippery slope to nowhere when NIOF is divorced from individual rights (and even human life as a standard) as some libertarians do and enshrine it as a standalone not-to-be-questioned all-encompassing rule for human behavior.

Initiation of force is a way to violate individual rights (the essential way according to Rand). It is not a contextless evil. There are contexts where it is actually good.

btw - I like to watch boxing. Kat can't stand it, so we don't watch it much. :)

Michael

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I don't like to see people trying to hurt each other--especially the head.

If we're going to continue about initiation, then bring in Rand's ethics of emergencies.

--Brant

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Michael--

"So you think NIOF should become NIOFEWC (Non-Initiation Of Force Except When Consensual)?"--

According to Peikoff, as I understood him, yes, it should.

And I think I understand how this follows with necessity from objectivist premises.

But if you ask me, I am not an objectivist (as of now, at least).

Thus I totally agree with your intuition about the suicide example.

Yet I fail to see how one could possibly justify this intuition on the orthodox objectivist grounds.

(BTW, am wondering why am I not getting notifications about the comments as I requested in my settings :()

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p.s. In the case of a person attempting suicide, the grounds for your initiating force seems to be the malfunctioning of his reasoning. (Please correct me if you had any other grounds for such action in mind).

But the reasoning of quite a few "sane" people is, arguably, malfunctioning as well.

How could one otherwise explain, e.g., that the Germans democratically elected Hitler?

So, if saving a person from acting on his or her self-harming reasoning is ethically valid, taxation is, also, not necessary unethical.

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Hitler--the Nazis--was given the government. He then took on dictatorial powers.

The bridge between WWI and WWII was France.

France and Great Britain had more to do with starting those two wars than Germany did--not that Germany didn't stink up the joint.

--Brant

WWI was the one gigantic event that continues to inform and shape the world we live in

it's hard to complain for if things were different none of us would exist; we'd all be other people

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