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BaalChatzaf

Do We Own Ourselves?

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Basic question: do each and every one of us own ourselves. That means, do we own our time, our energy and our bodies?

My position:

1. We own our time. We can use our time as we see fit. We can sell it, we can rent it and we can even give it away. This is of course subject to contractual constraints. If we sell our time (meaning our labor) for a price or in a trade we are obliged to do what we were paid to do, else compensate the payer for goods and labor not delivered as promised.

2. We own our energy. We can determine what we do with out time. Our labor is the manifestation of our energy expended in the time we have alloted for it.

3. We own our bodies. If we own our time and energy (labor) we surely own that which makes our labor possible in the time alloted, to wit, our bodies. We can sell parts of our bodies or donate parts. People donate/sell blood and organs. We can even bequeath our parts after our death.

4. We dispose of our lives as we see fit, subject to the constraints that we do not violate the rights of others or fail to deliver what we contracted to deliver, without compensation for default. In particular, we have the right to suicide, provided the manner of the suicided does not impose an unreasonable hazard on others or abridging or denying the rights of others.

5. We not only own our bodies, we own everything in them. That includes food, implants, or fetuses (in the case of women).

This is my position. By all means discuss and even contend.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Hi! Ba'al Chatzaf,

You forgot one thing. Despite the fact that in this wonderful country in which we are each free, as you say, to use our time and our energy as we each see fit, that some of that very real time and energy we expend is used, whether we each like it or not, in the service of our lord and master(s), by virtue, and I use that term loosely and sarcastically, of the fact that the money we each earn by being productive is taken from us in the form of income taxation to some extent, and the value of it is diminished to the extent that the keeper of the currency inflates the "coin of the realm" by printing up more that "it" gets to spend first.

Because of withholding the money we each earn does not even pass through our hands on its way to pay someone else's bills. Are you glad that the money that you have personally earned is making someone not of your choosing happy?

To sum up you are only free after taxes! You are being drained and exploited by the bloodthirsty bureaucrats only some of whom you even get to elect.

I do not expect justice to be done as it would require that every legislator, Congressman and Senator who has ever voted for your enslavement, and every voter who elected them, should have to pay each of us back for all the money taken from us, albeit legally, all our lives. It was tempting to say taken out and shot but that would not be fair would it?

Where is Ragnar when we need him?

galt

Edited by galtgulch

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Bob,

We probably agree in some basic meaning, but there is a subtle difference that leads to all kinds of mayhem when used as a seed (and bad things actually do grow).

We don't own our time. We are our time. There is no "I" that is separate from my time.

We don't own our energy. We are our energy. There is no "I" that is separate from my energy.

We don't own our bodies. We are our bodies. There is no "I" that is separate from my body.

I do agree that with hiring out your labor (which is much more than time and effort) or in bequeathing body parts, we are exercising something very similar to property rights. But there is a difference.

For instance, if I hire the services of someone and that someone does not produce what I want or defaults on it, I can usually take something from him as damages. There is no such provision for me defaulting on me when hiring myself out. I did not produce what I myself contracted so I did not receive the wages. So what am I going to do with myself as compensation?

There are some other differences. I much prefer the word "sovereignty" than "property." We are ends in ourselves and only we determine how we dispose of us. If we wish to treat parts of us as property, that is an option, but are only treating ourselves that way as part of our sovereignty, which starts with the right to life. Without this, the way is open to slavery in thinking human beings can be property.

There are some other small differences, but maybe you can see where I am coming from.

In terms of my view of a child, I expressed it well on this thread: Thoughts on rights (children and human nature)

Essentially, I hold that law has to work with definitions in order to be effective. Sometimes those definitions are context-heavy and sometimes they are fixed. I also hold that the definition of human being includes having a functioning conceptual faculty (or one that would be operative immediately on birth if still in the womb), regardless of what the level of use is. A newborn has this even though it is right at the start of use. A fetus does not. Thus for legal effects, individual rights, at least the basic right to life, must start with birth.

I cannot conceive of a human being who has not passed the stage of infancy in conceptual development. There is a cut-off point where it is a separate being from the mother's self-sovereignty. I hold the conceptual faculty is it.

Michael

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Bob,

For instance, if I hire the services of someone and that someone does not produce what I want or defaults on it, I can usually take something from him as damages. There is no such provision for me defaulting on me when hiring myself out. I did not produce what I myself contracted so I did not receive the wages. So what am I going to do with myself as compensation?

Your failure to produce the desired service or good implies an opportunity cost on the buyer. Not only did he not receive what you promised, he lost time and opportunity to get what he needed somewhere else. So you will probably be sued for compensation. The compensation will most likely be monetary. So what you will do with yourself, is work to earn money with which you will pay the compensation.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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Hi Ba'al Chatzaf,

Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.

John Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government]

I agree that we are the owners of our time, our energy and our bodies - but not with that way of stating it. We need a much more precise approach in defining our moral rights to ensure that good law could flow from our descriptions. And to ensure that any applications of these principles has a good chance of being correct. The words "time" and "energy" need to be thrown out in this context.

For example, "time" is a measurement of change and that's not a thing that can be owned. What we own is the right to act or not act - both in general, and on specific tasks. Always a right will be a reference to an action. We don't have any rights that aren't to actions. We have the sole right to decide what actions we will take in the future. So, we do own our "time" but the rights would never be described in a way that used that word.

And "energy" would be a problem for a similar reason. It is a reference to either physical/chemical energy (a capacity to do biomechanical work) or to motivational energy. "Mr. Jones, please describe to the court how many calories of your energy you agreed to provide Mr. Smith." Like the issue of our time, our energy is not available to others because we own the right to act in anyway that doesn't violate the rights of others.

I would express the property issues related to the body as a bundle of rights (moral sanctions of a kind of action). For example, we have the right to the exclusive use of our body, we have the sole right to make medical decision regarding our body, we have the right to stop any of the life processes (suicide), etc.

Although it sounds weird till you get use to it, property isn't the same as the object. That's why Locke says we have a property interest in our body. Property is the bundle of rights that define our relation to a thing and to other people relative to that thing. Property is always a relation not a thing.

Since property includes only value, and since value indicates only relationships, it follows that property is itself a relation.

Frederic Bastiat

The most important thing is never getting away from the fact that all values and all rights arise from man's life. If man has the right to life, then he has the right to all take all actions his life requires that are proper to man qua man. That becomes the moral backbone for all rights and their anchor. It establishes objectivity, the tie to human nature and it breaks the false dichotomy of Is-Ought.

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I think that saying we "literally" have a property right over our body accepts a mind-body dichotomy, as if our minds own that external object that is our bodies. We certainly have what amounts to, in effect, a property right over our bodies, but literally speaking it is not a property right.

The problem with saying that we have a property right over our own bodies and from that proceeds property rights over other things is that its a circular argument. The property rights are justified by a property right.

We need some sort of 'self-ownership' concept that isn't dependent on property. Possibly like "self-dominion" or like MSK suggested "Self-sovereignty."

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And "energy" would be a problem for a similar reason. It is a reference to either physical/chemical energy (a capacity to do biomechanical work) or to motivational energy. "Mr. Jones, please describe to the court how many calories of your energy you agreed to provide Mr. Smith." Like the issue of our time, our energy is not available to others because we own the right to act in anyway that doesn't violate the rights of others.

Easy. Your basal metabolism rate (determinable by measurement) X time your are selling your work = the number of calories of energy you are selling. And when you do a job for someone you surely are selling the energy necessary to do it.

Next question?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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If we "own" ourselves should we be able to sell ourselves into slavery?

--Brant

Indenture is a an instance of that. It is a way for a person to raise money.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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5. We not only own our bodies, we own everything in them. That includes food, implants, or fetuses (in the case of women).

This is my position. By all means discuss and even contend.

Ba'al Chatzaf

So, if you swallowed my diamond ring you'd own it?

Bob

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5. We not only own our bodies, we own everything in them. That includes food, implants, or fetuses (in the case of women).

This is my position. By all means discuss and even contend.

Ba'al Chatzaf

So, if you swallowed my diamond ring you'd own it?

Bob

If I digested it.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Steve:

> If man has the right to life, then he has the right to all take all actions his life requires that are proper to man qua man. That becomes the moral backbone for all rights and their anchor. It establishes objectivity, the tie to human nature and it breaks the false dichotomy of Is-Ought.

Hi Steve

This belief that Rand somehow resolved the "is/ought" dualism (also known as the dualism between facts and decisions) came under heavy criticism on this thread.

The criticisms are strong ones. We can summarise them as

1. She merely asserts that she has solved it, and provides no demonstration of her logic.

2. Where her reasoning can be made out, it seems to be clearly erroneous. Here is one attempt to lay it out, you may judge for yourself.

3. As well as being illogically laid out, her argument, such as it is, rests on a clear equivocation between "survival" (as in simply continuing to live) and "survival as man qua man" (continuing to live in a way proper to man, ie: being an Objectivist)

The first position is untenable for Rand, as it opens up "prudent predator" objections, makes suicide, or caring for loved ones at a cost to oneself unethical etc. Hence she equivocates, and introduces survival as "man qua man" later in the essay. But unfortunately this is an obvious petitio fallacy; as by "man qua man" she means "holding Objectivist ethics" her argument becomes roughly "one should hold Objectivist ethics to properly survive, because the only proper way to survive is by holding Objectivist ethics."

The responses to these criticisms took four main forms:

1) The attempt to lay out Rand's argument we've seen above, which was none too impressive.

2) Logically circular arguments are ok, because Rand makes them, and we should just accept them.

3) Rand's arguments may be invalid using classical deductive logic, but Rand used another form of logic that we don't know the name of, and can't actually demonstrate, that nonetheless did somehow make her claim valid.

4) Rand didn't solve the problem of the logical relation between facts and decisions, but she did show that they are somehow related.

That's pretty much it. Do you know of any better defenses? If not, I suggest that, on this basis, this commonly held belief (in Objectivist circles) is, like so many other commonly held beliefs, a myth.

Edited by Daniel Barnes

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First, I suggest that man has no intrinsic right to life. Rather, there is a natural right to liberty, which is a legal [not metaphysical] principle.

It bugs me that is/ought skepticism gets any airplay in an Objectivist forum. Miss Rand noted that nutrition cannot be derived from poisons, that we eat bread rather than stones for reasons other than convenience, and that nothing beneficial to or sustaining life is arbitrary or mysterious. Infants need vaccines, milk, etc. A thing is itself.

W.

see http://www.geocities.com/dv05131970/human_rights.html

Edited by Wolf DeVoon

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W:

>It bugs me that is/ought skepticism gets any airplay in an Objectivist forum.

If I were an Objectivist, it would 'bug' me that the only defenses that could be mustered on such a forum against basic logical criticisms of Rand were so weak.

Do you have any better defense of the belief that Rand solved the logical derivation of decisions from facts, other than the seemingly unrelated observations that we tend to eat bread rather than stones, and that a thing is itself?

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I scanned the two threads you linked and judged that your skeptical axe is aimed at severing ethics from metaphysics, correct?

Ethics are rules for trying to avoid and/or resolve these conflicts. How should I behave when interests clash? How should I balance my interests against those of others, given that we are all pursuing our individual interests?

There's not much point is discussing the question any further. Do as you wish with your life. It's yours to spend or save, as you choose.

W.

Edited by Wolf DeVoon

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W:

>I scanned the two threads you linked and judged that your skeptical axe is aimed at severing ethics from metaphysics, correct?

Nevermind all the hi-falutin' talk about "skeptical axes" and "severing ethics from metaphysics". If you can demonstrate how a decision can be logically derived from a fact without smuggling in additional assumptions, please do.

For example, here is a fact: It is sunny outside.

What decision should I logically make on this basis?

>There's not much point is discussing the question any further.

This is not much of a counter-argument.

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W:

>I scanned the two threads you linked and judged that your skeptical axe is aimed at severing ethics from metaphysics, correct?

Nevermind all the hi-falutin' talk about "skeptical axes" and "severing ethics from metaphysics". If you can demonstrate how a decision can be logically derived from a fact without smuggling in additional assumptions, please do.

For example, here is a fact: It is sunny outside.

What decision should I logically make on this basis?

>There's not much point is discussing the question any further.

This is not much of a counter-argument.

Well, you obviously think you ought to get your conclusions from the facts presented. You are actually attacking the need for rational efficacy. I think you should merely stay with the logical validity of various arguments. Otherwise, logically, all we have is our various positions juxtaposed with each other. I mean, we ought not have arguments. Right? As for your sunny fact, it seems that the logical decision would be to get more facts.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Brant:

>Well, you obviously think you ought to get your conclusions from the facts presented.

Errr...this is obviously not what I think.....;-)

Where, then?

--Brant

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PM:

>Nutrition IS necessary for survival.

If man chooses to survive, he OUGHT to obtain nutrition.

>A moral ought from a fact.

Hmmmm....I wonder what eensy teensy problem there is with Prime's argument?..;-)

Next!

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Brant:

>Where, then?

You're losing me a little. Is this some sort of meta-argument? If so can you clarify?

The issue is: can you logically derive decisions from facts? The answer appears to be no, though of course facts may influence decisions. Thus there is always a subjective element.

Rather than explain this yet again, I would prefer it - and this was the aim of my original post - if people actually have defenses of Rand, preferably based on her words, that somehow overcome the obvious logical problems I've outlined.

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Brant:

>Where, then?

You're losing me a little. Is this some sort of meta-argument? If so can you clarify?

The issue is: can you logically derive decisions from facts? The answer appears to be no, though of course facts may influence decisions. Thus there is always a subjective element.

Rather than explain this yet again, I would prefer it - and this was the aim of my original post - if people actually have defenses of Rand, preferably based on her words, that somehow overcome the obvious logical problems I've outlined.

Okay, but first, from what are decisions derived?

I don't defend Rand because I have too many issues with her. But if her arguments are flawed, could they have been better?

--Brant

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