In a previous post I attempted to paraphrase Hoppe’s idea of argumentation ethics. Now I wish to criticize my argument. First I have two general critiques, then I will go through the argument step by step.

Hoppe would reject my restatement of his argument. My version of Hoppe’s argument depends on neuroscience, which makes it an empirical argument. If neuroscience turns out to have been wrong, my argument may also be wrong. Hoppe wants to base his argument on unquestionable a priori premises. So he would not accept my empirical restatement of his argument.

I question the philosophical context of a priori justification. Make an argument complicated enough, and nearly any conclusion can be made to sound plausible. I guess I am an empiricist at heart. A priori arguments are unreliable, depend on definitions, invite equivocation, question begging, circularity, other kinds of sophistry. So to the degree that this sort of argumentation is helpful at all, it should be supplemented by critical examination. I see no way to check my math on this problem.

Here is the step by step critique:

  • My mind and brain developed together as a cohesive inseparable whole.

Most of western philosophy and culture assumes they are indeed separable. I claim neuroscience refutes this, but this is empirical and questionable.

  • My brain cannot be separated from me and still be used as a living, healthy brain.

Even if the neuroscientists are correct, perhaps we can imagine intervening to change a brain in a way that turns me into someone else. Then this becomes a normative argument, that no one ought to do so without my permission. “Electroshock treatment” is one way to reallocate my brain, to attempt to change my personality against my will.

  • The development of my mind and brain counts as an instance of homesteading or first appropriation.

A critic may claim that this is a bad metaphor. The development of a child is completely unlike other instances of property appropriation.

  • I own my brain exclusively as a result of homesteading or first appropriation.

I have a claim on my brain that is different from any other sort of property claim. How do we know the same word applies? Are we using the same concept? Can there be a contradiction if using this word constitutes equivocation?

  • Non-private-property ethics entail that no one owns anything exclusively or as a result of first appropriation.

What’s wrong with hybrids? Hoppe cites Kant, that moral principles must be general and universal. We can cite everyone who ever disagreed with Kant. Even if we agree with Kant, why can’t different sorts of physical objects in different contexts have different moral rules that apply to them on that basis? Why not make a special category for my brain?

  • If private property ethics and non-private-property ethics exhaust our options, refuting non-private-property makes private property a logical necessity.

That’s a big if.