Here are some Hoppe quotes and my responses.
I demonstrate that only the libertarian private property ethic can be justified argumentatively, because it is the praxeological presupposition of argumentation as such; EEPP p341.
Why does he use this phrase, “justified argumentatively”, rather than “true” or some other more specific phrase? One possible interpretation is that he wants to avoid actually arguing that the private property ethic is true, that he is satisfied to show that all the others have more problems. This would leave open the possibility that none are true. If the private property ethic is indeed the praxeological presupposition of argumentation, can it also be false? Another interpretation is that because he is arguing, he must embrace the norms presupposed by argumentation, and hence his action of arguing demonstrates his implicit endorsement of the truth of the private property ethic. Hoppe is not shy about claiming that rival ethics are falsified, why is he reluctant to say private property is verified?
and that any deviating, nonlibertarian ethical proposal can be shown to be in violation of this demonstrated preference. EEPP p341.
The phrase “demonstrated preference” seems inappropriate. If this was a case of violating a demonstrated preference, that would be analogous to a shopper standing in the grocery line with a cart full of eggs, saying “I do not want eggs, I’d really rather have bacon.” It seems to me, a better analogy would be a shopper in the grocery line saying “grocery stores are evil and should be abolished.” To violate a demonstrated preference would mean that you are capable of choosing X and you prefer to choose X, but you actually choose Y. Hoppe discusses a broader and more serious category of hypocrisy or self-contradiction. One cannot choose from among different property ethics while acting, so one is not demonstrating a preference for the locally enforced ethic. One may choose what ethic to espouse at any moment, but one may only choose among different ethics in effect by moving to a different political jurisdiction.
[T]he question of what is just or unjust[….] only arises insofar as I am, and others are, capable of propositional exchanges, i.e., of argumentation. The question does not arise vis-à-vis a stone or fish because they are incapable of engaging in such exchanges and of producing validity claiming propositions. EEPP p341.
Stones and fishes do not worry about property or justice. They do not possess that which argumentation presupposes. Of course, argumentation may presuppose many things in addition to the preconditions that interest Hoppe.
[I]t must be considered the ultimate defeat for an ethical proposal if one can demonstrate that its content is logically incompatible with the proponent’s claim that its validity be ascertainable by argumentative means. EEPP p342.
Hoppe seems more concerned with showing that all rivals to private property are false than showing the anything is true. Why leave open the possibility that they are all false?
[T]he means which a person demonstrates as preferring by engaging in propositional exchanges are those of private property. For one thing, no one could possibly propose anything, and no one could become convinced of any proposition by argumentative means, if a person’s right to make exclusive use of his physical body were not already presupposed. EEPP p342.
Here Hoppe makes a very modest claim about people using their bodies to argue, but obscures it with fancy language allowing it to become confusing. I interpret him to say, you cannot argue unless you own your brain and at least some parts of your body. Others may quibble that the relationship between my mind and my body is not exactly analogous to the relationship between me and the other things I own, for instance, because I cannot sell my brain without also selling myself. Even if we indulge these quibblers by making this form of possession special, it still serves Hoppe’s purpose in establishing a standard that arguers may not violate. Hoppe may use that as a basis to build his argument, by showing that private property is compatible with this aspect of argumentation and its rivals are not.
It is this recognition of each other’s mutually exclusive control over one’s own body which explains the distinctive character of propositional exchanges that, while one may disagree about what has been said, it is still possible to agree at least on the fact that there is disagreement. EEPP p342.
This statement confuses me. Following Frederick’s lead, I interpret it as saying that argumentation takes place among persons who participate voluntarily.
It is also obvious that such a property right to one’s own body must be said to be justified a priori, for anyone who tried to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose the exclusive right of control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say, “I propose such and such.” EEPP p342.
Here Hoppe mentions a “norm” for the first time. Previously he has referred to “ethic.” From the context, I am fairly certain that Hoppe intends that norms must be timeless and universal. But this is not obvious to critics such as Frederick or Murphy and Callahan, or at least they do not see how Hoppe moved from “I must control my body while I argue” to “I own my body at all times.” I must admit, I would appreciate a more detailed explanation myself.
For if no one had the right to control anything at all except his own body, then we would all cease to exist and the problem of justifying norms simply would not exist. Thus, by virtue of the fact of being alive, property rights to other things must be presupposed to be valid. EEPP p342.
Here Hoppe tries to generalize from property in the arguer’s body to property in general. Again, his argument seems to depend on the timeless nature of the norms he discusses. Or at least, his argument makes more sense it that light. If we are discussing historically contingent norms, we may choose norms that lead to our destruction without contradicting ourselves. Whatever might convince us that humanity should be ended would need to be a very convincing argument, but if norms are historically contingent, and I may have rights now that I no longer have later, we can imagine possibly becoming convinced of such a thing. But if norms are of necessity timeless, then the skeptic must argue not only that it is just to destroy humanity, but also that all of human history is a mistake which never should have happened. Because if, for example, justice does not change, and private property is unjust and state socialism is just, then primitive arguers were in an impossible situation, as no state existed to justify their homesteading, yet their existence depended upon it.
I am still confused about this aspect of the argument. It is not contradictory for me to argue that I want to take a risk in order to achieve some goal, though the risk may cause my destruction. It is only a question of my attitude toward risk and the amount of benefit I expect to receive. I could even choose certain destruction, for the sake of a sufficiently profound result.
So how would I restate the argument to make myself more comfortable with it? Norms are timeless, so that which is legitimate now was always legitimate, and that which was once legitimate will always be legitimate. Homesteading was necessary among primitive people, there were no alternatives, so it was legitimate and so it will always be legitimate. If homesteading is legitimate, other means of initial acquisition are illegitimate. The only question then is, what qualifies as homesteading, and what does not? Different actual existing property regimes can disagree about the details, but the outline is clear.
[T]he praxeological proof of libertarianism has the advantage of offering a completely value-free justification of private property. It remains entirely in the realm of is-statements and never tries to derive an “ought” from an “is.” The structure of the argument is this: (a) justification is propositional justification—a priori true is-statement; (b) argumentation presupposes property in one’s body and the homesteading principle—a priori true is-statement; and (c) then, no deviation from this ethic can be argumentatively justified—a priori true is-statement. The proof also offers a key to an understanding of the nature of the fact-value dichotomy: Ought-statements cannot be derived from is-statements. They belong to different logical realms. It is also clear, however, that one cannot even state that there are facts and values if no propositional exchanges exist, and that this practice of propositional exchanges in turn presupposes the acceptance of the private property ethic as valid. In other words, cognition and truth-seeking as such have a normative foundation, and the normative foundation on which cognition and truth rest is the recognition of private property rights. EEPP p342.
So is a “normative foundation” not an ought-statement? Or is it an ought-statement that was not derived from an is-statement? How do we know that this normative foundation is valid? Is it due to the “argumentation presupposes property” argument, or because of some other argument? Hoppe has not provided any other argument to support it. Hoppe himself claims (b) is a true a priori is-statement. In (b), argumentation is an is-statement, “argumentation happens.” But property is a normative foundation. So (b) claims that if (is-statement) is true, then (normative foundation) is true. If we interpret the normative foundation as an ought-statement, Hoppe’s action contradicts his previous statement, that “ought-statements cannot be derived from is-statements.”
Graf seeks to rescue Hoppe by categorizing rights separately from ought-statements. According to my interpretation of him, we can use is-statements to describe what rights are and to determine what is a violation of rights. The only ought-statement in the area of rights answers the simple question, ought we to fulfill the duties defined by property rights? (In case I am not being clear, note that Graf does not claim that this is the only ought question in the realm of morality, just the only ought-statement that pertains to this particular subject, property rights.)
But even if we agree with Graf, Hoppe is being unnecessarily obscure, by concentrating so strictly upon falsifying rival property schemes, while ignoring the truth status of the private property ethic. We can hardly consider seriously the possibility that we should abandon the practice of argumentation. Yet by Hoppe’s logic, if the private property ethic is also false, that is what we must do. So we must endorse the private property ethic as true, mustn’t we?
How do we know that Hoppe’s argument produces a timeless, universal norm? Does Hoppe anywhere provide reasons to believe that justice in property cannot be historically contingent?
[E]veryone knows what it means to claim something to be true (one cannot deny this statement without claiming its negation to be true). EEPP314.
Let me quibble. The negation of that statement is, there exists at least one person who does not know what it means to claim something to be true. This is obviously true of infants. Apparently, Hoppe may have intended to claim that everyone who participates in argumentation knows what it means to claim something to be true.
[G]iven that truth claims are raised and settled in argumentation and that argumentation […] is a practical affair, it follows that intersubjectively meaningful norms must exist—precisely those which make some action an argumentation—which have a special cognitive status in that they are the practical preconditions of objectivity and truth. Hence, one reaches the conclusion that norms must indeed be assumed to be justifiable as valid. EEPP315
This confuses me a lot. Is Hoppe speaking about norms as timeless, universal rules, or just contingent patterns of behavior? There are intersubjectively meaningful norms (agreed-upon rules) that make some action a chess move, or a dance. These have no universal or timeless character, and no special cognitive status (wish I knew where that came from and where it was going). Playing chess also requires me to have a brain and a body. Maybe we are discussing exactly the same norms? But in that case, they are not “precisely those which make some action an argumentation.” There are preconditions for any activity, and some of them are shared by all activities.
What is Hoppe trying to tell us? Is it just that propositions about norms can be true or false?
[O]ne sees that the answer to the question of which ends can or cannot be justified is not to be deduced from the wider concept of human nature but from the narrower one of argumentation. EEPP315.
I can’t interpret Hoppe’s argument about property and homesteading as answering the question of which ends can or cannot be justified. Property, it seems to me, is all about what means may or may not be used. What am I missing here?
[A]rgumentation implies that a proposition claims universal acceptability or should it be a norm proposal, that it be “universalizable.” EEPP316
If the argument makes no assumptions about persons, it applies to all persons. If it makes no assumptions about time, it applies to all times. But Hoppe’s argument does make assumptions about persons, that they are arguing. It makes an assumption about time, that when argumentation occurs, self-ownership or property has been presupposed. This is the limitation that Murphy and Callahan tried to explain so poorly. Frederick did a bit better. Anyhow, as convenient as it would be to say “this is a norm, so it must be universalizable,” we must first establish that it is that sort of norm. For us to say, it is a norm, so it must be universal and timeless, would be to beg the question. The critics are being more fair when they say, it is not universal or timeless, so it is not a norm. Hoppe may be able to overcome this difficulty, but not so easily.
[T]he norm implied in argumentation is that everybody has the right to exclusively control his own body as his instrument of action and cognition. […] Any person who would try to dispute the property right in one’s own body would become caught up in a contradiction. EEPP317-8
This is the clearest statement of Hoppe’s presupposition premise. If he convinces us of this statement, he has won. The odd thing is that he doesn’t try that hard to convince us. Hoppe leaves the explicit jump from self-control, to pseudo-ownership within the context of argumentation, to full ownership as a timeless universal norm, as an exercise for the motivated reader.
It no more follows from the classification of the libertarian ethic as “fair” or “just” that one ought to act according to it, than it follows from the concept of validity or truth that one should always strive for it. EEPP322
Is/ought, take that!
[A]ll of the practiced alternatives to libertarianism and most of the theoretically proposed nonlibertarian ethics would not even pass the first formal universalization test and would fail for this fact alone! EEPP323
Status quo, take that!
Where are we now? How can we move forward?