I am still having trouble understanding Hoppe’s argumentation ethics. Here is my latest sketch of Hoppe’s Argument:
- Using reasons and evidence to deny a proposition is a kind of argument.
- Deny a necessary precondition or premise of an argument and you deny that argument.
- Any argument that denies a necessary precondition of the activity of argumentation denies the basis of argumentation, and so contradicts itself.
- The act of argumentation itself presupposes self-ownership.
- Any argument that denies self-ownership, contradicts itself.
Proposition 1 is obvious, by definition.
Proposition 2 says that an argument cannot take place if some necessary precondition is missing. The act of argument is equivalent to making a truth claim for all necessary preconditions of that argument. A dead person cannot argue, because argument presupposes living participants. So the act of arguing equates to a claim of “I am alive.” Two persons that lack a common language cannot argue because argument presupposes communication. So arguing equates to a claim that “we speak the same language.” Certain facts must hold true for argument to proceed. Some of these facts are specific to a particular argument, perhaps facts about the participants. (Different arguments may presuppose different preconditions.) Others apply to arguments in general. (All arguments share certain preconditions.)
Proposition 3 explains that any claim contradicts itself if it denies one of the general preconditions of argumentation. If I claim “I am dead” I create a performative contradiction. Dead men make no claims. For me to claim that “you and I do not share any common language” creates a performative contradiction. Although we may shout at each other and make plenty of noise, in order to argue we must share a common language.
Proposition 5 applies proposition 3 to self-ownership. If self-ownership is a general precondition of argument (as claimed by proposition 4), any argument that denies self-ownership contradicts itself.
Proposition 4 is the one that is difficult to explain.
[N]o 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. [Hans-Herman Hoppe, EEPP page 342]
Here Hoppe passes over an issue that critics such as Murphy and Callahan dispute, when he refers to a right rather than an ability to use one’s body exclusively. Apparently he considers this idea self-evident, needing no further explanation. His critics disagree, and I believe this statement critically determines the success or failure of Hoppe’s argument. His oversight is my opportunity. In my next blog post, I will examine the evidence for and against Hoppe’s claim. If argument presupposes a right of self-ownership, Hoppe wins. If argument presupposes something weaker, he fails.
Where are we now? How can we move forward?