Friday, August 5, 2016

On Language and Thought

 "Language is the perfect element in which interiority is as external as exteriority is internal." -Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit

Language precedes thought. Such a radical thesis will slowly prove convincing through an analysis of set theory, its relation to language, and its paradoxes. It will soon become clear that language is the first and only immediate thought; all others presuppose language and are mediated by it. 

We should first start out with the set. A set is, quite intuitively, a grouping of elements; and elements can be just about anything. Mathematicians tend to talk about sets of numbers, in which numbers are the elements. For example, there is the set of all even numbers which includes 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. It is also represented or signified as E = {2, 4, 6, 8, ... }. There can also be a set of existing entities. For example, we can have the set of all frogs or the set of all green objects.

In this way, sets are also the basic unit of language. The word is the category. What I mean by this is that all words are sets or relationships between those sets. For example, when I say the word "frog," I really mean the set of all frogs. When I say the word "green," I really mean the set of all green objects. On the other hand, when I say a phrase like "the frog is green," "is" relates the frog to its appropriate color, and the article "the" (which is not even present in every language) specifies a certain frog, rather than any frog, which would be denoted by the article "a." So in this sense, the words "frog" and "green" are sets, and the words "is" and "the" are relationships between those sets. Hence, set theory is really the purest language, the language par excellence, since it specifies this aspect of all signifiers (or words) and the relationships between them. All nouns and adjectives are sets, and all other words are relationships between those sets. If language is abstraction of reality, then set theory is language in the abstract -- an abstraction of the abstraction. 

However, there is a paradox within set theory which arises. And that paradox arises from "the set of all sets which are not elements of themselves." Sometimes referred to as Russell's Paradox, the conundrum arises from the fact that if such a set belongs to itself, it does not; and if it does not belong to itself, then it does. An explanation is in order. Imagine a set which is not an element of itself. We can use the above example, the even numbers. Surely, the numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 are elements of such a set. Yet the set of such numbers is not itself an even number. Nor is a set such as A = {2, 4, 6}. A definitely contains even numbers. But the set itself is not an even number. And so A would not be an element of the even numbers. Similarly, the set of all even numbers would not be an element of itself -- it would not be an element of the set of all even numbers. So, again imagine the set of all sets which are not elements of themselves. If such a set is not an element of itself, it must be an element of itself by virtue of not being an element of itself -- since this very set is the set of all sets which are not elements of themselves! And if it IS an element of itself, then it cannot be, since this set includes only sets which are not elements of themselves! Hence the paradox.

Now, Giorgio Agamben puts this paradox most cleverly when he states that "language is the set of all sets which are not elements of themselves." In an immediate way, this makes sense. After all, as was stated, language is really the set of all words. But no word, as a set, actually contains itself as an element. For example, the set of green objects, which might include frogs, leaves, and celery, does not include the word green as an element. The word green is not itself green. The word frog is similar. Although it might contain my pet frog Roger, it does not contain itself. The word frog is not itself a frog! And so, since language contains all such sets, language can be seen as the set of all sets which are not elements of themselves. 

The contradiction of language is therefore best exemplified in the language par excellence, which is set theory. What was originally viewed as a contradiction within a language is now revealed as a contradiction within language itself. Russell's Paradox is not merely a problem for set theory: it is the paradox of all languages.

But what does it mean to say that language is the set of all sets which are not elements of themselves? Firstly, it implies that language both is and is not an element of itself. Although sounding nonsensical at first, this actually is generally correct. "Word" is, after all, a word. As is "language." Hence, language is an element of itself. "Language" is a word within language. "Word" is a word among words.

On the other hand, language is not an element of itself. It must be presupposed before any word actually arises. Otherwise, the word could never arises as a word. Language is therefore presupposed before it actually arises. It cannot, in this sense, be an element of itself, as the thought of it precedes itself. Its notion exists before it is itself made into a set. That is, it exists immediately as a notion without actual lingual specifications. The idea of linguistic communication can occur without the realization or actualization of that idea. One must directly imagine linguistic communication before the first word arises. 

So language both is and is not an element of itself. This should not be alarming. After all, logic is itself a language; so if this sentiment contradicts logic, it merely reveals what is superior. Language, in every way, transcends logic. Logic, like set theory, is a lowly derivative of language, which so many have deluded themselves into believing is the final form of thought. 

Language is therefore an immediate thought. That is, it is not mediated. In particular, it is not mediated by itself: language cannot be mediated by language. However, in arguing that language precedes thought, we must somehow show that language is the first and only immediate thought. All other thoughts would then presuppose and be mediated by language.

As mentioned above, the defining feature of language is its ability to categorize, its way of placing entities into sets. But is this very facet of language not a prerequisite for thought? Suppose that we were not able to categorize the world around us. Would it not then appear as a single entity without distinction? We would then be left in a purely vegetative state, floating in white nothingness without any way of achieving thought or even self consciousness -- for we wouldn't even be able to distinguish ourselves from what is around us. 

Language therefore must precede thought. And it is therefore the first and only immediate thought. All others are mediated by the resulting language. 

Let us use an example to further emphasize this point. Catherine Belsey states that "if the things or concepts language named already existed outside language, words would have exact equivalents from one language to another." She uses an example to illustrate that this is not the case: the French Toto, sois sage means Toto, be good. "But ... we sensed that sage and 'good' were not always interchangeable. 'A good time' in French, we knew, would not be sage at all, since the term implies sense or wisdom." The implication is that every thought is a categorization. Sage is a categorization or set which includes a variety of ways of acting or being. There is, however, no direct translation to English. We have no way, as English speakers, of putting such a sentiment. And so it never comes to mind. But a more accurate way of putting this is that it never comes to mind without a word. No matter how hard we try to delude ourselves, such a sentiment never arrived to us so monosyllabically. Perhaps a string of sentences would have sufficed, but that would be circular in that the thought still only arises through words (and this still holds even if our language is so advanced that every thought can eventually be realized with enough words). The sentiment of a new thought is always on the tip of our tongues, but without the word it never quite arises. Colors are the same: we might imagine a new color -- as if it is just beyond purple! But without the visualization it never arises in the mind. In other terms, thought presupposes language. 

This conclusion is rather difficult to grasp. For one, we all feel that we can think without language. Yet there is no way of actually proving this since language has always been a part of us (is it surprising that memory only arises once one has learned a language or that language is itself the first thing remembered?). One counter argument could take the following form. Imagine that you observe an animal which you have never seen before, and for which you therefore do not have a word. Surely, could one not imagine that new animal in the mind before naming it? Would this not be an example of thought preceding language? However, such an argument seems circular. After all, to call this animal to mind is already to categorize it as a new species. It already implies that one has placed it into a set separate from all others. Hence, upon being thought or imagined, the new animal has already entered the realm of the linguistic. There is always already a way of wording any new object or experience, even if this wording must take the form of "not everything else I have already seen" or, in our example, "not every other animal I have already seen." The first word, the original set, already implies all others. Once one has discovered language, and therefore began thought, there can be no end to it. Is it really that difficult to accept this? We cannot unlearn our language, and we cannot stop thinking -- except perhaps in death.

This is also why slang has such power. Upon hearing slang, one has a new thought enter his mind. Eventually, such nuanced words become irresistible. The word and the thought come back to their masters endlessly, like a stray dog who has grown to love the man who feeds him.

So language precedes thought. We might therefore conclude that all thought is always already mediated. And this mediation occurs because of the linguistic: it happens through the use of language. Hence, this should not be forgotten: control of language means control of thought. The next goal must therefore be aimed at nothing less than complete linguistic liberation.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Elephant In The Room

Warning: I wrote this very quickly very late at night, and 
so I'm not sure that I'm saying a whole lot...I just heard
the news about France and wrote down my response.

Hopefully it makes sense. I'm not sure if France really
even fits into it -- looking over it now, I feel like I mainly
had the U.S. in mind.

    The west has increasingly become a target for acts of mass violent in recent years — most recently (and the inspiration for this post), the bastille day truck attack in France. Immediately, the response is often that we should not “give in” to the attacks by showing fear or hate, and that the best way to combat the attacks is to love each other more, and teach others to love in the same way. The idea has some grounding, in that a fear-driven submission to the organizations responsible for the attack would be devastating, but more love doesn’t seem like a viable solution. For one, it seems wrong to think that any amount of communal love could stop certain people from committing mass murder; there will always be lunatics, fanatics, and sociopaths who are either untouched by the love or at least refuse to reciprocate it for one reason or another. Even if that’s wrong, though, and a state of complete communal love is possible and would, in fact, lead to world peace, the steps to reach this goal seem completely intangible. Do I just hug my friends more, call my mom and dad to check up on them more, and help walk elderly people across the street? Should I donate to charity? Which one? It doesn’t seem like any of this stuff would lead either to global communal love or the end of terrorism, and it’s hard to come up with some real steps that would.
     Others counter this view by pointing out (as I did above), that you’ll never be able to get everyone on board your love train. But they continue to claim that "radical Muslims” are the main group that we will never be able to fight with love, and often suggest that we exterminate them instead. This idea seems even more ludicrous than the first! First, because “radical Muslim” is a vague term which does not divide the global population into any sort discrete grouping, making their extermination a difficult task. But that point doesn’t even really matter, because unless 100% of all terrorist attacks were committed by “radical Muslims,” their extermination wouldn’t solve the problem. Finally, and most importantly, it seems unjustifiable to claim that Islam, even in its most “radical” interpretation, specifically calls out for acts of mass murder against the west, and is the only doctrine that does so. Calling radical Islam the cause of West-directed terrorism is like calling pneumonia the cause of death for a man shot through the heart by a shotgun; perhaps the man had pneumonia when he died, and perhaps the terrorist is a Muslim, but they both seem like unlikely causes, and the real reason for the problem seems much more obvious and fundamental.
     What, then, is the problem? If not an absence of love, or a radical interpretation of Islam, how can we explain this recent explosion of mass murder? Mental illness? Drugs? Bad parenting? All of these responses are unoriginal, unsupported, and boring. All of these responses, and the two main ones highlighted in the previous paragraphs, are given to distract from the real problem that is staring everyone right in the face. Just as a commuter never feels responsible for the traffic that they are helping to create by driving in rush hour, the West seems to completely lack a feeling of responsibility for the acts of mass violence that they are helping to create. People don’t hate the west because they feel like we don’t love enough, or because they read the Koran; people hate the West because of countless years of exploitation, domination, and violence. The West is not an innocent person minding their own business, who suddenly gets picked on by a bully for no reason. The West is the bully, and the people we have been picking on have finally found the means to retaliate. Many of the organizations and people that decide to commit mass violence against the west have backgrounds where the west hit them first; whether through corrupt politics, nonchalance about murdering citizens outside of our borders, or support of various (perceived or real) things that generally degrade society, the West has made a lot of people angry.

     It should be obvious: people hate us because we’re screwing them. But still, the response is that we need to love more, give people more medication, and kill the muslims. And so we continue to exploit, dominate, and harm people both within our borders and abroad, while simultaneously searching in desperation for someone to tell us how to stop people from hating and harming us. This doesn’t mean we should become weak, and mold ourselves to fit the demands of our attackers, but rather that we should take a look in the mirror, admit some of our behavior seems to necessarily infuriate and alienate people to the point that they will sacrifice their lives to hurt us, and change that behavior. This doesn’t mean that we should take intangible steps to love the people who seek to harm us more, but rather that we should stop directly and indirectly contributing to violence through police, misguided military efforts, bribes, and embargoes, that we should stop supporting corruption even when doing so is economically viable or serves to strengthen our global power, the list goes on. We cannot turn a blind eye to the wrongs of the West in favor of the comfort it gives us. We need to demand this change, and it needs to happen now. If the demands are not met, we cannot roll over and remain complacent. The West needs to change its behavior, whether they (or we) like it or not; until then, many more innocent lives will be taken.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Hume’s Copy Principle

One of the most powerful tools in Hume’s epistemic toolkit throughout the Enquiry is the copy principle (CP). Roughly, the idea behind the CP is that all mental content can be divided into two categories: impressions, which are perceptions received immediately through sensation (either from sense organs or internal emotional states), and ideas, which we form based on our impressions. Importantly, impressions and ideas are not two different kinds of mental content, but rather “all our ideas, or more feeble perceptions, are copies of our impressions, or more lively ones;” ideas and impressions are both essentially perceptions, and are only “distinguished by their differing degrees of force and vivacity.” Our idea of the color brown, for example, is nothing but an image of the exact same color that we received through the senses, and we recognize the second image as an idea instead of an impression because the color isn’t as lively or as forceful in our minds as the initial impression was (rather than being thrust upon us, for example, we bring it into our reflection). Hume maintains that this principle holds not only for our idea of the color brown, furthermore, but for every possible idea; no idea can contain any content that was not first copied from an immediate impression on the senses. Rather than demonstrably prove this claim, Hume challenges the opposition to come up with a counterexample, and moves on to assert that proper use of the CP would put an end to many (mainly metaphysical) disputes that center around the disagreement of philosophical terms. The idea is that, whenever we are suspicious that a philosophical term is meaningless, we should ask, “from what impression is that supposed idea derived? And if it is impossible to assign any, this will serve to confirm our suspicion.” Equipped with this principle, Hume is able to easily dissolve age old disputes about concepts like substance and self, maintaining that these ideas must be meaningless and unintelligible, since there are no impressions that they can correspond to. It is unclear, however, that all of our ideas are copied exactly from impressions in the ways spelled out by the CP. Rather, it seems that some of our ideas are more conceptual than perceptual, and so it seems that Hume may be unsupported in his claim that the CP applies to all ideas, and unjustified, therefore, in his use of the principle to dissolve these various debates.

If we take a step back and examine how Hume uses and states the CP, it seems plausible that we might be suspicious of the meanings of the philosophical terms ‘idea’ and ‘impression.’ Following Hume’s advice, then, we ask “from what what impression are these ideas copied from? What impression gave rise to your idea of ‘impression’ or ‘idea’?” It does not seem like Hume has an obvious answer to these questions. His idea of ‘impression’ is stated in conceptual terms, as a class of “more lively perceptions,” and ‘idea’ is similarly defined as “the less lively perceptions of which we are conscious when we reflect” on our sensations. Those do not seem like perceptual definitions, and Hume would be hard pressed to describe a specific impression that can explain the relative ‘liveliness’ of the two terms, as well as the fact that they are otherwise indistinguishable. If we continue to follow Hume’s advice, then, it seems that our suspicions have been confirmed; Hume cannot assign any particular impression to his ideas of ‘impression’ and ‘idea,’ and so these terms must not actually carry any meaning. Taking another step back, it seems that Hume is attempting to give a general account of human psychology, while simultaneously claiming that we can have no abstract ideas that were not originally copied from particular impressions, which seems somewhat contradictory. In order to account for the whole of human experience, in other words, it seems that Hume wants claim that ideas (in general) are always copied from particular impressions (in general), but this removes his justification for claiming anything about a general idea or impression. If all ideas are copied or compounded from simple impressions, then Hume can have no general conception of ‘idea’ or ‘impression’ separate from any particular impression (or composition of impressions), and so the CP seems to be more of a description of the particular ideas that Hume has had so far, rather than a law of human psychology. Ultimately, then, it seems that Hume is on shaky ground when he uses the CP to dispel various ideas as meaningless, since the principle itself disallows him from applying it universally to a conception of ideas in general.

Hume, however, would be reasonable to argue that this objection misses his point. Although his principles are certainly supposed to amount to a general account of human psychology, he never claimed to have any general notion of ‘idea’ or ‘impression.’ All that Hume claims is that “when we analyze our thoughts and ideas, however compounded or sublime, we always find that they resolve themselves into such simple ideas as were copied from a preceding feeling or sentiment.” In other words, Hume might as well have written that the idea of brown is copied from the impression of brown, and the idea of sadness is copied from the impression of sadness, etc. He uses the word ‘idea’ not to refer to some general notion, but rather to refer to any particular idea that one might be able to come up with, and chooses to sum up this list with the assertion that “every idea which we examine is copied from a similar impression.” Of course, the absence of a general notion of ‘idea’ opens Hume up to the objection that the CP may only apply to the particular ideas that he has experienced — perhaps some of our ideas are missing from his list —  but he remains confident that no one will ever be able to come up with an idea not derived directly from their impressions. Like our knowledge of causal necessity, Hume’s knowledge of the CP seems to be a matter of fact, based on reasoning from experience; but like our knowledge of causal necessity, the fact that Hume’s reasoning comes from experience does not diminish the certainty of the reasoning. In other words, even though we might discover that the CP is based on reasoning from experience, and so not entirely supported by demonstrative arguments “of the understanding, there is no danger that these reasonings, on which almost all knowledge depends, will ever be affected by such a discovery.” So, just as no one will ever be able to hit a cue ball against an 8-ball only to have them both fly upward at the speed of light, no one will ever be able to produce an idea not derived from impressions in accordance with the CP; it does not matter that we cannot demonstrate the universal necessity of either fact in the understanding, as long as they are continually confirmed by the vast uniformity of experience. Hume would likely concede, therefore, that he has not provided any universal account of ideas or their universal relation to impressions, but would maintain that this does not disallow him from using the CP to dispel various definitions as meaningless, since the vast uniformity of experience has confirmed it as a matter of fact.

Unfortunately, upon closer examination, this optimistic response turns out to be unsatisfying; we can grant that Hume was not operating with any general notions of ‘idea’ or ‘impression,’ and it still does not seem to follow that the vast uniformity of experience confirms the certainty of the CP. We can suppose that, rather than stating the CP in any general terms, Hume wrote out a list of all the ideas he can come up with, and the impressions that they are copied from. Somewhere along this list is a phrase that says, roughly, ‘the idea of the table is copied from the impression of the table, and is similar in every way, except in its diminished force and vivacity.’ So, it seems that Hume has an idea of an idea of the table (a second-order idea of the table), that describes the idea of the table (the first-order idea of the table) and its relation to the impression of the table. But, presumably, the impression and first-order idea of the table do not include considerations about their relations to each other. The impression of the table simply is brown, five feet long, forceful, and vivacious; the idea of the table is brown, five feet long, weak, and not very lively; the second-order idea of the table is not brown, or five feet long, nor is it merely a less forceful and vivacious version of the impression. Rather, the second-order idea of the table seems indescribable in perceptual terms; it is certainly about the brownness of the table in the idea versus the impression, but it is not itself brown. Even more, the second-order idea of the table is also about the first-order idea of the table’s conformity with the CP, and its role in Hume’s larger human psychology, which seem unaccounted for in the first-order idea and the impression. It seems, therefore, that Hume’s second-order idea of the table is not merely some perceptual image or feeling that is less forceful than the table he initially saw and felt, but rather must be a conceptual description of those perceptions and their relation to other pieces of his philosophical framework. So, since Hume himself seems to employ ideas that are conceptual in nature, and not directly traceable back to impressions, he cannot justifiably accuse the conceptual terms of other authors as being meaningless or unintelligible.

Importantly, this objection doesn’t necessarily disprove the CP, but rather shifts the burden of proof back onto Hume. As mentioned earlier, instead of attempting to deliver a demonstrative proof of the CP, Hume simply maintains that it is confirmed by the uniformity of experience, and leaves the burden on his opponents to propose an idea that violates the rule. If an opponent is able to produce and idea that they claim is not derived from an impression, then Hume concedes that, in order to defend the CP, “it will be incumbent on [him] … to produce the impression or lively perception which corresponds to [that idea].” I claim to have delivered such an idea (the second-order idea of the table), and so the burden is now on Hume to come up with an impression that the idea was copied from. Furthermore, I maintain that Hume will not be able to reasonably argue that the second-order idea of the table is copied solely from the impression or idea of the table (with less force and vivacity); the second-order idea contains relational considerations that the impression and idea do not, and the impression and idea are brown, five feet long, and qualitatively perceptual while the second-order idea is merely about these perceptual qualities. This does not, however, mean that Hume has no way of showing that the second-order idea of the table was derived in accordance to the CP. While it may not be copied directly from the impression or idea of the table, copying impressions is not all that our minds can do; our ideas are either direct copies of impressions, or are created through “compounding, transposing, augmenting, or demising the materials afforded to us by the senses and experience.” In other words, while I claim to have shown that Hume’s second-order idea of the table cannot have been copied directly from the impression or idea of the table, it remains possible that he can show the second-order idea to be some composition, or transposition, of various different impressions and ideas. Perhaps we transpose our impression of force and vivacity with our impression of two things being related, and compose this complex idea with both the impression and idea of the table — Hume may be able to construct a second-order idea of the table through a story with a similar flavor. I leave this as a possibility, but would like to further comment that it seems like quite a tall order. In general, second-order ideas seem fundamentally different from impressions and first-order ideas; it seems that while we may be able to adequately describe first-order ideas and impressions in fully perceptual terms (color, size, shape, etc), perceptual terms will never be able to give an account of second-order ideas, no matter how much they are transposed and composed. Second-order ideas seem to be about abstract, conceptual relations, that cannot really be pictured, heard, or felt, and Hume’s empiricism simply cannot account for this conceptual flavor. Ultimately, therefore, while the door is still open for Hume to show that second-order ideas can be built up through the composition and transposition of perceptual impressions, it seems that the essentially conceptual nature of second-order ideas will prevent this sort of explanation from being fully satisfying.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

On the Privilege of Science

Note: I wrote this for a class, so it deals with a specific text in the introduction, but the ideas should be applicable even if you haven't read Feyerabend. Also, note that when I say science, I mean what we all know of and generally think of as Science (with a capital S). Not the general method of assessing evidence to reach conclusions, but Science as is done by Western physicists, chemists, etc.

At the start of his essay, How to Defend Society Against Science, Feyerabend introduces a general worry about science’s privilege as a method for reaching truth and forming correct beliefs about the world. The worry seems two have two parts: first, that science has become an ideology whose standards of truth rely more on a dogmatic acceptance of the scientific method’s accuracy than any real notion of truth; and second, that even if science has found the real truth, we do not have to accept the truth, but rather have a choice between pursuing truth versus other important values (like freedom). Initially, this view seems absurd — of course science gets us the truth, that’s why we have airplanes, computers, and a cure for polio. Why shouldn’t we privilege the real truth that science discovers over truths with less logical and empirical support? Ultimately, I feel that Feyerabend does not flesh out his general worry enough to combat these objections, and so I aim to carry on in his spirit and deny any inherent privilege science should have in forming truthful beliefs. Specifically, the view I wish to argue against can be roughly stated as follows: Science gives us the most accurate conception of the world, and so if we want to form the correct beliefs about the world, we ought to privilege science’s method over other systems. I will argue, first, that science’s empirical method does not necessarily give us the most accurate understanding of the world. Second, I will maintain that even when science’s method does seem to give us the most accurate understanding of the world based on its evidential support, it may be desirable to weigh different sorts of evidence in our analysis and conclusions. Importantly, my overarching claim is that science deserves no inherent privilege in matters of reaching truth, and should only be privileged when doing so is useful. I am not arguing for the complete rejection of science, nor will I be able to give a complete catalogue of when it is useful to privilege science in assessing truth and when it is not.

The first of my arguments, against science’s ability to reach an accurate understanding of the world, is roughly borrowed from Schopenhauer. The idea is that science necessarily presupposes certain facts about the universe, without being able to explain why those assumptions are necessarily true. For example, imagine asking a scientist why there are four fundamental forces. They might respond by explaining that the nature of the elementary particles in the universe necessitates the four forces that we have discovered. But, we can continue by asking why the elementary particles have the nature that they do. We may be met by further explanations, but if we continue to question the scientist in this way, they will eventually respond, “that’s just how it works.” As we keep asking “why,” the scientific explanation must either eventually end by referencing a fundamental assumption for which no further “why” can be asked, or must infinitely regress such that we can keep asking “why” forever. If the explanation can go on infinitely, then it seems that science hasn’t explained anything; we never reach a satisfying answer to our question of “why.” If, on the other hand, the explanation stops at some fundamental assumption whose validity is assumed rather than explained, then it seems that science may not present a completely accurate view of reality. Since science cannot explain why the universe is fundamentally governed by this set of forces, or why these forces necessarily operate in the way they do, we cannot be sure whether an assumption of these forces truly produces an accurate understanding of the world, or whether they are simply the best estimates that we can come up with using current methods. Maybe there are certain forces that science does not yet know how to detect; maybe these fundamental forces merely appear to be separate based on our collected data, but are actually one unified force; until science provides a sufficient explanation for the necessity of the operation of the fundamental forces, we cannot be certain that they accurately depict the nature of the world. Even more, this will be true no matter how much science’s assumptions are refined to account for newly observed phenomena. All of science’s assumptions are true only to the extent that they are able to explain observed data without making false predictions, and so we will never know whether those assumptions are actually correct, or whether there will be new data and predictions that call for a refinement of the current assumptions.

It remains possible, however, that even though we cannot be certain of the accuracy of science’s assumptions without sufficient explanation, those assumptions may still be, in fact, accurate. Perhaps, some day in the future, the assumptions made by science will be so complete that they are able to account for all experimentally reproducible phenomena in the universe, with no false predictions; even though we may not be able to explain why those assumptions are necessary, can we not be certain that those assumptions are correct? I now aim to argue against this objection, and claim that science only allows certain types of evidence in its analysis, and that it may be desirable to allow different evidential criteria in our collection and analysis of data. Vine Deloria, for example, offers tribal systems of thought an illustration of how new knowledge can be grasped through different methods of interpreting data. As Deloria sees things, tribal systems of thought are as “systemic and philosophical” as science; they simply allow different kinds of evidence and do not share in science’s goal of “determining the mechanical functioning of things.” The Sioux system, for example, denies science’s view of knowledge as absolute, separate from humans, and waiting to be discovered. Where science rejects any evidence that is not experimentally replicable to an objective observer, the Sioux do not disregard any experience, and derive their conclusions from “individual and communal experiences in daily life”, “emotional experiences”, “keen observation of the environment”, and “interpretive messages…received from spirits in ceremonies, visions, and dreams.” The system fundamentally asserts that all experience is valid, and its willingness to accept and interpret a wider range of experiences does not make it less systematic or true than science; the Sioux simply wish to interpret and account for a greater variety of experience than is reproducible in experimental settings. Instead of searching for abstract principles to understand and explain the structure of the world, Sioux knowledge is directed at discovering the best way for people to lead an ethical life. All of our experiences have content and validity to the extent that they contribute to the moral framework of the universe, and so we cannot disregard anything in our search for moral understanding. As a result of this motivation and epistemology, all events and beings are believed to be related in the moral community. Everything has a responsibility to fulfil itself and participate in the creation of moral and experiential content — “nothing has incidental meaning and there are no coincidences”. Entities are, in fact, viewed as communities themselves; everything has a personality that can be used to guide one’s moral understanding of the universe. Ultimately, the evidence allowed by science may be more useful for an understanding of the mechanical function of the universe, while the evidence allowed by the Sioux may be more useful in understanding its moral content, and it may be circumstantially desirable to accept the latter evidential criteria over the former. Of course, Deloria provides only one example of alternative evidential criteria, but I believe that the example illustrates that there may be circumstances where it is desirable to reject the evidential criteria accepted by science.

One final worry is that, upon accepting new standards of evidence, we are not changing our standards of truth but rather disregarding truth in place of something more useful (like a better moral understanding). Science tells us what’s really happening, but we would rather believe something false in order to further our other goals. I feel that this objection misses my (and Deloria’s) point: why prefer science’s conclusions as what’s really happening? Why take science’s evidential criteria as the most sure way toward truth? Even if science may be able to most comprehensively explain objectively replicable phenomena and the mechanical structure of the universe, aren’t there other phenomena and structures that it hasn’t considered? Does it give a satisfying account of the most important phenomena? My point, much like Feyerabend’s, is that we have a choice: science may lead us to one truth, and another system may confirm another truth, and we can decide which truth seems more circumstantially appropriate. Either way, we accept the conclusion of one system as true, and reject the other system as lacking in evidence; we change our evidential criteria for assessing a belief to be true, in such a way that science’s evidence may no longer be convincing. Ultimately, I grant that I have not provided complete specificity as to when we ought to privilege other systems over science, which systems we ought to privilege, and why. I believe that I have shown, however, that we do have a choice in how to assess truth and reach and understanding about the world. While science’s methods have achieved the accuracy to allow for airplanes and computers, there are circumstances in which we may question the relevance of science’s evidential criteria, and prefer the method of another system; when collecting data and assessing truth, science deserves only circumstantial — rather than inherent — privilege over other systems.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Anarchy Debate

Since we were doing these long comments on Facebook, I figured it would be cool to put them up here in order to continue the debate. My edits are in red, original comments are in normal typeface.

First, Max's post that started it:

"Not sure why everyone is hating on the people who took over the federal building in Oregon. I understand that it is a hypocritical double-standard to treat them in this way (if they weren't white, the national guard would have already been called in). But is what they're doing not the definition of a socialist revolution? Maybe I haven't read into it enough, but it seems like they are workers seizing their means of production (in this case, land). I've heard them be described as right wing and they sadly probably imagine themselves in this way. Honestly, they have probably never read Marx and probably hate him despite their actions. Nonetheless, they seem to be doing exactly what Marx proposed (i.e. seizing the means of production) Opinions? Please take the time to educate me if I'm wrong, I would greatly appreciate it."

Then Millan commented: "
Sounds about right actually. Amazing how many "right wing nuts" are actually on the bottom of the political circle where fascism and extreme socialism/communism reside. Either way, it's ridiculous that no one is doing anything to stop them, considering their actions could be considered treason or at least conspiracy to commit treason."

This is pretty much what started the debate, so from here I'll just post people's names, and then what they said.

Max: "
I don't believe in the political "circle." It's just a fantasy for moderates to justify their own sterile beliefs."

Millan: "
lol fair enough Max, to each their own. As you know, I'm not exactly moderate. As for the public lands thing, that's definitely an extension of socialism, because the land is viewed as collectively-owned land which we all have a stake in, thus why it isn't given to private owners usually."

Josh: "Awwww Max i thought i've 'proven' the circle to you!!!"

Max: "haha a circle? na i imagine a grid. left and right in the traditional sense and up and down in terms of government control. we could maybe say anarchist communism (or just communism as it already implies the disappearance of the state) in the bottom left and tyrannical fascist capitalism in the top right. 

It would be hard to place something like the ussr though. at first glance it would maybe be in the top left, but if we actually consider it a capitalist system, it actually appears in the top right with fascism. this is maybe why people mistakenly imagine a circle."

Patrick: "I feel like a big point is that (like I've said a million times) putting the theory of anarchist communism into practice is going to require some central body mandating that capital doesn't accumulate in private hands...they just won't call it a government (maybe that isn't the right word anyway). This is where the similarities to dictatorial fascism come in for me -- although I'm not sure if this is really a good argument for a literal circle, and I'm also still open to the idea that the people may be able to regulate themselves in a smaller society, rather than requiring a central body that takes care of regulation..."

Josh: "
Does pure libertarianism overlap with anarchist communism then?"

Patrick: "Lol I think that's a stretch, just because of how they differ in allowance of private capital, ownership of the means of production -- basically I feel like Communism makes rules about financial shit that Libertarianism doesn't wanna make rules for. That's part of my point though...since Communism makes these rules about economic behavior, it seems kinda hard to believe that it'll be purely anarchist...otherwise what stops it from becoming Libertarian at least economically?

Also wouldn't Libertarianism require a central regulating agency as well? Like aren't there at least certain rights (right to life, property) that we need a police/judicial system to protect? Or would/could it be complete anarchy?
Then again, maybe they're more similar than I thought politically...they both just make a few very important rules (about the economy/production on one hand, about killing/theft on the other), and then require some small regulating body to maintain these rules..."

Max: "True but an interesting essay is Coupat/Tiqqun's Introduction to Civil War. It says that anarchy is the full playing out of "forms of life." Anarchy is going towards whatever you believe, making friends based on that and also enemies. The state is merely the apparatus that stops this full playing out of conflict from taking place."

Patrick: "yeah that's totally fair, but then it's hard to wed that kind of idea to communism, which mandates a certain "form of life""

Lloyd: "Joshua, One would think libertarians would be anarchists if only they were more consistent. Indeed, anarcho-syndicalism/communism is often called social libertarianism (and that's a much less intimidating sounding name for the general public). In practice, libertarians tend to believe that the state, limited in power, is necessary to protect individual rights. In particular, libertarians have more respect for property rights. Anarchists believe that no organization (i.e. the state) should have a monopoly on violence and that individual rights should be upheld by individuals voluntarily associating into organizations, decentralizing power.

There's a joke that goes: "What's the difference between an anarchist and a libertarian?
6 months.""

Josh: "
 Hi- my question was more rhetorical, as i don't believe they overlap and was trying to use that as a dig at Max's grid.

Pat- its a social contract, a convention, whatever you want to call it. No gov't necessary- violations will be made and will be dealt with amongst involved parties. Yes, that [likely] won't work past smaller societies/ maybe in general.. And then you get your centralized justice-enforcing body. How that manifests though is up to the parties involved and directly controlled by the parties involved (i.e the society, not the violator/victim). All in all, I think you have the right idea though- in the abstract, the principles and goals are very similar.

Lloyd- I think you're right about most of that. I think, for pure Libertarians, the 'limited state' does not have a monopoly on power. What's important about the "state" is that it is an arbitrator, an impartial third party that enforces the local conventions the populous have determined/cemented (which for libertarians, comes entirely from their deference to the Property Right). For practical purposes (and frankly, a warped desire to not take total agency) a state is suitable. But I'd bet many libertarians would completely agree with anarchists ("Anarchists believe that no organization (i.e. the state) should have a monopoly on violence and that individual rights should be upheld by individuals voluntarily associating into organizations, decentralizing power."). It's the syndacalists and communists that libertarians hold contention with and the unfortunate conflation of syndacalism and communism with anarchy.

What did you mean by more consistent? Certainly I think that the term "libertarian" has been grossly distorted, perhaps contributing to this inconsistency... But I'd like to know what you have in mind.

And hahah that's fantastic

Also I think that joke is a perfect summation of my response to Pat"

Max: "
Libertarians find problems with anarchists and communists simply because they haven't read the literature. That is the only conclusion one can make, since Marx literally proved that capitalism leads to hierarchical exploitation, if not slavery. "Libertarians" seem to want freedom -- even the freedom to enslave others, which is a contradiction.

Also the state can never be impartial since it will eventually always find itself as a secondary (not tertiary) party in conflicts."

Josh: "I find problem with you belief that such pursuits need to be validated through "the literature" or such dogma. I hope the reason is obvious and you of all people should understand!

Human life on this planet since its inception has literally proved th
at the human condition necessitates individual liberty, property, and inevitable capital. What communist system is going to prevent me from accumulating capital? Most of the time you don't even have to TRY and you have capital-- that's why bartering is so great. And you also should know that capital isn't limited to the physical. What about the other forms of capital?

Libertarians certainly do not want the freedom to enslave others-- if you choose to work for me, that isn't enslavement. The reason there is exploitation and what you drfine as "slavery" is due to a corrupted system founded on the ILLUSION of libertarian principles but with the PRACTICE of oligarcy/fascisim/whatever.

And if the state, theoretically, would only have as much power as we'd allow-- since the goal is an impartial state, if UNCORRUPTED humans can maintain that vision and goal, than a state can remain impartial.

As long as the state has means to monopolize every aspect of society, as long as the state remains out of the hands of the people and in the hands of a corrupted minority, as long as the majority of society remains ignorant to the vast injustice and degradation of libertarian principles perpetuated by the state, then you will have exploitation, you will have a partial state, and you will have a perverse understanding of libertarian and anarchical principles and goals.

In the same way that the USSR and Stalin have distorted the communist ideal, so has the corrupted implementation of libertarian principles in the United States constitution distorted libertarianism. Add on top of that the United States, ironically, is cementing itself as the biggest enemy to individual liberty, then yeah I see why people get confused. Fuck the literary dogma and just look at what's happened/ happening in the world."

Max: "You criticize me for being dogmatic simply for urging people to read Marx. Clearly you yourself have not read him! I am not a Marxist but he is simply indispensable to the intellectual. You literally think that me being forced to work for a capital-owner is my own choice. It is. But the only other option is starvation. That's why capitalism is a more efficient form of slavery. Capitalists don't have to OWN people to enslave them. That is what is so damaging about capitalism. As George Orwell said "freedom is slavery." This is why this quote is so controversial and confusing to the modern mind. Because although we can readily understand his hatred of Stalinism, we cannot comprehend his simultaneous hatred of capitalism.

There is no libertarianism under capitalism. Please explain to me how it can be possible. Wage exploitation has been proven. There is no debate. Explain how wage exploitation is compatible with libertarianism!

I apologize for not responding to every one of your points. But you have not responded to mine.

The reason the US has established itself as the biggest enemy of libertarianism is because it was never based on libertarianism. It was always based on capitalist exploitation. The founders were simply revolting against feudalism, which is hardly a revolutionary from the modern perspective."

Josh: "I have read Marx, we've gone over this. There is more than starvation and using some intellectual capital will help you along that path (not to mention self-sustainability..).

You're also equating capitalism with libertarianism- capitalism is a logic
al next step based on the tenets of libertarianism but not necessary.

I'm not advocating capitalism nor do I care to. What people decide to do with a basic respect for individual liberties is up to them. Do not use ani-capitalist rhetoric to critique libertarianism when you yourself say they cannot coexist...

I never denied wage exploitation or any other exploitation. That is directly my point on the illusion of libertarian principles (exploitation comes from capitalism and corruption, not libertarianism). Your comment about the US never being based on libertarianism is worrisome given the overt and inescapable libertarian rhetoric that was the dominant theme during the revolution. Revolting against feudalism is simplistic and holding a 200+ year old revolution up to "modern" standards is naïve and unproductive. Also your comment on it being based on *capitalist* exploitation is also just plain wrong as the (socially and economically consequential) industrial revolution was still a century away and the economy was wholly propelled by agrarian bounty and nothing close to a factory, assembly line, or large scale industry.

Orwell should have said pacification is slavery. It is the illusion of freedom he is obviously referring to- freedom itself is not slavery.

What points have I missed?"

Lloyd: "Joahua, Libertarians are inconsistent because they say "Central monopolies shouldn't exist, *except for some functions."

You cannot be self-sustaining if you don't own land, which is definitely capital.

I haven't read Marx's proof that Max refers to, b
ut I think I get the idea: Capital gains are recursive, so capital exponentially accumulates in the small number of hands of those who are first able to seize it. This is particularly problematic for property there is a fundamentally limited supply of e.g. land, and substances extracted from it like gold and oil. This is why capitalism in the US had a period of mitigated abuse (for white people) as manifest destiny integrated more land into the capitalist system.

On the other hand, I see the possibility of reducing the exponential wealth inequality seemingly inherent in capitalism, since real GDP is also increasing exponentially. Their own mind and body is a means of production that free people (in the libertarian sense) always have. Perhaps technologies will allow human labor to increase in value faster than private capital."

Max: "True, except for the last paragraph. We have talked about this, Lloyd. If what you say is the truth, then why has work not decreased for decades? Capitalism necessitates pointless work. The only way to reduce work or to ABOLISH it is to abolish capitalism. Capital literally wants to necessitate work and consumption even to the post of providing a guaranteed minimum income! Capitalism will pay you to consume!"

Lloyd: "Well, I don't have much empirical support prepared, but for instance, in the UK there is an unprecedented number of self-employed people, 1 in 7. I was speaking theoretically, since your claim is that it's theoretically impossible for capitalism to not lead to exploitation. Do you think that Marx's proof requires the assumption that there is a limit to the generation of capital?"

Patrick: "To Josh:
'Yes, that [likely] won't work past smaller societies/ maybe in general.. And then you get your centralized justice-enforcing body' -- Fair enough. That's all I'm trying to get at.

'the 'limited state' does not have a monopoly on power.' -- It's more about a monopoly on violence, i.e. the state is the only entity that can justly use violence (through punishment). Which obviously can't go full throttle (people shuold be able to justly defend their lives with violence, for example), but I think that even in a libertarian society, you want to leave it up to the central regulating body to do most violence (mainly to punish peoplen who violate the rights of others).

'What communist system is going to prevent me from accumulating capital? Most of the time you don't even have to TRY and you have capital-- that's why bartering is so great.' -- yep, this is why I think communism won't work on a large scale if anarchist

'if UNCORRUPTED humans can maintain that vision and goal, than a state can remain impartial.' -- that's way too hard to argue for...if people could be so uncorrupted, why do we even need a state in the first place? I feel like the point is that the state can at least set clear rules and stick to them.

'What people decide to do with a basic respect for individual liberties is up to them.' -- You're kind of ignoring the point here, though...what Max is saying is that people shouldn't be allowed to do whatever they want if what they are doing is exploitative (a fair point), and further that the capitalist system is inherintly exploitative (more controversial imo).

To max: " the state can never be impartial since it will eventually always find itself as a secondary (not tertiary) party in conflicts." -- That's real but the state can at least be more consistent (and maybe more partial) than leaving decisions up to the people involved. Although again, if the people of the society are the regulators of the rules (so no state), then the people can/will also be the arbitrators...I just don't really see this working on a large scale, or producing as much scientific/technological innovation (is that even what we want though?)

"You literally think that me being forced to work for a capital-owner is my own choice. It is. But the only other option is starvation." -- I'm torn here. There are other options...they just suck (going "off the grid" somehow, starting a mom n, pop business, etc). But at the same time, what's going to happen in your system? Everyone just does what they want, and shares the benefits? That actually sounds pretty sweet, but it would be hard to stop people fom being exploitative whether through business or through whatever central body is set up.

"Wage exploitation has been proven" -- Yeah, still really oughtta read Marx...

To Lloyd: Go on about your last point -- I haven't really heard the argument but it sounds interesting.

All in all: A.) I don't think Libertarianism could be called inherently exploitative, since it's so minimal in what it lays out -- although I think it certainly allows for exploitation for that reason. B.) Still gotta read Marx to make a good comment on capitalism being inherently exploitative. C.) Libertarianism seems way to bare bones to me. I like the general idea, of laying out a certain body of rights to be respected, but often the list is too short. You know I want public education, at the very least, as well as police, a judicial/legislative system, and other things like gas/electricity/water...none of that shit should be private on the US scale i.M.O because people are dicks. D.) Max your system still seems whack though...,i feel like you need some sort of central body, that will somehow need to still be equal with everyone else (and those people like to be corrupt). And, will workers who own the means of production/the company be able to efficiently make the hundreds of decisions that a single CEO might make in a day?"

Lloyd: "Patrick, Institutions of education, utilities, police, legislation, etc. don't have to be either under the state or privately owned - this is a false left/right dichotomy. The state is effectively privately owned. Under anarchy, these institutions could be truly public, since they could be controlled by the general public.
Workers probably cannot collectively make all of the decisions of a CEO, as in a direct democracy, but that doesn't mean that the CEO has to be chosen by a board of capitalists. The CEO could be chosen by the workers. I think there are a lot of problem that arise in the sustainability of such models, but I think they are worth exploring.
There are lots of possible systems for collective decision making and I won't pretend to know which ones will be best; it is a task of social engineering to figure it out. But that is one of the appeals of anarchy: with people/localities/organizations free to participate in or create whatever systems they want, we will be able to empirically see which ones work better. Even giving sovereignty back to US states to allow them to associate with one another directly on their own terms instead of thru a corrupted central federal government would be an exercise in anarchy, and the greater diversity in policies would give us insight on how to run society.

About the idea I was expressing before: To me, socialism is the effort to seize democratic control of the economy. With this in mind, this idea might be seen as an effort to reconcile capitalism with socialism i.e. to achieve socialism while respecting private property. Some examples of (at least superficially) socialist institutions that have already formed within the capitalist framework are worker's unions, worker's cooperatives (e.g. Mondragon Corporation), credit unions, and mutual insurance companies.

Capitalism is exploitative via a small number of people controlling the means of production. Without any way to produce effectively on their own, the masses must give most of their labor to the capitalists. Now consider that the supply of the means of production is not fixed; the means of production can itself be produced, by the "meta-means of production", if you will. The meta-MoP has also largely stayed in the hands of capitalists, and thus they are able to swipe up ownership of all newly produced production means. Perhaps the greatest meta-MoP is the means to organize large numbers of humans. For example, currency is used to direct the behavior of many humans to produce more MoP (e.g. it's difficult to find even start-ups that haven't had to sell out a lot of their equity to venture capitalists just to get off the ground). But if even relatively small amounts of meta-MoP were to slip into the hands of common people, it could be used to exponentially obtain more, and break the monopoly over the MoP the capitalists currently hold.

Looking to the future: With advancing communication technologies, I think the power to organize on large scales could potentially fall into the hands of common people very rapidly. Crypto-currencies could break current monopolies on currencies. 3D-printers could replicate themselves, making them a meta-MoP, breaking monopolies on manufacturing.

I'm not saying that tenants shouldn't seize their homes from their land lords, or that communities shouldn't seize their local natural resources from multinational corporations. They would have my support. But in case that remains politically unviable, then we should have a back up plan, or at least something to better our position against the capitalists in the mean time."

Patrick: "Fair enough that private vs. state owned is a false dichotomy -- but the major point still stands that those things I listed should not be privatised. The state does not need to be privately owned, though -- in fact, I would argue that this anarchist public ownership system would end up being employed through some state-like apparatus.

Take water, for example: everyone should be distributed an adequate amount of water, but not everyone wants to spend all of their time gathering/distributing water. So, some altruistic group of people says that they'll take it upon themselves to find a way to gather large amounts of water to distribute to the public. But at no point does this group claim to own the water that they distribute -- they are just taking on the task of distributing this public good, so that other people can spend their time doing the things they want to do. If this isn't how it would work in your system, then stop me right here -- I'm claiming that for things like water, electricity, gas, etc, people should have these things fairly distributed to them (and even have shared ownership of these things), but not everyone wants to spend their time gathering these resources, so people would divide the labor. Note that the general public can still have full ownership of the water, and the means of gathering/distributing it, as well as full democratic power in deciding how the water is gathered/distributed/etc. I understand, though, that I might be setting up a strawman for anarchist society that's easy to knock down -- maybe this sort of division of labor and distribution of goods isn't ideal? Maybe it doesn't have to work like this in smaller societies? Maybe I'm just not really getting what public ownership would really entail? Let me know, because I'm actually really interested in seeing how this sort of thing would work.

The main thing I want to note is that when these systems start to develop for water, gas, education, justice/legal systems, etc, it starts to look a lot like a democratic state (that doesn't have an idea of private property). There isn't some larger federal body that regulates all of these things, rather the people are in charge of regulation, budgeting, etc. But, we still have some common rules (X services must be distributed adequately and fairly) that are being enforced society wide, as well as public services being offered, which is all I really have in mind for a state anyway.

Also, even if I have set up a strawman, and this isn't how Anarchy would work, then I have to go back to Max's definition of anarchy as allowing for people to live out their desired "form of life." What if I desire to sequester off a lake, such that I effectively own the water (no one else can take it from me without killing me, and I have guns etc) -- then we start to see private accumulation of wealth, and so this needs to be stopped. What if cannibalism is my desired form of life -- do we really allow this in our anarchist society?

But those are real questions that I'm curious about -- how can an anarchist society lay out any ground rules that it expects people to follow? Or does it not?

"There are lots of possible systems for collective decision making and I won't pretend to know which ones will be best; it is a task of social engineering to figure it out. But that is one of the appeals of anarchy: with people/localities/organizations free to participate in or create whatever systems they want, we will be able to empirically see which ones work better"

I like this point, actually. Maybe there are better systems out there; we sure haven't tried much else.

As to your later point: Very interesting idea. I think it'll be hard to get this to actually happen, mainly because the capitalists control the laws as well -- 3D printing is a really intriguing one to me, so I'm gonna riff on that.

I think there is A LOT that will go into what you can 3D print -- if the 3D printer ever makes it into the common household. Lexus doesn't want you printing their cars, Apple doesn't want you to print an iPhone, no one wants you to print an assault rifle, no one involved in business wants you to easily be able to print everything you want. In the first place, lobbying from a lot of people is going to slow the 3D printer's transition to a household item. Either it will remain too expensive, or the printing materials will, or the industry will be regulated to the point that you can only buy certified printers that can only print from a pre-selected list of blueprints (that don't include guns or iPhones). Or maybe consumer 3D printers will only be able to print from a range of materials that are useful for ornaments and the like, but won't be able to print anything super expensive or useful. Whatever happens, the people with money and power really don't want a universal 3D printer to be affordable and easy to use for the average consumer, so there's going to be a lot of legal footwork in this area that I think is going to really hamstring any dreams of 3D printing really breaking any economic control.

Not sure how this relates to cryptocurrencies or other example though -- thoughts?"

Lloyd: "When I say "the state" I refer to a dominating, monolithic, inescapable institution. The key difference in anarchy is voluntary association. In statism, there is assumed a single self-legitimatizing authority, that individuals must associate with. In anarchy, an organization gains legitimate authority by people choosing to associate with it. Authority should be derived from the bottom up rather than the top down.

Voluntaryism - all forms of human association should be voluntary. It sounds like a perfectly reasonable philosophy to me.

I'm not depending on anyone to do anything out of the goodness of their heart. I think free individuals have to have incentives for society to behave intelligently. So they will have to offer compensation to get the water distributed.

The difference between syndicalism and a democratic state (if that's even possible) is that different services may come from unrelated institutions, and you may have multiple options for a service. Thus we avoid any central power that can be corrupted. If people feel that an institution isn't being fair to them or meeting their needs, then we shouldn't find it acceptable for them to be forced to support it.

Now what I'm describing is an idealization, or anarchy taken to an extreme. But I try not to be ideological. I understand that this would be not be possible or desirable to implement immediately; people are currently too dependent on the state. Rather, I would like to describe how we can move towards a more anarchic society. Anarchy at it's core is about decentralizing power to promote individual sovereignty, and we can approach this from two directions. From the top down, federal power should be moved to the states, and state power moved to cities, and in particularly large cities, power should be moved to individual districts. From the bottom up, people should promote their independence with self-sufficiency, and self-organize in community organizations, which can in-turn form networks with each other. Even if there had to be a single authority in small geographical regions, a nation made up of associations between sovereign city-states would be pretty good imo.

In a way, the biggest difference in anarchy is in people's minds. People are brainwashed into thinking the actions of the state are legitimate even when they are against their citizen's wishes. Think of Ferguson, where clearly the community did not think the police were serving their interests, but people still think that their police department should continue operating, because of course; they're the state. What are they suppose to do, allow a popular uprising take place? The people should occupy the police office, remove those who work there, arrest offending officers, and hold a public committee to re-instantiate the department. Anarchy is about acknowledging the primacy of the sovereignty of citizens over the bodies that they form.
I think that anarchy will be an eventual consequence of people pursing their own interests, unless they are conditioned to be subservient slaves.

How do we establish ground rules? Each community can decide what they find unacceptable. People would only want to associate with communities that give them the freedoms they want while having adequate measures in place to prevent criminal activity. It is crucial for a community's success to be able to associate with other groups, for trade, joint projects, etc, and this provides pressures/incentives for communities to maintain good relations with their neighbors. Anarchists generally agree on the non-aggression principle as a ground rule tho.

I'd like to think that if 3D printers were outlawed, people would see it as tyranny and it would make the state less legitimate in their minds. Maybe that's too hopeful of me. But 3D printers could become almost entirely self-replicating; people wouldn't have to buy them. That kind of technology would be difficult to crack down on.

Think about how valuable gold is, but how little its physical properties are actually put to use. Fiat currencies have become entirely abstractions, having lost their tie to gold. But gold isn't valuable because of its usefulness as an electrical connector. Being a ledger of value is itself valuable. Currency systems are an abstract means of production that are monopolized. What crypto-currencies do is make possible for any group to create an effective ledger system, outside of banks, manipulated currency markets, the dictates of the federal reserve, inflation.

I just think about how we all have personal super computers. If we can't win our freedom at this point, it's our own damn fault."

Patrick: "Even if there had to be a single authority in small geographical regions, a nation made up of associations between sovereign city-states would be pretty good imo." This is the main thing that I wanted to hear. One of the big snags for me when thinkingabout Anarchy is scale -- it would be hard to have the 350 million people in the U.S. united as a single body without the state, but surely smaller city states will be able to run much better/more easily in an anarchist system. I actually really like what you are suggesting here, this really brought it home for me: "an organization gains legitimate authority by people choosing to associate with it. Authority should be derived from the bottom up rather than the top down." This rings really true for me, and the system that you describe sounds pretty awesome. I have a few more questions, though, about how this would actually work:

In the first place, am I right to assume that these anarchist societies would be much smaller in scale than the U.S. or even a state? You describe a system of communities, where "each community can decide what they find unacceptable," which seems viable only on the small scale. This isn't a flaw in the system, just something I want to clear up: in anarchy, would the area now occupied by CA, for example, be instead occupied by hundreds of smaller communities?

Secondly, if I'm right about that first assumption, how can we regulate inter-community relations (mainly trade)? I get the argument that "it is crucial for a community's success to be able to associate with other groups, for trade, joint projects, etc, and this provides pressures/incentives for communities to maintain good relations with their neighbors." But, this still allows for economic exploitation between the communities. Monopolies, for example, would be a real threat -- a community by a mine could artificially inflate the price of diamonds since other communities have no access. Natural disasters could also be devastating -- if there is only a small body of water in an area that gets affected by a severe drought, whatever community has the closest access to the water can start to charge ridiculous rates. You get the picture -- who's to stop these different communities from exploiting each other, even if the relations within each community are non-exploitative? Maybe I'm looking at it wrong though -- maybe, if the relations of the communities are mutually beneficial, this sort of exploitation just wouldn't arise?

Sort of in the same vein -- nothing is stopping any individual community from becoming capitalist, right? If everyone in an area were up for it, their community could resolve around a leader/manager of a factory where the other citizens work in exchange for food (that is unequal to the labor they put in). I get that people just might not be down for this, and so it might never arise, but there's nothing inherent to anarchist communities that prevents capitalism, right? This would also lead to more economic dangers -- if my community decides to gull full steam ahead for economic efficiency, and is then able to massively produce goods that another community exports as their main source of income (but hand crafts at a slower rate), this other community would be devastated.

Finally, how does the legal/justice system play out? I get that each community gets to decide what works best for them, but what's a better option than giving artificial authority to a judge/arbitrator that has the final say in all cases? Or, if some system with a judge is chosen, what prevents this authority from being legitimising from the top down like the state? Obviously the people can't just throw out the judge when they don't like the decision, since then there's no point in having a judge in the first place. So what type of system do people generally land on that strikes a balance between objectivity in decisions, and authority that is legitimate through the desires of the people?

Genuinely curious here -- again, I'm intrigued by the system, but have a lot of questions about how it would work.

As for that explanation of cryptocurrencies: I might just not have enough understanding of Econ to get this -- like once the currency becomes as big as BitCoin, doesn't it start to become influenced by the general economy/banks/etc?

And yeah I mean with 3D printing, if we could get a printer that prints other printers, it's game over. I just think that manufacturers won't be allowed to make printers that can do that, or print guns, etc, which means your average consumer can't buy one. Of course, there's always a black market for this type of thing, and like you say, once we get our hands on self-replicating printers, we won't have to buy much stuff."

And that wraps up what has been posted on Facebook -- let's continue the debate here!