The principle of explosion as a weapon of mass destruction

March 20, 2017 § 40 Comments

As an exercise in being honest with ourselves, every time we are tempted to use a phrase like “Bob has the freedom to do X” in a political context we should substitute “Bob has the authority to insist that everyone else must obediently cooperate with him doing X”.

“Freedoms” in a political context are in fact simply particular, concrete, actual exercises of authority which bind subjects – all those subject to that authority – to cooperation and obedience. “Freedoms” or “rights” in other words are always and without exception discriminatory demands that subjects cooperate and obey on a particular matter.

The honest question of politics is not “what freedoms should people have and in what contexts”. This liberal framing simply begs the question, slyly pretending that the exercises of authority which he labels “freedom” or “rights” are not actually exercises of discriminating authority which bind subjects to obedience and cooperation. It falsely assumes that there is such a thing as a concrete exercise of authority which “leaves other people alone”, a special sort of freedom-by-command which we label a “right” or a “freedom”. It sociopathically hides the inextricably authoritarian side of its own coin, of its own political assertiveness and assertions, underneath a fog of begged questions.

Rights or freedoms are special cases in the incoherent storm of the liberal’s political mind: they are a kind of ruthlessly anti-authoritarian authority, iron rules which abolish iron rule and force everyone, good and hard, to be free.

But there literally is no such thing as a political “right” or “freedom” which is not an exercise of discriminating authority, authority which binds those subject to that authority to cooperation and obedience. Liberalism is a contradiction in terms, all the way down and in all cases.

Its superficial plausibility combined with its deeper logical incoherence turns liberalism, in the context of any particular public social reality, into ad-hoc question-begging: makes it a weaponization of the principle of explosion.

Most folks love the empowerment they feel from (what they delude themselves into thinking is) personal possession of WMDs.  In free societies every man is king, and reality is whatever you want it to be.

That is, they love it up until the point that someone else deploys it to kill them.  When that happens it is doubtful that many even see it coming.

§ 40 Responses to The principle of explosion as a weapon of mass destruction

  • TomD says:

    Always reminds me of this, the logical conclusion of the second amendment as liberal freedom.

  • tz says:

    It has been stated that you have freedom of the press but not the right to have anyone else pay for it.

    But there is a middle point between an abstract freedom and active cooperation from everyone: Not to be interfered with.

    I need supplies to make a press. If Government bans or controls paper, any right is irrelevant, as even making my own paper might be illegal (A farmer in his own home grinding his own grain affects interstate commerce according to the court).

    Fulton Sheen in one of his lectures noted
    “Freedom to do…” has two equal and opposite errors. “as we please” is libertine and will lead to anarchy. “as we must” is not freedom but what communism offers.

    Freedom to do what we ought is the golden mean – since ought is open-ended but with a good purpose.

    While I would argue for an expansive “ought”, no one can insure good will of the debaters.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @tz:

    You must be new here.

    If what freedom means is something other than an entitlement to do as we please, then all it really means is “people are entitled to do what they are entitled to do.” It reduces to a vacuous tautology, and doesn’t mean anything in the realm of politics. If it doesn’t mean anything, we should stop using it, as it simply obfuscates what politics is actually doing.

    To get the point, try what Zippy suggests in the OP; everywhere you use the word “freedom” or “right,” trying replacing it with authority, because – in the political context – that’s what a freedom or a right is.

    Most relevant bit of text from the link:

    A right is a specific discriminating authority possessed by an individual; for example a property right discriminates between the owner and the trespasser, treating the former’s claims as authoritative over the latter’s claims. The doctrine of equal rights requires that rights be distributed without discrimination: it requires that in the distribution of discriminating authorities (rights) there shall be no discrimination and no authority (equality).

  • Step2 says:

    I object to the implication that non-interference is similar to cooperation by assistance or participation. Also, freedom to do X is relativistic to the type of authority invoked, the rights of a state to grant freedom X don’t override anything related to federal authority due to the supremacy clause. Third, there are also different spheres of authority or influence that interact in counter-intuitive ways. For example, take Milo’s recent fall from grace. His freedom from government interference to say those disturbing things helped cause a social and publicity backlash, resulting in loss of his book contract and resigning from his job at Breitbart. The heavy hand of government penalty, as much as it may have been desired, likely would have prevented him from saying those words that imploded his career.

    TomD,
    The second amendment did not and does not apply to artillery or weapons of war of greater firepower.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I object to the implication that non-interference is similar to cooperation by assistance or participation.

    In order for any contract of any kind between people to have any force, the government has to actually step in and enforce it, i.e., actively cooperate with it.

    What’s being implied is not that non-interference is similar to cooperation, but rather that non-interference is just another one of liberalism’s self-contradictory lies.

    Also, freedom to do X is relativistic to the type of authority invoked, the rights of a state to grant freedom X don’t override anything related to federal authority due to the supremacy clause.

    Also, authority to do X is relativistic to the type of authority invoked, the authorities of a state to grant authority X don’t override anything related to federal authority due to the supremacy clause.

  • Zippy says:

    JustSomeGuy:

    When the law “allows” women to murder their inconvenient unborn children, that is non-interference. When the law “allows” husbands to murder their adulterous wives, that is a violation of rights.

    The beauty of political liberty as a doctrine is that it empowers everyone to beg the question in favor of whatever one is for, and against whatever one is against.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    I remember discussions about formal vs. material and direct vs. remote cooperation with sin, double effect and all that jazz. That making of fine distinctions seems to have been removed in your analysis. Anyway, I’m certain you will point me to your numerous posts condemning the pro-life movement for using the libertine rhetoric of “right to life.”

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Where have you been? I’ve been criticizing rights-talk for a long time, including the term “right to life”.

    In fact here I criticized Lawrence Auster’s assertion of an “equal right to life” in 2002.

    As for the mainstream pro-life movement, it is just a “safe, legal, and rare” variant of pro choice. So I don’t know why you would expect me to defend their use of rights-talk.

  • Step2 says:

    Where have you been?
    Not around here, obviously. I admit I’m disappointed in myself that I don’t remember the one from W4. From the way you responded to the campaign imbroglio as a betrayal it seemed like you would have been much more supportive of the pro-life movement prior to that revelation.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I remember discussions about formal vs. material and direct vs. remote cooperation with sin, double effect and all that jazz. That making of fine distinctions seems to have been removed in your analysis.

    In order to enforce something (e.g. abortion law), one has to intend it, i.e. formally cooperate with it.

    The government formally cooperates with everything it enforces.

  • Step2 says:

    JustSomeGuy,
    While it isn’t false that the government enforces abortion law, it seems more linguistically proper to say that the government allows abortions rather than imply they are coercing abortions by women or coercing doctors to perform them.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ Step2:

    Right. As long it’s not an actual government official going out and doing the killing, the authority is being exercised passively. They actually have to send in the troops to do the killing in order for it to be exercised actively.

    Never mind the fact that they have actively endowed this woman with the power to murder her child, and they actually will send in the troops to enforce her will if I try to stop her.

    The folks being coerced in this case are her baby and those of us who do not want her baby killed, not the mother. This slight of hand pops up all the time; we’re supposed to notice the empowered party and treat their empowerment as “non-involvement” and ignore the abused party and the government’s active hand in abusing them.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Another good example is usurious contracts. The government has to actually enforce them for them to have teeth, and you can bet the cops will come a knockin’ if the debtor doesn’t pay.

    We’re supposed to see the “freedom” of the lender to make the contract as “non-involvement” while ignoring the abuse of the borrower.

  • Zippy says:

    JustSomeGuy:
    The sovereign can grant an express license to murder someone, and have anyone who attempts to stop the murder hanged. But that is just the sovereign “allowing” the murder passively, within the question-begging framework of liberalism.

  • Step2 says:

    JustSomeGuy,
    If the law is an actual allowance then it is not an “open to veto by vigilante” trick. If the sovereign wants to passively disallow abortions then he could dishonestly say he allows abortions and then release/pardon any vigilantes who stop them. It would be strange indeed to find an authoritarian who encourages vigilantism.

    …ignore the abused party and the government’s active hand in abusing them.

    Which is it – an active hand or a passive hand? You appear to be claiming both.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: Step2

    Read closer. His whole claim is that a “passive hand” really isn’t.

  • Zippy says:

    There is no such thing as a passive exercise of authority. All actual acts of authority are actual, that is, acts, active. This includes every case where an authority acts to rein in some other authority or disputant. Every act is an act, by definition. Even when an authority explicitly refuses to resolve some controverted case, this is a kind of act.

  • Zippy says:

    Maybe Step2 is raising the issue of vigilantism because he is implicitly assuming that authority is monolithic. This is pretty typical of liberalism, and is in fact why liberalism tends toward an all-powerful centralized tyranny that is always telling everyone what to do in every niggling detail of their lives. The self-contradiction of anti-authoritarian political philosophy, when dropped into the context of an actual social reality, produces an all-managing monolithic hyperauthoritarian monstrosity.

    Authority though is not a monolith. Fathers of children have natural law authority to protect their children (just as an example), not to mention natural law authority over their wives. When the sovereign actively prevents a father from stopping the murder of his child, this isn’t some passive “allowing” taking place. Putting a wall of state troopers around a building and throwing people in jail who don’t follow your rules and commands isn’t “passive”. These are acts.

    “Terri Shiavo died because Michael Shiavo declined to give her food and water” attempts to frame the government’s (and even Michael Shiavo’s) roles in what happened as passive, in typical liberal question-begging fashion.

    “Terri Shiavo died because the government deployed a wall of state troopers to stop all the people who wanted to give her food and water from doing so” is a statement which better reflects reality, that is, the actions of authority which killed her.

    See the difference?

  • halt94 says:

    The dishonesty of “Bob has the freedom to do X” isn’t limited to the political sphere. There is no area of our lives that is untouched by some authority, and indeed the attitude of “rights” has spread in at least people of my generation (millennials) to every social aspect. There is nothing we can do that does not affect other people; it is not possible to leave others alone.

    The idea that it is desirable or possible to leave others alone or have everyone leave us alone has, as you have pointed out in the political context, led to many more things being out of our control. Thinking that we can leave people alone really has led to thoughtlessness; because it isn’t possible, people just ignore how what they do affects others.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Maybe Step2 is raising the issue of vigilantism because he is implicitly assuming that authority is monolithic.

    Not at all, it was based on JustSomeGuy’s assertion that he is the one being coerced by the government from administering justice. His is a textbook example of a vigilante mindset.

    Putting a wall of state troopers around a building and throwing people in jail who don’t follow your rules and commands isn’t “passive”. These are acts.

    Right, but it is the basic nature of authority to block usurpation. That activity is a related but separate issue and doesn’t adequately characterize their intentional stance towards the original dispute.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    it was based on JustSomeGuy’s assertion that he is the one being coerced by the government from administering justice.

    If I were to hold you in a headlock in order to prevent you from rescuing a drowning child, I would be actively committing murder.

    it is the basic nature of authority to block usurpation. That activity is a related but separate issue

    No, it’s not. “Blocking usurpation” is just another way of saying “enforcement,” but with yet another new question-begging frame layered over the top.

  • Zippy says:

    At least we are no longer in dispute over whether or not asserting and enforcing general rules and specific commands – acts of authority – are always active. Apparently acts of authority are never passive per se, it is just that they are kind of sometimes not necessarily actually active-active per se.

  • Step2 says:

    Just Some Guy,
    If I were to hold you in a headlock in order to prevent you from rescuing a drowning child, I would be actively committing murder.

    Incorrect in every possible way.

    Zippy,
    So are you claiming all authority is required to abandon their authority when challenged in order to be considered passive? If so, why should I consider it to be an authority in the first place?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Incorrect in every possible way.

    Actually, it’s completely correct. The key phrase was “in order to”. I have formed a positive intention for the child to die.

    So are you claiming all authority is required to abandon their authority when challenged in order to be considered passive?

    There is no such thing as passive authority.

  • Zippy says:

    JustSomeGuy:

    Don’t let Step2 distract you with an argument over whether or not the particular case is murder. The critical point is that putting you in a headlock is an assertive, discriminatory action: it is not passive.

  • Step2 says:

    The key phrase was “in order to”. I have formed a positive intention for the child to die.

    Unless you were the original cause of the child drowning it doesn’t matter what your intent was. An assault against someone doesn’t transform into the murder of a different person.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    When I intend for something to happen, I am formally cooperating with it and guilty of it.

    It’s really an off-topic point, anyway, for the reason Zippy just stated.

  • Mike T says:

    An assault against someone doesn’t transform into the murder of a different person.

    Actually, he’s probably correct. Your state of mind with regard to callous disregard for human life and attempting, for no legally cognizable reason, to prevent a reasonable person from saving that child’s life probably would be convertible into at least some sort of manslaughter. The theory, which would probably be accepted by most juries, is that you saw someone in danger and formed an intent to ensure that their situation became fatal at which point it is possible you could even be held for capital murder depending on how long you had to form the intent.

  • Mike T says:

    Step2,

    Think of it like this. If you saw a parent trying to use an EpiPen on their child who was allergic to bee stings and was going into shock, what is the real reason the child died? It’s not the bee sting, it is your intent to violently stop reasonable medical care that would have saved the child’s life.

  • Step2 says:

    Mike T,
    The laws for murder don’t recognize a malicious intent which doesn’t correspond to the physical cause of death. Without question it is the bee sting which caused the death by shock and without that connection to the cause it isn’t murder. As far as I know the charge of criminally negligent homicide, which has the most leeway in terms of an indirect cause of death still requires such a connection. Malicious intent doesn’t cover the gap between what what they did (preventing a reasonably available lifesaving option) and the cause of death. This doesn’t mean there was no crime committed but it isn’t murder.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    My point was about the natural moral law, not human legislation.

  • TomD says:

    Appealing to the laws for murder is begging the question. Our laws are based, more and more, on legalistic nominalism. They’re literally insane.

  • Step2 says:

    Mike T can explicitly write about legal theories and juries, but it is begging the question to appeal to the laws of murder in my response to him. That makes sense.

    However I do appreciate the clarification from JustSomeGuy on what he is appealing to.

  • Zippy says:

    And again, murder or not murder is quite beside the point when what was in dispute was active versus passive. But sidetracks are always helpful if sending the central point of contention down the memory hole is the goal.

  • Mike T says:

    The laws for murder don’t recognize a malicious intent which doesn’t correspond to the physical cause of death. Without question it is the bee sting which caused the death by shock and without that connection to the cause it isn’t murder

    All that has to be proved to declare some a murderer is whether their act was the defining thing that actually caused the homicide. If someone is being saved in real time on an operating table and you shoot the surgeon in the face and thus prevent the completion of the act that was objectively saving the patient, you are now the thing which caused their death.

  • […] not active exercises of authority, and therefore do not discriminate, etc.  Rights, it is claimed, are simply a passive recognition by the sovereign and in no way involve the sovereign in […]

  • Step2 says:

    Mike T,
    If you want to change the law to support your claims, go for it. The current law doesn’t. If a patient is on the table the presumption is that the surgeon is sustaining their life during the operation so any attack on the surgeon is a conduit to harming the patient. If it was their lifesaving ability that was the relevant factor we would charge someone with mass murder for killing a surgeon since there are potentially hundreds or thousands of lives they could save. What should be the charge if the surgeon was shot a day or a week before the surgery and the patient died?

    Zippy,
    To be fair, it was one of many points of contention.

  • Mike T says:

    I am not a lawyer, but based on this summary, you most certainly could be charged with murder in Virginia for the two scenarios I described. Simply intending to cause substantial bodily harm that would likely result in a homicide is enough to get you into the murder category.

  • […] In the real world, of course, consistent loyalty to liberalism as a political doctrine is impossible. In practice, then, liberalism becomes weaponized incoherence. […]

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