Tag Archives: Assumptions

Stefan Molyneux on property rights.

Normaly I avoid doing critiques of video’s these day, but I ended up doing this one anyway, and am sharing it here. The orignal video can be found here https://youtu.be/nFcaanYaFKU , but I am not a supporter of Stefan Molyneux and I don’t really think he offer anything of real value, your better of reading “Understanding Power” by Noam Chomsky, or “Neo-liberalism a Breif History” by David Harely.

My first listen of Molyneux’s video on property rights had me really wondering what he was saying. It was vague enough that I could impose various interpretations. Having since rewatched it I find that first inerpritation was a bit too harsh, but he does rely heavily on assertion of his position as fact, rather than sound logical reasoning.

He begins by saying not only that property rights are the basis of all morality and ethics, a dubious claim at best, and then that property rights are all about self ownership and owning the effects of one’s own actions, a far more defensible position. While self determination (Being able to make choices free of compulsion) and personal autonomy (the freedom to live one’s own life and make moral and personal choices, affecting the self, interdependently should you wish it.) are quite powerful foundation to build morality, self ownership as property rights as Molyneux describes isn’t in my view so robust a foundation as he claims, and is certainly not foundational to all of ethics.

He then goes into a garbage can analogy, which amounts to the idea that actions are more important than ownership in determining who is responsible for product. The example being if you knock over someone else garbage can the mess you made is yours even if the can and the garbage belongs to another. He does mention there can be blameless situations, but Stephan does not explain how his model would deal with such instances. As an aside would it also then be the case that if you sneak into a person’s workshop and build a new contraction that while he would own the parts you would own the machine, just as you would the mess?

Moving on according to Molyneux that full personal ownership in the first Criterion of property rights, and therefore morality, as such co-owner ship is not morally relevant in Molyneux system of morality presented here. Again another glaring problem as there are clearly plenty of instances where co-ownership is just as relevant as sole ownership, really any time something is co owned it only seems to make the morality more complex, rather then some how making it irrelevant. My guess would be that he seems to be shooting himself in the foot to try to avoid a loose association with “socialism.”

He then goes on to an aside where he discusses that because we are hard-wired into our own nervous system, or more correctly in my mind, we are our own nervous system and our body is controlled by nervous system, and because no one else can take control of our nervous system, we have full and unquestionable ownership of ourselves, to use terms he uses later in the video, you have a natural enclosure on the “property rights” of your own body. In essence not one can question your ownership because they couldn’t have any kind of claim like you do. The one problem this is when you ask, what happens as Neuroscience improves into the future and we not only can remote control insects like we can now but can remote control or even remotely program other human beings? Does that mean we can now lose our autonomy because other people can access our nervous system and control our bodies? I’d say that given Molyneux’s description of property rights, that if you ever take ownership of a body early before they really have a chance to be considered an independent person enough, or someone gives it to you voluntarily, then yes you can lose self ownership and essentially lose your standing as a moral agent. This to me seems to be a problematic outcome of the theory proposed by Molyneux. Even if this sort of loss of personal ownership is not relevant right at this moment in time since science has yet to progress to that stage, I have not yet ruled out other way in which you might lose your personal ownership, and since there appears at least one I would not be surprised if there was more.

He then makes the point that coercion is different from choice, and makes the point that culpability falls upon the one doing the coercion, or the instigator in cases where someone is forced into an action such as self defence. nothing wrong here.

Stefan’s next major claim is the idea that property rights is not what you grab but when you create, that almost certainly is simply not true, simply because of historical facts. Basically all wealth has been at least indirectly created upon the results of violence and if you don’t respect that historical context, at least in passing, I’m going to find you position on ethics dubious. Another problem with this and the counter argument that comes along with it is the notion that the first people to an uncontested piece of land are just grabbing that land, and while yes it is true that to maintain and say that you do own that land you have to build and essentially take over that land, you can in theory hold far far more land and even build things on it then you can actually personally use especially if your main focus is to keep others from using that land. This is why the distinction of of private property and person personal property is important because it seems it can be unethical for someone to simply grab a huge hunk of land they can’t use if there are other people need it, but Molyneux’s position doesn’t actually allow for that kind of distinction. 

Next Stefan says that what creates that property right in the first place in the example of land is when you actually “enclose” your ownership over that land once you can get other people to accept that you own that land. the problem here being there is simply a tyranny of the powerful written directly into the theory, However, confusingly he then implies that this is just like self owner ship, but if so then if someone in the future where to ever enclose the rights of someone else body with a general agreement, or do so while the person was unable to respond, such as an infant, this implies that you could at least in theory, deny someone self ownership, and remove them from the morality question altogether.

I think the main flaw in the Stephen Molyneux argument is the fact that he is trying to do too much with a single concept. He’s attempting to wrap up the ideas of personal and bodily autonomy, additionally he’s trying to wrap in all of property rights, providing no distinction between personal and private property. By doing this he creates a bunch of what I think are unsavoury consequences including not only that you could theoretically lose your bodily autonomy if someone were to “enclose” their own rights around your bodily autonomy, but indeed it doesn’t prevent people from enclosing their rights around practically any property is as long as they have a general agreement from the relevant persons. While this doesn’t necessarily have to be bad it doesn’t preclude imperialism for example. an imperialist could easily use the logic to justify taking land from people they being irrelevant savages, particularly since he denies co-ownership as relevant moral form of ownership, so he immediately gives away this big chunk that basically justifies the seizure of land from many Native American tribes who lacked complete personal ownership over the land.

In conclusion I find that Stefan Molyneux philosophical position is rather shaky, and not only has he competely failed to show that property rights as he’s described them are foundational to all ethics, but I think I’ve pointed out where his conception of property rights as this bundled concept gives up a lot in order to condense personal autonomy, private property, and personal property into a single concept. Removing any protections or distictions between moral agents and inanimate objects.



An Update

So things have been quite busy lately. I’ve been working and Withteeth has been looking for a job. Unfortunately, that has meant that the blog has gotten pushed aside for a while. However, I have gotten back into my reading of the Bible. I’m still in 2 Corinthians, which is essentially and overview, so I don’t have anything interesting to write about it yet, but I am planning to get back into writing my Bible overview soon.

But for now I have a few comments to share from my first month of work. Last week I had a lady tell me that I was sent to her by God to help her find some books for her grandsons. I happened to be in the right area and asked her if she needed help, and she wasn’t used to our store, so she told me that I had been sent. It turned out that she wanted some children’s Bibles for her grandsons. I thought it was kind of funny because a) I’m and atheist and it seems strange that God would send me over a Christian, and b) why would God send anybody to help one lady of 7 billion humans find two books? Chances are the grandsons are already being raised Christian, and it’s unlikely the purchasing of the two books would have any real affect on their beliefs, so why would God care?

Yesterday another customer invited me to a Bible study after telling me which Bible she prefers. I just happened to walk into the same section she was in with her daughters when the conversation occurred. As an employee, there isn’t a whole lot more than I can do besides smile and nod.

I bring these stories up because they are two of five incidences that have taken place in the last couple of weeks. It seems as though people just assume I’m Christian. This has gotten me thinking about two things: First, this assumption suggests a level of privilege granted to Christians that others don’t get to share. Christians can just assume that the person they are talking to is a Christian without having to fear any negative repercussion (and they are even right fairly regularly). In North America, we live in a society where people think highly of Christians for no reason other than that they are Christians. People don’t generally get offended when they are mistaken for being a Christian, and Christians have a lot of privileges that other groups don’t have (like the ability to walk down the street and find a church without much difficulty, or the ability to find curriculum that cater to them so that they can homeschool their children). I can’t assume that any given person is an atheist, and I risk offending people if I do make the assumption. Second, how can I as an atheist and an employee respond to these assumptions? Like I’ve said, so far all I’ve done is smile and nod, but I’m not really a fan of that approach. I don’t want people to just assume I’m a Christian, but I can’t really represent atheism at my job. Like everybody else, I have to put my beliefs on hold and just focus on the customer. There is no easy answer, but I wish that people wouldn’t assume. Not everybody is a Christian.

I’m At a Loss

I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.

The Problem With Biblical Inerrancy

As many of you know, last summer I began to look into theology. Now that I’m no longer in school, I have gotten back into it. This had led me to think about the idea that the Bible is inerrant. As an atheist, I obviously don’t believe that this is true, but most Christians do believe that the Bible is inerrant. This is incredibly problematic.

When I talk to Christians about their belief in God, or my non-belief, the Bible inevitably comes up. I don’t believe in God because I see no evidence to suggest that God exists. I want evidence before I’m willing to commit to a belief. Christians, however, often believe that they have the evidence. The problem is this evidence is not convincing to a non-Christian. Why? Because it tends to presuppose the inerrancy of the Bible. This is also a major problem with the theology I have read. If you already accept that the Bible is inerrant, then I’m sure the arguments presented are fairly convincing. But, if you already accept that the Bible is inerrant, then you are probably already a Christian and you probably don’t need the arguments to convince you of anything. But for someone who does not accept the Bible as inerrant, the conversation quickly becomes frustrating and circular because a major presupposition is being ignored that prevents the conversation fro getting anywhere.

As I’ve said in other posts, if you want to provide evidence to support the Bible (assuming your goal is to convince them that you are correct) to someone who does not accept the Bible, then you cannot use the Bible as your evidence. The Bible cannot be evidence of the Bible. Why? Because someone who is not a Christian does not agree with your premise that the Bible is inerrant, therefore, using the Bible to prove the Bible is no different that using Harry Potter to prove Harry Potter. You as a Christian may disagree with this, but you do not need to be convinced of your own beliefs. This means one of two things: either the Christian needs to be willing to put aside their belief that the Bible is inerrant for the sake of the conversation, or a discussion about Biblical inerrancy needs to be had before the conversation can go any deeper. This is the only way I can see the conversation not turning into a frustrating mess where neither party understands the other.

I bring this up because a lot of the Christians who have commented on earlier posts seem to be unwilling or unable to grasp the idea that we do not accept the Bible as inerrant. We have ended up getting into a number of circular arguments because, when we say that the Bible is not evidence, or even that we do not see any evidence to support the Bible, we either have people throwing Bible verses at us, or we have people saying that we’re wrong because the Bible without getting any deeper than that. I honestly don’t know what anybody could possibly hope to get out of that other than simply shutting down any possibility for further discussion. As such, we ask that you take this into consideration before making such comments in the future.

I’m So Tired of These So-Called Skeptics

I can’t help but think that there needs to be a test before one can call themself a skeptic. It’s amazing how many people call themselves skeptics while having no critical thinking skills once so ever. This is the biggest reason I don’t really identify as a skeptic.

Today I received a reply to a comment I wrote on YouTube. The person considered themself a skeptic, but they couldn’t be bothered to supply any evidence to support their claim that masculinity and femininity are biological despite the fact that different cultures around the world hold to different ideas about what is masculine and what is feminine. Skeptics are supposed to be critical of all claims, and they are supposed to look at the evidence before they decide what is true, but so few actually do that. So many skeptics ignore the evidence and determine what they believe to be true on what society accepts, or who they hero-worship, or what they simply feel to be right. But that isn’t being skeptical.

Skepticism is a fine line to walk. It isn’t easy. But it also isn’t that difficult. Somebody says the sky is blue? Look up. Does the sky look blue? If yes, then do you have any reason to believe you are being deceived? No? Then the sky is blue. Obviously not everything is this simple, but it follows the same pattern. Someone says god exists? Can you see god? No? Then what other ways can we know something using our senses? Can we feel god? No? Can we smell god? No? Can we taste god? No? Can we hear god? No? Then how else can we find out if this claim is true? What evidence does the person making the claim have to offer? Can that evidence be verified? If not, then what does this say about the claim? If you can’t verify something using your own senses, and the evidence offered by the person making the claim isn’t verifiable, then the person’s claim can be dismissed.

But skeptics don’t generally have an issue applying this method to gods. It’s other things, more mundane things that skeptics want to be true, where they have difficulty applying their skepticism. But applying skepticism to one area does not a skeptic make. So where do skeptics fail?

Skeptics fail at applying skepticism to claims about sex and gender. It’s widely accepted that men are stronger than women. But how do we know if this is true? Can you see a man lift something that a woman can’t? Probably. But this is one man and one woman. So how do you turn the “this man can lift something that that woman can’t” claim into a “men are stronger than women” claim? First you need a lot of men and a lot of women. Then you need to compensate for weight difference. What do the results show? Obviously the average person doesn’t have time to do all of these experiments to determine what they should believe. Luckily scientists have done much of the research for us. So what have scientists found when they have done these studies? Are there studies that contradict each other? Does one debunk the other one? Are there meta-studies that explain why one is more accurate than the other? And are you sure your sources are good (ie. can you follow the source back to original research?)? Once you’ve done all that, you can be reasonably sure that your belief is accurate. However, to be a good skeptic, you can not say that you are a 100% certain that your belief is true. There is always a chance that you are wrong, and a true skeptic understands this. The problem with most so-called skeptics is they do not understand this.

So do you need to use the process given above to determine if your believes are true if you want to be a good skeptic? Yes. But it is not as daunting as it sounds. We all do the process to a certain degree, but most people don’t look at both sides of an argument, and they aren’t often open to changing their mind. The research doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can be done over the course of months or years, but both sides need to be considered, and you need to be open to changing your mind. That’s how we learn and grow.

So please, if you call yourself a skeptic, please make sure that you are as willing to apply your skepticism equally to all of your beliefs. And please make sure that you are willing to accept that you might be wrong. Because as soon as you say “I know x for certain” you cease being a skeptic. And as soon as you fail to apply the rigorous research needed to accept a belief you cease to be a good skeptic.

Anxiety Does Not Make For an Easy Life

Lately I’ve been struggling quite a bit with my anxiety. I barely made it out of school with my sanity. I haven’t been able to care about much, because everything is just too intense. But that’s what anxiety is.

Anxiety is the need to do everything, but the sense of being overwhelmed with everything that causes you to do nothing. Anxiety is the deep rooted fear that something is terribly wrong even though you know that nothing is wrong. Anxiety is the fear that success is impossible for you no matter how hard you try. Anxiety is the feeling that people don’t actually like you regardless of what they say or do. Anxiety is the fear that everything you do is somehow wrong. And on top of all that, anxiety is the knowledge that you fears are irrational and the inability to stop them. People with anxiety know that their feelings aren’t based in reality, and telling us this doesn’t help. In fact, it just feeds our fear that we aren’t liked or are thought to be stupid. But anxiety isn’t built on rationality or logic. It is a malfunction of the brain. Reason can’t stop anxiety. I wish I could just reason my way out of an anxiety attack.

My anxiety has gotten worse. It’s bad enough that I have to go get blood work done to see if it has any physical causes. It’s bad enough that I get to discuss medication options with my doctor after the blood work is done. It’s bad enough that I actually look forward to the zombie-like feelings that come with most anxiety like medications. I look forward to it because I can’t function. I want to blog, but when I think about writing a post I think of everything else I need to do and I get overwhelmed until I do nothing. I want to write, but I can’t find the motivation or the words to say. I want to get a job, but that’s overwhelming to people who don’t have anxiety. So instead I binge watch T.V. shows because that doesn’t overwhelm me.

Anxiety is a crippling mental illness. One that I wish people would take more seriously. One that I wish wasn’t so stigmatized. Sometimes it feels like I’m expected to put a band-aid on a broken leg and just walk it off.

That’s Not A Real Feminist Issue

I see this comment made a lot in the comment sections of feminist pages. If a woman says that she was blamed for an accident because she’s a woman and the man who hit her was in the military, people will say “That’s not a feminist issue, it’s an issue with military power.” Yes, it is an issue with military power. People act as if people in the military can do no wrong. People in the military do have privileges that the rest of us don’t have (though I’ll happily keep my lack of military privilege in exchange for not having PTSD). But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a feminist issue. People don’t automatically assume that the bad driver ahead of them is male. They don’t tell women “you drive like a man” in a mocking tone when they mean “you’re a bad driver.” The perception that women are bad drivers because they are women is a feminist issue because the assumption is sexist and leads people to treat women differently than they treat men.

Likewise, other “not real issues” are in fact real issues, and they really are important if we want to create a world that is equal for everybody. Men taking up to much space is a real issue. Why? Because your dick does not need so much room that you get to take up two seats worth of space while I’m forced to squeeze into half a seat. I used to ride the train for an hour to school and an hour back home again 5 days a week for two years and yes, I did experience this issue. Transit seats are already too close together. On a full train, I’m already forced to sit of stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers. When I have some asshole sitting next to me putting his leg over the line dividing his seat from mine, that’s infringing on my space. And it’s something men do. Don’t believe me? Go take a ride on a bus or a train and look around. Most of the women will have their legs crossed and their arms resting over their laps. Why? Because women are taught from a young age that this is polite and this is how ladies sit. The men, however, will often have their legs spread out crossing the line dividing their seat from another, regardless of whether or not someone else is sitting in the seat. Men and women also behave differently regarding where they put their bags and how they talk to their friends on transit. Women put their bags on their lap unless they are too big. Men almost always put their bags between their legs, which is often in the way of people getting on and off. Men shout over top of people to continue talking to their friends, but women generally stop talking if they are separated from their friends in the train or bus. So why is this a feminist issue? Because it’s a matter of entitlement. Men feel entitled to the space even if they are negatively affecting someone else to use it. Women feel as though they must make themselves small so as to have as little effect on others as possible. This is how we are raised, and it is a problem. Men shouldn’t feel entitled to the space other people are in, and women shouldn’t feel as though they should disappear in order to make room for others.

Are these minor issues? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they have no roll to play in larger issues. The same issues that lead grown men to not realise how much space they are actually taking also play a role in the “boys will be boys” attitude that people use to ignore a boy’s aggression and in the belief that men can’t control themselves when women dress provocatively. It’s all the same issue of “men are aggressive wild beasts that need to be tamed” that hurt both men and women. And the military privilege is much the same. Women in the military are treated like infiltrators who shouldn’t be there. The privilege is mostly enjoyed by men because they fit the strong warrior trope that all men are supposed to fit (even if they actually don’t). So yes, these are real feminist issues. They are feminist issues because they are yet more privileges that men get to enjoy that are denied to women. They are feminist issues because they help create a world of inequality. And they are feminist issues because size doesn’t matter when it comes to inequality. If something is unequal, it’s unequal. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little bit unequal. And it doesn’t matter if other people have it worse elsewhere. African women being raped because they want to go to university doesn’t mean that the inequality I face here doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. My inequality is still inequality. To say otherwise is to allow systematic inequality to persist. And small issues add up to create major issues. Personally, I’d rather deal with them while they are small.

Oh, and I can oppose that rape of African women, and other major inequalities faced by women, at the same time as I oppose the minor issues. So why would I have to pick one or the other? To say I should ignore minor inequalities because they are small is beyond ignorant. So, before you use the “that’s not real feminism” line, actually think about the issue. Think about what the person is saying about it, listen to their reasoning, and think about how that issue can play into other issues. And stop telling me that my experiences and my issues don’t matter.

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