The Right Stuff Argumentative Style

argumentationThose that have spent time in various libertarian or anarcho-capitalist political circles have probably come across the peculiar concept of Argumentation Ethics, the logical construct developed by Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe that theoretically provides the ultimate justification for the libertarian ethical doctrine of property rights and non-aggression. This theory essentially claims that libertarian property ethics are a priori true since the very act of arguing against them must necessarily accept them beforehand. Thus it is logically impossible to consistently argue against the property ethic. The idea that notions of truth and justice are valid, universal and objective is also assumed a priori by the very act of arguing over norms, since one would have to accept the necessity and validity of these concepts beforehand or else there would be no point in proposing norms in the first place.

Hoppe explains it in his typically turgid style (feel free to skip if you take my word for it):

“…any truth claim—the claim connected with any proposition that it is true, objective, or valid (all terms used synonymously here)—is and must be raised and decided upon in the course of an argumentation. And since it cannot be disputed that this is so (one cannot communicate and argue that one cannot communicate and argue), and it must be assumed that everyone knows what it means to claim something to be true (one cannot deny this statement without claiming its negation to be true), this has been aptly called ‘the a priori of communication and argumentation.’

Hence, one reaches the conclusion that norms must indeed be assumed to be justifiable as valid. It is simply impossible to argue otherwise, because the ability to argue so would in fact presuppose the validity of those norms which underlie any argumentation whatsoever. The answer, then, to the question of which ends can or cannot be justified is to be derived from the concept of argumentation. And with this, the peculiar role of reason in determining the contents of ethics is given a precise description, too. In contrast to the role of reason in establishing empirical laws of nature, reason can claim to yield results in determining moral laws which can be shown to be valid a priori. It only makes explicit what is already implied in the concept of argumentation itself; and in analyzing any actual norm proposal, its task is merely confined to analyzing whether or not it is logically consistent with the very ethics which the proponent must presuppose as valid insofar as he is able to make his proposal at all.

Hence, one would have to conclude that the norm implied in argumentation is that everybody has the right of exclusive control over his own body as his instrument of action and cognition. Only if there is at least an implicit recognition of each individual’s property right in his own body can argumentation take place. Only as long as this right is recognized is it possible for someone to agree to what has been said in an argument and hence can what has been said be validated, or is it possible to say ‘no’ and to agree only on the fact that there is disagreement. Indeed, anyone who would try to justify any norm would already have to presuppose the property right in his body as a valid norm, simply in order to say, ‘This is what I claim to be true and objective.’ Any person who would try to dispute the property right in his own body would become caught up in a contradiction, as arguing in this way and claiming his argument to be true, would already implicitly accept precisely this norm as being valid.

Thus it can be stated that whenever a person claims that some statement can be justified, he at least implicitly assumes the following norm to be justified: ‘Nobody has the right to uninvitedly aggress against the body of any other person and thus delimit or restrict anyone’s control over his own body.'”

This is a very clever rhetorical technique and it stumps many a socialist trying to debunk libertarian theory. It is a brilliant construct with which to defend your intellectual ideas. No engagement with your opponents is necessary at all. For an opponent to engage with you on your own terms is to fall directly into the trap you set every time.

What is even more interesting is that this is hardly an original approach. Almost all political ideologies of one stripe or another rely on similar constructs to defend themselves from criticism, even if they do not lay it out as formally as Professor Hoppe. The entire point of this sort of argument is to figure out a way that your opponents can be dismissed as necessarily wrong simply for disagreeing with your premise. This way you never have to actually mount a defense of your ideas. You cannot possibly be shown to be wrong within the frame you have constructed. You can then further imply that someone that wants to disagree is not only objectively incorrect, but probably a bad person as well.

Marxism follows a similar pattern with the claim that social class determines consciousness. Basically, any objection to Marxist premises is simply dismissed as a manifestation of class determined thinking. There is no need to actually engage with critics. It is only necessary to uncover their class identity or false consciousness. Criticism thus serves to affirm Marxist theories since Marxism predicts that the class enemy will be ideologically opposed by nature of his very being. All the critic really does is out himself as a bourgeois that will need to be put up against the wall and shot come the revolution.

According to Marx himself:

“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society — the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

The same basic pattern shows up with Critical Gender/Race/Queer Theory. Argue against Feminism? Well of course you would. You are either an oppressive, misogynistic male that is defending patriarchy, or you are a woman that is collaborating in her own oppression. Either way Feminist theory has already accounted for you and its premises are only confirmed by your actions. So you dispute Critical Theory’s claim of systemic racism and white privilege? Do I even need to say it? Obviously only a privileged white that benefits from systemic racism would argue this. In fact this is the most privileged thing you could do. You can never escape the charge of racism, whitey. The more you try the more racist you are.

In the words of a (white) anti-racist:

“Following this conversation concerning the impossibility of a white non-racist, I received feedback that this concept creates a ‘lose-lose’ situation in which white people are just screwed no matter what. First of all, the thought that white people are always damned completely dismisses the omnipresence of white privilege in this white supremacist society and perpetuates racial oppression. Second, upon asking what it would mean to ‘win,’ the response was that ‘winning’ would mean being able to eradicate racism from oneself and society. Aside from the fact that equating ‘win’ with ‘being the white savior’ is problematic on so many levels that it is a topic in and of itself, it is absolutely an exercise of white privilege/racial oppression to think that white people can always ‘win’ AND define what ‘win’ means. Finally, the idea that a white person has a right to ‘come out on top’ of every situation is an exercise of white privilege/racial oppression.”

As we can see these kind of “gotcha” argumentation techniques are common. It is no doubt tempting and easy to construct one of these for your own pet ideology, but then you will just be running on the intellectual hamster wheel, going in endless rhetorical circles in sham debates, making no progress and convincing no one, while keeping your sacred premises secure within the walls of your own echo chamber. This is not TRS.

In developing the TRS argumentative style we aim to eschew this rather played out rhetorical tactic. The goal of TRS argumentation is to affirm our narrative while at the same time negating the “gotcha” technique. Since the various “gotcha” arguments rely on disagreement to close their rhetorical trap and claim victory, the best way to undermine them is to agree with them. Accept the premise and point out the uncomfortable implications.

Yes, Argumentation Ethics effectively shows that it is contradictory to argue for the initiation of force. So what? The state does not argue with its subjects. It decrees. This is unethical? Why? They never entered into argumentation in the first place and thus have avoided the trap. A Monarchical state does not even violate the premise if state land is considered the property of the King. A King is a legitimate landlord according to libertarian property norms. Unless of course the libertarian wants to propose some kind of fiat limit on the amount of property one person can hold, but that seems positively socialist.

Class determines consciousness? OK, fine. So it is only because of my bourgeois nature that I find Marxist arguments to be flawed? I can accept that. What portion of Marxist dogma are we debating here? The oppression of the working class through the theft of their surplus labor value? I’m the class enemy. I’m not supposed to care. For the Marxist to moralize on this point is actually to negate his own premise since his theory predicts that the class enemy will not give a shit. If he really believed the Marxist prophecy he would not bother arguing it on internets with a bourgeois class enemy anyway.

These days Marxists have given up on the classical theories of revolution and can usually be found hanging around college campuses spewing Critical Gender/Race/Queer Theory. When it comes to these theories you can readily accept the premises and wait for the fun to begin. Don’t dispute notions of heterosexual white male privilege. Don’t try to claim that patriarchy is dead. The assumption is that you will accept the moral notion that inequality based on gender/race/sexuality is bad and argue based on that. But why should you give up that power? The most fun thing about Critical Theory narratives is that they basically assert the total supremacy of the white heterosexual male. So there is really not much to say. Just agree with the power narrative without accepting the moralfaggotry. This puts them in quite a spot. Their premise effectively grants you supreme power and then asks you to give it up (because feels). If you don’t, the burden shifts back to them to try to rescue the concept of equality from the ideological debris.

Pretty much all of these modern and postmodern “gotcha” narratives have the same structure and thus the same vulnerability. They ask for your permission on one level and rely on your opposition on another. It is expected that you will be vulnerable to the moral plea for equality while wanting to shield yourself from the shame of benefiting from oppression. The Right Stuff Argumentative Style simply turns these tables. Accept the power that they grant you, reject the faggotry and lay bare the horrifying implications of their own ideology.

Author image
Hey bro, that's racist.