April 4, 2013 8 Comments
If a legal case was considering a man charged with adultery, would all the prosecution’s arguments be ad hominem? Of course not.
Several interesting discussions recently erupted with friends of mine that concern an interesting question regarding gold, libertarianism and appeals to authority. These all relate in regard to a debate about Bitcoin and virtual currencies. But aside from the question of Bitcoin, the issue of debate is about humans and human praxis. Is it possible to create new system or government or new way of humans acting, and then simply implement it? Will humans eventually “evolve” to no longer care about gold, jewels or assets, and move on to some new medium of exchange? Is human nature malleable and in flux, able to be determined or altered by external stimuli? Is every appeal to the past or history or an authority a fallacy, strictly speaking? I answer in the negative to all the above, and here is why.
Astute readers will notice that the above argumentation closely resembles a kind of argumentation we’ve seen in the past: it’s very similar to ideological trends that arose during the so-called Enlightenment, and it’s very close to Marxism and/or libertarian ideas. I don’t say that as a fallacy of association, but because the root presuppositions of these ideologies are the same. At base is the idea that humans do not possess a specific nature and that “natures” are socially constructed philosophical assumptions. This is why these Enlightenment strands of thought led to the Marxist conclusion that humans do not possess any definite nature. In fact, there are no natures, since, as the sons of the Enlightenment following Bacon decided, nothing in nature possess an objective telos. Any idea of purpose or objective discovery of a meaning or plan for things in nature was only in the mind of man. It was only and solely determined by social constructs. Furthermore, the idea of telos in nature was bound up with theism and some form of ancient metaphysics, and since Aristotle thought rocks had the essential property of apparently “going down,” all of ancient metaphysics that dealt with natures and essences must be tossed out.
But does an error on Aristotle’s part somehow mean that there are no essences or natures? Of course not, and I’ve argued at length on this blog why that is not so. Bacon was correct that there needed to be a shift towards theorizing and experimentation, but the implementation of the scientific method as a tool in no way cancels out or destroys traditional knowledge derived from metaphysics or great works like Plato or the Bible. No matter how many inventions or marvels the scientific method produces, it’s still only a tool, not a comprehensive descriptor of all reality. Now, my friends debating me would probably agree with some of that, but they don’t realize how far they are in line with impossible revolutionary philosophies. While economics may seem like something disconnected from such obtuse questions, the reality is, one’s view of metaphysics and anthropology directly impacts one’s view of how humans operate and act, and one’s own worldview.
I think Mises and Ayn Rand are correct in regard to the fact that economically, humans operate for individual ends, and their ideas and products are their own. In the sense of origins, ideas, and hence the architecture of economic production, emerge from individuals and their creativity. But are we right to conclude from this that the atomistic individualism of modernity is correct? This view, of course, is consonant with anarcho libertarianism in many cases. In this sense, the individualism of the Enlightenment produced a lot of wealth, but also produces a breakdown of traditional cultures and borders. Libertarianism is thus inherently globalist, and this is evident in the Memoirs of David Rockefeller, who learned his economics under Von Hayek: in Road to Serfdom, Von Hayek argues for the United Nations. I’m not really concerned to debate libertarianism here, but to point out that it has always been a position of the oligarchy, it doesn’t represent a real ideological challenge to the power structure as many imagine – it is the philosophy of origin of the present system. Read more of this post