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There is a much simpler way to do this, you know

Like someone who comes out blinking from having seen a crime movie in the cinema only to find a crime scene in real life, I have emerged from being obsessed with the most important British election campaign of my lifetime to find that while I wasn’t looking politics has only gone and happened in other countries too.

Apparently the Australian government is trying to bring forward a bill banning religious discrimination. The Australian edition of the Guardian has an informative article about it:

Religious discrimination bill: what will Australians be allowed to say and do if it passes?

Statements of religious belief

Protection received: statements of religious belief will not be found to breach other federal, state and territory discrimination laws.

Examples:

  • A Christian may say that unrepentant sinners will go to hell, an example cited in the EM which mirrors the facts of Israel Folau’s case
  • A doctor may tell a transgender patient of their religious belief that God made men and women in his image and that gender is therefore binary (EM)
  • I can see why the coalition between the Liberal and National Parties that is currently in power in Australia wants to pass this bill. In the Anglosphere the politically correct Establishment continues its left wing course even when a vaguely right wing government is in power, as is the case in Australia now. It is common for this Establishment to try to suppress the freedom of speech of religious people, particularly Christians. If it became law this bill would redress the balance somewhat. It also does related things like give religious doctors the right to “conscientiously object to providing what the Guardian calls “a health service”, meaning contraception and abortion, and allows religious institutions to require their employees to hold the relevant religion.

    This will help some individuals who are being bullied by the Australian State, but only at the cost of cementing yet more firmly the idea that the only way to escape such bullying is to get your particular group defined as a “protected category”.

    I have an idea. Let’s put everyone into one big protected category.

    31 comments to There is a much simpler way to do this, you know

    • Behind Enemy Lines

      This will help some individuals who are being bullied by the Australian State, but only at the cost of cementing yet more firmly the idea that the only way to escape such bullying is to get your particular group defined as a “protected category”. I have an idea. Let’s put everyone into one big protected category.

      It won’t be that easy to get the identity-group genie into the political lamp. In the west, we’ve allowed our mass democracies to be terminally infected by the culture of critique. If we’re to get out of this jam, the way forward is to get a sufficiently large number of normal people to (correctly) recognise themselves as an oppressed group, and then use that voting power to end that oppression by eliminating public funding for the various rando freakshow groups that comprise the bioleninist coalition shadow government.

      It’s all very well to allow these people as consenting individuals to do what they please in the privacy of their own homes. However, it’s quite another matter to shower tax money on their organised degenerate identity groups so that they can attack normal people in public, undermine society and administer the majority of us into oblivion.

      Fix that, and maybe then one day we can achieve the sort of national unity in our respective countries that would allow for more libertarian societies, with everyone in one big protected category.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Natalie, excellent posting about a truly nasty situation.

      BEL, you’re quite right about turning off the money spigot. But I don’t see how we’re going to get enough normal people to recognize the situation simultaneously so as to act on it.

    • Frank

      I have an idea. Let’s put everyone into one big protected category.

      In Australia every government form (and many non government ones) has a box to be ticked asking if the person is of aboriginal or Torres Straight islander descent, if so then free stuff ensues. Also in Australia, to be accepted as an aboriginal one needs to gain the imprimatur of the local tribe, red hair and green eyes notwithstanding. Kinship is not merely genetic it seems. We are waiting for the day some enterprising group sets up an online vetting procedure, for a small fee, that would enable everyone to be of indigenous stock thereby crashing the system.

    • Behind Enemy Lines

      Fair point, Julie. In ordinary times I’d have little hope. But these aren’t ordinary times. These are revolutionary times. Throughout the Anglosphere the middle class is increasingly unhappy with its prospects, and growing more aware that it’s locked out of politics too. That’s the traditional fuel of system change. For oxygen, you’ve got the growing Dissident Right plus a goodly number of young people who — irrespective of their nominal political views — are united in being angry, restive and eager for change. Put these all together . . . find a spark . . . and off she goes.

      If Trump, Johnson, Morrison etc continue funding their own political enemies to attack their own natural political supporters, we may just get that spark.

    • Agammamon

      It also does related things like give religious doctors the right to “conscientiously object to providing what the Guardian calls “a health service”, meaning contraception and abortion, and allows religious institutions to require their employees to hold the relevant religion.

      What it doesn’t seem to do is guarantee an *atheist* doctor the right to tell patients that they think gender is binary.

      All-in-all, this bill does seem to provide some shelter for ideas expressed – but only if those ideas are coming from a religious base.

      And it still allows the state to decide whether or not each individual is ‘sufficiently devout’ to be considered ‘religious’ – if not, then you’re a normal person and subject to the normal penalties for bad-speak.

      Its just so much simpler to recognize a freedom to speak, period, rather than try to parse when speech is allowed and disallowed based on topic, intent, and (now) religiosity.

    • bobby b

      What a mixed blessing.

      I read the descriptions of this bill, and the First Amendment groupie in me cheers, while my Inner Atheist ends up quite dismayed.

      If you’re going to enact a strong speech guarantor, why even include the religious angle? Just reinforce that speech can not be over-regulated. Compared to what this bill says, there wouldn’t be that much of a political cost incurred for going that small extra mile. If being religious allows one freedom to speak, being a jerk ought to get the same consideration. My inner motivation is my own business.

      Thankfully (I conclude) there is small hope that this bill goes anywhere. Both sides are already backing off, admitting that the bill overreaches its original intentions.

    • Julie near Chicago

      bobby,

      Softly softly, catchee monkey ….

      If taken the right way, this can be a step toward our desired end. Incrementalism — that’s how the Long March is done.

      And as Richard remarked some years ago now (you do remember Richard, right? *g*), “It’s not the Congregationalists I’m worried about.” (He meant, as opposed to certain “religious” fanatics who go around flying airliners into very tall buildings and the like.)

      Militant atheists have worked hard to make “religion” (mostly Christianity) an unutterable word in polite society (what Free Speech?), except of course to trash it, and to convince people that religious people are all homicidal nutcases who really ought to be permanently committed to the psych ward at Bellevue lest they run amok among us, slinging their bullets and their Bibles at us and forcing us to accept God as President. I know you’ve said your own experience of some of them has not been uniformly pleasant, but on the other hand you have no problem with the Hutterites and Mennonites up by you.

      So if they can take away from us the right to practice religion (nonviolently) and to speak of our religion and its position on X in public and to put up creche scenes (freedom of expression) and to burn the flag (ditto) why can’t we piggy-back off that + this suggested Aussie bill (should it pass) and include the right of atheists to speak freely (which as I say above, we already can and do)?

      The final step is to remove all language linking freedom-of-speech-&-expression with religion, period. You don’t have the right to diss the worshippers of Baal because you’re a Christian or a Jew or a Yeti-worshipper speaking on behalf of Jesis or Abraham or Big-Foot or Allah or whatever, but simply because you’re a human being. Your religion or its lack is completely beside the point.

      That is the goal we strive for.

      .

      Really the same thing Agammon said, only he’s talking about speech while engaging in your work, such as doctoring. He’s right, of course, FoS needs to be decoupled from religion everywhere.

    • Snorri Godhi

      What it doesn’t seem to do is guarantee an *atheist* doctor the right to tell patients that they think gender is binary.

      More generally, it does not allow doctors to tell patients that they think gender is binary, if they think so on biological, not religious grounds. Not a good optic for Australian doctors when their scientific beliefs count for less than their religious beliefs.

      It also does related things like give religious doctors the right to “conscientiously object to providing what the Guardian calls “a health service”, meaning contraception and abortion, and allows religious institutions to require their employees to hold the relevant religion.

      Mike Pence signed something similar into law as Governor of Indiana, didn’t he?

    • BEL, you’re quite right about turning off the money spigot. But I don’t see how we’re going to get enough normal people to recognize the situation simultaneously so as to act on it. (Julie near Chicago, December 15, 2019 at 2:47 am)

      Boris has promised a lot of stuff to his mostly-unwoke voters. It would be natural for him to shut down every enemy quango he can find (tautologous: I could just say, every quango he can find), every handout to a left-dominated group, etc., to fund these promises.

      I suspect that we, who fume about the state paying pressure groups to oppress us and support its expansion, may then discover that the money thus saved doesn’t quite cover it – but hey, every little helps, right?

      Seriously, I don’t think I am the only one to notice the coincidence of political motive and economic excuse.

    • MadRocketSci

      Why is freedom of speech and thought suddenly so hard? Now, in the age of the internet of all the times and places? Why do we need to make little excuses and exceptions for people’s right to think and say whatever the hell they feel like thinking and saying?

      (Or I suppose the real question is, why did freedom of thought break out only in the west at certain times and places when the result is basically the entire delta between now and the Malthusian dark ages?) The boot came off the neck of man for a historical instant, and suddenly polio and plague is no more, and there are men on the moon!

      After all of Western history, sitting atop a tower of knowledge and wealth that the primitive mind could not have imagined for its gods, no one has any excuse to condone chaining the human mind to some squalid cult or ideology. (By my own rules, they have the right to do so, but where is the shame? How can the assumed moral superiority of the would-be censor be sustained?)

    • Stonyground

      Who are these militant atheists who are opposed to free speech and freedom of religion? I have spent a great deal of time on atheist blogs, websites and forums and I have hardly ever encountered a comment or post that expresses such opposition. Very occasionally some idiot comes on saying that religion should be banned, but they were immediately shot down in flames by just about every one else.

    • bobby b

      “- A single mother who, when dropping her child off at daycare, may be told by a worker that she is sinful for denying her child a father.

      – A woman may be told by a manager that women should submit to their husbands or that women should not be employed outside the home.

      – A student with disability may be told by a teacher their disability is a trial imposed by God.

      – A person of a minority faith may be told by a retail assistant from another religion that they are a “heathen destined for eternal damnation”.”

      Julie, these are more of the intentional consequences of that bill.

      This isn’t a hill I’m willing to die on. This doesn’t stem so much from my irreligion as it does my idea of the public relations aspects of spreading a philosophy of free speech. This is such a PR step back that it ought not even be considered.

      There are so many other approaches to expanding freedom. Ultimately we expand freedom through persuasion. This just persuades others that we’re nuts.

    • Tedd

      MadRocketSci:

      Why is freedom of speech and thought suddenly so hard?

      This won’t be news to a lot of people, but part of the explanation is the way moral relativity and identity have morphed. There’s a segment of the population who’ve accepted the proposition that there is no truth other than identity. You have no values, knowledge, or information to convey through words, you’re merely an avatar for whatever region on the intersectionality domain you inhabit. Under this dogma, free speech literally doesn’t exist. What you say (what you believe) is merely the product of identity. And, so, there’s nothing to protect. If you’re saying something I don’t like then I have every right to use any means at my disposal to stop you because the only reality is a Hobbesian all-against-all identity struggle.

      Now, I don’t imagine that the proportion of the population who actually believes this is very large. But outside of that core group is a wider group that treats this core group as authority and so follows their lead. And outside of that group is a much larger group that goes along with the first two groups to avoid trouble. (That would include, for example, corporate decision-makers who adopt policies dreamed up by the core group.) All of that is added to the people who never had a very strong commitment to the idea of free speech to begin with, which is a lot of people. By that time, I expect you’ve got a solid majority of the population.

    • Julie near Chicago

      bobby,

      Your examples of nasty remarks which would be allowed under a right of the religious to speak freely as they believe their religion prompts them:

      1. We have seen nearly 70 years of feminists being allowed to make equally nasty comments on the same exact subjects to women who choose to concentrate on homemaking and child-rearing while their husbands bring home the bacon.

      (As for # 3, some preach that the child’s disability is due to evil treatment at the hands of the religious, in the name of their religion. Twists the little buggers’ minds, don’tcha know).

      2. Thus, on such matters as those, atheists — or at least the bien-pensant among them — don’t need additional protections for free speech: They already enjoy the ability to insult and smear at will, as long as they’re not dissing Islam nor any of its practitioners.

      3. The constant drumbeat of libertarianism (not pseudo-libertarianism, like the Bleeding-Heart variety) is that “sticks and stones” “neither break my bones nor pick my pocket,” as some famous Founding dude put it, and therefore anybody s/b allowed to say anything he pleases, short of fraud and slander. We are thus supposedly working toward a day when your list of insults are certainly protected, whether borne of the speaker’s religion or not; as are the execrable sentiments of militant feminists and militant SJWs, communists, and Billy Ayers.

      Remember what we here say to each other so often: It is the speech we detest that most needs legal protection.

      (Why? Because if I have the right to set the Lawr on people who insult the unmarried mom for being an unmarried mom, then the people who hold that view have the right to set the Lawr on me.)

      Libertarianism, as a political philosophy, has nothing to say about whether such speech (or nonviolent expression of the same sentiments) is civil or decent or socially acceptable. Getting people to change their beliefs and conduct toward greater civility is not a matter for the legal system — except perhaps in truly extraordinary circumstances, and perhaps not even then.

      .

      Stony, I speak of militant Christians, militant atheists, militant Muslims. These are the folks that perhaps others might call fanatic and who do indeed work to render “freedom of conscience” illegitimate, except for the person’s own brand of religious or quasi-religious — e.g., atheistic — belief, which of course should rule the roost. In the West, except for militant Islam, these people are mostly (not 100%) non-violent.

      However, for one example of overt and violent legal suppression of religion by those calling for atheism, remember the original program of Marxism-Leninism, which as I understand it was only backed off from somewhat when Stalin decided he couldn’t get proper Communism going without at least a little lip service to the Church. (If I am wrong here, please correct me.)

      .

      Tedd, good comment.

    • Stonyground is right here. There seems to be this thing about atheists being at the forefront of the woke charge. I am an atheist, and like many of my fellow disbelievers, advocate for religious freedom along with free speech. I also take the scientific view that there are only two biological sexes (some odd biological aberrations notwithstanding).

      While the SJW crowd may be predominately atheist, it does not necessarily follow that atheists are woke SJWs.

    • Snorri Godhi

      Not all militant atheists are SJWs.

      Most notoriously, Ayn Rand demanded that Murray Rothbard divorce his wife because she was Christian. When he refused, he was excommunicated from the Objectivist movement.

      Maybe, if Rothbard’s wife had been an atheist, Rothbard would never have departed from Objectivism!

      (AFAIK Rothbard identified as agnostic.)

    • bobby b

      “Remember what we here say to each other so often: It is the speech we detest that most needs legal protection.”

      Julie, I’m in agreement with most of what you said. I believe that each of the statements I listed should be legally allowed.

      I just think it’s counterproductive to start our campaign with them.

    • Paul Marks

      As other comments have already noted this is really a FREEDOM OF SPEECH Bill – but only for religious people speaking about their religion.

      Why, for example, should an atheist not be allowed to say that a “Trans Woman” is not a women? What if the atheist is a biologist – and sincerely believes that “Trans Women” is not a women (because they do NOT believe that “gender is a social construct”).

      And will religions be allowed to dispute? Will they be allowed to attack each other?

      For example, Islam holds that the basic texts of Judaism and Christianity have been corrupted (by the Jews and Christians) to remove the references to Muhammed that Islam says were originally there. Will Muslims be allowed to say that? And will Christians and Jews be allowed to attack the basic ideas of Islam – for example that Muhammed was a perfect model of conduct?

      And if religious people are allowed to attack other religions – why not atheists being allowed to attack ALL religions? And religious people allowed to attack atheism.

      Why not just general FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

    • Julie near Chicago

      bobby, thanks for the clarification. FWIW, to me it’s not starting with them (or wouldn’t have been, had the bill passed, which I gather it didn’t); it would have been continuing from where we were w/the bill enacted.

      In other words, broadening the scope of legally permitted speech a bit at a time, just as the Woke Folk have limited it (or tried to) a bit at a time.

      When I was a little girl, I used to get into the bathtub (in summer, the swimming pool) a toe at a time, so as to let the water “get used to me.”

      What was entirely unconscionable in 1965 is now the order of the day. Then, it wasn’t socially and mostly not even legally acceptable to engage in homosexuality. Today … the only legal frontier that remains, as far as I can see, is polyamory as a legally protected style of marriage.

    • Nullius in Verba

      “As other comments have already noted this is really a FREEDOM OF SPEECH Bill – but only for religious people speaking about their religion.”

      The law also covers atheists speaking about atheism. But yes, what they say has to be related specifically to their atheism.

      “What if the atheist is a biologist – and sincerely believes that “Trans Women” is not a women (because they do NOT believe that “gender is a social construct”).”

      I think you’ve got that the wrong way round. That “gender is a social construct” was the LEFT-wing, feminist, blank-slate position, contradicted in the 1980s by RIGHT-wing-supporting biologists who said that gender was biologically determined by the way the brain was wired in the womb, and that this could be different to the way the genitals were configured. See Matt Ridley’s book ‘The Red Queen’ Chapter 8 entitled ‘Sexing the Mind’. Transgender biology is the OPPOSITE of the “gender is a social construct” position.

      But yes, someone who believed men and women’s brains were always wired the same way their genitals were arranged because of their ‘scientific’ beliefs would have no more protection than someone who spoke about the superiority of the Aryan master race because of their belief in the ‘science’ of eugenics. And you’re quite right that they should all be equally protected as free speech.

      “For example, Islam holds that the basic texts of Judaism and Christianity have been corrupted (by the Jews and Christians) to remove the references to Muhammed that Islam says were originally there.”

      No, there’s no claim that references to *Muhammad* were removed. The claim is that God only revealed one religion to man, that Jews and Christians corrupted it, and Muhammad *revived* it. The religion God revealed to Moses and Abraham and so on is said to be *identical* to Islam.

      If you look at some of the activities of Moses, slaughtering the Midianites, enslaving populations, death penalties for sin, and so on, it’s arguable that Islam is indeed quite close in character to a sort of Old Testament Jewish originalist fundamentalism. And the Old Testament is full of stories of God sending prophets who the Jews rejected, ignored, persecuted, threw into the sea, or killed. (Including Jesus, of course.) So in this particular case, Muslims do rather have a point.

      Both Jews and Christians got rid of all the Old Testament nastiness. That’s precisely what the Muslims describe as “corrupting” God’s original religion.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Snorri, there are several commentaries on the Web to the effect that that bit about Miss R.’s telling Rothbard he must divorce Joey is a fake story. (Probably made up by Murray, along with various other slanders and pranks or parodies — Mozart Was a Red being one of the latter.)

      There used to be an excellent site by Richard Lawrence, called “The Objectivism Reference Center.” It contained main references to works on Miss Rand and on Objectivism; these include the philosophy’s, and her, fans and detractors.

      Here is a quote from Sam Francis. I have read a small amount of his stuff written for the Council of Conservative Christians, and from that dip of the toe, I think WikiFootia is correct when it says, at

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_T._Francis , that

      Francis would later become a “dominant force” on the Council of Conservative Citizens,[2] an anti-black, anti-immigrant group that espoused racism.[3]

      But as always, RTWT, investigate, and form your own opinions on Francis.

      In particular, at

      http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/essays/obj_cult2.html

      In Jim Peron’s pro-Rand (but I think pretty fair) essay “Is Objectivism a Cult,” part of which I quote here between the ***s, he writes,

      *****

      Frances, the anti-immigrant activist, accused the immigrant Rand of turning “herself and her ideas into her own private church.” He says that a story “about my late friend Murray Rothbard” shows how this was true. Frances wrote:

      Murray, one of the world’s leading free market economists and libertarian thinkers, was a lifelong agnostic, but his wife, Joey, was and is a Christian. When they were younger, they had some truck with Rand and her circle of worshipers, but then the Great One found out about Joey’s faith.

      Rand gave Joey six months to soak herself in Rand’s own screeds against religion. If, at the end of that period, Joey abandoned her beliefs, she and Murray could sign up with the Source of All Truth Herself. If not, Murray would have to divorce Joey, or else they would be exiled to the outer dark. Murray, quite properly, told Rand to go take a flying jump in the lake (or words to that effect). He kept his wife, and his wife kept her faith, and somehow they managed to live happily without the benefit of Ayn Rand’s wisdom.

      This story has been making the rounds for decades. And if true it would certainly show Rand in an extremely bad light. If the “exile” of Rothbard had to do with an edict to divorce his wife because of her beliefs, then his attacks might be justified. But the correspondence between Rothbard and Nathaniel Branden, which still exists, showed the “exile” was over the charges of plagiarism.

      ****

      The whole essay is interesting, and as to the “divorce her!” story, I believe it is a canard.

      Further down, Mr. Peron writes,

      Once told a story can’t be untold and takes on a life of its own. Propagandists have always known this and Rothbard was a propagandist. Unfortunately he was always most successful at “smashing” his opponents than he ever was at building up support for a free society. Sociologist Ted Goertzel used Rothbard’s false claims in his book Turncoats & True Believers (his discussion of Rand is amateurish and filled with absurd claims). Goertzel alleges:

      When economist Murray Rothbard’s wife could not be persuaded to give up her Christian beliefs, Rand and Branden suggested that he leave her and take a more rational mate. He refused. At a later meeting, Rothbard was denounced for not smoking cigarettes. A purge trial was held, which Rothbard refused to attend. Rothbard left the cult and continued to fight the Randians in the Libertarian Party.

      Not only did Rothbard lie about Rand demanding he divorce Joey but he covered up the real reasons. He also seems to be the source for the completely false claim that Rand argued that a good Objectivist should smoke. She didn’t! I think that Rothbard’s anti-Rand satirical play was used by Jerome Tuccille as a source for some of the scenarios which he used in his fictional, satirical book It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. At one point I even published Tuccille’s book thinking that no one would confuse it with reality. Regretfully I was wrong. Several alleged scholars, including James Baker and Ted Goertzel, took this book seriously. For the record: it was a satirical fictional work. It was not fact! And what is based on fact in the book is so intermeshed with the satire and Tuccille’s own imagination that no serious scholar would bother using it as a source. Rothbard even admits that Tuccille’s work “was not always historically accurate.”

      *****

      Miss R has her fans and her detractors. Both are somewhat noisy in support of their points of view, so form your opinion — after lots of checking — at your own risk. Me, I consider myself a fellow-traveller as far as Objectivism goes. But I’ve read a good deal that does not endear Rothbard to me.

      Anyway, the “Noble Soul” piece is interesting throughout and is about a lot more than Rothbard/Rand. There’s a bit on LP Party history, for instance.

      And, everybody, HEDZUP: The site has been taken down. It seems that if you go back far enough with Wayback and then wallow around some, you can still download at least some of it. Worth it, IMO.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Both Jews and Christians got rid of all the Old Testament nastiness. That’s precisely what the Muslims describe as “corrupting” God’s original religion.

      Ouch! Good point, Nullius.

    • Julie near Chicago

      CORRECTION. blockquote-end tag in the wrong place in Peron’s quote of Goertzel. Corrected:

      Peron:

      Sociologist Ted Goertzel used Rothbard’s false claims in his book Turncoats & True Believers (his discussion of Rand is amateurish and filled with absurd claims). Goertzel alleges:

      Goertzel:

      When economist Murray Rothbard’s wife could not be persuaded to give up her Christian beliefs, Rand and Branden suggested that he leave her and take a more rational mate. He refused. At a later meeting, Rothbard was denounced for not smoking cigarettes. A purge trial was held, which Rothbard refused to attend. Rothbard left the cult and continued to fight the Randians in the Libertarian Party.

      Peron:

      Not only did Rothbard lie about Rand demanding he divorce Joey but he covered up the real reasons. He also seems to be the source for the completely false claim that Rand argued that a good Objectivist should smoke. She didn’t! I think that Rothbard’s anti-Rand satirical play was used by Jerome Tuccille as a source for some of the scenarios which he used in his fictional, satirical book It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. At one point I even published Tuccille’s book thinking that no one would confuse it with reality. Regretfully I was wrong. Several alleged scholars, including James Baker and Ted Goertzel, took this book seriously. For the record: it was a satirical fictional work. It was not fact! And what is based on fact in the book is so intermeshed with the satire and Tuccille’s own imagination that no serious scholar would bother using it as a source. Rothbard even admits that Tuccille’s work “was not always historically accurate.”

      . . .

      ADDITION:

      The Home Page for Richard Lawrence’s “Objectivism Research Center” is now at

      https://web.archive.org/web/20120303082210/http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/index.html

      It gives links to a variety of resources on Miss Rand and Objectivism: History and biography, criticism pro and con, magazines, books, forums, websites. The page was last updated in 2010, so I imagine some of the links are definitely dead. Too bad.

    • Snorri Godhi

      Julie: thanks for the last link!
      I have rushed to download web pages critical of Objectivism 🙂
      That links to such pages are included, just goes to show that Richard Lawrence is/was fair+balanced.

      A sample of what i downloaded:
      Some Problems with Ayn Rand’s Derivation of Ought from Is, by the renowned occasional commenter at Samizdata, D.D. Friedman.
      Rand on Causation and Free Will, by Franz Kiekeben.

      My attitude to Rand and Rothbard is sort-of: a pox on both their houses. That is way too harsh, of course: I think that both of them have had both a positive and negative influence.
      What i find pernicious about Rand is her fundamental philosophy: epistemology, metaphysics, and meta-ethics. Actually, the real problem is the apparent refusal of Objectivists to engage in rational debate with different views on these subjects.
      What i find pernicious about Rothbard is what i can only describe as virulent anti-Americanism. Oh, and also his bullshitting about Machiavelli; and, i am sure, other thinkers.

    • Eyrie

      Anyone who thinks the Morrison government is even vaguely right wing doesn’t understand Australian politics. It is socialist left. The opposition are merely criminals using their even further socialist leftism as a cover.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Snorri,

      First, I am very glad you find the site interesting, and that its material varies between pro- and anti-Objectivism. I agree!

      .

      As for Kiekeben, variants of that argument have been made since Plato was a pup. At your link, he writes,

      Libertarianism is the view that we have free will and that, since free will is incompatible with determinism, determinism is false. This is the standard meaning of libertarianism.

      I wrote a bit about that here a few years back, and you said you thought maybe it made me NOT a ghost-in-the-machine Determinist, which was somewhat gratifying:

      https://www.samizdata.net/2016/04/a-mathematicians-take-on-free-will/#comment-703861

      Summary sentence, edited for improved accuracy:

      It’s our recognition of the fact that we ourselves are the final determinant of the actions we take that entitles us to claim our free will.

      [Free will is an attribute of the entire system that is a human being. As such it is an effect of various physical bases or substrates within us, but like emotions and mentations, we perceive those bases not directly but by means of their effects on our awareness. I’m not sure whether we ought to consider pure reflex (the doctor’s reflex hammer hitting our knee) as part of “will” in this sense at all.]

      I spent nearly 3 hours going into this farther, but in the end I decided it’s not soup yet, so here endeth consideration of free-will vs. determinism.

      .

      …Warning: Below is my take on the David Friedman’s discussion at your links, which may be TL:DR unless you have nothing to read for the next couple of weeks. :>)

      [NOTE. This thing — π — isn’t the letter ‘n.’ It’s WP’s presentation of my machine’s character for ‘Pi’, which looks just like anybody else’s Pi.]

      So. Sometimes I agree with Friedman, but I’m not sure he’s Philosophical Wisdom Incarnate.

      Consider π. Now there are two conceptions of π. One of them (perhaps Mr. Corbyn’s) has π = 3, no if’s and’s or but’s. Your idea, however, is that π = the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

      Now anybody can assign a number-name to anything he wants, but if he uses that number-name to do the kind of arithmetic that other people understand, he’ll find he’s out there all alone in the empty fields of South Dakota and there’s a blizzard coming on. (One of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoirs.) And if mathematicians knock themselves out trying to make sense of Mr. C’s arithmetic, they’re going to end up in a strait-jacket in a mental ward.

      Which is analogous to the result of trying to make sense of Reality when people are using a wrong definition of “ought.”

      There are TWO conceptions of “ought.” One of them has Ought hanging out there in the Miasmic Unknowable that some believe is the very stuff or essence of Reality. How this Ought came to be is by definition unknowable — it just IS. (Personally, I think this is because from babyhood we are inundated with the doctrine that what we Ought to do is given to us by our ultimate earthly guardians/caretakers, and this is not to fault them in any way. There are a lot of things you can’t explain to a two-year-old because he hasn’t yet the concepts to make them properly understandable. “Do-it/don’t-do-it because I say so” is at least within his intellectual grasp. And then the fact that he is his own person begins to show up — the sprouting seed of independence, which needs careful tending so as to keep it out of the danger of killing itself while still allowing it the space it needs to explore and thereby grow.)

      (Some parents and children negotiate this reasonably well, without taking a doctorate in child psychology, even in the face of “underprivilege”; and some combinations of personalities never do manage it very well.)

      But, the “It’s just Out There” version of Ought assumes by definititon that Ought is unmoored from Reality; there is no bridge by which to get from one to the other. Therefore in this conception of Ought, “You can’t get an Ought from an Is” is baked in the cake. You can’t reason back and forth between them — unless you are so intellectually sharp that you put it like this:

      “You Ought to do so-and-so because if you don’t, ‘God’ or Reality/The-Universe will punish you.”

      But this formulation does indeed provide a link between Is and Ought, because it gives a reason in Reality for why it’s to our advantage to follow Ought.

      Now, no atheist will buy the “‘God’ will punish you (one way or another)” reason. But the rest of us should have no problem with “It’s to my or our advantage to follow ought, because I/we want to achieve or continue condition X in our lives, and not every course of action will enable or even allow that.”

      –For instance, if I want lamb for Christmas dinner, I ought to start putting money aside for it now; else the Feast will end up consisting of canned corned-beef hash, with Kool-Ade for dessert.

      –Or. Since I treasure my little sister, I Ought to look after her, because she’s too young to do it herself and there isn’t anyone else to do it. AND because in the long run it will make me happy, even though there’ll be ups and downs.

      –Or. I Ought to find some general way to help people, as individuals, to function on their own, because doing that will make me feel satisfied in life. [Aside: that’s exactly why the Young Miss went into Physical Therapy, coupled with her liking of not spending 65 years in school and of getting to work with people not paper.]

      –And. I Ought to take some thought for the well-being of my fellow man in how I live my life, because that will make my life run smoother (probably, anyhow) and because my nature as a human has not become so screwed up that I can’t take pleasure from the contentment/satisfaction/pleasure/happiness/good fortune of other creatures like myself.

      –Or, as well as humans, of dogs, cats, horses, sheep, pigs, cows, goats, snow leopards, grey wolves, and mice as long as they keep out of the house.

      A proper conception of Ought thus sees it as referring to the guidelines as to what actions are likely to help you to gain or keep X, where X is something you value.

      To put it Randian terms.

    • Snorri Godhi

      Julie: I don’t remember what i replied to you on that previous occasion, but i must disagree with this:

      It’s our recognition of the fact that we ourselves are the final determinant of the actions we take that entitles us to claim our free will.

      I shifted the emphasis from “we ourselves” to “final”, because if we are the final (or perhaps more accurately, initial) determinant of our actions, then we are random action generators.

      Besides, that is patently wrong. We do not arbitrarily decide when to cross the street: we wait for the green light. We wait for the green light, not because we have been told to do so, but because we want to survive (and avoid getting fined).

      Which gets me into the is/ought dichotomy, but i shall deal with that in a followup comment. For now, let me just note that our choices are determined, not only by our knowledge of our environment (including pedestrian lights), but also by our values (survival being a high-priority value of ours).

      That is the basic principle of moral necessity: a person of sound mind will necessarily choose the best course of action, based on knowledge (possibly wrong) of the environment and a predetermined value system.

      Note that the implication is that the person is aware of more than one feasible course of action. Therefore, reflexes do not fall into the rubric of moral necessity: the spinal cord is not aware of any alternative course of action to the sensory input that triggers the patellar reflex.

      PS: and sure enough, i had to mark traffic lights and a crosswalk to post this comment!

    • Snorri Godhi

      In my comment of December 17, 2019 at 1:07 pm, i wrote:

      the real problem is the apparent refusal of Objectivists to engage in rational debate with different views on these subjects.

      I am sorry to say that the above describes what Julie is doing about the is/ought dichotomy!
      I do not mean that Julie is engaging in ad hominem arguments or trying to deceive us in any way. The problem is that she does not address David Friedman’s argument. Nor Michael Huemer’s argument, nor Hume’s original argument.

      Besides, we have entered a brave new world of AI. Anybody who claims that ought-statements are deducible from is-statements ALONE, ought (heh!) to write a computer program that does just that. A computer program with no implicit ought-statements in it, capable of inferring ought-statements from logic and factual knowledge, and nothing else.

      Having said all that, i should not need to engage with Julie’s remarks, but there are 3 remarks worth answering.

      There are TWO conceptions of “ought.” One of them has Ought hanging out there in the Miasmic Unknowable that some believe is the very stuff or essence of Reality. How this Ought came to be is by definition unknowable — it just IS.

      If you remove “miasmic”, that seems to me a good summary of G.E. Moore’s meta-ethics: there is an absolute Good, and it is independent of physical reality. It cannot be defined because it is a primary concept.

      I myself adopt a more moderate view: IF there is an absolute Good, then it is independent of physical reality. Anybody who disagrees has to write the AI program that i described above to convince me.

      “You Ought to do so-and-so because if you don’t, ‘God’ or Reality/The-Universe will punish you.”

      There is a hidden assumption here, that can be made explicit as follows:
      You ought to try to avoid punishment.

      Without this ought-statement, the inference between quotation marks is not valid. Therefore, the inference is not from is-statements ALONE.

      A proper conception of Ought thus sees it as referring to the guidelines as to what actions are likely to help you to gain or keep X, where X is something you value.

      But if you have predefined values, then you have prior (implicit) ought-statements that you accept. Therefore, you are never inferring ought-statements from is-statements ALONE.

      BTW all what i have written about implicit ought-statements, reflects what Huemer wrote in his essay.

    • Nullius in Verba

      “Besides, we have entered a brave new world of AI. Anybody who claims that ought-statements are deducible from is-statements ALONE, ought (heh!) to write a computer program that does just that. A computer program with no implicit ought-statements in it, capable of inferring ought-statements from logic and factual knowledge, and nothing else.”

      Surely computers would do it the same way humans do it? Humans are just computers made out of meat, after all.

      Of course, we have exactly the same problem with deducing IS statements. Deduction is a process of transformation from a set of statements already established to new statements that are consequences of them. For everything to be deducible leads to infinite regress. Where does the process start? Thus, the standard approach is to take a set of axioms to be assumed without proof, and build from there. So to ‘deduce’ OUGHT, you need moral axioms.

      [I can’t resist inserting some Douglas Adams here: “And to this end they built themselves a stupendous super-computer which was so amazingly intelligent that even before its data banks had been connected up it had started from I think therefore I am and got as far as deducing the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone managed to turn it off.”]

      In practice, of course, humans don’t use deduction for either, but induction. They observe the world around them, recognise the patterns, and figure out the rules that best fit. We identify OUGHT by seeing what the society around us treats as an OUGHT, then fitting the simplest patterns to it, then generalising those patterns. Only this last stage of generalisation uses deduction. And of course, it is this last stage that moral philosophers are most involved in.

      Morality is like language. How does one ‘deduce’ that the letters C, A, and T correspond to a particular subset of furry mammals? In one sense, there is no objective link – the relationship is arbitrary. What do these symbols on the screen have to do with actual cats? In another sense, it is a matter of fact whether this is a picture of a cat or a dog, and both humans and AIs are both perfectly capable of figuring it out. You can’t ‘deduce’ from studying the animal that the proper spelling is ‘CAT’, but you can deduce (or more properly, induce) it from human behaviour.

      Morality is an objectively existing property of human behaviour, like temperature or density are properties of solids.

      Morality is like language in lots of ways. Different societies have different languages. They’re all convinced that their own language is correct, that there is an objectively correct way of speaking and spelling it. People try to codify the rules they know in grammar books and style guides, and always fail to capture the real rules that native speakers instinctively operate by. The actual rules by which a language works are far more complicated than we know, and are mostly implemented at a subconscious level. People with little experience of other cultures will often imagine that everyone speaks the same language, using the same words, and that these (and the category boundaries they represent) are somehow handed down by the universe or by God. (“Let there be light” clearly demonstrates that God spoke English…) They are sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, adopting specialised jargon for particular sub-cultures, or borrowing particularly useful words from other languages, but sufficiently rigid and stable to ensure everyone can communicate clearly. While their vocabulary is quite arbitrary, both morality and languages are evolved instincts with a specific evolutionary purpose, and much of their function and structure arises from that. They are both social instincts, evolved to enable humans to live in close proximity without conflict, in cooperative societies, by sharing rules and conventions that allow them to work together in common enterprises. Many of their features are consequences of that evolutionary purpose.

      It’s usually easier to answer our questions about the truths and sources of morality by first translating them into the analogous questions about language, answering them there, and then translating back. The moral instinct enforces a certain way of thinking, that makes it hard to reason clearly about it. Language doesn’t have the same blocks.

      Morality is as much an objective fact about the universe as language is. It is just as possible to make objective statements of truth or falsity about it. The meaning of words and the morality of actions are not completely arbitrary and disconnected, floating in some ‘miasmic’ space separate from the physical universe. They’re in part of the physical/computational universe to do with information and algorithms and protocols. And there’s no reason whatsoever that AIs would have any difficulty understanding them. Human morality, like human language, is extremely complicated. But computer moralities (protocols) are as possible as computer languages. It’s just that we often don’t recognise them for what they are.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Snorri, and Nullius:

      First, I didn’t mean to do anything more than state my own views on the two subjects. I had, no intention of arguing with this or that writer’s views. And I’ve been over all that ground anyway, though not in respect of the particular articles or points.

      So I’ll just say this respecting Snorri’s comment, in which he writes:

      “We do not arbitrarily decide when to cross the street: we wait for the green light. We wait for the green light, not because we have been told to do so, but because we want to survive (and avoid getting fined).”

      All of that is perfectly true and illustrates my point exactly. Each of us is the final determinant of what we do — which is to say, of our own action at a given time. (This is not to say one is necessarily the final determinant of what happens to him as a result of his actions, as when the asteroid hits.) In Snorri’s illustration, the guy who waits to cross the street is the final determinant of whether he will act so as to cross (at a given moment) or not*. (All the previous stuff just illustrates the thinking he has done on the issue. He may, of course, decided on the policy in the distant past so that by now it’s a habit. If so, it’s his habit, not the law’s or the traffic light’s. And he determines whether he’ll follow it or not.)

      * If some guy bumps into him and knocks him over so he can’t complete the action, that is something that happened to him, an outside circumstance that presumably he did not foresee; not an action he initiated himself.

      It also shows the proper (I insist it is the proper) understanding of “ought.” Because the guy decides whether he ought to cross the road or not based on his own observations of what is — the law, the traffic lights or signs, the condition of traffic, and his own objective. Whether he actually wants to get to the other side safely or to commit suicide, or maybe even to get hit badly enough to sue the driver for the insurance money, his considerations of what he ought to do are made on the basis of facts on the ground (as he believes them to be), including his final (limited) objective.

      But of course, if somebody starts out saying that “oughts” are out there floating around and nobody can really say how they got there, but anyway you “should” (“ought to”) follow them, then in any given case you’re likely to say, quite rightly, “Oh yeah? Who says so”? or, “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?” or “Oh yeah? How come?”

      Just to wrap up, most of what we feel as “Oughts from on high,” Oughts that “everybody knows,” etc., are just internalizations of what we’ve learned that other people believe or that we’ve concluded ourselves from our own observations, to the point that they feel unquestionable and obvious, and mostly we don’t remember exactly, moment-by-moment, how we came to believe in them. (One caviat: It’s possible that something in our wiring predisposes us to believe in some Oughts. But that doesn’t mean the principle of Oughts is out there floating around and unconnected to the Is’s that constitute Reality at any given instant.)

      Here endeth my remarks, as I have not got time before the undertaker gets here to write the complete 20-volume tome. You guys are welcome to the Last Word.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Never believe somebody who implies he’s quitting….

      One problem people seem to have with this is that the “facts on the ground” that comprise the actor’s situation at moment X almost certainly include some of his past actions, many of which are based in part on past decisions that such-and-such “ought” to be done. (I ate supper this evening, and the facts of that include (1) the fact that I thought I “ought” to, and (2) the fact of forming that opinion had more “oughts” (3, …., n)that led me to the “oughts” that motivated my eating supper.

      To think a thought or make a decision is an act, just not an act that involves movement of a limb or other visible body part.

      .

      “Ought” is not limited to what are usually considered “morality” — something demanded of one on grounds of being helpful or compassionate to others, or of being reasonably pleasant to others — “good company.” I ought to wear a good thick parka up here in northern Illinois when I go outside and the air temp is -30˚F with the wind gusting to 20 mph. I don’t do that for your health, but for mine.

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