Philosophical Tools: In-Group Preference

When it comes to with whom we relate, we may consider likenesses in age, profession, or status. What we don’t consider are their philosophical beliefs, or what is at the core of the person with whom we are meeting.

As humans, we seek familiarity, commonality, comfort. We seek people like us with whom to relate. It’s only natural. We develop in-group preferences, not a bad thing, but interesting.

The reason I find this interesting is that I’ve developed my own theory on in-group preference. I call the dichotomy: Quantitative in-group preference and Qualitative in-group preference.

Quantitative in-group types seek the greatest peer acceptance by keeping their beliefs vague and acceptable by the greatest number of people.

Qualitative in-group types by comparison seek peer acceptance by being more narrowly defined. They are more focused on the details, the obscure.

Think of this like those whom are fans of football compared to those who identify with transgender dragonkin. There is a distinct difference between the two, football fans are aplenty however dragonkin… not so much.

Although this essay is more conjecture than empirical, I have personally found this to be a tool in my philosophical toolbox. A tool which has helped me discern between those of with which whom I relate, whether they seek acceptance by the majority or by the minority, the broader the thinker or the more pedantic.

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On the Violence Inherent in Voting

At some time or another, we were all taught how government works. We learned about the three branches of government and their relationships to each other. We were also told that “we are government” since each citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote for a chosen candidate or on ballot initiatives.

That’s what we were taught.

What they didn’t tell us about was the deleterious effects of voting… the victims of voting. The fact that each voter puts their individual needs, opinions, and desires above, and to the detriment of, others.

The voter believes their actions to be benevolent or caring, but nothing could be further from the truth. Their acts of voting instead cause innocent people to be considered criminals, increases in the surveillance state, increases in the police state, punitive taxation, more war, more prisons, separation of families, et cetera.

They vote because they think they know what’s best for their fellow citizens. What the voter doesn’t know is that they are culpable. They are personally responsible for the victims of their act of voting.

The recreational pot smoker who was sentenced to prison, the hard working couple forced to pay more taxes, the young soldiers who will die on foreign battlefields; these are the victims of voting, among many others, and the “patriotic, god-fearing, tax-paying, Americans” need to realize this fact.

Voting may seem like a responsible, benevolent act, but as Frederic Bastiat wrote, “there is the seen and the unseen.” By that he meant, before you act, consider the repercussions of acting. Your decisions have consequences.

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In Defense of Objective Morality

There are those who discredit the philosophy of objective morality, their reason being that we, by virtue of our disparate life experiences, fail to derive a homogenous concept of morality, rather a more subjective take on morality.

Over the last year I’ve come to defend the legitimacy of objective morality based on the concept of natural law among other philosophies. That is, if a benevolent action is acceptable to be performed by a group, it should hold true that the action would be seen as acceptable for the individual as well.

Conversely, if a malevolent action (as defined as a contradiction to natural law) is not acceptable to be performed by an individual, then a group performing malevolent acts shouldn’t be acceptable either.

If one looks at the world today, how many malevolent acts are being perpetrated by groups of people? Why are they being sanctioned, accepted, and even celebrated when these actions are immoral based solely on the violation of natural law?

All this is not to say that natural laws and man made laws are always in opposition. If I could whip up a Venn diagram I could show several overlapping laws covered by both ideologies. Murder, theft, rape, assault… any action which results in a victim pretty much covers it.

It’s the victimless “crimes” that fall under the purview of man made laws that concern me. These laws are the constructs of men and women with no regard to objective morality or natural law. Laws borne of a lust for power and control, not of a spirit of empathy and equity.

Without the understanding of natural law and objective morality one can become tacitly complicit in the illegitimacy of man made laws and possibly suffer the dire consequences themselves.

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The Philosophical Toolbox

“If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” I’m reminded of Maslow’s ‘Law of the Hammer’ quote as I read through various comment sections on social media. I find the comments most interesting than the posts themselves as it demonstrates the general tenor of society as a whole. Although the rare cogent comment can be found, the vast majority of comments seem to be banal rhetoric spewed forth with passionate vitriol and willful ignorance. As a Voluntaryist, I defend their right to do so of course, but it does shed light on the general public’s lack of understanding in one critical element… philosophy.

Like most of you reading this, I wasn’t always a Voluntaryist and I had a very rudimentary understanding of philosophy until I had my journey toward freedom. When I was “coming of age” in the 1980’s I remember being inundated with pro-American propaganda. The cold war with Russia, the space shuttle program, the 1984 Summer Olympics, and of course Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” moment were examples of the resourcefulness and strength of this country.

I remember the US being a mighty and benevolet nation with the greatest freedoms on earth, but as they say, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.”

As I grew older it was becoming increasingly more difficult to put away the childish beliefs with which I had been indoctrinated through government education and media propaganda. I still wanted to believe that “we” were the greatest nation on earth, that “we” were special having been born within these borders. But then I began questioning what I saw, what I heard and read. I was becoming increasingly aware of the wars and nation building through deception and killing of innocent people, the arbitrary laws punishing people for non-violent crimes, the out of control spending and burdensome taxation. However, emboldened with years of jingoistic rhetoric behind me I dismissed all which didn’t fit my “red, white, and blue” narrative as I was able to take any issue, topic, or contradiction and spin it to fit my pro-American mindset.

Until one day I couldn’t. The puzzle pieces I had once been able to make fit through trimming and massaging through mental gymnastics left too much debris in my conscience, too many inconsistencies. The cognitive dissonance became deafening. I began seeking out reasons, meanings, and definitions for what I was experiencing, this led me to philosphy.

I’m not saying that philosophy as a whole is without contradiction, however through years of weeding through different philosophies and theories I was able to find what works best for me. A collection of tools with which anyone can use to truly test whether an idea, concept, law, or edict is just, fair, and equitable.

In no particular order I’d like to present a few of the tools I use use when trying to make a consistent, rational, and logical judgement or claim.

Aristotelian First Principles: The basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

Logical Fallacies: Errors in reasoning undermining the logic of an argument.

Objective vs. Subjective Morality: Objective morality claims that there are certain morals which make claims true or false. Subjective morality is the perspective that moral claims don’t hold a definitive truth.

The Non-Aggression Principle: An ethical stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate. Aggression is defined as the initiation of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property. In contrast to pacifism, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violent self-defense.

Self-Ownership: The concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life.

Lockean Labor Theory of Property: A theory of natural law that holds that property originally comes about by the exertion of labor upon natural resources.

Misesian Theory of Human Action (Praxeology): The deductive study of human action, based on the notion that humans engage in purposeful behavior.

The State of Nature (as seen from the perspectives of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu): Hobbes argued that all humans are by nature equal in faculties of body and mind. In this state every person has a natural right or liberty to do anything one thinks necessary for preserving one’s own life; and life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Locke believes that reason teaches that “no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, and or property” and that transgressions of this may be punished. He describes the state of nature and civil society to be opposites of each other, and the need for civil society comes in part from the perpetual existence of the state of nature. This view of the state of nature is partly deduced from Christian belief (unlike Hobbes, whose philosophy is not dependent upon any prior theology). Rousseau suggested that people were neither good nor bad, but were born as a blank slate, and later society and the environment influence which way we lean. Montesquieu said that human beings would have the faculty of knowing and would first think to preserve their life in this state. Human beings would also at first feel themselves to be impotent and weak. As a result, humans would not be likely to attack each other in this state. Next, humans would seek nourishment and out of fear and impulse would eventually unite to create society. Once society was created, a state of war would ensue amongst societies which would have been all created the same way. The purpose of war is the preservation of the society and the self.

Whenever I read, hear, or see new information, ideas, or concepts I put it through these filters. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to weed out the inconsistencies, sometimes I’ll have to do more extensive contemplation. I believe by using these tools, we can have a better understanding of how to communicate with each other peacefully and coexist despite our differences.

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