In Defense of Hoppe’s Argumentation Axiom

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Robert P. Murphy and Gene Callahan, in “Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethic: A Critique” have attempted to refute Hoppe’s Argumentation Axiom [Journal of Libertarian Studies, Volume 20, No. 2 (Spring 2006): 53-64]. I will briefly explain why their attempt is almost completely erroneous.

First of all, the argumentation axiom proves self-ownership even if the speaker is missing a body part or parts. Murphy’s emphasis on which body parts are essential to enable debate is misdirected. The point is that argument proves exclusive control of the self, however intact. One could cut out an arguer’s tongue and all it would prove is that crime has occurred.

Second, it is exactly because a movie patron is a self-owner that they can make a voluntary contract with implicit terms and be held responsible for their actions to the contrary.

Third, all that is necessary for a “barbarian” to prove self-ownership is to argue. Pointing to animal rights debates seems to miss this point, since we know of no other species that engages in argument.

Fourth, there is only one way exclusive control could fail to prove ownership and that is if it was unjustly acquired, meaning the control was gained by a criminal violation of the law of self-ownership. But, again, this does not refute the axiom, only means a crime has been committed. If God exists and is renting our bodies to us, we would need to see the voluntary rental contract. If God created everything, it still doesn’t mean he now owns it all, since he could have gifted it, sold it, or abandoned it.

Fifth, the Georgist using standing space to argue may or may not have exclusive control of that space for he could be a guest or an owner. But someone arguing certainly does prove exclusive control, unless you believe it is currently possible for some people to take over other people’s minds.

Sixth, criminals can be punished for their crimes exactly because they are self-owners.

Seventh, since argument proves self-ownership, it is permanent.

Finally, you are correct that argument only proves the self-ownership of persons who have at one time engaged in it. This is one reason I have advanced a new, more rigorous formulation which I have named the law of self-ownership: “I think, therefore I own myself.” In order to think, one must have exclusive control, but thought can be proven in some cases where argument cannot or could not ever occur.

Two businessmen having an argument

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4 Responses to In Defense of Hoppe’s Argumentation Axiom

  1. Michael Lorrey June 27, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    That quote was coined by myself several years ago as the rational technolibertarian argument for natural rights being originates in sapient personhood.

  2. Chris LeRoux August 2, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    What quote? “I think, therefore I own myself?”



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