Local Coordinator Program

Hans-Hermann Hoppe by Henrique Vicente, licnesed under Creative Commons

A Priori is a deductive form of argument; it is solely derived through reasoning from first principles and is considered as collectives of self-evident propositions. For your better understanding; the opposite of this is “A Posteriori,” this is an inductive argument, and is based on experience or empirical results. An example for A Priori statement is “the triangle I drew has 3 sides”, and an example for, “A Posteriori statement,” is “the triangle I drew is red” – the former is self-evident and the latter requires verification through experience. Hence, A Priori is a useful tool for forming strong arguments.

Hans Hermann Hoppe is an Austrian school economist and an anarcho-capitalist philosopher who developed a priori based argument in favor of capitalism through his work “Argumentation Ethics”. Hoppe in chapter 8 of his book “A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism”, starts off by establishing the rationale behind considering normative statements as potentially true, objective, or valid despite not being backed by empirical or analytical aspects (Click here to read). Hoppe then makes the argument that all forms of human conflicts can be viewed as an affair of argumentation. Every individual knows what it means to claim something to be true and the validity of that claim has to be raised and decided over the course of argumentation. One cannot simply disregard and invalidate another’s statement without participating in argumentation – because by claiming that the other statement is wrong, the person itself is trying to make an argument that their statement is true and doesn’t need validation through the course of argumentation. If the second person has such a premise, then the first person’s claim has equal validity. Hence, the premise that one can validate or invalidate a statement without argumentation is wrong. Hoppe calls this “The a priori of communication and argumentation”.

Reason, which is used for establishing empirical laws for nature can also be used to determine moral laws which can be shown to be valid a priori. Hoppe then makes an interesting statement that in analyzing any norm proposal, the only task is to work out the logical consistency of it with that of the ethics of argumentation (the proposal shouldn’t imply any principle that would contradict his/her ability to claim the validity of his/her own proposal). An obvious aspect of a justifiable norm would be universal acceptability. If a norm discriminates and gives different rules for different people in argumentation, it can never reasonably be seen as just. The universalization principle doesn’t automatically make a norm justifiable and it is just a basic criterion (For example All people should be drunk on Saturday – is a universalized statement but it is not justifiable).

Hoppe then introduces three interrelated facts to be considered while deducing the other norms of argumentation:

From the above, Hoppe concludes that argumentation implies that everyone has a right of exclusive control over their own body as their instrument of action and cognition. Only if there is recognition of Self-Ownership (an individual’s property right over their own body) can argumentation take place. Any person trying to dispute self-ownership will be caught in a contradiction. Claiming ‘his/her’ argument to be true would implicitly accept the norm of self-ownership. There is no meaning in a claim “I believe or think X to be true” if the ”I” doesn’t have autonomy. Self-ownership mandates that “Nobody has the right to uninvitedly aggress against the body of another person and thus delimit or restrict anyone’s control over his/her own body”. This essential requirement of an individual to be in control of his/her own physical and mental devices to form authentic justifiable arguments makes the Non-Aggression Principle a core norm in argumentation ethics. Hoppe then moves on to explain that human beings don’t just live on air and love, they need to utilize other scarce resources on earth by mixing their labor (scarce resources like time, energy, etc.) for self-sustenance and to lead a comfortable healthy life. He then goes full-on to John Locke to establish the Right to Private Property as another norm of justifiable argumentative means.

This is one of the not-so-conventional ways of deductively arriving at Libertarianism. Do you think the above group of principles/norms are insufficient to tackle the wide possibilities of human conflicts? 

Students For Liberty is the largest pro-liberty student organization in the world.

To get started, please select your region on the map.

Asia Pasific