Nozick's 'Non-Coercive' Autism

Reilly Jones (
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 03:00:13 -0500

RJ quoting David Stove: "...No ideal could be more destructive of human
life than the ideal of non-coerciveness. [The only way] of producing a
non-coercive human being is to produce an autistic one. . . .">

Tom Morrow: <This sorely mischaracterizes coercion, human life, and autism.
Indeed, the reverse of what Stove claims holds more true: Coercion
destroys human life, both literally and figuratively. Stove's criticism
makes the fatal error of confounding coercion with intellectual debate.>

No, it is Nozick himself who utterly abandons intellectual debate in the
interest of "non-coercion." He held that it would be wrong "to get someone
to believe something whether he wants to believe it or not." This is the
very opposite of intellectual debate, it is passivity of the most radical
kind this side of the grave.

Much of what passes for "intellectual debate" today, in any case, consists
largely of coercion, in the form of massive fraud. Fraudulent values,
meanings, and facts are served up regularly throughout our society, coupled
with a spiking of the truth, by our most important institutions.

Tom: <Autism, in the sense of folding in on oneself, follows from contact
with a violent world--not a non-coercive one.>

Factually, autism does not follow from contact with a violent world. A
large study of autism was conducted and reported by Tina Adler in "Science
News" (April 16, 1994: 248-9), "Comprehending Those Who Can't Relate."

"The study suggests that while normal people use logic to analyze risks
before making decisions, their brains also give them an automatic emotional
warning signal that the patients' brains fail to produce.... The patients
'run purely on cognition... and if you are going to run your personal and
social life on logic alone, it's not going to work....' The... findings...
suggest that.... 'withdrawn people... focus on too narrow a range of the
environment, and this seems to confirm it.' Autism reveals to scientists
what happens when the underpinnings of social behavior become seriously

The article goes on to discuss different manifestations of the social
problems that develop when the focus of attention is too narrow, and the
working memory is inefficient. This is exactly the problem with those
individuals who adopt Nozick's radically "non-coercion" philosophy of: 'I
do not interfere with others. Let them not interfere with me.' The
premise is utterly false, but they do not comprehend this fact, because
they make too literal an interpretation of it (too narrow focus of
attention), and their working memory is inefficent through a wilful
disregard of the "unintended consequences of life processes," which, in
fact, are routinely coercive all by themselves. The autism reveals itself
as a closed and dishonest unawareness of the way an individual impinges
without permission or compensation, on living entities all around them.
(But I'm not going animal rights on you. <g>)

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology: | The rational, moral and political relations
| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'