Useful Fictions (was Property Rights)

David Musick (
Sat, 22 May 1999 12:18:50 MDT

Thank you, Michael for your well-written reply. I agree with you that the concept of property rights can be derived quite easily from the goals of maximizing the survivability and happiness of the human species.

However, just because a concept or theory is based on thousands of years of accurate observation, it doesn't make it any less a human mental construct. I'm not saying that such theories and concepts are not extremely useful; I'm only reminding us that humans formulated these concepts and theories originally (they were not some "absolute truth" given to us from God).

We experience sensory data, and we notice consistent patterns in that data. Our theories and concepts are based on the consistent patterns we notice. I prefer to remember that my experience is my primary reality and my concepts and theories about my reality (no matter how well they seem to fit my experience) are essentially mental experiences. Believing that these mental experiences are some sort of "absolute truth" seems less than honest to me.

So, Michael, I hope you understand why I cannot accept the concept of property rights as an "absolute truth", but must see it as essentially a useful fiction. I agree with you that a respect for "Property Rights" is an excellent way to run a civilization. I also believe that the same effect would arise if people simply respected one another (persuading them to do that is the challenge I would like to see more people working on).

our knowledge may be increasingly accurate, but it is never absolutely true.

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