Re: Rights and Morality: The Primethic Decision

Gary Lloyd (
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 21:59:46 -0400 (EDT)

At 07:16 PM 9/28/97 -0400, George J. Dance wrote:
>> >>>
>> >At 12:13 PM 9/28/97 -0400, Gary Lloyd wrote:
>> >>My point is that anything as blatantly anti-survival as
>> >>stand-still-and-be-eaten cannot be part of our instinctive make-up. Any
>> >>notion would be very quickly eliminated from the gene pool. Therefore,
>> >>defense-is-not-wrong *must* be a human instinct.
>> >
>> At 02:27 PM 9/28/97 -0400, Victor Levis wrote:
>> >Strictly as an empirical observation, Gary's idea seems to be true of the
>> >overwhelming majority of people. Only outright pacifists believe defense is
>> >immoral.
>On Sun, 28 Sep 1997, Gary Lloyd wrote:
>> Even this (pacifism) can only be learned behavior, not instinctive, and can
>> only be an effective strategy in the assumption that the vast majority of
>> others have, in fact, made the primethic decision.
>irrelevant. as i've pointed out before, pacifists have unilaterally
>agreed to not aggress against us, so do not have to be included in any
>otherwise universalizable agreement.

Both statements are true.

>> >>At 05:25 PM 9/27/97 -0700, Ken Wiebe wrote:
>> >>>In fact, the whole
>> >>>point of morals is to create rules that people will follow even in
>> >>>situations where it is not in their immediate interest to do so. In
>> >>>circumstance, it's possible that death might result. Consequently, I agree
>> >>>that defense against aggression is not 'wrong', and it is moral to defend
>> >>>against aggression.
>> >>
>> >>>At 11:38 AM 9/27/97 -0400, Gary Lloyd wrote:
>> >>Why do you believe defense against aggression is moral? Why not amoral?
>that's not what ken said. he said that defense is 'not 'wrong'', i.e. not
>immoral. in fact, ken and i have previously agreed that defense can be
>considered a necessity, amoral because premoral and not affected by any
>moral agreement.

Apparently then, I misunderstood the statement, "and it is moral to defend
against aggression." But let's wait and see what Ken has to say.

>> >>>Now, define "aggression".
>> >>
>> >>It is not the purpose of the primethic decision to define defense or
>> >>aggression, but rather to identify the real world phenomenon that
>> >>establishes the basis of both rights and morality. IOW, where do these
>> >>concepts come from?
>i think the more important question is; where do these concepts lead to.
>when you talk about aggression as a 'real world phenomenon,' it sounds as
>if you're implying a way in which aggression can be quantified and
>measured, and scientfic law be made; and it's not at all clear whether a
>decision-maker has to surrender his own judgement to that. can a person
>define a/d personally, or does thinking 'aggression is wrong' obligate
>him to that of some 'real-world' philosophy of rights and morality/

The primethic decision is unilateral and voluntary. The person making that
decision defines A/D. Only to the extent that *all* agree on definitions can
A/D be quantified. Since the primethic implies consent, all else is by

>> If *you* want to say that rights are by agreement, then where does agreement
>> come from? Ultimately, there must be a real world connection, or the very
>> concept would not exist, and we wouldn't be having this discussion.
>it's a matter of reality that people act toward each other in consensual
>or non-consensual [aggressive or coercive] ways. it's a matter of fact
>that what makes the difference between a consensual or a non-consensual
>interaction is agreement.
>agreement comes from choice, and choice is a fact of reality - humans are
>moral agents, with their own wills and governing their own bodies,
>acting on the basis of choice.


>> The concept of agreement, or more specifically, consent, is clearly implied
>> by the primethic decision. If defense is not moral, and aggression is not
>> immoral, then consent is meaningless.
>i don't think so. i'm sure that consent was meaningful in human relations
>long before a/d [which did not affect oneself] were considered other than
>normal, amoral, human actions.

In what way was consent meaningful?

>By deciding that defense is moral, and
>> aggression is immoral, we claim a right to consent for ourselves, and
>> unilaterally offer a reciprocol, and equal, right to all others.
>nor do i see how this follows. people make decisions like this every
>day; but regarding certain people, in certain areas of their lives, only.

Deciding that a particular act is right or wrong does not make a primethic
decision. Deciding that aggression itself is immoral and defense itself is
moral is what makes the primethic decision.

When we view a dispute between others, do we judge those others to be right
or wrong, or do we judge their actions (aggression/defense) to be right or

>the evidence of a widely-subscribed-to 'right to all others' is weaker,
>and i think postulating it weakens your claim that the primethic is a
>real-world decision.

I am saying only that making the primethic decision *offers* a reciprocol
right to all others. The primethic is real-world in that people do make that
decision. And I think it is very widely subscribed to.

>> The all-important question is not whether the primethic exists, but whether
>> it is instinctively shared by all, or a decision is made along the way. The
>> fact that it *exists*, either way, lays the groundwork for rights, morality,
>> and subsequent agreements (consent).
>i have argued [and i think demonstrated] that, logically, a moral agent
>must decide that [1] aggression against itself is wrong; or [2] its
>defense against aggression is not wrong. i have shown, in a very
>non-scientiic way, that the proposition holds empirically as well; only
>pacifists deny [2], and of course deny they affirm [1]. that bit of
>reasoning may even have helped inspire you to formulate the 'primethic'.

Indeed, this reasoning played an important part in formulating the primethic.

>but that reasoning led me to a different point, in which each person makes
>such a decision wrt herself. that's not the comprehensive rights agreement
>that you sometimes seem to argue 'falls out' of the decision. it is,
>though, a schelling point [at least if i understand those fool things] -
>an initial point of agreement from which bargaining toward a true rights
>framework can begin.

The primethic is just such a decision, and it is a Schelling point, but it
is much more. Assuming that noncontroversial, intuitive, (instinctive?)
basic definitions of defense and aggression can be determined, all basic,
universally offered rights can be implied from it, with contractual
agreements bargained from this as a Schelling point.

>morality can be developed, by agreement, once such a schelling point is
>established. since the interests of all coincide on a/d [and therefore on
>a universal rule that aggression is wrong and defense is right], then one
>can expect each person to want such a rule to govern her. that's not a
>matter of morality, though, but [as you say] a matter of self-interest;

Deciding that aggression *itself* is wrong and defense *itself* is right
makes it a matter of morality. And yes, making the primethic decision is a
matter of self interest.

>> >>>>Still, this could mean that defense is either moral or amoral. In
>> >>>>context, we would probably deem defense to be *amoral*. In human context,
>> >>>>however, it is in the interests of the vast majority to make a personal
>> >>>>moral choice to the effect that proportionate defense against
aggression is
>> >>>>*moral* and thus aggressive behavior which elicits a defensive
response is
>> >>>>*immoral*.
>arguments from self-interest do not establish the reality of any moral
>rule. they do, though, give reasons for one to act as if such
>a rule were real, which of course gives it all the reality that a
>moral rule needs.

Huh? :-)

When the boot of government is on your neck,
it doesn't matter if it's left or right.