Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ten Popular, But Not So Self-Evident Claims

Below is a list of ten claims often made in the mainstream press that are usually presented as more or less self-evident. More specifically, claims 1-3 are the province of those normally identified or self-identifying as "the Left", claims 4-6 the province of those normally identified or self-identifying as "the Right", and claims 7-10 the province of both.

I list them here in order to emphasize that, at least as far as I am concerned, far from being self-evident, they are actually in dire need of rational justification, and, despite what I would like to think of as my ongoing, honest attempt to find one, I am so far not aware of any. Here is the full list:

1. Wealth inequality is inherently bad.
2. The moral status of a given claim depends on the number of claimants.
3. Discrimination in one's private space is not a right.

4. Contingent cultural factors can generate objective and enforceable duties.
5. Institutional permanence usually implies moral worth.
6. Sacrificing oneself for a collective construct can be an act of heroism.

7. There is such a thing as noble coercion.
8. In the area of social service provision, coercion is the ultimate guarantee of success.
9. Order in society is a function of organized violence.
10. Self-sacrifice is a moral virtue.

I do not intend to suggest here whether any of these claims is true or false. What I do intend to suggest instead is that none of them can be accepted at face value, if only for the reason that defiance is the intellectual self-preservation instinct.


  1. Number 9 seems self-evident. How could there be social order in a world of unorganized violence?

    (The real issue, of course, is how to organize violence so as to promote peace, prosperity, etc.)

  2. I'm sorry if the way I phrased the sentence suggests that it's confined to the dichotomy of organized and unorganized violence. I agree with the statement in the parentheses, but - and I think you will agree - it does not exhaust the range of the relevant solutions. There exist other order-inducing phenomena, such as ostracism, gains from trade, entrepreneurial positive externalities (psychologically understood), etc.