Reason as the Leading Motive

Private Discussion with Dr. Slater and Dr. Brook

Posted by Jerry on January 17, 2006

I did get an opportunity to speak directly and privately with both, Dr. Slater and Dr. Yaron Brook at the end of the debate. Dr. Slater and I got into a brief discussion of logic and I was baffled by his blatant inconsistencies and lack of understanding logical concepts. When I pointed out that his so-called “practical” solutions were based on the philosophic principles of Utilitarianism – the greatest good for the greatest number, and Altruism – the sacrifice of the self for the benefit of the other, he responded by saying that those principles are grounded in the practicality of a democratic nation. I then asked him, would his concept of democracy then also allow for the tyranny of the majority? If the majority is your standard of practical morality, then what obligates you to respect the rights of minorities like gays and lesbians? Why extend civil rights to gays and lesbians and create a furor in the majority American society that is fully against it?

Anyway, my private discussion with Dr. Brook yielded much more important intellectual ammunition for myself. All this time, I have been unsettled by the Objectivist position that not only should the initiation of force be retaliated against, but the also the initiation of a credible threat to use force must be responded to with force. In other words, the concept of pre-emption, I could not intellectually wrap my brain around it. So, I brought up this issue with Dr. Brook. I argued that if the opposition has not attacked yet, but merely made a threat to attack, why must one respond with preemptory retaliation? If someone draws a gun out at me, I could also draw a gun out at him simultaneously. Thus, I could create a level field, and then engage in every attempt at convincing the attacker to drop his gun before I shoot him. I argued that isn’t the right to life applicable to all human beings and not just to myself? Shouldn’t I be prudent in my response to this attacker in that, I give him a moment of pause to reconsider and respect my right to live just as I am respecting his right to live?

Dr. Brook, however, insisted that I must shoot him without giving him any need or chance to pause, hesitate, or speak. That I am obligated to do so if I have any ounce of self-esteem and selfish desire to live. That anyone initiating force or a credible threat to my rights has already lost all of his own personal rights. There can be no rights in front of a gun. It’s either my life or his. If I had any true desire to live, I would not even allow for the remotest possibility for this attacker to kill me.

Later on at night, as I was at home thinking about what Dr. Brook argued, I realized what my error was. I realized that I was reifying the concept of “human rights” without any regard to “human beings”. I realized that rights exist only in the context and existence of free individuals. I was wrong in ascribing a reified status to “rights” without understanding that there can be no rights without the context of free people interacting with each other voluntarily.



4 Responses to “Private Discussion with Dr. Slater and Dr. Brook”

  1. Aethlos said

    YES, i LOVE buddha bar… and HOW COULD YOU go to that lecture and NOT INVITE ME??? Ouch. 😉
    I miss my days at UC, and will use any excuse to return… especially if there is a Rand tie-in. WOW… delicious. are you a maroon?

  2. Ergo Sum said

    Ofcourse I am a maroon! I love maroon.

    Oh… and I thought you kept track of those rare instances when some Rand tie-in event comes to chicago.

  3. Ergo Sum said

    The more I think about this notion of pre-emption, I am compelled to draw a distinction here between an instance of confrontation between individuals and confrontation between nation-states.

    Between individuals, I fully agree with Dr. Brook’s argument that pre-emption is morally obligatory inorder to preserve your own moral integrity and rights. There is no question about the respect of the oppositions rights because they have lost all claims to rights the minute they threatened to initiate force by drawing out a gun.
    I agree with this because in this individual scenario, it is possible to entirely obliterate the opposition and remove the threat at its root… such that future threat from the same party is highly unlikely or even not possible.

    But I cannot extrapolate this analogy to the dynamics of nation-state confrontations. The roots of threat among nations go much deeper than whatever current government or dictator is in power… typically, a threat posed by a collective mentality is so pervasive, that pre-emptive retaliation might simply not be able to eradicate the threat at its root, and might infact further fuel the collective emotion of hatred, anger, and revenge. For every generation that might be subdued with force, a newer generation might rise to avenge.

    So, I cannot, honestly, at this moment in my intellectual growth, agree with Dr. Brook and the ARI position on preemptive war among nation-states.

  4. Ergo Sum said

    Oh. Wait-a-minute. Hmmm… this shows how utterly, ridiculously, dumb I am about sports and related matters.

    Ummm… the “maroon” I’m referring to is not the “maroon” that I finally realized you might be referring to. Lol! So, no. I’m NOT a “maroon”>

    But hey, don’t fault me completely. You brought it up in the context of Buddha Bar. Hence, the understandable confusion.

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