Argumentation Ethics: A Praxeological failure


praxeology, argumentation ethics, and the argument for self-ownership is the basis of all property and rights theory of the austrian school. it is considered to be proper application of “praxeology” by most of their scholars.

“The right to self-ownership asserts the absolute right of Property and Exchange each man, by virtue of his (or her) being a human being, to “own” his or her own body; that is, to control that body free of coercive interference.”- rothbard

obviously, we are not talking about merely owning ones mind, because if it were that simple then enslaving someone doesnt necessarily violate self-ownership

“The mere fact that an individual argues presupposes that he owns himself and has a right to his own life and property. This provides a basis for libertarian theory radically different from both natural rights theory and utilitarianism. ” – hoppe

now taking these two quotes together…

obviously one can argue and be coerced.  one can definitely be coerced into arguing.

as far as rights are concerned

Ego-Utilitarianism says that ALL concepts exists by default, but instances of the concept dont.

Ego-Utilitarianism says that instances of rights either do not exist, or the concept itself does not provide any useful information or have any significance (positive or normatively) if the ability to enforce them does not follow. meaning any privilege must be provided by someone or something. Ego-Utilitarianism also says that for something to be personal property, it must be made exclusive to the owner (the exclusion principle).  There is no magical right to one’s mind, body, or other property.  One must satisfy the cost of exclusion and unless it is profitable for the cumulative interests of society or any other meta-self with the ability to provide these privileges, then they will not be provided or at the very least sustainably provided.   Meta-self profitability is what measures rationality, practicality, sustainability, and most importantly morality, since in Ego-utilitarian’s definition set, they are equivalent. it is meta-self interest that is truly universal. the meta-self interest cost/benefit analysis (profit) function to be specific.

ego-utilitarianism says if you want to claim a natural rights exist you must show why someone will provide them.  in other words you must show why “natural” rights are meta-self profitable IN ALL INSTANCES. this is an impossible task as i can always provide a situation when they shouldnt be provided (where its not profitable to do so).

to all the people that believe in rights…can someone show me an instance of a right (privilege) without someone or something providing it?

rights are an idea inculcated into us by the state and religion.  we must learn to apply analysis without this confounding idea.

Assumption criticisms: Austrians have taken too many liberties with the assumptions with this self-ownership argument.  if you want to maximize logical consistency you must minimized assumptions.  I believe what hoppe has done here has maximized the assumptions necessary  to “deduce” the non-aggression principle.

when someone argues, it can only be assumed that he has the ability to argue, not necessarily that he owns himself (free from coercion).  a personal slave can be given the permission to argue. so one can argue without owning themselves.

it is also argued by those in the austrian school that when one argues he is also respecting the rights of the people he is arguing with. the only thing he is respecting at that moment is the other person(s) opinion at that moment. either he wants to convince the other participant(s) on that particular topic or wants to challenge his own ideas using another perspective. it does not necessarily mean he respects ALL the property rights of anyone taking the other side of the argument.  again one can argue with one’s personal slave.  a person begging for their life at gunpoint is also making an argument without being free from coercion. one cannot make a convincing case that the rights of the person arguing for their life is being respected.  especially if he should lose that argument and the trigger were pulled.


here is hoppe’s “proof” of self-ownership

conjecture A =  it is impossible to argue against/deny the statement “you own yourself”


assumption 1: in order to be able to argue you must own yourself. alternatively self-ownership is a necessary condition of argumentation.

therefore the contrapositive (equivalent statement) is that if you dont own yourself, you cannot argue.

therefore when anyone tries to argue or claim the negation of A then the person arguing has committed a “performative contradiction”.  In other words, the arguer has shown that he can argue, and therefore he owns himself which contradicts his argument and proving the opposite of his argument.  This is equivalent to proof by contradiction.

Major logical criticism 1:

hoppe believes he has proven a very significant point that austrian praxeology builds upon in their property rights theory.  hoppe believes he has proven “everyone owns themselves”.

but in fact hoppe proves a very trivial fact.  he has only shown “you cannot ARGUE against ONE’S OWN  self-ownership” (assuming self-ownership is a necessary condition for arguing)

one must take great care to distinguish between these two statements.

the statement  “you own yourself ” is equivalent to “everyone owns themselves” as this is directed to all of humanity (past, present, and future) using hoppe’s own idea of “universality”.  it is unreasonable to assume that the statement is only directed at the people who do own themselves that can argue. which leads to my point…

the statement “you cannot argue against self-ownership” is true if you assume self-ownership is a necessary condition for arguing. (and even this assumption is proven false with counterexamples i have presented, like a person arguing for his life at gunpoint)

BUT  it is not simply because everyone owns themselves which hoppe believes. there is a second possibility that hoppe’s argument has failed to consider.

hoppe’s argument falls flat on its face because it does not consider the proportion of the population who dont own themselves.  this segment of the population by default cannot argue (by the assumption)

hoppe’s argumentation ethics is like saying ” you are not turtles” to all the turtles in the world.  because they lack the ability to argue. then by default the turtles cannot argue with the claim. but clearly that doesnt prove the patently false claim that they are not turtles. only the trivial claim that it cannot be argued against by the turtles themselves.

in otherwords, hoppe’s argument is only going to consider arguments from people who own themselves and can argue and ignores the people who dont own themselves, who cannot argue.

even assuming self ownership is a necessary condition to argue for or against it, at best it only proves you cant ARGUE against self ownership, it does not prove EVERYONE owns themselves.


major logical criticism 2:

one CAN SUCCESSFULLY argue against self ownership and the universal (all-humans throughout time) application of non-aggression

when making the statement “you cannot argue against self-ownership”, the actual intent of this claim is:

“everyone owns themselves.”

in other words, if i set out to prove this false, i must prove the negation of the statement “everyone owns themselves.”

which is explicitly:

“there exists at least one person that doesnt own himself”

one can surely argue that another person doesnt own themselves and avoid committing hoppe’s fallacious performative “contradiction”. just by pointing to slavery in the past, present, or future suffices to show this claim is patently false.



if argumentation ethics were truly a valid proof, then self ownership would not be an axiom. one could praxeologically call this a law or theorem.

praxeology is not a rigorous way of using logic.  it suffers the same weaknesses as most philosophy, its language and definition are not well defined, and the “rationalization” isnt a valid form of logic.  rationalization without  rigorous (quantitative) definition will suffer the same reasoning traps that communism or flat earthers commit.









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