Formal or informal Constitution

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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:37 pm

Strategist wrote:I was attacking the theory I thought DZ might be following- "Just Lawism" (a construct I made up to cover what I thought DZ's implicit moral philosophy was), which does not have such a distinction.


As he is the proponent of said construct, might we not consider asking him if he makes such a distinction? That would seem the logical thing to do.

Strategist wrote:I try to insist on the interpretation that the person using the words in fact meant- I simply have too much of a tendency to assume people mean what they say.


Which is all to the good, but the English language is not one very well-known for the explicit lexical content of its vocabulary. And one of the most basic tenets of philosophical discourse is to allow your interlocutor the most logically charitable possible reading of his argument.

Strategist wrote:This is where I disagree with you. A theory which followed purely instinctual morality would fall against subjectivist arguments, and an actual morality of pure feeling would be myopic, inconsistent, and discriminate based on race, religion, social status etc. Given this, many examples of appeal to instinct must be considered suspect if not all.


If you read more closely, I think you will find we are not actually in disagreement - at least, not along the lines you describe.

I did not argue for a 'purely instinctual morality', I merely argued that instinct gets some things (not all things) right. Some scepticism of the most doctrinaire forms of deontology and consequentialism is warranted because they lead to conclusions a broad swathe of people would not find morally acceptable. This is actually one of the reasons why you have such a broad range of theorists branching off: rule-utilitarians, prima facie deontologists, natural-law deontologists, new virtue ethicists, ethicists of care.

In my view, the basic problem with both deontology and consequentialism is that both of them are act-oriented rather than agent-oriented theories. By focussing on isolated problems associated with actions they lose sight of the impact on the psychology and habits of the agent. This is where I think instinct can play a limited role in guiding moral reasoning - it can't be the only thing, of course, but as a non-negotiable element of human psychology it oughtn't to be discounted.

Strategist wrote:Most Chinese sayings tend to have no logical connection between the first and the second thing said- the same with many passages from Sima Qian, who seems to be if anything a rather beneficial example for comparing Chinese "sages".


Ah. Well, then. I'm not a great fan of Sima Qian, either, misogynist corrupt bastard that he was. (I'm more a fan of Wang Anshi, myself - though keep in mind that he too was influenced by Confucius and by the Classics.)

Strategist wrote:One: A formal written constitution
Two: Judges properly interpreting the Constitution
Three: A civil service and army (strictly this is four- I wasn't sure whether one or the other would do or not) that are loyal to the judge's rulings and willing to enforce them if the rulers go against them


The latter two things, I agree are indispensable. The first, not so much - drawing on experience, we have a number of examples of stable European societies which have gotten an awful lot of mileage out of not having written constitutions, yet have managed to maintain both a decent level of social equality and political stability over an extended period of time merely by relying on the latter two. And then, somewhat loosely. In medieval societies the judges and the army were often the exact same people (landed nobles being the obvious case, but even town provosts and burgomasters were in charge of both justice and defence - the two were seen as going hand-in-hand). And of course they would go against the king if the king overstepped his bounds, since the king relied upon them both for political support and for raising revenues.

Strategist wrote:Traditional institutions can be good or bad(depending on what definitions you use of them)- are you saying that 'bad' institutional traditions should be accomodated despite their harmful impact, or do you only mean taking into account the 'good' traditions?


First off, exactly the same if not worse can be said of the policy outcomes of democracy (depending on what definition of democracy you use, of course). Yet I rarely find people who are willing to argue that democracy, per se, is not an inherent 'good'.

Secondly, on that ground I would say that tradition is a democracy of sorts - or, as GK Chesterton put it:

GK Chesterton wrote:Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.


Thirdly, I would say that unless a certain way of doing things served some social 'good' at some point, it would not become a tradition to begin with. In which case, traditions need to be reinterpreted and reconstituted by the relevant authorities according to changing social conditions, but they should not be abandoned.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:13 pm

Strategist wrote:The idea that you would give up on the debate without actually changing your views on the matter, implying that you're so authoritative on such matters that you can ignore arguments to the contrary.

Letting people 'withdraw' rather than concede in philosophical debates opens up a slippery slope, as people can use it to avoid admitting they've been beaten in the actual argument. Given that, it is senseless to allow for a withdrawal without concession.


and the condsending part was?

I don't claim to be authoritative. I'm not trying to impose my views on you and I'll consider arguments to the contrary of my views, I may just disagree with them. I'm not saying I agree with your views by doing so but your perfectly entitled to have your own views.

Thought it was considered common forum etiquette to allow people to withdraw.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby SunXia » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:49 pm

Before accusations and labels carry on further I would like to draw your attention to our Forum Rules that include issues of Friendly Debates and trolling!! There is no need to "not allow" somebody to withdraw from something they no longer find enjoyable, we promote a friendly atmosphere around here!! There is no need to try and force somebody to "concede defeat" or to call their actions condescending!! If someone has chosen to withdraw from a discussion, then the best thing to do is move on rather than kick the dirt with unneeded accusations, agreeing to disagree is allowed and happens all the time!!

Now please continue this in a friendly manner!! If Dong has dropped out of the conversation, his actions do not need to be labelled or debated given it's not the topic at hand!!
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Strategist » Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:09 pm

Alright SunXia, but just to make it clear I will never concede the idiotic, counterproductive idea that 'people have a right to their own opinion'.

As he is the proponent of said construct, might we not consider asking him if he makes such a distinction? That would seem the logical thing to do.


It seemed not to make any sense to me that it would have such a distinction given what he'd said earlier.

Which is all to the good, but the English language is not one very well-known for the explicit lexical content of its vocabulary. And one of the most basic tenets of philosophical discourse is to allow your interlocutor the most logically charitable possible reading of his argument.


O.K, maybe that one was my flaw- as I said, I tend to assume the most obvious meaning of what a person says.

If you read more closely, I think you will find we are not actually in disagreement - at least, not along the lines you describe.

I did not argue for a 'purely instinctual morality', I merely argued that instinct gets some things (not all things) right. Some scepticism of the most doctrinaire forms of deontology and consequentialism is warranted because they lead to conclusions a broad swathe of people would not find morally acceptable. This is actually one of the reasons why you have such a broad range of theorists branching off: rule-utilitarians, prima facie deontologists, natural-law deontologists, new virtue ethicists, ethicists of care.

In my view, the basic problem with both deontology and consequentialism is that both of them are act-oriented rather than agent-oriented theories. By focussing on isolated problems associated with actions they lose sight of the impact on the psychology and habits of the agent. This is where I think instinct can play a limited role in guiding moral reasoning - it can't be the only thing, of course, but as a non-negotiable element of human psychology it oughtn't to be discounted.


Where we seem to disagree is the idea that instincts should be incorporated at all. If instincts can be suspect so much of the time, why should we trust them at all?

The latter two things, I agree are indispensable. The first, not so much - drawing on experience, we have a number of examples of stable European societies which have gotten an awful lot of mileage out of not having written constitutions, yet have managed to maintain both a decent level of social equality and political stability over an extended period of time merely by relying on the latter two. And then, somewhat loosely. In medieval societies the judges and the army were often the exact same people (landed nobles being the obvious case, but even town provosts and burgomasters were in charge of both justice and defence - the two were seen as going hand-in-hand). And of course they would go against the king if the king overstepped his bounds, since the king relied upon them both for political support and for raising revenues.


The purpose of the Three Systems as I defined them was to prevent "drift" over time- what the American Founding Fathers tried and failed to do. Whether just or unjust, if a Constitution cannot be maintained over time it is useless.

The difference between us seems to be that you have much lower (and different) standards for a good Constitution- since the government is hypocritical if it breaks it and since even the societies you mentioned have had significant amount of "drift" over time.

If you can't prevent cultural drift in government once and for all, no system is safe in the long term- to last five hundred years in any shape people from our time would approve of takes better than modern systems have at the moment.

First off, exactly the same if not worse can be said of the policy outcomes of democracy (depending on what definition of democracy you use, of course). Yet I rarely find people who are willing to argue that democracy, per se, is not an inherent 'good'.

Secondly, on that ground I would say that tradition is a democracy of sorts - or, as GK Chesterton put it:


Democracy is merely the best balance of good and evil we have at the moment, not a 'good' in and of itself. As a system, it should be judged on its results like any other.

Thirdly, I would say that unless a certain way of doing things served some social 'good' at some point, it would not become a tradition to begin with. In which case, traditions need to be reinterpreted and reconstituted by the relevant authorities according to changing social conditions, but they should not be abandoned.


Many traditions serve nothing that we would want to maintain today. Racism, by the most charitable possible interpretation, is useful for tribes to stay safe- it is NOT useful for anything now. Slavery was abolished- although it could have been done better, if not for the Southern backlash it could have been done well. Human sacrifice has been a tradition in many cultures- and not a good one.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:29 am

Strategist wrote:Alright SunXia, but just to make it clear I will never concede the idiotic, counterproductive idea that 'people have a right to their own opinion'.


Philosophical blather aside, I don't think thats for anyone but the admins to decide.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Objectivist » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:09 am

SunXia wrote:Before accusations and labels carry on further I would like to draw your attention to our Forum Rules that include issues of Friendly Debates and trolling!! There is no need to "not allow" somebody to withdraw from something they no longer find enjoyable, we promote a friendly atmosphere around here!! There is no need to try and force somebody to "concede defeat" or to call their actions condescending!! If someone has chosen to withdraw from a discussion, then the best thing to do is move on rather than kick the dirt with unneeded accusations, agreeing to disagree is allowed and happens all the time!!

Now please continue this in a friendly manner!! If Dong has dropped out of the conversation, his actions do not need to be labelled or debated given it's not the topic at hand!!


I disagree with you.

It is condescending for someone to come on a message board and tell someone they are wrong or disagree, then dip out of the conversation when the person calls them out. I completely agree with Strategist, that you are conceding a point if someone makes an argument and you would rather say nothing than defend your own position.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:24 am

Objectivist wrote:
I disagree with you.

It is condescending for someone to come on a message board and tell someone they are wrong or disagree, then dip out of the conversation when the person calls them out. I completely agree with Strategist, that you are conceding a point if someone makes an argument and you would rather say nothing than defend your own position.


None of this is really related to gun-control any longer, but I fail to see your logic. How is expressing disagreement with someone, acknowledging the disagreement, and then withdrawing from the conversation a display of a superior attitude? Perhaps you could make that case, but you'd need to show particulars instead of a generalized statement like this.

It is one thing to state that you understand the other sides views, disagree with their merits, acknowledge the other side doesn't agree with your own viewpoint, and not wish to participate any further in a conversation and quite another to simply say 'neener-neener youre wrong, I'm right,, im out!'

The latter would be the circumstance which would be the closest you could come, in my opinion, to supporting your overly broad statement.

While I'm not against acknowledging that its telling that some folks will walk away when they've spent so much time tooting their own horn (not meaning this thread's members), I think the notion that when two people disagree they are then both held hostage to the debate until one concedes, is ludicrous, impractical, and counterproductive.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Tian Shan » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:55 am

Hmm where did the gun discussion go?
You can't force someone to agree, nor to debate (as that often comes down to more skill with words and pithy quotes, then actual truths). But in a discussion, if one person has the respect to listen to one side they only need show the respect to honestly listen to the other side. That seemed to be so...

Well here is how I see things.

Constitution was made to allow people to have guns to defend themselves and for hunting. But while factory farming is horrible there is no reason any person in USA needs to hunt for food. (Except maybe the Inuit)
In some cases guns have been used for this, such as when a bandit tried to enter a home of mother and baby. The Mother used the gun to protect her baby (in defense) And while killing is bad, I am glad she was able to protect herself and child.

Having lived in several countries (US, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, Russia, Canada) I can by far say USA has felt and been documented the most dangerous (and I am not even talking about the big cities like LA and NY) You could say there are other factors such as financial/ethnic/over-population/violent endorsed society (tv, video games, national policy). But it would not be half as dangerous if it was more difficult to attain guns. (Though mafias and such could still find a way)
I even accompanied my mother to buy a gun there, in a place full of bureaucratic red tape, that was one of the easiest form I have filled out.
America has always been a warmongering country, and ease of guns allows for more high level violence. Tragedies like drive-bys, alot of stupid gang wars, school shootings would be alot more difficult to occur.

The benefit of allowing guns seems like only endorsing murder, as thats what guns were designed for. You want to practice at a range? Then rent one there, otherwise where else would you legally( & environmentally safe) practice.
The government manipulates and controls the people in so many other ways, why not at least one that protects lives instead of exploiting them?
I am not saying make them completely illegal, but at least make them much harder to obtain and more enforcement on regulation.
I think there are better odds of surviving a fist fight with a gangster than surviving a gun fight.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby Strategist » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:20 am

None of this is really related to gun-control any longer, but I fail to see your logic. How is expressing disagreement with someone, acknowledging the disagreement, and then withdrawing from the conversation a display of a superior attitude? Perhaps you could make that case, but you'd need to show particulars instead of a generalized statement like this.

It is one thing to state that you understand the other sides views, disagree with their merits, acknowledge the other side doesn't agree with your own viewpoint, and not wish to participate any further in a conversation and quite another to simply say 'neener-neener youre wrong, I'm right,, im out!'

The latter would be the circumstance which would be the closest you could come, in my opinion, to supporting your overly broad statement.

While I'm not against acknowledging that its telling that some folks will walk away when they've spent so much time tooting their own horn (not meaning this thread's members), I think the notion that when two people disagree they are then both held hostage to the debate until one concedes, is ludicrous, impractical, and counterproductive.


What's impractical is the idea that one can possibly resolve anything if people can walk away from a debate whenever they wish without so much as a concession. If you do that, on the Internet people can simply give a pretext and walk away whilst leaving the audience in doubt as to the truth of the matter.

The only difference between the two viewpoints you postulated (assuming the other side is winning) is how you phrase it- one is the other dressed up to look respectable.

Hmm where did the gun discussion go?
You can't force someone to agree, nor to debate (as that often comes down to more skill with words and pithy quotes, then actual truths). But in a discussion, if one person has the respect to listen to one side they only need show the respect to honestly listen to the other side. That seemed to be so...

Well here is how I see things.

Constitution was made to allow people to have guns to defend themselves and for hunting. But while factory farming is horrible there is no reason any person in USA needs to hunt for food. (Except maybe the Inuit)
In some cases guns have been used for this, such as when a bandit tried to enter a home of mother and baby. The Mother used the gun to protect her baby (in defense) And while killing is bad, I am glad she was able to protect herself and child.

Having lived in several countries (US, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, Russia, Canada) I can by far say USA has felt and been documented the most dangerous (and I am not even talking about the big cities like LA and NY) You could say there are other factors such as financial/ethnic/over-population/violent endorsed society (tv, video games, national policy). But it would not be half as dangerous if it was more difficult to attain guns. (Though mafias and such could still find a way)
I even accompanied my mother to buy a gun there, in a place full of bureaucratic red tape, that was one of the easiest form I have filled out.
America has always been a warmongering country, and ease of guns allows for more high level violence. Tragedies like drive-bys, alot of stupid gang wars, school shootings would be alot more difficult to occur.

The benefit of allowing guns seems like only endorsing murder, as thats what guns were designed for. You want to practice at a range? Then rent one there, otherwise where else would you legally( & environmentally safe) practice.
The government manipulates and controls the people in so many other ways, why not at least one that protects lives instead of exploiting them?
I am not saying make them completely illegal, but at least make them much harder to obtain and more enforcement on regulation.
I think there are better odds of surviving a fist fight with a gangster than surviving a gun fight.


It is possible to look at the logic of the posistions of both sides to see who is right- a rational observer viewing an argument can see which side is using good arguments and which isn't.

So your posistion is that because the reasons for the Second Amendment are obsolete it goes away automatically? This doesn't make sense- legally it is definitely wrong, and it has the problem that the intent of a law is difficult to tell. It also means judges could rule laws invalid on the pretext that it's reason was somehow invalid in the first place (i.e. to suppress a crime which the judges claim doesn't exist).

One of the reasons behind the Second Amendment was an extra layer of protection against the government- so that the people could overthrow it if necessary. A disparity of power between the army and the people exists both then and now, but if the Second Amendment were followed properly (i.e. ordinary people can buy tanks if they want to), then a lot of people seen as gun nuts now would save up for collective tanks, missiles etc and even the gap considerably. Government survived when the United States first existed- it can survive if the disparity between people and government is reduced back to those days.

Finally, of course, you're ignoring the argument I've been making this whole thread. To sum it up- without a formal Constitution being properly followed, a country has an informal Constitution. This Constitution tends to "drift" over time- meaning retroactive laws (see the many civil cases where a civil offence was newly invented, and cases where unconstitutional laws were ruled constitutional), uncertain laws (obvious), and the risk of tyranny (as cultural drift cannot be predicted). If we let the Constitution drift as it will the result is eventually going to be something we won't like- it's better to actually enforce the Constitution.
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Re: Gun Control

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:53 am

Strategist wrote:What's impractical is the idea that one can possibly resolve anything if people can walk away from a debate whenever they wish without so much as a concession.


That may be many things, but on the Internet it is far from impractical. People do have lives offline, you know.

Strategist wrote:A disparity of power between the army and the people exists both then and now, but if the Second Amendment were followed properly (i.e. ordinary people can buy tanks if they want to), then a lot of people seen as gun nuts now would save up for collective tanks, missiles etc and even the gap considerably. Government survived when the United States first existed- it can survive if the disparity between people and government is reduced back to those days.


That's either one of the most profound or one of the most ridiculous things I have read on this board, if it is meant seriously. An absolutely sure recipe for anarchy (and ultimately tyranny) would be an arms race amongst the populace, facilitated by an out-of-control government. However, if the government imposed limits on its own military expenditures and practices, and if the Second Amendment were interpreted in the collective rather than in the individual sense (with well-regulated militias being formed with the explicit purpose of checking the power of the professional army, but still subject to civil authority), then you might have a decent recipe for political stability in the long run.

Strategist wrote:Finally, of course, you're ignoring the argument I've been making this whole thread. To sum it up- without a formal Constitution being properly followed, a country has an informal Constitution. This Constitution tends to "drift" over time- meaning retroactive laws (see the many civil cases where a civil offence was newly invented, and cases where unconstitutional laws were ruled constitutional), uncertain laws (obvious), and the risk of tyranny (as cultural drift cannot be predicted).


It seems, to put it bluntly, as though you are misdiagnosing the problem.

Merely having a formal Constitution solves nothing. And merely placing assigning that formal Constitution to a place of public veneration and a level of significance such that it could not be changed except with great effort, also solves nothing. I cited to you before the example of the Declaration of 1789 in France. This could not curb the excesses of the government to any significant degree until an actual tyrant took control (and it was left to Prince Metternich to clean up the utter mess he'd made of Europe). Likewise, having a formal Constitution in the United States could not prevent the expansion of police powers by John Adams with the Alien and Sedition Acts, nor could it prevent the Imperial Presidency begun under Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. (It also came as rather cold comfort, as I said before, to the Loyalists, Indians and blacks who lost their lives, dignity and property in the murderous revolutionary fervour which swept across our nation like the plague that it was.)

On the other hand, there exists a very good counter-example to the very phenomenon you describe. Great Britain has never had a formal written constituion, and yet it has done a relatively good job, historically speaking (though with a few notable exceptions, like this regicidal and genocidal bastard) of securing basic liberties and dignities for its people and retaining a stable political system.

If your argument cannot cope with these counterexamples, it requires revision.
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