Which of the following statements is more accurate or cognitively useful:
(1) There is only one way to violate rights—initiating physical force (but fraud is an indirect initiation of physical force).
(2) There are two ways to violate rights—initiating physical force or fraud.
Note that I don’t need to be convinced that fraud is a violation of rights. I am asking whether it is really useful to try to shoe-horn fraud into physical force. What is so wrong with identifying two ways that rights can be violated? I've noticed that we generally end up following statement (2) anyway when we first try to explain violation of rights to people new to objectivism, and it is only when we get “technical” that we try to show how fraud is really physical force. (Listen to any objectivist speech tailored to a non-objectivist audience, e.g., Yaron's speeches--you will almost always hear "force or fraud" as the description of how to violate rights.)
Leonard Peikoff develops this in this Objectivism by Induction course as well as his writings of OPAR.
A thumbnail sketch would start with the mind has a nature by which it grasps reality and selects values according to its ability to exercise its free judgment.
In this case of physical force, be it a gun, or a bully that threatens with direct physical confrontation, you are asked to surrender the judgment of your own mind and substitute it with the judgment of the thug or the bully. Barring the choice to defend your rights, (which is still a situation forced upon you by the context), your mind is not free to process the cognitive data, rather to surrender the value demanded by the thug or bully.
In the case of fraud, the similarity exists in the data given to process. Information provided by the con-man is used to establish the context for your decision. The con-man tries to create a context of information to have you conclude a decision other than the one you would choose in dealing with reality where the made-up "facts" you were presented with would not exist. By positing a scenario which precludes the mark from freely being able to investigate the claims, the con-man is preventing the mark from freely exercising the judgment of his own mind, and substituting it instead with the judgments provided by the con-man intended to elicit the outcome desired.
While both cases do surrender the judgment of the victim's mind, physical force presents itself in a way that the victim is cognitively aware of it. Fraud is a case of deception where the victim is not cognitive of its use until after the damage has been wrought.
To answer this question, you really need to know what physical force is.
"Force" in "physical force" is compulsion.
But what does "physical" mean, then? Does it mean that the means of compulsion is always physical contact? If so, then pointing a loaded gun at a man is not an instance of physical force.
I think, instead, that "physical" denotes the nature of the effect that the force causes. Physical force compels a man to a physical action, bypassing his consent about it. Think slavery.
Note that there's no such phrase in Objectivism as mental force. A mind cannot be forced. But a man's physical actions can be forced.
A punch in the face forces a man to bleed and bruise, and to endure pain.
Incarceration forces a man to stay in one place.
Rape forces a woman to endure sexual molestation, and potential pregnancy.
Threat of physical harm forces a man to live at another man's permission.
Theft forces a man to surrender his belongings, or to physically chase down the thief.
Fraud is no different from theft, except it involves deception in communication (common thievery also involves deception, in the form of hiding, rather than a scam).
All physical force forces the victim to physically do something.
Yes, the phrase "physical force" isn't perfect. It's actually a bit like "laissez-faire capitalism" or "rational selfishness". The word "physical" is a bit redundant (like "laissez-faire" or "rational"), since there is no such thing as "mental force".
Do not think that because the word "physical" is there, that "physical force" requires physical contact. The word "physical" is present to emphasize that a man's physical actions are dictated by a second party, while his mental actions cannot be (force can only achieve mental inaction).
answered Feb 05 '12 at 15:47
John Paquette ♦
The question and some of the responses ask, in part, how fraud is "physical," as in physical force. The question goes on to suggest that the connection is merely a "useful conceptualization" (i.e., a connection by non-essentials). "I am asking whether it is really useful to try to shoe-horn fraud into physical force." "Useful to try to shoe-horn" means convenient or expedient to connect by non-essentials. Objectivism classifies that approach to conceptualization as a major logical fallacy, the fallacy of definition by non-essentials, leading to the creation and/or perpetuation of "package deals."
The entry on "Fraud" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon describes fraud and unilateral breach of contract as follows:
A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right -- i.e., keeping them without the consent of their owner. Fraud involves a similarly indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values without their owner's consent, under false pretenses or false promises [and then keeping them in one's physical possession, which is the element of "physical" that makes fraud a form of physical force].
The connection of fraud to other forms of physical force thus rests on the essential distinguishing characteristics of each, with recognition of the objectively observable distinction between direct and indirect physical force.
There is additional discussion of indirect physical force in OPAR, Chap. 8 ("Virtue"), in the section titled, "The Initiation of Physical Force as Evil." Early in that section, OPAR describes physical force as "coercion exercised by physical agency...." Coercion, in turn, is a very broad concept that encompasses lack of consent for something one is induced or compelled to do, or to refrain from doing, or for material values destroyed or seized. In less direct forms of physical force, the values involved in the coercion need not be material values. Civil liability for slander or libel is an example involving non-material values. Coercion, in short, refers to value deprivation and lack of consent (and "rightful entitlement" to the values one is being deprived of, as in any form of physical force against one's property).
In order to be physical force, the force must be exercised by physical agency of some kind, such as a fist, a gun, a club, spoken or written words (including shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater in order to induce a panic), and so on. The force involved need not actually make physical contact; the mere threat of bodily harm (or harm to one's property or loved ones) is sufficient, as in pointing a gun at someone under circumstances in which the victim reasonably believes the gun or other weapon is capable of causing harm, and the attacker capable of doing such harm (without the victim's consent). A threat backed by a weapon or fist constitutes "physical agency."
OPAR also mentions, "The task of defining the many forms of physical force, direct and indirect, including all the variants of breach of contract, belongs to the field of law." (pp. 319-320)
answered Feb 08 '12 at 01:13
Ideas for Life ♦