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Can anyone give me a quote of Ayn Rand in which she defines what "force" is, in a political context?

Or alternately, can you come up with a definition of force in a political context which most closely matches what Ayn Rand would have come up with?

asked Jun 02 '12 at 05:45

Jonathan%20Conway's gravatar image

Jonathan Conway

The simplest defining description of physical force that I know of in the literature of Objectivism can be found in OPAR, Chap. 8, "Virtue," subsection titled, "The Initiation of Physical Force as Evil." On p. 310, OPAR offers the following:

Physical force is coercion exercised by physical agency....

Applying this definition to specific cases can become a little complicated when the coercion involves property, and especially when the coercion and physical agency are indirect, as in fraud or unilateral breach of contract. The OPAR section discusses such cases in more detail. Refer also to the topics of "Physical Force" and "Fraud" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

I have always found the following formulation in the "Fraud" topic particularly helpful: "obtaining material values without their owner's consent...." This formulation seems to cover the whole range of "consent" issues very well. It even covers mere vandalism if "obtaining" is refined to read "depriving." Note, also, that this formulation clarifies any questions that might arise about whether the concept of physical force in relation to property depends on the concept of "rightful ownership of values" as a more fundamental issue, with "rightful" here meaning "morally right."

answered Jun 02 '12 at 21:51

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Force is always political, in the sense it only exists in a society which politics should govern by respecting individual rights. Ayn Rand distinguished brilliantly however between Political Power and Economic Power, the latter being voluntarily achieved capability to act in a free market and perfectly valid. If one is tempted to think of "Economic Force", in contrast to Political Force, I would say that is an invalid concept, because in a free market nobody can be forced to purchase or sell goods, only persuaded by a convincing trade.

Force then, I would offer, is either direct (i.e. physical) or indirect interference with someone's private property counter to their will (which includes their person and forcing them to act in a certain way). The specifics become a legal and not a philosophical matter I would think and so there would only be an application of Objectivist principles to the specific situations.

LP discusses force and fraud in several of his podcasts. Interestingly he distinguishes between intellectual and material fraud, arguing here that selling a fake service, such as fortune telling, is not material fraud and thus should not be illegal. This needs more consideration I think.

answered Jun 02 '12 at 13:07

la_phil's gravatar image

la_phil ♦

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Asked: Jun 02 '12 at 05:45

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Last updated: Jun 02 '12 at 21:51