Some Thoughts on Argumentation Ethics

“Since I received the label ‘libertarian’ because of my work on that ethic, I suppose that I may say that my libertarianism is identical to that ethic. Rooted in the philosophy of law rather than any particular theory of economics, it is the philosophy of people who accept that the ethic of justificatory argumentation is the proper framework for discovering rationally undeniable norms for human interaction as well as justifiable solutions to particular disagreements and conflicts. Advocating such a framework is admittedly far less spectacular than promising a ready-made solution for every conceivable problem. Nevertheless, it is all that libertarian philosophy can offer if it is true to be the concept of freedom for all persons under the law of reason and in the… presumptions of rationality, innocence, and self-ownership. With that in mind, it is fair to say that only libertarian rights can be argumentatively justified, because only libertarian rights define a context in which the conditions necessary for justificatory argumentation can be respected universally.” [emphasis added]

Frank van Dun


argumentation ethics and dialogical estoppel


Argumentation ethics, simply put, is a logical proof that demonstrates the performative contradictions within any political ideology except for libertarian anarchism. It upholds the validity of the non-aggression principle by showing that individuals who argue with each other have not only foresworn coercion, but also affirmed self-ownership, because they are exercising property rights in the very act of arguing itself. Fundamentally, professor Hans-Herman Hoppe’s concept insists on integrity by opposing hypocrisy.

Examples of performative contradictions are all too easy to come by. Also known by some as “self-detonating statements,” any speaker who says, “I am dead,” or “Language is meaningless,” is completely full of shit, and this is easily provable, simply because the very act of making the statement necessarily involves a contradiction. Obviously, language inherently carries meaning, and dead men don’t speak.

In that same vein, any speaker who claims, “Property rights do not exist,” just contradicted himself, mainly because he had to exercise property rights in order to utter the statement, whether it be in the form of his throat and mouth or his fingers and a keyboard. This, more so than any other reason, is why antipropertarian diatribes are nonsensical, because those who despise private property must exercise property rights in the very act of promoting Marxoid socialistic dribble. Self-evidently, this demonstration does not require an economics degree.

Plainly stated, argumentation ethics is the yardstick by which to determine who has natural liberty. Feminists could use argumentation ethics to argue that women have rights, but the cost of this is that feminists will have to give up for their affection for socialism. Anti-spanking advocates could use argumentation ethics to argue that children have rights, but the cost of this is that these advocates would also find themselves acknowledging parental rights as well. Animal rights proponents could prove the intelligent sentience of any animal by having the animal itself argue; obviously, if the animal could do this himself, he would no longer be an “animal,” but rather an intelligent, sentient, rational individual of a species much like humanity, thereby proving that humans are not alone in the universe.

Generally speaking, argumentation ethics delegitimize the State. As professor Hoppe has said in both March and May of 2011, respectively:


“…the State is an expropriating property protector.”

“…a tax-funded life-and-property protection agency is a contradiction in terms: an expropriating property protector.”


Just there is no such thing as “consensual raping” or “virtuous corruption,” government cannot be said to protect property rights, because everything it has was first confiscated at the point of the sword. In this sense, an existential threat like civil asset forfeiture becomes more of a fait accompli since Leviathan is inherently an “expropriating property protector,” as historically evidenced by the levying of the 1791 whiskey tax, which occurred before the ratification of the federal Bill of Rights.

There exists literature about argumentation ethics that spans twenty-six years. They are as follows:

A brief overview is necessary to understand where everybody who contributed to the literature is coming from. Hoppe first said that the very act of arguing itself justifies property rights, and later that same year in 1988, none other than Dr. Murray Rothbard humbly admitted that Hoppe had proven him wrong, in that it is possible to derive a private property ethic from value-free axioms, and that this was done not from someone who was an economist, but rather a philosopher. Stephen Kinsella proposed that his dialogical estoppel was the enforcement mechanism for argumentation ethics. In 2004, Hoppe stated that original appropriation (that is, homesteading) is justified by argumentation ethics; two years later, Robert Murphy and Gene Callahan critiqued argumentation ethics by saying that discourse, at best, only justified partial self-ownership, and at worst, confused temporary control with rightful ownership.

In 2009, both Frank van Dun and Marian Eabrasu specifically rebutted Murphy and Callahan; the former by saying that discourse is self-evident of animal rationis capax and that those who willfully violated self-ownership are subject to punishment, and the latter who said that libertarianism is preferable as a theory of justice because it is the only one that is non-contradictory. Two years later, Dr. Walter Block admitted that between libertarians, argumentation ethics is quite controversial, so therefore the only way to resolve this conflict is for both sides to continue debating the veracity of argumentation ethics itself. Finally, in recent years, Christopher Zimny argued that argumentation ethics was a communications theory, and that this is what grounds self-ownership axiomatically, yet, he thought that Kinsella’s dialogical estoppel was unworkable due to its reliance on the proportionality of punishment being founded on the subjective theory of value for what constitutes justice.

Epistemologically speaking, as with anything else, the burden of proof for the validity of argumentation ethics lays squarely upon the shoulders of Hoppe and Kinsella, as per Hitchens’ razor. These two claim makers must not attribute unprovable conspiracies against their opponents in bad faith, and they must avoid unnecessary convolution. With that said, how well did they fair, especially against their critics?

Having read the above cited literature, I think Hoppe has obeyed Occam’s, Hanlon’s, and Hitchens’ razors in proposing his idea of argumentation ethics, so I join Rothbard, Kinsella, Van Dun, Eabrasu, and Block in their defense of the idea against the admirable yet lame critique offered by Murphy and Callahan. I will even agree with Zimny to the extent that argumentation ethics is a communications theory, and as such, rivals other communication theories, whether they be “non-violent communication” or anything else.

In my mind, the validity of libertarian communication theories pivots not on argumentation ethics per se, but rather on Kinsella’s dialogical estoppel. Whether it be an extension of argumentation ethics or a parallel to it, dialogical estoppel carries rather profound implications, if it is indeed true. For instance, authoritarian sycophants would not be able to complain about being punished for their advocacy of the State. By the same token, the State itself would also be dialogically estopped from demonizing the right of revolution simply due to the fact that the State deserves punishment for its very long history of crimes against humanity, including democide. Any such libertarian revolution would simply be punishment against the State, whether this takes the form of vigilantism or assassination markets.

Why, then, is argumentation ethics so divisive amongst libertarians? Much like abortion or copyright, argumentation ethics is a direct application of first principles, but what those principles are, are not universally shared by all those individuals claiming to be libertarians, as was elucidated by Sam Konkin back in 1985 regarding the historical corruption of political labels; hence the false dichotomies of adjective-laden libertarians, such as thick versus thin, brutalist versus humanitarian, and “left” versus paleo. I also suspect another profound reason for this divisiveness are the implications I’ve just outlined regarding the validity of dialogical estoppel in justifying an ethical imperative for libertarians to forcibly punish the State.

Overall, I think that argumentation ethics is useful for justifying natural liberty. It also has the potential as a tool to gauge the quality of individuals you are vetting. I will leave you now with half of the second verse to Morrakiu’s tribute to argumentation ethics, which is entitled, Drop It Like It’s Hoppe:

I do philosophy well, like an ancient Greek

You’re way out of your league son, so to speak

Rights aren’t granted by Allah, Zeus, or Thor

Buddah, or Krishna, or any of his other forms

That we can argue shows that they’re accepted norms

To which the vast majority of us conform

So, let the premise of the State be seen unveiled

Democracy is the god that fizzailed.

20 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Argumentation Ethics

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