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Anarchism & Justice
Part I
II. The Nature of Justification



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Since we are to consider the issue of the State's justification, let us briefly ask just what is justification. To justify a claim is to offer objective evidence on its behalf to a rational consciousness; to prove something, to make it evident to a human consciousness possessing and exercising the faculty of reason.

The nature of the objective evidence relevant to one question may differ from that relevant to another — thus mathematical proof will differ from historical proof and so forth. Why does anything have to be rationally justified? There are several reasons for this, all of which cannot be detailed here. But first of all, if we do not rest our concepts, values and actions on rational justification or evidence, then there are only two alternatives: acceptance of something on the grounds of authority, or on the grounds of mystical insight. But these are in turn accepted either because of reasons or without reasons. If the former, then the reasons turn out to be the ultimate ground of our belief. If one or the other is accepted without reasons, then the contradictions wrought are insoluble. Brand Blanshard's argument against the appeal to authority is equally devastating against the appeal to mysticism: "... if one person is justified in appealing to authority without reasons, then others are similarly justified. They would even be justified in accepting authorities that said precisely the opposite of what is said by one's own authority. But it is obvious that in this event one or other authority is wrong, and therefore that whatever justified appealing to it must similarly be wrong. In the light of its consequences, the unreasoning appeal to authority is thus self-destructive." [4]

But something will be noticed of all this: in fact it presupposes the very point in question, namely that beliefs have to be justified. The ultimate answer to this question must be, therefore, that beliefs have to be justified because man is not born with knowledge, and thus has to acquire it. The process of justification is the process of connecting man's beliefs to reality, which is necessary so that his values and actions will be in harmony with reality. Beliefs thus must be founded upon objective evidence, which is reality as it is presented to the intellect.

Since my primary thesis involves demonstrating that something is a fundamental need of man's proper survival and well-being, a few things must be said about the concept and nature of needs. [5]

The concept of "need" is not a primary. On the very simplest level, needs have to be defined in terms of purposes or ends. The question which must be raised when "needs" are asserted is: "Necessary to whom and for what?" Now I am maintaining a question which deals with what I have called a fundamental need — and a fundamental need is that upon which other needs depend, which makes them meaningful. If needs are dependent upon purposes, then fundamental needs must be defined in terms of fundamental purposes or ends, the most fundamental of which (the existence of it alone makes all other needs and purposes possible) is life.

From Branden:

The existence of life is conditional; an organism always faces the possibility of death. Its survival depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions. It must generate the biologically appropriate course of action. What course of action is appropriate is determined by the nature of the particular organism. Different species survive in different ways. An organism maintains itself by exercising its capacities in order to satisfy its needs. The actions possible to and characteristic of a given species, are to be understood in terms of its specific needs and capacities. These constitute its basic behavioral context. "Need" and "capacity" are used here in their fundamental metaphysical sense...; in this context, "need" and "capacity" refer to that which is innate and universal to the species, not to that which is acquired and peculiar to the individual. An organism's needs are those things which the organism, by its nature, requires for its life and well-being — i.e., for its efficacious continuation of the life-process.... [my emphasis] "Need" implies the existence of a goal, result or end: the survival of the organism. Therefore, in order to maintain that something is a physical or psychological need, one must demonstrate that it is a causal condition of the organism's survival and well-being. [6]

This is the concept of "need" upon which we shall be building. Branden has discussed physical and psychological needs; we are discussing, or emphasizing, political or social needs. What I have to demonstrate, therefore, is that anarchy, the absence of the State, follows from conditions of existence which are causal conditions of man's survival and well-being, in a social context. [7]

Now if we derive the notions of what is right for men from the standard and purpose of life and the causal conditions necessary to sustain it, then we can see that what is right for man, what is moral, and what is "practical" or necessary for man to survive and prosper are all coextensive. Thus, I shall not be discussing the issue of the necessity of the State apart from or without reference to moral principles defining the social needs of man.

On a fundamental level, there can be no conflict between the moral and the necessary (or "practical") since that would entail a conflict between what is necessary for man's survival and well-being and itself, which is clearly impossible. Furthermore, the only way in which something can be determined to be necessary for man's proper survival and well-being is by reference to principles which will enable us to define such concepts. Another way of stating this is: we cannot determine what is and what is not necessary of man's survival and well-being without a standard, a criteria, a principle of evaluation.

Thus, I will be concerned with briefly establishing such principles, and then with investigating the various alleged justifications for the State.

Posted December 20, 2004


Published by permission of the International Society for Individual Liberty, Vince Miller, president. Art adapted here is by Bob Leet.

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