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Anarchism & Justice
V. The Epistemological Status of the Issue
By R.A. CHILDS, Jr.
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A few comments on the epistemological status of the discussion are in order. What is anarchism, anyway? Anarchism is the doctrine (as theoretician Benjamin R. Tucker has stated it) that the State should be abolished, and that all the affairs of men should be handled by individuals or voluntary associations. Anarchism is thus the opposition to and denial of the legitimacy of a positive belief; namely, that the State is moral and necessary. It is alleged that anarchism is a need of man only in the sense that the absence of a specific disease is a need of man, or a precondition of health. (This should only be taken as a metaphor.)
It is important to note, in other words, that epistemologically anarchism is a negative proposition, not concerned per se with advocating positive institutions. Like atheism, it need prove nothing positive. All that it has to do is to consider the doctrines and arguments of the advocates of a State, and attempt to prove them to be invalid. If it succeeds in this attempt, then it has itself been established.
What is the basis of this claim? As Nathaniel Branden has said in "What is the Objectivist View of Agnosticism?" (OBJECTIVIST NEWSLETTER, April 1963): "Rational demonstration, an appeal to facts, is necessary to support even the claim that a thing is possible. It is a breach of logic to assert that that which has not been proved to be impossible is, therefore, possible...When a person makes an assertion for which no rational grounds are given, his statement is epistemologically without cognitive content. It is as though nothing had been said."
Thus, the burden of proof is always on the proponent of any position. If a man makes a claim about the existence of something, then it is up to him to make out his case. This is true of any hypothesis, whether scientific or moral. If I disagree with him, then my intellectual opposition to his position will take the form of refuting his evidence. Likewise with anarchism: the burden of proof is always on the advocate of a State. Surely this is not only true by epistemological law, but especially true and relevant in this case, in this historical period, with States threatening man's very existence.
Since every State which has ever existed (and thus every existential referent of the concept State) has used aggression to exist and function, those advocating a similar institution have to show and prove that theirs is fundamentally different. This cannot be merely be asserted. It must be argued for with objective evidence.
Thus we must start out as anarchists, and have the advocates of the State make out their case. Surely with a historical context to look at we must be skeptics concerning the alleged need for such an institution. And since mankind must have started out without a State, it had to be created historically as well. Thus on every ground, we must start as anarchists to begin with!
Furthermore, since man is not omniscient, he can deal only with the specific arguments given for any specific positive assertion. An anarchist cannot be required to refute arguments which don't exist, which have been propounded by no one. What this means is that I need only prove the defenses of the State which exist to be inadequate. In this essay, I shall also be attempting to show that the concept of the State held by many theoreticians is an invalid one.
Since I have already stated my thesis (that anarchy is a necessary condition of man's proper survival in a social context) my premises, and my method, I will now go on to consider the positions held by advocates of a State.
Posted February 3, 2012
Published by permission of the International Society for Individual Liberty, Vince Miller, president. Art adapted here is by Bob Leet.
This page was created and posted in 2012 by WTM Enterprises.
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