Wednesday, December 14, 2016

All About Oughts

'Every ought simply has no sense and meaning except in relation to threatened punishment or promised reward ... Thus every ought is necessarily conditioned through punishment or reward, hence, to put it in Kant's terms, essentially and inevitably hypothetical and never, as he maintains categorical ... Therefore an absolute ought is simply a contradictio in adjecto." —Schopenhauer (On the Basis of Morals, §4).

Imperatives (oughts) are directives; they command us to perform or abstain from certain behaviors. The philosopher Immanuel Kant split imperatives into 2 types; Hypothetical and categorical. Hypothetical imperatives (aka rational oughts) instruct what actions to perform in order to achieve a particular goal. Example: “If you want to lose weight you ought to diet and exercise."
Hypothetical imperatives are only applicable to persons who want to achieve a particular goal.
If you don’t care about losing weight the  “you ought to diet and exercise" isn't applicable to you as there would be no motivating reason to diet and exercise.

According to Kant, moral oughts (categorical imperatives) are not of this sort. Categorical imperatives have nothing to do with achieving goals, losing weight, or avoiding pain etc.

For Kant Moral behaviors aren't about staying out of prison, or avoiding certain social consequences. Unlike hypothetical imperatives, categorical imperatives (purportedly) instruct us how to behave irrespective of our desires, whims, preferences, and goals.
Morality doesn’t state “If you want to achieve X you ought to do Y."
Rather, it says "Thou shalt not commit murder!" regardless of whether you are concerned about facing the death penalty or not! It is this kind of imperative the moral skeptic rejects because outside of the context of punishment and reward there can be no motivating force to propel one to act in a certain manner.
After all, if I want to do X and can get away with performing X without consequence why ought I not do so? Because it's 'wrong'? What does 'wrong' even mean? Hence the nihilist contends that only hypothetical imperatives are tenable. The categorical imperative is nothing but the ethical woo of moralizing sophists!
A prescription by itself (a non hypothetical imperative) is neither true or false as it lacks true or false conditions. Consider the prescription "Thou shalt not steal". If there is no assumed if clause (goal) it is merely a command. It is expressing a desire for persons not to engage in a particular activity. 
It isn't a proposition. In philosophy a proposition is the content of a sentence which asserts or denies a certain state of affairs. "John is not a female" for example is a proposition because it is asserting something about empirical reality. 
It is either describing reality accurately or it isn't. But under what conditions can an isolated "ought" or "ought not" be rendered true or false? 

Now, I would like to point out that while it is true that in everyday speech the if clause (the goal) is often omitted—it is still implied. 
For example a father may tell his son "You ought to brush your teeth". In such an instance the if clause (goal) is implied and is something akin to "so that you can keep your teeth healthy". 
It may be uttered in a forceful authoritative tone and thus acting both as a command and a description of what must be done in order to maintain dental health. 
In this case the "ought" is used both as an expression of desire and a description of what must be done to attain a certain end. 

Moral prescriptions are not like this. They do not depict reality, they are expressions of desire, and attempts to motivate and influence others. 

With that said, there are those who may believe that their prescriptions refer to some kind of normative fact about the world. In such cases I believe the "ought" indicative of mistaken belief rather than a mere expression of attitude.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

On Moral Error Theory

ON MORAL ERROR THEORY

Moral Error Theory is a cognitivist position in irrealist meta ethics which contends that:

1. All moral claims are false.

2. That we have reason to believe all moral claims ere false.

3. No moral features exist; Existence is neither intrinsically good or evil.

4. Moral value judgments attempt, but fail, to refer to moral features in the world (because there are none).

In other words, on this view moral terms and sentences attempt to state facts but always fail as they are merely communicating falsities (mistaken belief).

Perhaps the most well known moral error theorist is J. L. Mackie, who defended this meta-ethical view in his book 'Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong'.

Mackie clearly distinguished himself from non cognitivists and logical positivists when he wrote: 'Although logical positivism with its verifiability theory of descriptive meaning gave an impetus to non-cognitive accounts of ethics, it is not only logical positivists but also empiricists of a much more liberal sort who should find objective values hard to accommodate. Indeed, I would not only reject the verifiability principle but also deny the conclusion commonly drawn from it, that moral judgements lack descriptive meaning. The assertion that there are objective values or intrinsically prescriptive entities or features of some kind, which ordinary moral judgements presuppose, is, I hold, not meaningless but false.'

Mackie put forth 2 main arguments in support of error theory.

1. THE ARGUMENT FROM QUEERNESS.

On page 37 of his book (mentioned above) he states that "If there were objective values, then they would be entities or qualities or relations of a very strange sort, utterly different from anything else in the universe. Correspondingly, if we were aware of them, it would have to be by some special faculty of moral perception or intuition, utterly different from our ordinary ways of knowing everything else. These points were recognized by Moore when he spoke of non-natural qualities, and by the intuitionists in their talk about a ‘faculty of moral intuition’. Intuitionism has long been out of favour, and it is indeed easy to point out its implausibilities." And thus he claims there is sufficient reason to doubt the existence of 'objective values'.

To put it another way: the 'objective moral values' view (moral realism) would have us believe that moral prescription somehow motivates (magically?) and provides reasons for action independent of our subjective, desires, and aversions. However such a claim seems totally detached from reality and our experience of it, and thus can be reasonably rejected.

2. THE ARGUMENT FROM DISAGREEMENT.

The Argument from Relativity (or the Argument from Disagreement) makes an empirical observation. It points to the fact of wide spread disagreement concerning what is purportedly 'morally acceptable'. In his book Mackie argues that this phenomena (moral disagreement) is more reasonably explained by moral irrealism rather than moral realism. That is, given the fact of widespread moral disagreement it seems more plausible that morality is a human convention and far less likely that there exists some meta physical realm of 'objective values' to which (apparently) some cultures have flawed epistemic access.

Concerning this Mackie wrote: 'Disagreement about moral codes seems to reflect people’s adherence to and participation in different ways of life. The causal connection seems to be mainly that way round: it is that people approve of monogamy because they participate in a monogamous way of life rather than that they participate in a monogamous way of life because they approve of monogamy.
Of course, the standards may be an idealization of the way of life from which they arise: the monogamy in which people participate may be less complete, less rigid, than that of which it leads them to approve. This is not to say that moral judgements are purely conventional. Of course there have been and are moral heretics and moral reformers, people who have turned against the established rules and practices of their own communities for moral reasons, and often for moral reasons that we would endorse. But this can usually be understood as the extension, in ways which, though new and unconventional, seemed to them to be required for consistency, of rules to which they already adhered as arising out of an existing way of life. In short, the argument from relativity has some force simply because the actual variations in the moral codes are more readily explained by the hypothesis that they reflect ways of life than by the hypothesis that they express perceptions, most of them seriously inadequate and badly distorted, of objective values.' 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

On Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson — 1841


"Ne te quaesiveris extra."
"Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."
           Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune
Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet. 
ESSAY II Self-Reliance
I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another. 
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope. 
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark. 
What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary. 
The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear. 
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs. 
Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, — "But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass? If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, 'Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.' Rough and graceless would be such greeting, but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then, again, do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; — though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold. 
Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world, — as invalids and the insane pay a high board. Their virtues are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. I ask primary evidence that you are a man, and refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony. 
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. 
The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers, — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. And, of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman's-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know that, with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side, — the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean "the foolish face of praise," the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation. 
For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlour. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are timid as being very vulnerable themselves. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment. 
The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. 
But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee. 
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. 
I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; — read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing, contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not, and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects. The swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also. We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. 
There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed an united light on the advancing actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham's voice, and dignity into Washington's port, and America into Adams's eye. Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemeris. It is always ancient virtue. We worship it to-day because it is not of to-day. We love it and pay it homage, because it is not a trap for our love and homage, but is self-dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person. 
I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us never bow and apologize more. A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him; I wish that he should wish to please me. I will stand here for humanity, and though I would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you, and all men, and all events. Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called "the height of Rome"; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons. 
Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him. But the man in the street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air, much like a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, 'Who are you, Sir?' Yet they all are his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. The picture waits for my verdict: it is not to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince. 
Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, our imagination plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous; did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day, as followed their public and renowned steps. When private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen. 
The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent the law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every man. 
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist, and afterwards see them as appearances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. My wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving; — the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command my curiosity and respect. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more readily; for, they do not distinguish between perception and notion. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical, but fatal. If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of time, all mankind, — although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun. 
The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate, not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice; should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the centre of the present thought; and new date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, — means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it, — one as much as another. All things are dissolved to their centre by their cause, and, in the universal miracle, petty and particular miracles disappear. If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury, if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming. 
Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say 'I think,' 'I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time. 
This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see, — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn. 
And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude example and experience. You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour of vision, there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea, — long intervals of time, years, centuries, — are of no account. This which I think and feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances, as it does underlie my present, and what is called life, and what is called death. 
Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades the past, turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and is. Who has more obedience than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits. We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not. 
This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain. Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, eloquence, personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect as examples of its presence and impure action. I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. Power is in nature the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul. 
Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions, by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native riches. 
But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. We must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. How far off, how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit. Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood, and I have all men's. Not for that will I adopt their petulance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it. But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door, and say, — 'Come out unto us.' But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act. "What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love." 
If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and faith, let us at least resist our temptations; let us enter into the state of war, and wake Thor and Woden, courage and constancy, in our Saxon breasts. This is to be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. Check this lying hospitality and lying affection. Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth's. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be the chaste husband of one wife, — but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men's, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. — But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me, and do the same thing. 
The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides. There are two confessionals, in one or the other of which we must be shriven. You may fulfil your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct, or in the reflex way. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these can upbraid you. But I may also neglect this reflex standard, and absolve me to myself. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties. But if I can discharge its debts, it enables me to dispense with the popular code. If any one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day. 
And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to himself, that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to others! 
If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society, he will see the need of these ethics. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we are become timorous, desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. 
If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams itfarms itpeddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, that he should be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him, — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history. 
It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views. 
1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which they call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly. Prayer looks abroad and asks for some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue, and loses itself in endless mazes of natural and supernatural, and mediatorial and miraculous. Prayer that craves a particular commodity, — any thing less than all good, — is vicious. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are true prayers heard throughout nature, though for cheap ends. Caratach, in Fletcher's Bonduca, when admonished to inquire the mind of the god Audate, replies, — 
"His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours;
Our valors are our best gods." 
Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to them who weep foolishly, and sit down and cry for company, instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication with their own reason. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. The gods love him because men hated him. "To the persevering mortal," said Zoroaster, "the blessed Immortals are swift." 
As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect. They say with those foolish Israelites, 'Let not God speak to us, lest we die. Speak thou, speak any man with us, and we will obey.' Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother, because he has shut his own temple doors, and recites fables merely of his brother's, or his brother's brother's God. Every new mind is a new classification. If it prove a mind of uncommon activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier, a Hutton, a Bentham, a Fourier, it imposes its classification on other men, and lo! a new system. In proportion to the depth of the thought, and so to the number of the objects it touches and brings within reach of the pupil, is his complacency. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds and churches, which are also classifications of some powerful mind acting on the elemental thought of duty, and man's relation to the Highest. Such is Calvinism, Quakerism, Swedenborgism. The pupil takes the same delight in subordinating every thing to the new terminology, as a girl who has just learned botany in seeing a new earth and new seasons thereby. It will happen for a time, that the pupil will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his master's mind. But in all unbalanced minds, the classification is idolized, passes for the end, and not for a speedily exhaustible means, so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the remote horizon with the walls of the universe; the luminaries of heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master built. They cannot imagine how you aliens have any right to see, — how you can see; 'It must be somehow that you stole the light from us.' They do not yet perceive, that light, unsystematic, indomitable, will break into any cabin, even into theirs. Let them chirp awhile and call it their own. If they are honest and do well, presently their neat new pinfold will be too strait and low, will crack, will lean, will rot and vanish, and the immortal light, all young and joyful, million-orbed, million-colored, will beam over the universe as on the first morning. 
2. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet. 
I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins. 
Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go. 
3. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with foreign taste; our shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments; our opinions, our tastes, our faculties, lean, and follow the Past and the Distant. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are as near to us as to any, and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also. 
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again. 
4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves. 
Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of exchange in his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under! But compare the health of the two men, and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. If the traveller tell us truly, strike the savage with a broad axe, and in a day or two the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch, and the same blow shall send the white to his grave. 
The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance-office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian? 
There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of height or bulk. No greater men are now than ever were. A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages; nor can all the science, art, religion, and philosophy of the nineteenth century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch's heroes, three or four and twenty centuries ago. Not in time is the race progressive. Phocion, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who is really of their class will not be called by their name, but will be his own man, and, in his turn, the founder of a sect. The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats, as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resources of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The great genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the bivouac, which consisted of falling back on naked valor, and disencumbering it of all aids. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army, says Las Casas, "without abolishing our arms, magazines, commissaries, and carriages, until, in imitation of the Roman custom, the soldier should receive his supply of corn, grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread himself." 
Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not. The same particle does not rise from the valley to the ridge. Its unity is only phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation to-day, next year die, and their experience with them. 
And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious, learned, and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, out of new respect for his nature. Especially he hates what he has, if he see that it is accidental, — came to him by inheritance, or gift, or crime; then he feels that it is not having; it does not belong to him, has no root in him, and merely lies there, because no revolution or no robber takes it away. But that which a man is does always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires is living property, which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or revolutions, or fire, or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes. "Thy lot or portion of life," said the Caliph Ali, "is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it." Our dependence on these foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. The political parties meet in numerous conventions; the greater the concourse, and with each new uproar of announcement, The delegation from Essex! The Democrats from New Hampshire! The Whigs of Maine! the young patriot feels himself stronger than before by a new thousand of eyes and arms. In like manner the reformers summon conventions, and vote and resolve in multitude. Not so, O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you, but by a method precisely the reverse. It is only as a man puts off all foreign support, and stands alone, that I see him to be strong and to prevail. He is weaker by every recruit to his banner. Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing of men, and in the endless mutation, thou only firm column must presently appear the upholder of all that surrounds thee. He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head.

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

ON POWER-NIHILISM AS POLITICA NIHILISMUS


"A great man is necessary a skeptic... The man of faith, the believer, is necessary a small type. Hence "freedom of spirit," i.e, unbelief as an instinct [is a precondition of greatness]. " Friedrich Nietzsche — The Will To Power — 963 (Spring-Fall 1887) 
"I rest my hopes on nothing,” proclaimed Goethe, and masterful minds in all ages have never done otherwise. This unspoken thought gives to all truly great men their manifest superiority over the brainless, vociferating herd. 
The “common people” have always had to be befooled with some written or wooden or golden Idol — some constitution, declaration or gospel. Consequently the majority of them have ever been mental thralls, living and dying in an atmosphere of strong illusion. They are befooled and hypnotized even to this hour, and a large proportion of them must remain so, until time is no more. Indeed the masses of mankind are but the sediment from which all the more valuable elements have been long ago distilled. They are totally incapable of real freedom, and if it was granted to them, they would straightway vote themselves a master, or a thousand masters within twenty-four hours." — Might Is Right — Ragnar RedBeard

The purpose of this final chapter is to:
1. Define my usage of the term 'political nihilism' and how it differentiates from the historical usage of the term.
2. Discuss my aversions to democracy and other herd instincts.
3. Critically examine some crucial political doctrines and theories I find untenable. 
4. Explicate how moral nihilism results in a negation of political theory (Political-Nihilism).

Political philosophy, (aka political theory), has to do with theories which pertain to politics. Theories such as justice, property, natural rights, natural law, authority and so on. Political Nihilism as I define it is a rejection and skepticism of political doctrine and thus a negation of such theories. Hence Political-Nihilism. 

The term Political Nihilism has a lot of baggage due to the fact that political nihilists have been historically socialistic, heavily left leaning and moralistic. I hope to show the distinction between how I use the term and its historical usage.

Political-Nihilism as articulated within this text contends that all legal and moral prescriptions are baseless in the sense that they are not objective, absolute, or binding. They are social constructs at most. 

Political Power-Nihilism (if you will?) concurs with Dmitri Pisarev and his descriptive statement that "[...] whatever will stand the blow is sound, what flies into smithereens is rubbish". 

That is, whatever withstands logical scrutiny survives critique and whatever is found lacking reason and evidence will be flung remorselessly into the dust bins of history. 
Unlike the political nihilism concocted by radical Russian revolutionaries of the past, Political Nihilism as I define it is not an attempt to destroy the current political order, or system of government in order to replace it with another. Or in the immortal words of Max Stirner "Revolution is aimed at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and set no glittering hope on "institutions” 
― Max Stirner

I will not be arguing for socialism or anarcho-syndicalism nor advocating some form of collectivism. I will not put forth utopian fantasies of a stateless voluntary society where violence is no longer necessary and other such passivist—puke. Nor am I going to tell you how non violent cooperation and communication can fix the world. I'm not on some humanitarian mission to liberate mankind from the 'evil' clutches of authoritarianism. This essay is not about 'fixing the world' but rather describing facts concerning socio-political realities. This doesn't mean however that as a radical individualist I don't have my own political feelings, preferences, or agendas. For as you will soon see I will express my distaste for, Goverment, democracy, socialism, collectivism and other slavish-herd propensities within this text. 

Political-Nihilism as I see it is ant-statist! 
Anti-statism is a term which describes resistance to government intervention of any kind. I reject government intervention into my life because I am a kind of radical individualist (I-Theist). I am an Individualist in the sense that I advocate my interests over that of the state, collective, or group. I am strong willed.
I desire maximal freedom for myself and am opposed to collectivism and am thus in opposition to all forms of external governance—as long as its edicts effect me in anyway I deem undesirable. I value self reliance and despise dependence upon a Nanny-State.
Now, unlike anarchists, I'm a moral nihilist who values consistency and thus will not put forth baseless moral arguments against goverment. I will not argue that it is "immoral" for one person or a group of persons to rule another; that initiating force or fraud is "wrong" as I do not believe in moral facts or truths. Rather, I will argue that the "right to rule" doesn't exist. I am an I-Theist thus I reject and oppose those who would rule me. 

In short, I am in agreement with Nietzsche when he wrote: "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." 

And with Stirner when he stated "Whoever will be free must make himself free. Freedom is no fairy gift to fall into a man's lap. What is freedom? To have the will to be responsible for one's self. ...liberate yourself as far as you can, and you have done your part; for it is not given to every one to break through all limits..."

You may disagree in attitude. You may wish to be apart of the hive, and to be ruled by it. You may wish to be subjugated and reliant upon a government. You may wish to be micro managed, to be coddled, 'to feel safe', and I have no problem with that as long as your desire doesn't effect me in anyway I find undesirable. I have no plans or panaceas for you unless you interfere with my goals... 

Make no mistake! Politics is about using the violent social mechanism known as 'the state' to impose your will upon others. The current system of governance exists whether I like it or not and as long as Liberal-progressives cast their votes to hinder my freedoms, I may decide to vote for and or endorse candidates that I think may lesson the size of government. I may also endorse those I believe may suppress my political enemies through violent means as long as they seek to suppress me. 

Some anarchists may repudiate my political opportunism on moral grounds, but I will remind them that morality has no objective foundations. 
Some anarchists have moral reservations about using violence as a means to over throw Goverment but I am not a moralist, and thus have no such restrictions. I am for using whatever means necessary to accomplish my ends! 
If it be true (I'm not sure that it is) that government is un-avoidable in that "nature abhors a vacuum" then I want to be that government; or at the very least keep government as small as possible. The following text is about logical critique, and at times expressing my subjective desires and aversions. Note the distinction between moral argumentation, assuming moral truths, and expressing distaste about X. 
MY OPPOSITION TO DEMOCRACY & A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH 

“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”

― Friedrich NietzscheThe Will to Power

I am Anti democratic. I am deeply opposed to democracy which I consider herd rule and a slave value. A democratic society places crucial decision-making-power (selecting who will violently rule over their neighbor etc.) into the hands of the average un-educated automaton, and individuals (like me) are forced to suffer the consequences. Let me be clear! I am not concerned for the welfare of the herd.
Unlike herd and slave moralists I have no expectation for you to share my values. I'm not attempting to persuade anyone to live my life, do you, live yours. As long as it doesn't effect me in a way I find undesirable, I don't care what you do. As far as I'm concerned you can have your 'isms' and your masters—just leave me out of it! If you cannot or will not do that, then there is war between us. 

"Basic error: to place the goal in the herd and not in single individuals! The herd is a means, no more! But now one is attempting to understand the herd as an individual and ascribe to it a higher rank than to the individual—profound misunderstanding! ! ! Also to characterize that which makes herdlike, sympathy, [or empathy] as the more valuable side of our nature!"
Friedrich Nietzsche — The Will To Power — 766 (1886—1887) 

Democracy, subjugates the individual will to the will of the herd.
Through democracy exceptional individuals are forced to live under a facade of "equality". The personal desires and greatness of an individual is to some degree subsumed under "the greatest good for the greatest number of the mediocre masses."

DeCasseres articulated the same thought when he wrote: "There exists a 'general good.' It provides for the comfort and well-being of the greatest number of idiots at the expense of brains, culture and character." 

Equalitarianism and democracy are instincts of ‘the herd’. They are valuations that favour the mediocre masses. Democrats, anarchists, socialists, and secular humanists (unwitting atheists) have a herd instinct for these christian-slave values. They demand a society which benefits them (herd animals) and possess an unshakeable faith that the community will be their salvation. The desire to eliminate suffering is a defining characteristic of their 'secular morality', which they purport to be 'objective' and 'progressive'.

"We are freeborn men, and wherever we look we see ourselves made servants of egoists! Are we therefore to become egoists too! Heaven forbid! We want rather to make egoists impossible! We want to make them all “ragamuffins”; all of us must have nothing, that “all may have.” — Max Stirner — The Ego & Its Own (1844)

Within the modern atheist movement many see themselves as 'free thinkers' liberated from the dogmas of religion. These self professed atheists tend to advocated secular-humanist thought and think of themselves as ‘skeptics' who have over-turned outdated bygone religious ideas of  'good' and 'evil' and fail to realize that they are merely continuing the work of a slave-religion. That is in many ways they are merely substituting 'God' with 'humanity' or the herd-collective. They have replaced the equality of souls before God" with "Equality before the law."
'Equality before the Law,' is a contradiction in terms because Law by its very nature is Inequality. For all who are under law are the subjects of those who enforce and fabricate law. 'The consent of the governed' is a clever lie as every government on earth rests on force.
By my standards, the herd ethic has caused humanity to lapse into a state of degeneration. What I call 'greatness' requires that which the herd animal devalues such as suffering, danger, self-love, egoism, (not to be confused with self deluded egotism) self-reliance, and inequality. It is in the interest of the herd to promote such characteristics as modesty, empathy, submissiveness, obedience, humility, conformity, and so on—thus opposing the development of the higher man while labeling him "evil". Pathological empathy is the herd instinct in the individual. 
As herd morality has continued to developed in the modern secular west it appears to have shed an element of the ascetic ideal and has morphed into a form of utilitarianism. Salvation in the next life has been replaced by 'happiness now' and "the well-being of conscious creatures". With the loss of the vestigial ascetic ideal there exists little inspiration to strive beyond the herd animal. Little room for self evolution or over-coming.
As we have seen Christianity continues to wane in the west, but its slave ethic is perpetuated through and finds its zenith in socio-political-liberalism. In liberal-regressivism self proclaimed victim-hood = status and power. In recent times we have witnessed the grotesque emergence of such phenomena as 'Social-Justice-Warriorism', 'victim culture' and 'The Oppression Olympics'. What else can we reasonably expect from a system of values which was designed to exult the suffering', the oppressed, and the herd!?
Social justice crusaders and their pet down-trodden-ones are now revered and exulted on the basis of their alleged victim status! And privileged to the degree to which they are purported to be 'under-privileged'. These vile freaks of nature attempt to publicly shame and excite herd vengeance against those who hold opinions contrary to their slave ethic. They accuse all deviators of being 'oppressive' and 'hateful', and attempt to publicly smear the characters of those who oppose them.
As a result certain protected identity groups who are plagued with disproportional violent crimes rates, poverty levels (etc) are never called out for their self destructive behavior by the regressive left; but are instead taught to 'blame whitey' and 'institutional racism' for all their ills. This of course dwarfs the mental maturity of many within these minority demographics as they are never forced to see that they are their own worst enemy. That is they are (in many instances) the ones keeping themselves down. I find it reasonable to believe that if someone truly cares for another they will bother to tell them the truth about their self destructive behavior, rather than allow them to wallow in a state of potentially lethal ignorance. So perhaps it is also reasonable to hypothesize that to many of these 'social justice' freaks (if not all)  these 'down trodden' folk are merely a means to gain power.
And speaking of a means to gain power, In these modern-dark-ages the 'social justice cause' has now permeated and gained primacy in the realm of political debate as opportunistic politicians desperately attempt to pander to the most groups with the highest victim status. But how can we reasonably expect any different when democracy is a system where those seeking election to positions of power must pander in order to get elected? Where political candidates must lie and scheme in order to win? This is not a malfunction of democracy, but a feature of democracy.
Thus modern ideals have reduced much of humanity into a pathetic laughing stock! A bunch of dependent infants who compete for victimhood status by seeing who can bewail the loudest. This is the cost of modernity. This is the tragedy of democracy and other herd and slave instincts which have taken precedence over the exceptional's of man kind. This is the consequence of the slave instinct for equality. This is what happens when the scepter of power resides with the mediocre masses.
For numerous aeons the human primate has endured environmental pressures and overcome harsh obstacles which have caused it to become the most extraordinary complex aware beast on the planet.Without these external dangers and challenges he would not be the super-ape he is today. With his exceptional brain power man kind has ever progressively mastered his environment and assimilated a vast array other organisms under his will to power. 
It takes extreme pressures to produce a diamond in the rough, and so it is with individual greatness. I suspect most are born with herd instincts, and they yearn to 'fit in'—to be accepted and to assimilate themselves into the collective. And then there are that species of man I call the 'I-Theist' who naturally transcend such instincts and the mediocre ideals which surround him. Within his breast beats the virile heart of a lion...
To the slave mind it is 'wrong' and perhaps even un-thinkable to put his interests over the will of God, the state, the herd, the collective, humanity, the nation, the greater or the so called 'common good' etc. In contrast, the I-Theist saith in his heart "I am my own deity and my own redeemer! My kingdom come! My will be done!"
"What is not supposed to be my concern! First and foremost, the Good Cause, then God's cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of Mind, and a thousand other causes. Only my cause is never to be my concern. "Shame on the egoist who thinks only of himself!... We are freeborn men, and wherever we look we see ourselves made servants of egoists! Are we therefore to become egoists too!  Now it is clear, God cares only for what is his, busies himself only with himself, thinks only of himself, and has only himself before his eyes; woe to all that is not well pleasing to him. He serves no higher person, and satisfies only himself. His cause is - a purely egoistic cause.” ― Max Stirner — The Ego & Its Own (1844)
Just as with God, so to with the I-Theist...
Unlike the cattle of mere humanity who (for-the-most-part) are content to uncritically graze upon the pastures of their cultural milieu; the I-Theist is transcendent and in a perpetual state of self-evolution through constant critical analysis, of his own ideas, and those which propagate around him. He strives for consistent skepticism and is thus ever rooting out inconsistencies within and without.
His curiosity about life and existence is insatiable. Unlike the herd animal who wonders through life with blank zombie-like-stares he is not content to live a comfortable illusion. To 'go along to get along'.
With his 'courage for the forbidden' he is continually deconstructing the matrix others have erected to control him. He is his own highest value, and thus he invests heavily into his own intellect.
The 'I-Theist' is a person and a process of internal and external overcoming. A process by which an individual progressively enters new heights of god-hood. In which tribulation and hardship are turned into depth of character, strength, and endurance. What doesn't kill him makes him deity. 

O
Let us now turn a our critical gaze toward the doctrine of "authority". In order to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings, I must first define what I mean by the term "authority" and what I do not mean. 
Often the term authority (Latin AUCTORITAS) is used interchangeably with power and those who possess it, but this is not the particular use of the term I wish to examine. 
Another way the term authority is commonly used is to refer to a person or persons with advanced knowledge and or practical experience in a particular field. This is also, not the kind of authority that will under go examination within this text. 
However, I will note that having an advanced degree in a particular field of study doesn't mean that your arguments are valid or that your propositions are true, nor that they should go unquestioned.
When I use the term "authority" in the following text I mean a person or group of persons who have the "right" to exercise power and control over a given populous. That is, a person or group that a given populous is morally obliged to obey. 
Unlike authoritarians, anarchists and other moralists who argue about what constitutes 'legitimate authority' I refuse to even assume that the concept of "legitimate authority" is even coherent. I will grant no free miracles. 
"The divine right of kings", is a political and religious theory that states a monarchs "right" to rule (authority) is granted by the will of God. Indeed in past pagan cultures rulers were seen as having a "right" to rule others because they were granted this "right" by the gods or because they themselves were believed to be gods. However, even if a God did existed, this fact of existing would not logically produce an obligation to obey (a moral ought). 
Such primitive theories are contingent upon the religio—moral doctrine known as Divine Command Theory and as has already been pointed out it suffers fatal logical flaws and thus I shall spend no more time concerning it. 
How then, can a given group of human primates (or a being called "God") have a moral right to enforce its will on other beings? And how do these ruled human primates (citizens) come to incur a duty to obey? 
Simple answer: No one has a moral right to rule for as we have seen morality is subjective and non binding. Authority of this kind is a myth. Rights themselves are mere human mental constructs. As already stated within this book there are no categorical moral oughts, only conditioned rational oughts. No one is objectively morally "bound" to obey anyone. At best, one can argue if one wants to avoid un-desired punishment B they ought obey those with the power to inflict such a punishment. 
It is often claimed by advocates of authority, and government 'officials' themselves (Police, politicians etc) that government represents you and that government officials act on your behalf. That they alone have the moral right to do things which you do not have the right to do. That is, those calling themselves "government" claim to have the 'moral right' to commit certain acts that you have no right to commit, while claiming that you gave them that right. But how can anyone give what they themselves do not possess? Also, 'moral rightness' doesn't exist and thus no one who genuinely "represents" you has the moral right to violently rule over you.
It is often claimed that the right to rule is derived from the "Consent of the Governed”. That people (tacitly) consent to be ruled through voting, or using public road ways or through living in a particular geographic region (and other such non sense). However, "consent” means to be in voluntarily agreement and to "govern” means to control via force. Therefore the "Consent of the Governed" is incoherent as it is self-contradictory. Also, this claim to 'tacit consent' is proven false by the fact that people explicitly express their lack of consent to be governed. I am not aware of any government who has or has had the consent of everyone it claims or has claimed to have authority over. 
Furthermore, as there are no objective moral truths or standards how can it be cogently argued that an agreement can produce the "moral rightness" of a particular government to rule, or the moral obligation of the governed to comply with those who govern? Such an argument also assumes that performing an action that has been consented to is morally permissible and that performing certain actions without consent are immoral (Rape, theft, etc) But again, I see no logical reason to make such an assumption. 
Ironically, these same advocates of democratic governance will claim that activities such as 'gang rape' is morally reprehensible while not realizing that such activities are democracy in action. That is, a majority forcing its will on the minority through violent, coercive means. So, by their standards what's the problem? 
A common objection voiced by contract theorists against those who critique government and authority is what I call "The love it or leave it fallacy." 
That is, the proponent of authority will respond to your critiques of government by stating "If you don't like it you should just leave!" or sometimes the objection is phrased as a command. "If you don't like it, get the hell out!". 
The problem with this objection is that:
1. It assumes that one has the ability to 'just leave' or 'get the hell out.' However, many moral philosophers will contend that 'ought implies can" and as David Hume pointed out impoverished people do not have the finances to leave. It assumes that there exists some habitable stateless region in which to relocate. To my knowledge there is no such place. Every square inch of habitable land has been carved out by those who wish to rule you. As stated above consent is necessarily voluntary. If you cannot leave government because government is omni-present or you haven't the means to escape it, then consent is not possible. 
2. It assumes the very thing it seeks to prove and is therefore viciously circular. 
  1. Government is morally justified (because you voluntarily consent to it)  
  2. If you don't love it you can leave it (because it is voluntary) 
  3. Therefore government is morally justified (because [back to 1] it is voluntary) 
A common myth believed by the common citizen-slave is that 'Government is a servant of the people'. This however—is a laughable lie! Government gains obedience from its subjects under the threat of lethal force. It perpetuates its existence and expands its power by aggressively gobbling up the wealth of its victims. It cages and even kills those who do not get into the goose-step. Government is not your bitch—maid, it is your master! Does the Government provide some 'services'? Yes, but to claim this makes Government your 'servant' is akin to claiming a factory farmer is the servant of his cattle. Sure, he feeds and provides medical services to the heifer he chains to the milking stanchion, but does this really mean that he is the 'servant' of his dairy cow? And by receiving these services will you really argue that the cow has tacitly consented to ending up on your dinner plate? 

As stated previously in this book, "Government" is a gang of violent primates in costume, who claim the 'right' to monopolize violence. It is a role some human primates fill in order to coercively control other primates. Government is a very small portion of a countries population, just as with a priesthood in a given congregation, and while much of its power consists in its ability to do violence, I think it is unlikely to maintain its control of a given population without a mass belief in authority. The belief in 'Government legitimacy' and theological beliefs are closely tied. I think it is highly likely that the belief in earthly 'authority' stems from the belief in a heavenly one. 
In fact I think it is reasonable to argue that statism is a kind of quasi—religion. Like religion It has sacred garbs, ceremonial rituals, 'special' titles, sacrosanct hymns and incantations. It has its 'Saints' and 'sinners' and even martyrs, (Fallen soldiers) who make 'the ultimate sacrifice'.  It has its 'threats of Hell fire' with its county, state, and federal correctional facilities where the 'justly damned' are relegated; and its deities before which faithful adherents grovel. 
Just as with theism in general, the theology of "Government” depicts a so called 'special' entity, above mere humanity, which issues holy edicts (legislation, laws) to its subjects.
It demands uncritical obedience as a moral imperative. Rebellion toward its enumerable commands (“law breaking”) is deemed as a criminal act (a sin). The mindless-throngs take pleasure in the so called 'righteous' penalties inflicted on deviators (sinners).  
The faithful take pride in their undying loyalty (pride in being a Law abiding tax slave) to the State (God). Within the death cult of statism it is deemed anathema for one to even imagine himself being qualified enough to decide which of the States ( god’s ) commandments should be heeded and which he may disregarded. 
In fact, I have encountered far more hostile emotion from the average herd-ling by criticizing his earthly master (Government) than his 'Good Lord Jesus'. The mindless many believe fervently in the 'authority' of political muppets and their belief has nothing to do with evidence and cogent reasoning. They (the average herd animal) have been conditioned in Government indoctrination centers (schools) to accept the 'authority' of government deities prior to the age of mental maturity. Their neural networks were plugged into the State-Trix long ago, and all they know is captivity. Indeed to these tax cattle there is nothing more terrifying than to be unplugged, than to be free.
There are no beings, human or otherwise with "the moral right to rule" only humans with the power/ability to do so.
"Mastership is eternal. But only for those who cannot overthrow it, and trample it beneath their hoofs...  Strong men are not deterred from pursuing their aim by anything. They go straight to the goal, and that goal is Beauty, Wealth, and Material Power. The mission of Power is to control and exploit the powerless, for to be powerless is to be criminal. The world would indeed be a house of horrors, if all men were “good” and all women — padlocked."
 — Might Is Right — Ragnar RedBeard
 ON IUS NATURALE
Another theory which has been put forth by political philosophers is the notion of "Natural Law". While 'The Divine right of Kings' was a theory put forth in order to convince the gullible masses that a particular dictator has a "moral right to rule", Natural Law Theory seems be an attempt to thwart government over—reach.
Natural Law is a philosophical theory that specific natural rights or values are inherent by virtue of natural human characteristics that can be universally comprehended via human reason. Natural rights are purported to be "natural" in the sense of "not synthetic, or man-made", and not contingent upon human consensus as they derive from human nature, or from the edicts of a deity. 
They are claimed to be universal and to apply to all people (but do apply to non human animals apparently). 
For example It is often asserted that humans have an "inalienable natural right to life" or "to bear fire arms" etc. 
In comparison, 'legal rights' are based upon a given society's customs, laws, statutes, the actions of a legislature. One example of a so called legal right is the right to pic who will violently rule over man kind (to vote)Citizenship (aka slavery) is usually considered as the basis for having legal rights just as it was in the Roman Empire. These legal rights of course are merely concepts or scribbles on paper. They are mental fictions and thus have no objective existence and what human power grants, human power can revoke. 
No document gives more credence to the natural law doctrine than the American Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson, the author of the now sacrosanct American document was heavily influenced by the Natural Law theory of John Locke. 
In his Second Treatise on Government John Locke wrote,
"The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it which obliges everyone:… that being all equal and independent no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions" [Locke, 270-71].
Natural Law theories are not a strictly modern phenomena and many of such theories have been birthed in the fertile-hallucinogenic-minds of philosophers and theologians over the past 2,000 years. Concerning natural law John Whitehead wrote: "The concept of natural law is one of the most confused ideas in the history of Western thought.”
Indeed, so many versions of Natural Law theory have reared their ugly malformed faces that undertaking them all may not be feasible. However, seeing that most of these theories (if not all) suffer from many of the same affliction it may not be necessary.
Murray Newton Rothbard, a libertarian and political theorist put forth a more modern secular version of Natural Law theory. 
In his book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Rothbard wrote: that natural law and natural rights are deducible from essential human characteristics (facts). That is Rothbard doesn’t want to end up with a mere collection of empirical facts concerning human nature, but wants to derive a natural law ethic from them.
But how did he reach such a conclusion? 
In his book The Ethics of Liberty he stated "The observable behavior of each of these entities is the law of their natures, and this law includes what happens as a result of the interactions. The complex that we build up of these laws may be termed the structure of natural law. (10)
In the above quote we see that Rothbard is just stating that we can come to know through observations certain behavior characteristics concerning human nature, and the consequences of social and environmental interactions. So it seems thus far it's 'just the facts ma'am!'
However he later writes "The natural law ethic decrees [prescribes] that for all living things, “goodness” is the fulfillment of what is best for that type of creature; “goodness” is therefore relative to the nature of the creature concerned…In the case of man, the natural-law ethic states that goodness or badness can be determined by what fulfills or thwarts what is best for man’s nature.” (11)
Now, we see that he tries to move from facts about human nature to "decrees" which of course it logically fallacious! He cannot logically deduce oughts ("goodness", what is "best" etc) from a collection of facts about human nature. 
As seen in chapter 2 one might believe they can derive a prescription from facts, but what they are really doing is assuming a value premise which is not derived from reason nor facts, but from sentiment. The 'if clause' is implied. 
It seems that every natural law theory I have examined seems to fall headless before Hume's guillotine. So I will voice only one final objection concerning them before I move on.
I would like to note concerning such theories that find it a bit misleading and disingenuous that these theorists use terms like "Natural Law". Unlike the law of gravity etc these supposed "natural laws" and "rights" can be violated and thus are in need of enforcement. Thus even if these laws existed they would be more akin to legal fictions. So why then do these theorists use such terminology? I believe it is at least partially because they think it makes their opinions appear to have an exulted status, as if their values were something objective and beyond mere human sentiment and moral dogma. It is a ruse meant to ensnare the average dull witted intellect. Ask yourself of what use is any prescription if you lack the power to enforce it?
 Or as Henrik Ibsen put it "Oh yes, right—right. What is the use of having right on your side if you have not got might?"
ON PROPERTY & OWNERSHIP AS ILLUSION.
In order to examine my contention that property and ownership do not exist and why such are illusory, it is imperative that I begin by defining terms. When I say that property and ownership do not exist, I do not mean that physical possession of a thing and physical occupation of land or space doesn't exist. In fact, in my experience when most people use such terms they are not just referring to these physical realities (possession, occupation) but are instead making prescriptions concerning who has the 'moral right' to have exclusive control or access of an object and or a piece of land. After all, to argue that 'one has physical possession of X, therefore they ought have possession of X' is to transgress the is-ought gap.
People say 'That's my car!' which means only he or she should have access and control over it unless he or she consents to allow another access and control.
People say 'HEY! Those are my personal belongings. HANDS OFF!' Or 'That guy just stole my watch!' I find that these are often emotive uses of such propertarian language.
Libertarians have been known to argue that the principle of 'Self-ownership' is the basis of liberty. And that anyone asserting otherwise is arguing for slavery, as slaves are the 'property' of their 'owners' and that If you don't own yourself, someone else does etc. However, this is a false dichotomy as there of course is a 3rd option, that says ownership, the owned, and the owner do not exist. They are mental and linguistic spooks.
This libertarian view concerning "self ownership" assumes a rather infantile dualism in which there is a 'you' that owns 'you'. I have heard it claimed by some libertarians that 'self ownership' means that you have 'control of yourself'. But such claims to self ownership summon silly visions of 'a haunted biological machine'. You do not control you, you don't own you, rather you can only be one thing. You are yourself. Perhaps, this self owner-ship-principle is a consequence of the inherent dualism within language. A person may say "My body" and "My arm" but they are a body, and they are 'their' arm. There is no you outside of you doing any owning. You are not a ghost in a brain sitting behind a control panel. Furthermore, even if we granted this dualist view, it is still the case that from the fact of control, one may not logically deduce prescriptions. 
When propertarian ownership-language is employed it is often the case that we express our subjective expectations. We are expressing an emotion about X. We say that X 'belongs to me' or 'This is mine!' which means (as I have already stated above) that I and only those I grant permission ought have access to, control of, and use of X. That anyone who separates me from X, uses and or accesses X without my consent is doing something inappropriate (something I don't like). 
Now whether such language is used to express emotions, mistaken cognitive beliefs or both, is not the subject we are now undertaking. Regardless which of these positions are valid, it still follows that such expressions are not true.
Example: If I say the ocean exists, this is a true proposition. If I say the ocean is 'immoral' this proposition is either false, an expression of negative emotion about the ocean, or both. But it is not true in either case. Either because it is an erred belief or just not propositional or truth apt. The ocean just is, in spite of your feelings about it. 
The main purpose of examining this prescriptive moral usage of ownership-language is not to refute yet more moral claims made by moralists; but to point out the implications of moral nihilism in the realm of such prescriptive concepts as property and ownership. For if objective morality is illusion and moral truths do not exist—it follows ownership, property, and belongings are illusory as well. While I am saying that concepts such as property and ownership do not correspond to reality, that doesn't mean that I think such concepts aren't useful. 
Objective morality, property, religion, authority, these are all illusions and effective implements of control. Nature does what works. What doesn't takes a dirt nap, and sometimes what works is un-truth or just straight up fiction...
It is a fact of our existence that we possess what we do until a greater force than ourselves (or death) pries it from our grasp. You possess what you do because you have the means (power/ability) to fend off those who would take it by force (either by your own power, the state, or alliances with other powers.) There is no such thing as a 'legitimate right to control and possess'.  Legitimacy is a bed time story for gullible 'grown ups'.  You may think that you 'own a house' and or 'land' but you are only renting these things from the tax-man. You may gullibly believe that you have a right to own a thing, but there is no such thing as 'right'— only might! 
I shall now bring this book to a final close, by succinctly summarizing some of the main points I have argued within these pages. 
— Objective-Morality, & Authority Are illusions —
— The free man is a warrior–skeptic —
— Power is the basis of life & Law —
— Existence is force against force —
— Life is will to power —