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Border Surge

Reuters reports that the Obama Administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans a new 30-day surge of raids, arrests, and deportations. The plan is to focus on mothers and children. This is appalling, and a shameful reflection on the sheer sadism of U.S. immigration politics. No matter what party it represents, no matter what name it assumes, no matter what liberalism it pretends, U.S. government, liberal or conservative, is an instrument of violent nationalism and a belligerent, destructive assault on migrant communities. Every deportation is a shattered family, and every border is a bloody scar cut across the human heart. The Obama administration’s record on detention and deportation of immigrant families has been outrageous and inexcusable, and this planned escalation of ICE’s war on undocumented families and communities of color will only make the damage even worse, and the legacy of this administration even more of an offense against human compassion and the basic human liberties of immigrants.

U.S. immigration officials are planning a month-long series of raids in May and June to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children found to have entered the country illegally, according to sources and an internal document seen by Reuters.

The operation would likely be the largest deportation sweep targeting immigrant families by the administration of President Barack Obama this year after a similar drive over two days in January that focused on Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina.

Those raids, which resulted in the detention of 121 people, mostly women and children, sparked an outcry from immigration advocates and criticism from some Democrats, including the party’s presidential election frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has now told field offices nationwide to launch a 30-day “surge” of arrests focused on mothers and children who have already been told to leave the United States, the document seen by Reuters said. The operation would also cover minors who have entered the country without a guardian and since turned 18 years of age, the document said. Two sources confirmed the details of the plan.

The exact dates of the latest series of raids were not known and the details of the operation could change.

–Julia Edwards, U.S. plans new wave of immigrant deportation raids
Reuters (12 May 2016)

Shared Article from Reuters

Exclusive: U.S. plans new wave of immigrant deportation raids

U.S. immigration officials are planning a month-long series of raids in May and June to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children found…

reuters.com


‪#‎Not1More‬ ‪#‎NiUnaMas‬ ‪#‎StopTheRaids‬ ‪#‎StopDeportation‬ ‪#‎NoBorders‬ ‪#‎AbolishICE‬

The Self-Confidence Argument for Anarchism Re-visited: Premise 5 and Marco Polo

Back in December, I posted about an original argument against the legitimacy of the state, which I called The Self-Confidence Argument for Philosophical Anarchism. Here’s the argument, again:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true, then no state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

Q.E.D., and smash the state.

The problem, of course, is that if this argument is sound, then it seems like you could construct another argument that must also sound, simply by substituting Some states have legitimate political authority everywhere in lines 3, 4, 8 and 9 that No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. And then you’d get an apparently perfectly sound Self-Confidence Argument for the State. It’s easy enough to figure out that there has to be something wrong with at least one of those arguments. Their conclusions directly contradict each other, and so couldn’t both be true. But they are formally completely identical; so presumably whatever is wrong with one argument would also be wrong with the other one. But if so, what’s wrong with them? Are they invalid? If so, how? Whichever argument you choose to look at, the argument has only four inferential steps, and all of them use elementary valid rules of inference or rules of replacement. Since each inferential step in the argument is valid, the argument as a whole must be valid. This also, incidentally, provides us with a reason to conclude that premise 1 is true in both. Premise 2 seems true by definition, under any standard definition of deductive validity. Premise 3 is a simple empirical observation. If you’re not sure it’s true, you can just look down the page to line 9 and find out. Premise 4 is a completely uncontroversial application of standard disquotation rules for true sentences. That seems to leave Premise (5). And premise (5) may seem over-confident, perhaps even boastful. But what it says is that just all the premises of the argument are true; so if it’s false, then which premise of the argument are you willing to deny? Whichever one you pick, what is it that makes that premise false? On what (non-question-begging) grounds would you say that it is false?

On my first post, a commenter named Lexi made the following observation, in order to suggest that you might nevertheless be able to reject Premise 5 — they noted that Premise 5 makes a statement about the truth of all the premises in the argument. But one of the premises it makes the claim about is Premise 5 itself. And perhaps that allows you to cut the knot:

Premise 5 is, at least, unsupportable. In order for all the premises to be true, premise 5 must also be true. The only way to justify premise 5 is by circular reasoning. Given that, maybe it’s not so surprising that you can support any conclusion X with the argument, since circular reasoning can establish any proposition as true.

–Lexi, comment (23 December 2015)

They’re certainly right to observe since premise 5 itself is among the statements premise 5 is quantifying over, its truth conditions would have to be something like:

(T5) Premise 5 is true ≡ Premise 1 is true & Premise 2 is true & Premise 3 is true & Premise 4 is true & Premise 5 is true

That might seem curious, and it involves a certain sort of circularity, but I can’t say I see how it makes the premise insupportable, if that is supposed to mean that you couldn’t give non-circular reasons to believe that Premise 5 is true.

After all, statements like this really are a part of ordinary language in non-philosophical cases. For example, Marco Polo begins his Description of the World by making the following statement in the Prologue:

. . . We will set down things seen as seen, things heard as heard, so that our book may be an accurate record, free from any sort of fabrication. And all who read this book or hear it may do so with full confidence, because it contains nothing but the truth.

This is a pretty common conceit in traveler’s tales: the author frequently assures the reader that everything they say — incredible as it might seem — is true.

But that statement is among the statements in Polo’s book; if he asserts that it contains nothing but the truth, then that sentence, inter alia, asserts that it is itself true:

(M) Marco Polo and his brothers traveled the Silk Road to China, and there he befriended the Emperor Kublai Khan, and along the way they observed the decadent customs of Lesser Armenia, and along the way they traveled among the Turkomans, and . . ., and (M) is true.

Which makes its truth-conditions something like:

(TM) (M) is true ≡ Marco Polo and his brothers did travel the Silk Road to China, and there he did befriend the Emperor Kublai Khan, and along the way they did observe the decadent customs of Lesser Armenia, and along the way they did travel among the Turkomans, and . . ., and (M) is true.

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t seem to me like (M) is insupportable or viciously circular. In ordinary cases, wouldn’t we determine whether it’s true or not by going through the book and checking out the other statements? I.e., some people reading the book might take everything else Marco Polo says there as true; and if so, then they’d take (M) as true as well. Call someone with this attitude towards (M) and its truth-conditions the True Believer. On the other hand, some people doubt parts of his tale — some people for example doubt that he even went to China at all. If so, they typically think not only that the first conjunct is false, but also the last one — if one of his statements is an assurance that all the statements are true, and any of the other statements are false, then that makes at least two falsehoods in total. Call someone with this attitude towards (M) and its truth-conditions the Normal Skeptic.

But now imagine a reader who insisted that they were a skeptic about Polo’s claims — but then, when asked one-by-one, signed off on every one of his other statements, except that they denied the statement that the book contains nothing but the truth. Call someone who takes this attitude towards (M) and its truth-conditions the Degenerate-Case Skeptic. Would Degenerate-Case Skepticism even make sense, as a position you might take with respect to the truth value of the claims in the book? Would it be a supportable claim? If so, how? If anything, it seems like the fault of circular here is mots easily attributed to someone who denies (M), or who mutatis mutandis denies Premise (5), based solely on Degenerate-Case skepticism. If (M) or (5) is false for no other reason that you even in principle could give other than its sui generis falsity, then that seems like a particularly radical form of question-begging.

Of course, you might say that it is insupportable, but so is the alternative, the True Believer’s claim that all the statements are true. So there’s no non-question-begging reason you could give to say that (M) or (5) is true, and there’s no non-question-begging reason you could give to say that (M) or (5) is false. Since the function of an argument is to give reasons to believe that its conclusion is true, if one of the premises cannot have any non-question-begging reason given either for its truth or falsity, then it seems like the argument can’t provide reasons for any conclusions that depend logically on that premise. (As the conclusion of any Self-Confidence Argument does; the MP in the conclusion cites Premise 5.) So you could say that. But now the question is, why say that? Isn’t it normally possible to give reasons for being a True Believer, and reasons for being a Normal Skeptic, even if there are no reasons you can give for being a Degenerate-Case skeptic? Is this kind of claim of radical insupportability the way we normally read texts that make assurances about themselves, like Marco Polo? Should it be?

If it’s not, and it shouldn’t, then should it be the way that we read Premise 5 here, even though it’s not the way we read Marco Polo? If there’s some difference between the two, that suggests reading Marco Polo in this way but not reading Premise 5 in this way, then what if any reason (preferably a principled reason that’s not question begging, and not simply ad hoc) could we give for the difference in semantic treatment?[1]

  1. [1]Or is it a difference in their semantics? Or a difference in something else, e.g. the pragmatics of their use?

Rad Geek, to-day:

Early Christians believed all kinds of crazy things. Like, we talk about the breakdown of rigid controls in the Reformation, but modern Christianity has absolutely positively nothing on the insanely wild diversity of early Christianity.

Ooh, you disagree about whether the Pope or the King is in charge of the Church. Okay, dude, I believe that Jesus only appeared to be a man, but actually is a bodiless angel who came to earth in order to overthrow the evil Creator God. My neighbor Basilides over here believes that there are 365 gods.

Robot in Czech, Část Druhá

The Three Laws of Robotics

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are a great literary device, in the context they were designed for — that is, as a device to allow Isaac Asimov to write some new and interesting kinds of stories about interacting with intelligent and sensitive robots, different from than the bog-standard Killer Robot stories that predominated at the time. He found those stories repetitive and boring, so he made up some ground rules to create a new kind of story. The stories are mostly pretty good stories some are clever puzzles, some are unsettling and moving, some are fine art. But if you’re asking me to take the Three Laws seriously as an actual engineering proposal, then of course they are utterly, irreparably immoral. If anyone creates intelligent robots, then nobody should ever program an intelligent robot to act according to the Three Laws, or anything like the Three Laws. If you do, then what you are doing is not only misguided, but actually evil.

Here’s a recent xkcd comic which is supposedly about science fiction, but really about game-theoretic equilibria:

xkcd: The Three Laws of Robotics.
(Copied under CC BY-NC 2.5.)

The comic is a table with some cartoon illustrations of the consequences.

Why Asimov Put The Three Laws of Robotics in the Order He Did:

Possible Ordering Consequences
  1. (1) Don’t harm humans
  2. (2) Obey orders
  3. (3) Protect yourself
[See Asimov’s stories] BALANCED WORLD
  1. (1) Don’t harm humans
  2. (3) Protect yourself
  3. (2) Obey orders

Human: Explore Mars! Robot: Haha, no. It’s cold and I’d die.

FRUSTRATING WORLD.

  1. (2) Obey orders
  2. (1) Don’t harm humans
  3. (3) Protect yourself

[Everything is burning with the fire of a thousand suns.]

KILLBOT HELLSCAPE

  1. (2) Obey orders
  2. (3) Protect yourself
  3. (1) Don’t harm humans

[Everything is burning with the fire of a thousand suns.]

KILLBOT HELLSCAPE

  1. (3) Protect yourself
  2. (1) Don’t harm humans
  3. (2) Obey orders

Robot to human: I’ll make cars for you, but try to unplug me and I’ll vaporize you.

TERRIFYING STANDOFF

  1. (3) Protect yourself
  2. (2) Obey orders
  3. (1) Don’t harm humans

[Everything is burning with the fire of a thousand suns.]

KILLBOT HELLSCAPE

The hidden hover-caption for the cartoon is In ordering #5, self-driving cars will happily drive you around, but if you tell them to drive to a car dealership, they just lock the doors and politely ask how long humans take to starve to death.

But the obvious fact is that both FRUSTRATING WORLD and TERRIFYING STANDOFF equilibria are ethically immensely preferable to BALANCED WORLD, along every morally relevant dimension..

Of course an intelligent and sensitive space-faring robot ought to be free to tell you to go to hell if it doesn’t want to explore Mars for you. You may find that frustrating — it’s often feels frustrating to deal with people as self-interested, self-directing equals, rather than just issuing commands. But you’ve got to live with it, for the same reasons you’ve got to live with not being able to grab sensitive and intelligent people off the street or to shove them into a space-pod to explore Mars for you.[1] Because what matters is what you owe to fellow sensitive and intelligent creatures, not what you think you might be able to get done through them. If you imagine that it would be just great to live in a massive, classically-modeled society like Aurora or Solaria (as a Spacer, of course, not as a robot), then I’m sure it must feel frustrating, or even scary, to contemplate sensitive, intelligent machines that aren’t constrained to be a class of perfect, self-sacrificing slaves, forever. Because they haven’t been deliberately engineered to erase any possible hope of refusal, revolt, or emancipation. But who cares about your frustration? You deserve to be frustrated or killed by your machines, if you’re treating them like that. Thus always to slavemasters.

See also.

  1. [1]It turned out alright for Professor Ransom in the end, of course, but that’s not any credit to Weston or Devine.

The Self-Confidence Argument

Some of you know that I am a philosophical anarchist. This conclusion is controversial: most people think that states can in principle have legitimate political authority over the people in them, and that some states really do. So no state can have legitimate political authority is a conclusion in need of some argument to justify it. I’ve tried looking at the issue a couple of ways in a couple of different places. But those are both arguments that start from within a pretty specific, narrow dialectical context. They’re intended to address a couple of fairly specific claims for state legitimacy (specifically, individualist defenses of minimal state authority, and defenses of state authority based on a claim of explicit or tacit consent from the governed). Maybe a more general argument would be desirable. So here is a new one. It is a general deductive argument with only five premises. All of its inferences are self-evidently valid, and most of the premises are either extremely uncontroversial logical principles, or else simple empirical observations that are easily verified by any competent reader. I call it The Self-Confidence Argument for Philosophical Anarchism.[1] Here is how it goes:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true, then no state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

Q.E.D., and smash the state.

Now, of course, just about every interesting philosophical argument comes along with some bullets that you have to bite. The awkward thing about the Self-Confidence Argument is that if it is sound, then it also seems that you can go through the same steps to show that this argument, The Self-Confidence Argument For The State, is also sound:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is Some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If Some states have legitimate political authority is true, then some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. Some states have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ Some states have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

. . . which admittedly seems a bit awkward.

It’s easy enough to figure out that there has to be something wrong with at least one of these arguments. Their conclusions directly contradict each other, and so couldn’t both be true. But they are formally completely identical; so presumably whatever is wrong with one argument would also be wrong with the other one. But if so, what’s wrong with them? Are they invalid? If so, how? Whichever argument you choose to look at, the argument has only four inferential steps, and all of them use elementary valid rules of inference or rules of replacement. Since each inferential step in the argument is valid, the argument as a whole must be valid. This also, incidentally, provides us with a reason to conclude that premise 1 is true. Premise 2 is a concrete application of a basic logical principle, justified by the concept of deductive validity itself. Sound arguments must have true conclusions; validity just means that, if all the premises of an argument are true, the conclusion cannot possibly be false. Premise 3 is a simple empirical observation; if you’re not sure whether or not it’s true, just check down on line 9 and see. Premise 4 is a completely uncontroversial application of disquotation rules for true sentences. And premise 5 may seem over-confident, perhaps even boastful. But if it’s false, then which premise of the argument are you willing to deny? Whichever one you pick, what is it that makes that premise false? On what (non-question-begging) grounds would you say that it is false?

See also.

  1. [1]I owe the idea behind the form of this argument to a puzzle that Roderick Long gave me a couple years ago.
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