Shayne Wissler
“… to understand is, above all, to unify.” – Albert Camus

A Rational Basis for Morality and Why It Matters

August 10 2019

Proviso: The following is a guest article by Isaiah Becker-Mayer, based on a “Memocracy” talk given at Ephemerisle 2019. This is a brief introduction to some of my ideas, but if they could really be condensed down this far without losing anything important, I’d have not written the three chapter buildup to the conclusions given here. – Shayne Wissler

The following talk is based in part on Reason and Liberty, by Shayne Wiss…

A Declaration of Digital Rights

August 10 2019
Defending The Future of Individual Rights on the Internet

To the Citizens of the United States of America[1]:

According the wise traditions of America, we as individuals have inalienable rights imbued to us by our Creator[2]. These rights are intrinsic to us and expressly not granted by governments; rather, it is the government’s primary duty to respect and defend these already-existing and intrinsic rights[3].

Some of these rights are outlined in The United States Bill …

The Path to Enlightenment

November 01 2019

Most of us have the same intellectual start: the healthy infant state. In this state we are as perfect as any human will be: we have made no mistakes, we have neither psychological baggage nor intellectual confusions nor dishonesties. The price for this perfection is our complete ignorance and our complete dependence upon others.

As we climb out of this infant state we naturally must trust those who are helping us. This leads to our first intellectual barrier: having unjus…

On the Maddening Hypocrisy of Objectivists

February 18 2018

Gratuitous proviso: not all Objectivists are hypocritical on the issue I’ll discuss here, just most of the serious ones I’ve interacted with. This isn’t a collective smear: I treat Objectivists as individuals, and unless they behave in this hypocritical way, I won’t assume otherwise. As Rand herself once said: If the shoe fits, wear it with my compliments.

If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I wil…

The Moral Mathematics of the Rational Man

March 27 2017

This guest article written by Isaiah Becker-Mayer was originally published here.

[link]Our Predicament[link]

It is commonly thought that while human reason can be used to discover fundamental, universal truths in the physical realm (commonly referred to as ‘science’), it is unable to penetrate the realm of human belief that is most essential to our day to day interactions - the moral realm. David Hume is oft (somewhat erroneously) cited on this point, which is summ…

My philosophy: An overview

January 08 2017

What in the briefest terms is my philosophy?

In two words: Follow reason. By this I mean that we ought to exclusively base our beliefs upon logic and evidence – that soul of natural science. This idea constitutes the foundation of a rational morality. (That we should base our beliefs upon logic and evidence is generally accepted wisdom, but the idea of exclusively doing so is a relatively rare viewpoint. Rarer still is the idea that this constitutes the proper base…

Understanding understanding

January 02 2017

Is it possible to understand our own understanding, in the sense that we understand how the underlying physical factors can produce such a thing as understanding? We understand the question, but it’s unknown whether we are intelligent enough to answer it. We don’t even know whether the universe is such that the most intelligent being possible to this universe could.

All scientific questions start off this way: we proceed with a sort of trust (some might say…

Progressivism’s infantalism

December 19 2016

If you study the history of progressivism/postmodernism/Marxism (all of which arise from the same mentality)[1] you’ll find a mountain of analysis, but what is at their core?

Wikipedia states that “Progressivism is a philosophy based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition”.

Who could argue with that? We all want progress …


November 04 2016

Reality is complicated.

Consider launching a rocket. Lots of them just blow up on the launch pad. Most people don’t know how to build them, but if you look into it, there’s a lot of detailed planning, calculations, and construction where if any small thing goes wrong, then – BOOM!

Suppose someone was put in charge of building rockets who didn’t understand this. Maybe he knows someone’s brother and got the job. Maybe his mom told him he’s a special sno…

Free will: Philosophy vs. Physics

August 28 2016

“[W]e always implicitly assume the freedom of the experimentalist… This fundamental assumption is essential to doing science. If this were not true, then, I suggest, it would make no sense at all to ask nature questions in an experiment, since then nature could determine what our questions are[1], and that could guide our questions such that we arrive at a false picture of nature.”

— Anton Zeilinger

For there to be any such thing as knowledge, it mus…

The Rule of Reason

February 07 2016

If a rational idealism is ever to rule the political realm, which is to say, if the term “political philosophy” (i.e. political ideas backed by rational justification) is ever to have any meaning or application in the world, then certain radical changes in how we do politics need to come about.

Political philosophy is “rocket science”, in the sense that a rational justification of this or that political act usually requires a sophisticated argument. If…

Why is Rights Theory Undervalued?

January 16 2016

When we insist on knowing why, we implicitly recognize that reason is the ultimate authority. The reason why we must ask “Why?” regarding individual rights[1] then is to understand precisely what authorizes one species of human action – which we name rights; and what denies another species – which we name crimes. To be confused about the source of this authority, or about what human actions belong to one category or another, is to prescrib…

On Insane Medical Costs (or: ObamaCare is not the problem)

November 21 2015


  1. Government hands the whole nation’s water supply to a band of cartels, who control various aspects of collection, purification, and distribution. To enforce the cartel, whenever anyone tried to collect, purify, or distribute their own water, they’d be given heavy fines and prison sentences. Those suspected of collecting rainwater on their own properties would be subject to no-knock raids. And so on.
  2. Over decades,…

An elegant argument against patents

August 21 2015

With the proviso that a person who does not follow reason can’t be defeated by it, here is an elegant argument against patents.

The argument consists of three parts:

  1. The burden of proof principle as it relates to the use of force;
  2. The ethical symmetry of government acts and individual acts;
  3. Synthesis and conclusion.

Note that this is not an argument against using legitimate means to protect inventions from being copied (and I think there are many); it is an ar…

The Fourth Plane

August 02 2015

Mankind’s present state foreshadows two possible futures: the birth of a new and higher kind of civilization, one fit to thrive beyond the life of the Sun or even of the Milky Way, – or extinction. Life must either flourish or die, and Man, who has the capacity to face the ultimate challenge, will either achieve the ultimate flourishing or will exemplify the most tragic case of extinction in the history of Earth.

What “flourishing” means for Man in these…

Core Values

August 02 2015

Proposed core values of rational intellectuals:

  1. Truth and Reason. We live in a knowable universe, but to know truth we must strictly confine ourselves to the realm of reason, i.e. the realm of evidence and logic.
  2. Simplicity. The cutting edge of philosophy consists neither in the arcane nor the superficial, but rather, in brightly illuminating and as completely and correctly as possible the crucial and impactful fundamentals of human knowledge. Exemplifying this are Newton’s Rule I…

The Axiom axiom

October 11 2014

(The following is an excerpt from REASON and LIBERTY.)

“Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? This question, which at first sight might not seem difficult, is really one of the most difficult that can be asked. When we have realized the obstacles in the way of a straightforward and confident answer, we shall be well launched on the study of philosophy – for philosophy is merely the attempt to answer such ultimate…

Bertrand Russell: A new philosophy will be needed

August 03 2014

Bertrand Russell, tracing philosophy’s role in society through the modern era, in his History of Western Philosophy:

“So far, I have been speaking of theoretical science, which is an attempt to understand the world. Practical science, which is an attempt to change the world, has been important from the first, and has continually increased in importance, until it had almost ousted theoretical science from men’s thoughts. The prac…

Ayn Rand’s metaethic

August 24 2013

In Ayn Rand’s essay, The Objectivist Ethics[1], she valiantly attempted to defend a rational ethic. Did she succeed?[2]

At the base of every system of ethics is metaethics, which provides the ultimate concepts and justifications of a given ethical system. Metaethics is notoriously difficult to rigorously square with reason, and Rand was well aware of that, as the proud proclamations she gave regarding her own solution makes clear.

Before I summarize Rand’s argumen…

Be Bold

July 31 2014

“To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”

— Voltaire

“One of the chief misfortunes of honest people is that they are cowardly.”

— Voltaire

The Renaissance revolutionized science. The stage for this glorious social movement was of course set earlier, having its roots in many achievements, a signal one perhaps being in William of Ockham’s[1] argument that the scientific realm should be set free from religious constraints,…

Hans Hoppe’s “Argumentation Ethics”

July 04 2014

A careless reader recently compared my metaethical view to Hans Hoppe’s “Argumentation Ethics”, insisting that my view is some kind of variation. In this post I highlight the problem with argumentation ethics and clarify the difference between Hoppe’s view and mine.

Consider Hoppe’s own outline of his game plan:

“I want to demonstrate that the libertarian private property ethic, and only the libertaria…

Rules of Discourse

May 18 2014

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

— Thomas Paine

A public debate implies a failure of two parties to reach mutual agreement on matters of general importance. Given the time, resources, and values at stake, one would hope that the debaters come prepared, which should mean that, first and foremost, the parties try to resolve their disagreement beforehand. So it should perhaps be stated at the outset of any debate whether or not the debaters en…

Dialog with a Skeptic

March 16 2014

I recently have been having a dialog with a skeptic, whose skepticism takes him as far as rejecting a belief (or non-belief) in a world that exists independently from himself.

In the below, I consolidate my experience with him here. To my knowledge, these replies match what he might say, if he were really having this dialog, but they are not him speaking; this is a purely fictionalized account:

I believe that natural rights, rightly understood, are a species of moral truth.

I do…

To Sam Harris: A Challenge and a Solution

February 07 2014

I find in Harris’s writing both a heartfelt plea and an argument. His plea, which I wholeheartedly applaud, is that to help address the unnecessary horrors that plague the world, we should strive to find a humane, rational morality. Unlike many of his detractors, I think his general goal is not only laudable, but is achievable.

However, I don’t think his argument works. The problem is threefold: 1) it blithely dismisses the relevant metaethica…

Is Misesean praxeology nonsense?

November 14 2013

In this post I will focus on praxeology as seen through its chief defender, Ludwig von Mises.

Even if you have never heard about praxeology, you should care about it, for the simple reason that it has been strongly associated with the ideas of liberty, via Austrian economics and Ron Paul. If praxeology is a good thing, then we should applaud it, but if it is nonsense, then endorsing it sullies our credibility and brings into question just how susceptible we are to s…

The economically perverse notion of ‘economic scarcity’

September 26 2013


  1. Insufficiency of amount or supply; shortage: a scarcity of food that was caused by drought.
  2. Rarity of appearance or occurrence: antiques that are valued for their scarcity.

At the foundation of Austrian economics (or arguably any typical economic theory) is the concept of “scarcity”. At best, this is an extremely poor choice of word for the underlying concept. While one may be able to argue that once we p…

‘The State’ as a trigger word for anarchists

May 08 2013

I’ve never been nor will I ever be an anarchist, but I do try to engage with anarchists, for this reason: they profess to be interested in moral consistency. Because of this stated intent, they tend to draw a lot of people who actually are interested in moral consistency. (In this respect they are like the Objectivists, who profess to be advocates of reason.) By throwing up a banner and claiming to be for something can in fact draw …

A basic taxonomy of anarchism

April 13 2013

As a principled advocate of individual liberty, I sometimes get mislabeled an “anarchist”, both by those who are anti-liberty and by those who are for it. This common mislabeling gives me some impetus to identify clearly where I stand, and I wrote an essay on this subject: Against Anarchism: The Case Against Individualist Anarchism.

In this post I’d like to give a brief summary of the different types of anarchist using a somewhat different classification system than the one I used in my essay. As with the …

Newton’s Principia: Rules of Reasoning in Natural Philosophy

Translator: A. Motte, 1729

[link]Rule I[link]

We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.

To this purpose the philosophers say that Nature does nothing in vain, and more is in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.

[link]Rule II[link]

Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the sam…

How to fight liberty

January 26 2013

If you understand human liberty, then you understand that it is fundamentally an achievement of the rational mind – only the rational, principled mind can understand what liberty means and how it is applied. It is not simply a matter of “don’t hurt anyone” or “don’t initiate force”, because the world is not like a child’s playground. There are complex webs of property, contract, fuzzy borders, complicated histories of inj…

Moderate Rationality

January 20 2013

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which…