Shayne Wissler
“How far into the foundations, when it comes, must the revolution penetrate?” – Thomas E. Phipps, Jr.

The Great Reset

September 14 2021

The beauty of our market system is that for all its flaws[1] there is an inner logic: legitimate property rights claims are legally enforced. Ergo one can create a business, trade stocks, secure home ownership, build a farm. Such foundation permits people to act rationally, to plan for the future, to increase their individual level of prosperity and thereby increase the general prosperity of mankind.

Central to this economic beauty is its moral beauty: if someone is moral and intellige…

For Progress in Governance

June 21 2021

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

— Edmund Burke

“Our political movements are conceived in impulse and developed in emotion; they end in fission and fragmentation because there is no thought behind them.”

— Will Durant

The problem of identifying the right sort of government is ancient, with the first serious solution offered in Plato’s Republic near…

Wissler’s Civility Rules

September 14 2021

Warning: These rules are applicable only in the context of rational discourse, i.e. among parties who have all committed to the ideal of rational engagement. Ideally we should like all of society to trend toward rationality, so a judicious application of these to society in general can make sense, but prudence must also weigh in.[1]

  1. Rationality. Either commit to the ideal of being strictly rational, or leave. Meaningful rational discourse depends on parties who will, at…

How to Win the War for Humane Civilization

February 03 2021

Our basic civic choice is whether to be ruled by true rational principles or to be ruled by arbitrary fiat.

Rational rule is those principles of governance which are knowable by means of the rational faculty which all healthy adults have all been endowed with. Such faculty has been best exemplified historically in the field of classical physics and particularly by Issac Newton’s work in that field. In this field we observe the penetrating power of n…

Where does Euler’s Number come from?

January 29 2021

While at University many years ago, I noticed that many subjects would provide you with “givens”, but not explain how to derive and understand these yourself. Some examples I recall: the Pythagorean Theorem[1], Shannon’s formula for entropy, and the origin of Euler’s Number, e.

I personally set out to create my own answers for these and others, not with the eye to publishing them but just to understand things for myself and seeing…

Unity and Partisanship

January 24 2021

“The irrational separates us, the rational unites us.”

— Bertrand Russell paraphrasing Aristotle

The word “politics” has a double-meaning. In commonplace definition of the term, it refers to a morality-free zone, where people vie for unaccountable power over one another, like apes. In the enlightened definition, it refers to the sphere of human activity that rationally determines when force should or should not be used against another.

What does ȁ…

A New Civic Foundation

December 05 2020

draft

“But if mistakes be often, be inevitably committed, let us register these mistakes; let us consider their causes; let us weigh their importance; let us enquire for their remedies. When from this we have fixed all the rules of conduct, we are philosophers: When we have reduced these rules to practice, we are sages.”

— David Hume

While the corruption of our institutions has been ever more obvious in our era (ca. 2020), there has always been a significant corrupt…

Honesty as the Key Civic Virtue

November 22 2020

“There is nothing so delightful as the hearing or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of a man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.”

— Plato

The goal of civics is a flourishing society; the method of civics is honesty in thought, speech, and action.

The core of human decency is honesty, both with oneself and with others. To be sincere means to …

The New Federal Constitution

November 04 2020

“Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind.”

— James Wilson, US Supreme Court Justice

“MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, witho…

Diagnosis

July 05 2020

Many if not most people would agree that society is suffering from a gross lack of rationality. And then they would not agree that that diagnosis squarely applies to themselves.

Should we as a people be more rational? Should we have more concern for facts and logic? Stated that way, I think most people would admit that we should. But I don’t think most people fathom the wide chasm between the intention to be rational and what it really means when put into practice. They would claim…

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

September 14 2021
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 …

Idiots

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

Hypothetical:


  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
The future of futurism lies in the realm of ethics.

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…

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

scar·ci·ty

  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

“Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is a species of vice.”

— Thomas Paine

“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 “…