Philosophical Anarchism, Political Anarchism, & Anarcho-Philosophy

Since this is my first diary entry, I thought it would be philosophically useful to distinguish between anarcho-philosophy, as I understand it, and other more familiar kinds of anarchism.

Many very different political views, or attitudes, go by the scary label “anarchism.” By “anarchism” I certainly DO NOT mean either moral nihilism or political terrorism, which are self-evidently morally impermissible, and wicked. Also I DON’T mean merely a bohemian life-style  or radical chic (what Murray Bookchin nicely dubs “lifestyle anarchism”), although on the other hand, I also don’t have anything at all against people living or dressing or talking or writing in ways that express their own creatively individual outlook on things. Go for it, I say.

In any case, much more seriously, the thesis of philosophical anarchism says that there is no rational justification for political authority, and the thesis of political anarchism says that we should create a world in which there are no nation-states or other state-like institutions.

By general agreement, political authority means:

the existence of a special group of people (a.k.a. government), with the power to use violence and/or the threat of violence, and the right to command other people and to coerce them to obey those commands as a duty, no matter what the content of these commands might be, and in particular, even if these commands and/or the coercion are morally impermissible.

Now let’s assume that there exists a set of basic moral principles by means of which we can judge the permissibility or impermissibility of any human choice, action, practical policy, or other non-basic moral or practical principle.

Therefore, as I am understanding it, the problem of political authority is this:

Is there a rational justification for the existence of any special group of people (a.k.a. government) with the power to use violence and/or the threat of violence, and the right to command other people and to coerce them to obey those commands as a duty, no matter what the content of these commands might be, and in particular, even if these commands and/or the coercion are impermissible according to our basic moral principles?

Granting all that, here is a self-evidently sound three-step argument, which I will call the core argument for philosophical anarchism:

(1) Precisely insofar as it is morally impermissible for individuals to command other people and coerce them to obey those commands as a duty, then by the same token it must also be morally impermissible for special groups of people, a.k.a. governments, to command other people and coerce them to obey those commands as a duty.

(2) Therefore, precisely insofar as it is morally impermissible for individuals to command other people and coerce them to obey those commands as a duty, even if special groups of people, a.k.a. governments, have the power to command other people and coerce them to obey those commands, by using violence or the threat of violence, such special groups of people do not have the right to command other people and coerce them to obey those commands as a duty.

(3) Therefore, there is no rational justification for political authority, and philosophical anarchism is true.

What about anarcho-philosophy? As we say in the introductory blurb for the APP site, anarcho-philosophy is “the art of resisting and subverting contemporary professional philosophy from the inside, for the sake of real philosophy.” It is possible to be an anarcho-philosopher without also being a defender of either philosophical anarchism or political anarchism. And it is also possible to be a philosophical anarchist without being a political anarchist. But it is hard to see how one could rationally justify political anarchism except by means of defending philosophical anarchism. In any case, and most importantly for our purposes here, it is possible to defend philosophical anarchism and political anarchism without being an anarcho-philosopher.

Just for the record, I’m an anarcho-philosopher, a philosophical anarchist, and a political anarchist. (Gasp!)

Now although X and Y are both anarcho-philosophers, I strongly suspect that neither of them is either a philosophical anarchist or a political anarchist. Alas.

Still, given the self-evidence of the argument sketched just above, you never know….

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Z. Bookmark the permalink.
Z

About Z

Z is a 50-something cosmopolitan anarcho-philosopher, and previously was a tenured full professor of philosophy at a public university somewhere in North America, but still managed to escape with his life.

Leave a Reply