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Do We Need General Philosophy to Argue for Anarchism?

by Daniel Goldman about a year ago in politics

While I do use philosophical arguments concerning rights as one of my pillars of support, anarchy can be justified using science.

Photo by Radek Homola on Unsplash

Generally arguments for anarchy rely on philosophy of rights and ethics. Proudhon's discussion on property is a good example. Similarly Ayn Rand argued for limited government, due to the consequence of large government violating our fundamental rights. The problem with using such general philosophical arguments is that it can be very difficult to build a common foundation. As far as I see it, government violates the basic rights of bodily autonomy and selective inaction, but justifying that vision to others requires that they understand rights in the same way that I do.

Even in cases where two different foundations agree, it can be problematic because individuals might focus too heavily on which foundation is the correct one rather than what we should do with the result. Luckily far more people accept scientific foundations and so if anarchism can be justified scientifically, then anarchists have an edge. And indeed, science can justify anarchy.

Scientific Foundation

I've been working on an analogy between biological systems and systems of human interactions called Technoecology. It informs us a great deal on the nature of human societies and dynamics and allows for the reference of evolutionary theory, including natural and relaxed selection, within discussions of politics and economics. Through such analogies, it establishes the role of government, its consequences for society, as well as its lack of necessity. Combined with general evolutionary theory, we can argue against government, without having to rely on ethics, or some esoteric notion of rights. This novel field of study is a key area of interest for the scientific justification of anarchy.

First, a government acts as an agriculturalist. It directs resources that it controls, and like an agriculturalist, it does so for its own benefit. We have a solid understanding of selfishness and nepotism in evolutionary science. While altruism does exist, it is largely a consequence of selfishness. The probability of self sacrifice tends to decrease with approximate genetic distance. If it didn't, for one population, and did for another, the latter would overtake the former. Therefore anyone in power will tend to accumulate and use that power for their own ends, and for the benefit of their own kin, rather than for the masses.

Second, complex resource management problems are difficult to solve analytically. There's a reason why scientists are using machine learning and evolutionary algorithms to solve numerous real world problems. There are often too many variables and too many unknowns for us to take into account. Governments are slow to evolve, and slow to act. And when a government collapses, it is generally one of the most violent experiences that humans have ever felt.

Next, the idea that an outside force is needed to bring order to society is akin to thinking that an outside force is needed to bring order to nature. In both cases, there are evolutionary dynamics at play that keep the system moving. Natural selection, multilevel selection, and so on, play out in the technosphere (analogous to the biopshere) just as they do for biological systems.

Finally, anthropology informs us that government is a fairly new phenomenon. It is important to understand that government has only been around for roughly 10,000 years, while humans have been around for well over two hundred thousand years. The argument that humans must always form government is flatly rejected by the roughly 190,000 years time during which we had no government.

Is General Philosophy for Naught?

If ethics and other areas of philosophy are not needed to justify anarchy, should they be thrown out? I don't think so. I think of technoecology, and other scientific arguments for anarchy as one pillar, while ethical arguments can form other pillars. And in many cases, these pillars interact with one another. Moreover, if there are more pillars that justify anarchy, the argument for it is strengthened.

Science can justify why anarchy can exist, how we can get there, and what the consequences of failing to do so might be. However, ethics can be very useful for justifying why we want anarchy. Discussions of rights in general, bodily autonomy and the right to selective inaction all act as further supports for why government is oppressive, while science can help justify the position that government is unnecessary.

It's just that we should probably try to start and end the discussion with science, and limit the amount of ethics and other philosophical discussions, because it can be so difficult to get others to see things the same way as we do. Even when trying to have a discussion on scientific matters, this can be so.

Further Reading

One of the best arguments for anarchy is to show how we can function without government. The less apparent need we have for government, the easier it is to argue for anarchy. Building and supporting alternatives, moves us away from government, through involution, rather than revolution.

Daniel Goldman
Daniel Goldman
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
Daniel Goldman

Visit my homepage. I am a polymath and a rōnin scholar with interests in many areas, including political science, economics, history, and philosophy. I've been writing about all of these topics, and others, for the past two decades.

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