What Interdependence Means and Why Society Isn’t Interdependent

Morpheus on Society-WatermarkInterdependence is a state of a group in which removal or destruction of one portion (subset) of the group necessarily results in the destruction of all members of the group. (1)

One example of interdependence is the set of critical organs in a human body. Taken as units in themselves, the brain, heart and lungs are interdependent: removal or destruction of one of them necessitates the destruction of the others. Another example of interdependence is the caste system in eusocial insects like bees, ants and termites. The reproductive caste and worker caste are each needed to keep the hive (and thus the other) productive and alive.

A division-of-labor society of human beings takes on a superficial appearance of interdependence. Different people do different jobs and rely on those in other specialties for raw materials and general trade. But unlike real interdependent systems, individuals in a society can exercise independent judgment and change occupations. An individual’s job is not set for life in his genetics, but chosen by the individual. People can and do get promoted, change jobs, change career types, etc. Companies in a free market can and do expand into new fields of business.

If, in a hypothetical, laissez-faire capitalist society, all those who performed one sort of productive job were suddenly removed, then it is still possible for those in other professions to take over the job and maintain a similar division of labor. There might be great hardship for a while from such a sudden displacement, but since most other individuals would be able to adapt and survive, the society fails the test for interdependence. (This is to say nothing of the more realistic, gradual removal of people from an occupation, which a capitalist society can undergo with most people hardly noticing. In contrast, if lung tissue were gradually removed from your body, it would become harder and harder for your other organs to function, and your heart would not transform to replace the missing lung tissue.)

Moreover, not all activities undertaken by all other individuals in a society are valuable to a given individual. In fact, some are positively harmful, such as dishonest schemes, irresponsible investment plans, and theft. Since each individual has free will–the choice to think or not, to judge or not, and the capacity to behave destructively toward self and others–it is up to the independent judgment of each individual to determine friend from foe. Other people can’t be dissolved into an undifferentiated mass of beneficence, let alone all be considered critical to one’s own survival. (Easily observable facts refute this collectivist notion.)

If one individual is physically injured to the point of mental damage or paralysis, then that person can become genuinely dependent on other individuals who provide his care and sustenance. But this metaphysical dependence goes only one way: the injured is dependent on the uninjured, not vice versa. There is no “interdependence” here.

Ordinary, healthy, adult human beings are fundamentally independent creatures, and assertions to the contrary are spurious. I have only ever heard vague assertions of “interdependence” from people. I have never heard “interdependence” defined, even though such a definition is a prerequisite to any rational argument about whether or not a society of human beings is “interdependent.” (2)

—–

(1) This is existential interdependence–i.e. interdependence for continued existence as entities of a certain class. The common definitions of “interdependence” and “dependence” are philosophically vacuous.

(2) Dictionary definitions are unhelpful: interdependent – mutually dependent; depending on each other.”

dependent – relying on someone or something else for aid, support, etc.” [Webster’s College Dictionary, 1996]

Relying, in what way? Aid from whom? What happens if the support doesn’t come from whomever? This definition is useless philosophically, since it can encompass everything from an appointment with one doctor out of many to have a wart removed, to being fed through a tube because you’re paralyzed for life. The required definition is one of metaphysical (inter-)dependence, which is philosophically significant, and is the definition I gave at the start of this article.

—–

Related Posts:

America Before The Entitlement State

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

Atlas Shrugged, Altruism and Egoism

On Fairness and Justice: Their Meanings, Scopes, and How They Are Not the Same

Values Are Relational But Not Subjective

Mainstream Radio Talks About Atlas MD

atlasIn this segment of his morning radio show, Bill Handel talks about the benefits of the concierge doctor service, Atlas MD. It’s a glimpse into the quality and efficiency of free-market healthcare. The only thing that’s missing is an unregulated, unsubsidized health insurance industry that mostly provides benefits for large/catastrophic medical expenses, rather than everyday expenses. This segment really is great to hear.

Bill Handel on Atlas MD

The Scope of Evidence Pertinent to a Proposition Corresponds to the Scope of the Proposition

General evidence can prove generalizations. Specific evidence is required for specific propositions. The scope of sensory data that can tie a statement to reality (serve as evidence) varies with the scope of the statement.

If I make the statement, “All men have heads,” then the scope of potential, direct evidence for this statement (and counterexamples) is all men. I can observe a few random men and have a sensory basis to at least hypothesize that “All men have heads,” is true. (Exactly when I can logically say that a generalization is proven, is the subject of the epistemology of induction. While the principles of general induction are not yet fully known, the philosophy of Objectivism and the principles of modern science/technology show that induction works. I recommend Dr. Peikoff’s course, Objectivism Through Induction.)

If, on the other hand, I make the statement that “Julius Oglethorpe III lives at 10 Warkworth Terrace in Cambridge, England,” then I can’t gain a basis for hypothesizing that statement (let alone proving it) by observing a few random men. I need evidence that pertains to the specific statement at hand. To hypothesize, I need to see effects of the fact that Julius Oglethorpe III exists, or the fact that 10 Warkworth Terrace exists. To prove this statement, I need to see a set of facts that all evidence shows can only come from the fact that a man with this name lives at this address.

In both cases, the evidence that warrants the hypothesis or conclusion reduces to sensory data. But the evidence for the specific statement is much more specific than that for the general statement.

[Note: This short article was derived from a longer comment I made at “The Christian Egoist” blog: D’Souza vs. Bernstein: Is Either Good for Mankind?]

—–

Related Posts:

Proceeding from Axioms in Objectivism – YouTube Edition

The Proof of Free Will (Libertarian Volition)

Taking Philosophy Seriously…

A Refutation of the Argument from Design

America Before The Entitlement State

This article by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins should be seen by all Americans, and indeed, everyone else. It describes how people dealt with sudden injuries, deaths and the various disasters that can befall people, before government welfare programs and Social Security:

America Before The Entitlement State

Here’s a video reading of a part of an essay from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand:

—–

Related Posts:

19th-Century Capitalism Didn’t Create Poverty, But Reduced It

How to Show That Taxation is Robbery

QuickPoint 2: Altruism Supports Coercion…

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

19th-Century Capitalism Didn’t Create Poverty, But Reduced It

Here’s an article by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins on the near-laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th Century:

Capitalism In No Way Created Poverty, It Inherited It

—–

Related Posts:

How to Show That Taxation is Robbery

QuickPoint 2: Altruism Supports Coercion…

Why “Anarcho-Capitalism” is Wrongheaded

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

A Philosophy Professor Discusses Ayn Rand in his Ethics Class

Dr. Gregory Sadler of Marist College recently discussed Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness in his Spring 2013 Ethics class and posted the video to YouTube:

Dr. Sadler is not an Objectivist, but he gives what is, in my view, a good introductory presentation on Rand’s ethics. I encourage anyone interested in the broader study of Rand in academia, to watch this video (at least in part) and leave polite comments on the YouTube video page.

My main critiques of Dr. Sadler’s presentation have already been voiced in the page comments. They are the following:

Overall, this is a very good presentation of Rand’s ethics. Thank you, Dr. Sadler.

Just a few points: Contrary to 52:48, Rand wouldn’t say the choice of friends is arbitrary, but ought to depend on their objective virtues/values. Vicious people harm one’s own life when you’re involved with them; virtuous people typically benefit one’s own life.

Also worth emphasizing: Man *creates* wealth/values (material and spiritual) by acting on proper reasoning. There isn’t a fixed “pie.”

Also, Rand regards virtues as eminently practical. A breach of integrity has very real, self-destructive consequences in the long-term. There is no gap between morally principled action and practical action. (Practical for achieving long-term flourishing.)

Finally, “Ayn” rhymes with “mine.” : )

—–

Related Posts:

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

Atlas Shrugged, Altruism and Egoism

Values Are Relational But Not Subjective

Values Are Relational, But Not Subjective

There are many people in the world who will say that values are subjective. You may or may not be one of them. For many, the reasoning behind this stance is that they see that different people value different things, and they think that if values were objective, then everyone would value the same things. So they conclude that all values are the opposite of objective, which is subjective.

This article will give evidence and argument that this view is mistaken; that this reasoning is based on a confusion about what it means for values to be objective.

First, let’s consider a simple physical situation: Two men are standing on opposite sides of a pole, as shown in Case 1 of the figure below. We are looking down on them, and they are both facing upward. For Person A, the pole is on the right. For Person B, the pole is on the left. Does this mean that the position of the pole is subjective? No. Both men can look objectively at the relationship of the pole to each one. If they specify whose relationship to the pole they are talking about, they can both agree on the fact of the relationship.

Relational and Objective Values Diagram

When Person A observes that the pole is on his right, Person B can observe that Person A is correct: relative to Person A, the pole is objectively on the right. They can also both agree that, relative to Person B, the pole is objectively on the left. The position of the pole is objective, but its physical relationship with Person A is different than with Person B. Continue reading

The Social Metaphysics of Communism: MiG Pilot

MiG_PilotThe book, MiG Pilot, is the true story of a Soviet pilot who defected to the United States in 1976. As a MiG-25 pilot, Lieutenant Viktor Belenko was among the most elite officers of the Soviet military. Like all Soviet military men of the period, he was thoroughly indoctrinated in Communist ideals and fed misinformation about the West his whole life. Yet through many years of observation and logical thinking, he came to see that there was something deeply wrong with the USSR. The rampant drunkenness, dishonesty and economic stagnation he witnessed eventually drove him to fly his MiG-25 to Japan, seeking asylum in the United States–the very heart of the “Dark Forces” he had been taught to fear.

The following incident is from Lt. Belenko’s time as a MiG-25 pilot stationed at Chuguyevka in Southern Siberia. Belenko’s thoughts at the time are represented in {green braces.} Again, I stress that this book is nonfiction; as in, this actually happened:
Continue reading

God: The Immovable Mover

Some deep discussion of causality and metaphysics. My refutation of this “First Cause” argument for God appears in the comments under “Sword of Apollo.”

God: The Immovable Mover.

[Note: Jacob T. Brunton is philosophically sophisticated and usually argues civilly. These characteristics led me to give him the benefit of every doubt when it came to intellectual honesty. I am not one who is quick to judge such a person an incorrigible evader or intellectually dishonest, since I think that there are many deep, yet honest errors that smart people can make in thinking about philosophy. But through argument with Mr. Brunton on multiple occasions, I have been given the evidence to conclude, beyond any doubt, that he is not honest in his philosophical viewpoints; especially in his regard for the Bible.

My past discussions with Mr. Brunton can still be informative to others, and so I will leave them as they are. But he will no longer be allowed to comment on this blog, and I will make no further comments in direct response to him on any blog. —  6-27-2013]

The REAL Fiscal Cliff

While politicians and the mainstream media in the US have been busy talking about the tax laws that expire at the end of 2012, we are approaching the real “fiscal cliff” very rapidly. This cliff is further in the future and no one knows exactly when we will fall over it, but the US will fall over it if it doesn’t change direction immediately and drastically.

The US Federal debt currently stands at over $16.3 trillion and is rising by about $1 million every 40 seconds. The CBO projects massive annual deficits for the next 10 years.

The economist, Peter Schiff, spells out the harsh reality of the situation the US is getting itself into in the following set of videos:

QE stands for “Quantitative Easing,” where the the Federal Reserve creates new money and uses it to buy financial assets directly from banks. QE generates an increase in the money supply.

To paraphrase Ayn Rand: The majority of people in the US can ignore reality, but they can’t escape the consequences of ignoring reality.

The Federal Reserve is setting the US economy up for another huge crash and a round of hyperinflation. Yet, given our history, it is not hard to predict that when the big crash happens, “scheming businessmen” and/or “unscrupulous financial traders” will take the blame from the mainstream media and dominant public opinion.

This Objective Standard article describes the deeper philosophical problem: The Moral Cliff

—–

Related Posts:

What Caused the Financial Crisis: It Wasn’t Capitalism or Deregulation