I have received an epiphany.

One of the most damaging fallacies that has been put over on humankind is the distinction between the private and public (or commercial) spheres, and the idea that such a distinction can be rationally be made. The general acceptance of this fallacy allows double standards to be arbitrarily and capriciously applied at the whim of politicians; enables blanket bans to masquerade as tightly-scoped regulations; and institutionalizes an unnatural psychological schism which splits men and women into human beings, on the one side, and business machines on the other.

There is no public vs. private life. There is no “speaking as a businessperson” vs. “speaking as a human being”. There is no private property vs. public venue. There are no commercial vehicles. There are no “gifts” vs. “political contributions”. Objects have only their own nature, not some arbitrary metaphysical nature based on their use. I am not a consumer.

There is only human action. There is only property. There are only relationships, negotiations, and agreements between human individuals. Publicly or privately, in groups or singly, coldly or lovingly, we act and are acted upon, we offer and we accept, we give and we receieve. It is all one, and artificial distinctions are illusory.

To assert otherwise is tantamount to advocating the concept of thoughtcrime. For where do these distinctions exists but in the mind, in the inneffable realm of intent?

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  1. well, um…

    I guess i would say that the concepts of public and private…the rest of that jazz..
    are simply the definitions we use while we negotiate our relationships and agreements.

    1. Which would seem fine… except that I’m coming to believe that they are far from benign distinctions, and in fact they contribute to a lot of the abuse we experience both from government and from other people.

      As a very small example: my house is my house. Even if I run a business out of it, it is still simply property that I, Avdi, own. But when we accept the public/private delineation, we open it up to all kinds of grief. Let’s say I run a business out of it. Perhaps OSHA applies, and I have to remodel it for safety and accessability. Perhaps it’s illegal under the zoning laws, even if it’s not bothering the neighbors. Perhaps I can be sued for discrimination for not letting someone in. Perhaps Joe Schmoe will come to me for a service, and I will be rude to him, and instead of going and telling all his friends that I’m an ass (as he should) he’ll think “oh well, that’s business”, and fail to hold me up to the standard he would under “social” circumstances.

      As evidenced by that last item, this isn’t just about government interference. I think this false model of human interaction has damaged individual relations as well. See the Cluetrain Manifesto for more on this idea as it pertains to individual and coporate interactions.

  2. Slippage…

    I am willng to agree with you that the concepts of “public” and “private” are artificial constructions that we impose on reality. I am also willing to accept that human action is a more fundamental existential entity than either public or private.

    However, and this is where there is slippage, there is no fundamental entity called “property” either. Besides human actions, there are only things. “Property” is a thing upon which we have placed a particular intellectual construction that involves the notion of possession in some manner. A related concept of “ownership” is also merely another artificial intellectual construct that we impose on the relationship between human actions and things–but usually this concept not only involves possession, but also usually the exchange of certain things for other things in the process of applying our human action of “possessing” something..

    Thus.. if you are asserting that the concepts of “public” and “private” are thoughtcrimes merely on the fact that these concepts exist only in the meatphysical realm of our imposed meanings .. then you must also, if you are not going to constantly engage in the aforementioned thoughtcrimes, also give up concepts of property, ownership, sovereignty, spirituality, almost all philosophy, and the complexities of most in-depth discussions on ethics and morality.

    However, if you are going to merely instead state that you think the concepts of “public” and “private” are artificial constructs that are not particularly useful for humans.. that is an entirely different kind of argument.. not an existential argument, but more of an empirical argument for which we can try to raise various evidence based arguments…

    If you want to do that.. I shall be happy to defend the concepts of “public” and “private”.. as useful empirical constructs despite the downsides that they sometimes create… just as I would be willing to point out that the construct of “property” is a useful metaphysical artifact, even if it too has an equivalent number of detrimental aspects to it..

    1. Re: Slippage…

      The latter is the case: among the various mental constructs humans employ, I have recently come to believe that that of a dichotomy between public and private action is harmful to human relationships and psychic welfare.

      1. Re: Slippage…

        I think I get it.
        But where does that leave you? In practical terms, I’m guessing you could be more sharing of “your” belongings, less selfish perhaps.

        But on a greater level, it sounds like you are headed towards a philosophy like socialism which has been proven a failure in large part because humans seem to *need* the tension of ownership, mine vs. yours.

        1. Re: Slippage…

          Perhaps I have been unclear. I’m not giving up on ownership at all; if anything, I’m strengthening it. For instance: I am rejecting the idea that if you have a “public” property (e.g. a store), the public has certain rights concerning it which would not typically be granted to random people in the vicinity of your home.

        2. Re: Slippage…

          When I say I want to tear down the division between public and private, I’m not talking about doing away with property. I’m talking about dispensing with the fiction that says Avdi the businessman, Avdi the software engineer, is someone different from Avdi the private individual, subject to different laws, and different standards of behaviour. I’m saying that this splitting of people into two more more facets has facilitated both a breakdown in human relations, and a boom in regulations which say “you can’t do such-and-so when you are wearing such and such a hat” – when in fact you are wearing that hat all of the time, along with others. I am not a code machine when I go to work, and a human when I get home. I am a person, who offers many services such as software, hugs, and encouragement, and desires many things such as affection, video games, and money. This is NOT to reduce all human interactions to a level of base business transactions; quite the opposite, it is an attempt to raise up all interactions, including “public” “commercial” transactions, up to the level of HUMAN interactions where they belong.

        3. Re: Slippage…

          Pardon my babbling, I’m on a roll…

          See, as a principled libertarian one of the things that has troubled me for years is the fact that I find myself championing some of the most banal, coldblooded, strictly practical aspects of life – the buying, selling, and trading which supports all life but which seems to the modern consciousness to be the most mechanical, soulless, and frankly mercenary part of that life. My thought now is that this is only a symptom of a flawed perspective, which artificially divides people into halves, much like the division between the “sacred” and “profane” seen by religion. The truth is that human action is human action; there is no need for an interaction to be looked down upon or lack soul simply because it has to do with the exchange of tangibles or because it takes place between strangers. I give, I receive, I ask, I offer, I love, I withhold, I trade. These are all human actions conducted with other humans, with equal dignity. They are all “private” in that they are a product of my own individual initiative; some of them are “public” in that they are observed by others. But apart from that there is no moral or spiritual distinction, nor should there be a legal one.

        4. Nope…

          To be the that I am for just a second, I would just note that he’s merely abolishing the “public” and instead making everything “private.”

          Which is generally a very common libertarian tendency.. and one that I tend to disagree with quite strongly on both existential and empirical grounds…

          but I’m not starting a debate here..
          no I’m not.. πŸ˜‰

          1. Re: Nope…

            Since you tend to stick to empirical grounds in your arguments (much to my occasional annoyance, when I’m trying to make an existential point :-P), I would be curious to hear your existential case.

          2. well…

            At its root, my existentialist philosophy on stuff tends to get very pragmatist.. and is thus rather empirically shaded throughout…

            As for existentially why I find the public/private dichotomy to be a fairly useful construct is that I think there are a very good number of practical reasons why viewing human interactions in the different contexts of “public realm”/”private realm” actually leads to a more fulfilling/enjoyable/healthy ==> good life than a world in which such a distinction was not made… in fact, thinking historically, there have been a number of times when many societies were fairly strongly either entirely “private” (anarchic right makes might situations) or almost entirely “public” (communism, etc) oriented implicitly–if not necessarily explicitly–and in both of these cases, life sucked a lot more for a vast majority of the populace than it does in our more clearly codified public/private society..

            So in an existential nutshell–these concepts have proven themselves empirically useful–by leading to a greater amount of good for a greater amount of people–thus I support them.

            Overall, I can let you know that when people bring up grand “existential points” that I don’t find particularly supportable from the empirical evidence/history that I’m familiar with.. I prolly get about as annoyed as when I get all empirical on you..

            Idealism, for me, has always been one of the more dangerous things in history.. and I have an inherent need to try and make sure arguments always get brought back down to earth, rather than remaining as possible intellectual fogs that can blind people to what their empirical consequences could be/have been…

            For this reason, I assume, we shall always butt heads.. ;)) (which is often quite fun.. for very few people will truly argue with me for very long.. πŸ˜‰ )

          3. Re: well…

            Idealists scare me too, but I can’t help the fact that I’m one of them. The fact is, despite being one of the most pragmatic libertarians I know, at core my beliefs stem from idealistic principles – i.e. that individual liberty is a greater good than any amount of health, wealth, equality, or security.

            And to be honest, diehard pragmatists scare me as well, because they tend to be just as susceptable, if not more so, to ends-justify-the-means thinking.

          4. Really…

            Interesting.. actually, I’ve always found the idealists to be the ones much more susceptible to the “ends-justifying-means” problems.. mainly because the majority of idealists that I’ve met seem to have the trait of “any means is acceptable if it allows me to push my ideal, because I just know/feel that my ideal is the truth!” and if anyone happens to really disagree with them, then they often get stomped on..

            I actually haven’t met too many pragmatists who would go so far as idealists would for their cause…

          5. Re: Really…

            It depends on the situation, and the pragmatist. An extreme (idealized?) example: if two people are stranded on a desert island and the object is survival, the pragmatic action may well be to beat the other guy over the head with a rock and take his coconuts, whereas leaving him alive even if it means a shorter life for both of you is a distinctly idealistic move. While idealists run the risk of bulldozing through all obstacles in pursuit of their ideals, pure pragmatists have the problem that anything is fair game so long as it’s pragmatic under the circumstances.

            A concrete contemporary example is people who accept and justify the privacy and freedom abuses of the PATRIOT on the grounds that it’s a pragmatic approach to counterterrorism.

          6. I see the point…

            but i find it to be a fairly, as you put it, idealized version of pragmatism.
            To further the example–another pragmatic action might be to cooperate with the other person to make sure that the signal fire that you will more likely get you saved, is watched and maintained at all times…
            The range of pragmatic actions covers the full range of options..
            On the flip side, the self-sacrifice option is perhaps an “idealistic” outcome–if we know that the ideal being held is that of love for the other person… If the situation on the desert island happens to be one where a hard-core nazi skinhead and a small jewish boy end up there.. then the nazi’s killing of the small boy with a rock is not a pragmatic action, but rather a very idealistic one…

            Overall, for me, too often pragmatism is pictured as the absence of all ideals, ethics or morals.. which it is not… whereas idealism, as a philosophical approach to the world, very often gets an unfair bonus from the ready association of the term “idealistic” with altruistic type human actions..

            For me, idealism, or more accurately, many idealists are not just simple altruists.. but rather, they are people who govern their lives based on a rather extreme adherence to certain ideals that they hold to be particularly important for reasons that often have a very emotional foundation to them.. It is often impossible to argue about these ideals/principles with an idealist because it is inherently clear to them that such ideals are good and correct… Now, just what these ideals turn out to be usually determines what kind of person they are… e.g. racism can be an ideal, sexism, rabid anti-tobaccoism, narcissism, egotism, etc etc are all possible “ideals” that someone could hold to be particularly important and then have govern their interactions with others…

            thus.. for me, I guess, the terms pragmatism and idealism really are much more about justificatory activities and approaches–and on this score, my experience and readings of history make me far more afraid of people who justify their actions on seemingly irrefutably held beliefs, rather than those who make the argument.. ‘well the evidence says this works better…” in the first case, it is almost impossible to change the idealist’s mind.. whereas in the second, if you can present enough evidence, then you at least have a chance to alter their perspective..

          7. Re: I see the point…

            For my part, I find it hard to understand people who justify everything on the basis of “this seems to work better…” πŸ˜‰

            Although I wonder if it’s even possible to be a pure pragmatist. To you, for instance, it seems that the ideal of the greatest (human) good (for certain definitions of “good”) is “good and correct”, and I rather doubt that any argument would persuade you otherwise. You have a highly pragmatic approach to achieving that greatest good; but the goal itself would seem to be an ideal, justified by (unless I am mistaken) a gut feeling that greater human quality of life, equality, etc. is inherently worthwhile.

          8. Pure pragmatism..

            is definitely impossible.. or at least, highly highly unlikely…

            But.. I would point out that my “ideal” of the greatest good is not only due to a gut feeling about the greater quality of human life, equality etc… (although I will admit that I do have emotional attachments to such things..) but there are also some entirely pragmatic reasons of mine…

            Specifically, there are some great arguments made by people like Richard Dawkins, that at least of limited forms of altruism displayed between creatures increases their chances of survival. Going from this argumetn, I do tend to see a lot of the foundation of “greatest good for the greatest number” to be, in all likelihood, a far better strategy/state of affairs as pertaining to my chances for survival in this world..

            thus.. while I do, most certainly, also have some idealistic attachments to equality and human dignity, I also have some strong practical reasons undergirding my attachment to these concepts.. πŸ™‚

      2. okay..

        That seems a bit more reasonable to me.. (Calling such ideas thoughtcrimes, however, seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it? )

        In any case, as I’m sure you can guess, I don’t believe that the public/private dichotomy is particularly more harmful to human relationships and psychic welfare than to similar mental constructs–like say “property” or the “mind/body” dichotomy inherent in many philosophical frameworks…

        If you would like me to discuss why.. I’m game.. but I won’t push it if you don’t want to.. In your last post, you mentioned being down from having expended too much time and emotional effort in political debates..

        1. Re: okay..

          Calling such ideas thoughtcrimes, however, seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it?

          Perhaps. I hesitated while writing that line. But I can’t get past the fact that, much like hate crime, the defining factor in whether an action is public or private is simply intent.

          1. Re: okay..

            The above was suppoosed to read “the defining factor is often simply intent”.

          2. hmm.

            that helps…:)

          3. but..

            that is merely just one aspect of the particular mental construct of “public/private” dichotomy…

            Another, very relevant aspect of public/private split has to do with the element of “place” If you state something in a paper journal in your house that is under lock and key.. then that information is clearly “private”–not only because it was your intent to make it so.. but also because of the actions you undertook to do it in a particular place.

            In fact, I think place is far more foundational than “intent” in this case.. for example, if your intent was to have a “private thought” yet you write it out with spray paint on the wall of a business that faces a busy thoroughfare.. then even if your intent was for it to be “private,” the actual result is going to be fairly “public”…

            Also.. I might note that the manner in which you presented the term “thoughtcrime” was in a sentence that basically said
            “if you believe other than I do, then you are engaging in immoral (crime) behavior”– Perhaps I’m misreading what you intedned there.. but that is how the placing of that sentence struck me..

          4. Re: but..

            I think the trouble comes when, rather than simply accepting the blindingly obvious level of publicness or privateness of an act, thought, or object as revealed primarily by it’s placement, people attempt to fit it into one of only two predefined slots based on various heuristics, and then infer a whole raft of extra information based on whichever slot it happened to wind up falling into.

            And as for the thoughtcrime: that was definitely not my intended meaning.

          5. yes..

            I can tell you that when people merely start doing that based on “heuristics” rather than actually trying to be really concrete and flexible about such things.. then I get royally annoyed also…

            I’m for laws that make sense based on blindingly obvious stuff too.. and I will admit that unfortunately laws that are originally created this way often then get abused by certain individuals.. which is awful..

            but I also tend to believe that situations where a complete lack of such laws is the case create an equal, if often not greater, level of awfulness… and that’s where you and I tend to diverge… I believe..

          6. thoughtcrime

            Note I said “advocating the concept of thoughtcrime”, not “committing thoughtcrime”. It was a provocative statement even so, and I’m not sure, yet, whether I genuinely believe it. But if so, it would be in the same sense that I believe people who push for hatecrimes legislations (i.e. laws which proscribe stronger penalties for hate-motivated crimes) are advocating the concept of thoughtcrime.

          7. aha..

            that is much more reasonable..
            I’m not enthused about “hate crimes” legislation either.. it goes against my basic belief that you are entirely allowed to hate whatever the fuck you want..

  3. You have just nailed one of my problems with working in this society.

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