J Thomas wrote:
The author was probably familiar with philosophical anarchism, note the text:
"But--Professor, what are your political beliefs?"
"I'm a rational anarchist."
"I don't know that brand. Anarchist individualist, anarchist Communist, Christian anarchist, philosophical anarchist, syndicalist, libertarian--those I know. But what's this? Randite?"
"I can get along with a Randite. A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else.
He didn't say how his vision was different from "philosophical anarchism", he just said what he believed in.
Ah, curious; it's been a while since I read that book and don't have it handy to reference. Now I'm curious what differences he draws between "philosophical" and "rational" anarchism.
If you start a movement and give it a name, it will get such bad press that a lot of people will ignore you on general principle.
I think this is part of a problem which leads to the problem with language I'm complaining about. Everything gets framed in terms of "identity" (itself a misappropriated term) politics -- everyone tries to boil every difference down to a matter of what group you are in, rather than grouping people logically by their differences. For a completely nonpolitical example: if you have a bunch of green apples and a bunch of red apples and you put them in two barrels and try to sort them by their color, at no point should the term "green apple" come to mean "apple in the left barrel"; even if the sets of green apples and apples in the left barrel actually are coextensive, the terms do not become cointensive. But with politics people let their language drift like that, and come to use the term "green apple" to mean "apple in the left barrel", even if the apples start to get mixed up and some apples in the left barrel are actually red. But eventually people won't let you get away with saying something like that last clause; if it's in the left barrel it is green by (their mistaken) definition
, and likewise if it's red then it must
(epistemically, not deontically) be in the right barrel. At which point we've lost our ability to talk about the color of apples and are instead limited to talking about which barrel they're in, which is useless if you're just interested in the actual color of the apples regardless of what if any barrels they may be in.
Coming back to politics and your comment I'm replying to, I'm not interested in labels for movements. I'm interested in labels for ideas, which may or may not have movements promoting them (and if they do, those movements are free to describe themselves as such). So for example "liberalism" should be understood as the name for an idea -- namely, the idea that freedom is in some way of key importance -- and there may be a liberal movement promoting liberalism, but liberalism should never be understood to mean whatever that movement ends up promoting, as actually happened when the movement that once promoted liberalism began promoting state socialism. And there needn't be a movement to define the idea either. Take for example theism, which was for ages completely uncontroversial and widely accepted across all societies and so never needed a movement to promote it, and at that point didn't even need a name. But then more and more people were atheists, and needed a term to collectively describe people who weren't, and so the term "theism" gained currency. Theists haven't collectively banded together to promote theism -- each different religion promotes itself against both atheism and the others -- so there is no unified theist movement counter to the atheist movement, but there is still a singular concept of theism which is common to all theistic religions.
Or by analogy, it doesn't matter if there is one barrel of green apples and a half-dozen barrels of red apples, there are still two colors of apple. Just because they red ones aren't all in the same barrel doesn't mean they're not all red.
What good does a label do you?
Expediency. It would be extremely convenient to be able to say a word or three and have them understood as the literal description of my position, without carrying along all the connotations of everyone else who's ever used those words to describe themselves. If everyone was insistent on people using words literally instead of as shorthand for some vaguely defined cluster of ideas associated with some people who were once associated with the literal meaning of that word, we could do that, so I try to do my small part to contribute to that. But hardly anybody else does, so instead...
How about just saying what you believe in? Something like, "I want increased liberty for everybody, with minimal coercion. I want individuals to be able to have more of their interactions with small organizations rather than big organizations that can coerce them easier." And take it from there.
I have to do this. Which isn't a pain in the ass to me
personally because I write five-page essays on internet forums every night for fun so describing my beliefs in detail is no bother to me, but not everybody else (either people I might speak to or other people who might find themselves in my position) is happy with such loquaciousness, and many will either insist you pick a short label from their predetermined set, or try to apply one to you (and all the baggage they carry along with it). If a few short words could literally describe my position, we wouldn't have that problem.
As it stands, I pick nonstandard labels which are both literally accurate and have roughly the right extraneous connotations, and if people are confused they can either ask me to do what you say here (in which case, they asked...) or at least be confused and unable to shove me in a convenient box, in which case I can hope I maybe gave them something to think about.