Thursday, December 29, 2005

why oh why

I openly admit that I've really never had it in me to obey authority. On that basis I was tempted and often succumbed to defying authority for the sole pleasure of having the means coincide with the ends. I've always found the justification of obeying authority to be absurdly illogical -- "The reason why you must obey is because you will be punished, or forced to comply regardless".

Why implies causation. If I ask myself why I shouldn't punch a steel column, the why in this example means 'what are the consequences related to the actions I contemplate performing'. In this case, when I answer why, I will be able to direct my behavior in a rational manner. When somebody asks "Why is the sky blue?", the answer whether if correct or not, will try to explain what causes the sky to be blue.

However, when the school bully asks me for my lunch money, the consequences of refusal are a causation of not my own, but rather his actions. The why in this case does not imply causation; in this example, the bully may simply head off in search of easier marks when refused.

Still, when faced by a bully's biceps, a highway robber's gun, or a black-robed gavel holder, the rational action to take may be compliance. However, there is no why; violence destroys all attempts at civil discourse and interpersonal rationality (hello game theory!)

Crap! I'm starting to sound like Ayn Rand; well, except that she was supposedly a minarchist who dismissed anarchy as an unthinkable thought experiment, a blatant assuming of the conclusion. Being that she recognized (minimal) government, I wonder what she would have to say on the why of obeying authority altogether.


Steve Podraza said...

Great blog. Recently discovered by way of Catallarchy. I intend to keep reading.

Vache Folle said...

I reckon that "why" refers to subjective motives or justifications rather than to causation per se. Thus, one ought not to speak of "why" the sky is blue, but rather "how is it that" the sky is blue. There is no motive or rationale for blueness of sky.

My motives for obeying authority, when I do so, are often part of my strategy to stay alive and at liberty, eg if I do not pay my taxes the government will apprehend me and steal my stuff. Sometimes, the requirements of the authorities coincide with my own aims, eg certain traffic rules help me make it to my destination safely and I would observe them voluntarily.