Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Von Mises.

At the request of Ron in the comments over hyar, I've looked over some material from Ludwig von Mises. My responses are below; basically, I look at the claims I see von Mises making, then offer my critique. This originally came up in the context of a discussion about whether state redistribution of income is a good thing, or even possible.

Science and Value

I see von Mises making a couple of weird, and rather disconnected, claims here. Some do make sense, but, on the whole, this is really showing its age. (Original publication date is 1933.)

He claims that you can do economics and other sciences without making "value judgements". Heterdox epistemology and philosophy of science has pretty much destroyed this view. Saying that neutrality between different perspectives on, say, moral values is itself an expression of a value -- an epistemic one, as well as, possibly, a metaethical one. You're saying it's better or right to be neutral. Value goes all the way down in judging and reasoning, and there's really no escaping it. After all, how can you reason at all without any idea of what counts as a good reason? (To be fair, moral value may have been von Mises' actual target. If it was, then he owes an argument as to why moral value is singled out.)

He also claims that social organization requires private ownership. This is sort of an odd thing to say. I don't disagree nearly as harshly as above, but I think he's suffering from limited perspective here. Maybe it's most charitable to interpret him as saying there must be some private ownership. After all, there are systems where some things are held in common (say, a grazing area for livestock) and they seem to work just fine.

He assumes a position of individualism. That is, the view that the primary unit of concern in economics and "the science of human action" is the individual person. This is fair enough; he's certainly not alone. What's not good, though, is the lack of argument for the view. There is a competing picture in the philosophical tradition that sees social groups as coming first, and individuals emerging only in context. You can see this in Plato quite plainly, but it's also at work in Aristotle to some extent, and was revived more recently in the communitarian critiques of liberalism. The point is, you have to take seriously the opposition and not assume it's obvious that the primary unit of concern is the individual. I, for one, am not sure it is. After all, it's hard to really define oneself without reference to others; most of what makes me me requires a particular social context.

He makes some frankly outdated claims about the reach and scope of science, claiming that its conceptualizations are not universal and unified, and that it can't tell us about things like the mind. I'm sympathetic to the latter, to some extent, but that's a strong minority view. Again, von Mises owes us an argument. Philosophers of science (some, anyway) would object that science can give us a unified picture of the world, through a coherent set of laws. Philosophers of mind (again, some) would object that science tells us the basis of the mind and, again, by a set of reductive laws, we can connect the two together. The whole idea of laws doesn't really seem to be on his radar.

He then talks at length about "intoxicated vision" and the inability of science to provide something "mystical". It's really just noise, as far as I can tell. The best sense I can make of it is that his personal aesthetic sense is such that he finds scientific discoveries austere. Well, that's his problem. Some, like me, find the structure of laws and concepts inherently beautiful. That von Mises apparently didn't is a personal thing of his.

I do agree with a distinction he draws between science and what he calls "metaphysics", though. It seems correct that the two have different methods and different contents. What's sort of weird, though, is the way he wants to split them apart and say that they're not closely intertwined. They of course are. How could they not be? If you do science assuming that you're investigating an objective world, your conclusions and even methods will very likely differ from those of someone who thinks he's just investigating a world in his mind. The first guy will probably do some experiments and tests, and the second guy would sit in his armchair and try to discover the fundamental shape of the universe. (This is, of course, little more than a crude gloss on the empiricism/rationalism business.)

The Impossibility of Economic Calculation Under Socialism (.pdf)

Here, von Mises makes a fairly familiar argument against the planned economy. He points out the difficulties inherent in planning even a simple project centrally, largely based on the inability to reduce decision-making to a mathematical/mechanical process. That's sort of a weird reason to reject planned economies (how about because they don't, in fact, realize their own goals very well?), but it seems fair enough.

What's really bizarre, though, is that he never takes the next step in the argument and consider a market-based socialism. That is, a system that takes seriously the (empirically-confirmed) claim that markets are an amazingly effective tool for social organization, and yet regulates this system in such a way that people tend to make economic decisions that benefit the collective, i.e., society as a whole. That's quite realizable, because it avoids the error he's critiquing. That is, this market socialism seperates the means from the end. The end is something like a more egalitarian, fairer, etc. society, and the means is a carefully-regulated market. So, the disagreement between the market socialist and a liberal or libertarian is a disagreement on (1) the end and (2) the nature of the regulations. (It's worth noting, though, that only an extreme libertarian would object to any regulations. Even Ayn Rand would put at least something in place, e.g., Murder, Inc. is not allowed to sell its assassination services.) So, there's really no argument here against limited redistribution of wealth, say. Spot corrections and manipulations of a market's operation are quite different from the large-scale, detailed planning that von Mises is targetting.

On the whole, von Mises seems to view the central question as strictly dichotomous: either you're in favour of totally free markets, or you're in favour of planned economies. The fact that there's a lot of ground in between those positions doesn't seem to occur to him, and that robs the argument of a lot of its force.

The Starting Point of Praxeological Thinking

This piece is a fairly unreflective way of stating the idea that humans act consciously. Von Mises calls this "a priori" and "self-evident"; but, as is clear from the number of hard determinists running around, it's not a priori or self-evident for everyone. For what it's worth, these are not the same thing; an analytic truth ("a bachelor is an unmarried man") can be a priori and yet not self-evident. Of course, this may be a non-philosophical use of the term.

Given the compatibilist and libertarian (free-will style, not political-style) defenses floating around in the literature, even people who believe humans act consciously don't think it's self-evident. (And they may not think it's a priori; an a posteriori proof of, say, compatibilism seems at least possible to me.)

While von Mises is, of course, entitled to assume for the sake of his project that humans can act for conscious ends, he really needed to take seriously objections from opposing views. Part of the problem is, I suspect, the age of the text (published in 1962). Davidson hadn't published "Actions, Reasons and Causes" (1963), and thus the sea-change in approaches to action was still some distance away.

Some Preliminary Observations
Concerning Praxeology Instead of an Introduction


For this, there is no excuse. Von Mises is trying to argue for a very hard sort of objectivism about the external world. External objects are real and impinge upon our senses. He's writing post-Kant, though, so he should know that the way external objects impinge upon our senses may be hidden from us so completely that we can only ever known the objects as they seem, not as they really are. (And, if he doesn't, why's he trying to do epistemology and metaphysics?)

And there's also problems with the idea that whatever theoretical objects we later concoct (his example is germs, we could also use subatomic particles) are necessarily real things, because they explain what we were always able to do. That assumes, without argument, that the explanations will continue to hold in all cases. They may not. After all, classical mechanics works just fine -- until it doesn't. So, the world as classical mechanics describes it, strictly speaking, is not real. It's just "real enough" for everyday purposes. For all we know (and this is always a live possibility), relativity (the replacement for classical mechanics, at some extremes) may also collapse in some case that, as yet, we have not experienced. It's pretty much a truism in phil of science that (per Quine) theory is underdetermined by data; that is, you can always concoct a different theory that equally well explains the data in front of you. It also follows from this that, while future data may decide a current dispute between theories, there will always be another theory that equally well accounts for even this future data.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Still totally not dead.

Just been sick since Sunday and trying to catch up on work. Our regular programming will continue next week as previously scheduled.

(On a sick side-note, I just had this vision of one day something appearing on this blog by my next of kin: "This time, actually dead." Hey, I laughed.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Open access series: Improved access.

(On an unrelated note, philosophy blogging is on hold until I figure out what on earth I think about motivation. My next dissertation-related argument to conjure up is on just that topic and I don't have my own thinking entirely straight yet. Hopefully this week, but it might be next.)

Introduction to this series for those who have lost their place in the various delays is here.

So far (here), it's turned out that the status quo in access to research is not acceptable. All arguments against extending access are dismal failures. However, arguments in favour of total open access (TOA), without restrictions, also tend to fail (here). The general problem with pro-TOA arguments was what I called the "totality presumption", the claim that, once we accept that the status quo is no good, we must instantly move to TOA, without stopping in a more limited, but still more open, model of access. As I said last time, there are two ways for TOA to triumph over IA:
I can see two possibilities. First, arguments in favour of IA over TOA and the status quo fail. Thus, TOA is a fallback from the failure of IA. This is unstable, though, as it depends on the (lack of) creativity of defenders of IA. Second, IA is not stable in its own right; it will, inevitably, tend either to TOA or the status quo. But this is just the black and white fallacy. So, for TOA to be preferable to IA -- that is, for TP to be true -- it must be that there are no good arguments for IA.
So, what arguments do I have for IA? Just two:
  1. The elitist argument
  2. The epistemic morality argument
I'll deal with these in order.

The elitist argument is straightforward. It claims, quite frankly, that some people are better able than others to make use of research (elitist premise 1, or EP1). It also claims, again quite frankly, that some people are hopelessly incapable of making use of research -- indeed, they will actually harm themselves, in some way (elitist premise 2, or EP2). It then claims that, since it is often difficult to tell whether any given person falls into the former or the latter category, we should only limit access to research when we are clear this person falls into the latter category (default premise, DP). Finally, it claims that, in some cases, it is clear that some people fall into the latter category (factual premise, FP). Thus, it follows that we should improve access, but not have total open access.

Looking at the premises in turn, it's important to note that EP1 and EP2 are really flipsides of the same coin. One says that more value is produced by research in some people's hands, and the other says that disvalue is produced by research in some other people's hands. (And this, of course, may vary depending on the kind of research. The same person can, for example, produce wonderful value with economic research and tremendous disvalue with medical research.) The driving idea behind this is that actions done for reasons are efficaciously value-seeking. (See here for some early comments on this matter, and here (.pdf) for the latest considered version of the thesis.) By this I just mean that, when we act for reasons, we are taking courses of action that are the most effective ways to achieve the value that is in our reasons (which are goals). So, when somebody accesses research -- which, as a deliberative and intentional action, should probably always be an action for reasons -- they are taking a course of action that is the most effective way to achieve the value in their goals, but only insofar as they are practically rational. The understanding of acting for reasons as effiacious value-seeking is an ideal, after all; it's a governing standard, not an empirical generalization. Very often, the ideal will not be achieved, and people will fail to act rationally. In the simplest case, they simply take ineffective means to their goals, while in more complicated cases, they may have goals that lack in objective value, or even be unable to perceive their reasons for acting correctly due to some cognitive deficit.

Whatever the sources of practical irrationality, we have to acknowledge when designing policies that the possibility of practical irrationality is real and, often, very strong. So, our policies should aim to control the potential damage wrought by cases of practical irrationality. After all, setting policies is itself an action done for reasons, and hence should effectively seek the value of the goals of making policy.

The question then, naturally enough, is what is the goal of setting a policy? Cards on the table: I'm broadly a socialist and thus think that every policy should, in the end, be of overall benefit to society. So, the goal in setting a policy on research access should be serving the overall benefit of society. But, if the policy (as in the case of TOA) allows for individual people to, through practical irrationality, fail to efficaciously seek value in their accessing of research, then the policy has failed to achieve its goal. Thus it, too, is practically irrational. Since we don't want an irrational policy (I presume!), the policy should block this possibility.

(It should be noted that no one can claim that the status quo satisfies the basic requirement of efficaciously seeking value, for the mechanisms by which the status quo controls access to research are hopelessly inefficient, and simply fail to restrict access only to those who will produce disvalue with their access.)

Now, the policy should also, strictly, require those who would produce benefit to society to access research. What form the requirement should take will be determined by empirical considerations -- after all, the requirement shouldn't be an inefficient method of achieving its goal. This is where DP comes in. DP states that, as a default, everyone has access; it is only those who are demonstrably unable to produce anything but disvalue from access to research who should be prevented from having access to it. I have a few reasons for this. For one, although socialist I be, I am well aware of the dangers of an extremely powerful and interventionist government, or any other institution. So, the onus should be on the administrators of research access to prove, to some high standard of proof, that an individual should not be allowed access to particular research. The process for this should, of course, be fully transparent, subject to review, and so on. (No secret tribunals!) For two, it's often extremely difficult to determine whether value or disvalue will result from allowing someone access to research findings. So, it's only at the margins that there's ever going to be certainty (or reasonable certainty) regarding whether granting access to a given person will produce benefit to society. And, when the certainty is that they will then, of course, access should be granted. When the certainty is that they will produce disvalue then, of course, access should be refused. Thus, DP is an asymmetric principle: in order to prevent institutional overreach, and in order to ensure that value is produced, we default in favour of access.

Finally comes FP. FP is crucial for the argument; if FP is false, then IA collapses into TOA. If there are no clear cases where granting individuals access to research will probably result in disvalue, then it follows, by DP, that access should just be granted to everyone. And this is TOA. But I think FP is obviously true. It just seems so clear that there will be some people, somewhere, who should be restricted in their access to some research. The most obvious example I can concoct is regarding weapons research. Obviously, if everyone had access to research data regarding, say, new chemical weapons, this could tremendously harm society (and, indeed, individual people). To not accept this example is, I think, a little naive. Whether or not this sort of case is typical is not the point; all FP requires -- and thus all the elitist argument requires -- is that there be such cases.

The second argument I have is what I've called the "epistemic morality argument". It's sort of an odd name, perhaps, but the argument it names is quite simple. It claims that knowledge is sometimes a bad thing, or at least not always a good thing (the epistemic value premise, or EVP). It then claims that bad knowledge should be restricted (the restriction premise, or RP). It also claims that bad knowledge should only be restricted when it is clearly bad (the clarity premise, or CP). Thus, some research should be restricted.

This is very similar to the elitist argument -- they're driven by the same basic intuition, namely that there could be real harms to opening up research access to everyone -- but focuses entirely on the effects of knowledge. There is no consideration of whether people will or will not make good use of knowledge.

RP is a consequentialist-styled claim. I'm not, technically, a consequentialist about morality, but I do think consequences often matter. In this case, since I don't see any non-consequentialist considerations that would trump the consequences, it seems to me that consequences must be all that matters here. So, RP is an instance of the general idea that we should limit the bad and promote the good.

EVP is a frank denial of a claim that has lasted at least since John Stuart Mill, namely that it's always better to have or to know the truth than not. EVP is also an instance of the claim, going back at least to Plato, that we should sometimes restrict the truth because it's not always good. I don't have much to add in terms of defending the claim, as this dispute has always struck me as being at something of a stand-off. Mill and his followers assert truth is always good, while Plato and his assert that it is not always good. Mill's defense of the view, for what it's worth, comes as part of a discussion of the ideal sort of person. According to Mill, the best person is an individual generally unrestricted in his conduct, save when he may bring harm to others through his actions. This person is creative, energetic, and engaged in the public life of his society. So, according to Mill, truth is always good because (basically) it produces these sorts of creative, energetic, engaged people -- what he called the "active personality".

Now, I'm all for the active personality, but there's some slippery reasoning here. Mill wants to say that allowing the truth to be freely disseminated serves the interests of all people by allowing them to become active people. And truth is always good because it produces these active people. But what, really, is the evidence that truth does this? And, to the point, where is the consideration of the fact that societies are not, in fact, generally made up of active people? Truth may be good in the hands of the active, but when you don't have active people, why should we allow truth to roam free? (If the answer is that it will make them into active people, the first question recurs: and what is the evidence that truth produces active people?)

On the other hand, Plato's claim comes in the midst of a discussion of how to best promote overall social good. And, according to Plato, we do this by only giving people the truths they need in order to function in their social role. (He also says that we should sometimes lie to people in order to help them function, which I'm not so keen on.) This seems a generally good rule of thumb to me. You don't tell a student in an introductory class in philosophy to read Kant's entire corpus and understand it. It's unfair, probably impossible and perhaps even cruel. Instead, you give the student some introductory-level readings, to help them develop the skills necessary to finally tackle something like Kant's corpus. In other words, you take people as they are, not as they will be, and allow them to access the knowledge they can deal with.

And this is where CP comes in. According to CP, much as with DP in the elitist argument, we start with the assumption that the knowledge is not bad, and only restrict it when it is clear that the knowledge is bad. The reasoning behind CP is much the same as behind DP. Since we often can't be sure that knowledge is bad, we should err on the side of restricting institutional control (i.e., dictatorial power). When we are sure, if the knowledge is reasonably considered to be good, we should allow it; and, if the knowledge is reasonably considered to be bad, then and only then we should restrict it.

So, these are the two arguments I have in favour of IA. If successful, they defeat the totality presumption, and thus undercut the arguments in favour of TOA. Since the status quo has no viable defense, it follows that IA is the preferable policy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Huh.

What Greg said. Seriously, what's the fucking point any more?

On a lighter note, philosophy and policy blogging will continue starting this weekend (the former) and continuing into next week (the latter). Whee.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

MMP.

What John said.

Also, I recently heard a new argument for FPTP, namely that it ensures local representatives, not regional or provincial ones (who would exist under MMP). I've been trying to parse the argument, and I really can't. It seems to hark back to an earlier era of politics, where parties weren't as influential as they are now, and MPs/MPPs/MLAs/whatever had the option of defying the whip and voting their consciences. But that isn't our political world. Maybe it should be, but unless those who value local representation get serious about restricting the influence of parties generally, then their ability to wield their influence has to be curtailed . There's no good reason to allow one party to dictate the fortunes of millions of people because they managed to get 35-40% of the population that actually voted to cast ballots in their direction. (Really, the number is probably lower, as that 35-40% number would include votes in ridings they didn't even win -- i.e., wasted ballots.) Even if, like me, you think contemporary democracy is a bit of a sham, it's simply stupid to give these unaccountable, wealthy monoliths unrestricted power. If you do believe in democracy, then you have a whole host of other reasons to vote for MMP -- a more representative parliament, genuine respect for the value of a ballot, even an opportunity to (maybe, some time down the road) change the system again, to something even better.

No matter who you vote for on the other ballot, you should vote in favour of MMP in tomorrow's referendum.

Of course, the referendum's going to go down in flames, for a number of contributing reasons. But it's worth a shot. If there's enough support for change, we may get to take a second crack at it in a couple of decades. If there isn't, then we'll all go to our graves ruled by a relic of a previous political time. (Cheerful, eh?)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ontario election follow-up.

Well, there's some movement on my previous complaints about candidates in my riding. David Zimmer (incumbent Lib) still has no policies whatsover. David Shiner (PC) has come out of the closet as one of the brilliant minds that voted down actually using Toronto's new revenue-generating powers to, oh, say, improve transit, fix roads, and keep the damn city running. So, "no" to both of them.

Kristin Monster (Family Coalition) is living up to her name (see here). Anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage? Classy.

Heath Thomas (see here) is living in a typically delusional libertarian fantasy world. I note with interest that, while he's all for reducing the size of government, he has no apparent interest in the massive redistribution of wealth that would be necessitated by a thoroughgoing libertarianism. (Think of it as a giant reset button, fixing all the illegitimate wealth transfers that had gone before.) It's honestly difficult (although, not impossible) to find libertarians who are willing to bite that bullet, so I'm not surprised.

Rini Ghosh (NDP) has no information whatsoever about what she'd do if elected. If you think I'm wrong, go find it here.

And I still have no idea who Charles Sutherland (Independent) is. Charles? Are you out there, anywhere? Helllooooo....? Do you know you're running for office?

However. Torbjorn Zetterlund (Green) has impressed me. He's got a decent summary of policy positions here, done in a faked question-and-answer format. I don't seriously disagree with anything he's for. I think what he stands for is quite workable. I also think it could benefit the riding as well as the province more generally.

Here's the Cliff's Notes:
  • Increased minimum wage
  • Guaranteed basic housing and nutrition
  • Universal denticare
  • Increased ability for municipalities to generate needed revenue
  • Provincial spending on transit
  • Increased support and incentives for health clinics and preventative health measures
  • Picking up school funding at the provincial level
  • No spending on environmental issues, per se, but targetted tax incentives to encourage consumers and businesses to change their behaviours
  • Tax incentives to encourage development of jobs in new industries
  • Reducing energy demand through conservation technologies
  • Reducing income and business taxes, while increasing consumption taxes
I'm not totally sold on the last two. See here regarding energy policy. The whole income vs. consumption taxes thing seems, to me, to have the potential to punish the poor disproportionately. It depends on what consumables are taxed -- a high tax on food, for example, would kick the poor in the teeth (as they spend proportionally more of their income on food than the rich), but a high tax on, say, luxury cars would be fine. But the rest works for me.

So, it looks like I'm voting Green, in addition to voting for MMP. Still, how long did it take the Green Party to actually put up some freakin' information! Jesus. They almost lost a vote.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Open access series: Total open access.

Last week (over hyar), I presented and critiqued three arguments in favour of what I (over hyar) called "the status quo". All three were negative arguments, and I suggested that this was a weaker strategy than arguing positively for the benefits of the status quo. The first argument I called the "cost argument", and it asserts that alternatives to the status quo will be more costly than maintaining the status quo. The problem with this argument is that it's not clear why we should accept that it's bad to pay the price/lose the benefits that we would in changing from the status quo. The second argument I called the "academic argument", and it asserts that alternatives to the status quo are unable to play an important academic function. I argued that neither of two important functions -- peer review and the "elitist function" -- are necessarily best served by the status quo, nor are necessarily incompatible with an alternative to the status quo. Finally, the third argument I called the "relevance argument", and it asserts that, as there's no need to change the status quo, it should not be changed. I argued that this is both question-begging -- in that the argument just asserts that there's no need to change the status quo -- and contains a highly questionable premise -- as there is no demonstration of the needed connection between need and obligation.

This week, I'm considering arguments in favour of TOA -- total open access. Here's what total open access is, as I've defined it:
TOA would have no or exceedingly minimal charges for access and extremely high ease of access. In order to read most published research, one would go to a freely-accessible database that would contain all relevant research publications. This database would be easy to use and complete; and would also allow one to directly access the materials found, in either electronic or dead-tree form. All researchers would be required to have their publications available through this database.


To have the relevant contrast in hand, here's how I defined "improved access" or IA:
IA would have modest charges for access and high ease of access. That is, the actual process of searching for published research would be highly similar to that of TOA, with one exception, namely that no one would be required to have their publications available through this database. To incentivize the process, researchers would be rewarded for participating, but not punished for failing to. After all, at the end of the day, the published work is their own and, if copyright means anything, it means that one can decide how to release what one has created. (Or even not to do so at all.) There would be more significant access fees than under TOA, but far less than under the status quo; and this would follow simply from the fact that, instead of subscribing to multiple databases and publishers in order to access all relevant research, individuals and institutions would only have to subscribe to one.


Arguments in favour of TOA seem to fall into one of two broad categories, each of which subdivides into two further categories. Here they are, schematically:
  1. Intrinsic Justifications
    1. Entitlement
    2. Empowerment
  2. Instrumental Justifications
    1. Benefits
    2. Costs
Illuminating, I know. Here's what this all means.

(A) is the category of arguments that try to show there's something that is valuable in itself gained from TOA. That is, regardless of anything else, gaining this whatever-it-is is a sufficient gain to justify changing to TOA. (A)(i) identifies this whatever-it-is as something like respect for what we deserve or what we are entitled to. That is, according to (A)(i), TOA respects that we are entitled to research or knowledge or free access to knowledge or some such. (A)(ii), by contrast, identifies the whatever-it-is as some sort of empowerment. That is, according to (A)(ii), TOA empowers citizens by giving them a new and important sort of ability. If you like, (A)(i) can be read as defending TOA on the grounds that it respects a certain kind of negative right (not to be interfered with regarding my entitlements), while (A)(ii) can be read as defending TOA on the grounds that it grants a certain kind of positive right (to be a better sort of person, more knowledgeable, better at important judgements, etc.).

(B) is the category of arguments that try to show there's something valuable gained from TOA, but not from TOA itself. Instead, TOA gives us something that is valuable for other ends we may have. (B)(i) identifies this something as a broad class of benefits, usually economic, but also things like increased access for readers, which, for researchers, could lead to increased numbers of citations and thus increasingly fruitful debate, and, for professionals, could lead to increasingly better ability to perform their professional obligations (think of physicians having greater access to cutting-edge medical research). (B)(ii), by contrast, identifies this something the lack of a broad class of costs, again usually economic, including things like subscription payments and secure servers to block unauthorized access to proprietory data, and so on. So, (B)(i) defends TOA on the grounds that it allows us to gain, and (B)(ii) defends TOA on the grounds that it prevents us from being harmed.

These are not strict categorizations, of course. This is just a way for me to organize a response to the defense of TOA. So, addressing these in turn.

(A)(i), as presented thus far, has a pretty significant lacuna. It has to be shown that we are entitled to what we get under TOA. This is clearest if I look at a particular example of the argument.
  1. Taxpayers are entitled to access to university research.
  2. Therefore, taxpayers should have access to university research.
Obviously, this argument has a giant hole in it: it doesn't explain why taxpayers have this entitlement. It's a pure non sequitur. So, something like the following has to be given instead:
  1. Taxpayers partially fund university research.
  2. Taxpayers are entitled to access to what they partially fund.
  3. Therefore, taxpayers should have total open access to university research.
The problem with this version, though, is that there's still another lacuna, in the move from (1) to (2). How do we get from partial funding to total entitlement? Surely taxpayers are just entitled to the part that they fund. Of course, one could argue that taxpayers' contributions are not, in principle, separable from the contributions of other sources. And this is probably true, but it still doesn't solve the problem. For, while we could go from the claim that taxpayers' contributions are not separable to the claim that taxpayers are fully entitled to the research, we could just as easily go from the former to the claim that taxpayers are not at all entitled to the research. There's no given reason for moving from partial contribution to full entitlement over partial contribution to no entitlement.

There's another problem with this sample of (A)(i)-style argument, namely why contribution converts into entitlement at all. It certainly doesn't in many other venues, particularly when the contributions can be construed as gifts. If, however, the contributions are construed as investments, then there is something to be said for one being entitled, but usually the invested-in party has some choice as to whether to accept the investment or not, and thus the resultant entitlement claim or not. It's certainly not clear that researchers always have that option.

But, it could be objected that these are quibbles, and quibbles with a particular version of the (A)(i) argument. This is probably true. So, let's look at the argument generally:
  1. A's have φ'd research.
  2. A's are entitled to access to what they have φ'd.
  3. Therefore, A's should have total open access to research.
This will cover both the particular argument given above, and any other argument that could fall into (A)(i)'s scope. In the spirit of fairness, I'll allow that (1) and (2) are true, for some value of A and of φ. Even if we grant that, though, we have a clear problem: (3) doesn't follow. (3) substitutes "total open access" for "access" -- what strictly follows would be this:
  1. Therefore, A's should have access to research.
In order to repair this logical gap, (2) must be amended as follows:
  1. A's are entitled to total open access to what they have φ'd.
But that amendment of (2) begs the question against IA. It assumes that φ-ing grants A's title to total open access instead of some level of access. If TOA were somehow the "default" position, then this would be a legitimate presumption; but, without argument, it cannot be assumed that TOA is this default. (For convenience, I'll call this the "totality presumption", or TP.)

So, (A)(i)-style arguments only work if they presume pro-IA arguments are failures. This may turn out to be a legitimate presumption, but it has yet to be shown. Moving on, then, to (A)(ii)-style arguments (the discussion of which should not be as lengthy, as I can piggy-back on the above discussion).

(A)(ii)-style arguments are going to broadly be similar to (A)(i)-style arguments. They will look something like this:
  1. If A's had access to research, then A's would be (able to) φ.
  2. A's should be (able to) φ.
  3. Therefore, A's should have access to research.
This argument presents three problems, just with the logic. First, it has the same access vs. total open access issue. If (1) and (3) are amended to include "total open access", then this is question-begging against IA -- once again, good ol' TP. Second, though, the argument as given is fallacious: it affirms the consequent.

According to standard sentential logics, there are two legitimate patterns of inference that start with a conditional (an if-then statement), and two fallacious patterns. The two legitimate ones are, first, modus ponens:
  1. If A, then B.
  2. A.
  3. Therefore, B.
And, second, modus tollens:
  1. If A, then B.
  2. Not-B.
  3. Therefore, not-A.
The fallacious ones are, first, denying the antecedent:
  1. If A, then B.
  2. Not-A.
  3. Therefore, not-B.
And, second, affirming the consequent:
  1. If A, then B.
  2. B.
  3. Therefore, A.
Obviously, the (A)(ii)-style argument given fits the latter of these four patterns; therefore, it is fallacious.

How could it be reconstructed to avoid the fallacy? As given, I've built the (A)(ii) argument scheme to treat access to research as a sufficient condition for the valuable ability, φ. I could build it, instead, with access to research as a necessary condition:
  1. If A's were (able to) φ, then A's would have access to research.
  2. A's should be (able to) φ.
  3. Therefore, A's should have access to research.
Or, to treat access to research as both necessary and sufficient:
  1. A's had access to research if and only if A's would be (able to) φ.
  2. A's should be (able to) φ.
  3. Therefore, A's should have access to research.
Either amendment would solve the logical problem, but at a cost. In the necessary-and-sufficient version, we have a second point at which a question is begged, only this time against the status quo. (1) in this version just assumes what the status quo tries to deny, that increased access and some important ability, φ-ing, go hand-in-hand. This may be true, but it needs to be shown, not assumed. (I make no judgement on whether it could be shown; that really depends on the particular φ.) In the just-necessary version, we beg exactly the same question.

So, in its most modest form, the (A)(ii)-style argument affirms the consequent; in its more ambitious forms, it begs the question against the status quo. And there is yet a third logical problem with the argument, which is the move from a descriptive conditional or biconditional (in all versions of (1)) to a normative conclusion (all versions of (3)), via a normative cognate of one side of the conditional or biconditional (in all versions of (2)). That is, this sort of argument avoids the problem, because it is completely descriptive (using the necessity version just for illustration):
  1. If A's were (able to) φ, then A's would have access to research.
  2. A's are (able to) φ.
  3. Therefore, A's will have access to research.
Or this, because it is completely normative:
  1. If A's should be (able to) φ, then A's should have access to research.
  2. A's should be (able to) φ.
  3. Therefore, A's should have access to research.
The descriptive version is, of course, useless, as it's the normative conclusion defenders of TOA want (A)(ii)-style arguments to endorse. The only difficulty I have with the normative form is the inherent problem in establishing (1), whether in necessity, sufficiency, or necessary-and-sufficient versions. It's very hard to connect oughts together, with one as condition for the other, except in fairly trivial cases (e.g., If I should be a square, then I should be a rectangle).

We can't build a version of the (A)(ii) argument scheme that employs a conditional with a normative consequent and descriptive antecedent. That is, we could rebuild the (A)(i) argument scheme using a conditional:
  1. A's have φ'd research.
  2. If A's have φ'd something, then A's are entitled to access to that thing.
  3. Therefore, A's should have total open access to research.
(Keeping in mind this employs TP.) The conditional here has a descriptive antecedent -- A's have φ'd something -- and normative consequent -- A's are entitled to access to that thing (i.e., A's should have access to that thing). That works because the argument is moving from a descriptive condition to a normative conclusion. (A)(ii)-style arguments don't run that way, though. They go from some condition that should -- but need not -- hold (i.e., some state that would be better than the status quo) to a normative conclusion. So, the arugment is normative all the way down.

Therefore, there is no really satisfactory form of (A)(ii)-style argument. All forms involve TP, and, additionally, the sufficiency form is fallacious, while the necessity and necessary-and-sufficient forms are question-begging against the status quo. Overall, then, (A)(i)-style arguments are superior to (A)(ii).

Moving on to (B)(i)-style arguments. These will look something like this:
  1. If A's had access to research, then A's would gain ψ in order to φ.
  2. A's should be (able to) φ.
  3. Therefore, A's should have access to research.
The same problems present themselves: this affirms the consequent, it derives a normative conclusion illegitimately, and it employs TP. If we try to avoid affirming the consequent, we will, as with (A)(ii), end up with a form that begs the question against the status quo. If we try to avoid deriving a normative conclusion illegitimately, we end up with a premise that is of unclear truth, at best. And, as always, we're still using TP. Since (A)(i) arguments only use TP, they are still superior.

Similar remarks apply to (B)(ii)-style arguments. (Really, do I need to spell it out any more?) At the end of the day, (A)(i)-style arguments look the best possible. They do not commit obvious fallacies, beg more than one question, nor try to proceed from what would be good to what should happen. Instead, they draw a clear connection between what some class of people, A, has done (φ) and access to research. That is, they are (as is typical with entitlement arguments generally) backward-looking and not (broadly) teleological.

The problem, though, as said is TP: the totality presumption. Why does entitlement get us to TOA rather than IA? I can see two possibilities. First, arguments in favour of IA over TOA and the status quo fail. Thus, TOA is a fallback from the failure of IA. This is unstable, though, as it depends on the (lack of) creativity of defenders of IA. Second, IA is not stable in its own right; it will, inevitably, tend either to TOA or the status quo. But this is just the black and white fallacy. So, for TOA to be preferable to IA -- that is, for TP to be true -- it must be that there are no good arguments for IA.

Are there? That will be my question for next week.