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Hey—did you ever wonder how and why Liberating Minds got started and why Molyneux hates it so much? Pull up a chair. It’s a good story.

Somewhere around 2007, Molyneux began to be more public in his belief that his philosophy was the one-true-road-to-happiness. I think that led to a lot of unrest and argument on his FDR forum, especially among the early members who tended to be more free thinkers. (Happily, that sort of thing can’t happen on today’s FDR, where the only dissenters are newbies and they are quickly purged.)

Some of Molyneux’s followers (as you saw in The Promise and Failure of UPB) believe him to be the most important philosopher in the last 6,000 years. But—darn it all—he’s not even the most important philosopher in the Molyneux family!

Distant ancestor William Molyneux, who came up with the relatively obscure question known as Molyneux’s Problem, wins that title. Sorry, Stefan—but I do think there’s a philosophical problem you can claim at least partial ownership for—a so-far unanswerable question I’ll call Conrad’s Conundrum.

Murray Rothbard

During those early years of FDR, a thoughtful member named Conrad asked Molyneux a seriously troubling question. You see, among the well-read FDR members, it is known that a number of Molyneux’s theories are derived from Murray Rothbard’s ideas. The new wrinkle Molyneux added was his own peculiar take on the psychology/philosophy connection—you know, the idea that you are completely corrupt if you continue to even associate with your religious or statist parents/family/friends.

So, Conrad wanted to know, if it could be shown that Rothbard associated with his family or religious/statist friends, would that mean Rothbard—the uncredited originator of much of the FDR ancap philosophy—was also corrupt? And what if the same were true for the great Ludwig von Mises himself? Hmm…

Molyneux responded by immediately banning Conrad, of course. (Reminds me of that famous Ring Lardner line: “Shut up,” he explained.) Whether it was because…

  • Conrad pointed out an unanswerable logical flaw
  • exposed that Molyneux’s best “ideas” aren’t exactly original
  • reminded Molyneux that he’d been sidestepping more than a few other flaw-exposing questions
  • or simply embarrased Molyneux by reminding him that he has absurdly predicted a total economic system collapse within 5-10 years (even less now!)

…remains to be seen.

It all happens in this short thread, which is one of my all-time favorites. (In just a few short answers, Molyneux exhibits at least #3, #5, and #7 from the list of known Molyneux debating techniques.)

Conrad was asking about more than a point of logic. With one question, he more or less blew up the whole Molyneux philosophic universe, so you can hardly blame Molyneux for the rapid banning. Following that abrupt dismissal, something completely unexpected happened. Instead of slinking away wounded into that good night, as expected, Conrad simply started the rival philosophy forum known as Liberating Minds.

So there you go. It turns out that for Stefan, the least-answerable philosophic problem isn’t ancestor William’s “Molyneux Problem,” but the far more vexing “Conrad’s Conundrum.”

Any takers?