Mohan's Question
John Fischer

30 March 2005

During the call-in component of the show, Mohan asked a question about the relationship between political freedom and metaphysical freedom.  Although it was a bit off the central topics, it does raise a question that has troubled me.  That is,  I believe that genuinely available metaphysical alternatives or possibilities are not required for moral agency--the forward-looking aspect (practical reasoning) or the backward-looking aspect (moral responsibility).  But then why would I prefer to live in a nation with political liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and so forth?  Also, why do I sometimes think that it is "good to have choices", such as when I apply for a job (as I do very occasionally!)?

Can anyone help me here?

I'm inclined to say that "ex ante" I would choose a world with political liberties, since there would be a better chance that I would act freely (sans metaphysical alternatives, of course) in such a world.  But is this plausible?  Can we really expunge metaphysical alternatives and still lead an attractive, recognizably human life?? 

Comments (8)


Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

If you buy into my ideas about the difference betw

If you buy into my ideas about the difference between constraints and unfreedoms, then political freedom and metaphysical freedom are pretty different anyway.
Asking about the value of political liberty is clearly a consequential question. Some people hold liberty to be good per se, but others would simply look at the utility. A utilitarian would say that you shuold live under whatever political regime gives you the most utility. Or fulfils the most desires, etc.
You might feel that it's good to have choices because you enjoy making them, or because you feel more valued, or like you are in control of yourself more, or are able to define yourself rather than having to follow the path set out for you.
None of this has anything to do with metaphysical freedom - i.e. determinism vs nondeterminism. After all, the freedom to act randomly, what is that? Nothing.
-T

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

The problem revolves around whether there a (soul,

The problem revolves around whether there a (soul, mind, and body/brain) exist, or if there is only the physical brain/body. If all there exists is the physical, then scientists will be able to control all actions eventually once they map the brain and how it works. Even if a mind and soul exists, the scientists might still be able to control all human actions, because in order for a thought to bring something about in the real world it needs to go through the physical brain. Who knows how many years this will take? What do you think about ?microchips being able to read thoughts in peoples? brains??

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

Homer, I don't see how that is relevant. Your whol

Homer, I don't see how that is relevant. Your whole post is summed up as "I think this is a question about determinism."
Why is that relevant for political liberty?
Do you really think scientists will control human action? I don't see it myself. Scientists might work out how it's done, but according to the Peter Principle, they're not going to be the people holding the trigger. Management will be doing the controlling, and if past history is anything to go by, we don'ty have much to worry about from that front.
Or do you really think that the question of whether or not it is good to live in a libertarian society is just the same as whether our politicians control our will?

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

I was reading John Perry?s essay, ?Is there Ho

I was reading John Perry?s essay, ?Is there Hope in Compatibilism?? I read it in order to get up to speed on the problem involving Moral Responsibility and Causal Determination. I have gotten through a third of it. Here is what I got so far:
1. In order to do something you must be both willing and able to do it.
2. There is a typo on page 2, ?Still, if are careful, things will work out.?
3. Who ever made the link between causal determination and free-will? Are there things outside the laws of nature? Is causal determination just limited to the physical?
4. The argument for ?weak laws? based on Hume looks promising. Who ever proved that the laws of nature exist, and that they are not only in our minds?
Here is my take on it. The whole problem lies not in Morals or Ethics, but in Logic and Epistemology. Philosophers think that they have sufficient grounding in Epistemology and Logic to begin creating a system of Morals and Ethics. Yes they can create systems of Ethics and Morals, but the real work lies elsewhere.
I used to take pleasure in studying Logic, Epistemology, and Morals/Ethics. Now I am not so sure about studying Morals and Ethics. Too much work has yet to be done in Logic and Epistemology, so I currently limit myself to this realm. The weakness why we can?t answer these questions about causal determination and free-will lies in us. It lies in consciousness, reason, Kant?s categories, etc. If Immanuel Kant was alive I think he would still be working primarily in Epistemology and Logic (he was mainly a professor of Logic), just like Thomas Aquinas did to Aristotle?s Logic. The other problem is that we think we really understand what we are saying when we use words like ?causal determination.? No one has proved that causal determination even exists. It could all just be custom.
Now in my view causal determination only affects physical objects and the laws of nature. There are substances that exist outside the laws of nature. Not everything exists within the laws of nature. That would be too boring and make rational thought absurd. One would be God (if it exists) and the other would be the soul/human spirit/free will. No one has proven that a soul exists, and yet no one has proven that it does not exist. Real Science has only existed for 500 years, philosophy for 25 centuries +. I would not give science more credit than philosophy until science creates artificial intelligence machine that can mimic humans.
Political liberty? Until philosophers make some advance in consciousness, epistemology, or logic, the reasonable man standard in law works fine.

nick's picture

nick

Thursday, March 31, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

What good is metaphysical freedom when you are liv

What good is metaphysical freedom when you are living under tyranny? The main purpose of philosophy is the creation of the just state. What drove Plato to invent normative philosophy? He tried the meet the challenge that "might makes right." His journey from the creation of Callipolis to Magnesia reflected a shift in his understanding of Forms. The overarching theme remained constant through the Platonic corpus in that the highest good of philosophy was to give birth to the just state.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, March 31, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

To: Nick Might makes Right? Of course Might ma

To: Nick
Might makes Right? Of course Might makes Right, that is the Truth. Socrates responded to Thrasymachus by saying that ?might makes right? is not correct because the leaders could create laws that could hurt themselves. But that was part of the Noble Lie. Philosophers still have the dream that some day in the future governments will be governed by Reason. I share that dream, but the truth of the matter is that ?might does make right? intellectual and physical might makes right. Education is the attempt to try to convince those who have might to allow Reason to govern, but human beings are still governed by their passions.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, March 31, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

i believe that nick was referring to Plato's Laws

i believe that nick was referring to Plato's Laws (ref)
anyhow, some accident caused me to listen to an episode of The Connection immediately before coming here. Freedom from Want. Amartya Sen is the guest. Sen has a lot of wonderful historical anecdotes that may speak more directly to what Mohan was getting at.

nick's picture

nick

Saturday, April 2, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

T.K. Seung proposed that Plato's overarching quest

T.K. Seung proposed that Plato's overarching question was "What is the best way to fulfill our eros?" Eros represents the sum of all our hopes and desires. The desire for knowledge, especially of the good, is often trumped by the bodily passions. Rationality and practical reason properly cultivated are not opposed to desire. They are meant to be the means through which we discover the best way to fulfill our eros. This journey in the Platonic corpus took Plato from ethics to erotics (aesthetics) and eventually to politics.

 

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