Thursday, April 15, 2010

245: On Liberty

One of the central concerns of social and political philosophy has been the issue of what limits, if any, there are to the right of the state to restrict the “liberty” of its citizens.

Unless one is convinced of the truth of anarchism, there are some actions with which the state may legitimately interfere, and unless one accords no value to personal liberty, there are some actions the state must leave to the discretion
of the individual.

One of the best defenders of liberty was John Stuart Mill with his book "On Liberty" (1859), written during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901), a period of moral paternalism.

A period of what he called "tyranny of the majority", wherein through control of etiquette and morality, society is an unelected power that can do horrific things.

Mill's On Liberty addresses the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. One argument that Mill develops further than any previous philosopher is the harm principle.

The only reason that could justify the use of coercion against a person is to prevent harm to other people. And for preventing this we call 911, in other words such actions come within the scope of legitimate state power.

Other reasons, according to Mill, do not justify legal coercion. One cannot restrict someone’s actions because they are harmful to that person; paternalism is not legitimate.

One cannot restrict someone’s actions because they are wrong or immoral (but not harmful to others); legal moralism is not legitimate.

One cannot restrict someone’s actions because his or her character would be improved by doing so; moral paternalism is not legitimate.

This all might be true, but it shifts the discussion from liberty to the concept of harm. When do we harm others? Is it only about physical harm or also psychological harm?

Joel Feinberg (October 19, 1926 - March 29, 2004) , an American political and social philosopher, known for his work in the fields of individual rights and the authority of the state, argues that any notion of harm that is going to play a role in answering normative questions will itself be normative in character.

The normative issue raised by paternalism is when, if ever, the state or an individual is entitled to interfere with a person for that person’s good. Motorcyclists are obliged by law to wear helmets. We have to comply to all traffic signs and obey their 'orders'.

How far may the state go? Again the fierce debates in the US about National Health Care are a textbook example. It is for your own good and for the good of the nation, that you don't perish because you are killed by doctor bills.

But there is more. The state can do more and that next step is often the cause of nationwide debates, demonstrations and so on. The issue is whether the state may enforce morality?

It is present in discussions of the legalization of homosexuality, pornography, surrogate motherhood, and active euthanasia. The focus of such discussion is not the harm of such activities but their immorality and whether if they are immoral that is sufficient reason for the state to proscribe them.

According to Thomas Hobbes "a free man is he that... is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do." And Mills added "as long as he doesn't harm others". His motivations were pure utilitarian.

There are other approaches possible of the problem of Liberty. For that we still have a number of political philosophers in store .

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: Somuch on Liberty today
[13:25] herman Bergson: Feel free to ask questions and make remarks
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: A virtue ethicist would say that liberty is the freedom to be good, true to our deep nature?
[13:27] herman Bergson: you are free not to make remarks too of course…it is your liberty ㋡
[13:27] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes Repose, what I just told is the true liberal point of view, developed by Mill
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:28] herman Bergson: there are other views of course...
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: What the F*CK?~!
[13:28] Zinzi's translator: The discussion in the Netherlands on TBS there who wants to watch porn is a good example of a moral government, I think
[13:28] herman Bergson: for instance when you value society more than the individual, you get another story...look at socialism for instance
[13:29] Kiki Walpanheim: is Mill a socialist as well as a libertarian?
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: we have these discussions in the WSA constantly about freedoms and law
[13:29] herman Bergson: explain TBS....
[13:29] herman Bergson: Convicts are convicts to psychological treatment in the netherlands, when they are diagnosed are mentally ill
[13:30] herman Bergson: and sexual offenders among them are allowed to watch porn movies in their cells
[13:30] herman Bergson: there is an upheaval about that now...
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: i bet!!!!
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: no porn for the scorn.. so to speak
[13:31] herman Bergson: is it their liberty to do so, or has the state the right to restrict their liberty?
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: hard for a society to decide these issues just on the merits...
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: well they are already restricted to the prison lol
[13:31] Zinzi's translator: well child porn is illegal
[13:31] Kiki Walpanheim: quote from wikipedia -- Later he(Mill) altered his views toward a more socialist bent, adding chapters to his Principles of Political Economy in defense of a socialist outlook,
[13:31] Zinzi's translator: but not grown up porn
[13:32] herman Bergson: Very good Kiki....
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: interesting, Kiki
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm
[13:32] herman Bergson: John Stuart Mill is on our list of course....we keep this remark of yours in mind
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: maybe individuality/freedom of speech, faith etc.. are different from the economic aspect?
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: i think many people bounce between the socialist and then to teh very consevative views and back again
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes...that may be true Gemma
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yes, Hippies for Reagan ㋡
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:34] Zinzi Serevi: lol
[13:34] Zinzi's translator: lol
[13:34] herman Bergson: But it is interesting to ask if both sides agree on freedom of speech for instance and freedom of faith
[13:35] herman Bergson: If you would agree on that and say that for instance in the economic aspect they dont agree, you see real politics come to life
[13:35] Kiki Walpanheim: maybe individualism needs some basic resource for survival, a shelter, basic education before each individual could embrace that liberty?
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:36] herman Bergson: Education...another good example....
[13:36] herman Bergson: we force our children by law to attend school
[13:36] Kiki Walpanheim: so Mill's socialist preference might just goes naturally with liberty...
[13:36] Qwark Allen: better then force them to work
[13:37] herman Bergson: indeed Qwark...
[13:37] Guz Rowlands: lol u r when u get 18
[13:37] Guz Rowlands: first force is to learn second to work
[13:37] Guz Rowlands: we all born as number not our choice but we r
[13:37] Kiki Walpanheim: Mill also wrote things like..... barbarians are not fit for liberty and only the civilized are eligible for it
[13:38] herman Bergson: In the Social Contract view, we stay free when we agree on restrictions on our freedom
[13:38] Kiki Walpanheim: wonders if this is correct....
[13:38] herman Bergson: so, for instance ..compulsory education is a generally agreed on issue...
[13:38] herman Bergson: and as such not an restriction of our liberty
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: yes, even in the USA it is not controversial
[13:39] herman Bergson: So the real politics is where are the limits of the state in creating these far can it go
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: necessary for society
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: of course it is the restriction of the liberty of children
[13:40] Kiki Walpanheim: nods at herman. Hobbes' social contract covered last week, the social contract seems to help ensuring liberty. So he contributes to liberty tho he has a predilection for authoritarianism
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: hmmm...
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Kiki...the social contract creates sovereignty and authority
[13:41] Kiki Walpanheim: i think education is compulsory because it is the ground for liberty--only those educated are more competent to be responsible for themselves
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: interesting
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: well children need to be restricted repose lol
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: OMG!!!
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: omg
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim: Mill defended liberty by emphasizing on the importance of education
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: :_)
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: but would it be right then to restrict the liberty of the ignorant adult?
[13:42] Abraxas Nagy: and adults not?
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: yes, children are a special case
[13:42] Abraxas Nagy: darn chatlag
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: not restrict but offer a way out of the ignorance
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim: but, sometimes health care, resource for survival, and a shelter are more fundemental for ppl to embrace education....
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: or a different matter anyway than adults
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: My remark was lost...
[13:44] herman Bergson: in chatlag...
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: it happens
[13:44] Abraxas Nagy: it sure does today
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: yep
[13:44] Kiki Walpanheim: for me personally that is why the issue of libery if very much confusing, and i am very interested
[13:44] herman Bergson: very annoying
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: very
[13:45] herman Bergson: It is one of the fundamental aspects of political philosophy Kiki
[13:45] herman Bergson: How far may a state go in restriction the liberty of the individual
[13:45] Kiki Walpanheim: i see.... i have a ton of confusion apart from that...on liberty alone
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: no farther than necessary for the common good ㋡
[13:46] herman Bergson: is a scale from extreme liberalism to absolute egalitarianisn or socialism
[13:46] Kiki Walpanheim: like, the floor and ceilings of free speech....
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes Repose...the common good...but what is that
[13:47] herman Bergson: A government can hide behind the Common Good argument
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: yes, i see it ㋡
[13:47] Qwark Allen: lots did it
[13:47] herman Bergson: then you get the tyranny of the common good
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: yep
[13:48] Kiki Walpanheim: fraud and lies are not tolerated, but when they are in the most vicious forms they are tolerated
[13:48] herman Bergson: that was what Mill was so against in that Victorian era
[13:48] Kiki Walpanheim: which are---ethics, religions, political ideologies
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:49] herman Bergson: what do you mean Kiki?
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: defining the common good is always a fight
[13:49] herman Bergson: yes Repose
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: a fight to expand our hearts
[13:49] herman Bergson: again...the liberals against the moralists in this case
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: or constrict them
[13:50] Kiki Walpanheim: e.g. lie to make money is not allowed.....but performing sorcery only to make money even if the performer does not believe in the religion, is ok
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well I think we made a good start with the historical moment of the Social Contract theory...
[13:51] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:51] Qwark Allen: thank you herrman
[13:51] herman Bergson: Hobbes made us free humans
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: hope i remember it all till April 13
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: and the boundary between sedition, incitement to violence, and ideas that motivate crimes obscure
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: Hard as that is to beleive...
[13:51] Qwark Allen: or at least the thought that we could not be
[13:52] Kiki Walpanheim: ideas that motivate crimes is no crime
[13:52] herman Bergson: And regarding your remark Kiki...that is an issue in itself ㋡
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: not yet anyway
[13:53] Kiki Walpanheim: oh...
[13:53] herman Bergson: You dont need to Gemma
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:54] herman Bergson:
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: yes i know that
[13:54] herman Bergson: theblog gemma ㋡
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:54] Kiki Walpanheim: yes i think Hobbes idea free us from constant fear-defense-fear, which is a vicous circle, so it frees us humans
[13:54] Guz Rowlands: bye bye all i need to go for minute
[13:54] Qwark Allen: see you soon
[13:54] Guz Rowlands: TC
[13:54] Guz Rowlands: c u next time:p
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ty herrmman, interesting as usual
[13:54] herman Bergson: Ok...thank you all for participating today
[13:54] Zinzi Serevi: bye Guz
[13:54] Zinzi's translator: bye Guz
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: have a nice break
[13:54] Kiki Walpanheim: thank you professor
[13:55] Kiki Walpanheim: and all
[13:55] herman Bergson: See you all in a week
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye qwaek&gemmaaa :-))
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: bye
[13:55] Zinzi Serevi: have a good time Herman
[13:55] Zinzi's translator: Have A Good Time Herman
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: c ya herman and thanks
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: Mhh *Kiss* Bye bye!
[13:55] herman Bergson: thnx all ㋡
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: What the F*CK?~!
[13:56] Sartre Placebo: good night, thx herman
[13:56] herman Bergson: what got into you Abraxas?
[13:56] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor ㋡
[13:56] Zinzi Serevi: what is it Abrax?
[13:56] Zinzi's translator: what is it Abrax?
[13:56] Zinzi Serevi: oww he left
[13:56] Zinzi's translator: OWW Already he left .. lol
[13:57] herman Bergson: something is wrong in SL
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: have a nice break. see you
[13:57] herman Bergson: ok...thnx Kiki
[13:57] Zinzi Serevi: yes it is
[13:57] herman Bergson: very annoying
[13:57] Zinzi's translator: yes it is
[13:58] Repose Lionheart: bye ㋡
[13:58] herman Bergson: Nice outfit Repose
[[13:58] Repose Lionheart: thanks, Prof ㋡
[13:58] Zinzi Serevi: bye
[13:58] herman Bergson: Bye Zinzi
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