Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Oxford Handbook of Freedom


My essay “Freedom in the Scholastic Tradition” appears in The Oxford Handbook of Freedom, edited by David Schmidtz and Carmen Pavel and just out from Oxford University Press.  The other contributors to the volume are Elizabeth Anderson, Richard Arneson, Ralf M. Bader, David Boonin, Jason Brennan, Allen Buchanan, Mark Bryant Budolfson, Piper L. Bringhurst, Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Gerald Gaus, Ryan Patrick Hanley, Michael Huemer, David Keyt, Frank Lovett, Fred D. Miller Jr., Elijah Millgram, Eddy Nahmias, Serena Olsaretti, James R. Otteson, Orlando Patterson, Carmen E. Pavel, Mark Pennington, Daniel C. Russell, David Sobel, Hillel Steiner, Virgil Henry Storr, Steven Wall, and Matt Zwolinski.

More information about the volume can be found at the OUP webpage and at the Oxford Handbooks Online page

24 comments:

  1. Drugs are bad because they deliberately frustrate the natural purpose of the brain by making it hallucinate things. Therefore the government must ban them. Guns, however, should not be banned because it is not a deliberate frustration of the natural purpose of humans to kill other humans.

    Therefore State A that bans drugs but has an open proliferation of guns is more just than State B that bans guns but has an open proliferation of drugs even if an order of magnitude more innocent people die in State A. Is that correct?

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    1. ??

      What are you talking about? And who are you asking? Presumably not me, since I've never said anything remotely close to that in either (i) the essay in the Oxford Handbook, or (ii) my recent post about drugs and alcohol, or (iii) anywhere else.

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    2. Observe the lolberterian in his natural habitat at the fringes of blogs built by better men. His entire life centers on contorting everything he reads into a discourse about government bans on things he himself likely doesn't even participate in.

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    3. Forgive me. My understanding of these things is inchoate and I have a tendency to mentally refer to familiar concepts that I DO understand.

      I have some questions I need to ask regarding ethics but I can't do so because I need another open thread. In particular, I've found that historical Christianity is deontological when it comes to negative morality ("never lie, never fornicate, etc... even in situations when it will produce good consequences") but strictly consequentialist when it comes to its positive morality ("it's okay to be unkind when you're rebuking someone because the CONSEQUENCE of saving their life justifies the unkindness" <-- if Christianity were deontological in its positive morality, the response would be "never be unkind, even if being unkind is life-giving rebuke")

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    4. Ed, my most charitable guess is that he's noticed that you understandably stop responding to comments after a certain period of time has elapsed, so he's hijacked this the combox underneath this post with a question that more properly belongs to a previous post's combox.

      That, or it is tangentially related to freedom qua freedom, viz., what is it that we ought to be free to do vis-a-vis the state.

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    5. As one of my favorite comedians might say, "Reykjavik is the capitol of Iceland. Please comment."

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    6. @Tomislav Ostojich

      >if Christianity were deontological in its positive morality, the response would be "never be unkind, even if being unkind is life-giving rebuke")

      But is it unkind to rebuke someone (even harshly) if it will save their life? Is it unkind for parents to deny their children extra sweets? How about quickly (and painfully as a necessary consequence of the quickness) grabbing a child and dragging them out of the way of an oncoming car? What about smacking someone in the face to wake them up before they sleepwalk over a cliff? Are any of these things unkind? I would posit no. Similarly, it is not unkind to rebuke someone if that rebuke will plausibly save that persons soul, since love is willing the good of the other, and the rebuke is the only way to achieve that good. This idea is even present in various places in the Bible, so I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that historical Christianity is consequentialist with positive morality.

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    7. @iwpoe Here is the message in traditional societies of Europe and the Ancient Near East, along with modern-day Japan:

      1. Conform!

      No lies. No spiel about personal initiative or finding your own. Be a good robot and serve your king/emperor like the good serf/samurai you are. Honest. Now here is the message in some utopian Western society where everything is perfect and everyone is free:

      1. Make your own choices!

      Pretty self-explanatory isn’t it? Embrace the ideals of liberté, fraternité, egalité and make your dreams come true. Now here is the message in modern Western society:

      1. Conform!
      2. Make your own choices!

      But this is a dilemma, because someone who makes their own choices will almost never conform, and vice versa. Furthermore, you can’t eliminate the “make your own choices!” imperative because this is a capitalist, consumer society where everything is dependent on the atomization of workers and families into replaceable, discrete parts. So to solve this dilemma people outsource their choice-making to someone whose decisions set the standard of conformity (an authoritarian ruler) and call it freedom.

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    8. @Seosaidh (I like your username btw)

      > How about quickly (and painfully as a necessary consequence of the quickness) grabbing a child and dragging them out of the way of an oncoming car?

      This is more of an accident than a decision to harm.

      > Similarly, it is not unkind to rebuke someone if that rebuke will plausibly save that persons soul, since love is willing the good of the other, and the rebuke is the only way to achieve that good.

      I feel as if you're carefully choosing words so as to avoid outright saying "consequences" but nonetheless hiding the invisible word "consequences" in your definition. Even natural law, because it is teleological, might actually be consequentialist because every teleology is determined and defined by the consequences.

      William Lane Craig wrote against consequentialist morality by saying that it's unfeasible because there's no way to know whether your solutions will last forever, but he's wrong. If you're a GOOD person, you will make solutions that last forever and are temporally unbounded. That is, consequentialism will be natural. If you're an EVIL person, all of your solutions will be temporally bounded and thus consequentialism is unworkable.

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    9. Tomislav, there's nothing consequentialist about that (I must add that properly speaking, "deontological" and "consequentialist" are words describing ethical positions, not Christianity). What you describe is not consequentialist in the least. I refer you to the principle of double effect. None of the criteria for a morally admissible act allow for acts that are in themselves evil. Rebuking someone commensurately with an evil they have or are committing is an act of justice and possibly charity.

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    10. @Tomislav Ostojich

      I'm not sure that I follow? How is rebuking someone a decision to harm? Is the surgeon deciding to harm the patient when he cuts open the chest and saws through the ribcage in order to operate on the heart?

      Also, why is hurting someones feelings a bad thing per se? If I am a pedophilic serial killer who kidnaps children, rapes them, then dismembers them and sends the parts back to the parents, should I feel bad about that?

      I'm not sure on the whole teleology might be consequentialist thing, since I suspect that would involve misunderstanding teleology. However, since I don't understand it well myself I can't really comment.

      With all due respect for Dr. Craig, I think he is wrong. consequentialist morality isn't unfeasible because there's no way to know if your solutions last forever (although that is potentially true of both the good and evil person), it's unfeasible because it requires balancing an intrinsic evil against a good, and while we can to a certain extent quantify good and evil, there are some things that can't be quantified (such as a human life).

      I'm not sure what you mean by a good person will make solutions that last forever and are temporally unbounded but an evil person won't, since all humans whether good or evil are in time and have limited knowledge and therefore no one can make permanent solutions that are not bounded temporally.

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  2. How would you compare it to Adler’s Idea of Freedom?

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  3. I read a great paper on Aquinas' view of freedom which made it much more palatable to me. It doesn't look like repackaged compatibilism anymore, but a mix with libertarianism. This one reading described it like 80% libertarian and 20% compatibilist

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    1. Do you remember which paper?

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    2. Which article, if you don't mind me asking? I've not read much of Aquinas on free will, but IIRC the discussion in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas tends toward the view that his mature position looked more like compatibilism.

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    3. It was Kelly Gallagher’s "Can Libertarianism or Compatibilism Capture Aquinas' View on the Will?"

      I thought the "middle of the road" position between Leibniz's intellectual determinism and Scotus' Voluntarism, as she put It, was actually rather like my view of libertarianism anyway. But then I've been influenced by Timothy O'Connor's 'Agent-Causal power' paper (I believe Gallagher actually cites it).

      You should be able to download Gallagher's paper by clicking on the second link. However, the third link is also worth a read. Furlong's "Indeterminism and free decision in Aquinas" where he defends a libertarian account;

      https://www.google.co.uk/search?ie=UTF-8&client=ms-android-samsung&source=android-browser&q=Kelly+Gallagher’s+Can+Libertarianism+or+Compatibilism+Capture+Aquinas%27+View+on+the+Will%3F&gfe_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=yYuYWuLXOYuBtgefxrL4Aw

      You can find O'Connor's paper (which isn't a Thomistic account of free will but I think really helps with Gallagher's paper) at the bottom of the page Monday December 8;

      http://alexanderpruss.com/classes/explanation/

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    4. Thanks.

      I believe Kelly is a man, by the way.

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    5. I can't believe I assumed his agenda because of his name!

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  4. Are we talking about freedom in the sense of political liberty or freedom in the sense of freedom of the will? From the blurb description I am assuming it is the former?

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    1. I think it's the former since there's already an Oxford Handbook of Free Will

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    2. Given that it's edited by David Schmidtz, who is surely one of the most well-known and influential contemporary libertarian political philosophers, I'm certain it's the former.

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  5. Very cool, Ed. Congratulations.

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  6. Looks like an interesting book. Hopefully my local university picks it up. Will you discuss your essay here on the blog? It might generate some interest, and could help justify - to some - that hefty price tag.

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