Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Positive Disbelief in Liberty

This one can be peculiar. The metaphysical position that all things are predestined – hence there is no such thing as “free will” – clearly involves a disbelief in the existence of personal liberty.

Another metaphysical objection to liberty is the irrationality thesis: people are not rational beings and all (or almost all) decisions are based on emotions, instincts, hungers, hormones, reflexes or anything else but rational consideration. Thus liberty, an essentially rational concept, is impossible or meaningless. How anyone who thinks this is true can consider himself, or any group of his fellows, capable of ruling others escapes me, unless the person subscribes to some unscientific theory of racial or class superiority. I guess they believe in the possibility of liberty for themselves and their friends, but not for the unwashed masses.

Related to the irrationality thesis is the Manichaean belief: people could be free, liberty could be possible, but sinister forces (capitalists, bankers, oil companies, Lord Voldemort- pick your favorite dark villain) have the power and ability to muddle human values, spread disinformation, create false consciousnesses, appeal to base motives, and generally undermine human rationality to their own evil ends.

So the good guys have to restrict liberty to defeat the bad guys; liberty just isn’t possible until the dark forces – the evil god – are defeated. Since the evil god makes liberty impossible, the good guys aren’t out of bounds when they force people to do good things and prevent them from doing bad things.

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