Repost-Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Full discussion here.

A summary of chapters in a reading group presentation:

Jerry has argued throughout the book that the conception of the person employed within public reason liberalism and liberalism broadly speaking must move in this Hayekian direction. If public reason liberals follow Jerry’s lead, the fundamental structure of public reason and even the nature of the social contract theorists’ project must substantially change. In short, political justification must not begin with deriving the rationality of rule-following from a teleological conception of practical reason. Instead, it must begin with an understanding of the nature of human beings who are already rule-followers and the nature of the moral emotions and cooperative activities that accompany such rule-following. It is in this way that Jerry moves most forcefully away from Hobbesian conceptions of public reason. He goes further by arguing that even the Kantian conception of the person he endorses cannot be constructed out of practical reason alone. Instead, human nature contains Kantian elements for thoroughly Humean-Hayekian-evolution reasons. Our rule-following nature is contingent on our social development (though no less contingent than our goal-seeking nature).’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.   Gaus tries to reconcile three ideas:

1.  The reality of deep disagreement, and the fact that private reason leads each of us to vastly differing conclusions about the nature of truth and how to live and what to do; how to constrain our behavior.

2.  The principle that no one has any natural authority over anyone else

3.  The principle that social authority is necessary for social life.  We are already born and woven into such a fabric and are already rule-followers to some extent.

—————————-

For Gaus, instrumentalists do not deal persuasively with number 003, and some empirical research, cog-sci, economics etc. is perhaps necessary for the practice of good political philosophy.

In addition, he cites his three primary influences as Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls, and Amartya Sen.

Some liberaltarians I know are quite pleased.

Addition: And a friend asks?:  “Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?”

Addition: Public Reason also has an audio interview here. Likely worth your time.

Related On This SiteJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads...

Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

..A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSome Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

Authority, Hierarchy And The Postmodern Soup-Some Brief Links & Thoughts

A reader sends a link: Curtis Yarvin is questioned by David Friedman in Yarvin’s debate with Robin Hanson over the truth claims of Futarchy.

Potential deeper subtexts-Monarchy vs anarcho-capitalism as forms of political arrangement and maybe some Hobbes v Locke in terms of property and incentives.

Hmmm….

Just as the Universitarian Universalists promote a mish-mash of secular humanism, ‘religion’-lite ethics and alignment with many progressive causes (rainbow flags aloft), some of what’s in the air is an undermining of legitimate forms of authority into the postmodern soup.

I’m pretty sure members of the activist Left have driven much of the social change beneath the banner of liberal ideals (rainbow flags aloft), and further entrenched an incredibly cynical and ruthless take on all forms of authority (generally people you don’t want in charge of anything).

Most radicals mostly see liberal idealism and pragmatism as obstacles to be defeated on the way to….liberation and revolutionary praxis.

From another reader: Has the Homo lineage, Homo Sapiens particularly, domesticated himself by forming coalitions of beta-males to resist the natural tendency towards one alpha male among a group of breeding females? Is utilizing fire (cooked food, protection) a primary means of this domestication? Have we carved out a little spot for guided evolution?

Bio-anthropology might have some insights.

The cleaner sciences tell us only about the laws of nature, and relatively little about the (how/why/what does it all mean?) questions we’re bound to ask about ourselves.

A minor aside: What’s with the academic and Romantic tendency to additionally celebrate broad and general categories like ‘women’ and ‘minorities’ under the idea of secular humanism (readers know I harbor skepticism towards the latest moral cause and the ‘-Isms’)?

I’d argue such skepticism is a political third-rail these days, but likely a longer-term good position to hold (you can support individuals and other people without such ideas).

I have feet in many camps, but I think each of us is subject to constant reinforcement and reification of our group’s basic beliefs (academics are no different). Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are…to some extent.

Of note: When the economic and military strength of one nation (let’s say America) is over-estimated and due for an update, and that of another (let’s say China with cutting-edge AI capabilities) also doesn’t match current many estimations, treaties, and alliances…watch out. Conflict is more likely.

My take: There are, and will be, rules, and authority. This emerges from deep within us. Leaders are stewards. Sometimes the authority’s pretty corrupt (serving the wants/needs of individuals claiming to serve all but incentivized to serve their faction while enriching themselves). There’s always some corruption and politics is a necessary evil. Existing institutions can easily be co-opted, and usually will, by less honorable, loud, and driven people.

We can all actively benefit, but must be very careful handling, coalitions of men. Men in committed marriages, having earned respect for their judgment and experience, with large networks of business and social connections, motivated by an urge towards decency and protection of their families, are often the ones you want in charge.

And even then we swap them out every few years.

Trolley Problems, Utilitarian Logic, Liberty, Self-Defense & Property

As originally linked:

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Trolleyology & Rawlsian Moral Grammar

For a Kantian utilitarian like Singer, the relevant moral principle in the trolley problem–that five deaths are worse than one death–is the same in both cases, and therefore Singer would pull the switch and push the fat man. For Singer, the 10% of the people who would push the fat man are rightly following pure moral reason, while the other 90% are allowing their emotions to override their reason, because from the viewpoint of pure reason, there is no morally relevant difference between the two cases.’

How far will utilitarian logic go?

A few more links:  From Tomkow.com ‘Trolley Problems:’

‘Then too, according to many accounts of self-defense, the right self-defense entrains the right of “other-defense”; so that if someone is permitted to defend themselves against an action then others are likewise permitted to intervene to help them prevent it. Perhaps, when folks express qualms about pushing the Fat Man they are sensitive to the fact that it may be permissible for third parties to forcibly restrain them.

Or, maybe, folks see a moral difference between, on the one hand, saving the lives of five people and, on the other, forcing someone else to save those lives.’

From the comments:

‘This is why I’ve always used the trolley problem simply as an illustrative guide, one which clearly points out the difference between comission and omission. The point about utilitarianism is not that it gets the answer to this particular problem wrong, but rather that it cannot make sense of this distinction. -‘

From another post at Tomkow.com on property:  The Origins Of Property II, which finds the typical Hobbes-Locke-Nozick libertarian defense of private property inadequate:

‘An “absolutist” about property rights is someone who says that — freezing or not—it is morally impermissible for the hiker to use the cabin without the owner’s permission and that if the owner had been around he would have been within his rights to kick the hiker out to die in the snow or shoot him like a common burglar. Because the hiker violates the owner’s property rights he is morally obliged to pay the owner compensation in full for all damage done –

I had an interesting discussion with a Kantian about the coming abolition of property rights…

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionDinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Locke’s Evolutionary History Of Politics’

Full post here.

‘A similar ambiguity is that while Locke says that the state of nature is a state of peace rather than a state of war, and thus disagrees with Hobbes, Locke also says that the state of nature easily becomes a state of war that induces people to establish government to enforce peace, which agrees with Hobbes (ST, 19, 123).  Here is where the Straussians see Locke’s Hobbesianism as his secret teaching.

But this assumption that this shows some complicated rhetorical strategy of secret writing becomes less plausible if one looks at the anthropological reports about America that Locke was studying.’

Well referenced and worth a read.

Here’s a quote from Locke:

If a man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom?  Why will he give up this empire, and subject humself to the dominion and control of any other power?  To which ’tis obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others.  For all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very insecure.  This makes him willing to quit this condition, which however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and ’tis not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unity for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.

*Locke, John.  Two Treatises Of Government.  London: Everyman, J.M. Dent, Orion Publishing House.  1993.

Related On This Site: .A Few Quotations: Leo Strauss On John LockeFrom Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Some Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce..

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Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Full discussion here.

A summary of chapters in a reading group presentation:

Jerry has argued throughout the book that the conception of the person employed within public reason liberalism and liberalism broadly speaking must move in this Hayekian direction. If public reason liberals follow Jerry’s lead, the fundamental structure of public reason and even the nature of the social contract theorists’ project must substantially change. In short, political justification must not begin with deriving the rationality of rule-following from a teleological conception of practical reason. Instead, it must begin with an understanding of the nature of human beings who are already rule-followers and the nature of the moral emotions and cooperative activities that accompany such rule-following. It is in this way that Jerry moves most forcefully away from Hobbesian conceptions of public reason. He goes further by arguing that even the Kantian conception of the person he endorses cannot be constructed out of practical reason alone. Instead, human nature contains Kantian elements for thoroughly Humean-Hayekian-evolution reasons. Our rule-following nature is contingent on our social development (though no less contingent than our goal-seeking nature).’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.   Gaus tries to reconcile three ideas:

1.  The reality of deep disagreement, and the fact that private reason leads each of us to vastly differing conclusions about the nature of truth and how to live and what to do; how to constrain our behavior.

2.  The principle that no one has any natural authority over anyone else

3.  The principle that social authority is necessary for social life.  We are already born and woven into such a fabric and are already rule-followers to some extent.

—————————-

For Gaus, instrumentalists do not deal persuasively with number 003, and some empirical research, cog-sci, economics etc. is perhaps necessary for the practice of good political philosophy.

In addition, he cites his three primary influences as Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls, and Amartya Sen.

Some liberaltarians I know are quite pleased.

Addition: And a friend asks?:  “Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?”

Addition: Public Reason also has an audio interview here. Likely worth your time.

Related On This SiteJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads...

Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

..A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSome Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

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Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

Full essay here.

‘The state appears in Pinker’s history only when it confines itself to the limited role that he believes is proper, and enlightenment figures as the rebellion of intelligent individuals against the state’s attempt to exceed its assigned role.’

Well, many Enlightenment figures went about creating the intellectual foundations of the modern State, yet most have vastly different ideas about what its size and scope ought to be, and just how we come to know what we know, and the limits of knowledge.

‘Following a long tradition that he associates with Thomas Hobbes, Pinker emphasizes the durable coercive state as the fount of social order. ‘

And if it’s the fount of social order on Pinker’s view, Snyder is arguing that it follows that the State has more dominion over the individual than Pinker might be willing to accept:

‘But the creation of states necessitates a second level of analysis in the book, one that Pinker does not really sustain. If the subject is violence, and states are in the picture, then the analysis requires a theory of interstate violence — war, in other words — as well as a sociological analysis of the development of pacific individuals within each state. After all, some of the very traits that maintain social order, such as the habit of obedience to authority, also make total wars and policies of mass killing possible. Instead of facing this problem squarely, Pinker conflates homicide and war. But as Pinker knows, states with low homicide rates have initiated horribly aggressive wars.’

Well, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany do stand out, as Snyder mentions. But Hobbes is a far cry from Hegel, Marx, and the journey of the German State to eventually arrive at the National Socialists’ rise to power, and Communism as it travelled from revolution to Stalin to the Eastern Bloc.

He goes on:

‘Pinker shows his libertarian hand when he casually claims that “economic illiteracy” causes redistributive policies and thus “class conflict.” Many have made this claim, of course, but as he notes without seeming to realize he is disproving his own hypothesis, today’s redistributive European welfare states are the most peaceful in world history.’

I suppose we’ll see about European welfare states being the most peaceful in world history.  This is pretty much why I’m skeptical of Pinker and Snyder’s arguments.

‘Pinker’s natural experiment with history generates instead a selective rereading, in which his own commitments become the guiding moral light for past and future. But of course libertarianism, like all other ideologies, involves a normative account of resource distribution: those who have should keep. There is nothing scientific about this, although again, like all other ideologies, libertarianism presents itself simply as a matter of natural reason, or, in Pinker’s case, “intelligence.”

Snyder seems a little eager to attack the libertarian view, here, and I don’t know if I’d call Pinker a libertarian so much as a person erring toward liberty and something of a contrarian amongst moral psychologists/neuroscientists (though he does tend to focus on the freedom from violence, as many libertarians do).  This must take some courage in some of the circles he moves around in at Harvard.

Pinker borrows heavily from Thomas Hobbes (how bad are people really, and is man’s state in nature itself, as Hobbes argued, requiring of the Leviathan?), which generally leads toward authoritarianism and a larger State, and yes, Pinker needs to make better and deeper arguments.  But, does this necessarily invalidate libertarianism?.

As I understand it, libertarianism isn’t just ‘those who have should keep,’ it is more “those who have should be more free to keep or give away as they see fit…and those who have not should be more free to get and give away as they see fit.’  I think the rank inequality and problems that result bother many people, and I personally don’t find a Stateless state of affairs particularly desirable.  Anti-statists and anarchists have always seemed a little extreme to me, given human nature (as they do for many people), but some deep thinking has been done. On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”… Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of KnowledgeLink To Lew Rockwell Via A Reader.  I almost always find myself taking the libertarian or conservative position against liberals.

Open markets (creative destruction, privatized gains and losses, lower barriers to entry into the marketplace) provide more individuals the opportunity to work, gain marketable skills, compete on merit and live much of their lives merely relying on the State only for securing them in their lives, liberty and property (a Lockean formulation, I know).  It also requires people to participate, some basic moral behavior on their part and requires them to participate as citizens, voters, some as watchdogs etc.  This also requires a legal framework.  It’s open for debate how those laws are drafted and made, and how well made they are and by whom, and what powers over people’s lives they have.

Snyder finishes with:

Pinker is to be praised for asking a crucial question — perhaps the crucial question — of modern history. But as he moves between the premodern world of violence and a postmodern style of discourse, he loses sight of the modern world in which we actually live. What he provides is less an answer to his question than a mode of reasoning that has little to do with the scientific study of the past and much to do with a worldview that happens to be his own.”

Agreed, Pinker doesn’t really get there, and what he does isn’t necessarily science, but science may not be the only measure of useful governance, nor perhaps, truth.  Libertarians often assume there is a ground floor of individual responsibility, duties and freedom upon which civil society is built, and thus liberty conserved (libertarianism often has trouble with the moral arguments of many religious conservatives and the authority of the Church (not all do though)).

Libertarians also generally have trouble with the arguments put forth against the injustices of slavery which happens to be one of the core moral elements to big-state progressivism and the fact that some people’s freedom was abridged by that civil society through its laws.  Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that what’s become of modern American liberalism and Statism is the necessary alternative (let alone the desire to be like old Europe with her problems).

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:   What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘

Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in:  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative MaterialismMilton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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