Monday, March 07, 2005

Freedom and Constraint

I'm a big fan of freedom. But I think the most common analyses of 'freedom' are rather poor, in that they point to something much less important than what I have in mind. The most common conception is probably 'negative freedom' (or "freedom from"), the laissez faire approach, that sees freedom simply as the absense of externally imposed constraints. On this view, you would be perfectly free if everyone else would just leave you alone.

This impoverished view fails to recognise that the whole point of being free from some constraint is to enable us to achieve some goal. What matters is that options be open to us; if removing constraints will enable more options, then we can indeed be made more free by their removal. But it is the 'enabling' that matters, not the 'removing'. If I am stuck in the desert with no water in sight, then I am not free to drink, even if no-one else is around to obstruct me. Natural conditions can obstruct the fulfillment of my desires just as badly as humanly-imposed constraints.

Joel Feinburg ('The Concept of Freedom', chp 1 of Social Philosophy) identifies two distinctions between types of constraints - positive vs. negative, and internal vs. external. Positive constraints are impositions of the usual sort. Negative constraints could be characterized as a lack of something needed. Our goals might be thwarted due to a lack of money, ability, or knowledge, for instance. The other dimension assesses the source of the constraint, as either within ourselves (e.g. mental illness) or out in the external world.

Combining these two dimensions, we find a total of four classes of constraint. The problem with the traditional conception of 'negative liberty' is that it concerns itself only with external positive constraints (such as being bound up in chains), ignoring the other three-quarters of the problem. What we need is a more expansive understanding of freedom, which recognizes all of these constraints. Only then can "freedom from" constraint guarantee us "freedom to" realize our goals. (As Feinburg notes, these are not two distinct concepts, but simply two elliptical forms of a single underlying concept: 'Freedom, from X, to do Y'.)

Next up: the problem with so-called 'positive liberty'.

26 comments:

  1. I'm interested in freedom also, and have three directly relevant blog posts in my archives. Here are their links :

    Freedom Why does Freedom Matter? More Freedom Essentially, I discriminate between Freedom and Unconstrainedness. One can be constrained but Free. Essentially, the issue that most people struggle with is justice. A wall for example, preventing you from leaving a path, could never be considered unjust - it simply is. However, if a constraint is unjust, it affects our freedom.

    Free will is another side-discussion, which I mention in my posts.

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  2. I think it is a mistake to conflate freedom with justice. Consider a prisoner who has been justly imprisoned for his crimes - surely imprisonment renders him unfree, no matter how just this result might be? Or, to take your own example, if walls surround you then you are thereby unfree. It doesn't matter that the walls are impersonal, they still constrain our freedom just the same.

    The core idea behind my post, then, is that we should be equally concerned about all types of constraints, as they all impede our freedom in the broad sense. And it is precisely the broad sense that matters. One's view is impoverished to the extent that it fails to recognize this - which is a very serious flaw in political libertarianism, for example.

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  3. I must strongly disagree! I think it is nothing short of vital to distinguish between freedom to choose and availability of choice. When one is imprisoned for breaking the law, one has ones freedom constrained. An agent is taking a choice to remove options you would otherwise have had. When one is trapped in a mine cave-in, one is victim only of cruel circumstance - there are no ethical issues to consider, no human rights or concepts of justice to which you may appeal.

    Attempting to say that availability of choice and freedom of the same quickly degenerates into farce, because in that case it is only possibly to be ultimately free if one is omnipotent. Anything less that omnipotence represents a constraint on my choice. Would you really say that I am unfree simply by virtue of not being an all-powerful god? I thought not.

    You will want, no doubt, to consider the case of a battle of wills. It is only the imposition of my will upon yours which refers to freedom. It is only when I prevent you from taking an action that your freedom is at stake. Once my influence is removed, the only thing left is circumstance.

    There are precisely two sides to our common understanding of freedom, and they deserve to be separated, otherwise it is impossible to distinguish between justice and injustice.

    Let me list some examples of constraints on circumstance, and some examples of constraints on freedom, and you tell me whether you think they clearly fall into the categories I have given.

    ****
    Constraints upon circumstance :

    # I cannot magically fly
    # It takes me a long time to get to work each morning
    # I would like to have more money
    # I don't have a girlfriend (actually I do, but I'm being theoretical)
    # I have to go to work to earn money
    # I will grow old and die

    *****
    Constraints upon freedom

    # Bob stole $50 from me
    # Harry is holding me hostage
    # Joe sentenced me to 5 years in prison
    # I live under an oppressive political regime which curtails my freedom of speech
    # My society denigrates my racial group

    You may choose to regard all forms of choice-restriction as being lumped under impositions to "freedom". Whichever word you would like to use, I suggest there are two clearly distinguishable sub-groups - one in which one is merely considering ones circumstance, and the other in which the choice/actions of another affect the choices available to you.

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  4. Indeed - what is the difference between "ability" and "freedom" in your model? You have equated freedom with what you are able to do so strongly that you have lost descriptive power.

    "I am free to go jogging, but I'm not free to walk on water"
    "I am able to go jogging, but I'm not able to walk on water"

    "I am free to paint a masterpiece, but I am not able to". Surely that is an accurate sentence? If that's an accurate sentence, then surely there is a difference between the choices that I might make and what I am free to do? In this example, the freedom is greater than the ability.

    But what about "I am able to drive at 150km/h, but I am not free to". In some sense, I might be free to drive at 150km/h, but in another there are impositions on my freedom to do it repeatedly. Those impositions have nothing to do with my ability to control a car, but have solely to do with what other people will allow me to do. Again, surely it's right to make that distinction? If that is not the distinction between freedom and ability, where else might it lie?

    Cheers,
    -T

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  5. In fact, a further implication of this is to deny free will. For surely I am nothing if not contrained by my limited ability to think? If a choice would otherwise be open to me, but I cannot think it, then what is that if not an attack upon my freedom? Clearly no matter how intelligent I am, I am limited in my ability to think anything other that, er, what I think! That means I am entirely un-free, because I cannot think other than what my mind allows me. I can neither know what it is to be more stupid, nor more intelligent. The very fact that I am an individual is under threat - am I not similarly limited by my inability to experience another's thoughts and ideas? Indeed, the only path to true freedom would be to know everything, all at once, and have all options open to me. Surely this is nothing more than the extension of the premise?

    Cheers,
    -MP

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  6. I would say that I am not free to paint a masterpiece exactly because I am not able to. So I would deny that the proposition is meaningful. Although here's a meaningful one:

    "I am politically free to paint a masterpiece, but am unable to."

    Nobody is totally free. I'm not sure that that is possible.

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  7. Well, then regardless of your desire to use freedom for more than one concept, you agree that you can break it down further into constraints due to circumstance and constraints due to other people's will - circumstantial freedom and political freedom".

    It seems to me quite needless to refer to the first kind as having anything to do with freedom. Our language allows us to talk about those issues without reference to freedoms, using the word ability instead. Why allow the confusion?

    -MP

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  8. simply because, my intuition tells be that a lack in ability is also a lack in freedom. I like Kai Neilson's account of freedom. S is free with regard to action A iff:

    S would have done otherwise if he/she had wanted to.

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  9. I don't share your intuition, and I think that definition is wrong. Scratch that, I can prove that it's wrong (or at least needs qualification)

    I walk up to Bob the Adulterer, and inject him with truth serum. The truth serum makes him want to tell the truth. His wife then asks him if he as ever slept with other women. And, in accordance with his desire, he says that he has.

    If Bob had wanted to do otherwise, he would have. But he wanted to tell the truth. Nonetheless I have forced his action and imposed my will upon the options available to him.

    If you think that to be far-fetched, consider modern marketing tactics. They play on our fears, desires and jealousies. Pop music is "sexed up" and marketed to stimulate demand in an entirely artificial manner. Consider smoking. Nobody smokes cigarretes because it's nice. People smoke because it's "cool" - an entirely artificial desire has been implanted in our minds. Is this not just such an example of an attack on our freedom, even though we have the ability to do otherwise?

    Cheers,
    -MP

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  10. Inculcation or brain-washing of a belief or desire should be considered to be a constraint of freedom. They might want such a thing, but they might not be free becuase they want this thing.

    Going back to Richard, and original repsonses;
    But there can still be a difference between freedom and justice. I am unfree to go into my neighbour's house, this is political freedom, yet am I being stopped justly. There is a lack of freedom, the same lack of freedom their is for a prisoner, though on these ideas the lack of freedom is just. A difference in the use of freedom and ability has no bearing on the use of justice. We can distinguish that the three things (freedom, ability and justice) are separate without a problem. It is just the case that in most of our talking about (the lacking of) freedom, we are also talking about justice.

    This is probably close to what Richard was saying.

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  11. Note: ignore bad grammar in above. I altered the post half-way through and hence the 'their' etc. And of course I do not preview things before I post them.

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  12. Sorry, I misworded that, although it doesn't affect the arguments up until my last post and your rejoinder.

    Actually, Nielsen agreed with you on those two points. He said that you were free iff

    You could have done otherwise if you had chosen to

    Your actions are voluntary in the same sense that a kleptomaniacs are not.

    Nobody compelled you to choose as you did.

    I rejected the second two conditions. I rejected condition two because the kleptomaniac doesnt choose not to steal. Similarly, if a drug makes you do something, you don't choose to do it either.

    The third reason I rejected, because it seems patently false to me. People that get pressured into doing things are perfectly free. Their choices may have been altered (They may have a choice between keeping their friends and smoking or not) but they still get to choose. If you blame the media for the choices you make, then I think you will find that you don't have very much freedom at all.

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  13. I wrote an introduction to political philosophy that touched on the issues of negative and positive freedom, via Berlin's (original) conception of both. It might be of interest to your readers.

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  14. ". A difference in the use of freedom and ability has no bearing on the use of justice. We can distinguish that the three things (freedom, ability and justice) are separate without a problem. It is just the case that in most of our talking about (the lacking of) freedom, we are also talking about justice."

    It makes a HUGE difference. If you hold that it is unjust that some people are poor while others are rich, you will attempt communism. Clearly wealth is related to circumstance, as such any conception of so-called "freedom" you might have must reconcile with that.

    Or, if you don't want to go for communism, are you saying that some people deserve to have more freedom than others? In fact, I think I'll go and buy myself a slave right now, I'm sure I deserve to have one.

    Whoops! There's the divide. Our whole society is based on equality of opportunity, not of existence. By separating political freedom and justice away from economic circumstance, we have enabled the modern industrialised world to succeed. You think we're talking about justice when we're talking about a lack of ability? Who should we hold responsible for poverty then? Poor people clearly have less economic choice, but without having a wealth divide we must give up traditional conceptions of the free market economy. It is untenable to fail to distinguish between freedom and circumstance.

    I'll be back shortly, brb...

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  15. "You could have done otherwise if you had chosen to
    Your actions are voluntary in the same sense that a kleptomaniacs are not.
    Nobody compelled you to choose as you did."

    Well, that sits very well with my definition - the crux of it lies in doing as you please without being compelled in any way.

    "The third reason I rejected, because it seems patently false to me. People that get pressured into doing things are perfectly free. Their choices may have been altered (They may have a choice between keeping their friends and smoking or not) but they still get to choose. If you blame the media for the choices you make, then I think you will find that you don't have very much freedom at all."

    Well, that's not correct. What about
    a) Someone who is being tortured?
    b) Someone who is being bribed?
    c) Someone who is being presented with false information?
    d) Someone who is being sexually harassed? (i.e. date-rape)

    Freedom isn't about whether or not you get to make a choice. Freedom is about other people impeding your choices.

    I agree - I think most people are unaware of how much impact the media has on them. Certainly most people seem to exist in an essentially brainwashed state whereby they exhibit no desire to challenge their ideas, or question recieved wisdom. I think Nietzsche's idea of the will-to-power is an excellent one - people to a greater or lesser degree define their own beliefs about the universe and normative motives, informed by learning.

    On the other hand, one must not lose context. At least we've lessened the occurence of slavery in our societies.

    Again, you reject something because it "seems patently false". In fact, you are reacting only to your intuition and normative beliefs - what "should be". I'm not calling you wrong - I'm just pointing to a lack of justification of your position.

    ------------------

    "Inculcation or brain-washing of a belief or desire should be considered to be a constraint of freedom. They might want such a thing, but they might not be free becuase they want this thing."

    Absolutely I agree. I am merely pointing out the deficiencies in assuming that being able to fulfil your desires counts you as free.

    What you are able to do, and what you are permitted to choose are two different things.

    I don't just think I'm right - I think I'm obviously right. I don't understand what benefit anyone sees in lumping "battles of will" with "constraints of circumstance". The first is clearly related to issues of personal responsibility, application of law, our conception of morality (viz societal norms, an acquiescance to group beliefs about right and wrong), how we should treat other people, how we should treat animals, when it is acceptable to fight and when it is not. The second is clearly related to improving science and industry, establishing minimum living standards through government in order to promote prosperous society, allowing richer living, promoting competition, research, development, understanding the world around us and metaphysics.

    -T

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  16. "freedom to do things" requires some sort of definition of what things that entails because helping someone to do one thing will probably get in their way of doing another thing.

    Optimization of the system would involve certain people being strongly encouraged to obey the constraints imposed by wishes of others.

    Of course there is probably also some potential for conflict with utalitarianism in regard to the freedom to do stupid things or anti social things (that dont restrict freedom) etc.

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  17. a) Someone who is being tortured?
    They had a choice between torture and talking. Free with respect to that choice. Not a hard choice to make. Unfree with respect to walking away without talking.

    Arguably no closest world where the tortured person would have chosen otherwise, although this is not critical to the first point

    b) Someone who is being bribed?
    Different choices. Perfectly free with respect to the new choices available.

    c) Someone who is being presented with false information?
    If I want to go to the zoo and somebody tells me that it is north (false), then I am free to go north, but I am not free to go to the zoo.

    d) Someone who is being sexually harassed? (i.e. date-rape)
    Wouldn't they get raped anyway even if they had chosen not to have sex? In fact, the fact that they were raped seems to suggest that they didnt choose to.

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  18. "It is untenable to fail to distinguish between freedom and circumstance."

    I do not think that I have failed any distinction. When I stated that "A difference in the use of freedom and ability has no bearing on the use of justice" that is exactly what I meant. The Justice OF something can, and surely must, take into account the circumstances and the causes of any condition of freedom (a broad freedom). I am claiming that justice is something that we should put above the circumstances of a situation. We can measure the abilities and the amount of freedom in any situation, including the reasons why these exist. By measuring this we should not put any moral claims into the situation, the moral claims are the justice which presides over the situation. "the use of justice" is not the judgements derived from justice, but rather, where we actually put these judgements, ie. above freedom claims and in claims of justice.

    When we claim that the murderer is not free, we are not making any claim about whether the murderer's lack of freedom is justified (according to justice).
    Compare this to Nozick's use - The prisoner is free (there is no injustice done to them in their being incarcerated).
    The justice claim should be kept out of the claim about freedom. Nozick does not do this however.

    Richard stated "that we should be equally concerned about all types of constraints, as they all impede our freedom in the broad sense". I believe that this should be read without any claim about justice.
    It is not correct that we should be concerned (a claim about justice) equally with the lack of my ability to fly compared to a lack of the right to vote, however, when we evaluate freedom we should be equally concerned with all constraints.

    It is the case that I do not want to use moral claims (about justice) in my accounts of freedom.

    "When one is imprisoned for breaking the law, one has ones freedom constrained." This I agree with. There is freedom that is constrained.
    "Would you really say that I am unfree simply by virtue of not being an all-powerful god? I thought not." This seems to depend on the reading of it. It is true that you do not have the freedom to fly (without a aeroplane of course), this is a constraint of your freedom. But are you unfree because of this? Yes, you don't have certain freedoms (the freedom to fly, and I admit this is an internal constraint), but you also have freedoms, it seems like you still have the freedom of speech. It seems that what you mean by unfree in that quote, is rather, are there any freedoms which I unjustly do not have. I am claiming that you are unfree, even though you are not unjustly unfree. Here I am placing the concerns of justice above the concerns of freedom.

    "When one is trapped in a mine cave-in, one is victim only of cruel circumstance - there are no ethical issues to consider, no human rights or concepts of justice to which you may appeal." Yes this is true, yet I am claiming that the are unfree, just that there is no injustice in their being unfree.

    "There are precisely two sides to our common understanding of freedom, and they deserve to be separated, otherwise it is impossible to distinguish between justice and injustice." We surely want to be able to distinguish between justice and injustice, without any distinction there is no justice at all. But it is a claim about justice itself that we should distinguish between unjust situations of lacking freedom and just situations of lacking freedom.

    It is a difference between
    1. X is unfree because of Y (the (causal) causes); and
    2. X is unfree because of Y and Z (whether the lack of freedom is justified according to justice).

    The account of justice in situation 1 is a separate claim from the account of the freedom in situation 1.

    We may bring this down to semantics. It could be the case that Nozick and I do not disagree on any of the claims about justice in any situation, yet we would differ on whether we call situations free or not, since his conception of freedom includes justice and mine does not. I am claiming that justice should not be included in freedom. I do not see many claims of justice in the original post.

    It is just the case that we use the word freedom to include claims about justice in everyday speech. When I say "I am unfree" I am normally talking about some unjust restriction of my freedom, rather than my lack of ability to fly (I am not free to fly).

    Note: the inculcation and brain-washing... quote was intended as a reply to Patrick.

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  19. Wow - so many comments! I only have time to offer a brief response.

    First of all... Patrick, you sound as bad as Hobbes! Torture is about the most obvious case of coercion (and thus unfreedom) you can get, short of being literally bound in chains. But I suspect you're just being argumentative for the sake of it ;) (If not, note that we may draw a distinction between metaphysical 'free will' and political freedom.)

    Anyway, getting back to MP's earlier comments:

    "When one is trapped in a mine cave-in, one is victim only of cruel circumstance - there are no ethical issues to consider, no human rights or concepts of justice to which you may appeal."

    Sure. Nevertheless, it is patently obvious that a man trapped in a mine is not free, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply absurd. This is precisely why we need to distinguish 'freedom' from 'justice'. They are wholly different concepts. To quote Isaiah Berlin: "Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience." Freedom is often good, but it is not the only good, nor does it always override other goods. So there is no motivation for such conceptual confusion.

    As to the more general point of differentiating 'circumstance' vs. human coercion, I'm not sure what the importance of this distinction is supposed to be. It just strikes me as obtuse to deny that circumstances can constrain our freedom (as in the mineshaft example above). As suggested in the main post, the man in the desert is not "free to drink". Or, if he is, such "freedom" is facile - an empty, trifling matter.

    "what is the difference between 'ability' and 'freedom' in your model?"

    Freedom involves both a constraint and an ability or goal - both freedom 'from' and 'to'.

    There is a sense in which I'm constrained by not being able to fly, but that is a rather unimportant unfreedom! This result is unproblematic, as we should all agree that some freedoms are more important than others. I hope to discuss possible methods of 'weighing' freedoms in more detail in a future post.

    So I'm clearly in agreement with Patrick that we cannot possibly be "perfectly free". I do not see why that is a problem, however.

    Nor do I follow your 'free will' objection - it seems more to do with categoricity (I did X, "therefore" it's impossible that I didn't do X) than anything I brought up here. Perhaps my post on fatalism would help clear things up?

    Also, note that so far I've only discussed specific instances of freedom/unfreedom. That is, we are (un)free with respect to X. It is altogether different to make an 'on balance' claim, that someone is free, or not, overall. I think this difference might be confusing you a bit. As Elliot notes above, there are respects in which I am unfree due to not being a god. But of course that doesn't show that I am, on balance, 'unfree' in any problematic sense. (Rather like I am not perfectly happy, yet I am certainly happy enough, and well above what might be considered the 'minimally acceptable' level.)

    Ah, damn, I'm gonna be tired tomorrow. Thanks for all the great comments, anyway...

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  20. Firstly : thanks for your patience - I'm arguing my position pretty hard (I think it's definately right) but don't want to get up your noses too badly. I am enjoying it, and am writing primarily for clarity - or so I hope!

    "I do not think that I have failed any distinction. When I stated that "A difference in the use of freedom and ability has no bearing on the use of justice" that is exactly what I meant. The Justice OF something can, and surely must, take into account the circumstances and the causes of any condition of freedom (a broad freedom). I am claiming that justice is something that we should put above the circumstances of a situation." I don't understand how to argue against a contradictory statement other than to point it out. Perhaps you could explain to me how the justice of anything can take into account the circumstances and causes of any condition of freedom at the same time as putting justice above the circumstances of a situation. Try using smaller sentences, it will make it easier for me to follow. I had trouble following the first part of your post. Please clarify it for me?

    Richard stated "that we should be equally concerned about all types of constraints, as they all impede our freedom in the broad sense". I believe that this should be read without any claim about justice."I assumed he meant that we should, in all contexts, weigh political freedom and constraints on our choices with equal merit. I would assume that "in the context of justice" is a subset of "all contexts". I have chosen justice as an area in which I think it is particularly easy to highlight the practical difficulties of failing to distinguish between the two.

    "When one is imprisoned for breaking the law, one has ones freedom constrained." This I agree with. There is freedom that is constrained. Agreed.

    "Would you really say that I am unfree simply by virtue of not being an all-powerful god? I thought not." This seems to depend on the reading of it. It is true that you do not have the freedom to fly (without a aeroplane of course), this is a constraint of your freedom. But are you unfree because of this? Yes, you don't have certain freedoms (the freedom to fly, and I admit this is an internal constraint), but you also have freedoms, it seems like you still have the freedom of speech. It seems that what you mean by unfree in that quote, is rather, are there any freedoms which I unjustly do not have. I am claiming that you are unfree, even though you are not unjustly unfree. Here I am placing the concerns of justice above the concerns of freedom.You are now being inconsistent. Surely not having a particular freedom is to be unfree in that regard? Will you not agree with that sentence? Furthermore, it seems like you are trying to say, although you do not say it, that it is possible to be "free" by virtue of the freedoms you have, even though you may be denied other freedoms (to be unfree in some regards). You then apply somewhat mysteriously to justice in order to back up your claims, saying that the important thing is not that you are unfree, but that one is not unjustly un-free. As far as I can tell, you are in word agreeing with me, but in spirit maintaining an opposition. For what is justice but an application of morality - that is to say we have returned once again to the only proper use of the term freedom being unrestrained by the choices of another person. By placing the concerns of justice above those of your so-called freedom, you are, I believe, implicitly accepting my position.

    We may bring this down to semantics. It could be the case that Nozick and I do not disagree on any of the claims about justice in any situation, yet we would differ on whether we call situations free or not, since his conception of freedom includes justice and mine does not. I am claiming that justice should not be included in freedom. I do not see many claims of justice in the original post.The example of justice is something I have introduced, because I feel that one cannot make proper claims about what is just without distinguishing between what I call freedom (let us refer to this as MCFreedom) and our circumstances. You have argued, but I think dodged, my claims that just judgements will be different depending on your beliefs about the nature of freedom. You have avoided my arguments about the justice of capitalism, the justice of communism, and so forth.


    It is just the case that we use the word freedom to include claims about justice in everyday speech. When I say "I am unfree" I am normally talking about some unjust restriction of my freedom, rather than my lack of ability to fly (I am not free to fly).Let me call this RCFreedom, to distinguish it from MPFreedom. If you are saying "unMCFree", what you mean is that another person is placing an imposition on your choices. Whe you say "I am unRCFree", you are saying that either your situation is a difficult one, or that another person is placing an imposition on your choices.

    Claim : To distinguish between justice and injustice, it is necessary to know whether a person's choices are being adversely affected by another person. It is not relevant, except as a wider context, what their circumstances are. A concept of freedom which is unable to distinguish between constraints of circumstance and constraints by a person is flawed. In this way, the victim of theft is indistinguishable from the victim of poor birth.

    Sure. Nevertheless, it is patently obvious that a man trapped in a mine is not free, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply absurd. This is precisely why we need to distinguish 'freedom' from 'justice'. They are wholly different concepts. To quote Isaiah Berlin: "Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience." Freedom is often good, but it is not the only good, nor does it always override other goods. So there is no motivation for such conceptual confusion.Good counter-argument, although I think incomplete. The man trapped in the mine is MPFree, but not RCFree. He is undoubtedly trapped, and you have certainly identified that it would be absurd to say he was not trapped. To not be trapped is to be free. But neither would you attempt to say he was incarcerated, and on that basis you might say he has his freedom.

    There is a sense in which I'm constrained by not being able to fly, but that is a rather unimportant unfreedom!I don't see it as unimportant. Would you, or would you not say that mortality is a central aspect of being human? I am not free to live forever, or die simply by choice.

    I think this difference might be confusing you a bit. As Elliot notes above, there are respects in which I am unfree due to not being a god. But of course that doesn't show that I am, on balance, 'unfree' in any problematic sense. (Rather like I am not perfectly happy, yet I am certainly happy enough, and well above what might be considered the 'minimally acceptable' level.)No, it's not confusing me. Being someone who doesn't believe in the law of the excluded middle, the concept of being in some ways free, and in otherways unfree, bears no particular problem. I don't attempt to analyse people as being on balance anything - they simply have aspects of both. Sometimes in common language it is convenient to describe someone as free, but it's just a convencience.

    You, however, and all your ilk, must be held to account. You accept, clearly, that there are respects in which you are unfree due to not being a god. You are bound by your logic then to accept that nobody except a God can ever be fully free. You have appealed to "justice" to bring in the distinction which I am highlighting. You falsely turn my argument on its' head, and claim victory.

    My position is that in order to correctly pronounce judgement (which after all is primarily concerned with preserving people's rights, the negation of which is preventing impositions upon freedom) one MUST distinguish between mere poor circumstance and the restraints imposed by another will. If you will, to distinguish between misfortune and criminal misadventure.

    You have attempted to appeal to an entirely self-defined notion of justice, according to no particular principle, to distinguish between "just unfreedoms" and "unjust unfreedoms", thinking that in doing so you are capturing the dichotomy fully. Well, I say that you still are not. Unfortunately, I am approaching an entire essay in length here, and will leave off introducing new arguments until the old ones have been addressed. Most of all, I encourage thinking about the principles of government - is it the responsibility of the court system to provide social welfare? Is justice the same thing as economic prosperity? By solving problems of justice, do you solve problems of poor circumstance, and vice versa? Clearly not.

    -MP

    -MP

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  21. I never said that the tortured person was free in an important way! :) In Hobbe's example ("Your money or your life!") I would say that, in the important sense, S is not free - and in a sense that is well spelt out by "could have done otherwise if chosen".

    Even if S had chosen to walk away with both his money and his life, he couldnt have.

    Also, I'd say that the hobbesian example reduces doen to "your money or your money and life!" Because obviously the thief wont walk away without the money later. So it in fact reduces to "Live, or die". It is a freedom, but not one relating to S keeping his money.

    S is free with respect to living or dying.
    S is not free with respect to keeping his money.

    Hobbes made a very important point, but (although I haven't read him at all!) I would say that he has perhaps been misconstrued.

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  22. MP, not to worry, the discussion is all in good fun :)

    "I assumed he meant that we should, in all contexts, weigh political freedom and constraints on our choices with equal merit. I would assume that 'in the context of justice' is a subset of 'all contexts'."

    That depends what you mean by 'merit'. I suspect you're still making the mistake of trying to identify all good things with 'freedom' and all bad things with 'unfreedom'.

    Whether I am trapped in a cave by a rockslide or by human enemies, I am equally unfree. That says nothing about justice, however. Clearly if a person does it then they have committed an injustice, and are blameworthy for it. We cannot blame natural disasters. None of this requires that there be a difference in my freedom between the two cases. The difference lies elsewhere.

    "You accept, clearly, that there are respects in which you are unfree due to not being a god. You are bound by your logic then to accept that nobody except a God can ever be fully free."

    Yes, of course, didn't I already agree with that? I'm not sure what your objection is.

    Your later points about 'justice' don't make any sense to me. You seem to think that the concept of justice is dependent upon our concept of freedom. I have no idea why you would think that. Justice is about treating like cases alike, and people as they deserve, and so forth. I'm not sure where 'freedom' comes into it. It can be unjust to deprive someone their freedom. It can also be just (as when a criminal is imprisoned). They are two independent concepts; neither depends on the other.

    To paraphrase your final paragraph: "By solving problems of justice, do you solve problems of [freedom], and vice versa?"

    Clearly not.

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  23. Your later points about 'justice' don't make any sense to me. You seem to think that the concept of justice is dependent upon our concept of freedom. I have no idea why you would think that. Justice is about treating like cases alike, and people as they deserve, and so forth. I'm not sure where 'freedom' comes into it. It can be unjust to deprive someone their freedom. It can also be just (as when a criminal is imprisoned). They are two independent concepts; neither depends on the other.

    To paraphrase your final paragraph: "By solving problems of justice, do you solve problems of [freedom], and vice versa?"

    Clearly not.


    Oh. I would have said "clearly so!" :)

    A perfectly just society would perfectly minimise unfreedom (according to my definition of freedom).

    I would have said that all justice is decided according to the merits of freedom. At least, I think I would say that - I haven't thought it through fully, but I certainly believe that justice appeals at least to a great extent to the principle of freedom in determining what actions are just. I might be that after a more fulsome reflection on justice that I decide there are additional principles to which justice appeals.

    I think that if anything is, justice is an entirely consequential goal.

    Cheers,
    -MP

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  24. But we agreed earlier that a criminal may be justly made unfree through imprisonment. This clearly demonstrates that the two concepts are logically independent.

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  25. No, actually it doesn't. All it means is that the freedom of the majority takes precedence over the freedom of the individual. It is still the principle of freedom which is being served. Justice seeks to achieve the greatest amount of freedom possible in any given situation.

    I thought you might say that, but I don't think it's actually true. Justice defends the rights of society to a safe existence (a freedom) against the will of the individual wishing to impose upon it (an unfreedom). I don't think there are any cases where this fails to be the case.

    It is just to imprison someone (in some circumstances) not because freedom is irrelevant to justice, but because the rights of the majority outweigh the desires of the one, or even the few.

    One might argue that justice serves not only freedom, but society's moral ideals, but that's not strictly true either, especially as it results to protection of minority interests etc. Justice protects their freedoms of belief, so long as their actions and choices are not similarly impeding the freedom of others. Laws legislate against actions, not against beliefs.

    Other people also include a retributive element to justice, and other things, but I don't.

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  26. with regards to freedom: I have always thought that Albert Einstein asked the difinition question. He wanted to know if God had a choice in His own existence.

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