06 July 2008

On Liberty: Part 1

On Liberty

I believe that as human beings, one of the few things we possess that is innately, independently our own is our liberty. (In my faith, we often refer to this as agency-- I will use the terms interchangeably.) Lest I be accused of ingratitude, I fully believe that our Creator has provided us with the means and the environment in which to exercise that liberty in a constant pursuit of becoming more like Him. In this pursuit, He guides us, instructs us, but does not force us-- indeed, it would not be liberty if force dictated our actions. Compliance to His instructions (often called commandments) is not forcefully mandated, nor are the instructions arbitrary-- commandments are in accordance with eternal natural laws. Obedience fosters more liberty, while disobedience (often labeled sin) results in the loss of liberty.


kel said...

Very cool, Russ. I like this a lot. What you said about liberty definitely resonated with me. I'm looking forward to more posts (even if we might start to disagree somewhere down the road).

Bryant said...

Very cool.

Bryant said...

PS: I think the disclaimer was probably a smart move.

Bryant said...

PPS (I should stop doing that): I like the distinction you make between our innate agency and the "means and environment in which to exercise" it. That's something I hadn't really thought out before.

I know we've talked a lot about agency and liberty in the past, so there might be a lot of ideas that we've already talked about, but I'm still excited for your follow up posts.

Mars said...

I completely disagree.

the narrator said...

i also like the distinction of "the means and the environment in which to exercise that liberty." i'm sure you'll touch on parts of this later, but i all too often feel that this is where the most work needs to be done. i believe that our individual free-will (and moral-will) is an inherent and necessary part of our being. it can't be taken away or absconded. as such the next best thing we can do is put a gun to someone's head to 'force' them into something. i put 'force' into quotes because they still have their freedom. they are free to refuse the request of the gun holder. however, that freedom has been greatly diminished. similarly, we could place someone at a fork in the road and tell them they are free to choose which path to take. one of them is flat, smooth, shaded, lined with lollipops, and full of smiling people. the other is steep, rocky, hot, dry, and infested with zombies. how free are they in their decision?

i personally believe that all too often that while we espouse freedom, we place people before roads where there aren't any real economical choices before them; or we hold guns against their heads with threats of eternal punishment if they choose wrongly.

how much freedom (both amoral and moral) do people have here?

Bryant said...

I actually thought of the gun analogy, too, with the distinction that Russ has made here.

I wonder if two terms really would be more appropriate. If agency is that innate freedom of choice that we have, and liberty is the "means and environment in which to exercise" it, then the person with the gun to his/her head may have agency but he/she certainly does not have liberty.

Also, the lollipop path and the rocky path illustrate another point, and that is information. If the description of the paths gives us complete information, then we might have our liberty hindered at all--everyone would simply choose the lollipop path because our values are similar enough that we all prefer that path.

The problem that I'm sure you're implying is that the lollipop path might not really be better, or the distinction might not be as simple as whether you like candy or rocks (or rock candy?). Incomplete or inaccurate information can take away our liberty just as much as physical force.

the narrator said...


sort of. for some people what lies at the end of the lollipop road might be a delicious steak and what lies at the other end is a steaming dog turd. sure they have the freedom to travel down the hazardous road to claim the steaming turd, but let's be honest. nobody is going to choose that. there is really only one choice.

for other people, perhaps it is the opposite. maybe the turd lies at the end of the lollipop trail and the steak at the other. should we blame those who had the opportunity (though nearly impossible and at much risk - zombies are dangerous) to reach try for the steak, but instead decided to take the much safer route and settled for the turd.

in america, the land of opportunity, i sometimes think that those with the steak just assume that those with steaming turds were simply lazy and did not take the opportunity that was so readily available to them; not realizing that they got the steak through the easier path, while only few are able to survive zombies (watch any romero flick to confirm this).

Bryant said...

So, first with the lollipop-steak path and the rock-turd path: Although people are still free to choose whichever path fits their values, I can see that no real choice has been offered since no one really values turd. I guess real liberty happens when we have multiple choices that are appealing (or multiples that are not appealing) and we have to choose between them. For instance, choosing between two schools when both are appealing to you, or choosing between a mission and marriage when you want to do both but know that choosing either will limit your chance to do the other. The same is probably true of negative choices, like choosing "the lesser of two evils": the real choice occurs when there is a real pull in either direction.

As for the lollipop-turd path and the rock-steak path (which apparently has zombies on it) I don't really see a conflict with liberty at all. If everyone that is given the choice is able to understand the situation and the possible risks and rewards, then theey are free to choose whichever path they want.

I do see a problem if some people are given the first set of paths while other people are given the second set of paths (which is maybe the inequality that you're referencing). This is probably a better example of limiting liberty anyway, because in this case there are really 4 paths and we're restricting access to some of them.

the narrator said...


yeah. i mean to say some are given the lollipop-steak/zombie-turd path while others are given the lollipop-turd/zombie-steak path. of course a few have managed to survive the zombie-steak path, but they are often simply lucky and few and far between.