They hate us for our unicorns

July 8, 2017 § 99 Comments

Define “unicorns” to be certain things we like about the politics of Country A, and only those things.

Define “not unicorns” to be certain things we don’t like about the politics of Country B, and only those things.

Declare that because “unicorns” as we have defined the term is perfectly coherent, a philosophy of government which pursues unicorns is perfectly coherent.

Declare that mass murder committed in Country A is not the result of pursuit of unicorns, even though the people committing the mass murder explicitly rationalize it by appealing to the pursuit-of-unicorns principle.

Have a good cry when Zippy points out that there are no unicorns.

Isn’t nominalism fun?

§ 99 Responses to They hate us for our unicorns

  • Wood says:

    I think they are so enamored that their unicorn gives them “relative” peace and prosperity despite all the dead people and souls in hell in that wake. And they refuse to evaluate it becasue of that prosperity. Thank you for these posts becasue I’m too viscerally angry to respond to all that otherwise.

  • Scott W. says:

    Don’t forget lots of online psychoanalysis of people who deny unicorns.

  • Zippy says:

    Wood:

    As long as the right people are free and equal, and only subhumans standing in the way of the march of freedom are the ones who are dead, it is all good.

    Until later generations of liberals become hungry for their sacrificial victims, and the previous generations finds themselves surrounded by larvae with knives.

  • Zippy says:

    Scott W:

    I’m a condescending mean nasty meanie, and I only post the things I do because of mental and emotional problems. So you can safely ignore the actual substance of everything I say.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Zippy, you are failing to make an important distinction. Let’s be politically incorrect, and suppose that going on Crusade is good. At the same time, rebuilding the people’s homes after a devastating storm is also good. One lord might allow each serf to decide which good to pursue, and proceed to Crusade with an army of volunteers. Another lord might either command all his serfs to go on Crusade, or command all his serfs to rebuild people’s homes, depending on the lord’s preference. Both lords may be just rulers, but the first lord’s polity is more free (for his subjects). It is interesting to notice that the lord’s freedom is to some degree in inverse proportion to that of his subjects.

    The question of freedom legitimately arises when there are several possible goods, all consonant with human nature as God intends it. The “unicorns” image refers to something orthogonal to this: the substitution of faux-goods generated by the will of the powerful and their enforcement by Stalinist techniques like what was done to Brendan Eich. This, though called freedom, is pretty close to the opposite of freedom in how it affects good people trying to bring up their families. It is also dishonest: nobody really believes in Nominalism.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    The question of freedom legitimately arises when there are several possible goods, all consonant with human nature as God intends it.

    Sure, but that is not freedom as a political doctrine: as a justification for concrete acts of authority.

    …nobody really believes in Nominalism.

    Nobody “really believes” in any incoherent doctrine, in the sense of applying it consistently. It isn’t possible to apply incoherent doctrines consistently.

  • Wood says:

    LarryDickson,

    I can assure you most people living in Gomorrah believe seriously in nominalism – VERY seriously. It’s really not so mystical. People intensely are commited to a political commitment to liberty. Until that is understood – and rebutted unequivocally – you can knock yourself out with all sorts of historical examples and moderns will care not one whit what you think.

  • Because I said that a better society would be one with no legalized mass slaughter, I was told I was committing the Nirvana fallacy.

  • LarryDickson says:

    You are wrong, Wood. Nobody believes in Nominalism – it is merely a rhetorical club used to beat up opponents. Nominalism = marketing campaigns, and everyone is cynical about them. Redefining is only applied to the opposition, not to anything dear to the powerful.

    Freedom as I defined it is a perfectly coherent political doctrine. It is aligned with folk wisdom which arises from the little guys’ households, as opposed to top-down authority from universities and royal courts. It works best when most people are pioneers or farmers, with a strong family orientation, thus in touch with nature including human nature. Leaders in free polities spend more time listening than executing “acts of authority.” My family was in touch with free tribes during the Afghan Resistance of the 1980s, but of course Bush the Fool and his successors dealt with them exactly wrong since then, trying to impose our standard model of uniformity and faux-freedom.

    The great desertion of the land and rush into the cities worldwide has been the death of freedom properly understood. J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams apparently had a discussion one time over whether “freedom” was even a usable word any more, or merely an emotional dose for generating heat.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    Freedom as I defined it is a perfectly coherent political doctrine.

    I’m not seeing that at all.

  • Zippy says:

    Malcolm:

    Finding deliberate state sanctioned mass murder of the innocent unacceptable makes you a starry eyed idealist.

  • Wood says:

    LarryDickson,

    I suppose it’s an interesting discussion regarding the extent to which people “believe” in incoherent philosophies which have been popular for centuries even within the Church. But I can assure you, to whatever one can believe in nominalism, it’s happening every day. If it were impossible to create philosophies out of incoherence we’d all be spared the trouble of millennia of awfulness.

    The rest of your comment may be interesting. But it’s irrelevant to modern liberals. That’s not a critique so much as an observation that if your wish is to combat liberalism it largely misses the mark.

    Malcolm, couldn’t agree more.

  • Terry Morris says:

    What an arrogant, condescending post!

  • LarryDickson says:

    Zippy, freedom as a coherent political doctrine means minimizing “concrete acts of authority” and maximizing acts of cooperation and consent. It would be like a medieval “weak emperor” riding herd over a bunch of very different duchies with incompatible histories. Freedom is the opposite of enforced uniformity. It works where most people have a strong grip on nature, including human nature, so that even when fiercely at odds – like Germans, Gypsies, Guelphs and Ghibellines – they still understand shared things like a mother holding her baby or a dad teaching his son.

    Typically, the practical freedom of feudal polities was combined with a justification of near-absolute authority. This internal contradiction was resolved in favor of authority in Renaissance Roman law revival and divine right theory – see Regine Pernoud. The onrush of tyranny resulted in the attempt to codify liberty by limiting state authority and tightly regulating its acquisition – a problematic effort which has led us to where we are today. When people are servile at heart, the structures of freedom cannot do much – as in the fall of the Roman Republic.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    I’ve addressed the “decide not to decide” maneuver in any number of posts, most recently here:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/the-earl-of-passive-aggressive-drunkenness/

    … and here:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/minarchy-and-unicorn-flatulance/

  • Wood says:

    So no one could possible believe in nominalism. But good intelligent people believe in “freedom as a coherent political doctrine means minimizing “concrete acts of authority” and maximizing acts of cooperation and consent.”

    You might want to check your premises.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Zippy, your first post’s assumption that freedom has to involve tyranny on a lower level – like killing babies – is a straw man argument. Consider the late 19th century Wild West, where people though free were pretty actively down on abusers of women and children.

    Your second post is better, saying “Minarchy basically says that it is best to minimize the exercise of authority. But taken as something more authoritative than sentiment, this assumes that exercise of authority is a controllable parameter as opposed to a response to controverted/controvertible cases.” That is a fair statement of the problem, but in no way implies that “maxarchy” (or “micromanagement”) is better. The wise king brushes off a lot of controverted/controvertible cases (as is even noted of the pope in your book Usury). Almost everything should be decided via subsidiarity and not appealed to the top. In fact, the king should respond negatively to people who attempt to manipulate him into using his authority to crush legitimate variety.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    That is a fair statement of the problem, but in no way implies that “maxarchy” (or “micromanagement”) is better.

    A big part of the reason I started a blog was in the hope that I could minimize repeating myself. I’m not sure that has worked out so well, but in this case I’ll continue to post links to existing material addressing exactly the points raised:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/monolithic-authority-and-the-libertarian-error/

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/subsidiarity-and-freedom-are-unrelated/

  • Wood says:

    I’ll bow out after this, but no ones arguing for the opposite of bad. We’re arguing for what’s good. So even stipulating that the opposite of mInarchy is MAXarchy is a non-starter. The argument is that, as illiberals, authoritarianism is a coherent politics. Min and max may be prudential decisions but forcing them into some over arching philosophy is a large part of the problem we are combatting.

  • Zippy says:

    Also relevant:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/libertarianism-is-inherently-progressive-and-statist/

    Subsidiarity is messy, hierarchical, distributed human authority. Anyone can look around and see that “that messy human authority over there” is restricting someone’s freedom. That’s what authority does: it discriminates between people in such a way that some people get their way and others don’t. And because freedom is a political priority, something must be done about it!

    The never-ending collection of “something must be done about its” become concentrated in a single monolithic bureaucratic liberal government that manages everything for everyone, to make sure that everyone is free and that anyone who gets in the way of individual freedom is dealt with severely.

  • Yes it makes perfect sense. The freedom of speech is not actually a freedom. And the denial of the freedom of speech is equal to said freedom.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Hey, man, I -agree- with you that unicorns don’t actually exist. Those things Stalin or Kim called unicorns aren’t -actually- unicorns. All those people trashing unicorns in favor of dragons are wrong, because as I’ve clearly shown, unicorns have never really been tried. If we -did- ever try unicorns, we’d find that they’re wonderful and all the dross of unicorn-slander was just that, dross.

    After all, the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

  • Zippy says:

    Rhetocrates:

    Unicorns are always noble, good, and kind. All those children butchered on unicorn horns are not the fault of authentic unicorn pursuit.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    As a nominalist, everything you say about your own unicorns is true by definition; and any bad things other people attempt to ascribe to your unicorns are false by definition. As the author of your own story you get to decide what is true and false about your unicorns. In your story unicorns don’t have any concomitants unless you agree that they have those concomitants.

  • Julius Evola says:

    Zippy, you’re often critical of lots of people on the left and right. Do you have a positive statement somewhere of your vision of the just society?

  • Zippy says:

    Julius Evola:

    My positive vision of the just family is relatives living in real or virtual proximity looking after each other and worshiping God in the proper way – that is, sacramentally – with each family subunit under a patriarch all looking after the things and subjects over which Providence has placed them as stewards. My positive vision of the just society is a naturally occurring non-mechanical fractal of the family, in much the same way that a farm is a fractal of a garden.

    I positively reject the notion that things like mass murder and universal debauchery and idolatry and blasphemy can’t be criticized unless the chirping baby birds demanding alternative worms are sated.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy:

    I positively reject the notion that things like mass murder and universal debauchery and idolatry and blasphemy can’t be criticized unless the chirping baby birds demanding alternative worms are sated.

    You big meanie! You’re probably one of those fathers who didn’t prioritize the freedom and equal rights of his chirping baby birds, and told them to either eat what their mother placed before them on the table, or otherwise starve. I know the type.

  • You are a nominalist too. You just believe your nominalism is true.

  • Zippy says:

    To a nominalist, metaphysical realism seems impossible. Until the knife goes in.

  • Freedom and equal rights are not the same thing as mass murder, debauchery, idolatry and blasphemy. Moreover all of those things can exist under a non liberal government.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    I know. Your unicorns are awesome.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Winston:

    Moreover all of those things can exist under a non liberal government.

    If I exercise authority over my kids they may or may not obey me, and something bad might happen to them even if I do exercise authority over them. Therefore I shouldn’t exercise authority.

  • Julius Evola says:

    Zippy, thanks for the response, but it is too general to understand where you are coming from. Are you a Catholic Integralist? If so, is the old Republic of Ireland an acceptable model? Or you more a follower of de Maistre?

  • Zippy says:

    Julius Evola:

    … but it is too general to understand where you are coming from …

    I think that people who construct civilizational political theories are mostly insane.

    Is that clearer?

  • I’m not saying that. I’m saying you cannot blame liberalism for these crimes.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    We understand, really: your unicorns (for which you use the label “freedoms”) are always kind, always just, never perpetrators of mass murder — by definitional fiat. The piles of crushed skulls aren’t part of your story.

  • TomD says:

    XKCD coincides.

    I wonder when the term “necessary evil” began to be used the way it is today (and not “o necessary fault of Adam”).

  • You are right Zippy. There’s no way a hierarchical, authoritarian society could commit mass murder or tolerate debauchery within its borders.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Unicorns are always noble, good, and kind. All those children butchered on unicorn horns are not the fault of authentic unicorn pursuit.

    If unicorns don’t exist it is unclear how their horns could be used for anything. Anyway, as I’ve argued previously I can grant that there is no ideal “perfectly free” society without having to concede we cannot compare degrees of freedom in actual societies. In terms of the analogy I can grant there are no unicorns and still be able to compare the abilities of actual four-legged mounts.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    It is hard to believe that you don’t see the disconnect in your own logic, especially after it has been shown to you repeatedly.

    If a prosecutor makes the case that Bob murdered Alice then saying “but other people who are not Bob commit murder too” doesn’t address the case against Bob at all.

  • It’s hard to believe that you don’t see the disconnect in your own logic. Just because Bob is a liberal and commits murder does not mean that his liberalism caused him to commit murder. That is, there can be other reasons for this crime that are not connected to his political philosophy.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    Just because Bob is a liberal and commits murder does not mean that his liberalism caused him to commit murder. That is, there can be other reasons for this crime that are not connected to his political philosophy.

    Sure, that is logically possible. (As we’ve discussed previously).

    The attempt to disconnect the abortion regime in the US from appeals to political liberty are more than a little precious though. It isn’t just ignoring the elephant in the room: it is ignoring the elephant sitting on your head.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    I can grant that there is no ideal “perfectly free” society without having to concede we cannot compare degrees of freedom in actual societies.

    What you can’t do though (literally cannot, because any attempt to do so is rationally incoherent) is justify any actual, particular act of authority – an authoritative discrimination – by appealing to a principle of non-authoritative non-discrimination. You can’t appeal to a principle of leaving disputes unresolved and declining to exercise authority as justification for how some actual authority actually authoritatively resolves a particular actual dispute.

  • Terry Morris says:

    If “Christian” Bob commits a (legal) murder, theft or other form of fraud, it’s a pretty good bet the unicorn on his left shoulder is the one that convinced him to do it. Bob cannot serve God and unicorns.

  • “I think that people who construct civilizational political theories are mostly insane.”

    I laughed. So true. There is something to be said for our design, for the natural order of things, for biology. It brings order to our chaos. Or we can just create a civilizational political theory where gender becomes a social construct and we empower ourselves by killing the unborn, eventually just merging ourselves with machines in our quest to redesign our own selves.

  • Julius Evola says:

    Ah, ok, you think it’s better to waste your time on philosophical onanism like whether abstract universals exist.

  • Zippy says:

    Julius Evola:

    I love it when anonymous commenters on the Internet with pretentious handles tell me how I ought to be spending my time.

    One of my central messages is to try to look at the present as if it were history.

    Suppose you were a devout traditional Catholic historian looking back at the Current Year. You see mass slaughter and wickedness and apostasy on an unprecedented scale.

    You notice two factions, if you will, of ‘reactionary’ writers from the period.

    One faction sits in a think tank and validates the idea that sure, we have slaughter factories and human beings using each other as toilets on a mass scale, but we can’t effectively oppose this unless we present the world with a “positive” plan for how our civilizational machine should be designed. We have to become worthy to rule by getting the high score on the WesternCiv simulation game.

    Lets call this faction the “positivists”.

    The other faction (a really small faction) argues that the idea that you can’t (or shouldn’t) oppose mass slaughter and commodification of human beings unless you work hard to get the high score on a civilization simulation running on a JVM, is insane. This faction argues that having no theory at all is vastly better than treating a demonstrably bad theory as provisionally true until a “better” theory comes along.

    Which one of these factions do you think the future historian is going to see as still trapped in the “spirit of the age”?

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Accusations of mental masturbation is so ’90s. These days I only seem to see it when the outmatched accuser can’t get it up.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    If you’d spent even just a little time here, you’d know Zippy doesn’t waste his time on questions like whether or not abstract universals exist. The Church has already answered that.

    (In the positive, for the record.)

  • Aristokles Contra Mundum says:

    Whether abstract universals exist or not is a really important question.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    You can’t appeal to a principle of leaving disputes unresolved and declining to exercise authority as justification for how some actual authority actually authoritatively resolves a particular actual dispute.

    I know you despise rights talk but it is a better language to use for correctly describing freedoms as most people think of them. In your framework I guess you could say that the authority is authoritatively transferred to the individual, although that seems to be an awkward description. So there are some cases where the state should leave disputes unresolved or, if a state agency is involved, always resolved in favor of the individual because the state’s legitimacy is based upon that promise of noninterference in certain areas. I realize that is different from what you are claiming but your claim is so narrow that I wanted to fill in a more complete picture.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    I know you despise rights talk but it is a better language to use for correctly describing freedoms as most people think of them.

    One reason liberals think that “right” is a better term than “discriminating authority” (other than the convenience of letter count, I suppose) is that the former label obscures the fact that the reality in question is essentially, that is, in essence, in reality, precisely the same kind of thing under either label. But what liberals are committed to, incoherently, is rights which don’t discriminate and don’t restrict freedom — a contradiction in terms.

    The term “rights” obscures the fact that every exercise of every “right” in every case without exception always and everywhere apodictically by definition and categorically asserts unequal discriminating authority and restricts the ‘freedom’ of potential choices to a more constrained objectively less “free” single-or-set of actually empowered choices. It covers up in mental obscurity the fact that every exercise of every right always and in every case is as much a disempowerment of possible choices, a restraint on freedom, as it is an empowerment of some particular choice.

    The ‘problem’ of politics always and without exception boils down to which particular choices are authoritatively and discriminatorily empowered versus which choices are, concomitantly, authoritatively and discriminatorily restricted.

    “Freedom” as political principle either tautologically (in the motte) means that choices which ought to be empowered are empowered, while (concomitantly and inextricably) choices which ought to be restricted are restricted[1]; or it means (in the bailey) that freedom is itself the justification for [some] political acts, which is, as demonstrated over and over again, rationally incoherent.

    [1] Where, further, the objective quantitative number of really potential choices ruled out by the act-of-authority is always vastly larger than the number empowered, since that is how every human choice of a particular action always works.

  • Zippy says:

    The false dichotomy of “government vs individual” really doesn’t help either. Almost all exercise of authority never gets to the point where the formal government becomes involved — although all authority is exercised ‘in the shadow’ of other layers and networks of sovereignty.

    Politics is ultimately about the role of authority (which comes in myriad forms and is exercised in countless different kinds of contexts) in how families and neighbors get along in some unified community.

    In a disputed case there is no such thing as “the government” deciding to “leave people alone”. Even if the disputants are sent away to ‘work it out for themselves’ that has consequences for who is empowered and who is restricted and in what manner these are the case.

    And undisputed or undisputable cases don’t involve the exercise of authority, by definition.

    The desire for a “live and let live” society is equivalent to a desire for minimal conflict, and unicorns that fart fairy dust. It can’t be a justifying principle for actually authoritatively resolving actual conflicts.

    Ironically, when the sentiment “the less politics the better” is turned into a principle for justifying authority it has the effect of maximizing the pervasiveness of politics.

  • TomD says:

    The secret to “less politics” is to accept crappy authority and crappy decisions and move on with your life.

    Any attempt to get out of that programmatically fails and makes it worse.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    It covers up in mental obscurity the fact that every exercise of every right always and in every case is as much a disempowerment of possible choices, a restraint on freedom, as it is an empowerment of some particular choice.

    Except in reality, as opposed to your mental construction of it, we clearly see that societies with rights that are protected do enjoy much greater freedom in those areas. That freedom isn’t absolute, there are often social and/or economic consequences for using a right irresponsibly, but if you have convinced yourself there is some great similarity between US and NK society regarding freedom of speech by all means go there and openly criticize their government. Only someone with a death wish would even seriously contemplate such an action. Furthermore, the notion that you would discuss political authority in comparative terms and then treat the radically different relations of those governments to their citizens as a false dichotomy is willfully blind.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Step2:

    Only someone with a death wish would even seriously contemplate such an action.

    Agreed. Anyone in the U.S. irresponsible enough with his “speech” to refuse to lend his services to the promotion and exaltation of sodomy on the basis of traditional and biblical morality has effectively signed his own death warrant. We won’t shoot you on the spot, we’ll just make sure you die the slow and painful death you deserve for your wickedness in questioning the policy of such a just and righteous government that “prioritizes the freedom and equal rights” of all her citizens.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Except in reality, as opposed to your mental construction of it, we clearly see that societies with rights that are protected do enjoy much greater freedom in those areas.

    … as long as you aren’t a member of the subhuman classes being fed into the slavery and slaughter machines.

    Defenses of liberalism always rely on a truncated, reductionist, positivistic, nominalist picture of reality.

  • donnie says:

    but if you have convinced yourself there is some great similarity between US and NK society regarding freedom of speech

    What is it with people concluding that stating “there are no free societies” somehow means USA laws = DPRK laws?

    Countries as radically different as the USA and DRPK have radically different laws and a radically different set of behaviors which they do and don’t tolerate. None of this makes a difference to the fact that saying “X country is free” doesn’t make any sense and can’t make any sense until it is clear what, exactly, folks are free to do and which folks, exactly, are free to do those things. Pointing this out is not the same thing as saying USA = DPRK. Far from it.

    I am far more free to publicly denounce the policies of my national leader without consequence when I am an American protesting outside the South Lawn, than if I were a North Korean protesting outside Ryongsong. Umar the Unborn, on the other hand, is far more free to pursue his in utero development in present day North Korea than in our good ‘ol “land of the free.” Again, different countries have different sets of laws and different sets of behaviors which they do and don’t tolerate. But talking about freedom in the abstract doesn’t make any sense until it’s clear whose freedom we’re talking about and what it is that they are free to do.

  • TomD says:

    And to be fair, as the old joke goes, the people in North Korea are also free to protest the American President, just as we are.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    What is it with people concluding that stating “there are no free societies” somehow means USA laws = DPRK laws?

    It is just a basic failure to grasp what is actually being claimed, a strawman employed for rhetorical purposes, or both.

  • Step2 says:

    Terry Morris,
    Elsewhere I made the argument that if Justice Kennedy is consistent in his jurisprudence then SCOTUS should make exceptions for those attending and directly involved in the wedding ceremony proper such as wedding planners, photographers, and musicians. FYI, there is one type of sodomy which is very nearly as common among heterosexual couples as coitus. So while I dispute your premise that the commercial activity of designing items for weddings is a promotion and exultation of a couple’s past or future sodomy, if I accepted your premise then chances are extremely high that bakers and florists have already done so.

    donnie,
    If tomorrow Kim Jong-un decrees a one-child policy like China previously had there is nobody who can oppose it, women will be required to have an abortion if they already have a child. North Korea’s type of government has a minimal amount of freedom in principle, even when granting that a few specific policies are more supportive of freedom than ours. It’s odd that Zippy brought up slavery because I don’t consider it much of an exaggeration to claim that nearly everyone in North Korea is a slave, terrorized by a brutally violent regime and chained by endless amounts of propaganda.

  • Wood says:

    The enjoyable irony in a comment which – while preaching liberalism as a protectant against bad authority – calmly remarks upon the fact that the highest court in the land is intimately involved in cake baking.

  • […] on my last piece, but I will link a few more here: 1, 2, 3, 4. But I also want to point out one of his latest posts, which I think is making a courageous attempt at demonstrating the meaning (or lack thereof) behind […]

  • […] on my last piece, but I will link a few more here: 1, 2, 3, 4. But I also want to point out one of his latest posts, which I think is making a courageous attempt at demonstrating the meaning (or lack thereof) behind […]

  • Step2,

    I recently made a post on my own blog attempting to better explain what the notion of political freedom is. What I noted, through a series of examples, was that “freedom” is merely a name for the state of affairs we are in when we don’t see coercion. Basically, we believe we are free when the set of empowerments and constraints allow us to act in accordance with our will. We believe we are not free when the set of empowerments and constraints prevent us from doing so.

    I used the example of a town with a curfew that is later than when everyone but the two night policemen went to sleep. In this case, the coercion is “invisible”. It does not affect our behavior. Yeah the law is there, but the coercion hasn’t been brought into actuality. But if a family moves in who normally stays up past the curfew (or if a prior resident stays up late and goes out), suddenly the coercion is visible.

    What I intended to point out was that far too often we confuse “freedom” with “invisible coercion”, which I think is what Zippy gets at when he discusses 2-sided coins and the modalities of empowerment-constraint. Because of this, we can determine political freedom as a goal is incoherent, because “freedom” just means “the set of empowerments and constraints I like” and therefore it is possible for every right to be both free and not-free, and by extension for every set of empowerments and constraints to be both free and not-free. In this way, the pursuit of any specific set of empowerments and constraints under the banner of freedom is incoherent.

    Furthermore, to overcome the NK vs USA problem, I used the work of Max Weber (as summarized by a peer of mine) in relation to domination, power, authority, and political legitimacy. I presented how NK is less *legitimate* than the US and that almost certainly means NK is less free than the US (in a relativistic sense, since the only people who can judge whether or not a society is free are the members of that society). However, they are not less free because they do not adhere to the set of empowerments and constraints put forth by the West. They are less free because the government and the people of NK do not share interests.

    And as a final note, freedom is amoral. There needs to be not just a support of freedom but also one of morality. I quote Solzhenitsyn’s commencement address at Harvard in 1978 to explain this point further.
    https://nightsinaporia.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/a-reflection-on-political-freedom/

    -Aporon

  • Terry Morris says:

    Step2:

    …if I accepted your premise then chances are extremely high that bakers and florists have already done so.

    That there are in fact married heterosexual couples who have themselves engaged in sodomitic acts means that homosexual deviancy cannot be repudiated as the immoral behavior that it is.

  • TomD says:

    I made this and it amuses me.

  • […] nominalism (described recently here); […]

  • Step2 says:

    Aporón Sto Atlantís,
    Since I’ve already granted there is no ideal perfectly free society, all I am trying to do is make a comparison between different societies about which is more free. Using your analogy; if the curfew for one society is from midnight to 6:00Am (6 hours) while the other society is from 6:00AM to midnight (18 hours) there is a clear difference between the potential freedom of those societies. In actuality it is possible that the entirety of Society B is composed of night owls and people can of course try to adapt to either curfew despite their preferences, but it is dishonest to claim this overly simple metric indicates they cannot be compared.

    Terry Morris,
    Read your first comment to me and point out where you wrote homosexual deviancy.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    … all I am trying to do is make a comparison between different societies about which is more free …

    Yes, and the answer is that the comparison qua ‘free’ is meaningless, for reasons given, argued, and supported ad nauseam. That the reasons given haven’t been grasped doesn’t imply that they haven’t been given.

  • TomD says:

    They want to grant that the USA is “more free” than North Korea so they don’t have to face the fact that Liberalism is always “more free” for the Übermensch.

  • Step2,

    Effectively what Zippy just said. You can’t determine objectively whether a given society is free or not, as the concept of “free” is a meaningless and emotive idea. Hence why I point out domination may be a better barometer for comparing society. Since we know freedom is basically just “invisible”/potential coercion, we can only judge the freedom of a society relativistically: which is effectively what Weber’s concept of domination is.

    In the end what is dishonest is the idea that there is a specific configuration of empowerments and constraints that is “free” and there there are specific configurations of empowerments and constraints which are not free in an objective sense. You can only judge the “freedom” of a particular configuration of empowerments and constraints in the context of a particular group of people. Which is what Weber gets at.

  • Zippy says:

    Aporón Sto Atlantís:

    In the end what is dishonest is the idea that there is a specific configuration of empowerments and constraints that is “free” and there there are specific configurations of empowerments and constraints which are not free in an objective sense.

    Precisely. “Freedom” is not an objective determination, it is just the liberal’s way of saying that he approves of a particular configuration of empowerments and constraints.

    (Calling that approved configuration “good” rather than “free” would give up the game, since freedom is supposed to save us from direct confrontation over what is really good: liberalism is supposed to be the neutral peaceful referee among competing understandings of the good, which is what justifies its claim to supremacy in the first place).

    Other professing liberals have a different opinion about what configuration means “freedom”, and the intramural accusations of inauthenticity among groups (globalists, nationalists, communists, nazis) who all profess liberal principles ensue.

  • GJ says:

    Step2:

    all I am trying to do is make a comparison between different societies about which is more free. Using your analogy; if the curfew for one society is from midnight to 6:00Am (6 hours) while the other society is from 6:00AM to midnight (18 hours) there is a clear difference between the potential freedom of those societies

    That’s just weaponised ambiguity in action: subtle shifting from the objective to the subjective.

    With regards to a specific action X, it is possible to say that people in society A are free to do X, while people in society B are not free to do X. All well and good.

    But then how does one ‘sum up’ the freedom-status in a society with respect to an infinite space of actions? There is no such procedure, which is why ‘freedom’ shifts from being an objective evaluation to a subjective evaluation: ‘do I like that society?’

  • GJ says:

    With regards to a specific action X, it is possible to say that people in society A are free to do X, while people in society B are not free to do X. All well and good.

    A necessary addendum:

    Every freedom in a society comes with a multitude of constraints. Liberals like to take note of a specific freedom but not the concomitant restrictions, which allows them to compare whether people in different societies are free to do a specific action X, which gives them an ‘objective’ sense to compare freedom, never mind the concomitant restrictions- limits on freedom.

    So whether there is ‘a clear difference between the potential freedom of those societies’ with regards to a specific example of curfew timing is not even established: how does one sum up the ‘freedom at being able to go out past midnight’ with all the concomitant restrictions? Which, of course, is part of the slide to the subjective determination of ‘freedom of society’.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Step2:

    Terry Morris,
    Read your first comment to me and point out where you wrote homosexual deviancy.

    I didn’t need to; everyone knew what I meant in that comment including *you* – which is illustrated well enough by your answer [*] informing me that sodomy is not an exclusively homosexual act. Well, thanks for pointing that out and all, but it was perfectly unnecessary.

    [*] I am reminded of a time many years ago when several of us ‘Airmen’ were discussing the very issue, and one of my interlocutors (who was a very new convert to Christianity) argued that heterosexual sodomy within the context of traditional one man-one woman marriage couldn’t be wrong/immoral “because it feels so good.” He finally conceded that it *might* be wrong, but maintained that even if it were God would make an exception with heterosexual sodomy.

  • TomD says:

    “It can’t be wrong if it feels so good” basically sums up what modernism is trying to defend in general.

  • […]  Sociopathic exercise of authority isn’t ‘self limiting’ authority unless we are nominalists and simply define it that way by […]

  • Step2 says:

    Aporón Sto Atlantís,
    You can’t determine objectively whether a given society is free or not, as the concept of “free” is a meaningless and emotive idea.

    Since Zippy has provided a definition of freedom – and one which can be maximized as well; and everyone in this thread including yourself is using the term in a meaningful way it is not a meaningless idea.

    Since we know freedom is basically just “invisible”/potential coercion, we can only judge the freedom of a society relativistically: which is effectively what Weber’s concept of domination is.

    Okay, but the line between potential and actual coercion determines an opportunity space for the achieving of preferences which is basically my view of what freedom is.

    In the end what is dishonest is the idea that there is a specific configuration of empowerments and constraints that is “free” and there there are specific configurations of empowerments and constraints which are not free in an objective sense.

    There is always a mixture, but chattel slavery is objectively not free and no amount of spin can make it only subjective.

    GJ,
    There is no such procedure, which is why ‘freedom’ shifts from being an objective evaluation to a subjective evaluation: ‘do I like that society?’

    With North Korea it’s more like, “does anybody like that society?” As some joker on a message board about immigration phrased it, “Where do you have to be running from that NK is a better alternative?”

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Where do you have to be running from that NK is a better alternative?

    The loving womb of a feminist mother.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    If a human fetus could run the mothership so to speak there are plenty of other countries with strict laws against abortion.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: Step2

    Shifting goalposts much?

  • Zippy says:

    Not to mention that unborn children aren’t allowed to emigrate, even if their fathers would like to take them to a non-murder-factory country.

  • Step2,

    I think you missed the point that it is *treating freedom as a political goal* that is incoherent. And that is only incoherent because freedom IS a coherent thing. Here is what I mean:

    When I say “I believe this country is free” I am saying “I believe this specific configuration of empowerments and constraints allows me to act in accordance with my will”. And yet, there is a possible world wherein an individual is constrained by this configuration. To them, the configuration is tyrannical. There is nothing special about me that allows me to claim that I somehow have a priveleged pov on the world. Therefore, we see that the idea of “freedom” as a political goal is subjective.

    Noting that, we see that every configuration of empowerments and constraints is free to some person (or people) and tyrannical to some person (or people). Every single political decision (law, right, etc) empowers and constrains, so every single political decision is free to some person (or people) and tyrannical to some person (or people). Therefore, there is no political decision that is objectively “more free” than any other. Maximizing “freedom” in a political sense therefore is impossible, because every political decision is simultaneously free and tyrannical (since there is always a possible individual who views it as free and a possible individual who views it as tyrannical).

    Therefore, maximizing freedom in a political sense is incoherent.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy:

    Not to mention that unborn children aren’t allowed to emigrate, even if their fathers would like to take them to a non-murder-factory country.

    And even if they could it wouldn’t guarantee they would escape the clutches of infanticidal Jewesses like Rebecca Gomperts and her Women on Waves (WoW) organization, who routinely perform abortions in international waters (under Dutch law) as well as airdrop abortifacient drugs into non-murder-factory countries via flying drones.

  • TomD says:

    Wouldn’t a country be more free the more it allows you to act in accordance with the good, and the same country would remain free even if you willed to do evil and were squashed like a bug?

    “Freedom to do evil” seems like it’s a contradiction in terms if fleshed out.

  • GJ says:

    With North Korea it’s more like, “does anybody like that society?”

    One does wonder if you liberals will ever move beyond the criterion of ‘like’.

  • […] in general, or one of the particular critiques, outrageous. You are convinced (say) that your non-nominalist concept of political freedom is perfectly coherent and unequivocal. You declare victory and plant […]

  • […] theory at all; even when the theory in question is manifestly and demonstrably destructive, evil, deceptive, and just plain wrong.  The important thing is that in the hierarchy of answers we accept, […]

  • donnie says:

    Potentially of interest: Scott Alexander asks “Is it Possible To Have Coherent Principles Around Free Speech Norms?”

    His conclusion appears to be that there must be a “yes” answer to this question, but he admits his inability to see how this can be.

    I don’t suppose he’ll consider that any kind of actual authority might be necessary to discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable speech. Nevertheless, his thoughts on the question make for an interesting read.

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/01/is-it-possible-to-have-coherent-principles-around-free-speech-norms/

  • TomD says:

    In amusing news, it appears North Korea, that liberal bastion, has outlawed abortion to try to stem the falling birth rate.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I think there can be a coherent definition of freedom in a political context; it has something to do with having a sovereign who has proved over time that he doesn’t much want to trespass cultural norms, perhaps combined with cultural norms that prize latitude of a man’s action in managing his own household and affairs.

    That’s a very rough definition and should be torn apart or seriously refined before it sees use.

    I also don’t think this is what people mean these days when they talk about freedom, but I think a hazy idea of this kind of thing is part of the foundation of the motte.

  • TomD says:

    That seems to come really close to saying “freedom should be subsidiarity” or something – which again limits it from being the primary purpose of government.

  • Zippy says:

    The principle which justifies actual instances of higher authority trumping a lower authority cannot be that higher authority shouldn’t trump lower authority.

  • Zippy says:

    You can see the “opposite day” dynamic at work here. “As much as reasonably possible, established traditions ought to be respected as authoritative” is almost exactly the opposite of what liberals mean, and have always meant, by political freedom.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I’m in complete agreement with you both, TomD and Zippy. I suspect what I’ll call that ‘natural’ definition is behind a lot of talk of what freedom means, though. Not as an end-goal in truth, but as part of the smokescreen that gives liberals cover.

    And I think that if we wanted to rescue the use of the word freedom, or understand its use in older sources, that’s the direction to take it.

  • TomD says:

    I think the main point is we should stop trying to rescue the use of the word freedom; just as we’ve abandoned the use if liberal as in liberal arts; new terms can help clarify (just as the usage of “recourse” helps understand usury; it’s perfectly understandable without it; but the terms used by Aquinas have shifted in the millennia since).

  • […] we shall continue to call “free speech”).  The term “free” attaches the configuration of speech empowerments and restrictions that we prefer to the liberal slogan “freedom”.  Everyone supports freedom!  People who don’t […]

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