Whither whether which what

August 20, 2017 § 157 Comments

“Free speech” and “limited free speech” are intrinsically dishonest phrases, because they treat the question of what restrictions there ought to be on speech as if it were a question of whether there ought to be restrictions on speech.

§ 157 Responses to Whither whether which what

  • Zippy says:

    I think this generalizes.

    “Free markets” treats the question of what laws ought to regulate property exchanges as if it were a question of whether laws ought to regulate property exchanges.

    “Freedom of religion” treats the question of what regulation of religious practice is good as if it were a question of whether regulation of religious practice is good.

    “Reproductive freedom” treats the question of what regulation of reproduction is good as if it were a question of whether regulation of reproduction is good.

    Etc, etc. Feel free to add more and maybe I’ll make a roundup if we get enough.

  • The right to bear arms treats the question of what regulation of weapons is good as if it were a question of whether regulation of weapons is good.

    Freedom of the press treats the question of what regulations there should be on journalistic activity as a question of whether regulation of journalistic activity is good.

    Freedom from discrimination treats the question of what people ought to discriminate against as a question of whether discrimination is good.

  • TomD says:

    Freedom treats the question of what authority should be as a question of whether authority should be.

  • You see it this way because you nominalistically define it this way. Most reasonable people see freedom to mean living without the infringement of government. The more a government infringes on the lives of its citizens the less free its citizens are.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    You see it that way because you think it is a contest of competing definitions.

  • Zippy says:

    Liberalism attempts to collect all authority into a box labeled ‘government’, and then minimize that box.

    Authority is conserved, though, so rather than minimizing authority this results in maximal pervasiveness of liberal government.

  • djz242013 says:

    “Freedom” treats the question of what ways the government ought to infringe in our lives as if it were a question of whether we should live “without the infringement of government”.

  • donnie says:

    Winston – your IRS auditor has a greater capacity to infringe on your life than any actual medieval King or aristocrat could have hoped for. Same goes for a myriad of other unelected government bureaucrats that exist right this very moment. If enshrining freedom as the primary purpose of politics was supposed to have limited the capacity for government infringement, it is hard to think of a cause that has failed more abysmally.

  • djz242013 says:

    Winston will contend: but the US government does not infringe in it’s citizen’s lives as much as North Korea does, and is therefore more free!

    I would respond: That is only true to the extent that your personal preferences align with the choices that the US government allows you to make. You only feel free if you are allowed what you want.

    The amount of “infringement” a government does is directly proportional to the difference between the allowances the government makes and the desires it’s people have.

    In a population of arsonists, anti-arson laws makes the population feel very un-free.

  • Most reasonable people see freedom to mean living without the infringement of government. The more a government infringes on the lives of its citizens the less free its citizens are.

    If freedom means having absolutely no government infringement (living without the infringement of government) then if there is infringement it doesn’t make citizens less free, it makes them not free. If no government infringement = free, then some government infringement = not free.

  • djz242013 says:

    If no government infringement = free, then some government infringement = not free

    This is needless exaggeration. There is a legitimate sliding scale here, with respect to how free a given regime feels. Of course this is arbitrary, and results in zippy’s refrain about liberalism elevating the Will to primacy.

  • Mike T says:

    here is a sliding scale of sorts. But the sliding scale is relative to your own desires, and thus not a coherent thing to base society on.

    Looking at the scale as a statistical distribution is probably a good starting point. A society “feels free” when the majority and the elites align in their view of how society ought to be governed. Even when there is disagreement on particular issues, peace is possible then because the elite and the majority fundamentally agree “this is the common good and it is being governed by authorities who see it, recognize it and attempt to uphold it.”

    Some societies like the United States and Britain have always had a higher tolerance for eccentricity and even bad behavior that is not outright destructive, so objectively speaking, the number of people who “feel free” in Anglosphere nations has been higher than in many societies for quite some time.

    The flip side of this is that you have countries like North Korea where the number of people who agree with the elite would be extremely low if they weren’t afraid of getting blown up by AA weaponry for even mild disagreement.

    On an individual scale the sliding scale definitely doesn’t work, but taken as an aggregation of sentiment it would probably prove to be a good predictor of stability in relations between the elite and majority.

  • Zippy says:

    The term “allow” in this discussion seems to be a way of ignoring the active role of authority — which is always what happens in discussions framed in liberalism’s question begging terms.

    Property owners are “allowed” to call the police and have trespassers dragged in front of a judge.

    The same goes for “infringe”.

  • “Most reasonable people see freedom to mean living without the infringement of government.”

    Ah,we’ve fixed the whole problem now. Anyone displeased with the apparent infringement of government shall henceforth be labeled “unreasonable.”

  • This is needless exaggeration. There is a legitimate sliding scale here, with respect to how free a given regime feels.

    I don’t think this is true. This is like saying there is a sliding scale of nothingness; there isn’t. If you have something, by definition you don’t have nothing (no thing). There is a sliding scale of something; we can have more things or less things (all of which can be called something) but we can’t have more or less nothingness.

  • Zippy says:

    We are so used to ignoring the active and discriminatory role of authority, when what it does lines up with our desires and expectations, that we just don’t see it at all. It is the fish and water effect.

  • Mike T says:

    Speaking of incoherent concepts about rights:

    He demanded a simplified process of granting humanitarian and temporary visas and rejected arbitrary and collective expulsions as “unsuitable.” He said the principle of ensuring each person’s dignity “obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security.”

    500 years ago, a Pope who said this about the Turks would have been thrown into the Tiber with a block of cement around his feet.

  • It is the fish and water effect.

    Yep; we don’t see authority when mom and dad buy us toys, but we do see it when mom and dad don’t buy us toys.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    This is like saying there is a sliding scale of nothingness; there isn’t.

    This is true objectively, and a good way to put it. But don’t say that to a liberal, because he’ll reply that of course there should be limits.

    Also be careful to distinguish between how something happens to feel to a particular person subjectively – to which the proper response is “who cares?” – versus objective and accurate characterization of reality.

  • Zippy says:

    I think djz242013 was discussing how a particular configuration of empowerments and constraints feels to subjects. This ultimately is a product of all sorts of things, but it is true that one collection of subjects may like their configuration more than some other group likes theirs.

    In that kind of analysis the word “free” is being used to mean the same thing as “like”. This contrasts to the objective analysis in the OP, in which the word “free”‘is used to mean the same thing as “constrained”.

    The word “free” is such a very useful word. It can mean whatever you want it to mean, while conferring an aura of desirability and moral uprightness upon whatever that happens to be.

  • donnie says:

    500 years ago, a Pope who said this about the Turks would have been thrown into the Tiber with a block of cement around his feet.

    In other words, Martin Luther didn’t know how good he had it.

  • Zippy says:

    If we wanted to develop an objective measure of the moral differences between the faction of liberalism which governs North Korea versus the faction of liberalism which governs the USA, we would of course start with objective metrics like “how many innocent Low Men have been mass murdered per capita under each regime?”

    I don’t know a priori how that due diligence would turn out, but it is the general kind of approach I would take. And in any case the relative merits of each regime on an objective mass murder scale wouldn’t have any impact on the veracity of criticism of liberalism.

  • “The word “free” is such a very useful word.”

    Zippy, the old fashioned, now obsolete definition of “free” was actually, “to banish.”

    That helped to change my perspective because in the modern world we have a hard time conceiving of “free” as having any downside at all.

  • Also be careful to distinguish between how something happens to feel to a particular person subjectively – to which the proper response is “who cares?” – versus objective and accurate characterization of reality.

    Even when discussing freedom in terms of how people feel, if feeling free means feeling completely unrestrained then it doesn’t make sense to talk about people feeling more or less free. But if feeling free means feeling relatively unrestrained, then the word “free” has no meaning on its own. It’s like the discussion of what revolves around what in the solar system; there is no fixed point to even compare movement against so the whole discussion is pointless.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    … if feeling free means feeling completely unrestrained then it doesn’t make sense to talk about people feeling more or less free

    The conclusion follows from the premise, but feelings don’t follow logical rules. People feel six impossible things before breakfast: that is the nature of feelings.

  • People feel six impossible things before breakfast: that is the nature of feelings.

    I was operating under the assumption that djz242013 was not emoting.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    I was operating under the assumption that djz242013 was not emoting.

    OK, but discussing the reality of how different groups of people feel, and that it is possible for a group of people to feel more free or less free, and pointing out that these feelings are subjective and independent of accurate characterization of a particular configuration of empowerments and constraints, isn’t itself emoting.

    Feelings (of individuals and groups of people) don’t follow logic or conservation laws but I wouldn’t deny their reality.

    Anyway, this is a minor point which doesn’t affect non-psychological analysis.

  • djz242013 says:

    My point of bringing feelz into it was this:

    Because some governments feel “freer,” because some laws feel “freer,” it is very easy for a liberal to assume that freedom is a real thing which there can be more or less of.

    This feeling is what (I believe) motivates the claim that the US is more free than NK. The thought process goes: I have very few actions I would like to take forbidden to me in the US, but in NK, there are many actions I would like to take that they would forbid. Therefore, the US is more free than NK.

    This same (lack of) reasoning is what motivates people to defend freedom as a justifying principle.

    Zippy says he’s not into psychologizing, and I also generally prefer discussing objective reality, however the reality of the modern world is that (nearly) everyone is a liberal. If liberalism is so manifestly false, it suddenly becomes interesting to me just why so many seemingly intelligent people buy into it.

    You can’t reason someone out of a position he wasn’t reasoned into. But you can explode his post-hoc justifications for belief, if you know what those justifications are.

  • djz242013 says:

    In my understanding of the way most liberals use the word “free,” it seems like the statement

    X is more free than Y

    is a shorthand for saying

    I can choose more concrete behaviors that I want to choose in X than I could in Y.

    Of course, no mention is made of the goodness or badness of those behaviors…

  • “People feel six impossible things before breakfast: that is the nature of feelings.”

    The quote is actually “believe,” people can believe six impossible things before breakfast.

  • Zippy says:

    djz242013:

    I would add, “I can choose more concrete behaviors that I want to choose with the backing of the state and the culture …

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    The quote is actually “believe,” …

    Yes, I know. Many of my allusions are riffs on the original, not direct reproductions.

    It is sometimes possible to argue human beings out of our irrational and contradictory beliefs. It is not possible to argue us out of our irrational and contradictory feelings.

  • “It is sometimes possible to argue human beings out of our irrational and contradictory beliefs. It is not possible to argue us out of our irrational and contradictory feelings.”

    Yep. I am aware you believe that, something I find quite puzzling. Unless you address the underlying feelings, you will never convince anyone to let go of their contradictory beliefs.

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    I only believe it is possible because I’ve actually done it, from time to time.

  • Agreed. Some people just happen to value the freedom of expression whereas other people just happen to value the freedom to walk on their hand while eating ice cream.

  • djz242013 says:

    “Freedom of expression” treats the question of what expression ought to be allowed as if it were a question of whether expression ought to be allowed.

  • djz242013 says:

    In Maoist China everyone was free to express approval of the Party without risk to their livelihood.

    In Democratic America, no one is free to express approval of racism without risk to their livelihood.

    The questions is which expressions are legitimate.

  • and that it is possible for a group of people to feel more free or less free, and pointing out that these feelings are subjective and independent of accurate characterization of a particular configuration of empowerments and constraints

    Ok now I understand the point you were trying to make. But my own point is that this doesn’t make sense. I’m not denying that people have these feelings, I am denying that it can be accurately called “feeling more free.”
    One can feel more or less not free (constrained), but one cannot feel more or less free, if “feeling free” is to be taken to mean “feeling an absence of constraint.” Absence doesn’t admit to degrees. I know that we often talk in such a way that implies varying degrees of absence, but that’s not because it is accurate, just because it is easy.

    It is possible for people to feel more constrained or less constrained (and this is “subjective and independent of accurate characterization of a particular configuration of empowerments and constraints”) but that cannot accurately be called feeling “more free or less free.”

    It just seems to me that referring to these feelings (which do exist) as “more free or less free” concedes to the liberal framework. Maybe I’m off base here.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    We see here that the definition of ‘freedom’ essentially boils down to a purely subjective experience. This opens up understanding of how the modern state got to be what it is; in order to maximize ‘freedom’, instead of exercising authority in limited cases (or, as well as), it is now a government’s job to manage the expectations of or persuade or psychologically condition or brainwash (pick one, mostly depending on said government’s success in the matter) its subjects so that they will feel ‘free’ despite or even because of the government’s concrete acts of authority.

    Thus we say North Korea is ‘less free’ than the United States because its methods of persuasion are less sophisticated, and therefore less effective, than ours. Whereas the MSS will kill you and your family if you say anything against the Beloved Leader, the Department of Education will structure your psyche so that you won’t even think anything against the Beloved Arc of History.

  • isn’t itself emoting.

    And I did not mean to imply that djz was emoting. I was somewhat confused and thought that you were implying he was emoting (which should have been a red flag for me in hindsight). Sorry for the mixup.

  • Well, I suggest “freedom” is actually a rather subjective feeling. We need a good and proper objective definition of “free,” which is problematic because “free” is heavily defined as a state of mind, of spirit.

  • Zippy says:

    Rhetocrates:

    Thus we say North Korea is ‘less free’ than the United States because its methods of persuasion are less sophisticated, and therefore less effective, than ours. Whereas the MSS will kill you and your family if you say anything against the Beloved Leader, the Department of Education will structure your psyche so that you won’t even think anything against the Beloved Arc of History.

    Yes precisely.

    Commenter Patrick made that point in a previous thread, which I ‘promoted’ to its own post. The crudity of NK’s methods make it hard for people who live under more sophisticated systems of indoctrination / extermination to see NK as liberal, despite its strongly professed liberal commitments.

    The important thing is that everyone must join the fraternity of the free and equal new man. Those who do not accept liberalism must be ‘educated’ or otherwise scientifically modified until they do accept it, as the first Solution.

    But if that Solution doesn’t work there are other Solutions, including a Final one.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    I’m not denying that people have these feelings, I am denying that it can be accurately called “feeling more free.”

    You are definitely on to something there, I believe. In the subjective domain the term “free” means “like”. Someone who likes what he is empowered to do and doesn’t dislike what he cannot do feels “free”.

    This is a real feeling, but you are correct to say that it isn’t as accurate as saying that he likes what he is empowered to do with the support of the regime and culture, and doesn’t dislike what he is restricted from doing by the regime and culture.

    In the objective domain “free” means “restricted”, as I explained in the previous post with respect to “free speech.” But I think it has been sufficiently demonstrated that this generalizes to all invocations of freedom in a political context.

  • Zippy says:

    Maybe there is a subjective mirror to the what / whether pattern.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    The important thing is that everyone must join the fraternity of the free and equal new man. Those who do not accept liberalism must be ‘educated’ or otherwise scientifically modified until they do accept it, as the first Solution.

    But if that Solution doesn’t work there are other Solutions, including a Final one.

    Or rather, the Final Solution is part of the persuasion complex; if instead of killing people, you convince their own mothers to kill them, you manage indoctrination in two ways. Not only do you rid yourself of problematic population elements (let’s be honest: abortion has hit Negroes the hardest); you also gain die-hard converts to your cause, because that is the only way people can deal with such a monumental sin without forgiveness and penance.

  • Zippy says:

    Rhetocrates:

    Yes, murdering your own child on the altar of the Beloved Leader creates a bond with the regime which is difficult to break.

  • Mike T says:

    The crudity of NK’s methods make it hard for people who live under more sophisticated systems of indoctrination / extermination to see NK as liberal, despite its strongly professed liberal commitments.

    That and the fact that North Korea’s de facto policy is to whitelist permissible behavior rather than blacklisting taboo behavior as other regimes do. They may have those liberal commitments, but North Korea has taken its ideology to the very frontiers of sanity. They are so totalitarian that you’d struggle to find any other regime of a country that large that ever claimed that level of granular control over its society.

  • NK’s professed liberal commitments are meaningless because they do not respect the rule of law. NK is not a liberal regime because it clearly does not prioritize the freedom and equal rights of its citizens.

  • Zippy says:

    I’ve never been to NK and can’t say what it is like to live there. Of course much like here “what it is like to live there” depends in significant part on whether you are one of the people being mass murdered, among other individuating factors.

  • Zippy says:

    There are plenty of legitimate accusations against the NK government. But that they fail to do something rationally incoherent isn’t one of them, except to the extent that they profess to do something rationally incoherent..

  • TomD says:

    North Korea is objectively more equal than most countries; equality in squalor, perhaps, but equal.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    NK’s professed liberal commitments are meaningless because they do not respect the rule of law.

    Funny; I’d be willing to bet you $1,000 there’s significantly less crime per capita in North Korea than in the US.

    Or do you mean something else by ‘rule of law’? Do you mean something along the lines of, ‘People in power don’t abide by written covenants created by those the common folk recognize as legitimate authorities’?

    In that case, get back to me when the US abolishes its standing army, ceases unauthorized military operations abroad, re-segregates its school districts, shuts down the unwarranted surveillance of its own citizens, denounces homo-and-transsexualism as an abomination, denies courts the power of judicial review, stops occupying Europe, and cracks down on the brutal murder of the unborn (who, by the way, by best estimates die in numbers that dwarf those of Kim’s puny efforts).

    Think that’s unfair? But that’s what following the rule of law as defined by the proper legislative or constitutive authority would look like.

    Or admit that your argument is rationally incoherent, because all those actions don’t matter, and instead the ‘rule of law’ and ‘liberal commitments’ are plastic enough that you can mold them into whatever you like.

  • TomD says:

    Or by “rule of law” he means the natural law, in which case almost all countries in the world stand accused.

  • Mike T says:

    One of the “interesting” aspects of how NK operates is that you can be known–well known–as a loyal and good subject and then get sent to a prison camp to die (bullet, AA weaponry, steamroller, etc.) because your grandson slipped and said the wrong thing. They have an informal policy of liquidating as much as three generations irrespective of any provable guilt because it’s just assumed that the bad apple had to have fallen from a bad tree, all other facts be damned.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    I have no particular reason to doubt your authoritative sounding pronouncements about NK, but no particular reason to believe them either. They remind me a lot of the kinds of things said about secular Iraq before we started an unjust war against them and unleashed mohammedan slaughter of middle eastern Christians. So I tend to take those things with a grain of salt.

  • By rule of law I mean that the government must abide by the legal structure created by its laws and not the whims of its chief executive. You might point out examples where the US fails in this regard but we do have a functioning legislature and court system with which the executive must contend.

  • Not true. There is an elite class in NK that live a far more comfortable life than the rest of the population.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    Very well. Are death camps legitimate expressions of the rule of law, as long as they abide by a legal structure and not the whims of one man?

  • Zippy says:

    There is an elite class in America that lives a far more comfortable life than the rest of the population. This is always the case everywhere.

    However I certainly agree that NK does not achieve equal rights, even though it expresses achievement of equal rights as one of its core values. The reason it does not achieve this is because equal rights is a fundamentally incoherent concept, as demonstrated in a number of different arguments here.

  • So you feel that a legal system where courts apply the law independent of class structure is incoherent?

  • Can the legislature or courts shut down the death camps if they were determined to be illegally implemented?

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    So you feel that a legal system where courts apply the law independent of class structure is incoherent?

    I don’t feel anything in particular that is relevant; I have argued things. And if your intent is to propose counterarguments to what I have actually argued, you should do that rather than crafting your own propositions to attack and attributing those propositions to me.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    Can the legislature or courts shut down the death camps if they were determined to be illegally implemented?

    Answer the question, don’t pose a new one: if death camps are legal under an existing legal structure and are not implemented on the whims of one man, does that circumstance fall under the “rule of law” as you understand it?

  • King Richard says:

    Mike T,
    You wrote,
    “500 years ago, a Pope who said this about the Turks would have been thrown into the Tiber with a block of cement around his feet.”
    First, by whom?
    Second, you seem to mistake ‘the Pope says something I wouldn’t say’ with ‘I understand his point’.
    His Holiness has been rather critical of the Westphalian nation-state model for many years, a disdain that I share. A critique of the current system of passports, visas, asylum, refugee status, mass acceptance, mass expulsions, etc. is rather timely even if you don’t grasp all of his points when reading short, out-of-context and off the cuff remarks as reported by the press.

  • King Richard says:

    Winston/Zippy,
    The NSDAP legally won votes; legally built a coalition; legally instituted legislative changes; legally altered the constitution; etc. Hitler made sure the secular law was on his side.

  • Zippy says:

    “Rule of law” treats the question of what personal authority should be exercised by leaders as if it were a question of whether personal authority should be exercised by leaders.

  • Edward says:

    It’s long been the English tendency to argue that the Common Law system used here is superior to the civil law systems of benighted foreigners because it places “the law” above all other powers in the land, including the sovereign.

    That’s clearly hogwash, seeing as the sovereign (acting through her ministers in Parliament) can and does use Acts of Parliament to overturn any case law she doesn’t like, and to limit future case law. The sovereign’s power to exercise her authority through the positive law is exercised by her judges only until such time as she decides to take it back into her own hands.

    Still, the Common Law is an interesting to set against legal positivism. A great many questions in English law come down to a far-from-omniscient judge trying to grope his way through the darkness by the light of a few flickering case law authorities, paying close attention to the context of the dispute so as not to say anything ridiculous.

  • Zippy says:

    Edward:

    Interesting. My own impression is that legal positivism is much more of a thing in the Anglo / common law world than under statutary continental systems, where it is better understood that judges have real authority in the particular cases over which they preside, are not reducible to law-applying machines made of meat, and are performing a distinct function from legislation.

    I don’t know if my impression is accurate, but if so it runs contrary to the idea that common law is an antidote to legal positivism.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Dear old winstonscrooge,

    It’s by the ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government (that is, the ‘duly appointed’ government of these United States) intentionally creates, and then mass-incarcerates, a huge body of criminal underclass.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government takes children away from their parents and reassigns them to communal homes for the crime of insufficiently indoctrinating them in the state religion.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government has killed more children since Roe v. Wade than twice the population of North Korea.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government culturally oppresses and is on track to exterminate the founding stock of those it professes to rule.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government has instigated and encouraged an opiate epidemic that is now the #7 cause of death in the United States of all people between the ages of 18-45, and #1 cause of death of white men between the ages of 18-65.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government turned the inner cities into wastelands not fit for human habitation.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government got needlessly involved in the two largest wars in human history.

    It’s by ‘rule of law’ as defined here that our government created a socialist state larger and more insidious in its operation than the Third Reich could ever dream of.

    If this is your ‘rule of law’ I don’t care a fig for it. It seems to be doing a bad job caring for the well-being of its subjects.

    And yes, I’m sure you can point out examples where kings or aristocracies did bad things. I’m not holding them up as some paragon of governmental righteousness, I’m just pointing out that the so-called ‘rule of law’, which was supposed to usher in a new age of prosperity and well-being as we deposed those nasty old kings who caused such trouble, doesn’t seem to deliver very well on its promises.

    Now that I’m done using your rhetorical position as a punching bag, I have to thank you for posting. Without you around to provide a Simplicio to Zippy’s Salviati, he’d be significantly less convincing.

  • I’m just trying to clarify the point you are trying to make.

  • The rule of law exists independent of the death camps. If there is a system in place where the death camps can be shut down by the courts or the legislature if they are determined to be contrary to the law this would indicate that the rule of law is being respected under that system.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    But death camps can operate legitimately and indefinitely under the rule of law as you understand it, right?

  • Yes, provided your “death camps” were implemented in accordance with the law and the legal system in which they exist operates according to the rule of law and not solely the dictates of an executive.

  • Edward says:

    Zippy:

    I think there are two sides to the coin. Yes, the continental view might admit more of the judge’s authority as judge, but I think the common law view does more to dispel the idea of a pristine positive law understood as a collection of self-contained texts.

    At least in theory, a civil law country’s laws could all be written down word by word in a book or engraved on a tablet of stone. The messy collection of authorities that have to be considered, applied or distinguished in a common law jurisdiction are never self-contained, are continually being refined by use, and always refer to the concrete circumstances of particular men’s acts and decisions which then have to be weighed up by the judge in a particular case.

    You could say that common law judge of a difficult case probably yearns for an effective positive law to make his job easier, but by his very efforts to construct one from the imperfect materials to hand he shows the impossibility of the task.

  • King Richard says:

    Winston,
    Ever hear of something called fuhrerprinzip?

  • Not really. Rule of law merely describes the system in which personal authority can be legitimately exercised. It does not specifically address the question as to what personal authority should be exercised except to the extent it operates outside the rule of law.

  • Zippy says:

    Edward:

    I agree that common law basically makes the impossibility of legal positivism very concrete. That does raise the question of why Anglos tend more toward legal positivism though (assuming I am right that that is the case).

    Maybe it has something more to do with the fact that puritanism is an Anglo thing. Or maybe there is no simple explanation I guess.

  • “Rule of law merely describes the system in which personal authority can be legitimately exercised.”

    One thing that makes me fond of the Western world is that we tend to be heavily influenced by Christian values. Our rule of law is actually about placing limitations on meting out justice, our awareness of a Higher Authority, our understanding that vengeance is not ours, that might makes right does not rule the day. Those are powerful principles.

    Even in the old testament, many of those laws are not harsh and judgmental, they are actually placing limits on man’s authority, they are reigning in unfairness. That can be hard for modern eyes to see, but those rules are about being just towards slaves, fair to rape victims. An eye for an eye is not a commandment, it is an assurance you don’t take 15 lives in retaliation because someone poked out your own.

    One problem with liberalism, besides being incoherent and denying the existence of authority, is that they become a rule of law unto themselves.

    So to say, “Rule of law merely describes the system in which personal authority can be legitimately exercised.” Is not really accurate, because in truth there is a big difference. Rule of law actually places limits on man’s authority, whereas liberalism becomes the law unto itself, having no limits,answering to no Higher Authority.

  • TomD says:

    Zippy, I think the European Anglos and the American ones may be different; after all the American ones are descended from a group that rejected parts of the common law and tried to set up their own thing. (The American southwest still observes entitlements and similar descending from Spanish common law.)

    And we now tend to see law in a “Westphalian” way – the concept of overlapping authority and overlapping law is foreign to most minds.

    Westphalian born and raised
    On the nation state is where I spent most of my days

  • King Richard says:

    Winston,
    You wrote,
    “Rule of law merely describes the system in which personal authority can be legitimately exercised.”
    But the rue of law can only derive any power it may have from the authority which creates/enforces it. A King issues laws; the laws are the system in which the king’s authority may be “legitimately exercised” [whatever that means] but only has that color because of the king’s authority.

  • Zippy says:

    King Richard:

    Good point. It is yet another liberal delusion that positive law circumscribes authority as opposed to expressing it.

  • I see it this way. Liberalism is a political philosophy which prioritizes (non exclusively) the freedom and equal rights of citizens. Respect for rule of law under which authority may be legitimately exercised works to ensure these liberal priorities are maintained.

  • The separation of powers between the legislature, courts and executive work to maintain the respect for the rule of law. A good example of this is how the US Federal Court blocked the executive orders issued by the current executive.

    Further, no king has ever ruled absolutely. They always had to rely on the cooperation of their subordinates to some degree or another. Even in medieval Europe kings had to negotiate with local authorities to levy armies and tax which were the primary ways in which they exercised their authority. I would say it is more of a delusion to believe that authority can exist without a structure in which it can be exercised.

  • djz242013 says:

    “Equality” treats the question of what inequalities we shall ignore as if it were the question of whether men are equal.

    Not sure if that one works as well as the others about freedoms.

  • djz242013 says:

    Liberalism is a political philosophy which prioritizes (non exclusively) the freedom and equal rights of citizens

    The understanding of freedom implied by this definition seems to be that freedom is a single, linear axis. You either have “more freedom” or “less freedom.”

    This misses the larger point that some freedoms are good and some are bad. The freedom to attend Mass is good. The freedom to murder your unborn children is not good.

    Prioritizing freedom itself makes no principled distinction between good freedoms and bad freedoms, making it infinitely plastic. I can defend my freedom to go to Mass with the same strength that a murderess can defend her right to kill unborn babies.

    Freedom != good.

  • djz242013 says:

    The total number of options I have available to me is irrelevant if all of them are bad options.

  • Ian says:

    Edward and Zippy,

    Here’s a pretty good article on the difference between how the ancients and medievals conceived law on one hand and how the moderns conceived it on the other (I think I might have picked up the article from Bonald’s site).

    Basically, the ancients viewed law as something that was discovered and refined over time, whereas the moderns regarded it as something imposed on society. From the article:

    [The traditional conception of law] is a much more flexible, living, organic, nuanced and varied form of legal system than a modern Code. Gratian and the scholars working for Justinian did not create the law out of thin air based on pure disembodied reason. They respected law as a living system developing through the application of right reason and customary norms to new situations and circumstances and through the slow, almost imperceptible, growth and development of customs. They approached law with a humility unknown to modern Code drafters. Law was a treasure preserved yet perfected slightly by each generation.

    For the medieval, the job of the lawmaker or sovereign was to clarify and make more particular the principles derived from Natural Law and from Custom. Rulers were conceived of as guardians of the law.

    Two factors led to a change in conception of the law: rationalism – which desired a comprehensive, rational, and universal system of law based on pure reason rather than on messy customs that varied from location to location – and the rise of absolute monarchy:

    The absolutists saw in the dream of the rationalists to sweep the law clean and remake it an opportunity to remake law and the idea of authority to their liking. The combination of these tendencies produced the legal positivism of John Austin and later Jeremy Bentham. Law was whatever the sovereign posited as law notwithstanding long standing customs or principles of natural justice. The will of the prince, freed from its ancient constraints, was to be the whole law.

    In spite of the reference to Austin and Bentham above, the article actually gives the impression that the Continent fared worse in this regard than England, owing to Napoleon’s influence:

    The defeat of Napoleon did not spell the defeat of the Code. At varying times throughout the nineteenth century, vast areas of continental Europe replaced the positivistic Napoleon Code with one of their own (often drawing heavily from the Napoleonic provisions). France, Germany, Spain, Austria and several regions of Italy chose to adopt Codes of their own rather than restore the older legal order to its rightful place. The largest exception throughout the nineteenth century was the Church. (The second largest was England but this is another story).

    (The overall thesis of the article is that the Catholic Church’s 1917 Code of Canon Law was actually a capitulation to the modern conception of law and was a harbinger of the liturgical revolution that would occur in the wake of Vatican II).

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    The overall thesis of the article is that the Catholic Church’s 1917 Code of Canon Law was actually a capitulation to the modern conception of law and was a harbinger of the liturgical revolution that would occur in the wake of Vatican II.

    That (and the rest) is really interesting, thanks.

  • Mike T says:

    Basically, the ancients viewed law as something that was discovered and refined over time, whereas the moderns regarded it as something imposed on society.

    The habit of fetishizing science and technology is probably to blame for a lot of this. Modern society is treated very frequently as a mechanical system by a large swath of the “educated” classes. Adjust this variable, tweak that one and all of a sudden you can optimize for what you think is the right balance.

    The ancients were smart enough to understand that statecraft has more in common with being a shepherd (in good circumstances) or even a cat herder (in the bad ones) than an act of engineering. This error is probably not intrinsic to liberalism, but it exacerbates the problems with liberalism because it reinforces the concept of the low man as being merely a cog that refuses to grind away properly with the rest of the machine. It also encourages people to treat recalcitrant peers with the patience and dignity a lot of people treat a machine that isn’t acting according to specification.

  • TomD says:

    The loss of the other three causes in favor of the material/mechanical is a grave problem indeed.

  • The specific “good” freedoms are defined by law.

  • “The specific “good” freedoms are defined by law.”

    The law is incapable of defining what is “good,” because the law is simply a flat, two dimensional,non-sentient thing. The law can say whatever we want the law to say.

    As to a freedom being “good” or “bad,” that is a totally subjective perception. We need the ultimate Law Giver’s authority to help us differentiate between “good” and “bad” freedoms.

  • Winston:

    Government is incapable of prioritizing the freedom of its citizens, whether this priority is exclusive or not. The government enforces a specific configuration of things which are allowed and things which aren’t, and this affects each citizen differently. The only thing the government can do is prioritize a specific freedom of one citizen over a specific freedom of another; it cannot generally prioritize the freedom of all its citizens.

  • I don’t see it that way. The fact that it is possible to have countries as relatively different in terms of freedoms as the US and NK demonstrates that a government can prioritize freedom generally and not simply on an individual level. And I don’t buy the “freedom aligns with your desires” argument. Most reasonable people want the same basic freedom to express themselves without being jailed for it.

  • Zippy says:

    Liberals are always such unconscious bigots, assuming that everyone “reasonable” agrees with their conception of the good.

  • Zippy says:

    Not to mention nonspecific. All sorts of ways of ‘expressing yourself’ are illegal and/or suppressed by the culture. “Free expression” really means “limited expression” or “restricted expression”, but acknowledging that makes the question begging house of cards collapse in its own ambiguous abstractness.

  • The fact that it is possible to have countries as relatively different in terms of freedoms as the US and NK demonstrates that a government can prioritize freedom generally

    No it does not demonstrate this. It shows that societies can reach radically different configurations of things which are allowed and things which aren’t, but it doesn’t show that freedom generally can be a priority of government. The very reason for the government in the first place is that different people want to do different things.

    Take for instance the laws against murder. A very small portion of society would like to commit murder. The laws against murder prioritize the rest of society’s freedom from murder to that small portion’s freedom to commit murder. So freedom has not been prioritized, and cannot be prioritized, in a general sense.

    In other words you are saying that when the government is presented with two things, one of will be allowed and one of which will not, the government should prioritize allowing over disallowing; it can’t. It will allow one and disallow the other and can’t allow both, so it can’t prioritize freedom generally. It will prioritize one specific freedom over a conflicting freedom. Saying government should prioritize freedom is like saying the government should prioritize both when the job of the government is to pick one or the other.

  • As opposed to being consciously arrogant and judgmental?

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    In other words you are saying that when the government is presented with two things, one of will be allowed and one of which will not, the government should prioritize allowing over disallowing.

    It is even worse than that, since every single concrete empowerment implies a multitude of constraints, as has been demonstrated many times.

    But it is difficult to argue with the sort of insanity that attaches the label “free speech” to something which “all reasonable people agree has limits” in the next breath.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Ah, so we’ve reached the ad hominem part of the argument, I see.

  • Zippy says:

    He probably isn’t even aware that saying every reasonable person agrees with him is an ad hominem.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I was referring to calling his interlocutors ‘consciously arrogant and judgmental’, but sure, that works too.

  • I was referring to calling his interlocutors ‘consciously arrogant and judgmental’

    I think that one is just a good ole fashioned insult rather than an ad hominem.

  • Edward says:

    Ian:

    Excellent stuff, thank you! Sorry to be slow – that’s time zones for you.

    Roger Scruton writes well about the Common Law in his book England: An Elegy. He takes perhaps too liberal a viewpoint for readers of this blog to endorse, but is good on the distinction between the two different systems of law available to modern states.

  • It’s really just one interlocutor who seems to feel he is incapable of being insulting or committing an ad hominem attack but nonetheless becomes offended when he gets a taste of his own medicine.

  • Zippy says:

    It seems to be a feature of discussions which include winstonscrooge as a commenter that who is offended must alway be discussed.

  • Mike T says:

    He probably isn’t even aware that saying every reasonable person agrees with him is an ad hominem.

    I have never met a person who flings accusations of “ad hominem” at others who can properly use the term.

  • Offense is an important pillar of liberalism. It’s a grievance industry. Without the outrage,there is nothing to fuel the ideology.

  • T. Morris says:

    Winston:

    when he gets a taste of his own medicine.

    Which (giving him a taste of his own medicine) is “justice,” right? Lol.

    Winston, if you can ever get over yourself you might be in a position to learn something.

    (No apologies if that comes across as insulting. None of us can control the way you perceive things if we would.)

  • How is it that you can see it when I am insulting but cannot see it when you are insulting?

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    I am monumentally ambivalent about who feels insulted about what. This isn’t a blog where people talk about their feelings.

    When I suggested that your position is bigoted I was being serious, not insulting. In your own words, you expect all reasonable people to agree with you.

    Ad hominem and insult are not synonyms, by the way:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/ad-hominem-is-an-internet-jackass/

  • And when I said you were arrogant and judgmental it was a statement of fact as well.

  • There is a difference between committing the ad hominem fallacy and making an ad hominem attack.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    And when I said you were arrogant and judgmental it was a statement of fact as well.

    Could be, and I am happy to leave that for others to determine.

    But notice that in all three cases – where you claim that all reasonable people agree with you, claim that I am arrogant and judgmental, and natter on about feelings – you are injecting rhetorical distraction from the actual subject matter into the discussion.

    Passing out tissues for badfeelz isn’t what we do here.

  • donnie says:

    Winston,

    You might also find this helpful.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Mike T:

    I have never met a person who flings accusations of “ad hominem” at others who can properly use the term.

    Hey now. I was using the term correctly, as I believe further development shows. I was making the claim that implicit in WC’s claim that his interlocutor(s) is/are ‘consciously arrogant and judgmental’ is the conclusion that his points are then invalid and need not be addressed. I was disagreed with, which is fine, but not mistaken in my application.

    Also, for the record, ad hominem need not be insulting; it can be positive or neutral qualities of the person by which the attacker can dismiss the argument.

    Anyhow…

    Winstonscrooge, from where I sit, there appear to be two possibilities. Either you are trolling, or you are truly failing to comprehend the obvious because of your deeply-held commitments.

    In hopes that it’s the latter, I’ll try one more time.

    Every time one of these discussions comes up and you weigh in with an initial opinion that’s in line with the liberal consensus, that initial consensus is in the ‘bailey’ of liberalism – that is, you try to make a strong, encompassing claim on some point, such as the nature of free speech.

    You see it this way because you nominalistically define it this way. Most reasonable people see freedom to mean living without the infringement of government. The more a government infringes on the lives of its citizens the less free its citizens are.

    This is a strong claim. You claim that ‘freedom’ has a specific, testable meaning as something called ‘government infring(ing) on the lives of its citizens’.

    Then, as the conversation goes on, you progressively retreat into the liberal motte – that is, you come to a position quite different from the original, that is quite hard (though often not impossible) to ‘reasonably’ attack, that still allows you to associate the two positions in the minds of unaware observers.

    In this case, it’s that ‘free speech’ means the ‘good freedoms’, and as you say:

    The specific “good” freedoms are defined by law.

    Thus you have moved to upholding truly free speech – free, meaming without restriction – to some subset of restricted speech whose restrictions you agree are good. You have changed the game.

    It so happens that I, at least, would agree with you as a matter of policy – it is good for the government to restrict the speech of its subjects so some domain held by policy and culture to be ‘good’, or at least ‘acceptable’. It is also, probably, usually good for that domain to err on the side of largeness, rather than smallness. But the difference is, I don’t camouflage my agreement with this preferred exercise of authority behind a commitment to freedom.

    You do this every time I have seen you comment here, so far. Go back over Zippy’s previous entries if you don’t believe me. Analyze the structure of your own course through your argument, and I believe you’ll see that I’m on to something.

    That very structure – making a large claim, and then carefully curtailing it when under attack, while still keeping the large claim linked to the newly curtailed position by association and not by logic – is exactly the action of the psyche that Zippy calls ‘rationally incoherent’. And so it is.

  • And when you say that people are incapable of understanding you when they merely disagree with you, you too are injecting rhetorical distraction. I noticed you did this in your scuffle with Richard Cocks recently as well.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    And when you say that people are incapable of understanding you when they merely disagree with you, you too are injecting rhetorical distraction.

    Unless it is in fact the case that my interlocutor has manifestly failed to understand a point (about the subject matter). For example your own incomprehension (I assume charitably, since trolling is another possibility) is manifest, as is the fact that discussions involving you inevitably end up being all about you and your feelings as opposed to the actual topic.

  • My impression is that the discussion tends to be about your feelings despite your denials. This is the obvious explanation for the tone you instinctively adopt not only with me but with any other person who dare to disagree with you.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    My impression is that the discussion tends to be about your feelings despite your denials.

    Your claim to prodigious powers of remote psychoanalysis over TCP/IP is noted, but off topic.

  • TomD says:

    Zippy wants you to be able to make Zippy’s argument as well as Zippy can – or better; just as he can make your argument as well or better than you can.

    And then, perhaps, when you understand the argument, you will be able to see the truth therein.

  • donnie says:

    My impression is that Winston has a vehement dislike toward sarcastic flourishes, which conflicts with Zippy’s frequent use of said flourishes, and this distracts Winston from ever grasping what is actually being argued.

    Conversations I and others have had with him at his blog have generally gone much better.

  • [Off-topic content redacted. –Z]

  • The flip side of this is that you have countries like North Korea where the number of people who agree with the elite would be extremely low if they weren’t afraid of getting blown up by AA weaponry for even mild disagreement.

    I suspect that, psychoanalysis aside, the amount of dissent from the North Korean government among its people is substantially lower than the amount of dissent from the American government.

  • Chad says:

    Probably true – but I suspect that this is a result of how our form of liberal government (and how our recent government sets two factions against each other) is a huge contribution to that result.

    I suspect there is much less gainsay of day to day customs of the nation and the liberal principles/preferences that drive it

  • NoTrueCatholic says:

    @Ian

    I do not see how the church capitulated on the “rationality” when it created the idea of rational law in the first place in the beginning of the 10th century. It was not hyper-rationalist for sure, not for destroying of subsidiarity or of custom law. It was working together with them, not against them. The king had the power to end bad custom, not to end all custom law. And considering such system, however imperfect, and always implement in different manner in different part of europe, lasted about 5 or 7 centuries, depending how and what you count. And to a large degree, this include England too (which did not have roman law, but was deeply influenced by the whole contental system and shared more in common than in difference).

    So the causal links are more murky than we would like them to be. (after nationalism, absolutism, centralisation, destruction of feudalism, nominalism, protestantism all did their share in my personal opinion).

    On such subject, I advice the brilliant but sadly heretical (i’d love a catholic orthodox version) “the law and revolution”, I have not read the volume 2 yet, I think he treat in part of the destructive effect of napoleon code on the ancient concept of law.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Law-Revolution-Formation-Western-Tradition/dp/0674517768

    I fear my argument is lacking, but I do not want to write too much either about this beloved subject of mine.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I am in Ian’s debt. From his linked article:

    The rationalists argued that the slate needed to be wiped clean like the tabula rosa they falsely claimed we were born bearing. They detested the local, regional and provincial variety tolerated by customary law. Contravention of Natural Law, or being a bad custom, was too difficult a standard to justify the eradication of what they viewed to be a confusing web of laws. They wanted to rationalize law as they did all disciplines of human thought. They wanted it to become a purely speculative product of pure, unaided human reason (and by this they obviously meant their own reason).

    Which is precisely what is been done in the OP’s criticism of the customary slogan Free Speech. Ripped from its context and history, and further dissected into pieces which are treated as nothing but words, it is ridiculed because it is not understood in such a dead and unnatural state.

  • Zippy says:

    Nothing to see here, move along. But lets not address anything that was actually said. Typical Caldo.

    Was someone suggesting that my comboxes are an echo chamber?

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    I give you a Dwightish “False.”

    From the link in your OP

    Free speech means that permissible speech should be permitted, while impermissible speech should be suppressed and punished. It means we should take a live and let live approach to regulating speech.

    So free speech, at least as understood by reasonable liberals, is restricted speech: speech circumscribed within limits. The terms “free” and “restricted” are interchangeable. For reasonable non-ideological liberals, free means the same thing as restricted.

    Which is a spergy way to ridicule the custom of Free Speech by parsing it into mere words instead of recognizing it as a symbol of a complex custom.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Cane Caldo,

    What living custom is that, now?

  • Zippy says:

    Cane Caldo:

    Which is a spergy way to ridicule the custom of Free Speech by parsing it into mere words instead of recognizing it as a symbol of a complex custom.

    A ‘complex custom’ invented by Enlightenment rationalists which has given us ubiquitous porn, blasphemy, and speech codes prohibiting the expression of Christian thoughts.

    I mean, you hold yourself out as a “by their fruits” Christian, right? Doesn’t at least that move you, even if reasoning with you is futile?

  • Chad says:

    Cane,
    The argument that I believe Zippy is making is that liberals made unprincipled desires for liberty into codified laws which must, in their nature, circumscrive liberty. This was an unnatural and innovative product of the enlightenment which destroyed the complex bodies of laws and traditions previously existing.

    After adopting such unprincipled priorities, there has no complex custom of free speach afterwards. There have only been complex histories of people with complexes acting irrationally

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Okay, okay, I should be less a smart-ass and actually make my point.

    CC, to your point about free speech being a symbol for a custom, two points, related to one another

    1) It’s true that it’s a symbol for the old system of English Common Law along with its cultural and racial concommitants – or rather, for a liberally-motivated specific break with that system, while still maintaining many of the cultural and racial customs of that system. It’s further true that the symbol stands for the complex situation of sovereignty, uniquely English, wherein the sovereign power more and more hides itself behind formal distinctions and generally tries – by the lights of the general mass of subjects – to have a light touch. However, Zippy is right in his critique to find the weak point in the symbol and identify it as the weak point in the system, for so it is. The system prides itself on both managing incommensurables and denying that it does so, and this inherent contradiction is more and more rapidly tearing it apart, especially now that the symbol has been re-appropriated by the system’s enemies (who are also its heirs) as ground cover for an agenda to overthrow it.

    2) As a symbol for a custom, it’s a bad symbol, because it causes people (under current conditions) to believe in something false, and furthermore to lose sight of the fact that it is a symbol, therefore causing them to embrace the contradiction without noticing its contradictory character. In this wise Zippy’s critique is again apt, in that it forces us to reappraise the symbol’s place in our political language.

  • Zippy says:

    Rhetocrates:

    However, Zippy is right in his critique to find the weak point in the symbol and identify it as the weak point in the system, for so it is.

    I prefer to think of it as the cancer or the virus, if you will; since “weak point” implies that it is something good, as opposed to a disease of the mind and body politic.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Difference in training, I suspect. To me, ‘weak point’ is a term of strategy; the place you attack the enemy to be most sure he breaks apart and offers little resistance.

  • Ian says:

    NoTrueCatholic,

    I do not see how the church capitulated on the “rationality” when it created the idea of rational law in the first place in the beginning of the 10th century.

    I’m not sure that I’m interpreting your comment correctly, but: it’s not that the Catholic Church capitulated on the rationality of the law, but rather than it capitulated to the rationalism that lay behind the modern conception of law. In other words, it was a capitulation to the specific philosophical school of thought that arose with Descartes in the 17th century. This school of thought would have regarded custom or tradition as wholly irrational since it cannot be derived from first principles accessible to pure reason, whereas the medievals would have regarded custom as not opposed to rationality, and indeed, necessary for man even to make use of his reason in the first place and for him to make sense of the world.

    So the causal links are more murky than we would like them to be. (after nationalism, absolutism, centralisation, destruction of feudalism, nominalism, protestantism all did their share in my personal opinion).

    I’m sure you are correct about this. As a simple model though, I found the thesis put forward by the article plausible and compelling.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll try to check it out.

    Also Edward, thanks for the Scruton recommendation.

  • Ian says:

    winstonscrooge,

    And when you say that people are incapable of understanding you when they merely disagree with you, you too are injecting rhetorical distraction. I noticed you did this in your scuffle with Richard Cocks recently as well.

    It was manifestly the case that Richard Cocks did not understand the argument Zippy et al. were making.

    (Also, I don’t think Zippy said that that Cocks was incapable of understanding the argument, only that he wasn’t in fact understanding it).

  • King Richard says:

    Cane Caldo,
    You wrote,
    “…the custom of Free Speech”
    As when Socrates was condemned to death for speech?
    Perhaps the many customs of lese majeste where speaking negatively about the nation or sovereign was equal to treason and punishable with death – a custom that originated in the Roman *Republic*?
    Perhaps the Bill of Rights of England from 1689 that prohibited speeches in parliament from being tried in other courts (but still allowed trial by parliament and still prohibited a lot of speech)?
    Maybe the Declaration of the Rights of Man from 1789 that claimed free speech for all but was rapidly followed by the Reign of Terror from the same leaders that made religious speech, religious practice, and speaking out against the Revolution crimes punishable by death?
    Probably you mean the First Amendment of 1791 that was followed closely (less than 7 years) by the Aliens and Sedition Act that made speaking out against the same government a crime?
    Maybe, just maybe, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the UN? The one where many signatories also have lese majeste and sedition laws on the books, as well as laws forbidding Christians from speaking of their faith?
    There is no ‘custom of free speech’ that doesn’t include customs of forbidding speech

  • Zippy says:

    King Richard:

    I was thinking that he must be referring to 1689. But then that just concedes the field to Locke, which makes the whole appeal to “a symbol of a complex custom” rather precious.

  • Cane actually does have a point, pointing out the deceptiveness of the phrase “free speech” isn’t a substantive argument against the notion to which it’s generally understood to refer. Going through the reality of immaterial harms that can be inflicted by evil speech is much more salient.

  • Zippy says:

    ArkansasReactionary:

    … the notion to which it’s generally understood to refer.

    That simply assumes that there actually is such a thing. But as far as I can tell “free speech” has never referred to a single stable configuration of speech restrictions.

    In fact it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to think of the referent of “free speech” as instability in the configuration of speech restrictions.

  • […] speech dishonestly frames the question of what restrictions there ought to be on speech as if it were a question of whether […]

  • NoTrueCatholic says:

    @Ian

    “it’s not that the Catholic Church capitulated on the rationality of the law, but rather than it capitulated to the rationalism that lay behind the modern conception of law.”

    That sound much more nuanced. I think we probably agreed. I was in doubt because you put more emphasis on the traditionalist aspect of pre-modern law. I think I read too much into it. Now it sound more nuanced than when I first read it. My apologies.

    I think we both agree that medieval law was rational and that modern law “rationalism” is no true rationalism.

  • LarryDickson says:

    I’m not sure what the purpose of this post is. To condemn free speech and therefore assert that content-based restrictions on speech are OK, and should be imposed to the maximum extent possible by whoever is in power? I do not see that as a good thing.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    The purpose of this post is to provide an accurate description of a particular facet of reality.

  • John says:

    Zippy, would you agree that your position that free speech is a dishonest term and that liberalism is incoherent are things that, if properly thought through and with enough open mindedness, every reasonable person would agree with?

  • Zippy says:

    John:

    Zippy, would you agree that your position that free speech is a dishonest term and that liberalism is incoherent are things that, if properly thought through and with enough open mindedness, every reasonable person would agree with?

    I would just say that my position is true, which is the important thing to me.

    The psychological terms you are using tend to shift the debate away from what is and isn’t true.

    Now because politics is a human endeavor and man is a social animal, some anthropology is unavoidable. We have to grasp for example what happens when groups of human beings become sincerely committed to objectively incoherent doctrines.

    But whatever else may be said, debate over “reasonable people should all accept X” is distinct from arguing for the truth of X. And in the case of the incoherence of liberalism and the intrinsic dishonesty of its slogans, it is the latter that I am doing: arguing that this is true.

  • John says:

    Zippy,

    But doesn’t the fact that a position is true also concomitantly imply that at least a plurality of reasonable people should accept it?

  • Zippy says:

    John:

    But doesn’t the fact that a position is true also concomitantly imply that at least a plurality of reasonable people should accept it?

    In my experience great masses of people are often committed to insane, false doctrines. Consider, for example, Mohammedism.

    One of many traps you are setting for yourself by leaping down the psychological rat hole is to conclude that, because a lot of people you consider to be reasonable happen to believe X, X must be true.

  • John says:

    Zippy,

    In my experience great masses of people are often committed to insane, false doctrines. Consider, for example, Mohammedism.

    Or New Atheism.

    One of many traps you are setting for yourself by leaping down the psychological rat hole is to conclude that, because a lot of people you consider to be reasonable happen to believe X, X must be true.

    I guess that this would then qualify as an ad populum fallacy.

    And maybe sophistry

    Oh, and let’s not forget post-modernism.

    However, it would seem like a fitting thing for a traditionalist who rejects liberalism to state that most reasonable people would agree with his clear and simple arguments that, say, liberty as political priority is incoherent, if they could only be more open-minded and be willing to admit that the beliefs of most modern peoples are completely false.

    After all, your argument that liberty as political priority is incoherent does indeed seem convincing, especially if we are talking about the type of liberty that allows people to create their own beliefs about the universe, human purpouse and life as evinced by the speech of a Supreme Court judge I once read (even though I’m not convinced that liberty within reasonable limits (i.e. natural law) is also vulnearable to this criticism).

    And if one is convinced by a certain proposition, nay, clearly sees how it is in fact completely true, then it makes perfect sense to think that most reasonable people would also agree with you, if only they didn’t have the natural biases that are naturally formed by their enviroment against that claim.

  • Zippy says:

    John:

    “Liberty within natural law limits” may just be a tautology which notes the fact that natural law proposes empowered good and restricted evil. To the extent it attempts to treat empowerment (liberty) and restriction (natural law) as really distinct rather than as modes of the same thing though it becomes self contradictory.

  • “And if one is convinced by a certain proposition, nay, clearly sees how it is in fact completely true, then it makes perfect sense to think that most reasonable people would also agree with you, if only they didn’t have the natural biases that are naturally formed by their enviroment against that claim.”

    One of the mistakes we often make is the assumption that the Earth is populated by a whole lot of reasonable people.

  • Wood says:

    InsanityBytes22,

    One of the mistakes we often make is the assumption that the Earth is populated by a whole lot of reasonable people.

    Ha. That’s probably good advice generally. One thing I’ve noticed in my own conversion sort of experiences, though, is how frighteningly “reasonable” so many of my former evils were. Liberalism, false religion, heck even the atom bomb discussions – these are all the sorts of things that hide under the cloak of reasonableness. You see this particularly over there at the Crisis site as well. It’s actually a bit scary? to think how many reasonable people are formally cooperating with murder and all sorts of other evils. That’s one thing I’ll always take from Zippy’s writings – the importance on zeroing in on the morality of the acts at hand and holding off on focusing on the reasonableness of people and acts until that is squared away.

  • T. Morris says:

    Wood:

    …the importance of zeroing in on the morality of the acts at hand and holding off on focusing on the reasonableness of people and acts until that is squared away.

    Absolutely!

  • […] chemistry obviously doesn’t mean absolutely free chemistry.  Absolutely free chemistry is clearly a straw man, positing no middle […]

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