Thought of the day

Human beings are more important than the abstract ethical principle of liberty.

15 Responses

  1. Some would say that that abstract principle is what makes us “human”. that we can recognize the difference between being free and not being free.

  2. I don’t see it as a choice, Michael. Both are important.

  3. Abstract ethical principles are more important than human beings. Human beings demonstrate that every day, by both dying and killing for them.

    Of course, the idea that human beings are more important that abstract ethical principles is itself an abstract ethical principle, rather neatly nullifying itself.

  4. Haha. Excellently put. Much, many kudos.

  5. “Human beings are more important than the abstract ethical principle (singular) of liberty.”

    I’ll see if anyone can figure out where rcn2 went wrong from my hints.

  6. He does make a generalization (principleS) and you were speaking of a specific one.

    I still see his point as valid. Any ranking of one “abstract ethical principle” over another would be extremely subjective.

  7. Thanks Nate, that was the general idea of my comment :)

    The difficulty is the statement is trivially true for anything:

    “Human beings are more important than the abstract ethical principle of democracy.”

    “Human beings are more important than iPhones.”

    “Human beings are more important than the environment.”

    People do give up their liberty to protect and support human beings, and I’d probably give up my iPhone for certain human beings, but if the context is simple “human life vs. X” then it’s not really that profound.

    If it is intended to go a bit deeper, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense. “Human beings are more important than the abstract ethical principle of liberty.” And what’s important to Human Beings? Liberty. (It’ll be up there, right after food and water I suspect, and for some even before those. iPhones would be first of course).

    On a broader perspective, what kind of human beings suggest that human beings are more important than liberty (the abstract principle thereof)? The first candidates to my mind are the politicians that use fear to remove liberties under the guise of improved security. It’s the rallying cry of oppressive governments anywhere and anywhen in history.

    Of course, I’m not suggesting that the reverse is true either. We give up some liberties and suffer indignities such as taxation in order to help other human beings.

    But it’s much simpler than which answer is right.

    Like most absolute statements, it’s just plain wrong.

    Cheers :)

    (Read your blog/thoughts every day – thanks for writing!)

  8. Or I’m referring to the value of human happiness, something which actually exists (or fails to exist, as the case may be). That happiness is good is a principle, but happiness itself is not.

  9. Understanding the liberty and freedom are not all together the same thing I generally think that human happiness is a function of the amount of liberty they have.

    Liberty being the right to exercise free will and personal responsibility. It can go either way based on the choices one makes. Your liberty, based on what you do with it, can make you extremely unhappy or extremely happy.

    As I have pointed out before I see 2 main kinds of liberty (utopias really, reality is always someplace in between but bear with me):

    One is a childlike kind. Society provides everything you need to live. Personal responsibility is largely abdicated to society. This may make you very happy.

    The other is more of an adult situation. You are responsible for the provision of what you need and you have only yourself to blame if you don’t or can’t meet those needs. That may make you happy regardless of whether you have everything or not.

    Personally I’d rather be reliant on myself for everything. I don’t think blaming others for your misfortunes can ever really leave you happy. Look at France right now, a topic that is strangely absent from your blog. The fact that LePage’s wife is a tax cheat is here (although it turns out she isn’t, also absent here) but not the situation that has erupted from a society that, by all accounts, too involved in peoples personal welfare.

    Happiness really is abstract. What makes you happy might not make me so. How do you measure happiness? The poorest most destitute man could easily be happier than the richest. Someone on a healthy pension with endless leisure time could be more unhappy than someone working 60 hours a week and living paycheck to paycheck.

  10. I must ask, at what margin? Surely you would see the Brave New World as a distopia, even though they are following your idea of putting human beings before liberty.

    Speaking of politics, I can’t help but notice you haven’t commented on the big Paul LePage development this week, where a Florida court found his wife innocent, or the newest poll that showed Lepage at 40%, but your candidate Eliot Cutler at 26% and tied with Libby Mitchell.

  11. The LePage’s still illegally set up their situation (hence the need for them to pay back taxes) so they could specifically get in-state tuition for their children.

    And I just read a poll that placed Cutler at 31% and LePage at 37%. They’ve been all over the place this election season.

    Nate – I’ve skimmed your post and I’m guessing it deserves a response. I’m not ignoring it.

  12. I think I mentioned before that I don’t place much trust in polls. The only poll that matters is on Tuesday.

    The critical insights poll that had Mitchell up by 1% was an insane one. I think that one was a fluke because no other poll has even been close to that. The latest one you mentioned shows what has been a trend, Cutler gaining some undecided and gaining ground on Mitchell.

    But they are still all full of shit.

  13. I follow these guys

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2010/governor/me/maine_governor_lepage_vs_mitchell_vs_cutler-1231.html

    I’m not sure if they have any real political bias or not, I’m not sure it really matters since they don’t do any polling of their own. They take a group of the latest polls and average them out.

    There are some issues with that but it was pretty accurate in 2008, much more so than any individual pollster.

    Its also nice because they are all grouped together, no searching around for the latest polls.

    As a side note my cousin is a state rep from Bangor. He endorsed Cutler recently and not only did Mitchell call and berate him but the state democratic party has cut him off from the dem voters “database”. I’m not a democrat but that seems pretty appalling behavior by the party. Both parties do that stuff but this next part seems notably horrible. The party went so far as to threaten to send out a mailing to his district urging people not to vote for him.

    I’m not even sure the democratic party is trying to win. Maybe they are secretly for LePage?

  14. We value humans first and foremost when we make ethical arguments. Whether we’re arguing for liberty or straight happiness, our reason is that humans are important. (Why they are important is a separate issue.) It seems to me that that means we ought to always be valuing the well-being of humans over the execution of any ethical principle when the two come into conflict.

  15. What is your definition of well being? Mine includes liberty, that is “The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing.”

    There are few other definitions but this one is the one that I find necessary for “well being”. Once again what constitutes “well being” is subjective.

    For some simply having food, water and shelter might be enough, for many people they require more, they require freedom. Perhaps they, like myself would rather have free than have the “security” of materials such as food and medicine, etc.

    Its a bit off topic but that’s my biggest issue with the heath care bill. Being forced to buy health care (insurance) provides me with some security perhaps, but takes away choice in the matter and I find that unacceptable.

    I don’t work to provide others with food, health care, housing or anything else. I make plenty of voluntary contributions in many areas, but I’m not forced to make donations to soup kitchens or habitat for humanity for example.

    Compulsory health insurance is first and foremost a way to grant care to those who cannot afford it and make it financially possible for those who have too much risk to obtain it. I’m more than happy to assist in paying for this according to my means, in my own judgment and if given the choice. Force breeds resentment.

    I’ve thought ever since the beginning of this debate that if people were allowed to write off (100%) donations to congressionally chartered nonprofit insurance corporations that we might find that many people could be covered for the conditions that preclude them for getting insurance in their own right. If those conditions were covered by a 3rd party than there would be no reason for an insurance company to not sell them a policy.

    I expect Obama care to be defunded shortly so we will see what the resolution is.

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