Here I come to save the day~!

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Here I come to save the day~!

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:18 pm

I've always enjoyed talking and friendly discussions and disagreements, especially over fun scientific, philosophical, political, and religious issues. I like intense conversations. I was even the president of my school's debate team long long ago, but I did not pursue it further because it was just a game, not interested about truth, and when all of my friends moved on, I had no further interest in it.

So, sorry, it's just another privileged white male from the US signing on board. I can't help that, lol.

So, about me, and my philosophy and outlook on life.

I chose this name because of all philosophers and branches of thought, morality, ethics, government, and religiosity, I identify most with the writers of the European Enlightenment, including especially Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Locke, and especially John Stuart Mill. I am not a libertarian. Offhand, I identify with the labels of atheist, skeptic, scientist, secular humanist, Enlightenment liberal (kind of like classical liberal, except I've actually read the works and agree with them), capitalist, and socialist. I am for whatever best achieves human happiness, human freedom, and the other values of humanism. I happen to think that free markets are great when they work, and need to be regulated and controlled where they don't, that social safety nets and welfare are great, but reasonable measures should be taken to prevent abuse (though I have no clue how common that actually is with current programs - not making any statements here).

I identify most with Mill's Harm Principle. Not the naive Harm Principle that many people may make it out to be. It's not libertarian. It's name is sort of a misnomer.The basic idea of the Harm Principle can be summed up best with Mill's own words. Sorry for quoting it all, but it matters to me.

From "On Liberty", socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/mill/liberty.pdf
The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are war-ranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.


You cannot use force against someone for their own interests, but you can use force against someone for the interests of others, whether it be so-called negative harm or positive externalities. (Mill is rather clear on this point if you actually bother to read his work.) This is not the same thing as saying that you should always use force in these cases. It just deliminates a set of cases where the use of force is never justified. In the other set, that's where we can start having our discussions, in the terms set out by the Harm Principle.

Oh, and I'm about as close as you can get to a free speech absolutist as you can get. Specifically, mere offense or outrage is never sufficient justification for government to limit or prohibit speech - ever.

Moreover, I even think that speech calculated to make someone upset or angry or sad, or maybe even suicidal, is never sufficient justification for government to limit or prohibit speech - ever. If we lived in a magical world where there were certain magic phrases or spells which could hijack someone's actions, then I would be in a different world, and different rules would apply. However, in this world, we treat people as moral agents, and they are responsible for their own actions. Saying "I was abused when I grew up" doesn't make you less responsible (though it may adjust our determinations of what is the proper deterrence punishment or safety confinement.) I am specifically thinking of the Megan Myspace suicide case, and the only reason why I might be willing to budge at all on that particular issue is because a minor was involved. If it was all adults, the legal position is clear - there was no crime. (Of course, the woman is an evil monster.)

However, false advertisement, fraud, libel and slander, are all perfectly fine reasons to limit speech, though I much prefer the US standards for those topics. Furthermore, in contrived scenarios where you lie to someone to trick them into hurting themselves, like telling a coworker the electricity is off to get him to fry himself, that is also criminal. However, that does not apply to Myspace Megan.

Please note that I am not an idiot who thinks that "free speech!" is a justification to act like an asshat and demand no negative social repercussions for doing so. Moreover, I am not an idiot who thinks that "free speech!" means that private venues cannot censor or should not censor.

(However again, complete shunning people because of unfavorable speech, like McCarthy era blacklists, is something that probably isn't so good. This is a big topic that Mill touches on, and frankly I don't have a good answer. You do need to call out asshats as asshats, but you don't want to create an environment where people who think differently are so afraid as to never speak out. I don't know. The goal is to avoid becoming a slave to your own opinion, to deny yourself the right to hear others who think differently. But if you're heard it all before, many times, then you're not losing much by censoring the nth +1 guy.)

PS:
I never meant to say that the conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.

Mill, in a letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March 1866)
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