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    Edward Feser, The road from libertarianism + Social Justice Reconsidered: Austrian Economics and Catholic Social Teaching

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback

    Messages : 18036
    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
    Localisation : France

    Edward Feser, The road from libertarianism + Social Justice Reconsidered: Austrian Economics and Catholic Social Teaching Empty Edward Feser, The road from libertarianism + Social Justice Reconsidered: Austrian Economics and Catholic Social Teaching

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback Dim 5 Juil - 9:53

    "I have pretty much always been conservative.  For about a decade -- from the early 90s to the early 00s -- I was also a libertarian.  That is to say, I was a “fusionist”: someone who combines a conservative moral and social philosophy with a libertarian political philosophy."

    "Arguments for libertarianism fall into two general categories.  There are on the one hand what we might call pragmatic or prudential arguments either for the practical superiority of this or that specific libertarian policy, or for the practical superiority of a broadly libertarian polity in general.  Such arguments might appeal to economic analysis, historical evidence, or the like -- a comparison between the respective records of free versus centrally planned economies, an account of how market prices transmit information and provide incentives, an analysis of the effects of welfare programs on the poor, and so forth.   The main arguments of Hayek and Milton Friedman are more or less of this sort.  On the other hand there are principled or philosophical arguments to the effect that libertarian policies are more just or otherwise morally superior to their rivals.  Such arguments might claim that human beings have by nature a right to liberty that is so strong that it allows even in principle for very little if any governmental restriction on that liberty, or that there is a moral burden of proof on restrictions to liberty that non-libertarian positions fail to meet.  The characteristic arguments of Nozick and Rand are more or less of this principled sort."

    "I still find many of the pragmatic or prudential arguments powerful -- especially the Hayekian ones -- but they don’t get you to libertarianism per se.  Hence these days I would call myself a “free-market conservative” or “limited government conservative.”."

    "There are two main problems with the idea of self-ownership -- the “self” part, and the “ownership” part.  Mack’s work got me on the road to seeing this, though that was hardly what he intended.  In his Social Philosophy and Policy article “The Self-Ownership Proviso: A New and Improved Lockean Proviso,” Mack had put forward what seemed (and still seems) to me powerful arguments to the effect that we cannot plausibly be said to own ourselves in a substantive way if the right to self-ownership protects us only “from the skin inward” and says nothing about whether we may bring our powers to bear on the world.  Suppose, for example, that you and I are castaways and wash up on some tiny island upon which no human beings have ever trod.  You immediately pass out on the beach, while I get to work constructing a bamboo fence whose perimeter happens entirely to enclose your body.  Upon waking, you accuse me of imprisoning you and thereby violating your self-ownership rights, and demand to be released.  Suppose I then respond as follows: “I have not imprisoned you at all!  I’ve simply homesteaded all the land around you -- which you had no right to, since it was virgin territory -- and I’ve built a fence around it, to make sure you don’t come onto my land and take any of the resources I’ve justly acquired.  True, you’ve got nothing in the way of resources in the seven-foot by four-foot plot of sand I’ve left you, but that’s not my fault.  That’s just your bad luck, sorry.  I suppose it would be nice of me to give you some of mine, but at most I’d be unkind rather than unjust if I decide not to do so.  And I was very careful not to touch you as I built my fence.  I do respect your right of self-ownership, after all!”

    Now even though I would not have directly harmed you in any way -- I haven’t so much as touched your body, nor (so the argument goes) taken anything that belonged to you, since it was virgin territory and “up for grabs” -- there is still an obvious sense in which I have harmed you indirectly.  For part of what you own by virtue of being a self-owner are powers that are of their nature “world-interactive” (as Mack puts it) and I have effectively nullified your ability to bring those powers to bear on the world.  And precisely by doing so I have, you might say, respected the letter but not the spirit of the thesis of self-ownership.  To respect others’ rights of self-ownership in a substantive and not merely formal way, then, we have in Mack’s view to avoid using our property in a way that effectively nullifies others’ ability to bring their world-interactive powers to bear on the world.

    That is just a brief sketch of Mack’s point; I develop and defend it at length in my article “There is No Such Thing as an Unjust Initial Acquisition,” which I linked to above.  But it is a point that any Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law theorist has to take very seriously, for two reasons.  First of all, the A-T ethicist grounds morality in a teleological conception of human nature, and cannot fail to agree with Mack that many of our powers are inherently world-interactive.  In particular, no A-T natural law theorist can fail to agree that our realizing what is good for us, our flourishing as the kinds of beings we are, requires that we be able to bring those powers to bear on the world.  Secondly, for those A-T theorists who are open to the idea of natural rights, those rights have themselves a teleological foundation.   We have the natural rights we have precisely as a means of safeguarding our ability to flourish as the kinds of beings we are, to pursue what nature has determined is good for us and perfects us.  So, if an A-T approach to natural rights could ground the thesis of self-ownership, it would have to ground something like Mack’s self-ownership proviso as well

    "But no sooner had I finished writing up that article than I could see that the implications of this conclusion were very far-reaching indeed.  For among our powers and capacities are various moral capacities.  And for the Aristotelian, our moral character is initially formed as a matter of acquiring the right habits, in childhood, and only later coming to understand the rationale behind those habits.  To cause a child to fall into bad moral habits is therefore to damage the distinctively moral powers he owns by virtue of being a self-owner, and thus (given Mack’s self-ownership proviso) arguably to fail to respect his right of self-ownership in a substantive rather than merely formal way.  But that in turn seemed to entail that at least in principle, certain governmental measures to protect children from moral corruption could be justified on self-ownership grounds!  There is also the fact that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to see how Mack’s self-ownership proviso might be deployed in an argument against abortion.  (To be sure, I was pro-life even when I was a libertarian.  But Mack’s proviso seemed to provide a further argument.)."

    "Initially (and as the article indicates) I thought that this was still consistent with the idea that the thesis of self-ownership entails a kind of libertarianism.  But that didn’t last long.  For one thing, the “libertarianism” that resulted was very thin indeed.  For another, I came to see that the thesis was even more indeterminate than Mack’s “self-ownership proviso” already entailed.  For what exactly is this “self” to which the thesis makes reference?  As I argued in my Social Philosophy and Policy article “Personal Identity and Self-Ownership,” no matter what answer we give -- a Cartesian answer, or a materialist answer of some sort, or a Lockean answer, or an Aristotelian-Thomistic answer -- we will be left with an interpretation of the thesis of self-ownership that has implications most libertarians would be uncomfortable with.  In particular, we will either end up making most or even all of the body something strictly external to the self, and thus just another natural resource that others may at least partially homestead; or we will integrate the body into the self in a way that entails an Aristotelian view of human nature, and thus reinforces the morally conservative interpretation of self-ownership explored in the “Self-Ownership, Abortion, and the Rights of Children” article."

    "If the theory that underlies the thesis does not entail such an absolute right -- as it didn’t for Locke -- then we might in some sense own ourselves, but without therefore having the right to take heroin, or unilaterally to divorce a spouse, or whatever.  Again, the idea of self-ownership by itself won’t tell you either way.  You have to look to the underlying theory of rights to find out -- in which case the thesis of self-ownership isn’t doing a whole lot of work.

    In my own case, the underlying theory was an A-T natural law theory.  And it became clear the more I thought about natural law theory that since the very point of natural rights was, on that view, to safeguard our ability to fulfill the ends nature had set for us, there could in principle be no such thing as a natural right to do what is positively contrary to those ends.  That does not mean that everything that is morally wrong should be outlawed; that’s not the point.  The point is rather that from A-T natural law theory, there is no way you are going to get the absolute right of self-ownership -- a natural right to do even what is morally wrong as long as it violates no one else’s rights.

    "Now the thesis of self-ownership was, as I have said, the core of my own commitment to libertarianism.  But as I came to see, the thesis was hopelessly indeterminate, certainly way too indeterminate to ground libertarianism and even (as I now think) too indeterminate to be very interesting at all.   Meanwhile, deeper reflection on classical natural law theory led me to see that there was in any event no way to provide a natural law foundation for a distinctively libertarian theory of natural rights.  And it led me to see as well that an Aristotelian-Thomistic approach to natural law simply could not be reconciled with various specific theses associated with libertarianism -- such as the view that the authority of the state arises entirely through consent, and the idea that we can have no enforceable obligations to others that we do not freely choose to take on.  Since Catholic social teaching is grounded in natural law, it is no surprise that I also came to conclude that libertarianism could not be made consistent with that teaching either.  I’m not sure exactly when I finally decided that I was no longer a libertarian, but I don’t think it could have been any later than the Fall of 2004, and was probably much earlier."
    -Edward Feser, "The road from libertarianism", 14 août 2012: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-road-from-libertarianism.html


    « La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).

    « Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.

    « Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".

      La date/heure actuelle est Mar 5 Déc - 8:20