Utilitarianism vs Idealism

Francois-Rene Rideau Francois-Rene Rideau <fare@tunes.org>
Mon, 28 May 2001 12:14:46 +0200

>: Kyle Lahnakoski, "Re: Free Information vs Information Protectionism"
> Society can do what it damn well pleases.  It is bigger than all of us;
> and there is little you can do if it decides it is time you die. :)

It depends on whether you're considering things from a phenomenologic
or normative point of view. Certainly, from the phenomenologic PoV,
whatever happens happens, so that's a tautology. But it brings no clue
as to what *should* happen, for any normative notion of should.
And if there's no normative statement in the end,
there's no discussion to be had.

Oh, you may say "sure, but what we discuss has an effect, however faint,
on what happens." -- "Yeah," I'll reply, "and this effect is precisely
the conveyance of normative notions."
F.A. Hayek, this great cybernetician of political economy
(from way before the time when word "cybernetics" was coined),
discusses the phenomenologic importance of normative notions
in the first chapters of "Law, Legislation and Liberty".

> I do not agree with the axiom:
>> The people cannot delegate to government the power to do
>> anything which would be unlawful for them to do themselves.
>>       -- John Locke, "A Treatise Concerning Civil Government"
> A society is different than a person.  To arbitrarily restrict society
> to human rights is naive.
If you find justification in government powers that be not individually
delegated, then you must justify either normatively
what is the source and limit of these powers,
or phenomenologically how it is possible for these powers to lead
to a better society notwithstanding the difficulty of keeping
these powers from corrupt, ignorant, and/or incompetent hands.
And please, skip us remarks that governments do exist, or
tautologies about the fact that governments happen only in as much
as people accept them (read La Boétie about voluntary serfdom).
Yes we know that, thank you. So what?
What counts is the normative statement in the end. Which is yours?

"Utilitarians" adopt the phenomenologic point of view.
"Idealists" adopt the normative PoV.
Some people have heated debates about which PoV is the good one.
I have always been convinced that the PoV are isomorphic,
and that they are but two dual aspects of a same universe.
The author that I know to have earliest stated it in a clear way,
best expressed it and most defended it, is (no surprise) Frederic Bastiat,
with his last (unfinished) work, "Economic Harmonies" being written
with this idea explicitly present all through-out.
[Well, if you're sick of me referring to FB or FAH,
just you send me references to the good stuff by other people
-- you'll be most welcome.]

Yours freely,

[ François-René ÐVB Rideau | Reflection&Cybernethics | http://fare.tunes.org ]
[  TUNES project for a Free Reflective Computing System  | http://tunes.org  ]
There cannot be Ethics without Models of possible behaviors, and Imagination
to explore them. [Corollary: there is no Ethics for an all-knowing God,
but there are Ethics for mostly-ignorant but nevertheless thinking humans]