Saturday, October 6, 2012

Between Something and Nothing

"Be transformed by the renewal of your mind." -- Romans 12:2

There surely is an intersection in the cosmic world entitled Something and Nothing streets. It would surely be the road to explaining the objective use of others in a "screwtape" sort of way. But in the "everydayness" of our lives we often find that a utilitarian attitude is most often what we are rewarded for: what we produce matters more than what we use. And in rewarding our production, the beneficiaries simultaneously acknowledge their use. They use our minds, our bodies and our labor to produce what is benefit to them. If if does not serve any other good, so be it.

As author C.S. Lewis wrote, some will subvert others to the thing of their choosing. The novel, The Screwtape Letters centers around a soul snatching demon and his apprentice. What the author intends is to unmask the soul snatching techniques of the Demon and the ways in which he retains those persons for his own use.
Many times we read Lewis' words and we laugh in recognition. It seems a lot of us love 'our favorite sins' and the devil we know just may seem better than the ones we've not met. As for Lewis, what becomes clear from a study of his writings is that he held a conception of the sanctity of personal liberty. Writing about the values of freedom, he stands then as something of a Libertarian.

In western philosophy there is a distinction between positive and negative freedoms. Notions of freedom held by most of the classical liberals (early modern thinkers) are typically thought of by modern political scientists as negative due to the view that freedom was defined as the absence of coercion by individuals against one another.
John Locke (1632-1704) as one example, in his Second Treatise on Civil Government (1690) argued that liberty means to be "free from restraint and violence from others" and "not subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man."

 Adam Smith (1723-1790) writer of the The Wealth of Nations (1776) recorded, "All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus taken way, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord."
For those who viewed freedom as a sort of contract, such as Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and John Locke, freedom is a natural right--all men are created free--deistic beliefs, with intrinsic value.
Both strands of classical liberalism define liberty in absence of the power of persons to benefit from their freedom.

For example naturalists such as John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and Adam Smith, the arguments for freedom were teleological and usually agnostic, so freedom is valued as merely instrumental.
And now we return to the modern view of the utilitarian attitude, one who sees others for what they derive from them in a consumeristic mind set. This is the more modern of views.

"Intense, long, certain, speedy, fruitful, pure—
Such marks in pleasures and in pains endure.
Such pleasures seek if private be thy end:
If it be public, wide let them extend
Such pains avoid, whichever be thy view:
If pains must come, let them extend to few."

--Jeremy Bentham

No comments: