Thursday, March 13, 2014

your turn #5

isaiah berlin

hi class, we've talked about lots of things these two weeks. here are some highlights:

1- benjamin constant's comparison between ancients and moderns. the point is that we've gained individuality at the expense of our political power & by political power constant means the "... excercising collectively but directly, several parts of the complete sovereignty (i.e, deliberating, forming alliances, voting laws, pronouncing judgments, etc). do you agree?

2- isaiah berlin's two concepts of liberty(let's take it as a model of subtle political argument in the sense we've defended the problematizing of ideas).

3- dworkin's idea of liberty (different obviously than that of berlin), i.e., liberty is only liberty to do whatever we wish so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others.

4- h.l.a. hart's thesis of shift of moral standards. this seems kind of close to thomas kuhn's idea of scientific paradigm and michel foucault's idea of episteme. 

moving on to rights,

5- any coincidences between bentham & marx?

6- robert nozick's interesting reading "rights as side-constraints", a discussion which brought up the idea of kant's second formulation and a discussion about using people as means in the political context. needles to say, kant's political philosophy is influenced by his ethics (not viceversa).

7- as per hegel's idea of property (Eigentum) more food for thought, @ #51 from the elements of the philosophy of right, philosophie des rechts:
... since property is the embodiment of personality, (Zum Eigentum als dem Dasein der Persönlichkeit) my inward idea and will that something is to be mine is not enough to make it my property; to secure this end occupancy is requisite. The embodiment which my willing thereby attains involves its recognisability by others. The fact that a thing of which I can take possession is a res nullius is (nobody's property) a self-explanatory negative condition of occupancy, or rather it has a bearing on the anticipated relation to others.
so, for hegel, in a sense, Eingentum becomes a redundant embodiment of my will & freedom. in #46 hegel defines private property as "will becoming objective,"
Da mir im Eigentum mein Wille als persönlicher, somit als Wille des Einzelnen objektiv wird so erhält es den Charakter von Privateigentum...
Since my will, as the will of a person, and so as a single will, becomes objective to me in property, property acquires the character of private property.
go ahead!


  1. At the scale and complexity of modern states, I find Benjamin Constant to be plausibly convicted in elevating reform over revolution in both moral and political terms. Constant provides a constructivist rationale for liberty: "autonomy in all those aspects of life that could cause no harm to others or to society as a whole." I affiliate with Constant's views because instead of seeing the republican and liberal model as opposites, he seems to find them rather complementary, as long as citizens act as political agents who are mindful of the public interest.

  2. Regarding Isaiah Berlin's Two Concepts of Liberty, I am reminded when my government teacher had taught me on the "positive & negative freedom" concept by Gerald McCallum. His view is the distinction between positive and negative freedom "is base in part upon a serious confusion, and has drawn attetion away from precisely what needs examining if the differences separating philosophers, ideologies, and social movements concerned with freedom are to be understood."
    The way he states this is in a simple manner to explain how we should problematize the issues regarding man and society. Yet when I hear Dworkin's idea that "liberty is only liberty to do whatever we wish so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others" it makes it seem that many people regard this view as liberty just because they feel they may not be hurting another's right. As Giovanna pointed out Constant states that there should be "autonomy...cause no harm to others" by each individual member within a respective society to keep liberty free.

  3. Carolina L. SantanaMarch 18, 2014 at 1:43 AM

    Intertwining the interaction concerning the political debate of equality and liberty with the totality of the human condition, Isiah Berlin profoundly illustrates the separation between negative and positive liberty. While positive liberty includes the ability to pursue the individualistic concept of the self, comprising of consciousness and free will, negative liberty consists of the freedom to be unrestricted in your actions. Isiah Berlin is not taking a definitive stance on any perspective; he is simply dissecting the notions of political versus personal liberty in accordance with the guidelines of value-pluralism.

    Berlin describes the “classic English philosophers” ubiquitous conflict of equality over liberty and why these two concepts do not coexist. Accordingly, by limiting political freedom, or positive freedom, you are insinuating that men are brutish by nature. If men were not brutish by nature, they wouldn’t need laws and regulations instilled by a government. Moreover, it is also insinuated that by placing laws and societal moral codes, that a certain degree of equality and higher human values are prioritized because otherwise it would be examined that the strong would interfere with the inferior individual’s liberty. He is emphasizing the fundamental right for the equality over liberty that is inherit in social institutions. Conversely, a man must be granted a certain degree of liberty, Berlin states, “…a frontier must be drawn between the area of private life and that of public authority.” Berlin is suggesting that it is a fundamental right to have a certain amount of liberty, and without that liberty men could not achieve consciousness of the self or develop a genuine sense of morality.

    I understood from Berlin’s argument that the point of conflict lies in social aspect of human nature. Because humans are social creatures, it would be impossible that the acts of one man did not in some way interfere with that of another. It is contradicting to have both fundamental rights coexisting on the same caliber; enforcing equality would limit one’s political freedom and conversely, enforcing liberty would infringe upon the equality of others. The reason for this is because not everyone can experience the same amount of freedom. He agrees that “Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows”. The pike, being a larger, stronger predator, will upon its motivation need to eat the minnows to survive… The liberty of some is the restraint of others.

    Berlin finishes the excerpt with, “Recent history has made it only too clear that the issue is not merely academic.” The issue between liberty and equality depends on which outcome is more desirable; a world where everyone suffers to the same extent, or one where a select few have the luxury of exemption from suffering and experiencing wider degree of political and private freedom. The issue is not solely academic, among being a question of morality, it is a question of the purpose of existence for man, is it to do as you please and pursue your personal will, whatever it may be, or it to collectively experience equality among all citizens?

  4. Stephanie BensadounMarch 18, 2014 at 4:32 AM

    First, I definitely agree with the point that we've gained individuality at the expense of our political power. It seems as if you can never have both. People want, both, individuality and political power but they seems to clash with each other. Political power is to think collectively, as a whole in order to benefit the majority but to do that, you must surrender certain aspects of your individuality and vice versa.

    I also completely agree with Dworkin's idea of liberty where liberty is only liberty to do whatever we wish so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others. I do, however, believe that sometimes it is taken too far. For instance, if a person is physically or seriously emotionally harming others then that is a problem but the video we were speaking about, in my opinion does not infringe on anyone liberties. I believe that people took it way to seriously and it was just someone's way of trying to be comedic. Others got offended but it didn't block them from practicing their religion. He has a right to say what he likes. Why should he be punished and seen as a monster because someone got offended or got their feelings hurts? He didn't harm anyone and we all say things that offend others but some shrug it off and go on with their day. For any of you who haven't seen it, here's the link:

  5. Berlin was mentioned a lot last class, and with good reason. I like what Berlin said that we are interdependent; no person has absolute privacy and we're all connected with each other. Hemingway said it best, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." (Well actually, John Donne did, Hemingway was just quoting him lol)

    This now leads me to the argument we had last class; about moral obligations people in corporation have, and if it is just to not help the poor because of Social Darwinism. I disagree with the notion that people should be stepped on because they're not fit. People are people. We went over a chapter of Human Nature, and we ought to have a sense on what people are: Greedy, empathetic, sympathetic and among other things. Social Darwinism is a bad idea and should not be applied in today's world, as we are now a "global community". Adam Smith, the founder of capitalism wouldn't advocate what Walmart or other corporations are doing. (Smith was friends with Humes; Smith was well known for a moralist and wrote about morality -The theory of sentiments- Here's the link Also the standford encyclopedia

    I gave a good example on how people battled the corporate giant of walmart during Black Friday; they boycotted going to the store. Simple.

    I again refer to Hume and Smith on the argument that Hart brought up about the shift in Morality, but also the proportions of equality as well. Morality shifts; what was once a sin like homosexuality, now has become a right to express the love of the same gender without fear of prosecution. These are the little things that won't harm a society. Murder is something that won't leave the constraints we have put it on the morality scale. We sympathize with Homosexual and people, and see how unfair they've been treated. As a wise-ass once said it best, "If the gays and lesbians want to marry and be miserable like the rest of us, then let them."

    I very much had agreed with Hume about the impossibility of making all people equal, but I have to admit that proportional equality is plausible and doable. I had enjoyed that part of the lesson, and see that it is something worth fighting for. I much agree that we can find ways to make people, lets say handicap people, equal in some way, instead, of the formal equality. It all depends on the society we live in and how we choose to help and apply it.- Marco Fonseca

  6. I agree that to obtain property it is not enough to call it your own. The extent of using property only as a means to gain money has gone to a a point where, honestly, I'm at a loss of words on what to call it. The idea of property has changed meanings from being an extension of your person to being a cheap novelty. It's almost an infatuation of people wanting to own what isn't there's to begin with. An ridiculous example of this is people actually wasting there money buying acres of land on the moon. The moon has no owner and you can't make anything of it, let alone live on it! Yet, people spend their money just to say "it's mine". Simply saying it's yours doesn't make you the owner. I honestly don't have much to say about the subject for now so I'll leave it at that.

    ~Katherine Davila

  7. I for one am a firm believer in survival of the fittest. I just don't simply see why a person who has worked so hard to go to school and do all there due diligence should be at the same level as someone who hasn't. COming from a Cuban background my notion of what happens when people try to bring equality to al isn't the most positive. In general people who have a lot worked a lot and I don't have a problem with that. ENvy is a strong word that people try to replace with terms like morally correct. SUre there are cases where the money is just passed down from generation to generation but it is not there fault to be born into it. They were born into a well adapted family. You wouldn't be mad for an animal in the cold to be born with a thiker fur in order to live better so why is it wrong to be born into money if money is what provides for a better life. As for the property aspect I also don't see why it is wrong to see property as money. Property is a sign of wealth. Its a way of investment. Why not invest in something you think will make you more money/

  8. I reject the idea that the act of claiming land as property as land to be at all immoral, Instead once all land is attained the immoral act is to consider another persons value or equality less than yours. All social injustices have been done for this reason, what can I say our reach is further than our grasp, our ability to speak grew faster than our intelligence to speak. This is the nature nature of a lot of people, we are passive and apathetic to all the things not within our immediate social circle. So as to conclude it does not infringe on our immediate-short term actions.I think the way land acquisition here is a little superfluous as well. I see their reasons though, The moon is so exciting it climbs the priorital ranks, until your view equality is distorted. Then soon enough the moon will be filled this is when equality is questioned as this is the only point where our immediate social circles and rights are coming into contest.
    I agree with Marx in making the analogy between the concept of property and the apple in the garden of eden however...They still had to decide who was gunna bite the apple first and who it belonged to...Some things just have to be sorted out. It must be done, yet it must be done without considering your liberty of greater value than the others.
    -Stefan Petersen