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  1. Ernst Cassirer was the living philosopher that Ludwig Von Mises’ liked best – that does not mean he was always right (any more than Mises, an economist not a specialist philosopher, was always right),but it does mean he is interesting.

    As for Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes – they both denied that humans were beings (i.e. that we make real choices – that are not “illusions” with our actions “really” being predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the start of the universe), so it would a bit weird to try and base libertarian conclusions on such radically anti libertarian philosophers.

    Ralph Cudworth would be a more logical 17th century philosopher for libertarians to read – but he was a Christian and modern (French) enlightenment thinking insists Christians are stupid (someone forgot to tell Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas this) so Cudworth does get read much.

    In the 18th century Thomas Jefferson (not a orthodox Christian) was far more influenced by philosophers such as Thomas Reid (where do you think “we hold these truths to be self evident” comes from) than his foe David Hume – but (again) Thomas Reid and the rest of the Scots Common Sense School were Christians – so under the ban as automatically stupid (and, therefore, not worth reading).

    In the 19th century the mainstream of American philosophy were Noah Porter and James McCosh (he of the “Scottish Philosophy” 1877) – but…. (well you know what is coming…..).

    I would argue that the principles of Common Sense (and common sense) were carried forward into our age by such philosophers as Harold Prichard and Antony Flew.

    Flew (at least for most of his life) was a leading atheist thinker – so perhaps his works are not under the ban (the ban of being considered automatically stupid – by people who have never read them) so perhaps they can be read, even though (alas!) Antony Flew did not sharpen the blade of the French Revolution – and so some might not consider him “enlightened”,

    As for the three central principles…….

    That the universe exists independently of our minds – is objective.

    That our minds also exist – that the “I” and human choice are not “illusions”.

    And that right and wrong (good and evil) are real – not just “boo and cheer words” (as Ayer put it – see Joad “A Critique of Logical Positivism”).

    Well these can be found as far back as Aristotle (see Sir William David Ross on Aristotle) – whether Aristotle was “enlightened” I leave to others to say.

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  2. “As for Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes – they both denied that humans were beings (i.e. that we make real choices – that are not “illusions” with our actions “really” being predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the start of the universe), so it would a bit weird to try and base libertarian conclusions on such radically anti libertarian philosophers.”

    Spinoza’s definition of God is of a being “absolutely free”, and everything in the world as a “modification” thereof, free in a lesser way. He was also a determinist, so it can get difficult. You can say that he has contradicted himself, but the first thing to note about Spinoza’s attempt to define all of Nature is that the fact that anything exists at all is an unanswerable paradox. He can also be rather – and often deliberately – obscure: to reveal his true beliefs too readily would have put his life in danger. For my part I don’t think the determinism/free will debate has any implication whatever for ethics or politics, being deterministic certainly didn’t constrain the radicalism of Spinoza.

    I expect you can’t see my comments on that article, I think you have to register first, but I’m taking umbrage at the way Spinoza is being portrayed.

    The most important thing to say from a libertarian perspective is that he had an entirely subjective theory of value, this will be familiar from Austrian economics, and LvM for one was certainly aware of Spinoza. He resembles Ayn Rand in some ways (as an egoist), but is her mirror image in some other ways (ethical subjectivist).

    Anyway, if Simon is a Randroid, I’ve been a Spinozoid for at least a decade. I think there are lessons to learn from him if we want to overcome what’s happening to the world now.

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  3. On Spinoza I have heard that he conflated God with the universe – but that may not be true (I am not an expert so I do not know). But his determinism does not seem to be contested – God may be free, but (as a libertarian) what I am concerned with the point that humans are free to make real choices.

    There is a massive campaign to undermine faith in humans-as-beings.

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    1. “conflated God with the universe”

      He identifies God with all of existence, so this is basically true.

      “God may be free, but (as a libertarian) what I am concerned with the point that humans are free to make real choices”

      Determinism is a prerequisite for freedom. We call it determinism, which is a kind of dirty word, but if I call it causality, then it becomes incontestable and necessary in order to have any agency whatsoever. If anyone can define for me what “free will” actually is, I’d be stunned; it seems to mean some kind of transcendent supernatural power, but it just makes no sense: the closest thing to this that I can actually understand is randomness, and a) I certainly don’t believe in that, and b) I want my arms to move where I want, not in random directions! If you wonder whether you are free, just move an arm or two, that’s what I do.

      “There is a massive campaign to undermine faith in humans-as-beings.”

      Well subjectivity is the opposite of that.

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  4. Well if it is accepted that I determine some things (that I am the cause) then what you say makes sense RWH – but, normally, determinists either formally claim or imply that the “I” is an illusion.

    As for the campaign to undermine belief in humans as beings – I mean books such as “Freakonomics”. “Nudge” and “Thinking Fast and Slow” (and it is a coordinated – as the authors all praise each other, and the media praise all of them). The (implied) argument is that most people are scum – apart from the author (and those clever enough to buy his book) who should manipulate everyone else (for our own good), after all this is not violating our freedom – as we are not “really” free will beings anyway…..

    And day now “So you think that you think” (from Atlas Shrugged) will be brought out – as a real work (not a satire).

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  5. Agency and necessity are opposed (they are not the same thing). Either actions are chosen (in the sense we could have done otherwise but CHOOSE to do what we do) or actions are PRE determined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang.

    Strictly speaking it is not “determined” that is the problem (I can be the determiner) it is PRE determined that is not acceptable.

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    1. If it’s not pre-determined then we ought to be able to detect some breach of the causal chain somewhere. I’ll be honest, the idea that I could act differently doesn’t make any sense to me either: the person who acted differently would not be me, they’d be someone a little different, who was thinking something different… Ever wish you could change the past? I don’t. To my mind to do that would be a minor form of suicide.

      I do accept there’s a paradox involved, but I don’t think there are any answers out there.

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  6. Ah so “determinist” does mean pre-determined. I do not agree with your position RWH – but I thank you for stating it clearly and honestly.

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