Bok om frihet

Vilken spännande (och för en liberal och ”traditionell” nationalekonom troligen utmanande) bok att se fram emot nästa år!

In this pathbreaking book, New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein asks us to rethink freedom. He shows that freedom of choice isn’t nearly enough. To be free, we must also be able to navigate life. People often need something like a GPS device to help them get where they want to go—whether the issue involves health, money, jobs, children, or relationships.

In both rich and poor countries, citizens often have no idea how to get to their desired destination. That is why they are unfree. People also face serious problems of self-control, as many of them make decisions today that can make their lives worse tomorrow. And in some cases, we would be just as happy with other choices, whether a different partner, career, or place to live—which raises the difficult question of which outcome best promotes our well-being.

Se tidigare inlägg om libertariansk paternalism.

Är experter i filosofi att lita på?

I ”Persistent Bias in Expert Judgments about Free Will and Moral Responsibility: A Test of the Expertise Defense”, accepterad för publicering i Consciousness and Cognition, testas om experters moraliska intuitioner på ett viktigt filosofiskt område är att lita på:

Many philosophers appeal to intuitions to support some philosophical views. However, there is reason to be concerned about this practice as scientific evidence has documented systematic bias in philosophically relevant intuitions as a function of seemingly irrelevant features (e.g., personality). One popular defense used to insulate philosophers from these concerns holds that philosophical expertise eliminates the influence of these extraneous factors. Here, we test this assumption. We present data suggesting that verifiable philosophical expertise in the free will debate—as measured by a reliable and validated test of expert knowledge—does not eliminate the influence of one important extraneous feature (i.e., the heritable personality trait extraversion) on judgments concerning freedom and moral responsibility. These results suggest that, in at least some important cases, the expertise defense fails.

Även experters filosofiska uppfattningar verkar alltså kunna bestämmas av icke-intellektuella faktorer, som personlighet. Detta är i linje med tidigare forskning, som antyder att filosofiska experter är lika människor i allmänhet i tänkande och beteende: se t.ex. härhär och här. Ändå är vi många som hänvisar till stora filosofer allt som oftast.

Einsteins pipa

Albert Einstein om fri vilja:

Honestly, I cannot understand what people mean when they talk about the freedom of the human will. I have a feeling, for instance, that I will something or other; but what relation this has with freedom I cannot understand at all. I feel that I will to light my pipe and I do it; but how can I connect this up with the idea of freedom? What is behind the act of willing to light the pipe? Another act of willing? Schopenhauer once said: Der Mensch kann was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will (Man can do what he will but he cannot will what he wills).

Källa: s. 201 i denna bok. Se även inläggen ”Schopenhauer om fri vilja” och ”Väljer man sin vilja?”.

Motsäger försiktighetsprincipen sig själv?

Den s.k. försiktighetsprincipen kan formuleras på följande vis:

[I]f an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

Denna princip används ofta för att argumentera för politiska beslut som, även om de inte bygger på solid vetenskaplig grund och även om de är dokumenterat kostsamma, anses kunna reducera allvarliga risker. Det finns mycket skrivet om denna princip. Jonathan Adler formulerar t.ex. en kritik i ”The Problems with Precauction: A Principle without Principle”, publicerad i The American; Christian Munthe formulerar en vidareutveckling och ett försvar i boken The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk.

Det jag vill lyfta fram här är dock en invändning av Ilya Somin:

Incorporating the precautionary principle into public policy is itself “an activity [that] raises threats of harm to human health or the environment.” Adherence to the principle might prevent or retard the adoption of new technologies and policies that could save many lives. For example, application of the precautionary principle to prevent the use of genetically modified foods may cause mass starvation in Africa. The precautionary principle could also prevent or slow down policies that increase economic growth, which might also cost many lives. … Since it is the “proponent of an activity” that “should bear the burden of proof” under the precautionary principle, the principle counsels against its own adoption unless and until its advocates can prove that it won’t cause “harm to human health or the environment” in any of the above ways. Moreover, they must effectively address even those possible “threats” that “are not fully established scientifically.” Advocates of the principle haven’t even come close to meeting that burden of proof.

Detta ter sig i mina ögon som en stark invändning, åtminstone mot konventionella formuleringar av principen.

Du är medioker

Årets Edge-fråga är:

What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?

PZ Myers besvarar den på följande sätt:

I’m going to recommend the mediocrity principle. … The mediocrity principle simply states that you aren’t special. The universe does not revolve around you, this planet isn’t privileged in any unique way, your country is not the perfect product of divine destiny, your existence isn’t the product of directed, intentional fate, and that tuna sandwich you had for lunch was not plotting to give you indigestion. Most of what happens in the world is just a consequence of natural, universal laws — laws that apply everywhere and to everything, with no special exemptions or amplifications for your benefit — given variety by the input of chance. Everything that you as a human being consider cosmically important is an accident.

Är det bara jag som associerar detta tänkande till Nietzsche?

Kärlek och förnuft

Jag förkastar den romantiska kärleken (men inte andra typer av kärlek) på förnuftsmässiga grunder. Motsägs det av argumentationen i ”In Defense of the No-Reasons View of Love”?

I argue that although we can try to explain why we love, we can never justify our love. Love is neither based on reasons, nor responsive to reasons, nor can it be assessed for normative reasons. Love can be odd, unfortunate, fortuitous, or even sadly lacking, but it can never be fitting or unfitting. We may have reasons to act on our love, but we cannot justify our loving feelings. Shakespeare’s Bottom is right: ”Reason and love keep little company together now-a-days.” Indeed, they keep none and they never kept any: there are no justifying reasons for love.

Nej, jag tror faktiskt att jag instämmer. Upplever man kärlek så gör man; upplever man inte kärlek gör man det inte; och det finns ingen anledning att berömma eller klandra vare sig det ena eller andra. Mitt eget resonemang är ett personlig konsekvensresonemang: jag bedömer att det för mig leder till ett lyckligare liv att säga att jag förkastar den romantiska kärleken och att i övrigt bete mig på ett sätt som minimerar sannolikheten för att den romantiska kärleken drabbar mig. Om den däremot drabbar mig, så gör den det, och det är inget normativt felaktigt i sig.

Är inget liv bra?

David Benatar hävdar följande i ”No Life Is Good”, publicerad i The Philosophers’ Magazine:

In contrast to the widespread idea that some people have good lives and others bad, I think that while some lives are better than others, no lives are good enough to count as (non-comparatively) good.

Vad är grunden för detta kontroversiella påstående? Jo:

  1. ”[T]here is excellent empirical evidence for the conclusion that people’s judgements cannot be trusted as a reliable indicator of how good their lives really are.”
  2. ”[W]hatever view one might have about what makes a life good or bad, human lives fall short on the good things but abound in the bad.”

Vilken blir slutsatsen? Ska suicid förespråkas? Nej, inte som allmän hållning, enligt Benatar. Däremot detta:

What does follow, I think, from the conclusion that life is not good, is that we should not create more of it. When we bring new people into existence we start more lives that are not good – and we necessarily do this without the permission of those who will live those lives. We have no duty to create new people and failing to create people can do no harm to those we fail to create. Not having children might make our own lives less good, but starting lives that are not good, merely for our own gratification, is unduly selfish.

Tänkvärt — och en intressant kontrast mot budskapet i den uppmärksammade och, med Benatars sätt att se på saken, mycket korrekt betitlade boken Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.

Se även ”Bättre att inte existera”, ”Bör nya människor skapas?”, ”Är det moraliskt godtagbart att skaffa barn?”, ”Ja till livet eller ja till döden?” och ”Friheten att skaffa barn”.