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Calm Words of Liberty, Calm Words of Freedom

Hello everyone. When I last wrote about liberty and freedom, there was a lot of yelling. And I worry that perhaps the real messages were lost because they were communicated poorly. So let’s try again. This time we should speak to each other the way we would like to be spoken to. For starters, we can be polite and say hello.

On Liberty

  1. When I yelled “Liberty is a measure of available possible actions, affordances, or optionality!” what I meant was: I feel that all of these words mean something relating to how many choices I have, and how unrestricted and informed my choices are. I make this point at the beginning because I want to shift our understanding of liberty towards an association with such things. I feel this is important because liberty is a valuable idea, and is also different from my understanding of freedom. By reserving this meaning for liberty, we are led to a related “orientation” called liberality.

  2. When I yelled “Liberality is the ethos of allowing within a system the maximum possible liberty while maintaining the viability of that system!” what I meant was: I feel that there is nothing inherently wrong with the idea that the presence of choices is generally good, and that in most circumstances it is good to be at liberty to determine our own outcomes. That is, I feel that liberality is contextually a desirable value to hold. I simply wished to point out that completely unrestricted liberty can conflict with the survival or viability of the larger systems in which one exists.

  3. When I yelled “Liberty is a bird in flight!” what I meant was: I feel that the flying bird, the commonly used symbol for what most would call “freedom”, is actually a better image of liberty. I think it would be good to shift this association, because a bird in flight depicts open-ended possibility, but falls short of conveying my understanding of freedom.

  4. When I yelled “What does Ashby say? Only variety absorbs variety!” what I meant was: I feel that liberty and liberality are often good things, and one way to support this view is with the cybernetic measure of complexity called “variety”. This means that a number of possible states exist, and that variety and complexity increase as the number of states increase. So when we are looking to confront complex problems, the ethos of liberality is what tells us its generally good to apply self-complexification or the amplification of variety. Or, in other words, we often need to increase our variety to absorb the variety of our crises. And because Ashby’s saying, which is known as the Law of Requisite Variety, is fundamentally about a quantification of possible states, it relates to my understanding of how to apply liberty and liberality within real-world systems, such as human societies.

  5. When I yelled “The average complexity of regulators in a system determines the degree of hierarchy which is needed for survival!” what I meant was: I feel that we all have an innate drive towards autonomous self-determination, and that hierarchies sometimes conflict with this aspect of being human. However, I also feel that we have reasons to believe that the organizational features of hierarchies reflect the capacity of its units to regulate the variety of the systems in which they are embedded. I think, because of this, that we should seek liberty or liberality except for where it conflicts with the survival of our world of interconnected systems as a whole. Similarly, I feel that certain forms of hierarchy should be used only when necessitated by the Aulin’s Law of Requisite Hierarchy, which, like Ashby’s law, tells us about how liberty and system stability interact and sometimes clash.

  6. When I yelled “Liberty may expand or contract with changes of hierarchy; the chalice or the blade—which do we seek?” what I meant was: I feel that hierarchies are often maligned unjustly, and that Riane Eisler’s conceptual division between “actualization” hierarchies and “domination” hierarchies provides a more honest and complete view. I think that if liberty is a contextual good, then we should make use of actualization hierarchies (whose symbol is the chalice) while reducing domination hierarchies (whose symbol is the blade) to a minimum.

On Freedom

  1. When I yelled “The Good as first principle makes freedom bonocentric!” what I meant was: I feel that the recovery of true freedom, which does not get confused with liberty, rests on its reference point. I think that when freedom uses itself as its own end, it becomes a bottomless pit into which potentially infinite value may be tossed. And in that case, where it is directed at nothing other than itself, it is indeed identical to liberty. However, I feel that freedom becomes a truly valuable idea when it references the absolute Good. I think, in fact, it should orbit the Good—making it bonocentric. And I feel that this begins to highlight how freedom is different from liberty.

  2. When I yelled “Liberty relates to means, while freedom relates to ends!” what I meant was: I feel that the simplest way to explain my distinction between these two ideas is by pointing out that liberty has to do with our ability to choose, to discern between good and bas choices, the presence or absence of restrictions on choices, and so on. And freedom relates to the possible ends to which these means are directed, who we become in the process of pursuing those ends, and the degree to which we are making the possible Good into actual value.

  3. When I yelled “Freedom is a flower in bloom!” what I meant was: I feel that the blooming flower provides an appropriate symbolic contrast with the meaning ascribed to the bird in flight. I think that the flying bird is the epitome of unrestricted choice, which ties it to the idea of liberty. Likewise, I feel that a flower, in either wilting or blooming, depicts the forking roads of liberty, and therefore highlights how we need the complementary idea of freedom—which describes the more or less beautiful, moral destinations where these roads lead. Further, I hoped to point out that this version of freedom I’m describing is non-anthropocentric, and applies to the entire cosmos; so either a person or a flower may be more or less free, just as each of these has some measure of liberty. I think this provides a more complete view of how liberty and freedom are distinct from each other, but present in us all.

  4. When I yelled “‘What is’ implies ‘what ought’ to be; the closer the former to the latter, the more free are we!” what I meant was: I feel that Hume’s “naturalistic fallacy”, which says that “ought” can never be derived from “is”, is a feature of many dangerous and nihilistic worldviews, and I wanted to point out how the version of freedom I’m suggesting is fundamentally opposed to Hume’s view. I think that the kind of freedom which has the Good as its goal-state implies that what we should do and the future we should create is metaphysically connected to what always and immortally is.

  5. When I yelled “The autopoietic complexification of monads tends towards the perfect freedom of Monas Monadum!” what I meant was: I feel that the ascent of perfected freedom can be described in terms of a physical-metaphysical quantum called a monad, which, quantitatively, is described by Planck’s constant and, qualitatively, is judged comparatively to Monas Monadum—which for Leibniz was God, but for us is the Good. And so I feel that the pursuit of freedom involves the self-organization of monads into complexes which, by virtue of their complexification, tend to also increase in self-reflective consciousness. I think that as the universe becomes more conscious, it is freedom which is being exalted, because the actualization of perfection must be accompanied by conscious appreciation of value. In short, I think that freedom increases as the universe more fully and consciously appreciates its own beauty, and that this end is reached via metasystem transitions of monads.

  6. When I yelled “The eternal ideas are within me; the absolute and relative are inseparable; this is freedom’s key!” what I meant was: I feel that Plato is still misunderstood as suggesting “two worlds” in which ideas (or Forms) and the Good are literally separate from our material, sensible world. And I think that we can better understand freedom when we see that the Good is here with and within us. I think that our relative experience is connected to something constant and absolute, and the freedom is a measure of how closely and perfectly these “two worlds” are unified.


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