Re: Dynamic Individual Freedom

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 28 Aug 1996 20:00:31 -0700

Sarah Marr wrote:
>I hope the above discussion gives some idea of my reason for selecting DIF
>as my 'chosen freedom '. I'd be extremenly interested to hear other views on
>this interpretation.

I very much like the thoughts you've posted and the new interpretations
you've made of the notion of individual freedom, particularly your emphasis
that one limits ones own freedom in a way compatible with ones own

One of the problems of emphasis that I've had with the notion of Unlimited
Individual Freedom is that many of those who like this phrasing seem to see
themselves as somehow completely independent of the world and the people in
it. This way of looking at things seems self-impoverishing to me.

Most of my own self-determination has been a matter of choice about who I
choose to interact with and how I choose to interact with them. Most of my
good ideas about how to improve myself and extend my own abilities have
arisen from a study of what other people have accomplished and what other
people have to offer. And my studies of market phenomena (including the
market of ideas as well as the market of material goods and services) have
shown me that my own power and abilities are maximized to the extent that I
optimize my interaction with those who have good things to offer me. Other
people have created so many of the good ideas that I have chosen to
incorporate into myself!

Choosing to limit my own freedom in certain ways (e. g. being polite,
respecting the property rights of others, keeping promises that I make to
others) enriches me, by enhancing the opportunities for other people to
think of and create things that benefit me in the long run. And I can get
the most out of other people by turning my mind to, among other things, how
I can help them get what they want in turn. (And isn't that the only
surefire method for making lots of money in a market system?)

I've been studying a lot of philosophy for the last few years, and over and
over again I've examined a proposed philosophical problem only ultimately
to decide that the problem was created by a false dichotomy. (Genuine
unsolved philosophical problems do exist, and I'm still quite interested in
those.) But just as Dennett argues in _Elbow Room_ that the dichotomy
between free will and determinism is a false one, that all persons are free
to *some* degree and determined to *some* degree, I've recently decided
that the debates in moral philosophy over egoism versus altruism are
similarly resolved. I've become a compatibilist on this issue: I can best
benefit myself in the long run by acquiring and using the skills that most
benefit other people (and the market rewards us for this above all else),
and I can best benefit others by making sure I keep myself comfortable,
sane, skilled, and wealthy... or in other words, happy. And of course by
recognizing that I, like anything as complex as a person, am unique, and
making sure that I bring out the best in myself that I have to offer,
because no one else in the world is going to be able to offer the world
that, and I want to make sure the world doesn't lose out on that.

The only difficulty left with this position in ethics is usefully
explaining it to young children, who naturally like to see the world in
black and white. But I'm not a parent (at least not yet), so I'll let that
problem sit for a while.

There are still lots of interesting problems left in moral philosophy
though. The big question is: what to do? I'm still working on the answer to
that one, and it keeps changing every day.

Eric Watt Forste <>