Libertarian Explained: Human Dignity and the Freedom to Choose – Learn Liberty


When thinking about the topic of whether to
allow people to have truly free choice, it reminds me of a story from my own history. When I was a sophomore in high school, I went
to an all boys Catholic school and Fr. Ray, who was teaching us religion, wanted to illustrate
to us why it is that God gave human beings free will. And here is the story he used. He said imagine you were walking down the
street, a beautiful woman is walking towards you, and you have the power to snap your fingers
and make her fall instantly, madly in love with you. Just imagine you had that ability.
Of course, we are imagining that ability as we were 14-year-old high school students.
And he said, what will be even greater than that ability? And of course, we’re thinking
about that tooó14-year-old boys. And he said no, no, what would be even greater than that
ability is if she fell in love with you completely of her own accord. That’s a really profound
moral insight. Now, Fr. Ray’s point was that, that explains why God gave us free will. Could God have commanded our obedience? Of
course. Heís God. But, that would have been demeaning both to us and to him; it would’ve
been to not respect us as moral agents. But, we can put the religious part of that aside
and just think about that core moral insight. What it means to respect a person as a moral
agent is to give that person the opportunity to choose, even when you know that sometimes
they will make bad choices. Sometimes they will choose things that they shouldnít. Sometimes
they will choose things that even they themselves will regret later. Respecting the dignity of a human being is
giving that person the freedom to choose, good and sometimes, yes, bad. And that moral
insight is really at the core of classical liberalism.

52 thoughts on “Libertarian Explained: Human Dignity and the Freedom to Choose – Learn Liberty

  • I really appreciate this message. I'm Catholic, and when I think about it, God does give us free choice and we have a free will. It seems like a natural law right to have freedom. And yet, some people want to take it away from us and claim that less freedom is better for some greater good. Freedom is good 🙂

  • I believe that everyone should make their own choices and do what they think is best for them.
    However:
    Free will is something we all think we have, but in the end it is all based on the total of our experiences.
    We think we do something without being influenced by others, but this is simple wrong. we dont know anything when we are born, everything is learned, therefore any decision that we base on any for of experience is learned behavior and comes form someone (or something) else.

  • I believe that all gods are myth (so I cringed slightly during parts of the video) but I still think the point here is well made.

  • @evilmindedsquirrel "We don't know anything when we are born" is a HUGE statement. The real problem here is that society CODES itself onto newly born people and they begin to grow up and learn to be a self based off of societies image of who they are. Then the child grows up thinking that all of these mental phantoms that were project at it are REALITY.

  • @MegaZeusThor I share your cringe. However I see social norms established through the medium of religion less dependent on theocracy than one might think. I see a long term natural selection of social practices within societies approaching more freedom even though their premises may be flawed by packaging it as theocratic. Common law: Catholicism. History of Islam societies has liberal traditions as well.

  • I think the real challenge is with the rationally deficient. A body of ethics need not (and I would argue opposes) theocracy. If it comes down to a choice of some such person having some body of ethics that has theocratic roots or brought into a more empirical one while unable to reason ethical calculations within its framework, a careful transition I think comes to be important. I love to ask my religions neocon associates "Who would Jesus bomb?".

  • I believe in God. I believe that He is sovereign over all things, including man's will, but I still believe in liberty as a political philosophy

  • @evilmindedsquirrel True, but everyone responds differently to stimuli of one sort or another. These differences are things we are born with and what make us, in addition to our environment, who we are.

  • @MegaZeusThor Same here. I think throwing the problem to a higher authority, is to some degree what led us to the problems were in now. (US)

  • Most of you guys are focusing on Otteson's allegory rather than the point of the video… whether or not you believe in God or a god is not germane to the subject of free will. Either you have it or you don't have it.

  • @evilmindedsquirrel
    I agree, however, no one forces us to make our decisions. It's the age old debate on who is responsible for a kid killing someone, him for doing it, or the parents for not preventing it through good parenting.

  • To those praising myths: I agree. Comics are, arguably, modern myths. They reveal things about us and contain truth. They are also fictional. Deities may be real or fictional (I suspect you know how I feel). Regardless, we must live without relying on gods.

    All of this get away from the decent points the video is trying to make. (For some of us "God Talk" is a distraction; for others it re-enforces.)

  • This should be the point that is focused more often. It is the same point made by the prison chaplin in a clockwork orange. The the subject matter is a little different.

  • I have great parents. They did give my older brother the choice to join Boy scouts, Baseball, Indian Guides, etc. Each time he left was because he didn't get to play under his rules-essentially NOT a team player. I considered myself a team player just 18 mo. younger. Did I get the chance he did? NO! I had no choice at all! I was to stay and play with the only kid on the block that would regularly kick my ass, take money from me, and so on. Now thinking back, I just wish I had the choices he did!

  • @daPlumber702 here is a good but long video on the topic, just add this ending to the youtube address… /watch?v=XYCU6iivVWY

  • @MrCarondoll I fail to see how the video linked proves the subject at hand.. In the first part of the video he states the argument as being whether human beings have control of their lives or if god does.. But that isn't the argument he starts out saying he'll go over.

    The actual argument in this case is in terms of scripture which can be interpreted in quite a few different ways..

    I believe the bible as a story includes free will when adam and eve eat from the tree of knowledge…

  • @MrCarondoll There are a number of stories in the bible dealing with free will as well, and God wanting to see where that free will would take people.

    Myself I don't exactly buy into the scripture but I think arguing that it does not promote free will is incorrect.

  • Yeshiva University, professor? How about giving people the choice about whether or not they want to have a proportionally huge, protective, sexually-pleasing swath of their genitalia amputated (a.k.a circumcision)?

    Human self-contradiction knows no bounds.

  • @daPlumber702 if you don't "buy into the scripture" why does it bother you that I said Freewill is not "Biblical". I know freewill is the social norm, but I don't look to the masses to tell me what true is. I look to God.

  • @MrCarondoll I may not believe the bible recants facts, but I think that if you're arguing facts concerning the bible they should be correct.

    You looking to god is the basis of free will.. you could look to bhuda or zeus, but you choose freely to look to God.

  • @evilmindedsquirrel There is still free will because we can still choose to not be influenced by others or by people we learn from. If, for example, a person grows up learning religious truth, he/she can still reject it. No matter how many influences are heaped on that person, he/she can choose to be influenced, or not be influenced, by those somethings/someones.

  • @MrCarondoll Free will is not a social norm. It's a basic teaching in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Any concept that is pronounced (whether it be free will or concupiscence) should not be judged by whether it is "Biblical" or not, because the Bible itself is a product of Christian tradition. Christians have never always had the Bible. So the teaching of free will was promulgated in the Christian tradition well before the Bible was compiled in the late Fourth century.

  • @Montfortracing have you watched the video I have sent you? it completely addresses the topic at hand. If you refuse to see the other side and just spout off statements that free will is the "basic teaching". The Bible is the teaching, and in the video I sent you a while ago the man who put that video together directly addresses the issue. If you would like to present an argument on how freewill is Biblical I would be willing to talk about that.

  • @MrCarondoll Again, the Bible is not the sole teaching of Christianity because the Bible did not always exist in Christian history. Jesus did not give us a Bible, yet He is the word. So whenever we deal with a topic, whether it be sin or revelation or free will, the first question is not "is it Biblical?". The first question is "is it against Church teaching?". The Bible is a good start to know what Jesus said, but as John wrote in his gospel, not everything Jesus said was written.

  • @evilmindedsquirrel Nonsense. One need only look at the growth of technology to see this is false. I, for example, choose to play video games in my free time. Where did I learn this behavior? My parents and teachers don't understand the technology, and view it as wasting time. Regardless of this, I chose this behavior, which no one I knew chose. Free will is something that does exist, or new ideas would never come into being – and it is clear they do. Someone had to be the first to do 'X'.

  • Here's my question: What if someones " beliefs" in religion , take away my freedoms? Do I have the right to fight that group? EX. islamic sharia

  • @foamulator ABSOULUTELY!!! if they are initiating force, let loose your dogs of havok until you are either free of their grasp or having dsied in your struggle. the price of freedom is death,so you'd best be willing to pay.

  • @evilmindedsquirrel But you could just as easily act against your learned behaviors, or even against your own perception of logical behavior. I actually make a point to do this in a random way every now and then…I guess it's just like, re-validating/asserting my free will to myself

  • Yeah, 'god' doesn't demand that you obey him…he's just going to fry you in hell forever if you don't. (That's called "terrorism" BTW).

    PLEASE, spare me the dull wet thud of your religious ignorance.

  • There was a time I didn't believe in God. But I knew in my heart I had to repent. So I did, I felt bad for the thing I did that made me feel guilty, I didn't know why they were wrong, because I didn't feel I hurting anybody. But regardless I asked for strength and understanding. Faith is required, but a witness will be given to those that sincerely ask. Think why you are here, and why certain things make you feel guilty. The Lord is all knowing and loving he desires you to control yourself

  • So because John said that not everything Jesus said was written, we get to guess and add whatever we feel? "NO" you'll say, but then you mention we must first look at Christian teaching to see weather what we believe is true. I ask then, where did these "Christian" teachings come from, if they contradict the Bible?
    Here's the rub, if I am too look to "Christian" teachings for truth, which teachings am I to look to? Many "Christians" teach different things, who's right?

  • You look to the teachings from the apostles who knew Jesus, and their successors. These successors are part of the one church who compiled the Holy Bible. This church still exists today. There is only one church who can claim that she has the fullness of truth and the deposit of faith handed down to them from since the time of Jesus. Who is that church? Only one church. You may want to start looking for that answer by reading up church history.

  • To command, rather than allow free will, would be to "not respect us as moral agents". I about spit up on myself when I heard that load of horseshit. Really? He respects us as moral agents? Is that why every human ever born of mortal parents throughout all of human history is formed with "original sin" and doomed to an eternity of hellish torment, unless we repent the "sins" of another, believe that which defies our logic & natural intellect, and obey something that threatens us?
    Respect?!?

  • He makes the claim that god "respects us as moral agents". However, according to christian teachings that have been shoved down my throat during my childhood, all humans are created by god, but somehow created with "original sin" because Eve ate fruit, thus we are doomed to hell unless we repent HER sins, believe crazy biblical rants that defy the logical intellect we were "created" with, and obey and worship a god that threatens us with hell. How can that be construed as "respecting" us?

  • Furthermore, if the question is whether or not we are "free" to choose as we negotiate life as "moral agents", how can it be construed that we are making free choices if we have the constant threat of the most horrible, most infinite torture hanging over our heads? Choices made under duress are not free choices, are they? And who would place their "children" in such a predicament in the first place? A monster.
    If indeed, this christian god does exist as described, he's not worthy of MY worship.

  • Just because other factors affect how we make choices, does that still mean that we don't have the freedom to choose among our constrained options? Free Will doesn't mean your life is a vacuum just that within any circumstance you'll always ultimately choose between what you've been giving. The best thing we can do as a society is make sure that people, and ourselves, have as many options as possible to make the best choices possible.

  • In 1:11 it says: "What it means to respect a person as a moral agent is to GIVE that person the opportunity to choose," In my oppinion, It would have been even better to say "to don't use coercion to prevent the person to choose".
    I'm sure that many people will interpret "give opportunities" as "I have the right to be given many posibilities".

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