Thursday 3 March 2011

Freedom-from, freedom-to - fashion as god, fashion-makers as primary


In modern public life there is a weird dance between regarding individual peoples desires as overriding every other consideration yet being infinitely plastic and changeable.

So that sometimes it is argued that if people want to do X then society ought 1. to allow X and 2. to make X possible

- yet it is also argued that if people stop wanting X and want Y, and then later Z

- they should 1. be allowed to change their mind and 2. society should facilitate whatever it is they have changed their mind to wanting.

(Except of course when people want something which society currently regards as wicked - something that is supposed to be a result of the disapproved forms of prejudice rather than the approved forms.)


Like sexual behaviour. At the same time society is supposed to form itself around individual people's expressed sexual preferences, yet these preferences are (for each individual) open-ended and labile.

At the same time sexual preferences are regarded as if they were permanent and constitutive of a persons identity - such that it is immoral to ask them to change their sexual preferences, because this is tantamount to attempting to destroy their individual essence, to destroy their identity.

Yet at the same time, sexual preferences are regarded as evolving, labile, open-ended - it is seen as an individual's right to change sexual preferences, to seek new sexual preferences. As if sexual preferences were utterly trivial, superficial, like this-year's fashion.


So sexual preferences, and other motivations, are treated like a fashion that carries moral authority, while it lasts.

Who is in charge of this process?

Why - the people who set the fashions! (whether they be sexual, political, moral, scientific, legal - whatever.)

In sum - this is a freedom for propagandists to have their propaganda treated as a mandatory yet open-ended fiction.


This is a consequence of trying to make a negative ideal (freedom-from) into a positive idea (freedom to).

But of having a metaphysical perspective which denies any essence - which regards humans as soul-less puppets that are actually moved by social manipulators, and puppets that ought to be moved by social manipulators.


Modernity has no answer to the question of what people want and what they ought to have.

Sometimes modernity (e.g. economics) acts as if people want what they choose.

Sometimes modernity acts as if what people say they want, or 'say' in the want in the context of a range of forced choices - as in a questionnaire - which is then subject to averaging...

Yet at the same time people are allowed, entitled, to change what they say - indeed people must change what they say in line with evolving socio-political imperatives.


So fashion is god.

What people choose and what people say are manipulable. If these are supposed to form the motivational basis of society then who is in charge?

The propagandists and those who define the choices.

Those who make the fashions have ultimate moral authority.


So a perspective which purports to place in the individual (his 'rights', motivations and desires) at the centre of politics - but which in theory and in practice strips the individual of essence (because the modern human has no soul, officially - and is a merely socio-biological collection of attributes)...

actually makes the individual irrelevant, a pawn for propagandists.


Note - having written the thing, I recognise that these arguments are plagiarised from C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man:


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