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Re: Re: [philosophy-156] Tonight's philosophy topic: Freedom and Toleration

From: Jason R.
Sent on: Friday, April 18, 2008 12:15 PM
This was undoubtedly a great discussion, yet another in a long line of which I am sad to have missed.
I'm curious what the group had to say about the determination of the age at which a person should be considered competent to make their own decisions regarding what voluntary associations they wish to make, basically the age of consent. If one were to argue that the polygamists had the right to voluntary association with others of their particular inclination, and also to practice their beliefs within that voluntary association, does this apply to all members of the cult or just the adults? Are the children free to choose whether or not to participate, and is it their responsibility to make reasonable decisions about their chosen associations? What about the elderly or the infirm?
Also what exactly it means to "condemn" a group or individual based on their unfavorable social affiliations. Does this mean simply to shun their practices or discourage association with them? If, through the practice of political tolerance, the polygamists were left to do as they pleased within the confines of their private property, what happens when a member of the cult calls out for help? Should society come to the aid of that one person alone, and disregard those who did not cry out, whether they are 65 years old or 5 years old?
You used the word "abducted," which implies that you disapprove of the removal of the children. Does this then indicate that you do not feel that anyone's rights were being violated within the cult, that political tolerance was in practice, and that the children as well as the adults had both the responsibility and the power to make or refuse voluntary associations with the cult leaders and its practices? For those who might disagree with those practices, is the extent of their moral obligation simply to choose not to associate, to issue moral condemnation from a safe distance? 

----- Original Message -----
From: ;
Sent: Thursday, April 17,[masked]:50 PM
Subject: [philosophy-156] Tonight's philosophy topic: Freedom and Toleration

I've updated this meeting. For more details, see the full listing:

When: Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 7:00 PM

Where: Half-Price Books
5803 E. Northwest Hwy.
Dallas, TX[masked]


[Reminder: we meet at the tables just outside the cafe area.]

Tonight's discussion topic is inspired by recent events -- the state's
abduction of 400+ kids from a polygamist retreat .

What is freedom?

The degree of freedom in a society can be measured in terms of the nature of
the associations between its members. People are free if they can enter into
any associations they wish to make, and they are not coerced into any
associations against their will. By associations, I include both social
associations, such as friendships, meeting, publications, and marriages, as
well as material associations, such as trade, business partnerships, and
common property. Voluntary associations are those entered into by mutual
consent to mutual benefit. (This is true by definition in the sense of
subjective benefit, since individuals always act to maximize values.)
Non-voluntary associations are as taxes, crimes, trade restrictions, and other
regulation of consensual behavior which are imposed on individuals against
their own judgment.

What is toleration?

I would recognize two kinds of toleration. Political toleration is equal
treatment under the law - the presumption that every human being has the same
rights as everyone else. Political discrimination includes preferential or
detrimental treatment of any group or individual based on any criteria other
than an individual's respect for other's rights - of the rich or poor, black
or white, native or immigrant, gay or straight, young or old.
It's important to note that political discrimination is only possible in
interactions that involve the use or thread of force.

Social toleration is non-judgmentalism or multiculturalism -- the presumption
no particular subculture or way of life is superior to any other. We engage in
various forms of social intolerance when we issue moral praise and
condemnation, or choose to associate or dissociate with various people or
groups based on their beliefs or identities. There are many levels of
tolerance - we might buy our groceries from someone we would not necessarily
want as a business partner or spouse. (I would argue that a presumption of
innocence is equally important in social as well as political tolerance.)

Freedom and Toleration

I would argue that a free society must be politically tolerant, but socially
intolerant. Political tolerance is required because freedom of association
requires that individuals be able to establish any voluntary association they
choose, including those that the majority disapproves of, such as polygamous
relationships. Social intolerance is necessary because a free people must rely
on their own judgment for moral guidance, and in other for them to be live
successfully in a politically pluralistic society; they need to use their
judgment to decide which associations are harmful or beneficial within the
context of voluntary associations.

Politicially, freedom means the freedom to disagree - to be free to make
choices regardless of others approval of them. A free people must be free to
create and join religious cults, no matter how absurd their beliefs or how
self-destructive their practices are. Socially, freedom requires an ethic of
self-reliance and moral judgment. To live and thrive in a free society, we
must decide which people and groups to join and which ones to condemn and

What do you think?

You can always get in touch with me through the 'Contact Organizer' feature on
the website:

The DFW Examined Life Philosophy Gr.

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