Saturday, April 04, 2009

Charles Taylor on Positive Liberty I

First off, just a short note: a point of order. Taylor attributes to the positive liberty skeptic and negative liberty proponent a strategy of denying the reality of positive liberty in order to deny totalitarian political philosophy a premise it needs. He calls this the negative liberty proponent's drawing a "Maginot Line," on the one side of which is the negative liberty which he accepts and the other side the positive liberty which he absolutely denies.

This is pretty close to ridiculous, either on Taylor's part or on the part of any negative liberty proponent who upholds such a strategy. The facts about liberty are what they are independently of whether totalitarian political philosophy is wrong and ought to be refuted. To become confused about this is to relinquish genuine philosophical inquiry and enter into the sham inquiry of the dogmatist. To the extent that Taylor proposes that all negative liberty proponents are dogmatic sham inquirers, his essay suffers.

[Let's rehearse Susan Haack's concepts of the sham inquirer and fake inquirer. The former has a dogma which he will not relinquish under any evidential circumstances, and he lets this bias distort his inquiries and debates by attempting to make the evidence seem to be consistent with his dogma or seem to show that his dogma is true. The fake inquirer, on the other hand, is the sophist who, not caring about truth or falsity and having no dogma, likes to bullshit (as Harry Frankfurt would have called it) by arguing for positions which he doesn't believe to be true and using any rhetoric which will make those positions seem to be true. Neither kind of pseudo-inquirer intends to discover what the evidence shows to be true.]