A Third Concept of Liberty

A Third Concept of Liberty: Judgment and Freedom in Kant and Adam Smith

SAMUEL FLEISCHACKER
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 338
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t9qk
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  • Book Info
    A Third Concept of Liberty
    Book Description:

    Taking the title of his book from Isaiah Berlin's famous essay distinguishing a negative concept of liberty connoting lack of interference by others from a positive concept involving participation in the political realm, Samuel Fleischacker explores a third definition of liberty that lies between the first two. In Fleischacker's view, Kant and Adam Smith think of liberty as a matter of acting on our capacity for judgment, thereby differing both from those who tie it to the satisfaction of our desires and those who translate it as action in accordance with reason or "will." Integrating the thought of Kant and Smith, and developing his own stand through readings of theCritique of JudgmentandThe Wealth of Nations,Fleischacker shows how different acting on one's best judgment is from acting on one's desires--how, in particular, good judgment, as opposed to mere desire, can flourish only in favorable social and political conditions. At the same time, exercising judgment is something every individual must do for him- or herself, hence not something that philosophers and politicians who reason better than the rest of us can do in our stead.

    For this reason advocates of a liberty based on judgment are likely to be more concerned than are libertarians to make sure that government provides people with conditions for the use of their liberty--for example, excellent standards of education, health care, and unemployment insurance--while at the same time promoting a less paternalistic view of government than most of the movements associated for the past thirty years with the political left.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2294-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Sam Fleischacker
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-20)

    “A LIBERAL,” pronounces one recent writer, “is a person who believes in liberty, as a nudist is a person who believes in nudity.”¹ Most Americans are liberals in this sense, as are, at least nominally, most people in democracies throughout the modern world. It has been plausibly argued that liberalism in the sense of a concern for liberty is theonlyappropriate mode of politics in the modern age. What marks modernity, so goes the argument, is the loss of any substantial agreement about what constitutes the purpose of human life, and in that context it is essential that individuals...

  6. PART I: THE NATURE OF JUDGMENT
    • Chapter 2 AESTHETIC JUDGMENT
      (pp. 23-31)

      I BEGIN with a reading of Kant’sCritique of Judgment(CJ), probably the richest account of aesthetic judgment ever written. Aesthetic judgment may seem far removed from the moral and political issues with which this book is concerned. But one of the main claims I want to advance is precisely that knowing how to make judgments of beauty is essential to making any judgment, that one condition for fostering moral and political judgment across a citizenry is to ensure that people understand well what beauty is, and have broad access both to art and to natural beauty. In addition, the...

    • Chapter 3 MORAL JUDGMENT
      (pp. 32-63)

      MUCH OF OUR DISCUSSION of aesthetic judgment can be carried over to moral judgment. In particular, the greatest mistake made by accounts of moral judgment is to identify it with a sort of perception, to overlook the role that rule-following plays in its development and use. In this chapter, I pursue various forms of this problem in some detail, then elaborate two other related features of moral judgment: the way it binds us to a society and a culture, and the way it depends on a kind of discipline, on a process by which we learn to take responsibility for...

    • Chapter 4 JUDGMENT AND FREEDOM
      (pp. 64-88)

      FAMOUSLY, for Kant reason defines our freedom. Reason takes us beyond the empirical world and thereby frees us from its constraints. But this leaves obscure the ordinary sense of “freedom,” the sense in which it is something we may have or not have as natural beings in a natural world. How does our nonempirical faculty of reason come to get a grip on the details of our experience? How do we figure out which of the many specific moral interpretations we encounter—specific claims about our duties or purposes—actually makes best moral sense of the world? The previous chapter...

  7. PART II: THE POLITICS OF JUDGMENT
    • Chapter 5 PROPER PLEASURES
      (pp. 91-119)

      ONE WAY of drawing political implications from the theory of judgment we have developed is to use it to enrich standard conceptions of “pleasure.” Modern utilitarians, who include most contemporary political scientists and almost all contemporary economists, vaunt their “value-free” definition of pleasure—whatever satisfies people’s “expressed preferences,” regardless of what those preferences might be—over earlier utilitarian views that distinguished between better and worse kinds of pleasure. I shall argue in this chapter that the earlier views were in fact superior, and that we can offer stronger support for those views than their original defenders did by building into...

    • Chapter 6 THE WEALTH OF NATIONS (I): JUDGMENT
      (pp. 120-139)

      BETTER THAN anyone else, I believe, Adam Smith has described the politics that the freedom of judgment requires. Both the regulations he thinks government should avoid and the institutions he thinks it should foster would spread phronesis as widely as possible across a population. Once people have judgment they should be free to act on it, for Smith, but he is not laissez-faire about the institutions enabling them to develop judgment in the first place.

      The claim that Smith urges a politics that would foster judgment is a contentious one, running against most readings of theWealth of Nations(WN)....

    • Chapter 7 THE WEALTH OF NATIONS (II): VIRTUE AND INDEPENDENCE
      (pp. 140-160)

      IF JUDGMENT OR PHRONESIS is an intellectual skill usually associated with Aristotle, “virtue” or “excellence” is the central term in the approach to ethics it is supposed to define. Among other things, “virtue ethics” connotes a notion of the good life in which the vagueness and difficulty of ethical choices, and the role of luck, are given realistic acknowledgment, in which human beings are understood to aim at a bundle of different achievements rather than a single, overriding one, and in which good character is taken as something one develops rather than is born with, and education, correspondingly, is taken...

    • Chapter 8 THE WEALTH OF NATIONS (III): HELPING THE POOR
      (pp. 161-183)

      AN ADDITIONAL FEATURE of Smith’s thought that separates him from Aristotle is his egalitarianism.¹ In both TMS and WN, he treats each human being as equally the locus of moral concern. We cannot attribute to Smith either Aristotle’s elitism or the utilitarian belief that the good of some individuals can be added up and weighed against that of others. The good of each individual is firmly prior, for him, to that of any larger society: “The concern which we take in the fortune and happiness of individuals does not, in common cases, arise from that which we take in the...

    • Chapter 9 KANT’S POLITICS, RAWLS’S POLITICS (I): THE PUBLIC USE OF JUDGMENT
      (pp. 184-214)

      I WANT in this and the following chapter to show how Kant’s political economy can be read as a version of Smith’s. By this I mean that Kant regards both modern commercial society and a presumption against government interference in that society as ways to structure character—a character appropriate for freedom. If I am right, we will have reason to make room for a Kantian politics that differs from the currently dominant Rawlsian and Habermasian models in two important ways: (1) in general, it will be more concerned with ensuring that ordinary citizens can make their own daily decisions...

    • Chapter 10 KANT’S POLITICS, RAWLS’S POLITICS (II): TALENT, INDUSTRY, AND LUCK
      (pp. 215-240)

      KANT is never farther from Rawls’s interpretation of him than when he says, inTheory and Practice, that status and property ought to be distributed in accordance with each individual’s “talent, industry and luck.”¹ The context is an attack on hereditary prerogatives—serfdom, entail, primogeniture, and the like, which Kant takes to be arbitrary barriers in the way of everyone having the same chances in life—but it is clear that he does not consider the accidents of natural endowment and personal history to be similarly invidious. Rawls, famously, takes talent and industry to be products of luck, and luck,...

  8. PART III: THE FREEDOM OF JUDGMENT
    • Chapter 11 A THIRD CONCEPT OF LIBERTY
      (pp. 243-278)

      FROM SMITH AND KANT we can draw a view of judgment that redeems, I believe, the promise I made in the introduction to enrich our understanding of liberty. It may sound unexciting to announce that one wants to make the world free for good judgment but this quiet doctrine turns out to be the most sensible, most decent, and at the same time richest concept of liberty we can possibly find. What is unexciting about it, indeed, reveals its overwhelming coherence with the intuitions we already have. A world where everyone can develop and use their own judgment as much...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 279-328)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 329-336)