Monday, September 13, 2004


More from Dennett’s “Freedom Evolves” to open this post: “If you are free, are you responsible for being free? As we saw in Chapter 7, cooperators capable of solving commitment problems and establishing their reputation as moral agents get to enjoy the many benefits of being a trusted member of he community, but if you have not yet achieved that status, what hope, if any, is there for you? Should we regard the frequent defectors among us with contempt or compassion?” (p. 271)

In response to Dennett, I say maybe we should regard them with complete emotional and benign detachment and put them out of their misery. I didn’t really say that; I just thought it.

But what if some people are determined, by their genetic makeup, to be always outsiders, miserably and/or violently dangerous to themselves and society? What will we realistically do about their and our situation with them?

Then Dennett adds, “Those whom we end up punishing are really paying a double price, for they are scapegoats, deliberately harmed by society in order to set a vivid example for the more ably self-controlled, but not really responsible for the deeds we piously declare them to have committed of their own free will.” (p. 272)

Thus are the victims doubly victimized by the genetically lucky, those of us who are by our genetics more or less easily self-controlled.


More from Dennett: “. . . if not by a miraculous leap of self-creation, did you get here (moral agency) from there (the amoral unfreedom of an infant)?

“The first threshold on the path to personhood, then, is simply whether or not one’s caregivers succeed in kindling a communicator. Those whose fires of reason just won’t light for one reason or other [the retarded] are consigned to a lower status, uncontroversially. It’s not their fault, it’s just their bad luck. . . . But while we’re on the topic of luck, let’s first try to calibrate our scales. Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back billions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a hundred or a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.” (Dennett, Freedom Evolves, p. 272)


“If I’ve objected strongly to Christianity, it has been because Christianity is deeply branded by a very virulent humiliation motif. One of its main tenets is ‘I, a miserable sinner, born in sin, who have sinned all my days, etc.’ Our way of living and behaving under this punishment is completely atavistic. I could go on talking about this humiliation business for ever.” (p. 81 of Bergman on Bergman)

"The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory." —Paul Fix

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