Friday, March 10, 2017

Hedonic and Eudaimonic Libertarianism

Some like to distinguish between "thin" and "thick" libertarianism, where the former is a purely "organizational" philosophy, while the latter is a cultural one as well. For lack of a better term, we might call this an ontological distinction. I myself would prefer to replace it with a motivational distinction - the distinction between hedonic and eudaimonic libertarianism, where the defining principle of the former would be "you can do whatever you like, as long as you do not initiate aggression against others", while that of the latter would be "you should do what is good and persuade others to do likewise, as long as no aggression is involved - because then it is not good any more".

Only the latter approach can be said to be free from the spectre of cultural nihilism and consistent with the entirely natural conviction of the majority of people that, even if individual liberty is an objective, unconditionally inviolable end in itself, it is also a means to many other equally significant and equally objective ends in themselves. At the same time, however, unlike "thick libertarianism", the approach in question does not attempt to establish any ontologically necessary bond between individual liberty and any specific cultural values. In other words, it treats individual liberty as neither culturally laden, nor culturally hollow - and perhaps by doing so it presents it in the most constructive manner available.

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