The Libertarian Notion of Freedom

The libertarian notion of freedom is grounded in self ownership and the fact that people have certain rights; one of those rights being that you should be allowed to do what you want with what you own. Others should not be allowed to stop you, and this is why libertarians hate paternalistic laws and moral legislation laws. Those laws could potentially get in the way of people doing what they want with what they own if it clashes with what society thinks is “moral”.

Kant agrees for the most part agrees with libertarians but disagrees with their idea of freedom. His idea of freedom is very different than the libertarian idea of freedom. The libertarians look at freedom as an absence of obstacles (like paternalistic laws, or moral legislation laws) but Kant’s idea of freedom is “to act autonomously”, basically by a law you give yourself rather than acting based on your desires or as he calls it, being a “slave to our appetites and desires”. I think personally. with Kants theory, it’s nearly impossible to know whether or not people’s actions are “free” and “autonomous”. I just can’t stop thinking about the example with the store clerk; there is no way I would know his motivation behind giving the person the right amount of change back. As far as whether or not his notion that freedom is inextricably bound up with duty; if you believe in all the definitions he gives of what freedom is, and what duty is, then this idea makes sense. Personally, I think of freedom in more of a libertarian way (like I think most do), and my definition of “duty” falls more under being accountability of whatever role it is that you’re playing. So, if I think of the terms in my “normal” way, I wouldn’t say they are inextricably connected.

I’m going to start with what I think is the easier one to understand, and that is that a libertarian would be all for assisted suicide/euthanasia. They are against any sort of paternalistic laws (ones that protect people from harming themselves) and moral laws that get in the way of a person doing what they want with their property. They see their freedom as being blocked by laws, but this is different than what Kant believes is freedom (exactly what I spoke about it question number one).

If Kant were to chime in on the physician assisted suicide matter, he would say it’s immoral. First of all, Kant believes we have a “duty” to live and defines duty as doing the right thing for the right reason. Basically, to live morally you have to be living for “the right reasons” (I don’t know what those would be). From what I understand, according to him, it would be wrong to be living according to your “appetites and desires”; this he calls a “motive of inclination”. A person who is wanting to end their own life is not acting autonomously, because something must be making that person act upon their desire to avoid pain (could be biological desire; it would make no difference to Kant). Also, if we look at it from the doctors side, Kant would argue that the doctor is acting heteronomously, because he’s “doing something for the sake of something else for the sake of something else”. I find the libertarian argument more convincing, but I don’t completely agree with either of them.

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