Archimedes, in order that he might draw the terrestrial globe out of its place, and transport it elsewhere, demanded only that one point should be fixed and immoveable; in the same way I shall have the right to conceive high hopes if I am happy enough to discover one thing only which is certain and indubitable. – Rene Descartes
In logic, we must begin with certain premises and then argue from there. Philosophers will claim that:
1) If P implies Q
2) And it is the case that P
We begin with axioms, from which we derive a series of conclusions, giving us a system – a framework – with which to view the world.
Austrian economists argue that we need only to ensure our premises are true and our reasoning logical in order to have truthful economics. Other economists argue that we need to test our conclusions and make predictions of economic data. In any event, we have to begin with true premises.
All good philosophy, religion, and science begin with humility. This was Socrates’ most valuable contribution to human thought. We must have the capacity to admit we have erred in our behavior, thinking, or judgments in order to learn or have any hope of moral reform.
Socrates claims the wise person is the one who knows they are not wise. When the Pharisee and the tax collector prayed, the Pharisee thanked God for his virtue and the tax collector asked God to have mercy on him – a sinner. Christ declared the tax collector to be virtuous because he recognized his place in the universe.
The scientist begins their enterprise with the idea they must attempt to falsify their own theory. Philosophy, religion, and science that teach prideful practice (that teach an unwillingness to admit error) are bad religion, philosophy, and science.
I see no reason to avoid beginning with humility in our political project as well. It ought to begin with the confession of our ignorance.
We don’t know the best course of action for government intervention. This confession becomes prescriptive, if you see a doctor covering a poor soul in leeches you know they are taking the wrong course of action and must advise them to stop.
Stage one (for the political enterprise that begins with humility) is that ignorance implies an “ought” of inaction; inaction entails that individual liberties ought to be respected.
Via “Lockean” reasoning, this respect must carry through to respecting individual’s actions, and therefore their labour, and therefore their property.
The non-aggression principle is the corollary of liberty as a value, which stems from humility. Humility is the guiding principle that illuminates all that is good. Pride is the clouding principle that clouds it out. It isn’t the end, just as humility isn’t the end of philosophy, religion, or science either, but it is the beginning.
Descartes searched for a fixed point to construct his philosophy. He did the same in mathematics, giving us the Cartesian system by which we draw basic graphs today.
Our fixed point is our lack of greatness – our unwillingness to transgress under the false pretense of a greater good. Therein lies the heart of the liberty movement.
This post was written by Brandon Kirby.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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