Caring for freedom

gary e. davis
July 4, 2007

Following are some related recent blog postings that have been moved here. This is a preliminary page (but the postings were not spontaneously written!) for later dwelling on the intrinsic value of freedom.

your highness
July 1

We want (presumably)—or should want—to generalize caring for “quality”, e.g., caring for highly esteemable journalism or genuinely sophisticated culture (not the consumerization of this as fashion). What’s deserving of high valuation warrants the exemplary caring that sustains it. Yet, this sustaining presumes appreciation of deservedness.

Subsidizing a waning culture won’t create a healthy culture (just as subsidizing a waning market won’t create a healthy market). Rather, cultural health (an odd notion, I recognize)—and sustainable appreciation—has to be enabled in its own way, developed toward self-sustainability. Development of appreciation doesn’t happen by imperative, just as a museum doesn’t create art (well, that’s a major issue in the politics of art, isn’t it?). Provide for educational excellence broadly, and the health of “quality” or that which deserves high valuation—the health or robustness of holding dear—will take care of itself, in a fair market?

Broad educational excellence is, in my view, the solution to at-risk quality, notwithstanding the difficult politics of enabling and sustaining excellence. Yet, educational excellence leads to sustaining and advancing quality only inasmuch as education enables sustainable appreciation, i.e., capability for actively sustaining and advancing value. Educational excellence for the sake of high valuing succeeds not by securing attitudes toward given claims to high value (given, say, in subsidy of a “museum” of culture), but only by securing appreciative practices and by securing value-creating (envaluing?) choices, thus securing sustainable exemplification of appreciation.

Though it’s colloquial to say that one “cares about quality,” the matter is basically caring for quality, as caring about a garden is no better than the gardening, i.e., caring for specific gardens (which presumes caring for the expert practice of good gardening). “The proof is in the pudding.” One is expected to “practice what you preach.” “Walk the talk.” The clichés attest that practice is more valuable than assertive conviction—enactivity (showing, exemplification) is more valuable than state of mind (i.e., mere avowing that one has a [practical] belief).

Caring, then, is a kind of enactivity, even a high kind of enactivity. Whatever “quality” or deservedness-of-high-valuing is in particular cases—whereby caring is surely exemplary of high valuing—not just caring for quality is valuable; we should want a high kind of caring for quality: beyond support and solidarity, we should want that which facilitates the value held dear (thereby creating value, beyond mere sustaining of given value)—better yet (ideally): a caring which shows devotion to or facilitates generalizing care for what’s highly valuable, which is at least vocal support for others’ caring for what they value.

What this runaround expresses is a belonging-together of caring, high valuing of (holding dear) deserved particulars, and facilitation or enabling of appreciation for high valuing as generally as one can.

How is appreciation related to intrinsic value?
July 1

The above paragraphs usefully beg important questions, including:

• What’s appreciation as such? How does it relate to implied high perceptibility? What is high perceptibility?

• Is deservingness in valuation no more than what’s addressed standardly through the issue of “desert”?

• Must the meaning of ‘high valuation’ derive from a sense of intrinsic value?

Much more is tacitly put to question in “your highness,” e.g., “caring,” “genuinely sophisticated culture,” “healthy market”.

a declaration of independence
July 4

So, today is the fourth of July—in the U.S., capitalized: “The Fourth of July,” “Independence Day.” In the beginning, “America” expressed an affirmative conception of freedom, starkly contrary to European negative freedom. Freedom was assumed (it turns out validly) to be a natural endowment of human potential.

Might it be that the universal appeal of freedom emerges from our nature: the developmental interest of human capacity in realizing its potential? There seems to be an existential primordiality of freedom that entwines itself with the natural appeal of love. Love of freedom, generally expressed in flows of human flourishing, express—in the words of Nobel economist Amartya Sen—“capability of a person to lead the kind of life they have good reason to value” (Development as Freedom, 1998. p. 18). Individual freedom is a universal (or, if not recognized, a universalizable) value, an ultimate good—a Good. There is humanly ultimate value in fulfilling freedom, ecstatic value in excellence. Perhaps human rights originate from inherent deservedness of [natural potential for] freedom. Here may be the origin of intuitions that autonomy is a virtue of our nature, from which the American virtue of independence emerged.

Might it be that a free act is a highly capable act that is authentically enacted? Freedom, of course, is a labyrinth of modern complexities. Sen distinguishes “substantive” freedoms (individual) from “instrumental” freedoms (social enhancements and guarantees). There are constitutive vs instrumental roles of freedom in social development. There are mutually reinforcing connections among specific freedoms, altogether an ecologic relativity of freedoms. High quality of life is a complex of freedoms, which a quality-of-life economics presumes. And the liberty to take initiative, which is political, isn’t the same as freedom to do so (which is cultural and economic).

Highly individuated lives design their freedom, and public policies that foster human flourishing follow in that light: “to advance the general capability of a person,” writes Sen.

Might it be that evolution is serviceably conceived as progress in developmental processes? Ontogenies evolve across generations (phenotype across the genotype). Perhaps, in the progressive modification of ontogenic freedom (richness of individuated potential), evolution is aggregately/generally effected. Freedom evolves via actualized capability, which is a function of realized capacity. Open-mindedness evolves in scale and capability. “Freedom evolves,” writes philosopher Daniel Dennett, in his book by that name.