Octavo Dia

Thursday, June 29, 2006

And now for your moment of zen...

I was having a discussion of the compatibility of democracy and sharia (Which I will spell however I want to. T.E. Lawrence argues that Arabic cannot be accurately transliterated into English, so we have two systems: one that is hideously inaccurate and one that is only useful to those who don't need help.) and we ran across the free will problem, which is, can one choose not to choose.

To put the question in an older form, can one choose to be a slave? Various philosophers, who I am too lazy to look up, answered no, that one cannot choose to be a slave, since slavery is the negation of choice. Locke, if I remember correctly, even argued that it is within the role of the state to prevent people from enslaving themselves. This, however, contradicts the Biblical tradition of chosen slavery, in which a slave who does not want to leave his master is able was able to choose to remain a slave. This relationship is not free of coercion, however, since the immediate family of the slave was not freed with him, so the slave would be freed minus a family--which is quite a deterent to freedom.

Furthermore, the slave has already experienced slavery. One would assume that the slave who is choosing to be enslaved in this circumstance has a good familiarity with what to expect as a slave. A first-time slave, however, would not have the advantage of understanding the prospective comparative conditions. One could, theoretically, allow the potential slave to enslave himself, but with the caveat that he could unenslave himself whenever he chooses. This, however, is not slavery. To be a slave is to have one's free will taken away. If one has the unending, moment to moment choice to be a slave, one is not enslaved.

Thus the question arises, what does it mean to be a slave? Or in other words, what is actually enslaved? A slave is one whose freedom of action is constrained over time. Since both body and mind are constantly changing, enslavement happens despite any changes of perspective or condition.

The sum of these two arguments, therefore, is that slavery and free will cannot coexist. If, as we saw initially, one constantly chooses to be enslaved, one is not enslaved, and if one does not so choose, then one has no free will. Slavery operates despite of and in negation to free will.

To return to a modern context, can one choose not to choose, or can one vote to disenfranchise oneself? Clearly no. Even if one could negate one's free will, voting to disenfrachise oneself is a violation of the wills of others. Here are the possible situations:

(a) The entire electoral body, not just the class considering disenfranchisement, votes. In this case, the free will of the disenfranchised is overturned by the voice of the rest of the electorate. Their free will is denied.

(b) Only the class concerned votes. In this case, the free will of those who voted to retain their freedom is denied.

(c) Only the class concerned votes, and they are 100% in favor of the outcome. In this case, the free will of those not yet members (the unborn and the underage, for example) is denied.

(d) Only the class concerned votes, they are 100% in favor of the outcome, and new members can vote to disenfranchise themselves. In this case, those who have changed their minds are having their free will denied.

(e) Only the class concerned votes, they are 100% in favor of the outcome, new members can vote, and old members can change their minds. In this case, free will is not violated.

What sort of government, one may ask, provides a situation in which people can choose when to disenfranchise themselves? How many people voted in the last election? How many people voluntarily disenfranchised themselves? A fully representative government provides the means to exercise one's free will through negation. Any other electoral design violates the free will of the electorate, and is therefore incompatible with democracy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I'm playing a Civ III Lord of the Rings scenario right now. It's just a hack some oaf made, so it doesn't have all sorts of graphic redesigns. To represent the ring of power, he didn't actually use anything remotely ring shaped, but just used the nuke icon to represent it. The use of the nuke to represent all powerful magic is quite telling, because that is precisely what is wrong with most fantasy writing that involves magic. When someone has magical power, they have nukes. It doesn't matter if you are valiant or brave or wise or sly, they have the nukes, and as the saying goes, "Towns in Europe are only a kiloton apart." Since there is no fallout and nuclear winter and end of life as we know it from magic, there's no incentive not to use it, so you can't continue the story like we can continue having conflict despite having nukes.

Which brings me around to the point of this rant, the thing that I really like about Lord of the Rings is that the all powerful magic does have fallout--it will corrupt you and make you an EBMOD. So the story continues despite the magical power.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


A defense of the detainee policy at Guantanamo Bay.