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Your result for The Freedom (Inspired by Spinoza's Ethics) Test ...

About Average


Your level of freedom is about average. With respect to vices, you've basically got them under control, so that if you over-indulge, it typically occurs during relatively infrequent binge episodes. You're not overly attached to the past, and you possess about the average amount of material objects that serve primarily as reminders of it. You're not above thinking that changing tables can change your luck at blackjack, but you try to avoid basing consequential decisions on superstition. The chief problem is that in many situations, you're either indifferent or indecisive. This affords far too wide a berth to external forces as determinants of your behavior. In order to encourage you to be more decisive, consider the following. Although you doubt it, it can be demonstrated that each of the items in the test admits of only one response that is fully rational and therefore fully indicative of freedom. First, reflect that nobody says stones are free. Why not? Because they do not have rational agency, which is the same as saying that their "behaviors" (more accurately, their changes of state) are determined by external forces such as the wind. Now consider someone who insists at noon that they're going on a diet, and then, at 7pm, selects a heaping slice of lemon meringue pie (notice the importance of proximity and the fact that it's a visual stimulus) when the dessert cart rolls around. Is this person rational? Surely not: their preference switches in such a way that the 7pm decision has more value simply because it's the one that's close in time and space. Notice that this is no different in principle from preferring 1 dollar now to 5 million dollars 5 minutes from now. So our hypothetical person is not rational, and therefore not free-their decision was determined by the external forces of time and the presence of the dessert cart, which is, in terms of freedom, is equivalent to the wind's determination of the movement of a stone. Reflect now upon, for example, the item inquiring whether an addiction to heroin is morally equivalent to an addiction to shopping. In all likelihood, you strongly agree that they are *not* morally equivalent. Presumably, what one might have in mind are the different consequences of the two patterns of behavior. However, since each is addicted, neither is in control of their own behavior, and so drawing a moral distinction between the two cases is akin to drawing a moral distinction between stones on the basis that the wind blew one stone through a window while leaving another stone undisturbed. How, Spinoza would ask, can one who is "willing" to draw moral conclusions, and *react to others,* on such a flimsy basis be free? Consider also the item that inquires whether pity and compassion can be meaningfully distinguished. Spinoza says it can be demonstrated that free, and therefore rational, agents draw no such distinction. Since pity and compassion each presuppose identification with one who is suffering, they are in themselves aversive states. The question then becomes whether those states are valuable. If they are, surely it is not because of their painfulness; it must therefore be because of the consequences they bring about. If that is so, however, the analysis in the preceding paragraph applies unless one can show that compassion is under the control of the actor while pity is not, or the other way around. Now, Spinoza would ask, how is a person's being moved either by pity or compassion different from a stone's being moved by the wind? As a general matter, when does a person act more freely: when they are motivated by pain, or when they are motivated by a justifiable sense that something ought to be done for its own sake? More specifically, ought one render assistance to others because one will feel pained if one does not, or ought one render assistance to others because one perceives that forces difficult to control are preventing a person from realizing freedom for themselves? Is a donation "philanthropic" if it's made for public relations purposes?

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