Is liberalism a failed project?

I am reading this interesting book in which the author makes the case for rethinking liberalism. If he’s correct, liberalism is self-contradictory and is a failed project.

Somewhere in the book, he writes that liberalism’s end game is unsustainable in every respect, that is,

It cannot perpetually enforce order upon a collection of autonomous individuals increasingly shorn of constitutive social norms, nor can it provide endless material growth in a world of limits.

By the time I finish reading the book, I will know how I feel about it. Though I know of a tweep who has been consistent in arguing that liberal democracy has not worked for Africa and instead we have ended up with electoral authoritarianism. He argues, the claims made or goods that liberal democracy was claimed would make possible have remained but a chimera and it is time thoughtful citizens among us developed a system that would answer our present crises while offering hope for future generations.

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what is a right?

In this post, the Un one, asks what is a right and posits that

Many people believe (or would like to believe) that humans are born with “inalienable rights,” which are rights which can’t be taken away. And yet, very clearly, there are no such rights in any practical and real sense.

If you believe in such rights, where do you think they come from? Who bestows the or how are they bestowed? And most importantly, who or what is ready to guarantee them?

To answer the question what is a right? I refer to Staphanie’s work, the right to have rights, where she writes

When a person holds a right, they are entitled to a specific good or experience. They have a claim to a tangible object or objective: to health care, to shelter, to an attorney, to remain silent.

In short, a right is a claim.

I think rights are inane. States can only guarantee them, but not give us rights. It is not for the state to give rights, but only to offer protection of said rights. Take for example the right to life- states don’t give this right, they only enforce it.

So I disagree somewhat with this

I’m using the word “legislated” to represent a wider concept of a commitment made by a legitimate entity empowered to create rights and with the wherewithal to enforce those rights in case they are abridged.

because these legislative bodies don’t create rights but only provide grounds for their enforcement. The Bill of Rights doesn’t create rights, only recognizes them and vests the state with the responsibility of ensuring individuals can enjoy those rights.

Chapter 4 of the constitution of Kenya, for example has this on fundamental rights and freedoms

(3) The rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights —

(a) belong to each individual and are not granted by the State;
(b) do not exclude other rights and fundamental freedoms not in the Bill of Rights, but recognised or conferred by law, except to the extent that they are inconsistent with this Chapter; and
(c) are subject only to the limitations contemplated in this Constitution.

What do you think?

on lying

Sam Harris in a short book or should it be a booklet titled lying, writes in conclusion

As it was in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Othello, so it is in life. Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies. Acts of adultery and other personal betrayals, financial fraud, government corruption—even murder and genocide—generally require an additional moral defect: a willingness to lie.
Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.
By lying, we deny others a view of the world as it is. Our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make—and in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to.
And by lying to one person, we potentially spread falsehoods to many others—even to whole societies. We also force upon ourselves subsequent choices—to maintain the deception or not—that can complicate our lives. In this way, every lie haunts our future. There is no telling when or how it might collide with reality, requiring further maintenance. The truth never needs to be tended in this way. It can simply be reiterated.
The lies of the powerful lead us to distrust governments and corporations. The lies of the weak make us callous toward the suffering of others. The lies of conspiracy theorists raise doubts about the honesty of whistle-blowers, even when they are telling the truth. Lies are the social equivalent of toxic waste—everyone is potentially harmed by their spread.
How would your relationships change if you resolved never to lie again? What truths might suddenly come into view in your life? What kind of person would you become? And how might you change the people around you?
It is worth finding out.

Mark Twain writes in on the decay of art of lying, thus

No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of our circumstances–the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without saying. No virtue can reach its highest usefulness without careful and diligent cultivation–therefore, it goes without saying that this one ought to be taught in the public schools–even in the newspapers. What chance has the ignorant uncultivated liar against the educated expert? What chance have I against Mr. Per–against a lawyer? Judicious lying is what the world needs. I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously. An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.

Nietzsche writes

[D]eception, flattering, lying and cheating, talking behind the back, posing, living in borrowed splendor, being masked, the disguise of convention, acting a role before others and before oneself—in short, the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity is so much the rule and the law that almost nothing is more incomprehensible than how an honest and pure urge for truth could have arisen among men. They are deeply immersed in illusions and dream images; their eye only glides only over the surface of things … their feeling nowhere leads into truth, but contents itself with the reception of stimuli, playing, as it were, a game of blind man’s bluff.

And Nietzsche asks again,

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions — they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.

And yours truly asks, are they talking about the same thing? and between Harris’ position and that of Twain, where do you think most people fall? Is the position by Harris really tenable?

what are we like?

It’s Monday and you are all fresh from the weekend, I hope. No one lost their favourite pets or hurt their toe while looking for the light switch or couldn’t find parking at their favourite spots.

Here is for your Monday reading. It would be great to hear your thoughts on some of the claims made in the piece

Of the soul

Here, Cicero makes a very interesting argument. He writes

…..and if the soul be the only thing in the whole world which has the power of self motion, then certainly it never had a beginning, and therefore it is eternal.

What the soul is, however, as I wrote yesterday, remains incoherent and unknown.

Of death

Cicero writes in his disputations

…..it must follow, then, that death cannot be an evil; or that it must rather be something desirable; for if either the heart, or the blood, or the brain, is the soul, then certainly the soul, being corporeal, must perish with the rest of the body; ….

He then asks

What shall I say of Dicearchus, who denies that there is any soul? In all these opinions, there is nothing to affect any one after death, for all feeling is lost with life, and where there is no sensation, nothing can interfere to affect us.

I don’t know about you, but as for me, having no coherent idea of what the soul is and having had no prior idea of life on earth before I was born, the future life doesn’t interfere with how I live today.