Jason Brennan and Neil Sinhababu

Jason Brennan (left) and Neil Sinhababu (right) on political liberties and hedonism.

In this episode, Brennan and Sinhababu air two different arguments on two different topics. First, Brennan argues, contrary to a widely held view, that a given individual’s political liberties should not be considered valuable for that individual: he contends that political liberties do not achieve the ends that would give them such value. Then (starting at 35:21) Sinhababu presents his argument in favor of universal hedonism: he contends that emotional perception (which often seems contrary to hedonism) is unreliable, whereas phenomenal introspection (which he thinks supports hedonism) is reliable.

Related works

by Brennan:
Political Liberty: Who Needs It?” (draft)
The Ethics of Voting (forthcoming)
with David Schmidtz, A Brief History of Liberty (2010)
Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote” (2009)

by Sinhababu:
The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism” (draft)
Possible Girls” (2008)
Blog: The Ethical Werewolf

See also:

Juan Comesaña, “We Are (Almost) All Externalists Now” (2005)
Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky, Democracy and Decision (1997)
Gelman, Silver, and Edlin, “What is the probability your vote will make a difference?” (2008)

More video:
Jason Brennan’s diavlogs (BhTV)
Neil Sinhababu and Jesse Bering (BhTV)

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1 comment to Jason Brennan and Neil Sinhababu

  • Jeff Kucik

    Jason’s physics analogy raises an interesting point. Are there more or less “productive” uses of political liberties (as there may be of scientific knowledge)? If so, what are these uses? And, more fundamentally, how might we define “productive” (beyond the most obvious, self-interested definition, which is whether someone’s actions further my own policy preferences)? The implication of this logic is that the value of exercising one’s political liberties is ultimately non-constant.

    It also isn’t clear to me, as someone largely unfamiliar with the literature, that we can hold two seemingly opposing claims: (1) Democracy “is a good thing” in the aggregate yet (2) political liberties “aren’t of much value” to the individual. It seems to me that separating the individual and what we might simply call society creates a false dichotomy. In actual fact, the net benefits/costs of political liberties to society are endogenously related to those at the level of the individual.

    Just my two cents. Cheers for the enjoyable discussion.