Front Page Titles (by Subject) Freedom & Norms - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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Freedom & Norms - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Freedom & Norms
“Freedom and Constraint by Norms” American Philosophical Quarterly 16(July 79)187–96.
The author clarifies Kant's claim that one is free insofar as one acts according to the dictates of norms and principles, as opposed to causes.
First, Brandon focuses on linguistic norms. What makes a linguistic performance correct or incorrect or an utterance appropriate or inappropriate are the human social practices of a community—such as the practice of criticizing the utterances of others for perceived failures to conform to the practices governing linguistic performances, or the practices involved in adjudicating disputes. The instances of a social practice are whatever the community takes them to be, as opposed to objective kinds wherein instances are what they are regardless of what any particular community says. Brandon does not deny that there can be appraisals which concern the objective features of the utterance; his point is that the norms which specify criterion of membership in a linguistic community are not objective. If truth of utterances were such a criterion, language would be impossible since it would presuppose infallibility.
The distinction between objective and social kinds throws light on the dispute between naturalists and nonnaturalists on the relation between objective facts and norms. Since social practices express norms, it might seem that the question is whether there is an objective difference between the social and objectively factual. Instead the author suggests that the difference between social and objective phenomenon is itself a social distinction. But what is the difference between treating some system as a set of social practices as opposed to objective processes? The difference is between translating something versus giving a casual explanation of it. The former involved setting up our set of social practices as an unexplained explainer and showing how the practice in question differs from ours vis-à-vis what one should do in a certain situation. This process assumes that the system in question contains similar norms of appropriateness and justification of its performances. Thus when we translate a stranger's performance we treat his performances as one of our own. Kant's original suggestion that the realm of Freedom differs from the realm of Nature now becomes: we treat someone as free if we treat him as one of us. That is, he is free if we see him as subject to the norms inherent in the social practices conformity, which is a criterion of membership in the community. We treat him as unfree insofar as we see him in terms of causes which constrain him.
The author broadens this notion by noting that most of the sentences uttered have heretofore never been uttered. One has not learned a language unless one can invent new sentences which are deemed appropriate by the community. This creative aspect of language is a paradigm of expressive freedom. Mastering a new language means one is capable not only of forming new descriptions and making new claims, but also of forming new beliefs, intentions and desires (sophisticated beliefs, intentions, desires require language) and thus of engaging in new actions. Thus it is only by virtue of being constrained by norms inherent in social practices that one is free to generate and understand new possibilities. This notion of expressive freedom shows that Hegel's criticism of Kant was correct: freedom is not just constraint by norms but constraint by certain types of norms (those which make expressive freedom flourish). Furthermore, exercising one's linguistic capacities creates new practices, which in turn makes new performances possible. This shows that Hegel was right in asserting that there is a dialetical relationship between the individual and the norms within which he operates. Brandon concludes by noting that social and political constraints are justified if they make possible expressive freedom which would otherwise not exist without the norms.