Britney Spears, Immanuel Kant, and autonomy

This may be the only blog in which you will find Britney Spears and Immanuel Kant mentioned in the same article. The reason is my concern regarding autonomy.

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Britney Spears (image: Wikipedia)

“Baby One More Time” and “Oops I Did It Again” Britney Spears is in the news at age 39, some 20 years after her greatest hits. She is seeking to end a long-standing conservatorship by her father. Discussion of this issue online is passionate, with most people supporting Spears’s bid for independence.

Her father’s conservatorship began in the context of some reckless behavior a long time ago. However, if she has a disabling mental illness, it has not stopped her from having a career as an entertainer, making a lot of money for a lot of people.

I have not heard anyone allege that Spears is suicidal or homicidal. She once shaved her head, but so what? Many of us have incidents in our own pasts we would rather forget. Perhaps she spends a lot of money, or drinks a lot – I do not know; but so do many others. I would also like to know the reason why she is compelled to have an IUD inside her against her will. If she has too many children she cannot care for – well, so do many others.

It is hard for a person to grow up and learn responsibility without being given the opportunity to make mistakes and not be saved from them. This is part of the essence of autonomy.

For Immanuel Kant, acting autonomously – subject to no external coercion – was at the heart of ethics.

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Immanuel Kant (image: Wikipedia)

Kant believed that no decision is truly ethical unless it is completely uncoerced – even by God! One must arrive at one’s decision solely through the use of practical reason (that is, informed by experience and history). The action you undertake must be one that, at least in theory, could be undertaken by everyone else as well.

With all due respect for Kant, my knowledge of practical reason informs me that most people are capable of a great deal of rationalization. I am happy that God provided my ancestors with an instruction book called the Torah (Hebrew for instruction or teaching).

Kant would say that I am not acting ethically when I am obeying God’s commandments for His sake. Of course, I can reply and say that as Creator and King of the universe, God has the right to command whatever He chooses.

Maimonides urged a middle path. He said that Israel is compelled to obey God’s commandments; nevertheless, we should expend every effort to understand the rationale behind them. It turns out, not surprisingly, that many of them, the so-called ethical commandments, satisfy the generalizability criterion for categorical imperatives (actions that must be taken, or avoided, for their own sake).

This is where planning for a new America becomes difficult. How can someone like me insist on the importance of Judeo-Christian Biblical values in a society without trampling on autonomy, which is just as important to me?

The answer, I believe, is to be able to find a community of like-minded people. I agree with the Qur’an on just one point, stated in the Meccan (early, peaceful) verses: there must be no compulsion in religion. If others wish to engage in activity that the Torah describes as abominations, I will not stop them; but neither will I be compelled to approve those activities.

The only way for all parties to be content is to separate into two nations. One nation can be the nation of decadence and abomination; the other nation will be the nation of ordered liberty. People who find themselves living in the wrong nation can immigrate to the other nation, but without voting rights for a period of time, such as ten years, until they assimilate to the new culture. Those who do not assimilate will be repatriated.

Happy Independence Day!

16 thoughts on “Britney Spears, Immanuel Kant, and autonomy

  1. I have to actually take the father’s side in this issue. I remember all too well the crazy antics Britney was performing off stage, that was very disturbing and brought back memories from so many that crashed and burned between the 60s and the 90s in the Pop/Rock world. Britney seemed right on course to end up another 20 something dead before her time. Part of what she was doing back then was exercising her “free will” to make her own decisions, which as the media presented them, were pretty terrible. At Best, Britney could have ended up much like Tanya Tucker. At the worse…who knows, but she would have never made 39.
    She should be glad to have a father that decided to protect a daughter he loved, and did not want her exploited any more by a record industry that seems to be run by satan.
    Look what happened to Whitney Houston.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It is hard for a person to grow up and learn responsibility without being given the opportunity to make mistakes and not be saved from them. This is part of the essence of autonomy.”

    If there is freedom, there are the parents: responsibility and the ability to err.

    Forced to have an IUD???? At 39 years old?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have no problem with her destroying her own life. However, the conservatorship was a result of putting her kids at risk due to her being doped up with who knows what:

    The 3-day psych involuntary hold is for people who are considered to be a grave danger to themselves or to others, in this case to her kids.

    The real question is whether parents should have total control over their kids (and by extension, their own behavior in the home). Should you be allowed to raise your kids however you wish? where do we draw the line — beating them, starving them, being too doped to care for them, pimping them out…. sending them to the wrong school, teaching them the wrong religion? I understand the urge to protect all kids, but allowing the state access to the home even for dire emergency starts us down the road that has become an invasive CPS today.

    Seems to me this became a problem when we went from judgment calls by those with a stake in the extended family, to state-mandated judgment because there’s no family in sight.

    I don’t like any of the available answers. But I think there’s actually less damage overall when parents have total control. Some will screw up, some kids will die, but the alternative eventually becomes aggressive in-home surveillance (this concept has already been floated in Britain) just in case it might prevent one case of child abuse or neglect… and a generation raised to believe that their real parent was Big Brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if she was a danger to her kids, why not remove her custody of the children? Why would she herself need to be in this relationship of requiring a conservator?


    1. The Jewish people have had this “instruction book” (as you say) called the Torah, and we Christians have the Torah in our Old Testament. I’ve been reading in the Old Testament, over the last few months, and I’ve come to understand much more about my own faith, in so doing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The Torah is our core, foundational text. Nothing else in Judaism or Christianity makes sense without it. I heard Dennis Prager saying the other day that he would be happy if people learned two things from the Torah: 1) the world has a Creator, and 2) The Ten Commandments.

        Having said that, I have to admit that increasingly in the last few months, as the world gets crazier and crazier, I find myself needing spiritual nurturing that I do not find in the Torah, but rather in the book of Psalms. I have taken to reciting a series of up to 23 psalms daily, in Hebrew, which takes a little more than 15 minutes. (Biblical Hebrew is denser than English.) I feel better able to meet the burdens of the day after doing so.

        I have an idea of assembling these into document form, or maybe self-published book form, with the English and Hebrew facing each other. (I am considering adding Chinese and Spanish as well.) We shall see.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Recently I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in articles with a newly added woke interpretation … notably descriptions of books. And funny thing, citations don’t seem to be required for these woke additions.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. “This is where planning for a new America becomes difficult. How can someone like me insist on the importance of Judeo-Christian Biblical values in a society without trampling on autonomy, which is just as important to me?” – Surak

    Surak’s question cannot be answered without defining “freedom.” I reject Kant’s idea that freedom exists in uncoerced actions ONLY. Removing restraint is a sure way to ruin most, if not all of us. Neither are we created for autonomy. It is not our purpose. The strange paradox is our freedom lies in our purpose – to love and worship the Lord.

    We are created to be happy. Why else does the categorical imperative exist? God certainly does not need it. The greatest categorical imperative is the Shema, and yet, we cannot do it! Our hearts are slaves to lesser desires. So God must give us the heart His perfect holiness commands.

    Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

    Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and to carefully observe My ordinances.…

    R. C. Sproul has an outstanding 30-minute lecture on the various kinds of human freedom here. Although this lecture is 3rd in a series, it is not necessary to watch the other lectures to learn about the different philosophies of human freedom.

    Incidentally, I am not a theocrat (until the Messiah Jesus returns), but our nation’s founding drew heavily upon Judeo-Christian laws and principles. John Adams was right to record that our constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people and is wholly inadequate to govern any other. I believe we must either fight to restore these original principles, or give up land to the ungovernables. The ungovernables are parasites, though, and will quickly realize they cannot exist without us, and so what is to prevent the whole process from starting over again? I am also, on principle, opposed to giving up anything to ungovernables. They need restraint or punishment, not license or reward.

    Conservatism is NOT an ideology. It is a disposition to conserve what is good and right and stable and pure. Progressivism IS an ideology, and this explains why so many different branches of our society can be marshaled to its destructive call, while conservatives struggle to find common cause. It explains why the progressives on our US Supreme Court almost always vote in a solid block and why the conservatives split to give the progressives victories.

    Progressivism advances by compromises. We have been taught that compromise is the way government works. But that is a lie. Government works best that works least (by confinement to its delegated powers of protecting individual rights and sovereign borders). Republicans are happy to compromise because the ignorant masses are pleased that something is “getting done.” We need to be happiest when NOTHING gets done. NO compromises. If there is no directive from the people, there should be no expansion of government power. I was pleased when Trump’s idea of “getting things done” was eliminating unnecessary regulations and strengthening our borders.

    I say we give up no land, but fight to restore the rule of constitutional law and order. I believe we outnumber the idiots who want to burn our cities, abolish the police and pay reparations, etc.


    1. I am going to have to disagree on one point. The Shema is a commandment incumbent upon Jews to recognize God’s unity. We are certainly capable of doing that. I do that, as do many others.

      As to giving up land, there are many who agree with you. I even recognize that it is dangerous. That danger must be balanced against the danger of living with an increasingly powerful totalitarian movement that is anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-Constitution, anti-life, and anti-liberty. I respect both sides of the argument sincerely. However, I think that those who want our way of life to survive will ultimately make a pragmatic choice to secede, just as America seceded from Britain.

      Liked by 1 person

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