Subject: Re: FSBs and client-server
From: Seth David Schoen <>
Date: Sat, 27 May 2000 13:08:37 -0700

Lynn Winebarger writes:

> On Sat, 27 May 2000, Kevin S. Van Horn wrote:
> > > As a society, we make choices about how we want our society to work.
> > 
> > Sorry, but societies don't make choices.  Individuals do.  And the many
>     I disagree.  I'd say laws are an example of a societal choice. 

Hmmm, what indication do we have of that?

It's not very polite to ask people to provide elaborate theories of
political philosophy or legal theory, but I'd like to ask what sorts
of laws, too, and how produced.

> > Advocates of libre
> > software are changing the way one part of our society works, without any help
> > from government.
>    Au contraire.  Any licensed free software _is_ getting help from the
> government in enforcing the license.  It's called copyright la

The original free software movement (as conceived by Richard Stallman)
was pretty antagonistic to copyright in software.  That's not to say
that the whole free software movement is now, or that copyright law
hasn't benefitted the free software movement, or that the free software
movement doesn't rely on copyright (even if opposed to it).

I think "without any help from government" is an overstatement: maybe
"in a way which would not necessarily rely on help from government".

> > In reality, how society works is decided by the countless separate decisions
> > made by individuals every day, each pursuing his or her own goals.  It's just
>      And in reality, all the neurons in my brain make countless separate
> decisions.  Would you therefore claim "I" don't make choices?

It's a bit easier to see you as a coherent example of the concept of
an agent making choices.  The concept of choice and of decision-making
comes in the first place from seeing people like yourself interacting
with the world.  Then it gets applied as a metaphor to the actions of
other entities (computers following algorithms, businesses making
business decisions, states following constitutions) that also
interact with the world in meaningful, high-level ways.

People who like to suspect or criticize the legitimacy of some
institution often pick on metaphors applied to that institution.
So, the metaphor of a society making decisions or having a will
is open to criticism in various ways.

Some people _would_ push the criticism even further and say that,
actually, "you" don't make choices -- there's a book by Tor
Norretranders called _The User Illusion_ which critiques the original
idea of people making their own choices.  I'm not going to go there. :-)

Seth David Schoen <>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5