Friday, April 25, 2008

Stallman's Ethical Non-treatise

I appreciate the “humanistic” ends of Richard Stallman’s GNU Project, but I think that the GNU Manifesto’s rhetoric is too moralizing and reads like a sophomoric expose on open source ethics. While I can empathize with Stallman’s enthusiasm and (less so) with his messianic urges, I wish he would run his manifesto through an open source program that removed statements like “…if programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs” and “’Control over the use of one’s ideas’ really constitutes control over other people’s lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult” (5,6). Why all the unfounded confidence about what is good and what is evil? Why all the normative claims (drawn out in an annoying question-and-answer format)? Not everyone is/should be a stout observer of an embarrassingly watered-down Stallman-Kant ethical paradigm. Why is Stallman calling forth on it to save his a**? There are ways of constructing more convincing arguments, especially for what seems like such a promising idea, without assuming the role of Answer God or making ethical judgments. But perhaps I have just assumed the role of a certain Debbie Downer at this late hour.

Anyway, take care, ya’ll.

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