As a kid I really liked math because no matter the school curriculum, or country I happened to be in, the numbers were always the same. The problem sets followed a format as well. The givens were presented first off, and any other relationships, then you used theorems to generate answers– or rather one right answer. That was delightful! In customs and cultures there were never ending answers and conditions and expectations to keep track of.
In a philosophical argument, instead of givens, there are premises or premisses. Yet here, one must be ready to stand behind their validity.
A premise or premiss[a] is a true or false statement that helps form the body of an argument, which logically leads to a true or false conclusion. A premise makes a declarative statement about its subject matter which enables a reader to either agree or disagree with the premise in question, and in doing so understand the logical assumptions of the argument.Wiki
This would be all well and good if language were precise. But it’s not. The project seems doomed for perpetual hair splitting. Unless of course one has some sort of authority so that everyone simply nods to their wise ruling and agrees. (yet, I’ve always been suspect to authority as too many people in lowly positions are in fact far brighter than those in lofty positions to which authority is often assumed)
For the argument I make here, at home-economic, a primary premise is that individuals have freedom to make choices. In a free and open society this seems indisputable, but then a questioning starts. What about the poor, or the homeless or children or the elderly or, for that matter, the breadwinner who feels trapped in a place of employment? Does someone living under a bridge really have choices? Yes.
And I would even take it further and say that those who are so removed from the circumstances in play, folks who stand too far back to be able to note the distinguishing characteristics of choices, these people have little to contribute to the conversation. For if one cannot or simply do not acknowledge the framework within which a particular group is living than, for lack of understanding, their interference is likely to do more harm than good.
Here’s an example given in Viviana Zelizer’s book The Social Meaning of Money at the start of Chapter 5.
IN THE NEW TALES told by social workers during the early twentieth century, money was recast as the modern “white hat” of the charity saga. Consider the life story of Mrs. Czech, featured as the rhetorical centerpiece of an influential article published in The Survey in 1916 by Emma Winslow, home economist at the New York Charity Organization Society. Mrs. Czech was a widow who, for three years after her husband died, “was not obliged to use money in any way. “A charitable society provided her and her six children with food and clothing and paid their rent and insurance. And yet, despite such “theoretically…perfect care, the Czechs floundered. The mother “apparently … had no interest in the appearance of her home or of her children.” Nor did she care about their food. Soon, the children’s health deteriorated, their faces becoming “sallow and pasty.” At this point, the charity society decided to shift the method of relief into a weekly cash allowance, instructing Mrs. Czech “to do her own buying.” Soon housekeeping “became a delight,” the children’s health flourished, and the formerly indolent widow turned into a “remarkable… domestic economist.” And all because she now had the cash “to buy what she wanted when she wanted it.”
In this case substituting cash for a pre-selected bundle of goods allowed an actor to benefit from choice. Please don’t misread this to say I advocate for cashing out of all social circumstances. Far from it!
The premise I am trying to highlight is freedom of choice. That optimal solutions occur when individuals are free to make choices as they filter through the various economic marketplaces of their lives.