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Harrison Danneskjold

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Everything posted by Harrison Danneskjold

  1. The way I understand it, when Rand called something "moral" she also meant "rational", which probably has something to do with her special emphasis on the idea that egoism (or "rational self-interest") is the only logical and scientific "morality of reason". Any choice is "rational" if you choose it out of a rationally-justified belief that its consequences will better serve your own rationally-prioritized values than any of the alternatives you don't choose. If your belief in its good consequences is based on the positions of the stars, your choice is irrational. If you choose the consequences of a cool new toy over food or shelter, your choice is irrational. When you've chosen the best because you've taken the time to figure it out and define what actually is the best, your choice is rational. And what goes for the rationality of choices must also go for things like actions, words or habits, which are the products of our choices: they are exactly as rational or irrational as that which caused them. However, notice that whether a choice is rational or irrational depends on why it was chosen, and has no meaning outside of that context. It is possible to make the "right" choice for the wrong reasons, in which case the choice is still wrong and irrational (which ties into why we don't want anyone's blind obedience and why, when offered the position of "economic dictator", John Galt laughed out loud at the one who'd offered it). Sure. "Reason" is a method of choosing one thing out of many possibilities, even in its primary sense (choosing what to believe); where only one answer is possible, reason doesn't apply. Your own, direct perception of reality itself is self-evident, inescapable and arational; so is your sense of life, your taste in art and your favorite flavor of ice cream. They're the axiomatic starting points which we then reason from. Where there are multiple functionally-equivalent options, the consequences of which are all indistinguishable from one another, reason doesn't apply. Only if it stops you from actually going out and pursuing your values. As long as you can keep doing things and making choices (some of which may turn out to be irrational, in retrospect - that doesn't make you Hitler); as long as it doesn't paralyze you, that's a very good habit to cultivate. I don't think it's even wrong to question the self-evidency of your own perceptions and preferences (you never know which questions might uncover some subconscious, automated error) - provided you know when to stop and move on with whatever knowledge you happen to have. If it ever does turn paralytic then stop analyzing things for a while, do something you enjoy (simply because you enjoy it) and return to your inquiries once you've cleared your head.
  2. Grames: It seems like epistemologue's beef is more with consciousness than existence. "If knowledge doesn't spring out of things without my participation then it doesn't count as knowledge", I guess. Also, in your clause "if I can't understand it", do you mean within the scope of one's current knowledge or inherently and indefinitely, regardless of any body of knowledge? If we're reading it as I think it was probably meant then yes. And every evil philosophy has to involve a denial of the senses, at some point (and most of them do it much more than once). However, if we're measuring the horrors of history in terms of sheer body counts then the assertion of existential contradictions (not the unknown but the unknowable, ineffable and undefinable) would be a pretty strong contender, too. You can't turn human beings into suicide bombers until after you get them to swallow the futility of reason. That being said, pining for the infallibility of reason is only a slightly more involved path to the dark side.
  3. I tried to be very gentle in my last post, but it just occurred to me that you've been reading the ITOE; you already have the Rosetta Stone of my language. So in this post I'll hold you to the same standards I hold myself to. Just a head's-up. Let's assume that everything you said, in the preceding quote, is correct. The proposition that "roses are red" is not universally true of every rose; there are other possible colors (and let's even call it "subjective" and "pragmatic" to boot). What about a single, concrete rose, though? If I call it "red" that's only because my own personal, subjective eyes make it look that way to me. What if I'm colorblind? The same for texture; the same for shape, smell, taste, length, and any other attribute one could ever find in a rose: I only know about them from my own, subjective point of view. My own senses are completely subjective. So by what method can I ever discover "the objective requirements dictated by the objects in reality"? Even if I had some form of ESP, any information it gave me would also be "subjective" by the absolutely-necessary identity of my subjectively-experienced, first-person kind of consciousness. So whatever this "knowledge" thing is, it doesn't sound like something you or I could ever do. Which means that you cannot possibly have any good reason for your assertions in the OP, which also happens to disprove your own position. That point doesn't matter too much, though; anything beyond the impossibility of knowledge, itself, is really just gravy. "Man is blind - because he has eyes". Yeah; knowledge is contextual. You can only take account of your own, personal knowledge and there are never any guarantees of its accuracy; even if all of your conclusions are perfectly rational and you never indulge yourself in a single deliberate mistake, you might still be wrong. That's not a hidden flaw in Objectivism; Ayn Rand herself explicitly asserted it multiple times, outlined its role in related ideas (from the possibility of rational men holding contradictory opinions to the impropriety of the death penalty) and even declared, on no uncertain terms, that the sort of objections expressed in the OP stem from a deep misunderstanding of what "knowledge" actually is. That is why, when StrictlyLogical posted: Those of us who've been chewing on this material immediately knew what he meant and why he tossed your conception of "knowledge" aside as arbitrary. Just as when Grames posted: We knew that "a metaphysically-given abstraction" means "an unalterable and inescapable result of a voluntary process", which is a self-contradictory description of non-knowledge. Just like when I say "man is blind - because he has eyes" they'll know that I'm pointing out your post's tacit acceptance of Kant's noumenal-phenomal distinction, which annihilates it once again on a third level. In fact there are many different problems with the OP which I won't enumerate any further. If you genuinely didn't see them - reread the ITOE. It contains much more than it may initially appear to. P.S: If you truly didn't know and you need some time to catch up, I won't hold that against you. Part of me wanted to demonstrate what sort of mental rigor this "subjective, pragmatic and arbitrary" epistemology demands; what it takes to "speak my language". I think I've accomplished that. It's worth it, though.
  4. You used a couple of highfalutin words in your post, there, so I'd like to make sure I understood it. A "rose", by any other name, would still smell as sweet, and you concede the existence of such subjective attributes as smell or color and even our ability to measure them. However, if the concept of a *rose* was not strictly necessary; if it was possible to join *white roses* and *white lillies* under the single concept of *googledorf* then this means - what? And why? It doesn't follow that the mere possibly of a googledorf would somehow wipe out the very concept of a rose; all of the similarities between concrete white roses would remain, as well as their difference from any other concrete kind of white flower. You seem to suggest that if more than one possible conceptualizations can be made of any given group of concrete *things* then none of them can be any better or worse than any other. All other issues aside, that just doesn't seem to follow from the information you've presented. The article you linked to appears to be missing; would you please elaborate on the meaning of that paragraph? "Red roses are red". Is that a subjective and arbitrary assertion, without any real truth-value? Can it ever be disproven by anything else we learn about anything at all? Or would you simply consider it evidence of such a metaphysical "kind" of thing? A = A I don't believe we're speaking quite the same language, yet.
  5. IF you're starting your own rock band, which must be able to play loudly (and perhaps not too well, at first), THEN you should avoid heavily populated areas when choosing where to live. IF you enjoy chocolate ice cream the most THEN it is proper for you to choose it, when selecting your ice cream (and, barring any extremely unusual circumstances, improper and immoral to choose any lesser flavor for yourself). On the question of how to apply our wishes and preferences to any given decision, the answer Epistemologue gave had the basically correct format: there are general rules for how to consciously reason from wishes, urges or desires to validated goals and then to choices and actions, and these apply to everyone, universally. Actually, despite his screams of "subjectivism!", nobody in this thread has suggested anything other than that. His error was not the insistence on universal principles and it is a different kind of error to reject the existence of such principles. If such things weren't universal then there'd be no standards to judge "good" or "bad" choices, nothing to guide any of us towards anything in particular and nothing for us to discuss except the "sez you - sez I" sort of emotional ejaculation which wouldn't be of any Earthly use to anyone on Earth. His error was to drop the context of just how subtle, complex and multifaceted a human mind is, by asserting that a handful of personal traits and goals are all the information one needs in order to judge what's best for that person. It's not outright intrinsicism (since he qualified his assertion with those few traits rather than simply declaring "apartments are always good for all") but it does lean that way, by virtue of WHAT context he dropped. The way for him to solve his error is not to doubt the validity of universal principles, as such, but only to remember the full extent of what a complicated thing a human being is. I concretized what "context" and "preferences" meant here because the earlier responses to him would seem to imply subjectivism (rationally!) - IF one hadn't taken part in those threads, a few years ago, which made the issue so clear to me (and which DW and yourself saw but Epistemologue obviously didn't). I'll start giving out links to them once I remember what the Hell they were called. It's never automatic but I do try to be. Thank you.
  6. What kind of young, single person, and what are they trying to save money for? If they're an aspiring musician, whose band will need to be practicing regularly (and probably loudly) then roommates would be an objective downgrade. For the past few months my roommates have been united in one long, sustained effort to make me doubt the validity of my own mind (for purposes I can't fathom) and SL's idea sounds incredibly good to me, right now. You're not me, though; you may never have been in such a situation and your roommates might be of a very different caliber than mine. I'm not denying the existence of objective, universal principles, but "young and single" just doesn't cut it.
  7. We were born into a crippled economy (which we're forbidden even to try to fix without the permission of our local slave-drivers), equipped with nothing except whatever we may or may not have gleaned from John Dewey's educational system, commanded to go out and start producing more than $9.50 an hour "somehow" (and to pay for any of our elders' false teeth or Viagra or organ transplants, while we're at it) and if we complain about any of it we're told to shut up, take it and like it. Yes, gentlemen, our elders have screwed us over quite thoroughly. They've made it much harder for us to "launch" than it ever was for them. That's not a comfortable subject for many of them, though, so they don't want to know that anything has changed at all. It's much easier to say that we're all just helpless, snivelling infants, who can't live up to their standards. That's not to deny the existence (nor even the prevalence) of millenials who are, in fact, helpless and spineless weaklings. I'm not saying there isn't a grain of truth in that depiction, but it's only a half-truth; the other half is that, with each passing year, our society makes it even harder to "launch". And if we can't stop it then our kids will take an even harder beating than we have. Firstly, there's nothing wrong with it being a personal issue (as it is for me and should be for any person it affects) as long as we can still reason about it clearly and coherently. Secondly, I'm sorry you had to do business with a landlord who was such a scumbag; I know what that must've felt like. But one lying bastard does not mean that all landlords are liars, any more than one welfare-mooching millennial proves us all to be moochers. Direct your wrath towards the individual who's actually earned it. Not necessarily. If you have a steady and reliable source of income then spending some monthly portion of it on a temporary shelter shouldn't be the end of the world. It sounds like you might want to rethink your personal living arrangements (maybe) but rent, as such, is not destroying our civilization. Only a Hippy or a Commie would turn his nose up at ad hominem arguments! P.S: To be clear, it's not impossible to "launch" today; the obstacles in our way are not a blank check to blame all of one's problems on society and give up on solving them. I am not trying to advocate any form or variety whatsoever of fatalism. What I'm sanctioning is the outrage which, as grievously misdirected as it is, seems to be a response to actual wrongs.
  8. You don't have to thank me for telling the truth. What I mean about a 'philosophy of information', though, is this. An old-fashioned, physical book contains "information" in a very real and valid sense. We can learn new skills and knowledge from them or use them to safeguard what we already have against the frailties of our own memories. However, all of these benefits depend on actions that we must initiate, ourselves. A book without a reader is only so much paper, without any purpose or meaning, and can't be said to have any "information" at all. Think of all the inscriptions we've found, written in dead languages; as long as we can't read them, they inform us of nothing. "Information" is an attribute of consciousness. Language, writing and computer programs are conceptual tools which can augment our own mental abilities (and possess "information" only in this derivative sense) but without a mind to use them they mean nothing whatsoever. Now, I think we might be able to create an artificial mind someday, but not if we keep attributing some undefined form of knowledge to our mental tools (or, worse still, to any rock or star that strikes our fancy). I don't know what more than that really needs to be said.
  9. I really should've elaborated a bit more. Sorry about that. There is one and only one "rational" method of thinking. Whatever conclusions you reach by that method, regardless of whatever evidence is at your personal disposal, are rational; whatever you conclude for any other reason is irrational. I use "conclusion" here with a special emphasis on commitment. There's nothing irrational about the guess-and-check method unless it becomes guess-and-cling-to-forevermore. The number of alternative ways someone could arrive at their beliefs (I.e. the number of possible forms of irrationality) is unlimited. They could go by the Bible. They could go by their elders' beliefs or The Party's beliefs or they could go by their negations. They could go by whatever undigested impressions they take from whatever random experiences. They could go by the stars or the weather or the behavior of birds or something they once saw in a bad acid trip. There is an infinity of wrong options. If your only complaint is the way we1 (O'ists) lump all "irrational philosophies" into a single bucket - we1 do that because Objectivism is the only philosophical system that fits with "reason" from top to bottom (in essence and in sum if not in every microscopic detail). We1 can rationally demonstrate that this is true and that it is (again, demonstrably) the single most important factor in the quality of every single one of our1 lives. It's a very real difference which we1 ought to take very seriously. If you have some particular philosophy in mind - name it! I'm far too familiar with the various tribes of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Wicca, Satanism (Theistic and LaVeyan), a handful of pagan pantheons, the ritualistic methods of Aleister Crowley and the Indian death cult of which Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was such a good caricature. I did some ideological scavenging before I found Objectivism and most of it is still there, today, wasting some irretrievable portion of my brain. I'd love to put it to some use by explaining to you what's wrong with any particular one but you have to pick one. I will not run through them all, individually, just for your amusement. If you'd be a bit more specific I'd be happy to discuss it (whatever it is). If not then have some music, anyway. It's good for the soul. Footnote 1: I'd like to apologize for my somewhat cavalier use of "we", in that sentence, but if you consider yourself an Objectivist and also believe that reason is either useless or meaningless then I simply don't take any account of you. Life is too short, you know?
  10. Hang on, tovarisch. You just placed Ayn Rand on equal epistemological footing with Joseph Stalin on Objectivism Online. What sort of response are you looking for here? Are you asking us to disprove your ridiculous assertion by demonstrating some sort of familiarity with whatever supernatural theories you won't even specify, so that we don't lose you to "the other side"? You sound like you're already there, tovarisch. Try me.
  11. It would appear so. It may help to research what the IRS considers "voluntary", though. I'd especially recommend the case files. They detail all sorts of ways that people have tried, over the years, to teach the IRS what "voluntary" means, and what was done to them for it. P.S: Before anyone accuses me of evading whatever absolutely perfect solution they believe they've suggested, let me mention that I have read every single post in this thread and responded to precisely what I considered relevant. The OP for context. DA for immediately nailing the heart of the issue. Nicky because he was funny and because I don't believe that actual grown-ups could have such a difficult time with the nature of consent, if they weren't trying to kid themselves. You've had the relevant facts of the matter. Feel free to take a look at the consequences of trying to kid ourselves about it. QED
  12. The fact that America was based on some good ideas has not prevented us from turning it into a slave pen, eventually.
  13. According to your link and a few commonsense assumptions: 1: The procedure for giving up one's citizenship can only be done in person at an American embassy 2: There are no American embassies inside of America C1: One can only give up one's citizenship from outside our borders 3: In giving up one's citizenship one gives up the "right to reside in America" C2: Giving up one's citizenship requires one's physical exile from this geographic area "If you're not rooting for the home team then get out!" And to tell the truth, personally, I would love to go anywhere that wasn't even worse off than America. By all means, show me the door! I can't seem to find one, myself. Too late!
  14. 'I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire, a dangerous force, tamed in a man's hand. When a man thinks, there's a point of fire alive in his mind, and it's proper that he should hold the fire of a cigarette in his hand.' -Cheeky paraphrasing which is almost certainly mangled. More seriously, though, it's a personal value judgement which you can't prescribe. "I don't like people who talk too much about [their own selflessness]. I don't think it's true and I don't think it'd be right if it ever were true." -Mr. Ward "When men are starving to death around you, your feelings won't be of any Earthly use to them." -Francisco d'Anconia "Yours is the Morality of Death." -John Galt You'd be amazed at the sort of reactions you get when you simply point out that altruism and collectivism demand your own suicide (tempered only by your own hypocrisy and consequent self-loathing), the very concept of a God is logically impossible and there simply is no afterlife. I'm not recommending that anyone tries this at home (or anywhere else, under any circumstances). I'm only saying that the results might surprise you. Tesla. YouTube. You're welcome.
  15. How many of the people we usually deal with, in reality and on a daily basis, are both interested in and receptive to these ideas? When you approach people about it the reactions usually range from blind hostility to apathy to mockery. So any device that allows us to identify each other, without having to even mention the subject, is of value to me. I'd give my left hand to have some drinking buddies that I could actually talk to about anything remotely interesting. I'd give both my hands to have one that was a woman. There's a perfectly valid principle there, about telling versus showing, but I don't think it's entirely applicable. Cheers!
  16. "Biped" has always served me well. You specify that they walk on two legs - and omit absolutely everything else, leaving it all up to your audience's imagination. The end result fully conveys your precise meaning to any layman whatsoever without any further explanation. Not "men" but "bipeds". What's the symbolism? I don't remember that as an element of any of her nonfiction that I've read but it sounds like it has some specific connection, for you. Would you please fill me in on it? Badass!!!!! I wouldn't recommend that. I've done the same thing a dozen or so times and they've all ended up moldering in someone's neglected storage space. Why not? I've been known to preach, from time to time (although I try very hard not to). In my experience preaching for Objectivism truly sucks. You'd probably get less hatred and vitriol dumped on you for declaring that Tuesday ought to be a national baby-eating day than for quietly mentioning that contradictions cannot exist. If it's a matter of personal honor I think you've probably earned the title, free and clear, just from what your post mentioned. If it's not that (and if you understand and agree with the basic tenets of the philosophy) then what else could it be? It just sounds like self-torture, to me, and if it were it'd be of a particularly tragic form. So I'd be interested in any elaboration you'd care to provide.
  17. Me: Why are you talking sloppy?
  18. He's thinking in terms of a nonessential (in this case "grandiosity") which chops the proper concept of "Capitalism" into 'Big Capitalism' and 'Little Capitalism' and treats those as opposite kinds of things. It is true that if Big and Little Capitalism were mutually exclusive then he'd be entirely correct about which one Rand would've advocated - only they aren't, in reality, and I am not aware of when in the Hell Rand ever said otherwise. Given her stressed repetitions that degrees don't matter and that one doesn't have to move mountains or travel the stars in order to be a good person (compare the 'smallness' of Eddie Willers to the grandiosity of Robert Stadler) the misrepresentation can only be intentional, provided he actually opened that book. His logic would follow from his false dichotomy (which he produced, in its entirety, from his own rectum) if it weren't for the obscene package-dealing of 'Big Communism' with 'Big Capitalism' in order to insinuate that Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart and John Galt were all secretly Red on the inside. In Ancient Greece there were people who prided themselves on being able to "prove" that black is white, freedom is slavery and truth is falsehood. Today we have people who follow in their footsteps, not even for the sake of their intellectual vanity, but just to piss off whatever suckers might actually be paying attention to their noises. To infuriate anyone who actually takes Atlas Shrugged seriously and happens to expect to hear human words and ideas from the speaker, for example. Let's not make that mistake. You wouldn't get upset with a parrot that happened to insult your mother, would you?
  19. We absolutely need a "philosophy of information" today, although I don't know how complex it would need to be. Wouldn't a few solid (and philosophical) definitions suffice? I am sick of seeing this concept used, well beyond its rational context, to camouflage otherwise-blatant irrationality as being in any way "scientific". Great article on your part, though.
  20. While I appreciate the sentiment, I've been using "poetry" as a gentler euphemism for the sloppiness you observed, here: And I'm sorry about that. Agreed. I've been reflecting on this, recently, and ultimately realized that the only "reification" in this thread was of my own sense of life. A sense of life seems like part of existence ("out there" to be proven) but it isn't. It can't really be proven, in the same sense and for the same reasons that colors can't be explained to the blind. One man's core can't be taken out and shared with another, no matter how much he may wish to. So I'm sorry that all my sexy, sexy poetry interfered with that whole "truth" business. With regard to raw sensory values, such as the physical stimuli of pleasure or pain, yes. We're all born with the evaluations of such sensations hardwired into our nervous systems (at least at first). With regard to conceptual values, I don't think so. Values like truth, integrity, justice, productive work, pride, beauty and romance (which are so much more meaningful than any isolated sensation could ever be) aren't universal or automatic, at all; they depend on volitional mental processes. Even those of us who have experienced that Aristotelean sort of "happiness" which we (Objectivists) all seek so fervently, won't necessarily continue to want it in the way we should; it depends on our thoughts and choices. We can kill it without even knowing that we are (which is actually far easier than preserving it), which is precisely what I believe Rand was arming us against when she wrote: “In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach." You underestimate the flexibility of the human mind. I believe I've already mentioned it elsewhere but at one point, when I was a little Mormon, I realized that God was demanding (via the scriptures I read) my own self-induced blindness and the unconditional surrender of my critical faculty. I didn't have those words for it, of course; all I knew was that the universe would give me infinite joy for doing what was obviously wrong, and infinite pain if I tried to do what was right. So if you can't imagine anyone who, when offered eternal bliss by God Himself, would spit in his eye... c'est moi! And I think the range of goals and attitudes which men can hold is much broader than you might currently suspect. Interestingly, though: The preceding dilemma is older and more common than any bromide; that's the choice every single Christian faces whenever they're asked to probe the issue too deeply. You can see it in their faces, if you're paying attention. And that's a source of unlimited amusement - for me. Yes, and "there, but for the grace of God, go I". Except it isn't God who shapes our souls; it's every single one of us. And it's important to keep track of who is an architect and who is an arsonist for the same reason that ruthless self-evaluation is important: They tell you the trajectory of things.
  21. Yes and no. What we're really discussing is the possibility of happiness. Everyone knows that suicide is moral when that possibility is gone; what we disagree about is where to draw the line that marks it. This is a particularly tricky question because it involves causality, free will, human efficacy, evaluation and a few other things, all tangled up together. Chronic pain and illness happens to be a convenient example; any situation that diminished the possibility of happiness far enough would work. What's essentially been argued is: 1: anybody can be happy, in any situation 2: anybody can move from any situation to one that allows for happiness 3: some people are just f***ed
  22. I agree with almost everything above. Actually, it's the best summary of Egoism that I've seen, to date. That "good" and "evil" are ultimately rooted in pleasure and pain, and that the good is to maximize the former; that the choice to live is also a moral choice; that this standard is different from (and superior to) mere survival, is all true. The only point I'm not sure about is whether men intrinsically want to live. Surely, people intrinsically want to experience pleasure and not pain (that's a built-in part of what those words mean), but there are so many different ways in which to do that. A desire is not a binary thing; it has an intensity which can vary wildly. Furthermore, even if two men held all of the same values, they could still prioritize them differently (which would still lead them to opposite choices). And to want to experience pleasure and not pain isn't the same as wanting to flourish, which is a much more specific (and volitional) attitude. I don't believe men intrinsically want to live, but I do think they should strive to. So (if I understand correctly), if Sweeney Todd wants these things then he should want life, but if not then morality sort of ceases to apply and anything goes. We'd defend ourselves against him, of course, and might have to kill him, but we couldn't really call him a bad guy; his goals were just different from ours. No, there is no Hell to threaten him with, but isn't he one of the bad guys? You're right that it depends on the motives which prompted such behavior, and that's where I think he committed the basic sin which enabled the rest: he gave up. In the face of pain and adversity, he gave up on ever trying to reach for anything better and devoted the remainder of his existence to - to what? Anger and pain. Regardless of when or how one eventually dies, one must never give up on life in that way. Absolutely. And right up until her last moment (regardless of when that moment came) she'd have choices to make; there would be alternatives open to her, and it'd be her responsibility to make the most she could of them. Even if this meant nothing more than winning one more game of Chess or formulating a parting statement to someone she cherished, she would still be in charge of the quality of the rest of her own life. And I don't think her death would necessarily be a form of surrender or renunciation, depending on how she spent the last of her time. --- Sensory values (such as the physical sensations of pleasure or pain) are built-in and automatic; we all know which of them to pursue and which to avoid. Conceptual values are not; they depend on our conscious convictions, and they aren't always right. It is possible for people to hate what's good for them and revel in their own destruction. We should want to live as men if we want to live at all; the only alternative is oblivion. We should want to live because it's the only opportunity for joy, beauty or meaning that any of us will ever have; the dead can't have fun. The very possibility of goodness, as such, rests on life. We should want the good (whatever extent is possible to us, in whatever form) because it is good. There is no inherent meaning built into life; only what we give it, by the way we spend it. Each of us invents the meaning of his own life (usually not intentionally). To want the best in all things, day after day, is to value your own meaning and your self. To hold onto that desire against hardships and adversity only multiplies your glory when they end but you don't. To give it all up over pain or ugliness is to incorporate that ugliness into your own identity and make it your meaning - and nothing could be uglier than that. When someone says "there is no good" or "it's just not worth it" it speaks less to the nature of reality than to the nature of their soul. That's where the bottom of it seems to be. Not in "life, if you want it" nor in "values, if you hold them" but the very possibility of goodness, as such (if there is ever to be such a thing as "the good"). Sorry for all the poetry.
  23. Of course. I am, in all likelihood, about to do the very same things. There's a time to take great, cautious deliberations in these things and a time to "take chances, make mistakes and get messy", and I believe we've arrived at the latter. Besides, I'm no stranger to 'rough rhetoric.' No. What Sweeney Todd experienced was not 'joy' in the sense we mean it; it was not a healthy or life-affirming thing, nor is a life devoted to revenge a true and flourishing life. In a sense, although his heart beat until the very end of the movie, I believe he died in that scene - and this is the very sort of 'suicide' which I am condemning (the fundamental thing). Hold on.
  24. Hell, yes! I have a thought experiment for you, though. Suppose someone wanted to blow themselves up, along with a number of innocent civilians. Let's say they aren't Muslim (so there isn't necessarily anything crooked in the reasoning behind it); they aren't doing it for 42 virgins, but simply because they want to kill and die. There's no reason for them to think about their own self-interest (since they want to die) nor to respect the rights of anyone else (since they want to die). What, if anything, would be immoral about blowing themselves up? At the end of this song, Todd declares that he's alive and full of joy... But is that true?
  25. In one sense, yes. If I take Advil in order to cure my headache, simply because I have one, I am not necessarily dedicating my entire life to the avoidance of pain. I am not saying "I'll never strive for virtue or greatness again"; all I am saying is "this specific thing hurts, so I'll take this concrete action to fix it". Yes, that's an "ultimate end" in that it is an end in itself, and I see nothing wrong with that. It is not my "ultimate end" as the meaning of my entire life, which would be extremely wrong. Even Howard Roark would put his architecture aside, from time to time, to have sex with Dominique (although he refused to give it up permanently). This is why I keep coming back to the distinction between how we treat our highest, most important goals, and those we hold as part of everyday life. For pain to count in both of these areas would condemn us to a life like Keating's; for it not to count in either, the Black Knight's. Yet those cannot be our only options, and they aren't - so long as we mind that distinction. Absolutely. To endure some pain in order to reach some goal, however, does not mean that the pain doesn't count; if that were the case then there would be nothing to endure; it only means that one holds a pair of mutually exclusive values (or, in this case, a value and a disvalue) and must give the lesser one up for the greater one. Furthermore, if pulling your hand out of a box of pain simply because it hurts constitutes a moral failure, then it's a sin every single human being on Earth has probably committed. I know I have; I suspect you also have. There are people to whom pain truly doesn't count because their ability to sense it was stunted from birth. We don't praise them for it, nor hold them up as moral exemplars; we give them medical attention. It's not a pleasant or happy thing. Now, in one sense it is true that avoiding pain does further one's own happiness, to the extent that it usually prevents damage and injury to one's body (which happens to be my entire point about the Black Knight). However, this is an abstract and conceptual connection, and to assert that every child and anti-conceptual mentality is aware of it is wrong; just as wrong as calling them wrong for removing their hands from hot stoves. Your position, taken as an absolute (as you seem eager to make it), is not tenable. You must either isolate and identify its literal and absolute grain of truth or else continue preaching an overgeneralization which no organism should ever attempt to practice.