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splitprimary last won the day on October 29 2016

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  1. welcome to OO! i agree it would be great to see links to the podcast episodes and summaries of the objections discussed on them posted here! that would help us keep track and not forget and miss something interesting. there have been all kinds of arguments against Objectivist positions made over the years, more and less successfully. i imagine you have plenty to get you started. whenever you run short on material and need ideas, bump the thread again and let us know which branch of philosophy you're interested in getting into, and i'm sure we can suggest some sources.
  2. Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality

    does everyone here agree with this too?
  3. Transcending Objectivism and Kantianism

    what you've described above sounds a lot more like Plato's political ideas, not Kant's. the quote from Groundwork doesn't support this. what he is saying there is that principles come from human nature itself, they logically follow from the fact that we are rational beings. because of this nature, "man is an end in himself", and should always be treated that way (with "dignity"). it is the same point that Rand makes that initiating force against a rational agent violates their nature. here are a few more quotes from the preface to Groundwork that are similar to: "A rational being obeys no law other than that which he himself at the same time gives." that might make it clearer:
  4. Metaphysics of Death

    there's a paper by David Kelley that deals with this too. in his third section, on Happiness, starting on page 72, he gives an even longer list of quotes, followed by:
  5. Metaphysics of Death

    it can sound like Objectivism is positive utilitarianism from some of the quotes that have been referenced here: "We exist for the sake of earning rewards", "live for the sake of such exalted moments as one may be able to achieve or experience", "basic motive is the desire to achieve values". these have plural terms: "rewards", "moments", "values", that can seem to suggest a mere collection of disconnected pleasures. Objectivism goes beyond basic utilitarianism though and sees them as having an integration to them, there being a "one in the many" (Peikoff's I-type in DIM Hypothesis). i think SL was getting at what unites them in talking about the experience of joy being tied to the flourishing *of a Man*. that's where these concepts of identity and integrity come into morality. it's expressed really well here (from Atlas Shrugged):
  6. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    her list here is "If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences..." so this is not helpful. we are aware that lifeboat scenarios can be used by altruists to reinforce their perspective. the question is whether they can alternatively be used for good!
  7. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    i think there are significant differences between your asteroid example and the original trolley one. i'm not against discussing it, but it seems like we should examine the first problem before we complicate the thread by adding another and comparing and contrasting the two. are you purely interested in historical examples of emergency hypotheticals being employed in the development of rational+egoistic ethics? or is it sufficient to show that this is possible?
  8. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    what have i misunderstood? i was not at all trying to be offensive. i understand that you haven't been discouraging Objectivists from answering trolley problems, which of course i think is good. and you correctly identify some frequent negative motivations people have in asking them that i agree should be kept in mind. i also think your example dialogue shows a really benevolent sense of life tendency to solve problems creatively before accepting that any even partially negative outcome, or any amount of "sacrifice", is necessary. that is the objectively best way to be: so long as there is any wiggle room in the scenario posed, any loophole left unclosed, to go for that instead. maybe it will help if i state my own position: i am actually against pulling the switch. Eioul can imagine himself doing it without any of the mental distress that most other people anticipate, but i think that is a failure of imagination on his part, that he simply isn't projecting himself into the situation very well and that he would find out, much to his surprise, if he was ever actually in it, that he would feel terrible about it afterward. it makes sense that i would predict this, if i think the action goes against something objective in reality or about human nature, since regardless of what beliefs one holds about it, that would be destructive ("any refusal to recognize reality has disastrous consequences", "we can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality"). but i would not agree that Eioul is guilty of endorsing collectivism by his answer. the question can be intended to pit the single person on one track, representing the Individual, against a Group or collective on the other; the questioner may want to force you to accept that as the choice in order to "illustrate carnage as an inevitable result" of individualist morality, but an Objectivist need not agree with that perspective. even in answering "save the 5", that is not something the decision can mean to us if we’re really individualists, since to us the group = 5 individuals. i apologize if i've mistakenly credited you with being more perceptive and/or honest than Eioul, by too enthusiastically interpreting your "disvalue of having caused the death of one [innocent] person" comment and a few others more between the lines, as you noticing the effect this would have on the agent in the event.
  9. The Trolley Problem

    i agree that "more strangers" existing is better than "less strangers". thought experiments that isolate the position that in general having more/less people in the world is valuable could be constructed. but the trolley problem is not one of them. too much context is unavoidably included. by the nature of the question itself, the trolley problem simply doesn't get as far abstracted as "5>1", and the fact that people jump there, or interpret it as a choice between "a group" vs "an individual", or whatever else, is not the fault of the question. the threat involved is a train. trains run on fixed schedules that are knowable. usually the question has the 5 people tied down (presumably by some villain, as Nicky said: "those people didn't get tied to the tracks by the wind") who would have done that at the time they did because they knew a train would be approaching then. by this device that context is explicitly preserved. we know that the train is supposed to be in this place at this time, it is part of the scenario that it is justifiably expected by all that the train will run just this course. we also know and should have in mind unless anything is said to adjust it, that trains are owned and run by companies, so this is private property you'd be interfering with. when the questioner includes that the person who is at the switch is not an operator, not an associated employee at all, but just a bystander, this context is also reinforced in the storytelling itself. so the question can also be an exercise in retention of context, or attachment to reality, and reveal peoples' readiness to move away from it. SL had the right standpoint in his conversation with the imaginary professor: context should have to be explicitly removed through some story device, otherwise it's fair game, since the correct method of thinking is to hold concepts in a full way, as representing all of their content and detail. the person who is posing the question is aiming at a specific variable, and is attempting to tailor the question in such a way that they've covered all the other bases. the questioner may be successful or unsuccessful at getting to their target. Peikoff makes some of these points about the trolley question in his answer here, along with the idea that individualists do not consider people interchangeable (or as SL said earlier, rejects that "people and their lives can be reduced to arithmetic"): http://www.peikoff.com/2008/05/26/if-five-people-are-in-an-emergency-room-dying-and-one-healthy-person-in-the-waiting-room-could-save-them-all-if-we-used-his-organs-is-it-morally-permissible-to-do-this-even-though-hell-die/
  10. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    however, there is an even stronger reason to spend time on this when it can be valuable to your own thinking. and SL i think that is the case here: when you're admitting that the answer you would give based on reason clashes with your emotions, "feels wrong", to the point of being felt as a threat and a temptation to abandon morality altogether, that should tell you there is something "worthy of consideration", something that needs attention; the reflex should not be to push the prompt away. you state in such a situation "one MUST choose to sacrifice one person to save a group of people in order to be moral", but you recognize that against the value to you of these complete strangers you are saving, stands the "disvalue of having caused the death of one person". i think that's very insightful, but then we should check our premises, because one of two things must be going on: either 1. you are correct that pulling that switch is the right thing to do, but your overwhelmingly feeling something other than pride over performing that action means you don't fully grasp why it's right, so your emotions are not following as they should yet. (see Eioul above for a more consistent thought/emotion pro-switch-pulling position: "I am in fact being virtuous", "defending values") or 2. there is an error in the conscious chain of reasoning you've used to arrive at that decision, pulling the switch really is wrong, and your emotions are still following your (correct) implicit premises as an Objectivist instead, and are pointing in the right direction. in either case, further thinking will be useful to you.
  11. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    the fact that these questions can be used to "stunt and confuse the minds of others toward altruism" and enforce "the premise that morality requires sacrifice", means by itself that there is sufficient value at stake to spend our time on it as Objectivists. if we are easily able to point out the "implicit premises and package deals", this can save students from falling victim to them, and is by no means sacrificial, even if we don't find the dilemmas interesting personally. we can certainly note that there are more significant things to talk about in ethics and try to direct the conversation toward those, but if we conspicuously avoid giving answers, that indicates that we are afraid of them rather than that they are easy and trivial, and sends the opposite message of: "no Objectivist need be afraid of turning his or her mind to such things", "it does not confuse us". we show that by having an attitude of being willing and eager to deal with any moral problem that is presented. to the extent that such questions and the people posing them are really asking: are you willing to drop context and answer moral questions completely without reference to reality?, Objectivists rightfully want to answer: no! my position here is just that this can be communicated much more effectively by participating and reframing the issue in your way with the way you answer, than it can be done by abstaining or simply complaining about the approach. it's much more powerful to take control of the discussion and reassert your view, than to simply criticize the one you are seeing presented. as in anything, the answer isn't to silence the opposition (to stop the "insidious tradition" of professors asking these loaded questions), but to out-compete them and render them harmless (deal with the questions so well that no one finds them challenging or gets tripped up anymore when they are posed).
  12. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    to merely look at the consequences is not to "examine the folly" or to "understand their theories".
  13. The Humanitarian with the Trolley

    the trolley problem is not "trying to convince us... to kill innocent people for the greater good"; the trolley problem is a question and it is possible to answer otherwise. the point of posing extreme thought experiments is not that ethics is "irrelevant to ordinary decisions" (these should be easy to answer) or that emergencies are the norm (most everyone admits they are not). the point is that an ethical system should be capable of handling anything, providing guidance for any decision you could face. and a moral philosopher should be prepared to stand by their positions even under the most difficult of circumstances, or else reevaluate and amend the principles they have accepted if they are shown to lead to problems when followed out. if ethics is an applied science, as Rand believed it was, then it should be held to the same standards as other applied sciences, and engineers of every kind stress-test their structures. thought experiments like these can be considered to be the moral philosophy equivalent of software testing.
  14. Are looks subjective or objective?

    the usual reason for differences of opinion on particular issues is an underlying difference in values and their hierarchy (consider politics, for example). beauty is the same way. it is possible to break down an aesthetic evaluation, to figure out why you find someone attractive or unattractive and why, including which features factor into your evaluations and to what extent, but it takes a lot of thinking. then for someone to agree with you, you will probably have to give reasoned arguments for each of -those- attributing elements, for instance details like: a tan is more/less attractive than pale skin, eyes are a bigger/lesser component in facial beauty than noses, etc, which all lead back to the even deeper questions of what specific visual elements communicate a person's nature best / most consistently, and ultimately what you think that nature is in the first place. you get the variety in opinions out of the complexity, from the fact that the evaluation of concretes contain all these other judgments, not from any part of it being subjective. these are quotes from The Fountainhead from Roark on buildings, but the same principle would apply to other arts, or to aspects of appearance: "Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. ...Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window, and stairway to express it." "We live in our minds, and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form. For the man who understands this, a house he owns is is a statement of his life." "A building has integrity, just as a man and just as seldom! It must be true to its own idea."