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KyaryPamyu

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  1. A guy named Bob wakes up in the morning. Throughout the day, he makes various choices, including making a to-do list, working on his music album, ordering Chinese food, unwinding with his girlfriend, reading a novel for relaxation. What precedes and motivates those choices? A desire for them, either as ends in themselves (the pleasure they give him) or as a means to another value, or anything in between. Now, why does he desire them? If you answered, "because Man's life is the standard of moral value, and his own life is his moral purpose" you are ipso facto advocating intrinsicism. To paraphrase something I wrote in another thread, you're turning the metaphysicaly given into a god, the way Spinoza did, then giving moral significance to your obedience to the metaphysicaly given. "You exist, therefore: if you want to live, you're moral. If you don't, you're rotten." You can't say "I choose to live because it's moral". You're moral because you choose to live. On the same note, it's wrong to say "I choose to live because of so-and-so metaphysical fact", but you can say "I want to live, and although there's no categorical imperative telling me to live - after all, morality is my servant, not the other way around - my choice is not a whim or arbitrary, but rooted in the fact that I am a living being, i.e. justified by my identity or nature, not by a moral code." This is why Peikoff stresses in his OPAR seminar that this choice is both pre-moral and justified.
  2. In the Playboy interview. The question quoted below sparks a lenghty discussion about purpose: I agree with the rest of your post. ------------------ Absolutely. This is one of the biggest selling points of religion. Many religions give people a much-needed purpose, as well as coherence to their activities by tying them to that central purpose. In an article from VoS, the following areas of human values are named: work, sex, art, human relationships and recreation. What's unique about Objectivism is the way it stresses that only productive work can serve as a long-range purpose. A demanding career helps you keep your mind in top shape, it develops your character, it's extremely fulfilling and it acts as an important enabler of your other values. A major theme in Rand's novels is how love, art and recreation are not only stand-alone values, but also intricately connected to your purpose - art serving as emotional fuel, recreation as a celebration of your work, sex as an expression of the pride you take in the character - which you mostly formed through a demanding purpose. A being with limited time, energy and resources can't be purposeful unless he follows a specific method, and Ayn Rand stressed the need of hierarchy and integration. Hierarchy means arranging your values in the order of their importance, in order to help you apportion your time wisely (the #1 spot is always allocated to your productive purpose). Integration means that your values cannot clash. For example, if you really want to be a painter, but your girlfriend is pressing you to go into med school; that's disintegration. A productive purpose is not the only value, but every value in your hierarchy must cooperate like the organs in your body, forming the seamless whole which is your life. Galt in his speech paints the following picture: your body is a machine, your mind is the driver. The destination is your productive purpose. Your other values are travellers you choose to share your journey with, and you can only share it with travelers that go in the same direction by their own power (integration). In closing, here's a great quote from ITOE that sheds more light on Rand's idea of purposefulness.
  3. Your post was an enjoyable read, nicely argued. A small clarification on my part: I do believe that a man should enjoy himself in his last moments on earth. What I'm arguing for is that the Objectivist ethics is useless for that particular context. The desire for wellness does not start and end with ethics. It's the reason why people are interested in learning and applying ethics. A man whose days are numbered can benefit from the metaethical philosophy - which gives happiness a noble status, rather than demonizing it like other systems do - but he won't get much from the actual code of values and virtues. Some of it could be useful, but most of it is not suited for that context. Well-being is a fact of reality, a state of consciousness, a biological process. In itself, it's neither good, nor bad. It is. It exists. What makes it good, rather than just a collection of chemicals to be studied under the microsocope, is our experience of it as good and desirable, which is also inseparable from reality, biology. It may well be true that there's nobody who doesn't want to live. I also think it's true. But it's important to show why the good is conditional and dependent on various factors, in contrast to the intrinsic theory of values. For as long as you want to live, life is good. Metaethical philosophy can merely point out the obvious. A code of values is a 'scientific' guide for implementing your desire, but it may or not be suited for more than one context. If by 'ethical' we mean any action that results in wellbeing, then dying people can be said to be ethical even if they do certain things that can be justified only in their context. But I know that you said that if a code of ethics is not always true, it needs to be changed to reflect reality more closely. The practical part of the Objectivist ethics is not at all universal, and most people don't even need the metaethical theory to know that life is good.
  4. To me, the choice to live is the choice to pursue pleasure and well-being, i.e. to act on your desire for happiness (which is the psychological concomitant of proper self-preservation). This in turn necessitates instructions on how to do it well, hence ethics becomes necessary. So the choice precedes ethics the same way that the choice to build a skyscraper (which you desire) precedes the need to design its blueprint. Acting on that blueprint is an analogy for ethical action. But you can, at any point, change your mind about the skyscraper, rendering the blueprint unusable. The point Rand wanted to make is that a desire, for a volitional being, does not deterministically entail that a man needs to act on that desire, i.e. he can choose to eat when he feels hunger pangs, or to starve himself and die. But preceding this choice is metaphysical fact: the nature of the organism, which can merely be accepted in the same way that you embrace any other metaphysicaly given fact (as opposed to man-made facts). This is why denying your desire to live would mean denying the realm of reality, not the realm of ethics. Only an intrinsicist or duty-based moral philosophy would say that because life exists, you must live (and excellently too), whether you want it or not. It means turning the metaphysicaly given into a god, the way Spinoza did, then giving moral significance to your obedience to the metaphysicaly given. "You exist, therefore: if you want to live, you're moral. If you don't, you're rotten." Even if somebody lives in a state of chronic low-focus, his bodily sensations, such as hunger, will still jolt him into at least a peripherial or implicit recognition of the alternative (pleasure/pain, life/death). Every choice to eat rests on an implicit choice to feel good and live, instead of to suffer and die. The standard of ethics is 'the good life', in the context of a healthy existence being possible. Suicide is calculated by the standard of 'painless death'. If the standard was life, then life would be the result of the moral action. Cannabis is calculated by the standard of 'a painless existence'. The result would be life, but not the life proper to man. Such a patient wouldn't be conscious (any degree of being sober would mean suffering and tragedy) and he wouldn't be able to pursue his passion, or romantic love, or any values for that matter. He would live not as a man, but like a brain in a vat being fed pleasure and a simulated reality, a reality where life is possible. Wanting to live is not a sufficient precondition of ethics, you also must be able to live. Is the standard of ethics 'survival of man qua man', or 'survival of man qua survival at any cost'? Or 'painless death qua painless death'? All three of those standards are life-related, but that doesn't make all of them ethical. A dying patient would not need some third party, or code of ethics, to tell him that he should seek a painless death, or a painless last month of life. Suppose you tell him: "it's very ethical what you're doing, to kill yourself painlessly. And it's good that you're using reason to discover the best suicide method." That would be unimaginable. Contrast this to the virtue of pride, explained to a healthy individual. "Never put your well-being in danger (unbreached rationality) and never settle for anything less than the best. This will shape your moral character, which will result in a sense of self-respect, which will further result in more passion for values and even the possibility of approaching romantic love in a healthy way. Your moral character will turn you into a machine of efficiency and ability, and this will make you confident in yourself, instead of living in perpetual anxiety for the future. Never create unearned guilt by expecting omniscience from yourself, and never accept guilt from people who preach an irrational morality based on self-sacrifice." Ethics is for the long run. Even if it was immoral for a man to kill himself painfully, he will neither go to hell for it, nor be around after the suicide to say "Drats, now I feel guilty. I know it was my very last moment of life, but did I have to experience that pain?".
  5. It doesn't matter if babies have some degree of volition or if they're truly deterministic robots. Even if we get conclusive proof that babies aren't entirely automatons, they still can't use ethics. It's not enough to have a desire to live, in whatever form a baby might have such a thing, you must also be capable of implementing and understanding a thing like ethics. I didn't expect my baby reference to blow into a detailed discussion. Healthy, happy teens and adults aren't more likely to choose against life than a baby is. Since virtually everybody wants the good life, ethics has a good target demographic. You might certainly need reason, but not ethics. I'm glad that we agree on many points, but we may never reach consensus on this one. Using reason to figure something out does not automatically make it a moral action. What about the other supreme and ruling values, purpose and self-esteem? Justice, integrity, pride, all of those things are for a certain context, namely long range well-being via principled, repeated action. Wanting to figure out the best way to go is completely understandable, but it's a practical issue of a wholly different nature. The same thing would apply to a terminally ill man who decides to remain alive till the end of it. What he needs is not ethics, but some form of pain relief. Nowadays they provide Cannabis to such patients in order to help them cope with their fate. I suspect more people would choose that instead of painless suicide.
  6. My quotation excludes a paragraph in which he says that under certain tragic circumstances, suicide is justified. I was only concerned with the status of the primary choice, so I excluded that side note. No. The choice is to follow the desire, instead of denying it. Adult humans have volition in this regard, animals and babies do not. This is why babies are entirely excluded from the field of ethics (not sure why we're bringing them up). The desire to live is metaphysicaly given, assuming a healthy organism. You can't judge an organism for being built in such a way as to cause the acting agent to desire life. This is the sense in which it is not moral. I did not say that every action presupposes an automatic, non-volitional choice. The point is that desire is intricately linked to choice, but not in a deterministic or behaviouristic fashion (and this can be said only about adult humans). There is no such thing as an 'unconscious choice', excluding sleepwalkers or people on LSD. The source of the whim may well be automatic - the emotional mechanism merely reacts to your stored conscious or subconscious premises - but people have the faculty of volition, i.e. of choosing whether to follow their whims or not. "Should I think about it, or should I just act on my impulse?" This is why we can hold criminals accountable for their actions. Don't conflate 'choosing to live' with 'choosing to survive'. Ethics is geared towards a flourishing life, not (just) keeping the agent alive. Every time you pursue a value, it's implied that you want the end goal of that value (more about this in a second). No matter how intricately connected a desire might be to the resulting choice, they are not to be seen as the same thing. All choices presupose that you want the object for some end, i.e. enjoyment, well-being, pleasure, happiness, safety. Metaphysicaly, enjoyment is an indicator of proper self-preservation, but psychologicaly you don't really care about that. Your concern is the enjoyment, the pleasure. Pursuing well-being is pursuing life, and this is how it works for all higher animals. The major difference is that we don't have automatic knowledge of good or bad. If we don't choose our pleasures properly we end up obese, or addicted to heroin, or struggling with an STD. So it's both, life and milk. You don't need values if you don't want the end-goal of those values. The end goal is life, and it's psychological concomitant is pleasure. If you want to die for no reason (like the creature in the example of the philosophy professors), or if something tragic happens that makes living unbearable to you, what do you need ethics for? To hang it on the wall? What about people who choose live, but only so that they can continue whipping themselves, drinking laundry water and starving themselves on purpose? That would be an example of pure immorality.
  7. 0:55: "Now, on the face of it that's paradoxical, because if it's primary it's the beginning, and yet if it's not groundless there must be grounds for it." It's from an advanced seminar on OPAR. He goes through the entire book and explains what he wrote in more detail. The members of the audience each have their own copy of the book with them, so they can follow Peikoff and ask specific questions. At 0:21 he announces that he'll comment on a topic from the bottom of page 324. He then dicusses it for the rest of the video. In the final version of OPAR, which went for publication, the page is 247 (according to the booklet). I am reproducing the portion here: "When they hear about the Objectivist ethics, philosophy professors from both groups [intrinsicists and subjectivists] ask, as though by reflex, the same question. "If the choice to live precedes morality,", they say, "what is the status of someone who chooses not to live? Isn't the choice of suicide as legitimate as any other, so long as one acts on it? And if so, doesn't it mean that for Rand, too, as for Hume and Nietzsche, ethics, being the consequence of an arbitrary decision, is itself arbitrary? [...] The professors I just quoted [...] seek to prove that values are arbitrary by citing a person who would commit suicide, not because of any tragic cause, but as a primary and end-in-itself. The answer to this one is: no. A primary choice [primary = preceding morality] does not mean and "arbitrary,", "whimsical,", or "groundless" choice. There are grounds for a (certain) primary choice, and those grounds are reality - all of it. The choice to live, as we have seen, is the choice to accept the realm of reality. The choice is not arbitrary, it is the precondition of criticizing the arbitrary; it is the base of reason. A man who would throw away his life without a cause, who would reject the universe on principle and embrace a zero for its own sake [...] would be disqualified as an object of intellectual debate. One cannot argue with or about a walking corpse, who has just consigned himself to the void. The void of the nonconscious, the nonethical, the non-anything. Ethics is conditional, i.e., values are not intrinsic." (square brackets and bolded text mine) A choice implies that you desire the end goal, either for its own sake, or as a means to another goal. The moment you act on a desire, you choose to act on that desire. Simple as that. Even people who act mindlessly, on random impulse, choose to follow that impulse instead of an alternative, e.g. thinking about the situation. If you restrict 'choice' to the conceptual level and forget that every action is a choice, whether it was triggered by whim or by logic, then I cannot convince you that every single action you do presupposes a choice. You can't conflate commitment with choice. Every choice made toward self-preservation implies a choice to live. Any protest against being harmed is an expression of that choice. At the root of your interest in learning and applying ethics, there is the implicit choice to follow your own desire for life. If that's not a choice, I don't know what a choice is. Morality is conditional. It's source is an if. I believed that no further explanation was required (the video text, as well as the video title are self-explanatory), but fair, I'll take heed of this advice next time and provide a summary of the contents. Leaving this point aside, I disagree that Peikoff is in any way unclear in the video.
  8. Not sure what you mean. It's related simply by tackling the topic of this thread. I'm sharing it in case somebody finds it of interest. Peikoff tackles the apparent paradox of a choice being justified, but not moraly justified. If a choice is both primary (preceding morality) and justified, on what grounds do you justify it? His answer is that the ground is reality itself, i.e. a fact of reality, the existence of life. How will that convince anybody to live? It won't. It merely points out that there is no other imaginable justification for a living being to exist, other than the fact that it exists, that it has a certain identity. All living beings are pre-programmed to want to live, and (excluding Homo Sapiens) they have the automatic knowledge to make it happen. When, in time and space, do people make the choice to live? They don't. Everybody wants to live, unless something turns out terribly wrong. If morality only pertains to the realm of volitional, conscious and deliberate choice, then the desire to live is not moral, but inherent in the nature of life.
  9. I love this parable, it's one of my favorite stories to tell. I would not (Galt forbid) compare somebody sentenced to death to somebody of old age, or to somebody who does not expect his own death. Unless the first man has incredible strenght, or is a practicing Buddhist, such a blow can render him immune to any kind of happiness whatsoever, no matter what methods or 'ethics' he tries. Ethics depends on certain conditions, such as the possibility of happiness and a body/mind that does not rapidly crumble with each passing day. This one was also posted (I think by Nerian). I think it's an exhaustive look at the issue discussed in this thread.
  10. OK. I personally agree with Peikoff that ethics is not for the dying. According to Rand, man requires ethics because he needs to survive and flourish, but doesn't have an innate, automatic knowledge of how to do it. What does that imply? That those who need ethics have a life ahead of them, and that they're free individuals. A dying man decides whether to kill himself or not, in the context of not having a life in front of him. His purpose and context are completely removed from what ethics is.
  11. If you're looking for a book that covers absolutely everything, read Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism, The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Or you can read those two summaries of the book: http://objectivisme.nl/?page_id=2 http://attitudeadjustment.tripod.com/Books/OPAR.htm
  12. It's an important distinction, because exceptions to a moral code do exist. I'm trying to draw a distinction between the moral code, per se, and justifiable deviations from it. This is not just about toning down the virtues of integrity and intellectual honesty if you live under a communist dictatorship, it's also about emergency situations where you have to throw morality out the window entirely. In regard to suicide: O-ist ethics can't claim that it's moral for a terminally ill man to kill himself and immoral for him to remain alive till the very end. Apart from the fact that such a man wouldn't care if his suicide is moraly justified or not, he would be looking for an entirely different type of guidance, not for a set of instructions on how to achieve eudaimonia. According to Peikoff, such a man is not subject to ethics anymore (link to a Peikoff podcast where he covers this) Yes (reminder: Rand did not believe in a self-preservation drive). This theory would mean that, since such a desire is amoral, an amoral fact of nature gives rise to the phenomenon of morality. Wanting to live can't be called a subjective desire, or a moral desire. It's merely the act of embracing reality, just like any other living being. The guy who sent Biddle the question was looking for a list of reasons to live, outside any context whatsoever. This question implies that people have a choice in the first place. Whether Biddle believes that a choice is possible or not, his answer was accurate. You can't give people reasons to live sans context. Morality itself is given birth by that choice, or fact of nature, or whatever you believe it is.
  13. I can no longer edit my previous post, but I want to clarify that a justified tweak to an otherwise fixed morality is still moral. I merely pointed out that since those tweaks are rare exceptions, they need to be distinguished from the parent moral code that is being tweaked.
  14. I believe that the choice is made for you, via an innate self-preservation drive. The same story applies to (mostly) every other living being on earth. But human beings have a distinct capacity to defy or skew that innate desire to live. So if the question is the moral value of suicide, it depends on the context. I don't think that 'moraly justified' is the same as 'moral'. If a Christian man kills a criminal that intends to bomb a school, then his action is generally seen as 'moraly justified' by the Christian community, but not necessarily moral, since he broke one of the Ten Commandments. If an Objectivist kills himself on understandable grounds, maybe he was moraly justified to do so, but not moral insofar as morality's purpose is to teach you how to live and flourish as long as life is both possible to you, and desired by you. An example of an immoral type of suicide would be the Heaven's Gate incident. Those people wanted to live, but they believed that in order to achieve their goal they must escape the 'recycling' of the Earth and enter the Kingdom of God. They let themselves be fooled by an extraordinarily ridiculous claim. If morality is a guide to fulfilling your life in the context of already wanting to live, what about the man who does not want to live? Say that a man is born with a rare condition that makes him impulsively suicidal. I don't know if such medical condition exists, but I've read about some very weird cases, and would not hasten to say that it's impossible. The doctors try in vain to cure him, but there is no hope is in sight. Would the man be immoral if he kills himself? Christian ethics would say: immoral, or not subject to moral judgement due to the nature of his motivation. But what would O-ist ethics say? ----- I would not conflate 'choice' with 'commitment'. A commitment is something you do at a specific moment in time, and then you try to stick to the commitment as honorably as you can. But a choice can be a one-off decision, like choosing a parking space at a comic book convention, or choosing what to eat at said convention. Deciding to go to a comic convention is a one-off choice, and you can say that every moment a man stays at the convention is a choice in favor of being there, as opposed to the choice of leaving that convention and doing something else. At some point in time, such a man can say 'Well, that's enough cosplay for today', and then choose to go home. Not so if you commit to going to every possible comic convention in your country or state, and to attendending all of them for a minimum of six hours. That's a decision you try to go through regardless of momentary emotions or inner protests to the contrary. I believe that most people have no choice in this matter - as I wrote previously, saying 'I choose to live' is, in most cases, a rationalization of a desire you have no control over. But for the purpose of defining what I see as a 'choice to live', I would say it falls into the first category: an ongoing type of choice that need not necessarily be conscious or explicit. If life is an ongoing choice, people don't endure hell because they are 'selflessly' commited to life, they do it because they see a light at the end of the tunnel and want to be alive to enjoy that bright future. But a man who 'commits' to living does so on an alleged moral ground (moral duty), and even if he faces a terminal illness, he either chooses to stick to his commitment no matter what, or he decides to 'break off' his commitment - he does not choose to die, mind you, he breaks off his commitment, the same way he would break off a marriage. If you see the choice to live the way I see it, then yes, it's a choice and it's pre-moral. I can justify wanting to live on non-moral grounds, such as 'a self-preservation instinct' or 'life's awesome', but not on moral grounds, i.e. "I have a moral obligation to live, and it's my duty to stay alive even if I don't want to".