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Everything posted by DonAthos

  1. Apropos of this thread, I've been thinking about this sort of thing lately, and what I've found myself wondering is: suppose it turned out that Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia were adopted? Would he (or ought he) feel less connected to his family? Less concerned with proving himself worthy of the family name? Would he be rational in seeking out his "real" family, instead, the better to understand himself? Or would it make more sense for him to now draw greater inspiration from Aristotle, The Founding Fathers, et al.? Or what about a family friend to the d'Anconias -- perhaps one without so "proud" a lineage. Could such a person rightly aspire to prove himself equally worthy of a family name he does not bear? Or would this somehow be dishonest? Must he rather accept what he's been born to? Speaking personally, I don't know why I shouldn't identify with or care about or "feel proud" about the accomplishments, actions, and virtues of "perfect strangers." If family -- rationally and ideally -- is aspirational in character, then why shouldn't I aspire to the best of the human race, irrespective of their relationship to me? Why be bound by race or ethnicity or family ties, or give such happenstance associations special weight? Regarding "pride," why should I take any pride in what I have not personally accomplished? As for Francisco Sábado Wolfgang Andromeda Marigold III, I don't know why he feels the way he does. It's at least possible that he's mistaken for it, though, or that Rand was mistaken for presenting him in such a way, or etc., so I think the idea of trying to show that genealogy is a rational pursuit because d'Anconia considered it to be (if we can even draw that conclusion) is specious at best.
  2. Is there any reason why I should ever take an interest in my paternal grandfather, whom my father never met? (This is apart from such practical considerations as genetic/medical information, which I agree might be of value.) I don't begrudge people who find their own lineage interesting. But then, people invest themselves into all sorts of things I do not care about, and cannot relate to. But this idea that there is something about my paternal grandfather that matters to who I am today, I find questionable at least. Ayn Rand, who as far as I know is no more a relation to me than Adam, matters far more to who I am (in terms of my character) than 90% of the cousins, aunts, uncles and etc. of whom I am aware. I'd do at least as well to study her biography as theirs, and I have nearly no interest in Rand's biography either.
  3. I've never taken an interest in my heritage; I've never understood what those distant people have to do with me. But I don't particularly begrudge the folks who do. (The people who take some kind of "pride" in their ancestry are another matter.) "Family" is a complicated subject. Everyone has a different context for understanding what family is, and what it means, so it's hard to comment on it sensibly in general terms. I'll say that I've always believed that one's truest family are the people one selects for himself, and yet, now having a child of my own, I must admit that the meaning of "family" has changed for me over the last several years...
  4. I agree that animals have no rights and no inherent moral status. Also that an animal's suffering is not of equal worth to a human's suffering. But that does not mean that, in the treatment of animals, "the only issue is economic viability." You yourself make the case here: It should change your answer. If you like animals in general and enjoy treating them well, then your enjoyment of treating them well is another issue to take into account when deciding on how you're going to treat them. Not simply how much money you'll make based on your treatment of them.
  5. I think we've reached a stopping point, then, for neither can I explain myself at present any better than I already have. But to this formulation, I will only say this: to whatever degree one's right to life is hindered, it is moral to act in order to remove or avoid said hindrance.
  6. Perhaps I am mixing things up (if so, not intentionally); or perhaps your arguments are not completely clear, or some combination of the two. Like I say, I do not see the principles you're relying upon to determine when someone may (or may not) morally flout a law; so that much of your argument, at least, remains unclear to me. So can you help me to clarify your positions? Can you try to reduce your arguments a bit to the bedrock principles you mean to uphold? Compulsory taxation is the initiation of the use of force. Is that what you mean by "a violation"? If so, it is a violation for everyone. (People who wish to finance some government voluntarily may do so without compulsory taxation, after all.) Or are you agreeing with epistemologue that all taxation (here in the US, now in 2017) is consensual? Regardless, whatever it is we wish to "fight" or change, how we accomplish it is a matter of contextual tactics; there is no moral dictum that we must pay whatever tax is required of us (for example), for the sake of "rule of law," in the interim. And I'm growing frustrated that you continually resist addressing this point head on. So once again, for the sake of clarity and understanding, can you simply state your position on this point? Does your idea of "rule of law" mean that one must seek to obey every aspect of the tax code? And that to do otherwise is immoral? (For instance, working "under the table" would be immoral; not declaring every source of income would be immoral; and etc., because these things are illegal.) Is that your stance? Earlier I briefly raised the analogy of domestic abuse. Consider a marriage with a battered wife (or husband). Might there be discreet things or aspects about the marriage that the battered spouse likes? I expect so. But that does not excuse the battery, and it does not make submission to it moral. Even if the battered spouse decides to stay in the marriage for some reason (perhaps hoping to improve things over time; perhaps for the sake of children; perhaps for financial security; etc.), that does not mean that she cannot morally seek to escape from such beatings as might otherwise come her way. It does not mean that she cannot fight back. I like the ideas of constitutional protection, and checks and balances, and redress against (actual) crimes, and military security. I'd like to see those features in a government which does not provide them on the one hand, and on the other hand routinely violate the rights of its own citizens. Any group which claims the right to violate the rights of others has no legitimate authority. And once again, I'll invite you to weigh in on that directly, for the sake of clarity. Don't be shy. Does the U.S. Government have the right to violate the rights of others -- yes or no? And if it does not have the right to do what it does, then in what sense is it "legitimate"? People in the US today are "really abused," too. Did you see that I've raised actual cases earlier in the thread? (People in jail for drug offenses; anti-abortion laws; the further examples I could raise are practically limitless.) Whether taxation is "a primary issue" or not (again: seemingly ad hoc; again: seemingly unprincipled; but how do you determine what is "primary"?), it is part and parcel to an entire system which routinely disregards rights. A government is supposed to protect the rights of its citizens -- that is the very (and only) justification for government, as such -- but the U.S. Government violates the rights of its citizens, not just incidentally or accidentally, but in a thorough, widespread, and ongoing fashion. So whether one wishes to change the government "from the inside," a step at a time, or in one fell swoop (when such is judged feasible), or simply choose to flout immoral laws (depending on personal circumstances) -- this is, again, a tactical issue. Any of these responses could be moral, just as defending oneself against the initiation of the use of force presents several moral options. In fact, resisting immoral law is an act of self-defense. But no, a government which violates the rights of its citizens has no moral authority, and we owe it none.
  7. Yes, you have given several ad hoc or "just so" justifications. Something strikes you as being "not so bad as the gulag," so that something isn't sufficient to "take to the streets" about (or flout a particular law); but taxes on tea in the late 18th century were ample justification for organized civil disobedience, leading into outright revolution. Your justifications are not principled*; they appear designed to reach the specific conclusions you have already fashioned for yourself, and to the best of my understanding cannot be extended (by anyone not named Eiuol, at least) to examples you have not already commented upon. ________________________ * Or if they are principled, you have not yet articulated the principles involved. If we were talking about governments that were characterized by the sort of politics Ayn Rand wrote about, albeit with some minor flaws (and presumably institutional systems designed to address these flaws), then it might be sensible to say that the government was, on the whole, legitimate. (Even then, there would be moral recourse to flout a law in the event of some particular gross injustice; Edmond Dantes has no moral obligation to remain in the Chateau d'If, not even to satisfy "the rule of law," no matter how good the government is otherwise.) But all current governments operate under fundamentally statist theories (and the results are about what you'd expect). They are funded almost completely by compulsory taxation, which is to say theft (and also deficit spending/inflation, which is another kind of theft). They give themselves leave to nationalize property, and to regulate business, and to conscript -- which is a wholesale and direct violation of the right to life. The laws they enforce violate liberty in any number of ways (you did not respond to it, but did you read my partial list earlier? must I reprint it?) and will continue to do so into the far future, unless something drastically changes; "liberty," as such, is paid only lip-service, and sometimes not even that. Our current President stands to do away with any number of liberties that we yet retain, and he is mostly held in check by an opposition party which wants to do away with most of the rest of our liberties. We are caught between Scylla and Charybdis, and our only salvation lies in the ineffectual cross-purpose nature of their maneuvering. If there exists in theory a government which is not quite "ideal," yet still roundly legitimate (because by and large it does the only thing that proper governments do -- protect our rights), this is not it. It isn't even close. This government violates rights as a matter of routine, in widespread and deep and growing fashion. There's plenty to like about the US system, especially in historical context. It is an improvement on much of which came before, and much of which exists elsewhere. It serves to prosecute/protect against certain (actual) crimes, such as murder and theft. It offers some necessary military protection (though there are many problems regarding the military). And there are vestiges, at least, of ideas which are consonant with liberty, such as a general respect for "freedom of speech" (even if this is not always upheld as it ought to be). I also like much of how the government is organized, in terms of checks and balances, and especially explicit constitutional protections (though both of these systems are under heavy fire, and I believe are weakening). The creation of the federal system was a masterwork of political science. Along with this praise -- all heartfelt -- can I make an observation? There was plenty to like, too, about the British system as it developed -- even up to 1776. But when superior principles were realized and articulated, by Locke, Jefferson, and others, the British system became "intolerable" in the comparison. If this were 1776, I expect (as I've said before) that you would be calling for respect for the established authority of the British monarchy in the name of the "rule of law." I would be fighting for the principles of the new republic, however, as the best governmental system yet devised (meaning: that which best promotes liberty). But today, we know even more. We know better. In light of the philosophy of Ayn Rand (among other thinkers and writing), we can better understand and articulate the principles of liberty, and compare them against the reality of present-day governments. And in the light of that comparison, we can understand that the present American system, which was an improvement upon what came before it, must yet give way -- just as we once needed to throw off the British monarchy -- to create something new, something better. Now, no "revolution" is currently possible. (And the ways of achieving such a "revolution" are multitudinous, and can involve New Buddha's "incremental change," or your "taking to the streets," or other approaches, alone or in combination. They may be bloody; they may all be completely peaceful.) There is no revolutionary spirit -- or actually, that revolutionary spirit which currently exists would take us in the wrong direction if actualized. Reason has not yet taken hold of the American psyche in the way that it must, in order to establish a better government. That's why I think that the future revolution is best served, at present, by promoting reason, critical thinking, egoism (especially through art); and then, one day, political theory. But in the meantime -- again -- a moral man owes the government nothing. He owes "the rule of law" nothing. He has no moral responsibility to obey immoral law, or to sanction or submit to those who would dispossess him or violate his rights. He does not need to recognize the (non-existent) "authority" or the (non-existent) "legitimacy" of any person or group which asserts the (equally non-existent) right to violate the rights of others. And if it serves him to flout an immoral law, any immoral law, he morally may do so.
  8. Apparently one must either cast bones -- or consult Eiuol -- to determine when one is "justified to break the law." How about this? One is justified in breaking the law when the law is immoral. The U.S. Government declares that it has the right to violate the rights of its citizens. That's the very thing we're talking about, with respect to "unjust" law, "immoral" law, and whether to "flout" it or not. It is illegitimate because no individual and no group has the right to violate the right of its citizens. If you say that it is legitimate, in opposition, I take that to mean that you believe the U.S. Government does have the right to violate the rights of others. Because this is a case of "either/or," Eiuol. Either it has the right to do what it does, or it does not. And if it does things without having the right to do them -- well, that's the very nature of illegitimacy.
  9. That's not my meaning at all. Eiuol argues (in a nutshell) that because government is the defender of rights, we ought to obey the law. But this is an idealistic way of looking at "government" that does not take into account the reality of the situation, which is that actual governments (including ours) sometimes defend rights, and sometimes violate them. This reality means that there is no moral obligation to obey the law, as such; where the law violates man's rights, there is a moral option to disobey the law. As far as "incremental changes" are concerned, that's a possible tactic for political change, but there's also no moral obligation to seek change incrementally. Because currently that would be a dumb thing to do. What benefits would it bring? Not freedom from taxation. Not freedom from immoral law. At "best," it would make me more susceptible to immoral law -- and for what? So that I could pay into Social Security for the rest of my life, but never see any of it back? So that I could have technical difficulties securing a job, or crossing a border? What exactly is the supposed benefit again? Would it score me chicks? (And would my wife be okay with that?) But when Galt's Gulch is available and secure (in whatever far-off future we imagine that to be, and assuming we cannot right the U.S. ship in the meantime), this will become a meaningful option. But I already know that the US Government is illegitimate; I don't need some badge reading "stateless" to know what's what. That it is illegitimate doesn't change much for me: the laws which are moral I would obey equally here, in Canada, in Galt's Gulch, or etc. The immoral ones, including much of taxation, I generally obey because there is typically no safe way not to. Some laws I flout, when they are immoral and it is safe to do so. If you look around you, I think you'll find that this describes most citizens' essential approach to the law. The government is illegitimate because it does not protect man's rights but violates them -- and that makes it illegitimate for all of us; unless you'd like to declare that a government may legitimately violate rights? After all, that is the subtext to your arguments... so why not make it text? In the first place, no one is talking about "going to the streets." (Although that seems to be fashionable of late; and who knows, perhaps Donald Trump will bring us to the point where that sort of thing strikes us both as reasonable, or even necessary.) Anyways, you can "be a citizen" without arguing that individuals have a moral obligation to obey immoral law. Arguing that they have this moral obligation is an apology for rights violations, even if you don't want that to be so. You give qualifications for the times and places where a person may resist, but they aren't principled, and they do not help me to understand why some people, in some circumstances, are morally obligated to submit to the initiation of the use of force, as such -- but others are not. You do not explain why, if someone has the (safe) opportunity to lessen the damage done to him by flouting an immoral law, he shouldn't take it. I believe that this is because your arguments are ad hoc and have no underlying principle, except some things strike you as "bad enough" to warrant resistance and other things do not. (And I believe you defend the American Revolution because it would look bad for you to argue that it was immoral, or it would be otherwise untenable for you psychologically; but I do not believe that your arguments would allow for that to have been a moral rebellion, yet disallow the same sort of action today.) We could look at practical examples, if you'd like, to try to suss this out. Hiring undocumented workers, perhaps? Or engaging in prostitution/gambling? (March Madness is coming up; what's the law on office pools again?) People who work jobs "under the table." People who use drugs for recreational purposes -- let's say those who smoke marijuana in states that have not yet legalized it. People who had sodomy in states where such was outlawed (I don't know whether any of these sorts of laws are still on the books; but I know there are plenty of wacky and out-of-date laws out there, some periodically/haphazardly enforced). People who speed on the freeway when there is no traffic around, or jaywalk when the streets are clear. I mean, there are a bajillion possible examples of law flouting, because there are a bajillion-and-one laws/rules/regulations everyone is supposed to be following, all the time. Are all of those examples of immoral action, because they violate "the rule of law" (and do not throw a man into the Gulag; and do not affect the price of tea)? Where do you draw your line, and on what principled basis? Edited to add: It's "funny." When I was done writing up this response, I went to the Yahoo! page and found this article staring at me. What an absolute clusterfuck of stupidity it is... but you should write these doctors, Eiuol, and let them know about their moral obligations to follow the law. I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
  10. What I'm about to say doesn't apply to just you, Eiuol -- it is a problem endemic among many Objectivists -- but you're conflating government in some ideal fashion with what we actually have. There is no moral obligation to fund a government which violates rights. Any entity which violates rights in an ongoing fashion isn't even properly a government; for what seems like the eighty-second billionth time, there is no such thing as a right to violate rights -- yet you continue to treat the U.S. Government as though it has such a right. As though it has some legitimate power to tax in a coercive fashion, pass laws limiting liberty, and in general initiate the use of force. It doesn't have that right, Eiuol. But for some blasted reason you want to give it to them. And there is no call to "respect" laws which are unjust, invalid, and ought not exist at all. I don't respect them. They are immoral. They ruin peoples' lives. In calling for them to be "respected," you are quite literally siding with evil. If we were living in some state that actually serves the purpose of a proper government, then we could have a different conversation as to what "citizenship properly implies." But we cannot take that ideal vision and try to transplant parts of it to the current reality of a government which does not protect rights, and thereby reach moral attitudes or actions. To be moral, we must first be able to look at things as they actually are -- not as we wish them to be.
  11. All right, epistemologue. You may need to walk me through this, because I'm not an expert on the legal status of "statelessness" in the United States -- but the impression I've gathered over the years is that the sort of thing you're talking about would not work, in reality. But say that I renounced my citizenship. If I own a home, would I no longer have to pay property taxes on it? If I am employed by some business, would I no longer be responsible for paying tax on my income (or contributing to SSI, etc.)? If I sell goods, would I no longer be responsible for sales taxes? Is that how things would work? I recognize that you'd linked earlier to a government site about renouncing citizenship. I did look at it, and wondered what you make of the following: What is the basis for your belief that renouncing citizenship relieves one of tax obligations?
  12. I think it's funny that you continue to try to drag epistemologue along with you, lol. I'm pretty sure he can speak for himself. And this is what's bullshit. In what way am I blowing out of proportion the experience of someone, like the example I'd raised, who potentially could spend her life in prison for something which ought not even be criminal? I described that as "deeply, darkly unjust"; do you consider that hyperbolic? The damage that we do to people is not not oppressive because there are "substantially worse injustices" in the world. The fact of someone else's suffering doesn't diminish the suffering I experience, or change it into something other than suffering, or make it more tolerable. Or if you're simply chaffing at my use of the word "oppression," Merriam-Webster has it as "unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power," and yeah, I think that accurately describes much of what the U.S. Government (as every extant government) does to its citizens. Incidentally, the 1b definition ("something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power") has as its provided example "unfair taxes and other oppressions." I also think it funny -- perhaps in a Pythonesque manner -- that while you're trying to make the case that things aren't all that bad right now on the one hand, you'd also like to continue to defend a revolution over a tax on tea. Eiuol, you may not have the perspective to see this, but I would bet all of my money (and all of epistemologue's, too, since that is the fashion) that if you'd lived at the time of the Revolution, you would have been making the very same arguments there as here: you would have been preaching fidelity to the crown in the name of the "rule of law." LOL You are doing a bit, aren't you!? I know you said "don't read into it," but that's the real meaning of including the Python clip, right? That was the tip-off. This is a gag! (Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!) Or do you honestly mean to tell me that, if we ignore today's most offending taxes, then today's taxes don't seem quite as offensive? Have I accidentally walked into the Argument Clinic? Well, so long as the taxes on tea aren't too strenuous, I suppose we can "smooth over" all of the other taxation schemes, and the war on drugs, and Patriot Act and surveillance, and Obamacare, and draft and eminent domain, and on and on and on. Well argued, Eiuol! Here's where we go from Python to Orwell. No, sir, the law is theoretically the means by which we protect life and property. That's what it could be. But when the law actually confiscates our property and endangers our lives, in reality, then it becomes the means by which we destroy life and property. Cases like Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany are extreme examples of this, but the underlying nature of unjust governance (and its consequences for the individuals affected) -- as, for instance, the destructive power of taxation -- remains true even in relatively free, relatively good, "mixed" western democracies. That's why we argue against it. This is all mere assertion; you make no argument as to why we "don't break the law piecemeal as it suits us." After all, and generally speaking, why not do that which suits us? But I argue that we may morally break the law as it suits us, specifically, because where the law is unjust, it initiates the use of force; and we have no moral obligation to allow that, or to obey it, or to sanction it (as you are doing right now). Calling "unjust law" law, itself, is mere convention; in truth, no "government" has the right to violate rights, or impose its rules onto anyone. So the rules you're saying we ought to obey (because they aren't so bad as the ones in the Soviet Union) are not representative of the "rule of law." They are instead the dictates of thugs with guns. Are you kidding? How is taxation law not at the "stage" of "failing to tend towards protecting rights"? Compulsory taxation is the violation of rights. The entire U.S. system is run on taxation. These are rights violations on a major scale. If we were to try to catalogue all of the remaining rights violations (all of the unjust laws; all of the regulations; all of the military adventurism; all of the corruption), we'd be here forever.
  13. I was expecting a fuller explanation as to how "flouting taxation laws isn't proper generally." Because if we are actually agreed that "there is no moral obligation to obey any unjust law," and if taxation laws (as presently constituted) are unjust, then I don't see where you're finding a moral obligation to follow them at any point. (Apart from what we can all agree on, presumably, like not wanting to go to prison. It typically makes sense to comply with tax laws, if the alternative is jail.) Earlier, I thought you were making the claim that it's important to obey tax laws because that... shows respect for "the rule of law" or something. But I cannot make that consistent with "there is no moral obligation to obey any unjust law." Can you? It seems to me that either we are morally obligated to "the rule of law" or we are not. I say that we are not, because we have no moral obligation to obey unjust laws. What say you? Eh, let's not get too bogged down in the fine details of history and geography, but I have it on good authority that the Berlin Wall was in Berlin. And a few people did manage to leave Soviet Russia, including a certain philosopher you may be familiar with. But yes, certainly, it is better to be able to leave a country freely (or enter it) than be denied that right. The United States has many more freedoms than the Soviet Union allowed; the United States is a far superior country, in any number of respects (including moral); that doesn't make the United States' abuses any less heinous. It's funny. So, in preparation to write this response, I decided to look up the most famous case of tax evasion I'm aware of -- that of Al Capone. It turns out he was sentenced to (though didn't serve in full) eleven years in prison. One more than many prisoners in the Gulag who (early on) routinely received ten-year sentences. (Though Stalin would later bump that standard sentence up to twenty-five.) Anyways, I'm not saying that all unjust acts are equally bad, or that there is any equivalence between (for instance) U.S. tax policy and the Soviet legal system. But I am saying that the good in the United States (which is substantial) does not make the bad that it does any less bad, any less immoral, any less tolerable. And how good the United States itself looks might depend in part upon how much oppression you personally suffer. Here's an article from a couple years back about a woman sentenced to life in prison on drug charges. It is awash in complicating detail, naturally, and I don't mean to defend her actions -- but I would still maintain that the punishment she received is deeply, darkly unjust. She might not have done well in the Soviet Union, although some did, but it is hard to say that she would have done worse. (Stalin's government, at its most draconian, would have given her a max of 25 years.) How much oppression is a man expected to bear? And why should we consider it moral for him to do so, if he can relieve himself of some measure of that oppression by casting off the idea that he has any moral duty to obey those laws which serve to oppress him? I'm well aware of the old "taxation without representation" chestnut. It might be fun to discuss the moral claims of men who wanted greater "benefits of citizenship" (though let us not kid ourselves that Great Britain provided nothing to the colonists; they were relatively rights-respecting, too), and cheaper tea, and initiated a war to secure it, while... keeping their own slaves. But leave that aside for now. I'm certain that a duty on tea was important at the time, both for what it was and what it signified. I'm equally certain that scores of people today suffer as much or more from current US policy. And are they all adequately "represented"? Is everyone taxed today benefited by US citizenship? Are those even the right questions? Speaking of slaves, they were accounted "represented" in Congress through the "three-fifths compromise." I am accounted "represented" today by politicians who have no interest in my rights, or even what "rights" are, and that includes our charming new Commander-in-Chief. (He "represents" you, too.) What precisely does "representation" get us, if we cannot agree on the ground rules as to what government is and is not allowed to do? It is akin to saying that you're "represented" when the robber asks of you "your money or your life" -- because you get a "choice." This idea that because we might one day convince the mob not to continue to tyrannize us in the fashion that they currently do -- and that there are technical legal provisions to accommodate such a change -- I know, is supposed to convince me to bear the tyranny in the meanwhile, and perhaps even endorse it. But I think I'm of the opinion that tyranny ought not be borne. Or if it must be borne temporarily, because it cannot successfully be resisted, that any measure of resistance that can be safely undertaken in the meanwhile is moral. "Government" is not magic -- not even so-called "representative" government -- and no man has the right to violate the rights of any other, not even by vote.
  14. When we talk about the US having a "degree of freedom" -- and it certainly does -- I fear that we sometimes lose the importance of the ongoing injustices in the system, or even apologize for them. But let's be clear: injustice ought not be stood for, or apologized for, or minimized. And if this isn't Soviet Russia, what does that matter to the people who suffer real injustices in the United States? The family that's broken because the breadwinner has been sent to prison, for years, for some drug offense that ought not be a crime -- what do they care that this "isn't Soviet Russia"? (And in fact, Soviet Russia wasn't Soviet Russia, in the way that you mean, for plenty of people; injustice was more widely spread there, and ran deeper, but not all people were equally impacted by it, and some even thrived. Just like here.) The innocent man condemned to death due to corruption is not buoyed by the fact that Eiuol considers himself "mostly free." The rancher who (foolishly? heroically?) decides to make a stand for his rights, and is shot dead by federal agents for it, is no less dead than his Ukrainian counterpart. The mass of regulations and taxes that strangle enterprise and abort dreams and stifle research are not lightened because those regulations are written in English. In my own immediate family, I have a relative who had his house taken via eminent domain. And I've had family members drafted. And arrested for things which ought not be crimes. I'm sure they still preferred the U.S. to Soviet Russia, but when the government is taking away peoples' homes, sending them to war against their will, imprisoning people for things which are not actually criminal... well, it makes me wonder what you're driving at by saying that this isn't Soviet Russia. I continue to believe that the comparison is apt. There are people who are being abused (some gravely) in this country. Yes. And if anyone raised a stink over taxes commensurate to what the colonists did (and I haven't run the numbers, but I'd bet you that our current tax burdens are more onerous than theirs were; what do you think?), I'd expect that the US Government would ramp up its response, just as the British Crown did. Taxation, being coercive, is backed by the gun -- in Britain in the 18th Century and in the United States, today. Just because the system is streamlined for most, and because the gun is hidden under paperwork, don't mistake the underlying nature. And if you push back against the system, you can expect the gun to reveal itself eventually. That's what happened for the colonists, and it's what would happen today. So were the colonists better justified (per some principle you can identify) to travel down that road than someone would be today? This is thoroughly confused. First of all, it's not a choice between flouting the law or changing it from within; a person can do both, if both are warranted in his personal context. Second, the extent of our "moral obligation" to fix injustice is similarly limited by personal context. No one has any duty to crusade, except that he may do so and benefit his own life in the process. No one is called to martyrdom; in fact, the call is to reject martyrdom (including in the name of "the rule of law"). Third, I've never argued that "ALL unjust laws must be broken." Only that there is no moral obligation to obey any unjust law. I'd ask you to spend some time reflecting on this, because I think that until you understand the distinction here, we are bound to remain at loggerheads.
  15. Along with some of the more sensational episodes you're referring to, this also reminds me generally of something like the "sovereign citizen" thing. Even if someone believes himself to have found some legalistic loophole (which is probably just a partial and incomplete reading of the law), it's worth keeping in mind the difference between what is de jure and what is de facto. The Soviet constitution promised all sorts of rights to her citizens, after all, but try making a claim on them against some party member's interests and see where it would land you -- straight into the gulag. If it were a practical and realistic option, today, to "opt out" or "secede," then hell yeah, why not just do it? We could make Galt's Gulch a reality right now. But the actual reality we're dealing with is that such is not an option; the US Government, for all of its relative virtue against other extant systems, would never suffer something like that to exist.
  16. All right. I'm no expert in tax law/secession/"statelessness," but what you say agrees with what I've gathered over the years. If it really were the case that folks in the US could simply "opt out" of the system (in some relatively painless fashion), yet retain their property and their rights (not necessarily in the enforcement of them, but remaining free from abrogation by surrounding governments), then there would be a real conversation to be had. Without that ability, however, all the rest is moot: the system is coercive at its core. I agree that freedom of movement is critical, but I don't believe that having "generally free places to go" either excuses or lessens the fact of the immorality here at home. Because women's shelters exist, that doesn't make domestic abuse more palatable. On this point, you are right and he is wrong. If we were discussing "ideal" systems, then I would agree with epistemologue that we should desire "actual agreement." Much like I think a "choice to live" ought refer to an actual, in fact, choice (should it exist at all), I believe that "the consent of the governed" should refer back to actual, informed consent such as human beings give, in space and time, on Planet Earth. I suppose that among Objectivists we should expect something like a divide over baptism: either at birth, or "believer's." Were I a Christian, I could only argue for believer's baptism, and as an Objectivist, I can only endorse "choice" and "consent" by entities actually capable of both choice and consent. Don'tcha think, Eiuol, that at the time of the Revolution, some colonists said that their level of taxation was not so bad as to justify outright revolt? What's the principle involved in determining when taxation is "so bad" as to require revolt? Anyways, the choices are not "complete compliance with the law" on the one hand and "full-scale revolution" on the other. There is a middle being excluded here, wide as the Pacific. And none of this makes the case that there is any moral obligation to adhere to any immoral law. LOL. You don't get to speak for "we...here on OO.net" any more than I do. But even if you did, that would be ad populum; what some collection of people believe themselves to "properly bear" does not constitute an argument for what is moral, what is right, what is just. And besides, we prefer "the US and how it works" to what? A better system? I don't think so. We want to create a better system than what currently exists -- do we not? And part of what makes the US bearable to some of us, in the interim, is that enforcement of law is not perfect, and many laws can be flouted regularly, with relative impunity. Drive the freeways in Los Angeles for a while and you'll see what I mean. While we're waiting for the world to embrace reason and liberty, we don't have to suffer injustice any more in our individual lives than we need to, to secure for ourselves greater happiness/longevity/pleasure/flourishing -- life. If there's some abstruse point of legal/political philosophy that a person can't suss out for himself without a law degree, then perhaps he should defer to the law; just as, without sufficient medical knowledge, a person might wisely defer medical judgment to a physician. But what is unclear to some is clear to others, and I have no doubt that compulsory taxation (to say nothing of all of the ends I'm also aware of, to which that taxation will be directed) is "wildly unjust." Do you think I need a law degree to work that out? If I don't, if I am capable of reaching these conclusions all on my own, then why shouldn't I flout such laws? Shall I reprint Rand's various essays on the nature of government, and rights, and the initiation of force? Or can I simply reference them, as such? But then, you'd said above that "today's taxation is theft" -- and you managed to do so without a J.D., so far as I know. So if (today's) taxation is theft, as you've claimed, why shouldn't a moral man seek to avoid getting robbed? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is not. But "gradual change" on a societal level does not necessarily speak to the morality of an individual's decisions within some given system and personal context. It may be moral, in context, for a man to fight for outright revolution, gradual change, or no change at all (to outward appearance, at least) -- yet obey or flout a given law, when it stands to impact his life. In any event, what I'd said and you quoted stands as written: no moral man has any obligation to be obedient against his own interests. If you'd like to argue against that somehow, then do so, but please find the courage to do it directly.
  17. Well, epistemologue's claims seemed clear to me from the get-go, so in that sense, I'm not surprised. However, I wasn't certain that epistemologue would come back in to stand behind his original post, and in that way (though I continue to disagree with him), I think he deserves a large measure of respect. The willingness to stand openly for what one believes, even in the face of potential scorn, is commendable. As to the content of what epistemologue believes, let's try to clarify it even further: The issue is "consent," right, as sN alluded to when writing that "the core issue here is not taxation as such, but the concept 'voluntary'." Following the Netflix analogy, it is as though we are born into an agreement with Netflix. They charge ten bucks a month, and perhaps there are penalties associated with certain actions, and we receive some level of service in return... and there is a process by which we may cancel our membership (and no longer get charged... but also no longer receive the services we'd been getting). Therefore, we would say that remaining in this agreement with Netflix is consensual/voluntary, insofar as we do not pursue the process by which we could cancel our membership. And in this way, by analogy, epistemologue makes the argument that taxation in the US (today) is similarly consensual, because we may otherwise opt out: by moving to another country or becoming "stateless." I mean, quite honestly, I have no interest in making a "straw man" out of anybody's arguments. So this is it, right? This is the argument. If we're clear on that, let's look at some of the ancillary arguments raised: Yes, in the same way as Netflix. (Only the contract involved should be explicit and not automatically entered, and an individual should have the right to cancel without penalty.) Should a government demand money from its citizens in any compulsory or non-voluntary fashion? Absolutely not. Sometimes I wonder whether you hear yourself, Eiuol. You like the quote by MLK? But he's saying what I'm saying -- and not what you're saying. Or rather, he goes a step further than I would, in that I think one's moral responsibility remains in doing what's best for the self -- and that could include disobeying unjust laws, or complying with them, in variable contexts. But absolutely one has a moral responsibility to obey just laws... and no such moral responsibility to obey unjust laws. When you say that you'd agree with him on certain issues, but disagree on others, I wonder how you decide which unjust laws we have a moral responsibility to obey and which not. If you don't think I have the "wisdom or authority or infallibility to pick and choose which laws to follow," then how do you manage to do so in separating slavery and prohibition from taxation and obeying the dictates of the FDA (per their "egregiousness")? Are you secretly infallible, Eiuol? Important? The "rule of law" is only as good as the law is just. Obedience to the rule of law in a just, capitalist country is virtuous and life-serving; obedience to the rule of law in a tyranny is monstrous and self-sacrificing; obedience to the rule of law in a mixed state will tend towards destruction, insofar as the law restricts liberty, and as such, no moral man has any obligation to be obedient against his own interests. Compulsory taxation is immoral, and no, no individual is morally obligated to suffer it in the name of "the rule of law," which then is no longer man's benefactor, but man's destroyer. What you're advocating (directly and literally) is "the sanction of the victim."
  18. Oh? And... So are we all on the same page now?
  19. I don't really understand the drive of others to clarify what epistemologue meant when epistemologue could, in theory, clarify it himself. Presumably he did not recently lose all of his typing fingers in a tragic houseboat accident. (And if he has, he may use his nose.) But in the absence of such clarification, and given the disagreement we already have over what he meant, I continue to disagree. He is speaking about how things are run today; or at least, that's what his words amount to, if not his intentions. For example, when softwareNerd challenged him, epistemologue responded: That's a description of how things are right now. If it were a description of some theoretical ideal future, the proper verb tense would be "could" as in "Someone who renounces their citizenship...could become a citizen of Canada," not "can." But even if I were wrong about epistemologue's intentions -- even if it were a discussion about the "ideal," and if the text backed that interpretation up (which it does not, at present) -- his arguments would still be wrong. And yes, "comply with taxation policy or move to Canada" is coercive. I'll retract that charge if epistemologue's idea of "becoming stateless" involves being utterly left alone, where I am, and free to continue to conduct my personal business as I see fit. But then why the need to become a citizen of Canada or a country in Europe in the first place? Everything else could be cut through quite simply, after all, if epistemologue were arguing for a proper policy: if you don't want to pay (voluntary in fact) taxes, don't pay them: no penalty. If "citizenship" entailed voting rights, some measure of services, and etc., then sure, we could discuss what a failure to pay taxes might mean with respect to "citizenship" as a matter of political science, but there need be no question of moving to Canada, or, as Nicky put it, "choosing a different thief." I choose to subjugate myself to no thieves -- and that should be my right. If you agree with what you believe him to have said, then allow me to take issue with the idea that we have some moral obligation to pay taxes "despite the law being immoral." We have no moral obligation to follow immoral law. This is not a matter of the US being "so corrupt," but that no government (no individual and no group) has any right to violate the rights of any other man. Of course in any individual situation there's the important question of risking penalty, but that would be equally true in some nightmare dystopia. Apart from that, can you explain why someone ought not ignore immoral taxation law (and insofar as it is compulsory, it is immoral, regardless of the object of those taxes) -- if he can safely ignore them? You mean like Netflix?
  20. I don't disagree with anything you've said here, but I wanted to be more comprehensive in my response because while epistemologue is a one-of-a-kind Objectivist, flitting from thread to thread as you say, there are plenty of Objectivists for whom "taxation" is a subject wherein initiation of the use of force seems suddenly to become okay. Personally, for me, the underlying issue is cut-and-dried (even where the surface details become complex): once we've introduced the initiation of the use of force, or "coercion," we're in the wrong for it. That remains true if we're dealing with individuals, or "governments," or taxation, or a "better-than-most" constitution.
  21. Isn't he? I thought that was the point. Netflix isn't compulsory because you can stop payments by cancelling your subscription; taxation isn't compulsory because you can renounce your citizenship (and possibly move elsewhere). epistemologue speaks directly to the present US situation, criticizing it like this: But then he goes on to say: And then, in summary, epistemologue says: These sounds like present-tense declarative statements to me -- statements about the way things are right now, and not suppositions about what is possible in some future. But I suppose epistemologue can clarify his intentions for himself, if he chooses to...
  22. Yes, I understand, but I mean to address both errors simultaneously (plus actually a third, described below) -- I think there's no position consistent with Objectivism other than wholly non-compulsory financing of government, which naturally opposes those who argue that compulsory taxation such as you describe is moral. Morality ends where a gun begins and whatnot, and that doesn't change because someone thinks some form of taxation is "necessary." I do advise, however, that anyone who considers such taxation necessary should pay whatever he thinks he owes. (He may pay my share, too, if his conscience demands it.) Right, redefining "voluntary." Three men live on a street, Joe, Bob and Gary. Bob and Gary "vote" and decide that anyone living on that street must donate $1000 to the neighborhood fund, or all paint their houses the same color, or all send their sons to war. Even if Joe disagrees with the decision (disagrees, in fact, that Bob and Gary should have any power to vote on such things in the first place), if he remains living on the street, this is accounted some kind of implicit agreement to submit himself to Bob and Gary's decisions. "Mob rule." This has been the primary justification for statism for a long, long time; a "social contract" whereby we've all been born into an agreement to either fall in line or move away. Move where? The moon, perhaps, until the statists go there, too. Yeah, we've recently seen epistemologue floating the "all laws are moral" balloon elsewhere, too. But he's a man of very interesting positions... What I find more interesting (in part because I think it's widespread among Objectivists) is the idea, also implicit in epistemologue's OP, that "government in theory can be moral," and "we have a government," therefore "our government is moral." No one would put it in such stark, non-sequitur terms, of course, but you find the essence of that argument plenty of places, including here, where epistemologue decides that because "compulsion is not essential to the definition of taxation," that therefore actual extant taxation "is not theft." It ignores the reality of 2017, which is that all taxation is compulsory. So should we treat the taxation we currently find according to this theoretical non-compulsory model that may one day exist -- or according to what we actually experience, here and now? (I.e. do we recognize it as immoral, as theft, and act accordingly?) It's similar to debates you and I have had before sN, over the role of the police. The police in theory can be a fully moral unit; but are they today? And if they are not today, should we respect them as such today? I'm not fit yet to write a full essay on the subject, but perhaps someday...
  23. I don't think there's ever been a problem within Objectivism (generally speaking; individuals will vary) against non-compulsory "taxation." Objectivists support government which necessarily entails supporting some method of financing; so long as that financing does not entail the initiation of the use of force, there are no grounds for calling foul. But it is a mistake to conflate this with any present system, or to pretend that one may sidestep modern issues of compulsory taxation (and other forms of compulsion) by "renouncing citizenship," as though one may somehow live freely today if only he decides to do so. Whatever a proper government should do has nothing to do with what today's governments actually do; we do not owe current, rights-violating governments some sort of moral fealty because there exists, hypothetically, some proper government in some distant future. We must deal with what exists, accordingly.
  24. What are we observing, in reality, which leads us to such a question in the first place? When we know that men must make choices (i.e. that man has volition; that this is true of man's nature), and when we understand that these choices lead to dissimilar outcomes, we are led to try to assess these choices and select from between them (because the dissimiliarity in outcome is meaningful) -- and this is ethics. In a sense, I suppose, this would be a "meta-ethical" statement, as it reflects those facts of reality which give rise to ethics. (I'm treating this lightly and do not insist upon my formulation, but only offer it as one possibility.) Are these "meta-ethics" distinct from metaphysics more generally, qua philosophy? Perhaps they could be labeled as "meta-ethics" for some good purpose -- such as in the composition of an essay/monograph on ethics -- but they remain what they are. For where are the meta-politics and meta-aesthetics and such all to be found, but in the nature of reality, in things as we find them to be? Where men make choices and arrive at dissimilar outcomes -- the difference between the "metaphysical" and the "man-made" -- we are invited to judge. Could it be, then, that some who seek a distinct category of "meta-ethics" are looking for a sphere of choices which are not susceptible to human judgment? If one person selects a thing as his "standard of value," then he (and others) may evaluate his choices according to that standard of value (e.g. "ethics"), but the selection of the standard of value itself is held to be immune from judgment (being "meta-ethical")? If so, then it's a dodge. The man who decides to adopt "causing the suffering of others" as his consciously held standard of value does not therefore sidestep human judgement, or the fact that his choices will cause his own suffering and demise (generally speaking). Here I find no valid distinction for "ethics" vs. "meta-ethics" in evaluating either his beliefs or his choices, and if someone were to insist that such a man was somehow "outside of judgement," or "amoral," because his decisions were made upon a different "meta-ethics," I'd say he was trying to get away with something. Yet reality cannot be cheated. Reality comes first, philosophical systems (and their definitions) come afterward. The good is what it is, and it is up to us to try to discover and describe the good as best as we can (whether that be "metaphysics," "ethics," or "meta-ethics"). What's the use of trying to determine the "validity" of an ethics, as such? Statements of any kind can be true or false, "valid" or otherwise, howsoever we categorize them. If we discovered some ancient writing -- a scroll, perhaps, by some heretofore unknown Greek philosopher -- which was not conveniently labelled "ethics" or "metaphysics" or "meta-ethics," yes certainly we could categorize the nature of the statements for our better organization and understanding (and marketing). But these should not be the first questions we'd ask, and they would never be the most important questions we'd ask. To try to approach to this question from another direction, suppose it were asking not if "an ethics is valid if it purports to deal with anything other than a code of human action against a particular standard," but if anything outside of human action (like a hurricane) can be said to be "moral"? Then we could discuss real things, by asking what we mean by "morality," and discussing the nature of volition, and the nature of hurricanes, and etc., and in the end (as I would argue) we would reach the answer "no": outside of human action (and those things associated, such as belief), there is nothing we could say is "moral" or "immoral." A hurricane is not a moral agent. Yet many true things can be said about a hurricane, even within the context of an essay on ethics, and the truth of such things would not be rendered otherwise through some "category error," though it would remain an error in fact to assign to a hurricane a moral character. And this -- understanding the nature of hurricanes (and how they differ from men, and the meaning of that difference) -- is what is centrally important, regardless of whether we categorize our understanding as "ethics" or otherwise (a meaningful, but wholly secondary consideration). "Good" does not mean "that which meets certain conditions according to [a given] ethical system," which almost sounds like a recipe for rationalism. "Good" points out at the world; we strive to order our information as best we can thereafter, but the source of "the good" is not determined by the conditions we set out in our philosophizing, or the definitions we abstract from the totality of our meaning. If meta-ethics (considered as part and parcel to metaphysics, or as its own branch of philosophy) is said to "antecede ethics," then it does so only hierarchically, only in terms of our understanding of it. A man will have experience with "good" and "evil" (in fact must have) before he could ever conceive of anything like a "standard of value." Suppose a person consciously adopts some philosophical system which defines "the good" in some bizarre and horrible way. Would such a person ever possibly be led to question or reject his moral philosophy? If so, how/why? "The good" is not some function of formal definition. It is a matter of reality. If we can evaluate a thing in terms of "good" or "evil," then it is an ethical evaluation, whether we term it "meta-ethical" or not. Those metaphysical statements which underpin such ethical evaluations (as to the nature of hurricanes or men) are right or wrong, and can be evaluated as such, in the manner of 2+2=4. If 2+2=4 can be evaluated, objectively, as true, then so can those statements about the nature of man which give rise to subsequent ethical evaluations. If the question, really, is "can a man make a choice outside of morality?" Then my answer is: no. If anyone believes that there is something "subjective" ("arbitrary, irrational, blindly emotional") involved in adopting a rational ethics, then it falls upon the person making the claim to demonstrate it. I reject that any such thing exists in reality, and if we have managed to define "ethics" or "meta-ethics" in such a way as to suggest such a thing (in the absence or negative space, as it were), then the fault lies in our definition/understanding.
  25. Recently, this forum has seen a wide-ranging discussion of the morality of suicide, first in "Reification and Suicide" and then (and co-currently) in "Spies who Commit Suicide." It is perhaps one of the features of attempting to hold an integrated philosophy that the slightest string cannot be plucked without reverberating throughout the entire body, so that to question the morality of suicide also necessarily raises questions in a host of other related areas. In this case, it led to the creation of a further thread in "The Relationship Between Motivation and Purpose," and then my own thread, "Pleasure and Value." It did not stop there. In discussing my position regarding pleasure (which I have not yet fully explicated, nor applied, nor even grasped in its entirety), and referencing the topic of the morality of suicide which has helped to inform my position, another forum member raised the nature of "the choice to live," writing: When I attempted to argue that, indeed, suicide has bearing on morality -- and following the suggested path of discussion by calling into question whether "the very choice to live or not is a moral choice" -- I was castigated as follows: So I would ask any interested forum member to please forgive me for continuing to debate "the most central and important aspect of Objectivist philosophy," in this or any other manner, but in this thread I intend to demonstrate that the argument which states that "the entire subject of suicide" is somehow "outside of morality," or amoral, is faulty. To do so, and as the forum member who made this particular argument has apparently excused himself from the responsibility of defending it any further, I shall rely on a video presentation by Craig Biddle to supply the initial argument. I do not know Biddle generally, or his "standing" within the Objectivist community (insofar as such a thing should matter), but I shall use his thoughts as a springboard in lieu of another offered argument: I'm going to now try to relay Biddle's argument as I understand it, with intermittent commentary. As I do, please note that I do not have an official transcript of this video handy, so any errors in quoting, etc., are my own. Biddle starts by saying that the question "why should I choose to live" is "illegitimate" and doesn't need an answer. He then says that the only reason a person "needs values" is in order to live: "Life makes values possible and life makes values necessary; ...you don't need to seek [values] unless you want to remain alive." So far, this seems to re-enforce what I had been told by that forum member: the question "why should I choose to live" exists outside of morality. But there is then a turn in Biddle's video at about 2:23: He then introduces a (separate?) question "why should I continue living?" in some given context, such as with a painful, terminal illness. Biddle appears to consider this question "why should I continue living in X context" to be a meaningfully different question from "why should I choose to live?" And as regards the "continue living" question, Biddle seems to believe that there may well be an answer either for or against: "...it might be that he shouldn't [continue to live given his circumstances]; it might be that it would be better [for him] to 'leave life,' because 'remaining in life' is too painful." Biddle here is clearly saying that a choice to commit suicide may have reasons (in that it may "be better" to live or to die), that the question it answers is legitimate (as opposed to the earlier sense of "why should I choose to live" he had previously discussed), and it is my inference that such a choice thus pertains to morality. Further, I agree with him. When life is "too painful" (the details of which being appropriate to the suicide-specific threads linked above, but beyond our scope here), suicide may be the "right" or "justified" or "moral" choice; it may be "better" than the alternative. Let me stop here for a moment to observe that, should my understanding of Biddle's argument reflect "the Objectivist position" (which it might not; but as I say, this is the argument I have, so it is the one I will work with), then it immediately appears to contradict the forum member who initially upbraided me for deviating from his own understanding of Objectivism. Perhaps that is our question answered. But no matter. Let us continue with Biddle, because, while I have perhaps in some fashion satisfied the question that brought me to this topic, I have not yet satisfied myself that "the choice to live" is in any sense amoral, whether asking such an impertinent question could bring me into conflict with Biddle or any other (including Ayn Rand). Picking up at about 3:23, Biddle says, "Human life is not just...remaining alive...it is being able to pursue the kinds of goals that...deliver happiness and make life wonderful." I also agree with him completely on this point. He continues: "And if you can't do that, then the question 'should I continue to live?' can be valid." Again, agreed. Here's where things get interesting (and this part gets a little rough in my transcription, as I've had to elide much to preserve his meaning, so please listen to Biddle for yourself for full context, at about 3:50): "But absent a context like that [where suicide is justified due to painful circumstance]...we can answer the question 'is life worth living'? Yeah! 99.999% of the time for people, it is! There are very rare cases though when somebody is simply too ill or the situation is just too horrible [... ] I can see somebody asking the question [in those cases], 'Is it worth remaining alive?' But you can't answer the question 'why should I choose to live?' without the context to surround it. And if you have the context, it's a fairly easy answer to arrive at in most cases..." Okay, so let's assess where we are currently. Biddle started by saying that the question "why should I choose to live?" is an invalid question. Then he considered cases of (what I'd contend Peikoff would describe as "justified") suicide, and said that in such cases -- in such contexts -- it is valid to ask "why should I choose to (continue to) live?" Then he considered the case of people whose lives are not horrible (e.g. not doomed to a concentration camp; not plagued by painful, terminal illness; and etc.) and demonstrated that the question in such cases is also valid, in that it can be answered -- in the affirmative; which is to say, why should (most people) choose to live? Because... "I've got this great business. I've got this great family. I've got this great life. 'Should I keep living?' Of course!" And so, the question "why should I choose to live" becomes answerable for every human being who has a context. For some people, the context will be such that they should choose to die, in both reason and morality; for most people (99.999% of them), the context will be such that they should choose to continue living. If this question is "valid" and thus answerable for every human being who has a context (which means: every actual human being) I finally wonder... for whom is the question (as proposed initially) "illegitimate"? Biddle finally concludes (5:47): "The question ["why should I choose to live?"], sans context, is an illegitimate question, because it asks for a value when you simply don't need values unless you choose to live. Once you decide to live, if you decide to remain alive, then you need values...." Biddle is both right and wrong. His conclusion is consistent with his introduction, but it misses out on key insights from the bulk of his discussion and fails to reconcile them with his overall thesis; he cannot do so, in fact, because they are not compatible. The question "why should I choose to live," sans context, is illegitimate -- this is true. But this is because 1) there does not exist a human being (let alone one that could pose a question, or choose, or value) without a context; and 2) the question is not answerable without reference to that context. It is illegitimate because it asks for a value without a valuer. But once a context is supplied (and every human being, so far as I can tell, comes equipped with a context), both the questions "why should I choose to live" and "why should I choose to die" become answerable. In fact, Biddle says that it is "a fairly easy answer to arrive at." And I suspect that for the vast majority of people, that is true. The supposed illegitimacy of this question -- and I would also argue the "amoral" status of its answer -- stems from the supposition of a human being that could ask such questions, or "choose," or exist at all sans some context which will make both the question and answer meaningful -- and moral. But the supposition of such a human being is, itself, a contradiction in terms. And so I conclude (for now, at least) that the question "why should I choose to live" is a fully valid, legitimate, and (yes) moral question... but only for every human being who lived, lives or ever will live. I can live with that.