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DonAthos

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  1. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    From another thread, I found this fascinating: I don't want to read too much into this podcast, or to put too much upon one man's experiences (even if that man is Leonard Peikoff), but really, I found this not only fascinating in itself but that it speaks directly to -- not necessarily the technical specifics of this ongoing conversation, but -- my basic approach and motivation. Peikoff describes himself as finally fully happy at age 81 (though I'm certain he must have enjoyed himself to some extent throughout his life), and he attributes this to having discovered what he "really wants to do in life" (as opposed to at least some portion of his work theretofore, which he "dreaded"). To me, in my life, such a thing is simply unacceptable. I would not want to wait until I'm 81 to be able to describe myself as "finally fully happy" and in fact I have not waited. Though I have challenges and setbacks from day to day, as I expect everyone must, and sometimes severe or lasting ones, I consider myself happy in all of the major areas of life. In part, I believe this is because I have always paid careful attention to my own experiences, cared about them, and have taken action accordingly. When I have pursued paths that I dreaded (and I have), including career aspirations or personal relationships, etc., I took that as a cue that there was something fundamentally amiss, and in need of investigation/change. I did not accept my own unhappiness as being somehow the price of moral action, but I sought (both without and within) to make things better for myself, as much as within my power, as soon as possible. I have put nothing higher than my own experience of life -- to make it as positive as possible -- and I think that this emphasis has rewarded me. If Peikoff could not have described himself as "fully happy" before this late juncture, then I suppose we must be thankful for his longevity. What a tragedy it would have been, had he died never being able to say that about himself. I'm middle-aged, myself. A week ago, I was involved in a car accident -- that's one of those pesky challenges/setbacks! -- and actually, it was a situation that I've often brought up in various discussion about ethics: I was stopped, behind some other cars, but another car (a couple back) failed to stop, and there was a domino effect, leading to my being rear-ended. No one was injured, thankfully, but sometimes things don't work out so well. Can we imagine if I were pursuing an ethics that might not lead me to happiness until I'm in my 80s (if ever)... and then I die decades beforehand, whilst dreading my daily work? What a waste that would be. No thank you. I would rather enjoy myself along the way, as much as possible, so that on the day I die (be it tomorrow or fifty years from now), it will always be correct to say that I was happy. From yet another thread, I recently found this: I don't know what dream_weaver had specifically in mind when he wrote this -- and frankly I don't know what to make of it, if we are disinclined to discuss various interpretations of Ayn Rand's wording on a board such as this -- but I will say that I believe it really, deeply matters how we understand and approach ethics. I think it can make the difference between being able to achieve happiness now, or having to wait until old age... if we ever reach it at all, if we don't die first, our attempts at "survival" notwithstanding. If the Objectivist community has a hard time winning converts -- and based on many threads here lately, and based on the overall state of the world, and the way things appear to be trending, I'd say that we do -- then maybe part of it is that we don't manage to produce very many well-adjusted, friendly, happy people. Maybe the confusion at the heart of our approach to ethics, a confusion reflected in this thread and many others on the board, is playing a role in that, inspiring people to fight for "survival" (whatever that should mean to them) at the cost of the things which might otherwise bring them happiness in the near(er) future or present. I'd say that if, when people met Objectivists, they were inspired to think, "Wow! That person really has life figured out; look how well they're doing! Look how happy!" that this would go at least as far as a free copy of Atlas Shrugged in convincing them to investigate the nature of the underlying philosophy. Maybe farther.
  2. Not through it yet, but this is effing brilliant. I'd love to see things like this -- or perhaps this guy specifically (if he's still active; I guess it's been a while since this was filmed) -- get some love in the culture, or financial backing, or ideally both.
  3. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Not to derail the conversation, but I would love to see the effects of this anecdote on many of the conversations I've seen over the years regarding quantum physics and the like...
  4. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I agree. I would argue that such a parent values something more than his own, literal survival. Galt, too, apparently valued something more than his own, literal survival, when he threatened suicide rather than bear Dagny's torture (at least, if we can take him at his word). I consider these situations to be very similar in nature. Ethics, or morality, "is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions." The parent above is guided in his choices and actions by his code of values, as is Galt, unless we hold them to be acting arbitrarily/by whim? But I don't think that they are. Yet their choices and actions indicate that they do not hold their own, literal survival as their "ultimate value." They value something else more. We do not require Rand or Peikoff to state that these are "ethical" reasons or considerations or decisions; it is what it is, and we can figure it out on our own. (Casting around, I found this defense of "moral suicide" which essentially -- though not totally -- agrees with my own, if anyone is interested. It is curious to note that the writer leads with Galt's willingness to commit suicide, then fails to justify it in his analysis; I do not know whether that was intentional, an oversight, or an irony.)
  5. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Of course. The document to which I've been referring can be found here, and the quotes I've provided starting on p.73 (under the heading Flourishing and Survival).
  6. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I do not believe that there are only two approaches on display in this thread, flourishing versus survival. Rather, I believe that there are nearly as many distinct conceptions of "life as the standard of value" as there are participants in this thread. Not everyone who adopts the term "survival" to describe what they mean are referring to the very same thing*, and the same is true of those who endorse "flourishing." Though on that point, I don't think that either "survival" or "flourishing," as typically used, are ideal labels for my own idea of "life" in this context. _______________________ * I know that "survival" is sometimes preferred for the fact that it is, in theory, unambiguous. We all know what "survival" is, after all, when we use it to mean "the bare alternative of life versus death." But when such a thing is tested against certain raised examples (like Harrison's theoretical), then "survival" usually is held no longer to refer alone to "existence versus non-existence," but a specific kind of existence -- "existence as a man" -- which requires more than satisfying the bare alternative of life versus death, more than simply choosing to exist over not-existing. And thus, circuitously, he arrives at the "flourisher's" basic stance after all. But Kelley's central question remains: how do we decide what goes into "flourishing" (even if this is put as "survival qua man" or etc.), or as he has it, "what gets included in the expanded idea of 'human life?'" Responses to various hypotheticals and situations, I think, are almost more useful at this point than an attempt to define our positions abstractly. It helps me to understand various positions (including my own), for instance, to see responses like this. I disagree that a person "who has not chosen to live" (which I regard a specious formulation) has, therefore, no "reasoned ground" to value anything -- even if alone the terms of their own death, and whether or not their loved ones are harmed in the process. When a parent makes some sort of "self-sacrifice" for the sake of preserving their childrens' lives, for instance, I don't think that means that the parent has no longer any "reasoned ground" to value their children. For this is another way of restating, and begging, the survivalist's central premise: that the ultimate value is survival itself. Thus a parent should never be willing to die to save his child's life. But if we believe that, in some situations, it would be reasonable for a parent to do so... well then, we are appealing to some "more ultimate" value than his own individual survival. And that value remains, even when the parent has chosen against his own, literal survival. And I disagree with this, as well. It is my understanding that Rand, Peikoff, and others, have spoken in support of suicide in certain circumstances, and I believe that support is consonant with both my understanding of "life as the standard of value," and Objectivism more generally.
  7. Objectivism is Rational Centrism

    If we conceive of "left" and "right" as they are popularly and historically used, then Objectivism does not sit on either side, nor in the center. Rather, we must project a different spectrum, with both the left and right on one side (the "statist" end), extremists (Nazis, Communists, etc.) at the extremity and Objectivism on the far side from that (the "liberty" end).
  8. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    My apologies for the confusion. Rather, I was asking from the point of view of the suicidal man. Invictus had responded to Harrison, saying that to the man who no longer wishes to live, the choice of whether to blow up a bus of innocents alongside himself has no "value significance," meaning (as I take it) that such an act would be neither moral nor immoral (again: from the suicidal man's perspective), but amoral. My observation, meant to challenge this (if lightly), is that I do not believe that in reality people who decide to commit suicide would attach zero "value significance" to their method of suicide; I think that most suicides, even in their last moments, would consider drinking hemlock to be far more ethical than blowing up the proverbial (or literal) nuns and orphans. But is this irrational? If an Objectivist were to decide to commit suicide, making whatever "amoral" or "pre-moral" decision no longer to value life that we imagine such people do (which I am not convinced is actually a thing that exists, but whatever) -- then should that Objectivist consider all potential manners of exit (including the slaughter of others) ethically equivalent? Perhaps. Though based on my own understanding of "life as the standard of value," I would argue that I yet have reasoned value significance for opting not to harm those I love, even in the event of taking my own life... it is only the survivalist perspective, I believe, that necessitates that the suicidal man has no moral reason to prefer one method of suicide to any other. Just then as a psa, if I ever decided to take my own life, it would still be safe to sit next to me on the bus; but I would not necessarily sit by a survivalist and count upon his "emotion and habit."
  9. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    It wouldn't be "alright". And it wouldn't be unethical, either. Your action -- to you -- would have no value significance whatsoever, since you had abandoned the standard by which values get significance. Here's what I find fascinating about this, in contemplation... When I suppose a person who has decided to commit suicide, in most contexts, I imagine that most such people -- even if they are quite serious about killing themselves -- would 1) have no desire to bring harm to others, and 2) would consider it unethical of themselves to kill themselves in such a way as to bring harm to others, in the manner of suicide bombers or etc. Given two proposed suicidal methods, one which hurts others (let's say loved ones), and one that merely ends the life of the individual who has chosen to take his own life, but not bringing harm to those he loves, do we think that it's true of most suicidal people (let alone all) that there is no value significance whatsoever between them?
  10. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Let me welcome you to the discussion with an earnest (if brief) reply. I agree with this. It is the stuff of what makes such a compromise "worth it" (or otherwise) which appears to cause such controversy. You make a compelling case, and again one with which I essentially agree. What I see you doing is comparing the qualitative experience of choosing one avenue versus another (or one "compromise" versus another), an experience which is felt in terms of (what I would describe as) "pleasures" and "pains." This is also how I would make such a decision, and I suspect that I would come to the same basic conclusions. This would be so even if whatever choice we are considering would "make the Hero live five years longer," which I do not consider to be a compelling factor, as such; rather, in the pain-filled life you describe, five additional years may potentially be regarded as a curse rather than a blessing. I agree with this, and some people may then start to speak in terms of "flourishing" (which seems apt to describe your second rose) or throwing around "quas" or etc., which is why, I suspect, David Kelley was so insistent on not expanding the meaning of survival, but keeping it delimited to "existence versus non-existence." And it is also why I disagree with him.
  11. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    The Survivalist would like to attempt a fuller response to your post in the near future, but in the meantime, would you mind providing a Minimoralist response to the hypothetical as framed by Invictus2017 here: How does the Minimoralist regard this?
  12. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Hi Easy Truth, Advocating against the position I am taking now (as devil's advocate) is literally what I consider myself to have been doing throughout my entire participation in this thread (and for far longer than that, actually); so I would refer you to my other posts in this thread for the substance of what I am sincerely advocating, and also the other threads to which I have sometimes linked. I also attempted the briefest possible of summaries when I wrote: I don't know whether that will serve to help you to understand what I am advocating -- for I fear that I have done a poor job of it -- but that's precisely why I'm trying something different now. Yes, that's why I don't particularly relish this form of argument... it's difficult enough to communicate complex ideas, sincerely held, in anything like a clear manner; it is especially hard to be able to put something you don't quite believe in, into terms that sound plausible (and it isn't a particularly pleasant thing to do, of itself). And it may be that I'm not doing a great job of it, either, but I would ask for your patience while I make the attempt. If I could, I would advise to simply take my devil's advocacy at face value, for the time being; pretend as though I am sincere in my Comic Sans voice, and respond accordingly. If there is anything to be gained from this exercise (and I concede that there may not be anything to be gained; I simply may not yet have the tools to convey my perspective... or I may be wrong), then I believe that's how we would best do it. For the sake of understanding (whether I am speaking my mind sincerely or as "devil's advocate"), it may be necessary to go beyond the very first sentence of my argument, even where you find it nonsensical. But all right, we can start here... ______________________________ We say that our "ultimate value" is survival, do we not? But what does it mean that this is our "ultimate value"? Per Rand, an ultimate value "is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means." If survival is our ultimate value (where "survival" means the literal alternative of life or death, existence or non-existence), then every other value that we have (everything else that we act to gain or to keep) is a means to that end. To the extent that we value (act to gain or keep) a given emotional state, such as happiness, it is only as a means to the end of survival. Happiness and other forms of pleasure, whether physical or spiritual or otherwise, provide us necessary fuel "to move farther," as surely as food and water. This is why we may regard happiness (or food or water) as "good," in that capacity. But it is only good in that capacity -- because it helps us to survive. Should the pursuit of happiness turn against our survival, it would be evil in that measure (just as too much food, or the wrong kind of food, may make a man sick; just as too much water will drown). In the hypothetical to which I am responding, the (so-called) Hero is seeking an emotional experience of happiness at the cost of his own survival. This is sacrificing a greater value for a lesser value -- in fact, it is the sacrifice of his ultimate value, his very life, which is the necessary precondition for the experience of happiness or anything else. It is grossly immoral.
  13. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    If y'all wouldn't mind, I'd like to try something a little different: I would like to play "devil's advocate," and -- since no one here will lay claim to the title "survivalist" (even if I believe that some extant arguments amount to the same thing), I shall adopt that mantle, for the purpose of exploring these issues further. I should say from the outset that I do not typically enjoy "devil's advocate" style arguments, on either side of them, and I do not expect that I engage in them particularly well. But I struggle with the impression that, as yet, I still have not successfully conveyed my thoughts on these matters... and I hope that a fresh perspective might help me to do that better. (Or, if I am wrong about any aspect of this debate, perhaps taking on a fresh perspective will show me something I hadn't seen before.) In an attempt to keep things at least somewhat clear, I'll adopt the convention of using Comic Sans MS font while taking the "survivalist" side (and the default of Arial when providing straight commentary). Like this. Happiness is a means to an end. Man's proper ultimate end is his own survival. It is proper, therefore, to value happiness insofar as it functions as a fuel, to help one to survive, and no more than that. Valuing a pleasant feeling emotion at the cost of one's literal survival is choosing non-existence over existence, and is thus immoral. It is not always the case that one gets positive emotions from ethical action, or negative emotions from unethical action; if that were so, then yes -- one could simply be guided by his positive emotions. But sometimes unethical actions (meaning: actions which work against the literal survival of the organism) will produce positive emotions in some individuals, or ethical actions may trigger some negative-feeling experience of emotion. This is precisely when the rational application of a survival-oriented code of ethics is necessary, to guide our actions. The case you describe is just such a situation. If our "Hero" is guided by his emotions, then they will lead to his literal destruction. That is whim worship. Whatever it is you mean by "continuing to live," it is not possible without "simple survival." Valuing "continuing to live" at the cost of "simple survival" is illogical, it smuggles subjectivity into the standard of "life" (emotionalism). For remember, "it is the bare fundamental alternative of survival versus death that stands at the root of all values." Our hero faces that bare, fundamental alternative and chooses death over survival -- for what? The experience of some emotional thrill. It may not be the "only factor of significance" whether he continues to carry out the process of life, as such, but that does function as "the basic criterion of ethics": "the literal alternative of life versus death, existence versus nonexistence." "Continuing to live," objectively, requires continuing to carry out the process of life. It is therefore immoral to value anything above one's very ability to carry out the process of life, and since your hypothetical stipulates that pursuing "his life-long dream"* will impair his ability to carry out the process of life (more substantially than the alternative), it is choosing literal death over literal life, nonexistence over existence. ______________________________ * A rational person should not value anything more than his own survival in the first place; a rational person -- a true Hero -- would not value a "dream" if pursuing that dream came at the cost of his own life, and it should consequently not provide him happiness, either in contemplation or actuality. A true Hero would be happier staying safely at home (not that this happiness is material, of course, except as a fuel towards further survival). Remember that, "although Ayn Rand made it clear that she meant her morality to ensure a rich, fully human life, it is the bare fundamental alternative of survival versus death that stands at the root of all values." Therefore, this "health" you speak of, if it is to have objective value consistent with these ethics, must fundamentally contribute to the organism's life with respect to the bare fundamental alternative of survival versus death. If our Hero's choice is to go, satisfying his emotions, then his emotions are working against his own survival; they are not healthy. This is a situation where "following one's emotions would not be right": they are not consistent with "the most basic criterion of ethics," which is survival, "the literal alternative of life versus death, existence versus nonexistence." If one's "dreams" and "emotions" lead one to literal destruction, then they are unhealthy, and to follow them against an objective code of morality is whim worship, subjective, and immoral. Whether it is the case that this trip would bring a person happiness, or not, is immaterial; it is worth keeping in mind that "an ethical person examines the facts and determines which alternative best promotes his survival." In this case, the alternative which best promotes the Hero's survival is to find another dream.
  14. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I don't know that anyone has been arguing for that position consistently, or has identified themselves accordingly, but yes; for instance, when StrictlyLogical responded to my ice cream hypothetical by saying, "According to my standard of morality, choosing a life of eating ice cream with a slightly shorter duration is immoral," I think that the essence on display is survivalism (as we have been using it). You bypass my express disinterest in trying to determine what Kelley's views are, specifically, to make an argument about Kelley's views? A significant choice. But okay. If we are to do so, then let us take note of his specific language. He is quite clear in talking about "survival," as a "bare fundamental alternative," as "the most basic criterion." If one accepts this, then it seems clear to me that it would lead one directly to StrictlyLogical's stance regarding ice cream: that is an application of using the bare fundamental alternative of "existence versus non-existence" as one's "basic criterion" for deciding upon a course of action -- whether to eat ice cream or not. And, too, the Hero should reject the trip into space, because choosing the thing that will kill you more quickly is, to that extent, choosing "non-existence" over "existence." If "existence versus non-existence" is one's "basic criterion," then there should never be cause to take "non-existence" any sooner than is beyond our control: one should always take "existence." (And after all, the province of morality is only that which is in our control.) If we mean to say that, well, in a sense, "man qua man" ceases to exist somehow when he is unhappy, or acting against "his nature," or something, and therefore the Hero who rejects the trip into space wins himself four more years of technical existence at the cost of who knows how many years of existence in his proper state, and that this therefore represents a sacrifice, well -- that's fine. That's actually something close to my own view. But that is not "the literal alternative of life versus death" to which Kelley plainly refers. And if, in your reread, you discover material which you consider to be inconsistent with a view of Kelley as a "survivalist" -- that's fine, too. It does not matter to me what our ultimate verdict is on the proper label for Kelley's views, as I had tried to express earlier, and I do not expect him to be a consistent advocate for any position, in any event; I believe that these matters are deeply unsettled for the Objectivist community, generally, and that this results in some of the controversies we can find in this thread and many others across the forum (and beyond). I absolutely do believe that happiness is fundamental to the good life (but that the good life is not the experience of happiness alone); I utterly disagree that this is "something like hedonism." If Rand was right when she wrote, "Hedonism is the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality," then this is not what I have advocated at all (and moreover, it is a stance that I have explicitly disavowed and argued against, albeit primarily in other threads). In the same place where Rand defined "hedonism" as above (her Playboy interview), she goes on to say, "I hold that one cannot achieve happiness by random, arbitrary or subjective means," and I agree wholeheartedly. I believe that happiness can be achieved by rational, objective means (that this is, in fact, the only way to achieve happiness) -- and that is what I advocate we do (though again, not this alone: rather, we should strive to live [long] lives characterized by pleasure and happiness). She then says, "One can achieve happiness only on the basis of rational values. By rational values, I do not mean anything that a man may arbitrarily or blindly declare to be rational. It is the province of morality, of the science of ethics, to define for men what is a rational standard and what are the rational values to pursue," and again I agree. But if the point to this ethical pursuit is the achievement of happiness, then I hope I am not putting too fine a point on it when I say that happiness is not merely some pleasant-feeling emotional byproduct of a life lived according to some other standard (e.g. "survival" in Kelley's "bare" sense) -- let alone a value only because it provides some "fuel" for the task of survival, as I have depressingly sometimes seen argued -- but it is fundamental to our ethics, and indeed it is our essential motivation for creating a "science of ethics" in the first place. There's plenty of (important, necessary) wrangling that can be done with respect to how precisely happiness relates to one's "standard of value," or "purpose," or how it relates to "life," or "the good life" as I'm using it -- since I am yet in the stage of trying to formulate this to my own satisfaction, I cannot claim to be able to do it with anything like precision yet (and I would not try) -- but yes, I am confident in saying that happiness is fundamental. It is fundamental to ethics, it is fundamental to the choices we make, it is fundamental to the good life, is it fundamental to living on earth (or accepting a mission into deep space) -- and if the Objectivist Ethics (or any other) promised the moon but failed to deliver happiness, it should be discarded immediately for that reason, such is its fundamentality: We judge ethical truth on the basis of its ability to achieve happiness. That happiness should have to be argued for in this fashion, its fundamentality asserted and defended against the charge of "hedonism," is perhaps in itself a critique of survivalism, and an indication of how far this misunderstanding has corrupted Objectivist thought. ______________________________ And I am again reminded that I had wanted to keep this conversation at something like an arm's length. It is an addiction for me, and I am weak in the face of it; this conversation pulled my thoughts from pleasant dreams tonight (literally), woke me up, and pulled me out of my warm bed. In my own pursuit of the good life, I may from time to time find it necessary to stop arguing so much for the good life...
  15. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I'm heartened that you understood me; I was fearful for a little while, and felt quite discouraged, that I had utterly failed to express my meaning. I'd rather not discuss other members in these threads (I would prefer that we try, as much as possible, to discuss the ideas under consideration instead), but I will say that I consider StrictlyLogical to be very intelligent and reasonable. Though we have had disagreements in the past -- sometimes deeply held -- I rely on his understanding, and I am disposed to believe that any failure in communication between us is temporary, and can be addressed through further patient effort. If I did not believe this, as you indicate, it would be foolish of me to try to persuade him of anything. The source of the quote (which I have beaten like a drum, perhaps unfairly) is here. Please allow me to say, however, that whether I am right or wrong (or whether anyone considers me mistaken) as to David Kelley's views, as such, again: my main interest is in discussing ideas, not their proponents. If need be, I would gladly concede my argument that "Kelley believes X," and accept that he means to argue for Y or any other thing; it is enough for my purposes that anyone may potentially misinterpret Rand's views in this way (or even understand Rand's views correctly in this way, if that is the contention). I use him and his quote as a convenient reference point for what we're now referring to as "survivalism," and nothing more. (I think this caveat is especially important considering how controversial a figure Kelley can be in the Objectivist community; many people have great passions about him, personally, though I do not.) I think this is a wise choice. I accept this framing. Yes. (And this is vital for demonstrating the potential for harm that a survivalist understanding confers upon the person who holds it; or, in a word, its immorality.) Again, I agree; and this is very nearly sufficient agreement, in my opinion, because my central contention is that the survivalist understanding of "life" (vis-a-vis the Objectivist Ethics) is insufficient and thus incorrect. My references to "pleasure" or "happiness" are, in the main, my attempt to describe what I believe is missing. I do not think I have yet found the proper formulation to describe my view on this point -- but then, that's in part why I am so invested in these kinds of threads: to one day achieve that formulation and co-current understanding. Let me at least grant a temporary agreement with all of this. I'm not satisfied that I've examined the idea of "emotional health" thoroughly yet, but it raises no immediate red flags either, and seems like it might be useful to our discussion. This is the crux, both of my argument and (what I take to be) our fundamental agreement. The goal is not simple survival, but something more than that. And I relate this "something more" to happiness, and yes, to pleasure, but generally I am speaking to the quality of life, as apart from its quantity. (How this precisely relates to what you term "health," is perhaps another conversation -- and not an unimportant one, but perhaps one for another day.) And thus, when Kelley (or whomever agrees with this quote in the survivalist spirit that I maintain it reflects) says: "Although Ayn Rand made it clear that she meant her morality to ensure a rich, fully human life, it is the bare fundamental alternative of survival versus death that stands at the root of all values. Several admirers of Rand’s approach to ethics have debated the sense in which survival can serve the most basic criterion of ethics. Here we have argued that survival is the literal alternative of life versus death, existence versus nonexistence." I consider him mistaken. So that we're clear on this point, I utterly agree. Through accident, misunderstanding, or perhaps something else, I have found that sometimes others try to portray my conception as something like hedonism, my explicit disavowals notwithstanding; but no, I am not saying that one should blindly follow one's emotions, or one's pleasures, or act on whim, or etc. Rather, I am arguing for a pursuit, in reason, of a (long) life characterized by pleasure and happiness -- which I would broadly term "the good life." Agreed.
  16. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    No. That's the very opposite of both what I had intended in your quote of me, and my entire meaning in this, and every other thread in which I've commented upon this subject. Invictus said, "both quantity and quality of life are ethically relevant," and when I responded, "precisely my point," it meant -- as I thought clear -- that I agreed with his statement. But obviously I have done a poor job of explaining my position, despite all of the pains I have taken. I shall have to reflect upon how I can communicate myself more clearly in the future.
  17. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Precisely my point. And I would further argue that there might be situations in which there is some conflict between quantity and quality (whether it's consumption of ice cream, a journey into space, an offer of increased lifespan at a cost, continuing a life where the woman you love has been tortured to death, or etc.). There are ways of understanding the Objectivist Ethics which maintain that quantity or longevity or etc., is the ultimate value; when Kelley describes it as "existence versus nonexistence," I argue that this is his meaning. Thus where quantity and quality are held to conflict in some way, a person must choose quantity. That is what it means to "choose life," per his argument. (If you think this is a misinterpretation of Rand's fundamental argument, so do I; but that is a separate consideration.) In my hypothetical, this means that it would be moral to refuse the space exploration -- so that one may live a few years more. I would choose differently, and whatever your reservations about hypotheticals, we must eventually put abstract discussions like these into terms of eating ice cream, or journeying to space, or something concrete, so that we can better examine the actual meaning of our ideas. However it is contrived, do you think it would ever be proper for a person to choose a path, knowing (insofar as men may know the results of their actions; insofar as we may be "certain") that it would result in a sooner death -- but a life of greater quality in the interim? In theory, the site saves draft messages automatically. I have had problems where I have reloaded the window -- and my draft message was preserved, up to the last semi-colon I had just typed... and sometimes it fails utterly, and I either retype my message or abandon the project. In the past, when composing something particularly epic (or at least long), I have sometimes independently saved my message in a text document, in case something goes awry. Usually, when I take such precautions, everything runs smooth as silk; it is only when I have no backup ready that the system knows to fail.
  18. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Yes, I'm familiar with that line of reasoning. I've also seen happiness given the same treatment. I find it utterly foreign to my experience that happiness itself should be accounted a means to an end. All of the subsequent semantic shuffling of the cards (whether we wish to say that "man qua man," or "survival as a man" somehow requires happiness -- as though we've done more, in such a case, than relabel "flourishing" -- or etc.) will not make more reasonable to me the idea that we pursue all that is positive in the world (of its nature), including happiness, as a means to continue to survive, rather than that we pursue survival so that we may continue to enjoy the fruits of living. It is utterly backwards. Hypotheticals are always a fraught business*. Whether omniscience is required for "certainty" is another discussion (and actually, one we've had together), but if we take "certainty" as "a measure of confidence, with 'certain' being one extreme," then we can reasonably posit a person or persons certain of something, yet not omniscient -- can we not? ___________________ * Here is a critique of Rand's Robot along similar lines... With respect to the proper contrivance of a hypothetical example, I think that the goal is to try to isolate important elements of some theory or proposal for the sake of testing it. Reality is so complex, however, and hypotheticals so unnaturally simplified of their nature (or even outlandish), that if one rejects the spirit of setting up such examples, there will always be sensible-sounding objections that can be raised. In this case, for me, it is enough if we have a medical expert tell our man that going on this mission will take five years off of his life; and yes, not going to space could have some psychological effect which would shorten his life as much, or more, but we could have a psychologist proclaim that he does not expect it to be so. Perhaps it is even enough if our space cadet believes (i.e. is "certain" that) that, all else being equal, going on this mission will mean that he will live five fewer years, give or take. It is within such a context that man must make a decision, after all, and it is for the sake of making such decisions (without omniscience) that we pursue ethics in the first place. I hold that a survivalist should say that our man should not go to deep space; that it would be immoral, given the context of his knowledge. (Though I will note that, looking over StrictlyLogical's subsequent replies, I don't think he's responded to my hypothetical as such.) In contrast, I say that it would be a moral decision. And if we can find a way to satisfy you as to the hypothetical's parameters, Invictus, I would be interested in your answer, because while it is important to try to present our visions of ethics in the abstract, it is meaningful to try to determine the ways in which this would result in different choices, in reality. That's where the rubber meets the road, after all, and if a person would advocate for a "survivalist ethics" in the abstract, but balks at some perceived consequence in reality (even a hypothetical one), then that might be a good reason to check his premises. Same here. I apologize for continuing to respond in dribs and drabs (is that an actual expression, or am I making it up...? what in the world is a "drib" and what is a "drab"?) -- but I've been rather busy. I will respond more when I am able.
  19. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Different in degree, but no, not different in kind. The reason why I "stopped" where I did, was because I thought five years (which is not insignificant; I wanted something heavier than the single day I'd proposed as the "cost" for ice cream) was severe but not extraordinary. I thought it more or less relatable -- that people could understand it in terms of their own experience; that yeah, maybe we all have some pursuit that, perhaps, we'd be willing to trade a few years in our extremity for some grand adventure in the interim. In my opinion, it would require a truly extraordinary context, a truly extraordinary person, to be able to understand an individual who would be willing to embark on such a "one way trip" in any fashion that I would regard as moral, but I'm not willing to say that no such context or person exists. As a writer, I perhaps flatter myself to believe that I could one day write a story with such a compelling character. Maybe the first thing we need to suss out here is who we expect the (primary) beneficiary of "moral action" is meant to be. Is it the individual? Or surrounding society? I ask, not merely as a preface to addressing your scenario (which I will presently), but also because I've noted that you've sometimes referred to morality in a negative way -- that it represents "restraints" to action. But that's not how I see it at all. Morality is not a set of restraints on our action, but it is a guide for achievement: for achieving the good life (howsoever we think that is constituted). It isn't some series of "Thou Shalt Nots," but more like a treasure map, leading to the most valuable thing in the universe: moral action should be consequently joyful. Obviously you would like to say that the Sadist you've proposed is immoral. So would I. But why? Are we primarily concerned with what the Sadist does to society? Or to himself? It is the latter that I think we need to address, if we agree that the only true basis for ethics is "rational self-interest"; if our conclusion is that the Sadist leads a truly wonderful life, but surrounding society suffers for it, then I believe we have failed to establish his behavior as immoral (or at least we will have a markedly harder time of it). The goal of morality is not to convince others to spare us in the pursuit of their own happiness; and it is not for our own sake (primarily) that we hold the Sadist to be immoral... it is for his. And what does the Sadist lose by acting the way that he does? I do not think it's that he loses (potentially) in lifespan, because he might be caught and executed for his crimes; the freedom fighter runs much the same risk when he resists tyranny; Kira risks everything in her flight to freedom, with tragic results; and if we see some issue of manmade versus metaphysical in examples such as these, well, people have taken extraordinary risks in every type of endeavor imaginable, since the dawn of man. Many of those risks were understood ahead of time and taken on anyways; many people have died in the pursuit of their passions -- or following their bliss -- in industry, scientific discovery, invention, exploration, etc., etc., etc. So if it is not incurring a greater risk of death (or even certain knowledge of it, in some cases), and not the damage done to society, then what is it about the Sadist's actions that makes them immoral? I think it is this: that he is not going to have so wonderful a life, acting in this way, than he could otherwise have. And by "wonderful," I am referring not alone to longevity, not alone to whatever "pleasures"/thrills he might find in his actions, and not alone to happiness, but a complex and interrelated melange of all three. Yet perhaps this is chiefly represented by happiness, as a ubiquitous emotional evaluation of man's state -- and that's the chief thing I find missing in your description of the Sadist. I read that he experiences many things that he finds to be pleasurable (just as a dope addict might), but I do not read him as being happy (just as a dope addict will not be). I shudder to think at what his internal/emotional/spiritual state would be like -- it is nothing that I would ever want to experience, and I say that having had my own lows. If we think we can amend this by simply asserting, "Well, let's make him 'happy' then! What now?" then I don't think we are describing anything more real than a squared circle, because I do not believe that human happiness can be achieved in any imaginable way. I do not believe that sadism is the path to happiness, not even if the Sadist mistakenly believes that it is. Rand (through Galt) says: I believe our Sadist will not alone experience the "torture of frustration," but deep terrors and a profound unhappiness. Though I have no specialized knowledge in this field, I expect that if we were to survey actual mass murderers, and the like, we would not discover a group of happy folks who simply happen to value things a little differently; we would not discover "hedonists," either, even if they conceived of themselves as seeking pleasure (which I doubt they would describe themselves as doing; I expect that they would likelier describe themselves as being driven by "compulsions" or etc.). I expect we would find a group of depressed, ignorant, and terrified individuals with a strong correlation with alcoholism and drug abuse; if clinical examinations were available, we would discover a history of trauma or abuse, and consequent anhedonia, etc. They would not by any reasonable measure (I doubt even their own) be living "the good life." So yes, the Sadist is acting immorally (and is immoral), because he is sacrificing a life of pleasure and happiness (of any duration). And if that is not enough to convince him to do otherwise (because his "compulsions" are too strong; or because he thinks the "pleasure" he's chasing is too great), then the promise of "longevity" certainly will not either. He must be convinced that moral action will be to his own benefit -- just as we ourselves require -- and what benefit will he see in "more life"? "Life," such as he conceives of it, is not sufficient to inspire him to want "more" of it. Rather, it must be better life. Not a life of "less pleasure," but more pleasure, and specifically and importantly: a life of the greatest of all pleasures -- happiness. ________________________________ But here's a question for you: Suppose the same Sadist, but he has managed to keep a lid on his compulsions (or "passions" or "pleasures") throughout his life, because he has believed that "survival is the standard of value," and he did not wish to die early, through execution or etc. But now he has some incurable, terminal disease -- and only a few months to live. Considering that his actions will have no appreciable effect on his ability to survive, he considers himself finally free of the shackles/restraints of morality, and free to indulge his every sick and twisted whim. Finally free to enjoy himself. What say you? "Is this immoral according to an objective standard?" Why or why not? I apologize, but I can't give this a full response at the moment, though I've tried to address just such questions, at length, in many of the threads I'd linked to earlier (most centrally "Pleasure and Value," which you'd also participated in, before... er... excusing yourself). If you have further questions, we can pursue them here or there, or anywhere (including a more general conversation regarding "objectivity," which you've mentioned a couple of times) -- but I'm currently feeling the stress of trying to respond to a lot of deep and difficult questions (not to mention a lack of time, etc.)! And speaking of which, Invictus, Easy Truth, Harrison, et al., my apologies for delayed responses. I'm not trying to ignore anyone or any responses... I hope to get to everything and everyone eventually...
  20. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    You're waiting till you have something coherent to say? LOL, you really are new around here, aren't you? Absolutely right. But I raise it because I suspect it might sound different than the ice cream discussion to some, which perhaps seems a little unserious, and why can't a person just learn to live without ice cream anyways -- what's so bad about that? (I'd say there's plenty bad about it, but then I'm more familiar with my own perspective on this matter than I can expect anyone else to be.) But when we're looking at questions of people following their dreams, pursuing their passions -- even at the expense of longevity (though I recognize you have disavowed that's your meaning; yet I continue to use the term for what I consider to be good reason) -- then I think (or hope) it might be easier for others to see the essential issue I'm driving at. I think these are good questions, but by asking them we've already made a decision of a kind that I don't believe has yet been conceded: that we can call something a "benefit" at all if it results in the shortening of one's life. For if our ultimate end -- or our standard of value -- is "survival," and if "survival" is (per Kelley) "the literal alternative of life versus death, existence versus nonexistence," then we cannot describe taking the mission to deep space as a benefit at all; rather, it would be highly immoral -- it would be an instance of self-harm. But I don't believe it is immoral or self-harm. Do you? I don't think survivalism provides a sufficient basis for ethical reasoning. I think it looks at one aspect of life (a key aspect), but that life is more than mere survival, more than a simple question of "existence versus nonexistence" -- and fundamentally so, such that when we talk in terms of "ultimate ends" or our "standard of value," even there we must mean more than survival. Otherwise, you're right: we should ultimately prefer "a cheerless, pointless existence as a comatose vegetable tended by hordes of well paid medical experts" over "a [shorter] life full of happiness -- and risk," or Harrison's offer of endless (but pointless) existence. If existence, as such, is truly our ultimate end, then our ethics should counsel us to pursue existence at any (supposed) cost -- but it does not. So it is not, in truth, our ultimate end. I agree. This is as much as saying that it is not "existence," as such, that we value -- but a particular kind of existence. I've described it, at various times, as a life "characterized by pleasures and happiness" or "filled with pleasures and happiness," or "of maximized experience," or "the good life." I'm not satisfied that I've formulated this (let alone conveyed any part of it) particularly well, but I'm trying to find my way to such a formulation. This is the reason why, for instance, Galt was willing to die (even by his own hands) rather than allow harm to come to Dagny (or rather than live with the results). In my experience, survivalists do not want much to discuss such topics, shunting them off to some "amoral" or even "pre-moral" area of decision making... and over the course of this conversation, we've found that StrictlyLogical (taking him to be a "survivalist") considers a good deal of what we choose to value and pursue to be outside of moral consideration altogether. But then, this is precisely what we should expect if, as I've claimed above, survivalism fails to provide a sufficient basis for ethical reasoning. It means that some of our decisions may be arrived at through ethical reasoning... and some (the majority?) cannot, leaving them to be inspired by... what? Whim? It renders Ethics, as a discipline, unsuitable "to guide man’s choices and actions." Or, if we reject that seeming consequence and cling to survivalism the more tightly, then we will make decisions to prolong our longevity... at the cost of our actual experience of life and our happiness.
  21. I'm not a huge fan of following ongoing political cycles. In my experience, not much seems to change between one election and the next (on the whole, though I'm sure that there are large differences for some, depending on specific policies), and I generally find it tedious and depressing. While just about every political candidate that our current culture will support is "dangerous," I created this thread because a quote from Donald Trump in a recent Yahoo interview caught my eye. Do I take Donald Trump seriously as a candidate? I don't know. Do I take Yahoo seriously as a news medium? I don't know. But as I say, this quote caught my eye: This seems pretty bold to me, and worrisome. But maybe there's no real cause for worry here, or no cause above and beyond what is typical politician bluster in 2015 America. But what do y'all think? ETA: article link
  22. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I've been trying to give myself some breathing room here -- partly because softwareNerd recently said something about thinking that it's best when people step back from contentious conversations quickly, and that's stuck with me. But I've also been tossing Harrison's hypothetical around in my mind, and what finally tumbled out was another hypothetical of my own, to try to further elucidate points of view (not just my own)... Suppose a man who, from childhood, loves space and space travel and science and exploration and all that. He grows up to be a scientist, and then one day he receives an incredible offer: if he chooses, he can be the first to perform some incredible form of deep space exploration (where am I getting "deep space" from... Buck Rogers?). But. Because shielding technology hasn't kept pace with the rest of the technological developments, or something, if he accepts this mission, it will shave as many as five years of his life off of the back end. What would we make of it -- in terms of morality -- should he choose to accept the job anyways, because he wants so badly to do this thing?
  23. Donald Trump

    If we accept Biddle when he writes, "He advocates policies that violate individual rights. That’s what it means to be a leftist," then yes, agreed: Trump is a leftist. And we could say that the "right" refers to those who advocate policies which protect individual rights. I have no problem with that use of terms, as such. My only objection is that, outside of this very specific and (I would argue) idiosyncratic understanding of "left" and "right," it's bound to cause confusion because, so far as I'm aware, it doesn't conform to historical use or mainstream contemporary use. Or maybe something good could come out of that kind of confusion, actually...
  24. Donald Trump

    LOL, sometimes it takes a little while for a response... About Trump, I think he's a used car salesman at heart -- only not so reputable, ethical or honest. I think he's blusterous and shallow and anti-intellectual. I think his primary aim is self-aggrandizement. I think he has neither an understanding of, nor a concern for, "liberty." I guess you could say that I don't like the guy. As President...? If I'm being 100% honest, it hasn't been as bad as I'd feared it might be... but then I must also remember that we're not quite a year into his term. We have a ways to go. If he can manage to survive the investigation into Russia, and doesn't destroy the world in nuclear war, and if his entire administration isn't forced out through petty scandals of one kind or another, then perhaps he'll stick around long enough to truly do some damage to our system. Or maybe I'll turn out to be completely wrong about him, and he will "drain the swamp," resolve international crises, and institute needed reforms. I know there are Objectivists on Team Trump, after all. It's not what I'm expecting, but it's certainly what I'd be happiest with. Do you see him as "leftist"? I don't see him as being left or right, but Trumpist. A populist, a demagogue, a protectionist -- yeah, all of that -- but I don't think he's principled enough to align with left or right as they're typically represented.
  25. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    If we relabel "vice" as "activity" (so as to avoid question begging) and reconsider this as, "whatever activities you enjoy at the cost of just one second of your life...give them up" then, taken seriously, I no longer believe it would be possible for me to "live fully." It's not a question of "clinging" to anything, except trying to live life to the fullest (not necessarily longest). That being said, over the course of this thread, I've had cause to revisit numerous threads where I've tried to present my ideas on this subject, including here, here, here, here and here. (And, of course, here. ) I think that I've explained myself as well as I can, at present, though I will continue to work on this and continue to think it through. Thank you (and everyone else) for your assistance.
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