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Found 15 results

  1. Truth as Disvalue

    Truth as Disvalue Truth as disvalue, evasion as value, a belief system which maximizes life’s value. I have heard it said that nothing which is untrue can ultimately be of value to a rational person and that knowledge of the truth is always a value. When dealing with statements of these kinds, of course one must keep in mind what one means by value, we know for example that truth does not have intrinsic value, as there is no such thing as intrinsic value. So investigating the claim that truth is always a value necessitates an evaluation according to a particular chosen standard of value. Is it true that truth is always a value? Can it ever be a disvalue? I will herein below show that according to certain classes of standards of value, truth can be a disvalue. Moreover, I will illustrate how, in that context, evasion can in fact be a value. I then proceed to show how one can proceed successfully (according to that standard of value) to adopt a belief system which maximizes values according to that standard, and in fact that such a belief system is entailed and required by such a standard. The One Truth Knowledge of reality is incredibly powerful. It is indispensable to action, allows prediction of nature, is the foundation of science, invention, agriculture, architecture, medicine, art, literally everything we know which sustains us and enables happiness is in some way tied with knowledge and rationality. None of these truths which prove useful are to be abandoned or contradicted as they are invaluable. They form a wholeness of knowledge which is at one with the blinding Truth of existence. In this the wholeness though lurks but one black hole… one truth in which sits the opposite of the whole of truth’s promise for life, the very fact of Death itself. After decades of accepting as true, complete oblivion, as the state succeeding life on Earth, I have come to the realization that it is an ugly life draining truth which brings me nothing but horror, fear, and sadness. Resignation to its truth has not assuaged the extreme aversion to physical risk, the morbid thoughts, the nagging sense of death being around every corner, on every highway, hidden in every airplane booking. The reflection that all those living, family and friends will end in the same zero… and that all the daughters and sons of my sons and daughters will, finally, amount to more than the dead matter from which they sprung for their brief lives, ripples unceasingly in my mind. When I was a Deist and believed in an afterlife, I of course did my best to avoid death, I did not entertain unduly risky behavior, because after all, I enjoyed and cherished my life, my family and friends and what I could achieve over my life span, but death itself was seen only as a bump in the road, another transformation, that once traversed, would seem almost inconsequential. Upon death, Life would become some nostalgic memory, no more disturbing than the memories of an adult fondly recalling some childhood haunt or cherished toy. We throw off the trappings of our former selves to become that which we are meant to be, and death was only one step of growth in an existence beyond this one. But the final and true death, of non-being, non-existence, of oblivion, is the black maw of the worst possible monster, literally, as nothing could be worse for me than the negation and destruction of absolutely everything of value to me. It pesters my mind and my soul like some incessant midge from the underworld, and no matter how much I swat at it in a futile attempt to live my life in peace, it always harries me time and again. According to a standard of value which belongs to a class in which the standard of value to the life of man qua man comprises a combination of survival, pleasure, and happiness, the one truth of death IS and always will be a disvalue to me. This I know of myself with unshakable certainty. When I compare my happiness, and daily pleasure at the wonders around me, as they are experienced now, with that ever present darkness in the sky, with my happiness and daily pleasure as one who believed in an afterlife, as I had in the past, I am certain, absolutely certain, that the truth negates a great deal of happiness, pleasure, and peace in my life. As such, according to those certain classes of standards of value, the one truth of death, IS a disvalue to me. Truth indeed can be a disvalue. [For simplicity, “value” hereafter means “value” according to those classes of standard of value to the life of man qua man comprising a combination of survival, pleasure, and happiness] The One Evasion As a Deist, I believed that nature and the beyond (the supernatural) were distinct and sundered. I faithfully held that there was absolutely no connection between them except the traversal (and one way only) upon death. The dead cannot reach the living nor the living reach the dead, and no God nor Omnipotency could affect the natural world of reality. There was only existence, and nothing supernatural there, until death, after which there was nothing but that realm beyond. Maintaining such an evasion was not uncommon to me, nor even unique to my life as a Deist. My former self as a traditional Christian, was very interested in science was very adept at the necessary evasions. Compartmentalization is no mystery to me, and I am all too familiar with it and evasion. I am very cognizant that these are “skills” which I used often and relentlessly. As a person very interested in science, and even after having gone through a few degrees in science, I was capable of all kinds of evasions, but then I did not have the motivation any more. At one point I decided that the truth was more important that what I wanted to believe, more important that the comfort or pleasure I might obtain from a falsehood. According to what standard? Why? At this point, not having been exposed to Objectivism, I really did not have any well-reasoned basis, I simply took for granted that what is true is the Truth and that the Truth was more “important” than any falsehood, that indeed Truth was a kind of “intrinsic” good. So over time I was able to escape the trap of mysticism, because of my motivation for truth, and nothing more. I escaped all forms of mysticism and embraced the absolute of reality and Objectivism. As an Objectivist, I understood the vast majority of truths for what they are, a great value to life. Woven into a web of integrated understanding of reality and man, they are the basis for living. Seeing this I dropped evasion as a disvalue. And in all things other than the single dark truth, evasion indeed would be a disvalue. Because all of reality is interconnected no evasion about any single existent which by necessity is related to any and thus every other thing in existence, could be held without some fact of reality being sullied, warped, held in error. Therefor evasion in this regard is inevitably a disvalue and leads to the corruption of the whole. Only now, armed with a proper understanding of the standard of value is it possible to see that blind pursuit of truth is not necessarily a value. Value is defined by and depends upon a standard. A truth which is sad and painful and brings no happiness and which never could be but a stain upon existence and happiness, cannot be a value. Such a truth is clearly a disvalue. But what of the interconnectedness of truths, what of the disvalue of evasion? There is one evasion which does not encounter this problem if surrounded by judiciously held supporting evasions. Clearly a religious person (as I was) is able to hold evasions able to withstand a great deal of reality thrown against it. Using compartmentalization and ignorance and avoidance, I could simultaneously hold truths about reality while believing in the miraculous. But miracles, and intervention by God poses a real problem, the evidence such would leave behind, the absence of which we clearly note. Of course once I became a Deist no such lack of evidence was logically entailed. The belief of that sort of Deism was in an afterlife wholly separate and sundered from reality and for which there would and could be no evidence until death. The One evasion, that there is an afterlife, of a completely unconnected supernatural and everlasting afterlife, although arbitrary is not disproven by the evidence of the senses. Such to be sure is an arbitrary assertion, a groundless maybe…. Not even worth the label “possible”. The onus is on he who asserts the positive… but what reason, by what standard would I hold myself to that onus? The subsidiary evasion then would be the permission of arbitrary assertions… no… the permission of ONE arbitrary assertion. I know I am capable of evasion, I have done so throughout my life, why not employ these evasions, to permit a single arbitrary assertion, and to believe that arbitrary assertion in absence of any evidence? Clearly, Truth in and of itself is not automatically a value. This is clear from the above. Second, the problem of accepting the arbitrary would only be a threat if it invaded into all aspects of knowledge of reality, I am considering to allow it for only one aspect of reality which is (arbitrarily) wholly disconnected from all of existence. Moreover, if I am required to permit the arbitrary and the belief in one single truth through evasion in order to regain the value of life without the constant fear and darkness and morbidity, then by what standard am I to give up the evasions which permits it? Evasion in these aspects only, to permit the arbitrary belief in an afterlife, are a value. The Objectivist Deism Plan In order to maximize my life according to the standard of value I need only engage in minimal evasion to permit a belief of a single falsehood and deny a single truth. With practice and effort I will come to believe it with all my being, because I know it is a value to believe it. I am motivated by my very life to do so. I will not fail in my minimal evasions for the sake of my very life. I will permit myself that one evasion, supported by the subsidiary evasion (from the fact that the arbitrary should be dismissed), in only this one single instance, the one evasion permitting the belief that there is an afterlife. Such brings about a belief system I call Objectivist Deism. Reality is as it is, A is A, but there is another reality, a super-reality for which there is no evidence, and into which I will have an afterlife. This sole major evasion, that I will not die the true and unending dark death, with its subsidiary evasion permitting the acceptance in only a single arbitrary assertion, is my choice, precisely BECAUSE it is of value and my life will be better for it. I will still understand reality as it is with all the rigor of Objectivism and science, but I will live my life, essentially better than I would have, with the added pleasures, and happiness, and the flourishing which accompanies it, with the knowledge that I will not truly die. I will not be JUST AS successful as I would have been but for the evasion, in fact, because of my added pleasure and happiness and zest for life, I will flourish more, I will have lived more, I will have lived a life of more value than I otherwise would have lived. As such, it is not merely an option open to me, it is necessary for me to follow this path. According to the standard of value it IS the moral course of action, I must and will take it and I will benefit all the more throughout my entire life because of it.
  2. Is the nature of Man to be Narcissistic? By Social Awareness I mean knowing that others exist, knowing that you are not alone. Not just a thought, knowing the truth that you are not alone. Isn't human companionship a requirement for survival and an ethical value and virtue. My purpose of this thread is to get clarification on it. I also wonder if it is not acknowledged and declared enough in Objectivist circles. We know that David Kelly has sort of debated the chairman of whole foods about it. But the debate is more like "chill out, reword altruism, do the Philosophy a different way". Isn't this particular social context (the awareness of others) have to be part of one's personal ethics? Knowing how to choose people around them, best practices etc. I argue that social awareness is necessary for survival. Not being aware that others exist can be a matter of life and death. And yet the pitfalls of doing so: "There's a point at which "social awareness" would cease to be healthy, benevolent coexistence and turn into second-handedness (trying to think through another brain, see through their eyes and do whatever you think they'd most approve of); beyond that point human beings stop being helpful or uplifting for each other's lives and gradually become codependent and monstrous." Harrison "Trying to define the ultimate standard and purpose of ethics in social terms will prevent you from being able to define that cutoff point." Harrison I wonder if prevent is too strong a word, for now, I can see it hampering and causing confusion. And then there is the related issue of the value of others which is derivative: "A rational man does not forget that life is the source of all values and, as such, a common bond among living beings (as against inanimate matter), that other men are potentially able to achieve the same virtues as his own and thus be of enormous value to him. This does not mean that he regards human lives as interchangeable with his own. He recognizes the fact that his own life is thesource, not only of all his values, but of his capacity to value. Therefore, the value he grants to others is only a consequence, an extension, a secondary projection of the primary value which is himself. “The respect and good will that men of self-esteem feel toward other human beings is profoundly egoistic; they feel, in effect: ‘Other men are of value because they are of the same species as myself.’ In revering living entities, they are revering theirown life. This is the psychological base of any emotion of sympathy and any feeling of ‘species solidarity.’ ”" (Virtue of Selfishness, p 42)
  3. Two kinds of ethics

    TWO KINDS OF MORALITIES, MARXIST VERSUS THEOLOGICAL I am reading interesting comments about communist morality, in a book devoted to Judaism, published in 1975. The authors are two rabbis, D. Prager and J. Telushkin. A Christian theologian would probably make similar observations. Marxists and theologians, they write, "are both motivated by the desire to perfect the world and establish a utopia on earth. ... Both promote all-encompassing worldviews. But they diametrically oppose one another in almost every other way." The authors remind us that communists rejected "all morality derived from nonhuman [i.e. God] and nonclass concepts," as stated in 1920 by Lenin. ... "Marxist morality sanctions any act so long as that act was committed in the interest of [economic and political] class struggle." Nothing that Stalin, and Mao did was immoral, according to such ideology. Theologians, on the other hand, hold "that morality transcends economic, national, and individual interests." God's commandments are objective rather than subjective. Evil human acts are condemned, no matter what economic or political gains are derived from them. That is the essential difference. Greed in human nature, they emphasize, "may have helped create capitalism, but capitalism did not create greed in human nature." Theologians also deplore social injustice. But they reject brutal proletarian revolutions because "the roots of evil and injustice lie not in economics or society but in man himself." This has to do with the concept of freedom. "For Marxism, which conceives of the world in materialist terms, bondage is defined solely as servitude to external sources such as slave owners, capitalist bosses, or other forms of material inequality. Freedom is liberation from such servitude." People, as stated in the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels, must get rid of economic chains binding them. Then they will automatically cease to be evil. Theologians, on the other hand, see two kinds of liberation, from external and from internal bonds. "Once liberation from external servitude takes place, one must then liberate oneself from internal domination, the domination of one's life by passions, needs, irrationality and wants." The conflict between theologians and Marxists "is not economic, it is moral." Proletarian dictatorship was practiced in several countries; the results show that "when Marxist revolutionaries attain power they are at least as crual as their predecessors." Philosophical differences about morality, among different kinds of theologians, are minimal, as far as I know. But attempts to impose morality are not very successful. Why is it so? What can be done to improve the situation, to bring our reality a little closer to "utopia" dreams? Ludwik
  4. Hi all, You can read a post on one of my blogs titled “‘Publish or Perish’ → ‘Life or Death’” where I argue that keeping your own non-personal and non-private knowledge for yourself and thinking it is a good idea to try try to use it as a strategic advantage, is a recipe for stagnation and depression. Someone I talked to, thought that I was advocating publishing everything under an open source/open content etc. licence, but I don't go that far, and just encourage prompt publishing under a usable licence (but possibly a proprietary one). And I also don't encourage publishing too much of too little quality, that appears to have become the norm recently in the academic world, but you should definitely publish. In the post, I mention the United State Government’s so-called National Security Agency (= the NSA) as an organisation that offesnively violates this principle, and later on continued my mission of fighting it in the screenplay Summerschool at the NSA where the “Publish or Perish” meme is a recurent theme there, and you may enjoy it as well (I also reference Atlas Shrugged there and lots of other pieces of old and new culture). As I note in a different post, this is one thing I now dislike about Atlas Shrugged where trade secrets and possibly a fantasy of artists/creators keeping things to themselves - both appear to have received Rand’s approval, and which I now consider as extremely harmful notions. Anyway, comments are welcome, and I'm quoting the abstract to the screenplay here below for your perusal. Best regards, — Shlomi Fish. Summerschool at the NSA Abstract The Hollywood actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar (of Buffy fame) and Summer Glau (of xkcd notability) conspire to kick the ass of the NSA (= the United States government’s National Security Agency), while using special warfare that is completely non-violent. Two attractive, intelligent, and resourceful women against a large, inefficient, federal government organisation whose estimated annual budget is several times their combined worth. Does the NSA actually stands a chance?
  5. From "On The Definition Of Value"

    What is value? Value is an abstract concept. A value as such is a place within a particular hierarchy. To value something is to judge where within a particular hierarchy a particular thing is. Ayn Rand asserted that a value is that which one acts to gain or keep however she confuses “value” here with a few other concepts. Her confusion is innocent however ironic. I say it is ironic because it was she who discovered precisely how to define a concept. “When in doubt about the meaning or the definition of a concept, the best method of clarification is to look for its referents-i.e., to ask oneself: What fact or facts of reality gave rise to this concept? What distinguishes it from all other concepts? ” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology) So indeed, what facts give rise to the concept “value”? “Value” is used in many contexts and yet always holds the same characteristic in each context. It is used in all numerical contexts. A numerical value is always positive or negative. “1” is a “value”. “-17,000,000,000,000” is also a “value.” “Value” is used also in philosophical contexts. If something is moral, i.e., in one’s rational self interest, it is of positive “value” to one’s life; it is highly valuable. If something is immoral it is of negative value to one’s life; it is destructive. What then distinguishes the primary use of “value” from all other concepts? ... (Clean here To finish reading "On The Definition Of Value")
  6. Dear Dr. Nathaniel Branden, I don’t know if you will read this however I hope you do because it pays tribute to you; because you deserve to know what your essays mean to me. As you know, the philosophical, psychological and political facts you explain in your essays are extremely relevant to the most fundamental aspects of human life. Because some people evade what is relevant to their well-being, the meaning of your essays and the issues you write about- and furthermore all abstract and intellectual matters- are sometimes regarded as trivial, or relevant only to “intellectuals”. That deeply saddens me. As I explain what your essays mean to me it will be more blatant than ever before that “an intellectual” is not simply a “type of person”. To the contrary, “intellectualizing” -and ultimately reasoning- is indicative of psychological health which should not be an ideal that only a few people strive for. To the contrary, it is a universal ideal! Due to the extraordinarily high caliber of your eloquence and thoroughness, writing to you sir, I must confess, is quite an ambitious and challenging task. To be clearer: it isn’t enough to merely offer you my compliments and tell you just a little bit about myself. I am an especially ambitious and optimistic man so no thought or action of mine is cheap and served quickly. My ideals, you see, reach beyond the Milky Way galaxy, and in fact, that makes me feel great pride. For the purpose of being more concrete, and also, to provide you with a clearer idea of the man who is writing you this epistle, I shall tell you a few of my personal ideals. I want to be one of the richest and longest living men in human history. I want to revolutionize the way people think about philosophy. Mentioning to you that those are some of my many ideals not only serves here as a general description of myself and my aims; it also more precisely establishes the necessary context behind my rationale for writing you. For the sake of identifying all I plan to achieve in my life I keep several lists. One of those lists consists of essay topics. Some of the topics I plan on writing about in the near future include: meaning and value, the freedom of speech, guns, Vivaldi and Bach, the movies “Phenomenon” and “Limitless” and my education. Although I am still configuring the order in which I shall write about these topics I realized several weeks ago, in the midst of configuring, that writing you this epistle takes priority. I label this memorandum an “epistle” because a mere “open letter” does not suffice. I had never thought of using the term “epistle” before however it flashed in my mind. I looked up the precise definition of the the term and learned that an “Epistle” is “a formal, literary letter”, and throughout human history “epistles” have often been the medium for profound spiritual- ideological discussion. The term “open letter” however does not imply the same degree of timeless, literary grandeur as the term “epistle”. Cicero the Roman Philosopher, Paul the Apostle, Hazrat Ali the fourth Caliph of Islam- they wrote epistles. (I confess that I have not read them all) Who writes open letters? Anyone with anything to say. I am not merely “someone” writing “someone else” about “whatever”. I, Sean O’Connor, am writing to you, Dr. Nathaniel Branden and I am discussing philosophy. Dr. Branden, you are indeed one of the most brilliant men alive and I revere your brilliance. In fact, you are my hero. I am grateful that I have both the fortune of being a secondary beneficiary of the knowledge you have discovered and the opportunity to read your genius essays. It is fair to ask “what do you mean by genius?” since today many people evade definitions and use their words loosely and sometimes even arbitrarily to such an extent that discourse often gets muddled. (Addressing issue of definition; clarifying definitions; making them more exact- this is one of my top priorities as a philosopher) I know you agree that this is a necessary philosophical priority because you wrote, in regard to the definition of self esteem, quite profoundly that “if the research was to have value one would need to know what the writers meant by ‘self-esteem’ and if all the writers were working with the same concept. Otherwise, it would be a Tower of Babel, and what merit could their conclusions have?” So by genius I mean 1)an individual who clearly presents an ideal, and proves that it is ideal; 2)a word referring to a clearly presented ideal and the proof that verifies that the ideal is indeed ideal. (A good friend of mine helped me reach this definition) You rationally present, and explain self esteem- which is obviously an ideal- by addressing it from its root- which is volition- and upwards. Since one of my favorite things to do is praise those I admire it is of course logical that I issue you my praise, and that I do so in as direct and thorough a manner as possible. I will also submit to you a few ideas of mine for your judgement- ideas I am quite proud of- and ask you some questions. Before I proceed I must address one thing. On October 25th, 2012, I sent you a message on Facebook and although some of what I wrote in that message is legitimate and will be discussed here, it was nonetheless- I regret to say- extremely rushed, subjective and improper- I was in a state of anxiety about our culture; specifically the constantly worsening political situation. It was so rushed in fact, that I accidentally addressed you as “Mr. Branden”, instead of Dr. Branden. On December 13th, 2012, I wrote to you on Facebook again, to apologize and explain the fact that I was indeed very anxious when I wrote to you the first time and that I wanted to carefully outline and draft a much more formal letter to you. I want to emphatically reiterate my apology because those two earlier messages were cheap. If someone is going to petition for your time he or she better make it time well spent! I am pleased to say that I took a fair amount of time to prepare this epistle. It has been outlined, and the original outline was revised twice. The actual writing has also been drafted, revised, and then perfected. That is my essay writing process. My praise begins with your judgement of Ayn Rand. You raised some extremely important points in your essay “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”. The following sentences of yours perfectly summarize an accurate judgement of Ayn Rand’s principles and sufficiently establishes the ideological context from which I am writing to you: “Ayn Rand might turn over in her grave to hear me say it, but she really did have the right to be wrong sometimes. No need for us to become hysterical about it or to behave like petulant eight-year-olds. Growing up means being able to see our parents realistically. Growing up relative to Ayn Rand means being able to see her realistically — to see the greatness and to see the shortcomings. If we see only the greatness and deny the shortcomings or if we see only the shortcomings and deny the greatness, we remain blind. “She has so much that is truly marvelous to offer us. So much wisdom, insight, and inspiration. So much clarification. Let us say ‘thank you’ for that, acknowledge the errors and mistakes when we see them, and proceed on our own path — realizing that, ultimately, each of us has to make the journey alone, anyway.” Indeed Ayn Rand’s literature is “truly marvelous”. She is in fact, my heroine. However, as you said, indeed, she made errors, many of which you have identified and corrected. It is very comforting that you did, because in the midst of my study on Objectivism, I have found to my disappointment that some Objectivists, even certain prominent ones, merely parrot her sayings without the slightest criticism; without an interest in advancing the field of philosophy. One of Ayn Rand’s most ironic errors, which I was unaware of until reading your essay, is her denunciation of hypnosis. It is ironic because she ascribed so much importance to the subconscious, (comparing it to a computer program; describing it as designed by the premise of one’s ideology; emphasizing the importance of relying on one’s subconscious while writing, etc.) and yet she failed to consider that there could be a psychological technique by which the subconscious can be reached, open to suggestion, and alter a person’s behavior or habits. In regard to this, you wrote: “Ayn Rand knew, or believed she knew, that hypnosis was a fraud with no basis in reality; on the other hand, in 1960 Nathaniel Branden was the closest thing on earth to John Galt. And John Galt could hardly be dabbling in irrationalism. So this produced some very curious conversations between us. She was not yet prepared, as she was later, to announce that I was crazy, corrupt, and depraved. At the same time, she firmly believed that hypnosis was irrational nonsense. I persevered in my studies and learned that the human mind was capable of all kinds of processes beyond what I had previously believed. My efforts to reach Ayn on this subject were generally futile and I soon abandoned the attempt…” (“The Benefits and Hazard of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”; http://mol.redbarn.o...AndHazards.html) I cannot understand why she thought hypnosis was “a fraud with no basis in reality”. You explain this by stating “that she became very quick on the draw in response to anything that even had the superficial appearance of irrationalism, by which I mean, of anything that did not fit her particular understanding of ‘the reasonable [in contradistinction to the purely rational].” What aspect of hypnosis did not fit her understanding of ‘the reasonable’? Could it be because she thought of it in terms of a proposed thought process- in replacement of reasoning- as opposed to a psychological technique? I am particularly glad you made this point because not only is hypnosis as conducted by a psychotherapist an important technique; self hypnosis for the rational individual can also be very useful. I cannot yet say just how effective self hypnosis has been for me since I am not good enough at it yet, however the general practice of thinking ourselves into states of deep relaxation, and making rational suggestions to our subconscious, if only for the purpose of reiterating to ourselves self that despite what we have not yet achieved, we can relax and rest assured that we can achieve what we want to achieve, is a very healthy, self enhancing habit. If I had more time I would make a habit of it. Ayn Rand should have practiced self hypnosis! It could have helped her quit smoking. She should not have smoked as smoking is destructive to the her lungs (and other organs) and thus was not in her rational self interest (unless she was enduring excruciating psychological pain which no psychotherapist could help her alleviate and smoking was somehow her only means of relief). Another error of Ayn Rand’s that you noted is that she did not discuss benevolence “adequately” I agree. I wish, in particular, that she had been emphatic about the importance of benevolence between employers and employees, precisely because she was so emphatic (and virtuously so) about the importance of protecting an employer’s right to determine his or her company’s policies and the wages he or she wants to pay his or her employees. At present in our culture this particular issue (employer-employee relations) is very skewed; irrationally approached. The root of this problem is that many employers will not be benevolent to their employees unless the government forces them to (and likewise, employees often are only benevolent to their employers out of desperation; because they want to keep their job, get special treatment, et cetera) Employers tend to believe it is not in their interest, for example, to pay their employees sufficiently. (I suppose Henry Ford’s wisdom on this particular issue is typically regarded as an anachronism) The owner of the grocery store I work for doesn’t pay me enough to live in my own room somewhere and feed myself. (Thankfully my girlfriend and I make quite literally just enough money together) An employer might ask himself: “why is my employees’ sustenance and even his or her savings my problem?” The answer is: because he should want his employees to provide him with the utmost quality of labor. Sure, the employee can work to the best of his or her ability no matter how much the employer pays, because the employee needs the money and because it is virtuous to work to the best of one’s ability, but so long as the employer underpays and thus undervalues the employee he or she is stunting the ultimate value and efficacy of the employee’s labor since anxiety over financial problems stress and preoccupy the employee’s consciousness. I do not mean that an employer should spoil his or her employees with more money than the employee deserves, but an employer should pay his or her laborers at least enough money to afford a small room in somebody else’s house, condominium, townhouse, apartment, et cetera, and three meals a day. Most laborers unfortunately are not paid that much. Had the importance of benevolence been more accurately and widely discussed in our culture there would likely be less poverty, less resentment between employers and employees, there would be a higher quality of labor and production and less governmental coercion- which is what Ayn Rand was striving for in the first place! I also agree with your point that Objectivism encourages dogmatism. You wrote: “Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. In effect, she declared, ‘It’s all or nothing.’ Now this is a rather curious view, if you think about it. What she was saying, translated into simple English, is: Everything I have to say in the field of philosophy is true, absolutely true, and therefore any departure necessarily leads you into error. Don’t try to mix your irrational fantasies with my immutable truths. This insistence turned Ayn Rand’s philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path.” I find this problematic- in fact absolutely frustrating- because although most of Ayn Rand’s assertions are correct she is indeed guilty of holding several contradictions. I say this is absolutely frustrating because I have shared my discoveries (discoveries which I shall unveil at various points throughout this epistle) with several Objectivists ( I make my essays available on my website seanoconnorliterature.com for free at this time, I promote my essays on Youtube, Facebook, I have also posted passages from those essays on an Objectivist forum and I have written to Dr. Peikoff and am awaiting his response. [i confess my emails to him were rushed but my points were clear]) and at present nobody is willing to explicitly acknowledge my discoveries. Some may simply struggle to understand, but others I suspect, are blinded by dogmatism. You are also correct that Ayn Rand’s moralizing is irrational. You wrote “Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, she says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt”. The basis of my agreement is the the fact that there are three types of immorality. Before I elaborate I want to be clear that there is a difference between contempt- deeming someone a threat to others and/or deserving of severe punishment/misfortune- and condemnation- expression of complete disapproval- and I assert that everything must be either condemned- if it is illogical- or praised- if it is logical. The reason I say this is because, in reference to the three types of immorality -self destructive, insulting, and violent- those who are self destructive but not insulting or violent have at least some remnant of respect for humanity; thus while they must absolutely be condemned they are not yet contemptible. Once a person becomes insulting and/or violent and thus renounces whatever tiny remnant of respect he or she used to have for humanity he or she thus explicitly confesses and demonstrates the fact that he or she is contemptible; this is evident because if somebody has no respect for humanity he or she can have no respect for him or herself and is in essence saying “I’m contemptible so you are as well! We are all contemptible!”. Yes, it is true that insulting and violent people can potentially change their ways but until and unless they do- they are contemptible. As for trying to convince them to indeed change their ways, you reveal how this is a worthwhile endeavor for interested (and ambitious) psychologists and that Ayn Rand evaded this fact. “She knew next to nothing about psychology. What neither of us understood, however, was how disastrous an omission that is in a philosopher in general and a moralist in particular. The most devastating single omission in her system and the one that causes most of the trouble for her followers is the absence of any real appreciation of human psychology and, more specifically, of developmental psychology, of how human beings evolve and become what they are and of how they can change.” Another important fact I have learned about morality is that it is crucial, when making our moral judgements, that we do not merely state that one action or another is “moral” or “immoral”; we have to be more specific and emphatically refer to each action as either life enhancing, self destructive, insulting, or violent. No, I would not go so far as to say we should avoid using the terms “moral” and “immoral” however I do assert that, if, for example, I told a drug addict, who is obviously evasive but not insulting (not insulting to anyone but him or herself), “You are hurting your body. You shouldn’t do that. I wish you wouldn’t as it decreases the value of your life and I know that your life is indeed quite valuable because when you’re not smoking yourself into oblivion you make a lot of sense. It is self destructive. You are wasting your intelligence.”- it is much clearer and will be much more effective than telling him, or her “your apathy is immoral! You’re evil! You’re evasive! You’re irrational!”.... (read more at http://seanoconnorli...haniel-branden/)
  7. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I will answer questions on the good in American culture, romance between an atheist and a believer, the limits of humor, and more. This episode of internet radio airs on Sunday morning, 30 December 2012, at 8 PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET in our live studio. If you miss that live broadcast, you can listen to the podcast later. This week's questions are: Question 1: The Good in American Culture: How is American culture better today better than people think? I've heard lots of depressing claims about the abysmal state of American culture lately, particularly since Obama won the election. You've disputed that, arguing that America is better in its fundamentals that many people think. What are some of those overlooked but positive American values? How can they be leveraged for cultural and political change? Question 2: Romance Between an Atheist and a Believer: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter? Question 3: The Limits of Humor: When does humor work against my values? Sometimes I wonder whether my jokes work against what I value. (For example, what's the most selfish sea creature? An Objectifish!) How do I draw the line? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. Again, if you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio podcast from the episode posted in the archive: Radio Archive: 30 December 2012. Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives. Be sure to follow Philosopy in Action via our blog, RSS feeds, and Facebook too. P.S. I've started a new thread because the old thread had "webcast" in the title, but I'm now purely on radio.
  8. Hypothetical Question

    I love comic books and super heroes. I grew up watching all of the animated super heroe cartoons.,I like a lot of the super heroe movies today as an adult. That may seem childish but I can't not think super heroes are cool. One thing I noticed about superheroes is they tend to avoid killing. Even when they are confronted with totally horrible and dangerous people, they don't kill them. Essentially they don't want to be vigilantees, they just want to make citizens arrests. I find this to be extremely interesting So suppose there are three people. One of them is serial killer fleeing from a scene. A super heroe intervenes, he isn't in any danger. He wants to make a citizens arrest of the fleeing murderer. However a third man, a vigilantee wants to kill the murderer. The vigilantee is about to kill the serial killer, and the super heroe can intervene to stop it or allow it to happen. If you were the super heroe what would you do and why?
  9. I have always been attracted by the idea of an objective morality derivable from the facts of reality. Rand's essay in the "Virtue of Selfishness" on deriving Objectivist ethics from reality was always the most interesting part of the whole philosophy to me. However, I've never felt like she got it quite right. Let's start from the axiom that language is a tool that is more or less useful to us depending on how much it helps us express reality accurately. Holding any concept that has zero truth value is worse than useless -- it is extremely psychologically damaging. I think most Objectivists have already bought into this point so I won't elaborate on it. Next, let's examine the nature of reality. In fact, let's start with the word "reality." What does it refer to? Reality is my perceiving (listening to sensory impressions), thinking (processing the results of those impressions), and acting (the result of that processing). All of these are only individual, never collective. However, there is one aspect of reality that is never discussed in any Objectivist writing I've read to date. All these actions (perceiving, thinking, and acting) happen in a singular moment. It is a logical impossibility for me to perceive for 5 seconds. I can perceive right now, and in the next instant I can choose to keep perceiving, and so on until 5 seconds have passed. However, I can't, in my reality, ever do something outside of my reality, and my reality always occupies a specific place in time that is now. This is not to say I can't accomplish long term goals. However, I will achieve and experience any accomplishment only in the instant it actually happens. Again, remembering that language is a tool, and keeping in mind that holding false concepts that do not reflect reality is psychologically destructive, let's reverse engineer ethics. I define proper ethics as useful ethics that reflect reality and do not cause psychological self-destruction. All three elements are inherently tied together because they are not actually distinct concepts. They all refer to the same thing in reality. An ethics that is not one of these elements cannot be any, and an ethics that has one element necessarily has them all. Proper ethics compel right action. If they don't compel right action they are not useful, don't reflect anything in reality, and are psychologically damaging non-concepts. Given this, we can actually determine "true ethics" by focusing on any of those elements, knowing that the others will necessarily follow. Let's start by looking at an example of some very psychologically destructive ethics. Depressed people are unmotivated and self-hating. They universally hold the belief that they are fundamentally worthless. Looking at the thinking and behavior of depressed people is a wonderful way to see what exactly is psychologically harmful and to be avoided. If you ever have a conversation with a depressed person you will hear a strong desire to avoid reality, responsibility, and action. They will often say things about how inadequate they are, and usually these statements will take the form of "I don't X enough. I should X more." They understand that their current behavior is very unlikely to lead to them doing X. However, when we probe deeper we understand that they are avoiding doing X because they have rigged the game against themselves. When you ask "How much more X do you need to do to make yourself feel better?" depressed people invariably answer the same way: "It will never be enough. I'll always feel bad about myself no matter how much X I do because I could always have done more." Let's look at the general form of "I should do X." Ask yourself what this has to do with reality. What does "I should lose weight" mean to a 400 lbs person? "I am too fat now (and therefore inadequate as a human being)." So let's ask ourselves, how does such a universal statement of morality affect a person? I have never seen any effect but inspiring self-hatred and destroying motivation. Such a statement clearly fails the test of not being psychologically self-destructive. It is also untrue and not useful. It is untrue because it is not time-bound in any way. It is useless because it offers absolutely no guide to action. Now a non-depressed person might experience "I should lose weight" in a totally different way. A fully functional person will take that statement and think about it until they convert it into momentary action. A full functional person won't leave it as an absolute that only implies inadequacy, but will turn it into a series of more specific goals leading up to the immediate moment. In the immediate moment, we can compare the value behind "I should lose weight" to all our other momentary values and make a rational decision as to our next course of action. The result of this is that ethics which perfectly reflect reality are perfectly immediate, and ethics which deal with future probabilities are only as useful as the extent to which those probabilities reflect what will become reality. Generally, the further out a moment is in time from where we are now, the less able we are to predict accurately the full range of possibilities of that moment. Ethics with longer time frames tend to be less useful than ones with shorter time frames, and ethics with no time frame (e.g. "I should make more friends") are only useful as a very first step towards formulating increasingly time-constrained statements that attempt to align our values with the range of possible actions in the next moment.
  10. Happiness by a Proper Standard

    http://www.appliedph...er_standard.htm Happiness by a Proper Standard By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. 05/15/2012 Many people seem to vacillate between “doing what is right” and “pursuing their happiness”, which, largely due to their religious upbringing, puts them in a bind either way. To do what is right generally means to do one’s duty or to follow principles not connected to living a joyful life on earth. A joyful life is considered “selfish” and is to be avoided by most moralities, so in order to pursue their happiness, many people eschew morality and just do what they feel like doing, acting on feeling in an effort to satisfy themselves. The trouble is, either stance is not in favor of one’s joyful life – religious morality because it says to avoid happiness on earth, and following one’s feelings because it doesn’t generally end up being good for oneself. Suffering, by most moralities is considered a virtue, and no reasonable man would want to suffer his whole life through; so they cheat every once in a while and do what they feel like doing. But feelings (or one’s emotions) are not tools of cognition (thinking) and are not pre-programmed to do those things which are in-fact good for oneself. Take a drug addiction (say cocaine): It may very well make you feel good while the hit lasts, but at the cost of disconnecting one’s mind from reality. Trouble is, reality is still there, and believing one can jump off a tall roof while high is not going to be good for one’s own life. So, if a morality of duty will make one miserable, and following feelings can be dangerous to one’s health, what’s the alternative to really pursuing a happiness that is both good for you and moral? Ayn Rand came up with the solution by coming up with a standard of morality that is based upon man’s factual nature. One doesn’t follow one’s duty nor one’s feelings, but rather pre-decides, before acting , what is in one’s best interest taking all the relevant facts into account. And since happiness is the result of successful living, acting according to what is good for oneself will lead to a happiness based on man’s nature – it will be good for oneself and one will experience joy due to the accomplishment of living a fact-based successful life. An example of this is to eat nutritious meals; these are good for oneself, so it is moral to eat well, and by eating well one will achieve an overall feeling-good about oneself on the biological level. On a more consciousness level, it is moral to think about the facts relative to one’s own life – those facts influencing one’s life – and to think it through before taking an action with regard to those facts. Thinking is a joyful process; the ability to reason is a natural aspect of being human, and a rational man gains psychological pleasure when he is thinking something through. Consequently, one does things in one’s life – both physically (biologically) and in tuned with one’s consciousness – that lead to a successful state of joy in accomplishing goals that are beneficial to oneself. The heroes of Ayn Rand’s two most popular novels – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged – contain many such examples of her moral characters gaining through rational action those values which sustain their own individual lives – to show what it means to be moral by a rational standard – and enjoying their lives greatly in the process. Howard Roark goes on to gain a great, uncompromising career; and John Galt goes on to gain his freedom to live his own life in a world run-amuck with irrational philosophy that seeks to enslave him. Their struggle was not easy, in either novel, but by following the principles of a fact-based, man-centered morality, they were able to be successful, in the long-run, because they put the facts on their side by using reason as a guide. The same can happen in any man’s life, so long as he is rational and going by the facts according to what those facts mean towards his own life by a rational standard. By acting on those goals which are in fact beneficial to his life – on all levels – his happiness can be achieved in a moral state of living well. As Tara Smith put it in her book on egoism (Viable Values), to be moral by a rational standard means gaining more life to live and to be happy about it – one gains a more joyful life, because one is not fighting either the reality of man’s nature or reality in general, attaining a harmony between both. http://www.amazon.co...ostRecentReview
  11. I posted the following question to http://www.peikoff.com/ Q&A section. I would like to hear from you guys too. so here is my question: -------------------- Stock market and ethics: Market makers hunt for stop loss orders shaking weak holders out from a profitable position. Big institutional investors often artificially mark up or mark down prices just before a big price move in opposite direction. What do you think about the above behavior? If at all I make any profits, I think that's going to come from exploiting the above behavior, will that make me an immoral predator? How would an objectivistic trader behave in such a zero sum game with deception as one of the tactics!? Losers pay the winners in this game, does that justify deception of above type!? ----------------- Thanks for reading this!
  12. What is love?

    I posted this question in Aesthetics also, but I guess this is related to ethics as well. I am just trying to get a clear picture of how ethics affects one's love. I still cannot answer the question of what love is, and I can't really understand Ayn Rand's explanation. Is love rational? If so, what the heck does that mean? I have been thinking about the concept of "love" for some time, and I would like to ask for your ideas on it. I love beauty, and I can fall in love with pretty much anything that reflects it, I think. Beauty attracts me. My question is: How does one fall in love? What is the experience really like? I guess I would like to know what your understanding of what love is. If you have fallen in love before (I think all of us might have at some point), how do you describe it, how do you put it into words? It is such a powerful emotion, that I think it cannot be expressed. I also have hard time relating the concept of love to what Ayn Rand called "sense of life". I have read her books with great enjoyment, but I guess I do not know what the real life application of that would be like. If you have a relevant knowledge or experience to share, or give me any advice, or point me towards a direction so I can better understand "love", I would greatly appreciate it.
  13. Life is not an end in itself. The reason people choose to live is for experiences and pleasure, the central tenants of hedonism. The reasons people choose to live long is either a) fear of death or maximization of pleasure According to hedonism, pleasure (this includes the abstraction "happiness") is the only intrinsic good. This means that are actions are mere means to an end. Not an end in themselves. Not means to some over-rationalistic "survival" end. We survive "because" we want to feel good. Some people, for example, may choose to live 30 years in a succession of intensely happy and pleasurable moments and end it because they want to and feel they have nothing else to live for. With no "long term" purposes intended. Others (with the help of technology) may choose to live 1000 years. Its always their choice and its not "moral" choice or the domain of judgement. An ethics of hedonism is perfectly rational and perfectly justifiable. Our lives are short and we only live once. We should dedicate as much of our lives as possible in the (shameless) pursuit of pleasure and great experiences (however we define it) without of course, harming others in any way in the process. In fact, we should include and share others in our pursuits whenever possible as this increases our happiness and pleasure. Living life on some sort of non-scientific, personal intellectual quest, (such as "struggling" to "integrate" Objectivism and is contents) , is ultimately pointless, (and probably dying as some sort of lonely martyr) as you'll die anyway and with nothing to show for it "long-term". It's a vain, pointless (and painful) process. Its painful because it causes both undue mental strain and social isolation. Hedonism is the only truly "self-evident" philosophy. Practically every sane person practices it in some capacity. However variants of Hedonism (do what you want at the cost of others) can take things in the wrong direction and cause conflicts and suffering. NOTE: For those who would like to know, and for future reference, my philosophical system is organized as follows: Metaphysics/Epistemology: Empiricism Ethics: Hedonism (self), Utilitarianism (others) Politics: Libertarianism (non agression) Aesthetics: Romanticism (shameless worship of human values) Discuss!
  14. Individual: End in His/Herself

    Hey all, I'm currently doing research for an undergraduate philosophy paper. The paper is for an independent study course on Friedrich Hayek's Liberalism (he is considered to be a classical liberal philosopher). My paper centers on Hayek's argument for liberty as a value--an argument which has a dual-point on epistemological and practical grounds. What I want to do is develop a meta-ethical justification for his treatment of individuals as ends in themselves i.e. I want to argue that, because individuals are metaphysically autonomous/ends in themselves, they OUGHT to be ends in themselves. This sort of characterization is an attempt to undo Hume's is-ought dichotomy as well as finding a meta-ethical justification for liberty. I know a lot about Rand's treatment of the subject, but I was hoping to get some outside-perspectives to help me focus on the issue. It would also be helpful for people with particular experience with Aristotle's philosophy to lend their thoughts on this subject. I was looking into Aristotle's Categories wherein I found some glimpses of a metaphysical/ethical bridge...his treatment of primary substances as being neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject is in some ways a metaphysical statement...since 'an individual' would be a subject and a primary substance, I could argue that that is a metaphysical grounding for the ethical claim that individuals are ends in themselves. Thoughts? -CMH
  15. Philosophy in Action: Sunday Webcast

    The Rationally Selfish Webcast has a new name and new web site: Philosophy in Action! (The web site won't be available until the morning of the webcast.) Here's this week's announcement. I hope to see you on Sunday morning! — DMH In my live "Philosophy in Action" Webcast on Sunday morning, I'll answer questions on the morality of working for a minister, giving away unhealthy food, voting for horrible politicians, celebrating holidays, and more. Please join us for this hour of lively discussion, where we'll apply rational principles to the challenges of living virtuous, happy, and free lives! What: Live Philosophy in Action Webcast Who: Diana Hsieh (Ph.D, Philosophy) and Greg Perkins When: Sunday, 6 November 2011 at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET Where: www.PhilosophyInAction.com Here are this week's questions: Question 1: The Morality of Working for a Minister: Is working for a minister giving religion moral sanction? As an atheist, I once worked for an ordained minster who was the owner of a gallery. I became his manager when I made it clear that I was an atheist, but that I was a good framing manager. I don't think I gave him a moral sanction for his irrationality by working for him under those terms. What do you think? Question 2: Giving Away Unhealthy Food: Is it immoral to give away food that you regard as unhealthy? Assuming that one believes (as I do) that candy and sweets are harmful to health (especially in quantity), is it immoral to participate in trick-or-treat by giving children candy when they come to your door? Or, is it immoral to "dispose" of an unwanted gift of, say, a rich chocolate cake by leaving it by the coffee machine at work to be quickly scarfed up by one's co-workers (as an alternative to simply discarding it)? Is the morality of these two cases different because in one case the recipients are children while in the other case they are adults? Question 3: Voting for Horrible Politicians: All the candidates are nearly perfectly horrid, just in different ways. Why should I even bother to vote? Question 4: Celebrating Holidays: What is the value of celebrating holidays? How do you think holidays should or should not be celebrated? Also, what is your favorite holiday and how do you like to celebrate it? After that, we'll do a round of totally impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions."
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