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Is objectivism consequentialist?

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4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

When you say "invariably"  it is like saying "if you are immortal, you would live forever".

Nope.  I was merely making a logical point --- that a goal and the consequences that flow from achieving the goal are two different things.
 

4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

But nevertheless, it is interesting, this sounds like an argument for Virtue Ethics. As in ... practice the virtue of "continuing to live".

Objectivism's ethics  is both a consequentialist and a virtue ethics. It is consequentialist in that one is to act to continue one's life.  It is a virtue ethics in that acting in accordance with certain principles is the way to do so.  (But, as I said earlier, I really don't have much use for such academic terms.  What does it matter -- outside of academic circles -- where the ethics falls in the academic classification of ethics?)

5 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Don't worry about the results but hopefully, you will live forever.

The living forever becomes more of a direction, rather than a goal.

This may be reasonable for millenials.  But for me, the odds are very much against life extension techniques advancing enough that I can hope to live indefinitely.  So, I make my plans with the assumption that I have about even odds of being around in 20 years.

 

For me, simply because of my age, it is likely a metaphysical fact that my life has a point beyond which it will not extend.  An ethics based around the idea of my living indefinitely would, if that is a metaphysical fact, be based on a falsehood, and would be necessarily invalid.

In any case, the Objectivist ethics isn't concerned with dying, it's concerned with living.  Death is merely a fact one must deal with by, for example, not picking goals that one cannot accomplish within one's life.

 

(I don't even recall any official Objectivist pronouncements about death.  Anyone have references?)

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11 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You constantly assume a zero sum game between staying alive and the values that life makes possible.  There is no ONE bliss. 

...

Whatever vice you believe you have to cling to at the cost of just one second of your life, I say give it up, live fully, flourish, choose from among all the multitudinous life transfusing values and live more many more seconds!

If I might take a crack at it...

 

Suppose some perfectly-healthy young person had been offered a chance to undergo a surgical procedure in which they'd extricate his brain from his body and plug it into an immortal, indestructible, robotic body. Provided a steady supply of electricity his problem of survival would be solved from then on (and, as the first  cyborg in history, he'd be a celebrity so sought-after that he'd never have to buy his own electricity again). However, this robot body would have no taste buds or smell receptors, a voicebox which could only speak in that intolerable B-sci-fi-movie monotone, no genitals and a brain-case that'd necessitate the removal of his "aesthetic enjoyment" cortex (etc, etc, you can see where this is going). He'd be giving up a significant chunk of his own capacity for happiness (along with his genitals). However, his survival would be secured unto the heat-death of the universe, so what joy would he really require? 

 

Would you advise him to do it?

 

P.S:

I'll admit it's just a tiny bit contrived. Lobotomy also comes to mind, though, if you'd prefer...

 

P.P.S:

I'm primarily trying to probe out actual, functional differences between your point of view and the one I share with DA. The distinction (as it was just outlined) is so fine that I'm not sure it's not just semantic.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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13 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

If I might take a crack at it...

 

Suppose some perfectly-healthy young person had been offered a chance to undergo a surgical procedure in which they'd extricate his brain from his body and plug it into an immortal, indestructible, robotic body. Provided a steady supply of electricity his problem of survival would be solved from then on (and, as the first  cyborg in history, he'd be a celebrity so sought-after that he'd never have to buy his own electricity again). However, this robot body would have no taste buds or smell receptors, a voicebox which could only speak in that intolerable B-sci-fi-movie monotone, no genitals and a brain-case that'd necessitate the removal of his "aesthetic enjoyment" cortex (etc, etc, you can see where this is going). He'd be giving up a significant chunk of his own capacity for happiness (along with his genitals). However, his survival would be secured unto the heat-death of the universe, so what joy would he really require? 

 

Would you advise him to do it?

 

P.S:

I'll admit it's just a tiny bit contrived. Lobotomy also comes to mind, though, if you'd prefer...

 

P.P.S:

I'm primarily trying to probe out actual, functional differences between your point of view and the one I share with DA. The distinction (as it was just outlined) is so fine that I'm not sure it's not just semantic.

I would advise that such a procedure is tantamount to the suicide of a man and the birth of a half creature, a parody and a crippled incomplete version of what a man actually is.

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4 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I would advise that such a procedure is tantamount to the suicide of a man and the birth of a half creature, a parody and a crippled incomplete version of what a man actually is.

As would I. Actually, I'd tell him that whatever "doctor" saw a life without things like art or sex as even remotely acceptable isn't qualified to treat a stubbed toe, that he shouldn't give someone like that the time of day - and that whoever would accept the offer, deserves to. So it's nice to see that we're more-or-less on the same page.

 

I am a bit puzzled, though. The reason I wouldn't recommend such a thing is because I see the value of an individual's actions as essentially being the quantity of joy they add to or detract from the integrated sum (mathematically "integrated" B)) of all of the joy experienced throughout their lifespan; maximizing the area of a hypothetical joy-over-years-lived graph, if you will.

While we can agree that both "survival" and "happiness" are essential values, as I understand it (and I am filling in a few blanks as I go along so please forgive me if I err) you don't see any moral import in happiness, as such, except in its effects on survival. But the joy or suffering of our hypothetical robot could only affect its survival through its choice to live.

 

It might help if you could outline the reasoning behind your conclusions about "a half-creature and a parody".

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1 hour ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

It might help if you could outline the reasoning behind your conclusions about "a half-creature and a parody".

Man is man.  A man is not a brain. Men have brains.   A man is an integrated natural whole. 

What you propose, literally, is disintegration, to the point of a brain (not a man) in a glorified vat, moreover that brain has been crippled directly... there is no profound or complex reasoning needed.  The thing is not a ghost or a corpse but some Frankenstein of a remnant of a man with a half brain.  Please...

What you really want to get at are the voluntary choices integrated men can make.  Let's stick with that.

1 hour ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

While we can agree that both "survival" and "happiness" are essential values, as I understand it (and I am filling in a few blanks as I go along so please forgive me if I err) you don't see any moral import in happiness, as such, except in its effects on survival. But the joy or suffering of our hypothetical robot could only affect its survival through its choice to live.

I'm not sure what your point is here.  Suppose I choose as a guide to action "existing" as a consequence of my ultimate and fundamental choice to live, primarily because I want to have objective guidance (limits, safety margins) surrounding and protecting my subjective choices.  So things like happiness and pleasure, which I choose as a free volitional consciousness, do not have an import in ethics except when they effect survival (and they invariably and often do) and at the same time even when they do not (I dont think its possible but suppose it is) I choose them ANYWAY, within the limits of my considerations (as a fallible non-omniscient volitional consciousness) about my goal of staying in existence.  What's the problem?

Do you get .. I mean really get my related point about morality serving a man and not the converse?  That there is SO much more to life than morality, that morality since it is only there to help a man to stay alive, cannot TELL a man WHY to live or that he SHOULD live (by what self-referential non-standard would that be .. so silly) or what he should live FOR?  These are the responsibility of each man to CHOOSE for himself... no one and nothing ... and no morality can prescribe it for him.  The simple absolute fact of man is that he is volitional, his WILL is absolutely free and subjective.  Only ONCE he chooses to live, is there an objective morality for him to follow (the constraints of reality and the nature of man.. yada yada yada)  and only because he CHOOSES to live... he SETS the terms and follows reality as necessary, but nothing chooses for him.

You ask more of Morality than warranted, assume it has more responsibility or serves to do more than it does or can, and consequently you ask less of a Man than you "should" and absolve him of that very responsibility.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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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?

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23 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I'm not sure what your point is here.  Suppose I choose as a guide to action "existing" as a consequence of my ultimate and fundamental choice to live, primarily because I want to have objective guidance (limits, safety margins) surrounding and protecting my subjective choices.  So things like happiness and pleasure, which I choose as a free volitional consciousness, do not have an import in ethics except when they effect survival (and they invariably and often do) and at the same time even when they do not (I dont think its possible but suppose it is) I choose them ANYWAY, within the limits of my considerations (as a fallible non-omniscient volitional consciousness) about my goal of staying in existence.  What's the problem?

It isn't a "problem" as we usually speak of them; it wouldn't imply any contradictions that I know of. It might different from my own grasp of the philosophy, but maybe not; maybe my grasp is wrong, anyway (I hear that honest errors are always possible, even though I don't have any firsthand information on that ;)).

 

23 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Man is man.  A man is not a brain. Men have brains.   A man is an integrated natural whole. 

...

What you really want to get at are the voluntary choices integrated men can make.  Let's stick with that.

No; I'd like to know your definition of "life as man qua man".

 

Robert Stadler was an explicit survivalist. When Dagny asked him to tell the truth about Rearden Metal, in the name of science, he responded just like in the song by Nine Inch Nails: 

"All bruised and broken, bleeding, she asked to take my hand

I turned; just keep on walking; and you'd do the same thing in that circumstance (I'm sure you'll understand)"

He even explained that it was specifically for the sake of his own material welfare (his highest value).

 

I know that you wouldn't call that moral any more than you'd call it immoral for John Galt to commit suicide, in the event of Dagny's torture. You'll appeal to the life of "man qua man", exactly like you just did, to justify how "survival as the ultimate value" could fail to lead to the brute survivalism that song describes.

Now, I am highly relieved that you aren't actually advocating survivalism, but if you're putting qualifications on what forms of survival are and are not acceptable then I'd like to know what they're based on. 

 

Because if "life as man qua man" means something like flourishing (as I suspect it is) then you're essentially advocating eudaimonism from another point of view, but one which I fear would eventually harm to its practitioners in the same way that anti-concepts do.

 

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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57 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

It isn't a "problem" as we usually speak of them; it wouldn't imply any contradictions that I know of. It might different from my own grasp of the philosophy, but maybe not; maybe my grasp is wrong, anyway (I hear that honest errors are always possible, even though I don't have any firsthand information on that ;)).

 

No; I'd like to know your definition of "life as man qua man".

 

Robert Stadler was an explicit survivalist. When Dagny asked him to tell the truth about Rearden Metal, in the name of science, he responded just like in the song by Nine Inch Nails: 

"All bruised and broken, bleeding, she asked to take my hand

I turned; just keep on walking; and you'd do the same thing in that circumstance (I'm sure you'll understand)"

He even explained that it was specifically for the sake of his own material welfare (his highest value).

 

I know that you wouldn't call that moral any more than you'd call it immoral for John Galt to commit suicide, in the event of Dagny's torture. You'll appeal to the life of "man qua man", exactly like you just did, to justify how "survival as the ultimate value" could fail to lead to the brute survivalism that song describes.

Now, I am highly relieved that you aren't actually advocating survivalism, but if you're putting qualifications on what forms of survival are and are not acceptable then I'd like to know what they're based on. 

 

Because if "life as man qua man" means something like flourishing (as I suspect it is) then you're essentially advocating eudaimonism from another point of view, but one which I fear would eventually harm to its practitioners in the same way that anti-concepts do.

 

You completely miss my point.  Honestly there is nothing further I can say.

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On 10/6/2017 at 6:10 PM, Eiuol said:

Maybe you'll notice it, maybe you won't - so you need epistemology to say how to discover it. Pleasure and pain are only relevant to the extent they tell you something about the world and a good starting point to learn what is good or bad. Ultimately, your nature dictates good or bad. 

Okay so regarding DonAthos's example, are you saying that the Potential Astronaut has to know his nature first to make an ethical choice? Or that depending on his being good or bad (his nature) he will choose something?

22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

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?

 
 
 

Don, are you also Stipulating that this person's passion is so strong that it is NOT malleable? Such an integrity of thoughts that he will not change his mind when it gets really hard?

Would that mean that the highest ethical question/task be to "know thyself"? (know thy nature, who you really are)

Edited by Easy Truth

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You completely miss my point.  Honestly there is nothing further I can say.

I don't mean to be snide but my post-before-last was meant to inquire about the anti-immortal-robot reasoning which you haven't provided, I spent all of my mentally-idle time today figuring out how to say that you missed that point (and explaining why it matters and concretizing it and making it brief and making it noncombative) and you seriously won't even indicate what the Hell I've apparently missed.

 

If it was the part about there being so much more to life than morality (which is just a necessary side-issue), I didn't miss that. 

I think it leaves you absolutely no argument against the creation of "a parody and a crippled incomplete version of what a man actually is". I mean, since the guy's survival is assured, what could morality possibly have to say about a bit of scientific parody? Joy, pride, achievement, exaltation; you know full well that none of them are necessary for survival, so we couldn't say anything more about his surgery than we could about his favorite flavor of ice cream.

I didn't miss that. As I was drafting my post I found I had nothing nice to say about it, so I didn't.

 

But if there's nothing else to say about the survival-in-name-only approach, well, it's not like either way is going to kill you.

 

 

Anyway. I probably won't be here this week (just a matter of my work schedule) but I'll be back next weekend, if anyone finds anything else to say.

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(I'm still formulating my general argument on this topic, and will post when I have something coherent to add to what I said before.)

On Sunday October 08, 2017 at 1:30 AM, DonAthos said:

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.

 This is not materially different from the ice cream discussion.  In both cases, the essential question is whether a benefit now can ever justify the shortening of one's life and, if so, how does one decide when.

My view on this, in abstract, is that "benefit now" and "benefit later" are  incommensurable and therefore it is logically impossible to balance one against the other.  This makes it necessary to resolve issues such as you describe by some means other than the cost/benefit analysis that survivalism would seem to require.

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6 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

I mean, since the guy's survival is assured

I disagree.  It's a half brain in a vat it is not a man.  This is a disagreement of plain fact. He ceases to exist as a man when he kills himself and a cyborg is born.  To the extent the cyborg has a nature which is different from a man's it may or may not need similar values.  If it does not face the alternative of life or death like Rand's immortal robot it has no need of values not any morality.  If it can in fact die it nonetheless would have cyborg based values not those of man, it would not need a morality based on man's nature, in order to survive the cyborg would need to use a morality based on its nature, life qua cyborg.

6 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Joy, pride, achievement, exaltation; you know full well that none of them are necessary for survival,

I disagree... and this is an example, I have been very clear on this point.  All of these are positive values which support survival.  They are necessary to guarantee the best likelihood of survival long range.

 

We just disagree fundamentally.  You worry a morality about staying alive will prevent a person from living and enjoying pleasures, I advocate a morality which keeps a person alive so that they can pursue life and all it's pleasures.  You worry a morality only providing guidance about staying alive somehow entails a rejection of anything more than a brutish unpleasant bare survival, I advocate an objective morality whose rules, limitation, guidance, and governance encourages and enables a man to stay alive but does not interfere with his freedom otherwise to pursue his happiness and his own subjective bliss.

We simply disagree.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 2017-10-08 at 1:30 AM, DonAthos said:

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.

Why stop there.  Thousands of people signed up for a one way trip to Mars.  Suppose it were such a "one way trip" and there was no coming back would you see it as any different?

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2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

(I'm still formulating my general argument on this topic, and will post when I have something coherent to add to what I said before.)

You're waiting till you have something coherent to say? LOL, you really are new around here, aren't you? ;)

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

 This is not materially different from the ice cream discussion.

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.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

In both cases, the essential question is whether a benefit now can ever justify the shortening of one's life and, if so, how does one decide when.

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?

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

My view on this, in abstract, is that "benefit now" and "benefit later" are  incommensurable and therefore it is logically impossible to balance one against the other.  This makes it necessary to resolve issues such as you describe by some means other than the cost/benefit analysis that survivalism would seem to require.

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.

On 10/6/2017 at 11:51 AM, Invictus2017 said:

 I will say that this is where Rand's "man qua man" enters the picture.

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.

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On 2017-10-08 at 1:30 AM, DonAthos said:

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?

DA

Suppose there was a man who always enjoyed inflicting pain.  He enjoyed burning grasshoppers with his magnifying glass and tortuing tadpoles as a child.  Through adolescence he grew to love horror as a genre and reveled in the fear and suffering of the victims of those stories ... engaging is fantasies of being the perpetrator himself.  Finally he decides to act on his desires knowing that eventually he'll get caught he is obsessed with the thrill of sadism.  His first risks most of his values by indulging in snuff film consumption ... finds and rewatches film depicting actual violence and killing of women.  The final risk is for his ultimate pleasure, to lure a woman into his submarine and slowly engage in the terrifying and killing of her.  He knows he has no chance of getting away with it forever but to him this is his ultimate pleasure he will not give up.  He eventually does so by luring a journalist and although he tries to get away with it he fails and is caught.  He thinks that it's worth it even if he is executed for it.

Is this immoral according to an objective standard which mixes staying alive but trumped by pleasure?  

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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49 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

You're waiting till you have something coherent to say? LOL, you really are new around here, aren't you? ;)

*snicker*

51 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

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 had noticed some dissing your ice cream example as unimportant.  But even on a survivalist theory, pleasures can enhance one's ability to function and hence be ethical.

BTW, I've decided to abjure hypotheticals that are based on things that are not true, such as human omniscience.  So, no more of this "I know for a certainty that...."  Such hypotheticals assume that which is not real, so any conclusions drawn from them say nothing about reality.  Even in your example, not going to space could have the psychological effect of destroying the guy's will to live and thereby shortening his life.  Of course, you can contrive an example where the consequences of both alternatives are easily determinable.  But you'd have to contrive it; life is almost never so clearly defined.

1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

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.

True.  My point was, basically, that both examples call into question the basic premise of survivalism, that survival is the only thing that really matters.

1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

But I don't believe it is immoral or self-harm. Do you?

Life/death is the connection between is and ought, and it is essential to what constitutes ethics, but it is not the whole of ethics (all else being commentary).  In my view, both quantity and quality of live are ethically relevant.  Exactly how is the issue I want to nail down.

1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

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.

I don't think it does, either.  Life "faces" existence/nonexistence and so human beings need ethics.  But it is "life", not "survival", that is the ultimate end.  They aren't the same.

(More to come.)c

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(My browser confused itself, so I sent my last message before it went totally haywire.  Is there a way to save draft messages?)

2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

This is as much as saying that it is not "existence," as such, that we value -- but a particular kind of existence.

How could it be otherwise?  No organism lives an abstract "life"; it lives its particular life, which has a particular nature.  So, to hold life as the standard of value is necessarily to have one's particular life as the standard of value.
 

2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

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.

Rand's answer is different.  She observes that man is the creature that survives by means of his rational faculty, and concludes that it is life as a rational animal that is his proper goal. Strictly speaking, that is one's penultimate goal.  The ultimate goal is simply life, but since one is a human being, that entails the goal of living as a rational being.

 

In her view, emotions are secondary  -- but they are not unimportant therefore.  Emotions motivate and reward, and a person whose emotions did not motivate and reward rational action would be a cripple.  Thus, in order to be rational and to act for one's life, it is necessary to act for one's happiness.

(I agree with this, BTW.)

2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

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?

Way more than the majority.  Aside from things like walking in front of a bus or not eating, it is essentially impossible to determine the survival consequences of an action.  No doubt a survivalist would point to probabilities, but that would evidence only a complete failure to understand probability.  Survivalism can counsel avoiding death, but it provides no guide to living.

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On 2017-10-08 at 1:30 AM, DonAthos said:

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?

Following up my last two posts while I await response... I wonder whether you believe one can or should judge pleasures as good or bad and on what basis, and is that basis actually objective or not?

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7 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Why stop there.  Thousands of people signed up for a one way trip to Mars.  Suppose it were such a "one way trip" and there was no coming back would you see it as any different?

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.

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Suppose there was a man who always enjoyed inflicting pain.  He enjoyed burning grasshoppers with his magnifying glass and tortuing tadpoles as a child.  Through adolescence he grew to love horror as a genre and reveled in the fear and suffering of the victims of those stories ... engaging is fantasies of being the perpetrator himself.  Finally he decides to act on his desires knowing that eventually he'll get caught he is obsessed with the thrill of sadism.  His first risks most of his values by indulging in snuff film consumption ... finds and rewatches film depicting actual violence and killing of women.  The final risk is for his ultimate pleasure, to lure a woman into his submarine and slowly engage in the terrifying and killing of her.  He knows he has no chance of getting away with it forever but to him this is his ultimate pleasure he will not give up.  He eventually does so by luring a journalist and although he tries to get away with it he fails and is caught.  He thinks that it's worth it even if he is executed for it.

Is this immoral according to an objective standard which mixes staying alive but trumped by pleasure?  

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:

Quote

But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man.

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?

50 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Following up my last two posts while I await response... I wonder whether you believe one can or should judge pleasures as good or bad and on what basis, and is that basis actually objective or 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...

Edited by DonAthos

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DA

imho your response shown how untenable a non objective standard is.  Any ultimate standard which includes any degree of subjectivity becomes unworkable to that degree.  How is one ever to judge?  Is my pleasure really pleasure or veiled pain, am I happy or do I just think I'm happy but really I'm miserable... if have no idea whether these are real how can they form any basis for a guide to action?

Man is fallible but at least with a truly objective standard uncontested in the face of facts he can use rationality and have a fighting chance to use that standard.

1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

What say you? "Is this immoral according to an objective standard?" Why or why not?

By definition it is according to his morality immoral.  What in fact he has done, is abandon his chosen morality (which in reality he can do as a volition consciousness).  So in a sense it was against his morality he simply has given up on his choice to live and instead chosen pleasure ( or what he thinks is pleasure)

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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20 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I had noticed some dissing your ice cream example as unimportant.  But even on a survivalist theory, pleasures can enhance one's ability to function and hence be ethical.

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.

20 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

BTW, I've decided to abjure hypotheticals that are based on things that are not true, such as human omniscience.  So, no more of this "I know for a certainty that...."  Such hypotheticals assume that which is not real, so any conclusions drawn from them say nothing about reality.

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...

20 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Even in your example, not going to space could have the psychological effect of destroying the guy's will to live and thereby shortening his life.  Of course, you can contrive an example where the consequences of both alternatives are easily determinable. But you'd have to contrive it; life is almost never so clearly defined.

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.

20 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

(More to come.)c

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.

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19 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

II find it utterly foreign to my experience that happiness itself should be accounted a means to an end.

It's foreign to pretty much everyone's experience  However, it is important to distinguish between the psychological and the philosophical.  As a matter of day-to-day life, one does not ordinarily ask "what do I have to do in order to live" and conclude that one should seek happiness in order to live.  If your daily life has you asking what you need to do in order to live, you've got bigger problems than finding happiness!  However, if that's not your position, you treat happiness as an end-in-itself.

 

What Objectivism basically says is that, from a philosophical standpoint, treating happiness as an end-in-itself is an error.  BUT, with a little care, it is a perfectly valid way to live one's life.  The caveat is that one must make an effort to ensure that what constitutes happiness for you really does further your life as a human being. But this does not have to be a part of your daily life.  You give it thought at important moments or when something suggests to you that following your happiness might cause you grief, but most of the time you seek happiness as if it was an end in itself.

37 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

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.

You'll find the answers to all your questions on merriam-webster.com, wherein you will discover that it is an actual expression meaning just what you think it does.  (They're my favorite dictionary people because they're descriptivists and because I worked with them at one time, so I know that they know what they're doing.)

 

Anyway, I prefer the dribs and drabs approach when a post addresses more than one point.  When I respond, I don't have to invest as large a block of time on each piece as I would in answering one big message on multiple topics.  Also, my system isn't very reliable, so the longer the post, the better the chance of something going gnorw.

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

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?

Certainly.  I merely meant to exclude hypotheticals involving literal impossibilities or unknowables  Absolute certainty about the life shortening effects of eating ice cream would be one such hypothetical.  OTOH, I might entertain a hypothetical about life on other planets; there is evidence that life does evolve on planets, after all. The point, as I said earlier, is that such hypotheticals cannot lead to conclusions about reality.
 

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On 10/9/2017 at 10:57 AM, Invictus2017 said:

In my view, both quantity and quality of live are ethically relevant.

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?

On 10/9/2017 at 11:53 AM, Invictus2017 said:

(My browser confused itself, so I sent my last message before it went totally haywire.  Is there a way to save draft messages?)

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.

Edited by DonAthos

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