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Ayn Rand's Derivation of Ought from Is

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I think it's possible.  Each applies his intelligence and creativity to the solution of a challenging problem, and gains a reward if successful.

Essentially, you are making the same (unsupported) claim as Friedman, namely that happiness may be achieved by any means. You must provide some evidence of this to move it into the realm of possibility.

That's not exactly what he said.  He said that it is possible to gain values and to support one's life by dishonest means.  He said nothing about self-esteem or happiness--nor, for that matter, did Rand in the passage he quoted.
It is implicit in his postion. He is asserting that there is no reason to consider honesty. Observe the title of his fourth objection: "The shift from surviving by reason to Objectivist ethics:"

Implicit in objecting to this shift is the notion that honesty has no affect on one's happiness. Remember, the purpose of ethics is not mere survival at any cost or under any conditions. We know Freidman agrees with this because of what he said under objection three: "My life is the purpose of my morality, and the reason that I must choose a certain sort of morality is that that sort of morality is the best way of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying my life."

Thus, Friedman's position is indeed that honesty is not relevant to "preserving, fulfilling and enjoying" one's life. According to him, one may be just as preserved, fufilled and joyous being a con man as in any other profession.

For this to be the case, one must be able to exist as a parasite with no consequences for one's self-esteem. One must be able to elevate the opinions of others above reality -- to count on their blindness or stupidity or ignorance in falling for the con -- all without consequences to one's own view of one's self.

No argument has been advanced to support such a possibility.

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Implicit in objecting to this shift is the notion that honesty has no affect on one's happiness.  Remember, the purpose of ethics is not mere survival at any cost or under any conditions.  We know Freidman agrees with this because of what he said under objection three:  "My life is the purpose of my morality, and the reason that I must choose a certain sort of morality is that that sort of morality is the best way of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying my life." 

Thus, Friedman's position is indeed that honesty is not relevant to "preserving, fulfilling and enjoying" one's life.  According to him, one may be just as preserved,  fufilled and joyous being a con man as in any other profession. 

For this to be the case, one must be able to exist as a parasite with no consequences for one's self-esteem.  One must be able to elevate the opinions of others above reality -- to count on their blindness or stupidity or ignorance in falling for the con -- all without consequences to one's own view of one's self. 

FIrst of all, the con man doesn't "elevate the opinions of others above reality"--at least, my hypothetical intelligent, successful con man doesn't. Rather, he treats their blindness, stupidity and ignorance--and dishonesty (the best cons play on their victims' dishonesty; "you can't cheat an honest man")--as the facts of reality they are, and puts them to use, even as Roark uses the properties of wood and stone. You, and Rand, assert that this must injure his self-esteem. Can you support this assertion?

Second, even if the con man's dishonesty does injure his self-esteem, that does not invalidate Friedman's statement. Self-esteem is not an all-or-nothing proposition, nor is it the only possible value. The satisfaction of designing and executing a clever ruse should move his self-esteem back in the right direction (by more than the dishonesty diminished it? I don't know, and neither do you), and of course his financial gains are a value. On balance, it may not be provable that the con man has gained a value, but it's certainly not obvious that he hasn't.

Basically, what Rand said is that values gained by dishonest means are worthless ("unreal" is the word she used). Basically, what Friedman said is that this is an assertion which is far from obvious on its face, and he provided a simple example of why it appears wrong. If her statement is to be accepted as the basis for an entire system of ethics, it needs to be supported by more than "You must provide some evidence of this to move it into the realm of possibility."

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Rex, here are some things Objectivism says about self-esteem, con men and dishonesty.

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Self-esteem is reliance on one’s power to think. It cannot be replaced by one’s power to deceive. The self-confidence of a scientist and the self-confidence of a con man are not interchangeable states, and do not come from the same psychological universe. The success of a man who deals with reality augments his self-confidence. The success of a con man augments his panic.

The intellectual con man has only one defense against panic: the momentary relief he finds by succeeding at further and further frauds.

Ayn Rand, “The Age of Envy”.

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Why, [they ask], should a man not execute a well-planed swindle—sell stock in a false gold mine, say—then, ill-gotten cash in hand, take off for parts unknown, free to enjoy all the advantages of money without the need to work? Well, why not?

Let us begin by concretizing the dishonesty this behavior would involve. The con man in our example has to lie about the location of the mine (to avoid detection, he places, let us suppose, in a distant country). He has to lie about such things as the number of workers, the scale of operations, the quality of the mine’s output. His ‘proof’ that the mine been properly registered, and the ore properly assayed is a lie (does he fabricate documents from real agencies, or fabricate the agencies?). So is his ‘proof’ that the foreign government involved is favorable to the enterprise. His crowning lie, of course, pertains to the killing that his investors can expect to make, judging by the current market conditions and the best economic forecasts.

There is more. If asked, he would likely have to lie about the identity of his partners or his other investors; lie about his background and qualifications (does he use confederates to vouch for him and lie to them also, being afraid fully to trust them?); lie to his banker when he deposits the victims’ huge checks; lie to his friends before he disappears, so that he cannot be traced—and then having started his new life, lie to any new acquaintances about where he used to live, what he used to do, how he got his money (or lie to conceal the fact that he has money).

Each of the con man’s lies clashes with one or more facts and, therefore, creates a risk of his detection and exposure by anyone with access to the facts. Anyone who knows something—about mining, the distribution of gold ore, or the science of geology, or the country claimed as the site, or the policies of its government, or the agencies of assay, or economic forecasting; or about con men in general, or about this one in particular, about his associates, haunts, accent, spending habits, or MO—becomes a threat, to be dealt with by further lies; lies designed to cash in on one person’s special ignorance, contradictory lies to stay clear of another person’s special knowledge. In the end, if we suppose that the loot runs out and the liar has not been caught, the very premises that led him to carry out the scheme—successfully as he thinks—will most likely prompt him to embark on another one, involving a new pack of lies.

The above are details, all of which may be inapplicable in a particular case. Theoretical discussion cannot tell us which falsehoods an individual will spread, how many, how skillfully he will do it, or how rapidly the lies will escalate. Philosophy can only tell us this much: reality is a unity; to depart from it at a single point, therefore, is to depart from it in principle and thus to play with a lighted fuse. The bomb may not go off. The liar may blank out the power of his nemesis: that which is, and may get away with any scheme; he may win the battle. But if such are the battles he is fighting, he has to lose the war

The first thing he loses in the process of turning irrational is his independence. The man who wages war against reality is by definition defying all the rules of proper epistemology. Like the man who evades in private, without social purpose, he thus subverts at the root the cognitive power of his consciousness. The con man, however, makes no pretense of counting on cognition in order to prosper; he counts on his ability to manipulate others. PEOPLE become to him more real than the fragments of reality he still recognizes. People become his means of survival, but in a form worse that that of the typical second-hander.

The liar is a parasite not on people as such, but on people who are deludable—people qua ignorant, blind, gullible. What such people believe and expect—what they expect falsely, thanks to him—this is the power he must deal with and pander to. The liar he has turned others into his puppets, but his course makes him their pawn. It makes him a dependent of the lowest kind: a dependent not merely on the consciousness of other, which is bad enough, but on their unconsciousness.

Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism. (270-272)

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In case, I'm not allowed to quote this much, please let me know--and I'll delete the post.

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FIrst of all, the con man doesn't "elevate the opinions of others above reality"--at least, my hypothetical intelligent, successful con man doesn't.  Rather, he treats their blindness, stupidity and ignorance--and dishonesty (the best cons play on their victims' dishonesty; "you can't cheat an honest man")--as the facts of reality they are, and puts them to use, even as Roark uses the properties of wood and stone.  You, and Rand, assert that this must injure his self-esteem.  Can you support this assertion?

Second, even if the con man's dishonesty does injure his self-esteem, that does not invalidate Friedman's statement.  Self-esteem is not an all-or-nothing proposition, nor is it the only possible value.  The satisfaction of designing and executing a clever ruse should move his self-esteem back in the right direction (by more than the dishonesty diminished it?  I don't know, and neither do you), and of course his financial gains are a value.  On balance, it may not be provable that the con man has gained a value, but it's certainly not obvious that he hasn't.

Your second paragraph tells me there is no point in responding to the first paragraph. And the expression, "and neither do you", tells me there is not much point in responding to the second paragraph either.

Basically, what Rand said is that values gained by dishonest means are worthless ("unreal" is the word she used).  Basically, what Friedman said is that this is an assertion which is far from obvious on its face, and he provided a simple example of why it appears wrong.  If her statement is to be accepted as the basis for an entire system of ethics, it needs to be supported by more than "You must provide some evidence of this to move it into the realm of possibility."
In addition to the excellent points made in the example by Peikoff, that Rational-Egoist was gracious enough to provide, I will only add the following:

Freidman is asserting a possibility -- the happy con man -- as an argument against the virtue of honesty. But asserting that it is a possibility does not make it a possibility.

Nor does your demand that I prove it to be impossible. Indeed, I can not prove it to be impossible; that would be proving a negative. But this fact is not evidence of anything, including the possibility of achieving happiness as a con man.

There are many things that cannot be proven impossible. To borrow another of Dr. Peikoff's examples, one cannot prove that it is impossible that a convention of gremlins is studying Hegel on Venus. But that does not make the gremlins a possibility.

In the absence of supporting evidence, Friedman's assertion that a happy con man is possible is arbitrary and may be dismissed, in the same way and for the same reason that one would dismiss the claim that someday, man may learn to flap his wings hard enough to fly. One would never entertain such a notion, even though one cannot prove that it is impossible.

Dr. Peikoff's example along with Miss Rand's writings, as well as my own introspection and observation of other people, convinces me that honesty is indeed a necessary virtue. If Friedman wishes to attack that case, he must do more than merely assert that it might not be true.

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The issue is that such "pleasure" and "satisfaction" in man who designed such a scam is not hapiness, no matter how much he tries to convince himself that it is (and subsequently, can even make a polygraph unable to detect the truth).

Still the question I always ask is, who is the judge?

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Still the question I always ask is, who is the judge?

Your question presupposes the premise that judgement can only be done in relation to a consciousness.

While consciousness provides the only means of judgement, it does not provide the standard by which one judges. That is the job of reality. Reality itself is not open to judgement, it simply is -- nothing more can be said of it.

The facts of reality by which man must measure happiness are:

1) Existence exists

2) Man exists, and has a particular nature

2) Man's nature, which is both caused and free, necessitates an emotional mechanism

3) The purpose of the emotional mechanism is to act as a guide for his volition in order to further his life (the conceptual equivalent of the physical pleasure/pain mechanism)

If one wishes to be consistent with reality, then -- obtaining a job and working productively will actually further his life. If instead he chooses an inverted moral code, he will associate evil with value rather than with loss, and thereby trick himself into feeling short, abrupt pangs of "happiness" to the extent he can evade that his action is self-destructive. But if it is, in reality, self-destructive, and he seeks to gain this "value" consistently, it will actually result in self-destruction. It is only to the extent that he fails to evade his evil goals and mixes them with good ones that he enables himself to live to torture himself further.

As an example, I know of a particular pseudo-Objectivist who was aware at least of the need for consistency, but he was also a hedonist. This mixture is most certainly fatal as he wound up literally committing suicide. Only a hedonist who is inconsistent can survive for long.

Edit: I forgot to add my conclusion. The question you really ought to be asking is: by what standard is one to judge? rather than "by whose judgement?"

Edited by TomL

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The issue is that such "pleasure" and "satisfaction" in man who designed such a scam is not hapiness, no matter how much he tries to convince himself that it is (and subsequently, can even make a polygraph unable to detect the truth).

The physiological mechanism of pleasure/pain is automatic and set by nature.  If I prick you with a needle, it hurts. 

The emotional mechanism of happiness/sadness/etc is not automatic. 

The emotional mechanism's purpose is to tell you if you are taking the correct action or not, but you have to choose "what the correct action to take" is in the first place.  If you choose a path of self-destruction, and you work to attain that, then you are mistraining your emotional mechanism.  It will, in fact, lie to you -- such that if you prick yourself with a psychological needle, it feels good.  That doesn't make it the right thing to do, and doesn't mean that pricking yourself with a needle is "happiness", since the pleasure itself is a lie you are telling yourself.

In order for emotional pleasure to properly be "happiness", it -must- actually be consistent with working to sustain and further one's life, not with acting to destroy it. 

And no matter how much context you wish to drop, perpetrating a scam and victimizing people cannot do that.  You abdicate your own rights when you do that, and make it morally justifiable for anyone and everyone to stop you.  The only way to prevent that, for a criminal,  is to live a lie -- but he actually knows the truth, and cannot run from himself.

I would argue that the "happiness" or "unhappiness" of the criminal has nothing to do with any of this issue.

When people group together for social and economic purposes, etc. (in other words, in "society"), rules become necessary for ordered functioning, thus "laws" are passed and enforcement mechanisms set in place. Now I CHOOSE to hold human life as a protected "right" (ie. as a "value", and under "law") because if I commit murder, I cannot expect others to not murder me in return. Therefore, I support laws against murder, and refrain from murder, in my own best interest (survival and freedom). Same with theft, etc.

Now a "criminal" is one who, by definition, does not live by the rules society has set up, therefore he must always fear retribution not only from the individuals he has "wronged", but from the societal mechanisms as well (cops, courts, prison, etc.) And a criminal, unless he can read the future, can never be absolutely certain that he will go undetected and unpunished. THAT is a good enough reason for MOST people to not become criminals. (For example, in my own case, it might appear to a criminal that because I am an older man, that I might be easy prey to rob. What that criminal does NOT know is that I have a permit to carry a handgun, and that I am reasonably proficient in its use. I also have martial arts training in my background, and have done a lot of "scenario" type work. I might not be all that easy a victim as he might suppose. If you attack me and threaten my life, you are going to meet Mr. Glock! So there are very "practical" reasons to avoid being a criminal IF you value your own life and freedom, because you just never know what your "victim" might be capable of!)

The fact that SOME criminals escape punishment is besides the point. The point, FOR ME, is that I choose the more rational path of NOT choosing criminal behavior because such behavior could land me in a whole lot of trouble! Plus, I have my own subjective concepts of integrity and honesty, and I want to be able to look myself in the mirror. Guilt is also something I would experience, although maybe not someone else. I try to live by the rule that I will treat people the way I would like to be treated, because it makes social sense - I am happy, others are happy. Now this may be oversimplified, but I believe there are a lot of "objective" reality factors in this equation, in addition to the "subjective" ones.

I choose my values not based on whether SOME criminals might get away with their crimes, or whether SOME criminals might be actually happy (it's obvious many are not), but based on what the law of averages and common sense societal rules tell me the MOST LIKELY results of taking up a life of crime will be. Those are the objective factors, and I can SEE them played out daily in the news reports of how MOST criminals end up. So it's not for me...

On top of all that, I TRY to live by a code of honor, loyalty, and integrity because it not only WORKS well in society, but it is also pleasing to my own image of myself (self-worth). It is also conducive to friendship and love, which I also enjoy and find fullfilling. When I fail in these things, I do not feel good about myself.

So what I am trying to get at here is that to not live as a parasite and criminal is what works best both for myself and for society as a whole. By "works best" I mean that it both protects and promotes life and property rights, as well as promoting "happiness" by most comon and pratical definitions of the word. Why do I care about other people's happiness? Well, why would I want to live in a world full of miserable people? It would certainly "get to me" in one form or another, and maybe even threaten my own life and property and happiness. One way or another, it would drag me down!

And furthermore, as long as my "subjective" values do not openly conflict with "objective" reality, then I do not violate the "rational" requirement in the equation of how I choose to live. On the other hand, I have no moral authority to demand that anyone else accept the subjective elements that I happen to like and choose. I do, however, have a "right" to expect that others around me obeserve "objective reality", because if they don't, they can become a threat to the existence of myself and others. That does not mean they will do it, it just means I will be on my guard around them!

Ok, I admit it, I am new to the forum! So now I guess all you seasoned vets can straighten me out and tell me where all I have gone wrong here! Gurus number One, Two, and Three, FRONT AND CENTER!

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About this conman argument. Suppose I accept the standard of morality and values as you define it: only an honest working person can be truly happy. Yeah? How do you define an honest working person?

Take the much despised used car salesman. He has a car on his lot. Old aunty Brenda comes along. Now, the salesman knows that the car is worth say between $10 and 12k. He’s also got the gift of the gab.

My question is: Where does he draw the line? When does he go from being an honest businessman exchanging goods, to become a conman?

Aunty Brenda doesn’t know much about cars. She may pay $20k and walk happily away never knowing the difference. $11k seems fine. $12k? 12,246,58? $13k, heck he threw in a full tank of gas. $14,15,16k?

A dollar here, 2 cents there…

Do you see the dilemma? Its all within the laws of society, where is the limit of morality?

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Whose morality are you questioning? The morality of the used-car salesman, or the morality of old aunty Brenda? They both act immorally in your scenario.

It's not immoral for a person to want to maximize his profit. I have the right to offer my car for sale at $1 million. However, it would be immoral (and certainly illegal) for me to sign a contract with the buyer of my car confirming its market value at $1 million. That would be fraud. Fraud is a form of theft that involves taking a person's money without giving him his half of the "trade" (in this case- a car with the market value of $1 million).

The buyer of the car in your scenario is immoral for irrationally neglecting the facts of reality, and thereby making a sacrifice.

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The liar is a parasite not on people as such, but on people who are deludable—people qua ignorant, blind, gullible. What such people believe and expect—what they expect falsely, thanks to him—this is the power he must deal with and pander to. The liar he has turned others into his puppets, but his course makes him their pawn. It makes him a dependent of the lowest kind: a dependent not merely on the consciousness of other, which is bad enough, but on their unconsciousness.
Aunty Brenda may be ignorant. But we can't relistically know the real value of every service and product that we acquire. If I crack my head open holidaying in Paris, I'm not going to drive around to five different doctors to establish a fair local price for stitching me up. I have to rely on the first doctor or nurse to charge me a sensible price for their service.

Maybe the doctor charges me $400. Asking 2 other doctors later on, one may say I got the ripps, while the other couldn't possibly tell since he wasn't there. I'm none the wiser. In this particular situation I am as Peikoff says; one of the people who are ignorant, blind or gullible.

The doctor of course, wants to maximise his profits. He may therefore argue that $400 is a fair price. Maybe he also finds a couple of fellow doctors who agrees with him. But there has to be a limit for what is a fair profit maximised price, and when the doctor turns into

a parasite not on people as such, but on people who are deludable—people qua ignorant, blind, gullible.

Who sets that limit in an objective way? If $400 is ok but $401 is not, would the doc charging $401 go home knowing he is a liar, conman and parasite on honest working men? And how could we possibly get a concensus on what is a fair price, even among doctors?

Do you see the possiblity for limitless personal interpretation and justifaction? "I gave him that expensive anastethic" "The nurse told me she spent a bit extra time with him, certainly worth the extra $78".

When does the doctor stop being a doctor and becomes a conman? At what dollar value? B)

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Aunty Brenda may be ignorant. But we can't relistically know the real value of every service and product that we acquire.

Her ignorance let her to act in a way that resulted in sacrifice. This is immoral.

But we can't relistically know the real value of every service and product that we acquire. If I crack my head open holidaying in Paris, I'm not going to drive around to five different doctors to establish a fair local price for stitching me up. I have to rely on the first doctor or nurse to charge me a sensible price for their service.

Well now we've got a different situation, because you're including timing into the decision.

In your previous situation, old aunty Brenda wasn't in excruciating pain and fearful of dying from blood loss until she could make a decision on which car to buy. You didn't include any reason why she couldn't have gained the knowledge she needed to not pay double the market value of the used car.

Who sets that limit in an objective way? If $400 is ok but $401 is not, would the doc charging $401 go home knowing he is a liar, conman and parasite on honest working men? And how could we possibly get a concensus on what is a fair price, even among doctors?

Don't get things confused here. I never mentioned a "fair price". I refered to the market value of the product. I never said that a person is immoral for marking up a price- I said he is immoral when he commits fraud.

Earlier I mentioned that I am free to offer my car for sell for $1 million. Tell me- how am I lying or conning anybody by offering such a trade? The point at which I become a liar is the point in which I commit fraud, which is both immoral and illegal.

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Ok, I thought it was implied in the context that an old lady buying a car may be ignorant of its real value for a valid reason, just as someone abroad seeking medical treatment may be ignorant due to constraints such as time.

“Her ignorance let her to act in a way that resulted in sacrifice. This is immoral. “
Now, I don’t see how “ignorance” can be applied and regarded as a principle. As a generalised rule - maybe. One can never be certain whether the person one is dealing with is ignorant or not, or if that ignorance is due to a valid reason.

“Earlier I mentioned that I am free to offer my car for sell for $1 million. Tell me- how am I lying or conning anybody by offering such a trade? The point at which I become a liar is the point in which I commit fraud, which is both immoral and illegal. “

“The liar is a parasite not on people as such, but on people who are deludable—people qua ignorant, blind, gullible. What such people believe and expect—what they expect falsely, thanks to him—this is the power he must deal with and pander to. The liar he has turned others into his puppets, but his course makes him their pawn. It makes him a dependent of the lowest kind: a dependent not merely on the consciousness of other, which is bad enough, but on their unconsciousness.”

No, you are not necessarily conning anyone. I may have my own special reasons to pay you a million dollars for your car. And as long as you do not explicitly state that this is the real value of the car you have not done anything illegal as far as the law goes.

However, according to Peikoff you may be a parasite on me if you believe me to be “deludable, ignorant, blind, gullible” in this particular case and that is the reason I agree to the deal. Simply, I lack the capacity to comprehend and interpret the situation at that moment, not by wilful neglect, but for reasons beyond my control – and you are aware of it.

My interest here does not lie with the buyer of the service or product though, but the seller.

What I’m trying to state is that there can be no principle one can look to, no definite limit, and no objective rule for when a seller who deals with a “valid” ignorant buyer is no longer an honest businessman but a conman taking advantage of that person. It is and must be a subjective evaluation. Therefore I may think of someone as a conman, whereas he himself disagrees. Is he then able to go on living happily ever after or does he feel like a parasite etc. on other honest working people just because of my judgement of him? The "is" corresponds to many subjective "oughts".

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I know of people who are proffesional criminals, and who do not seem to be less happy than other people who do have jobs. As I understand, they are looking at their current activities as a job.

They are using their brain, they think, and I would say they are pretty creative also.

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Ok, I thought it was implied in the context that an old lady buying a car may be ignorant of its real value for a valid reason, just as someone abroad seeking medical treatment may be ignorant due to constraints such as time.

What is the valid reason for her acting in a way that resulted in a sacrifice of value?

What I’m trying to state is that there can be no principle one can look to, no definite limit, and no objective rule for when a seller who deals with a “valid” ignorant buyer is no longer an honest businessman but a conman taking advantage of that person. It is and must be a subjective evaluation. Therefore I may think of someone as a conman, whereas he himself disagrees. Is he then able to go on living happily ever after or does he feel like a parasite etc. on other honest working people just because of my judgement of him? The "is" corresponds to many subjective "oughts".

I understand what you're stating, and I understand why you think that way.

Your take on Peikoff's quote seems to be that he is criticizing people who deal with the "ignorant, blind, and gullible" in a certain way. Therefore it's necessary to determine the standards for classifying who is "ignorant" if Peikoff's criticism is to be worth anything. However, you are misconstruing the quote. If you re-read the entire quote again (here) you'll see that he specifically criticizes liars for lying. Liars are the subject of his criticism. The "ignorant, blind, gullible" bit was descriptive- not the subject- of the type of people that liars deal with.

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Hi Cole.

I couldn't get your link working so it did not give me any answers.

Now, I could make up a story of a friendless, widowed, dyslectic, rural living, sweet 85 year old lady, but with regards to your reference towards "lying-con- man" it’s not very relevant.

Again though, that would bring me back to the basics. What is a liar? What is a lie? When is someone lying? Exclusion by omission or exaggeration may also be considered a lie by some, but not by all. When does a person take the step from just pointing out the positives of the product/service to outright lie about it?

E.g. in a Dove soap bar commercial they don’t focus on stating all the things that may possibly harm the users. Peeling skin, rashes, allergies etc. Although these are probably symptoms that some customers experience when using the soap, and the company knows about it.

Is this a lie? I would say no. But when does it become a lie? When 10-20-50-60-90% don’t experience the soothing moisturising effects of Dove as promised but instead find their skin floating in the tub?

I see this mix of philosophical utopian philosophy and applied subjective psychology as a blind corner. One demands absolute certainties, the other subjective interpretations. Am I wrong?

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I'm sorry- while I'm at it. It's only 2 weeks since I first heard of objectivist philosophy. So excuse my ignorance. But I find it interesting that someone can apply a school of thoughts of absolute certainties. I mean no disrespect, I am only interested, and I also find some of what I read very agreeable to my personal “beliefs”

From my (shallow) readings of this topic “is implies an ought” and the case of the male mantis. As I understand it Ayn Rand did not find a way or did not care to explain Hume’s “every is implies an ought” from a logic point of view. Instead she referred to the natural world as a proof that every man lives only for himself and for his own purpose.

When pointing to some animals they obviously live for procreation, such as the mantis and indeed most female animals getting pregnant and reducing their own chance of survival through energy expenditure. Does this does not question the base of the philosophy requiring all animals and thus men to live only for themselves and nothing else like procreation?

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E.g. in a Dove soap bar commercial they don’t focus on stating all the things that may possibly harm the users. Peeling skin, rashes, allergies etc. Although these are probably symptoms that some customers experience when using the soap, and the company knows about it.
Have you read the label of the actual Dove product? Most companies, while not expressing warnings in advertisements, do put warning labels for such problems on the product itself; additionally, I would say that it's the consumer's responsibility to be aware of their own physiology when using such products, not the company's. I am allergic to Comtrex, so I do not take it; the makers of Comtrex have no responsibility to tell me that I may have allergic reactions to it.

What is a liar? What is a lie? When is someone lying?

As has been expressed before, someone is lying when they willfully, and knowingly evade the facts of reality in the attempt to deceive. In your example of the car salesman, he is a liar (and is lying) the moment he knowingly falsifies information. Being ignorant to the facts is indirectly lying; you've said to yourself that you don't know, or care, what the facts are, so you'll make something up, regardless of the truth. It is still dishonesty, which is immoral by all counts. For the consumer's part, you get what you deserve. I would never buy a used car without getting it checked out by a trusted mechanic to make sure that it is worth what the salesman quotes me. Simple as that. If you don't take that responsibility then anyone can (and usually will) pull a fast one on you, and you've then no one to blame but yourself. In the case of an emergency like a life threatening injury, I would give a doctor everything I had if it meant life or death (we're talking about your life here, I think any amount of money would be pennies to that).

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For some reason I couldn't edit the above to include something else I missed, so I will just add it here.

It doesn't matter how many people truely benefit from the claims made of a particular product as long as the company making the claims does not "guarantee" those claims. So, in the case of the Dove product I'm sure they do not say that they guarantee that you will experience smoother, softer skin after using it. It's called "caveat emptor", or "buyer beware".

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Hal    0
From my (shallow) readings of this topic “is implies an ought” and the case of the male mantis. As I understand it Ayn Rand did not find a way or did not care to explain Hume’s “every is implies an ought” from a logic point of view. Instead she referred to the natural world as a proof that every man lives only for himself and for his own purpose.
It's more like this; Hume showed that it is impossible to derive an 'ought' statement from an 'is' statement if you start with nothing. Rand argued that people dont start with nothing.

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Hal    0
It's more like this. Hume showed that he didn't know how to derive an "ought" statement from an "is" statement. Ayn Rand showed how to derive value from fact.

I was making the point that Hume and Rand's conclusions are entirely consistent, regardless of what you think of either.

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If by "consistent" you mean "contradictory", then yes. However, Hume's conclusion was to deny objective knowledge and therefore to deny objective ethics, while Ayn Rand's conclusion was to affirm objective knowledge and therefore to affirm objective ethics. That Hume may have recognized that objective ethics are grounded in objective knowledge, while Ayn Rand also recognized the fact, does not mean their positions are entirely consistent.

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Since the first objection had been dealt with, I will start with number 2.

To paraphrase one of Miss Rand's formulations:

To remain alive, one must eat.

To eat, one must work (or someone, somewhere must work).

To work, one must think. (or someone, somewhere must think).

To think, one must look at reality.

This is a specific course of action required for man to stay alive. Now, obviously, there are many options for accomplishing the above.  However, the point is that the nature of man as a being of volitional consciousness, a being that survives by initiating a process of thought to produce what his survival requires, demands that he follow this course -- in any of its unlimited embodiments -- or perish.

Yes, some are able to remain biologically alive as parasites, but this is not without consequences (see below) and does not alter the fact that they exist only by the grace of those who choose to live as rational beings.

No, the fact that he can live a full lifespan in this fashion is merely evidence that he can live as a parasite.  Were he alone in a wilderness he would perish rapidly.  It is only the benefits derived from living among rational men, who are producing enough extra to permit the parasite to survive, that makes this possible.

There has been no switch. Unless someone, somewhere is thinking, everyone, everywhere will perish.

T

o the extent that a person attempts to survive by something other than their own honest effort, they are attempting to survive as something less than human --  and they know it.  Criminals are not people of high self-esteem living happy lives, including  the ones that are not close to being caught, including the ones that are well fed and healthy.

The impracticality of a life of crime does not stem from the probability of getting caught.  It stems from the sabotage of one’s self esteem that is inherent in the act of choosing to exist as a parasite. Abandoning one’s tool of survival -- one’s mind -- is an act of self-imposed humiliation. It is not an accident that criminals by and large are a miserable bunch, even those that are beyond capture.

Objectivism does not maintain that those who fail to follow the Objectivist ethics will immediately perish. The thinkers and prime movers of the world have permitted vast numbers of people to survive as parasites or quasi-parasites for centuries, as Atlas Shrugged makes abundantly clear.  David is evidently hoping that we will forget this.

Actually, it does. A realization of a society whose basis is derived from Objectivism would not permit the parasitical practices which are prevalent in today's, "mixed," society. If you truly subscribe to Objectivist ethics you and the rest will withdraw your permission. If the thinkers and prime movers of the world were to withdraw their permission, those who will not act to preserve their own lives will meet a very rapid destruction indeed. Very technically speaking, full subscription to Objectivist ethics is impossible in any environment which is not entirely free. Peikoff and the gang should grant themselves, "Students of Objectivism," at best.

Earlier in the post you mention that parasites survive only by the grace of their victims. Ignoring that you contradict yourself in the final paragraph, I agree with this conclusion. However, I believe that the statement as such is an over-simplification. Parasites (in this case) survive because they are able to employ the tools of their cognition to assess the environment in which they live and take necessary action to use that environment to the end of perpetuating their lives. You cannot from there conclude that parasites are INCAPABLE of surviving on their own. Parasites simply use what has been made available to them in order to survive or otherwise further their selfish objectives. If the permission of the prime movers were withdrawn they may discover (perhaps they would be FORCED to discover) that they are able survive on their own. The (moral/ethical) problem with criminals and parasites is that they regard their environment as personal property. Thus when making decisions, they consider manipulation of their environment an appropriate means by which to consider solving a given problem.

The identification of WHEN, WHERE, and WHY the impropriety occurs is necessary for the parasite to make a conscious connection between their parasitical actions and any, "unhappiness," they make experience. A criminal may well experience very real feelings of happiness and self-worth in committing a criminal act which utilizes their ingenuity, creativity, discipline, etc. My point being, criminal or parasitical action is not the direct catalyst of a person's unhappiness, but merely evidence of more serious moral/ethical violations on the surface. While one may assert that criminals on the whole are not, "happy," it would be foolish to suggest that criminal or parasitical actions cannot make their executor's happy. The criminal obviously derives some form of value from their action and the only real dispute is the degree or range to which this occurs. Furthermore, it is stupid to speculate as to whether one is either, "happy," or, "unhappy." This is impossible to objectively define. If your question is whether or not, by the nature of their parasitical actions, a parasite can be happy, the answer is yes. Is, "happiness," a permanent feeling which is dependent upon only ONE catalyst at a given time? No.

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While one may assert that criminals on the whole are not, "happy," it would be foolish to suggest that criminal or parasitical actions cannot make their executor's happy. The criminal obviously derives some form of value from their action and the only real dispute is the degree or range to which this occurs. Furthermore, it is stupid to speculate as to whether one is either, "happy," or, "unhappy."  This is impossible to objectively define. If your question is whether or not, by the nature of their parasitical actions, a parasite can be happy, the answer is yes. Is, "happiness," a permanent feeling which is dependent upon only ONE catalyst at a given time? No.

This is an excellent point. History is full of examples of men (and a few women) who bled their countries white and did so with unshakable self-confidence and joie de vivre. Now anyone can assert, "Well, on the inside Dictator X was really an emotional wreck." But it is impossible to know with any certainty just how happy or unhappy Dictator X was. A statement such as "Criminals are not people of high self-esteem living happy lives, including the ones that are not close to being caught, including the ones that are well fed and healthy" can only be seen as a claim of omniscience.

From a review of a newly published biography of Mao:

    Mao himself comes across as a uniquely self-centred man whose strength was his utter disregard for others, his pitilessness, his single-mindedness, his capacity for intrigue and his ability to exploit weakness. He neglected his wives, whom he treated cruelly, and had no time for his children. He loved food and reading and had an infinite supply of young women. . .

    But he was driven by a personal lust for power. He came to dominate his colleagues through a mixture of blackmail and terror. And he seems to have enjoyed every minute of it. Indeed what he learned from his witnessing of a peasant uprising in his home province of Hunan in 1927 was that he derived a sadistic pleasure from seeing people put to death in horrible ways and generally being terrified. During the Cultural Revolution he watched films of the violence and of colleagues being tortured.
    http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/biogra...1498718,00.html

Edited by Eric Mathis

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To member AisA regarding post # 9 in this thread:

I went to lunch and due to another post on the thread was unable to edit my previous post as I had intended. Please disregard the previous post. Though I have not changed much, if any, of the previous content, I have added several things which I hope will illustrate my position more accurately:

Actually, it does. The realization of a society whose basis is derived from Objectivism would not permit the parasitical practices which are prevalent in todays, "mixed," society. If you truly subscribe to Objectivist ethics you and the rest will withdraw your permission. If the thinkers and prime movers of the world were to withdraw their permission, those who will not act to preserve their own lives would meet a very rapid destruction indeed. Very technically speaking, full subscription to Objectivist ethics is impossible in any environment which is not entirely free. Peikoff and the gang should grant themselves, "Students of Objectivism," at best.

Earlier in the post you mention that parasites survive only by the grace of their victims. Ignoring that you contradict yourself in the final paragraph, I agree with this conclusion. However, I believe that the statement as such is an over-simplification. Parasites (in this case) survive because they are able to employ the tools of their cognition to assess the environment in which they live and take necessary action to use that environment to the end of perpetuating their lives. This is one of the, “unlimited embodiments,” to which you make reference.

Which actions would you take or not take based upon your assertion that someone is not a, “man,” but a parasite, and not, “living,” but merely using others to perpetuate their existence? What does this distinction change? Do you suggest that the unalienable rights of man do not apply to this sub-human being? You correctly state that man must take a specific course of action to remain alive. What you seemingly ignore is that a parasite DOES select a specific course of action. Granted that the course may involve instances of moral/ethical violations, it is a course none the less.

The disagreement here stems from your presumed assertion that the biological existence of a human parasite is not equivalent to the life of a man. What ARE your definitions of man and life? Perhaps you should work to redefine one or the other. As it stands, a parasite meets your, and Miss Rand's definitions of both, man (a being of volitional consciousness) and remaining alive. This is when the poster to whom you are replying correctly asserts that you have substituted, "life," for, "an appropriately moral life per Ayn Rand." Unfortunately, such is not in the jurisdiction of you, or Rand. As Mr. Mathis correctly points out, your claim that life is not life unless it is life per Rand is an example of pseudo-omniscient social-engineering at its best – the very thing against with which you claim to be embattled.

You cannot, from what you know, conclude that parasites are INCAPABLE of surviving on their own. Parasites simply use what has been made available to them in order to survive or otherwise further their selfish objectives. If the permission of the prime movers were withdrawn they may discover that they are able survive on their own and even that they ENJOY doing so. If they could or did not want to comply at that point, I would then bestow the, "sub-human," label you now liberally apply. Criminals and parasites (for various more deeply-seeded psychological reasons, which is another discussion entirely) regard their environment as personal property. Thus when making decisions, they consider manipulation of their environment an appropriate means by which to consider solving a given problem. The violation occurs at a much deeper level than, "legal vs. illegal."

You are correct when you say that a life of crime does not stem from an individual's determination that it is unlikely that they would be caught. However, I do not agree with your assertion that being a criminal or parasite necessarily constitutes abandoning one's tools of survival...and if I did, I would not take for granted, as you do, that such would be an act of self-imposed humiliation. What exactly do you mean by this? I would not say that the person has abandoned their tools but instead that they have simply chosen to keep their tools in their chest and make use of those which other men have made readily available and whose use will have no (or at least what they determine to be less) effect on the depreciation of their own tools. This is not to say that they do not possess the tools or that they would be incapable of using them if the others were not available. Rather than self-humiliating, "abandonment," of one's own tools in favor of criminal/parasitical acts, in this case may actually serve as a source of pride.

The identification of WHEN, WHERE, and WHY the impropriety occurs is necessary for the parasite to make a conscious connection between their parasitical actions and any, "unhappiness," they may experience. A criminal may well experience very real feelings of happiness and self-worth in committing a criminal act which utilizes their ingenuity, creativity, discipline, etc. My point being, that one commits criminal or parasitical acts does not provide sufficient means by which to determine their psychological well-being. An appropriate argument, if there is one, would lie in one's estimation that any positive feeling derived from a criminal action has been disassociated with its proper moral derivative and thus provides the criminal with an inaccurate account of his psychological well-being (More evidence of why feelings must not be considered cognitive tools.)

While one may assert that criminals, on the whole, are not, "happy," it would be foolish to suggest that criminal or parasitical actions cannot make their executor's happy - or its derivation; that they will make him UNHAPPY. The criminal obviously derives some form of value from his/her action and the only real dispute is the degree or range to which this occurs vs. the implicit negative, "feelings." What you seem to suggest, is that there is never a situation in which the benefits of a criminal/parasitical action are not trumped by its consequences (That is that the person will be psychologically WORSE off than they were before they committed the act.) What we require, is evidence to this regard. You have created a closed, restrictive system. If you were able to define what IS, you had better be able to define what IS NOT and why it is not. If you fail in doing so, your definition is completely subjective and invalid in any social context.

Furthermore, it is stupid to speculate as to whether one is either, "happy," or, "unhappy." Again, this is why it is especially important not to consider the, "feelings," of individuals when making decisions for a collective group. If your question is whether or not, by the nature of their parasitical actions, a parasite can be happy, the answer is yes. Is, "happiness," a permanent feeling which is dependent upon only ONE identifiable catalyst at a given time? No.

Edited by mattieabs

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