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Ayn Rand's Derivation of Ought from Is

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Due to the difficulty in replying in the middle of posted quotes, I have listed prior to my refutations the number of the paragraph to which I was responding. I apologize for this incoherence - today is the first day I have used this board and perhaps I will eventually discover how to do it appropriately. Never the less, I hope that you are able to follow:

The burden is not on us to refute his position.  It is he who must support it.

Friedman's fourth point is the claim that the "leap" from surviving by reason to the Objectivist virtue of Honesty is not justified.  He argues that since the risk of detection varies with different frauds, all one can really say is that one should be judicial in choosing which frauds to commit, so as to minimize the risk of capture.

His premise is that happiness is not affected by honesty.  Self-esteem is necessary for the achievement of happiness.  Friedman's position, then, is that it is possible to exist as a parasite with no consequences for one's self-esteem. 

Friedman has provided no support for this assertion.  Thus, there is nothing to refute.  If he wishes to establish the possibility that self-esteem is not affected by dishonesty, he must offer some evidence in support.  The mere fact that he assumes it is a possibility does not establish it as a possibility.

You said:

First, the fact that one can imagine something does not establish it as a possibility and does not create an obligation to refute it. 

Beyond that, there is a distinction between pleasure, satisfaction and happiness.   There are those that derive pleasure from getting drunk.  There are those that find satisfaction in sabotaging young minds.  This does not mean they have achieved happiness.

Do you believe that the con man and Roark would be equally happy?

(Paragraph 1) Absolutely incorrect. You have established a restrictive definition. You have defined what a man is and what constitues life. You are thus able to say, item A meets my definition and there for IS, and item B does not meet my defintion and there for IS NOT. You list your definition then ignore any conclusions which contradict your definitions. Mr. Friedman is blatantly challenging the validity of your definition and provides evidence to that end - it is now yours to explain why the example Mr. Friedman has given does not fit your definitions of, "man," "life," or both. As I said, this should be very easy to do - since your definition is restrictive.

(Paragraph 3) No, this is not Mr. Friedman's premise. YOUR premise is that happiness is impossible in the presence of dishonesty. Mr. Friedman correctly asserts that your association is not a foregone conclusion. One is not directly dependent on the other. The argument that self-esteem is necessary for the achievement of happiness is appropriate, however what you fail to acknowledge is that there are varying degrees of self-esteem and thus varying degrees of happiness. What you imply is that any knowing evasion of honesty, no matter to which degree, will there by prevent the person who commited the evasion from ever being happy. Again, this is all irrelevant since, "happy," is a SUBJECTIVE EMOTION which varies in degree, and is impossible to objectively define.

(Paragraph 4) Yes, he has provided evidence for his assertion. He says, "Look, here is at least one example of a being who is able to remain alive without subscibing to Rand's ethics." He has provided an example and the burden is now yours to show why the example he gave does not meet your definitions of, "man," "life," or both. You now appear to have given up on the idea that man is not man and life is not life unless it meets Rand's standards - but these same criterion apply to your restrictive defnition of self-esteem. YOUR ASSERTION is that self-esteem is impossible in the presence of dishonesty, it is YOUR obligation to then disprove any examples which do not meet your criterion. As I have said, this should be very simple for you to do...having an objective definition and all.

(Paragraphs 4) Mr. Friedman does not wish to establish that self-esteem is completely unaffected by dishonesty, but that self-esteem is possible to those who have been dishonest. YOUR CLAIM is that self-esteem is not possible in the presence of dishonesty and that happiness is possible only in the presence of self-esteem. Mr. Friedman is criticizing Objectivism based upon those conclusions. If I lie to my girlfriend about which television program I watched last night (nevermind WHY I would do so) am I from there forward incapable of having self-esteem?

(Paragrpah 5) By what do you define happiness? Again, happiness is an emotion. Happiness is subjective and cannot be categorically defined. You seem to speak of happiness as some kind of permanent subconscious integratation of one's, "pleasures and satisfactions," and can be measured at any time relative to, "reality." Perhaps you can enlighten us as to the distinctions between pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness and also how you are able to divorce the latter from the context of the two former. Give an example of how one may be pleased and satisfied, but not happy - and then tell us all how you were able to determine that the person was pleased or satisfied in the first place. Couldn't one simply employ the argument that the person was never pleased or satisfied because of the action in the first place, but was instead merely disassociating any positive feelings from their appropriate positive catalysts?

(Paragraph 7) Equally happy? That phrase alone speaks volumes. How can one be, "equally happy?" Are you openly acknowledging that there are varying degrees of happiness, which are determined subjectively and may not be objectively defined by you, Miss Rand, or anyone else? Claiming to an Objectivist does not allow you to ignore subjective context. Would the con man and Roark be equally happy? It would depend on many things and it is impossible to answer given what we know. Is the con man capable of being happy even though he has been dishonest? Yes. Is it likely that Roark, given that he lives his life in a way which you determine to be moral and honest, will be more psychologically well-off? Probably so.

Edited by mattieabs

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"Parasites are incapable of surviving on their own."

Ofcourse they're incapable of doing so, that's why they are "parasites".

The complete proposition would be: "Parasites are incapable of surviving on their own, qua parasites." or "Parasites are incapable of surviving on their own, unless they stop being parasites."

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"Parasites are incapable of surviving on their own." 

Ofcourse they're incapable of doing so, that's why they are "parasites".

The complete proposition would be: "Parasites are incapable of surviving on their own, qua parasites."  or "Parasites are incapable of surviving on their own, unless they stop being parasites."

This is incorrect. The nature of a parasite is that it draws sustenance from its victims without making a contribution to the victims well-being. This does not imply that they are "incapable," of doing so. Obviously in the case of human beings, their parasitical nature is VOLITIONAL. While it is appropriate to suggest that SOME parasites may be incapable of surviving on their own, asserting that ALL parasites are incapable because they have employed alternative means by which to sustain their lives, is nothing more than a guess.

I would guess that many who are now considered, "parasites," in our mixed system would become independent when/if the prime movers withdrew their permission to leech on. One can debate the moral/ethical implications of the decision by the prime movers to keep themselves available and by the parasite who has taken advantage of such, but one cannot say with any objective accuracy that all the, "parasites," would fail to remain alive.

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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 cannot be true if the Objectivist view of what happiness is is true.

Happiness is defined as (from memory) "That state of emotion which procedes from the achievement of ones values", and "A state of non-contradictory joy". This is not a short term or temporary thing - it is a deep, underlying state that colors a person's whole existence across a long span of time. It is not, in other words, the same as some momentary positive emotion one might feel after a particular event.

Looking more deeply, this view of happiness depends on the meaning of the concepts "value" and "achievement". According to Objectivism, only those things which preserve, protect and promote Man's life are values. Whether something is an "Achievement" depends on the action taken to get the thing, i.e., it depends on whether the action was a virtue or a vice. Only something acquired through virtue can qualify as a value; a thing acquired through vice cannot be a value. The way this has been put in the literature is that an improper means invalidates the end.

A criminal/parasitical action is a _vice_, and hence the thing acquired through that action cannot be a value - even if it is something that would be a value if acquired through virtue. A robber who acquires a million dollars by stealing has _not_ acquired a value - the million dollars is literally not a value.

Putting all of this together, it is _impossible_ for a criminal/parasite to be happy in the Objectivist sense of that term, because the things he acquires are the products of vice. He can feel a temporary, short term, shallow positive emotion, but that emotion is _inappropriate_ and it is not happiness. If he also acquires some things through virtue, that won't make happiness possible, because whatever his emotional state, it will be a _contradictory_ one.

To hold that a criminal/parasite can be or is happy is to reject the Objectivist concept of "happiness", it is to hold that that concept is invalid - which comes down to denying the method by which that concept was formed. In other words, to hold that is to reject _all_ of Objectivism via rejecting the theory of concepts on which it is based.

The above is a summary, in my own words, of what is treated at length and in depth in the literature (including taped lectures), so go there for more.

Mark Peters

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Happiness is defined as (from memory) "That state of emotion which procedes from the achievement of ones values",

To me, this seems like arguing 'by definition'. If you define happyness to mean 'what you feel after achieving rational values', then its trivially true that criminals cant be happy. But they can still be happy in the standard English sense of the word, and the onus would be on you to argue why Objectivist-happyness is superior to standard-English-happyness. As far as I know, this has never been done in the literature and I'm not sure how you would even begin to go about arguing that.

This seems like the same kind of fallacy that people make when they define 'know' to mean "having omniscient certainty" and then argue that humans cant really 'know' anything.

Edited by Hal

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To me, this seems like arguing 'by definition'. If you define happyness to mean 'what you feel after achieving rational values', then its trivially true that criminals cant be happy. But they can still be happy in the standard English sense of the word, and the onus would be on you to argue why Objectivist-happyness is superior to standard-English-happyness. As far as I know, this has never been done in the literature and I'm not sure how you would even begin to go about arguing that.

This seems like the same kind of fallacy that people make when they define 'know' to mean "having omniscient certainty" and then argue that humans cant really 'know' anything.

Hal, this is a mistake that I have seen on this forum many times. This is not a matter of definitions, it is a matter of what happiness _is_, i.e., it is a matter of proper concept formation. The definition is the _result_ of that identification, not its cause. In presenting only the definition, I assumed an understanding of that context.

Just as it is not "arguing by definition" to hold that a feeling with no intellectual component is not an emotion, it isn't "arguing by definition" to hold that an emotion proceding from acquiring a thing through vice is not happiness. There is nothing arbitrary or in the least improper about this - both procede from the Objectivst view of proper concept formation.

The concept "emotion" is formed by differentiating feelings with an intellectual component from those without - hence grasping that the latter is not an emotion. The concept "happiness" is formed by (among other things) differentiating emotions resulting from virtue from those resulting from vice - hence grasping that the latter is not happiness.

If you don't accept this, then you don't accept the Objectivist view of concept formation. You have to decide: is the Objectivist concept of happiness valid or not - but that requires deciding whether the Objectivist theory of concept formation is valid or not, and whether that theory was properly applied in forming this concept.

All of this is heavily covered in the literature. OPAR for certain covers it, but there are many articles and taped lectures that do as well. OPAR assumes quite a lot of other material is already understood by the reader, so that may not be the best place to start.

Mark Peters

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Please follow my previous formatting (referencing paragraphs numerically):

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.

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.

(Paragraph 1) Rex Little was exactly right - the con is not elevating opinions above reality. The con is taking advantage of the reality of his victims stupidity, vulnerability, etc. As I mentioned in my first post in this thread, parasites regard their environment as a personal possession which can and should be arranged for their benefit. You and Rand have suggest that happiness is impossible to a criminal/parasite and Mr. Friedman suggests that you have unjustly married the two. He asserts that merely being dishonest in a given situation does not there by completely restrict the individuals ability to obtain self-esteem and thus become happy. I will again employ a simple example: If you tell your child that he or she must go to bed on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus can come down the chimney to deliver gifts, are you from there forward incapable of being happy? Is every feeling of, "pleasure," and, "satisfaction," that you experience from there on merely a false impulse based upon the inverted code of morality you created for yourself when you lied to your child? By saying, "I don't know and neither do you," Rex Little was simply giving an accurate depiction of reality - that subjective values cannot be objectively determined - not by you, Miss Rand, or anyone else.

(Paragraph 3) Friedman asserts the possibility and until you are able to disprove his conclusion, the possibility remains. Again, you have a closed, restrictive definition of self-esteem. If a certain action does not meet this definition, it is YOURS to prove why it does not meet what YOU have defined. This should be very easy to do, if you actually have an objective definition of self-esteem. You have a definition - now tell us why the example given by Friedman does not fit your definition for one reason or another. It is YOU that asserts that a criminal/parasite is incapable of being happy - by what were you able to make this determination? Are there not a series of criterion which must be met for a given item to meet your definition? Name them. When you do, I believe you will discover that your criterion are subjective, and thus irrelevant to this purpose. If man is not capable of self-esteem, and thus not capable of happiness because he has been dishonest, you must prove WHY - not simply make a subjective statement and expect everyone to adhere to it as objective fact.

(Paragraphs 4 & 5) No more does your assertion of the possibility that the con-man cannot be happy. What you and Miss Rand (to a much lesser degree and whom I believe you have probably misinterpreted or taken out of context in many cases) do is nothing more than stating what you believe to be true, then saying, "I am right unless you can prove me wrong." Then, when you come up AGAINST a similar argument you admit that I could not have proved you wrong if I had wanted to, and it would not have provided a contradiction to your statement even if I could. Do you realize the presence of omniscience that statement implies? Your citation of Peikoff's example has to be a joke. Which part of, "Indeed, I can not prove it," do you fail to understand? If you CAN NOT prove something, you forfeit your ability to assert the realm of possibility in such. Are you not supposed to be an OBJECTIVIST? Are you in the habit of taking for objective fact that which you are unsure of? If you cannot honestly say whether there are gremlins studying Hegel on Mars, how can you HONESTLY say that it is impossible for them to be there? From what do you derive this assertion? Please explain.

(Paragraphs 5 & 6) In the absence of supporting evidence, Ayn Rand and AisA's assertion that a happy con-man is impossible is arbitrary and may be dismissed. If you do not entertain the notion that man may one day flap his wings and fly, you are guilty of evasion. You are guilty of evasion of a possibility which you have have no reason to believe to be impossible. You assume something is false before having relevant objective information on which to make base your assumption. If someone suggested to me that man will one day use his arms as bird wings to fly, I would ask them for the evidence which lead them to their conclusion and may very well determine that their conclusion is improbably or highly unlikely, based upon the known physical limitations of human beings. I would not, and could not honestly tell them that their conclusion is patently false or impossible. You have me interested: Which objective facts regarding men, the earth, etc, in your opinion completely restrict the possibility of man taking flight to the point at which you feel it is an objective fact to assert that such is never possible? What evidence, other than Miss Rand's assertion (subjective), Peikoff's (a poor man's Rand and also subjective) examples, or your introspection and observation (DEFINITELY subjective) do you have to support your claim against Mr. Friedman? If Ayn and AisA want to attack Friedman's case, they must do more than merely assert that it might not be true.

Edited by mattieabs

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Hal, this is a mistake that I have seen on this forum many times. This is not a matter of definitions, it is a matter of what happiness _is_, i.e., it is a matter of proper concept formation. The definition is the _result_ of that identification, not its cause. In presenting only the definition, I assumed an understanding of that context.

Just as it is not "arguing by definition" to hold that a feeling with no intellectual component is not an emotion, it isn't "arguing by definition" to hold that an emotion proceding from acquiring a thing through vice is not happiness. There is nothing arbitrary or in the least improper about this - both procede from the Objectivst view of proper concept formation.

The concept "emotion" is formed by differentiating feelings with an intellectual component from those without - hence grasping that the latter is not an emotion. The concept "happiness" is formed by (among other things) differentiating emotions resulting from virtue from those resulting from vice - hence grasping that the latter is not happiness.

Yes, you can argue that happiness that results from practicing the Objectivist virtues is the one and only “happiness.” But this does not really constitute a clinching argument for the Objectivist ethics for all people. Earlier in this thread I cited the example of Mao Tse-tung, whose murderous activities allowed him to indulge his unceasing appetites for books, young women, and films of his opponents being tortured. If Mao obtained a higher personal satisfaction level from oppressing/killing millions than from engaging in free trade, we can certainly condemn his choices from the standpoint of individual rights. However, it is quite possible that if Mao had pursued, say, a career as a physician or a bond trader, he might have experienced a lower level of personal satisfaction. As the 20th century's greatest mass murderer, Mao "succeeded" in that role perhaps because he enjoyed it so much. It is unsettling to think that there are monsters among us, but history seems to confirm it over and over.

Suppose we had the power to put Mao in a rehabilitation program, show him the error of his ways, the beauty of Aristotelian logic, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, individual rights, and capitalism. If he rejects it, we as Objectivist would be entitled to call him irrational, but could we really state that he was acting contrary to his personal satisfaction level?

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Yes, you can argue that happiness that results from practicing the Objectivist virtues is the one and only “happiness.”  But this does not really constitute a clinching argument for the Objectivist ethics for all people. [...]

Suppose we had the power to put Mao in a rehabilitation program, show him the error of his ways, the beauty of Aristotelian logic, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, individual rights, and capitalism.  If he rejects it, we as Objectivist would be entitled to call him irrational, but could we really state that he was acting contrary to his personal satisfaction level?

Is the Objectivist concept of happiness valid or not? If it is, then it doesn't matter what Mao rejected - and that concept _does_ provide a clinching argument for the Objectivist concept of happiness. If you follow that all the way through, it also clinches the Objectivist ethics. And note that "... for all people" is not relevant. If the Objectivist concept of happiness is valid, it is valid even if _nobody_ accepts it - truth is _objective_, not subjective (but then that is a more fundamental issue that is an essential part of the foundation of the Objectivist ethics).

Also, it doesn't matter what Mao's "personal satisfaction level" was. "Personal satisfaction" is not happiness.

Mark Peters

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Is the Objectivist concept of happiness valid or not? If it is, then it doesn't matter what Mao rejected - and that concept _does_ provide a clinching argument for the Objectivist concept of happiness. . .

Also, it doesn't matter what Mao's "personal satisfaction level" was. "Personal satisfaction" is not happiness.

Let us stipulate that the Objectivist concept of happiness is valid. Mao listens to the Objectivist argument, thinks about it, and even briefly tries a career as a productive individual. Nonetheless, after a while he decides to return to his former life as a predator. We ask, why? Mao replies that he simply enjoys being a dictator more than being an Objectivist. Of course, we can accuse Mao of evasion, irrationality, whim-worshipping or whatever, but that isn’t going to alter the fact that Mao places a greater value on wielding power than voluntary production and exchange. We can declare that any positive emotions Mao derives from aggression are temporary, short term, and shallow. And he could respond that he finds being a tyrant deeply rewarding. Why, he asks, should he care about objective happiness, when he enjoyed his former subjective happiness much more? "’Personal satisfaction’ is not happiness,” we insist. “Okay,” says Mao, “then I’d rather be personally satisfied than happy.”

So we are back to Hal’s point: “The onus would be on you to argue why Objectivist-happiness is superior to standard-English- happiness.” You can declare that there is no such thing as non-Objectivist happiness, but saying that won’t change the fact that some find the lifestyle of a non-Objectivist preferable to that of the Objectivist. And that leaves us with an is-ought gap.

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Let us stipulate that the Objectivist concept of happiness is valid [...]

So we are back to Hal’s point:  “The onus would be on you to argue why Objectivist-happiness is superior to standard-English- happiness.”  You can declare that there is no such thing as non-Objectivist happiness, but saying that won’t change the fact that some find the lifestyle of a non-Objectivist preferable to that of the Objectivist.  And that leaves us with an is-ought gap.

This completely misses the point.

You keep claiming that Objectivism merely "declares" or "defines" happiness the way it does, and I keep pointing out that that concept is the result of careful differentiation/integration of facts according to essential, fundamental characteristics, i.e., that the concept is the result of applying the Objectivist theory of concept formation to the facts regarding happiness.

Is that concept a correct identification of the facts or not? Is the theory of concept formation correct or not? If you answer "yes" to both, and you take ideas seriously, then you should discard the "Mao is happy" claim as nonsense. If you answer "no" to either, then your issue is with the heart and soul of Objectivism, not with this one concept.

Your "stipulation" that the answer to those questions is "yes", but your continued rejection of what follows leads me to think that you don't take ideas seriously, but only as mental toys or playthings. Which is it?

People can declare that they are happy without any actual clue as to what happiness is. In fact, they can declare it even if they do, and they know that they are _not_ happy. Again, truth is _not_ subjective, so what should count in your mind is not what somebody says, but what the facts are.

You have to decide for yourself what happiness is, then act accordingly. There is no reason to sit on the fence about it, or be distracted by what others say, especially not _criminals_.

To repeat myself once more: if you accept the Objectivist theory of concept formation, and apply it consistently, the conclusion that "Mao" is not happy inevitably follows - no matter what he claims. And if you do accept it, you will not claim that the result of applying that theory is to argue by "declaration" or "definition" - you will regard the result as _truth_.

Mark Peters

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This completely misses the point.

You keep claiming that Objectivism merely "declares" or "defines" happiness the way it does, and I keep pointing out that that concept is the result of careful differentiation/integration of facts according to essential, fundamental characteristics, i.e., that the concept is the result of applying the Objectivist theory of concept formation to the facts regarding happiness.

Is that concept a correct identification of the facts or not? Is the theory of concept formation correct or not? If you answer "yes" to both, and you take ideas seriously, then you should discard the "Mao is happy" claim as nonsense. If you answer "no" to either, then your issue is with the heart and soul of Objectivism, not with this one concept.

Your "stipulation" that the answer to those questions is "yes", but your continued rejection of what follows leads me to think that you don't take ideas seriously, but only as mental toys or playthings. Which is it?

I have stipulated the validity of the Objectivist concept of happiness because it is not an issue that needs to be addressed in this thread. We are dealing here with deriving “ought” from “is.” So far, I have not seen a convincing case for doing so. Specifically, I have not encountered an argument that overcomes the “prudent predator” objection. The fact that criminals are subject to arrest and imprisonment does not mean that one never has a reasonable opportunity to steal from another. One could in some circumstances act in his self-interest by engaging in prudent theft or fraud. I hasten to add that I regard such actions as immoral, but I would not say that they could never be in a person’s self-interest.

People can declare that they are happy without any actual clue as to what happiness is. In fact, they can declare it even if they do, and they know that they are _not_ happy. Again, truth is _not_ subjective, so what should count in your mind is not what somebody says, but what the facts are.

If we preclude the existence of any happiness other than the happiness that results from practicing the Objectivist virtues, then it is an easy matter to state categorically that all non-Objectivists are not happy. So we will not call it “happiness” but something else, say, “satisfaction.” But even with a change in terminology, the problem remains: there are some people on the planet who prefer the “satisfaction” of a non-Objectivist life to the “happiness” of an Objectivist life. And there is simply no proof that we can offer to demonstrate that the latter would be psychically preferable to the former.

You have to decide for yourself what happiness is, then act accordingly. There is no reason to sit on the fence about it, or be distracted by what others say, especially not _criminals_.

As long as we have no way to scientifically measure one’s satisfaction, pleasure or joy, any attempt to make judgments about what Objectivists versus non-Objectivists experience internally is pure conjecture.

To repeat myself once more: if you accept the Objectivist theory of concept formation, and apply it consistently, the conclusion that "Mao" is not happy inevitably follows - no matter what he claims. And if you do accept it, you will not claim that the result of applying that theory is to argue by "declaration" or "definition" - you will regard the result as _truth_.

I have already acknowledged that Mao is not happy in the Objectivist sense. “Okay,” said Mao, “then I’d rather be personally satisfied than happy.” If you are arguing that one must necessarily be happier by a “consistent” application of “the Objectivist theory of concept formation,” then you really haven’t proven anything because you have already ruled out the existence of any happiness other than Objectivist happiness.

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Let us stipulate that the Objectivist concept of happiness is valid.  Mao listens to the Objectivist argument, thinks about it, and even briefly tries a career as a productive individual.  Nonetheless, after a while he decides to return to his former life as a predator.  We ask, why?  Mao replies that he simply enjoys being a dictator more than being an Objectivist.  Of course, we can accuse Mao of evasion, irrationality, whim-worshipping or whatever, but that isn’t going to alter the fact that Mao places a greater value on wielding power than voluntary production and exchange. We can declare that any positive emotions Mao derives from aggression are temporary, short term, and shallow.  And he could respond that he finds being a tyrant deeply rewarding. Why, he asks, should he care about objective happiness, when he enjoyed his former subjective happiness much more? "’Personal satisfaction’ is not happiness,” we insist.  “Okay,” says Mao, “then I’d rather be personally satisfied than happy.”

First, I'd like to essentially echo what Mark has said above.

But, I'd just like to add that there's nothing in the Objectivist metaethics nor in it's theory of virtue which claims that a person exposed to its arguments will be forced to accede to them. Now, I may be misunderstanding what you are saying, but that seems to be the implication of your argument. I repeat: a true argument, no matter how persuasive and powerful, cannot compel a person to accept it. This fact can be seen quite readily in the case of those who explicitly reject the existence axiom. I mean if anything's a candidate to "compel" ascension, the existence axiom would be it. But, it can't.

So, does it mean that because it's possible to reject what is true, that an alternative theory (or set of actions or behaviors) to the truth is somehow "just as valid." No. I don't see how that follows in the least. There are all sorts of "reasons" (read: rationalizations, evasions, etc.) why someone would reject a rational course of action in favor of something less stellar. Are you asking why a rational course of action is preferable to an irrational one, if one "chooses" the irrational one? Something like that seems to be what you are saying.

Frankly, I think the choice of Mao as an example doesn't really help much. Somebody (and I use that term here very loosely) like that has so many problems that I don't buy for a minute that they're happy, contented, satisfied, or whatever other positive connotation you'd like to add (or that they themselves might claim).

Perhaps, this book might be of some assistance on the issue:

The Psychology of Dictatorship by G. M. Gilbert

You can declare that there is no such thing as non-Objectivist happiness, but saying that won’t change the fact that some find the lifestyle of a non-Objectivist preferable to that of the Objectivist.  And that leaves us with an is-ought gap.

Again, that some choose a morality at variance to Objectivism doesn't necessarily demonstrate anything more than that they've made the choice to act irrationally (if that's what they are in fact doing; of course, it could also be a failure to understand the issues involved, which wouldn't be irrational, which wouldn't really apply to the case of psychotic dictators). I don't see how it follows that this leaves us with an is-ought gap. What does that even mean in this context? There's an is-ought gap because the "is" doesn't force action on a being that possesses volition? That implies that only an intrinsicist theory of value can bridge the is-ought gap.

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This cannot be true if the Objectivist view of what happiness is is true.

Happiness is defined as (from memory) "That state of emotion which procedes from the achievement of ones values", and "A state of non-contradictory joy". This is not a short term or temporary thing - it is a deep, underlying state that colors a person's whole existence across a long span of time. It is not, in other words, the same as some momentary positive emotion one might feel after a particular event.

Looking more deeply, this view of happiness depends on the meaning of the concepts "value" and "achievement". According to Objectivism, only those things which preserve, protect and promote Man's life are values. Whether something is an "Achievement" depends on the action taken to get the thing, i.e., it depends on whether the action was a virtue or a vice. Only something acquired through virtue can qualify as a value; a thing acquired through vice cannot be a value. The way this has been put in the literature is that an improper means invalidates the end.

A criminal/parasitical action is a _vice_, and hence the thing acquired through that action cannot be a value - even if it is something that would be a value if acquired through virtue. A robber who acquires a million dollars by stealing has _not_ acquired a value - the million dollars is literally not a value.

Putting all of this together, it is _impossible_ for a criminal/parasite to be happy in the Objectivist sense of that term, because the things he acquires are the products of vice. He can feel a temporary, short term, shallow positive emotion, but that emotion is _inappropriate_ and it is not happiness. If he also acquires some things through virtue, that won't make happiness possible, because whatever his emotional state, it will be a _contradictory_ one.

To hold that a criminal/parasite can be or is happy is to reject the Objectivist concept of "happiness", it is to hold that that concept is invalid - which comes down to denying the method by which that concept was formed. In other words, to hold that is to reject _all_ of Objectivism via rejecting the theory of concepts on which it is based.

The above is a summary, in my own words, of what is treated at length and in depth in the literature (including taped lectures), so go there for more.

Mark Peters

(Paragraph 1) Here in lies your biggest clue: "This cannot be true IF the Objectivist view of what happiness is is true."

(Paragraph 2) So Rand and her minions ACTUALLY claim that they can make an OBJECTIVE determination of one's PERMANENT state of psychological well-being based upon whether or not they ever told even a single lie? What a goddam joke. If I steal a slice of bread from my neighbor tomorrow, would you, Ayn, and Lenny suggest that my happiness has from there forward been removed from the realm of the possible? I fully understand the distinction between being momentarily pleased and an integrated concept of, "happiness." Friedman understood it as well. However, he does not hold, as you do, that one instance of, "evasion," whether it be lying, cheating, stealing, what have you, constitutes the complete inversion of his/her moral/ethical code from that point forward. How was this determination made? If such is the case, we are all whim-worshiping evaders and happiness is possible to none of us, as all of us have certainly, "evaded," at one time or another.

You can keep your definition of happiness, but realize that by the Objectivist standard, happiness has yet to be achieved by a human being. Galt (a fictional character) would be close, but even he would be deigned miserable by Rand and the lot. I can absolutely, 100%, without a doubt in my mind, say that every human being (save babies or the mentally impaired) has been guilty of evasion (as defined by Objectivism) at one point or another. Because this is so, our pursuit of happiness, by your standards is a complete exercise in futility: we can never achieve it. If this is so, by working toward a happiness which we don't deserve, are we not all subconsciously working toward our own destruction? What does Objectivism suggest we do about this? Does Objectivism flat out say, "Good, you deserve to self-destruct. You are sub-human, you hate life, and you deserve it?" Is there an appropriate way for an evader to live, since, "happiness," is no longer his objective? It doesn't matter now whether we lead a life of vice or virtue...either will lead to the same place: unhappiness. With the possibility of happiness removed, what justifies a person's decision to act virtuous or in vice?

(Paragraphs 3 & 4) I do not adhere to your subjective definitions of the concepts of value and achievement. More accurately, I agree with THOSE definitions in principle, but disagree with your concept of happiness - most specifically that ONE evasion constitutes a completely inversion of one's morality. If you or Miss Rand choose to make up a definition for value, and in your definition stipulate that a thing acquired by vice cannot be a value, without having presented any pertinent psychological or other objective facts, all you have done is state your opinion. Hence is from ought. That Ayn Rand uttered the words, does not make them an objective standard. The problem here is that, per a typical Randian, you have substituted, "value," for, "what Ayn Rand deigns to be valuable."

Perhaps Ayn would fail to sleep a wink with the robbery weighing on her conscience, but you have failed to provide a single shred of Objective proof that humans are incapable of being happy once they have acquired a single, "value," through vice. You all keep saying, "Objectivism holds..." then restating your position. Such is the range of your argument thus far. Friedman suggests that happiness is possible to those who do not subscribe to Randian ethics and asks what EVIDENCE (not just what Ayn says) do you have that this is true? It is important to point out that I do not think Ayn, or you, are far from the mark in this regard...but it's absolutely imperative to curtail this tendency to assume is from ought, as it can be extremely damaging in other facets. I do believe in order composed in the presence of objective facts, but it's extremely important to be careful when assigning objectivity.

(Paragraph 5) Again, linguistics are drawing your conclusions for you: "Putting all of this together it is impossible for a criminal/parasite to be happy IN THE OBJECTIVIST SENSE OF THAT TERM." Arguing by definition is about as accurate an assessment as could have been made. If this is all you wish to say, you will probably find very little opposition. If Objectivists want to come up with a whole different set of definitions for words, then say anything which does not fit this definition is not the thing, by all means feel free to wallow in your futility. Please indulge me in clarifying the Objectivist position:

From what I can gather you seem to be saying that a singular instance of dishonesty or, "evasion," committed knowingly, regardless to the degree of its severity (except in the case of, "emergencies," which I realize Miss Rand held in special regard and is another point with which I do not agree) or any other mitigating circumstances, from there forward completely restricts that individiual's ability to be happy. Any positive emotion that they experience from there on will merely be shadow figure emotion derived from the inverted code of morality they created for themselves at the instance of evasion. If you lie to your wife about which television program you watched last night, curing Cancer, AIDS, and Leukemia combined could not make you a happy person. If you have a, "good time," at the baseball game 10 years from now, somewhere, gnawing at the back of your mind and forever preventing your true happiness, the lie you told your wife remains. Is this something one consciously identifies? "You know what, I'm having a GREAT time right now. I'm with the wife and kids, at the ball game drinking a beer, eating a hot dog. I feel completely satisfied. What could be better? Wait...wait...what's this? I feel something creeping up on my enjoyment of the game...goddamit, that's right...I lied to my wife about watching, "Lord of the G-Strings," all those years ago...who am I kidding, I don't deserve to be happy. Oh well - I'm sure having a great time! (takes a big drink of beer which proceeds to run down his chin and onto his shirt) Go Rangers!"

As Mr. Mathis suggests, of what relevance is the discussion of one's happiness if your definition is some abstract permanent status? I think you will find that many people will simply say, "If this is happiness, you can keep it. As long as I may continue to experience satisfaction, pleasure, etc. your arbitrary designation of my unhappiness means absolutely nothing to me." You provide no incentive for someone to be happy (in the Objectivist sense) which would not already have been produced by the nature of their actions. Again, your is from ought EVASION implies omniscience. One's psychological well-being cannot be objectively categorized by another person.

You speak of, "the facts of happiness," around whose objective nature you were able to amass your conclusions. Which facts? Name them. All you are doing is saying that YOUR subjective opinion, by nature of Objectivism, is objective. The most obvious flaw in your theory is that you have no OBJECTIVE device by which to determine that a person is happy or unhappy. I can tell you right now that I am a very happy person AND I have lied before - what will you do about it? You can scream at me until you are blue in the face, "No! No goddamit it can't be! You're lying! You're evading! Ayn said it's not possible! You merely THINK you're happy because you're an evader who has created an inverted sense of virtue! If I discover a chink in her armor I will be forced to go out and draw my own conclusions! Say it ain't so! You're nothing but a whim-worshiper...yeah,yeah, that's it...a whim-worshiper and you know what else....you're a social metaphysician! You are NOT an Objectivist and you are here by excommunicated!"

(Paragraph 6) If you are accurately conveying the Objectivist concept of happiness, yes, I absolutely reject it whole-heartedly. If this implies (which it does not) that I completely reject any conclusion ever drawn by Rand, then I reject it. Typically trite Randian argument: "If you don't agree with EVERYTHING Rand says, you automatically agree with NOTHING Rand says." Give me a break, friend. I have great respect for Rand, but if such is her argument in this regard, I have no problem saying that I reject Objectivism - that does not send my universe spiraling into chaos as it may yours. I do not need to read a lengthy treatise - can you not explain it just as easily? I would assume that you could, given your complete objective understanding of the matter. Furthermore, it will allow Objectivism to represent itself dynamically in the context of live opposition.

Edited by mattieabs

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Hal, this is a mistake that I have seen on this forum many times. This is not a matter of definitions, it is a matter of what happiness _is_

Happyness is a word. Words dont have intrinsic meanings - a word has the meaning that someone has given it. It seems clear to me that you are using the word happyness to mean something very different from how standard speakers of English use it. There is nothing wrong with this - a word can often have different meanings (the word 'bank' can refer either to the Federal Reserve or to the side of a river, yet it would be absurd to claim that one of these is the real, objective meaning of 'bank', or to ask what a bank "really is"). Ayn Rand defined the word selfishness in a way that was significantly different from the standard English usage, but she then went on to justify her alternative definition. She pointed out that the normal usage obscured a distinction that should be highlighted, and explained how her definition served to bring this out. Hence, there are good reasons for agreeing to use her definition instead. The problem is that noone, to my knowledge, has EVER given a similar justification of the changed meaning of happyness.

One of the main differences between Objectivist happyness and 'standard English' happyness is that in standard English, happyness generally refers to a mental state (or to a set of dispositions). Happyness is a 'state you are in', or a 'series of states you have a propensity to be in'. In Objectivism however, happyness seems to be more of a "relational property". No matter what is actually going on inside your head, you can only be described as 'happy' if you stand in a certain relation to the external world, namely that you have performed certain actions which are classed as rational. Its like the difference between 'being in pain' and 'being a student' - anyone can be in pain just by virtue of being in a certain mental state (experiencing the phenomenon of pain), yet one can only be a student as a result of performing certain actions - by registering at a university for instance. Being in pain is something that goes on inside your head, whereas being a student involves a relationship between you and the envioronment. In Objectivism, happyness seems to be more like 'being a student' than 'being in pain', although this is obviously not the case in standard English.

A concrete example will make it easier to bring out the distinction that is being made. Lets pretend that we have 4 different people:

a) Person A is an Objectivist composer who has just writer finished a symphony he has worked 5 years on. He claims this achievement of his values makes him happy.

B) Person B is a drug dealer who has made a fortune selling heroin. He has personally been involved in several murders, yet the money he has made allows him to live the life of a playboy. He spends his evenings sniffing crack cocaine out of the navels of supermodels, and claims this makes him happy.

c) Person C is an Objectivist architect. He is currently in the process of designing a large superstore, and claims the joy of dedicating himself to work makes him happy.

d) Person D is a mystic who says he has found englightment through Zen Buddhism. He meditates 6 hours a day and claims to be the happyest man alive.

(In other words, persons A and C are happy in the Objectivist sense of the word, whereas persons B and D are happy in the standard English sense.)

Firstly, do you believe this is possible? Would persons B and D just be lying? If so, then are they 'lying to themselves', or just lying to others when they claim to be happy? In the first case, I'm not sure what this would even mean - it doesnt make sense to think that you are happy yet actually be unhappy, for the same reason it doesnt make sense to think that you are in pain, yet not actually be in pain. To believe you are in a certain mental state is just to be in that mental state - there isnt really anything that it is possible to be mistaken about. In the second case, that they are lying to others, the onus would be on you to justify this. It really would be an astonishing claim - it would amount to the assertion that everyone who has ever claimed to be happy, yet has acted irrationally, is actually lying.

Anyway, assuming that the above situation is coherent, the next question would be what it actually involves.

Would you say that subjectively (ie from the point of view of the persons themselves introspecting, in terms of what they are actually experiencing and can find out by looking inwards), that all 4 people are experiencing a similar sort of mental state? Or would you say that persons A and C are experiencing something that is qualitively different from persons B and D, since their happyness has been achieved rationally? In terms of what they actually feel and experience, is there actually a difference between the happyness that comes from achieving rational values, and the happyness that comes from other sources? If we took person B and gave him a copy of Atlas Shrugged, which caused him to give up his life of crime and become a productive human being, would he ever reach a point where he could say "You know, I was never really happy before - THIS, what I am feeling right now, is REAL happyness! My previous feelings were just an illusion". (This isnt quite as absurd as it sounds - a lot of people do say this with respect to love - "I thought I loved my first girlfriend, but I was mistaken - I've only known true love since I met my wife").

Assuming that these happynesses are actually different, the next question would be - how could you possibly know this? What basis could you ever have for making a claim like this, what evidence could support it, and how could it be verified?

Assuming that these happynesses arent actually different, and that irrational people can experience the exact mental state as that experienced by Objectivists (even though you wont call it happyness), the question becomes - why is Objectivst happyness preferable to standard English happyness? Why is it better to be person A, than to be person B? If the mental states are exactly the same, and if there is no difference whatsoever between being happy as a result of rational achievement, and being unhappy-yet-experiencing-the-exact-same-thing-as-a-happy-person as a result of irrationality, then why is the first be preferable to the second? Why should person B, our drug lord, give up his life of crime and pursue a productive career when the end product is going to be the exact same mental state he was already in?

Edited by Hal

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I can tell you right now that I am a very happy person AND I have lied before - what will you do about it?

Hmmm...so are you lying now too? After all, you are a self-admitted liar and seem to have no compunction about deceiving others nor any real motive to tell the truth except when it suits you. Why should we take anything you say seriously?

I think it's time for you to move on to a suitable hole somewhere.

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(Paragraph 6) If you are accurately conveying the Objectivist concept of happiness, yes, I absolutely reject it whole-heartedly. If this implies (which it does not) that I completely reject any conclusion ever drawn by Rand, then I reject it. Typically trite Randian argument: "If you don't agree with EVERYTHING Rand says, you automatically agree with NOTHING Rand says." Give me a break, friend. I have great respect for Rand, but if such is her argument in this regard, I have no problem saying that I reject Objectivism - that does not send my universe spiraling into chaos as it may yours. I do not need to read a lengthy treatise - can you not explain it just as easily? I would assume that you could, given your complete objective understanding of the matter.  Furthermore, it will allow Objectivism to represent itself dynamically in the context of live opposition.

I'm not convinced Ayn Rand even made these kind of claims. I'd be very interested if there was a place in her writings when she said anything even remotely like 'irrational people cant be happy'. If I remember correctly, Peikoff made several claims along these lines in OPAR, but I dont think I've ever read Ayn Rand saying it.

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"I think it's time for you to move on to a suitable hole somewhere."

Do you honestly think that that's an adequate and rational response?

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"I think it's time for you to move on to a suitable hole somewhere."

Do you honestly think that that's an adequate and rational response?

Umm, did you honestly read what this person posted? They just so happened to join the forum yesterday and appear to have a fetish for this issue...just a tad suspicious.

Here's a few juicy quotes in case you missed them:

"(Paragraph 2) So Rand and her minions..."

"What a goddam joke."

"would you, Ayn, and Lenny suggest..."

"every human being (save babies or the mentally impaired) has been guilty of evasion (as defined by Objectivism) at one point or another."

"Because this is so, our pursuit of happiness, by your standards is a complete exercise in futility: we can never achieve it. If this is so, by working toward a happiness which we don't deserve, are we not all subconsciously working toward our own destruction?"

"The problem here is that, per a typical Randian..."

"I can tell you right now that I am a very happy person AND I have lied before - what will you do about it? You can scream at me until you are blue in the face, "No! No goddamit it can't be! You're lying! You're evading! Ayn said it's not possible! You merely THINK you're happy because you're an evader who has created an inverted sense of virtue! If I discover a chink in her armor I will be forced to go out and draw my own conclusions! Say it ain't so! You're nothing but a whim-worshiper...yeah,yeah, that's it...a whim-worshiper and you know what else....you're a social metaphysician! You are NOT an Objectivist and you are here by excommunicated!""

"Typically trite Randian argument..."

And you're concerned that my response isn't adequate and rational? To THIS screeching mess? Uh, yeah, I think my comment was quite warranted.

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Hmmm...so are you lying now too? After all, you are a self-admitted liar and seem to have no compunction about deceiving others nor any real motive to tell the truth except when it suits you. Why should we take anything you say seriously?

I think it's time for you to move on to a suitable hole somewhere.

This is the best you've come up with? Objectivism must be in a worse state than I had imagined. Your entire defense of Rand's unjust is/ought jump, hinges on your assumption that I COULD be lying about being happy? You do not even claim to know, objectively, that I am lying - only that I COULD be and from that you are able to determine that I'm a complete moron whose non-objectivist opinions are invalid.

Secondarily, you wouldn't consider what I SAID even if I WERE telling the truth. YOUR determination of my happiness does not stem from what I say...after all, I could merely be disassociating positive feelings from their properly virtuous derivations or misinterpreting feelings of, "satisfaction," and, "joy," because of the inversion of my moral code created when I lied the very first time - the very first time I gained a value from vice. YOUR determination of happiness is entirely irrelevant to how I feel or what I say, but is measured against an arbitrary standard YOU have pre-determined. The only way one could determine that another person is telling the truth in a given situation, is to have objective evidence that he/she has NEVER lied, which of course is impossible. So I will ask you the same question, why should we take anything you say seriously? Why should we take anything ANYONE says seriously, since we have no objective proof that they never lied?

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Umm, did you honestly read what this person posted? They just so happened to join the forum yesterday and appear to have a fetish for this issue...just a tad suspicious.

Here's a few juicy quotes in case you missed them:

"(Paragraph 2) So Rand and her minions..."

"What a goddam joke."

"would you, Ayn, and Lenny suggest..."

"every human being (save babies or the mentally impaired) has been guilty of evasion (as defined by Objectivism) at one point or another."

"Because this is so, our pursuit of happiness, by your standards is a complete exercise in futility: we can never achieve it. If this is so, by working toward a happiness which we don't deserve, are we not all subconsciously working toward our own destruction?"

"The problem here is that, per a typical Randian..."

"I can tell you right now that I am a very happy person AND I have lied before - what will you do about it? You can scream at me until you are blue in the face, "No! No goddamit it can't be! You're lying! You're evading! Ayn said it's not possible! You merely THINK you're happy because you're an evader who has created an inverted sense of virtue! If I discover a chink in her armor I will be forced to go out and draw my own conclusions! Say it ain't so! You're nothing but a whim-worshiper...yeah,yeah, that's it...a whim-worshiper and you know what else....you're a social metaphysician! You are NOT an Objectivist and you are here by excommunicated!""

"Typically trite Randian argument..."

And you're concerned that my response isn't adequate and rational? To THIS screeching mess? Uh, yeah, I think my comment was quite warranted.

So that I joined the forum yesterday and made a couple of posts gives rise to suspicion? Of what do you suspect me? Believe me friend, I have a fetish for EVERY issue, which you will see in time. If you are able to refute my comments, just do so...you've yet to prove anything to anyone.

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Secondarily, you wouldn't consider what I SAID even if I WERE telling the truth. YOUR determination of my happiness does not stem from what I say...after all, I could merely be disassociating positive feelings from their properly virtuous derivations or misinterpreting feelings of, "satisfaction," and, "joy," because of the inversion of my moral code created when I lied the very first time - the very first time I gained a value from vice. YOUR determination of happiness is entirely irrelevant to how I feel or what I say, but is measured against an arbitrary standard YOU have pre-determined.

Wow, you certainly know a lot about me. That's amazing. Strange crop of psychics they're growing this year. I responded to you as I did because you don't merit any serious attention.

Fact is you're about as crazy as a sh*t house rat. And that's a GD objective fact. Keep looking for that hole. Good day.

ps, please keep wasting your time writing your screeds. I don't think anyone but you will be reading them.

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But, I'd just like to add that there's nothing in the Objectivist metaethics nor in it's theory of virtue which claims that a person exposed to its arguments will be forced to accede to them. Now, I may be misunderstanding what you are saying, but that seems to be the implication of your argument. I repeat: a true argument, no matter how persuasive and powerful, cannot compel a person to accept it. This fact can be seen quite readily in the case of those who explicitly reject the existence axiom. I mean if anything's a candidate to "compel" ascension, the existence axiom would be it. But, it can't.

I am not saying that an argument has to compel every person to accept it in order to be valid. Rather, I hold that one can accept virtually all of Rand’s premises about man’s nature and still would not logically have to come to the conclusion that it is in his own self-interest to adopt the principle of not “sacrificing others to himself.”

Frankly, I think the choice of Mao as an example doesn't really help much. Somebody (and I use that term here very loosely) like that has so many problems that I don't buy for a minute that they're happy, contented, satisfied, or whatever other positive connotation you'd like to add (or that they themselves might claim).

I would be very interested in looking at any data you wish to present that contradicts the recently published biography, cited earlier, that presents Mao as a man who thoroughly enjoyed himself

Again, that some choose a morality at variance to Objectivism doesn't necessarily demonstrate anything more than that they've made the choice to act irrationally (if that's what they are in fact doing; of course, it could also be a failure to understand the issues involved, which wouldn't be irrational, which wouldn't really apply to the case of psychotic dictators). I don't see how it follows that this leaves us with an is-ought gap. What does that even mean in this context? There's an is-ought gap because the "is" doesn't force action on a being that possesses volition? That implies that only an intrinsicist theory of value can bridge the is-ought gap.

By “is-ought gap” I mean that that certain Objectivist principles, specifically the non-initiation of force, do not follow logically from what Rand sets up in the foundations of her moral system. In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand writes,

    “The men who attempt to survive, not by means of reason, but by means of force, are attempting to survive by the method of animals. But just as animals would not be able to survive by attempting the method of plants, by rejecting locomotion and waiting for the soil to feed them – so men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey. Such looters may achieve their goals for the range of the moment, at the price of destruction: the destruction of their victims and their own. As evidence, I offer you any criminal or any dictatorship.” (p. 24, VOS)

We could quibble about whether men who initiate force “are attempting to survive by the method of animals.” There are in fact quite a few criminals who by virtue of their keen human intellect have achieved enormous personal success; a number of them have occupied the White House. The real problem is in going from that description to the next step: “so men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey.” This plainly is not true. There are hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people in the world who survive by “counting on productive men to serve as their prey.” Furthermore, many of these predators do not just survive but prosper. (See http://appserv.gcn.com/17_29/news/33004-1.html ) Nor is it true that welfare state looters are merely achieving “their goals for the range of the moment.” The income tax is about to enter its second century in America, and there is no sign that the thousands of politicians and bureaucrats who maintain it are about to be destroyed, go broke, or even face a cut in pay. Of course, it is undeniable that in the long run parasitism weakens the host. And no one on the forum needs to be convinced that federal parasites are making America weaker. But on the microeconomic level, looting can, for some, be fun, profitable and long-term.

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By “is-ought gap” I mean that that certain Objectivist principles, specifically the non-initiation of force, do not follow logically from what Rand sets up in the foundations of her moral system.

If you interpret Ayn Rand's statements to be universal statements about human psychology, which apply equally to all men at every single moment of their lives, then you are correct. But I doubt that this is how she intended them, and it's difficult to imagine her agreeing with an interpretation which leads to some of the claims made in this thread.

It may well be that some who act immorally are happy, and some of the world's most moral individuals might find themselves unhappy (perhaps due to unfortunate circumstances, like the death of all whom they loved coupled with serious physical injury - suicide can certainly be rational in some circumstances). This has been a problem for moral theorists since the dawn of philosophy - Plato's Republic is really just a long-winded attempt to try and explain this phenomenon, and the concepts of heaven, hell and karma were probably invented to try and 'solve' it. But really, I dont think that it has any more significance than than saying that some people who smoke go on to live until over 100. I would argue that most people, in todays world, are far more likely to be happy than if they lived otherwise. Perhaps some wont - maybe Mao would 'reject the life of productivity', and Agamemnon might be unable to conceive of a happy life devoid of the ritual slaughter of his enemies. But this does not affect the general principle.

I think you're looking for 'logical' certainty in an area where it could not possibly exist. You cant derive the (un)happyness of a particular person from a moral theory in the same way that you can derive the motions of the planets from the equations of physics, but nor do you need to in order to have a valid and correct moral theory.

Edited by Hal

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If you interpret Ayn Rand's statements to be universal statements about human psychology, which apply equally to all men at every single moment of their lives, then you are correct. But I doubt that this is how she intended them, and it's difficult to imagine her agreeing with an interpretation which leads to some of the claims made in this thread.

Actually, what I’m contesting is this argument: a) using (initiating) force is the method of animals, B) man is not an animal, c) ergo, man may (should, ought) not use force. Now, how does c) necessarily follow from a) and B)?

It may well be that some who act immorally are happy, and some of the world's most moral individuals might find themselves unhappy (perhaps due to unfortunate circumstances, like the death of all whom they loved coupled with serious physical injury - suicide can certainly be rational in some circumstances). This has been a problem for moral theorists since the dawn of philosophy - Plato's Republic is really just a long-winded attempt to try and explain this phenomenon, and the concepts of heaven, hell and karma were probably invented to try and 'solve' it. But really, I dont think that it has any more significance than than saying that some people who smoke go on to live until over 100. I would argue that most people, in todays world, are far more likely to be happy than if they lived otherwise. Perhaps some wont - maybe Mao would 'reject the life of productivity', and Agamemnon might be unable to conceive of a happy life devoid of the ritual slaughter of his enemies. But this does not affect the general principle.

I embrace the moral principle of the non-initiation of force. I simply do not believe it follows logically from the premise that man is not an animal.

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