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Ayn Rand's Derivation of Ought from Is

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Actually, what I’m contesting is this argument:  a) using (initiating) force is the method of animals, :D 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 doesnt, but that isnt the only argument Ayn Rand gave. The entirity of the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are arguments against initiating force - an argument doesnt need to be formalized in "premises, premises -> conclusion" form to be valid. Has anyone ever came to accept or reject a moral system based on a syllogism?

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It doesnt, but that isnt the only argument Ayn Rand gave. The entirity of the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are arguments against initiating force - an argument doesnt need to be formalized in "premises, premises -> conclusion" form to be valid. Has anyone ever came to accept or reject a moral system based on a syllogism?

Look, Hal, I'm on your side in this debate over the supposed "objective" definition of "happiness."

However, I am not opposed to the idea of an ethical code based on formal, logical argument. If Rand's argument fails in that department, it does not exclude the possibility of others.

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(Paragraph 1) [irrelevancy deleted for space]

(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?

Criminals cannot be happy for all the reasons that have been given. I never said anything about lying, but I will now: to the extent that someone is dishonest, _they_ cannot be happy either, and for the same reason as the criminal: dishonesty puts one at war with reality, which is what violating somebody's rights does as well.

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.

Proof please?

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?

Again, proof please? This is so detached from the reality of what Objectivism has to say that I suspect you've never made any actual attempt to understand it. Refute it yes, insult it, yes, disrespect it, yes - but not understand it.

(Paragraphs 3 & 4) I do not adhere to your subjective definitions of the concepts of value and achievement. 

Please provide the proof that the Objectivist (or even just my) definitions of those concepts are subjective.

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.

Provide the proof that I wrote that or publish a retraction. I never even _used_ the word evasion, let alone claimed that one evasion is "a completely inversion of one's morality", whatever that means.

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.

Please provide the proof that this is so.

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." 

Thank you for making your hostility clear to all. Since I never deal with hostile people, I will now not deal with you.

I've been around a lot of years, but never have I seen as much fear coming from one person as you have shown in this one posting.

Mark Peters

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Happyness is a word. Words dont have intrinsic meanings - a word has the meaning that someone has given it.

Then here is part of the problem. You're right, words don't have intrinsic meanings, i.e., their meaning isn't in reality without any relation to the nature of man (specifically, the nature of his mind). But meanings are also not subjective, i.e., they are not in man's mind without any relation to reality. To say that "a word has the meaning that someone has given it" is to say that meaning is subjective.

The whole point I have been trying to make is that the Objectivist concept of happiness is _objective_, i.e, it takes both reality and the nature of man's mind into account by virtue of being a proper conceptualization (man's method of acquiring knowledge) of facts (reality).

Simply holding to whatever happens to be the popular view of happiness is pure subjectivism. What's going to happen to your view if someday (soon I hope) the Objectivist view becomes the popular one? Are you then going to switch sides?

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").

I'm not merely using the word in a different way - I'm rejecting the popular view of happiness as an incorrect conceptualization of the facts, and based on a correct conceptualization, embracing a completely different view.

Yes, it is absurd to say that "Federal Reserve" is the real, objective meaning of "bank" rather than "Side of the river". But that's because the same word is being used to denote two _different_ concepts. With "happiness", however, we're trying to refer to the _same_ concept, to the _same_ phenomenon in reality.

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. 

Ayn Rand has done exactly that with "happiness". In fact, many philosophers (e.g., Aristotle) had a view of happiness that was very much more like the Objectivist view than the popular view. Even _before_ I knew about Objectivism, I knew that "happiness" was a much more profound and deep thing than commonly thought.

The thing that Ayn Rand did with many important concepts in philosophy was to form them _from scratch_ based deliberately upon a specific, validated method for doing so. In some cases, that lead to concepts that totally flouted popular usage, and in others, it simply lead to a much clearer and more consistent understanding.

And again, don't keep getting hung up on _definitions_. A definition is important, but it is an end result of conceptualization, it's a means for retaining a concept and keeping it separate from others, but it is the process of conceptualization as such that is the more fundamentally important thing. Identifying that process is Ayn Rand's key achievement, and it is what makes her philosophy so unique.

Is the popular concept of happiness valid or not, and why? Objectivism says no, and it explicitly says why: because it is an incorrect conceptualization of the facts.

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". [...]

I'd say the Objectivist view combines both of those. Happiness _is_ a mental/psychological state, but one that is the result not of short range or fleeting success in life, but of long range, enduring success ... _because_ the person is in a proper relationship with reality, and he knows it.

Regarding your four people, the Objectivist composer, the drug dealer, the Objectivist architect, and the mystic, all else being equal, yes, the two Objectivists can legitimately claim happiness.

I would say the dealer is so corrupt that nothing he says can be accepted at face value. His thinking methods and hence his values are so twisted that whatever he feels, it is totally out of sync with reality - he undoubtedly feels positive emotions when uncorrupted people would feel negative ones.

The mystic _might_ be in the same situation and might not, depending on how seriously he takes his own ideas. If he's basically the same as the average church goer who leaves his religion behind him when he exits the church, happiness is still possible to him, though I think it would be muted and undercut.

And I think this addresses what you asked about what such people actually experience internally. It might well be that by every measure possible, the dealer and the architect feel the same emotion - the same physical symptoms and the same moral evaluation (basically, "This is good").

But two things need to be said here.

First, the dealer has a corrupt value system, and the architect has an uncorrupted one. The emotions a person feels depends on his values (remember that from another thread?), and bad values lead to inappropriate emotional reactions.

Second, happiness is not in the same category as "satisfaction" or "joy" or other emotions that depend directly on what has happened in the moment - it is a long-term, underlying, continuous state that isn't affected by the short range. A truly happy person can experience disappointment, sadness and other negative emotions, but they "Only go down so far" as Ayn Rand put it. Happiness is a person's bedrock - there might be a lot of soil shifting going on above, there might be bare spots, but the foundation is solid.

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?

Because it is better to be in sync with reality than at war with it, or fundamentally, it is better to be alive than dead. The orientation towards reality presupposed by the Objectivist concept of happiness is what makes successful living (by the Objectivist standard, of course) possible. Successful living plus the knowledge that one's relationship to reality is the cause of that is what causes happiness.

The drug dealer's relationship to reality is one of conflict, of war, and such a war cannot be won. The dealer might prolong the war, or drag it out, but he can't win it.

If the choice is "Act in accordance with reality and hence live by design" or "Act in conflict with reality and hence live by luck", is there really any question about which one should choose?

By the way, this posting of yours is the best one I've seen here in a long time. I personally appreciate and enjoy sincere, pointed, and well-written posts, critical of Objectivism or not. You might want to try using an "i" instead of a "y" in "happyness", though. ;-)

Mark Peters

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However, I am not opposed to the idea of an ethical code based on formal, logical argument. If Rand's argument fails in that department, it does not exclude the possibility of others.

I dont know what such an argument would look like, and I seriously doubt that one could exist. Morality is neither mathematics nor formal logic - you arent going to see a moral deduction akin to a deduction in Euclidean geometry. Its this baseless belief that morality stands in need of a formal justification that has led most philosophers to embrace relativism, since they have continually failed to find one.

I would claim that most people have turned to Objectivist morality because of the positive way in which they have responded to books like Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead (I know this certainly applies to me). Either a person will see in Hoawrd Roark something worth striving and fighting for, or they wont. No 'logical' argument is going to persuade someone who hates the Fountainhead that the picture it presents is true - either they will agree with it, or they wont. It's a "sense of life" thing more than anything else. There might be cases where a person has read Ayn Rands non-fiction first and has been converted, but I would imagine that these cases the person had similar views beforehand and is finding that her work is confirming what they already knew (but perhaps had never stated explicitly), or maybe it gives them the courage to acknowledge something they previously felt guilty about. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but I find it very difficult to conceive someone becoming an Objectivist due to "The Virtue of Selfishness" alone, unless they already had very similar beliefs. The Objectivist Ethics is a wonderful piece of writing, but it doesnt have the same persuasive power as seeing moral principles embodied in characters like Roark and Galt. It's similar to the difference between reading a description of a great piece of art, then actually seeing it for yourself.

But lets assume that such a formal argument could exist. What purpose would it serve? I seriously doubt that it is going to convert anyone - as I said, if you didnt respond to FH and AS, encountering a syllogism is unlikely to cause an ephiphany.

A 'formal' argument would play the same role as 'abstract' logical arguments for and against the existence of God - it would bring people a kind of philosophical comfort. I doubt anyone has ever decided to believe in God because of the Anselm/Descartes ontological argument ("Imagine the most perfect thing possible..."), nor that anyone has ceased to believe in God because of an argument based on an analysis of 'omnipotent' . These arguments do not persuade those on the opposing side - they reenforce the beliefs of people who already agree with the conclusion. A theist might feel an undefinable longing for 'explanation', and a logical proof of God's existence will bring him comfort - it serves as a reassurance, a sort of "underlining" of his beliefs. It's something that he can cling to in his moments of doubt, to try and persuade himself that his beliefs are capable of an 'ultimate' justification (whatever that means).

I think that the search for 'formal moral arguments' is very similar - people feel an undescribable uncertainty over the foundations of their morality, and try to find something in formal logic to ease this discomfort. In this way, an argument would function more as a philosophical painkiller than as a rational tool - it would have no effect whatsoever on how they lived or practiced morality, but it would be something to bring out in philosophical discussions to persuade themselves and others that they were doing the right thing.

But none of this is at all necessary. You dont need a 'formal' argument to agree with and practice a morality, nor would a formal argument provide any greater justification than that which you already have. Once you have responded positively to Ayn Rand's vision and then (more importantly) identified exactly what it was you are responding to and why, you have all the justification you need (and are ever going to get).

Edited by Hal

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I dont know what such an argument would look like, and I seriously doubt that one could exist. Morality is neither mathematics nor formal logic - you arent going to see a moral deduction akin to a deduction in Euclidean geometry. Its this baseless belief that morality stands in need of a formal justification that has led most philosophers to embrace relativism, since they have continually failed to find one.

Formal or informal, if an argument’s conclusions do not necessarily follow from its premises, then it is invalid. There may or may not be a rigorous case for the egoist to eschew the initiation of force. But I see no reason to lower the standards for reasoning and proof in order to make an argument “work.”

I would claim that most people have turned to Objectivist morality because of the positive way in which they have responded to books like Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead (I know this certainly applies to me). Either a person will see in Hoawrd Roark something worth striving and fighting for, or they wont. No 'logical' argument is going to persuade someone who hates the Fountainhead that the picture it presents is true - either they will agree with it, or they wont. It's a "sense of life" thing more than anything else. There might be cases where a person has read Ayn Rands non-fiction first and has been converted, but I would imagine that these cases the person had similar views beforehand and is finding that her work is  confirming what they already knew (but perhaps had never stated explicitly), or maybe it gives them the courage to acknowledge something they previously felt guilty about. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but I find it very difficult to conceive someone becoming an Objectivist due to "The Virtue of Selfishness" alone, unless they already had very similar beliefs. The Objectivist Ethics is a wonderful piece of writing, but it doesnt have the same persuasive power as seeing moral principles embodied in characters like Roark and Galt. It's similar to the difference between reading a description of a great piece of art, then actually seeing it for yourself.

Nothing much here to disagree with. Yes. of course people have been emotionally moved by Ayn Rand’s characters -- and have gone on from there to embrace the Objectivist philosophy. But a large number of Americans read the novels and completely reject Rand’s laissez faire conclusions. Conversely, I know quite a few advocates of minimal government who don’t much care for Rand as a fiction writer. I would hope that that the prospects for a free society do not hinge entirely on whether or not a majority of people can be made to love Rand’s novels.

But lets assume that such a formal argument could exist. What purpose would it serve? I seriously doubt that it is going to convert anyone - as I said, if you didnt respond to FH and AS, encountering a syllogism is unlikely to cause an ephiphany.

I was for the free market before I read a word of Rand. I was converted to laissez faire economics by the inescapable logic marshaled by Henry Hazlitt in Economics in One Lesson. In any case, if logic does not matter, why bother with it? Why should universities go to the trouble of offering courses in logic and philosophy, if philosophical arguments have no power to make people alter their judgment?

A 'formal' argument would play the same role as 'abstract' logical arguments for and against the existence of God - it would bring people a kind of philosophical comfort. I doubt anyone has ever decided to believe in God because of the Anselm/Descartes ontological argument ("Imagine the most perfect thing possible..."), nor that anyone has ceased to believe in God because of an argument based on an analysis of 'omnipotent' . These arguments do not persuade those on the opposing side -  they reenforce the beliefs of people who already agree with the conclusion. A theist might feel an undefinable longing for 'explanation', and a logical proof of God's existence will bring him comfort - it serves as a reassurance, a sort of "underlining" of his beliefs. It's something that he can cling to in his moments of doubt, to try and persuade himself that his beliefs are capable of an 'ultimate' justification (whatever that means).

The reason that “these arguments do not persuade those on the opposing side” is because they are without exception fallacious and unscientific. I think it is unfair to Objectivists to suggest that they couldn’t expect to do better than religionists in mounting an argument for their beliefs.

I think that the search for 'formal moral arguments' is very similar - people feel an undescribable uncertainty over the foundations of their morality, and try to find something in formal logic to ease this discomfort. In this way, an argument would function more as a philosophical painkiller than as a rational tool - it would have no effect whatsoever on how they lived or practiced morality, but it would be something to bring out in philosophical discussions to persuade themselves and others that they were doing the right thing.

Note to the moderator: the following sentence comes under the category of reductio ad absurdum, not sarcasm. Are you logically convinced of what you just said, or have you simply persuaded yourself with a “philosophical painkiller” that you are right?

But none of this is at all necessary. You dont need a 'formal' argument to agree with and practice a morality, nor would a formal argument provide any greater justification than that which you already have. Once you have responded positively to Ayn Rand's vision and then (more importantly) identified exactly what it was you are responding to and why, you have all the justification you need (and are ever going to get).

That would be very well if everyone who was potentially for individualism and capitalism all responded positively to Rand’s fiction. Unfortunately, there are some bright people who for one reason or another don’t like Rand’s novels. And some of these bright people have come to embrace the idea of a free society by reading Mises, Milton Friedman, Walter Williams or others.

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Formal or informal, if an argument’s conclusions do not necessarily follow from its premises, then it is invalid.  There may or may not be a rigorous case for the egoist to eschew the initiation of force. But I see no reason to lower the standards for reasoning and proof in order to make an argument “work.” 

[...]

I just want to point out that this view implies that deduction is the be-all and end-all of proof, that only it is "rigorous". If that is what you and Hal are looking for, no _wonder_ you don't accept what Objectivism has to say about the ideas being discussed in this thread. More importantly, this is preventing you even from _understanding_ the Objectivist view.

Objectivism is NOT a deductive philosophy, it is an _inductive_ one. Its principles and conclusions are the result of an inductive grasp of reality, not a deductive one. Objectivism does present a rigorous case against the initiation of force, a case for "Every is implies an ought", a case for selfishness, capitalism, etc., but the rigor comes from _induction_.

The essence of that rigor comes from Ayn Rand's theory of concepts, which is why her view of happiness, for example, is also rigorously correct.

In my opinion, it is this insistence on deductive approaches that is the main cause of the corruption in modern philosophy, and the key reason why so many people don't understand and don't accept Objectivism.

For that reason, I can't stress enough how important it is to get a firm grasp of Objectivism's metaphysics and epistemology before judging the rest of the philosophy. Disagree with it, refuse to accept it, etc. before then, but people should put those on the back burner until afterwards rather than dismiss it with the kind of contempt and hostility some have exhibited in this thread.

Mark Peters

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I just want to point out that this view implies that deduction is the be-all and end-all of proof, that only it is "rigorous". If that is what you and Hal are looking for, no _wonder_ you don't accept what Objectivism has to say about the ideas being discussed in this thread. More importantly, this is preventing you even from _understanding_ the Objectivist view.

Objectivism is NOT a deductive philosophy, it is an _inductive_ one. Its principles and conclusions are the result of an inductive grasp of reality, not a deductive one.  Objectivism does present a rigorous case against the initiation of force, a case for "Every is implies an ought", a case for selfishness, capitalism, etc., but the rigor comes from _induction_.

The essence of that rigor comes from Ayn Rand's theory of concepts, which is why her view of happiness, for example, is also rigorously correct.

As I have said before (Post #63), you have not demonstrated why anyone should necessarily prefer Objectivist “happiness” to some other form of satisfaction. Nor have I seen any proof, inductive or otherwise, for the claim that "every is implies an ought” or that the non-initiation of force can be consistently derived from selfishness. My position on this thread has not been that Objectivist ethical arguments must be deductive to be true, but rather that they are not convincing, deductively or inductively. For example, when Rand writes “So men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey” (“The Objectivist Ethics,” p. 24, VOS), her words are contradicted by the fact that hundreds of millions can and do survive by parasitic means. If every "is" implies an "ought" we could make a case for survival by looting.

In my opinion, it is this insistence on deductive approaches that is the main cause of the corruption in modern philosophy, and the key reason why so many people don't understand and don't accept Objectivism.

I’m perfectly willing to accept a good inductive proof for the non-initiation of force. I simply have not found one in the writings of Ayn Rand or her associates.

For that reason, I can't stress enough how important it is to get a firm grasp of Objectivism's metaphysics and epistemology before judging the rest of the philosophy. Disagree with it, refuse to accept it, etc. before then, but people should put those on the back burner until afterwards rather than dismiss it with the kind of contempt and hostility some have exhibited in this thread.

I am well-versed in Rand’s writings on metaphysics/epistemology. Far from dismissing it or showing hostility, I agree with virtually all of it. But having correct principles regarding the nature of reality and knowledge does not make one’s ethical prescriptions universally or even “objectively” correct.

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As I have said before (Post #63), you have not demonstrated why anyone should necessarily prefer Objectivist “happiness” to some other form of satisfaction. 

Who cares about that? Why do you care what other people "prefer"? Why do you regard the preferences of others to be relevant in a discussion about the validity of a concept?

You may as well hold that there's something wrong with the concept "sober" because there are people who prefer being drunk.

My position on this thread has not been that Objectivist ethical arguments must be deductive to be true, but rather that they are not convincing, deductively or inductively.  For example, when Rand writes “So men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey” (“The Objectivist Ethics,” p. 24, VOS), her words are contradicted by the fact that hundreds of millions can and do survive by parasitic means.  If every "is" implies an "ought" we could make a case for survival by looting.

This is a good example for why I say you don't understand the philosophy, because this is context dropping. Do you really think it is reasonable to believe Ayn Rand was unaware of the existence of criminals and other parasitic types? Do you really think it is reasonable to put that quote together with the existence of parasitic types and then say, in effect, "Aha! Contradiction! The Objectivist view is therefore unconvincing!".

The more reasonable conclusion is that you have missed something, misunderstood something, and/or have made an error. Two of those have been pointed out so far in this posting alone.

I’m perfectly willing to accept a good inductive proof for the non-initiation of force.  I simply have not found one in the writings of Ayn Rand or her associates. 

Then you missed it. Go back and re-avail yourself of what has been written/said by Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, John Ridpath, Gary Hull, Darryl Wright and others.

I am well-versed in Rand’s writings on metaphysics/epistemology.  Far from dismissing it or showing hostility, I agree with virtually all of it.  [...]

You may agree with it, but you don't apply it properly. The "It's unconvincing because people prefer otherwise" line of argument is subjectivism, as is the whole "prudent predator" line. Additionally, the "prudent predator" approach rests on a failure to grasp the meaning and role of principle (among other things).

Mark Peters

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What is the purpose of human life ?
That question doesn't mean anything. You have to ask, for example, what your purpose is in existing, or what purpose your parents had in creating you.

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On the subject of Chairman Mao and other forms of happiness, I would like to add this. What about all the Chairman Mao's who have been killed or live as slaves? There's only one Chairman Mao and he was a fool for taking the road he did. He should be a dead man like all the people he tortured and stepped on in his scramble to the top. Everything about the statistics of powermongering shows the reality of these characters, that they are dependent.

Someone mentioned the prudent predator as well. Such an example, and Mao certainly overlaps, is unrealistic. If rational life truly is about having and getting in good habits, as Aristotle suggests, how is there much opportunity, in addition to the factor of an active police, for someone to be prudently dependent on the weakness of others? We all know people who cheated on tests in highschool. The neccessity of habituation in our lifestyles means that even the most prudent cheat is taking a step down a road. The road to white collar prison. Reason recomends that we reject dependence on principle.

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I just came across this article written by libertarian philosopher David Friedman which criticizes certain aspects of the underlying philosophy behind Galt's speech. I think David's criticisms might be worth discussing here.

I don't yet understand the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical aspects of Rand's philosophy well enough to know whether or not David has a point here - so perhaps some of you can comment?

Here's the link - http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/My_Posts/Ought_From_Is.html

* * Mod Note: Merged from separate thread * *

Edited by brian0918

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1. Existence as the value sought by living things:

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence--and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. ... But a plant has no
choice of action
; ... : it acts automatically to further its life, it cannot act for its own destruction.

An animal ... . But so long as it lives, ... it is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer."

The claim here, quite clearly, is that living things other than human beings automatically act for their own survival. That claim is false. A male mantis, for example, mates, even though the final step of the process consists of being eaten by the female. Female mammals get pregnant, even though (especially in species where the male does not help support female and offspring) doing so substantially reduces their chances of survival. If one is going to ascribe values to non-human living things, the purpose of those values, on both empirical and theoretical grounds, is not survival but reproductive success.

Of course, survival is usually a means to reproductive success, so most living things most of the time are trying to survive. But a living being that put survival above everything else would not reproduce, so its descendants wouldn't be around for Rand to use as evidence in deriving oughts.

Some philosophies, I suppose, could dismiss all of this as irrelevant to metaphysical argument. But Objectivism claims to base its conclusions on the facts of reality--and the "fact" with which Rand starts her argument is false.

Disingenuous from the start. First, observe my emphasis above in red.

Now, here is what the author "elipses" out of the quote about animals:

"In conditions where its knowledge proves inadequate, it dies."

The author of the piece is claiming that Rand is "clearly" stating that animals act for their own survival, which is true, but he leaves out (intentionally, or because he is obtuse) that where the animal does not have required knowledge on how to survive, it will die.

Look what this FOOL ends up arguing. For this to be "proof" that Rand is wrong, he must be stating that the male mantis KNOWS that he is going to get eaten after procreation.

Like just about every attempted critique of Rand I ever read, they need to mischaracterize or outright lie about her meaning to make their point.

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I just came across this article written by libertarian philosopher David Friedman which criticizes certain aspects of the underlying philosophy behind Galt's speech. I think David's criticisms might be worth discussing here.

I don't yet understand the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical aspects of Rand's philosophy well enough to know whether or not David has a point here - so perhaps some of you can comment?

Here's the link - http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/My_Posts/Ought_From_Is.html

I knew I saw this somewhere before:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=2991

Plenty of good responses there.

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**Mod Note: Merged from separate thread. -Dante**

Has anybody read David Friedman's criticism of the Objectivist meta-ethics, in which he gives the example of the mantis? I read it and it sounds pretty solid to me:

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/My_Posts/Ought_From_Is.html

Has Ayn Rand really disproved the is-ought dichotomy or did she just base her arguments on false premises?

Edited by Dante
Merged topic

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The reproduction question has recently come up again here. Again, I recommend (especially for this question of going from is to ought) Binswanger's workon goals and values in relation to biology.

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Perhaps I have a different understanding of the Objectivist Ethics to other people, but I don't understand how the the fact that certain animals put mating above survival is even relevant.

My understanding of the Objectivist argument is that the concept of value only arises in the face of an alternative, and any alternative faced you need to justify why to take one side over the other.

And that chain of justification can potentially go off in to infinity, so unless you can ground it somehow in a "fundamental alternative" then no values will be possible to you.

For epistemological (not ethical) reasons, only your own life can qualify as the fundamental alternative, because it corresponds to the alternative of existence or non-existence, and episemologically existence is the foundation of all knowledge and concepts, so no further justification can be demanded, it must just be accepted or not accepted, thus ending the infinity of justifications.

Is this understanding correct? If so, why would someone like Binswanger write an entire book about reproduction and value?

Edited by philosopher

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Is this understanding correct? If so, why would someone like Binswanger write an entire book about reproduction and value?

Yes, you are correct. Youve made the crucial distinction that Freidman and others have failed to grasp. The Objectivist ethics is for humans, not mantodea. Binswangers book adresses epistemology and meta-ethics, survival vs. reproduction is just a part of it.

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Yes, you are correct. Youve made the crucial distinction that Freidman and others have failed to grasp. The Objectivist ethics is for humans, not mantodea. Binswangers book adresses epistemology and meta-ethics, survival vs. reproduction is just a part of it.

Thanks, I was beginning to think I'd missed something fundamental. Some step in the argument.

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Yes, you are correct. Youve made the crucial distinction that Freidman and others have failed to grasp. The Objectivist ethics is for humans, not mantodea. Binswangers book adresses epistemology and meta-ethics, survival vs. reproduction is just a part of it.

I find it hard to believe that philosophers prior to Ayn Rand didn't realize that ethics was for humans, and not for cats, dogs and stones.

Not doubt ethics is for humans, but then why "survival" as its purpose?

My understanding of the Objectivist argument is that it states that since the natural purpose of life (in general) is "survival", then that's what human morality should aim at.

The example of the mantis shows that this is not the "natural" purpose of life. Has anybody here ever read books about evolutionary psychology? The empirical evidence in favor of evolutionary psychology is just too strong.

Evolutionary psychology studies human behavior as a given instead of defining what it "should be".

I assume that everyone here believes in evolution. So, in the time of the cave what sense would this theory that sex is an expression of spiritual values make? Could it be that nature has programmed us with a desire that moves us towards successful reproduction? This is the only reason that I can think of why men, for example, are attracted to women with certain physical characteristics. Objectivists have evaded this question, but why are attractive girls simply attractive?

Edited by iago

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I find it hard to believe that philosophers prior to Ayn Rand didn't realize that ethics was for humans, and not for cats, dogs and stones.

No one here is claiming that. We're talking specifically about the Objectivist ethics, and how it is misunderstood by Friedman and others. The objections that they make against Rand's conception of "values always serving life" fail to undercut her ethics, because they missed her main argument about why life is the only possible ultimate value around which to base a coherent value hierarchy.

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No one here is claiming that. We're talking specifically about the Objectivist ethics, and how it is misunderstood by Friedman and others. The objections that they make against Rand's conception of "values always serving life" fail to undercut her ethics, because they missed her main argument about why life is the only possible ultimate value around which to base a coherent value hierarchy.

I agree that life is the "only possible ultimate value around which to base a coherent value hierarchy". But if you leave aside "survival" as the ultimate purpose, then this "ultimate value" claim no longer means much. Life is the ultimate value, fine, but what is meant to be done with it?

And most importantly, what does "life" even mean? Biologically speaking, we have always been alive. Before you were born you were a fetus, and before that you were a sperm and an egg, and before that you were multiple cells in the bodies of your parents, grandparents, etc... Life doesn't come from non life. Biologically speaking, reproduction can be understood as the "survival of 'life' beyond the individual organism". Biologically speaking, life is a constant transformation in which individuals appear, and its survival depends or reproduction.

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I agree that life is the "only possible ultimate value around which to base a coherent value hierarchy". But if you leave aside "survival" as the ultimate purpose, then this "ultimate value" claim no longer means much. Life is the ultimate value, fine, but what is meant to be done with it?

Ethics will not tell you what the purpose of your life is. It defines what actions are proper, given the fact that you want to live. And you cant equate the automatic behavior of non conceptual life with the chosen behavior of men. The latter is ethics, the former is just nature and causality.

Rand didnt hold "survival" as the ultimate value, or the ultimate purpose. Objectivist ethics hold a mans own life as his ultimate value, and a productive achievement and a flourishing (kick ass) life as his ultimate purpose. Given what type of creature man is, he ought to do certain things to achieve this goal.

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