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I basically have two questions. Often when asking theoretical situations, opponents of Objectivism concoct some absurd hypothetical and impossible situation and the altruist connotation of selfishness to somehow prove it's a bad thing. I have a question today, and I'll be citing a legend that could have actually happened and would like to get your take on it.

You're a slave escaping through the Underground Railroad and you're in a group. Unfortunately, a baby is crying and will not stop crying and you fear the people nearby will hear and wonder what is going on. The only way to keep the baby from crying is to kill it. What do you do?

Approaching this from what I know of Objectivism, I can see both angles to this.

1: Killing the baby.

While the baby is not using force, or even the broader negation of the mind, (lying, fraud are two examples I can think of that don't precisely fit under force) it does fundamentally attack one's highest value: life. Life simply would not be worth living as a slave, which is why Ayn Rand obviously escaped to the United States. Since this baby threatens one's value life and because to keep the baby alive you must sacrifice yourself, it is perfectly moral to kill the baby.

Questions arose from this: If you accept this, doesn't it mean that if one stands in the way of your values, you may treat them as simply an obstacle in your way to be hurdled over?

Isn't this an example of "sacrificing the individual for the greater good"? How could an Objectivist support this?

Objectivism is founded upon the value of life. How can it be appropriate to kill?

2: Not killing the baby.

Basically the questions from before. You're using initiating the use of force against the baby, while the baby has done nothing to harm you. Oism also protects individual rights, therefore it's completely inappropriate to kill the baby.

Obviously I'm wrong in my thinking on either one of these, so if someone could clear it up for me it'd be appreciated.

QUESTION NUMBER 2: How does Objectivism rationally come to the conclusion that polygamy or incest are immoral, while being gay or lesbian is moral?

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Question 1: The entire situation is not a rational one - you're escaping for your lives from an immoral slave based society. No moral (ie rational) option is available - its down to survival. In such situations, the cold algebra of survival suggests killing the baby is the best course of action.

Question 2: Please cite the evidence that such a conclusion has been reached?

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Question 1:

Here's something that I think gets missed often by those who use these questions to test Objectivism: If you construct a hypothetical situation in which every option is a horrible one, and the philosophy the question is meant to test is a rational one, then that philosophy will tell you to do something horrible. This is not a mark against that philosophy, but a credit to it, as it represents adherence to reality.

Challenge anyone who implies that philosophy should be able to turn dog poop into ice cream.

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The entire situation is not a rational one - you're escaping for your lives from an immoral slave based society. No moral (ie rational) option is available - its down to survival. In such situations, the cold algebra of survival suggests killing the baby is the best course of action.

:o Not at all. You know these escapes were planned intricately, right? People wouldn't have put their lives on the line if they weren't. Leaders gave babies "sleeping powder" along the way to prevent them from crying.

Here's something that I think gets missed often by those who use these questions to test Objectivism: If you construct a hypothetical situation in which every option is a horrible one, and the philosophy the question is meant to test is a rational one, then that philosophy will tell you to do something horrible. This is not a mark against that philosophy, but a credit to it, as it represents adherence to reality.

I disagree. I keep seeing this line repeated: "There is no rational action you can take in an immoral society." Why? If you are in a sticky situation, there is almost always a rational course of action you can take. There was in the above situation. Before even getting to: murder the baby vs. risk everyone's life, the options were: can we take babies at all? If so, how? vs. not taking babies at all. Sleeping powder was the rational choice. If it didn't exist during this time, the next rational choice would be to not take babies (and their heartbroken mothers/fathers) at all.

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I disagree. I keep seeing this line repeated: "There is no rational action you can take in an immoral society." Why? If you are in a sticky situation, there is almost always a rational course of action you can take. There was in the above situation. Before even getting to: murder the baby vs. risk everyone's life, the options were: can we take babies at all? If so, how? vs. not taking babies at all. Sleeping powder was the rational choice. If it didn't exist during this time, the next rational choice would be to not take babies (and their heartbroken mothers/fathers) at all.

Yes, there were loopholes in this particular question, but exploiting them misses the point. Someone asking you this question will respond to every answer you give with: "Ok, but imagine that that's not possible in that situation for reason X."

The goal of the question is to present you with a situation in which every action you can take is associated with something terrible, to get you to give one of those terrible answers as the correct one, and then to drop context and imply that Objectivism is bad because it supports the terrible action you chose, or that it's bad because you couldn't give an answer.

The problem is not with Objectivism's answer to any question of this type, but with the expectation of the person who's asking it, which is that a good philosophy will be able to make a really bad hypothetical situation seem awesome.

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Someone asking you this question will respond to every answer you give with: "Ok, but imagine that that's not possible in that situation for reason X."

The goal of the question is to present you with a situation in which every action you can take is associated with something terrible, to get you to give one of those terrible answers as the correct one, and then to drop context and imply that Objectivism is bad because it supports the terrible action you chose, or that it's bad because you couldn't give an answer.

This did not seem like one of those situations; it seemed like an honest question from someone who didn't know how people responded in these [real] situations. The point is that in real life, most situations are not just black and white.

I know what arguments you're talking about, and I agree that no philosophy would be able to make a really bad hypothetical situation seem great, when unrealistic restrictions are applied.

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Question 1: The entire situation is not a rational one - you're escaping for your lives from an immoral slave based society. No moral (ie rational) option is available - its down to survival. In such situations, the cold algebra of survival suggests killing the baby is the best course of action.

Question 2: Please cite the evidence that such a conclusion has been reached?

"Fear, guilt and the quest for pity combine to set the trend of art in the same direction, in order to express, justify and rationalize the artists’ own feelings. To justify a chronic fear, one has to portray existence as evil; to escape from guilt and arouse pity, one has to portray man as impotent and innately loathsome. Hence the competition among modern artists to find ever lower levels of depravity and ever higher degrees of mawkishness—a competition to shock the public out of its wits and jerk its tears. Hence the frantic search for misery, the descent from compassionate studies of alcoholism and sexual perversion to dope, incest, psychosis, murder, cannibalism."

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/modern_art.html

Thanks to everyone for answering my first question, though I do wonder how incest is wrong (Unfortunately, I couldn't on an easy Google find evidence that Oism opposes polygamy. Should that mean it supports it?

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:o Not at all. You know these escapes were planned intricately, right? People wouldn't have put their lives on the line if they weren't. Leaders gave babies "sleeping powder" along the way to prevent them from crying.

An excellent solution, but not one presented in the constructed hypothetical false-trap dichotomy of the question.

And really, not an unrealistic possibility - if you never saw the series finale of M*A*S*H you should watch it - that very situation (crying baby, enemy at hand) is examined.

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Yes, there were loopholes in this particular question, but exploiting them misses the point. Someone asking you this question will respond to every answer you give with: "Ok, but imagine that that's not possible in that situation for reason X."

The goal of the question is to present you with a situation in which every action you can take is associated with something terrible, to get you to give one of those terrible answers as the correct one, and then to drop context and imply that Objectivism is bad because it supports the terrible action you chose, or that it's bad because you couldn't give an answer.

The problem is not with Objectivism's answer to any question of this type, but with the expectation of the person who's asking it, which is that a good philosophy will be able to make a really bad hypothetical situation seem awesome.

Winner winner chicken dinner.

You put this much better than I would have.

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"Fear, guilt and the quest for pity combine to set the trend of art in the same direction, in order to express, justify and rationalize the artists’ own feelings. To justify a chronic fear, one has to portray existence as evil; to escape from guilt and arouse pity, one has to portray man as impotent and innately loathsome. Hence the competition among modern artists to find ever lower levels of depravity and ever higher degrees of mawkishness—a competition to shock the public out of its wits and jerk its tears. Hence the frantic search for misery, the descent from compassionate studies of alcoholism and sexual perversion to dope, incest, psychosis, murder, cannibalism."

http://aynrandlexico...modern_art.html

Thanks to everyone for answering my first question, though I do wonder how incest is wrong (Unfortunately, I couldn't on an easy Google find evidence that Oism opposes polygamy. Should that mean it supports it?

That isn't much of an answer to my question two, since the context of incest in that quote is not immediately clear. One cannot discern from that paragraph whether one is talking about two adult cousins who've chosen to become lovers, or a father sexually assaulting his pre-adolescent child.

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Thanks to everyone for answering my first question, though I do wonder how incest is wrong (Unfortunately, I couldn't on an easy Google find evidence that Oism opposes polygamy. Should that mean it supports it?

I don't know what Rand thought about incest between adults, but regardless of what she said, there isn't some kind of commandment that incest and polygamy are bad. Rather than asking about if Objectivism supports something, why don't you give your reasoning of your own conclusions thus far, so other people can evaluate?

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There's a thread about incest & having sex with animals here. The question is about the morality of such acts. Interestingly enough, one person claimed that both were moral because "If it brings pleasure and isn't irrational, it's moral." Another even went so far as to say that, "As far as bestiality goes, I am not entirely sure how I can divide animals from any other sex toy. I might say it is immoral/irrational to have sex with someone I can't or do not value, but animals aren't even expected to be of value to us in any way other than our exploitation."

Most of us would quiver at these comments because it's immoral for people to have sexual relationships with an un-consenting party. It's not only harmful to the animal (and also to the mentally ill "rapist"), but we are literally different species with different parts.. And we were not made to procreate with other species.

As for incest, there is a lot of debate about the issue. A lot of people would say that it's moral between two consenting adults, but it's irresponsible if these people decide to have children because there's such a high chance of genetic defects. That argument seems to imply that a woman and man who aren't related, but both also have a very high probability of having a child with genetic problems, are also irresponsible. But if there's no children involved, what's the problem? I've heard of many accounts where brothers and sisters "fell in love" at an early age and became lovers.. but in my opinion, I can't even imagine being sexually attracted to a relative. And even if you are, why put yourself and your family through all that emotional crap? Aren't there a few billion other fish in the sea?

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And we were not made to procreate with other species.

Point of order. We were not made. Period.

As for incest, there is a lot of debate about the issue. A lot of people would say that it's moral between two consenting adults, but it's irresponsible if these people decide to have children because there's such a high chance of genetic defects.

An arguably questionable claim as well.

. And even if you are, why put yourself and your family through all that emotional crap?

Argument from emotion.

Where two consenting adults are concerned, the potential emotional anguish of other family members with boundary issues does not constitute an obligation on the would-be couple not to couple.

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Point of order. We were not made. Period.

Where two consenting adults are concerned, the potential emotional anguish of other family members with boundary issues does not constitute an obligation on the would-be couple not to couple.

We are here because of evolution.. and because of speciation, natural selection, etc, we cannot interbreed with other species.

I think that it depends on how much you value your family and their opinions. You certainly don't have an obligation to do anything, but if they make reasonable arguments against your relationship, it should be taken seriously.

Edit- This is also kind of interesting:

"Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is a term that describes the phenomenon of sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings, first and second cousins or a parent and offspring, who first meet as adults... GSA is rare between people raised together in early childhood due to a reverse sexual imprinting known as the Westermarck effect, which desensitizes them to later close sexual attraction; it is hypothesized that this effect evolved to prevent inbreeding." [1]

The Westermarck effect is a theory - "it's a hypothetical psychological effect through which people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives become desensitized to later sexual attraction.. This supports the claim that the Westermarck effect evolved because it suppressed inbreeding." [2]

Wouldn't it be interesting if, through evolution, a psychological barrier was created because inbreeding was so common in the older days? ..and negative genetic traits were the result?.. hmmm.

Edited by Michele Degges

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We are here because of evolution.. and because of speciation, natural selection, etc, we cannot interbreed with other species.

True, but that's not the same as "being made". Also, once the genome is cracked, who's to say that we won't be able to engineer all kinds of cross-breed species...

I think that it depends on how much you value your family and their opinions. You certainly don't have an obligation to do anything, but if they make reasonable arguments against your relationship, it should be taken seriously.

I agree - but then that's an entirely different argument than the one you made previously, which implied some kind of obligation to obtain family approval simply cause they'd be upset at your choice.

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