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Dormin111

What are YOUR criticisms of Objectivism?

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I don't know that I'll have much to say from here on, except that I'd be repeating myself. Of course I'll jump back in if there's an opportunity to contribute something useful. But before I go...

If I want to die, drinking the piosonous drinks is the way to go. But this isn't what we have been discussing.

You're right. If you want to die, drinking the poisonous drinks is the way to go (or a way to go, at any rate ;) ). But you're wrong that this isn't what we've been discussing. Having the wrong governance is something like drinking a poisonous drink, and it most certainly leads to real death. Ethics, and philosophy more generally, are important because we're dealing with the stuff of life-and-death; it's not just academic exercise.

If you want to die (or if you don't care one way or the other), then neither ethics nor politics nor any of this really matters. At that point, it's safe to consign the whole lot to "blah, blah, blah," (and death is likelier to come than not). But if you don't want to die, then a guide to action is required, and thus we need an ethics and a politics.

i'd respect their sign, respect the property, respect that which is not mine, not because I'm scared of getting caught (since I think I'd have a good chance of getting away with it), not because of an application of Objectivist ethics to the situation, but simply because I choose to, want to, thought about it and decided to not do it, and just buy a fruit when their store opens.

"ecause I choose to, want to, thought about it and decided..." ? Oh, well, if that's all you did, I can see why you wouldn't need any "philosophy"; you just "thought about it and decided" was all. ;)

You know, I've been approaching this discussion as though you were very familiar with Rand's philosophy. At the moment, I can't honestly say one way or the other except that... it seems less likely to me. If you haven't done recently, I do highly recommend reading Rand's essay "The Objectivist Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness. It's possible she might clear up what I've failed to convey.

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You know, I've been approaching this discussion as though you were very familiar with Rand's philosophy. At the moment, I can't honestly say one way or the other except that... it seems less likely to me.

I'm very familiar with her philosophy and very familiar with her name, being that it's been tattooed across the fingers of my and and in between my knuckles for many years now, and 'A is A" is tattooed on the other.

If you haven't done recently, I do highly recommend reading Rand's essay "The Objectivist Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness. It's possible she might clear up what I've failed to convey.

Rand says (in your recommened essay that I already have read before):

"The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do."

Whether or not I should or should not do what I ought to do, is a different story. I have to make myself do one or the other. The choice is mine. Life is the ultimate standard of value, but one can value other things that might very well act against that. What I choose and how I choose is up to me.

Rand says (in your recommened essay that I already have read before):

"Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work."

Produced, taken, mooched. All methods of survival, which one is the better one to take is relative to his goals, his wants, needs, desires, and where he is at, in the wilderness, subordinated under the rule of law, what he is subject to, etc. We have a capacity to exploit the earth or die, and all that is within it, including other men. Either the choice is ours, or someone or something does not permit us to, and we have to think about what action to take, relative to ones goals, wants, desires, needs. If one does not care if one lives or dies, has a long life, those choices made can be completely differently. It's all relative to ones own goals, desires.

Rand says (in your recommened essay that I already have read before):

"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."

Men who get together and subordinate others to their own rules of the road, are they living by reason, by force? They are using their reason (drafting a constitutional republic and drafting the rules of the road in that particular area) and applying it with the threat of force and making certain actions the wrong ones to take while one is in that particular area. Man can think, he has the capacity to do so, he can think and think and think about how to survive another day. In the wilderness he uses his mind and can use force to survive another day by. If he sees someone that has food and he his very hungry himself, he uses his mind to think about what to do. He uses his mind to size that other person up, uses his mind to think about what to do about his hunger, should he ask that person kindly for a fruit, take from their basket of fruit because it would be easy for him to since he think he can overpower the person for it, should he find out where that person had gotten the fruit, how they had gotten it, did they grow a tree, find a tree, how? He has several methods of survival there. Loot, mooch, ask, produce, etc. "No you may not have a fruit, no I will not tell you where I had gotten it, because I need it to sustain my life, fuck yours" "And fuck you to, I'm hungry and obviously stronger than you are, so either give me some, or I will take it. The choice is yours." He's using his mind this entire time to survive, by one method or the other. He knows his life is drastically shortened if he doesn't get the fuel to sustain it. If that person one could not overpower , because their self-defense is just too mighty, then you have to think about what to do. Futile to waste your energy in surviving by looting, you can appeal to other methods. Beg. Tell me how to grow tree, where I can find fruit, is there something I can do for you in exchange for a fruit, etc. He's thinking and thinking and thinking. He also doesn't have to think about all those alternatives. As soon as he spots the food and knows he can overpower that person, he does it. He can act without much thinking at all just as he's done in that example. Is that good for his survival? It's all relative to his goals, he makes the actions right or wrong relative to what he has made his goals. He can think a while about it, or not think much about it and act upon whatever desire he has, or act upon what he's thought about in regards to the situation. Taking fruit from a tree, from a person, begging for a fruit, learning how to produce fruit by learning how to grow a fruit bearing tree, learning where there is a fruit tree - none of those are inherently right or wrong, only relative to that persons goals, the other persons goals. They have to make it so though - one of those persons makes it the wrong action to take by exclaiming to the other "NO! This fruit is MINE!" or one makes taking it right in regards to their own goals "Well, I see then that I'm going to just have to take it from you then." Right and wrong is relative to those that make it using might. What is wrong of me to do towards you, might very well be the right action to take for me. Whoever has enough might, either way, gets that fruit, or gets to keep it - both ways act to further eithers survival.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Because of self-defense.

Is self defense right?

If not, why do you want to make self defense right?

I don't want her to be raped, neither does she

Why not? Is there something wrong with being raped?

Edited by Nicky

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Is self defense right?

I make it right or wrong to defend myself or others relative to my goals, wants, desires.

Is there something wrong with being raped?

It has to be made the wrong action action to take, by your own thinking, beliefs, moral codes, in reference to the goals you have chosen, etc. and deciding, making it wrong. It can be made wrong by her as well, by third party, etc.

Edited by intellectualammo

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It has to be made the wrong action action to take, by your own thinking, beliefs, moral codes, in reference to the goals you have chosen, etc. and deciding, making it wrong. It can be made wrong by her as well, by third party, etc.

Why does it have to be made wrong? What thinking, beliefs, moral code, etc. do you have, that you are basing your decision to make it wrong on?

Is there a reason why, out of all the things you could've chosen to make wrong, you picked rape? Why not, instead, make consensual sex wrong, and rape right?

Edited by Nicky

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What criteria do you use to make things right or wrong?

They are made relative to my goals, wants, desires. And are context dependent, as in, where I am at - the wilderness, civilized society, etc.

Why does it have to be made wrong?

Only we can asign such a value judgement to something.

Is there a reason why, out of all the things you could've chosen to make wrong, you picked rape?

Rape is picked, because it's inside the context of the political-economic-social system that I would like in place - one that makes that action towards a woman illegal and calls that action 'rape', makes it wrong to initiate force against another person in the land that it has such power over, but in doing so you are using might in order to subordinate others to that very system that I would like in place, by making a constitution, making rule of law, and the might in order to enforce it should any not subordinate themselves under the rule of, power of, might of, the system.

Why not, instead, make consensual sex wrong, and rape right?

Because I wouldn't want someone to initiate the use of force against me and would like to be in a system that makes it so and can enforce it better than I can on my own in most ways too, and the only force not made wrong would be retaliatory force, defensive might against those that initiate it inside that system. And again, in order to make that possible, might is to make all of that so. Might by pen with threat of consequences if you don't want to follow what we are making wrong actions to take.

Edited by intellectualammo

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They are made relative to my goals, wants, desires. And are context dependent, as in, where I am at - the wilderness, civilized society, etc.

Right, but what are those criteria?

Because I wouldn't want someone to initiate the use of force against me

Ok, so you're against rape because it's the initialization of force. That's great.

But now we have the same exact problem: Why are you against the initialization of force? Specifically, why are you against someone using force against you? Why are you against someone killing you, for that matter?

You must have a reason. What is it? And don't just say "because I want to live", because then I'll just have to ask "Why do you want to live?".

That is my final question, actually: Would you rather live or die, and why?

[edit]

I know what you're gonna answer: because you have some goals, or curiosity, etc., and you'd like to see them through.

So that's not my final question, because now I have to ask why on that too. I'm gonna ask why over and over again, until you run out of rationalistic answers or decide to concede the point that some things are right and others are wrong because of the way reality is, not because people say so.

Edited by Nicky

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Ok, so you're against rape because it's the initialization of force. That's great.

But now we have the same exact problem: Why are you against the initialization of force? Specifically, why are you against someone using force against you? Why are you against someone killing you, for that matter?

I value my life and well being. Though I want LFC in place, that really reduces my options on methods of survial at least in regards to taking things I want from others, or using others however I want to, etc. as it protects me from them, it protects them from me, to the extent that it can, but it more importantly, I think that LFC acts way better in my own self-defense against others than any other type of system that I can think of. So for me it only really is my self-defense writ large, and it protects those I value, that which I value in life.

Would you rather live or die[...]

Live.

[...] and why?

[edit]

I know what you're gonna answer: because you have some goals, or curiosity, etc., and you'd like to see them through.

So that's not my final question, because now I have to ask why on that too. I'm gonna ask why over and over again, until you run out of rationalistic answers or decide to concede the point that some things are right and others are wrong because of the way reality is, not because people say so.

No you don't know what I'm going to answer then and I won't run out of 'rationalistic answers', because I haven't even started answering that way, nor will.

Actions we take are only made right or wrong relative to our goals, desires, wants, needs.

If I make living my goal there then are certain things that I would want to do in order to achieve that. For starters, drinking plenty of water, for example, since I already know it's essential for my body to have in order to help sustain itself. That's the nature of my body, the human body. Man has found it to be the case. But, whether or not I choose to make life as my goal, over death, is entirely up to me. And why I should or should not choose one over the other, is entirely up to me. (well, depending upon the context of course, if I am locked up in a psch ward it's pretty hard to kill oneself if you are on suicide watch or whatever, I'm just saying generally outside of context it's up to me). Now that I want to make water as a subgoal to my inital goal I made of living, I must think: how to get it. Well, what context am I in? Wilderness, LFC, where? That will determine what options I can or cannot take towards my goal, and I decide which to take of those. Well, l'm not in the wilderness right now, so I can buy it, I can find a water fountain in a public place if I don't have the money right now or access to a store right now or whatever, I can get it from public faucets, I can steal it in a store, I can rob someone of their bottle of water, break into a home and drink theirs from the faucet, from their fridge, knock on the librarian girl that live across the hall from me's door and ask her if I can have some water, beg for it, etc. As you can see I am thinking about options and then I will weigh them to see which would be best to take. I have some already in my Brita Water Filtration System, so I will drink a glass of that, and I really will too because all this talking about water is fucking making me thirsty for it! :P So I just picked that as my choice. Why? Because it's super close to me, it's mine, I don't have to loot for it, beg for it, go looking for it in places open to the public to freely use, etc. It will now help to sustain my goal of living, and now I am about to do something else that will, sleep. G'night.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Furthermore:

The fact that my body needs that water is what man has discovered to be what Rand would term - the metaphysically given:

"Nature is the metaphysically given—i.e., the nature of nature is outside the power of any volition."

"It is the metaphysically given that must be accepted: it cannot be changed. It is the man-made that must never be accepted uncritically: it must be judged, then accepted or rejected and changed when necessary."

OK, and that metaphysically given is not open to my choice, as in, I cannot alter the metaphysically given, there is no alternative there and when there isn't it's not open to morality, according to Rand:

"Morality pertains only to the sphere of man’s free will—only to those actions which are open to his choice."

So the metaphysically given is not open to asigning whether or not it is right or wrong, it simply is. Is it right or wrong that my body needs water, it's not open to that, but is it true or false. It has been demonstrated, discovered by us to be the case. But what IS open to choice, is whether or not to drink it, and that choice is made relative to my goals and the context in which I am in, etc.. If my fundamental goal is to live, then I would choose to drink it. Also what is open to choice is HOW I go about gaining that value, as water is valuable to me, since it helps sustain my life. But how I go about it is relative to my goals and to the context that I am in, etc. So I have to MAKE living life my goal, then MAKE drinking water (one of) the means to living. In the wilderness, I can get that water by seeking it out and finding a source of water, like a river, dipping my hand in it and drinking from it. I can see another source of water, a human with water in a container, I can go over to that person and make that water he has mine to drink if I choose to try to make it so. Either way has not been MADE wrong by either me or river or that man. Any action that I took, whether choosing to take the water out of the river or it out of the container the man has it in and drinking it down, I am MAKING it right action to take relative to the achievement of my goal. That river can never itself make it wrong of me to drink it's water, but that man can make it the wrong action to take towards him or not. He can just sit there scared shitless to even try to use any self-defense because he has already sized me up and can see that there is no way of him stopping me, with his body or mind. He can tell me using his mind sure, or using my own mind I might decide to be respectful and considerate and empathic or have some belief or value system that I consult, but he can't speak because he is scared shitless of me and doesn't even think it would prevent me from drinking the water that he has aquired. So I make that water mine to drink, either out of the river, or out of the mans container. Who is to say that action is right or wrong? He didn't. So who then? Me. And I do it relative to my goals, relative to the context that I am in, relative to my desires, wants, needs, etc. Did I consult a ethical code in order to make my decision? Did I say that I opened up my "The Virtue of Selfishness" and consulted it as a guide in how to get water and decide which course of action to take in order to be able to obtain it to drink? No I did not. I could of though, but didn't. (actually I don't have it or any books anymore, I've discarded all of them like 2 years ago :P , but the point comes across)

Let's say the man spoke up when I approached him and reached right for his container of water:

"MINE! This water is MINE!"

"Could you tell me where you have gotten it, so that I am able to quench my thrist as well"

"Sure, there is a river about half a mile that way."

It is then my choice to decide to believe him, my choice to take it anyways no matter what he says is the wrong action to take towards him because either I don't care, or whatever, or whatever option I think of. I can make that water mine if I have enough might to, he can make that water his if he has enough might to. Him simply saying so, might be enough to do it. Either way, he's MAKING it his. Maybe he whips out paper that says/makes it his, or whips out an ethical code and says that it says/makes it's wrong to take the water from him under any and all contexts - but is that pen that wrote that, mightier than a sword and the one that yeilds that sword? Does the one that used that pen, have any more might behind it? Does the one holding these pieces of paper, have any more might than that behind it?

The conversation continues:

Me: "Thank you. Can you lead me to it?"

Him: "Sure, let's go."

Edited by intellectualammo

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OK, and that metaphysically given is not open to my choice, as in, I cannot alter the metaphysically given, there is no alternative there and when there isn't it's not open to morality, according to Rand:

"Morality pertains only to the sphere of man’s free will—only to those actions which are open to his choice."

So the metaphysically given is not open to asigning whether or not it is right or wrong, it simply is. Is it right or wrong that my body needs water, it's not open to that, but is it true or false. It has been demonstrated, discovered by us to be the case.

This is exactly right.

But what IS open to choice, is whether or not to drink it, and that choice is made relative to my goals and the context in which I am in, etc..

Precisely.

If my fundamental goal is to live, then I would choose to drink it.

Yes.

Also what is open to choice is HOW I go about gaining that value, as water is valuable to me, since it helps sustain my life. But how I go about it is relative to my goals and to the context that I am in, etc.

This is true. However, not all "HOW"s are alike. Some methods that you employ to gain that water (to sustain your life) may, in fact, be ultimately destructive of exactly that life of which it was your purpose to sustain. For instance, if you had to swim through a moat of hot lava to get to the water, or enter a room with a source of radioactive contaminant. Such an act would be self-defeating and self-destructive and wrong (for the purpose of getting the water, for the purpose of sustaining your life).

So I have to MAKE living life my goal, then MAKE drinking water (one of) the means to living.

Yes and no. It's true that you must (in some sense) "MAKE" living life your goal, although once you've done so, water acquires its significance rather effortlessly, except that you have to discover it (i.e. it is one of the "means to living"; you do not have to "make it so").

But no one is saying anything different.

You are free to choose death. And I'd say that much of what you've written in this thread, such as "might makes right" and your "blah, blah, blah" approach to ethical philosophy and the underpinnings of politics, is a means to achieve it.

The Objectivist position, I believe, is that those who "choose to live" will need a certain ethics and a certain politics if they are to succeed. Rand attempted to identify the required ethics and politics, and I believe she succeeded. She endeavored to propound "a philosophy for living on earth" (emphasis added).

But yeah, if you don't care whether you live or die, then "blah, blah, blah" is just as good a way to go as any other (and also just as bad).

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This is true. However, not all "HOW"s are alike.

I agree.

Some methods that you employ to gain that water (to sustain your life) may, in fact, be ultimately destructive of exactly that life of which it was your purpose to sustain.

I agree.

For instance, if you had to swim through a moat of hot lava to get to the water, or enter a room with a source of radioactive contaminant. Such an act would be self-defeating and self-destructive and wrong (for the purpose of getting the water, for the purpose of sustaining your life).

Right, that action is MADE wrong relative to one's goal and the achievement of it. And that's why it's relative to context too in regards to whether it is a made, decided that it is a right way or wrong way to take towards a goal.

It's true that you must (in some sense) "MAKE" living life your goal, although once you've done so, water acquires its significance rather effortlessly, except that you have to discover it (i.e. it is one of the "means to living"; you do not have to "make it so").

As I have said, that is what Rand would term the metaphysically given. This is not in dispute, nor can it be, one must accept that or not - the metaphysically given that we have discovered to be the case that my body, the human body that water is a means to life. I do however have to choice to decide whether or not to drink it to achieve my goal. I cannot change that my body needs water to survive. Only what's open to me do I have a decision in: whether or not to drink it, whether or not to choose life as my goal. In choosing life, there are certian means that come with achieving it, like the metaphysically given, for example, like drinking water. But how I choose the means to obtaining that water to drink, as in, how I go about getting that water, is relative to what I have been saying it's relative to - of course my goal to live, the context I am in, in reference to any other goals i may have made, etc.

Edited by intellectualammo

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My principle objection is not with the core of Rand's philosophy but the failure to integrate her ethics with it's inevitable implications about politics. I think that her ethics renders all government (coercive monopoly on protection, adjudication of law) immoral to the extent that it is maintaned by initiation of force to either fund or maintain the status of single provider. A voluntarily-funded government as she proposed, which also did not initiate force to maintain its monopoly, in effect is no longer a government but at that point is another provider of services in a free, competitive market. I've yet to hear a convincing refutation of this determination, and it's important to me because I'm not just an anarcho-capitalist looking for holes to poke in Rand's legacy. I'm very much an objectivist under the core philosophy and it was Atlas Shrugged that actually pushed me away from minimal-state libertarianism and to full repudiation of the notion of government.

Edited by Spencer W. Morgan

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My principle objection is not with the core of Rand's philosophy but the failure to integrate her ethics with it's inevitable implications about politics. I think that her ethics renders all government (coercive monopoly on protection, adjudication of law) immoral to the extent that it is maintaned by initiation of force to either fund or maintain the status of single provider. A voluntarily-funded government as she proposed, which also did not initiate force to maintain its monopoly, in effect is no longer a government but at that point is another provider of services in a free, competitive market. I've yet to hear a convincing refutation of this determination, and it's important to me because I'm not just an anarcho-capitalist looking for holes to poke in Rand's legacy. I'm very much an objectivist under the core philosophy and it was Atlas Shrugged that actually pushed me away from minimal-state libertarianism and to full repudiation of the notion of government.

What a great question!

I'll have to chew on this one more but I'd say that in this case the confusion is in the Non-Initiation of Force principle in predetermining the nature of the Government versus the status of any aspect of that Government, including funding. Ethics of individuals determine the Government, not the necessity of Government determines the ethical standard for its founding. Funding should not negate the NIOF principle, which relegates funding to voluntary means.

I look at voluntary funding this way – It creates an additional division of power necessary to keep government in check by always forcing the government to keep in mind its paycheck. Government is given the “monopoly of force” power since it is in the people’s best interested to let a third party deal with this (thus allowing them to get on with the act of living). But that “monopoly of force” is also contingent upon the people supporting it since that is why we form the government in the first place (much like the Founding Fathers decided it had enough of Britain, revolted, and then formed a new limited Government). We can revolt as they did but in an ideal Government we don’t need to revolt and cause that kind of death and destruction if we can simply force the offending Government to stop in its tracks when we stop payment.

It’s important to remember that Government is for the people and even though it is given powers to act with force it is still our agent. Voluntary funding allows us to pull the plug peacefully when it stops being that agent.

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Furthermore, I critisize this statement of hers now:

"Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally free to take any action he pleases (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), while a government official is bound by law in his every official act. A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted.

This is the means of subordinating “might” to “right.”

Wait a minute. The moment you set pen to paper to such a constitutional government, you are making, you are subordinating others to your rule of law, your power, your might, your wishes, desires, demands, and you are making this or that given action the right/permitted/legal or a given action wrong/not permitted/illegal towards another person in that social setting. This is still using might to make rights and wrongs. You are threatening with consequences, threatening with the use of force against those that do not do only what you permit them to and no more than that, you have names for them that do, such as criminal, wrongdoer, rights violator, etc. and also define and title actions that are wrong/not permitted/illegal towards another under your might in that social setting, such as actions you call rape, robbery, homicide, etc. All this is done not by subordinating under right, but subordinating under might. If anything that is what makes it right, makes it wrong, the actions that is. You are in a sense subordinating their might, using your might. You might think you are right all you want to, but without might, you do not make it so. Without might by pen, by word, by sword, by threat of consequences, by communication of some kind - your 'right' is nothing. Your 'right' can't subordinate anyone to anything. Unless might is applied in some form or another. Rape in the wilderness with no one saying it's wrong, thinking it's wrong, making it wrong - it's then just an action taking place. Right and wrong actions are all relative to something. Even in regards to the metaphysically given with the metaphysically given consequences - the action 'drinking water' is simply you drinking water. Only when that action is relative to something, is that act of drinking water the right or wrong action to take.

The metaphysically given that man has discovered to be so:

Man needs water to live. If he does not aquire it in some way, he will surely die.

All that is metaphysically given.

If his goal is to live, then he ought to drink the water. So that action 'drinking water' was just made right to do in regards to him and his goal.

If his goal is to die, then he ought not to drink the water, as it helps to sustain his life. So the action 'drinking water' was just made wrong to do so in regards to him and his goal.

'Drinking water' in and of itself, what is called 'rape' in and of itself - is neither a right or wrong action to take in and of itself - they are simply actions. They must be made the right or wrong action to take relative to something, like a goal. If one proceeds with an action, like 'drinking water' naturally the metaphysically given consequences will follow it - it will sustain the water drinkers life. Is that right or wrong? Who knows, we don't know if he wants to live or to die, so we cannot judge the action he is taking as right or wrong. Is he doing it because he's thirsty, because life is his goal? If any of those, then that action is made right to do only in regards to those.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Furthermore, I critisize this statement of hers now:

I believe that through these "critiques" you're giving yourself unnecessary difficulty. There's a point that you seem to miss, and I'd like to help us incorporate that point into the ongoing discussion.

Right and wrong actions are all relative to something. Even in regards to the metaphysically given with the metaphysically given consequences - the action 'drinking water' is simply you drinking water. Only when that action is relative to something, is that act of drinking water the right or wrong action to take.

The metaphysically given that man has discovered to be so:

Man needs water to live. If he does not aquire it in some way, he will surely die.

All that is metaphysically given.

If his goal is to live, then he ought to drink the water. So that action 'drinking water' was just made right to do in regards to him and his goal.

If his goal is to die, then he ought not to drink the water, as it helps to sustain his life. So the action 'drinking water' was just made wrong to do so in regards to him and his goal.

'Drinking water' in and of itself, what is called 'rape' in and of itself - is neither a right or wrong action to take in and of itself - they are simply actions.

None of this is in dispute. (With one small, but important, quibble which I'll address presently.)

Sans goals/values, it is true that actions have no moral character -- "they are simply actions." But when goals are introduced, then actions absolutely have moral character, becoming either right or wrong (for the purpose of achieving that goal). In this way, we do not "make" some action right or wrong, but we must discover whether some action is right or wrong, relative to pursuing our goal. (If my goal is to live, I do not "make" it right to drink water. It is right to drink water, if my goal is to live, although I must do the necessary work in discovering that fact.)

The reason why I say that you're giving yourself unnecessary difficulty is because philosophy in general, and Objectivism specifically and explicitly, is only for those whose goal it is to live. Living is a process which requires specific, laborious action. Living is (in a way) "difficult," in that we must learn about things like water, nutrition, etc., etc., etc., if we are to be successful. We pursue philosophy -- which is not necessarily an easy discipline (and especially in our present society) -- because living well requires a roadmap.

Contra to all this, death isn't hard to come by. All that is needed to die is to be unsuccessful (whether accidentally or by choice) in doing all of the many things required to sustain one's life. Thus, death doesn't truly need a roadmap -- a philosophy. Many (or most) paths will take you there. Or even if death did require such a roadmap, again, Objectivism is explicit in that it does not seek to provide such, but rather to identify the road by which one avoids death insofar as one is able. ("Life versus death" to be understood as more than simply survival, but "the good life versus all that is not.")

All of Objectivism, ethics and politics too (including its endorsement of capitalism), proceeds on the basis of having "life" as the source of value: the ultimate end; the ultimate goal.

If in response you'd say "but it doesn't apply to those who would choose death," that's true, but it is not a criticism of Objectivism. Instead, it speaks to Rand's success in her goal to provide a philosophy for the purpose of living on earth.

Edited by DonAthos

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"if his goal is to live, then he ought to drink the water" is your one and only hat-tip to the 'metaphysical given',

while ignoring every other aspect of the nature of Man. No wonder your ethics sound quasi-Nietzschean.

"Subordinating" who to whom? Not you, I take it.

Don't you perceive any distinction between a potential for (or the threat of) might - and might, itself?

When right fails, then we need might. To conflate the two is cynically disingenuous.

All this is Social Darwinism.

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Sans goals/values, it is true that actions have no moral character -- "they are simply actions." But when goals are introduced, then actions absolutely have moral character, becoming either right or wrong (for the purpose of achieving that goal). In this way, we do not "make" some action right or wrong, but we must discover whether some action is right or wrong, relative to pursuing our goal. (If my goal is to live, I do not "make" it right to drink water. It is right to drink water, if my goal is to live, although I must do the necessary work in discovering that fact.)

Gotcha. All relative to the goal, etc. Both what I said, and what you have said, essentially say the same thing, just different expression of it.

If my goal is to live, then it is right to drink water.

If my goal is to live, then that goal makes 'drinking water', as such, right.

Both are relative to a goal. They are conditionals. Without that goal (or say a desire to quench ones thrist, etc.) 'drinking water', as such, is simply an action, and the metaphysyically given consequences of that action, will result. I didn't want complicate it with the metaphysically given, like eating fruit, drinking water, but wanted the discussion more on 'rape', 'stealing' things of that nature in which those actions definatley have to be MADE right or wrong.

More criticising Rand:

The Declaration of Independence laid down the principle that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” This provided the only valid justification of a government and defined its only proper purpose: to protect man’s rights by protecting him from physical violence.

... by using might.

What do you think 'to secure these rights' entails? It means that are using might (by pen (the constitution, rule of law, etc.) and by sword ('retaliatory force')) in order to subordinate all within that particular social setting to that which they make, think, decide, desire, want to be right and wrong actions to take towards one another. Thus they are essentially using might to make right and using might to make wrong. They just excercised might by using the pen to make the constituion to make the laws the rules of what is permitted or not permitted, etc. - and if you do not willingly comply, obey with what was penned, we will use more might in order to punish you for having done so, fine you, remove you from society by placing you in a cell, psychward room, etc.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Gotcha. All relative to the goal, etc. Both what I said, and what you have said, essentially say the same thing, just different expression of it.

If my goal is to live, then it is right to drink water.

If my goal is to live, then that goal makes 'drinking water', as such, right.

Both are relative to a goal. They are conditionals. Without that goal (or say a desire to quench ones thrist, etc.) 'drinking water', as such, is simply an action, and the metaphysyically given consequences of that action, will result. I didn't want complicate it with the metaphysically given, like eating fruit, drinking water, but wanted the discussion more on 'rape', 'stealing' things of that nature in which those actions definatley have to be MADE right or wrong.

Rape and stealing work in the same way that eating fruit and drinking water do. Just as drinking water has necessary consequences (which must be learned/discovered), and thus has a necessary moral character (pursuant to valuing life over death), so too do rape and theft.

Objectivism's case is: just as refusing to drink water will kill a man (and is therefore "wrong," insofar as that man values life), engaging in rape and theft are also destructive of "the good life" (and are therefore equally "wrong," given, once more, that life is the source of value).

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Just as drinking water has necessary consequences (which must be learned/discovered), and thus has a necessary moral character (pursuant to valuing life over death), so too do rape and theft.

The one has inescapable metaphysically given consequences associated with it, as in the action of drinking of the water and what will or will not result if one drinks it; while the other has man-made consequences imposed upon the taking of either of those two actions, as such, as in the case of rape and theft.

Objectivism's case is: just as refusing to drink water will kill a man (and is therefore "wrong," insofar as that man values life), engaging in rape and theft are also destructive of "the good life" (and are therefore equally "wrong," given, once more, that life is the source of value).

Raping or stealing certainly can be destructive to those it's done to, I will not take issue with that. Focusing on stealing, that can be life saving for the one that took it, therfore it was not destructive, but rather a means of sustaining life, which is that persons goal.

Therefore, the refusing to drink water, and raping/stealing - are not "equally 'wrong'" in regards to destruction of life itself. One will definately lead to death, that would be the latter, while the former ones do not always result in the destruction of life itself. That's in terms of life, I don't know what you exactly mean with "the good life", I'm only saying it in regards to life itself.

Edited by intellectualammo

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"What do you think 'to secure these rights' entails? It means that are using might (by pen (the constitution, rule of law, etc.) and by sword ('retaliatory force')) in order to subordinate all within that particular social setting to that which they make, think, decide, desire, want to be right and wrong actions to take towards one another."

Prescriptive versus descriptive is an issue here. What I have quoted from you here accurately describes what regularly has happened with real governments in the world so far. However, when talking about why we should have some government as opposed to none we are speaking prescriptively, as in how things should be even if they have never yet been that way. Government DOES typically do a ton of acting to use their large amount of weapons and supporters to force people to do whatever they want and can get away with and declare that what they don't want is wrong and what they do want is right because they feel it is so pretty much. However, they SHOULD be looking at the facts and figuring out that their reason for existing and only legitimate function is about protecting the individuals rights of their citizens, things that they don't get to decide but only realize and implement. In most cases so far real world governments have been mixed bags of doing some of what they should and some of what they shouldn't. Usually the ratio is favorable enough that people figure they are better off with the government they have than taking their chances and seeing what might happen if they tried to overthrow their government. Eventually though the aim is to not have to settle for a mixed bag of course.

"Focusing on stealing, that can be life saving for the one that took it, therfore it was not destructive, but rather a means of sustaining life, which is that persons goal."

How did they get into a position where stealing is the best way to save their life? If somebody initiated force against them so that they lost all their possessions and/or made it completely impossible for them to get what they need legitimately quickly enough, then I'd say we're in the "Ok to lie to Nazis about hiding Jews" territory where the person initiating force is responsible for any damage required to be done by a victim to defend themselves. But, otherwise, this neglects the part about how you can't exist as nothing in particular so it is life *qua man* one has to pursue which comes with more requirements than just anything that keeps one out of a morgue. Stealing runs afoul of the "qua man" part unless one is being forced into such a position as I described above. There's plenty of discussion in threads about the whats and whys of the "qua man" part.

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"What do you think 'to secure these rights' entails? It means that are using might (by pen (the constitution, rule of law, etc.) and by sword ('retaliatory force')) in order to subordinate all within that particular social setting to that which they make, think, decide, desire, want to be right and wrong actions to take towards one another."

What I have quoted from you here accurately describes what regularly has happened with real governments in the world so far.

Thanks for the acknowledgement, reaffirmation.

However, when talking about why we should have some government as opposed to none we are speaking prescriptively, as in how things should be even if they have never yet been that way.

Using that pen to paper, we write out prescriptions using might, and the might to subordinate others to it using more might than that if needed and if at hand.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Writing out declarations doesn't necessarily involve force in and of itself. The bill of rights for example is in no way forceful. The important thing about the quote of submitting might to right is that the reason to do something is because it is rational (right), not just because if you don't somebody with pointy things will come and poke you or lock you up. It isn't that might never ever comes into play with the government (though theoretically that could happen), it is that when and if might is used by the government it is solely to preserve the right, the rational, by neutralizing somebody else's attempt to make the system into a might-based one of the "Do it just because I said so and I can hurt you if you don't" variety. Might is subordinated to right, used by government only in its service when somebody makes it necessary, it doesn't say that might will never ever ever be used no matter what. Might is the government's schtick really, but only in service of the right of halting might from others. Is this clear enough? I'm not sure if my sentences may have gotten kind of tangled with all the uses of "might" and "right" over and over.

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Using that pen to paper, we write out prescriptions using might, and the might to subordinate others to it using more might than that if needed and if at hand.

I've been on the fence about responding to some of your objections here, because they are quite similar to difficulty I had a long while back in justifying to myself how rights can be objective facts. But before I get into that, are you making a wider claim that morality cannot be objective, period? Or that rights can't be objective so are therefore real only insofar as they make sense as "might makes right"? I didn't read each post you made in this thread thoroughly just yet.

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That's in terms of life, I don't know what you exactly mean with "the good life", I'm only saying it in regards to life itself.

Let me start here, as this may factor into subsequent discussion.

I say "the good life" because I wish to distinguish what I consider to be the ultimate standard of value from a mere fact of biological survival. I would not wish to "survive at any cost." As to what "the good life" consists of apart from biological survival, I don't know that I can say with specificity, except that there are considerations of physical pleasure and happiness over time. A life of intense, unremitting pain and sorrow -- while still "life" -- is not "the good life" of which I seek, and to which I consider Objectivism (or any proper philosophy) addressed.

The one has inescapable metaphysically given consequences associated with it, as in the action of drinking of the water and what will or will not result if one drinks it; while the other has man-made consequences imposed upon the taking of either of those two actions, as such, as in the case of rape and theft.

We can agree that there are metaphysically given consequences to drinking water, and in the context of a given society (i.e. within the context of politics), there are typically man-made consequences for rape and theft. However, I would propose that there are also metaphysically given consequences for rape and theft -- results for both the victim and the initiator that cannot be divorced from the actions themselves, and which would exist in any context of government, or even in "anarchy."

Raping or stealing certainly can be destructive to those it's done to, I will not take issue with that.

Yes, and politically that's important. If governments are sought as a measure of greater safety/self-defense for those who submit to its authority, then these seem like exactly the sorts of things against which such a government must stand. But ethically I think there's also a case to be made that raping and stealing are destructive to those who engage in them (with a caveat to come near the end of this reply), according to their metaphysically given consequences.

In "What is Capitalism?", Ayn Rand said this:

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 a moment, at the price of destruction: the destruction of their victims and their own. As evidence, I offer you any criminal or any dictatorship.

Leaving aside physical destruction/death for a moment (though I think that Rand is right to draw that connection here), if we reflect on the life of even a long-lived rapist or a career thief (and I offer this anecdotally, as it were, for your consideration as you see fit), I wonder: do we consider such a life to be "the good life"? Do we think that there's any connection between these activities as defined by their nature (that is, what it actually means to rape a woman), and the kind of person required to engage in such an activity? What does being such a person portend, for the purpose of developing meaningful relationships? What kind of company might he keep? What risks will he run, apart from the mere threat of imprisonment? Will such a person allow himself his full use of reason in assessing his own activities? If not, what wider implications might this sort of approach to reason have for his life? What is his emotional state apt to be, generally? What of his dreams? Etc.?

You may or may not find such musing compelling, but I must tell you that my distaste for theft and rape and so on are not so much a fear of prison or a fine as they are a repulsion to being the kind of person who would do such things, and a repulsion to the kind of life (including my inner world; my experience of my own consciousness) that I believe would necessarily follow. Were I to engage in such activities, I believe that I would destroy the man that I am, the man that I would like to be, and do serious damage if not outright destroy my own capacity for "the good life." (And would it moreover lead to my actual death? Very possibly, as victims can be relied upon to attempt to fight back.)

Focusing on stealing, that can be life saving for the one that took it, therfore it was not destructive, but rather a means of sustaining life, which is that persons goal.

Suppose a person decides to steal water (to keep this all tied together thematically ;) ). You may contend that the only issue is whether to drink water or not, and its attendant metaphysical consequences -- that if the man wishes to live, he must have water, and therefore his means (whether purchasing the water or stealing it or whatever) are unimportant. It is good to drink this water in any case.

But again, the means are not necessarily equal. It's not true that stealing or purchasing water will be equal with respect to the man's desire to live. The reason why stealing is generally accounted "immoral" is because stealing -- and even stealing water -- typically makes it harder to live, or to have "the good life." To steal, you must be a certain kind of person, and being that kind of person will necessarily have further consequence. When you steal, you're also inviting a certain kind of logical response (by putting your victim's life in direct jeopardy, as the act is "destructive to those it's done to"). That logical response would put you into peril. Formal government and the rule of law is a codification and a standardization of some of this peril, but it finds its roots in precisely what you'd expect of people, based on the nature of the activity itself.

Now, all of this being said, there are scenarios we can imagine in which a person's best/only chance to survive may well be some particular instance (or several) of theft. In those cases, I would say that it would be moral to steal and immoral to refuse to take those actions necessary to preserve one's life, if the refusal is based on clinging to what one perceives to be a moral commandment (there are yet other scenarios I can envision where the theft might be ultimately destructive of the man's ability to be happy, or otherwise enjoy "the good life," and so it might still be moral to refuse to steal, though that may result in actual, physical death). The point is that all is ultimately suborned to one's ultimate value, which may be life or, as I have it, "the good life."

If we pursue goals that are not in service to life, or if we take action/employ means without regard to life as the highest goal, then we are courting death. This is the issue of ethics.

And so. Might does not make right. The ability to do things -- which is what "might" is -- gives us no information on what we ought to do (that is, what is "right" to do). In order to know what is right to do, we must have some goal. The ultimate standard of value is life. (The alternative, death, may be chosen, but such a choice is outside the bounds of philosophy generally and Objectivism explicitly.) It is with reference to this ultimate standard of value -- with reference to life -- that things are ultimately good or bad.

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