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What are YOUR criticisms of Objectivism?

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My biggest disagreements with Rand have to do with politics. I am an anarchist, rather than a minarchist, although I am fine with others choosing voluntary minarchism. (I give my reasons why on this thread, and I can elaborate on them here if anyone is interested.) I also disagree with Rand's position on civilian casualties during a war, and believe that the death of any person on the enemy side who has not initiated force is a violation of individual rights. And while she was absolutely right to condemn state socialism and Marxism, I believe that some forms of classical socialism (Particularly mutualism) are compatible with Objectivist ethics, as long as everyone is participating willingly in pursuit of their own self-interest.

 

To elaborate more on the last point, I think that the following arrangements are compatible with Objectivism:

 

1. Businesses owned by one person, for ventures where a large labor force is not necessary.

2. Multiple individuals owning a business through a partnership.

3. Voluntary labor unions (This is even depicted in AS with the union at Rearden's company).

4. (By extension of 2 and 3) workers themselves owning a company by voluntary contract.

5. Workers acting as independent contractors who negotiate on equal terms with business owners.

 

As a result of this, it would be possible for an economy to develop where all production would either be done by small shopkeepers, by freelance engineers, maintenance crews, etc. contracting with small shopkeepers, or by workers' federations. I'm not saying that this would happen, or that there is anything morally wrong with capitalism, but it would be a possible way for a market to function.

 

With regard to her ethics, I'm pretty much in complete agreement. Everyone's primary focus should pursuit of their own personal values, for the purpose of enhancing their own life. No one should sacrifice for anyone else. This does need to be balanced against the rights of others, but rights are themselves are a rational value, as they are necessary for a civilized society to exist, which is in turn to each person's rational self-interest. Cooperation among individuals is only appropriate to the extent that it benefits all involved.

 

I do rank charity somewhat higher as a virtue than Rand did. The lives of others are of value, because it is rational to prefer seeing others living happy and virtuous lives than to see them living miserable lives. And, to the extent that one does value the lives of others, and to the extent that one can help them without sacrificing greater values, it is more rational not to take action on their behalf than not to.

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I suspect Rand's view of sex to be rationalism and a rationalization of how she felt. As a woman, love and sex are intertwined, and so she rationalized philosophically why this must be so. Sex can be used to express love. Sex can be used as a celebration of your own values. But sex is a physical capability. It is an evolved function of the human body. It's proper usage is not philosophically derivable.
I rarely see holes in Leonard Peikoff's logic, but his view of masturbation could be used to justify using prostitutes. Peikoff states that masturbation allows you to experience sex and a sense of self sufficiency in this area while you look for or while you cannot find a lover. He states that it is not irrational to fantasize about sex while doing this, or to fantasize about women in movies, etc, while you are actively searching. He states that masturbatory fantasies are not evasion. So how then is using a prostitute evasion? He states that you can experience sex via masturbation so using a prostitute is unnecessary so you must be seeking more from it. Well, I'm sorry, Dr. Peikoff, but A is A. This is rationalism (you taught me that, Dr. Peikoff). You are not considering the reality of the situation here. The experience of sexual intercourse with a woman is world's apart from masturbation. The feelings are different, the pleasure is different, the entire experience is wholly different. To conflate the two as equally experience sex is to ignore the facts. So why then couldn't someone hire a woman to have sex with to increase the enjoyment of your masturbatory fantasy involving a woman you are deeply in love with? You know she is not really the person you are after, and you know when you are imagining it while masturbating that your hand is not. Having stated all that, the whole idea grosses me out for some reason, and I think I'd feel quite horrible about myself if I did it. I think because rather than paying I could find a girl who wanted to.

 

So if prostitution would be OK. Having sex with a girl who actually does like you for the pleasure of it is even closer to your ideal fantasy. Even if she is not the ideal woman with whom you share deep values. So going out and having a one night stand does not seem particularly immoral to me. I just don't think that should become your whole goal in it. You are more likely to find your dream woman in the act of flirting with and approaching new girls, having sex with those you like, and getting to know the one's you share deeper values with, than by sitting around wishing you'd bump into your one true soul mate.

----

The next topic is on Objectivist politics. I agree that the proper political system proper to man is the one that upholds man's rights. However, I disagree that philosophy is capable of coming up with that system. I believe that is a more technical issue requiring a deeper inquiry involving the logic of human action. It requires economics and political science. I was into Austrian economics before I was into Objectivism, and based on the logic of human action, various arguments by Hans Hermann Hoppe and my own thoughts on Objectivism, I think the only true capitalism and the only system compatible with a rational egoist ethics is one where each individual is his own sovereign state. I think that the defense of one's rights is not only only proper on but only possible on the individual level.

A government gives a group of men absolute authority and sanctioned concentrated force over all men in a given area. In this sense, a government that protects individual rights is a contradiction. A limited dictatorship is a contradiction, and why it ultimately falls apart. A limited government is a contradiction. Only individuals can uphold their own rights. Defence must be private, it cannot be otherwise. Individual rights must be defended by the individual. In other words, the only moral autonomous sovereign state is the individual. If the individual needs protection against a group of individuals, then giving absolute power to a group of individuals (the government) is not the answer. Force is not only immoral but impractical. Force is quite costly on the individual, even the irrational one. However, men can more easily afford to use force when the costs are externalized on every individual in society. This is what government allows individuals to do. In addition, government force is shielded and difficult to identify for most people. However, when force is out in the open, and all rights are protected on the individual level, any force would be seen plainly exactly for what it is. If force is to become common place in a system of individual rights protection, it would be obvious to everyone, and could only continue so long as the vast majority think this is OK. Such a society OK with overt force in dealing with others would be doomed even more so under a government. One cannot escape the degeneracy of society by having a government because the government is filled by people from society voted by people in society.

I'm aware of the utilitarian arguments against this. I simply disagree that they would happen. I don't call myself an anarchist. It's so vulgar. I'm completely for governance and law and order. I'm for an emergent governance. I completely forgive Ayn Rand for this error. She was still a genius. I still agree with Objectivist politics in essence, that the proper form of social order is that which upholds man's rights. But only the individual can properly enforce his rights. ;)
 
Here is the main essay that convinced me finally of the impracticability of collectivist defense: http://www.mises.ch/library/Hoppe_PrivateProductionOfDefense.pdf

Here is a video on the same topic by the author:

 

Edited by Peter Morris

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In the past, Peikoff has defended both masturbation and sex when dating (ie. with "not the One True") while denouncing prostitution. Given that he is an expert on rationalism, and given his comments when he discusses this in his podcast, my best guess is that his objection to prostitution is what he views as the willful sidestepping of the human minds involved. A fantasy that you have with yourself has no concrete in front of you, whereas a prostitute is a real human with her own thoughts, which you are choosing to ignore -- in his view.

In my opinion, that view makes sense if sex is "so important." But, condoning sex with multiple partners whom you are sure are not "It" seems to contradict this. It probably comes down to a value judgement of degree. Peikoff has standards for sex which he thinks are applicable to all, but others have "lower" standards which Peikoff thinks aren't appropriate.

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As for your comments on Objectivist politics, there are many threads you should be able to find with the forum search which address most (possibly all) of the specific points you raised.

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In the past, Peikoff has defended both masturbation and sex when dating (ie. with "not the One True") while denouncing prostitution. Given that he is an expert on rationalism, and given his comments when he discusses this in his podcast, my best guess is that his objection to prostitution is what he views as the willful sidestepping of the human minds involved. A fantasy that you have with yourself has no concrete in front of you, whereas a prostitute is a real human with her own thoughts, which you are choosing to ignore -- in his view.

In my opinion, that view makes sense if sex is "so important." But, condoning sex with multiple partners whom you are sure are not "It" seems to contradict this. It probably comes down to a value judgement of degree. Peikoff has standards for sex which he thinks are applicable to all, but others have "lower" standards which Peikoff thinks aren't appropriate.

 

I have an overt negative emotional reaction to the idea of prostitution. So maybe somewhere deep in my psyche I can see something wrong with it. I would kind of like for it to be wrong. So my explicit ideas are in conflict with my emotional reaction. I would not defend prostitution very hard. I just thought it stood to reason you could take his argument for masturbation and extend it all the way to sex. You make a good point that you are ignoring the other person's mind, but I'm not sure why that matters.

 

I'm much more favourable to the idea of a rational man sleeping around until he finds someone worth keeping. I can't see how Objectivism got sexual attraction involved in your assessment of a person's values. It's mainly a biological reflex if anything. Akin to hunger or thirst. I think.

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The desire for sex in general is perhaps akin to hunger in the sense you don't "think" it into existence and serves a biological function, I doubt anyone would deny that and says nothing about the validity of sexual attraction involving the assessment of a person's value to you. But desires can't indicate what is a good idea to do to satisfy the desire. Hunger won't indicate that certain foods are better for your health. So in a similar way, sexual desire in general doesn't indicate who to have sex with or the standard to follow. Rand's idea is that the assessment of the other person as a highest value is the appropriate standard.

 

I doubt you'd say it's moral to have sex with someone you are not attracted to at all. I don't entirely disagree with you, but I'd still say an assessment of the person's value to you is important, even if not to the degree Rand believed.

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You should be able to perform a thought experiment with yourself where you imagine someone you're attracted to sexually as a buffoon in some specific way. Or better yet, imagine someone you thought was sexually attractive until you discovered a personality you did not like at all. You'll find/have found that your level of sexual attraction has plummeted, maybe at first to zero. So, it's clear that value judgements do play into sexual attraction.

In my own experience, I don't think there is ever a time where sexual attraction is divorced from character judgements. You never know *nothing* about a person -- even first impressions reveal a good bit of information. And then people will fill in the gaps of knowledge with imagined projections until they get to know a person.

Beyond all the yelling (read some of the sex-related threads on the forum), I think it comes down to how important sex is to each individual person. Complicating matters is that sex can be more important to the same person depending on the situation -- but in that case, sex isn't the only thing at play. Honesty and trust, for example, may be just as important.

On one side, some people will argue about sex as though it is almost transcendent, which comes across as rationalism (is rationalism?). On the other, people will argue that sex is a good time, and people shouldn't be treating it as something more than it actually is. Clouding everything in between is people, personality, value judgements, and plain old physiological function.

Edited by JASKN

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A fantasy that you have with yourself has no concrete in front of you, whereas a prostitute is a real human with her own thoughts, which you are choosing to ignore -- in his view.

 

I don't entirely agree with this. If a prostitute is willingly choosing to offer her body for money, then you aren't disregarding her as a person, because you are engaging in a trade which she has chosen to participate in for her own reasons.

 

I do, however, feel revulsion toward both prostitution and casual sex. For me, sex is something that I want to have with someone who I'm in a committed relationship with -- not necessarily married, but in a romantic relationship which is intended to be long-term. The chain of reasoning I've used to justify this is that sex is something which is biologically connected to romantic love, which, I agree with Rand, proceeds from someone else's representation of one's highest ideal. And if two people have this kind of relationship, and their identities remain the same, then it rational to expect that the relationship will last long-term.

 

I am also completely open to having multiple sexual partners.

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Rand fails to contextualize her arguments for individualism within the context of a given social reality.

In other words, since we're all for individualism, the real philosophical problem is one of becomming, in terms of whays and hows.

 

 This is not accomplished by a priori fiat that 'the individual exists'. Rather, such satements are anti-philosophical because they seem to kill the question.

 

Next, freedom must be contextualized as to what controls and restraints are either becessary or beneficial. In this respect, what needs to be considered are the effects we have on others that are un-intended, yet clearly real.

 

Ethically, to say we act 'selfishly' belabors the point. Rather, to what extent is altruism benefical, and how does it play against self-interest?

 

Calling Kant 'evil' is silly. She doesn't really seem to have understood him.

 

Inspired by Quine, Kripke developed a causal theory of language-reference which seems to harken back to Aristotle. Certain Rand-philos (ie Machan) have mentioned that this is somewhat close to Rand's notions. It needs to be developed...

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What is meant by "outside of a political-economic social system?". Rights are prior to any system and serve as the only justification for one.

"Rights" has become, in modern English, a noun and grammatically an attribute. But all it means is a value judgment: it is right. Expressing value judgments may be a waste of time if you are alone, since there is no one to listen to them, but making value judgments is never a waste of time. Saying "I have a right to..." just means "It is right that I ...."

There are those who will claim that "rights" are only a sensible idea in a social context. But that confuses judging what is right with saying what is right.

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You should be able to perform a thought experiment with yourself where you imagine someone you're attracted to sexually as a buffoon in some specific way. Or better yet, imagine someone you thought was sexually attractive until you discovered a personality you did not like at all. You'll find/have found that your level of sexual attraction has plummeted, maybe at first to zero. So, it's clear that value judgements do play into sexual attraction.

In my own experience, I don't think there is ever a time where sexual attraction is divorced from character judgements. You never know *nothing* about a person -- even first impressions reveal a good bit of information. And then people will fill in the gaps of knowledge with imagined projections until they get to know a person.

Beyond all the yelling (read some of the sex-related threads on the forum), I think it comes down to how important sex is to each individual person. Complicating matters is that sex can be more important to the same person depending on the situation -- but in that case, sex isn't the only thing at play. Honesty and trust, for example, may be just as important.

On one side, some people will argue about sex as though it is almost transcendent, which comes across as rationalism (is rationalism?). On the other, people will argue that sex is a good time, and people shouldn't be treating it as something more than it actually is. Clouding everything in between is people, personality, value judgements, and plain old physiological function.

In one of his lectures, Nathaniel Brandon imagined a robot so perfectly made that it physically mimicked the characteristics of a beautiful lover - but you knew it was just a robot, and he asked, would you want it?

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In one of his lectures, Nathaniel Brandon imagined a robot so perfectly made that it physically mimicked the characteristics of a beautiful lover - but you knew it was just a robot, and he asked, would you want it?

If his thought experiment was ever a reality, every aspect of humanity would be so far advanced that it's impossible to imagine much of anything with accuracy. But, if this hypothetical implausibly came to pass today, I imagine you would want it briefly, like you do a beautiful woman who has yet to reveal her tiny intellect.

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If there are any intellectual components to sexual satisfaction , they are expressed in things like being desired by another and being responsible for another's pleasure, things a robot can not satisfy(if you know it's a robot).

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What difference would the robot be from any other tool used for self pleasure. I don't think women are immoral or irrational for using vibrators..... As long as one didn't try to discuss the morality of capitalism with it, or take it on a honeymoon.... Hehe.... ;)

Edited by Plasmatic

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What difference would the robot be from any other tool used for self pleasure. I don't think women are immoral or irrational for using vibrators..... As long as one didn't try to discuss the morality of capitalism with it, or take it on a honeymoon.... Hehe.... ;)

 The answer is "none". 

 

You point out a very often ignored contextual consideration... is a particular sexual act 1. primarily self-stimulation/masturbation, or is it in the mind of the actor 2. sexual intercourse, mutual stimulation with a "partner" which can be a physical expression of an intellectual/spiritual connection.

 

Some say that 1. ever only can be a "fantasy" of doing 2.  i.e. that masturbation is really only a ritual, visualization, wish, fantasy ... plus some physiological pay off at the end.  Others say that 2. is only ever a physical expression of an intellectual connection between individuals, a physical form of spiritual love.

 

This kind of thinking leads one to conclude, a robot, a dildo, a person's own hand, and in fact a one night stand or prostitute is really only a substitute to assist in fantasizing about a "real" thing, the real thing being primarily mental/spiritual.  The combination of these essentially leads to the idea no "sex" of any kind is simply "physiological", and that any kind of sex other than actual intellectual/spiritual sex is in fact a form of fantasy and hence a form of "masturbation" so to speak.

 

In any case, whether or not any "sex" or even "self-sex" can be purely physical (no fantasy of the intellectual/spiritual), there is no difference between "using" ones own appendages, using a simple apparatus (dildo) or a complicated one (a robot) or perhaps in fact another person (one night stand or prostitute?) to help in the fantasy.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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To quickly respond to the OP:

 

My only real beefs with Objectivism are

 

1.  the apparent dichotomy between the treatment of physical systems which make up a volitional consciousness (humans) versus those physical systems which do not, in respect of the relationship between identity/nature of an entity and the action(s) (or type of limited range of actions) the entity may take in a given context (causality). 

 

The general distinction is one which can be observed and addressed generally from a philosophic point of view but the details, the specific reasons why certain physical systems exhibit single valued or multiple valued causation (determinism versus something like choice) is one of the special sciences and cannot be answered by arm chair philosophizing.

 

Some of the attempts by Objectivism in regard to volition are in some ways lacking, and in other ways over-reaching.  An overzealous effort to distinguish a natural/physical system with consciousness from natural/physical systems which lack consciousness has resulted in an attitude which seems to imply that consciousness is "supernatural".

 

I would prefer a position that some things exhibit free will while others do not, and no fundamental "constitutive" difference needs to be invoked to explain the difference in "behavior/functionality", only that we do not know the "systematic/configurative" differences at play.

 

 

2.  a seemingly arbitrary definition of free will being "to focus or not to focus".

 

This cedes every other "choice" to determinism, albeit consistent with the nature and identity of the particular individual and the context and the corollary of causation according to objectivism.  The immediate result is an anemic free will devoid of substance...  we have for all intents and purposes no free will regarding anything of importance.

 

Secondly, there is no principled rational explanation why there would be metaphysically (or scientifically) a division at this particular juncture... why is the choice "to focus or not to focus" a choice we are "free" to make while the choices to "blink or stare", "walk slowly or quickly", "go to the bathroom NOW or in 2 seconds", "become a doctor or an engineer" are not "free" for us to make.  Whatever philosophic arguments which have been or could be made by Objectivism regarding why these other choices are not free, have not been sufficiently differentiated from the choice purported to be free so as to remove the threat of persuasive argument that in fact the choice to focus or not is also "not free". 

 

Although I do not know that this is a fact, I see no reason, if one holds volition as true, not to assert that in addition to the choice to focus or not, every other choice a volitional consciousness makes is "free"

 

 

One important part of developing this of course is defining what it means for a choice to be "free".  Free from what?

 

Those are pretty much all my beefs with the actual philosophy.

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"Rights" has become, in modern English, a noun and grammatically an attribute. But all it means is a value judgment: it is right. Expressing value judgments may be a waste of time if you are alone, since there is no one to listen to them, but making value judgments is never a waste of time. Saying "I have a right to..." just means "It is right that I ...."

There are those who will claim that "rights" are only a sensible idea in a social context. But that confuses judging what is right with saying what is right.

No, there are no 'rights' that exist outside of the social context that give them meaning. This is evinced by the origins of our term, both in Latin and middle French:  'ius' and 'droit'.

 

Locke talked of 'natural rights within the context of divine right, which gave the monarch entitlement over all property. Locke saw ,'natural' as meaning 'everywhere', or universally true. In this sense, his argument was that those who worked the land were entitled to its benefits--hence, 'ownerhip/property' as a legal rebus..

 

In passing, Lincoln used natural property rights to justify the blocking of slave labor into the terratories, as do, of course, socialists.

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.

Objecting to the “Season of Giving”

Peter Schwartz

 

Delighted to learn of Mr. Schwartz’ forthcoming book Defense of Selfishness. (Cf.) Delighted overall by his piece for Washington Post, except for the elements I notice below.

 

The sound parts of the piece coincide with Rand’s views. The weak part of the piece likewise coincides with Rand’s view, her pure instrumentalism (to only good, selfish purposes) in the valuation of others in her egoistic ethical theory. Speaking of getting a gift for his wife, Schwartz writes: “But my gift is not an act of charity. It is a form of spiritual payment in acknowledgment of the value her life has to me.”

 

Christians who have had the slightest education in what their religion is actually about know that the premier definition of charity is love. That is not something Schwartz would mean to disown or attack, though he gives an appearance to that effect by having in mind a notion of charity he rejects, yet simply using the unqualified term charity. Unlike Schwartz and Rand, I don’t make gifts as “a form of spiritual payment in acknowledgement of the value her [or his] life has to me.” Drop payment. “Celebration of her marvelous person and our treasured union” would ring direct, and uncontrived for egoistic ethical theory.

 

The holiday cards I send to friends are similarly selfish—and properly so. Consciously or not, we choose our friends because they embody things we value, whether that’s an interest in sports or a particular outlook on life. We exchange cards not out of pity but out of a recognition that we share something worthwhile.

 

 

People operating by not purely egoistic ethical principles are able to give a card recognizing shared worthwhile things; they need not be acting out of pity (of all things) as the only alternative to not acting from, because not subscribing to, all of Rand's ethical principles. I should mention too that an ethical egoism that now has to invoke unconscious egoism (“Consciously or not”) to make its case, may be feeling some pinch.

Edited by Boydstun

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You bring up an interesting subject in Schwartz' (typical) attack on Christianity here, which is on my short list of "criticisms of Objectivism".

 

But it's not really a criticism of Objectivism but a criticism of its predominate usage by individuals--which is the core of my technical point.

 

Let me explain.

 

Ayn Rand had a notion I call (and Piekoff called) "Aquinas' Angel". That Thomas Aquinas wrote that angels in heave were perfect, and that perfection made them "automagically" know all of the implications of their basic premises--and that this is exactly what human beings are not.

 

I submit that Ayn Rand herself did not understand the implications of this premise--or at least she didn't practice it. To whit, she attacked any and all followers of Christianity (say) within the implied premise that they all understood the implications of Christianity. In particular, Ayn Rand stretched the very definition of Christianity by heaping her own set of implications on the ideology that most of its followers do not hold.

 

Put it another way, I don't think most Christians give gifts at Christmas out of selflessness. I daresay that "selfish" is a way you can describe the way almost everybody gives out gives on Christmas. It's fun and entertaining for us atheists and its fun for them too.

 

Schwartz' attacks on the "season of giving" doesn't make a valid point to anybody--except perhaps some angels in heaven.

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"Objecting to the “Season of Giving” " - Peter Schwartz

Thought it would be relevant to add Rand's own take -- albeit not part of a published essay etc.

 

Christmas

[in answer to the question of whether it is appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas:]

Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976

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It shows up the hypocrisy of the ideology of selflessness, when naming what you'd do by choice - 'selfless'. True selflessness however is the extreme of self-sacrifice which is upheld as the ideal - and that's the horrible wrong of it: to aim for an impossible ideal, which would mean renouncing one's property, submitting one's mind and ultimately ending one's life (implicitly or actually), is tacitly accepted by most Christians etc., I believe, as crazy or unpragmatic. But the 'good' altruists will continue existing with the guilt of never achieving their ideal; the worst will ensure somebody else does the self-sacrificing.

 

While I agree with the danger of intrinsicism, Crow, I think Rand probably understood that most Christians didn't understand the full implications.

 

In an otherwise good article, I think Peter Schwartz was a little rationalistic, especially by bringing in charity in a Christmas message, even as a foil. It won't be a majority of people who only give out of duty and obligation. My experience of some charitable individuals is that they perceive a personal value in selecting a specific charity, then making an affordable donation, just as Objectivists would. And if you suggest they are being 'selfless' in their gift-giving to loved ones, many would laugh at you!

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