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How to Morally Judge Amoral vs. Immoral Men

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I was wondering what you all think of moral judgement of amoral men... by which I mean how someone judges them from a moral standpoint (I am not here referring to the capacity of an amoral man to make "moral judgements")

 

 

By amoral I do not mean immoral.  Let me explain.  An amoral man is a man who has not consciously or subconsciously chosen life, not chosen to live.  He continues to live because he has not been able to bring about his end or he is apathetic to his lack of choice.  In either case he is amoral.  An immoral man is one who explicitly or at least implicitly chooses life, chooses to live, but either acts against principles which would be effective for his stated goal of life or acts in accordance with principles which actually detract from his stated goal of life, regardless of what principles he purports (to himself) to have adopted.

 

I think I understand the basis of moral judgement by an Objectivist entity of both men in respect of their actions or potential actions toward that entity. 

 

My question is what should the entity's position be regarding moral judgement of the amoral and the immoral man's actions and potential actions which do not affect the life of the entity.  Is there any difference between how the entity should morally judge the amoral man and the immoral man?  Should the entity morally judge the amoral man and the immoral man... and why?

 

When it comes to moral condemnation or approbation, dogmatic intrinsic or mystical morality sees no distinction between them, and takes no stock of morality being personal, whose beneficiary is the self, and which presupposes a choice to live.  Objectivism is different, but exactly how?

 

 

Keep in mind we all know that "choosing to live" is a pre-moral question, and Objectivist ethics does not say a man "should" choose to live, because such a "should" would imply a kind of intrinsic or mystical meta morality dictating shoulds and should nots prior to any standard.  Once he chooses life, morality is a necessity and it is objective, based on the nature of man and reality.

 

As an aside, in terms of action, I think it is in the interests (generally) of the entity to persuade/teach the immoral man about principles and persuade the amoral man to choose life, and thereafter teach him principles - due to the possible benefits the entity may reap. But that is merely a tangential issue.

 

 

Leaving aside action, what is the moral judgement to be applied here by the Objectivist entity in regard to these two kinds of men?

 

 

 

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If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice" - Rush

 

If someone either conciously or otherwise does not choose life, or any other philosophic or eithical idea, they will still "choose" through the hodgepodge of accepted ideas and feelings they have.  Instead of it being defined it will simply be undefined.  Many people have undefined paradigms. 

 

This is reflected through their actions, and that is what you can judge.  Just like the immoral man, you would judge his actions and give them his due accordingly. 

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I see.  I may have suffered a little conflation between:

 

A.  Morally judging something or someone, which is to say judging something's effect or someone's actions and potential actions in view of my guide to action (and appropriate reaction or anticipated reaction), my moral mandate to live.

 

AND

 

B.  Objectively ascertaining what someone else's morality (including a lack thereof or an invalid one) is.

 

In judgment process A, I assess their actions objectively but in view of my moral mandate to live. Part of judgement process A would be launching into a judgement process B, since the morality of an entity is likely relevant to predicting their actions.  The amoral and immoral man are likely both a threat. I need to assess that in context.

 

In judgment process B, I identify their morality for what it is including simply identifying the fact that one has chosen "death" (amoral) and the other fails to enact life (immoral).  What I do with my conclusions is another matter.

 

 

In some sense the manner/process of judgement is the same as applied to each kind of man, the conclusions however differ, because the entities differ.

 

 

Does this make sense?

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The context to apply is the content of their awareness.

 

It was not immoral for many people, in earlier centuries, to smoke tobacco; today it is (but only slightly).  The difference is one of knowledge and the same principle applies to the OP.

 

Each man must be evaluated according to his integrity.

Take "faith" for example.  Many people hold faith to be a virtue, which means that they hold irrationality as a virtue.  So, among those who value faith, I would evaluate each according to their integrity; their adherence to their own values.

But total irrationality is absolutely lethal.  So if one applies this consistently one finds that no matter how faithful a mystic is, not a single one alive will await 'faithfully' such things as food and water.

And no altruist alive would actually crucify themselves for the sake of those who hate them (or they already would have) and no statist alive would actually sacrifice themselves to the state.

 

So if one were to judge all of the immoral according to their integrity, one would find that the more evil their chosen values, the greater their internal contradictions and betrayals [assuming they are alive].  Compare, for example, the internal consistency of a Conservative arguing for his views' compatibility with evolution, versus that of a radical Muslim who studies chemistry in order to build bombs for an omnipotent god.

Observe and generalize.

 

The distinction between the immoral and the amoral does not seem so much of a cut-and-dry difference between "choosing to live" or not, as it has been portrayed as, and I believe this may be clarified by opening that up to further examination.

 

One moment, please.

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In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt referred to "love of life" and "fear of death" and explicitly stated that they are two distinct things.  I believe that this distinction reflects pleasure and pain, which are axiomatic values (since they're directly sensible and instinctively evaluated), and that the "choice to live" refers to the prioritization between them.

Hold that thought and prepare to have your paradigm shifted.

 

In Buddhism, there is a doctrine called the Four Truths (?) which serve as the basis of much of the philosophy.  This basis consists of the identification that pain is caused by desire and the implication therein.  Namely, that one can eliminate all pain by eliminating all desire.

Imagine what it would look like for someone to achieve a state without desire; to make themselves perfectly indifferent.

 

Now hold onto that image and remember James Taggart, who didn't want to be anything in particular.  For all of his evil and all of his various vices, every one of them stemmed from the desire to not-be.

And when we say that he didn't want to be, what do you suppose that desire would've looked like to him, within his own mind?

Do you think that those people who don't love life literally want to die? . . . Or do they simply want to be immune to the pain?

 

Morality is about introspective evaluation; knowing the value of your own values.

And I don't think it's so much a literal "love of life" and "fear of death" involved in the choice to live, as it is the relative value of pleasure versus pain.

Because that prioritization is the root difference between a Howard Roark and an 'enlightened' walking corpse.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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I would rephrase the "choice to live" as the "choice to value".  Because to care about something is an emotional investment and whenever you make such an investment, you run the risk of being hurt by it.

But such investments are the fuel of our very lives; without them we cannot have any reason to survive.

So, in judging the amoral (who do not want to desire) I would simply apply the same standard of integrity, with the knowledge that there 'aint no rest until we close our eyes for good'.

 

Incidentally though, I've seen some Youtube videos of former Objectivists demanding for us to be 'practical', and they serve as the standard against which I measure true depravity.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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As an aside HD, have you read Understanding Objectivism by LP ?

 

It really is a really good read.

 

I'm reading the first lecture dealing with all the "reasons" people give for why living according to or with a philosophy is difficult, impractical, causes displeasure etc. the assumption being that the amoral or irrational (unphilosophical) man in the street is blissful...

 

Your last statement of the YouTube videos reminded me of the book... of course LP throughout the entire book deals with why the "reasons" are flawed.

 

If you don't have it I really suggest you get it. I love Amazon!

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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I've read bits of it on Scribd but don't plan to actually read and digest its entirety until I can pay to (I did the same thing with ITOE, which I do own a copy of now). There's just something about essentially pirating Objectivist books that I'm not entirely comfortable with. . .

In any case that's precisely the implicit premise, right there; that principles aren't practical (which is a blatant rationalization).

That's my theory about such former Oists; that they lacked the spine to live by what they knew was right. Which is why I hold them as the most evil type that exists.

I hope I've helped to clarify your question. =]

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You guys do understand that at times circumstances outside of a person's control can lead to the exact same thing. A person can have the perfect moral outlook on life but due to a myriad of reasons not be able to live by them fully. And by this I mean be able to live a rich full life that is proper to a man? Negatively judging a person in those circumstances but with the proper morality is a HUGE error. And more it's illogical thinking to do so because you aren't taking the full context of another person's life in the proper context. If this is done purposely, not judging them but judging them *out of context*, that action could be immoral depending on the amount of information they know about the persons situation.

Edited by EC

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How?

 

The answer is self-explanatory and due to an essentially infinite number of reasons that would be specific to that individual's life.

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Morality is about choices.  If something is beyond your control then it isn't good or bad; it's amoral.  If something is in your control then it cannot be amoral.

For example, if someone has a neurochemical imbalance which makes them prone to irrationally-extreme emotions (such being pregnant), any single outburst cannot be immoral. . . At first.

If, however, they realize in retrospect that they have developed a detrimental sort of pattern, then at the moment they realize it they gain the capacity to do something about it; the longer they have this knowledge the greater their opportunity to change and the greater its degree of morality (or immorality).

---

 

Determining which of any person's actions were chosen, and to what extent, is an exceptionally complex question.  To answer it accurately is difficult- but possible.

And whatever was chosen has moral status; whatever wasn't chosen doesn't.  This is no reason to suspend judgment.

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Yeah but you are leaving out the most important part. A person has no control over the irrational actions of *others* and their consequences. The most rational and moral person in the world can still fail if he lives in a society of irrational and/or immoral people. That failure is not open to a negative moral evaluation if the consequences of others actions are severe enough.

Edited by EC

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The morality of an individual is never measured by things out of their control such as the actions of others.

 

A person living in the context of an immoral society and immoral people still has the choice to live morally i.e. in his/her rational selfish interest or not.  The constraints will change the nature of the particular actions taken but will not make a moral person behave immorally.  I agree with you that it would be naïve to address "morality" from the view of absolute edicts wrt actions divorced from context.  But that simply is not Objectivist morality.

 

As an example of context, the moral action in a peaceful context is to keep your body intact, it serves you and self inflicted damage is not in your self-interest.  Contrast this with the moral action in the context of the movie 128 hours - severing your own arm can be and is moral in that context.

 

The same sort of thing applies in any context, morality is to be judged from the context, regardless of what it is.  If a person is behaving immorally in a context he or she is to be adjudged accordingly.

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That's my theory about such former Oists; that they lacked the spine to live by what they knew was right.

I'd replace "knew was right" with "mistakenly thought was right".

Objectivism does not ask for sacrifices, only for the actor's own selfish interest. Some churches want tithes, some cults ask people to give up their family. Objectivism asks them to aim for their happiness. Why would that require spine when compared to other philosophies?

 

All too often, people read commands into the philosophy, where there really are no such commands. It is not even that they don't have the spine to follow these mistakenly-attributed commands. Rather, they are not really convinced that they are right... they face a conflict between their abstract, intellectual agreement with a falsely-attributed command, versus their overall "gut feeling" that they really should not obey it.

If the commands is mistakenly-attributed, they actually end up better by disregarding it. A few exceptions can stay alongside thinking oneself an "Objectivist". However, after a certain level of tension between what they think the philosophy says they ought to do, versus what they want to do, they blame the philosophy for being impractical.

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Objectivism does not ask for sacrifices, only for the actor's own selfish interest. . . Objectivism asks them to aim for their happiness. Why would that require spine when compared to other philosophies?

1-  Happiness is not the goal of morality.  Objective pride (rationally derived) in one's own life and soul are the goal of Rational Selfishness; happiness is a nonessential side-effect [nonessential because it can also be achieved by a wide variety of irrational and immoral methods; genuine pride cannot be].

 

2-  Many people, myself included, have been deeply ingrained with a deontological sense of morality since childhood.  When attempting to apply Objectivism to our own lives, we may find that our selfish interests demand some enormously difficult changes; things which it would be much easier to ignore.

Sometimes I still find myself wishing that prosperity were effortless and free; that I could eat my cake today and tomorrow, too.  Those are emotional responses I've automated since childhood and it takes some serious spine for me to notice and correct them- even though I know that I want to, for my own good!

 

According to Objectivism, the moral path is the shortest distance from you to your most profound desires.  Not just any desire; not just whatever feels right at this instant; I mean profound desires, like the way Howard Roark felt about buildings.

And the shortest distance from you to your desires is not always the path of least resistance.  Sometimes the thing that best serves your own selfish interests in the long term, is also the most difficult thing to do today.

 

3-  Whenever the shortest distance is not the path of least resistance, it takes some balls to be selfish.

And again (per my other posts), it all boils down to cost-benefit analysis; desire versus fear.

 

FYI, this is the man I was referring to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0CyunRUJmc

 

Not sure in retrospect if he actually has ever considered himself an Objectivist, but he's obviously intelligent and rather familiar with the concepts; I think I drew the inference because at the time I first watched it, I couldn't imagine anyone with both traits simply rejecting it immediately, on its face.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Fred Nietzche was a great example of an Amoral man. I was a (mystic-altruist) Buddhist for twenty years. The main point of my Buddhism was the (erroneous) eradication of cause and effect. The Emptiness Doctrine.

The ethics felt wrong.

I embrace the Will to Power and Beyond Good and Evil.

Regarding the Op, Amoralism is often a rebellion against altruism because men assume that it is the only form of morality. Nietzche was my transition to Objectivism because there was a year that I didn't know that a proper form of ethics existed.

So don't judge the amorilists to harshly. They haven't learned that there is a code of ethics appropriate to Man. Let's give them a chance to read VOS.

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On 2/28/2014 at 6:19 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

The context to apply is the content of their awareness.

It was not immoral for many people, in earlier centuries, to smoke tobacco; today it is (but only slightly).  The difference is one of knowledge and the same principle applies to the OP.

 

Amorality is a new concept to me so I am trying to get my head around it. If it is about context, can a person say that "women not having the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, is amoral", because they are not aware, meaning they don't know any better?

Something doesn't become evil because someone discovered it. Wasn't it evil all along? 
Isn't poison always evil, bad for anyone?

Isn't the right to own property always moral? Even if Mankind has recently discovered it?

 

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8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Something doesn't become evil because someone discovered it. Wasn't it evil all along? 

Isn't poison always evil, bad for anyone?

Poison is neither moral nor immoral, but amoral. It's nothing more than what it is.

Drinking poison because you thought it was Coca-Cola is neither moral nor immoral; it's nothing more than an unfortunate accident.

Drinking poison with full knowledge of what it is (barring any truly extraordinary circumstances, such as a terminal illness) is immoral.

The fact that something is bad for you doesn't necessarily make you evil for doing it, if you didn't know any better. You're not omniscient.

 

The Arabian treatment of women is a symptom of their underlying view of mankind; that our proper place is as Allah's interchangeable and disposable slaves. I do not know of an honest way to make that kind of mistake. 

It's a somewhat technical part of this but I suspect that they do actually know better (in the same way that a playground bully, who has never heard of "rights" before, still feels the need to hide the nature of his actions). They pretend not to know better the same way they pretend that the Koran could ever make any sense; the same way Western Christians pretend that America was a product of Christianity, while the dark ages were not, and communists pretend that the USSR wasn't really communism.

Ignorance excuses nothing if it's self-inflicted.

 

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On 10/21/2017 at 7:14 AM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Poison is neither moral nor immoral, but amoral. It's nothing more than what it is.

Got it, now what about evil, is poison evil? It is bad for any human, is bad different that evil? Poison is anti-life, my understanding is that is evil.

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11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Got it, now what about evil, is poison evil? It is bad for any human, is bad different that evil? Poison is anti-life, my understanding is that is evil.

By your reasoning:

Someone plugs a banana in your car muffler and causes you to breath carbon monoxide and die: therefore bananas are evil.

Someone put water in your winshield washer fluid, it was liquid enough to spray but froze in the cold wind on your winshield causing you to die in an accident: therefore water is evil.

Starving and dying of dehydration you eat a banana and water which makes the difference and saves your life: therefore bananas and water are GOOD.

You are drowning, someone makes you drink water every time you poke your head above the surface in an effort to take a breath... therefore water is (again) evil.

You drink poison in the form of gasoline and die: therefore gasoline is EVIL

Someone put poison in your car (gasoline) and it helps you drive to the hospital and save your life: therefor poison in the form of gasoline is GOOD.

The sun necessarily supports almost all life on earth: therefore the SUN is good

Someone threw you into the sun... you died... therefore...the Sun IS evil yada yada yada

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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18 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Someone threw you into the sun... you died... therefore...the Sun IS evil yada yada yada

I get the logic, another Objectivist friend reminded me that a gun is not evil either.

Then the standard definition below is not enough. If you have a complete definition of evil, can you provide it?

Based on the current definition of evil I have:

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.

Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil.

The Virtue of Selfishness    “The Objectivist Ethics,”
The Virtue of Selfishness, 23

A banana could be improper to life, it can oppose and destroy. I am not saying it is evil but an aspect of it is evil. I am simply going by the definition. That is true for water, a knife, gasoline, and the sun. It depends on the particular interaction with it and it seems to require knowledge that the interaction will damage one's own life (perhaps, indirectly through some causal chain, it will cause something that will cause something that will cause me harm).

On 10/21/2017 at 7:14 AM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Drinking poison with full knowledge of what it is (barring any truly extraordinary circumstances, such as a terminal illness) is immoral.

 

In a sense, being evil is doing something stupid, when you are NOT stupid.

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