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Harrison Danneskjold

Beyond Morality

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A moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value.

-Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

 

. . . the doctrine that concern with one’s own interests is evil means that man’s desire to live is evil—that man’s life, as such, is evil. No doctrine could be more evil than that.

Yet that is the meaning of altruism.

-The Virtue of Selfishness

 

[tangential:  what is the ultimate value of altruism???]

 

A deontological (duty-centered) theory of ethics confines moral principles to a list of prescribed “duties” and leaves the rest of man’s life without any moral guidance, cutting morality off from any application to the actual problems and concerns of man’s existence. Such matters as work, career, ambition, love, friendship, pleasure, happiness, values (insofar as they are not pursued as duties) are regarded by these theories as amoral, i.e., outside the province of morality.

-Causality versus Duty

 

The clearest symptom by which one can recognize [the amoralist] is his total inability to judge himself, his actions, or his work by any sort of standard. The normal pattern of self-appraisal requires a reference to some abstract value or virtue—e.g., “I am good because I am rational,” “I am good because I am honest,” even the second-hander’s notion of “I am good because people like me.” . . .

The amoralist’s implicit pattern of self-appraisal (which he seldom identifies or admits) is: “I am good because it’s me.”

-Selfishness Without a Self

 

"Good" and "evil" assume some sort of teleological standard, and no standard could be evil by its own standards (that would be equivalent to the Liar's paradox).  And yet here, Rand clearly applied a teleological standard to one such standard; namely altruism.

In the other quotes she indicated that amorality is the absence of any sort of evaluative standard, whatsoever, and that evaluation cannot take place in such a vacuum.  But whatever anyone does, regardless of the reasoning behind it or the ultimate consequences, they do because they ultimately consider it to be the "best" option (no matter how screwed up their standards are).  Choice between alternatives, according to certain preferences, is implicit in every single conscious moment.

  1. By what standard can evaluative standards, themselves, be evaluated?  When we call altruism "evil" what makes that assertion conceivable, let alone justified?
  2. If life requires choice, and choice requires values and evaluation requires a moral code, can anyone actually live amorally?

What is the precise relation between values and morals?

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Ayn Rand took a top-down approach to ethics, in which every choice must be made according to your goals- and in choosing your goals, themselves, this requires some reference higher and higher goals; all the way up to the choice to live.

I really don't know yet, but I wonder if this has something to do with the anomalies in the OP.

 

What if the proper conception is not top-down from the choice to live, but bottom-up from this instant onward?

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"When we call altruism "evil" what makes that assertion conceivable,...."

 

"....can anyone actually live amorally?"

 

When Rand uses the terms "altruism" and "amorality" (taken from other philosophies, not hers), you need to understand that, in her mind, they are "floating abstractions" which cannot be practiced.  They are not "options" .  She is demonstrating the logical fallacy of the concepts.

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--------------

  • By what standard can evaluative standards, themselves, be evaluated?  When we call altruism "evil" what makes that assertion conceivable, let alone justified?
  • If life requires choice, and choice requires values and evaluation requires a moral code, can anyone actually live amorally?
What is the precise relation between values and morals?

 

1. The standard is Man's Life qua rational being. This is clearly identified in Galt's speech.  By evaluating altruism in the context of Objectivist morality. 

2. Not sure why you don't get the connection. The answer, of course, is YES, but not consistently.

 

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When Rand uses the terms "altruism" and "amorality" (taken from other philosophies, not hers), you need to understand that, in her mind, they are "floating abstractions" which cannot be practiced.

I'll have to think about it some more, but that may solve this whole thing; it's certainly the answer to several parts.  Thank you.

 

By evaluating altruism in the context of Objectivist morality. 

And that's possible, but it would be a sloppy thing for her to say.

Because if that was it then she would essentially be saying "my morality considers your morality evil".  Altruism considers selfishness to be evil, Objectivism considers altruism to be evil and no conclusion exists down that line of reasoning; the evaluation would serve no purpose whatsoever.

 

A similar possibility, along the lines of Buddha's observation, is that she was dismissing altruism as invalid; not actually a moral code at all, but only a bad imitation to be properly subsumed and evaluated by the real thing.  That would make more sense, especially in light of Galt's Speech.

But if so then, as an important step in her reasoning which is far from obvious to laymen, why wouldn't she have made that explicit?  And if altruism isn't a moral code at all (a point which I have yet to digest fully) then what is it, and what does that make its adherents?  Amoral?

 

How does an amoral person go about pronouncing moral judgments?

 

2. Not sure why you don't get the connection. The answer, of course, is YES, but not consistently.

Why?

I don't get it because morality is about how you choose your values (essentially the value of values) and without values, no human being could survive; they would have no reason to.  So the more I think about it, the less sense I can make of the very concept of amorality.

It would be like declaring yourself to be irredeemably evil; the very next moment means suicide.

 

Since nature does not provide man with an automatic form of survival, since he has to support his life by his own effort, the doctrine that concern with one’s own interests is evil means that man’s desire to live is evil—that man’s life, as such, is evil. No doctrine could be more evil than that.

Yet that is the meaning of altruism.

 

I find it significant that she explained altruism's evil by referring to the desire to live.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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I think a concrete example might help regarding amorality. And example of an action we might consider amoral would be raping someone. The rapist in this case would be making a choice which they would be capable of making because they do not regard consent as being important -- but they would have to have a value which they are pursuing, which in this case would be unearned sexual pleasure.

 

The question would then be, do they need a moral code (Albeit a horrible one) in order to have that as a value?

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I don't think amorality is really possible except in distinct, isolated subjects where we can say, "He does not care about what is right and wrong in this situation and he has no opinion on it".  Amorality means (to me) not having an opinion on the morality of the situation.  But I suspect everyone has lots of moral opinions about most situations, so I generally see amorality as a possible, but not likely state, in most cases.

 

Pure altruism is also nearly impossible to find.  However altruism within self-interest is common.  One can (and many do) say, "In order for my life to be good, I should care about other's lives".  True altruism is (I would guess) almost never practiced, but it is often preached - by parasites trying to convince their intended victims to be willing victims.  

Edited by howardofski

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Amorality means (to me) not having an opinion on the morality of the situation.  But I suspect everyone has lots of moral opinions about most situations, so I generally see amorality as a possible, but not likely state, in most cases.

 

In that case, amorality might not be a bad thing in certain situations. For instance, I doubt very many people would have a moral opinion on whether you should eat chocolate or strawberry ice cream. I guess what Rand would have called an "amoralist" would be someone who treated all life decisions in this way, which would of course result in terrible harm to both themselves and their neighbors.

 

 

Pure altruism is also nearly impossible to find.  However altruism within self-interest is common.  One can (and many do) say, "In order for my life to be good, I should care about other's lives".

 

That wouldn't be altruism though, because it doesn't require sacrificing for others. It just means helping others in pursuit of your own values.

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...

  1. By what standard can evaluative standards, themselves, be evaluated?  When we call altruism "evil" what makes that assertion conceivable, let alone justified?
  2. If life requires choice, and choice requires values and evaluation requires a moral code, can anyone actually live amorally?

What is the precise relation between values and morals?

 

1a) Self-preservation is the only relavent standard by which all evaluations of the efficacy of deliberate action can be evaluated.

1b) Altruism is most often belied by the statement, "I act altruistically because it makes me feel good."  Practiced consistently, altruism promotes self-destruction and is therefore evil as a contradiction of the good of self-preservation.

 

2) Life requires action, some of which are deliberate.  If instinct equates to non-deliberate action, then instinctive actors actually live amorally.

 

3) Morals are the means by which one recognizes and achieves something of value, i.e., path and destination.

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I think it is bottom-up, instead of top-down.

 

  1. By what standard can evaluative standards, themselves, be evaluated?  When we call altruism "evil" what makes that assertion conceivable, let alone justified?

Evaluative principles are generalizations; analogous to factual generalizations.  A moral standard is a unified set of principles, inducted from countless individual principles, and abstracted from the particulars of an individual's life (to apply universally).

I don't know what to call it but there must be an intermediate step, between isolated and perceptual values (such as a certain flavor of ice cream) and values which are applicable to every single human being; something like a personal protoethics.

It would be composed of whatever attributes of their personality any individual is aware of, and how they feel about them.

 

Whatever that intermediate is, I think that's how we evaluate one moral code versus another; comparing universal evaluative-principles to our own implicit evaluations of ourselves.

So Rand's statement that altruism is "evil" included an explanation that it's anti-life.  The desire to live would be part of that protoethics and so, in order for anyone to sincerely disagree with that evaluation, they would actually have to be ashamed of their own desire to live.

And that's all I wanted to know; what that evaluation logically rests on.

 

  1. By what standard can evaluative standards, themselves, be evaluated?  When we call altruism "evil" what makes that assertion conceivable, let alone justified?
  2. If life requires choice, and choice requires values and evaluation requires a moral code, can anyone actually live amorally?

Metacognition is the act of thinking about thinking (or introspection).

Metavaluation would be feeling about feeling, and that's what I think "moral thinking, in general" is.  So in order to actually be amoral someone would have to have no opinions whatsoever about their own hopes and fears and desires.

 

What is the precise relation between values and morals?

Morals are inductively drawn from values (and some values ultimately stem from the evidence of the senses; pleasure and pain).

A moral code is a single, unified framework in which to identify and evaluate individual values.

The evaluation of values themselves allows us to maintain the health of our own minds and egos; like emotional homeostasis.

 

The question would then be, do they need a moral code (Albeit a horrible one) in order to have that as a value?

I don't know.

But you don't need a moral code to know that painful things are bad and pleasurable things are good, so while morality does influence our values (like Catherine Hallsey) it has to be based on, and evaluated by, preexisting values.

 

So ultimately the whole dynamic must somehow (still sketchy on the specifics) be circular.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Searching stuff! I eventually found altruism to be far larger a concept than I first considered, or is generally given credit for. Rand, as we know her, didn't stop at the obvious (or the given definitions) but instantly recognised all the premises and implications of every idea. Here too: Before Comtean service to others becomes possible, the precondition of altruism requires SELF-sacrifice ("self-abnegation, surrender of the mind" - I quote roughly). Self, which is the consciousness or "soul"..

Key for me, was an off the cuff statement I found (she must have made in an interview):

 

"The true opposite and enemy of altruism, is not selfishness, it is independence".

 

Ah! That clarified and re-aligned for me the conceptual contrast:  i.e. not directly opposed by rational egoism - as I long struggled with it -rather, altruism stands in contravention of independence of mind. (And, vice-versa.)

I think of it as 'implicit/explicit altruism', or action following consciousness, or conviction and consequence - which helps grasp it.

 

While 'explicit altruism' is an impossibility to consistently practise, the willing suspension of one's independent mind ('implicit altruism') is all too possible, even common. The immorality of the *advocacy* of altruism, is now thrown into double relief, as not only claiming your body (and money) - but primarily demanding surrender of your mind.

 

It certainly puts into perspective voluntary charitable assistance, which Objectivists seem to often fret about.

While it's no virtue in Objectivism - outside of good will and lending assistance to other folk - charity is, then, the least important part of altruism, just the tip of the iceberg.

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On 4/10/2014 at 9:31 PM, whYNOT said:

"The true opposite and enemy of altruism, is not selfishness, it is independence".

This is intriguing, I searched the internet for it but can't find anything. This is definitely attributed to her?

Is she saying that we have a tendency toward the morality of altruism?

The only connection I could find was:

It is obvious why the morality of altruism is a tribal phenomenon. Prehistorical men were physically unable to survive without clinging to a tribe for leadership and protection against other tribes. The cause of altruism’s perpetuation into civilized eras is not physical, but psycho-epistemological: the men of self-arrested, perceptual mentality are unable to survive without tribal leadership and “protection” against reality. The doctrine of self-sacrifice does not offend them: they have no sense of self or of personal value-they do not know what it is that they are asked to sacrifice—they have no firsthand inkling of such things as intellectual integrity, love of truth, personally chosen values, or a passionate dedication to an idea. When they hear injunctions against “selfishness,” they believe that what they must renounce is the brute, mindless whim-worship of a tribal lone wolf. But their leaders—the theoreticians of altruism—know better. Immanuel Kant knew it; John Dewey knew it; B. F. Skinner knows it; John Rawls knows it. Observe that it is not the mindless brute, but reason, intelligence, ability, merit, self-confidence, self-esteem that they are out to destroy.

Philosophy: Who Needs It

“Selfishness Without a Self,”
Philosophy: Who Needs It, 50

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On 4/7/2014 at 1:16 PM, Eamon Arasbard said:

The question would then be, do they need a moral code (Albeit a horrible one) in order to have that as a value?

Yes, criminals develop their own moral codes to justify their actions. For example, a burglar breaking into someone's house usually has a moral "justification" of some sort for doing so. Many of them believe that it isn't morally wrong to commit burglary because the victims will be reimbursed by their insurance agency, overlooking the loss of peace of mind that they cause. Rapists are not a category that I have looked into, but I know that they also develop moral "justifications" for their actions.

Edited by William O

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On 10/1/2017 at 9:16 AM, Easy Truth said:

This is intriguing, I searched the internet for it but can't find anything. This is definitely attributed to her?

Is she saying that we have a tendency toward the morality of altruism?

The only connection I could find was:

It is obvious why the morality of altruism is a tribal phenomenon. Prehistorical men were physically unable to survive without clinging to a tribe for leadership and protection against other tribes. The cause of altruism’s perpetuation into civilized eras is not physical, but psycho-epistemological: the men of self-arrested, perceptual mentality are unable to survive without tribal leadership and “protection” against reality. The doctrine of self-sacrifice does not offend them: they have no sense of self or of personal value-they do not know what it is that they are asked to sacrifice—they have no firsthand inkling of such things as intellectual integrity, love of truth, personally chosen values, or a passionate dedication to an idea. When they hear injunctions against “selfishness,” they believe that what they must renounce is the brute, mindless whim-worship of a tribal lone wolf. But their leaders—the theoreticians of altruism—know better. Immanuel Kant knew it; John Dewey knew it; B. F. Skinner knows it; John Rawls knows it. Observe that it is not the mindless brute, but reason, intelligence, ability, merit, self-confidence, self-esteem that they are out to destroy.

Philosophy: Who Needs It

“Selfishness Without a Self,”
Philosophy: Who Needs It, 50

ET: Following that 2014 post I was informed that Rand in fact didn't say this ("The true opposite and enemy...") by a prominent academic. So I no longer quote her as writing it. I had found the quote, attributed to her, some five years ago while pursuing links about Objectivism and ending up on someone's website (?), I don't remember, but I copied it down believing it as hers. The concept and the style it was worded looked all too familiar... Mainly I was much taken with what this says about not only altruism, but its 'opposite', independence and have viewed these in this light since then. I will add that I doubt that every single, informal, ad hoc comment by Rand has been noted and recorded, we know how ready she was to apply herself to any questions on any occasion. And even if she didn't say that, from the greater context of all she wrote of altruism, and all my experiences of altruism - in its full sense of self-sacrifice - with regard to independent and dependent minds , I remain firmly convinced that she could have. 

Edited by whYNOT

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32 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

And even if she didn't say that, from the greater context of all she wrote of altruism, and all my experiences of altruism - in its full sense of self-sacrifice - with regard to independent and dependent minds , I remain firmly convinced that she could have. 

Edited 14 minutes ago by whYNOT

The word altruism now is frequently confused with benevolence by people who have no Objectivism background. I sure would like to be "independent" of that.

The opposite of putting yourself last is putting yourself first. So it should be "self interested" or "selfish" in the way she meant it. And rational selfishness, inevitably will indicate that others are valuable, that life is easier and more enjoyable when they are around or traded with. In some ways there is a need for others in one's life. So I would think of inter-dependence as a more rational way of being. Independence implies a complete separation like a hermit. I don't think it is usually the best option available.

 

 

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Independence

Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence.

Galt’s Speech,
For the New Intellectual

---------

Easy Truth: "Independence implies a complete separation like a hermit".

I think it's important to understand independence in its conceptual form, and then to see that in the context of altruism. It is specifically the lack and shortage of *mind* independence which strengthens societal and global altruism. The resurgence of either one defeats the other. When most men can and sometimes do, deal with each other from independent mind to independent mind -- that's the precondition for benevolence to all, and the condition inimical to altruism. That is, without the dutiful obligation, coercion and psychological pressure to take responsibility for another's life.

One should first eliminate the supposition that altruism = charitable works, (helping someone in distress, etc. etc.) Charity has been sneaked in as the package deal with altruism, to conceal the intention to control men's minds by "moral" means. 
"It's your mind they want". (Galt)

As Rand saw the consequences (we all can see), it's precisely this good will to help others back on their feet, that will be destroyed by the creed of altruism, which engenders all-round resentment and angry entitlement. 

Because altruism is above all, anti-life - unregarding of anyone's independent values, choices and identifications - ie. one's independent mind. For altruism to continue to exist, it is crucial that men don't think for themselves, but go on accepting the mystical cult of "other" (apart from those individuals whom one cares, for in any way - i.e., values, in their own right - but all anonymous people, anywhere). In other words, one has to "self-abnegate", or negate, submit and self-sacrifice one's own existence, value and values on demand, and suffer the guilt for never doing enough, as no one can.

From experience and observation, I don't think any more that rational selfishness - in its entirety - is the diametric opposite or antidote to altruism. This pays overmuch regard to the anti-real, never justified, immoral creed; and further, rational selfishness, conversely, is all geared to what to live FOR. The single element within the Objectivist ethics of mind independence ( the person who asks "Why?" and will not accept the usual excuses for his sacrifice) alone suffices to strike it down.

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On 10/4/2017 at 4:01 PM, Easy Truth said:

The opposite of putting yourself last is putting yourself first.

Only if you've already decided that someone is going to be eating someone else (metaphorically speaking). You're thinking in their terms when you say that.

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1 minute ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Only if you've already decided that someone is going to be eating someone else (metaphorically speaking). You're thinking in their terms when you say that.

Please elaborate.

I assume you mean that it is in fact not a zero-sum game?

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Please elaborate.

I assume you mean that it is in fact not a zero-sum game?

Never mind; I mixed up some of whyNOT's posts with yours and thought you were saying something else.

My bad. Sorry about that.

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On 10/5/2017 at 11:06 AM, whYNOT said:

From experience and observation, I don't think any more that rational selfishness - in its entirety - is the diametric opposite or antidote to altruism. This pays overmuch regard to the anti-real, never justified, immoral creed; and further, rational selfishness, conversely, is all geared to what to live FOR. The single element within the Objectivist ethics of mind independence ( the person who asks "Why?" and will not accept the usual excuses for his sacrifice) alone suffices to strike it down.

3

I think "the person who asks "Why?" and will not accept the usual excuses for his sacrifice" is a great step forward. Especially if everyone is of the same mindset. I assume that it is what happened with the American revolution, they said enough is enough. But ...

We see that it eroded. Something was missing. Perhaps not enough people get it.

I suspect you are not too happy about the South African Constitution. How has the Venezuela effect been avoided? Isn't it a manifestation of Altruism Morality?

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25 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I think "the person who asks "Why?" and will not accept the usual excuses for his sacrifice" is a great step forward. Especially if everyone is of the same mindset. I assume that it is what happened with the American revolution, they said enough is enough. But ...

We see that it eroded. Something was missing. Perhaps not enough people get it.

I suspect you are not too happy about the South African Constitution. How has the Venezuela effect been avoided? Isn't it a manifestation of Altruism Morality?

Sorry to interject... but I think without reinforcement any independent and free society will degenerate due to the fact that being well off encourages parents to bring up spoiled children who are pampered and do not learn independence... the pioneers were forced through hardship to learn the value of independence... once there is any wealth the sentiment is to spare the offspring from the struggle they went through.. the result... entitled lazy ... left leaning kids... who expect a state or parent to keep them afloat... just my humble observation.

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4 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Sorry to interject... but I think without reinforcement any independent and free society will degenerate due to the fact that being well off encourages parents to bring up spoiled children who are pampered and do not learn independence... the pioneers were forced through hardship to learn the value of independence... once there is any wealth the sentiment is to spare the offspring from the struggle they went through.. the result... entitled lazy ... left leaning kids... who expect a state or parent to keep them afloat... just my humble observation.

I can only think of education and art as being reinforcement. I suppose research might apply too. Yaron Brook said something like what you said in one of his videos. Something to the effect that we have become fat and lazy and the eastern Europeans and Brazil have picked up the mantle. He said Chinese professors get it more than German ones.

Do you see any other things that are reinforcements?

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16 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I can only think of education and art as being reinforcement. I suppose research might apply too. Yaron Brook said something like what you said in one of his videos. Something to the effect that we have become fat and lazy and the eastern Europeans and Brazil have picked up the mantle. He said Chinese professors get it more than German ones.

Do you see any other things that are reinforcements?

Religion and Art are the spiritual motivators... insofar as religion was been "supernatural" only it is a no go... art is where its at for now.

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On 10/8/2017 at 4:11 AM, Easy Truth said:

I think "the person who asks "Why?" and will not accept the usual excuses for his sacrifice" is a great step forward. Especially if everyone is of the same mindset. I assume that it is what happened with the American revolution, they said enough is enough. But ...

We see that it eroded. Something was missing. Perhaps not enough people get it.

I suspect you are not too happy about the South African Constitution. How has the Venezuela effect been avoided? Isn't it a manifestation of Altruism Morality?

In answer to your last question -- And how! It helps to get well acquainted with the credo when you see it in action and word every day (in some form, coercive, psychological, tacit, etc.). It must be much the same over in the US or anywhere in the West, that I've seen. Maybe, a little more rawly open and entitled here.

Not that he 'invented' it, apart from naming this "altruism", but it was Comte who identified the phenomenon--and gave it further moral credibility as you know. I'm paraphrasing, but his justification was that each person, 'you', come into the world to a ready-made civilization and all the benefits of that. Therefore, it seemed to his logic, millions of people before you had worked towards your ends (a totally mystical premise). From that, he concluded, to sustain that society and its good, every child born, immediately has an automatic duty to continue the labor for "others". He literally wrote that about newborns, I saw in some passage.

Not - of course - that "altruism" is put to anyone so explicitly and blatantly. The real premise remains implicit and insidious, under the cover of "good works", or what most would do - naturally - out of their chosen, identified values, when seeing the plight of anyone else perceived to be in distress. IOW, altruism takes what's generous and good-willed in people and perverts it against them, in the name of moral duty for all time and for all-comers.

You'll see there is where "dependency" comes in, in my argument. (Not "inter-dependency", btw). "You" and your present life was the product of, and so, dependent on others - "You didn't build that!" - now others (here and in future) are dependent on you. To break the vicious dependency cycle only requires one person who states : "No". His life is his own, and he neither needs others' help nor accepts the obligation to live for others in turn - i.e. - the independent man, in mind, actions and values. 

Sure, there's most definitely "not enough" of the independent type.  Many might believe there is something wrong and enslaving with the burden of self-sacrifice vs. other-sacrifice which societies place upon them, but haven't the intellectual ammunition to fight it. They just go along with everyone else, afraid of looking 'selfish'. 

To complete the toxic brew, collectivism and altruism link closely. Collectivism, as in each one derives his identity from and makes as his standard of value, the collective, race, 'group' -etc.. Here, the "opposite and enemy" of collectivism is of course individualism.

That arrives at these two opposing diametric axes: independence-individualism versus altruism-collectivism. Again I think the latter, anti-freedom immorality can be broken with a resurgence by an intellectual minority, asserting that each individual's life and mind and well-being is (self-evidently) autonomous, therefore morally his own.

Edited by whYNOT

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