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How can one state that something is moral?

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StrictlyLogical,

 

Again, I agree with you.

 

You stated, “If I want my plant to grow do I a. water it or i. soak it in gasoline and light it?” The correct action to take between the choice of “a” or “i” is clear based on the nature of the plant. Whether or not you want your plant to grow is your opinion.

 

You stated, “If I want to become an engineer do I a. study hard and try to pass my exams or b. burn my books and flip off my professor.” Again, the correct action to take between “a” and “b” is clear based on what it takes to become an engineer. Whether or not you want to become an engineer is your opinion.

 

If I want to flourish in this world, given the nature of reality, the whole context, and my nature, then the actions that I should do and the actions that I should avoid are independent of opinion. However, like I stated earlier, the determination of what constitutes “flourish in this world” is completely a matter of opinion, unless, of course, you define “flourish” as “do not die” or something similar. 

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CriticalThinker2000,

 

Yes, one can choose not to have values. I believe (although I could be wrong) that Ayn Rand wrote something to that affect stating that man can choose not to have values and will therefore die.

 

According to the Ayn Rand Lexicon (of course, this may not be the best source), “The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction.”

 

So it appears that if I observe the facts of reality and integrate them into concepts, and “morality” is a concept, then I should be able to get from facts to knowledge of morality. But you claim that “you can never get from facts to knowledge of morality.” What am I missing?

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CriticalThinker2000,

 

Yes, one can choose not to have values. I believe (although I could be wrong) that Ayn Rand wrote something to that affect stating that man can choose not to have values and will therefore die.

 

Right. You could choose not to have values and you would die. So what is a value? Why do we have the concept 'value'? What is it about reality that gives rise to a need for the concept of 'value'?

 

 

According to the Ayn Rand Lexicon (of course, this may not be the best source), “The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction.”

 

So it appears that if I observe the facts of reality and integrate them into concepts, and “morality” is a concept, then I should be able to get from facts to knowledge of morality.

 

Yes, exactly! What facts give rise to the concepts of 'value' and 'morality'? The fact that man does not have an automatic course of action and constantly faces the alternatives of life and death. This is all covered in The Objectivist Ethics.

 

 

But you claim that “you can never get from facts to knowledge of morality.” What am I missing?

 

Yikes! No, I didn't mean that I believe this. This is what the is-ought dichotomy says. It's a false dichotomy. The is-ought dichotomy is a result of the nature of deductive logic. That is, you cannot have a term in your conclusion (in this case, an 'ought') that was not in your premises. Therefore, the dichotomy says, you cannot get from premises that deal only with facts, to a conclusion that is prescriptive. This dichotomy assumes that you can only approach morality deductively.

 

But when we look at morality and values and ask, what is it about man that gives rise to our need for these concepts? We are approaching morality inductively- by looking out at facts of reality and inducing principles such as: Life is the standard of value.

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CriticalThinker2000,

 

I have read The Objectivist Ethics and I know that Ayn Rand wrote that man does not have an automatic course of action and constantly faces the alternatives of life and death. I agree with this statement. I can even understand why Objectivists state “Life is the standard of value”.

 

And, once one accepts the premise that “life is the standard value” then, if you choose to define morality, like DonAthos and others have done, as a guide to action for living a good life, then one can determine the morality of an action based on whether or not an action leads to achieving or not achieving living a good life. I agree with this as well. But, as I have written before, it is the starting premise, “living a good life”, that is a matter of opinion.

 

However, if you state that “life is the standard of value” as the starting point for morality and morality is an evaluation of actions that simply keep you alive, then I will agree that morality is not a matter of opinion but based on the facts of reality related to the nature of human beings. But, based on what you have previously written, it appears that this is not you mean and that “life is the standard of value” means more than simply staying alive. If this is the case, anything other than simply staying alive becomes a matter of opinion.

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An opinion can be true if it's based on facts, or false if it's not. Or do you mean to say, "anything other than staying alive is a *preference*"? Or do you mean to say, "Only very obvious human action outcomes dealing with life and death can be evaluated as moral or not?"

This thread is all over the place, with you apparently changing your root questions and problems every other post. Sometimes you agree with Objectivist ethics. Sometimes you say there is no ethics. Sometimes you say your questions haven't been answered, when they have. Sometimes you say we should provide you with your gaps in understanding, placing the responsibility on us instead of you.

What is your goal in participating in this thread?

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Jaskn,

 

I will assume that you are addressing me. If not, then feel free to ignore this post.

 

In answer to your questions/comments:

 

“An opinion can be true if it's based on facts, or false if it's not.”

I have never said that an opinion could not be true or false.

 

“Or do you mean to say, "anything other than staying alive is a *preference*"?”

I believe that Ayn Rand stated that even staying alive is a preference. As CriticalThinker2000 stated, man does not have an automatic course of action and constantly faces the alternatives of life and death. So, it seems that it could be argued that everything, even staying alive, is a preference.

 

“Or do you mean to say, "Only very obvious human action outcomes dealing with life and death can be evaluated as moral or not?"

No. As it has been discussed before, you can evaluate anything as moral or not once you have stated your starting point and defined morality as a means of obtaining your starting point. It is the starting point that is, or could be, a matter of opinion.

 

“This thread is all over the place, with you apparently changing your root questions and problems every other post.”

I asked a question in the original post. Some people have been gracious enough to provide their answer(s) to the question. Once the answer was provided, if I did not understand the answer or had a question based on the answer, I would ask further questions. Sometimes people responded and sometimes they did not. If the ensuing posts went “all over the place” then I have to chalk that up to the nature of a dynamic discussion. Of course, no one, not even you, has been forced to answer any of my questions or participate in any discussion or even read this thread.

 

“Sometimes you agree with Objectivist ethics.”

Yes, sometimes I agree with Objectivist ethics.

 

“Sometimes you say there is no ethics.”

Please quote or reference the post(s) where I state there is no ethics. I do not believe that I have ever stated that or anything similar. If you interpret my statement that morality is a matter of opinion, or any of my other statements, to mean that I say “there is no ethics”, that is your interpretation of my statements.

 

“Sometimes you say your questions haven't been answered, when they have.”

The only time I stated that my questions have not been answered (as far as I can recall) was addressed to you here:

 

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=27428&page=2#entry325344

 

You responded with, “You asked many questions…” and provided a link to the Ayn Rand Lexicon. http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=27428&page=3#entry325390

 

Now if my memory is faulty and I have stated in other posts that my questions have not been answered when they have been answered, please quote or provide the references and I will conceded your point.

 

“Sometimes you say we should provide you with your gaps in understanding, placing the responsibility on us instead of you.

Again, please provide quotes or provide references to the posts where I have stated that someone should or had the responsibility to provide me with information to fill the gaps in my understanding. I may have asked you, or anyone, a question about something that was written in an attempt to gain understanding but I have never stated you or anyone else is responsible for explaining anything. To me, it appears that your complaint stems from the fact that I did not automatically and unquestioningly accept your statements as truth thereby filling the gaps in my understanding and rendering further discussion unnecessary. Of course that is my interpretation.

 

“What is your goal in participating in this thread?”

I want to learn.

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I have never said that an opinion could not be true or false.

You conceded earlier that very narrow circumstances could be said to be immoral, but anything beyond that is a matter of opinion. This is essentially you denying that an opinion can be true, that is, true for everyone. At best it could be "true" for some, but false for others. This has been your thrust, that morality cannot be objectively defined because opinion isn't a matter of truth. Then, you deny angling your responses this way, and that you're just here to learn. Well, it doesn't look like it.

Saying "I didn't say there isn't ethics" after ethics has been defined repeatedly in this thread as a way to *live* a good life, and then you saying that living is only a "preference," is again disingenuous. You say you're "not automatically and unquestioningly" accepting things, I say you're toying with people.

Edited by JASKN

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Jaskn,

 

Again, references or quotes would be helpful especially when you make claims that I “conceded” something or that I “deny” some things. Your use of the terms “essentially” and “thrust” tells me that you are again providing your own interpretation of my statements and reading them as you wish to read them not as they are written.

 

Telling me what I “essentially” mean and/or what I have “thrust” and then claiming that I am being disingenuous or that I am toying with people, is, in my opinion, a disreputable means of discussion.

 

If you want to ask me questions please feel free. I will most likely, as I have for the most part for most of the participants on this thread, answer your questions. If my answers are unclear, ask me to clarify.If you think that there is more to my answers or that I am trying to imply something, ask me to elaborate. If you do not agree with or like my answers, say so and let me know why. If you wish, explain why you think that my answers are incorrect or should be changed and/or what you think should be the correct answers. But, please, do not take my answers to your questions (or worse take my answers to someone else’s questions)and proceed to tell me what my answers ‘essentially’mean. 

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This response of yours is more of the same. "Essentially" isn't just a speaking style, but a word with a meaning. It's actually consistent of you to object to an "essential," when that is also your objection to morality!

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