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Is Virtue impossible in an Irrational Society of Evaders?

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I've recently been thinking about the virtue of honesty and wonder whether it is more subject to context than perhaps other virtues like productiveness.

 

Consider that the Objectivist virtues, to the extent they can be exercised today, must be exercised in the context of the existing society and culture.

 

To the extent actual individuals in society are irrational, evaders, and to the extent honesty would prevent them from evasion, causing them discomfort, "pain", and at worst "insulting" them, how can the full virtue of honesty and its benefit to the speaker and the spoken to, come to fruition?

 

Is it better simply to, on policy, be honest "hardly ever" in such a society?  

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As an Objectivist virtue, my understanding is that honesty is first and foremost a policy of self-critique, that is, one must first be intellectually honest with one's self. If this is not the meaning you are applying to the Virtue of Honesty, perhaps you could present an example of something or some circumstance where you find honesty impractical and/or problematic.

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It's a selfish virtue, like the others. Agreeing with Repairman. Honesty, or truthfulness, shouldn't be seen primarily as a duty to other people, but 'a deal' or commitment you make with yourself, in outward accord with your inner adherence to objective reality. Anything less would bring about fissures of consciousness causing erratic, uncertain actions. I think honesty in action, integrity, is what is perceived by others, with its due benefit - in values - from those who welcome it (and you) - even if not always at first! With those who won't ever appreciate it, best to not engage and stay away from. That "context of the existing society and culture" is, after all, one other individual at a time.

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Have you read Nathaniel Branden? A chapter in his six pillars book is precisely called "Keeping your integrity in a corrupt world". I believe the true judge of virtue is oneself, and that virtue stems from one's own internal beliefs. 

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No. Maybe more challenging, but most possible. At such times of arbitrary and falling standards is when one needs virtues most of all.

 

 

"If you can keep your head

When all about you

Are losing their's

And blaming it on you"...

 

;)

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i don't understand the argument against honesty here. you seem to be implying that someone being prevented from evasion is not a benefit to them!

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i don't understand the argument against honesty here. you seem to be implying that someone being prevented from evasion is not a benefit to them!

Now I'm confused, could you expand or clarify the basic question you are asking? My confusion went overboard when you stated "prevent from evasion."

The only derivative issue I can imagine from the OP is whether the virtue of honesty, held by a rational person, is owed or even in your best interest, when dealing with another who is using or threatening force or fraud.

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i don't understand the argument against honesty here. you seem to be implying that someone being prevented from evasion is not a benefit to them!

 

Hmm. I'm as uncertain as jacassidy of your meaning. I don't think evasion is the immediate problem - but you remind me, what it is of course, is self-sacrifice: i.e. Surrender or "self-abnegation" (as AR put it, in her explanation for altruism) of an independent mind, another virtue. Essentially, to lower one's standard of honesty and integrity to that of the prevailing 'standard' of dishonesty - IS a sacrifice (a higher value to a lesser), and therefore a compromise of one's independence. And there is one more virtue that will also be affected, pride and self-esteem.

 

It shouldn't be forgotten that an individual's virtues are also his values - and in the long run, his highest.

 

It is in hard times, when it seems very few people around share one's objective outlook and virtues, that it may be 'easier' to compromise and relinquish a virtue or two.They aren't so easily to be picked up again later, in better times, however. It's not like changing a shirt. As I've known. But the good news, it is precisely in that tough time that holding firm to those virtues, tests and establishes them solidly and permanently.

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sorry for the confusion, i was using the language from the original post there, which got a bit awkward.

 

individuals in society are irrational, evaders... honesty would prevent them from evasion, causing them discomfort, "pain"

 

the idea seemed to be that honesty should be avoided in the context of an irrational society, since it will harm rather than benefit people who are evasive.

but evasion is harmful. i think anyone here would claim that if they themselves were being evasive about something, the best thing for them would be to be confronted with the truth, and they would want honesty from the people they interacted with even if that was difficult in the short-term. honesty is not only the selfish policy, as others here have pointed out so well, it's also the most benevolent.

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*** Post copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

sorry for the confusion, i was using the language from the original post there, which got a bit awkward.

the idea seemed to be that honesty should be avoided in the context of an irrational society, since it will harm rather than benefit people who are evasive.

but evasion is harmful. i think anyone here would claim that if they themselves were being evasive about something, the best thing for them would be to be confronted with the truth, and they would want honesty from the people they interacted with even if that was difficult in the short-term. honesty is not only the selfish policy, as others here have pointed out so well, it's also the most benevolent.

 Ah, fine, got it. To evade or not is always at the heart of it, you're right. Dishonesty to others: falsifying reality, deliberately substituting the truth (as well as you know it to be) for 'another version' of truth - are all evasion.

 
Along your lines, on the subject Rand was succinct and uncompromising: "The only real moral crime that one man can commit against another is the attempt to create, by his words or actions, an impression of the contradictory, the impossible, the irrational, and thus shake the concept of rationality in his victim".

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*** Post copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

To the OP:
 
Virtues are practiced for your benefit and to further your life.  The primary virtues are used to determine a course of action when presented with a choice.  This does not change based on the society you live in unless it is complete devoid of choices (i.e. totalitarian state).  The issue with a corrupt society is the choices it does present you not always good but as long as you recognize this it is navigable.
 
I think the bigger issue is just trying to retain a good sense of life and outlook under such circumstances.

 

 

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This is something I've also been thinking a lot about, lately.

 

We usually conceive of a lie as being an external action; of "thinking one thing and saying another", and altering one's own consciousness nowhere inbetween.

As pointed out by Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory, this would require the constant maintenance of every minute facet of one's behavior - and apart from Sheldon Cooper, it is not what anyone actually does.

 

The easiest and most effective way to tell a convincing lie is to first convince yourself; to figure out what would be, if the content of the lie were so, and then to accept (however briefly) that it is. I would not call it evasion per se (primarily because of the dissimilarity of their purposes) but in sufficient quantities it inflicts the same sort of psychological damage.

 

Honesty is one method of keeping your own mind in good repair.

 

This doesn't mean that it's absolutely good, in every situation, nor that anyone should feel guilty for defending themselves through deceit. On the contrary: bullets are much worse for you than any lie could ever be.

It does mean that those "white lies" which most of us have become accustomed to (the little lies which spare somebody's feelings) are self-sacrificial; the sacrifice of your mental health for the sake of someone else's petty delusions.

 

It is occasionally necessary to lie, in today's culture, in self-defense. And such lies, if only occasional, aren't going to warp anyone's soul. Since each lie comes at a specific price, the key is simply to know what each one is worth to you; to take what you want and to pay for it.

 

And here is another music video which, in fact, has nothing whatsoever to do with the OP (I just like to share music).

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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I think the bigger issue is just trying to retain a good sense of life and outlook under such circumstances.

That's what God gave us electric violins for. ;)

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