Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

8 minutes ago, Not Lawliet said:

Empathy is something that's automatic.

No; it's automated over time, and can be learned or unlearned.

 

12 minutes ago, Not Lawliet said:

To put it another way: Most people value other people's happiness, not necessarily more than their own, and seeing people in pain is a witness to your values being harmed.

To put it another way: whose happiness?

 

I certainly empathize with Elon Musk. I also empathize (or identify) with Sheldon Cooper, and when I see him in pain I do cringe. I don't know the people in the next county and when I see their pain I turn the TV off.

While I can and do value other people, nobody's value is automatic.

 

Even my own value to myself has to be earned. If I went out and killed some stranger for kicks I'd know that I had officially become an objective disvalue to human lives, everywhere, which is something I couldn't live with.

 

As beings of self-made souls, we are also beings of self-made value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

No; it's automated over time, and can be learned or unlearned.

I would second this. Issues of trust can arise that can obfuscate empathy to the point where you experience it in obvious cases, but fail to recognize it in areas where that trust has been violated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

To put it another way: whose happiness?

I wasn't saying that people value others automatically. I was saying that in general people value others in general. I have a basic interest in other peoples interest, so I leave doors open for people, smile politely when I say thank you, etc.

 

4 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

No; it's automated over time, and can be learned or unlearned.

If there's a difference between automatic and automated, then my mistake. Emotions are an automatic response to values we choose - that was my point with that.

 

I forgot to comment on what you said about sociopaths able to enjoy others' achievements while not experiencing grief at others' suffering. It's worth noting here, as I'm sure you do know of, that sociopaths are incapable of feeling empathy, even for those they care about (as far as the diagnoses is concerned). I consider this a loss and an impairment, and here's why I think so:

I believe emotions to have developed for the evolutionary purpose of motivation, and without adhering to "nature's laws" because it's nature, emotions still serve the practical purpose of motivation, which is a psychological need for everyone. This is why I see the value in negative emotions like grief, anger, and hate. Ayn Rand wrote that evil should not be thought of any longer than is necessary to defeat it, and this remains true here. That said, experiencing anger drives people to respond to what caused the anger, whether they do so responsibility notwithstanding. Experiencing grief at others' suffering is what drive people to comfort others, to help relieve their suffering. That I think is what people value in seeing people empathizing with others' suffering.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Peikoff's Mullet said:

Is it offensive to Objectivists if I name my band Randroids?? Keep in mind, I would be using it ironically

So, this is all about a name for your band? You don't need the approval of anyone other than your fellow musicians for that. As for whether or not you are deemed offensive will certainly depend on the quality of your music. If you intend to perform publicly, your audience may include some who are familiar with the term, Randroid. If any of them are Objectivists, please play some appropriate music, something that would reflect the romantic realism associated with Ayn Rand. Or at least something Neil Peart might approve of. I,too, would be curious to know what sort of audience, and musical genre, your band is aiming at.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Peikoff's Mullet said:

Is it offensive to Objectivists if I name my band Randroids??

That could be pretty cool. Like when they repurposed the slur "Yankee" into a rallying cry.

Do you have anything we could hear?

 

20 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

If there's a difference between automatic and automated, then my mistake.

 

Have you read the ITOE?

 

That's not rhetorical. If you haven't then I can explain what I meant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

21 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

I have a basic interest in other peoples interest, so I leave doors open for people, smile politely when I say thank you, etc.

21 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

"Other people are human. They're sensitive. They can't devote their whole life to metals and engines. You're lucky—you've never had any feelings. You've never felt anything at all."

What was Jim using "feelings" and "felt" to refer to, there? Beneath the sneers, the vacuous evaluations and the backhanded comparisons, what was the factual content?

 

What was he actually saying?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Pointer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim Taggart appealed to emotions to escape reason and to escape reality. Emotions don't conflict with reason by necessity, and they can be of great value as motivational and insightful tools when we don't regard them as tools of cognition. Then there's of course the pleasant emotions that are pleasant, and make life worth living in the first place.

14 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Have you read the ITOE?

I've read the first few chapters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Not Lawliet said:

I've read the first few chapters.

Excellent.

 

22 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

"Other people are human. They're sensitive. They can't devote their whole life to metals and engines. You're lucky—you've never had any feelings. You've never felt anything at all."

According to Jim:

 

22 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

"Other people are human. They're sensitive. They can't devote their whole life to metals and engines."

 

Other people are "human" and "sensitive" - as opposed to Dagny, who is inhuman and insensitive.

She's a robot because she is able to devote her life to metals and engines. This mirrors the accusations of being "unfeeling" and "sociopathic" because of our profound respect for values and for human life, itself.

 

22 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

"They can't devote their whole life to metals and engines. You're lucky—you've never had any feelings."

Jim knows full well the way Dagny feels about "metals and engines". He may not be able to feel anything like it, himself, but in his own way he grasps that she cares more about those things than anyone has ever cared about any religion.

What Jim means by "feelings" are the sort of feeling that would make any kind of reverence (such as Dagny's love of her work) impossible; those things which corrupt and destroy a mind.

 

Notice that Dagny (who was well aware of all her brother's methods, from the beginning of the story) doesn't declare "that's a lie and you know it!" She doesn't even make the kind of remark (such as "it's better than crawling around with the snakes") that would wipe the sneer right off of his face.

 

She stops for a moment, considers it and admits (in effect): 'no, I never have felt that'.

 

Those feelings she doesn't have, by the way, are the same ones Stephen Mallory grappled with in the Fountainhead; the ones that drove him to the state in which Roark found him.

Neither Roark nor Dagny had any concept of those things - they were "too healthy to conceive of sickness".

 

Is that something we're meant to apologize for?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thing is is that Dagny's not actually a robot. She is what Jim sees her as, which is that she feels things, but only for "metal and machines". But Jim accuses her of being a total unfeeling robot, and she just doesn't take his evasive word games seriously.

The way I see it, it's like when a person who is clearly unreasonable, and not just confused, accuses me of being sexist, I'd just remark, "Yup. I'm totally a sexist."

26 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Is that something we're meant to apologize for?

No, it's not about apology. Not everybody who is wrong about the world is irrational. Many don't have all the facts on the topic, and many make errors in reasoning that don't result from evasions and dishonesty.

 

When I get annoyed by the remark "Randroid", I think of all the people who are reasonable, but their impression of Objectivism is that it just condemns emotions, along with poor people. If a person like Jim accused me of hating the poor cause I'm an Objectivist, I wouldn't take him seriously. But the general public? I get annoyed that so many people don't consider Objectivism, because they think it's a depraved philosophy, but not cause they're dishonest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

The way I see it, it's like when a person who is clearly unreasonable, and not just confused, accuses me of being sexist, I'd just remark, "Yup. I'm totally a sexist."

Then what makes sociopathy different?

 

18 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

But Jim accuses her of being a total unfeeling robot, and she just doesn't take his evasive word games seriously.

No.

 

Whenever Jim says something that's false, Dagny simply corrects him. She tells him what's what and he always tries to reject it, at first, but eventually learns to accept it. This pattern is mentioned several times throughout the story, by various characters; it's used as a consistently recurring metaphor.

When Jim calls Dagny a robot, she doesn't correct him. If he meant it literally then either she believed that she, herself, had no emotions or she was behaving out-of-character. Either of these would be unprecedented in all of Ayn Rand's fiction.

 

He was not speaking literally.

 

18 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

I get annoyed that so many people don't consider Objectivism, because they think it's a depraved philosophy, but not cause they're dishonest.

 

That's worth reexamining, on your own time.

 

Live long and prosper.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Reorganization

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What an entertaining thread. Thank you.

Harrison, you wrote:

"Most people would agree with [sociopaths] definition as an "inability to feel other people's pain". Now, for what reason would any self-respecting (notice the emotional implications) man subject himself to pain that isn't even his own?"

See this is precisely the sort of comment that puts people off Objectivism, that is if they consider you an Objectivist. 

A couple in love get married. You don't know them, but they are evidently overjoyed and celebrating when one them collapses and later dies. If you were watching, would it not make you feel for their loss?

It is not your own pain, in the sense it's not a loved one of yours. If you watched, indifferent to this, there would be something wrong with your moral compass. You ought to react to it and feel something. 

I saw on the news how a crowd gathered to watch a suicidal person on top of a car park. Some in the crowd were taunting, filming with their phones, as if it were entertainment. That is the sort of depravity that results when people lose their sense of the pain that others are going through, and indeed take pleasure from it.

Empathy is a consequence of shared values. The absence of empathy is a measure of the absence of a shared morality, it signals that rights violations are not far behind.

Any self respecting man will want to live with other self respecting men, because self respecting men will share the same moral values. They will appreciate each others achievements, and suffer together when there are losses; this will happen naturally.

Why did the Objectivists in Atlas Shrugged seek out would-be strikers? It was out of empathy. It was in recognition of their worth and a desire to welcome them into a better way of life in Galts Gulch. Why did Rand go to the trouble to bring her ideas to us? Empathy is not self-sacrifice.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/13/2016 at 5:49 PM, Jon Southall said:

A couple in love get married. You don't know them, but they are evidently overjoyed and celebrating when one them collapses and later dies. If you were watching, would it not make you feel for their loss?

Yes, but - if they were complete strangers - I wouldn't dwell on it.

 

For one thing, who they are and what caused their pain matters. Are we talking about Elon Musk or Hitler? If those questions aren't worth our attention (and we're considering them as nothing more than generic strangers) then neither is anything we may feel for them.

For another, I try not to dwell on pain, period (even when it is my own).

 

On 4/13/2016 at 5:49 PM, Jon Southall said:

I saw on the news how a crowd gathered to watch a suicidal person on top of a car park. Some in the crowd were taunting, filming with their phones, as if it were entertainment. That is the sort of depravity that results when people lose their sense of the pain that others are going through, and indeed take pleasure from it.

... What???

 

While I might feel something for the people in your other example, suicide is different. By definition, whoever commits suicide is choosing it and deserves it.

If someone can't go on living anymore then that's their choice (and their right) but I feel no sympathy for them, full stop.

 

Why should anyone give a damn about that?

 

On 4/13/2016 at 5:49 PM, Jon Southall said:

Empathy is a consequence of shared values. The absence of empathy is a measure of the absence of a shared morality, it signals that rights violations are not far behind.

That's all true, except for the bit about the violation of rights. Have you applied it to your own arguments?

Empathy does, indeed, stem from shared values. So what are we supposed to share with those who willingly throw their own lives away?

 

On 4/13/2016 at 5:49 PM, Jon Southall said:

Harrison, you wrote:

"Most people would agree with [sociopaths] definition as an "inability to feel other people's pain". Now, for what reason would any self-respecting (notice the emotional implications) man subject himself to pain that isn't even his own?"

See this is precisely the sort of comment that puts people off Objectivism, that is if they consider you an Objectivist. 

So what?

 

If I'm wrong then I'll be happy for any sort of correction. However, if I'm right then what could we accomplish by making it a secret?

 

If someone gets turned off from Objectivism for something that's true, it isn't Objectivism's fault (nor do I think insincerity could actually help the movement, in the long run).

 

If you think I'm misrepresenting it then let's stick to that.

 

On 4/13/2016 at 5:49 PM, Jon Southall said:

It is not your own pain, in the sense it's not a loved one of yours. If you watched, indifferent to this, there would be something wrong with your moral compass. You ought to react to it and feel something.

Why?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Grammar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/30/2016 at 8:48 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

While I might feel something for the people in your other example, suicide is different. By definition, whoever commits suicide is choosing it and deserves it.

If someone can't go on living anymore then that's their choice (and their right) but I feel no sympathy for them, full stop.

 

Why should anyone give a damn about that?

I think you're being incredibly presumptuous and unreasonable.

Is that what we should have felt for James Taggart's wife in AS? Or should we have felt a sense of pity, a sense of sorrow. When life is your standard of value, choosing death is the most serious choice you can make in your whole life. It's not something you choose lightly. Watching someone evaluate whether there is still any value in their life and trying to influence them that there isn't, at a time where their emotions are running high and they are vulnerable, says something about the person doing that. Why would that behaviour be a value to them? Because they take pleasure from the suffering of others. Are you saying you would have joined in the filming and taunting?

You ask about shared values, well you must be able to contemplate a life not worth living. Everyone has a point where the scales would tip one way more than the other under some set of circumstances, even if that point is remote. And if you encountered someone in that situation, you would have empathy because you would understand their pain. It is your lack of understanding of what the suicidal person's situation means to them which explains your lack of feeling, it comes from a place of ignorance.

I think you are misrepresenting Objectivism. It is one thing the altruist telling us to sacrifice ourselves to others, which we must rightly oppose, but quite another to say, this means I must be unmoved by suicide where someone could arguably be said to be sacrificing themselves. We don't know whether it is in fact a sacrifice. They are freeing themselves from a world of pain. How do you know if they deserve it or not? My default position is that they don't, until I have reason to think otherwise. To hold your position, you must think of man as primarily evil. This is not the Objectivist position - certainly not Rand's as she is on the record of rebuking religions for exactly that presumption. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎2016‎-‎04‎-‎30 at 9:48 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

... What???

 

While I might feel something for the people in your other example, suicide is different. By definition, whoever commits suicide is choosing it and deserves it.

If someone can't go on living anymore then that's their choice (and their right) but I feel no sympathy for them, full stop.

 

You're not even angered by the taunting and cheering? Is it more like "whatevs, wonder what i'm gonna cook for dinner...", or do you get some emotional response?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/15/2016 at 3:29 PM, Jon Southall said:

Is that what we should have felt for James Taggart's wife in AS? Or should we have felt a sense of pity, a sense of sorrow.

Dagny captured this well in her exchange with Cherryl in a scene preceding her suicide.

Cherryl: "But there's no reason why you should have to feel concern for me… I didn't come here to complain and… and load another burden on your shoulders … That I happen to suffer, doesn't give me a claim on you."

Dagny: "No, it doesn't. But that you value all the things I value, does."

Cherryl: "You mean… if you want to talk to me, it's not alms? Not just because you feel sorry for me?"

Dagny: "I feel terribly sorry for you, Cherryl, and I'd like to help you—not because you suffer, but because you haven't deserved to suffer."

Cherryl: "You mean, you wouldn't be kind to anything weak or whining or rotten about me? Only to whatever you see in me that's good?"

Dagny: "Of course."

Does Rand present this prelude to Cherryl's suicide as a sense of pity or sorrow, or to help frame why Cherryl's suicide integrated with the story as seamlessly as the Winston Tunnel train wreck?

 

Is it a sense of pity or sorrow for Cherryl, or a sense of injustice on behalf of James Taggert that is more appropriate here?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dream_Weaver - what is your interpretation of Dagny saying "I feel terribly sorry for you...because you haven't deserved to suffer." I think Dagny is saying she feels terrible regret and sadness for Cheryl's undeserved situation.

Is it a pity that Cheryl suffered injustice at James Taggert's hands? Is it sorrowful that it caused her to kill herself? Or should we be unmoved by her decision to kill, and only react to the injustice? I find myself moved by both the injustice and the consequence. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dagny offered Cherryl refuge for the night. Like the events leading up to her marriage with Jim, she didn't see the danger signals along the way. I'm wrestling with undeserved here. I can see where Dagny says this, and it is prior to herself wrestling with the final contradiction that Hugh Akston leaves her with in the valley prior to her return. Yet, Cherryl chooses to return that evening.

Rand provides enough detail to take that walk in Cherryl's shoes. Can you put yourself in Cherryl's mindset from the book, and project if you might have done the same? Of course this is describing empathy rather than pity or sorrow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

On 22/05/2016 at 9:54 PM, dream_weaver said:

Rand provides enough detail to take that walk in Cherryl's shoes. Can you put yourself in Cherryl's mindset from the book, and project if you might have done the same? Of course this is describing empathy rather than pity or sorrow.

I think Cheryl wasn't anticipating what effect returning would have on her: 

"The sense of Dagny's presence- of Dagny's world - had supported her on her way back, but when she entered her own apartment the walls seemed to swallow her again into the suffocation of a trap" She then discovers Jim with Lillian. 

"She stood in the middle of her room, unable to grasp what action was now possible to her. Then her knees gave way, folding gently, she found herself sitting on the floor and she stayed there, staring at the carpet, shaking. 

It was neither anger nor jealousy nor indignation, but the blank horror of dealing with the grotesquely senseless."

Her act of suicide was a rejection of a kind of world she didn't want to live in. I believe, within the context of the novel we ought to feel pity for her rather than empathy, because her death would have been avoided had she lived to discover and join "the strike." The senselessness she recoiled from and wanted to reject by an act of suicide was itself a senseless act unbeknownst to her, which is a kind a tragedy. I felt sad when she died!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Jon Southall said:

I think Cheryl wasn't anticipating what effect returning would have on her: 

I'm not sure how this differs in essences from what I stated:

Like the events leading up to her marriage with Jim, she didn't see the danger signals along the way.

12 hours ago, Jon Southall said:

Her act of suicide was a rejection of a kind of world she didn't want to live in. I believe, within the context of the novel we ought to feel pity for her rather than empathy, because her death would have been avoided had she lived to discover and join "the strike." The senselessness she recoiled from and wanted to reject by an act of suicide was itself a senseless act unbeknownst to her, which is a kind a tragedy. I felt sad when she died!

Emotions, not being primary, are encouraged to be examined for their cause(s) to determine if the emotion is appropriate to the situation. You say "The emotion ought to be pity rather than empathy." Would it be more accurate to state that your empathy with Cherryl's lot here evoked pity?

A parallel here. The "wet nurse", Tony, in the arms of Rearden when he passed away.

He walked, as if this were his form of last tribute and funeral procession for the young life that had ended in his arms. He felt an anger too intense to identify except as a pressure within him: it was a desire to kill.

The desire was not directed at the unknown thug who had sent a bullet through the boy's body, or at the looting bureaucrats who had hired the thug to do it, but at the boy's teachers who had delivered him, disarmed, to the thug's gun—at the soft, safe assassins of college classrooms who, incompetent to answer the queries of a quest for reason, took pleasure in crippling the young minds entrusted to their care.

Like Cherryl, Tony represented a character going through an epistemological house-cleaning. Unlike Cherryl's one bright spot of compassion and understanding from Dagny, Tony interacted several times with Readen leading up to this scene.

She starts by letting you evoke a feeling from what you create out of—He walked, as if this were his form of last tribute and funeral procession for the young life that had ended in his arms—before taking you by the hand and converting what ever emotion you evoked into anger before moving on.

 

It can be seen that Cherryl, Tony, and Eddie had some potentiality to be invited into the valley. Yet, doesn't Cherryl's plight serve as a precursor to Tony's fate and Rearden's thoughts on the matter in the aftermath? So all three of their outcomes, in the novel, invite a sense of feeling sorry for, or pitying. After all is said and done, they are just characters in a fictional novel.

I can watch a movie and be moved by it. The movie comes at you at a set pace. If you hit the play button, barring altering the speed, you are compelled to watch it at the rate of speed it is presented (barring a fancier home-theater setup). On the other hand, when you read a book—as the reader, you set the speed/pace at which to absorb it.

I don't think I've addressed your question here, Jon Southalll, in part, because your question raises other questions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...