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dream_weaver

The Humanitarian with the Trolley

75 posts in this topic

7 hours ago, epistemologue said:

You can recognize virtue by the values it produces in reality. Everything of value produced by man depended on his acting virtuously. But the issue of having virtue is distinct from the fruits of virtue. You can have virtue and act virtuously while losing everything.

I act with regard to virtues in terms of what virtues are for: attaining and protecting values. A virtue is not just your psychological will to be virtuous, but also how it helps to attain a teleological goal of our nature. That goal is life. So virtue is two parts, 1) a desire or will to be virtuous psychologically, and 2) a reliable and capable way to further your life physically. Consequentialism I say ignores 1 for the sake of 2. Deontology ignores 2 for the sake of 1.

Virtue ethics is both, the way Greeks and Romans tried to do it. My basis is virtue ethics, too. I look at consequence AND principle. Fortunately, no virtue will contradict itself by using consequence and principle. The consequence of a principle is flourishing, which leads to deeper spiritual values. In other words, if an act intentionally lead to protecting values, it required intention and competence to do so. The intention and competence is virtue. Intention without competence is not virtue.

At least on your part, your actions won't cause you to lose values, or at least protect as many values as possible. Integrity requires standing for those values in hardships, with the knowledge and trust that rationality/justice/etc will be the best choice. Sure, having integrity is more important to Roark than merely having money, or people as friends. Yet he still acted in a way to benefit from long-term. He won't -die- from his actions. -His- actions do not harm his values, not when an action is able to protect more than not acting.  Any less is a sacrifice of integrity. Working in a quarry is not going to hurt at all, as all is still well and good.

All you really said is that -ever- using aggression is harming your integrity. I don't see why rights enter into tragic situations, though.

 

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This may be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, i.e., a catalyst for the intro Robert provided.

Per Robert: This is essential reading for dealing with the "Trolley problem" and unpacking the philosophical mess behind it.

Self-driving cars don't care about your moral dilemmas

“The main thing to keep in mind is that we have yet to encounter one of these problems,” he said. “In all of our journeys, we have never been in a situation where you have to pick between the baby stroller or the grandmother. Even if we did see a scenario like that, usually that would mean you made a mistake a couple of seconds earlier. And so as a moral software engineer coming into work in the office, if I want to save lives, my goal is to prevent us from getting in that situation, because that implies that we screwed up.

Even the programmers and engineers cited here are scoffing at the trolley problem. Consider this somewhat humorous excerpt from the closing paragraph:

Nathaniel Fairfield, another engineer on the project, jokes that the real question is “what would you …oh, it’s too late”

 

PS:

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Throw them in ... meaning Dagny and Galt are among the 30 million who will die if Rearden does not pull the lever.

I tried to surgically excerpt that to make it appear as if Dagny and Galt were supposed to be projected as a hand at the lever, just so the skewed parallel to the train wreck would appear to segway from it.

 

As a final note, it would be nice if someone could show where the Trolley Problem is instrumental in helping to reach rational egoism as a firm, solid ethical system worthy of deeper consideration.

 

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17 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You evade even now from concretizing what you think he should do.  He can't fight with every power the trolley problem... remember, he is helpless,  it does require human carnage and he only has a choice.  Say it... just say what you think he should let happen to those 30 million people ... let's throw in Dagny and Galt for good measure... and allege that it is in his rational self interest to choose not to act. I want to hear you say it.

Go ahead... Say what YOUR Rearden should do.

I'm at a loss at how to state this more clearly. Let me try to answer in the style of Dr. Seuss's "green eggs and ham":

I would not murder someone in a house
I would not murder them with a mouse
I would not murder someone here or there
I would not murder them ANYWHERE!

I would not, I could not on a boat
I will not, will not, with a goat
I will not murder someone in the rain
I will not murder someone with a train
Not in the dark! Not in a tree! 
Not in a car! You let me be! 

I will not murder someone!

***

Seriously though, there is no trade you can offer me that would make it worth it, it doesn't matter what are the stakes, it doesn't matter how many murders, tortures, or rapes you put on the other side. Why? Because it's a moral principle based on the metaphysical nature of man. It's a matter of integrity, and as Rand has demonstrated in her fiction and philosophy, to sacrifice one's integrity is irrational.

Intentionally killing an innocent man cannot add value to the world or to your life; all values that are produced in the world come from such men, and to murder them goes against the cause of your interests. All of those deaths you want to put at stake are not caused by this innocent man, destroying him can only add to the destruction and affirm the evil. If you want to stop the destruction and fight this evil, you must stop it at its cause. In a hypothetical where you are cut off from that cause and there is nothing you can do to stop it, the only choice remaining to you is to not add to the evil in the world in your own actions and in your own person. You can only fight evil by standing on principle for the good in your own person in the alternatives and choices available to you.

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Listen to Leonard Peikoff's answer to this question:

http://www.peikoff.com/2008/05/26/if-five-people-are-in-an-emergency-room-dying-and-one-healthy-person-in-the-waiting-room-could-save-them-all-if-we-used-his-organs-is-it-morally-permissible-to-do-this-even-though-hell-die/

Quote

I say no, it is morally impermissible. The one is innocent.

It isn't the responsibility of the innocent guy to pay. Accidents happen to everybody, you don't kill somebody else to make up for somebody's accident! Someone else's ignorance, irresponsibility, criminal negligence, or bad luck, does not justify you committing murder of an innocent person. There's no need for a "mystical moral faculty" to divine the answer.

 

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Epist:

In the context of the planetary trolley "problem", do you think it is in Rearden's rational self-interest to refrain from pushing the button, and to allow everyone on earth, himself, Dagny, and Galt to die in order to avoid killing the stranger on the space station?

YES or NO?

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2 hours ago, epistemologue said:

Listen to Leonard Peikoff's answer to this question:

http://www.peikoff.com/2008/05/26/if-five-people-are-in-an-emergency-room-dying-and-one-healthy-person-in-the-waiting-room-could-save-them-all-if-we-used-his-organs-is-it-morally-permissible-to-do-this-even-though-hell-die/

Quote

I say no, it is morally impermissible. The one is innocent.

It isn't the responsibility of the innocent guy to pay. Accidents happen to everybody, you don't kill somebody else to make up for somebody's accident! Someone else's ignorance, irresponsibility, criminal negligence, or bad luck, does not justify you committing murder of an innocent person. There's no need for a "mystical moral faculty" to divine the answer.

 

Are you drawing a parallel here between 5 people standing on a track with an oncoming trolley car to serve as the accident, with 1 person standing on the siding? Choosing to participate and toss the switch is still murder. Not pulling it (i.e. choosing not to participate) does not make you morally responsible. Let the psychologizing begin.

I added other leads to what fueled my curiosity on the matter. This aspect is not it.

 

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6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

In the context of the planetary trolley "problem", do you think it is in Rearden's rational self-interest to refrain from pushing the button, and to allow everyone on earth, himself, Dagny, and Galt to die in order to avoid killing the stranger on the space station?

i think there are significant differences between your asteroid example and the original trolley one. i'm not against discussing it, but it seems like we should examine the first problem before we complicate the thread by adding another and comparing and contrasting the two.

20 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

are you purely interested in historical examples of emergency hypotheticals being employed in the development of rational+egoistic ethics? or is it sufficient to show that this is possible?

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15 minutes ago, splitprimary said:

are you purely interested in historical examples of emergency hypotheticals being employed in the development of rational+egoistic ethics? or is it sufficient to show that this is possible?

Try point 4 of The Ethics of Emergencies.

4. And, in fact, a lethargic indifference to ethics, a hopelessly cynical amorality—since his questions involve situations which he is not likely ever to encounter, which bear no relation to the actual problems of his own life and thus leave him to live without any moral principles whatever.

As near as I can read between Tracinski's lines, this is the exit he appears to be looking for with regard to the Trolley Problem.

 

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11 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Point 4 of The Ethics of Emergencies:
And, in fact, a lethargic indifference to ethics, a hopelessly cynical amorality

her list here is "If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences..."

so this is not helpful. we are aware that lifeboat scenarios can be used by altruists to reinforce their perspective. the question is whether they can alternatively be used for good!

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1 hour ago, splitprimary said:

[H]her list here is "If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences..."

so this is not helpful. [W]we are aware that lifeboat scenarios can be used by altruists to reinforce their perspective. [T]he question is whether they can alternatively be used for good!

I would start with fact:

a great many people approach the subject of ethics by asking such questions as: "Should one risk one's life to help a man who is: a) drowning, b} trapped in a fire, c) stepping in front of a speeding truck, d) hanging by his fingernails over an abyss?"

From the standpoint of how the a great many people approach the subject of ethics, "[c]onsider the implications of that approach." She goes on . . .

If a man accepts the ethics of altruism,

Explicitly? Implicitly? What about the man who hasn't given much thought to ethics? Where do a great many people fall with regard to an identification of their code of ethics? Does the person how hasn't given much thought to ethics explicitly identify with rational egoism, or wander about in a semi-swirling fog rising and congealing into an ever thickening mist reinforced by others wandering about in the same fog emitting state?

Now, interject the Trolley Problem. Is this a question involving a situation he is likely to encounter? Does it bear a relationship to actual problems in his own life? Is it going leave him with a moral principle he can use?
 

Now let's superpose the Trolley Problem on this. Mr. Tracinski has risen in the ranks to a position in Real Clear Future which permits him to write articles for the "unwashed masses". Don't throw the switch and try to understand how the Trolley Problem is used by the "unwashed masses"—or throw the switch, and explain how the Trolley Problem can be redeployed given its historic roots as touched on here, by infusing or inoculating it with an objective perspective that can serve as an immunization, providing man with moral principles which bear relationships to problems of his own life, and/or for situations that he is likely to encounter.

 

Edited by dream_weaver
Eliminate emoticon.

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7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

I would start with fact:

a great many people approach the subject of ethics by asking such questions as: "Should one risk one's life to help a man who is: a) drowning, b} trapped in a fire, c) stepping in front of a speeding truck, d) hanging by his fingernails over an abyss?"

From the standpoint of how the a great many people approach the subject of ethics, "[c]onsider the implications of that approach." She goes on . . .

If a man accepts the ethics of altruism,

Explicitly? Implicitly? What about the man who hasn't given much thought to ethics? Where do a great many people fall with regard to an identification of their code of ethics? Does the person how hasn't given much thought to ethics explicitly identify with rational egoism, or wander about in a semi-swirling fog rising and congealing into an ever thickening mist reinforced by others wandering about in the same fog emitting state?

Now, interject the Trolley Problem. Is this a question involving a situation he is likely to encounter? Does it bear a relationship to actual problems in his own life? Is it going leave him with a moral principle he can use?
 

Now let's superpose the Trolley Problem on this. Mr. Tracinski has risen in the ranks to a position in Real Clear Future which permits him to write articles for the "unwashed masses". Don't throw the switch and try to understand how the Trolley Problem is used by the "unwashed masses"—or throw the switch, and explain how the Trolley Problem can be redeployed given its historic roots as touched on here, by infusing or inoculating it with an objective perspective that can serve as an immunization, providing man with moral principles which bear relationships to problems of his own life, and/or for situations that he is likely to encounter.

 

Why redeploy a wrong test "on the wrong tracks" ill suited for demonstrating or illuminating the nature of morality when one can formulate moral hypotheticals which directly and effectively address the nature of morality in a relevant way?  The reason certainly is not that these hypotheticals of sacrifice are the way to sell morality to people in general, in fact these problems are part of what causes people to groan when they hear the word "morality".  Carnage and altruism are like crack and sex for introverted rationalists but relevant practical hypotheticals dealing with life and dealing with questions of just what is in a persons self interest are liable to get way more traction with most normal people.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Why redeploy a wrong test "on the wrong tracks" ill suited for demonstrating or illuminating the nature of morality

So even this type of approach cedes setting the terms.

Ah well. I see that the Trolley Problem even has some parallels that could be drawn with the Kobayashi Maru. James T. Kirk even refused to address the problem as framed. Admirable Kirk, from that perspective.

 

 

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On 10/23/2016 at 11:27 PM, Eiuol said:

I act with regard to virtues in terms of what virtues are for: attaining and protecting values. A virtue is not just your psychological will to be virtuous, but also how it helps to attain a teleological goal of our nature. That goal is life. So virtue is two parts, 1) a desire or will to be virtuous psychologically, and 2) a reliable and capable way to further your life physically. Consequentialism I say ignores 1 for the sake of 2. Deontology ignores 2 for the sake of 1.

Virtue ethics is both, the way Greeks and Romans tried to do it. My basis is virtue ethics, too. I look at consequence AND principle. Fortunately, no virtue will contradict itself by using consequence and principle. The consequence of a principle is flourishing, which leads to deeper spiritual values. In other words, if an act intentionally lead to protecting values, it required intention and competence to do so. The intention and competence is virtue. Intention without competence is not virtue.

At least on your part, your actions won't cause you to lose values, or at least protect as many values as possible. Integrity requires standing for those values in hardships, with the knowledge and trust that rationality/justice/etc will be the best choice. Sure, having integrity is more important to Roark than merely having money, or people as friends. Yet he still acted in a way to benefit from long-term. He won't -die- from his actions. -His- actions do not harm his values, not when an action is able to protect more than not acting.  Any less is a sacrifice of integrity. Working in a quarry is not going to hurt at all, as all is still well and good.

All you really said is that -ever- using aggression is harming your integrity. I don't see why rights enter into tragic situations, though.

This is a false dichotomy you're making between "intention" and "competence". The issue isn't a division between whether you desire something vs. whether you act to achieve it; it's between whether you desire something and act to achieve it vs. whether you actually achieve it. It's action vs. outcome. Virtue and morality pertain to the action itself, not to whether or not you happen to achieve the effects that you desire, which can depend on other factors. Roark acted with integrity despite not achieving the effect he desired, to build the building the way he wanted, because actually achieving that effect depended also on the actions of others.

If you're not sure whether rights enter into tragic situations, what about rationality, justice, or integrity? Individual rights are the application of moral principles to a social context. Whether or not the situation is tragic is irrelevant, the question of context pertains to whether or not the situation is social: if it is, then individual rights apply, for the same reason that rationality, justice, and integrity apply.

Edited by epistemologue
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Principles aid man in his understanding of and his responses to reality.  Because man cannot and should not analyze each particular situation of reality anew (he does not have the luxury of endless time and resources to do so), he uses and applies general principles, and whether they are principles of physics, mathematics or morality they are efficient and often indispensable. They are derived from and apply to general contexts and are useful as principles generally.

One cannot, however, attempt to elevate a general principle above reality, that is, one cannot attempt to apply it in a any situation of reality which contradicts it or contradicts the purpose of the principle.  The principle surrounding honesty for example is not a categorical imperative which binds a poor virtuous fellow into a "duty" of telling an intruder where his child hiding so that he can kill her.

If you derive any principle of any realm, whose purpose is to serve according to a certain standard, then any context in which said principle leads to the exact opposite of that, I.e. it does NOT serve in accordance with that standard, that principle must defer, in that context, to whatever specific solution DOES serve according to that standard.

Principles follow from reality and serve man and the way he deals with reality, they do not supersede them.

 

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Does anyone know what one calls the above fallacy: I.e. holding a principle above and using a principle in contradiction to reality?

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Are you thinking the A Priori Argument (Also, Rationalization; Proof Texting.):

A corrupt argument from logos, starting with a given, pre-set belief, dogma, doctrine, scripture verse, "fact" or conclusion and then searching for any reasonable or reasonable-sounding argument to rationalize, defend or justify it. Certain ideologues and religious fundamentalists are proud to use this fallacy as their primary method of "reasoning" and some are even honest enough to say so.

 

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42 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Are you thinking the A Priori Argument (Also, Rationalization; Proof Texting.):

A corrupt argument from logos, starting with a given, pre-set belief, dogma, doctrine, scripture verse, "fact" or conclusion and then searching for any reasonable or reasonable-sounding argument to rationalize, defend or justify it. Certain ideologues and religious fundamentalists are proud to use this fallacy as their primary method of "reasoning" and some are even honest enough to say so.

 

Not quite...

its more like the error of the "stolen concept" except teleological rather than conceptual.

So a conceptual stolen concept is invalid conceptually because part of it actually negates that which it logically depends upon... to accept it... is to reject it, a contradiction, and invalid.

The above error, is erroneous use because it asserts that an action is demanded by a principle which would actually undermine what the principle is for.  This error also requires context dropping. So, by forgetting the purpose of the principle at the same time being blind to reality, one applies a "commandment" to act, which actually goes against its purpose of the principle in that context. 

 

As in the example of the principle of honesty whose purpose is in accordance with a morality whose standard is life, i.e. to help long-term to achieve values and serve self interest: the principle of honesty cannot be invoked as the justification for telling to the truth to a murderous intruder, because in that context "telling the truth" does not serve the purpose to which the principle of honesty is directed.  So Honesty is more than a any simple commandment, like "Do not lie", and that simple commandment would work against the purpose, the very purpose for the principle of Honesty, in the situation with the intruder. 

Perhaps the error is as simple as identifying the principle, i.e. Honesty, Justice, etc. with particular concrete actions, which actions in certain contexts would not serve the purpose the principle is for. 

Principles are used to determine actions, they are not one and the same, and the actions must be determined contextually in accordance with the purpose of the principle. 

*Edited to improve intelligibility

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 10/26/2016 at 2:37 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

Because man cannot and should not analyze each particular situation of reality anew (he does not have the luxury of endless time and resources to do so), he uses and applies general principles, and whether they are principles of physics, mathematics or morality they are efficient and often indispensable. They are derived from and apply to general contexts and are useful as principles generally.

This is not the origin or justification for principles! Newton made careful observations of reality and identified a universal truth about the nature of reality: the law of gravitation. Rand, studying man, identified universal truths about the nature of man: the principles of egoism or individual rights, for example.

These are not heuristics that are generally, pragmatically useful for making judgments under time constraints in order to achieve some outcome that you prefer! These are truths that are discovered about the fundamental nature of reality and of man. These are characteristics of identity, and so they apply universally, on pain of contradiction.

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41 minutes ago, epistemologue said:

This is not the origin or justification for principles! Newton made careful observations of reality and identified a universal truth about the nature of reality: the law of gravitation. Rand, studying man, identified universal truths about the nature of man: the principles of egoism or individual rights, for example.

These are not heuristics that are generally, pragmatically useful for making judgments under time constraints in order to achieve some outcome that you prefer! These are truths that are discovered about the fundamental nature of reality and of man. These are characteristics of identity, and so they apply universally, on pain of contradiction.

Principles of morality have a purpose... to serve morality and morality has a standard... your life.  Your life is like the commander in chief, morality the general, honesty the Colonel, in a perfect, unerring hierarchy.

Whenever you THINK you are acting for your Colonel, or in accordance with orders of your General, but you KNOW you are acting against the Commander in Chief, you MUST step back and conclude you have misunderstood the orders either of your Colonel or your General.  In such a case you cannot stand as a traitor of the commander in chief and point at your Colonel saying "But I must do what the Colonel says"... so too you cannot stand as a traitor to your life and values saying but principles have commanded that I act against my life and values!

 

ALL moral principles such as Honesty serve your life... THAT is the only reason why you as a moral person adopts principles, because the standard of morality is your life.

YOU adopt principles to serve your life, you do not live in service to principles, and certainly not (as it would be eminently dangerous to do so)  if they are ill conceived or improperly applied, i.e. blind to context and reality.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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5 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Principles of morality have a purpose

You are arguing that principles originate from and are justified by their purpose, by their consequences in some outcome, such as your physical survival. This is the reason you're willing to commit theft or even murder, because you judge - shortsightedly - that it's in the best interests of your survival.

But this is not the Objectivist theory on the origin and justification of principles. A principle is not a "generally pragmatically useful heuristic"; it is an objective truth about the nature of reality and of man.

Saying that one "lives in service to principles" is no different than saying one "lives in service to truth" or "lives in service to reality". It's just a fact that you are beholden to reality, to truth, and to principles.

You can live and act on the basis of truth or on the basis of contradiction. That is the most basic difference between being principled and unprincipled, and between moral right and wrong.

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1 hour ago, epistemologue said:

It's just a fact that you are beholden to reality, to truth, and to principles.

We have a duty to reality, truth, and principles? I don't see how this differs from "living in service to" reality, truth, or principles. Or are you trying to convey:

Saying that one "lives in service to principles" is no different than saying one "lives in service to truth" or "lives in service to reality". It's just another way of saying that it's just a fact that you are beholden to reality, to truth, and to principles.

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On 10/26/2016 at 1:07 PM, epistemologue said:

This is a false dichotomy you're making between "intention" and "competence".

You misunderstand what I mean by "intention" and "competence". Any follower of a moral standard intends to follow those standards, distinguished from how or if the standards are followed. A typical Christian steeped in traditional standards will INTEND to be a moral Christian, but may feel constant guilt for being unable to be totally altruistic. In fact, rigidly obeying Christian morality is impossible if we look at man's nature as one of life and seeking values. This super-Christian will not be able to attain life and corresponding values. At no point will it provide the material values needed for life. This creates a conflict between ideal (theory) and action (practice). Either he follows the theory apart from life, or acts without regard for any moral theory. So, while he intends to be moral, there is no way to seek life competently.

Another way to fail to seek life competently is to be wholly ignorant of how to put intention into practice. If a moral rule requires me to drink water from the Euphrates once a year, but I am unable to figure out how to get there, I just suck at it. Similarly, if I am morally obligated to be honest, I need to be able to be honest, to avoid becoming a "slave to my passions". This takes skill.

The virtues, being actions derived from our nature to live according to our nature, need to allow us to competently live. Given all the time in the world, this ALSO means material values will be gained, along with the spiritual values embodied by them. In that way, actually attaining a value isn't the point. The idea is that having attained a value is sign of both a competent theory and practice. And with Objectivism, reason is how to competently implement its standards. I know a virtue is part of my nature if I have evidence that it is able to provide vales, even if it's possible I might not acquire them personally.

I could say a tragic situation is when my hierarchy of values, to be maintained, demand the loss of some values. If integrity is a top value, above anything else, it's fine to only follow that one moral standard. I think this is a lack of integrity, though. Integrity becomes detached from the evidence used to determine integrity is a virtue. It is disembodied and ignores material values it pairs with. Roark didn't really lose a value, all he lost was a standard of design he hated, and a job that would be miserable. He was still able to work elsewhere, because he knew he was on track for his goals. Fortunately, he had time to get there as well. We know Roark would reach his goals looking back, all because of his integrity.

Sylvester Stallone is a good example of that "Roarkian" process, and more extreme than needing to work in a quarry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5bslRI4gFk

Here in the thought experiment, I think a social context is destroyed, as far as no people are able to engage socially. 

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The virtues, being actions derived from our nature to live according to our nature, need to allow us to competently live. Given all the time in the world, this ALSO means material values will be gained, along with the spiritual values embodied by them. In that way, actually attaining a value isn't the point. The idea is that having attained a value is sign of both a competent theory and practice. And with Objectivism, reason is how to competently implement its standards. I know a virtue is part of my nature if I have evidence that it is able to provide vales, even if it's possible I might not acquire them personally.

I could say a tragic situation is when my hierarchy of values, to be maintained, demand the loss of some values. If integrity is a top value, above anything else, it's fine to only follow that one moral standard. I think this is a lack of integrity, though. Integrity becomes detached from the evidence used to determine integrity is a virtue. It is disembodied and ignores material values it pairs with. Roark didn't really lose a value, all he lost was a standard of design he hated, and a job that would be miserable. He was still able to work elsewhere, because he knew he was on track for his goals. Fortunately, he had time to get there as well. We know Roark would reach his goals looking back, all because of his integrity.

Virtues do allow us to live competently - competent, meaning that your method and manner of living, is sound, rational, focused - competence doesn't mean that you're guaranteed any particular outcome. We don't know for sure that any and all material values we will ever want will necessarily be gained; that is not necessarily under our control. All we do know are the principles of how to act according to our nature, the self-contradiction inherent in violating such principles, and that in the long run, the best possible way to pursue our values is acting according to principle.

Sure, the attaining of material values is a good sign that someone is moral and competent, but it's not necessarily the case. Someone could have acted completely irrationally, immorally, unjustly, or even not acted at all, and by some off-chance of their circumstance, or through the foolishness of some benefactor, gotten the material values as a result. Judging based on the outcome is not an appropriate way to define or measure morality or competence. The identification of a virtue is based on the analysis of human nature - whether an action is consonant with or contradictory to human nature in essence - it's not based on the evidence of when such a rule happens to result in some particular outcome or not in any given case. 

In a tragic situation, it is true that some material values will necessarily be lost, but it's not true that you necessarily have to act against human nature, that is, against your moral principles or your integrity. Keeping your integrity in the face of losing material values is not a lack of integrity! This Roark example is exactly him refusing to clutch onto some material value as against his integrity. He doesn't ignore the material values integrity is paired with, he's ignoring the material values it's not paired with. He doesn't use the loss of this material value as "evidence against integrity as a virtue"; the virtue of integrity is already known to him, it's a certainty he's gained through rational introspection into his own nature as man.

Taking his material loss as evidence against integrity as a virtue is exactly what Ayn Rand showed Roark not doing; it was specifically her intention to showcase his moral strength by him not doing such a thing.

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Here in the thought experiment, I think a social context is destroyed, as far as no people are able to engage socially. 

By "social context", Ayn Rand is simply referring to whether your actions pertain to interfering with another person's life or property. If you are taking such an action, then morally (and legally, in a rights-respecting society), you need their consent. If you don't have their consent but act anyway (whether you're stealing their property or murdering them with a train, for example), then you're violating the moral principle of individual rights.

Edited by epistemologue

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18 hours ago, epistemologue said:

Judging based on the outcome is not an appropriate way to define or measure morality or competence. The identification of a virtue is based on the analysis of human nature - whether an action is consonant with or contradictory to human nature in essence - it's not based on the evidence of when such a rule happens to result in some particular outcome or not in any given case. 

Take the principle of egoism as opposed to altruism for example: the fruits of a man's labor are caused by his own actions, and that's why he ought to be the beneficiary. To assign the beneficiary of a man's labor to someone or something else is to desire the effects without the cause. By nature man is an autonomous being, who exists and acts for his own sake; he is the cause of the material products of his actions and thereby the rightful owner of them.

So the act of theft (for example from the stealing thread), is literally based on a contradiction. You are ignoring the facts of reality, that you are dealing with a man who is by nature an autonomous being whose property belongs to him. Instead, you are acting as if this isn't true. You are ignoring the fact that what you are taking and drinking is a man's property, and you're pretending, as against the facts of reality, that the water belongs to you.

It's a contradiction, and it's irrational and completely unjustified.

"Reality is not to be wiped out, it will merely wipe out the wiper"

In essence, by contradicting reality, you're contradicting yourself. It's an act of treason against your own nature, as a man who is an autonomous being, who exists and acts for his own sake. You're trading away the nature of your identity, and your right to the rewards of your own effort as a being of that nature, in favor of something else, some identity as a lesser being, who doesn't have such rights, and doesn't deserve the rewards of its own efforts.

And pragmatically - if you're concerned about getting the best outcomes in terms of material values, look at the where they come from, what is the origin of material values? Their existence depends on man, a being who creates them for his own sake. To contradict this principle of egoism, this aspect of man's nature, is to contradict practically your ability to reach the very thing which you are aiming at as an end.

This is why Rand says: the moral is the practical.

Edited by epistemologue

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2 hours ago, epistemologue said:

Take the principle of egoism as opposed to altruism for example: the fruits of a man's labor are caused by his own actions, and that's why he ought to be the beneficiary.

Well no, that doesn't say he ought be a beneficiary. It only means he causes his actions, period. You are using the concept property prior to a notion of what a benefit is or what makes for an ought. Beavers make dams, that's their labor, is it therefore a contradiction to 'steal' their dams? You're right about stealing - but this is after proving and establishing property as a concept.

Essentially: I think your arguments are throwing away the ladder. As if once you hit the truth, pure reason is all you need, and you can delete all concretes you used as evidence to get there.

EDIT: Forgot the earlier response.

Agreed on the first paragraph. To be competent doesn't promise outcomes. I'd just add that virtues reliably lead to certain outcomes, even though they aren't derived by outcomes. Similarly, reasoning reliably leads to the truth, but we only care if we reason rightly. Errors are not always a failure of reason or virtue.

Irrationality unreliably leads to life at all. So that's why we go to man's nature. If we follow our nature, a good life reliably occurs. This is how reality operates.

Edited by Eiuol

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