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MisterSwig

Spies Who Commit Suicide

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7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

If someone held a gun to your head and forced you to rape a hundred women, would you be morally in the clear because you were "following orders?"

What do you mean by "morally in the clear"?

Would it be in my interest to follow orders -- even these outrageous orders -- so that I could live to fight another day? Potentially so. Morality, per Objectivism, really is about doing what is best for the self. If the choice is: "rape or die," then rape very well might be the superior option, because it would allow me to survive and pursue further values. (It also might not be the superior option, depending on circumstance, but I relate this potential difference to my conception of "life-as-experience," which I know you find controversial.)

The immorality of the rape act itself (i.e. "the initiation of the use of force") would not belong to me, but the person holding the gun. And in a rational court of law, I would expect to be exonerated, too. So by those measures, yes, I would be "morally in the clear." Certainly I would not be expected to sacrifice myself for "the greater good" by most Objectivists, according to my understanding of Rand's writing.

Would I be morally in the clear such that MisterSwig considers me innocent of wrongdoing? That I don't know, but MisterSwig's judgment is not my standard of moral action. Instead, can you tell me why it would be better for me to die, rather than comply with those orders?

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

[SPOILERS in the following paragraph. Skip to the next paragraph if you haven't seen the latest Star Wars installment.]

Regarding Rogue One, which I thought was a pretty entertaining movie by the way, the situation is a good contrast to Galt's. Both guys are brilliant scientists. Both are captured by the enemy and ordered to do evil things. But Galt's woman escapes, whereas Galen's is murdered. Galen also has a daughter, though, whose escape is uncertain to him. Galt flat-out refuses to help his enemy. While Galen helps enough to stay alive, but secretly conspires to sabotage his own work. In the context of the movie's fantastic plot, Galen comes out a sort of hero. Without his deceptive engineering the rebels would not have been able to blow up the Death Star. Galen's heroic action, however, depends on there being a rebel group capable of enacting his plan. Galt had no rebel group capable of physically challenging the enemy. His plan depended upon convincing people to not help the enemy. To not give the enemy the benefits of his mind. If he then did that very thing under duress, he would betray everything for which he fought so hard.

[End of SPOILERS]

This should not be too spoilery...

I was mostly entertained by Rogue One as well, although when I go to the theater, I tend to be entertained. My critical opinions of such things typically develop more slowly, and in this case I'm still unsure about my evaluation. I can say that... it did not have the magic of the original three films, for me, on first viewing. But perhaps looking for that "magic" is no longer a reasonable expectation.

Anyhow, I think the difference that you raise between Rogue One and Atlas Shrugged is sensible enough, but Rogue One at least shows a different conception of what might happen under those sorts of circumstances. In a work of fiction, of course, whatever circumstances exist are utterly contrived; so whether the Galt's Gulch crew could have mounted a different kind of resistance, had Galt decided to work for his captors (let's say to save Dagny somehow -- and destroy the villains from within) would have been wholly up to Ayn Rand. Had Galt made that choice, I do not believe that Rand would have been forced to write it as a "betrayal" -- it could have been one more bump in the road towards a happy ending. Arguably Ragnar is evidence that such a kind of resistance could have been pursued; he could have been more central to an action-oriented third act. (We might finally get a decent AS movie out of it, too. :))

For the flesh-and-blood human being who wants to take moral or didactic lessons from art -- having both Atlas Shrugged and Rogue One as examples to draw upon, among others -- I think that a person in "this kind of situation" could not know with any great certainty whether he would have opportunities in the future to escape or undermine his captors. But the point is (for Galt and for us) that regardless of the justification for suicide in any given situation, the choice to keep living is not itself immoral, should a person have any reasonable hope for his circumstances to change, or for himself to be able to achieve his values, or be happy, or etc.

Thus relating Galt's suicide to an inability to continue to fight, should he temporarily agree to assist his captors, is, I think, a mistake. That isn't the rationale Galt gives anyways (even if we find it implicit in the scenario): he speaks of being unwilling to live -- of having no values to pursue -- in the event of Dagny's murder. And so that is the situation that I think needs to be explored in greater depth.

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Tough question, but I seriously doubt it. Consider what he tells Dagny before he's about to be captured: "I was the symbol of what you wanted to destroy in the world ... But you were my symbol of what I wanted to achieve ... This is how men expect to feel about their life once or twice, as an exception, in the course of their lifetime. But I--this [pointing at her picture] is what I chose as the constant and normal."

Galt would fight to his last breath to save Dagny. He would never abandon her. Why? Because he wanted Dagny in the worst way possible. He was prepared to die for her. Why was he prepared to die for her? Because she was the woman. She was his ideal woman. He devoted his life to winning her from the clutches of the enemy. To drop that pursuit in the end, to suddenly abandon her to the enemy's murderous will, this would be unimaginably unforgivable. It would be a complete betrayal of his chosen purpose in life. A full rejection of his moral code.

This is going to be a long post. It is already a long post. So I would like to emphasize that this right here is the heart of what I believe we ought to discuss. Everything else, though perhaps interesting in its own right, is nigh incidental, in my estimation. So feel free to drop any other line of argumentation you think negligible, but do please help me to explore this area.

In the first place, I agree with you that Galt would not have been willing to escape -- leaving Dagny to die. That he was prepared to die for her. And moreover that this was a moral attitude. So why?

In order to try to understand this "why," let us imagine for a moment that Galt decides, in what is arguably a critical moment of weakness, to take an opportunity for personal escape which leaves Dagny to die. We've discussed his finding his life in such a case "worthless" (as in "there will be no values for me to seek after that [Dagny's murder]--and I do not care to exist without values") -- and I've been trying like the Dickens to get at the meaning of that. Let us try again now.

You say that it would be "a complete betrayal of his chosen purpose in life" and a "full rejection of his moral code." All right. In what way would this be a rejection of his moral code? Isn't his moral code meant to serve his "ultimate value," which is his own life? And come to that, Galt would be alive, wouldn't he? He would literally have taken action for self-preservation, which (per Kelley, among others) is the criterion for moral action. So what's the problem? As I've asked before:

Why shouldn't Galt be able to discover other values which allow him "to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy" his own life, without Dagny? Could he not eat? Could he not find shelter? Could he not continue to invent or find other employment? Would it be indecorous to suppose that he could even find romantic love in another person? Don't all of these things have worth? Why or why not?

Last time I asked, your reply dismissed such questions according to "context," because Galt would be dead. Well hopefully we have a context now which allows us to explore these questions in depth, and the meaning of a "worthless" life, because I believe that it lies at the heart of Galt's willingness to commit suicide.

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Seeing the logic depends on seeing the context. If you consider life, or the experience of life, as an intrinsic value, then you won't see the context. You have to be able to see why a man's life is objectively his ultimate value. Then you may be able to see the rare cases when it stops being his ultimate value.

Experience itself is not a value. The thing, the object of reality, which you experience via consciousness is the real value. 

In my view, to lift experience to the level of the standard of value is to inject the primacy of consciousness into a moral code. Doing this undermines further development of an objective moral system which is based upon the primacy of existence. (By the way, I believe that the reliance on this conception of experience is also where some Objectivists have gone astray in the realm of introspection.)

In thorny philosophical conversations (and I think this one qualifies; these are complicated topics), sometimes I get so awash in terminology that I do not know what my agreement or disagreement would even mean. It has happened a few times during the course of these two threads, and again here.

I can say this with certainty: if you relate my view of "life-as-experience" to "the primacy of consciousness," then you do not yet understand what I'm talking about. Almost certainly accounting to a failure on my part to explain myself clearly; as I said when first introducing my ideas on the subject, this is not something I have experience discussing yet -- it is still something of an exploration for me.

We could get into details about "primacy of consciousness," if necessary, but if it suffices, I am neither criticizing the notion that "existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness), that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity," which is true, nor attempting to argue that "the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both)," which is nonsense.

It is true, however, that I am asserting that consciousness exists (which, based upon other conversations, I expect you agree with). It is further true that I hold that "experience" (which, as I'm using it, primarily relates to the various kinds of pleasures and pains, both physical and emotional, one takes in life) does not exist "independent of consciousness." And even further that I hold that "value" does not exist independent of this "experience."

So if you're critical of that argument, at any point, we can discuss it (I should be happy for the opportunity to better discover my own mind, if nothing else) -- but let us first recognize that such an argument has nothing to do with "primacy of consciousness," which is mystical claptrap.

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Now, to get to the examples, my current understanding is that suicide can be moral if done for a good purpose. We, as Objectivists, believe it should be an objectively good purpose. And to judge that requires rational evaluation of the particulars, which I've already done over the course of two threads.

A man does not have to commit suicide for someone else in order to be moral. It is enough that he has a good purpose for the action. But such purposes usually involve someone else, because good people want their deaths to be good for their most cherished values, which tend to include other people. This is why good people donate organs after their death, bequeath property in their wills, and don't commit suicide by cop. In Maynard's case, her purpose was to save her family from the burden of caring for her and to save herself from an undignified deathbed. In the case of paraplegics, it might be for similar reasons, such as saving someone the burden of having to care for them. But losing a limb is not as debilitating as it used to be, so this is a less likely scenario for a good purpose. More likely is a full quadriplegic wanting to die for this reason, especially if they can't monetarily support themselves through sheer mental productivity. As far as the CTE and PTSD sufferers go, their moral purpose might also be similar to Maynard's. Some also see themselves becoming uncontrollably irrational and a potential threat to loved ones. It's probably good that they kill themselves, before they lose control of their physical actions and harm somebody.

The link between the above examples and the spies and Galt, is that they all have a good purpose for suicide. Of course they would rather not have to die. But given the fact that their lives have been ruined, they choose to die for lives that are not ruined, thus making their deaths meaningful beyond the fact that they are dead.

If through my death, I benefit the people I love -- so what? Why should I take action to benefit the people I love, if I'm not around to see it or take pleasure in it and receive their reciprocal acts of love? And if my condition is a burden on others, why should I care, so long as I continue living, so long as I continue enjoying my life? (Should I die, there's nothing at all for me to enjoy, so whatever burden I am -- that's a net loss for me, right?)

What is it about benefiting the people I love or removing burdens from others that is meant to motivate me to action?

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3 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Morality, per Objectivism, really is about doing what is best for the self.

By "doing what is best for the self" do you mean "surviving"? Because you have proposed that you might be willing to rape a hundred women in order to "live to fight another day." So, I'm wondering what wouldn't you do under duress in order to keep your life? Would you murder your entire innocent family?

My point is that the mere survival of the self is not automatically our ultimate value. We are moral creatures too. We are good or bad. We seek values or vices, and have good or evil purposes.

To commit suicide means that we don't value our existence anymore. Something has gone wrong with our life. Thus, in order for our suicide to have a moral purpose, we must choose a new ultimate value. Our suicide will then serve that new ultimate value. Maynard, she died for her family while maintaining her dignity. The spies died for their fellow spies and national interests. And Galt would have died for his ideal woman.

I think the closest thing to a common, selfish motivation for suicide in these cases is the idea of wanting to be good--to commit suicide while still being an ethical person. Or, hoping to avoid an unwanted, immoral existence. Such suiciders wish to maintain the integrity of their moral systems, especially when confronted with the fact that their continued existence will betray their moral purpose.

Staying true to one's moral code is not always easy, particularly when you're being physically or mentally tortured by injury, disease, or murderous villains. Some spies talk during interrogation and live the rest of their lives with that betrayal on their conscience. Some brain cancer patients turn into vegetables and wither away slowly, costing their families money, time, and emotional trauma. If Galt had cooperated with the enemy, a brutal dictatorship would have benefited from his knowledge, causing further untold deaths and destruction around the country. These sorts of things happen when one's purpose is survival at any price. This is why value should not be severed from purpose. If your ultimate value is survival at any price, then your ultimate purpose will be to do whatever it takes to survive, even if that means raping a hundred women, or worse.

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4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Instead, can you tell me why it would be better for me to die, rather than comply with those orders [to rape a hundred women]?

You say that we should not expect you to die for the sake of these women. So why should they be raped for the sake of your survival? Does your moral oath only work one way? You won't live for the sake of others, but you expect others to live for the sake of you? Yes, a gun is pointed to your head. But is that the women's fault?

Be a man and die like one.

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6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

You say that it would be "a complete betrayal of his chosen purpose in life" and a "full rejection of his moral code." All right. In what way would this be a rejection of his moral code? Isn't his moral code meant to serve his "ultimate value," which is his own life? And come to that, Galt would be alive, wouldn't he? He would literally have taken action for self-preservation, which (per Kelley, among others) is the criterion for moral action. So what's the problem?

Galt's moral code does not severe biology from psychology. His ethics is not based on mere survival or self-preservation. It's based on reason. Galt says that:

Quote

Man has a single basic choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue. Moral perfection is an unbreached rationality--not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute.

Whether you agree with him or not, Galt reasoned that his life would not be worth living without Dagny. So, abandoning her in the end would have betrayed the entire moral code of values that he built up in pursuit of that ultimate joy. He would have thoroughly breached his own reasoning, his own mind.

You are free to tell Galt what his reasoning should have been. But keep in mind that man has free will and chooses his own values. Galt would rather die than betray his own rational mind. And that's his right.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

By "doing what is best for the self" do you mean "surviving"?

Does it seem likely? I've been arguing against holding "life as the standard of value" as meaning mere survival. Has that been unclear?

But I do believe that morality is about "doing what is best for the self," yes, only my view of this -- and "life as the standard of value" -- is more expansive than mere survival. It takes "experience" into account.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Because you have proposed that you might be willing to rape a hundred women in order to "live to fight another day." So, I'm wondering what wouldn't you do under duress in order to keep your life? Would you murder your entire innocent family?

What I would or wouldn't do depends upon the context of the situation. And moreover, it depends upon how I understand "life as the standard of value." My own understanding, again, relates to this experience thing.

So I can tell you that I would not expect to find any situation in which I would be willing to murder my family, for instance. But rather than go into that whole line of argument fresh here, perhaps you would be willing to peruse this fairly recent thread where I'd discussed it at some length?

(Though "fairly recent" as I say, I'm curious as to whether there is any contradiction between my arguments there, and my current burgeoning attempt to relate those kinds of arguments to my ethical philosophy more generally. I haven't taken the time to review it yet -- so maybe you'll find something worth investigating.)

Anyhow, here is my first paragraph from my first post in that thread, to give you a sample of the thrust of my argument along these lines:

On 1/10/2016 at 8:34 AM, DonAthos said:

If I were in a situation where I judged that I had to murder my wife to allow myself to survive, I wouldn't choose to do it. You would describe that as "stupid," but to me, I would look upon "survival" thereafter as a continual punishment. So no thanks to that.

Perhaps you can already see how I relate this to "experience"...? And though I had hoped that you would reach a similar conclusion yourself, perhaps it gives you a small window on to how I would answer the question of why Galt would see his life as "worthless," if he survived at the cost of Dagny's murder.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Be a man and die like one.

I recognize that this is meant to sound pithy or punchy or something, but...

1) I don't think it's a great look for "rational selfishness" or a moral philosophy or Objectivism. I would associate the morality of the Japanese military circa WWII, for instance, with "be a man and die like one"; not Rand's philosophy, which is meant to teach a man how to live, and live happily.

2) I think it reveals that you cannot do what I had charged you to do: to tell me why it would be "better for me to die, rather than comply with those orders [to rape a hundred women--with a gun pointed at my head]?"

Your reply is "because it would maintain the integrity of my moral system." And because "I've made an oath." And because "it's not the women's fault." But none of that tells me why it would be better for me to choose to die. Why should I prefer oblivion to rejecting my moral system, or renouncing my oath, or being the agent of harm against others? How is that oblivion better for me?

Because, insofar as I understand what you've said till now, you hold that suicide cannot be "for the self"; i.e. that it cannot be better for me to choose to die.

But I believe in moral suicide because I believe that it can be better for the self to choose to die rather than live, in some (rare) circumstances. And I account this to "experience," and further believe that until you understand my meaning, and relate it to Galt, et al., that you will not have a full understanding of this issue.

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15 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Does it seem likely? I've been arguing against holding "life as the standard of value" as meaning mere survival. Has that been unclear?

Yes. Because it seems like the above statement contradicts the one below.

Quote

He would literally have taken action for self-preservation, which (per Kelley, among others) is the criterion for moral action.

And frankly if you're getting your moral guidance from David Kelley, then it's unlikely we will agree.

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1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

Why should I prefer oblivion to rejecting my moral system, or renouncing my oath, or being the agent of harm against others? How is that oblivion better for me?

Perhaps I haven't given you a satisfactory answer because only you know what is better for you. It's your life, not mine. You have to decide what you're willing to die for. If you'd die for your family, that's a good start.

Oblivion obviously is not better for you, out of context. But it's apparently better than killing your family, while not better than rejecting your moral system. Which seems like a problem to me, since killing your family would represent a rejection of your moral system, or at least being the agent of harm against others. Thus, why not kill your family? Would that be primarily because of the emotional attachment to them?

Edited by MisterSwig

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8 hours ago, DonAthos said:

It is further true that I hold that "experience" (which, as I'm using it, primarily relates to the various kinds of pleasures and pains, both physical and emotional, one takes in life) does not exist "independent of consciousness." And even further that I hold that "value" does not exist independent of this "experience."

So, without consciousness there is no experience, and without experience there is no value. Thus, no consciousness, no value.

If no A, then no B.

If no B, then no C.

Therefore, if no A, then no C.

Yet value is not dependent on consciousness. It's dependent on existence. The sensation or emotion exists first as a fact of reality, and that's how you can then experience it via consciousness, and further evaluate it via reason as a value or disvalue.

No existence, no value.

While it's true that consciousness permits our awareness of sensations and emotions, it's not what makes them a fact or a value.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Yes. Because it seems like the above statement contradicts the one below.

And frankly if you're getting your moral guidance from David Kelley, then it's unlikely we will agree.

Because I reference David Kelley's views, that does not mean that I agree with them or "get moral guidance" from him...

Yes -- this is the point at which I need to take a step back from this discussion.

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15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Yes -- this is the point at which I need to take a step back from this discussion.

All right. It is a new year. Let's see if we can do a better job of this in 2017.

17 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Yes. Because it seems like the above statement contradicts the one below.

And frankly if you're getting your moral guidance from David Kelley, then it's unlikely we will agree.

I found this quite discouraging, for a number of reasons -- to the point where it makes me question the time and effort I'm putting into this discussion.

But perhaps you missed it, for instance, when I'd introduced Kelley's views (formally), writing:

On 12/30/2016 at 8:39 AM, DonAthos said:

Again, I sincerely believe that there is that "life-as-survival" thing going on here. I'll go further and say that it is a confusion that infects a fair amount of Objectivist thought, as I believe that it is a common misread/misunderstanding of Rand. (It is further possible that Rand was not, herself, entirely clear on this subject.) I've referred to it elsewhere, but here is David Kelley and his Logical Structure of Objectivism, wherein he writes:

Quote

Although Ayn Rand made it clear that she meant her morality to ensure a rich, fully human life, it is the bare fundamental alternative of survival versus death that stands at the root of all values.

Several admirers of Rand’s approach to ethics have debated the sense in which survival can serve the most basic criterion of ethics. Here we have argued that survival is the literal alternative of life versus death, existence versus nonexistence.

I think this is a mistaken view, I believe it to be widespread (and to inform positions we might not even always be aware of, apart from careful analysis), and I expect that it will probably take decades more for Objectivists to work through this subject completely. (Just as I believe that the mind/body split continues to infect much thought, and etc. Being aware of these sorts of issues does not make us immune from them.)

So okay. We'll take another tentative step forward. But if you could read such posts as I write in the thread (and actually, probably, the posts other people write as well), and then retain the ongoing context of the discussion as we go forward (so, for instance, if I refer to Kelley again I do not have to post a disclaimer that I am not signaling my personal agreement -- for your benefit), that would help to facilitate the discussion and reduce potentially disruptive misunderstandings.

Thanks!

16 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Perhaps I haven't given you a satisfactory answer because only you know what is better for you. It's your life, not mine. You have to decide what you're willing to die for. If you'd die for your family, that's a good start.

But we're trying to get to the root of "value," here. I alone know what is better for me? I have to decide? Certainly. On what basis? When you say "if I'd die for my family, that's a good start," what standard are you appealing to to decide that such a start is indeed "good"? How do you know that's not a bad start; how do you know it would not be a mistake for me to die for my family?

Clearly you're not relying upon David Kelley's conception of "life as the standard of value," which means "survival" (and just to clarify, though I am referring to his writing, I do not agree with this particular viewpoint, let alone take "moral guidance" from him generally; this is something [some] people have the ability to do). I know that you're not relying upon Kelley's argument (with which I do not agree) because you're referring to situations in which I would choose to kill myself; and if my standard of value is, as Kelley (with whom I do not agree) writes, "the literal alternative of life versus death," then such an ethics would never counsel me to take my own life.

16 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Oblivion obviously is not better for you, out of context. But it's apparently better than killing your family, while not better than rejecting your moral system.

Apparently!

But in order to understand why oblivion would be better for me than killing my family, you would have to be willing to explore my idea of what "life" means in "life as the standard of value," which is "life-as-experience." (Contra Kelley, whose ideas on the subject I do not share.)

And in point of fact, I would not reject my moral system, in that case or any other; in such a case, committing suicide would correspond to my moral system. The moral system(s) I reject are Kelley's which holds survival above all (and whose moral system I reject), and all others who interpret Rand to have the same meaning (whether they are aware of it or not), and also your call for a "greater good."

But as I have tried to explain the moral system I advocate (which is really my understanding of the Objectivist Ethics, though it stands in opposition to David Kelley's understanding of the same), your replies consistently dance around the central issues, showing no apparent interest in exploring or understanding what I'm trying to describe. Instead you seek to dismiss it by relating it to "primacy of consciousness," which is wholly in error, and demonstrates that you do not yet understand my meaning.

For instance, when you write this--

21 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Whether you agree with him or not, Galt reasoned that his life would not be worth living without Dagny.

--you practically evade the whole question. Yes, Galt reasons that his life would not be worth living without Dagny -- but how??? What is his process of reasoning here? What does it entail? How might we reason likewise, in similar circumstances? You say "whether I agree with him or not," but what is the basis upon which I would agree or disagree?

Hint: my answer to this question is that it involves the experience of life Galt imagines for himself, when he projects living a life where he has abandoned Dagny to her death.

I expect that any attempt to "answer" the question without reference to that experience will be similarly evasive and unsatisfactory.

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1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

Yes, Galt reasons that his life would not be worth living without Dagny -- but how??? What is his process of reasoning here? What does it entail? How might we reason likewise, in similar circumstances? You say "whether I agree with him or not," but what is the basis upon which I would agree or disagree?

I tried addressing this in an earlier post.

Quote

Galt would fight to his last breath to save Dagny. He would never abandon her. Why? Because he wanted Dagny in the worst way possible. He was prepared to die for her. Why was he prepared to die for her? Because she was the woman. She was his ideal woman. He devoted his life to winning her from the clutches of the enemy. To drop that pursuit in the end, to suddenly abandon her to the enemy's murderous will, this would be unimaginably unforgivable. It would be a complete betrayal of his chosen purpose in life. A full rejection of his moral code.

To add to that, clearly Galt was in love. He saw qualities in Dagny that he desired for his own romantic life. He therefore devoted himself to gaining her love. When she reciprocated, she became the most important thing in his life. Galt's life went from existing as Galt to existing as Galt with Dagny as his lover.

A man's life is a process. It includes all his values, including other people, especially loved ones, which he acts to gain or keep. It's the entire context of a moral life that one lives. Because a man's body and mind are integrated, he requires both biological and psychological values. Such values literally keep him healthy and rational. They make up his life process, his self-sustaining actions.

Galt sees girl. Galt thinks about girl. Galt desires girl. Galt pursues girl. Galt gets girl. Galt keeps girl.

That is what I mean by Galt's life. It is a moral life comprising of his actions over time. It is a process aimed toward a goal or purpose. To conclude the above with "Galt abandons girl to save his own life" would be a terrible contradiction. His life is about gaining and keeping the girl, not abandoning her. It would represent the betrayal of purpose and breach of rationality that I described before.

Does that make more sense? 

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5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Hint: my answer to this question [about Galt's reasoning] is that it involves the experience of life Galt imagines for himself, when he projects living a life where he has abandoned Dagny to her death.

I would argue that Galt cannot imagine what his post-Dagny experience of life would be until he first remembers what she means to him. It's the relationship between memory and imagination.

Imagination relies upon memory. So Galt's motivation for action must be primarily grounded in his evaluation of remembered facts about Dagny. Only then can he project what life might be like without her. Obviously his imagination plays a part, but that part is to support or reject his evaluation of the facts.

Edited by MisterSwig

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16 hours ago, MisterSwig said:
20 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Yes, Galt reasons that his life would not be worth living without Dagny -- but how??? What is his process of reasoning here? What does it entail? How might we reason likewise, in similar circumstances? You say "whether I agree with him or not," but what is the basis upon which I would agree or disagree?

I tried addressing this in an earlier post.

On 12/30/2016 at 1:40 PM, MisterSwig said:

Galt would fight to his last breath to save Dagny. He would never abandon her. Why? Because he wanted Dagny in the worst way possible. He was prepared to die for her. Why was he prepared to die for her? Because she was the woman. She was his ideal woman. He devoted his life to winning her from the clutches of the enemy. To drop that pursuit in the end, to suddenly abandon her to the enemy's murderous will, this would be unimaginably unforgivable. It would be a complete betrayal of his chosen purpose in life. A full rejection of his moral code.

At long last, if we have put behind us issues of "primacy of consciousness" and whether Galt could survive his ordeal in context, and etc., let us really get into the meat of this. (As I do, in order to convey my ideas meaningfully, I will have to draw an extended comparison against "survival ethics"; please keep in mind to the best of your ability, as I do, that this does not mean that I agree with survival ethics or endorse any given proponent, such as David Kelley, who I will again reference presently; but referencing a person or position does not necessarily entail agreement. Savvy?)

To nearly every statement you make, I could append "--so what?"

"[Dagny] was the woman. She was [Galt's] ideal woman." --so what?
"He devoted his life to winning her from the clutches of the enemy." --so what?
"...to suddenly abandon her to the enemy's murderous will...[would be] a complete betrayal of his chosen purpose in life." -- so what?

If we were to take David Kelley at his word, none of this should matter when Galt's very life is on the line, because Kelley asserts that it is "the bare fundamental alternative of survival versus death that stands at the root of all values." Thus no thing can be "of value" when that thing entails the individual's death. It is only insofar as some thing contributes to survival (and more specifically still: the individual's survival) that can make that something valuable, in reason, to that individual.

Strictly speaking, if this is "the Objectivist Ethics" (as Kelley claims it to be), and if Galt adheres to or exemplifies such Ethics (as I assume for the sake of argument, though this is not necessarily so), then abandoning Dagny to save his own skin would not be "a full rejection of his moral code," but a demonstration of his moral code.

So, in theory, Galt should be able to say to himself, following his ordeal... "Yes, Dagny was my ideal woman. I had devoted my life to winning her from the clutches of the enemy, and I betrayed all that, abandoning her to the enemy's murderous will...

"But at least I'm alive. So even though what I had to do was awful, I made the right decision."

At such a point, in order to assess Galt's claim -- and the ethics that has led him to it -- we must ask, is it so? Has he made the right decision? (Not for "the greater good," but for himself.) If "survival versus death stands at the root of all values," then the answer is "yes." In order to answer "no," we must necessarily conclude that something other than survival (or other than survival alone) must stand at the root of all values, and we must try to identify what that "something other" is. I will answer that question for myself in a moment, and attempt to identify the "something other," but let me say initially that I think one phrase you use points to my answer, when you describe Galt's decision as "unimaginably unforgivable."

For who do we imagine would not be able to forgive Galt? Hank Rearden? DonAthos? MisterSwig? Ayn Rand? All of those may well be true (I would not forgive Galt for abandoning Dagny), but again, what do they matter in the face of a survival ethos? Galt was not acting to secure our blessing, after all, but to secure his own existence -- and in that, he succeeded. No, the only person whose opinion and forgiveness truly matter to John Galt must be... John Galt's. And I do not believe that he would be able to forgive himself.

For while I trust that Galt could say to himself "...even though what I had to do was awful, I made the right decision," I do not believe he could do so honestly. Or if honestly, then honestly mistaken. And insofar as he continues to be rational and honest with himself, he would come to understand the nature of his error over time and through further experience.

For knowing that his very survival was made possible by irrevocably abandoning the thing he loved most in the world, what joy could he take in his life afterwards? What happiness would be left for him to attain?

I had asked (more than once) the following questions:

Quote

Why shouldn't Galt be able to discover other values which allow him "to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy" his own life, without Dagny? Could he not eat? Could he not find shelter? Could he not continue to invent or find other employment? Would it be indecorous to suppose that he could even find romantic love in another person? Don't all of these things have worth? Why or why not?

Since you did not answer them, either time, I shall now attempt to answer them myself.

Having abandoned Dagny, Galt could eat. He could find shelter. He could continue to work. He might even be able to find something like love (he would be able to have a relationship of some kind, in any event). But what pleasures would he take in them? By "pleasures," I mean primarily of the emotional or cognitive or spiritual kind, yet even so, while good food could still taste good to Galt, I would expect (through my own experience, and what I've learned of others') that such pleasures would be strangely muted. Such bodily pleasures might even trigger a sense of guilt, and thus could not be enjoyed in their full measure -- if at all.

Imagine the scenario of Galt meeting another woman that he could possibly love (in other circumstances, at the very least); imagine the thoughts and the feelings that he might have in such an event -- how he would remember what Dagny meant to him, and then, hard upon, remember his own decision and her fate. How close would he allow anyone else he came to value to get to him? And to what extent would he allow himself to love again?

I expect that a life that previously had been characterized by much that I would describe as "positive" -- joys, pleasures, happiness -- would now be fundamentally characterized by the "negative." I could imagine Galt suffering from depression. Perhaps taking to drink, to help him assuage his guilt -- his lack of forgiveness for himself. His drive to work, to invent, to produce... would ebb away, and he might suffer all of the attendant "evils" of poverty and self-neglect. If he did not later decide on a direct suicide (albeit a far less "heroic" suicide than what was available to him earlier), I would not be entirely surprised to see him wither away, like Heathcliff on the moors. What good would eating do Galt anyways?

From the standpoint of a survival ethic, we should say that all of these things (eating, finding shelter, working, etc.) have worth -- they are valuable because they contribute to survival. But let us look again at Rand's full phrasing to explicate "life as the standard of value":

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Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

"Survival" only captures some of that sense: the achievement and maintenance of life. But "fulfill and enjoy"? That's something else. That's our "something other." That's something more.

In fact, we seek to "achieve and maintain" life because it can be enjoyed. (This is why Rand describes happiness as "one's highest purpose": we do not exist for the sake of existence; we exist for the sake of our enjoyment of existence.) But this does not mean that life can be enjoyed in every conceivable circumstance. The existence or maintenance of life allows for it to be enjoyed, but does not guarantee it.

Rather, having knowingly abandoned Dagny to her death, Galt will live a life that he cannot, on the whole, enjoy. It will not be characterized by value, but by disvalue.

And this, I submit to you, is the calculation that Galt makes, in reason, when he projects forward to examine the potential consequences of his decisions (or "imagines," which yes, is based on what he knows, based on facts, based on existence -- which precedes consciousness). This is what Galt means that his life would be "worthless" -- or in his terms, that there would be "no values" for him to seek.

He would continue to exist, yes, and act according to Kelley's understanding of the Objectivist Ethics, yes, but it would be a pointless existence at best, being devoid of enjoyment -- or worse still, and much more probably, it would be a torturous existence, being filled with pains both physical and emotional. This is to say that it is not survival alone which is the good, but it is our experience of life, insofar as life can either be enjoyed or suffered; not "life-as-survival" but "life-as-experience," which is the true standard of value.

This is why death would be preferable in such a situation (and why Galt would be willing to commit suicide), because, contrary to what many people have said, in this thread and the other, a torturous existence is not (and does not allow for) "the good life." It is rather to be avoided.

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Rather, having knowingly abandoned Dagny to her death, Galt will live a life that he cannot, on the whole, enjoy. It will not be characterized by value, but by disvalue.

And this, I submit to you, is the calculation that Galt makes, in reason, when he projects forward to examine the potential consequences of his decisions (or "imagines," which yes, is based on what he knows, based on facts, based on existence -- which precedes consciousness).

So do we disagree on Galt's primary motivation for action?

I'm saying that he acts based on an evaluation of historical and present information of which he is aware or recalls through memory. His evaluation may or may not take into account projected, or imagined, consequences of his action, as these projections would necessarily depend upon his capacity for and confidence in particular imaginations.

On the other hand, I think that you're saying he acts primarily based on the projected, or imagined, consequences of the action.

Remember that Galt first says that he would kill himself to stop his captors from threatening Dagny. Only subsequently does he project what life would be like if he didn't kill himself. Perhaps Rand could have made his reasoning process more explicit. But if we go by the order and substance of his statements alone, the primary purpose of his suicide would have been to save Dagny. Sparing himself a miserable life is literally an afterthought.

Edited by MisterSwig

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

So do we disagree on Galt's primary motivation for action?

I'm saying that he acts based on an evaluation of historical and present information of which he is aware or recalls through memory. His evaluation may or may not take into account projected, or imagined, consequences of his action, as these projections would necessarily depend upon his capacity for and confidence in particular imaginations.

On the other hand, I think that you're saying he acts primarily based on the projected, or imagined, consequences of the action.

I think there's no meaningful difference between "an evaluation of historical and present information" versus "the projected, or imagined, consequences" as pertains motivation for some given action.

How do we normally make choices? If you're hungry, and you eat a hamburger -- is it not accounting to "the projected, or imagined, consequences of the action" of eating a hamburger? (In that you expect it will taste good, satisfy your hunger, give you vital nutrition, and in general work to "achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy" your life.)

You are able to project such consequences due to your evaluation of historical/present information (your knowledge of yourself as an entity which requires nutrition; your knowledge of the hamburger as a source of said nutrition; and etc.); and it is for the sake of such projection -- and subsequent decision-making -- that there was value in your initial evaluation.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Remember that Galt first says that he would kill himself to stop his captors from threatening Dagny. Only subsequently does he project what life would be like if he didn't kill himself. Perhaps Rand could have made his reasoning process more explicit. But if we go by the order and substance of his statements alone, the primary purpose of his suicide would have been to save Dagny. Sparing himself a miserable life is literally an afterthought.

I do not believe that Galt is presenting "afterthoughts"; I believe that he is providing his rationale.

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