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DonAthos

Pleasure and Value

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7 hours ago, DonAthos said:

(Too fried? What is "too fried"? LOL)

Deep fried and then some. :) The Platonic Fried Chicken.

7 hours ago, DonAthos said:

For all of that, I do not like the pain, in itself. Do I like going to the dentist? Yes. Because I like what going to the dentist does for my life (in its full sense, inclusive of pleasure).

Well, I'm thinking that pain and pleasure can also be "bad pleasure" and "good pain". They are just as sensible such that good pains are pleasurable and bad pleasures are painful. Or in other words, pain the stimulus is better understood as discomfort yet desirable in some instances. That could be part of a pleasurable state of mind, and then pain itself in that case is something you like. So then the dentist pain, while uncomfortable, is something you'd like because feeling it -means- you'll be healthier. 

7 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Or any concept of "the good" which does -- which has nothing to do with the experience of pleasure (and I mean as understood and applied, with respect to ethical reasoning, not simply in terms of origin) -- is going to be a flawed concept.

I didn't say that, I mean that pleasure would end up as one measurement of many, and non-essential. The concept "pleasure" helps attain the concept "ethics", then loses its weight as a standard. This says nothing about if a particular pain or pleasure is good or bad. "Mere pleasures" are often underrated as far as I see, and that's for people in general, not just Objectivist-ish people. Eating chocolate, watching Seinfeld, sex, these seem like mere pleasures, no reason to do them other than pleasurable/enjoyable sensation. If pleasure was your ladder, I'm saying it will remain as one way to measure value. But, the child's earlier conception of good/bad will be quite new after climbing up. 

It may be worth noting that Nietzsche had an idea that historically, guilt sprang from pain and fear of pain - as far as people often did good out of feeling they owed something to someone else. "Debere" means "ought" and "owe" in Latin, that's how we get the word "debt". They would do so from fearing physical retaliation. Even more, pain tends to make memory of an event stronger, today we know this is one reason a person adopts learned helplessness - pain is remembered so well, some people stop trying to overcome it later. So the feeling of guilt grew into feeling one owed a singular deity, as if abstracting away particular people that enforce those debts. It's easy to see Christianity developing from worrying about pain, and over-valuing and glamorizing pain. If we followed a path of developing morality starting at pleasure, with pleasure as an early indicator of good as Rand thought, then we still get somewhere very different. Even if it isn't essential later.

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

:) The Platonic Fried Chicken.

I cannot tell you how much of my youth was spent searching for the ideal breast and thigh...

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Well, I'm thinking that pain and pleasure can also be "bad pleasure" and "good pain".

I don't like it, not one bit.

I mean, there is a sense in what you're saying, but if we're trying to suss out the reality of pleasure and pain and their relationship to ethics, then I want to be very clear about these matters. "Bad pleasure" and "good pain" is not talking about the sensations in themselves, but a situation which incorporates some element of pleasure/pain and a whole lot of other context.

If we mean to isolate pleasure and pain for examination -- and I would argue in the sense that Rand intends, saying that this is the means by which man first evaluates, discovers "value," and becomes aware of "good or evil" -- then pleasure is quite literally "the good" and pain "evil."

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

They are just as sensible such that good pains are pleasurable and bad pleasures are painful. Or in other words, pain the stimulus is better understood as discomfort yet desirable in some instances. That could be part of a pleasurable state of mind, and then pain itself in that case is something you like. So then the dentist pain, while uncomfortable, is something you'd like because feeling it -means- you'll be healthier.

"Good pains," such as you mean, are not pleasurable qua sensation. (Pleasure may be taken emotionally/cognitively, depending on circumstance.) And the same for "bad pleasures," which are not painful qua sensation. (If they were, we would have a lot less to worry about in life.)

A person may reasonably desire some painful experience for the benefit he knows it will confer him, or eschew a pleasurable experience for the same reason -- but we know this, and we know that we agree about this. It doesn't help anything, but only serves to confuse the central issues of this thread, to therefore argue that "pleasure can be painful" and vice-versa.

The dentist pain (which doesn't need "uncomfortable," or etc.; "pain" is self-descriptive) is something you'd "like" so long as it must be borne for the sake of being healthier; if the dentistry, and all benefits thereto, was available without that accompanying pain, we would not then say, "Oh, but dentist pain is a 'good pain' -- one I've always liked feeling. I don't want to get rid of it!"

No. The pain in itself is bad, and if the benefits of dentistry could be had without that pain, all else being equal, that would accordingly be the rational and moral choice.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I didn't say that, I mean that pleasure would end up as one measurement of many, and non-essential. The concept "pleasure" helps attain the concept "ethics", then loses its weight as a standard. This says nothing about if a particular pain or pleasure is good or bad.

Maybe it's for want of not reading the author you'd cited, but I'm not tracking this point about ladders and such. Can you give some concrete examples to help elucidate your meaning?

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

If we followed a path of developing morality starting at pleasure, with pleasure as an early indicator of good as Rand thought, then we still get somewhere very different. Even if it isn't essential later.

With respect to whether or not pleasure remains "essential" to value, morality and the good (though I should acknowledge here that, while I have started with "physical pleasure" for the sake of both simplicity and centrality, really my thesis eventually means to expand to all kinds of pleasure, inclusive of emotional, cognitive and spiritual pleasures), what do you make of the quote I'd provided in the OP, wherein Rand wrote:

Quote

The form in which man experiences the reality of his values is pleasure . . . . A chronic lack of pleasure, of any enjoyable, rewarding or stimulating experiences, produces a slow, gradual, day-by-day erosion of man’s emotional vitality, which he may ignore or repress, but which is recorded by the relentless computer of his subconscious mechanism that registers an ebbing flow, then a trickle, then a few last drops of fuel—until the day when his inner motor stops and he wonders desperately why he has no desire to go on, unable to find any definable cause of his hopeless, chronic sense of exhaustion.

This sounds essential to me. It is not alone that we discover value by way of pleasure, but that our ongoing ability to value (let alone enjoy existence) depends on continuing to achieve pleasure!

And while Rand uses the term "fuel" here, which conjures the notion that these experiences may be valued for the sake of survival, again I say no. I do not wish for pleasures so that I may live; I wish to live so that I may continue to enjoy the multitude of the world's pleasures, physical and otherwise, which taught me to value in the first place.

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I agree it does not make sense to talk of "pain that is pleasurable" or "pleasure that is painful". It is also true that the pain necessary within something that's good for us is not good in and of itself. Similarly, a pleasure that is part of an experience that is bad for us is not good in and of itself. 

This also illustrates that "good" is very different from "pleasurable". Pleasure is the "felt good" so to speak, but feelings can deceive. Pleasure is also in the moment, or at least of shorter contempt than "the good". If the good is the area under the curve, pleasure is the height at any particular point.

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1 hour ago, softwareNerd said:

I agree it does not make sense to talk of "pain that is pleasurable" or "pleasure that is painful". It is also true that the pain necessary within something that's good for us is not good in and of itself.

I agree that this is true.

Quote

Similarly, a pleasure that is part of an experience that is bad for us is not good in and of itself.

Here I disagree. The pleasure component, viewed in isolation ("in and of itself"), is good. If it were not, we could have no experience of the good at all. Pleasure and pain are, by nature, charged with respect to value. They are both "physical sensations" or, as Eiuol likes to put it, "stimuli," and the thing that both characterizes and differentiates them is that one is positive (or good) and one is negative (or evil/bad). This charge does not depend upon what we desire, or decide, or even upon the larger context in which we encounter these sensations, but upon our own nature and the reality of what these sensations cause us to experience.

No situation in reality will be of pure pleasure (or pure pain), and thus no situation can be evaluated without respect to the full context in which we will be able to say that the situation, on the whole, is either good or bad. But we still can recognize the moral character of pure pleasure and pure pain in the abstract -- this is how we learn of "good" and "evil."

Quote

This also illustrates that "good" is very different from "pleasurable".

"Good" and "pleasurable" are different words representing different concepts: pleasure is a physical sensation and good is a moral evaluation. So too are "good" and "life" different words representing different concepts. But that does not mean that there is no specific relationship either between "good" and "life," or between "good" and "pleasure."

For instance: "the good is not possible without life." This is true.

And: "the good is not possible without pleasure." This is also true.

I also mean to argue that the way to assess whether some action/value is "good" is with respect to maximizing one's experience of pleasures (both physical and non-physical -- most importantly including happiness) over the course of one's life -- that this, and neither "survival" nor "flourishing," is the true way to interpret "life as the standard of value." If I am correct, then this would be another relationship between pleasure and the good.

Quote

Pleasure is the "felt good" so to speak, but feelings can deceive.

Certainly, pleasure is the "felt good." And that "felt good" is the source of our very conception of good, our ability to value, and our ability to evaluate; that is to say, "felt good" is the source of our every other type of good. (And speaking more broadly, there is no kind of good which is not "felt," either in terms of sensation, which is physical pleasure, or emotion, which is non-physical pleasure. It remains to connect physical pleasure to non-physical pleasure, which I have not yet undertaken, but mean to in the near-ish future.)

Neither pleasure nor pain can "deceive." We may experience pleasure and mistakenly conclude that whatever experience that caused the pleasure is, on the whole, good. (Just as the child may mistakenly conclude that the pain of the dentist's drill means the dentist ought be avoided.) But the experience of pleasure (or pain) does not deceive us -- it is what it is.

There is an analogy to draw here, I suspect, with the validity of the senses.

1 hour ago, softwareNerd said:

Pleasure is also in the moment, or at least of shorter contempt than "the good". If the good is the area under the curve, pleasure is the height at any particular point.

As we move from physical pleasures to non-physical pleasures, such as joy or happiness, we encounter pleasures with greater longevity. It is my project, eventually, to demonstrate that all of the area under the curve is sensibly a form of pleasure, and also sourced in (and reliant upon) our capacity for physical pleasure.

Edited by DonAthos

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25 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

It is my project, eventually, to demonstrate that all of the area under the curve is sensibly a form of pleasure, and also sourced in (and reliant upon) our capacity for physical pleasure.

Sure, if you want to use the terms that way, it's fine, but what's the point? I mean: let's say all the area under the curve is pleasure. What are the implications for action?

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10 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Sure, if you want to use the terms that way, it's fine, but what's the point? I mean: let's say all the area under the curve is pleasure. What are the implications for action?

Years ago in the course of a contentious discussion -- and part of what sparked me towards this series of thoughts -- a forum member said, "I dislike decisions motivated by pleasure instead of an objective standard of values."

The point of using the terms that way is 1) I think my usage is justified by the facts, and 2) I would like to elucidate the actual relationship between "pleasure" and "an objective standard of values."

Regarding "implications for action," I cannot guarantee that I could identify them all, or yet understand every (important) implication of what I'm discussing; hopefully this thread, and further conversation, will help in that effort. But here's what I believe, at present:

I believe that the kinds of confusions expressed in that "contentious discussion" referenced above, and also about ice cream (i.e. whether it is moral to eat ice cream) linked earlier in this thread, are fairly common in Objectivist discourse and ethical reasoning, because if people believe that their actions must be motivated by "life as the standard of value," and if they mistake what "life" means in that phrase (as "survival," for instance), then they will be hard-pressed to justify decisions such as eating ice cream (or cheesecake).

Yet I believe that if we understand (as we ought) that the means by which we "enjoy" life is via pleasure, and if we understand (as we ought) that "life as the standard of value" includes that we enjoy our lives, then, in context, we will be able to understand that an occasional slice of cheesecake is justified for the sake of the pleasure it provides. It will clear up the confusion of Objectivists who wonder whether they can, in reason, link eating a particular scoop of ice cream to their long-term chances for survival, and it will hopefully inform the thinking of those Objectivists who are otherwise skeptical of a pursuit of pleasure, in demonstrating that acting for the sake of some experience of pleasure is not, in itself, necessarily either "hedonistic" or immoral.

It will help to fulfill Galt's observation that the purpose of morality is to teach you "to enjoy yourself and live" -- a purpose inadequately addressed by the interpretation of "life" in "life as the standard of value" as "survival" alone.

What is more, the relationship between pleasure and value I mean to argue for will help to explore and explain the topic of "justifiable suicide" that recently launched multiple threads on this very forum, with prominent forum members arguing that suicide is always immoral. (Those threads were the specific impetus for me to create this thread.) It is only by understanding the role of pleasure (and with respect to suicide, also pain) to one's enjoyment of, or "experience" of, life, that one can reach Peikoff's understanding that sometimes suicide is "justified."

In short, the implications for action are that people will be more cognizant of the role of pleasure and pain in their ethical reasoning. This will mean that when a loved one is dying from some awful disease, their Objectivist relatives will not tell them that an assisted suicide is necessarily immoral -- but will be more supportive, in demonstrating understanding that, yes, life is meant to be enjoyed, and absent that, survival itself is not necessarily of value. Also, I would expect somewhat more cheesecake to be eaten, and somewhat less guilt to be experienced for it.

In short short, the point is: more enjoyment, less suffering.

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6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

...  a forum member said, "I dislike decisions motivated by pleasure instead of an objective standard of values."

The pleasure and pain that we experience at points in time have immediate causes. These causes are not perfectly independent causes. They have causal links between them.

Suppose C1, C2, C3, C4...are various immediate causes of pain/pleasure P1, P2, P3, P4. Also, suppose C1 and C2 have a very tight causal relationship, where there is no way to enact one without the other. Finally, suppose P1 is positive and P2 is negative. 

Action that enacts cause C1 cannot be viewed in isolation, because (we assume) it implies C2. Consequently, though we can analyze P1 and P2 in isolation, it makes sense to analyse them as a sum. 

When a rational person says what you've quoted, they're probably saying that they dislike making decisions base on P1 and P2 in isolation. They take the causal-linkages into account as well. 

(Other's may have an irrational, stoic or ascetic approach, but rational folk can say what you're quoted and be perfectly right.)

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2 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

(Other's may have an irrational, stoic or ascetic approach, but rational folk can say what you're quoted and be perfectly right.)

I didn't say that a rational person couldn't. (Though in this case, it happens that the quote does not source from a rational person -- or at least, it was not a person acting in a reasonable fashion at the time; rather, it was an expression of contempt for pleasure as a source of motivation, as such. But it is probably best not to try to recreate an entire other thread within this thread, lest such recursion collapse space-time itself.)

Indeed, I consider myself a rational person and I've said as much as the "rational version" of this quote several times over the course of this thread, fully taking such "causal links" into account. The example of a child who avoids the dentist chair due to the pain he expects is one such example; we could say of it that the child ought not be motivated by dislike of pain, but an objective standard of values.

Yet, as in my discussion with Eiuol, if the benefits of dentistry were available (let us say through Dentist Two) without the pain associated with Dentist One -- all else being equal -- it would be perfectly sensible to be motivated by dislike of pain to go with Dentist Two. Such a decision would be consonant with "an objective standard of values" -- which is part and parcel to everything I'm arguing in this thread.

But apart from that quote, what did you make of my attempt to answer the questions you'd posed? You'd asked, in part, what the implications for action might be in adopting my understanding -- and I tried to demonstrate some. What did you make of that?

Edited by DonAthos

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22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

"Bad pleasure" and "good pain" is not talking about the sensations in themselves, but a situation which incorporates some element of pleasure/pain and a whole lot of other context.

This is true, it wouldn't be talking about sensations in themselves as good, or to characterize the sensation of pain AS pleasure. If anything to conflate pleasure and pain at all leads to the life-denying and pleasure-denying parts of Christianity. To be an ascetic is to see pleasure a platonic path to sin; sensations in themselves acquire value, either negative or positive. I recall some saint, I forget who, that thought torture was good for the receiver, so pain in itself was good. Not interpretation of pain, but the stimuli. Rand doesn't analyze this twisted logic of a devout Christian ascetic - except to call it anti-life. Nietzsche tried to analyze deeper motivations. He'd be worth reading, even if you disagreed with him.

I would say that neither pain nor pleasure are good or bad stimuli. Red isn't a bad stimuli, purple isn't a good stimuli. A child may find that pleasure is nice, therefore good, but as an adult, the child needs to grasp "good for what?" Then pain/pleasure ceases to be an essential. It becomes possible that a pain IS good, or that a pleasure IS bad. Stimuli provide information but lack a value.

22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Maybe it's for want of not reading the author you'd cited, but I'm not tracking this point about ladders and such. Can you give some concrete examples to help elucidate your meaning?

Ok.

Take you tracing how one starts with pleasure to develop a theory of ethics. This is a starting point. There are whiskers on kitten, bee stings, dog bites, raindrops on roses. These aren't complex, and the way a kid grapples with ethics. As adults, we know there is a lot more to the world of ethics, so it takes time to see the adult perspective. Early on, a kid starts to think about hurting feelings, what others like, ideas of fairness. Without starting at pleasure, it doesn't make sense. A kid is building on the pleasure of ice cream or displeasure of spinach. Pleasure serves as a ladder to later conceptions of "good or bad" that are more essential than pleasure. A kid understands more and more, until becoming an adult and forming ethics theories. At the top of this ladder, it's the concept "ethical". At the very least, pleasure remains a measurement. The "ladder" is still there, but it doesn't -need- to be essential to the concept ethical.

The cited link is only 1 page.

The main point: as important as pleasure is to the development of ethics and the concept ethics, it doesn't end up as the essential nature of ethics.

 

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Wow! I will write a full response later, but I want to first say that this is so strange because your thoughts are along the lines of what I have been thinking. I want to show you a chat thread I had just yesterday with a philosopher friend. He said to me that Rand said 'life' as a euphemism for as 'experential consciousness'. It struck a chord with me because it gets to the root of it in my mind.

Here is the conversation thread:

convorob.png

I think you're on to something.

 

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Step back for a moment and really think about this...

We are trying to justify enjoying ourselves for the sake of enjoying ourselves. I think therein lies an obvious absurdity.

Edited by Nerian

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On 11/01/2017 at 2:33 AM, DonAthos said:

Pleasure is no mere "fuel," which implies that it is a support on some journey. But a journey to where? Live in order to... keep living? Survive for the sake of survival, for its own sake? No. Pleasure may well be a fuel, but that isn't the point of it. The reason why such pleasures give men the will to carry on is because it is for the sake of those pleasures that we carry on. The experience of pleasure is the destination of our journey. It is where we mean to go, again and again and again; for it is in such pleasures, in such moments, that we say YES -- this is what life is, what it can and ought to be, and why it is of value in the first place.

Exactly! 

This reminds me of a short recording of Rand.

 

Quote

There is no such thing as the purpose of life. Life is the purpose of life. You should enjoy your life. You should be happy in it. Your proper moral obligation is to pursue the highest form of happiness possible to you, and can prove your choice to yourself in rational terms.

And I'll amend that life is experience through consciousness and value in consciousness is experienced through pleasure.

Pleasure is the purpose pleasure! There are some constaints about our nature that we must abide by to maximize 'the area under the curve' as Softwarenerd so elegantly explained, but god damn it, the only bloody justification for maximizing the area under the curve is the experience of it!

Quote

Any person who attempts to prescribe the happiness of other people is a monster and has no claim to morality at all.

This would appear to be a contradiction because Rand's ethics is supposed to prescribe to us what will make us happy, right? In the full sense, she never meant to tell us what we should pursue concretely. Ethics is just the ground rules. Since material and spiritual functioning rely on certain factors, we cannot ignore those factors if we wish to pursue pleasure (Psychological pleasure AND physical pleasure). It's the meta-values that allow us to maximize the area under the curve by not setting our bliss against our well-being.

When she says "and can prove to yourself rationally". I don't think she meant that you can prove that the cheesecake is rational to eat, but that you can prove rationally that your meta-values are set in accordance with your nature and not against it. If you set the meta-values against your nature qua man, you will necessarily not be maximizing the area under the curve.

If life-as-survival were the standard, then suicide would never be permissable, and we know Rand expressed the view that when 'life proper to man' were impossible suicide is justifiable. She clearly doesn't mean life-as-survival.

I think the following is also illuminating...

Quote

Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering. Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

But while the standard of value operating the physical pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is automatic and innate, determined by the nature of his body—the standard of value operating his emotional mechanism, is not. Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

I distinguished between psychological and physical pleasure. I think Rand made the same distinction but called it  positive-negative emotion and pleasure-pain.

But I disagree here somewhat. Some things give me positive emotions, and I have no idea why, and it has nothing to do with life as my standard of value. I enjoy music. I enjoy dancing. Some people do not. I enjoy the sound of the French language, and I dislike the sound of Chinese. Some people experience the opposite. I like skinny girls, some people like plump girls. Whence come such emotional responses? Values. Whence come those values??? If they are not chosen, they are either random, conditioned by environment or innate, but in every case where such values are unchosen they are pretty arbitrary.

I think many such values are innate. I know this goes against Objectivist doctrine.

And after years of self doubt, repression and wondering how I can justify what I want, I feel like I'm coming round to embracing the absurdity of the arbitrary desires I have. "Screw it. It gives me joy. What more justification do I need?"

Edited by Nerian

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On 13/01/2017 at 2:17 PM, softwareNerd said:

I agree it does not make sense to talk of "pain that is pleasurable" or "pleasure that is painful". It is also true that the pain necessary within something that's good for us is not good in and of itself. Similarly, a pleasure that is part of an experience that is bad for us is not good in and of itself. 

This also illustrates that "good" is very different from "pleasurable". Pleasure is the "felt good" so to speak, but feelings can deceive. Pleasure is also in the moment, or at least of shorter contempt than "the good". If the good is the area under the curve, pleasure is the height at any particular point.

Agreed, but I think it is possible to experience 'pain' or 'discomfort' with a positive emotional veneer. When I'm lifting weights, the pain definitely accompanied with a positive emotional response It feels pretty awesome to feel the burn. When I'm on the bike, I embrace the burn in my legs, I feel a sense of power when I'm pushing hard, and the 'discomfort' has a positive veneer.

It is possible to psychologically embrace the suck, so to speak.

Edited by Nerian

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There is a movie that really drove home the importance of emotions and pleasure to me. It actually really helped me recognize how much everything we do comes down to feelings. Logic and reason is the means to get what we want, but what we desire is the positive feelings we get from certain experiences: be it the experience of dancing, or something more abstract like the experience of beholding one's hard earned achievement. In either case, without the psychological rewarding feeling, the meaning would be stripped. Imagine life without feelings, positive or negative. Even negative feelings are important. They lets us experience the reality of losses. It makes our values mean so much more. Sometimes we need some valleys to get to higher peaks, I think. That is better than flattening out the graph. Never caring enough about anything.

Here are two clips from the movie Equilibrium that were very powerful moments for me. The premise of the movie is human emotions are stripped with a drug, positive and negative, so that society can be peaceful. But in doing so, they lose the whole purpose of being alive.

"It's circular. You exist to continue your existence. What's the point?"

Exactly.

"It's as vital breath. Without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock, ticking."

Amazing.

Art is banned in this society and Preston here stumbled upon hidden art contraband. You can see all this stuff in this room, the art, the pictures, the Newton's craddle, all this stuff some people often think of as trivial, is not trivial at all, it's rhyme and reason is how it makes us feel, and how things make us feel is not only not trivial, it's the most profound thing there is.

For me, a very technical minded person, this realization has opened up a flourishing in my appreciation for art, music, everything. I no longer poo poo it all like I used to and I've already felt so much richer for it. Embracing my feelings, and now trying to learn to embrace my desires.

Edited by Nerian

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jl7.JPG

A hilarious quote with a kernel of truth to it

Albert Camus said the fundamental question of philosophy is whether or not you should commit suicide. Not sure I agree, but isn't it a legitimate question? Why live at all?

I find your arguments convincing but I'm still on the fence if it's amoral.

I have heard Kelly's explanation in his lectures 'Choosing life' but I can't remember what his conclusion was. I do remember he pointed out the absurdity of trying to condemn a man morally for not wanting to live.

For someone who doesn't want to live, he says really the thing to do is to get them to connect with values. In other words, to get them to do things they enjoy... and we come full circle back to pleasure being the whole point - could one even say that it's the only reason anyone would choose to live.

Quote

Principles of morality tell us how to live well. But if one doesn't wish to live well, all of this is moot.

For anyone interested in these lectures they are on YouTube:

I am listening to this lecture again, and it is very interesting. It has so much more meaning in the context of my recent questions about value and pleasure.

Have a coffee... or suicide? :)

15995509_10154925807231913_1626991541_n.jpg

Edited by Nerian

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Around the 35:00 mark he says

Quote

We are getting pretty high up in your hierachy values. If I ask you why do you wan those things you will say, “Now stop! I want those things as ends in themselves. I want them for the happiness they bring me.” Well exactly, these are the things that make your life worth living to you, that give it meaning.

BOOM. Game. Set. Match. He just admitted it. They mean the joy, the positive emotional experience, that is what gives it the value, that's why you choose it as a value. 

But he then glosses over this as if he didn't just admit it was the joy, the feeling, that gives it meaning.

But then what is it? Do these values make you feel joy because you achieve them? Or do you achieve them because they give you joy? I think they have it backwards.

How could anyone choose them? Oh yeah, you really sat down and decided that logically friendship is good for you objectively, so therefore you are going to enjoy spending time with friends? Yeah, no. It doesn’t work that way!

You enjoy their company and then you go, "god damn I like having friends!" and so friends are a value to you.

Edited by Nerian

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Why do you enjoy laughing? Is it really because you sat down and decided life is your standard of value and then determined these things serve your life so I better damn well feel good when I do them?

I simply do not think it works that way, and we all know damn well we enjoyed laughing with friends long before we learned of Objectivism.

 

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3 hours ago, Nerian said:

Why do you enjoy laughing? Is it really because you sat down and decided life is your standard of value and then determined these things serve your life so I better damn well feel good when I do them?

I'm not sure who you are arguing against here. Try to keep it all in one post rather than 3 in a row. All Biddle said is the question is invalid because value can only measured to some degree by taking action towards life. This implies that choosing to live has no -objective- reason. There are subjective reasons, literally any reason.

No one said values are chosen as sitting down and deciding one day. I mean, it's interesting to ask the depth of all the ways to discover values, but it won't tell us about if the origin of why a newborn would choose life. Rand's reasoning was pleasure is the why; pleasure as the -reason- to choose life is pretty subjective. Nietzsche said one has a "will to power", a willing to embrace life and one's power within it, but he stopped there and refused to offer a moral code. I believe Existentialists said there really is no reason to do anything at all except whatever you declare you want. That's like the Camus quote.

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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'm not sure who you are arguing against here. Try to keep it all in one post rather than 3 in a row. All Biddle said is the question is invalid because value can only measured to some degree by taking action towards life. This implies that choosing to live has no -objective- reason. There are subjective reasons, literally any reason.

No one said values are chosen as sitting down and deciding one day. I mean, it's interesting to ask the depth of all the ways to discover values, but it won't tell us about if the origin of why a newborn would choose life. Rand's reasoning was pleasure is the why; pleasure as the -reason- to choose life is pretty subjective. Nietzsche said one has a "will to power", a willing to embrace life and one's power within it, but he stopped there and refused to offer a moral code. I believe Existentialists said there really is no reason to do anything at all except whatever you declare you want. That's like the Camus quote.

If I'm saying we do not choose our values, and that they are innate, then I guess I'm arguing against Objectivism proper.

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3 hours ago, Nerian said:

If I'm saying we do not choose our values, and that they are innate, then I guess I'm arguing against Objectivism proper.

When I think of value I often think, "what standard"?  Surely people use different ways for choosing values, perhaps they think they are 'innate', perhaps they believe they are intrinsic, perhaps they think it's determinism, perhaps by caprice, perhaps by consensus (whether the group is present at the time, or thinking about the group), perhaps trying to uphold or gain prestige, perhaps by emotion, ... and so on.

Nathaniel Branden described* value as presupposing a few things: an object (whether tangible or intangible, like an idea), a standard, a purpose, and necessitated action to gain or keep the object in light of alternatives--these are the concepts that hierarchically lie beneath "value".  I drew attention to the standard part earlier, which helps define what value is, and we know Objectivism says it's "that which one acts to gain or keep."  But even if one doesn't accept that definition, there is still the object, purpose, and action--these are a matter of identity and causation.

So if you're saying that value is "that which gives you pleasure," then yes, you're arguing against Objectivism and any form I know about.  With emotionalism, all bets are off in having that argument because it will be largely based off of your emotion, not reason, trying to use your emotions as a standard of judgment--reality is something we can all talk about**... it's objective.

______

* From The Basic Principles of Objectivism lecture series, also in book form as The Vision of Ayn Rand
** From Ayn Rand and the "New Intellectual" interview

Edited by KorbenDallas

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On 1/13/2017 at 5:04 PM, Eiuol said:

I recall some saint, I forget who, that thought torture was good for the receiver, so pain in itself was good.

You don't happen to mean saint epistemologue, do you? ;)

On 1/13/2017 at 5:04 PM, Eiuol said:

I would say that neither pain nor pleasure are good or bad stimuli. Red isn't a bad stimuli, purple isn't a good stimuli.

I agree that neither red nor purple are "good" or "bad" (until we specify some context; if I want a red house, red paint is good for the job, and purple paint not so much); and neither any situation which involves either pain or pleasure. Sans context, sans a specific valuer in a specific situation, we cannot say that X pleasurable action is good (e.g. eating a slice, or ten, of cheesecake) or X painful action is bad (getting a tooth drilled).

But there is an abstract sense in which pleasure is good and pain is bad -- and this is fundamentally and profoundly different from red and purple. It is the point of this thread, in a certain sense, to examine this difference -- and its further implication for ethics (if any).

This is to say, the existence of red and purple cannot provoke man to a conception of "value"; but pleasure and pain can. Pleasure and pain, in this abstracted sense, are what what allow us to conceive of the universe (and all the facts therein) in terms of value. It is pleasure and pain which both give rise to and animate our understanding of value.

On 1/13/2017 at 5:04 PM, Eiuol said:

A child may find that pleasure is nice, therefore good, but as an adult, the child needs to grasp "good for what?" Then pain/pleasure ceases to be an essential. It becomes possible that a pain IS good, or that a pleasure IS bad. Stimuli provide information but lack a value.

You continue to discuss this in a manner that I believe both hides important information and (consequently) lends itself to confusion.

It is not that "a pain IS good," but that a situation, or choice, or value, or action -- one that might involve pain -- is good. Going to the dentist, under normal conditions, is good. It's painful, but good. Yet the pain, in itself, is not good. And the reason why I continue to insist on preserving this distinction can be shown by the example I'd raised to demonstrate it: given two dentists providing the same services, one with pain and one without, it would be reasonable to select the dentist without pain.

(All else need not strictly be equal, either. Suppose the painless dentist cost slightly more? Yet it might still be worth the money to go pain-free.)

There is a question as to whether pain/pleasure "ceases to be an essential." I have not made my full argument for that yet -- I'm not there all the way there yet, myself, though I believe that the concept of "maximizing experience" points the way. But the first step is to recognize that pain and pleasure remain a feature of ethical reasoning. Pleasure -- pleasure itself -- is a motivating factor, apart from whatever pleasure's role might be in terms of "fuel" or "survival." That's like what you were talking about with respect to "mere pleasures," although I believe that "mere" undersells the vital role that pleasure has in our experience of reality.

And further, if it were true that "stimuli provide information but lack a value" -- if that were utterly true with respect to pain and pleasure, then we should never have any concept of value at all. Then they would be like red and purple. But if you want to appreciate the actual role of pain and pleasure in life, and in this thread, then you first have to look at the reality of it. And the reality is that pain and pleasure are not mere stimuli. They are charged with respect to value, of their nature.

@ Nerian and KorbenDallas, I hope to address your comments soon(ish).

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On 1/15/2017 at 8:07 AM, Nerian said:

Wow!

I appreciate your enthusiasm. :)

On 1/15/2017 at 9:45 AM, Nerian said:

Exactly! 

This reminds me of a short recording of Rand.

 

And I'll amend that life is experience through consciousness and value in consciousness is experienced through pleasure.

I think the most salient part (for this discussion) starts at 0:50, when Rand says, "Life is the purpose of life. You should enjoy your life. You should be happy in it. Your proper moral obligation is to pursue the highest form of happiness possible to you -- and can explain/prove your choice to yourself, in rational, logical terms."

I recognize that this is Rand speaking extemporaneously, which is a meaningful context and worth bearing in mind... but at the same time, she is speaking about the very issues we're trying to understand. And insofar as this gets at the heart of the Objectivist Ethics, I would trust that Rand has some understanding of what she's trying to say, extempore or not.

Can we note that she begins by invoking the term "life," as in "the standard of value." But then what does she say about it? Does she say, "You should seek to live as long as possible?" or "Your moral obligation is to be as fit for survival as possible?" No. She says immediately that you should enjoy your life and that your "moral obligation" is to pursue the highest form of happiness possible to you.

I've emphasized that last phrase, because that is another important element. It is not simply to pursue the highest form of happiness possible (to man), but possible to you, given your specific context. (I believe that has heavy implication for questions of "justified suicide.")

As to your amendments, Nerian, I agree with you that life is experienced (and most importantly, enjoyed) through consciousness, and that value in consciousness is experienced through pleasure. I think Rand would agree, too:

"[Man's] emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life." (Playboy, 3/64)

"The form in which man experiences the reality of his values is pleasure." ("Our Cultural-Value Deprivation," in The Voice of Reason)

Quote

There are some constaints about our nature that we must abide by to maximize 'the area under the curve' as Softwarenerd so elegantly explained, but god damn it, the only bloody justification for maximizing the area under the curve is the experience of it!

This has my sentiment almost exactly, although your choice of "constraint" does not quite capture my feeling. It isn't so much that our nature "constrains" us in our pursuit of pleasure (or: positive experience), but that it allows for it -- and sets the terms by which it may be accomplished.

Thus, in order to achieve such positive experience (or pleasure), we must understand our nature, and our context, and then take the right action to achieve it (which is called "morality").

Quote

Some things give me positive emotions, and I have no idea why, and it has nothing to do with life as my standard of value. I enjoy music. I enjoy dancing. Some people do not. I enjoy the sound of the French language, and I dislike the sound of Chinese. Some people experience the opposite. I like skinny girls, some people like plump girls. Whence come such emotional responses? Values. Whence come those values??? If they are not chosen, they are either random, conditioned by environment or innate, but in every case where such values are unchosen they are pretty arbitrary.

I'm not certain that Rand could have explained in any great detail why she liked "tiddlywink music." Knowing that this music gave her joy, however, was probably sufficient, in context, to value it to the point of listening to it insofar as she did.

Was there some reason why that music provoked the experience in Rand that it did? Undoubtedly. And thus we have hope in the study of music, or etc. (It is on this basis that musicians study in the first place; if man's reaction to music was utterly arbitrary, what would there be to "study"?)

So... you might not be aware of why you like French and dislike Chinese, but I take it as certain that there is some reason for it. Must you invest yourself in discovering these kinds of answers, or can you act on the fact of your preferences without doing so? That's an interesting question. My suspicion is that in most contexts, it is fine to simply incorporate your preferences into your reasoning without hounding out their roots. (However, if one day you were appointed ambassador to China, you might have to do a little digging.)

Quote

I think many such values are innate. I know this goes against Objectivist doctrine.

I question the notion of "innate" value, except (as this thread demands) for one: pleasure. I believe that pleasure is uniquely good (and pain uniquely bad), of our nature, such that they allow us to conceive of "good" and "evil."

(This is different from having preferences whose origins may be currently unknown to the individual holding them, such as for the sound of French or the look of a slender woman; I would not say that you were born with a preference for the sound of French.)

Quote

And after years of self doubt, repression and wondering how I can justify what I want, I feel like I'm coming round to embracing the absurdity of the arbitrary desires I have. "Screw it. It gives me joy. What more justification do I need?"

Well, it depends on whether the joy you take in X desire/activity will allow you to have still more joy -- or less -- in the future. If you're looking not only for an experience in a given moment of time, but to maximize your total experience over the course of your life, then you will have to justify your choices to that extent.

This is the essential difference between what I'm advocating and hedonism.

On 1/15/2017 at 10:08 AM, Nerian said:

...I think it is possible to experience 'pain' or 'discomfort' with a positive emotional veneer. When I'm lifting weights, the pain definitely accompanied with a positive emotional response It feels pretty awesome to feel the burn. When I'm on the bike, I embrace the burn in my legs, I feel a sense of power when I'm pushing hard, and the 'discomfort' has a positive veneer.

It is possible to psychologically embrace the suck, so to speak.

Agreed.

It is also possible to experience pleasure with a negative emotional veneer.

On 1/15/2017 at 4:57 PM, Nerian said:

For someone who doesn't want to live, [Kelley] says really the thing to do is to get them to connect with values. In other words, to get them to do things they enjoy... and we come full circle back to pleasure being the whole point - could one even say that it's the only reason anyone would choose to live.

I have not yet listened to Kelley's remarks -- I'm relying upon your description of them -- but it's a curious thing, this.

If someone doesn't want to live, given a survivalist ethos, we shouldn't have any reason to believe that we could get them to "connect with values." Presumably it is the desire to live which gives rise to their values in the first place, and absent that desire to live, how could any "values" exist for such a person at all?

On 1/15/2017 at 5:30 PM, Nerian said:

Around the 35:00 mark he says

Quote

We are getting pretty high up in your hierachy values. If I ask you why do you wan those things you will say, “Now stop! I want those things as ends in themselves. I want them for the happiness they bring me.” Well exactly, these are the things that make your life worth living to you, that give it meaning.

BOOM. Game. Set. Match. He just admitted it. They mean the joy, the positive emotional experience, that is what gives it the value, that's why you choose it as a value.

LOL. Usually I don't have a lot of use for rhetoric like "Game. Set. Match." but here, I almost want to say that it's justified. :)

Although it is a further question as to whether the things that a person might want "as ends in themselves" are utterly subjective or arbitrary, or whether they are objectively of value to a person (leading him to value life as such, and thus recommending the adoption of some objective moral code to secure life, to achieve those things which are of fundamental value).

Quote

But then what is it? Do these values make you feel joy because you achieve them? Or do you achieve them because they give you joy? I think they have it backwards.

There's... a loop. Isn't there?

We come to value some thing because it gives us pleasure (in the first place) -- like candy, or the feeling of the sun on our skin. But then as we grow and learn, we begin to understand reality (and our own nature) such that we can recognize that the pleasure, in itself, does not mean that whatever activity that gives rise to it is "good for us" (in the long run; in terms of "maximizing experience") and thus we might still have candy... but only occasionally, so that we can avoid tooth decay and the pain (and expense) involved in dentistry. Or we might wear sunscreen if we're going to be in the sun for a long time, lest we get cancer.

When we "achieve our values" such that we can retire to a life on the beach, say, there is a joy in the achievement itself. But where does that joy come from? If we trace it all the way down back to reality, doesn't that joy come from experiences such as laying out on the beach, feeling the sun warm you, or the foam of the waves tickling your toes? (And your expectation that, in your retirement, you have fully earned that enjoyment -- which is to say that you have paid the price reality demands of you, in order to take that pleasure, and enjoy it fully, without further worry as to long-term consequence; all long-term consequences have been thought through and addressed. It is not a case of pleasure now, pain later; but pleasure now and pleasure later.)

On 1/16/2017 at 8:13 AM, Nerian said:

If I'm saying we do not choose our values, and that they are innate, then I guess I'm arguing against Objectivism proper.

 

On 1/16/2017 at 11:19 AM, KorbenDallas said:

So if you're saying that value is "that which gives you pleasure," then yes, you're arguing against Objectivism and any form I know about.

If I could wave a magic wand (well, I could, but what good would it do me?), I would try to get people (and especially Objectivists) to relax a bit on the issue of whether something is or is not "Objectivism proper." At least at first: there is a fine, but secondary, conversation to have as to whether or not something is or is not Objectivist, strictly speaking.

What we ought to discuss at first, rather, is whether something is or is not real. Whether we're describing reality accurately, and in concord with reason. I dare say that this approach is "the Objectivist approach," which is itself more essential to Objectivist philosophy than any specific position (except the embrace of reason and reality in itself).

If it turns out to be the case that something is real, but inconsistent with Objectivism, well then, so much the worse for Objectivism. If it turns out that something is real, and consistent with Objectivism, but that our earlier understanding of Objectivism was flawed (such that what we believed to be a "contradiction" was not), then there is no actual conflict.

In either case, what matters most (by far) is: what is real.

Edited by DonAthos

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5 hours ago, DonAthos said:
On 1/16/2017 at 11:13 AM, Nerian said:

If I'm saying we do not choose our values, and that they are innate, then I guess I'm arguing against Objectivism proper.

 

On 1/16/2017 at 2:19 PM, KorbenDallas said:

So if you're saying that value is "that which gives you pleasure," then yes, you're arguing against Objectivism and any form I know about.

If I could wave a magic wand (well, I could, but what good would it do me?), I would try to get people (and especially Objectivists) to relax a bit on the issue of whether something is or is not "Objectivism proper." At least at first: there is a fine, but secondary, conversation to have as to whether or not something is or is not Objectivist, strictly speaking.

What we ought to discuss at first, rather, is whether something is or is not real. Whether we're describing reality accurately, and in concord with reason. I dare say that this approach is "the Objectivist approach," which is itself more essential to Objectivist philosophy than any specific position (except the embrace of reason and reality in itself).

If it turns out to be the case that something is real, but inconsistent with Objectivism, well then, so much the worse for Objectivism. If it turns out that something is real, and consistent with Objectivism, but that our earlier understanding of Objectivism was flawed (such that what we believed to be a "contradiction" was not), then there is no actual conflict.

In either case, what matters most (by far) is: what is real.

Sure, but that's a bit out of context to me, 'Objectivism proper' was Nerian's premise which I was responding to.   The entire context of my reply to him began with recognizing reality, then building a definition, presenting it (also saying, "But even if one doesn't accept that definition,...), and then contrasting it with his current view.  I agree Objectivism proper/not-proper doesn't lead to fruitful conversations.  Rand's philosophy is part of what exists, and it is up to the individual to judge whether or not it is for them, aspects of it, different versions, or whatever.

Edited by KorbenDallas

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On 19/01/2017 at 2:29 AM, DonAthos said:

What we ought to discuss at first, rather, is whether something is or is not real. Whether we're describing reality accurately, and in concord with reason. I dare say that this approach is "the Objectivist approach," which is itself more essential to Objectivist philosophy than any specific position (except the embrace of reason and reality in itself).

Hell yes. I care not for Objectivism. I care for truth. In my estimation, there's a great deal of truth in Objectivism.

I can hear Peikoff yelling in the distance, "if you reject any part, you must reject the whole for it is an integrated system!!!"

lol

I wanted to say this because it's the most salient thing that jumped out at me, but I want to go to the gym very soon, so that I may pursue the value of an aesthetic physique, so I may attract the women that I arbitrarily find sexually attractive due to my monkey brain wiring, so that I may satisfy my arbitrary monkey drives, and thereby experience pleasure, which is the only reason to live, but I was told to reply to everything in one post, rather than making several consecutive posts, but maybe moderators can understand that to do that I would have to type up everything all at once, read everything, formulate all my responses to everything into one large post, and then post it, or else I'm not allowed to respond to that which I have not responded yet, and I don't have the patience nor the stretches of time to sit here and respond to everything all at once. Is there any way I can get a pass for responding in dribs and drabs? Pleeeeeeaaaase. :):):) 

Or shall I just construct a gigantic response in a word document over a period of time and dump it all at once? Is this the fate to which I am cast? Grand overlords?

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3 hours ago, Nerian said:

Hell yes. I care not for Objectivism. I care for truth. In my estimation, there's a great deal of truth in Objectivism.

I can hear Peikoff yelling in the distance, "if you reject any part, you must reject the whole for it is an integrated system!!!"

lol

These are delicate topics. I would say that because there is a great deal of truth in Objectivism, I care for it -- but only to that extent. If I ever found Objectivism and truth in conflict, surely I would love truth more.

Frankly, I don't expect to find any Objectivist (worthy of the title) who would feel any other way, including Leonard Peikoff.

3 hours ago, Nerian said:

I wanted to say this because it's the most salient thing that jumped out at me, but I want to go to the gym very soon, so that I may pursue the value of an aesthetic physique, so I may attract the women that I arbitrarily find sexually attractive due to my monkey brain wiring, so that I may satisfy my arbitrary monkey drives, and thereby experience pleasure, which is the only reason to live...

This sounds tongue-in-cheek...? But just to clarify, and speaking only for myself, I don't consider my attractions to be arbitrary, and neither would I reduce the kinds of "pleasures" I'm talking about (or intend to talk about, at least) to sex, or etc. Though I mean to argue that they are sourced in physical pleasure, eventually there are many kinds of pleasure, including (most importantly) happiness.

(Neither do I mean to discount sex, but that topic is a whole can of worms.)

3 hours ago, Nerian said:

...but I was told to reply to everything in one post, rather than making several consecutive posts, but maybe moderators can understand that to do that I would have to type up everything all at once, read everything, formulate all my responses to everything into one large post, and then post it, or else I'm not allowed to respond to that which I have not responded yet, and I don't have the patience nor the stretches of time to sit here and respond to everything all at once. Is there any way I can get a pass for responding in dribs and drabs? Pleeeeeeaaaase. :):):) 

Or shall I just construct a gigantic response in a word document over a period of time and dump it all at once? Is this the fate to which I am cast? Grand overlords?

This forum typically exercises a fair degree of latitude for posting style, in my experience.

There is something, at times, a bit obnoxious about finding someone posting three, four, five, six posts in a row (some consisting of a single sentence or etc.), but lots of people do that occasionally. I tend to favor long and thorough posts myself, though I'm sure others find that obnoxious, too.

Ultimately, use your best judgement about what seems appropriate, given the culture as you find it (it may take a bit of time to adjust). I'd advise taking Eiuol's request into serious consideration, and if it turns out that you drown the forum in an endless series of posts -- you know -- then we'll have to take further action to correct for that. But I'd bet things never reach such a point.

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