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Do Objectivists Truly Understand the "Other Side" that They're Lambasting?

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69 posts in this topic

6 hours ago, Nerian said:

What makes life worth living is not living life. Life for its own sake is tedious, boring, dutiful, meaningless.

By "life for its own sake", I assume you mean just staying alive, as such. If so, I agree. Staying alive is an essential precondition for any philosophy, at least while one is practicing it... even a Nazi/Commie/altruist has to stay alive as a pre-condition, at least up to the point the particular morality suggests death. 

There've been some thread on this topic: i.e. staying alive versus flourishing.

The one thing that is incomplete in your post is that you mention " Pre-rational, visceral, gut-level enjoyment" -- which is okay but incomplete. An epicurean move from day to day, enjoying friends, music and other such fun will not bring the fullness of human happiness. Human beings need to supplement that with a sense of purpose: this is where Rick Warren or anyone who heads to the Peace Corp really understands something true about human happiness.

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Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, Nerian said:

If you  are founding an objective morality, and you start that morality with a subjective whim, how can you call that an objective morality?

A human being is a process of self-sustaining action. Every part of his body is directed towards that goal. How is choosing to pursue life a 'subjective whim'? Reality is not a conscious being that imposes choices on you, but if you want to live, your choice is entirely rooted in the facts of reality, i.e. your nature. 

6 hours ago, Nerian said:

What makes life worth living is not living life. Life for its own sake is tedious, boring, dutiful, meaningless.

By 'living life', you probably mean 'keeping your vital processes going'. But in Rand's terminology, survival/living means to function properly as a living being. Survival is not a passive state, but a continuous process of pursuing and enjoying your values. For human beings, living requires achievement, romantic love, good art, knowledge, self-esteem, friendship, food, rest and so on. The difference can be expressed using those two pictures: mere survival | Objectivist understanding of survival.

6 hours ago, Nerian said:

Life is not the end, it's a means to an end.

No. The pursuit of pleasure and the pursuit of life are the same thing. (However, not everything that gives you pleasure is desirable).

6 hours ago, Nerian said:

All the Objectivist virtue and ethics couldn't make me happy or make me want to live. It's when I started listening to my own desires and pleasures, and enjoying things for their own intrinsic pleasure that life started to have value and happiness seemed possible.

The purpose of ethics is to teach you how to gain and make the most out of the things that give you intrinsic pleasure (by intrinsic, I take you to mean pleasure for its own sake). It also teaches you how to avoid the things that damage your ability to feel pleasure in the long run, i.e. self-destructive activities.

6 hours ago, Nerian said:

I want the cake, but I don't want to be fat, so I don't eat it. A behaviour without a pre-rational drive is in essence a causeless behaviour.

Biological needs are a type of fact. You can't pass judgements of 'pre-rational' or 'irrational' on the metaphysically given. The facts of reality are the standard by which you judge a statement as true or false, or a choice of value as rational or irrational. The drive to eat food is not pre-rational, it just is, it's a fact of nature. Only your choice to follow the drive is rational or irrational, according to your context.

Edited by KyaryPamyu

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17 hours ago, Nerian said:

Isn't that just an apology for a circular argument?

Not if the supposedly different things are essentially the same thing. Circularity would be if A justifies B because B justifies A. If A and B are part of the same thing, it's just two parts of how C works. So happiness AND survival are two aspects of life, where survival and happiness are one in the same as far as -doing- life. This is where flourishing comes in, as that's the measure of surviving and happiness. To talk about survival leading to happiness because happiness allows survival would be circular. That's not the Objectivist position though. Rand doesn't split the two except as concepts.

This brings in some points for the OP presuming that's still your main interest. One is that no matter the viewpoint, you only get it as far as you study. You might find something wrong so then you spend time on other ideas that make more sense. But it's still possible to say your judgment of an idea being wrong was based on an error or mistake with interpretation. It's all too common that people refuse to go beyond the initial understanding. If you want to argue against someone, you better get their argument right. That's hard to do unless you're an expert or studied that topic a lot.

Making a positive case is better. There isn't always a use to lambast anyone unless they are intent on making issues. An Objectivist will be better to -make- a case for their view.

KP made great points, but I'll add some ideas.

"I want the cake, but I don't want to be fat, so I don't eat it. A behaviour without a pre-rational drive is in essence a causeless behaviour. I find that logically incomprehensible. Perhaps you have a solution?"

These aren't really drives in a precise way. All you said is that drives are wants. Okay, of course. Innate drives in  this sense exist: there are pre-rational wants. Rand treats choosing life as pre-rational based on pleasure seeking. What still counts is that behavior still isn't about which desire is stronger. If that was it, animal behavior would be all solved. But it's not.

Rand would say that's the whole point: principles are functionally useful to get through life with less problems. The principles also apply to all people, so it's not only about utility.

For an organized thread, it might be best for you to make a thread if you want to argue out your positions. Kind of off topic by now.

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54 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

where survival and happiness are one in the same as far as -doing- life.

Happiness surely includes the positive emotions sometimes labelled joy. Feeling joy is doing life? How is this empirically true when there are millions of people living counterexamples right now? People doing life, living, surviving, in some cases doing very well, but suffering, unhappy, miserable and in some cases actually depressed. There are high functioning depressives out there. If happiness does not include that, then I have no idea what we are talking about by happiness, and I have little interest in it. What a chore if there's no reward.

If you just redefine that as not really living, then that convinces me of nothing about reality. Let's just use terms in their plain meanings. Playing with definitions is meaningless. I really don't see the point in it. I want to get to truth about reality, not play with definitions until my model of reality fits conveniently.

59 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

If you want to argue against someone, you better get their argument right. That's hard to do unless you're an expert or studied that topic a lot.

For many Objectivists, they never even read the original works! And they feel justified in this.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Kind of off topic by now.

True. But I just gave some opinions and people asked me questions and I responded. It has diverged away from the point, but isn't that the fun of a discussion forum? A spark leads to a fire. It'd be nice if there were a way to split a thread organically, rather than start a new one.

 

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Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

How is choosing to pursue life a 'subjective whim'?

What facts of reality make valuing that process of self sustaining action objective, when in the foundation of a system of objective values we have not yet established any objective values? (Since objective values stem from the choice to live in Objectivist theory, surely you cannot use these values to establish the very same values.)

13 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Survival is not a passive state, but a continuous process of pursuing and enjoying your values.

And in Objectivist theory, the values you enjoy are supposed to be rationally, objectively determined by the standard of life. Life is the standard of value, and enjoying life is part of life, and how does ne enjoy life? By pursuing and achieving ones values. What values? Those rational objective values, those that support your life! Can you see the problem here? How is this not sophistry?

Does Objectivism really sanction enjoying yourself for its own sake? This is condemned as whim worship. Doing something 'because you feel like it' is an Objectivist sin. You're supposed to enjoy life the Objectivist way, the rational way! Otherwise you're not really happy, not really enjoying life. You're on a road to self destruction and your subconscious knows it!

13 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

The pursuit of pleasure and the pursuit of life are the same thing.

Isn't this just a convenient redefinition of terms?

First we define it as a process of self sustaining action. Argue from this basis, and then we throw pleasure in because it's convenient.

13 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

It also teaches you how to avoid the things that damage your ability to feel pleasure in the long run, i.e. self-destructive activities.

but those are some of the most enjoyable activities.

13 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

The drive to eat food is not pre-rational, it just is, it's a fact of nature. Only your choice to follow the drive is rational or irrational, according to your context.

And whence comes the judgement of rational?

What I'm trying to point out is that the ethics cannot support the meta-ethical foundations of that very ethics.

It's rational if it serves your life... which you value because you choose to live... which you choose on what rational basis? Remember what is rational to you is defined by your ethics and that is the very thing you are trying to establish.

Edited by Nerian

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Posted (edited)

53 minutes ago, Nerian said:

And in Objectivist theory, the values you enjoy are supposed to be rationally, objectively determined by the standard of life. Life is the standard of value, and enjoying life is part of life, and how does ne enjoy life? By pursuing and achieving ones values. What values? Those rational objective values, those that support your life! Can you see the problem here? How is this not sophistry?

This from the Lexicon Pleasure and Pain.

Now in what manner does a human being discover the concept of “value”? By what means does he first become aware of the issue of “good or evil” in its simplest form? By means of the physical sensations of pleasure or pain. Just as sensations are the first step of the development of a human consciousness in the realm of cognition, so they are its first step in the realm of evaluation.

The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man’s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it, and he has no choice about the standard that determines what will make him experience the physical sensation of pleasure or of pain. What is that standard?* His life*.

From Emotions.

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.

A large part of what is missing from your discussion is the role of developmental psychology - that is, an adult is very different from an infant.

I'd also like to point out that (and I think I speak for Eiuol on this) both Eiuol and I DO have technical disagreements with much of Rand's position on Emotions (see the Why Babies Cry post for one example).  However, we also disagree with each other too.  But we both agree - along with Rand - that Emotions are efficacious and play an important role in cognition.  This point needs to be understood against the backdrop of the current schools of thought that Rand was opposing in the 1960's (Behaviorism, Linguistic Analysis for examples).  The link that I provided to the post by Boydstun explores how her thinking developed over the years (there are also a good many links embedded in the post).

I don't really see a lot of evidence in your posts that you understand the nuances of Rand's position - irregardless of whether you think they are right or wrong.  You seem to be putting up a lot of Straw Man arguments.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Nerian said:

If you just redefine that as not really living, then that convinces me of nothing about reality. Let's just use terms in their plain meanings.

In some sense this is complex, but in -general- a joyous outlook goes with a flourishing survival. Mere survival is slowly dying (you would be tending towards death on average) and happiness with nothing concrete to show for it is a chore. But to "do" life, to flourish, is both. Neither is a means to the other, but the process to live.

In other words, the process is the reward, as doing it right brings its rewards of happiness as a state of being. (This isn't a full answer - but it's a start to my really long answer!)

1 hour ago, Nerian said:

For many Objectivists, they never even read the original works! And they feel justified in this.

That's too bad. =\ For example, I think Nietzsche is an awesome philosopher. Rand lambasted him, but I think she was guilty of the same error I spoke about. She seemed to think her own study was enough to say she understood him, when she seems to only have read some quotes. (I'd argue that they have many good similarities) Rand is great when she makes her own viewpoint, and perhaps narrow aspects of philosophers' positions. She isn't so great with philosophers as a whole, criticizing them. I don't think this is unique to Objectivism - it's a common issue for anyone to get caught up in criticism.

Edited by Eiuol

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, Nerian said:

And in Objectivist theory, the values you enjoy are supposed to be rationally, objectively determined by the standard of life.

No. The value you are supposed to enjoy is life itself, by means of the pleasure you derive from life-sustaining values. 

The Objectivist code of values tells you to pursue concrete values - work, sex, art, friendship, recreation - within an integrated, long-range framework (the value of purpose), that you need knowledge to do it (the value of reason), that feeling capable of gaining your values directly affects your motivation to pursue them (the value of self-esteem). The virtues are the means to those already abstract values.

The Objectivist code is a strategy, not the end-goal. The end goal is pleasure/life, which Objectivism considers to be a unit. 

5 hours ago, Nerian said:

Does Objectivism really sanction enjoying yourself for its own sake? This is condemned as whim worship.

You're wrong. Enjoying yourself for its own sake is what 'life is an end in itself' means.

5 hours ago, Nerian said:

Doing something 'because you feel like it' is an Objectivist sin.

Thought and feeling are an indivisible unit.

5 hours ago, Nerian said:

Isn't this just a convenient redefinition of terms?

First we define it as a process of self sustaining action. Argue from this basis, and then we throw pleasure in because it's convenient.

Pleasure is the biological reward for pursuing life-sustaining action. They are a unit. Enjoyment is the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. Read (or re-read) the Objectivist Ethics.

5 hours ago, Nerian said:

It's rational if it serves your life... which you value because you choose to live... which you choose on what rational basis? Remember what is rational to you is defined by your ethics and that is the very thing you are trying to establish.

Don't equate the rational with the reasonable. Rational means 'in accordance with reality'. Choosing to live, from the position of already being a living organism, is merely the acceptance of reality. If your chosen goal is to live, the validity of a chosen value is tested by reference to reality. Hence, eating a steak might be rational; eating rat poison would not be rational.

A human being is a process of self-sustaining action, equipped with a pleasure-pain mechanism for monitoring the organism's state. There is no further philosophical or moral justification for the existence of such processes, any more than there is philosophical justification for the existence of the Milky Way. Philosophers can only start with the facts and go from there.

Edited by KyaryPamyu

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Posted (edited)

6 hours ago, New Buddha said:

I don't really see a lot of evidence in your posts that you understand the nuances of Rand's position - irregardless of whether you think they are right or wrong.  You seem to be putting up a lot of Straw Man arguments.

I guess a couple hundred hours of study wasn't enough for me then. My bad.

.... or maybe the ideas don't make sense. I guess I can only go with my own judgement. That's all I have.

I think I'm aware of the nuances that supposedly solve the problems, I just disagree with them. They are like backward rationalizations and switching meanings mid-argument in most cases.

I don't think anyone would say I didn't put in enough study, if they knew how much time I've spent reading and listening to lectures about it.

And anyone who thinks I never really understood the ideas, I dunno what to say. No true scotsman I suppose.

Edited by Nerian

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4 hours ago, Nerian said:

I guess a couple hundred hours of study wasn't enough for me then. My bad.

That's good, but we probably have a couple thousand hours.  :)

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Posted (edited)

On 7/16/2017 at 9:23 AM, Nerian said:

If you  are founding an objective morality, and you start that morality with a subjective whim, how can you call that an objective morality?

Okay, thanks. I heard all I needed to hear. You just don't understand, or care to understand, the topic.

Now I know why it took you several weeks to get passed the meaningless generalities and try to make an actual point.

Edited by Nicky

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On 7/16/2017 at 2:53 AM, Nerian said:

What makes life worth living is not living life. Life for its own sake is tedious, boring, dutiful, meaningless.

What makes life living is the concrete experiences one enjoys within it. The pleasures one derives from things. Satisfying one's desires. Pre-rational, visceral, gut-level enjoyment. Withouth rhyme or reason, you just like it. And then life has value as a means to those experiences. Life is not the end, it's a means to an end. Strikingly opposite to Objectivist thought.

In my direct experience that is the case.

So, "life in itself" is considered to have no content, is empty, has no identity as in particular place and time and no need to take actions to continue living?   Yeah that is a pretty sterile concept of life.  However, any existent shorn of all its attributes simply does not exist.  Your concept of life (human life in this specific context) is faulty because it does not refer to or include any of the biological attributes of life.  But there is no life without moment-to-moment experiences, pre-rational desires and satisfactions of biological needs, therefore no valid concept of life can omit them.

Concepts are open-ended, thus the concept of life in Objectivism refers to all of the attributes of life and not just some of them or the abstract rational attributes.

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3 hours ago, Grames said:

So, "life in itself" is considered to have no content, is empty, has no identity as in particular place and time and no need to take actions to continue living?   Yeah that is a pretty sterile concept of life.  However, any existent shorn of all its attributes simply does not exist.  Your concept of life (human life in this specific context) is faulty because it does not refer to or include any of the biological attributes of life.  But there is no life without moment-to-moment experiences, pre-rational desires and satisfactions of biological needs, therefore no valid concept of life can omit them.

Concepts are open-ended, thus the concept of life in Objectivism refers to all of the attributes of life and not just some of them or the abstract rational attributes.

Then can we throw out life as the standard of value? Unless you want life with its particular concrete values to be the standard of value, in which case, we are using values to determine a standard of value... which to my mind is about as circular as a circle.

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On 18/07/2017 at 6:24 AM, Nicky said:

Okay, thanks. I heard all I needed to hear. You just don't understand, or care to understand, the topic.

Now I know why it took you several weeks to get passed the meaningless generalities and try to make an actual point.

Sorry you feel that way.

On 17/07/2017 at 11:28 PM, Eiuol said:

That's good, but we probably have a couple thousand hours.  :)

Who in their right mind would say I haven't at least done due diligence after all that? ;)

I just think a better philosophy can be constructed around the ideas that stand up. A return to egoism and a focus on individual happiness is so sorely needed for one thing. I value Rand's work immensely.

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4 hours ago, Nerian said:

Then can we throw out life as the standard of value? Unless you want life with its particular concrete values to be the standard of value, in which case, we are using values to determine a standard of value... which to my mind is about as circular as a circle.

A standard is put to use by comparing to it.  A standard of value has to be itself commensurate with what is being compared.  Therefore a standard of value has to be a value.  

Circularity as a logical fallacy is about logical justification that references itself.  To simply pick one value out of the set of all values as the standard by which one can compare them and order them is not circular because that does not define or justify value by referencing itself.  A value is "that which one acts to gain or keep".

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I think a typical Objectivist probably does not have a deep understanding of Kant or Hume. However, I think a typical Objectivist will have a better understanding of Kant and Hume than the general population, and that someone who is an Objectivist is much more likely than the general population to have seriously studied those authors.

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On 7/19/2017 at 7:31 AM, Nerian said:

I just think a better philosophy can be constructed around the ideas that stand up. A return to egoism and a focus on individual happiness is so sorely needed for one thing. I value Rand's work immensely.

That's great, and I enjoy that attitude.

My main point was that it's important to get an argument right. Also it is far from unique for Objectivists to get an opposing side's argument wrong. I think you exhibit this too, that you studied a lot so you think that you got the argument right. I don't doubt you understand a lot, but you seem to miss the main arguments about the basis to ethics, by using distinctions that aren't present.

If you think survival and happiness are not unified, therefore Rand's ethics are untenable - that's a plausible argument. But it's wrong to say that Rand sees one as a means to the other, or that they are distinct phenomena. A common error is to dismiss all of an argument because you see the conclusion is false. People have trouble with counter-factuals. Even Objectivists. It takes practice. 

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I think the lesson of this thread, which has been exhibited in the forum's reaction to more than one participant, is that if you confront a bunch of people who hold an ideology with a vague or non-specific objection to that ideology, the resulting discussion will generate more heat than light.

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On 21/07/2017 at 7:27 AM, William O said:

I think the lesson of this thread, which has been exhibited in the forum's reaction to more than one participant, is that if you confront a bunch of people who hold an ideology with a vague or non-specific objection to that ideology, the resulting discussion will generate more heat than light.

All non-zero temperature bodies produce electromagnetic radiation so generating heat in some sense always generates light

Just playing.

Edited by Nerian

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