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Szalapski

Does contradiction with my flourishing life really make a value immoral?

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I am not sure how life can give values meaning or morality.  I'll start with an Objectivist example as follows. I value eating lots of doughnuts, but pursuit of this value is unhealthy and therefore contradictory to having a flourishing life.  I also value eating lots of lean protein, and pursuit of this value is healthy and generally contributes to a flourishing life.

That much is clear.  However, I am having trouble moving from "is" to "ought".  What if I want to indulge the unhealthy value? What if I decide that my short-term enjoyment is better--the emotions and the sensations I get from frequent doughnut treats is worth whatever unknown distant health drawback that might occur?  What makes the pursuit of this value immoral? Is it only that I am doing something that is contradictory to my life?

If so, does not subjectivism creep in?  After all, I cannot hope to judge that which is contradictory to my life, but only to judge my own compromised, biased, flawed understanding of what is contradictory to my life.

 

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9 hours ago, Szalapski said:

I am not sure how life can give values meaning or morality.  I'll start with an Objectivist example as follows. I value eating lots of doughnuts, but pursuit of this value is unhealthy and therefore contradictory to having a flourishing life.  I also value eating lots of lean protein, and pursuit of this value is healthy and generally contributes to a flourishing life.

That much is clear.  However, I am having trouble moving from "is" to "ought".  What if I want to indulge the unhealthy value? What if I decide that my short-term enjoyment is better--the emotions and the sensations I get from frequent doughnut treats is worth whatever unknown distant health drawback that might occur?  What makes the pursuit of this value immoral? Is it only that I am doing something that is contradictory to my life?

If so, does not subjectivism creep in?  After all, I cannot hope to judge that which is contradictory to my life, but only to judge my own compromised, biased, flawed understanding of what is contradictory to my life.

 

You state that you have read the virtue of selfishness.  If you understood it, you would not need to ask these particular questions.  All the answers to these are much more completely and eloquently discussed by that book than likely anyone here would be able to provide to you.

Your questions are meandering everywhere.  It might help to focus on something specific and foundational.  Where are the specific gaps in your understanding and why?

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55 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You state that you have read the virtue of selfishness.  If you understood it, you would not need to ask these particular questions.  All the answers to these are much more completely and eloquently discussed by that book than likely anyone here would be able to provide to you.

Your questions are meandering everywhere.  It might help to focus on something specific and foundational.  Where are the specific gaps in your understanding and why?

I'm not so sure Rand's writings are as clear, easy to follow, or as comprehensive as you say.  Could you at least point me to the chapter in TVoS that addresses this question that I might reread it and ponder?

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Introduction and chapter 1 "The Objectivist Ethics"

I suggest pondering first what is meant (don't get side tracked with criticism or disagreement in your own mind) i.e. identify what is meant and why first ... without deciding whether you agree as that can be very distracting if not disastrous during the process of understanding.  For motivation: I suggest you can never figure out whether you agree with something unless you can first understand fully what that something is.  I know it isn't easy but try to understand "the what" and "the why" first, then identify why things are an issue with your current knowledge.

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.

Patrick, how would having a power of judgment capable of errors make one’s judgment anything but a judgment requiring a judging subject? Would requiring-a-subject additionally make an activity subjective in the sense of not tracking reality?

Also, the sort of subjectivity I possess by my enjoyment of being in the woods alone is one sort. Wariness of wet stone in my hike requires my subjectivity in a very different sense.

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On 5/4/2017 at 10:11 PM, Boydstun said:

.

Patrick, how would having a power of judgment capable of errors make one’s judgment anything but a judgment requiring a judging subject? Would requiring-a-subject additionally make an activity subjective in the sense of not tracking reality?

Also, the sort of subjectivity I possess by my enjoyment of being in the woods alone is one sort. Wariness of wet stone in my hike requires my subjectivity in a very different sense.

I'm not really understanding the point of your questions--thus why I didn't reply months ago.  I don't understand what "wariness of wet stone" means or the contrast you are trying to show.

I'll return to my question: What makes the pursuit of mildly unhealthy but enjoyable values immoral?

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On 04.05.2017 at 5:02 AM, Szalapski said:

What if I want to indulge the unhealthy value? What if I decide that my short-term enjoyment is better--the emotions and the sensations I get from frequent doughnut treats is worth whatever unknown distant health drawback that might occur?  What makes the pursuit of this value immoral? Is it only that I am doing something that is contradictory to my life?

The answers depend on your context. It's often necessary to sacrifice a lower value for the sake of a higher one; for example, spending the money you saved for a vacation in order to treat your sick spouse. Or, going through a period of withdrawal (suffering) in order to kick your smoking habit.

Note that Objectivism does not equate flourishing with optimal health. The Objectivist Ethics teaches you how to establish the hierarchy of your values & integrate them into a seamless fabric (the value of Purpose); how to develop your thinking ability and practical knowledge (the value of Reason), how to earn genuine respect for your own character (the value of self-esteem, which is intricately tied to your motivation and ability to enjoy values). 

With that in mind, let's get back to donuts. The answer depends on a huge amount of factors, including your genetics, your overall diet, the amount of donuts you plan to binge on etc. A donut addiction is OK if the toll it will take on your future ability to enjoy life is minimal. The action becomes self-destructive (immoral) if you eat donuts while knowing that your vice will wreck your health in the long-run. (Not doing your research is also a form of playing with fire).

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12 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

A donut addiction becomes self-destructive (immoral) if you eat donuts while knowing that your vice will wreck your health in the long-run. (Not doing your research is also a form of playing with fire).

Right.  So why is it immoral, supposing I accept the drawbacks?  Suppose I think that it is likely that my donut habit might shorten my life or affect the quality thereof.  Couldn't I choose to accept that consequence and "live for today" if I think that it is worth it--that is, if the enjoyment from frequent high carb consumption is a higher value than a somewhat longer and healthier life?

Edited by Szalapski

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3 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

...if the enjoyment from frequent high carb consumption is a higher value than a somewhat longer and healthier life?

Then you are sacrificing a lower value (perfect health) for the sake of a higher one, enjoyment - i.e. your donut addiction is not immoral. Of course, you must be able to explain to yourself why your compromise is ideal. This is discussed at lenght in the link I posted.

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On 5/3/2017 at 7:02 PM, Szalapski said:

If so, does not subjectivism creep in? 

Subjective (and Objective) have several meanings in philosophy.  As an example, I am a Subject and my keyboard is an Object.  If my knowledge of my keyboard is formed from my experience of it, then that knowledge is "objective."  If I believe that I have an innate, a priori concept of "keyboard" in my mind, prior to my experience of it (or of any keyboard whatsoever) then my knowledge is "subjective" - meaning that the source of knowledge is not the object, but me, the subject.  This has to do with the Primacy of Existence vs. the Primacy of Consciousness.

Edited by New Buddha

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Knowing that eating donuts is not the healthiest thing to do, knowing that there are consequences and accepting those consequences (or off setting them thru increased exercise, etc.) is being "objective".

Edited by New Buddha

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2 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Knowing that eating donuts is not the healthiest thing to do, knowing that there are consequences and accepting those consequences (or off setting them thru increased exercise, etc.) is being "objective".

So then why not steal from a vulnerable person--knowing that it violates his rights, knowing that it hurts him but judging that it helps me more?  I know that Objectivism says this is immoral because it is inconsistent with life and existence.  But then why is a decision to be unhealthy also inconsistent with life and existence?

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41 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

So then why not steal from a vulnerable person--knowing that it violates his rights, knowing that it hurts him but judging that it helps me more?

Is it really in your rational self-interest to live in a society where people constantly steal from one another?  Doesn't trading value-for-value work better?  There is no moral vs. practical dichotomy.  Life is not a zero-sum game where, for one to prosper, another must suffer.

41 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

But then why is a decision to be unhealthy also inconsistent with life and existence?

Most decisions that we make in life require a cost vs. benefit analysis.  Eating a donut has both a cost (not being very healthy) and benefit (enjoyment of the taste).  And many decisions in life are complex enough (how to distribute your money across a 401K) that we don't necessarily see or know the outcome until a length of time has passed.  If one part of the investment goes south, then we make adjustments once that becomes clear.

99.99% of the decisions we make in life are not "life or death" decisions.  Rand avoids "life boat" ethical discussions because what lies behind that premise is that life is nothing more than having to constantly make decisions between "bad" and "worse" outcomes.

Edited by New Buddha

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44 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

But then why is a decision to be unhealthy also inconsistent with life and existence?

How do you define the concept 'unhealthy'?

44 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

So then why not steal from a vulnerable person--knowing that it violates his rights, knowing that it hurts him but judging that it helps me more?

Well, perhaps you can provide one non-lifeboat example where stealing is moral.

Edited by KyaryPamyu

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4 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

How do you define the concept 'unhealthy'?

Well, perhaps you can provide one non-lifeboat example where stealing is moral.

I'm asking you to accept that as a premise.  If you don't want to, it's going to be hard to get anywhere.

4 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Well, perhaps you can provide one non-lifeboat example where stealing is moral.

I'm not saying it might be moral, rather I am saying that it is obviously immoral, but under Objectivism, consistency with flourishing life is the standard of morality.  That would seem at first to indicate that a donut habit and stealing are both immoral, but you say that the donut habit may not be immoral even though it is inconsistent with a objectively healthy life because the value of benefiting that life with enjoyment may indeed be objectively better.  Why can't I apply the same logic to stealing?  Why can't I say the value of benefiting my own life by stealing outweighs the value of upholding the victim's rights?

Edited by Szalapski

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9 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

Why can't I say the value of benefiting my own life by stealing outweighs the value of upholding the victim's rights?

Do you honestly think that benefiting your own life by stealing outweighs the value of upholding the victim's right to your stealing of the victim's right?

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28 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

I'm not saying it might be moral, rather I am saying that it is obviously immoral, but under Objectivism, consistency with flourishing life is the standard of morality. 

 

This is not quite what Objectivism says.

From the Lexicon entry Values:

“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.

It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of “value” is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of “life.” To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.”

If you "act to gain and/or keep" values that result in your own demise, then the whole question of morality becomes a moot point.  Eating a donut may not be the most healthy thing in the world for you to do, but it will hardly result in your demise.

Edited by New Buddha

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17 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Do you honestly think that benefiting your own life by stealing outweighs the value of upholding the victim's right to your stealing of the victim's right?

 

Do you honestly think that the enjoyment of eating frequent donuts outweighs the value of being healthier?  My point is that both of these are absurd, yet there seems to be a consensus that the donuts are a permissible choice if one seriously and intentionally finds that it is "worth it" and is upholding the higher value. I am questioning that rubric as too easily able to be biased or cheated.  It is not objective enough.

Edited by Szalapski

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5 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Eating a donut may not be the most healthy thing in the world for you to do, but it will hardly result in your demise.

Stealing from a vulnerable victim will hardly result in my own demise.

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40 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

Stealing from a vulnerable victim will hardly result in my own demise.

But is it in your rational self-interest?

Edit:  I feel a bit like I'm trying to explain to a Bernie Sanders supporter why a hike in the Federal minimum wage to $15 per hour will hurt most the very people that they think it will help.

Edited by New Buddha

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On 5/4/2017 at 3:02 AM, Szalapski said:

I am not sure how life can give values meaning or morality.  I'll start with an Objectivist example as follows. I value eating lots of doughnuts, but pursuit of this value is unhealthy and therefore contradictory to having a flourishing life.  I also value eating lots of lean protein, and pursuit of this value is healthy and generally contributes to a flourishing life.

That much is clear.  However, I am having trouble moving from "is" to "ought".  What if I want to indulge the unhealthy value? What if I decide that my short-term enjoyment is better--the emotions and the sensations I get from frequent doughnut treats is worth whatever unknown distant health drawback that might occur?  What makes the pursuit of this value immoral? Is it only that I am doing something that is contradictory to my life?

If so, does not subjectivism creep in?  After all, I cannot hope to judge that which is contradictory to my life, but only to judge my own compromised, biased, flawed understanding of what is contradictory to my life.

 

Dam those donoughts sound good. hmmm..

I think you have to take into account the way in which what is "healthy" is often a means to communicate collectivist values. For example, alot of the health crazes around nowdays have nothing to do with health at all but are about body image. Society has "decided" what you should look like and how you should be attractive as if your body was the property of society. In part, this is a legacy of the eugenics of the 20th century in which society decides what is healthy and forces the individuals to conform to the health standards set by authorities. However, rather than dress it up as the mental slavery it is, to make you feel inadequate and guilty about eating those donoughts as a continuation of the Christian sin of "gluttony", they give it a secular pseudo-scientific appearance of calling it "healthy". In many ways, it is an appeal to authority by presenting it as coming from a doctor in a lab coat.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't want to be "healthy", but you have to differentiate between an individualistic and collectivistic sense of health. health is not a duty or and obligation to society and our sense of values should not be warped by enforced guilt and a hatred of life. It should be an expression of our own being- something we enjoy doing. 

Here I'm going to sound less like Ayn Rand, but you have to examine your own feelings. If you want to eat donuts- that's fine. But the problem is that the idea of being "healthy" is so unpleasant and makes us so miserable because it is an obligation. Isn't Dieting taken to such an extreme that it is really just a form of self-harm now days (even literally when it comes to anorexia)? We have to sort through all those messages and decide what it "means" to be healthy. Physical exercise is something that we should naturally enjoy given that it produces a natural high, so if you don't want to exercise- think about why that is. Was it something you were forced into like at school? exercise should be a way of expressing our joy for life rather than our hatred of it. 

[For the record, I am a bit overweight and had a take away pizza on my way home on Monday. So I'm not the best person to take diet advice from and I hate exercise because I was forced to do it as a kid and always came last in sports which we pretty humilitating. the pizza was delicious though so I don't feel at all guilty about it. I put beating depression and sorting out my mental health problems first so I pick up on the toxicity of all the messages going round. I keep trying to lose weight nonetheless. :D ]

Edited by Laika

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6 hours ago, Szalapski said:

but you say that the donut habit may not be immoral even though it is inconsistent with a objectively healthy life because the value of benefiting that life with enjoyment may indeed be objectively better.  Why can't I apply the same logic to stealing?  Why can't I say the value of benefiting my own life by stealing outweighs the value of upholding the victim's rights?

Briefly, an organism that is in perfect physical health, but miserable on the emotional level, is not flourishing. Any such inbalance takes its toll on its entire existence.

Your concept of flourishing does not reflect reality. Perfect flourishing is not possible because people are confronted with limited time, energy and resources. As a result, they need to make their values play well togheter. For example, you might have to cut your workout time in half so that you have enough time to devote to composing music.

It's a question of scale:

16 hours ago, Szalapski said:

if the enjoyment from frequent high carb consumption is a higher value than a somewhat longer and healthier life?

If you're talking about a 'somewhat longer and healthier life' - 100% health vs 94% health - then it's a reasonable compromise. However, a compromise must be defensible. If your compromise literally makes you sick and miserable, then it is not an objective compromise, but self-immolation. 

You could argue that you can switch to a Paleo diet, which will not only stop the donut craving, but also allegedly make donuts taste unappealing. But you could equaly argue that donuts are delicious, and that it would be ridiculous to deprive yourself of this experience in the name of pristine (but joyless) health.

When you're stealing, you're not sacrificing a lower value to a higher one; you're gaining a value at the price of bringing havoc into your life.

Figuring out a flourishing strategy requires that you take in consideration your entire hierarchy of values, your natural abilities, your circumstances and countless other factors. If you can grasp this principle, the answer to your donut question will become obvious.

Edited by KyaryPamyu

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16 hours ago, New Buddha said:

But is it in your rational self-interest?

A looter can claim it to be so, and it seems like this judgment is mostlly based on opinion and taste.  So an Objectivist would argue the looter is wrong, as such a judgment is irrational as it contradicts the principle of life. So just as the looter can claim it is in his rational self-interest to steal (as his personal gain is a higher value than the rights of others), I can claim the frequent donut habit is in my rational self-interest.  I am not seeing the rational objectivity that would allow the latter but not the former.

Edited by Szalapski

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12 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

When you're stealing, you're not sacrificing a lower value to a higher one; you're gaining a value at the price of bringing havoc into your life.

Figuring out a flourishing strategy requires that you take in consideration your entire hierarchy of values, your natural abilities, your circumstances and countless other factors. If you can grasp this principle, the answer to your donut question will become obvious.

So it seems like there is a high degree of subjectivity, taste, and opinions of various forms that play into that judgment.  One person says that two donuts a day is excessively unhealthy for him, damaging to his life, and therefore immoral; another person identical in most ways but with different preferences and cravings enjoys the donuts, values them, and thus consciously decides to risk poorer health and eat two donuts a day.  It sounds like we would not try to consider either judgment wrong--and that sounds to me like subjectivity.

 

Edited by Szalapski

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2 hours ago, Szalapski said:

It sounds like we would not try to consider either judgment wrong--and that sounds to me like subjectivity.

Which is better, chocolate or vanilla ice-cream? Within each category of values there is a high degree of optionality. When two choices are interchangeable, you need an objective criteria to pick a winner - and that criteria is precisely your personal taste.

Unlike most food preferences, some tastes stem from subconscious convictions or automatized emotional associations. As long as you identify their source, tastes play an important role in choosing values.

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