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The Objectivist Ethics - Man's survival qua man

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Since this is being discussed in many places and by many persons, I thought I'd start a new thread for discussion using some great free reference material:

The Objectivist Ethics

by Ayn Rand from the Virtue of Selfishness (VOS)

is free to read and listen to on aynrand.org

https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1961/01/01/the-objectivist-ethics/page1

https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1961/01/01/the-objectivist-ethics/page2

https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1961/01/01/the-objectivist-ethics/page3

https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1961/01/01/the-objectivist-ethics/page4

https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1961/01/01/the-objectivist-ethics/page5

https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1961/01/01/the-objectivist-ethics/page6

 

Page one features a radio version read by Ayn herself, and a Q&A session of a separate radio program in which she answered questions on the subject.

 

Once we all have a chance to read and listen to the above as well as listen to the Q&A.   I'd like to open the floor with a few questions aimed at a critical analysis of her ethics:

Is the Objectivist ethics too "narrow" or "impoverished" due to its standard being man's survival qua man?  Would a man necessarily live a lesser life by its adoption? 

Are there any alternatives to the Objective ethics which also qualify as objective and are also absolutely based on the facts of reality?

Should one choose an ethics different from the Objectivist Ethics, and why? (based on what standard or reason)

Edited by dream_weaver
Fixed link.

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A few notes:  

For some odd reason on a desktop I could not easily navigate all the pages but using a mobile phone all pages are presented at once.

I can no longer edit my post, but if an admin wishes to fix the link to page 2 we would all appreciate it.

Rand's radio presentation is not a complete reading of the paper, a number of paragraphs were left out (likely due to limited time available for the broadcast).  The more rigorous analysis on hedonism is absent from the talk.  In any case the paper is complete whereas the talk is not.

Hearing Rand read her own material is sublime!

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Quote:

This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism—in any variant of ethical
hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. “Happiness” can
properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is
to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of
achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper
value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is
whatever you happen to value”—which is an act of intellectual and
philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics
and invites all men to play it deuces wild.
The philosophers who attempted to devise an allegedly rational code of
ethics gave mankind nothing but a choice of whims: the “selfish” pursuit of
one’s own whims (such as the ethics of Nietzsche)—or “selfless” service to
the whims of others (such as the ethics of Bentham, Mill, Comte and of all
social hedonists, whether they allowed man to include his own whims
among the millions of others or advised him to turn himself into a totally
selfless “shmoo” that seeks to be eaten by others).
When a “desire,” regardless of its nature or cause, is taken as an ethical
primary, and the gratification of any and all desires is taken as an ethical
goal (such as “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”)—men have no
choice but to hate, fear and fight one another, because their desires and their
interests will necessarily clash. If “desire” is the ethical standard, then one
man’s desire to produce and another man’s desire to rob him have equal
ethical validity; one man’s desire to be free and another man’s desire to
enslave him have equal ethical validity; one man’s desire to be loved and
admired for his virtues and another man’s desire for undeserved love and
unearned admiration have equal ethical validity. And if the frustration of any
desire constitutes a sacrifice, then a man who owns an automobile and is
robbed of it, is being sacrificed, but so is the man who wants or “aspires to”
an automobile which the owner refuses to give him—and these two
“sacrifices” have equal ethical status. If so, then man’s only choice is to rob
or be robbed, to destroy or be destroyed, to sacrifice others to any desire of
his own or to sacrifice himself to any desire of others; then man’s only
ethical alternative is to be a sadist or a masochist.
The moral cannibalism of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the
premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another.

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5 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Is the Objectivist ethics too "narrow" or "impoverished" due to its standard being man's survival qua man?  Would a man necessarily live a lesser life by its adoption? 

Several things here. First we should just be concerned with understanding what Rand's views are. What does survival qua man mean? Is that the ultimate end? If not, what is?

I see three basic interpretations going on here:

1. Survival is the ultimate end.

2. Survival qua man is the ultimate end.

3. Eudaimonia/flourishing is the ultimate end. 

If one were to take (1) as the case, I do think an impoverished Hobbesian/Maslowean ethic would follow, since you simply wouldn't need an Aristotelian virtue ethic for strict morgue-avoidance.

Moreover, as Yaron Brook has pointed out in answering a welfare statist/paternalist argument, Rand's robust conception of individual rights don't follow from mere survival. It's true, you couldn't maim or kill someone, but the welfare statist can do all sorts of things, it's not like they want to kill you. Aristotle points out, the man who fell in a well is still surviving, but not flourishing. Rand's political rights are spheres of moral autonomy to achieve individualistic self-perfection and happiness, not compatible or reducible to Hobbesian "don't kill me" rights.

If one were to take (2) as the case, it could be interpreted itself multiple ways. Suppose you meant maximizing the chances of long range survival in a more prudential manner or, say, maximizing a qualitative experience of life (which you could then later narrow down the content of.) In either case then I think it either collapses into (1) or (3).

If one were to take (3) as the case, I think Rand's more robust virtues necessarily follow, and this closely expresses the portrayal of her heroes in novels, as well as her many descriptions of the virtuous life and the fully integrated man. Take Rand's description of the prideful man, for example, much like Aristotle's "magnanimous man," this conception is way to rich for a bare-bones survivalism.

So the question is which is the most plausible view, and then which is the most plausible interpretation of Rand. I think, along with most Rand scholars and interpreters seem to take, that (3) is both the most plausible view both factually and the most plausible way to interpret Rand.

I think Rand herself sometimes equivocates here and there on things like "life" and "happiness" and "survival" and "survival qua man," so I recognize a survivalist could see Rand as supporting their view, if one were to emphasize these strands in her writing (which I think is more apparent in her non-fiction), one could be led to interpret Rand as a more consequentialist, or if one were simple ignorant of the distinctions between things like consequentialist and deontology. But I think this would be mistaken for the reasons above. 

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1 hour ago, Invictus2017 said:

The page 2 link points to page 6.

 

1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I can no longer edit my post, but if an admin wishes to fix the link to page 2 we would all appreciate it.

The page 2 link now points to page 2.

 

StrictlyLogical, your breakdown on this has been impeccable thus far. I've found myself searching the CD for identity near nature, where the usage of nature and identity are nearly synonymous.

In OPAR, Peikoff writes: "Happiness is properly the purpose of ethics, but not the standard." In The Objectivists Ethics, Rand serves as the voice of Peikoff's echo when she wrote: ""Happiness" can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard."

Buttressing this in Galt's Speech, Rand prefaced these last two excerpts with: "Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man—for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life."

 

Parsing for clarity requires the lens of reason be positioned such that the observations of the senses are in proper focus.

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35 minutes ago, 2046 said:

3. Eudaimonia/flourishing is the ultimate end. 

Perhaps, but why do you think she didn't use the word flourishing?

I have seen ARI use "well being". But I have always wondered, with all that familiarity with Aristotle, she chose not to use the word flourish. Nevertheless, I can see your point.

"It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a crawling aggregate of muscles who is
willing to accept any terms, obey any thug and surrender any values, for the
sake of what is known as “survival at any price,” which may or may not last
a week or a year. “Man’s survival qua man” means the terms, methods,
conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the
whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his
choice."

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I'm glad the conversation has started.  Discussion of this, the most important aspect of Rand's philosophy, is good to see.

I am curious about whether people agree or disagree with Objectivism and on what basis and in that regard I want everyone to feel free to positively voice his or her own personal thoughts on the subject. 

 

ASIDE: By way of REMINDER I'd like to advocate a certain approach to what Rand actually said when stating what her philosophy was:

When discussing what Rand "meant" or what Rand "thought" or "held", do not lose the fact of reality which is the person who wrote the words which you are contemplating...

Of all the intelligent, and logical persons who ever lived, of all the philosophers who ever said, meant, thought or held anything, Rand stands as a giant and a paragon among them, who took very seriously both the words she used to convey the thoughts she held and logical rigor by which she reached those thoughts. She said what she meant, and meant what she said, said what she thought and stated clearly what she held to be true, and you can be certain she thought long and hard about anything she said anything about.

Anyone tempted to second guess that she meant what she said, that somehow she stated A when she meant B, think about the premises upon which that temptation and error must be based ... I.e. the premise that she was anyone other than who she actually was.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

She said what she meant, and meant what she said, said what she thought and stated clearly what she held to be true, and you can be certain she thought long and hard about anything she said anything about.

The problem is that she did not say "everything she wanted to say". 

11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

the terms, methods, conditions, and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the
whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his
choice.

 

That is a broad statement subject to interpretation. But one thing is clear: She did not mean

11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

“survival at any price,”

So we can put the "survivalist" argument to rest. 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

So we can put the "survivalist" argument to rest. 

Survivalism as such was not advocated by anyone, nor "survival at any price" (the sentence fragment you quoted) as it means in the context of the full statement of Rand.

For reference, and for other readers' edification, let's put that "phrase fragment" (representing a corresponding fragment of an idea) into context, and provide the full statement which corresponds to the full idea (from page 3 of TOE):

"It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a crawling aggregate of muscles who is willing to accept any terms, obey any thug and surrender any values, for the sake of what is known as 'survival at any price,' which may or may not last a week or a year."

 

The idea I had in mind here was to start fresh from what is stated as her philosophy.  To keep things constructive I hope there are comments leaning toward positive statements of opinion and fact and arguments supporting them. 

It's much more productive to state positively what you think IS and why, rather than simply to identify that you think what others have said IS NOT.

Everyone's FIRST HANDedness is best served by only caring about what was said by the creator of Objectivism, I suggest that be the focus.

 

Please, sincerely, excuse me for the interjection, and by all means please continue, ...  everyone.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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4 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

 

Everyone's FIRST HANDedness is best served by only caring about what was said by the creator of Objectivism, I suggest that be the focus.

Huh? Pretty sure this is the exact meaning of second handedness. Being first handed is a disposition towards reality, not other people.

If I can interpret this charitably, I think you're saying something like, let's look at the work of Ayn Rand when trying to philosophically analyze the work of Ayn Rand. But... okay? This seems rather obvious. A scholarly paper, for example, would include the practice of making references and notations.

In any event, of course people are going to have differing interpretations of any philosopher when doing philosophy. The reason for this is that rationality is a independent process that is self initiated and requires sustained effort. Underlining tautologies and bold font does nothing to change this or coerce belief. See Locke's Letters Concerning Toleration and Essay concerning Human Understanding for detailed argumentation why. 

Edited by 2046

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Okay, in the spirit of the OP's request, this is my two cents:

There is the psychological plane of existence, the experience of life, pain pleasure, happiness.
Then there is the epistemological plane, the abstraction of life, the concept of flourishing and the moral code.
And then the metaphysical plane, the organism, existence or nonexistence.

From the metaphysical plane, the main thing that I learned from Rand was that there was no "my reality" vs. "your reality". There was just reality and the search for the truth is honorable.

From the psychological/experiential plane:

Objectivism taught me that I have a right to my life. 
I understood that when someone calls me selfish "they want something". 
I learned to strive for greatness rather than strive to look great.

I found that if I held onto things that didn't make sense, if I went along for too long, I suddenly drowned in anxiety. I learned that living as a parasite can creep up on people. Objectivism gave me a path to follow to find my way back, to happiness. 

She awoke me to the existence of unearned guilt. I learn that when I have a sense of having achieved something, the pleasure was moral, it was good.
And of course, I learned that the good was not what religion said and what a majority believed did not mean wisdom.

Ultimately, with her attack on altruism, I learned that defining my boundaries, determining who I am and what I want was my fundamental responsibility and a never-ending task. She reminded me that the merging and melding with others, at the cost of my core self, was being dead before my time. And in the process, I have fought to hold on to who I am, to be myself.

And now, I am here to learn what I put aside for later.
 

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43 minutes ago, 2046 said:

Huh? Pretty sure this is the exact meaning of second handedness. Being first handed is a disposition towards reality, not other people.

If I can interpret this charitably, I think you're saying something like, let's look at the work of Ayn Rand when trying to philosophically analyze the work of Ayn Rand. But... okay? This seems rather obvious. A scholarly paper, for example, would include the practice of making references and notations.

In any event, of course people are going to have differing interpretations of any philosopher when doing philosophy. The reason for this is that rationality is a independent process that is self initiated and requires sustained effort. Underlining tautologies and bold font does nothing to change this or coerce belief. See Locke's Letters Concerning Toleration and Essay concerning Human Understanding for detailed argumentation why. 

What I meant was: Let's talk about what Ayn Rand said rather than bickering over what each of us says... apparently not effective.  

As for conflating speech (bold text being emphasis) with coercion ... that kind of confusion (which we see now everywhere) is not something I ever would have predicted from someone such as yourself.

Now look, I myself have done the very thing I was trying in earnest to discourage.   Looks like I didn't get it either.

 

Let's all get back on track shall we? 

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What I meant was: Let's talk about what Ayn Rand said rather than bickering over what each of us says... apparently not effective.  

As for conflating speech (bold text being emphasis) with coercion ... that kind of confusion (which we see now everywhere) is not something I ever would have predicted from someone such as yourself.

Now look, I myself have done the very thing I was trying in earnest to discourage.   Looks like I didn't get it either.

 

Let's all get back on track shall we? 

 

 

Fair enough, I retract my comment then. Let us find the most plausible interpretation of objectivist ethics. I've hopefully helped to start to conversation rolling with three basic alternative options. But also I want to know what you think, not just what you think AR is saying. I suspect we may agree on like 98% of everything, and the 2% is relatively minor.

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Concepts are objective. When concepts are used objectively, where does the ambiguity arise from? The speaker/writer or the reader? To combine these questions into a different form: Why couldn't Miss Rand have simply meant what she said and said what she meant?

In an essay on The Objectivist Ethics, it is no accident that the objectivity of concepts gets addressed. Emotional responses, and happiness is an emotional response, are dependent on properly forming and utilizing concepts.

Another aspect of my initial skimming of the article zeroed in on the following for personal reflection on the mathematical parallels:

The difference between “standard” and “purpose” in this context is as follows: a “standard” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose.

Measurements. Gauging. An abstract principle, in this case, serving as a type of "unit"? Consider the role of an inch, millimeter, pound, ounce, taken as a unit to serve as the standard of measurement, the "what" that is being counted, i.e., measured.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, 2046 said:

Fair enough, I retract my comment then. Let us find the most plausible interpretation of objectivist ethics. I've hopefully helped to start to conversation rolling with three basic alternative options. But also I want to know what you think, not just what you think AR is saying. I suspect we may agree on like 98% of everything, and the 2% is relatively minor.

Agreed.

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Where do we start?  (BTW I do not want to lead or even facilitate the discussion ... but I will participate)

I think Rand's starting with Why does man even need a code of values and does man need values at all is a great start... why even bother with any ethics at all?

She dives in with questions (right from the get go) about whether values are related to or supported by facts of reality or are simply subjective whim.  I think this is great because it shows a motivation to approach ethics from a base of reality and not whim or emotion.

Any comments on her approach to this first crucial step?

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51 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Concepts are objective. When concepts are used objectively, where does the ambiguity arise from? The speaker/writer or the reader? To combine these questions into a different form: Why couldn't Miss Rand have simply meant what she said and said what she meant?

In an essay on The Objectivist Ethics, it is no accident that the objectivity of concepts gets addressed. Emotional responses, and happiness is an emotional response, are dependent on properly forming and utilizing concepts.

Another aspect of my initial skimming of the article zeroed in on the following for personal reflection on the mathematical parallels:

The difference between “standard” and “purpose” in this context is as follows: a “standard” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose.

Measurements. Gauging. An abstract principle, in this case, serving as a type of "unit"? Consider the role of an inch, millimeter, pound, ounce, taken as a unit to serve as the standard of measurement, the "what" that is being counted, i.e., measured.

 

 

What if your goal is not easily measured directly (it has no objective unit of any accuracy or reliability) and progress therefor is not easily gauged, but you can measure something which in principle supports your goal, makes it possible, and goes hand in hand with it, could that something which is more amenable to measurement be used for objectively inferring actual progress towards the goal?  Perhaps this is why an objective standard is preferable ... something to revisit.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What if your goal is not easily measured directly (it has no objective unit of any accuracy or reliability) and progress therefor is not easily gauged, but you can measure something which in principle supports your goal, makes it possible, and goes hand in hand with it, could that something which is more amenable to measurement be used for objectively inferring actual progress towards the goal?

That is precisely what Rand did with values. As a memorized term, or a word resting on dictionary definitions (your dictionary, my dictionary, Webster's, Oxfords, Collegiate . . . ), leaves the floor open to all sorts of erroneous tangents. How many dictionaries explicitly identify what the concept of value presupposes?

Of value to whom? The Bugatti company manufactures cars. After all the costs involved for producing the vehicle are taken into consideration, a price (value) of $2.5 million per unit is established. A prospective buyer, either possessing the $2.5 million or an equivalent in credit at his disposal, weighs the cost against the other options at his disposal.

I have a used Schwinn 10 speed bicycle setting in my garage. It has been there for over a decade. I could go through the trouble of finding out what it might be worth on the market and go through the effort of selling it, or if the floor space under which it sat was immanently needed to park that $2.5 million Bugatti on tomorrow, I could  just put the bicycle out to the curb for the trash collector to pick up provided the sheeny men don't get there first.

Is the objective identification of value being pursued, or being obfuscated by superfluous detail here?

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

She dives in with questions (right from the get go) about whether values are related to or supported by facts of reality or are simply subjective whim.  I think this is great because it shows a motivation to approach ethics from a base of reality and not whim or emotion.

Her approach to values initially proved that one should be the beneficiary of one's actions. That if one is prevented from the fruits of one's labor, they will die. This has implications in social contexts.

Now, when there is no one else involved, the "to whom" is irrelevant. A personal moral code becomes relevant. The idea that "if you chop your hand, it would be immoral" is not based on the existence of values. Man is free to destroy himself. But something has to make it wrong.

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On 10/11/2017 at 8:24 PM, 2046 said:
On 10/11/2017 at 8:24 PM, 2046 said:

If one were to take (2) as the case, it could be interpreted itself multiple ways. Suppose you meant maximizing the chances of long range survival in a more prudential manner or, say, maximizing a qualitative experience of life (which you could then later narrow down the content of.) In either case then I think it either collapses into (1) or (3).

2

 

On 10/11/2017 at 8:24 PM, 2046 said:

If one were to take (1) as the case, I do think an impoverished Hobbesian/Maslowean ethic would follow, since you simply wouldn't need an Aristotelian virtue ethic for strict morgue-avoidance.

1

2. Survival qua man is the ultimate end.

 

Hobbesian:: "Involving unrestrained, selfish (without regards to others), and uncivilized competition among participants". 
Maslowean: : "Maslow used the terms "physiological", "safety", "belonging" and "love", "esteem", "self-actualization", and "self-transcendence" to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through."

"“Man’s survival qua man” means the terms, methods, conditions, and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan". (Rand)

Is an uncivilized slavery filled tradeless existence equivalent to "survival qua man"? Wouldn't that be survival at any cost? So Hobbsean is out.

Furthermore, let us say, people, in fact, develop throughout their lifespan as Maslow said. Would they revert to a Hobbsean existence? 
I would say no. To tolerate a Hobbsean existence solitude may be the solution. But if they were alone, one of the key needs, the need for love and belonging would never be satisfied. So the tendency would be to trade and be together.

This brings into question the nature of man. Is the desire to hurt others a natural part of a human being? Is it a constant desire like hunger? Are we malevolent by nature? I think that the main argument against it is "Wouldn't we have gone extinct if we were?"

The Hobbesian tendency is untenable ... in the long term/lifespan. Especially with our innate desire to play and to have fun. (that is constant like hunger)

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The first substantive point in "The Objectivist Ethics" is where Rand defines ethics as "a code of values to guide man's choices and actions -- the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code."

Of course, Rand wasn't writing a scholarly treatise, so it may be impolite to hold her to academic standards, but I do have to point out that this is question begging. My issue is with "code of values". The motivation for ethics is the problem of deciding what to do. However, a code of values is but one possible way of making such decisions.

That said, I think it's a minor issue. One can begin by saying that ethics is a body of knowledge to guide man's choices and actions. Later, one can demonstrate that this knowledge is properly in the form of a code of values.

While I'm nitpicking, I'll also point out that choices are actions, so "choices and actions" is redundant. However, I presume that Rand intended to say that ethics guides both mental and physical actions.

Oh, and another nitpick: The word "action" is frequently ambiguous, as it is often unclear whether it refers to all action or only to volitional action. In this particular context, it's clear that Rand was talking about volitional action. However, it wouldn't hurt to make this explicit.

So then, a definition of the topic at hand: Ethics is a body of knowledge to guide man's choices and volitional actions.

Rand goes on to say that the initial question to be asked is why man needs a code of values at all. Because that's part of the question begging, her particular argument can't be used. Instead, one would have to ask something on the order of why man needs ethics at all, and transition to a discussion of values. Once that discussion is done, one can point out that ethics concerns a code of values, That, at least, is how I think I'll be proceeding in my next post analyzing "The Objectivist Ethics".

Edited by Invictus2017
copyediting

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58 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

The first substantive point in "The Objectivist Ethics" is where Rand defines ethics as "a code of values to guide man's choices and actions -- the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code."

Of course, Rand wasn't writing a scholarly treatise, so it may be impolite to hold her to academic standards, but I do have to point out that this is question begging. My issue is with "code of values". The motivation for ethics is the problem of deciding what to do. However, a code of values is but one possible way of making such decisions.

That said, I think it's a minor issue. One can begin by saying that ethics is a body of knowledge to guide man's choices and actions. Later, one can demonstrate that this knowledge is properly in the form of a code of values.

While I'm nitpicking, I'll also point out that choices are actions, so "choices and actions" is redundant. However, I presume that Rand intended to say that ethics guides both mental and physical actions.

Oh, and another nitpick: The word "action" is frequently ambiguous, as it is often unclear whether it refers to all action or only to volitional action. In this particular context, it's clear that Rand was talking about volitional action. However, it wouldn't hurt to make this explicit.

So then, a definition of the topic at hand: Ethics is a body of knowledge to guide man's choices and volitional actions.

Rand goes on to say that the initial question to be asked is why man needs a code of values at all. Because that's part of the question begging, her particular argument can't be used. Instead, one would have to ask something on the order of why man needs ethics at all, and transition to a discussion of values. Once that discussion is done, one can point out that ethics concerns a code of values, That, at least, is how I think I'll be proceeding in my next post analyzing "The Objectivist Ethics".

I am not sure how Rand is question begging.  Ethics existed prior to her particular formulation of it.  Men are actually following various codes of values and they are guiding their actions and indeed the courses of their lives.  Those Ethics may be a boon or a curse... but I see no question begging.  Can you clarify?

 

Conventionally, Ethics is prescriptive as opposed to descriptive.  As such although Ethics can be informed by a body of knowledge (or purported knowledge) Ethics itself is filled with prescriptions often worded in the imperative "musts" and "must nots" (for example as in the various religious forms of Ethics) which is to be distinguished from the knowledge (or fairy tale) upon which it is based.  The starting point of defining Ethics as a "code" (something to "follow") seems ab initio more accurate than claiming it to be merely a body of knowledge ... which could give rise to a code ... which could be used to guide man's choices.

Knowledge (or purported knowledge) ->  Ethics/Code -> Choices and Actions

Here, the knowledge or purported knowledge could be biology/psychology/sociology/ i.e. or science, or it could be purported knowledge such as some compendium of mystical beliefs and fairy tale stories, whereas the code of prescriptions is based on the knowledge (or purported knowledge).

 

I think the issues you raise re. choices and action and volition are already implicit (in the context of her entire work), but your clarification at this point is valid.

 

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