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(MIKE) MichaleHansonBryan

Objective Black and White Ideals

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In religion, there are a set of supposed "Objective" values and ideals (ie, good: charity, sacrifice, honesty,   and bad: homosexuality, individualism, cutting your hair)

So I would Love to know what do Objectivists view as wrong and right, evil and good, black and white.

I already got the whole, man should neither sacrifice himself for others and others should not sacrifice themselfs for him.

But I would Love to know more specific virtues/behaviors that are good and spefic virtues/behaviors that are bad.

It would be great if your answers are in list form.

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Objectivism doesn't name anything so concrete.

If you want a broad list of Objectivist principles,  there are four points listed on this page (scroll down a bit): https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1962/01/01/introducing-objectivism

If you limit the question just to "what we should value", then here's a quote from Rand:

Quote

“The three cardinal values of the Objectivist ethics ... are: Reason, Purpose, Self-esteem, with their three corresponding virtues: Rationality, Productiveness, Pride.”

See a little more here: http://wiki.objectivismonline.net/Virtues

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6 hours ago, (MIKE) MichaleHansonBryan said:

I understand Reason/Rationality and Self-Esteem/Pride, but can you be a little more clear about Purpose/Productiveness?

Good question. Most people are cool with Reason/Rationality: it seems too obvious -- it is even implicit in asking for reasons in the first place. (Self-esteem/Pride is usually the tricky one to grasp.) 

Context -  life and the pursuit of happiness: Before addressing purpose/productiveness, one has to remind oneself of the larger context: why are we asking about Ethics in the first place? We would start with a non-mystical assumption: in other words, we throw God and other superstitious causes out of the window as a starting point, and think of it as a naturalistic/biological issue. That starting point eventually leads us to conclude that our rules of what we should pursue should be based on asking what makes our lives good, fulfilling and happy. This would also include considering the social context: the value and happiness we get from friends, family, etc. This too is part of the basic biological context in which we live and can flourish or not.

Thinking about values: If these are good things, they should further our life. Not just make us live a few more years, but should make the years we do live into better, happier years. One can go about figuring this out in two ways. The obvious way seems to be by asking : "what are the things that can improve my life?" A second possible approach is to ask: "What makes me happy?"

The objection to the second approach is: just because something makes you happy, it does not necessarily mean it is good. For all you know, it could be killing you on the inside! Reason/rationality are the tools we ought to use. Rand says "emotions are not tools of cognition", but this is a poor formulation. Yes, of course, emotions won't tell you if something is really good or bad for you, but they're typically the catalyst to the question.

We might try something and either love it or hate it. If we love it, we still do need to think about whether it is good for us in the long term. Maybe it is great now, but will reduce the quality of our lives for decades, when its ill-effects kick in. Or, we might hate something, but we recognize that if we go through with it, it will improve our lives for years. We are animals, and being animals, we have to resist the "more  animalistic" follow-through. Or, more accurately, we should use our brains -- the "rational" part of being "rational animals" -- and not be driven purely by emotion. Still, without the emotion, we would never be asking the questions and looking for answers. 

An analogy to astronomy: We can do the math, and realize that a planet (Uranus) must exist at a certain place in the solar-system. Or we can scan the skies looking for planets. Indeed, the math of the first approach would not be possible if we did not have a lot of data in the first place. So, the same with asking what will make us happy in the long term: start by asking what makes you happy. Then, ask what makes other people happy -- just as a biologist's opening presumption is that what sustains one amoeba would sustain another.

That's a super-long intro :)  But, it is really necessary if you want to grasp the idea with both body and soul.

Purpose/Productiveness: Put on your scientist's lab-coat and looking for observations look all around you, and across the world for examples of people getting happiness from some purpose and from productiveness. If you know actual people to think about -- dead or alive -- that's ideal. Maybe you know someone who was very driven and purposeful in his work, and seemed to enjoy it. And, another person who worked a lot, but the work depressed him. Why?What was different? Were either of them pursuing purpose and productiveness? 

Or, think of simpler examples: a kids and his parents are at the bottom of a hill, and there's a long stairway leading to the top. Tourists climb up and and get a great view. Taking the child's hand, one parent says: "let's count the steps", and up they go. All that effort for a view the kid does not even care about, and is just a few minutes for the parents. Yet, if they come back in a few years, they might happily do it again! Why? What triggers the emotion? As a scientist from Mars, can you see a link between this and their flourishing as a species?

Or, even consider something that seems to be completely unproductive: a kid sitting in his room all day, playing video games. One can ask if that';s the choice that will make him most happy in the long term. But, just as interesting is to ask: why does this make him happy, in the first place? And, more specifically, what is it about this video game, compared to others that makes him happy? Even within the same genre, what is it about this good game and this other boring one? Even if the purpose and output from a game is "not real", it can give one clues to the link between purpose and productiveness (in this virtual world, that would be the achievement of the goals of the game) on the one hand, and happiness on the other.

Also, look at what other philosophers and self-help folk say about happiness:

Quote

 

"Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all you heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours."

-Dale Carnegie 

 

Pastor Rick Warren uses "purpose-driven life" as his catch-phrase, and it clicks with a lot of people. Are they, and Dale Carnegie fans on to something? Regardless of what you think of their overall message, have they identified some truth about human life?

Those are some places to start, but as you ask these questions, try noticing the pairings of purposefulness and happiness all around you. Maybe a cousin is telling you that he is so happy that he quit his corporate job and joined the peace corp two years ago. If you take that at face value, how would an alien scientist reason about that? 

One can only really understand the value of this via induction: by starting with a lot of data and reasoning from there. Otherwise, any little chapter on why -- in abstract -- having a purpose and being productive will make you happy is not going to be convincing.

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First and foremost Ayn Rand lists life as an end in itself. Her argument in The Objectivist Ethics is that:

Quote

“In answer to those philosophers who claim that no relation can be established between ultimate ends or values and the facts of reality, let me stress that the fact that living entities exist and function necessitates the existence of values and of an ultimate value which for any given living entity is its own life. Thus the validation of value judgments is to be achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the issue of the relation between “is” and “ought.””

That is, moral principles derive from the nature of Man, because is implies ought.

It's not just limited to life, she goes on:

Quote

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or
evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man... 

Such is the meaning of the definition: that which is required for man’s survival qua man. It does not mean a momentary or a merely physical survival...

Man cannot survive as anything but man. He can abandon his means of survival, his mind, he can turn himself into a subhuman creature and he can turn his life into a brief span of agony—just as his body can exist for a while in the process of disintegration by disease. But he cannot succeed, as a subhuman, in achieving anything but the subhuman—as the ugly horror of the antirational periods of mankind’s history can demonstrate. Man has to be man by choice—and it is the task of ethics to teach him how to live like man.

So you can derive a list of specific, objective values and ideals by reference to the nature of Man, and what it means to live like a man - and that means all the characteristics of man's nature - not just his survival as a living organism or his rational faculty.

Ayn Rand lists seven major virtues in Atlas Shrugged: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

Another more specific example like "life", would be one's sex, which means a couple of key things, like living as man or a woman accordingly, and learning to follow the principles of masculinity and femininity. It also means pursuing the ideal of heterosexual marriage and procreation. These are objective moral principles and ideals, guidelines for how to live, and how to give emphasis, optimization, beauty, etc, that follow from important aspects of human nature and identity. These would be like any other aspects of morality, they are not optional, or dependent upon someone's subjective whim, and going against them would be immoral and self-sacrificial.

Edited by intrinsicist

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1 hour ago, intrinsicist said:

...   a couple of key things, like living as man or a woman accordingly, and learning to follow the principles of masculinity and femininity. It also means pursuing the ideal of heterosexual marriage and procreation. These are objective moral principles and ideals, ...

This moves out of the philosophy and into biology.

In fact, obliquely, this illustrates the point I made in my post: that one does not starts with some abstract principle and reason one's way to concretes. 

Edited by softwareNerd

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19 hours ago, (MIKE) MichaleHansonBryan said:

I understand Reason/Rationality and Self-Esteem/Pride, but can you be a little more clear about Purpose/Productiveness?

Productiveness is simply acting on rationality. Not much use in BEING rational, if you don't DO anything rational.

Reason is our tool for understanding and evaluating the world. Understanding how the world is, and how it should be (what are the circumstances that further one's life). Productivity is making what should be, happen. For a basic example, if you're on a desert island and you are able to figure out that you will need long term shelter, water supply and food supply, to live, productivity is actually getting those things.

10 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

Another more specific example like "life", would be one's sex, which means a couple of key things, like living as man or a woman accordingly, and learning to follow the principles of masculinity and femininity. It also means pursuing the ideal of heterosexual marriage and procreation. These are objective moral principles and ideals, guidelines for how to live, and how to give emphasis, optimization, beauty, etc, that follow from important aspects of human nature and identity. These would be like any other aspects of morality, they are not optional, or dependent upon someone's subjective whim, and going against them would be immoral and self-sacrificial.

There is nothing in Objectivism to support this arbitrary claim (that you are making because you misunderstand biology).

Edited by Nicky

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