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"Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

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i look forward to this thread moving ... in the meanwhile 

using any second handed standard where one fussed over the relative benefit to another person rather than whether there is a net benefit to oneself, creates the following irrational result..

observe in a trade each side benefits from created wealth... assuming you have the exact same trade with various different people you stand to benefit exactly by the same amount. however, the better off the one you are trading with the less important or proportionally smaller the benefit to them e.g. Bill Gates, and the less well off the person the more important or proportionally greater the benefit of the trade is to them e.g. the poor old senior down the street.  Assuming you no longer need a hat and offer to sell it because it has little value to you now, you stand to gain a few bucks from junk and the person who buys it for a few bucks gets a hat which sells for so much more.  Bill Gates who has ample hats and funds for them gains little benefit from buying your rock bottom priced hat whereas the senior down the road might really benefit from your cheap hat because no other hats are available within his/her means.  

The upshot is, when you fuss over the "true" benefit to the other person you end up avoiding selling to those most likely to buy and trying to sell it to the one least likely to pay any attention to your crappy hat.  You end up ignoring the fact that the benefit to you does not change based on who you sell to and you could miss a sale entirely i.e. completely miss an opportunity which means, to act against your own self interest based on an irrational principle. 

Irrationality is NOT Randian egioism.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

How does one objectively and accurately know what the other guy is "truly" gaining
(or losing for that matter)? 

Yeah, that's the question. I didn't think I needed to specify on this forum that I meant "what's in one's self-interest". I meant how we judge anything assuming hierarchy of values. I'm claiming that Doug Morris is wrong to say that the other party gains greater benefit, that it only appears that the other person gains greater benefit. "Truly" shouldn't trigger the idea that I'm aiming for an intrinsic definition of value.

I can't think of an actual example where the other person benefits more that isn't a clear-cut case of self-sacrifice. 

But if the other person really does benefit more, the only way I can foresee this happening is that you lose something, or gain absolutely no psychological satisfaction. The only way I think the other person could benefit more is if you are deliberately taking imbalanced actions where your self is just a secondary thought. In terms of romantic relationships, if the benefit is not mutual and about equal, then something is wrong. Or if it's a friendship where all I get is fun playing chess, but the other person ALSO learns from me, there is an big imbalance in that relationship. By not altering your behavior to gain about equal benefit (perhaps you want to learn their life story and are very interested in it), you would be acting against your self-interest; it's not in your self-interest to have imbalanced relationships. 

Even trade to an extent is about equal benefit. One person gains a monetary benefit, the other person gains a psychological benefit. If either party gets more out of the exchange, it would be a bad deal. Of course, it's difficult to measure benefit like this, but selling a book for $10 is about equal to whatever psychological benefit the book offers. Selling the same book for $5, all other things being equal, would still be a benefit, but not the greatest benefit you can get in that situation. It's not a perfect analogy, it's just that the aim is an equitable exchange. It gets a lot more complicated when we discuss the exchange of only psychological values.

Edited by Eiuol

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Even trade to an extent is about equal benefit.

I hope you are not going to speak against sweatshops now.

If I have 5 apples and you have 5 oranges, when I give up 2 apples for one of your oranges, it is because that orange is worth (more than) 2 apples to me.
Some God-type being (or a Marx like being) might think "Gee, that's not fair". -it's not equal: one apple for one orange.
The only thing that is equal in this scenario is in the sameness in the decision to trade. 
The value/benefit received and given may or may not be equal.

But more importantly, the idea that the traded benefits should be equal (especially to some third party) goes against free market principles.
 

Edited by Easy Truth

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I was trying to make the point that it doesn't matter whether the other party gains more or not.

If you're getting the pleasure of playing chess, how is it against your interests if the other person is getting more?

Now if you're saying that one should look for a way to tweak the relationship or your reaction to it, acceptable to both parties, that increases your benefit, that might be appropriate.  But if you don't see any such way of tweaking, how is the relationship against your interests?

If, at very little risk to yourself, you save the life of a child who is a stranger to you or a casual acquaintance, that child gains its whole life, and its parents gain greatly too.  You probably don't gain that much.  Does this mean you shouldn't save the child's life?

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7 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I hope you are not going to speak against sweatshops now.

If I have 5 apples and you have 5 oranges, when I give up 2 apples for one of your oranges, it is because that orange is worth (more than) 2 apples to me.
Some God-type being (or a Marx like being) might think "Gee, that's not fair". -it's not equal: one apple for one orange.
The only thing that is equal in this scenario is in the sameness in the decision to trade. 
The value/benefit received and given may or may not be equal.

But more importantly, the idea that the traded benefits should be equal (especially to some third party) goes against free market principles.
 

Did read what I wrote about psychological benefit? I was clearly -not- talking about labor theory of value or intrinsic value, but equal(ish) degree of value in an exchange. No idea how you think someone gains more than another. 

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5 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

But if you don't see any such way of tweaking, how is the relationship against your interests?

I can't imagine how no such tweaking would be possible. I need an example. 

5 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

If, at very little risk to yourself, you save the life of a child who is a stranger to you or a casual acquaintance, that child gains its whole life, and its parents gain greatly too.  You probably don't gain that much.  Does this mean you shouldn't save the child's life?

It would mean you should not. 

But why do you think you probably don't gain that much in that example? You could get a lot out of it. You gain the psychological benefit of saving a life, the gratitude, the benefit of having a potential trader around, the pride you'd feel probably, the self-esteem that you were able to offer a tremendous value, and all kinds of other things. If you don't get much out of it, I imagine it would be something like "oh, it was really no big deal". That would be overly modest, devaluing what it is that you did. 


When you don't get much out of doing something, you shouldn't do it. If all actions you could take end up with the other person benefiting more, then something is wrong with your life (or at least, you need to reevaluate that relationship). In all of Rand's fiction, that's the message I've always gotten. The only question past that is whether a certain action provides selfish benefit in the long run. 

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Did read what I wrote about psychological benefit? I was clearly -not- talking about labor theory of value or intrinsic value, but equal(ish) degree of value in an exchange. No idea how you think someone gains more than another. 

 

You're talking about subjective value. (To repeat myself: how does a "participant" objectively determine the equality?)

If the seller wants to get rid of the house and the buyer is desperate to obtain it, one might benefit more than the other "psychologically" speaking and also based on an objective assessment of a third party: based on what an independent appraiser would calculate.

Person A and B trade. Person A may "want" the deal far more than B. (I assume "wanting/desire" qualifies as a psychological element). Somehow you are calculating an equality in desire or satisfaction and you expect me to see what you see. This is privileged knowledge on your part, not available to me.

There is nothing philosophical nor empirical that indicates that they usually are equal in desire or that they should be equal in desire (or eventual satisfaction).
 

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21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I would argue that this is altruistic. It depends entirely on if the other person truly does gain greater benefit. 

I'm not sure though if this is the type of example Boydstun was thinking of. But if it is, I think Rand would be against it (which is his point). Except, it's hard for me to think of a case where helping someone you love without harming yourself could ever result in the other person gaining more benefit. By benefit, I'm also including the psychological effects. 

The benefit to others is irrelevant to the question of whether an action is egoistic.  All that is required for an action to be egoistic is that the action be directed to one's own benefit.  Whether another benefits or is harmed, and the degree of that benefit or harm, has no bearing on whether the action is egoistic.

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21 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

When we speak of one's own interest, is that based on what one sees at the moment or based on hindsight or some third party judging it?

Your self-interest is that which will support your life, whether or not you see it or what others think it may be.

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Person A and B trade. Person A may "want" the deal far more than B. (I assume "wanting/desire" qualifies as a psychological element). Somehow you are calculating an equality in desire or satisfaction and you expect me to see what you see.

You don't really need to calculate it. You could, as an economist or a psychologist, do such a thing, but we're talking about day-to-day exchanges. All you really need is some kind of desire, and that would be enough to say that you value a book and seek to have it. 

The other person selling the book doesn't exactly want to keep it, or at least greater value can be attained by selling it. For whatever reason, the other person might say that $10 is plenty, perhaps by recognizing that most people are willing to pay $10 for a book, and that $10 would get them things that they want more than a book (maybe tickets to a movie). 

You have $10, but you really want that book. You don't mind parting with your $10, because the book is worth more than that to you overall (not just in monetary terms). But you might not want to pay $15, because while you would very much enjoy the book, there are other things you would rather have for $15, like a big box of cherry chocolates. 

In both cases, all the complexities of trade in a modern society help us to reach an approximation of what degree we value things. If the book you want is especially valuable because it is a first edition with an author's handwritten notes, you might even pay up to as much as $100 for the book, because it's worth that in terms of how much you are foregoing later on. If the other person does not raise the price to near $100 (leaving aside if a fast transaction is what the seller wants), they are missing out. Sometimes the seller doesn't actually know the book has a special value, but that would be a unique case where one party knows more than the other. In this day and age, both the seller and the buyer know quite a bit about the item in question.

In a sense, getting $10 for selling a book completely makes up for any loss from getting rid of the book, while losing $10 for buying the book is made up by the psychological benefit of having the book. What you and the other person get is about equal in value as evaluated by both of you individually. There is a difference in kind, to be sure, but they are commensurable values. 
 

18 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

All that is required for an action to be egoistic is that the action be directed to one's own benefit.

I agree. But what I'm adding here is that identifying if someone is benefiting more than you would suggest that you aren't getting as much benefit as you can from your actions. In order to determine which actions go towards your own benefit, you also need to figure out how to gain the most benefit. You need to maximize your life. If another person is gaining greater benefit, on average, you can reliably say that you are not directing your actions to your benefit quite enough. It's great if you can do this without analyzing the benefit of others, but that added information can help. The information is useful, but neither necessary nor sufficient. 

 

Edited by Eiuol

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4 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

 But what I'm adding here is that identifying if someone is benefiting more than you would suggest that you aren't getting as much benefit as you can from your actions. 

Your values and my values are incommensurable, because they serve different ends. It is therefore an error to even try to determine whether you get more from an action than I do.

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Values all go towards the same end - life. Even if someone else defines value differently, we aren't discussing edge cases where the value in question inherently endangers your life (such as someone who pays a lot of money for heroin). 

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1 hour ago, Invictus2017 said:

Values, in general, go toward different ends -- particular lives.

Yup. How does that change what I said? I already clarified before that I'm not arguing for an intrinsic value, and it should be clear that I'm not arguing for some Platonic conception of life. If I say that my values go towards my life, and you say your values go towards your life, then that means that both of our values go towards our individual lives. That is, both of our values go towards the same kind of end - life. Condensing all that, you would recognize that the referents of life are particular lives, and the referents of value are particular values.

The reason we both can talk about life, and our values, and judge if these values are good or bad, is because our lives are commensurable to some extent. The fact that any two lives are commensurable is the very reason we can have the concept "life". I shouldn't need to explain this every single time I mention the concept value. 

Commensurable means they are comparable. It doesn't mean they are identical.

I don't want to have to unpack every single sentence I write just to explain all my premises. If all you can do is nitpick that you thought I should've been more precise in this context, then there isn't actually any discussion to have.

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In situations where there is no emotional reaction to the other person, the question of "will the act benefit the other more than myself" the action is not self-interested.
At that point, the others' benefit becomes more important than one's own (for no good reason).
These are cases where others are "unimportant/immaterial", if "their benefit" is chosen as the final determinant to take the action, it becomes a non-egoist stance.
In those cases, simply comparing "their benefits" to one's own can change the stance from egoist to non-egoist.
If non-egoist means altruist then it is an altruistic act.

But, if the other has an emotional relationship, loved, feared, hated etc. then comparing their amount of benefit can still be egoistic.
One may want to make sure that an enemy gets less or nothing in a transaction.
One may want a loved one to get the lion's share etc.

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18 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It would mean you should not. 

But why do you think you probably don't gain that much in that example? You could get a lot out of it. You gain the psychological benefit of saving a life, the gratitude, the benefit of having a potential trader around, the pride you'd feel probably, the self-esteem that you were able to offer a tremendous value, and all kinds of other things. If you don't get much out of it, I imagine it would be something like "oh, it was really no big deal". That would be overly modest, devaluing what it is that you did. 


When you don't get much out of doing something, you shouldn't do it. If all actions you could take end up with the other person benefiting more, then something is wrong with your life (or at least, you need to reevaluate that relationship). In all of Rand's fiction, that's the message I've always gotten. The only question past that is whether a certain action provides selfish benefit in the long run. 

When I said "You probably don't gain that much", I was not talking about some absolute standard of muchness, and I was not implying that you gain little.  I was saying that you don't gain as much as the child does, and you probably don't gain as much as the parents do.

You answered the question you thought I was asking.  Now please answer the question I was trying to ask.  

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For the child2 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

When I said "You probably don't gain that much", I was not talking about some absolute standard of muchness, and I was not implying that you gain little.  I was saying that you don't gain as much as the child does, and you probably don't gain as much as the parents do.

I know. I'm saying that you probably do get as much value as the parents. You're partially right for the child, because nothing can really top life in a hierarchy of values. On the other hand, "having your life saved" is not the same as "your life". The child is not gaining life. Rather, the child is gaining the psychological satisfaction and relief after being near death. In terms of that satisfaction and relief, I would say that you can easily gain as much value as the child.

11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

One may want a loved one to get the lion's share etc.

Just to be clear, I'm trying to demonstrate that if you are being egoistic, no one is getting the lion's share of value. Not because you would be comparing yourself to others at all times to discover who is "winning", but that if you did take the time to figure out what value the other person is getting, you would discover that things are equitable. Or you would discover issues in the relationship.

Perhaps in individual cases, in the short term, one person can gain more value with you still acting egoistically. But in the long run, it would balance out.

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17 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The reason we both can talk about life, and our values, and judge if these values are good or bad, is because our lives are commensurable to some extent.

It is because they are instances of the same concepts, not because they are commensurable.  A thing is of value -- and has the value it does -- only with respect to the particular life it supports.  So one can't compare values when they apply to different lives, and thus it is meaningless to even ask who gets more benefit from some exchange. 

I suggest that "value" is being used in more than one sense in this discussion.  I'm talking about "value" in the ethics sense.  But there is also "value" in the sense of monetary value.  This allows comparisons between peoples' values, insofar as people are willing to relate their values to money (or other existents valued for exchange).  It creates a commensurability that otherwise does not exist and allows a rational means of comparing value, but only where values have been related to money.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

It is because they are instances of the same concepts, not because they are commensurable.

Commensurable means that something is comparable by the same standard. How can two instances of the same concept not be comparable by the same standard? The whole point of Objectivist ethics is that there is a common standard of value, and that is life. We all have different lives, but there are things in common among all these lives - and that's how we are able to compare two people morally. I can judge someone is better than another person, I can judge if one particular action that you take would not necessarily be the right action in my context. If it's true that I cannot compare values among individuals, how can I possibly have an objective code of ethics? All I'd be able to do is say "it's right for me, but I have no way to know if it's right for you". If I said "I need to know more about your values to determine if they are benefiting your life", that would be fine, but you would be conceding that you can compare lives if you have the information.

4 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I suggest that "value" is being used in more than one sense in this discussion. 

I make no distinction between the two (and I don't think Rand ever did either, in case you wondered my opinion). Monetary value is a type of value - people seek it out. Indeed, we would create commensurability, but that's how any abstract concept formation works. There is no intrinsic measure of value that is valid, so in order to even come up with the concept value, you need to observe a variety of instances of value, and people acting with values in mind. It's not some artificial relationship. If it were artificial and invented, then it would be arbitrary and an invalid concept. You seem to agree with that much. So I think you contradicted your point that different values are not commensurable. You just said that you can create (in the epistemic sense) a commensurability in order to compare values rationally. The problem I see is that I don't understand why you think monetary value is different in kind than ethical value. I only see monetary as an adjective, in the same way you might say food value, or aesthetic value. The referents are different, but they are still all about the same thing.

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Commensurable means that something is comparable by the same standard.

I am questioning its applicability. You say one does not have to compare or measure:

 

On 6/29/2018 at 12:26 PM, Eiuol said:

You don't really need to calculate it.

 But you just offered arguments supporting how they are measurable. To what end? 

Now, I can see perhaps not-normal cases, like taking advantage of a feeble-minded person, or the concept of an unconscionable contract,

Quote

terms that are so extremely unjust, or overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party who has the superior bargaining power, that they are contrary to good conscience.

But you won't bring these up, instead, you talk of some "psychological benefit" which I admit you have tried hard to make me understand but unfortunately, even now, I don't get it.

What I am most concerned with is the ability to apply these principles to my life. At any moment I have to determine if what I plan to do is ethical or not. Sometimes what I like is enough to pass the rational self-interest test (although it always passes the egoist, self-interested test). I thought that based on your assertions, I will have to do some calculation when trading but you say I don't have to.

If the equality of value  (in trade) exists without my having to calculate it, well, I don't have to worry about it. I wish I could use your argument with the egalitarians that I debate with. They don't see an automatic equality in trades.

Edited by Easy Truth

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14 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

To what end? 

It helps when you need to evaluate how your relationships are doing in life. But you don't always need to deliberate about it, a lot of the time intuition is plenty. Or if you are making good and ethical decisions, it will turn out equitable anyway. 

14 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

"psychological benefit" which I admit you have tried hard to make me understand but unfortunately, even now, I don't get it.

Various positive or helpful emotions. When you feel happy, or relaxed, are a few examples. 

14 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I thought that based on your assertions, I will have to do some calculation when trading but you say I don't have to.

Nope. I mean, if I play chess for fun with a friend, I don't need to take the time to figure out my friend's benefit. That we're friends is all I need to know. If I buy a book for $10, it's not all that important to know what the corporation gets in a capitalist society. But if I suspect something is off, like my friend thinks I'm trying to flirt when I'm not, it might be worth figuring out why it's inequitable. So all I'm getting at is that inequitable relationships indicate that I'm not maximizing value in my life.

A trade I think is only truly equitable if both parties are more or less egoistic with a trade. This isn't always true, as some companies are altruistic about their prices, or in a romantic relationship sometimes one side is abusive and gets more out of it. An egalitarian most likely wants equity across the board for each measure of value (even monetary). To them, an income gap reflects a grossly unjust system because one person getting more than another in any regard is bad (or if the gap is "too big"). This tends towards giving something up or disregarding some of your own interests to make all aspects of value perfectly equal. Even if it's not on their mind, that's the consequence. But if as Rand says "there is no conflict of interest among rational men", there will be a mutually egoistic (and equitable) exchange whether or not you calculate it. 

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9 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

But if as Rand says "there is no conflict of interest among rational men", there will be a mutually egoistic (and equitable) exchange whether or not you calculate it. 

 


I assume you mean mutually rational egoistic (and equitable).

Trying to come up with an example of a non-egoistic trade.

One is presumed to be in a social context when trading. The only non-egoistic trade that I can think of is when helping someone that you don't care about at all (without any outcome that would please you in any way). One would say that will never happen. Something about it has to please you for you to do anything, it is like saying it is an "unmotivated trade". A trade without personal impetus/need/desire.

Now, one could say that you will go to heaven if you do that. And if the person helps in that way, some will say it is altruistic, but then others will say that it is egoistic because heaven is the outcome. Heaven is the subjective, but motivating goal, and it is desirable as self-interest.

On 6/29/2018 at 12:20 PM, Invictus2017 said:

Your self-interest is that which will support your life, whether or not you see it or what others think it may be.

Based on that definition, then the act was in fact altruistic. (also, that may indicate that a non-egoist action is ultimately due to a mistake/or being tricked into choosing something that is not to your self-interest).

Or the person has chosen to believe in a fairy tale as being true. That is the immoral act.

Some will argue that from a consequentialist standpoint, the action has a chance of creating actual benefit, you give a ride to a stranger and turns out to be Bill Gates etc.

My problem with all this is that this knowledge is to be applied. It is becoming very clouded and vague. At the moment, when trying to make a decision as to whether this (action) is ultimately to my self-interest or not, it will be based on the context of knowledge at that moment.

Looking at it from that perspective, some outcome in the chain of outcomes may be a motivator, and that can qualify it as egoistic. I want an ice cream because of its pleasure. Let us say it will cause my joints to swell and have an arthritic attack because of it. I have not had one for a long time and have a deep desire for it. I decide, I will enjoy it and will tolerate the attack. The ultimate end is not to one's self-interest, but one thing along that chain was pleasing and was the motivator (potentially qualifying it as egoistic).

So was that or was that not egoistic?

And was that or was that not rationally egoistic?

 

 

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The other question that comes to mind is that nature of "equitable". To determine what is equitable, one must know what "unearned" means.

Now, an egoist would take the unearned. A rational egoist would not - Or an Objectivist would not.

Quote

It holds that the rationalinterests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.

1

In this one could make the argument that values can be compared. But I think it is in principle and in hindsight, one could do the measurements and if each trader did not take the unearned, "it was equitable".

It is more difficult to determine at the moment. One could buy something that was stolen from another without knowing it. Although one could "fix it" when it becomes known (nevertheless potentially un-equitable).

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Trying to come up with an example of a non-egoistic trade.

Now I think you're starting to notice the issue I'm talking about.

Often, in any kind of trade, even an altruist gets something. They don't act in their overall self-interest, but they still gain some degree of psychological value. I don't think it would make sense to say they gain nothing at all (although the recipient certainly gains more, or both parties are worse off than before). But if you agree with this, then you need to agree that whether you gain some benefit doesn't automatically mean you were acting in your self-interest in the long run. For something to be selfish, part of the measure should be if you are the primary beneficiary of your actions (equitable, but with yourself as the main concern).

A non-egoistic trade could be something like inviting a toxic family member to Thanksgiving. Someone might feel obligated to bring that family member because you don't want to make a fuss, or because you owe it to them for being a family member. This is basically what Rearden did with his family. He may have gained some small amount of satisfaction for pleasing others at the expense of himself, even though it was personally motivated. I've heard of this happening in real life, so I'm only bringing up Rearden because you probably know that example already.

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

others will say that it is egoistic because heaven is the outcome. Heaven is the subjective, but motivating goal, and it is desirable as self-interest.

I imagine you've read enough Rand that this would not be rational. I'm not writing rational every single time I say self-interest, because I assume you agree that rationality is fundamental to proper self-interested action.

Edited by Eiuol

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