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"Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

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.

"Feeling obligated", is being forced to (in a sense), under duress. One could argue that Rearden never had a gun forced to his head. That he chose to based on a particular belief. The belief was along the lines of "serve your wife no matter what". The problem is that can also be a self-interested motive depending how you interpret it.

In this thread, we may have to indicate when we mean egoist vs. rational egoist. I believe the OP opened that can of worms. I think he believes that Rand pushes for egoism (full tilt?) which shocked us all.

As I said one fundamental difference between egoist and rational egoist is going to be in taking "the unearned". As in selfish thief. When I have said egoist, I meant not-necessarily-rational egoist (simply self-interested which includes hedonist).

Edited by Easy Truth
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24 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

One could argue that Readen never had a gun forced to his head. That he chose to based on a particular belief.

Yes, it was voluntary. He chose to do it. But what you seem to be arguing for is that psychological egoism is true, that everyone's goal is to act in their self-interest, although people might be wrong if their action is the best one available. The issue is you seem to have a hard time believing that some people really do put others ahead of themselves. That other people are seen as the ones deserving of more benefit and that thinking of yourself would be wrong. I've met people who deliberately don't do what is best for themselves because they are too concerned about other people first. I didn't infer that, they told me.

24 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I believe the OP opened that can of worms. I think he believes that Rand pushes for egoism (full tilt?) which shocked us all.

I don't think that was the part people disagreed with. Anyone familiar with Boydstun should know he wouldn't make a simple mistake that he would think "fulltilt egoism" would mean irrational or hedonistic. I think he's trying to say that there is some room in a rational code of ethics for actions that are not egoistic. Fulltilt egoism seems to mean that I am the main beneficiary of all my actions. This goes further than just saying I gain some benefit from my actions.

24 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

When I have said egoist, I meant not-necessarily-rational egoist (simply self interested which includes hedonist).

Okay. My example still works, because it doesn't even include the broader category of simply "egoistic".  If you want to talk about a non-(rationally) egoistic trade, yeah, that's more about seeking the unearned.

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On 6/30/2018 at 4:11 PM, Eiuol said:

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?

Instances of a concept possess the same essential characteristics.  The individual characteristics may be commensurable, but that in no way requires that the instances themselves are commensurable.  Even if the characteristics are all numerical, that does not imply any particular combination of them is meaningful or that any combination of them is meaningful. 

Also, keep in mind the context: Things that are greater or lesser against a scale.  A given characteristic may but need not be measurable on a scale of greater or lesser.  E.g., electrons and positrons have charges that are identical in magnitude but opposite in value, and which is positive is arbitrary -- one cannot say that because a positron has a positive charge and an electron a negative one, that the positron has a greater charge.  Also, there are characteristics that are not definable in number at all, such as the affect and evaluation that distinguishes different emotions.  Or organisms differentiated by mode of existence.

So, no, instances of a concept are not necessarily commensurable, especially not in the particular sense at issue.  The assertion of commensurability must be proven, not assumed.

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I don't see how your explanation answers how you think there can be instances of value that are not commensurable. Two instances of value can be integrated into the concept of value. If they could not be integrated and combined in this sense, then the concept value would be invalid. I'm saying that if you think two instances of value are not commensurable, then you've actually destroyed the concept value. Or at least, you disagree that concept formation requires a commensurable characteristic.

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The issue is you seem to have a hard time believing that some people really do put others ahead of themselves. That other people are seen as the ones deserving of more benefit and that thinking of yourself would be wrong. I've met people who deliberately don't do what is best for themselves because they are too concerned about other people first. I didn't infer that, they told me.

1

In general, I do have a hard time with that. Yes, I have seen the type.

I have met those who suddenly say "I have taken care of all these people, what about me" later in life when they realize it and need help getting rid of the habit. But for me to help them, I need to find "what they are gaining out of the behavior" and to prove to them (with varying levels of success) that their goal is not as valuable as they currently feel it is.

Most of the time, the motive of (unethically) putting others before oneself stems from "lack of self-esteem". After all, others are worth more so all sorts of unfortunate decisions are made based on that BUT unconsciously.

As for myself, I killed most of that motive in me early on because I read Virtue of Selfishness early on.

Recently with some Objectivists at lunch, the waitress brought me a pie with ice cream on it, when I specifically had said none please, I asked for it to be taken back for the right one. She made faces like it was a major inconvenience. Several of my friends gave me a hard time with "don't be such a hard ass" etc. Some people in my situation would have buckled, I did not and I did not go through a thought process of identifying if it was rationally egoistic. I knew what I ordered and I knew what my rights were, and I assume I valued myself.

The way I have understood and explain Rand is that she warned that when you blindly feel the need to put others ahead of yourself (based on belief) ... bad things happen.

My understanding of Altruism per Rand is the belief that "the other person ALWAYS comes first". (not sometimes, always).

If you are arguing that "sometimes", we want to put the other person first, yes, of course, those we love.

But the altruism that Rand attacks is not the one that says "risk your life for your child", it is "risk your life for the child of the person next to you before you tend to your own child".

I have never seen Rand have a problem with "sometimes" putting someone before yourself.

Edited by Easy Truth

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A different example of an irrational trade would be an addict buying more of whatever he or she is addicted to.  Again, they may perceive it as being in their interests, but it is not.  Here the key point is not how much the seller is getting, even if the seller is getting monopoly profits because the whole industry has been forced to operate outside the law.  The key point is that perpetuating the addiction is against the addict's interests.  This would be true even if the substance or whatever was being provided for free.  (Providing it for free would not necessarily be generosity on the provider's part; I understand it is a common technique for getting people hooked.) 

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10 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

A given characteristic may but need not be measurable on a scale of greater or lesser.  E.g., electrons and positrons have charges that are identical in magnitude but opposite in value, and which is positive is arbitrary -- one cannot say that because a positron has a positive charge and an electron a negative one, that the positron has a greater charge. 

 I hope I'm not being too picky here.  Shouldn't the word "arbitrary" be "optional"?

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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I don't see how your explanation answers how you think there can be instances of value that are not commensurable. Two instances of value can be integrated into the concept of value. If they could not be integrated and combined in this sense, then the concept value would be invalid. I'm saying that if you think two instances of value are not commensurable, then you've actually destroyed the concept value. Or at least, you disagree that concept formation requires a commensurable characteristic.

You have not in any way addressed what I said, and I'm not willing to waste further time on your irrelevancies.

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1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

I hope I'm not being too picky here.  Shouldn't the word "arbitrary" be "optional"?

"Arbitrary" has a specific meaning in Objectivism, but it also has a common usage.  The Objectivist usage would have been incorrect where I used it, but not the common usage.  There is, of course, the possibility of confusion over which meaning I intended, but I assumed that people would know which.

I don't think "optional" is appropriate as an alternative, though.  It applies to something that can be left out or not done, not to something where there is an equally acceptable alternative.

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39 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

You have not in any way addressed what I said, and I'm not willing to waste further time on your irrelevancies.

What you said makes little sense. If those are "irrelevancies", then clarify what you mean.

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14 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

The assertion of commensurability must be proven, not assumed.

Just to add to what I was saying, if you have two instances of the same concept, by virtue of being concept, they are commensurable. Rand's position is that commensurability is essential to concept formation. If you reject this, you necessarily reject the full picture of Rand's ethics, and you would disagree that you should be the primary beneficiary of your actions at all times (or you would say that value is always subjective and therefore ethical action is always subjective). 

13 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The way I have understood and explain Rand is that she warned that when you blindly feel the need to put others ahead of yourself (based on belief) ... bad things happen.

She clearly opposes putting yourself ahead of others in any context. Being consistently altruistic is especially bad, sure, but even isolated instances of altruistic action are bad. You probably won't ruin your life, and it might be so infrequent that someone would be far from calling you an altruist, you still shouldn't take an altruistic action. Our goal is to be consistently moral, so we should not tolerate in our own actions any amount of altruism.

Rand didn't say that risking your life to save someone you love is a justified type of altruistic action that puts others ahead of yourself. I think Rand would say that you should risk your life for someone only for selfish reasons. It shouldn't be that you save their life for their sake. It would be for your sake. I can't think of any example either in fiction or nonfiction where Rand praises someone for putting someone ahead of yourself. Not even one.

But I don't think she spent much time writing about less clear-cut cases, like day-to-day things of whether you should watch a movie that bores you with your brother.

 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Rand didn't say that risking your life to save someone you love is a justified type of altruistic action that puts others ahead of yourself. I think Rand would say that you should risk your life for someone only for selfish reasons. It shouldn't be that you save their life for their sake. It would be for your sake.

 

Isn't that in terms of "psychological egoism". When a person jumps in to save the life of a loved one jeopardizing their own life. When in philosophical debates regarding altruism or Rand's ideas regarding Selfishness, this example is almost always thrown at my face. Ultimately it is for one's own sake, but based on psychological egoism, every action is for one's own sake.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I can't think of any example either in fiction or nonfiction where Rand praises someone for putting someone ahead of yourself. Not even one.

1

Let's think in terms of being in a line of thirsty people waiting to be given a bottle of water. From a praxeological standpoint, only paying attention to actions, person A pushes person B ahead of themselves. There could be many reasons for that to happen. But it can happen.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

But I don't think she spent much time writing about less clear-cut cases, like day-to-day things of whether you should watch a movie that bores you with your brother.

 

Here, there could be many motives that go unmentioned. Is it so that you go to heaven? Is it so that you lend you money later at some point? Is it because last time he went to a movie that he thought was boring? Just looking at the actions one can see that you put him first. But looking at the chain of outcomes, one can find some "beneficial outcome".

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[[[Aside:

When is it in your self-interest to argue with someone?

1. When it is possible to persuade the other person to accept or see something, AND if their accepting or seeing something HAS value to you.

2.  When it is possible that the discussion can reveal something to you, whether some knowledge of reality, of the application of logic or the reasoning process, or a truth about the psychology of other people etc. AND that thing revealed HAS value to you.

Are we all acting in our self-interest?

]]]

I look forward to Merlin Jetton providing his contribution to this thread as, for me, there are still many unanswered questions about what it is he is claiming  and on what basis he is claiming them.

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I look forward to Merlin Jetton providing his contribution to this thread as, for me, there are still many unanswered questions about what it is he is claiming  and on what basis he is claiming them.

Since he probably doesn't know of its existence, you'd have to ask him yourself. If I read his paper, I might send him and email. Or if you ask yourself, let us know what he says.

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Isn't that in terms of "psychological egoism"

No, psychological egoism would be the idea that all people act with regard to their self interest, it's just that some people do it better than others. I'm explaining the mental state one ought to have. The types of reasons you ought to have. I would imagine most people would justify saving a person based on something owed to the other person, or that it's good to be unselfish sometimes, or some kind of moral intuition theory (that if you feel the impulse to save someone, that's what you should do). 

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

There could be many reasons for that to happen. But it can happen.

I didn't think you were just asking about if such a thing can happen. I'm trying to come up with a morally praiseworthy action that would also put someone else ahead of myself. I can't even come up with an such example when one side also benefits more than the other (except when not enough information is even available). 

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

But looking at the chain of outcomes, one can find some "beneficial outcome".

Correct. This is part of my reason that gaining some benefit is not sufficient to say that you have acted in your rational self-interest. You also need to be the primary beneficiary. My added claim is that it if we took the time to analyze our actions in the context of social interaction, we would discover that all the self-interested ones ended up with an equitable exchange of values. 

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

1. When it is possible to persuade the other person to accept or see something, AND if their accepting or seeing something HAS value to you.

When they have doubts, and your explanation corresponds to reality.

Persuasion has value to me especially when the other's vote has the same weight as mine (or more). But philosophically speaking, in a good faith discussion, getting on the same page/same perspective facilitates the exploration and discovery of truth.

3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

2.  When it is possible that the discussion can reveal something to you, whether some knowledge of reality, of the application of logic or the reasoning process, or a truth about the psychology of other people etc. AND that thing revealed HAS value to you.

It's usually when a clarification is required to enable "something valuable", honesty being the most valuable ingredient in the interaction. In any discussion of ethics, the value is the knowledge of how to do it "right". The consequence is the value.

3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Are we all acting in our self-interest?

I am. I doubt if I can accurately measure another's satisfaction, although you get clues when they leave the discussion. But I assume you are going beyond "the feeling of satisfaction" as a measure of self-interest. If so, I would like to know more about that. (It would help me do life "right").

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

This is part of my reason that gaining some benefit is not sufficient to say that you have acted in your rational self-interest. You also need to be the primary beneficiary.

 

Now that is fascinating. That would require an ability to compare my benefit vs. theirs.

Currently, I don't know how to determine that with reasonable certainty. I know what my needs and wants are, but I usually have had little interest in trying to find out if I am the primary beneficiary. That seems "other focused", altruistic in a sense.

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Since he probably doesn't know of its existence, you'd have to ask him yourself. If I read his paper, I might send him and email. Or if you ask yourself, let us know what he says.

He posted twice on the original thread.

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Who? Merjet? Oh, now I see! It wasn't clear. 

3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

That seems "other focused", altruistic in a sense.

Sure, but that's why I said it's not necessary. I think it would be altruistic if the way I figured out if I am acting (rationally) egoistically was mainly done by comparing myself to others. If you obsess about something at the expense of more important considerations, that's not good. It would especially be bad if your thinking habits always went first to comparing yourself to others. It would be maladaptive. But if on occasion I pondered this, with the intention of reevaluating parts of my life when something seems off, it would be beneficial.

Just so it's clear, I think you can be the primary beneficiary of your actions in primarily a psychological personal sense, even when the other person is the primary beneficiary of their actions. I think many people regard value exchange as a zero-sum game, where if I put myself as the primary beneficiary, I necessarily deprive someone else of value. 

Edited by Eiuol

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12 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Now that is fascinating. That would require an ability to compare my benefit vs. theirs.

Currently, I don't know how to determine that with reasonable certainty. I know what my needs and wants are, but I usually have had little interest in trying to find out if I am the primary beneficiary. That seems "other focused", altruistic in a sense.

"other focused" is second handed, not altruistic.  

Rand gives an example somewhere (I wish I could find it) where she explains that an unthinking "rebel" who automatically does the opposite of what some other person is telling him to do, is just as second handed as the mindless sheep who follow and do what that other person is telling them to do, he is still putting the edicts, thoughts, indeed the mind of that other person as having primary importance over his own thoughts etc., he is merely reacting in the opposite way, it is just as unthinking and "second handed" a "leash" on his person.

 

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Eiuol:

You have said much here on the topic.  For everyone's edification could you clarify something?

Is it your understanding (intent) that what you say is:

1.  primarily original philosophic thought of your own (which is not simply Objectivism) or

2.  limited to an exposition and investigation of only what Rand's philosophy of Objectivim actually is, and hence does not comprise any other (or your own) original philosophy?

3.  or some of 1 mixed with 2.

I'm finding it hard to tell whether "the back and forth" between you and everyone else participating, is about what Objectivism is or if it is about something else, such as your own philosophical ideas.

SL

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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47 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

I will not do your thinking for you.

Uh, you do realize that if you say something that doesn't make sense, you should clarify? Why did you even post if you weren't willing to explain yourself better? 
 

52 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I'm finding it hard to tell whether "the back and forth" between you and everyone else participating, is about what Objectivism is or if it is about something else, such as your own philosophical ideas.

Short answer: 3. But the only way to really know is to discuss my ideas. Each post is different. You would need to ask about a specific position I'm taking.

Edited by Eiuol

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21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Just to add to what I was saying, if you have two instances of the same concept, by virtue of being concept, they are commensurable. Rand's position is that commensurability is essential to concept formation.

1) A concept is a mental integration of units.  Each unit must have the same essential characteristics, but in differing degrees or measures.  Every unit of a concept will therefore have commensurable characteristics, but this does not mean that the units themselves are commensurable in any meaningful way.

An illustration from mathematics.

An ordered pair of numbers (a, b), has two elements, each of which is commensurable with the corresponding elements of other ordered pairs.  But in what way can ordered pairs themselves be commensurable? Two ways.

The first is to simply impose an arbitrary scale on the units, such as ordering them by the value of the first element.  Precisely because such orderings are arbitrary, they are meaningless.

The second is to consider ordered pairs as units of a different concept, such as two dimensional coordinates.  In such a case there are measures associated with the new concept such as "distance from the origin" that can be used to make the ordered pairs, considered as units of two dimensional coordinates, commensurable.

Commensurability of units depends on the concept; there is no absolute requirement of a non-arbitrary measure for units, even though there is an absolute requirement that essential characteristics of units of a concept be commensurable.

So, yes, commensurability is essential to concept formation, but it is commensurability of characteristics, not commensurability of units, that is essential to concept formation.

2) This subdiscussion originated from the notion that there is some way to compare how much benefit one person gets from an exchange to the benefit another person gets from an exchange.  To make such a comparison, it is not enough that benefits are commensurable; they must be commensurable in a way that permits ordering of the benefits. Not all measures permit ordering; some merely classify, as in the various types of rocks.

So, even if one were to demonstrate that units of "value" are commensurable, it would be necessary to provein addition that the measure permits ordering.

3) The notion that benefits to different people are commensurable stems from the cases where exchanges provide an obvious benefit to one person while not doing so to the other.  "Of course the starving man who exchanges money for food benefits more than the grocer!"  But this works only because one is smuggling in a different notion of value, call it "immediate survival value", that does permit some ordering, and classifying the respective benefits by that different notion.  If one sticks to value as such, no such ordering is possible.

 

 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Uh, you do realize that if you say something that doesn't make sense, you should clarify?

That rather depends on which person isn't doing their part in the discussion, doesn't it?

Be that as it may, I just restated my position in greater depth. But I'm basically done here.  None of this is rocket science, and I am for damned sure not going to respond further to vague "I disagree!" or "You're unclear!" complaints.  Specific questions and critiques will get a response; everything else will be met with silence.

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