Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Boydstun

"Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

5 hours ago, merjet said:

For a moment I thought you finally had grasped the implications of the passage from VOS cited in the third post in this thread. Then I read your latest post, which negated that thought. Then I saw your real name. Now I have a better understanding of what you have said, and may later say, in this thread. 

Hi merjet, I apparently have read a different interpretation and grasped other implications to you. 

Foremost for me is that Rand delivered the injunction solely against and for the attention of sacrificial altruists and not for the egoist and the totality of all the minor acts he may execute in a lifetime. 

In effect: Nobody may take away from nor interfere with, nor separate from the actor's "moral" actions the benefits he worked for. Thus, actor=beneficiary.

This is made clear by the fuller context, in which she inveighs against the injustice of "the sacrifice of some men to others, of the actors to non-actors, of the immoral to the moral".

Just previously, she wrote: "...and that man must be the beneficiary of his own *moral* actions".

Specially note "moral". 

Are the simple and occasional acts of kindness and assistance which a rational egoist might choose to carry out - "moral"? As in an old example - Is to guide an elderly stranger across a road -- moral?

Not in Objectivist ethics. Like donating to one's chosen charity, the acts have no "moral" weight (while not being immoral, either). 

 You will agree, I think, that what are "moral" actions to Rand is what someone performs directly for one's own objective good through one's reason, integrity, and productiveness - and therefore - whatever should accrue to one financially, intellectually or psychologically must not be obstructed by anyone.  At stake is the moral individual's values, so his life, which some others will try to endanger in the name of sacrifice.

"Yet, that is the meaning of altruism [man's life is evil] implicit in such examples as the equation of an industrialist with a robber".  VoS.

You will know too that Rand somewhere pointed out a truth we well notice, that altruism is what eventually makes kindness or benevolence among men impossible. I infer from this that she took as a given that outside of an altruist dominated society, human kindness is normal and 'natural'. And not even remarkable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

Hi merjet, I apparently have read a different interpretation and grasped other implications to you. 

Foremost for me is that Rand delivered the injunction solely against and for the attention of sacrificial altruists and not for the egoist and the totality of all the minor acts he may execute in a lifetime. 

Whose interpretation do you mean? Your own?

I much disagree with "Rand delivered ... lifetime."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, merjet said:

Whose interpretation do you mean? Your own?

I much disagree with "Rand delivered ... lifetime."

"Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?" :)

(there's a little more I put in my argument).

But of course that's my own interpretation, then and now. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

Foremost for me is that Rand delivered the injunction solely against and for the attention of sacrificial altruists and not for the egoist and the totality of all the minor acts he may execute in a lifetime. 

How do you reconcile "not for the egoist ...." with the last sentence I quoted from VOS. That is: "The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action[.]"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Eiuol, Right, and excuse me for butting in. 

I didn't mean to make it seem like you were interfering with anything. :P

14 hours ago, whYNOT said:

I persisted on the topic because I think it is an error to take Rand in her statement as proclaiming some sort of imperative directed at a rational egoist - and so one must be sure to *always be* the beneficiary of *every* act...

You could argue about short-term actions benefiting another person more than yourself. But the type of self we are thinking about is the entirety of life, not just portions of it. That's not a problem though, since the concern for Rand is life in a biological sense. We don't want to talk about benefit separate from who actually reaps the benefits.
 

14 hours ago, whYNOT said:

There are innumerable occasions of simple human contact when you may unknowingly have given someone a sort of spiritual boost, with only a word or two, a smile, or simply your presence.

In terms of only consequences, sure, there isn't anything "wrong" with that. I want to emphasize the psychological benefits though. The intentions and objectives of your actions. Should you smile at people with no intent to affect their mood? Should you not keep in mind that one positive interaction brings about more positive interactions, which would help your life overall? I'm saying that you ought to be aware and mindful of all your actions. You should especially be mindful of how your actions affect people positively. And more than that, since the reason you even think about it is how your life would be better off. If you keep that mentality, you put yourself first. You are of your own top importance, and all things you do involves being mindful of how your life will be affected. I don't mean you have to be a utility calculator and every moment in your life. Even still, your mind must be self-oriented at all times, including where the lion's share of value goes. Not necessarily in words, but with the sense that everything is going well. (To emphasize, value in terms of your own perspective and angle.)

No, Rand never really used the word mindful. But she did speak a great deal about reason. Reason helps us recognize how things are, and even how things could be. We should use reason to be aware of anything pertaining to our lives. Reason helps to assure that you gain benefits rather than leaving it up to chance events you can't plan for like earthquakes and volcanoes, or serial killers, or injustices. 

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/12/2018 at 10:36 PM, merjet said:

How do you reconcile "not for the egoist ...." with the last sentence I quoted from VOS. That is: "The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action[.]"

Merjet,

It would be helpful if you made clear your interpretation, and what is your objection to that. Or else I must continue guessing that you read in there by Rand that any action one performs for others (e.g. considering aiding the old person cross a busy street) as:

What's in it for me? What will I get out of it? 

If no gain is likely, the act must not be made. Please tell me if that's correct? 

If so, I maintain still, this is a narrow and most eccentric reading of Rand's statement - which I think is aimed against altruism and altruists, not FOR rational egoism. i.e. they who'd lay claim to any benefits resulting from the actor's "moral" actions.

If you are correct and such is Rand's case, then would be understandable the need to make corrections and adjustments to rational egoism. Obviously I do not believe so. 

 

Edited by whYNOT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/12/2018 at 10:57 PM, Eiuol said:

I didn't mean to make it seem like you were interfering with anything. :P

You could argue about short-term actions benefiting another person more than yourself. But the type of self we are thinking about is the entirety of life, not just portions of it. That's not a problem though, since the concern for Rand is life in a biological sense. We don't want to talk about benefit separate from who actually reaps the benefits.
 

In terms of only consequences, sure, there isn't anything "wrong" with that. I want to emphasize the psychological benefits though. The intentions and objectives of your actions. Should you smile at people with no intent to affect their mood? Should you not keep in mind that one positive interaction brings about more positive interactions, which would help your life overall? I'm saying that you ought to be aware and mindful of all your actions. You should especially be mindful of how your actions affect people positively. And more than that, since the reason you even think about it is how your life would be better off. If you keep that mentality, you put yourself first. You are of your own top importance, and all things you do involves being mindful of how your life will be affected. I don't mean you have to be a utility calculator and every moment in your life. Even still, your mind must be self-oriented at all times, including where the lion's share of value goes. Not necessarily in words, but with the sense that everything is going well. (To emphasize, value in terms of your own perspective and angle.)

No, Rand never really used the word mindful. But she did speak a great deal about reason. Reason helps us recognize how things are, and even how things could be. We should use reason to be aware of anything pertaining to our lives. Reason helps to assure that you gain benefits rather than leaving it up to chance events you can't plan for like earthquakes and volcanoes, or serial killers, or injustices. 

As an aside I recall now, I like this passage from (I think) her book on ethics, by Tara Smith: "As long as egoism is portrayed as materialistic, hedonistic, emotion-driven, or predatory, we can sympathize with those looking elsewhere for guidance".

Thanks. Very important what you observe there about "aware and mindful". An individual's mind-full-ness is the central characteristic of Objectivism, I think, from the senses to evaluations to high abstractions. With that expanding knowledge, simply, the more one knows, the more that one finds value and the more one cares about all things. The more, then, that has to be protected by one. These volitional acts and contents of a consciousness equally justify rational egoism, and make it a crucial necessity.

Edited by whYNOT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Merjet,

It would be helpful if you made clear your interpretation, and what is your objection to that. Or else I must continue guessing that you read in there by Rand that any action one performs for others (e.g. considering aiding the old person cross a busy street) as:

What's in it for me? What will I get out of it? 

If no gain is likely, the act must not be made. Please tell me if that's correct? 

If so, I maintain still, this is a narrow and most eccentric reading of Rand's statement - which I think is aimed against altruism and altruists, not FOR rational egoism. i.e. they who'd lay claim to any benefits resulting from the actor's "moral" actions.

"Carefully read the last sentence of what I quoted from VOS. It says "the beneficiary", which is singular and therefore excludes any beneficiary other than the actor. The part in the quote preceding the last sentence about any breach reinforces that" (link).

I strongly disagree with your last sentence. Like I said earlier (link), Rand's statement is about both. It is against any breech (between actor and beneficiary), which is essential to altruism, and advocates no breech, which is essential to egoism.   

 

Edited by merjet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, merjet said:

"Carefully read the last sentence of what I quoted from VOS. It says "the beneficiary", which is singular and therefore excludes any beneficiary other than the actor. The part in the quote preceding the last sentence about any breach reinforces that" (link).

   

 

 

There are two relevant sentences, a paragraph apart:

"...and that man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions."

"The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own *rational* self-interest".

Yes, "beneficiary" is singular. Standing for all beneficiaries and all individuals. What of it, and what is it that Rand considered of supreme importance here? This is a high level abstract principle, not a 'how to' guide.

I think to carry away the implication that "man" or the individual must never open a door for some frail person, slow down his car to let another driver pull out into the traffic ahead of him--or any action of which he is not the obvious , single "beneficiary"--trivializes what is rational self-interest - and too, what is altruism. I can only see the consequences of this approach, enacted in the many incidents in daily life, heading one into a narrow and self-conflicted irrational and subjective selfishness, when, conversely, the import of Rand is rational egoism's expansiveness and liberation to act for oneself without anxiety and guilt of others' needs and demands.

(Context: if one is in a hurry to take one's sick child to hospital, one will and must act according to one's value-hierarchy, disregarding all else).

There should be no self-conflict about such temporary, minor matters of considerate assistance to others (without a self-sacrifice of time, etc.), which Rand apparently thought self-evident enough. (Like good manners - or the recognition of others' ends in themselves lives). It would be ludicrous to worry that such actions are 'altruist' or in any way contra-egoistical.

Paradox-seeming, at first, the capability to identify/evaluate situations and perform such minor acts for others is, instead, a confident affirmation of one's rational egoism.

Edited by whYNOT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, merjet said:

"Carefully read the last sentence of what I quoted from VOS. It says "the beneficiary", which is singular and therefore excludes any beneficiary other than the actor. The part in the quote preceding the last sentence about any breach reinforces that" (link).

You've been asked in several different ways how that quote excludes other people from gaining *any* benefit. You still haven't answered that. Your "literal" interpretation wasn't literal at all. Just because other people are excluded from the subject of a sentence doesn't mean the sentence is saying anything about those excluded people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Suppose we are organizing a baseball team in the old sandlot. As we huddle up, Rodriguez giving instructions says, "Okay guys, the pitcher must throw the ball every play." We all take the field and Ham hits a pop fly to Merjet in right field. He misses it, of course, but runs quickly to retrieve it, then looks at Squints tentatively at second base. "C'mon what are ya waiting for?!" Hmm, he used the singular when he gave instructions, Merjet thinks to himself, unsure of the meaning of the rules. I guess only the pitcher can throw the ball then. He then runs all the way to second from the outfield and hands the ball to Squints. "You're killin' me, Merjet!" Ham exclaims.

Seems like, in our ordinary language use, the singular modifies that specific noun. It's used when you want to talk about that one thing. But it doesn't seem like it necessarily excludes other things. In the sandlot example, just because the pitcher throws the ball every play, doesn't mean other players don't get the throw the ball too. They might even throw it every play, like say, the catcher does during a no-hitter. There is no logical necessity tying the two together positively or negatively. We just don't know if it's included or excluded because the singular just modifies that one thing. 

Another thought experiment: Suppose there are two dishes in the sink: a pot and a plate. My mom says to me "2046, can you put the plate in the dishwasher?" I proceed to put both the plate and the pot in the dishwasher. My mom then exclaims, "No, you dofus, I said the plate not the plate and the pot, don't you listen? That's your grandmother's cast iron skillet and needs to be washed by hand. You don't listen!"

In this case, we didn't actually want anything else included in "being in the dishwasher." In the sandlot example, we did want other players included in "throwing the ball" (chopping off "every play" here.) But at the time we were just focusing on one aspect. We didn't know about the others until we looked at the facts of the situation.

So when we look at the facts of the situation, which I gave reasons for before, it does seem like sometimes we want others to benefit from our actions as well as us. But the question is also how best to interpret Rand. What this shows is that the singular modifier doesn't necessarily, as I said before, include or exclude others also benefiting. And when we look at all the other context where Rand literally does say "mutual benefit" over and over again, it seems as myopic as Scotty Smalls from The Sandlot to insist otherwise.

Edited by 2046

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×