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"Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

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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.

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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."

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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. 

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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[.]"

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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On 6/26/2018 at 6:30 PM, merjet said:

The following are Rand's own words from VOS.

"Since all values have to be gained and/or kept by men's actions, any breach between actor and beneficiary necessitates an injustice: the sacrifice of some men to others, of the actors to the nonactors, of the moral to the immoral. Nothing could ever justify such a breach, and no one ever has. ... The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action" (Rand 1964, ix-x).

merjet, I think it's always possible to read too many "implications" into e.g. this statement by Rand. It can happen one takes the complicated route and will over-analyze a proposition when all one needs do is take her at face value ("literally"). This is not, I think, to be read from the perspective of an imperative which rules a rational egoist's acts, instead, from the perspective of strong opposition to any who'd sacrifice some to others - at cost to the egoist and non-rational egoist alike, generally.

If one were to say to a staunch laissez-faire, anti-statist-welfarist, self-supporting,  professional, working individual, who has known financial struggles and knows he is never totally secure from more in future - that it is a moral injustice that a portion of his/her income 'must' be deducted by edict of the state in order to be 'redistributed'  to support those who don't or won't think, work and take responsibility for their own values as he has done--he (and you, I'm sure) would readily agree. To add too, that his consent has been removed from even helping those people whom he would prefer to charitably aid by choice, indiscriminately favoring any and all 'others'.

He (the moral "actor") is being 'breached' from some of his due earnings/values, to sustain "immoral" "nonactors", and so cannot be the full "beneficiary" of them. That is simply all that Rand opposes, above: "The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action".

This will most often be a financial sacrifice, commonly to the state and the IRS, but there are many more subtle, insidious ways by which altruism separates actor and beneficiary, and not always monetary.

(The early part of her statement in isolation, it's interesting, does not distinguish a rational egoist from the broad society: it is for and applies to them all, "the sacrifice of some men to others", whether or not most in society concur with coercive taxation),

Edited by whYNOT

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On 7/15/2018 at 10:17 AM, whYNOT said:

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.

What of it? Are you trying to trivialize the difference between acting for the benefit of (a) oneself solely, and (b) oneself and one or more family members or friends, or oneself and co-workers or other organization, or oneself and community?

Let's see. Is it your belief that such implication is merely my unbridled imagination and it has no basis whatever in what Ayn Rand literally wrote? If yes, then I foresee nothing to gain continuing this dialogue with you. If no, please explain why your opening a door for some frail person, or slowing down your car to let another driver merge, is selfish, not even partly "other-ish" and not a breach.


 

Edited by merjet

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On 7/15/2018 at 12:12 PM, Eiuol said:

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.

I acknowledge your opinion and respectfully disagree. How is a reader suppose to know what a legitimate literal interpretation is, according to you, when you haven't supplied one? What constitutes a breach between actor and beneficiary according to you?  A number of examples might help.

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On 7/15/2018 at 2:40 PM, 2046 said:

Suppose we are organizing a baseball team in the old sandlot.

....

In this case, we didn't actually want anything else included in "being in the dishwasher." 

....

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.

Oh, my. What a poor attempt at ad hominem ridicule. I hope Hamming it up made you feel good.

How do you know what Ayn Rand's thoughts were when she wrote that passage? How do you know Ayn Rand wanted your non-literal interpretations put into her "dishwasher," i.e. her literal words? 

My Google search for "mutual benefit" on the site http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/ showed five hits. That's "over and over again"? Also, all five pertained to trade. Sorry, but the range of human action is far greater than only trade. 

 

Edited by merjet

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8 hours ago, merjet said:

What of it? Are you trying to trivialize the difference between acting for the benefit of (a) oneself solely, and (b) oneself and one or more family members or friends, or oneself and co-workers or other organization, or oneself and community?

Let's see. Is it your belief that such implication is merely my unbridled imagination and it has no basis whatever in what Ayn Rand literally wrote? If yes, then I foresee nothing to gain continuing this dialogue with you. If no, please explain why your opening a door for some frail person, or slowing down your car to let another driver merge, is selfish, not even partly "other-ish" and not a breach.


 

After repeated attempts, have you not understood Rand's premise?

A man must not be disallowed what he morally earns. Period.

See my last post for one example (by the IRS).

That has not the slightest bearing on opening doors, etc. etc. but, somehow, you try to conflate the two.

One has to appreciate that living a full and selfish life means contact, engagement , awareness and enjoyment of other humans if only in the moment, and always, for some, the potential of becoming future values to one's life (implicit, when not explicit, in Rand's extended writings).

If all you see of rational egoism (misreading Rand) is blocking oneself from perceiving others' values (and their dis-values) to the extent of never volunteering to lend a hand on occasions, THAT is a secluded, self-constricted view of egoism a rational egoist would want no part of.

If anything, I am sure the "mindful", rational person is more highly aware than anyone. "Rational" is the predominant part and prerequisite of rational egoism.

To say again, a "breach", which worries you, is what is forced upon one - by others, altruists.

Also it surely doesn't need repeating that one functions on many levels, in a team, in a community, in a family, in work, and so on - all of which should be rewarding, none of which is self-sacrificial, unless or until it is.

Edited by whYNOT

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I think this entire subject and thread is illustrative of one thing.

IF a "strict" reading of statement Rand made (either taken out of context or taken only in a very of a narrow impoverished context), is construed to contradict nearly everything she conveyed both explicitly and implicitly, by what she wrote and said, in volumes and volumes of fictional, philosophical, and editorial writings, and speeches, books, and interviews, about what values, selfishness, rationality, and morality mean,

THEN insofar as anything CAN be concluded from said statement, 

it is ONLY that Rand, like any other human being is capable of making a mistake, as she (allegedly) did in making the statement,

and NOT that a single isolated error (to the extent that it could even be called that) is sufficient to call into question the clear and irrefutable meaning of the monumental achievement which is her ethics of rational self interest as conveyed by her vast body of brilliant work.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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9 hours ago, merjet said:

How is a reader suppose to know what a legitimate literal interpretation is, according to you, when you haven't supplied one?

... By reading comprehension? I don't know what you are expecting me to say. No one seems to understand why you think that in one quote that the meaning of the sentence actively excluded the benefit of other people rather than simply not mentioning the benefit of other people that may go on. And throughout this whole thread I even talked about how you could maintain that you as an individual must gain the most benefit without also implying that the benefit of others must be minimized or zero. 

9 hours ago, merjet said:

Oh, my. What a poor attempt at ad hominem ridicule. I hope Hamming it up made you feel good.

If you think 2046 was attempting an ad hominem argument and failed, it's probably because he wasn't even attempting one. The point he was making is that not mentioning something doesn't mean someone was saying anything about the excluded stuff. If you want a complete literal explanation, you should not introduce added subjects...

Anyway, if you link your paper here, maybe I would take the time to look over and offer a more complete criticism of you. I'm hoping that your criticism of Rand's egoism isn't based on this one quote.

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