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"Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You usually can share something about your manuscript, no? If not, why don't you outline the paper if you want to talk about it? . . . 

Eiuol,

You can get a single issue of JARS for $23 or a two-issue annual subscription for $36.

I gather you are not a subscriber to this journal. Why not?

Are you a subscriber to any other journals? The Objective Standard?

It is odd to me that people so continually interested in the thought of Ayn Rand, by their posts, do not subscribe to such journals and discuss them here.

But what is far more odd to me is the little-to-zero quotations of Rand herself, fiction and nonfiction, I see in these online posting discussions. It’s as if as the decades went by few with a positive response to Rand’s writings cared to continue actually reading Rand and discussing those writings (with exact quotation and citation) in their online discussions supposedly about her philosophy. Claims about what she wrote without backing it up with exact quotation is beer talk. Rand’s writings are not that difficult. To fathom Rand, as for any philosopher (sometimes much more difficult), one should first, second, . . . and last, read Rand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eiuol,

You asked of Merlin, could he share something of his manuscript, perhaps an outline, so we might discuss that in lieu of the paper itself. That is terrible. His actual work is not worth getting hold of so we readers of it might actually discuss that labor itself? Perhaps you noticed my post of the subheadings of my forthcoming paper on Rand and Descartes. They indicate areas covered in the forthcoming paper. Compared to the paper itself, they are as nothing. If someone said to me, well, instead of reading your paper and then discussing it, let’s discuss the topics named in your subheadings, I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

Edited by Boydstun

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1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

His actual work is not worth getting hold of so we readers of it might actually discuss that labor itself?

I don't think there's a diplomatic way to say this: given the nature of the discussion and the types of things Merlin decided to focus on, no, it doesn't sound like it's worth my money to get a hold of the complete paper. 

But I could be wrong - the outline could demonstrate that there are good points that really makes me inclined to go out and read his full argument. That's why I suggested it - he could make the rest of us inclined to take his points seriously.

I'm glad you mentioned though that it's odd I wouldn't subscribe to any related journal. I don't have any excuse for that. Since we're speaking so much about values, it is important to me to understand various academic-level discussions about Objectivism. I should at least subscribe to JARS. 

1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

Claims about what she wrote without backing it up with exact quotation is beer talk.

That's a matter of style. I don't think that type of rigor is necessary for discussion forums. I am quite able to provide exact quotes for others to see, making a case that would satisfy academic counterarguments. But I'm not trying to do that here. It's important to me to speak in a conversational manner on forums and anything else public. To do this, I rely on my memory of what I've read, and I reread things periodically to make sure I'm not misremembering things. This is how the ancient Romans did it before there were books you could cite whenever you want. I'm fine that you call the style beer talk (I'd call it conversational), but I think you underestimate the value or purpose of it. When and if I write papers, I'm careful to include citations and quotes. 

EDIT: I forgot to add. Rand herself rarely quotes. On occasion she will. But for the most part I think she relies on her memory of what she has read (and at times she will make mistakes because of this when criticizing other philosophers). For her audience and the type of person she wants to talk to, I think this is a very good thing.

Edited by Eiuol

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19 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

....

The question is, which of the multitude of the aspects of life are the broadest and most fundamental (in the hierarchy of abstractions) to the goal of survival qua man and more akin to primary virtues (which I have NOT listed) and which of the multitude of aspects are more akin to applications of the ethics in their practical and concrete form which are more secondary or lower in the hierarchy?

....

Just as any rational person would agree that "diet", "exercise", "life planning" and yes "trust" and "cooperation", (and all the other aspects, listed above and not listed), ARE important (indeed CRUCIALLY important - eating unhealthily is literally deadly) to leading a flourishing life, Rand would agree as well, and in the context of her vast body of work as whole I think it is clear that indeed she DID. 

Those aspects, however important in particular, are simply are not primary, broad or fundamental considerations.

Fair enough. Yet: The Objectivist virtues are rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride. Are trust and cooperation not broad or fundamental enough to any of those virtues? I think they are -- at least to integrity, honesty, justice, and productiveness. Note that my abstract ties trust and cooperation to living a productive life.

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18 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

The literal interpretation you're asking for does not exist. 

......

 

As a general rule, the demand for a literal interpretation (or the insistence on a particular interpretation as "the" literal interpretation) is an attempt to inject the arbitrary into a discussion.  It should be rejected with whatever degree of firmness is necessary to preserve the integrity of the discussion forum.

Really? Ayn Rand gave the following advice about reading philosophers. "You must attach clear, specific meanings to words, i.e., be able to identify their referents in reality. This is a precondition, without which neither critical judgment nor thinking of any kind is possible. [...] You must not take a catch phrase -- or any abstract statement -- as if it were approximate. Take it literally. Don’t translate it, don’t glamorize it, don’t make the mistake of thinking, as many people do: “Oh, nobody could possibly mean this!” and then proceed to endow it with some whitewashed meaning of your own." (“Philosophical Detection”, Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 18-19; my bold)

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17 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You usually can share something about your manuscript, no? If not, why don't you outline the paper if you want to talk about it? 

...

Even if we discard that quote completely as if she never said it, you seem to be saying that Rand in her written words (as opposed to what we would like the words to me) says that other people should gain *no* benefit. This doesn't make much sense. 

I could but I choose not to. I don't forsee enough value in it for me

If she had not said it, we could discard most of this thread.

Thank you, Stephen B.

Edited by merjet

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14 hours ago, whYNOT said:

...

Seriously. You are looking for too much in this and overlooking what's obvious .

.....

A breach here implies involuntary "force", and yes, I'd say robbery is its simplest form.

I asked a simple question: "Also, why couldn't a breach be voluntary or forced by a non-altruist thug?"

You refused to answer it. Bye.

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6 hours ago, merjet said:

I asked a simple question: "Also, why couldn't a breach be voluntary or forced by a non-altruist thug?"

You refused to answer it. Bye.

I have answered here and before, and you won't listen. The "breach" is a split or interruption or break, caused by another party(s) coming after what the moral actor creates-- taking from him what he alone must and should gain from his acts. 

What he ~ must gain ~ I propose as the first, primary and essential 'transaction'.

"Why couldn't a breach be voluntary" - presupposes an individual who doesn't want to take the profit of his work and effort, without cause, splitting himself from his deserved rewards - and does not make rational sense. "One does not accept the unearned", but as corollary - must - claim what one knows one deserves.

Because:

The second and critical 'transaction', is what does he now choose to do with his gains? Broadly, does he use them rationally for his good and the good of his values, (one and the same) and also perhaps voluntarily donate some to a favored charity? In all cases, his acts are indeed "voluntary"-- NOT a "breach" -- since he is motivated overall from his objective values and his volition.

"Why couldn't a breach be ... forced by a non-altruist thug?"

That indicates that a thug is not or cannot be an altruist, while in Rand's explanation of altruism, he is -i.e. "self-abnegating" - and at very least, is a predatory second-hander, needing others minds and efforts to feed off, to "live by".

Of course - theft and fraud are also "a breach" between the moral actor and his just earnings and property! Does that have to stated?

A breach represents force.

I notice you are very selective in what you quote of mine which leads me to believe you do not apply thought to my repeated argument.  Here, the simplest version:

*You gotta get whatever you work for*. (Think of slavery, the ultimate denial of this principle)

Compare that with Rand's contested statement and tell me if her general meaning is true to my simplification. If not, why not?

 

 

Edited by whYNOT

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19 hours ago, Boydstun said:

It is odd to me that people so continually interested in the thought of Ayn Rand, by their posts, do not subscribe to such journals and discuss them here.

In my case, the issue is simple: Money. Or, rather, the lack of it.....

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6 hours ago, merjet said:

Really? Ayn Rand gave the following advice about reading philosophers. "You must attach clear, specific meanings to words, i.e., be able to identify their referents in reality. This is a precondition, without which neither critical judgment nor thinking of any kind is possible. [...] You must not take a catch phrase -- or any abstract statement -- as if it were approximate. Take it literally. Don’t translate it, don’t glamorize it, don’t make the mistake of thinking, as many people do: “Oh, nobody could possibly mean this!” and then proceed to endow it with some whitewashed meaning of your own." (“Philosophical Detection”, Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 18-19; my bold)

You are equivocating.  Rand meant by this that one should not read into things that which is not there, that one should use the actual meanings of the words, not some approximation.  That's a proper use of "literal". But you're looking for the "one true meaning" of a statement, which you want to exist independently of the context of the statement.  That's not "literal", that's "arbitrary".

Come back when you've learned the difference.  For now, you're in my ignore list.

 

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7 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

But you're looking for the "one true meaning" of a statement, which you want to exist independently of the context of the statement. 

Your minding reading skills are poor.

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23 hours ago, whYNOT said:

I have answered here and before, and you won't listen. The "breach" is a split or interruption or break, caused by another party(s) coming after what the moral actor creates-- taking from him what he alone must and should gain from his acts. 

What he ~ must gain ~ I propose as the first, primary and essential 'transaction'.

Just some ideas to consider. You can can cause injustices by acting improperly towards people. This can easily occur voluntarily. Sure, there are obvious breaches when you initiate force. But there are subtle ones with our day-to-day actions. A breach may go on when you do negative self talk (i.e. "I'm the worst writer ever, I should just throw out every short story I've ever written"; "I'm born bad and nothing can ever fix that"), or if you voluntarily do something like go to Thanksgiving with family members that are actually pretty bad people. In these cases, you are often the breach to yourself. 

But at the very least, there is not always a breach if other people gain (approximately equal in terms of their personal perspectives) benefit. A breach would occur if you ignore or avoid the idea that an actor should be the beneficiary.

Edited by Eiuol

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11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Just some ideas to consider. You can can cause injustices by acting improperly towards people. This can easily occur voluntarily. Sure, there are obvious breaches when you initiate force. But there are subtle ones with our day-to-day actions. A breach may go on when you do negative self talk (i.e. "I'm the worst writer ever, I should just about every short story I've ever written"; "I'm born bad and nothing can ever fix that"), or if you voluntarily do something like go to Thanksgiving with family members that are actually pretty bad people. In these cases, you are often the breach to yourself. 

But at the very least, there is not always a breach if other people gain (approximately equal in terms of their personal perspectives) benefit. A breach would occur if you ignore or avoid the idea that an actor should be the beneficiary.

Yes, I think I follow. I may have given a wrong impression and would like to stress that I don't mean by "transaction" anything like the trader principle, or value for value with another. Instead "the breach" (in Rand's passage) is what often takes place after this. When some outside party lays claim to the actor's due outcome, literally or figuratively "taking the food from his mouth" - in the name of a 'moral' doctrine.

If we would establish this (a breach between actor and beneficiary) as Rand's intention in this one context, there are more "breaches" to come, unforced nor committed by others, and more damaging. One may permit a breach or conflict between one's mind and body. Between theory and practice. Between convictions and action; one's cognition and emotions (one's evaluations and emotions). Undue self-doubt. Etc. In this basic dualism and all combinations and variations of the elements, one can certainly be the cause of "the breach to yourself", so a form of self-sacrifice.

 I agree with your last thought, I will add there are so many areas of passing human interaction which can't be measured. An interest in hearing of some individual's ideas, outlook and character would lead to a conversation, in which you may or may not give equal value. At any one time you could give more than you get back, or vice-versa. Since another individual's mind is an unknown, one can't gauge this. What you do know, if all goes well, is that you benefit in discovering another thinking individual, who is a value in himself, in his own right. As you say "approximately...personal perspectives".

The prime aim is to be at ease, without self-conflict, with one's rational morality, an ethical system "proper to man". Liberating and expansive, I think of it. Putting it and the virtues solidly into practice will be the testing ground for one. In this vein, I wonder if there is sometimes a perception that rational egoism is conceptualized as the counter and antidote to sacrificial altruism. I don't believe so. Altruism is an 'unnatural' and contrived aberration - rational selfishness has a separate, complete validation in objective metaphysics and epistemology (sorry - you know this). Bringing the latter against the former is like cracking a peanut with a one-ton hammer I feel.

Edited by whYNOT

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On 7/21/2018 at 11:38 AM, whYNOT said:

At any one time you could give more than you get back, or vice-versa. Since another individual's mind is an unknown, one can't gauge this.

It's not true that another person's mind is unknown. I mean, sure, I think you recognize abstract ways that there can be a breach between an actor and his benefits. Yet I also think it's quite easy to underestimate just how egoistic one ought to be. For the most part I think people don't go far enough, and don't go as far as Rand did. 

Earlier on, I was arguing how if we did happen to analyze in detail who gets benefit, you would find that you do gain the most benefit. This is important because objectivism's moral philosophy is selfishness. It's not a philosophy where you derive some satisfaction from your actions and you feel okay about yourself. It goes as far as to say that you are the primary beneficiary, you matter the most, your life is all about you. A breach would be an instance where - from your context and life - you are not the primary beneficiary. You can actually discover this. After all, we can understand things like scams, Ponzi schemes, being asked to prom just pour pig's blood over your head when you are crowned prom queen, or going to a relative's wedding because you are "supposed" to. In other words, when there are injustices, the benefits or unbalanced. You might derive some benefit from going to that wedding because you like the food, or you'll see your favorite cousin there. You can also see that the relative getting married is gaining some profound greater value from you (social appearances perhaps) than you gain (if you don't care for the person getting married, you are essentially wasting your time for the sake of someone else despite your marginal benefit). 

Basically, there should never be a time you give more than you get back. Because, literally speaking, you would already know that you are not the primary beneficiary. I don't think it's proper to just wave your hand and say "well, I can't gauge the other person's mind!" Sure you can. I imagine you have some estimate of the benefit I get out of this conversation.

I think Merlin senses the strength of Rand's egoism, but he pushes the wrong implication; this has no necessary negative implication on other people. 

On 7/21/2018 at 11:38 AM, whYNOT said:

Altruism is an 'unnatural' and contrived aberration - rational selfishness has a separate, complete validation in objective metaphysics and epistemology

We can have natural, as in built up from how man functions in reality and the world, or we can have natural as in it's where people naturally gravitate. Which one did you mean?

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.

A Rejection of Egoism —Excerpts from this linked article:

The first strand in Rand’s move from agent egoism to beneficiary egoism was the thesis that if one does not hold one's own life as the motive and goal of one’s actions (at least indirectly), one is acting in a self-destructive way. The second strand, wound together with the first, is that if one does not hold one’s life as the motive and goal of one’s actions, one is acting in a disintegrated way, and integrated life is better life.

. . .

The third strand in the cord by which Rand ties beneficiary egoism to agency egoism is the stress she lays on the self-sufficiency of organisms in general and individual humans in particular.

. . .

In the Strand One section, I interpreted Rand as holding to an egoism in which some right actions are not directly for the actor’s sake, only indirectly so. Directly, they could be for the sake of one not oneself, nonetheless count as egoistic. By this interpretation, Rand’s type of ethical egoism would fall outside Kraut’s exceptionally restrictive definition. “Egoism holds that there is only one person whose good should be the direct object of one’s actions: oneself” (WGW 39).

My interpretation of Rand on this point is in some tension with her text that I quoted (AS 1059–60). Further tension is added by other text of Rand’s:

“The rational man . . . . recognizes the fact that his own life is the source, not only of all his values, but of his capacity to value. Therefore, the value he grants to others is only a consequence, an extension, a secondary projection of the primary value which is himself.” (VoS 46–47) 

She goes on, in that 1963 essay, to quote Nathaniel Branden:

“The respect and good will that men of self-esteem feel towards other human beings is profoundly egoistic; they feel, in effect: ‘Other men are of value because they are of the same species as myself.’ In revering living entities, they are revering their own life. This is the psychological base of any emotion of sympathy and any feeling of ‘species solidarity’.” (VoS 47)

Rand’s contrast of secondary to primary might suggest the contrast of indirect to direct. I think, considering the layout of the psychology to which Rand points, that suggestion should be rejected.

 

Rand in Full —Excerpts from this linked article:

Catherine Halsey learns to greatly curtail her personal desires and to devote her efforts to helping others. This she does because she wants to do what is right and because she accepts the idea that selfishness is evil (ET XIII 384). 

Catherine also accepts the idea, advocated by Toohey (ET XI 342), that selfishness leads to unhappiness. I have been unable to recall or locate any major thinker who advocated this proposition, but it will follow from the premises that happiness requires morality and that selfishness is immoral.

Catherine’s success at unselfishness makes her unhappy and resentful. She speaks with her Uncle Ellsworth about it. She acknowledges that he is much brighter than she and that “‘it’s a very big subject, good and evil’” (ET XIII 384). Rand then uses their dialogue to argue the incoherence and pointlessness of absolute unselfishness. Rand’s lead into her case for the goodness of pure selfishness consists of the sensibleness and pleasure of having personal desires (together with having one’s own thoughts and choices) and guiding one’s own actions. (ET XIII 384; GW II 454). We have seen this way of entering the case for egoism before, in the development of Andrei after he meets Kira.

After her deep conversation with Uncle Ellsworth, Catherine gets together with Peter Keating. He is feeling dirty because of his testimony against Roark at the court case over the Stoddard Temple. Peter and Catherine reaffirm their love, which is a first-hand personal preference satisfying their own identities. They kiss. “Then he did not think of the Stoddard Temple any longer, and she did not think of good and evil. They did not need to; they felt too clean” (ET XIII 391). This suggests that at least one reason the concept of good and evil is needed is the human potential for betraying egoistic innocence.

. . .

I should pause over the necessity of intended self-benefit for correct values. Not all of one’s potential selves are worth benefitting. Among those who are, Rand maintains that only potential selves whose every value is intended to benefit themselves hold entirely correct values. “Concern with his own interests is the essence of a moral existence, and . . . man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions. / The actor must always be the beneficiary of his action” (VS ix–x; also OE 46–47).

One is a beneficiary in ways other than by one’s resulting positive feelings, because one is a self that is not only feelings. Man’s self is “‘that entity that is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego’” (HR XVIII 737). It is the self—one’s soul—that has thoughts, meaning, will, values, desires, and feeling (GW II 454).

Roark loves the buildings he designs not only because of the positive responses they elicit in him. Dagny loves diesel-electric locomotives and the minds that create them not only because of the positive responses they elicit in her. It is not plausible that when she finds that man at the end of the rails, the one for whom she has longed since her youth, she will love him only because of the positive responses he evokes in her.

There is, however, a thread of subjectivity in Rand’s conception of value and love and normative selfishness that is puckering up the fabric. In my judgment, that thread is unnecessary and should be removed. Speaking metaphorically, the solemnity of looking at the sky does not come only from the uplift of one’s head (HR V 598). In extreme desire for another person, the other does not recede in importance compared to the desire (GW IX 539). A rational desire to help someone in need is animated not only by “your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and struggle” (AS 1060, emphasis added). Rather, it is enough for rational egoism that, by design, no actions be contrary self-benefit (of a self worth benefitting). The requirement that all actions should intend primarily self-benefit should be dropped. In this way, one can love persons simply for the particular ends-in-themselves that they are.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those linked articles (and those excerpts just shown) are old one's of mine (2010). I've still some settling out to do, particularly on what are the most liberal restrictions on what could still be called ethical egoism, consistent with the long history and varieties of it in ethical theory.

Edited by Boydstun

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Thank you for your post, Stephen B. I will comment on one part of it.

9 hours ago, Boydstun said:

In the Strand One section, I interpreted Rand as holding to an egoism in which some right actions are not directly for the actor’s sake, only indirectly so. Directly, they could be for the sake of one not oneself, nonetheless count as egoistic.

I think that interpretation is consistent with most, but not all, of what Ayn Rand wrote. I think my clause "but not all" can be based on a number of things she wrote, but I will limit myself to two. One is the passage in VoS quoted in the third post of this thread. Two is from Atlas Shrugged, p. 29, as follows. Taggart Transcontinental has lost a shipping contract with Ellis Wyatt to a competitor. Dagny Taggart: "We've lost the Wyatt oil fields" (p. 16). 

Dagny Taggart: "Ellis Wyatt is not asking anybody to give him a chance. And I'm not in business to give chances. I'm running a railroad." 
James Taggart: "That's an extremely narrow view, it seems to me. I don't see why we should want to help one man instead of a whole nation."
Dagny Taggart: "I'm not interested in helping anybody. I want to make money."

How is it that Dagny is not interested in helping Ellis Wyatt? She wishes that Taggart Transcontinental still had Ellis Wyatt as a customer. If that were still the case, her making money is helping herself, and she would be helping Ellis Wyatt achieve his goals. 

Returning to your passage I quoted, I like a little different wording, indicated by brackets: "an egoism in which some right actions are not [solely] for the actor’s [benefit], only [partly] so. [Partly], they could be for the [benefit] of one not oneself, nonetheless count as egoistic."

While X can help Y when X and Y are trading partners, X rationally helping Y is not limited to trading. For example, X and Y could be co-workers for the same firm Z. X and Y each have the same goal of Z's goal/success. Similarly, in basketball player X could assist his/her teammate Y to achieve their mutual goal of their team winning the game.

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It might be worth distinguishing between the cost to oneself and the benefit to another.

I'm reminded of Rearden's thought in some cases when dealing with businessmen he respects, but who are not on his level.  "it's so much for him, and so little for me."

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Merlin, I notice that the words you found of Dagny to James fit well with a line in Francisco's oratory on money: "Money demands of you recognition than men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss---the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery . . . ." Also: "The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Doug,

You might have an interest in a couple of philosophic works realistic about assessments of utilities of others and about interpersonal comparisons of utility.

“Anyone who breaks my leg or gives me a thousand dollars may be fairly confident of the direction of the impact on me of the action. But one would have to be dotty to hand out exquisite recordings of Bartok’s quartets to random people on the street. Such an action, no matter how well-meant, could plausibly, I am sad to acknowledge, bring about a net reduction in welfare for everyone involved.” (p. 8 of Morality within the Limits of Reason by Russell Hardin)

Robert Nozick’s paper “Interpersonal Utility Theory” is included in his book Socratic Puzzles.

Edited by Boydstun

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12 hours ago, Boydstun said:

ends-in-themselves

I find this the biggest stumbling block for ANY non-egoistic theory.

Is there a way to interpret, identify, and understand what "ends-in-themselves" would be in reality while at the same time rejecting intrinsicism? Or on the contrary is belief in an "end-in-itself" by definition intrinsicist?  What does it mean for something to be an "end in -itself"? For whom is it an end?  What does "in-itself" even mean?  Is it an "end to itself"?

 

 Suppose X is an end-in-itself and Y is not an end-in-itself.

 

What in reality is different between X and Y?

Why "should" (and I make no claims to any standard) I treat X and Y any different and

WHY (by what standard)?  What reasons or facts validate the standard?

 

What in reason and the undeniably demonstrable facts of reality, can persuade me to believe in such things?

 

I'm really struggling with the very idea that there are ANY problems with full throttle egoist ethics... when the full context of the ego is rationally taken into account, I cannot see any problems, and I see nothing else in reality which could possibly form an objective base for ethics.

 

If morality is for human beings to live life and not for wizened old academics to bicker over, as a human myself, I implore...  SHOW me.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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SL, could a value of one's be not for some further purpose? If I bother to write this note, it's for some purposes. Thinking and remembering and communicating are values. Finally, we must come to some value that is its own purpose and which explains the value of all those other values, the ones instrumental to some facet or other of that ultimate value, wouldn’t you think? My life is an ultimate value in my activities, it is an end in itself. Your life is an end in itself.

As a child, Kira had read a story about a conquering Viking who respects neither throne nor altar. This story was Kira’s favorite, high above all others. This conqueror is never defeated. At the end of the story, looking over a city he had conquered, the Viking raises a goblet of wine and speaks: “To life, which is a reason unto itself” (Rand1936,  40–41).

“In a fundamental sense, stillness is the antithesis of life. Life can be kept in existence only by a constant process of self-sustaining action. The goal of that action, the ultimate value which, to be kept, must be gained through its every moment, is the organisms life.

"An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are to be evaluated.” (OE 16–17)

“It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself,that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of ‘value’ is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of ‘life’” (OE 17).

“The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. . . . When one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: ‘This is worth living for’—what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself” (OE 29).

Rand writes of men of good will. Where does she locate a good will in morality? The text on money maintains that with a good will a person will respect the sovereignty of other persons’ minds over their values and labors. Having a good will of this kind and to this extent is not morally singular; it is a moral requirement for anyone. Results and marks of failing to have this minimal level of good will would be, for example, takings by force or fraud (AS 1019, 1022–23). Restricting one’s takings to the consensual is an occasion of a minimally good will respecting the minimally good will of others. Then too, with this type and level of good will, one treats others as ends in themselves. “Just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others” (OE 27).

The moral person set on her own happiness does not take her pleasure to be the proper goal of the lives of others nor does she take the pleasure of others to be the proper goal of the life that is hers (AS 1022). One of good will, however, will find personal pleasure in seeing the value efforts of others (AS 1060). There are “no victims and no conflicts of interest” necessary among moral, rational people (AS 1022). Each can craft his values and desires, while respecting the circumstance that “by the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself.” (AS 1014).

 

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Rand was successful at explicitly blasting false dichotomies and reusing language to her own purposes ("morality" being the perfect example).

I find her use of the phrase "end in itself" makes complete sense to me in the context of a "self", whose end IS itself, but makes little sense to me when referring to something other than the self.  X can be an "end in itself" to itself, but I cannot find the conceptual basis in reality for what anyone could mean (Rand included) by an "end in itself" for anything other than that "self".  A fly is an end in itself to the fly, but to the sun, the universe, or to me... it is a fly (which I could still love and value... but "it" is not "me").  I find Rand's use of the term "end in itself" (hopefully a re-use of the term which I cant quite put my finger on) not as illuminating as her retooling of other various terms, which clearly have been given a meaning by her markedly different from the standard meanings accepted by the culture.

I also suspect there is a sort of false dichotomy of "means" and "ends" in certain contexts (voluntary contexts?) which allows Rand to use terms such as "end in itself" when relating disparate identities without implying intrinsicism.  [If I know anything about Objectivism, it is that Rand was not an intrinsicist.] If I "use" a person in ways which are voluntary and desired by them, to mutual benefit, they are not "abused" by me and hence are conceptually "means" to my end only in a benevolent sense of the term.  Rand's holding that there are no conflicts among rational men, implies that on some level "means-ends" (as commonly interpreted and implied in popular moral hypotheticals) IS a false dichotomy, and the false dichotomy only arises when one colors the term "means" with "abuse" rather than a mutually beneficial and desired "use".

When I am asked to act as a means to someone else's end to which (and possibly with which) I agree and during which they act as a means to my ends, and I note that mutual benefit occurs, then the act of being means (acting to benefit) repeatedly becomes an end... and the repeated completion of those ends (mutual benefit) becomes a means to life.

There are no ends, which are not means, TO (and FOR) the self.  Any such purported end would not be an end.  So for X to be an "end in itself" to me, means the same thing as "X is an end to and FOR me (my life)", but any apparent dichotomy between means and ends is illusory (in that instance).  IF this last is so, I could conclude, my son is "an end in himself" to me, BUT I could not ever conclude that a complete stranger is an end in himself to me, precisely because my son is my life, but a stranger is not.

 

 

 

 

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19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's not true that another person's mind is unknown. I mean, sure, I think you recognize abstract ways that there can be a breach between an actor and his benefits. Yet I also think it's quite easy to underestimate just how egoistic one ought to be. For the most part I think people don't go far enough, and don't go as far as Rand did. 

 

 

We can have natural, as in built up from how man functions in reality and the world, or we can have natural as in it's where people naturally gravitate. Which one did you mean?

2

Eiuol, I would think that last question is clear to you - seeing as one can know another's mind! Sure, by "natural" I mean according to man's nature. Just my reference of "proper to man" and my being here should tip you off.

This "knowing" of another's mind is important to our discussions on rational egoism. 

Btw, only as a foil and not at you, hearing often of a person of altruist mindset it appears to me that there is a (one more)fallacy present, that of people presumptuously claiming to know what an 'other' wants, needs and desires (in their need to attempt to live for others). I.o.w -  somehow - believing they have insight into others' consciousness. I'm sure there's "revealed knowledge", intrinsicism, in that. In not the most unpalatable, but ugly enough, expression of altruism, "the other" is imposed upon ("victimized", as we commonly see in societies) by such subjective presumption, sacrificed to the altruist's notion of moral righteousness.

Obversely: autonomy. All that is contrary to man's mental, emotional, physical autonomy. I think autonomy in part lies at the metaphysical core of this Objectivist ethics. In the most fundamental way, each mind is alone. Far from being a matter of concern, this aloneness holds man's unique greatness, since he then has to think: what can I do about this?  So, his self-directed, independent thought, finding his purpose, and creating his values - and  - discovering all the grades of value possible to him to be held in other human beings that exist.

One can certainly and should understand others' character, usually from extended and close relations with him/her. Where found, there are both the admiration of a person's self-made fine character in its own right, and the selfish benefits from dealings with his integrity etc.. However, this knowledge comes from the "visibility" of the individual's actions, comparing what one hears/reads of him - with what he does.

Further, one can hear of a person's ideas and make good judgments of the ideas' premises (and the consequences of those ideas in action).

But I argue the deep actions and contents of his consciousness remain an invisible unknown. 

(As well as I know a good friend and his/her values, it has occurred several times that they and I can be viewing exactly the same event or happening, and one of us evinces e.g. slight amusement at the sight while the other feels, say, slight dismay. Proves to me even close-others' emotions which correspond to their values, can come as a surprise to what we "know" of them...)

Edited by whYNOT

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17 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Rather, it is enough for rational egoism that, by design, no actions be contrary self-benefit (of a self worth benefitting)

I don't follow how you get here. I'm not seeing how that as long as your actions are not contrary to self benefit, you are being a rational egoist. This is very watered-down, and numerous philosophies promote some kind of self-benefit. But fine, you could argue it is still some form of putting yourself first.

17 hours ago, Boydstun said:

The requirement that all actions should intend primarily self-benefit should be dropped.

But then I don't understand how you get here. Why should I even drop that self benefit should be primary? I'm not even seeing the conflict.

===

I think part of the issue is what we consider "self" to be. Is self restricted to anything within the outline of your body? Or can we extend self to include the environment around you, the tools you use, the people involved, the world we touch? If we stick to "self" as strictly what's within the confines of your body, I can imagine that it would look as if Rand has ignored the vast amount of value that exists for life that's " beyond" the self.

But Rand often writes about how the things we create enhance our own life. How the concepts we form in our minds must be some extension of our cognitive needs. That we need a capitalist society so that you can function to your greatest extent. Nothing indicates to me that she finds the self as limited to your immediate body. I find that AS it is a lot about what it means to have a self - much of the time putting oneself first means incorporating others as if they are extensions of yourself. There may be some secondary goals in common, but your ultimate goal is first. It's in fact well within her philosophy to say that a loved one can be a literal part of yourself. Your attitude should be one where you are the primary benefit, but also that you are an integrated animal where who you are is a lot to do with how you use the world around you to extend your self. 

If you compare Dagny in the early part of AS arguing with her brother about fundamental beliefs. At that point, she sort of had blinders on. She understood that focusing on herself was important. But it was difficult for her to see much value beyond the confines of her body. As the book progresses, she gains a more holistic sort of mindset. She liked the gulch partly because she could work on her dreams *and* seeing the whole place as an important part of her complete self. This isn't just a literary thing. I find that in my own life, I feel selfishly minded more confidently over time as I come to incorporate more of the world around me into myself. When I was younger, I think I was more stuck in the immediate confines of my body, a sort of solipsistic emphasis. 

Much of this discussion about self benefit or selfish pleasure has presumed what a self is without defining the term.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I don't follow how you get here. I'm not seeing how that as long as your actions are not contrary to self benefit, you are being a rational egoist. This is very watered-down, . . .

I quite agree. As I said those things were written eight years ago. Within that year of writings itself, I was in some flux over what could pass for ethical egoism. I'm still refining, but I agree with you, and I'm pretty settled about it, that THAT does not pass. 

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