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whYNOT

"Man's life"? Or, "your life"?

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Right, it's a comparison among more than one thing. You would be comparing states. So you could use one state as a standard of comparison. Unfortunately, you wouldn't be able to use principles of medicine to fix any issues. It would be concrete bound and stuck to exactly and only you.

But that doesn't matter much. You aren't changing states between life and not life. Life doesn't change and alter like states of health. On top of that, we are talking about moral standards. Moral standards apply to yourself and to other people. If your standards can be applied to other people, then you necessarily didn't use yourself as the standard of value. If your standards can't be applied to other people, then you aren't even talking about morality anymore.

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Just to clarify, I'm not saying you can't use your individual life as the standard for something. If you had a progressive disease like ALS, you might only be able to compare your state today to your state yesterday as a way to judge adaptations required for living with the disease. Such a standard can't apply to anyone else at all. 

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14 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You aren't changing states between life and not life. Life doesn't change and alter like states of health.

Your health is an aspect of your life. Health is you functioning properly, your self-sustaining action. It's your organs operating successfully, your mind operating successfully, your choices and movements maintaining your existence as a living organism. You are constantly changing states, either growing and living, or deteriorating and dying. This is why you need to act, either automatically or voluntarily. Some actions--carelessly playing under a pine tree, looking up and getting hit in the forehead with a pine cone, bleeding from a cut--are states of deteriorating and dying. Other actions--blood clotting, skin scabbing, letting the wound heal, deciding to not play under pine trees, being more careful near trees in the future--are states of growing and living. Not everything you do is living. If it were, you wouldn't need values. You wouldn't need ethics. You would just live. 

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Life is a binary thing, you go towards it or not. Health is not a binary thing, because there are many kinds of states of health. If life wasn't binary, there could be many kinds of states of life, which is the type of argument people use to either argue for the nonexistence of morality, or that morality is relative.

I don't disagree with what you wrote, I think you stated it pretty well. But you also gave all the reasons that Rand said life is a standard of value... It's an important reason why Rand isn't Nietzsche-lite. 

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19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

If life wasn't binary, there could be many kinds of states of life, which is the type of argument people use to either argue for the nonexistence of morality, or that morality is relative.

I wouldn't characterize life as binary. Existence might be binary. An existent is either alive or not alive. You, the human entity, are either living or dead. But life itself--your life--goes through stages of development. Offhand I can think of the three main human stages: infancy, adolescence, and maturity or adulthood. Each stage represents an essential change in your life process. Infancy to adolescence is the change from involuntary to voluntary self-sustaining action. And adolescence to mature adulthood is the change to rational action, meaning primary reliance on one's rational faculty, rather than reflexes and mimicking.

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Okay, I think your views about human development might be the issue you have with me calling life binary. You already have different kinds of states of life baked in here, so of course it isn't binary. Rand's theory of ethics depends on there being a binary nature to your existence and your life. We either go towards it or not. There is no in between. There are no alternative means of survival besides reason. You either do the moral thing or you don't. It's not like health where there is always more than one way to be healthy.

Sure, you described a developmental process. But it doesn't follow that there is therefore a gradient of life. It might seem like you have a correct, based on what you think human development even is. Human development is not like what you described, which was I think an attempt to say that there are different forms of human life. I'm saying there is exactly one.

Involuntary to voluntary action is not a distinction of development. Babies begin with this. What they lack is skillful action, sometimes limited due to physical size and some perceptual development like motor skills.

Reflexes and mimicking is not something children move "beyond" to reach rational action. Reflexes aren't any type of cognition anyway, and imitation is only one step in the process of learning that even children have. The best you might be able to say is that 4-year-olds don't know how to generalize yet, and need to become more skillful at reasoning. 

In any case, if you have distinct stages where life itself operates by a different method or requires different methods of survival, there is no reason to say that there are not numerous changes to the nature of your life even in adulthood. And if that is the case, the best you can do when judging or evaluating your life is judging the change of that state in relation to the thing changing states. 

To summarize that: it's not true, scientifically or philosophically, that over the course of your development, the nature of your life changes. We have a means of survival, and we become more skillful at reasoning over time. Sometimes there are major steps we can distinguish in terms of milestones, but it's not because of some neurological transformation (like puberty with physical development).

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

There are no alternative means of survival besides reason. You either do the moral thing or you don't. It's not like health where there is always more than one way to be healthy.

If a baby survives for one month and then dies, I don't see how it did so by using reason to do the moral thing. It reflexively responded to stimuli in order to gain food from its environment. It acted involuntarily (feeding reflexes) once placed against its mother's breast. And when the mother abandoned it in the forest, the baby died because its environment no longer suited its life.

Edited by MisterSwig

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14 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Rand's theory of ethics depends on there being a binary nature to your existence and your life.

When we say, for example, that sex is binary, we mean that there are only two sexes, male and female. We don't mean that we either have a sex or don't have a sex, or that we're "going towards" it or not. Likewise with binary code, where there are only two values: 0 and 1.

What is it about life that makes it binary? "Going (or not going) towards" life is not a characteristic of life. It's a characteristic of whatever is doing the "going towards." And if you're "going towards" life, wouldn't that normally mean that you're not yet there? I don't understand your phrase in this context.

Edited by MisterSwig

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On 10/24/2019 at 11:06 PM, Eiuol said:

But you also gave all the reasons that Rand said life is a standard of value... It's an important reason why Rand isn't Nietzsche-lite. 

Well no, Rand said: "man's life is the standard of value". You could say everyone knows what you mean, but one has to be accurate, and one can't be sure about how experienced are all readers here. (It goes to prove, to those who were critical of Rand being a little quoted earlier, that wrong versions of what she actually wrote *might* be taken for granted, and then wrongful premises - like the subject of this topic - aren't corrected, are accepted, and a sort of drift sets in).

Another error up thread was: "man's life is the standard of morality". But here's where and why Rand began at the fundamental of ethics: Values.

"What is morality, or ethics?" "It is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions".

And - "*Why* does man need a code of values?"

So what are values and why are they essential to the life of man and individual? Which ~particular~ morality that anyone chooses does not enter, at this stage. I think one first has to run through... man being the one species which *appreciates* values, can have a standard of value, is capable of values (reason, purpose, self-esteem, etc.) must choose values, can *make* values and, even, can *be of* value. Not least, for whom his collected values in a value-hierarchy are non-negotiable for a good and fulfilling life. Therefore, he, 'the self-value',  must be the recipient of all the benefits of all the values he utilizes, identifies, creates, struggles for, has to maintain (etc.) 

That answers the burning question of any ethics: "Who benefits?" Which can be seen to be redundant.

The ("moral") actor and the beneficiary must be one and the same person, in moral justice. (Roughly as Rand put this in the VoS Intro, and again,  long-time readers are urged to get reacquainted with). 

 

Edited by whYNOT

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5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

When we say, for example, that sex is binary, we mean that there are only two sexes, male and female. We don't mean that we either have a sex or don't have a sex, or that we're "going towards" it or not.

One's sex is not a process. Life is. They are binary in different ways. Sex characteristics can be described as having them or not. Although not always binary, physical characteristics can be described as the entity having them or not. Simply put, the characteristic is encoded or it is not. 

Process characteristics can be described as operating with respect to the process or not. That would include consciousness, running, dancing, rationality, life, etc. Perhaps you might describe them as teleological, because these are all goal-directed. Those physical characteristics may contribute to these goals, but are not themselves goals. Life is an end in itself, so that's how you can always go towards their without reaching the absolute end point. Essentially, actions either sustain life or act against that sustenance.

6 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

If a baby survives for one month and then dies, I don't see how it did so by using reason to do the moral thing

A baby doesn't cry simply as a response. A baby cries as a means to communicate and need to eat. A feeding reflex has no bearing here any more than eating food causes a reflex to swallow. If a baby dies when abandoned, it's because babies are not skilled enough at using reason. Obviously their limitations are extreme, but they don't become more skillful at reason because of some physiological change. Their neurons are better able to adapt, but it isn't as though they acquire a new cortical region. We could argue for a long time about how cognition develops. The point is that the types of changes infants go through are not those that change the essential nature of its life. If anything, an infant develops their reasoning ability further because reason is necessary for their survival in the long run. 

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20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Sex characteristics can be described as having them or not. Although not always binary, physical characteristics can be described as the entity having them or not.

Everything can be described this way. You either have a ball or don't have a ball. The ball is either blue or not blue. That shade of blue is either periwinkle or not periwinkle. This doesn't describe something's binary nature. It describes its existential status of existing or not existing.

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

A baby doesn't cry simply as a response. A baby cries as a means to communicate and need to eat.

Crying is a reflexive response to several stimuli, hunger, pain, shock, stress, overstimulation. The reflex remains for months until the baby learns to gain voluntary control over this action.

There simply is no evidence for reason in an infant. The prefrontal cortex doesn't begin to mature until adolescence.

Edited by MisterSwig

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Everything can be described this way.

Did you not read the difference between a process and a physical characteristic? It's like you didn't read the next paragraph. A shade is a physical characteristic. A shade is not a process. Yes, everything can be described in that way - that's the law of identity. The word binary is meant to convey that life has no "in between", with the understanding that I mean a binary process rather than a binary status of A or ~A. 

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Crying is a reflexive response to several stimuli, hunger, pain, shock, stress, overstimulation.

If something is a reflex, it is never available for voluntary control at any point in development, even when you are an adult. Babies don't lack voluntary control and then acquire it. It isn't direct control of crying, as much as they don't know how to control their emotional state so that they modulate their reaction. If an adult is bad at dealing with overstimulation and stress, they will cry, too.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

There simply is no evidence for reason in an infant.

I know you think that, but this is false. As I keep saying, skill at reason develops over time. The prefrontal cortex develops in the sense of neurons adapting and different connections forming, but it doesn't mean that they have acquired a new form of thinking. Reason is basically conceptual thought, which is empirically observable easily by the time a child is four years old. It can especially be noticed when children can notice abstract patterns that the most advanced animals cannot grapple with.

Experiments about moral reasoning, causal reasoning, counting ability, etc

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Did you not read the difference between a process and a physical characteristic? It's like you didn't read the next paragraph.

I read it. But I disagree with the way you're using the concept binary in relation to things. So it would be premature to offer criticism of your use of it in relation to actions of things. We disagree on some basic biological  facts. So I'll take a break and let my prior posts stand for now. 

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

So it would be premature to offer criticism of your use of it in relation to actions of things.

It's fine if you don't agree with the word choice. As long as you see that there are only two directions the process of life can go, rather than multiple directions. 

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

We disagree on some basic biological  facts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primitive_reflexes

I have more background than just Wikipedia. But notice that reflexes don't include things like crying, or really any process, except those that involve a specific motor action, and don't later become voluntary. There is no sense of voluntary action appearing as a stage of development. It's not just a disagreement about facts; you have the facts wrong about existing science. Your explanation is pretty much a behaviorist theory of cognitive development. Behaviorism is okay to describe basic forms of learning that don't require any kind of conceptual thought (associative learning mostly), but it never did any good explaining cognitive development. It's because infants (and other animals!) are more than stimulus-response machines. 

Or perhaps you're looking at it like Piaget

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_development

Your terms are bit antiquated. To him, it's not that infants acquire voluntary action. Instead, they develop an understanding of the plethora of stimuli around them. Even then, Piaget's theory doesn't hold up so well anymore. Parts of it are still useful, just limited usage.

I'm not presenting an argument here, it's background information that you can look more into if you want. 

 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

...notice that reflexes don't include things like crying, or really any process, except those that involve a specific motor action, and don't later become voluntary.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002397.htm

Crying is also part of the Moro reflex, which is in the Wikipedia article. It's an involuntary motor response in infants. It's a triggering of the laryngeal muscles. (Note: I'm not talking about tearing. I'm talking about the sound a baby makes.) 

Edited by MisterSwig

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You could describe some of crying has a reflex (in the sense you don't choose to output those tears). The important thing is that infants don't start out lacking voluntary actions. The article you linked talks about crying in general, all of which are consistent with what I said.

Babies aren't some other kind of life that transform like caterpillars to butterflies.

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On 10/11/2019 at 3:31 PM, whYNOT said:

From The Virtue of Selfishness, 16-23:

"An organism's life is its *standard of value*: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil".

[An "organism", in Rand's examples, an amoeba, a plant, a body's circulatory system.]

Why did you exclude man from Rand's examples of an organism? Did you miss it on page 17?

103457158_IMG_20191114_070030165_BURST0012.thumb.jpg.b7f8de8f8f779bf74130dfbc7e1c016c.jpg

Do you see where she says "if an organism fails in the basic functions required by its nature--if an amoeba's protoplasm stops assimilating food, or if a man's heart stops beating--the organism dies"?

Doesn't this undermine your representation of Rand's argument? You mixed up the examples she gave for functions of an organism with the examples she gave for organisms themselves, thereby missing her entire point regarding "an organism's life is its standard of value." You have missed the objective basis for the Objectivist ethics.

If you're willing to focus on this particular issue and textual passage, perhaps we can make this thread productive again.

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If you'd look back over this, I brought in Rand's "organism" as a possible cause of confusion. I said (from memory) :"it threw me too, at the time" and for some while.

Very important, to allay confusion, to distinguish "organism'" ("The standard is the organism's life") -- from "man" and standard of value. An amoeba, etc. doesn't know, it just lives or dies. 

Good, ta Eioul.

Edited by whYNOT

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On 10/11/2019 at 3:31 PM, whYNOT said:

Survival "qua man", is of higher magnitude, while inclusive of his organism's survival. i.e. man's survival - "is proportionate to the range of [his] consciousness".

Here is another example where you misrepresent Rand's argument to fit your own view. She did not say that man's survival is proportionate to the range of his consciousness. She wrote:

Quote

The range of actions required for the survival of the higher organisms is wider: it is proportionate to the range of their consciousness. The lower of the conscious species possess only the faculty of sensation, which is sufficient to direct their actions and provide for their needs. (VOS, p. 19)

It isn't man's survival that's proportionate to the range of his consciousness, it's his range of actions that's proportionate. There is no range of survival. You're either alive or not, living or dead. Again, you've misconstrued an important part of Rand's argument. I have now given you two plain examples where you have misrepresented the text. Are you going to address the problem?

Edited by MisterSwig

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Sure, there is a range of survival. It's more accurate to say existence has no range. Galapagos Tortoises live longer than humans. But this would mean that survival is not always proportionate to range of consciousness. I don't think this confuses anything though. 

Rand clearly limits the context to "higher organisms", which might include dogs, cats, monkeys, humans. As far as these organisms are concerned (as opposed to trees or insects) survival is proportionate to the range of actions, and the range of actions are proportionate to the range of consciousness. On top of that, anything she does write about with range of consciousness in man is that a wider range to that consciousness proportionally increases his actions and therefore his survival. You know, the choice to focus, rationality, productivity, all that stuff. 

I'm not sure how that connects to the passage you posted. When I read that, I think of "organism's life" in the abstract usage. Like this, for example: "the dog's (species') life". I read it that way because the passage speaks in general terms about living, not any specific particular organism. So I would say "my life, as a human, is my standard of value", and that would make sense. And that of course is the same as "man qua man". Any ambiguity is resolved by the end of the essay, so it's not a big deal. Earlier, I pointed out Max Stirner as a contrast because he doesn't believe in an abstraction of life in this way. It's a spook to him. If he said "organism's life", I would know he could only mean a specific and particular life. 

The only difficult thing here is -how- abstract is the concept life supposed to be here? We aren't talking about the Form life, nor are we talking about a purely concrete life.

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16 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Sure, there is a range of survival. It's more accurate to say existence has no range. Galapagos Tortoises live longer than humans. But this would mean that survival is not always proportionate to range of consciousness. I don't think this confuses anything though. 

An amount, or quantity, of life is different from life itself. Rand is talking about different types of action and consciousness, not merely different quantities.

Besides you're talking about average lifespan. There is no correlation between an organism's particular lifespan and particular range of action. Newborns and the elderly typically have smaller ranges of action than young adults in their prime, but each case is different. It doesn't work generally, either. Sponges, for example, live for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years, and they can hardly be said to have the greatest range of action.

16 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Rand clearly limits the context to "higher organisms", which might include dogs, cats, monkeys, humans.

While Rand limited the context to "higher organisms," by this she did not mean higher mammals, which you suggest. She clearly meant conscious organisms, as opposed to plants. Her first example is "the lower of the conscious species" which only possess sensation. (VOS, p. 19)

16 hours ago, Eiuol said:

When I read that, I think of "organism's life" in the abstract usage. Like this, for example: "the dog's (species') life".

We can discuss linguistics on another thread, if you want. I'd rather not derail this one.

Edited by MisterSwig

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7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

An amount, or quantity, of life is different from life itself. Rand is talking about different types of action and consciousness, not merely different quantities.

I know it's different. The quote you gave me is about a quantity, so that's what I addressed. I dealt with survival in a quantitative way. Range of action has some proportionality to survival, but isn't necessarily proportionate between species. I recognize that Rand doesn't get into the relationship between range of action and survival for lower animals and non-animals, but that's bracketed off as a different type of consciousness. 

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Sponges, for example, live for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years, and they can hardly be said to have the greatest range of action.

This is the exact point I was making with Galapagos tortoises. 

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

There is no correlation between an organism's particular lifespan and particular range of action.

Great, then you explicitly disagree with Rand, because she claims there is a correlation. To say that X is proportionate to Y is to say that X and Y correlate. You contradicted yourself though, because you just gave an example of a correlation: newborns and the elderly have reduced survival capacity than other stages of development. Humans have a huge range of actions because of their high degree of consciousness, so maximizing that range will result in maximal range of action, and minimizing that range will result in minimal range of action.

Organisms with a higher degree of consciousness, not conscious organisms in general. So, it is limited to some birds and some mammals. Lower species are conscious, but only capable of sensation ["only capable of sensation" is technically inaccurate, but it is true they are only capable of associative learning aka their range of action is dependent upon stimulus and response]. 

7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

We can discuss linguistics on another thread, if you want. I'd rather not derail this one.

If you show an entire page of an essay, you should expect discussion about the best way to interpret that essay.

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On 11/14/2019 at 8:40 PM, MisterSwig said:

Here is another example where you misrepresent Rand's argument to fit your own view. She did not say that man's survival is proportionate to the range of his consciousness. She wrote:

It isn't man's survival that's proportionate to the range of his consciousness, it's his range of actions that's proportionate. There is no range of survival. You're either alive or not, living or dead. Again, you've misconstrued an important part of Rand's argument. I have now given you two plain examples where you have misrepresented the text. Are you going to address the problem?

"Range of consciousness" - IS proportionate to the range of actions - actions, in man's case, which ARE necessary to the survival of "man qua man".

Draw the connection yourself. Range of consciousness - range of action - man's consciousness - his range of action - therefore -man's survival (qua man not qua insect/beast).

You were saying?

'Misconstrued' and 'misrepresented', yes:  that should be the topic's title. Now you misrepresent my words, in order to pick at me. At least now you're endeavouring to accurately represent Rand.

Edited by whYNOT

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On 11/14/2019 at 11:13 PM, Eiuol said:

 

The only difficult thing here is -how- abstract is the concept life supposed to be here? We aren't talking about the Form life, nor are we talking about a purely concrete life.

When you properly allocate to man *an identity* and his existence, there's no such thing as the Form life. "Man's life" is then concrete, conceptualized - grasped - by a mind in the abstract.

"Man" is every instance of those who have that identity ever possible, now, future and past.

"Life" is every instance of "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action".

Put them together, man and life, "man's life".

 

Edited by whYNOT

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Sometimes it is necessary re-state the obvious. Everything in and about Objectivism is ... objective. Existence is met with the identifying consciousness which also has identity. No less, the ethics of rational selfishness, an ethics that isn't any arbitrary construct by Rand (because it makes an individual feel righteous, or superior, for example). 

That may initially 'put out' individualists to know that their egoism is derived from an "objective" standard of value - man's life, not 'a standard' inherent in themselves and by their own lives. 

What might ~appear~ compromising of and dismissive to each one's own, ultimate value, is the exact opposite. It affirms one's "ultimate value", incontrovertibly. Only a conceptual 're-alignment' is needed to straighten the misconception.

Rand removed her ethics from any hint of the primacy of consciousness or mysticism - which is the nature of all other moral systems.

This ethical code of values is uniquely all primacy of existence.

 

Edited by whYNOT

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