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StrictlyLogical

"Tree's life" OR "your tree's life"

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Alternatively:  "A Botanist and an Objectivist walk into a Bar"

 

Imagine you are a brilliant botanist and geneticist and that you have created a hybrid apple orange tree ... and you created only one. 

Now suppose because of your brilliance you can, from its unique genetic makeup, and all your knowledge, predict and completely understand its requirements for life and flourishing, some requirements similar to apple trees others similar to orange trees, other requirements common to both, and yet other requirements new and dissimilar to those of both apple and orange trees. 
 

You have chosen that your goal is to keep it alive which logically entails a goal of maximal flourishing and all that implies.  Soon it will be transplanted outdoors and your gardener will be tasked with its care. You aim to write a guide to action, recipe of care, a standard practices manual, whatever you call it, for your gardener, using all your knowledge.  As you set off to do so... you think to ask your friend, who is an Objectivist and an all around smart guy, how to formulate such a thing. 

 

Of course you meet him at a bar.


Upon hearing of your problem, he smiles and tells you that he has all the answers you are looking for.  Apparently, he knows all about this sort of thing because Rand discovered morality for people, and  he could apply her logic to the analogous goal of keeping your tree alive.

He excitedly says to you: "Your book or manual for your gardener is, in fact, a code of values to guide the choices and action of your gardener in the care of the tree aimed at its flourishing!  Although I am no botanist, the general principles which guide how you write your code (to guide choices and action) is a no brainer"

First he observed that your manual, or guide, etc. must be formulated according to some standard to ensure it is to be successful.  The content of your proposed chapters, paragraphs, etc. should be evaluated against that standard to ensure that what goes into the code is proper, in other words, the code will actually guide choices and actions which lead to the "good", the goal of the tree's flourishing... flourishing being the maximal state for current and future long-term life (and maximal against unforeseen setbacks, like a storm or a drought).  He interjects, that Botanists like you know that subjecting a plant to wind and the elements "hardens it" for long-term longevity, in comparison to sheltering a plant overmuch which might lead to fast growth short term, but which threatens the plant's long-term ability to survive... A little puzzled at why he should emphasize this short-term long-term nugget, you know your gardener is not an idiot who would trade the plant's long term health for short term showiness... you nonetheless nod in agreement. 

Your first contribution is to say, "Well, I plan to use all my knowledge derived from and consistent with all available knowledge about apple trees and orange trees which includes all relevant knowledge about apple trees and orange trees, trees in general, plants, living things.. and all I know about "entities", as well as all my special brilliant knowledge as a geneticist about the specific nature of this hybrid.  In that sense, I will be guided by all abstract knowledge I can apply (as a finite non-omniscient human) which leads to flourishing".  You smile, keen to see the reaction on his face to your use of "finite" and "non-omniscient" in the conversation... words you have oft heard from him.

Instead of greeting your reference with a smile, your friend, with some disdain says: "Sounds to me like you are going on the premise of using the individual tree's life as the standard of value for your code."

This puzzles you quite a bit.  You point out... "Well the individual tree's life is the goal of the gardener's choices and actions... and that tree's potential and actual flourishing over the long term must therefore must be the standard by which that code is to be written.  If something in the code leads to ill health or destruction of that tree it does not meet the standard for being chosen or done and hence does not meet the standard of being included in the code, and if something in the code would lead to good health, flourishing and life of the tree then that would meet the standard for being chosen and acted upon i.e. it would meet the standard for being included in the code...  No?"


He looks at you and says, quite solemnly: "The correct formulation is: Tree's life is the *standard* of value for that code--and that specific tree's life is the purpose of the code.  Not that tree's life, Tree's life.  Any other standard is subjective"

 

You try to hide your utter shock, keeping a straight face, and reply: "What the heck are you talking about?  Tree's Life?"

He replies: "Why yes of course.  Basing your code on what is best for that specific, concrete, particular tree, is "self-referencing" and circular.  Effectively the code says the tree is its own standard a conclusion which is ultimately subjective (and leaving one adrift from a "standard of value" to which to adhere)."  Practically, this will be acted out as: whatever "the gardener" chooses and decides to be a value to the tree, is a value because "the gardener" chose it. ... that makes him sound a little unreliable but you get my point... and well I mean... how will your code apply to other trees?... your code will be missing something if it's only for your tree... it...needs more.... something else...  well you get my point."

 

With a frown you try to tell him that he is incorrect, and that the code would in no way be subjective.  It would be formed from objective knowledge of the nature of the thing to which the code is directed.  The gardener would have no reason to depart from his goal which is to take care of that tree and your code has nothing to do with other trees.  Your aim is not to start a movement for growing apple orange tree forests and you have no interest in sharing your code with anyone other than the gardener for any purpose whatever.  Your code is for your tree... that tree, full stop.  

 

After a moment, you ask for him to explain how the code for the gardener would ACTUALLY read differently, if based on all of your knowledge, as you previously outlined, of what would be best for this particular tree, i.e. using the individual tree's life as the "standard", versus writing a code for the gardener which had as its standard "Tree's life"... whatever your friend means by that.

 

Your friend the Objectivist, after taking a moment to gather himself, then outlines clearly and exactly how that code, your manual, would differ when written with "the tree's life" as the standard of value versus when written with "Tree's life" as the standard of value, and carefully explains how the former would NOT be the best manual, would not be the best code to follow, for achieving your goal of your tree's flourishing...

 

NOW, WHAT HE SAID WAS....  

[PLEASE REPLY to this thread by filling in what he said.... once we have enough honest attempts at the argument he presented, I propose we discuss and rank the results to choose a winner]

 

You do not immediately indicate agreement, preferring to keep the meeting friendly... after nodding in acknowledgement and your thankfulness for his input, you quite deftly change the subject.

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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In order to write a manual for the particular tree's life, the conditions it would encounter along the way need be known to prescribe at every turn what care is needed.

A manual for a tree's life in general seeks to generalize the conditions any tree might encounter and how to select what care is needed based on the particular conditions encountered.

(Seems quite a short retort to such an elaborate set up.)

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31 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

In order to write a manual for the particular tree's life, the conditions it would encounter along the way need be known to prescribe at every turn what care is needed.

A manual for a tree's life in general seeks to generalize the conditions any tree might encounter and how to select what care is needed based on the particular conditions encountered.

(Seems quite a short retort to such an elaborate set up.)

I’m not sure the above:

52 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

outlines clearly and exactly how that code, your manual, would differ when written with "the tree's life" as the standard of value versus when written with "Tree's life" as the standard of value, and carefully explains how the former would NOT be the best manual, would not be the best code to follow, for achieving your goal of your tree's flourishing...

 

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In order to write a manual for the particular tree's life, it would need to be extracted from a manual for Tree's Life, based on the particular conditions the particular tree's life would be expected to encounter.

One manual is written for the proper care and raising of trees in general.

For the proper care and raising of a specific particular tree, the inapplicable sections of raising of trees in general could be omitted.

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4 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

In order to write a manual for the particular tree's life, it would need to be extracted from a manual for Tree's Life, based on the particular conditions the particular tree's life would be expected to encounter.

One manual is written for the proper care and raising of trees in general.

For the proper care and raising of a specific particular tree, the inapplicable sections of raising of trees in general could be omitted.

Hmmm I’m not sure I buy this account as being what your friend said.  He was adamant that your original approach was wrong and inadequate... what you have written here does not convey what your Objectivist friend said... even if what you have said makes a certain amount of sense. 

Observe, you never promised or planned to first create any code based on Tree’s life which you would then modify... to be sure you are relying on the same abstractions and knowledge ... but also observe your single tree is not in any way an exception to all you know about trees of its kind.  Your code for this apple orange tree at this early stage in life likely cannot omit anything as inapplicable to apple orange trees in general ... its likely your gardener should have all that information in the code.

No your Objectivist friend has said something much more radical and/or less straightforward... he says your approach IS deficient...

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On 11/10/2019 at 4:08 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

No your Objectivist friend has said something much more radical and/or less straightforward... he says your approach IS deficient...

Maybe he can has studied the local environment, and the potential changes, and is thus able to reasonably predict the future scenarios that this particular tree  is going to encounter?

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18 minutes ago, softwareNerd said:

Maybe he can has studied the local environment, and the potential changes, and is thus able to reasonably predict the future scenarios that this particular tree  is going to encounter?

Unfortunately, this is not the case... it’s quite the opposite from the position he has actually taken... see the OP.

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I’m surprised and a little disappointed no one has rushed in with a clear, complete, and logically iron clad exposition proving that the position the Objectivist friend is correct.

I leave the matter to continue to remain open to any honest attempt, but also throw out the question... why is it that his position is not so easily defended? Why is it that validation of his assertion is not so readily apparent and straightforward? 

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On 11/10/2019 at 6:43 PM, dream_weaver said:

In order to write a manual for the particular tree's life, it would need to be extracted from a manual for Tree's Life, based on the particular conditions the particular tree's life would be expected to encounter.

One manual is written for the proper care and raising of trees in general.

For the proper care and raising of a specific particular tree, the inapplicable sections of raising of trees in general could be omitted.

Exactly, d_w. Conceptualized from the general abstract to the specific concrete. (And in reverse, as with induction <-> deduction). If the standard of value for "trees" were water, air and sunlight** - you could bet your life that the values to enable "a" single tree's particular purpose were the same. If not, it can't be a tree but something else. 

"Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man--in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life". 

(By the standard of that which is proper to Tree).

Why such a well-known and perused principle should be controversial with Objectivists, I can't say. Agree or disagree with her formulation, Rand is not known for her lack of clarity in spelling out her meaning. I've constantly quoted her, for one reason: I am not making up my own idiosyncratic interpretation. 

Although quite a fun tale by the OP.

**read: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem. 

Edited by whYNOT

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7 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I’m surprised and a little disappointed no one has rushed in with a clear, complete, and logically iron clad exposition proving that the position the Objectivist friend is correct.

While I completely understand the value of presenting the OP in a narrative style, I am actually not clear enough about the proposition to offer an opinion one way or the other. Or maybe I understand, but the narrative approach makes me wonder if they're the propositions you actually intend. 

So, let me summarize the proposition on the table, and you tell me if I got it right, or if I'm misreading this completely.:

  • There's an individual tree for which we want to devise a moral code
  • That moral code should not be for all trees in general, but for that specific tree

Is this what's on the table? 
The reason I'm unsure is that seems obvious that a moral code that intends to make an individual tree flourish can only do so if it is geared toward that individual tree. Yet, it leaves open a couple of questions about what we mean by moral code... how abstract it is...and so on.

Edited by softwareNerd

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You get the gist but:

51 minutes ago, softwareNerd said:

That moral code should not be for all trees in general, but for that specific tree

is not really a limitation imposed upon the code, but a consequence of its single purpose.  Nothing is to be excluded from the code IF it is helpful for achieving its goal, but nothing irrelevant should be included.

54 minutes ago, softwareNerd said:

what we mean by moral code... how abstract it is...and so on.

Yes, this is a big issue.

I’ve noticed a kind aspect of the psychoepistemological quirk of well meaning Objectivists.  It generally consists of a conflation of the proper meaning of “Objective” with a butchered meaning of “Universal”.  It’s like the vestigial remnants of Religion and the Golden Rule are having an overblown subconscious effect on ethical thinking, even after morality has been redefined.  I see hand-wavy almost mystical arguments also regarding the meaning of “man qua man” and an impoverished view that long term survival somehow implies breathing right now... it does not.

 

Are we in our nature individual? Separate metaphysical entities? Who possesses life? Are we a collective entity, do we have a collective life?  Epistemologically, who possesses knowledge?   Do we have collective knowledge, collective thoughts? Metaphysically and epistemologically most well meaning Objectivists get it... each of our existence, life, thought, and knowledge is individual.  Unfortunately, early in ethics (way BEFORE politics) many  think with an accent on the social.  In the back of their minds morality is for “people” society, a collection or collective... when instead like knowledge and life each should clearly see ethics and morality as his or hers... it is part of that individual knowledge whose purpose is that individual’s life... that is what it is.

As for abstraction, there is no way that morality could not be incredibly abstract, living things are incredibly complex as is the environment, the myriad contexts and situations it could find itself in, all of these require abstract knowledge and principles to predict and guide choices and actions.  When you have a sapling or a human the future possibilities and potentialities  require a high degree of abstract thinking.

But the Objectivity of that abstraction should not be confused with “universal applicability”.  It must include abstract endless possible futures including potentially different possible “versions” of the living entity... we cannot predict with certainty exactly how the tree or you might grow or change, so the principles must be abstract enough to include those potentialities.  In the sense of concept formation abstractions deal with universal but this does not imply universal applicability.

This apple orange tree is unique.  It’s code must be Objective and abstract, but it is literally impossible for it to apply universally to any other existing tree.  In the abstract sense it does apply to any tree of its kind including all possible futures for it, and any other apple orange tree if ever created.

Your morality is not quite the same existent as what a philosopher, building a system, refers to as morality because yours only applies to you, whereas the philosopher tries to offer up something for all mankind.

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I’ve noticed a kind aspect of the psychoepistemological quirk of well meaning Objectivists.  It generally consists of a conflation of the proper meaning of “Objective” with a butchered meaning of “Universal”.  It’s like the vestigial remnants of Religion and the Golden Rule are having an overblown subconscious effect on ethical thinking, even after morality has been redefined.

Applying objectivity to ethics is very difficult. Many Objectivists simply can't do it. They can't escape from the "thou shalt not" dogmatism of religion.

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14 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

This apple orange tree is unique.  It’s code must be Objective and abstract, but it is literally impossible for it to apply universally to any other existing tree.  In the abstract sense it does apply to any tree of its kind including all possible futures for it, and any other apple orange tree if ever created.

Your morality is not quite the same existent as what a philosopher, building a system, refers to as morality because yours only applies to you, whereas the philosopher tries to offer up something for all mankind.

The basic you make about what one must think about is valid. One must think about that one tree. However, that's not really a "moral code" for that tree. At least not the general use of the concept "moral code". 

My point here is not about morality or even philosophy, as such. It's equally about (say) biology. One can take the word "biology" and use it to talk about the particular biology of a tree. However, that's just to use the same term fro two different concepts.  There would still be a science of biology that studies trees, and can talk about trees that do not even exist today.

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There's no compulsion here. Objectivism hasn't any "imperatives". IF anyone wants a good, fulfilling life, holding and surrounded by values and making one's own, one ~would~ choose to live as "man", by virtue of "his" identity. Transposing that high abstraction into the life of each individual must (if he wants) involve one carrying it out in ongoing action. Otherwise, such virtue-qualities which are proper to man, as (e.g.) pride, productiveness, independence remain just words on paper and a priori abstractions. (Objectivists would know that virtues are a self-serving means; not ends in themselves). 

Could be that's a part of the perceived problem about rational egoism, often treated uncertainly and ambivalently by O'ists: inaction or insufficient practice, caused usually by rationalism -  by admiring *the principle* of virtues that look fine in theory, like other ideas, but aren't continuously tested out and justified in the daily activity of one's life. But clearly the effectiveness of one's acknowledgment-in-action of the value-standard, man's life, will soon become apparent, validating further practice . 

These habitual applications to one's particular, individual life involve intricacies and variables that are too numerous to recount, obviously.  As one does with reduction from principles to percepts to (many) real things, which keep one's ideas attached to reality, what is evident is one's own life is the 'grounding' of this moral code. If one chooses.

 

Edited by whYNOT

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21 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Applying objectivity to ethics is very difficult. Many Objectivists simply can't do it. They can't escape from the "thou shalt not" dogmatism of religion.

In my experience it's because objective value was the final hill to climb. Therefore, a "code of values" (this ethics) can be difficult to take in. The 'background noise' from the influence of the two other long-dominant, mixed, theories of value - especially intrinsic value - that *everyone* has had and observed around them, growing up and seeing their effects - not always so wrong, imo - makes discerning and distinguishing "objective value" quite hard. 

Edited by whYNOT

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On 11/10/2019 at 11:08 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

 

No your Objectivist friend has said something much more radical and/or less straightforward... he says your approach IS deficient...

Lose the objective foundation of rational selfishness, it turns into a subjective free for all, and bang goes "rational".

And THEN, the critics, as if I care for them, could have a valid counter.

Revealing, no one here tries directly taking on Rand, on "man's life is the standard of value" and all the rest...

...good luck with that.

 

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11 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

The basic you make about what one must think about is valid. One must think about that one tree. However, that's not really a "moral code" for that tree. At least not the general use of the concept "moral code". 

My point here is not about morality or even philosophy, as such. It's equally about (say) biology. One can take the word "biology" and use it to talk about the particular biology of a tree. However, that's just to use the same term fro two different concepts.  There would still be a science of biology that studies trees, and can talk about trees that do not even exist today.

The OP was not about a moral code for the tree, as the tree cannot use one.  The OP was, however, about a code of values to guide choices and actions for the gardener which are directed toward a certain end.  It is the Objectivist friend who sees the abstract parallel and wishes to analyze the creation of such a code in an analogous fashion to his understanding (correct or not) of morality as he believes Rand formulated it.

I now deeply regret going off topic, I should have stayed on point with the OP, since it is not fraught with all that baggage associated with the topic I went OFF on.

 

I like your example of biology... clearly the science of biology consists of knowledge and abstract principles pertaining to biological entities.  It must be kept in mind that the biological principles of trees do not apply to science of biology, those principles are part OF the science of biology and they apply to concrete individual trees.

 

 

I am still eager for someone to make an HONEST attempt to write a convincing version of what this friend said about the actual differences between the two codes, and why (and how) the first code would actually be deficient.  Of course I assume (for the nonce) it was possible for the friend to do this with valid arguments and no straw men...

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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What is "mystical", is the belief that man's mind does not have identity. 

In avoidance of this metaphysical fact, one is lead to the empiricists.

(The converse of rationalism - empiricism/skepticism - is another pitfall to beware of). 

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33 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

The OP was not about a moral code for the tree, as the tree cannot use one.  The OP was, however, about a code of values to guide choices and actions for the gardener which are directed toward a certain end.  It is the Objectivist friend who sees the abstract parallel and wishes to analyze the creation of such a code in an analogous fashion to his understanding (correct or not) of morality as he believes Rand formulated it.

.

 

"Abstract parallel"? "Analogous fashion"? Do you not see the "conceptual chain" from man to individual?

If you disagree with Rand - in *your* understanding - let us hear you dissect her writings. Otherwise, I take this as simple sophistry, without comprehension of what she wrote. 

Begin with "...holds man's life as the standard of value--and his own life as..."

 

Edited by whYNOT

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17 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

"Abstract parallel"? "Analogous fashion"? Do you not see the "conceptual chain" from man to individual?

If you disagree with Rand - in *your* understanding - let us hear you dissect her writings. Otherwise, I take this as simple sophistry, without comprehension of what she wrote. 

Begin with "...holds man's life as the standard of value--and his own life as..."

 

Hello Whynot..

 

I have a particular discussion in mind for this thread. 

If you do not wish to have that discussion, and wish to have a discussion on a different topic of your choosing, please start your own thread.

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Hello Whynot..

 

I have a particular discussion in mind for this thread. 

If you do not wish to have that discussion, and wish to have a discussion on a different topic of your choosing, please start your own thread.

 

 

 

The '"discussion" is all of the same "discussion". You brought your "discussion" to a thread I opened, with no objections from me. Which you've riffed off. Now, you want it your way.

Sorry, no.

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38 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

The '"discussion" is all of the same "discussion". You brought your "discussion" to a thread I opened, with no objections from me. Which you've riffed off. Now, you want it your way.

Sorry, no.

I have asked politely that you refrain from going off topic in this thread.  I in no way make excuses or justifications for my comments on your previous thread, but have asked that we conduct ourselves differently going forward.

Do you believe purposefully going off topic after being politely asked to address the discussion of the OP constitutes correct and proper forum conduct?

Are you of the view that past transgressions on my part justify current and/or future transgressions on your part?

 

I ask you again, please, out of politeness stay on topic, or start a new one.

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