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Do Objectivists Believe in Categorical Imperatives?

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"weaseling" is a form of dishonesty, is it not?

I have never thought of it that way - but I suppose it technically is. In the context in which I intended it, it was more a question of accepting responsiblity and accountability. To me it was more of an issue of justice and not a question of Kendall's honesty - a subject on which I am not knowledgeable enough to call into question. So I see your point and retract my use of that particular word - and will keep that in mind next time I am tempted to use it. And, for the record, I have no reason at all to doubt Kendall's honesty.

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While this is off-topic, to think "critically" is to question every aspect of a statement and its author - except its content and its tie to reality.

I am sure nobody here really means to think "critically" - and that everyone actually means to think logically.

Ummm...if you read the title of the thread, you will find that the last 3 pages have been off topic, so I wouldn't worry about posting off topic. Haha.

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Ummm...if you read the title of the thread, you will find that the last 3 pages have been off topic, so I wouldn't worry about posting off topic. Haha.

True, but if I could get back on topic, to whether Objectivists believe in categorical imperatives...

I'm not sure the question has been settled to my liking. I know Objectivism fairly well, and have read OPAR, including what it has to say on force and morality.

I think we should try not to get hung up on the implications terms have had historically and think purely about their denotations. Certainly, Rand never believed in something like Kant's categorical imperatives. However, one can easily consider a situation in which, as nimble states, violating rights in non-extraordinary conditions would be in one's best interest. The no-risk theft situation is a good example. Suppose I can steal a laptop without any risk of being caught because I see a man carrying one walking in the shadows on the streets of some lawless city and I have a gun. This is a use of force. One can't honestly say that for what philosophers call "pragmatic" (want of material goods) reasons one shouldn't take it. You can't say the Objectivist ethos of regarding productiveness as the highest expression and instigator of happiness prevents a rational person from stealing it - if anything, a laptop would make you more productive. You can't say you won't steal it because you couldn't live in a society in which everyone stole -- because besides the fact that this reasoning would be one formulation of the categorical imperative, your theft does not increase the chances of other people stealing from you. Even if the man you steal from becomes a thief in indignation, the chances of his stealing from you don't prevent the theft from being pragmatically beneficial on the whole. And assuming this man is a stranger, he can't have any value to you, unless you accept the (non-Objectivist) idea of unconditional love. So thus far, the Objectivist has no reason I can see not to steal.

In laying out his position against force, Peikoff says that force is wrong because "force and mind are opposites." Since force and mind are opposites, using force against another is anti-mind. However, we need to take into account that we are talking about two different people involved here: the force of the actor and the mind of the victim. The force of the actor harms the functionability of the mind of the victim, not of the actor; under the precept that one has no duty to act selflessly, this harm should not be taken into account in the absence of any categorical imperative. Therefore, it seems obvious to me that a categorical imperative is needed, and I'm not sure Rand would agree with Peikoff's analysis (given the way characters in her novels seem to perceive force). This is, of course, assuming that Objectivism does indeed want to condemn thuggery, which I don't think is a great stretch.

Nietzsche is the representative figure of amoralism. Without a categorical imperative, we sound like Nietzscheans here (in rejecting moral codes which may impinge upon our self interest), and thus amoralists, and lack of morals is not a tenet of Objectivism.

I am not an amoralist, by the way, despite the fact that Nietzsche is in my signature.

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*sigh*

Categorical imperatives are commandments; contextless absolutes that must be followed "just because" and regarless of context or result.

The answer is: NO, Objectivism does not hold categorical imperatives.

The end. There is no debate on this point.

Every argument that says otherwise is using a different, improper, definition of "categorical imperative" and should really stop it. It's mucking up the works, and frankly it's just not cricket.

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See if DavidOdden's post on page 4 answers your question.
Just as an aside, it's best to provide the Post # (or better still a link), because the page # depends on how one has set up one's defaults on the forum. For instance, for me -- using the max. posts-per-page -- this thread only has 3 pages.

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One can't honestly say that for what philosophers call "pragmatic" (want of material goods) reasons one shouldn't take it.
I think that's strictly true, as written, i.e., in the sense that there are pragmatic reasons to take it. So, the question becomes: why not be pragmatic.
You can't say you won't steal it because you couldn't live in a society in which everyone stole -- because besides the fact that this reasoning would be one formulation of the categorical imperative,...
Could you explain this a little more, please?

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*sigh*

Categorical imperatives are commandments; contextless absolutes that must be followed "just because" and regarless of context or result.

The answer is: NO, Objectivism does not hold categorical imperatives.

The end. There is no debate on this point.

Every argument that says otherwise is using a different, improper, definition of "categorical imperative" and should really stop it. It's mucking up the works, and frankly it's just not cricket.

I think snide, pedantic *sigh*s should be reserved for people who are familiar with the terms they use. Anyone who seriously thinks that categorical imperatives are contextless absolutes "that must be followed "just because" has not read up on the subject. That definition would not fly even with philosophers who strongly oppose the idea. They're universal laws governing actions at all times and of course most of them have a contextual backdrop ("Don't kill" only applies when the entity acted upon is human; even if it were to apply to animals, one could state the imperative "Don't act upon your thoughts when you are thinking of killing" - here the context is "when you are thinking of killing" - the point is that there are no contextless laws and what I think you mean by contextless is "inflexible," which is different. But "just because"? I'm really not even sure where that comes from.

My question was (and is) in earnest, so don't get uncivil. Galt's voice-activated lock system employs a statement which sounds very much like a categorical imperative (something to the extent of, I will never live for another man, nor will I ask him to live for me). Why the second part, if there doesn't exist some implicit categorical imperative in Rand's thought? As I think I showed above, one can't honestly say it's always in one's own self-interest to refrain from force in ordinary circumstances.

Edited by Hugoist

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I think that's strictly true, as written, i.e., in the sense that there are pragmatic reasons to take it. So, the question becomes: why not be pragmatic.Could you explain this a little more, please?

Sure. Kant coined the term "categorical imperative," I believe; in any case, he's usually associated with the term more than anyone else. He had four "formulations" of the categorical imperative. He believed (I have no idea how he believed this, because it seems absurd to me, so don't ask me why) that all four of these formulations expressed the same basic idea. One formulation was "act in such a manner so that you could will all others to act the same way."

Another formulation, which, by the way, appears more or less word for word in Rand's writing, is "Treat human beings as ends, and never as means."

Clearly, these are not anywhere near the same idea. But the idea that one shouldn't steal the laptop because one wouldn't want theft to be more common in society would be an expression of the first imperative I listed above.

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Galt's voice-activated lock system employs a statement which sounds very much like a categorical imperative (something to the extent of, I will never live for another man, nor will I ask him to live for me). Why the second part, if there doesn't exist some implicit categorical imperative in Rand's thought?
Is it your earnest plan to pursue this insane concept of "categorical imperatives"? I thought we had sorted that matter out and reached the conclusion that it's a non-distinction: either everything is a categorical imperative, or nothing is, depending on how you decide to define the (anti)-concept. You raised the prudent predator question before, so I cannot tell if you really care about prudent predators or categorical imperatives.

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Anyone who seriously thinks that categorical imperatives are contextless absolutes "that must be followed "just because" has not read up on the subject.

I think it is you who is wrong about the definition. David is doing a good job explaining this to you.

What you've done is re-define the definition into something that would make some kind of sense. The trouble is, the real definition is not something that makes any kind of sense!

All I can do is urge you to listen to David and work this out until you understand it.

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Okay, I have one final question (I hope). I think you convinced me that Objectivism rejects categorical imperatives, but I still believe it is amoralism, and here is why.

So we have established that morals are purely contextual and are all hypothetical imperatives with the basis of morality being "IF you want to live life as man qua man, then you ought act in your rational self interest as Objectivism defines it" (I use Objectivism just to avoid any conflicts about the actual moral code being used)

What happens if you don't want to live life as man qua man? Does that give me free reign to act as I please? It may be a long road of self-destruction, but why couldn't I be a prudent predator? I think Nozick asks the question, I am asking. Is everything morally permissible when I opt not to hold life as man qua man as an ultimate end?

In other moral systems, there is some objective moral code that says stealing is inherently wrong.

I'm definitely not advocating those systems, but I am merely asking how a system of all hypothetical imperatives actually constitutes as morality in what people commonly mean by it.

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As long as acting in accordance to your different code of morality doesn't violate rights I don't see where the problem is; the only thing is that you will be acting towards your self-destruction in the long run and the people who follow Objectivism wouldn't, so in the end their choice will prove to be the better one.

If you do start stealing because you think it is better for you, you have a good chance of being caught at the act some day which also signals a pretty drastic decrease in your quality of life. I mean, in some specific situation you may be able to get away with it, but if you consistently steal from other people, for example, you are bound to get caught one day.

I think the main reason why free-riders aren't a problem for Objectivism is that the laws, too, would properly be based on this moral system; rights are ultimately derived from acting as man qua man. So even if you reject it, you will still have to submit to the legal system that makes rights violations less than appealing in most cases.

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So we have established that morals are purely contextual and are all hypothetical imperatives with the basis of morality being "IF you want to live life as man qua man, then you ought act in your rational self interest as Objectivism defines it" (I use Objectivism just to avoid any conflicts about the actual moral code being used)

That's not entirely right. It's: "If you want to live, you must live as a man qua man: by means of your reason. There is no other working way of living; any other choice is, to the extent that it deviates from living as man qua man, actually choosing death and not life. Objectivism defines what 'living as man qua man' entails."

Do you see how that is different?

What happens if you don't want to live life as man qua man?
Then you are choosing death, really. And more immediately, you are likely choosing life as an animal (a particularly weak, toothless animal), and the men out there should only be expected to treat you like the animal that you are, to the extent that you act like it. (that is, deal with you by force)

Does that give me free reign to act as I please?

No more so than you are born free to act as you please... and to suffer the consequences. In this case, you declare yourself the enemy of all rational men. You'll have to be the one to go to sleep at night with that thought rattling around in your empty skull. (empty, by your choice in this case)

It may be a long road of self-destruction, but why couldn't I be a prudent predator?
Um, you answered your own question there. Although I warn that it won't necessarily be a long road.

Is everything morally permissible when I opt not to hold life as man qua man as an ultimate end?

In the sense that you have rejected morality utterly, yes. (that, by the way, is what amoralism really is) But that doesn't mean that reality, and rational men, won't still punish you for your foolishness.

In other moral systems, there is some objective moral code that says stealing is inherently wrong.
You mean intrinsically wrong. The problem is that you're still looking for a commandment. As in, if it isn't intrinsic, it must therefore be subjective. Um, hello? Have you heard this before, perhaps? The intrinsic-subjective dichotomy, which we both know is false.

Okay, seriously now. Objectivism doesn't say that things are intrinsically wrong; it says things are objectively wrong. As in, "objectively bad for man."

I'm definitely not advocating those systems, but I am merely asking how a system of all hypothetical imperatives actually constitutes as morality in what people commonly mean by it.

It doesn't; because what people commonly mean by "morality" is one side of a false dichotomy which has two senseless choices.

Edited by Inspector

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Okay, I have one final question (I hope). I think you convinced me that Objectivism rejects categorical imperatives, but I still believe it is amoralism, and here is why.

So we have established that morals are purely contextual and are all hypothetical imperatives with the basis of morality being "IF you want to live life as man qua man, then you ought act in your rational self interest as Objectivism defines it" (I use Objectivism just to avoid any conflicts about the actual moral code being used)

What happens if you don't want to live life as man qua man? Does that give me free reign to act as I please? It may be a long road of self-destruction, but why couldn't I be a prudent predator? I think Nozick asks the question, I am asking. Is everything morally permissible when I opt not to hold life as man qua man as an ultimate end?

In other moral systems, there is some objective moral code that says stealing is inherently wrong.

I'm definitely not advocating those systems, but I am merely asking how a system of all hypothetical imperatives actually constitutes as morality in what people commonly mean by it.

Well, I want to live qua man. I would banish you from society by means of imprisonment or, if necessary, execution. If you choose to live as a dangerously feral dog, then I have no choice but to put you down. If you choose that kind of course, then it will lead to your death: either at the hands of nature or at mine. Or, if you choose to live as a meek, terrified dog, then I will simply not deal with you; and that course of action will lead just as well to your death.

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What happens if you don't want to live life as man qua man?
That's about 5 questions. Being a man, you still have to make a choice as to what you will do. You might choose nonexistence, in which case the only logical thing to do, given that goal, is to immediately commit suicide. Another possibility is to choose inaction and slowly starve to death. Or you could lope about on all fours, attacking field mice and squirrels, which could stretch out your death longer (depending on how good you were at subduing the mice). I think this would be extremely difficult to carry out, because you would have a very hard time not using reason, for example coming up with a clever tool to catch lots of mice all at once, or even herding mice, thus slipping into the bad habit of using reason. Possibly, you could have your brain fixed so that it would be impossible for you to slip. Another possibility is that you can try to live a less lupine life, walk on two feet, and live by stealing, which will probably get you shot quickly. Or you could try to begrudgingly live life qua man, i.e. all of your actions are the same as a rational, moral man except that you don't like the fact that you're acting according to your nature, which probably means that you'll be grumpy. In all of these cases, you're dying, and the question is whether you take the most direct route, or the slowest, most prolonged death.
Does that give me free reign to act as I please?
"Free reign" is a social concept, I think. If you live alone on a desert island, whether or not you choose to exist as a man or an animal, you may do as you wish. Your actions will have consequences, as outlined above, but you have free reign. If you exist where civilized men exist, then the answer is the same, with the addition that if you act to violate the rights of others, you will be dealt with summarily the way wild dogs and polar bears are dealt with (either getting confined to a cell or getting shot, depending). The third option is to live in the presence of like-"minded" uncivilized people, where actions also have consequences but they don't have the same consequences. But again, unless you end your life immediately, I don't see how you can completely deny your nature -- I think you will at best end up living a random, contradictory life, sometimes being a man, sometimes being an animal.

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You'll have to be the one to go to sleep at night with that thought rattling around in your empty skull. (empty, by your choice in this case)

I just wanted to clarify that I am not addressing Nimble, but rather his hypothetical "I." I am calling his prudent predator empty-skulled, not insulting him. I apologize in advance if that was unclear to anyone, especially Nimble.

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I just wanted to clarify that I am not addressing Nimble, but rather his hypothetical "I." I am calling his prudent predator empty-skulled, not insulting him. I apologize in advance if that was unclear to anyone, especially Nimble.

Don't worry, I knew what you meant, and thank you for your answers, they have been more helpful than usual in clearing things up for me.

Chris

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