Welcome to Objectivism Online Forum

Welcome to Objectivism Online, a forum for discussing the philosophy of Ayn Rand. For full access, register via Facebook or email.

  • |

     Objectivism Is the Everyman's Philosophy

    In the universe, what you see is what you get,

    figuring it out for yourself is the way to happiness,

    and each person's independence is respected by all

  • Rand's Philosophy in Her Own Words

    • "Metaphysics: Objective Reality"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed/Wishing won’t make it so." "The universe exists independent of consciousness"
    • "Epistemology: Reason" "You can’t eat your cake and have it, too." "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue"
    • "Ethics: Self-interest" "Man is an end in himself." "Man must act for his own rational self-interest" "The purpose of morality is to teach you[...] to enjoy yourself and live"
    • "Politics: Capitalism" "Give me liberty or give me death." "If life on earth is [a man's] purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being"

    Reblogged:How the Civil Rights Movement Became an Embarrassment

    Michael J. Hurd Ph.D.
    By Michael J. Hurd Ph.D.,
    Donald Trump’s feud with civil rights icon John Lewis is highlighting the president-elect’s willingness to attack any and all political rivals even with his inauguration less than a week away. The Republican billionaire slammed the Democratic congressman — and his Atlanta-area district — on Saturday, a day after Lewis described Trump as an illegitimate president. Lewis, like a handful of Democratic lawmakers, vowed to skip Trump’s Friday swearing-in ceremony. Trump tweeted that Lewis “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.” …Lewis is among the most revered leaders of the civil rights movement and devoted his life to promoting equal rights for African-Americans. He suffered a fractured skull while leading the march in Selma, Alabama more than a half century ago. This whole incident reminds you of how militant and intolerant the Democratic Party has become. Rep. John Lewis called Trump an “illegitimate president” who’s only in office, he claims, because of Russian hacking. Trump naturally slammed back and defended himself. And for this reason alone Trump is (yet again) branded a racist. Welcome to the world of Democrats, President-elect Trump. In their world, racism does not refer to hatred of any particular race. It refers to dissenting opinion of any kind. One might ask how the party and movement of Martin Luther King got to this point. Well, if we’re honest about it, such a development was inevitable. While Martin Luther King had eloquent points to make, the fact remains that the civil rights movement, even in its day, was never an individual rights movement. The civil rights movement did not primarily seek to extend the rights of the individual equally to the whole population (black and white alike). That was, however, part of the impact of the movement, to its credit. But the civil rights movement always was more about collectivism and socialism than it was about individualism, individual rights and economic freedom. It wasn’t about upholding individual rights under the Constitution; it was about “social justice,” something intended to take us beyond the Constitution. So-called social justice has less to do with the Constitution than it has to do with the ideas and practices of people like Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky, a Communist radical who influenced both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That’s why it didn’t take long for the civil rights movement to morph into the pressure group warfare of the economic left. The left, then and now, does not define equality as being equal under the law. Instead, the concept of equal individual rights was replaced by the goal of equal outcome. Until or unless all people have the same amount of wealth and income, it’s proof of racism, according to the unstated (sometimes openly stated) premises of this view. As a result, what started out as some eloquent thinking on the part of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement about peaceful resistance degenerated into the petty, demanding, entitled and freebie-demanding gang of political hacks who now comprise the Democratic Party establishment. That’s one reason why people like Rep. John Lewis, whom we’re supposed to accept uncritically because of his race along with his past association with Martin Luther King, scream “victim” when nobody victimized them at all, and when they, in fact, are the ones who pick the fights. That’s precisely what happened between Lewis and Donald Trump over the last several days. If you doubt what I’m saying, imagine the ensuing hysteria bordering on martial law if a member of the Republican Party had called Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton (had she won) an “illegitimate” occupant of the White House. Sadly, it’s just more evidence of how the division in American politics and government is increasingly unsustainable. It’s like a bad marriage, and regardless of who’s in the White House, we honestly can’t go on like this for much longer.   Follow Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael  Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1 Check out Dr. Hurd’s latest Newsmax Insider column here! Dr. Hurd’s writings read on the air by Rush Limbaugh! Read more HERE. The post How the Civil Rights Movement Became an Embarrassment appeared first on Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. | Living Resources Center. View the full article @ www.DrHurd.com

    Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die

    By DonAthos,
    Recently, this forum has seen a wide-ranging discussion of the morality of suicide, first in "Reification and Suicide" and then (and co-currently) in "Spies who Commit Suicide." It is perhaps one of the features of attempting to hold an integrated philosophy that the slightest string cannot be plucked without reverberating throughout the entire body, so that to question the morality of suicide also necessarily raises questions in a host of other related areas. In this case, it led to the creation of a further thread in "The Relationship Between Motivation and Purpose," and then my own thread, "Pleasure and Value." It did not stop there. In discussing my position regarding pleasure (which I have not yet fully explicated, nor applied, nor even grasped in its entirety), and referencing the topic of the morality of suicide which has helped to inform my position, another forum member raised the nature of "the choice to live," writing: When I attempted to argue that, indeed, suicide has bearing on morality -- and following the suggested path of discussion by calling into question whether "the very choice to live or not is a moral choice" -- I was castigated as follows: So I would ask any interested forum member to please forgive me for continuing to debate "the most central and important aspect of Objectivist philosophy," in this or any other manner, but in this thread I intend to demonstrate that the argument which states that "the entire subject of suicide" is somehow "outside of morality," or amoral, is faulty. To do so, and as the forum member who made this particular argument has apparently excused himself from the responsibility of defending it any further, I shall rely on a video presentation by Craig Biddle to supply the initial argument. I do not know Biddle generally, or his "standing" within the Objectivist community (insofar as such a thing should matter), but I shall use his thoughts as a springboard in lieu of another offered argument: I'm going to now try to relay Biddle's argument as I understand it, with intermittent commentary. As I do, please note that I do not have an official transcript of this video handy, so any errors in quoting, etc., are my own. Biddle starts by saying that the question "why should I choose to live" is "illegitimate" and doesn't need an answer. He then says that the only reason a person "needs values" is in order to live: "Life makes values possible and life makes values necessary; ...you don't need to seek [values] unless you want to remain alive." So far, this seems to re-enforce what I had been told by that forum member: the question "why should I choose to live" exists outside of morality. But there is then a turn in Biddle's video at about 2:23: He then introduces a (separate?) question "why should I continue living?" in some given context, such as with a painful, terminal illness. Biddle appears to consider this question "why should I continue living in X context" to be a meaningfully different question from "why should I choose to live?" And as regards the "continue living" question, Biddle seems to believe that there may well be an answer either for or against: "...it might be that he shouldn't [continue to live given his circumstances]; it might be that it would be better [for him] to 'leave life,' because 'remaining in life' is too painful." Biddle here is clearly saying that a choice to commit suicide may have reasons (in that it may "be better" to live or to die), that the question it answers is legitimate (as opposed to the earlier sense of "why should I choose to live" he had previously discussed), and it is my inference that such a choice thus pertains to morality. Further, I agree with him. When life is "too painful" (the details of which being appropriate to the suicide-specific threads linked above, but beyond our scope here), suicide may be the "right" or "justified" or "moral" choice; it may be "better" than the alternative. Let me stop here for a moment to observe that, should my understanding of Biddle's argument reflect "the Objectivist position" (which it might not; but as I say, this is the argument I have, so it is the one I will work with), then it immediately appears to contradict the forum member who initially upbraided me for deviating from his own understanding of Objectivism. Perhaps that is our question answered. But no matter. Let us continue with Biddle, because, while I have perhaps in some fashion satisfied the question that brought me to this topic, I have not yet satisfied myself that "the choice to live" is in any sense amoral, whether asking such an impertinent question could bring me into conflict with Biddle or any other (including Ayn Rand). Picking up at about 3:23, Biddle says, "Human life is not just...remaining alive...it is being able to pursue the kinds of goals that...deliver happiness and make life wonderful." I also agree with him completely on this point. He continues: "And if you can't do that, then the question 'should I continue to live?' can be valid." Again, agreed. Here's where things get interesting (and this part gets a little rough in my transcription, as I've had to elide much to preserve his meaning, so please listen to Biddle for yourself for full context, at about 3:50): "But absent a context like that [where suicide is justified due to painful circumstance]...we can answer the question 'is life worth living'? Yeah! 99.999% of the time for people, it is! There are very rare cases though when somebody is simply too ill or the situation is just too horrible [... ] I can see somebody asking the question [in those cases], 'Is it worth remaining alive?' But you can't answer the question 'why should I choose to live?' without the context to surround it. And if you have the context, it's a fairly easy answer to arrive at in most cases..." Okay, so let's assess where we are currently. Biddle started by saying that the question "why should I choose to live?" is an invalid question. Then he considered cases of (what I'd contend Peikoff would describe as "justified") suicide, and said that in such cases -- in such contexts -- it is valid to ask "why should I choose to (continue to) live?" Then he considered the case of people whose lives are not horrible (e.g. not doomed to a concentration camp; not plagued by painful, terminal illness; and etc.) and demonstrated that the question in such cases is also valid, in that it can be answered -- in the affirmative; which is to say, why should (most people) choose to live? Because... "I've got this great business. I've got this great family. I've got this great life. 'Should I keep living?' Of course!" And so, the question "why should I choose to live" becomes answerable for every human being who has a context. For some people, the context will be such that they should choose to die, in both reason and morality; for most people (99.999% of them), the context will be such that they should choose to continue living. If this question is "valid" and thus answerable for every human being who has a context (which means: every actual human being) I finally wonder... for whom is the question (as proposed initially) "illegitimate"? Biddle finally concludes (5:47): "The question ["why should I choose to live?"], sans context, is an illegitimate question, because it asks for a value when you simply don't need values unless you choose to live. Once you decide to live, if you decide to remain alive, then you need values...." Biddle is both right and wrong. His conclusion is consistent with his introduction, but it misses out on key insights from the bulk of his discussion and fails to reconcile them with his overall thesis; he cannot do so, in fact, because they are not compatible. The question "why should I choose to live," sans context, is illegitimate -- this is true. But this is because 1) there does not exist a human being (let alone one that could pose a question, or choose, or value) without a context; and 2) the question is not answerable without reference to that context. It is illegitimate because it asks for a value without a valuer. But once a context is supplied (and every human being, so far as I can tell, comes equipped with a context), both the questions "why should I choose to live" and "why should I choose to die" become answerable. In fact, Biddle says that it is "a fairly easy answer to arrive at." And I suspect that for the vast majority of people, that is true. The supposed illegitimacy of this question -- and I would also argue the "amoral" status of its answer -- stems from the supposition of a human being that could ask such questions, or "choose," or exist at all sans some context which will make both the question and answer meaningful -- and moral. But the supposition of such a human being is, itself, a contradiction in terms. And so I conclude (for now, at least) that the question "why should I choose to live" is a fully valid, legitimate, and (yes) moral question... but only for every human being who lived, lives or ever will live. I can live with that.

    Reblogged:Worry-Warts Are Watching You

    Gus Van Horn blog
    By Gus Van Horn blog,
    A couple of recent stories from Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy's parenting blog, have reminded me of Ayn Rand's essay on "The Ethics of Emergencies," which argues that, because emergency situations are not metaphysically normal for man (cited at link), they should not serve as the basis for the ethical system by which he should live his whole life:
    The modern variant of comparing our existence to a hospital or a life boat is to demand that we all live by the imaginary, worst-case dictates of precautionary thinking. Think of the biggest worry-wart you know (and probably ignore), and then imagine that person in power over your daily life. Here are just a couple of examples of this from Skenazy's blog, one from journalism and one from parenting. Here's the first:
    And now, before you laugh at yet another dumb reporter, consider the second, in which a father -- thanks to the courts empowering yet another meddlesome creep with a camera -- received criminal sentencing for making his eight year old son walk home on a familiar route one evening:
    The above excerpt hardly does the case justice, so I recommend reading all of it. Do note that Tang correctly assessed the chances of harm coming to his son and made that clear in court -- and that the court labeled this speculation. This court then sided with the fevered speculation of the man mentioned in the first sentence of the above.

    After you do, consider the fact that, although such cases are currently rare enough to remain newsworthy, they are becoming common enough that we should speak up about them. Yes, the widespread availability of mobile cameras does mean that we might be filmed or photographed at any given moment. But having to live up to someone else's ridiculous notions about what is "safe" should not and need not be part of the bargain.

    -- CAV Link to Original

    Pleasure and Value

    By DonAthos,
    Over the last few threads in which I've participated substantially (here, here, and here), I've been pushed to look more and more into a conception of ethics that I've been developing for quite some time. A conception I've temporarily labelled as "life-as-experience," which I contrast with the "life-as-survival" view I attribute to David Kelley1, among others -- where "life-as" refers to my understanding of what "life" in "life as the standard of value" means. I hold that Kelley, et al., contend that Rand truly means that survival is the standard of value; whereas I think this fails to express Rand's full meaning, and moreover fails to express the truth of ethics, which is that it is not survival alone which is the standard of value, but "life as it is experienced." By "experience," I primarily mean as it is characterized by pleasures and pains. I'm not yet ready to try to describe this idea in full. I have not yet settled on a terminology. I haven't satisfied myself that I even understand what I'm driving at, in totality, let alone thought the whole thing through in all of its application. I don't know whether I will finally accept this burgeoning concept or modify it substantially or discard it altogether. I don't know whether I will come to find that it still fits with Rand's ethics (though so far I think this is the case), or whether it will finally constitute a breach with Objectivism and the emergence of some new philosophy more reflective of reality. This thread, then, is an attempt to try to "think out loud" about some of these issues -- it is an "exploration," rather than an argument (though arguments for or against my position are welcome in response). Specifically, I would like to explore the relationship between pleasure and value. It is my current position that there is a a deep and abiding relationship between the two. One that is under-realized and consequently underappreciated, or even absent from the stated ethical reasoning of other Objectivists. (I have even seen some Objectivists display what I would call hostility, or suspicion at the least, against the pursuit of pleasure.2 I believe that this sort of attitude is deeply misplaced.) One of the key confusions that often plagues this sort of topic, I find, is that "pleasure" can refer to a variety of experiences. Eventually I mean to speak to all that sort of thing "pleasure" represents, in totality, but first and foremost we should consider pleasure in its most basic sense: a positive physical sensation. This is the pleasure of the taste of good food, or the soft caress of satin sheets, or the cooling of the skin from a breeze on a hot day, or the whole-body lightning of orgasm. In the first place, we should wonder whether there is any relationship at all between such pleasure and value. Value is, as always, "that which one acts to gain and/or keep," but it is more to the point to ask whether there is any relationship between pleasure and that which a rational man values: value consonant with Rand's conception of ethics, holding "life as the standard of value." I say that there is. Moreover that Rand was aware of this, describing this relationship thusly (in "The Objectivist Ethics"): Consider first that this observation implies that it is pleasure (i.e. physical pleasure) which allows a man to have some conception -- any conception at all -- of "the good." It is through the experience of such pleasure that teaches man to discern good from evil (which finds its corresponding analogue in physical pain). Now, this cannot be the end point of ethics. Moreover, the standard Rand refers to in that final sentence (His life.) is not describing the full standard of the Objectivist Ethics, where "life is the standard of value." If it were, then ethics would be as simple as equating pleasure to good and pain to evil: Objectivism would be hedonistic. What we come to learn, however, is that some things our "natural standard" pronounces good (which is to say, that which we find physically pleasurable of our nature) will lead, in time, to pain and death. Even that which is very pleasurable, should it ultimately lead to pain and death, cannot be "the good," then, as we come to understand it conceptually, abstracting away from our experience of temporary, momentary pleasures -- which, remember, is our source of the very concept of "the good" in the first place. How would this operate in a person? Rand describes the experience of pleasure/pain as the "first step in the realm of evaluation." Well, what are the subsequent steps? And where do they lead? Consider a child. Or a baby. There are pleasure and pain for the baby ("innate," as Rand has it), and though the baby has no conceptual understanding of it initially, what these sensations communicate are the launch points for "good" and "evil." Pleasure is the good, it is what is desired, it is what is wanted, it is what is valued. And pain is not simply the lack of such pleasure, or a "neutral" state, but it is a negative analogue to pleasure. (Pain is no less "real" for that, and matters just as much as any other fact... despite any admirable sense of life which may eventually inspire a man to act as though some pain is "less important" than a corresponding pleasure). Pain is thus the evil, it is what is shunned, what is avoided, and I believe it sensible to say that it is disvalued in consequence. The baby grows and matures. With experience and development comes the understanding that certain things cause pleasure and others cause pain. Concrete values follow suit, as the baby comes to value those things that bring pleasure and disvalue those that bring pain. Such simple associations develop and grow into childhood and can persist well beyond, into adolescence or even adulthood. The young child will, more than likely, not wish to go to the dentist. The young child sees no good in it, whatever lecture he hears, because for him the dentist is simply a bringer of pain. The young child wishes instead to eat ice cream, morning, noon and night. Ice cream is pleasurable, and the young child cannot conceive of even the mid-range consequences of overeating ice cream, let alone the long-term effects of habitual poor eating. Those long-term effects have no reality whatever to him. But as the child grows, and acquires perspective (and continues to gain experience, and continues to develop mentally), he may come to see the sense in putting down the ice cream from time to time and going to the dentist. He understands that his forbearance from eating ice cream comes at the cost of some "good" now (i.e. pleasure), but will help him to avoid even greater "evils" (pains) to come. So, too, the dentist, such that eventually the mild pain of a regular cleaning may be borne for the sake of avoiding worse pains later, or to continue to enjoy the pleasures that having healthy teeth affords. It may be, in time, that the child can pronounce going to the dentist as "good" and eating too much ice cream as "evil" (though "bad" is more likely, but amounts to the same) -- just as an adult might -- because he finally and thoroughly understands the actual relationship these activities have with pleasure and pain, long-term. As I'm describing it, it is not that man acquires some perspective which completely divorces pleasure from "the good" (or pain from evil), but that he comes to understand that the simple equation of pleasure to good (which is natural, "innate") will not serve him long-term, because it will lead to far more pain than pleasure. If he would like to have more pleasures as he lives, and fewer pains, then he must learn to value accordingly. These are the "next steps" of evaluation. But is it the last step? Is it ever the case that good and evil stand free and clear from pleasure and pain? (For instance, does the final conception of "life as the standard of value" have anything at all to do with pleasure and pain, apart from heritage? Or are they utterly separate by that point, such that one may evaluate "good," qua the Objectivist Ethics, without ever any need to consider such pleasures or pains, or even reference them?) I will most likely approach this question more substantively in a later post, but for now, let me introduce another quote from Rand (per the Lexicon, from "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation" in The Objectivist, 4/66; and please note Rand's use of the term "experience" here, which obviously predates my own adoption of the term to express my meaning, but was wholly independent of it, as I was completely unaware of this quote at the time): I am open to the interpretation of other intelligent, rational minds (as I always strive to be), but this suggests to me that the relationship between pleasure and "the good," or value more generally, is not just that pleasure provides some initial spark for evaluation, before they go their separate ways... but that there is an ongoing, vital relationship between them. I would go so far as to say that a life without pleasure (again: this is "just" physical pleasure in my current usage, though I mean to argue that there is also a vital relationship between such physical pleasures and those of the corresponding cognitive/emotional/spiritual kind -- including happiness) is not worth living. The consequence of a life filled with pain is something else entirely, and far, far worse. _____________________________________
    1) Kelley's written position is a convenient way to address what I consider to be a widespread understanding (or misunderstanding) of the Objectivist Ethics, where he's written (in The Logical Structure of Objectivism): 2) The pursuit of pleasure can sometimes be misread as "hedonism," but these two things are not -- or need not necessarily be, at least -- the same thing. Hedonism is, as Rand writes, "the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality." Yet it is possible to reject the idea that "the good is whatever gives you pleasure" and that "pleasure is the standard of morality," while still wanting to experience some particular pleasure consonant with life, with man's nature, and with a rational standard of morality. Pursuing such a pleasure, even for the sake of that pleasure alone, is not "hedonistic" but life-affirming.

Portal by DevFuse · Based on IP.Board Portal by IPS