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Whose is this life anyway

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38 replies to this topic

#1
Leonid

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I'd like to start with the small quote from AS:

"Mr. Thompson:- Without me, you couldn’t get out of this room. What I’ve got to offer you is your life.
Galt:- It’s not yours to offer, Mr. Thompson."


How interesting! Mr. Thompson, the Head of State with all his enormous power doesn't own Galt's life! Who does, then? God, society, class, the neighbor next door? From the context of the novel we understand that this is not what Galt means. Evidently he means that his life belongs only to him. If it so, then please tell me, by what right Galt owns his life and why Mr Thompson cannot own Galt's life? If right to live is not natural, intrinsic to each and every man, then it wouldn't make any difference, wouldn't it? But we all know that this is not a case.

Edited by Leonid, 21 April 2012 - 08:01 AM.


#2
aequalsa

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Evidently he means that his life belongs only to him. If it so, then please tell me, by what right Galt owns his life and why Mr Thompson cannot own Galt's life?


Thompson has the power to kill Galt, but that's not the same as owning his life. Without Galt's acquiescence he cannot force him to design a motor, for example. I Galt's life belongs to Galt because nothing else is metaphysically possible.For a real life example, you'll witness this very same principal every time our statist rulers try to raise taxes. No matter what the rate, they can't yet get more than 24%of the GDP. If they raise taxes on income in a certain bracket, people stop making that income. They can't force productivity and especially they can't force thought.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
...or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly;
who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings;
but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause,
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.
So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.-Teddy

#3
softwareNerd

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...by what right Galt owns his life and why Mr Thompson cannot own Galt's life?

What do you mean by "right" here? If you provide some concrete example of something that would be a "right", then it might be possible to extend that and answer the question on your terms.

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#4
whYNOT

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What Galt does NOT say, is "You don't have the right to hold me".
It seems he's inferring that his standard of self-ownership precedes and supersedes Thompson's power.
Effectively, is he not stating that as long as he is alive, no matter the circumstances,
his mind and choice is inviolable? Galt is in charge of the situation, because he doesn't even
recognize Thompson's power over him.
"Who's is this life, anyway?" is obviously rhetorical, Leonid, but I'd be interested in
your justification. It's an area which I think transcends 'rights' in the social context, and should
receive more attention.

Edited by whYNOT, 22 April 2012 - 05:59 AM.


#5
Greebo

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by what right Galt owns his life and why Mr Thompson cannot own Galt's life?

What can Mr. Thomspon do wiht Mr. Galt's life without Mr. Galt's agreement?

He can lock it up, he can destroy it. Is that ownership?

Can you do more with the things YOU own than simply hold onto them or destroy them?

#6
Nicky

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"Mr. Thompson:- Without me, you couldn’t get out of this room. What I’ve got to offer you is your life.

Galt:- It’s not yours to offer, Mr. Thompson."

That's a clever little exchange. Allow me to ruin all the fun by explaining:

Mr. Thompson is pretending to be engaging in trade, but in reality he's engaging in extortion. Galt points out the difference between the two.

That is the meaning of that conversation. It has nothing to do with whether rights are intrinsic or not.

Edited by Nicky, 22 April 2012 - 07:46 PM.


#7
whYNOT

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That's a clever little exchange. Allow me to ruin all the fun by explaining:

Mr. Thompson is pretending to be engaging in trade, but in reality he's engaging in extortion. Galt points out the difference between the two.

That is the meaning of that conversation. It has nothing to do with whether rights are intrinsic or not.


Normally the simplest explanation that fits all the facts is my preference, but this is wrong here.
It is necessary to examine Rand's intent, the context of Galt's character and convictions - and primarily the
words "It's not yours to offer."
The "extortion" is obvious on Thompson's part; it did not have to be "pointed out" by JG.
Thompson's saying "I hold all the power over you".
Galt replies "You cannot." (in effect) ie: Your physical force over me - regardless of whether
you torture me to reveal everything I know, put me in a hole for the rest of my life -
can never own or destroy an independent mind.

Of course, it has nothing to do with rights, intrinsic, or not: there I agree.

Edited by whYNOT, 23 April 2012 - 08:07 AM.


#8
Leonid

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My question was very simple: why Mr. Thompson doesn't own Galt's life? And my answer is also simple: Mr. Thompson can take it away, to kill Galt, but he cannot grant it because it is not his. Only Galt can possess his life by right. The question is why? What is this right which exclusively belongs to each and every man and to him alone, why this right is not interchangeable, not transferable, inalienable. I think it's because this right is part of the very nature of man. Man, as any other living being is an autonomous entity which is able to generate the self-sustained goal orientated action, and therefore he is driven by self-causation. Qua man he acts but not acted upon. Any antecedent force applied to him would be detrimental to his life. But unlike other animals man possesses self-awareness and on this cognitive level such a faculty is perceived by man as volition-that is, an ability to make choices and to act upon them. In other words, man possesses the ownership on his own life. By what right? Simply by the virtue of been alive. If he cannot make choices and to act upon them , he cannot live. How does he know that? By means of self-awareness and introspection. The moment man is aware that he is living, thinking, volitional being, he also knows that his life belongs only to him by right . This right could be infringed, restricted curbed, but as long as man is alive, it cannot be taken away from him. That is the reason why altruism is impractical-man has right to live only his own life, but not the life of others-it doesn't belong to him. That why Mr. Thompson can kill Galt, but cannot offer him life. He doesn't own it, only Galt does. What we call political right in fact is a moral principle which protects this right. It is a principle which in Ayn Rand's words " subordinates society to the moral law". The only law which can do that is law of non-initiation of force which, as I mentioned above, could be only detrimental to man's life. So political right in fact is a man-made moral principle which protects man's right to live, but this principle is not identical with man's right to live which is part of man's nature, faculty of his self-awareness and ,therefore natural and metaphysically given, as his volition and mind. If man's right to live is not natural then it is granted and man possesses his right to live by permission, which is contradiction in terms. Everyone who objects to the idea that man's rights are intrinsic to his very nature should also remember that contradictions don't exist.

Edited by Leonid, 24 April 2012 - 03:11 PM.


#9
Greebo

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Holy Wall of Text batman.

#10
Greebo

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So after forcing myself to read that wall of text, it seems as if you asked the question not to get an answer, but to set the stage in order to simply state your own answer.

Was there a genuine question in your original post?

#11
Leonid

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Greebo:"Was there a genuine question in your original post? "

Why Mr. Thompson cannot offer to Galt his life? Why man has right to live at all? Is this right man-made or metaphysically given? Is moral law and political rights are identical to the man's right to live? Yes, I definitely know how to answer these questions, but I'd like to know what other people think. BTW, you don't have to force yourself to read anything. On this site nobody expect sacrifices.

Edited by Leonid, 25 April 2012 - 01:33 AM.


#12
Greebo

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Greebo:"Was there a genuine question in your original post? "

Why Mr. Thompson cannot offer to Galt his life? Why man has right to live at all? Is this right man-made or metaphysically given? Is moral law and political rights are identical to the man's right to live? Yes, I definitely know how to answer these questions, but I'd like to know what other people think. BTW, you don't have to force yourself to read anything. On this site nobody expect sacrifices.

I did not say that you forced me to read it, did I?

With regards to the question - I find myself doubting that you actually were interested in what other people think, primarily because you have not responded to anything that anyone else said. That lends the appearance, at least, that your intent was actually just to set the stage to answer yourself, once you had confirmation that you had some readers.

If that was the desire, you would be better served by simply writing an essay, rather than apparnetly wasting everyone elses time by leading them to believe that you genuinely were seeking answers. If that was not the desire, well that's the impression you've given me, so you might want to consider some changes in your approach to these topics.

#13
Leonid

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So far nobody actually referred to the questions I asked. Yes, I stated my position and my response is in the body of the post. However I may be wrong. I'd like to see some constructive criticism. If you prefer to discuss me instead the matter in question, this is obviously your right. But I don't think it would be useful, interesting or enlightening. I myself usually avoid ad hominem discussions.

Edited by Leonid, 25 April 2012 - 05:14 AM.


#14
whYNOT

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"- the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being - belongs to
evry individual man, and the life he has to live is his own."[VoS]
(Rand on 'standard' of life of Man; and 'purpose' of life for one man.)

What N. Branden called the "ethical-political context" comes up for
discussion on forums frequently. However, I don't think the distinction is mentioned enough of what one might call the ethical-metaphysical context. Objectively, the first is formulated upon the latter, surely?
Even to the extent of a society where individual rights have been eradicated, a person can not lose sovereign ownership of his life. I still maintain that this is not a "right" (which is man-made and man-observing) but rather is a "given" (by virtue of his existence.) The standard of value is not 'the Creator', nor is it other people, but the self.

I agree with Leonid's reasoning on this critical issue: also, what does it
matter if he introduced it in rhetorical style - or wrote in Latin? It is
still thought-provoking.

Edited by whYNOT, 25 April 2012 - 07:51 AM.


#15
softwareNerd

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Even to the extent of a society where individual rights have been eradicated, a person can not lose sovereign ownership of his life.

In short, you;re saying that if one last man was left alive on earth, he would still have rights? If yes, what does this mean in concrete terms "to have rights"? Is there some way to describe this state or to compare it with something analogous?

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#16
Leonid

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What is clear that we are treading the uncharted territory. To answer the question about rights of the last man left alive on earth one first should define what he means by rights. If he means political rights, then the answer is obviously "no". But then what are political rights? Ayn Rand defines rights as:

"a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life." (VOS, 93).

Observe that this statement refers actually to two different things-political right which is defined by the social context and man's right to his own life. From the political point of view rights " are the means of subordinating society to moral law.".( ibid, 92) and this law postulates that freedom of action cannot be restricted, in other words this is a principle of non-initiation of force. However it clear that such a law simply protects the man's rights, but doesn't define them.

"Man holds these rights, not from the Collective nor for the Collective, but against the Collective—as a barrier which the Collective cannot cross; . . . these rights are man’s protection against all other men." (Textbook of Americanism,”The Ayn Rand Column, 83)

So what is a man's right to his own life which has to be protected, what its definition and origin? As far as I know, Ayn Rand never elaborated this in full. Maybe for her it was self-evident, but is clearly not self-evident for many Objectivists, who by rights mean only political rights. Political rights and moral law are man-made concepts .From the other hand Ayn Rand clearly indicated that man's rights have metaphysical nature.

"The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival." (GS)

So now we see that in Objectivism the word " right" means two different things-one is man's metaphysically given ownership on his own life and another which is man's made concept which protects this ownership. These two things are related but not identical and the use of the same word "rights" to describe them is a source of epistemological confusion. I'd say that man's rights are metaphysically given and in the free society they should be protected by the moral and legal law of non-initiation of force. The meaning of this definition is that the last man left alive on earth, man on deserted island or man in the free society in which force is never initiated, still have the right on his own life, that is-" right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, " (GS). He would still know that he is alive, his life belong to him by right and not by permission and this is a source of his freedom of action. In my previous post I attempted to discuss the metaphysical and epistemological aspects of man's rights but I don't think it was sufficient inquiry. I would appreciate any input in regard to this topic.

Edited by Leonid, 25 April 2012 - 03:04 PM.


#17
whYNOT

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In short, you;re saying that if one last man was left alive on earth, he would still have rights? If yes, what does this mean in concrete terms "to have rights"? Is there some way to describe this state or to compare it with something analogous?


SNerd,

I am sure you agree that possessing individual rights essentially means one be left alone by Society.
(i.e., 'negative rights'.) Therefore, outside of society, no rights are needed.
But, in this imagined asocial context, and preceding it, what value does an individual own?

Rand's statement "It is on a desert island that you would most need it" pertained
to O'ist rational morality. But a morality based on what, and for what purpose?
I take her meaning to be not only that this man would have to survive physically, (finding food, shelter and so on) - but first and foremost that he would have to survive *metaphysically*:
i.e. continuing to perceive value in himself, in his hard existence outside society,
and completely alone.
Which means, by preserving his very sanity: his mind.

One could present extremes such as this deserted island - or, say, a totalitarian State - in which individual rights are either redundant, or abolished, but fact is - in the metaphysical sphere - we are all alone anyway, and always: Within a 'normal' society, equally as in any place and time.
This fact permeates Rand's literature and essays, implicitly mostly.
(I think, like Leonid submits, that she took this as "self-evident", and assumed her readers would as well.)
Such metaphysical 'aloneness' (or total autonomy) of man figures as a large component of her starting point for Objectivist morality, therefore, Objectivism's political rights, don't you agree?

The "good news" is self-evident too. Even given this, (our fundamental nature) through awareness, volition and action, our lives can be as rich with value and people, as we want them to be.
Which, very simply, all the rest of Rand's philosophy is taken up with: ..."to enjoy yourself, and live." (Conveniently quoted at the bottom of the page, as I write.)
:)

Edited by whYNOT, 26 April 2012 - 06:58 AM.


#18
Leonid

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whYNOT-this is true. Rand mentioned time and again that man is end in himself and therefore owns his life by right. I'd like to add that substitution of metaphysical rights by political rights resulted in the creation of the notion of so called positive rights. The essence of this notion is that man owns life of others by right. Since political rights are equivocal with right to live, the adepts of this theory claim the right on the products and efforts of others in order to survive. Hence the whole culture of entitlement, a claim that food, shelter, electricity, health services, jobs etc...etc...etc...belong to them by right. This is a metaphysical source of altruism.

#19
softwareNerd

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Therefore, outside of society, no rights are needed.

I agree that outside a social context rights are not needed. Further, outside a social context, the concept has no meaning. It does not refer to anything real. It has no referents. Therefore, rights do not exist outside a social context.

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#20
whYNOT

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I agree that outside a social context rights are not needed. Further, outside a social context, the concept has no meaning. It does not refer to anything real. It has no referents. Therefore, rights do not exist outside a social context.


Fair enough, and true, as far as it goes.

The question is: What is Man without the referent of his rights?
i.e. lacking reference to other men?
Does this "rightless" state of his existence diminish him, in any way?
The code defined by AR, as "man's protection against all other men" - what is it protecting?
and what are its precedents?

Which is why I've avoided any mention of "metaphysical rights". While Man's metaphysical nature contains the answer to all this (agreeing fully with Leonid) I think the phrase is a contradiction in terms - and my only point of departure with him.
(But I can't come up with an alternative, except 'self-sovereignty', and suchlike.)
If men's self-ownership (excluding their social context) is open to debate, or arbitrary, then so is its partial derivative - rational egoism. Then we'll have a problem understanding egoism.

Edited by whYNOT, 26 April 2012 - 03:46 PM.


#21
softwareNerd

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The question is: What is Man without the referent of his rights?
i.e. lacking reference to other men?
Does this "rightless" state of his existence diminish him, in any way?

I'm not sure what you're asking/saying here..

The code defined by AR, as "man's protection against all other men" - what is it protecting?
and what are its precedents?

It is protecting man's actions against hindrance by other men. Not quite sure what you mean by "precedents", but man can act and -- sans society -- his actions are hindered only by nature. In society, his acts can be hindered by other men... all the way to the point of killing him and ending all his action. Rights are the principles that leave a man unhindered from acting, but would do so in a principled way: i.e. they can be applied universally to all men.

Which is why I've avoided any mention of "metaphysical rights". While Man's metaphysical nature contains the answer to all this (agreeing fully with Leonid) I think the phrase is a contradiction in terms - and my only point of departure with him.


(But I can't come up with an alternative, except 'self-sovereignty', and suchlike.)

What concrete things or aspect are you seeking to encapsulate in this term?

If men's self-ownership (excluding their social context) is open to debate, or arbitrary, then so is its partial derivative - rational egoism. Then we'll have a problem understanding egoism.

You're saying that if something is "open for debate", then it is arbitrary? What exactly do you mean by "open for debate"? People debate all sorts of stuff in all sorts of subjects; that does not make all those topics arbitrary. So, what are you saying here?

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#22
whYNOT

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SNerd,

"Rights" don't define Man.
Who is he, what is he, without them - 'prior' to them, metaphysically?

(And yes, poor phrasing: it is open to debate, but there should
be no ambivalence about what we're discussing.)

#23
Leonid

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What is the meaning of right in social context? According to Rand-subordination of society to the moral law which ensures the freedom of action in social context, in other words-protects the right to act. Right therefore means protection of rights which is circular argument. To define rights as freedom of action in social context is to beg the question-the right is already included in the proposition of freedom. Freedom to act which is not by right must be freedom by permission which is contradiction in terms. So definition of rights by social context leads at least to 3 logical fallacies.

#24
softwareNerd

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"Rights" don't define Man.
Who is he, what is he, without them - 'prior' to them, metaphysically?

He is the same as: everything that he is without society.

The question is the same as asking: "what is man, metaphysically, if he was not in any society?" He is what he is, a certain type of animal, with certain types of needs to live his life, and with all his human abilities.

If some spaceship makes it to some earth-like planet and only one astronaut survives, and it is clear that no other humans will join him for the next 60 years before he is likely to die, then what is he, metaphysically -- because he surely has no rights of any type.

Edited by softwareNerd, 27 April 2012 - 03:36 PM.

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#25
Grames

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What is the meaning of right in social context? According to Rand-subordination of society to the moral law which ensures the freedom of action in social context, in other words-protects the right to act. Right therefore means protection of rights which is circular argument. To define rights as freedom of action in social context is to beg the question-the right is already included in the proposition of freedom. Freedom to act which is not by right must be freedom by permission which is contradiction in terms. So definition of rights by social context leads at least to 3 logical fallacies.

"To ensure freedom of action in a social context" means to preserve undiminished the power or ability to act which he had outside of a social context even after entering a social context.

Nothing you wrote here makes any sense because you tried to redefine 'freedom of action' as just a another way to refer to the abstraction 'rights'. Freedom of action is the sum of possible actions open to one, and each action included in that sum would be have a particular physical component and thus be an observable particular, the opposite of an abstraction.


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