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  1. Today
  2. If the argument is utilitarian/consequentialist, then it is no longer the Objectivist argument that is being explored. To address this complication and presumably others, you stated: Does human emotion (or do human emotions) differ between a lifetime based on "a truly rational calibrated approach" and a lifetime based on "a not truly rational calibrated approach"? Which set of human emotions are you angling for?
  3. What does eliminating mean? I mean, all you need to do is make them take a less position in your life than the thing you value more.
  4. Yesterday
  5. Yes, that is the abstract part that makes sense to me. And frankly, I cant think of anyone who would dispute that wisdom. But everyday life is a bit more complicated than that. There are circumstances where we have to make very difficult and tortured decisions. This is often where human emotion plays an important role. Therefore, I am curious to what extent a truly, rationally calibrated approach to the world is actually practicable (for every single person).
  6. Yes, I figured. And since I am more likely to encounter skeptical responses toward Objectivism elsewhere, I decided to come here and address my questions. In particular, the details and nuances I have not fully grasped in my reading.
  7. But we do make cost/benefit calculations, do we not? Not necessarily in crude numerical terms, but we often balance the pros against the cons.
  8. I think I generally get this point. I am however struggling with actually trying to apply it in so many different aspects of life. Its not quite clear to me how that decision tree works out. If values are a descriptive answer to questions about human nature and we need these values to survive, therefore it follows that altruism (sacrifice) is immoral. But if sacrifice is immoral, is it because of a utilitarian type argument "if everyone did it then everyone loses"? I know Ayn Rand says in the famous Galt speech that under the morality of sacrifice, the first thing you sacrifice is morality and then self-esteem. She goes on to make the case that this leads to a society where need is the primary standard, as opposed to life, where man is both victim and parasite. And if the argument is utilitarian/consequentialist, then can we conceive of a situation- no matter how bizarre or improbable- where sacrificing someone else for our own benefit would be worth it?
  9. Lets say my valuation is based on the fact that I aspire to have a successful career in something that I am naturally good at (say starting a business of some sort). Therefore, I want to realize my full potential as an individual by succeeding in that endeavor. It is all for my self-esteem. But, in the meantime, I am being dragged down by some personal commitment in my life (e.g. family member, romantic partner, etc.) and after thinking about it long and hard, it is almost a certifiable probability that eliminating that individual from my personal equation will benefit me (as I have defined it). And all I have to do is abandon them, cut them off or [fill in the blank]....the point is, the end (success/ambition) justifies the means (severing my personal relationship). Before this career opportunity arose, that person in my life had the most value and afterwards, their value diminished. So objectively why cant I compromise them? I imagine that such a one-dimensional valuation of purpose in life is perhaps an oversimplification. But lets say for the sake of argument it isnt.
  10. Firstly, I never said that humans are singularly irrational. What I stated was that humans are a complex mixture of both the rational and irrational. However, and I hope for reasons that are obvious, it is the irrational component that keeps me up at night. To the extent that our irrational impulses can be modulated by our rational capacities, then I am hopeful. Secondly, and I want to stress this, you do not need to convince me that the world is getting better. I am reading Steven Pinker's book "Enlightenment Now" and I know all those arguments and regularly offer them myself. As I said, to the extent that humans are rational, the thesis of Enlightenment Now is valid. But what happens when the unpredictable demons of irrationality begin to stir? I am not concerned about the deterioration of human material well-being; I am concerned about those who are concerned about material well-being- those who imagine a resource apocalypse or a conspiracy of wealth and power that is secretly plotting against them- and clutch to their tribal defense mechanisms for security. You want to talk about cohesion and social breakdown? Just look at the culturally pathetic state of America today. Just observe the social fragmentation along the lines of identity politics, a growing nostalgia for totalitarian ideologies, ecological mysticism- you name it. You can sense the nihilism, restlessness and lust for disorder and mayhem all the time. Its like there is an inverse law which states that the better the conditions of humanity become, the more discontent they must be. The greatest liberal institutions and historical defenders of civil liberties/free speech (free press, university) are now the greatest offenders and desecrators of these once cherished values. The New York times has made a pass time of blushing over communism. Our society is pathologically obsessed with gender and racial engineering. Big companies are in a contest to appease diversity mongers and victim warriors all the time. Words like "privilege" and "whiteness" have become such cardinal sins of self-flagellation, its sounds like some creepy new age secular protestant religion, where "check your privilege" has become a ritual act of self-purification. Its all nauseating, to say the least. These are the cries of a culturally and morally porous society. America is going through something unique, that I think other smaller, more homogeneous democracies have not fully confronted yet. But it also seems to be a story, a lesson about the limitations of human nature. Dont get me wrong. I don't say this with any gratification. I just find it alarming, and somewhat of a warning sign, that so many people are both unconvinced of the virtues of the Enlightenment and actively campaigning against it. Perhaps we have overestimated the coefficient of rationality for the majority. Perhaps rationality works for certain people under very specific conditions and we have lazily extrapolated and generalized that to the whole, without taking other variables into account (values, culture, etc.). I just think we should have a more balanced view of the reality of human nature.
  11. Yes, I see entirely what you mean. Yet I cant help but notice that as we live in an era of prosperity driven by the machine of techno-capitalism, its very functionality depends on the temperament of a bunch of unenlightened ingrates surely committed to its destruction. And yes, I know the operative term there is "enlightenment". But my point is, if people are not yet able to connect the philosophical dots, then when? We live in an age of free information. Today, the global middle-class is a majority for the first time in history. We have made improvements in standard of living by orders of magnitude. Nevermind that we're re-engineering human biology and 3D printing homes and large-scale infrastructures. The difference between the primitive past and present is palpable, to say the least. And so how do we celebrate these great achievements of the men of the mind? Oxfam releases a video condemning billionaires as a sign of failure. I mean, there are plenty of depressing polls and surveys on public social attitudes that capture this point more resolutely. I just dont see what is left within what Steven Pinker calls the "recursive combinatorial power" of the human mind that can make the great philosophical leap, if it hasn't done so already. What else does one need to demonstrate? Or, as I said before, this is just a regular cycle of history we go through.
  12. I am home with my kids for the holiday and find myself ambivalent about the fact that my first-grade son learned about it when he did at school. Image by Ebony Magazine, from National Archives via Wikipedia, public domain. When I was his age, I attended a racially-mixed Catholic school in Jackson, Mississippi. In the 1970's -- when there were still plenty of people who felt comfortable using epithets in conversation, and nerves could be a little raw. Nevertheless, I also recall not really being aware of such a thing as "race" until something like third or fourth grade. (A girl's older brother and an adult female made this real for me, one by glaring at me and the other by teasing me in their efforts to get me to conform to the norms of the day.) Based on past reading, I am pretty sure that most children that young aren't aware of race, either, and my general plan for addressing this issue was to tackle it as I thought I needed whenever it eventually came up. In other words, I wanted, as far as possible, for my son to remain innocent on this matter for as long as possible, and to experience himself and other children as individuals, and not as members of collectives. (Of course, an important part of this for me is being ready to discuss the matter in a way he can understand if circumstances dictate. Maybe I have to start earlier than I had hoped.) "He taught white people and black people to get along." The intention is good, but ... this was the first time he ever used the term "black" to describe anyone: Before then, if skin hue factored in to how he described someone, he'd use terms like "pink," "white," and "brown." I had hoped he could continue to treat such attributes properly -- as noticeable, but accidental -- for a little bit longer, so as not to pollute his mind so early with the idea of classifying people into groups based on them. And maybe he still can. Time will tell, and I know to keep an ear out in the future. But on top of that, I am also not sure that much of what went on then would make sense to a child. (And that's even after glossing over the ugliness and brutality that occurred due to racism.) There are ways to essentialize and simplify, but I don't trust many people to do that well. In sum, I think in normal circumstances, children haven't yet acquired sufficient knowledge or developed a matrix of concepts necessary to understand the full significance of the holiday. But maybe I am being pessimistic. You can say that about all of the holidays. Perhaps something like, "Martin Luther King helped us learn to treat each other fairly, no matter what we happen to look like," is the way to start. As I write, that's how I think I will frame the issue, should it come up. The positive lesson is bigger and more important than race, anyway. -- CAVLink to Original
  13. Any example given can be reduced to There was benefit to self, directly or indirectly. There NO benefit to self, directly or indirectly. There is a problem that starts here: "When we do good, we do good for someone." The problem with that foundational statement ends up causing problems down the road. Once we think in terms of the beneficiary being only a SINGLE individual, you can easily argue against egoism. Good or evil. defined based on the beneficiary being an individual (one person), then "good or evil" would be clear cut and identifiable. The good would only have to go to one self, any one else benefits, the act is evil. The truth is that when we do good, we do good for "someone or some people". In other words, if we have done good, to say that it has always been only for one person would be false. You do good that effects one or more people. Since the core argument for egoism is that "the individual HAS TO BE the beneficiary", when you have an ethics of anti-egoism the justification shows up, meaning, if you should never get your paycheck, you will starve. Similarly, if you should NOT eat the results of the seeds you planted, you starve. But the absence of "self" in the transaction only identifies an evil transaction so it is helpful ONLY in that sense. It is reasonable to argue that while analyzing a human act, the fact that it is self interested or multi interested does not determine its good or evil. There are more factors to consider as in long range or short range, rational or childish. It is only those acts that absolutely and objectively have zero direct or indirect benefit that are evil. (in real life, it is hard to imagine any of us doing what we know to be completely useless, baseless, without a point or purpose, without ANY benefit at all). Therefore : Good cannot ALWAYS be identified solely on the basis of "selfish or selfless" because of more factors including the fact that some selfless actions can benefit indirectly.
  14. The Franklin Planner software, Version 7.0 and before, was built on an Access Database from an older version of Access than the Office 2000 suite. From the Access module of the Office 2000 suite, the older architecture of the Franklin Planner database can be accessed by means of a "linked" database exposing the table structures underlying it. In the Franklin Planner software, the table contents are revealed via a Prioritized Daily Task List, an Appointment Schedule, an Address Book, Red Tabs, Quote of the Day, which provide clues to other tables that are linked to these main tables with various categories to assist in tagging items with various categories. As one delves into reverse compiling such connections as can be explored between the two software packages, the light provided by the following excerpt comes into much clearer focus. From Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Chapter 7. The Cognitive Role of Concepts: Concepts represent a system of mental filing and cross-filing, so complex that the largest electronic computer is a child's toy by comparison. This system serves as the context, the frame-of-reference, by means of which man grasps and classifies (and studies further) every existent he encounters and every aspect of reality. Language is the physical (visual-auditory) implementation of this system. In addition to the Franklin Planner system, it has been therapeutic to "think aloud on paper". Several "journals" were generated while reading Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as well as Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, and various other assorted essays. My last couple of journals tried to keep ethics as the theme, while the front cover sported the essentials of Objectivism as cited in: The Ayn Rand Letter Vol. III, No. 10 February 11, 1974 Philosophical Detection--Part II [M]etaphysics, the Law of Identity [E]pistemology, the supremacy of reason [E]thics, rational egoism [P]olitics, individual rights (i.e., capitalism) [E]sthetics, metaphysical values As a guiding light, the intent is to keep the aforementioned essentials inscribed on the front flap of the journal, the time has come to modify the guiding principle to the focus provided by a recent search executed on the Objectivism Research CD for "Train your mind" providing from The Art of Fiction: Train your mind to concretize every abstraction as a general policy. As with typing, it is only at first that you have to do it by conscious, measured steps. Eventually it becomes an automatic mental habit.
  15. Philosophically, Ayn Rand is right, but that is a fact that one needs to discover for one's own self. The current portal states: 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. An individual seeking to understand the essentials in life is more likely to hone the abilities to recognize essentials when they're encountered, and eventually come to realization that the map or labyrinth of essentials is larger than can feasibly be fully explored in a lifetime.
  16. Last week
  17. What is evil here is the 12 year necromancy involved in raising this thread from the dead.
  18. Do you think less carefully about what orthodox Objectivists with PhDs say?
  19. To me, an "expert" on Objectivism would be an orthodox Objectivist with a PhD in philosophy or comparable knowledge. I can't immediately think of anyone on OO.com that I would consider an "expert" in that sense. Most of the regulars here are intelligent, reasonably well educated, much more interested in philosophy than the average person, and much more sympathetic to Objectivism than the average person. If that's who you want answers from, great, but keep in mind that you need to think carefully about what they are saying, myself included.
  20. But there is an important incongruence between the model of reason as calculation (as in, say, Hobbes) and other theories of mental activity. Nobody actually thinks like that. We don't go "I value this person n¹ units, and that thing n² units, therefore I will do x." That attributes a kind of incommensurable quantification of persons, things, actions (what unit would even be measured here?), and attributes to people a kind of calculative reasoning people don't normally perform in day to day activities. Sometimes we do calculate things, but part of what makes being a sociopath deficient in some way is that they are unable to see things in non-binary terms.
  21. 3/3/08 A Rejection of Egoism Concerning animals and plants, we correctly think that “whatever stunts their growth or threatens their lives is bad for them. They are the sorts of things that can be healthy or diseased, and it is good for them to the healthy, bad to be diseased, to be stunted, to die before they mature. To determine what is good for some living S, we need to know what sort of thing S is—whether it is a human being, a horse, or a tree. If there are things that are good for all human beings, their goodness must be grounded not only in the properties of those things, but also in the properties of human beings” (WGW 88). “Organic development, health, and proper physical functioning are . . . important components of human flourishing; but for us, faring well includes healthy psychological development and functioning as well” (WGW 5). “Truths about what is good, when they are made about human beings, are truths about what is good for us . . . and must therefore be grounded in facts about our physical and psychological functioning. A theory about what is good that is applicable to human life must rest on ideas about the healthy development and exercise of the human mind” (WGW 90; further, 92–94, 131–66). I have been quoting from Richard Kraut’s new book What Is Good and Why, subtitled The Ethics of Well-Being. It was issued by Harvard University Press in 2007. (Psssst—This is a very fine book.) The picture composed by those quotations will look familiar to readers who have studied Ayn Rand’s ethics. One more from Prof. Kraut: “When we do good, we do good for someone. And so, in addition to our deciding which things are good, we also must answer the question ‘Whose good should one promote?’ There are many simple formulas that propose an answer to that question. The two that are most prominent are egoism and utilitarianism. “Egoism holds that there is only one person whose good should be the direct object of one’s actions: oneself. It allows one to take an indirect interest in others, and to promote their well-being, but only to the extent that doing so is a means towards the maximization of what is good for oneself” (WGW 39). Before explaining Kraut’s reasons for rejecting egoism, I want to begin to review Rand’s arguments for her type of ethical egoism. Within the 1957 exposition of her ethics, Rand writes: “Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the fact of its own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain” (AS 1014 [hb]). “The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live” (AS 1014). “To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-Esteem . . . . These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues . . . : rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride” (AS 1018). “Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value . . .—that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character . . . —that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man . . . has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational man he is born able to create, but must create by choice—that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself . . .” (AS 1020–21; see also 1056–58). In the 1964 Introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand observes that “the choice of the beneficiary of moral values . . . . has to be derived and validated by the fundamental premises of a moral system. / The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action . . .” (x). I discern three intertwined strands in Rand’s defense of ethical egoism. I will be focusing on her arguments that move from agent egoism to beneficiary egoism. It is only when the latter is joined to the former that the theory should be called ethical egoism. Strand One In Rand’s 1957 presentation, the first move to beneficiary egoism is in the first paragraph of her text that I quoted above. It is there asserted that if one does not hold one’s own life as the motive and goal of one’s actions, one is acting in a self-destructive way. In The Fountainhead Rand wrote that “[man’s] moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others” (740 [hb]). One illustration of the self-destructive path set upon by doing otherwise is Peter Keating’s being dissuaded by his mother from marrying the woman he loves. It will be argued, however, that there are some moral choices in which one’s immediate motive is the good of others, yet that choice is not self-destructive. In ordinary circumstances, I tell people the truth. My immediate motive is often their self-interest, not mine; I don’t want them to be taking up falsehoods. Kraut articulates this apparent defect of egoism as follows: “When everything goes well for a child and he has all the emotional resources he needs to interact with his community in ways that are best for himself, he will have some direct interest in some members of that community—namely, those who have manifestly expressed their love for him in ways that benefit him. So no one whose early education is as good for him as it can be will emerge from childhood as a person who is inclined to act as egoism says he should act. So fortunate a young adult will gladly help others for their sake . . . . Egoism tells him to extirpate this desire” (WGW 40–41; further, 48–65, 211–14, 231, 238–43). I observe that when one chooses to tell the truth in ordinary circumstances or to render aid to others, one is engaged not only as an agent egoist. One is not only following one’s own judgment about what to do. One is also choosing in the particular occasion what is the good state of affairs for individuals in general. Help another “if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle. . . . Man’s fight against suffering” is a value (AS 1059–60). In this passage, Rand is commending acting on one’s pleasure in a value-operation not one’s own. It seems to me that this is an occasion of egoistic action that is not directly for one’s own sake, only indirectly so. One has the pleasure directly, but the object of one’s intelligence yielding the pleasure is a value-operation not one’s own and a value-operation whose aim is success (e.g., truth or relief from suffering) for one not oneself. Then, strictly speaking, Rand’s is an egoism that falls outside Kraut’s definition of egoism. Kraut’s definition is more narrow than the usual definition for ethical theory. It is surely correct to call Rand’s ethics an egoism, an integrated agent-beneficiary egoism. (Objectivist conceptions of egoism are usual. See N. Branden VOS 57; L. Peikoff Om. // 65, OPAR 230–31; T. Smith VV 154–55, ARNE 23–24.) Kraut opposes also this theory of ethics, which he takes to be less than full-fledged egoism. Rand holds that one should never sacrifice one’s own true interests to those of another. Kraut observes that “that thesis holds that one has a special normative relationship to oneself. It places the self ahead of others . . . .” (WGW 53). It gives priority always to striving for one’s own good, rather than striving for the good of others. Kraut rejects the ethics of uniform self-priority. “There is no reason always to place oneself first in situations of conflict, or always to refrain from making large sacrifices for the good of others” (WGW 54; further, 180–83, 191–96). Rand writes concerning sacrifice: “If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor’s child and let your own die, it is” (AS 1028). “If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat” (AS 1029). As an example of self-sacrifice, Kraut poses the following: “Suppose a parent, to earn enough money to give his child an expensive education, gives up a job that makes full use of his talents and in its place accepts a post that is intellectually and emotionally deadening and physically dangerous, but provides a large and steady income” (WGW 181). Kraut counts this as an example of self-sacrifice. To any ethical theory that would count it as not sacrificial, Kraut poses a challenge. Suppose the child who receives the education is an ungrateful child, who says he owes his parent nothing in return, that the parent was satisfying the parent’s own hierarchy of values, so there was no real self-sacrifice in the parent letting go of the career that would have been better for the parent. It is possible that on Rand’s egoism, a parent who forfeited the better career for the purpose of a better education for the child would necessarily be making an inverted-value sacrifice, the forfeiture of what ought to be valued more in comparison to something that ought to be valued less, though highly. That is, the better career for the parent should necessarily be valued more highly by the parent than the better education for the child. Whether such a conclusion follows from Rand’s ethics, I will leave undetermined; thoughts from readers would be appreciated. What is clear is that a Randian should hold the child’s ungratefulness to be prima facie wrong for the child and a wrong against the parent because the value of what the parent forfeited for the child’s education was enormous, regardless of the possibility that the parent valued the latter over the former. I concluded above that Rand’s conception of holding one’s own life “as the motive and goal” of one’s actions and never placing “[one’s] prime goal within the persons of others” does not entail always taking one’s own interests as the direct object of one’s actions. This further undermines the ungrateful child’s rationale. The direct motive for the parent’s momentous choice could be the child’s well-being, even if that choice also serves the parent’s well-being. Strand Two The first strand in Rand’s move from agent egoism to beneficiary egoism was the thesis that if one does not hold ones own life as the motive and goal of one’s actions (at least indirectly), one is acting in a self-destructive way. The second strand, wound together with the first, is that if one does not hold one’s life as the motive and goal of one’s actions, one is acting in a disintegrated way, and integrated life is better life. All living organisms are engaged in continual integrated actions suited to their individual survival or the survival of their species. Deterioration of an organism’s ability to perform its integrated repertoire of actions is a loosening of the tight organization required for its continued life or the continuation of its species. Rand draws attention to the overarching value of the survival of the individual organism that is served by its integrated repertoire of actions suited to its kind. (She leaves out of the frame of attention the overarching value of the propagation of the species that is served by the repertoire of the individual organism.) Consider the repertoire of the marine snail Pleurobranchea. The nervous systems of these animals are much simpler than the mammalian central nervous system, but they are sufficiently complex to coordinate the behavioral sequences known as fixed action patterns. Those are inherited stereotypical patterns of behavior (such as egg-laying) consisting of several distinct steps that either together form a coordinated sequence or do not take place at all. It has been determined that the fixed action patterns characteristic of Pleurobranchea are organized neurologically into a definite hierarchy: feeding is dominant over righting, gill and siphon withdrawal, or mating; episodic egg-laying is dominant over feeding; escape swimming is dominant over all other behaviors. Humans have sensations of pleasure and pain. These are signs of the body’s welfare or injury. In addition to bodily pleasure-pain systems, we have emotional systems. Rand conceives joy and suffering as fundamental emotions that estimate whether something furthers one’s life or threatens it. Which particular things emotions will signal as good or as bad will be shaped by one’s unique past experience and value judgments. If one has taken up values opposing one’s self-interest—not only self-sacrifice as a value, but values contradictory, values impossible, or values sheltered from rational assessment—then suffering and destruction will be the results. On the other hand, if one chooses to value the full use of one’s rational mind, to value the possible, the productive, and the self-beneficial, then there is fair promise of life and happiness (AS 1020–22). Just as the organs and systems of the human body must act in a properly coordinated way if they are to effect the end-in-itself that is the life of the individual organism, so one’s consciously directed actions must be properly organized if one is to achieve well the end-in-itself that is the conscious life of the individual human being. Rand identified seven coordinated patterns of volitional actions necessary for one’s realistically best life. Those are her seven cardinal virtues I listed in the root post of this thread. (David Kelley has argued that an eighth cardinal virtue, sister to productivity, naturally issues from Rand’s ethics and conception of human existence. That virtue is benevolence. This addition is argued in his essay “Unrugged Individualism” [1996]). These virtues are defended as general principles, good guides for any individual. Ethical theory, on Rand’s account, tells one what are the main right values and virtues and their rationale. It tells one also who is rightly the primary beneficiary of one’s agency. Kraut argues that philosophy can help answer “What is good?” but it cannot help answer “Whose good should I be serving?” (WGW 39–65, 208–13, 255–57). He argues that there are many proper answers to that second question, so an ethical theory that purports a uniquely correct answer to it must have gone wrong. The answer that one should always promote one’s own good is incorrect by overgeneralization. He recognizes that there are circumstances in which there is no one’s good besides one’s own that one should promote, but those circumstances are not typical. Contrary to Kraut, I think, as in Strand One, that promotion of the good of other persons can be directly for their sake, yet one can be holding in an integrated way to the overarching good for oneself, the overarching primary good of one’s own life and happiness. One does stand in a special normative relation to oneself. Mature and healthy individuals are constituted—and Kraut also takes this for true—so as to love themselves, to take care of themselves, and to act for their own benefit. But Kraut allows for the possibility, when one has reached adulthood, of properly turning one’s life into a purely instrumental value serving the good of definite others (WGW 48–53). This extreme possibility is not cashed out in terms of a real-world circumstance in which it would be proper. I think, as Rand thought, that such an agent would not be self-harmonious, so, would not be flourishing. Kraut does think philosophy can help answer “What is good?” and I want to give at least a peek at the fruits of his labor. Recall that Kraut maintains that the good is the flourishing of living things. The salient components he finds constituting human flourishing are: autonomy (WGW 196–201), cognitive skills (164–66), affects expressing rational assessments (153–58), affectionate relationships (161–63), honesty (192–93, 257–61), and justice (194–96, 225–34). Strand Three Rand writes that “man’s life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man—for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling, and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life” (AS 1014). If one aims to live and live well, then man’s life must be one’s standard of morality. Part of the nature of man’s life, in Rand’s conception, is that it is life of individuals in which each is organized to be an end in himself existing for his own sake. That is how human beings are outfitted by biological nature, and in the ways that are open to their choice, that is how they should organize themselves. Morality can be put to various purposes. The proper one, in Rand’s view, is to provide “a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life” (VOS 13). Kraut notes that the term moral is often used by way of contrast to terms like prudential, self-interested, and selfish. He allows that it is useful to have the term moral for distinguishing between behavior that benefits others in contrast to behavior that benefits oneself, but he observes that “this way of talking has the unfortunate effect of making self-interested actions and concern for one’s own good dishonorable, or in any case of secondary importance” (WGW 256). He takes both the moral and the prudential to be genres of the good. The good, in Kraut’s view, is the flourishing of the living. Rand stresses more than Kraut that organisms are organized so as to survive. She also stresses more than Kraut that individual human beings are by nature ends in themselves. Kraut makes the good point that by citing facts of nature—of plants and animals and the powers nature has given humans—he is not maintaining that “what is good for us is whatever is natural for us, and whatever we are born with must be used” (WGW 146). We might correctly conclude that some of our natural powers are bad for us. But it is not plausible that many or all of them are bad for us. “It would be foolish to begin with the assumption that whereas it is good for all other living things to flourish, it is not good for us to flourish. After all, flourishing consists in the growth and development of the capacities of a living thing: why should that be good for plants and animals, but not for us? . . . If a theory of goodness can fit its account of human well-being into a larger framework that applies to the entire natural [biological] world, that gives it an advantage over any theory that holds ‘G is good for S’ is one kind of relationship for human beings and a different kind for all other creatures” (GWG 147–48).That merit of Kraut’s theory holds for Rand’s as well. The third strand in the cord by which Rand ties beneficiary egoism to agency egoism is the stress she lays on the self-sufficiency of organisms in general and individual humans in particular. There is much to be said for this and against this. Not today.
  22. 2/16/08 Rand observes that “the choice of the beneficiary of moral values . . . . has to be derived and validated by the fundamental premises of a moral system” (VoS x). Rand offers arguments and a conception of morality in support of the conclusion that “the actor must [should] always be the beneficiary of his action” (VoS x). “Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man’s survival,” and this is the case “by the grace of reality and the nature of life” (VoS 23). “By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose” (AS 1017). Rand argues that “man’s actions and survival require the guidance of conceptual values derived from conceptual knowledge” (VoS 20); that conceptual thought is an activity of individual minds (AS 1017); that “thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness” (VoS 20); that “the act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional” (20–21); that “the men who choose to think and to produce . . . . are pursuing a course of action proper to man” (23); “that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself . . . and, therefore, that [each] man must [should] live for his own sake” (27). The individual’s own life “is the source, not only of all his values, but of his capacity to value. Therefore, the value he grants to others is only a consequence, an extension, a secondary projection of the primary value which is himself” (VoS 47). Furthermore: “Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate, and contradict the fact of its own existence . . .” (AS 1014 [hb], boldface added). As noted earlier in this thread, Robert Hartford contributed a paper last spring to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 8(2):291–303. The title of his paper is “Objectivity and the Proof of Egoism.” In this paper, he argues that “the foundation of an objectively verifiable ethical system is the [voluntary] acceptance and use of the principle of holding one’s own life as the motive and goal of one’s action” (302). Robert argues that if one rejects Rand’s principle of holding one’s own life as the motive and goal of one’s action, then one is contradicting a fact about the very mind rejecting the principle. That fact is the biological role that the mind has in human life. “The mind has unsurpassed power to select action that results in pursuit and achievement of values, pursuit and achievement of that which benefits one’s life” (300). If one selects an action that is known—known consciously or subconsciously—to be harmful to one’s life, then some aspect of one’s mind is implicitly acting in a way at odds with the fundamental role of the mind in human life. The mind is then in a contradictory state. It strives to achieve what benefits the life of the person whose mind it is while at the same time, in the particular choice, it strives to harm that person. Therefore, one should always select one’s action with one’s own life as the motive and goal of the action. I would say that the biological role of the mind is not only to enable the survival of the individual whose mind it is, but to enable the survival of other members of the human species. So I don’t think Robert’s proof works. The faulty premise in Robert’s argument is appealed to in the complex weave of Rand’s argument as well. How wide are the ramifications of this flaw in her argument? I wonder.
  23. ET, In the statement of Rand's I quoted and you again quoted, she is contrasting life to all things not living. Only living things can be ends in themselves and have value kinds of actions. (And I don't think it would matter whether the life was manmade in the lab or naturally occurring life.) I agree. “According to Objectivism . . . a philosophic view of man is not exhausted by metaphysics and epistemology, nor does it at every point follow deductively from them; fresh observations are required. . . . “If a fundamental difference is one which has enormous, pervasive manifestations, then the most fundamental difference among the entities we perceive is that between the animate and the inanimate. The starting point in the present enquiry, therefore, is the fact that man is a certain kind of living organism. What is an organism? More specifically, what is its essential, distinctive mode of action?” (pages 188-189 of Peikoff’s 1991 Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand). On your question of the point at which egoism comes into the picture in the account of the good, I'll post below two posts of mine from some years back. I encourage you to study, if you've not done so already, Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness and Peikoff' OPAR.
  24. At what point, did egoism come into the picture as a basis for the good. Pleasure and pain imply the person feeling it, but similar to life, it could be mine, yours, theirs, or our life. I don't understand this statement. Isn't simply existing, being an end in itself? In that sense it is not unique. Can you please elaborate.
  25. Thanks for the correction, Dennis, and thanks for the question. In a few days, I shall have been working on the book material each morning for six years. Along the way, I’ve extended my target on up to ten years (I’d be seventy-five). However, to accomplish even that required that I leave off theory of value altogether. And the extended detailed comparisons of Rand’s philosophy and mine with major classical philosophies needed to be discontinued. Because I had completed the comparison on foundations between Descartes and Rand, which was no longer going to be appropriate for the way the book was developing, I submitted that to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and they published it last summer. By last fall, the metaphysics I had developed had become so sweeping, deep, and original, and had finally stabilized, that I had a big worry. The problem was that it would take another four years before all the ramifications of it could be worked out for epistemological areas, and I became worried it was all too possible that none of what I had already created would ever be seen by anyone else (none of it has been posted on the internet or will be) should I have a stroke or otherwise be incapable of completing the whole book (for which I’d still need to find a publisher at the end—I’m not for self-publishing on this). I thought of seeing if this sort of material would be appropriate for JARS as a series of major papers over time. I sent them the initial one that lays out the basics of the new metaphysics; they think it an appropriate kind of thing for their venue; it is under review; and if all goes well with that on both sides, it might appear about a year from now. This new metaphysics is more indebted to the metaphysics of Ayn Rand than to any other. Mine is a transfiguration of hers at the deepest level. The differences and commonalities with Rand’s fundamentals are explicated and argued. Her fundamentals and mine are set in their relations to others ancient to modern. Down the anticipated series of papers, ramifications of this new metaphysics for philosophy of logic, mathematics, and science will be drawn. So I’m doing the same work, only not for a book, and one will need to be a subscriber to JARS or have university access through JSTOR to see this, my highest creation.
  26. Epicurus was born 18-19 years before Aristotle's death. Nice essay. What's the ETA on your book?
  27. Jeopardy GOAT The Knowledge Illusion #2
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