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425

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425 last won the day on May 19 2015

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    I am an uncommonly intellectual 16-year-old who became interested in objectivism nearly two years ago and have since been learning the philosophy as well as history and economics. I generally communicate mostly over the Internet, and am socially awkward in real life (and also to a fair extent online).
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    Became interested in Objectivism approximately 2 years ago, read Atlas Shrugged at that time. Since have read The Fountainhead, and had previously read Anthem. Working on We The Living and many nonfiction books including Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. I have read a great many online discussions of objectivist principles. I would judge my experience as "moderate." I'm not a newbie and would like to say I have a solid grasp on principles, but there's a lot I don't understand yet.

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  1. I think the issue of collateral damage in war can be better understood by looking at a comparable concrete involving individuals, because on the whole the principle is the same. Imagine we have an armed terrorist in a public place who takes three hostages. He holds one of the hostages in front of him as a human shield and places the other two on either side of him. You happen to be carrying a gun yourself. As you draw your weapon, the terrorist sees you. You know he won't hesitate to shoot and kill you, and probably others. However, the only available shot to the terrorist is through the civilian (in this instance you have a high caliber weapon that will allow you to kill the terrorist by shooting through the civilian). What is the right decision? It's clear that if you are to act in a self-interested manner, you need to take the shot. Your priority is self-defense against an armed maniac who will kill you and other innocent people around you. It is a tragedy that the civilian will die in this instance once you shoot through him, but it is the only way to save your own life and those of the other civilians around you. This is the same principle that governs civilian casualties in a war. Civilians in Imperial Japan unfortunately had to die when the U.S. went into neutralize the armed threat. A few things other principles and scenarios in this analogy are worthy of note: 1) The blood of the civilian is squarely and solely on the hands of the terrorist. Even though you pulled the trigger of the weapon that killed him, his death is not your fault. The terrorist forced your hand by coercing you and bears responsibility for the death of this innocent. Because the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary measures for the U.S. to take to neutralize the threat of imperial Japan (a land invasion would have been costly for the lives of American troops, so that decision would have been immoral for government when the bomb remained an effective option), and because the Japanese forced the hand of President Truman by attacking the United States, the blood of those killed in those bombings is on the hands of the Japanese emperor. 2) In our scenario, you probably have time for just one shot before the terrorist is able to fire a shot at you. Because you would be unlikely to hit and would almost certainly die if you missed (and perhaps even if you hit), it would be immoral to shoot to wound the terrorist's exposed leg rather than taking the shot to kill through the civilian. For the same reason, it would be immoral for the United States to have gone out of their way to avoid civilian casualties to the detriment of its ability to win the war. 3) In our scenario, the terrorist has three hostages. Since only one of them must be killed in order to kill the terrorist, it would also be immoral to kill all three regardless. For the same reason, it would be immoral for the United States to have gratuitously bombed Japanese cities after the Emperor offered his surrender. In this instance, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the one civilian right in front of the terrorist, and the other two civilians are the rest of Japan. Civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to die for the U.S. to neutralize a violent, oppressive and irrational government, but once the Japanese surrendered, the U.S. properly did not cause any unnecessary civilian deaths. I hope this analogy is at least a bit helpful or thought provoking when considering foreign policy issues. Thinking about things more in this way helped convince me to support the strong foreign policies of Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Brook instead of the non-interventionism of Ron Paul and other libertarians.
  2. I'll wager that Brat is better than Cantor, but I am somewhat uncomfortable with a congressman who so explicitly rests his political and economic views on a religious basis. Even—and perhaps especially—if the positions he holds are the correct ones. Brat may be better than Cantor, and he's probably even better than most Republican members of Congress, but I would shy away from tying my wagon too closely to his campaign. If I lived in his district, I would probably vote for him but not campaign for him. There is hope, though, I suppose, that he could pave the way for more people who hold similar positions on economics to run for Congress and win elections, possibly even including some who don't promote their religious views quite so aggressively.
  3. Certainly. The requirement that you understood and agreed with Rand's identifications and arguments in ITOE was implicit, but it suits me fine if you want to make it explicit. However, most of the identifications I'm specifically talking about are fairly evidently true once you understand the arguments for the,, so I would consider disagreement a relatively unlikely scenario. In most cases, a word was assigned to a concept by popular usage. No one can pinpoint the first person to call a table a table, but at some point that word entered popular usage for that concept. Once that happened, it became the case that in English, the word "table" has an objective meaning as it refers to a specific concept. Note that the objective meaning of "table" has nothing to do with "well, it's part of the nature of this object that it must be called by the name "table." If the word "guitar" entered into popular usage to refer to the concept of "table," then "guitar" would objectively mean a piece of furniture with legs and a flat surface on which objects are placed. Additionally, this does not exclude other languages. In Spanish, "mesa" means "table." The word "mesa" and the word "table" both refer to the same concept, and both objectively refer to that concept. Which word you use to refer to that concept only depends on whether you are speaking Spanish or English. It is also true that one person can devise a word to represent a concept. This is the case in scientific discovery, where new concepts are identified. At some point, a particular person or group of people discovered the neutrino. So they were the ones who gave the word that referred to that concept. Once that word entered popular use (here referring to popular use among scientists) to refer to that concept, it became the case that the word objectively refers to that concept. If the scientists who discovered the neutrino decided to name it the "tiger" instead, their name would not have been popularly accepted because "tiger" already refers to an entirely different concept. So "tiger" would not begin to objectively mean the neutrino. A word has to enter popular usage among people who refer to a particular concept. The word "neutrino" has entered popular usage among those who talk about neutrinos, so it is now objectively the word that refers to that concept. The word "nonsense" and "emergency" have long ago obtained the same status among people who speak English and talk about the concepts to which these refer. Therefore, these words objectively mean those concepts. You summarized the views of three other posters earlier: I agree with all three.
  4. Well, the central idea of the question in your original post is "how can we know _________ if _________?" That question is in itself an epistemological one. When we talk about what we know in the field of morality, then, yes, that is a question in the field of ethics, but when we're talking about how we know certain things about morality, then we're discussing epistemology. The main reason I raised the question of whether you had read ITOE was because you were making a few errors in your arguments that I would probably not have made after reading ITOE and Rand's other work on epistemology. For one thing, the relationship between human knowledge and reality. This manifested itself when we talked about being certain, when I kept emphasizing that and explaining how being certain and being right are two different things. I remember explaining this several times, so it did seem to me that you were not understanding this (if you were I apologize). This has everything to do with the relationship between ideas and reality, because a correct idea corresponds perfectly to the facts of reality, and a person who holds an idea with certainty is merely someone who can think of no facts that contradict his idea. Another thing I noticed you apparently not understanding entirely is the idea of objectivity with regard to concepts. This was clear when you were suggesting to me that I might arbitrarily declare every moment of my life to be an "emergency" or when you argued that "nonsense" was an arbitrarily label. The thing you were missing here was that these words, like all words that are correctly understood and clearly defined concepts, have objective meaning. Once a word has been assigned to a concept like "emergency," that word has an objective meaning for all those who speak the same language, and it is an improper mode of thought if one person arbitrarily assigns the word a different meaning. This error becomes more egregious in the field of philosophy, especially when the word whose definition you are changing describes a particular context in which a certain action may be taken. That was the biggest red flag to me that you had an epistemological problem: when you tried to suggest to me that a ) an emergency could be "declared" by an individual without regard to its definitions (i.e. as a permanent state of affairs) and b ) the label "nonsense" is arbitrary.
  5. Thank you! I can't be quite sure that I came up with that, but I've long used architectural metaphors in thinking about philosophical systems.
  6. I'm just going to say again what I've said before and what DonAthos also just said: FredAnyman, have you read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology? The fact of the matter is, I think we're going to have a hard time continuing this discussion until you've read or re-read it, because there seems to be a fundamental disconnect in that you don't seem to have a strong grasp on the Objectivist epistemology. And realistically, it is not possible to understand a theory of ethics until you understand the epistemology that serves as its framework. Think of a philosophical system as the Statue of Liberty. Before you can start constructing the outer copper layer in the form of the statue, you have to first build the pedestal and the frame, which are like the metaphysics and epistemology. Then you can construct the outer layer, which is like the ethical system, and then you can add the crown of politics and the torch of aesthetics. But if you try to just construct the outer layer without first building the frame, the statue will crumble the first time its structural integrity is even slightly tested. You have to have a good grasp on epistemology first. And I think most of your problems in this conversation are in dealing with topics that are epistemological, not ethical.
  7. Yes, given a particular context (meaning that it's not a vague question where the answer is "well it's moral when x but immoral when y"), there is only one correct moral answer. The correct answer given a particular context is objective, and it will be either "moral," "immoral" or "not a question of morality" ("amoral," if you prefer; an example of this would be "chocolate ice cream vs. vanilla ice cream," which is not a dilemma to which ethics applies).
  8. So long as your logical methods actually are airtight. As DonAthos has pointed out, it is possible for someone to start from good premises, perhaps be an Objectivist, and still make an error in logic without knowing it. Odds are if you are a good philosopher and have good premises, you'll discover that error upon "checking your work," so to speak, but it is still possible for you to miss it. But you are correct in that if you gather all the evidence available and use airtight logic, then you can conclude that a certain action is moral. I would reiterate the same basic thing that I said above, but if my evidence is complete and my logic is airtight, then I could draw the conclusion that a certain action is immoral. Right. Since contradictions do not exist in reality, this means basically one of two things: 1. One of us is missing pertinent information (or, I suppose, has inaccurate information) regarding the particular action X or the context of that action. 2. One of us has made an error in our logic. So yes, if the two of us were discussing this issue and came to opposite conclusions, ideally we would each evaluate our own and each other's arguments in search of either 1) incompleteness or inaccuracy of information or 2) logical errors. I agree with this part, and I agree with most aspects of your entire summary. I have noted my quibbles above, but yes, I think you've done well at outlining the process. I would just briefly add that realistically, if we were debating a relatively minor issue (like the morality of eating food from McDonald's or something, as opposed to the morality of breaking and entering), this would be type of scenario where we would probably agree to disagree. Edit: I want to add that my quibbles with regard to the difference between the action of "ensuring that your logic is airtight" versus your logic actually being airtight is essentially the same as what DonAthos said in response to the very similar question you asked him. I also think he did better than I in accounting for the possibility of outside information unavailable to us. I agree entirely with his post #53.
  9. My answer to the original post is the same as that of the other posters. When making decisions about morality, one must gather all of the evidence available and ensure that his own logical methods are airtight. It is always going to be, as one of them put it, a "guess-and-check" method. I believe our current conversation is a result of diversions taken by both of us onto tangential but related topics. I'm quite certain that Muslim terrorists are not right. When I talk about agreeing to disagree or prescribing moral judgements, I'm referring to my conduct according to the Objectivist morality, not their conduct according to Islamic morality. I imagine that their position in this situation would be that I am an infidel who has insulted Allah and the prophet Mohammad and therefore deserve death. My position is that I should choose between a few actions: a) agree to disagree and choose another topic of conversation; b ) agree to disagree, but determine that my opponents are dishonest and therefore not worth any more of my time; or c) determine that my opponents intend to initiate the use of force and inform the proper authorities for my safety and that of other innocents. Each of these three scenarios requires first the conclusion of my moral judgement. In the first, I conclude that my opponent is mistaken but not dishonest, immoral or a force user. In the second, I conclude that my opponent is dishonest but not a force user, at least not in the immediate sense. In the third, I conclude that my opponent intends to initiate force. In the Muslim terrorist example, I'm probably choosing the third option. So I am passing moral judgement on them, saying that they are immoral, and I'm also calling the authorities because I believe it is likely that they will initiate force. This is correct. However, I must again reiterate that being certain and being correct are two very different things. To provide a stronger illustration: Imagine a schizophrenic person who believes that you have hidden cameras in his house. You know well that you have not done this. He's absolutely certain that you have, because he's, you know, neurotic. You're absolutely certain that you haven't. Even though both of you are certain, it is clear who is correct. His thought method is not a rational one. He's listening to his paranoid neuroses and jumping to completely unreasonable conclusions. No matter how certain he is in his belief that you hid cameras in his house, he is still wrong, because you did not. That was a dramatization, but it illustrates the difference between being certain and being right. In a slightly less crazy example, look at our Muslim terrorists. They're certain they are right. But what is their thought process? They're taking the word of clerics and an old book that there is a supreme being who wants them to follow a whole set of rules, including the murder of infidels. This is not at all a rational thought process, this is the use of blind faith to replace reason. Since reason is the only method by which man can learn about reality, this process for determining moral principles is flawed as well. Then, as DonAthos so wisely pointed out, there's the matter of Objectivists disagreeing because one made an honest mistake. In this case, the mode of thought for the party that is incorrect is still a good mode of thought, but with a slight error in the process or a gap in knowledge. But still, in this case, it is clear that it is possible to be certain but wrong, even if the way in which you are wrong is a minor logical error instead of a completely incorrect mode of thought. Follow the pattern here. Of course the certain schizophrenic in my example is wrong, that's as clear as day. So why can't the certain Muslim terrorist also be wrong? Or the mistaken but certain Objectivist? Just because the way in which these people are wrong isn't as obvious as it is for the schizophrenic, this does not mean that we can't identify where they go wrong and thus label their ideas as wrong ones?
  10. As just a friendly note, could you consider using the quote feature in the future instead of putting my remarks in quotation marks? It would make your posts far easier to read. Okay, you're missing that one can objectively determine something to be nonsense. That isn't an arbitrary declaration. A claim makes sense if it refers to real, properly understood concepts and follows the laws of identity and causality as they apply to the concepts it uses. "A giraffe is able to eat leaves from the tops of trees because of its long neck" is a claim that makes sense. It refers to a number of concepts, all of which are well understood, and it makes a claim that is consistent with the laws of identity and causality as they apply to all of those concepts (for example, the identity of a giraffe as having a long neck and the causal connection between a long neck and being able to eat things that are high off the ground). A nonsensical claim would refer to concepts that are misunderstood or to anticoncepts (intentionally vague words that are meant to mimic real concepts but are never clearly defined; usually used maliciously in political debates) or violate the laws of identity or causality. To use an extreme example of a nonsensical claim: "The giraffe turned into a strawberry and flew over the color purple." This claim can be OBJECTIVELY stated to be nonsensical; it is not an arbitrary declaration that I am making. The statement contradicts the identity of color purple, since that is not an entity but an attribute, and one cannot fly over an attribute. It also contradicts the law of causality as it pertains to giraffes, because there is no mechanism by which a giraffe can turn into a strawberry. It also contradicts the identity of strawberries, because they are unable to fly. One of the issues in your thinking that I'm noticing is that you seem to consider the act of labeling particular claims or situations to be arbitrary. You stated before that you could just arbitrarily declare an emergency, and now you're talking about me arbitrarily claiming things to be nonsensical. I would recommend looking more into epistemology, which serves as the building blocks for the rest of philosophy. I would strongly recommend reading the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand. That book explains how concepts are formed, which would help in understanding why concepts like "emergency" or "nonsense" have objective meanings and cannot be applied at whim. I will repeat yet again that "certain" and "correct" have very different meanings. I can say that something is nonsense all day, but that does not mean that I am correct. I can be certain of a claim, but that does not make the claim true. You may not like this answer, but all you can do is make sure that you are checking all of your premises and every step of your logical process. There's just no convincing some people, and in those situations you'll have to either agree to disagree or make a moral judgement depending on the situation. For example, Muslim terrorists are certain they are right. They are not right, but however much you teach them Objectivism, they're almost certainly not going to change their thinking. In this case, you have to think to yourself, "is my time better spent trying to change the minds of Muslim terrorists, or is it better spent putting them in prison?" For a less extreme example, we could talk about a hypothetical friend of yours who is a devout Christian. Is your time better spent causing antagonism by trying to change the mind of a friend whose mind will not change, or is it better spent enjoying your friend's company and talking about things that you do have in common? Well, it's the definition of the word! It comes from the fact that people needed a term to describe temporary and abnormally dangerous situations, so they assigned to that definition the word "emergency." So that's what the word means. "Temporary" refers to something that lasts only for a limited time. This distinguishes an emergency from a long-term bad state of affairs. So life in North Korea is not an emergency because it is not temporary. Ayn Rand clarified, in "Ethics of Emergencies," further on the "abnormally dangerous" label, saying that an emergency "creates conditions under which human survival is impossible" and that one of the main goals in combating such a situation is to "restore normal conditions." She further clarifies: "By 'normal' conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water or in a raging fire." And I'll reiterate what I've said before, as to your question about disagreement over what constitutes an emergency. Two people may disagree, but since the word emergency has an objective meaning, one of them is wrong. I don't really understand why you're so hung up on this point. But to give an example, "trapped in a burning building" is an emergency. A burning building is a temporary event that certainly entails conditions in which humans cannot survive. If someone says "trapped in a burning building" is not an emergency situation, that person is simply incorrect. "Daily life in the suburbs" is not an emergency. It is not a temporary situation, and it does not involve conditions that prevent human survival. If some especially non-objective person were to claim that "daily life in the suburbs" is an emergency, that person would, quite plainly, be wrong. Morality is different in an emergency scenario simply because morality is contextual. An emergency situation is a distinct context with vastly different conditions than other contexts, so morality changes far more significantly in that context. In such a situation, the primary moral objective is to "restore normal conditions," as Ayn Rand put it. This may mean that it is permissible for shipwreck victims to temporarily intrude on private property if it is the only dry land available and if they strive to cause no harm and to end the intrusion as quickly as possible. Again, however, this is a discussion for a whole different thread. My purpose in bringing up ethics of emergencies in the first place was to show how morality is contextual, not to enter a discussion about what constitutes an emergency or to detail the rules for one. If you are interested in further discussion on this topic, may I suggest opening another thread?
  11. If the context of your knowledge is so minute that you are unable to conceive of the idea of individual rights, then in making that statement you are certain in the context of your knowledge, but that does not mean you are right. I've been thinking about this over the last day or so, and I've come to the following realization: certainty is an epistemological rather than a metaphysical state. When you are certain of something, you are completely of the conviction that that thing is true. There is no doubt in your head; you've gathered all the relevant evidence that is available to you and all of it points to that conclusion. This does not at all mean you are correct; it is entirely possible that there is data that contradicts your claim. The idea is that when you ask someone if they are certain, you're not asking them if there is evidence contradicting their claim, you're asking them: "in the context of your knowledge, is this claim conclusively true, i.e. do you think there is any possibility that the knowledge you have points you to a different conclusion?" Men are not omniscient, so no one can claim certainty in the Platonic sense, where there is no possibility of being wrong. When you say "I'm certain," what you're saying is "I've examined the evidence and this is the only conclusion that can be drawn from it. None of the evidence supports any other conclusion." Try reading this; it's what I've been using as a resource in trying to understand the meaning of "certainty": http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/certainty.html The ability to imagine something that would make your conclusion false does not render it false. Again, the answer to this is context. Imagine the following situation: Imagine I have just come out of a bathroom and closed the door behind me. When I was in the bathroom, I was the only one in there. You ask me, "is anyone in there?" I reply that there is no one in there. You ask if I am certain, and I say that yes, I am certain. Then, a third person points out that there is another door used to access that bathroom from a different room that I had not noticed when I was in there, and it's possible that someone has just entered the bathroom without my knowledge. Then, the proper thing for me to do is to amend my claim. "Given that new context of knowledge, no, I am no longer certain. I think that it is probable that no one is in there, but I am not certain since, in my current context of knowledge, I now know that there is a possibility that someone has entered there without my knowing." That's a situation where, given knowledge of a new possibility, I have to amend a claim to where I am no longer certain. However, consider the following, where I wouldn't: Imagine the same situation, except the door I have just exited is now the only door to that bathroom (imagine also that the bathroom lacks windows or air-conditioning vents large enough for a person to pass through). I tell you that I am certain that there is no one in the bathroom. This time, another person comes up tells me, "No, you aren't! It's possible that a person's molecules could arrange in such a way that he could pass through a wall like it was not even there!" I would tell this person: "That's absurd! No one has ever been known to do that before! You've suggested an entirely implausible alternative! I am certain that no one is in there." While the claim that the other person suggested is a possible one, it is so absurd that I remain certain in my conclusion. The addition of that possibility does not alter the context of my knowledge because it is such an unlikely possibility that it has actually never before been observed. The same idea applies to moral claims. If I claim that it is immoral to drink bacon grease everyday because it will give you a heart attack, and then someone shows me evidence that drinking bacon grease everyday improves coronary health, then I'll amend my claim. If someone tells me that it is possible that there is a God of Bacon Grease who is appeased by daily drinkers of such grease and will grant them eternal life, then I'm not amending my claim just because someone suggested some slightly possible but completely nonsense alternative. No. Emergency ethics is not something you can just declare arbitrarily. There are specific situations that qualify as an emergency and to which normal ethics do not apply (there are still guiding principles for these emergencies, keep in mind, all I mean is that normal ethical rules don't apply in their usual form). An emergency is, by definition, a temporary and abnormally dangerous situation. "Daily life in the suburbs" is not an emergency, even if you are a character in third-rate postmodern fiction. "Trapped in a flaming building" is. And in saying that normal moral rules don't apply in such a situation, I do not mean that it is acceptable to kill your family and order a bank heist over the phone. I mean that if it is necessary for you to travel onto your neighbor's property to survive, you should do it, instead of dying because you don't want to commit a minor and temporary violation of his property rights. If you have not already and you are interested in this topic, you should read Ayn Rand's essay "The Ethics of Emergencies" in The Virtue of Selfishness.
  12. Well, I am not omniscient, but I think it's noteworthy that I am incapable of projecting the existence of information that would overturn the non-initiation of force principle. By that I mean that I can't even imagine what that information would be. With other moral claims, there could easily be information about the context or about the effects of the actions that I had not known when making the claim that would render it false. In those types of situations, I could easily project what that information would be. In saying that, I mean that I could easily imagine "if I found out x, then principle y would be wrong." I can't project something like that regarding the initiation of force, which is why I afford that principle a higher level of certainty than I would to one that depends more on context. I think there is a relevant conversation to be had about the use of the word "certainty." Leonard Peikoff argued that certainty also applies within a given context of knowledge, saying: "Idea X is “certain” if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative..." I think this can be a valid use of the term, and certainly (ha!) my statements on the principle barring initiation of force could fall into this realm. Also, though this is tangential, it is relevant that the principle of non-initiation of force is contextual: It applies to the context of social interactions among human beings. The existence of ethics of emergencies is also somewhat relevant in that in these types of extreme situations, morality does not apply. It is a different topic entirely, but an example of such an application might be a scenario where one is swimming away from a shark and crawls up onto the nearest available dry land, even if that land is private property.
  13. I can't speak for JASKN, but here's my response to your post addressed to him: Keep in mind that Objectivism is very particular and very certain about which laws should exist. The data exists to claim with (near-?)certainty that man has rights and that the purpose of government is to protect (through retaliatory force) these rights and not to violate them. In the Objectivist view, though there are certainly moral principles beyond "don't initiate force," none of these principles are to become laws. The principles governing initiation of force are principles about which we are fairly certain. I personally could not imagine a piece of information existing that would require us to reconsider the principles of man's rights, and I'm therefore pretty confident that none exists. The principles that are based more on "guess-and-check" are principles governing behavior in your personal life, when rights are not a consideration, and the main question is "does this benefit a man's life qua man or does it detract from it." That's because these principles vary a lot more depending on context than the principles of man's rights. So the principles on which we can be said to be mostly "guessing and checking" with a relatively low degree of certainty aren't ones on the basis of which we're imprisoning people.
  14. An important thing to recall is that morality, in addition to being objective, is contextual. Unlike religious moralities, Objectivism doesn't tend to make blanket statements about morality. Certainly there are acts that are immoral regardless of the context (leaving aside for a minute ethics of emergencies, since that's an entirely different conversation), such as initiation of force. But many other actions are not always moral or always immoral—it's contextual, depending on the situation or event. That can be the cause for disagreements among individuals on the morality of a particular action: each of them is imagining a different context. Remember that the standard of value in the Objectivist ethics is man's life. With this as a guide, it's easy to imagine certain actions as being moral sometimes and immoral other times. As an exaggerated example, drinking alcohol is immoral when one is about to operate heavy machinery since it puts one's life in danger, but it may be perfectly moral in the privacy of one's house when one has no intention of doing anything risky. So one cannot universally state "drinking is moral" or "drinking is immoral"—the answer depends on the context. Another big example: it's perfectly moral to obscure information about one's personal life from a prying acquaintance, but not from one's own lover or spouse, because the former merely entails the establishment of a personal barrier of privacy while the latter involves deceit. So this can be one cause of confusion and apparent contradiction between the moral claims of different individuals. If you already knew all this, I apologize for condescending to you, but the way you stated "If I think that a concept is moral and you think the concept is moral, are we both correct?" suggested to me that you may have been trying to prescribe more wide-ranging, a-contextual moral rules than it is rational to do. In other situations, where people are dealing with the same context for a moral question and they disagree, yes, one of them is wrong and holds mistaken premises. You are right in suggesting that the solution to this is to search for erroneous premises and let reality determine who is right. If neither individual can determine that one of their premises is mistaken, it may be necessary to let the question rest and agree to disagree. This does not mean that they are both right. One of them is in fact wrong, and hopefully they'll soon find out which so they know the correct answer, but for the time being it may not be possible. It is certainly possible that you hold ideas that are incorrect (that don't properly correlate with the facts of reality). As you noted, no one is omniscient. All you can do is do your very best to make sure that there are no mistaken premises or contradictions in your reasoning and that all your ideas are grounded in the facts of reality. While this does not guarantee that you won't find that you've been in error later on, it's the best you can do to make that as unlikely as possible (and since most people do not do this, you'll be in a much better position in this respect than the majority). As to your final question: Any time anyone makes a claim of knowledge, one is to assume that they are speaking from the present context of their knowledge. Of course, they should make every attempt to find all relevant information available to them before making such a claim (in order to avoid a situation such as one where a foreigner comes to the United States and, after buying something and receiving a dime, a nickel and a quarter in change, makes the claim that all American coins are silver in color), but the assumption remains that they are making that claim only given their context of knowledge. The same standard applies to claims about morality. What this allows for is errors of knowledge—where you make an incorrect claim on the basis of incomplete information. Errors of knowledge are not moral errors, though there are situations where it is a moral error to fail to admit to an error of knowledge after discovering one. In summary: When someone says that something is moral or immoral, yes, there is a possibility that they are wrong. However, a claim can be made with certainty if there are no relevant facts that could have possibly been left out. So when we state that in all situations where morality applies (again this puts to the side the question of ethics of emergencies), it is immoral to murder someone, it is possible to make that claim with certainty because we have all the relevant facts on that one. In less certain situations, moral claims may be wrong due to errors of knowledge, but we can minimize that by being rigorous in our evaluation of the facts and premises that constitute these claims.
  15. I've listened to all the songs that have been posted so far. Good stuff! I quite liked the Fountainhead song and the piece from the Apollo 13 soundtrack. As for myself, I'm an avid fan of progressive rock and metal music myself. One band in particular that I would like to share has quite the sense of life, while being brilliant musicians, composers and lyricists. This band is called Dream Theater, and they have released 12 albums of some of the most brilliant music I've ever heard. Of particular note is their second studio album, Images and Words. This is the single album I've heard with the most blindingly benevolent sense of life. I really cannot recommend the entire disc highly enough, but I'll just share a couple of choice cuts right now. Dream Theater – Learning to Live This song is an 11-and-a-half-minute progressive rock tour de force. Lyrically, I would point out the first few lines: There was no time for pain No energy for anger The sightlessness of hatred slips away Walking through winter streets alone He stops and takes a breath With confidence and self control Which are a paraphrase of a few lines from Atlas Shrugged, which describe Rearden's reaction after he sells all his properties aside from Rearden Steel: "He had no time for pain, no energy for anger... the blinding stabs of hatred ceased and did not return. He was back in confident self control..." This one is kind of an interesting one musically, full of a kind of childlike joy that turns over the course of a song into a serious expression of confidence. The lyrics are actually written in pieces by all the members of the band as a reflection on the preceding few years, in which they struggled to find a new singer and a new recrod label; and together represent in a lot of ways what basically is a proper reaction for a rational man to adversity. The whole album is full of great songs like this. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys rock music and is interested in finding some very well written music with a positive sense of life. And if you like it, you can go on to find 11 more albums of great material from the same artists! So that I can do my best to inundate this thread with prog rock, I'll share a couple of songs from other artists: Transatlantic, a supergroup of sorts which includes the drummer who played on that Dream Theater album, specializes in writing tremendously long multi-part compositions. I believe that the lyrics that Neal Morse writes actually refer to his own Christianity, but they tend to be written ambiguously enough that the non-Christian listener can apply them to his own life regardless. This song forms a story generally about overcoming periods of malaise by recognizing your personal values and recovering a more benevolent outlook. One of the most incredible verses is this, from around 20 and a half minutes in: Pressed to the wall of the rail station hall is the Venus de Milo You walk through the park 'til the clouds seem to darken the sky And you wish you could soften your mind But you feel like they've locked you in time And you think you'll be perfectly fine once you get to the water Suddenly you stop 'cause your feet just won't walk Like there's someone awaiting The moon seems alive and looks down on your life just to say It's alright Innocence and undying love will reign Innocence and undying love will reign A shorter song after some of those longer ones! Haken is a fairly new band that has the distinction of putting out three brilliant albums in the last four years. The newest one, The Mountain, is probably the most Objectivist-like one lyrically, though my favorite is the debut, Aquarius. Anyway, Because It's There is a gorgeous short piece that is, again, overcoming-adversity-themed.
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