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Posts posted by KyaryPamyu

  1. Sculptures, symphonies, novels and paintings are time consuming to make, just like any other human value. What exactly does an artist choose to sculpt, compose, write or paint? Obviously, there's only one thing you can represent in art: things from reality. But what exactly? Just beautifuly rendered objects, people and events for no reason whatsoever? What separates sculpture, painting and theater from toys, photographs and soap operas?

    The meaning of fine art is not the objects portrayed in it. It's also not about politics or morals or the weather or the stock market, but something much, much, much more important. In fact it's so important that it needs to be present in your awareness at all times. I'm referring to the reasons and causes of your actions. For example, if you're generaly scared of the world and you don't like to take much space etc. this isn't a causeless fact. It's because you sincerely believe deep down that the universe is a dangerous place to live in, that man is always in grave danger. This is life-and-death information that is essential to remember in the backdrop of all of the irrelevancies of life - as the facts that cause, explain, give meaning to, and tie your disparate, confusing daily experinces into a coherent mechanism (the overall nature of the universe).

    Is the universe antagonistic or auspicious? Am I good or bad by nature? Am I in control of my inner and outer life? Is this a knowable world, subject to identity and certainty? The answers to this category of questions are called metaphysical value judgements, and for a great deal of people they're arbitrary and implicit, not objective and consciously held.

    Without seeing perceptual instances of the most important facts of life - of the foundation of everything else - your view of life quickly loses its reality and power of conviction. After all, if you believe that the essential nature of man is a heroic being, but life is filled with cowards and corrupt politicians and irrational people, your worldview can quicky collapse, you can forget what you believe in the first place, and you can become confused.

    More than that, this crucial, underlying perspective of the whole of reality (not merely contextless bits and pieces) cannot guide people because it can't be held in the mind (crow epistemology). A worldview is made up of endless, scrambled and seemingly disparate metaphysical value judgements - 'it's important to fight for what you want', 'it's important not to stick your neck out' etc. Only condensation into perceptualy available concretes can do the job and show you the conclusion, the payoff, the cashing-in of all of your value judgements, i.e. your worldview at a glance. To see what I'm talking about, compare those two sculptures: one and two.

    This type of conretization is like language, except instead of condesing concepts into visual-auditory tags (words), you condense a worldview into a concrete in order for it to be operative as a guide. Like metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and government, art is the only other need of man within the province of pure philosophy.

    Another crucial effect of art is the emotional fuel it provides. The work that goes into achieving your material and spiritual values can sometimes get tough. Seeing the full, immediate reality of your distant goals, experiencing the sense of your completed task, of living in your ideal world (a universe where your values have been successfully achieved) can replentish you spiritualy. The fuel comes not from what you might learn from the artwork, but from experiencing a moment of love for existence.

    This is why art is ruthlessly selective - not journalistic; integrated - not full of irrelevant elements that compromise the theme; clear - as opposed to the opaque or non-objective. It must have an abstract meaning, pertaining to the nature of the world in relation to man (or the reverse, which is the same thing). An artist selects what he considers to be important in life and integrates it into a mini-universe, a man-made universe.
    Sense of Life
    As soon as you become able to make generalizations about the world, you make them. You have no choice, because they're absolutely crucial for knowing how to act, i.e. for your survival. Based on conscious or randomly formed conclusions about the world and man, your guiding philosophy is formed, and it's usualy implicit until you identify it in conscious, philosophical terms, and correct it if necessary. 

    Emotions are not causeless - they spring from conscious (or automatized, subconscious) evaluations of things. A man with a ghastly worldview might, as a consequence of his basic premises, negatively evaluate a lot of the things that confront him on the street, on the television, at his workplace and so on. A person with a benevolent view might generaly evaluate the exact same things in a completely different manner, a more positive one, and the negatives might not strike him as worth focusing on. The pessimist might get most of his pleasure from safety; the optimist, from seizing life by the horns.

    Based on everyting the world makes him feel on a daily basis, man forms an all-encompassing emotional generalization about the world. This emotion, called a 'sense of life' by Ayn Rand, is felt as a sort of vibe emanating from the world, one that is involved in everything you do, think and feel. For example, a pessimist walking on the street might pick up tense vibrations from the air; the people walking past him seem to be out to get him, and even the lampposts seem to be looking maliciously at him. He feels as if the world is one giant concentration camp. But the man with a more positive philosophy might get an entirely different vibe from that same exact street and moment. He might feel inspired by the sights of skyscrapers and blooming businesses. Deep down, he feels that life is auspicious to his goals and full of potential joys.

    Of particular importance is the fact that your sense-of-life can strenghten or blunt your joys and sorrows. A pessimistic man might see ice-cream and sex as pointless distractions in a sea of tears. It's tricky to enjoy anything if you fear for your life, either because the world is hell (malevolent universe premise) or because you think that you're unfit to deal with it (low self-esteem). After all, it probably won't last; so why enjoy it? But an optimistic man might see life's inconveniences as irrelevant in comparision to life's joys; since the world strikes him as an amazing place to be in, he feels a pure, unrestrained pleasure when he enjoys his values, a type of pleasure that the pessimistic man cannot even fathom. 

    In art, your sense-of-life directs not only artistic creation, but also artistic response. Depressed artists don't paint sunny landscapes and happy artists don't particularly enjoy Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Of course, for most people a sense of life isn't as black-and-white as I described, but you should get the idea. This fundamental emotion conditions a lot of things in a man, including his body language and how passionately driven or apathetic he is. When he falls in love or forms deep friendships, it's on the basis of equivalence in the sense-of-life realm, which is usually first conveyed indirectly through somebody's personality and mannerisms, and later through their actions and professed convictions. Since your evaluations of people can be wrong, true love can only exist if the loved one's conscious convictions match the sense of life he or she appears to have.

  2. 4 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

    Existence is everything, reality, which is not an existent. [...] existence exists regardless of any existent, hence it cannot be reduced to a mere existent. [...] it doesn't refer to anything particular, even an existent as a concept. [...]

    If 'existence' is used as a collective noun to denote the sum of everything that exists, then it does refer to something: to the sum of all existents. 'Existence' can also be used to point out that something exists in actuality, as against existing only in someone's mind.

    But you seem to echo, in some way, this quote by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement:

    "Underneath the subtlest layer of all that exists in the relative field [of specific existents] is the abstract, absolute field of pure Being, which is unmanifested and transcendental. It is neither matter nor energy. It is pure Being, the state of pure existence. This state of pure existence underlies all that exists. Everything is the expression of this pure existence or absolute Being, which is the essential constituent of all relative life. The one eternal, unmanifested, absolute Being manifests itself in many forms of life and existences in creation."

  3. 5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

    The point in this, however, is not to 'reify' nonexistence but to show (as I have shown) that existence logically depends on nonexistence in order for existence to be TRUE. To ignore the logical proof of the factuality of existence is to, basically, conform to dogma.

    Existence does not logically depend on anything to be true. Before the academic philosopher tries to prove existence, he must first exist. Logic is not the blueprint or cosmic equation from which the universe springs from and conforms to; it's your method of grasping what the senses tell you about the world.

    5 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

    The point is to lead to identity (something), but not contradictorily. The following is a non-contradictory way to come to identity.

    Neither existence nor identity can be arrived at by inference of any kind. The validation of existence and identity is sense perception. You're trying to validate identity by means of a method (logic) that already makes use of the law of identity. Or perhaps you using Hegelian logic or some other type of logic?

  4. A guy named Bob wakes up in the morning. Throughout the day, he makes various choices, including making a to-do list, working on his music album, ordering Chinese food, unwinding with his girlfriend, reading a novel for relaxation. What precedes and motivates those choices? A desire for them, either as ends in themselves (the pleasure they give him) or as a means to another value, or anything in between. 

    Now, why does he desire them? If you answered, "because Man's life is the standard of moral value, and his own life is his moral purpose" you are ipso facto advocating intrinsicism. To paraphrase something I wrote in another thread, you're turning the metaphysicaly given into a god, the way Spinoza did, then giving moral significance to your obedience to the metaphysicaly given. "You exist, therefore: if you want to live, you're moral. If you don't, you're rotten."

    You can't say "I choose to live because it's moral". You're moral because you choose to live. 

    On the same note, it's wrong to say "I choose to live because of so-and-so metaphysical fact", but you can say "I want to live, and although there's no categorical imperative telling me to live - after all, morality is my servant, not the other way around - my choice is not a whim or arbitrary, but rooted in the fact that I am a living being, i.e. justified by my identity or nature, not by a moral code."

    This is why Peikoff stresses in his OPAR seminar that this choice is both pre-moral and justified.

  5. On 12.02.2017 at 10:05 AM, Grizwald said:

    Where does she state that he becomes immoral at the moment he lacks a "productive purpose"? It sounds like your projecting.

    In the Playboy interview. The question quoted below sparks a lenghty discussion about purpose:


    Playboy: In Atlas Shrugged, one of your leading characters is asked, “What’s the most depraved type of human being?” His reply is surprising: He doesn’t say a sadist or a murderer or a sex maniac or a dictator; he says, “The man without a purpose.” Yet most people seem to go through their lives without a clearly defined purpose. Do you regard them as depraved?

    I agree with the rest of your post.


    On 11.02.2017 at 2:39 PM, softwareNerd said:

    It is also relevant that the focus on purpose is not unique to Objectivism.

    Absolutely. This is one of the biggest selling points of religion. Many religions give people a much-needed purpose, as well as coherence to their activities by tying them to that central purpose.

    In an article from VoS, the following areas of human values are named: work, sex, art, human relationships and recreation. What's unique about Objectivism is the way it stresses that only productive work can serve as a long-range purpose. 

    A demanding career helps you keep your mind in top shape, it develops your character, it's extremely fulfilling and it acts as an important enabler of your other values. A major theme in Rand's novels is how love, art and recreation are not only stand-alone values, but also intricately connected to your purpose - art serving as emotional fuel, recreation as a celebration of your work, sex as an expression of the pride you take in the character - which you mostly formed through a demanding purpose.

    A being with limited time, energy and resources can't be purposeful unless he follows a specific method, and Ayn Rand stressed the need of hierarchy and integration. Hierarchy means arranging your values in the order of their importance, in order to help you apportion your time wisely (the #1 spot is always allocated to your productive purpose). Integration means that your values cannot clash. For example, if you really want to be a painter, but your girlfriend is pressing you to go into med school; that's disintegration. A productive purpose is not the only value, but every value in your hierarchy must cooperate like the organs in your body, forming the seamless whole which is your life. 

    Galt in his speech paints the following picture: your body is a machine, your mind is the driver. The destination is your productive purpose. Your other values are travellers you choose to share your journey with, and you can only share it with travelers that go in the same direction by their own power (integration).

    In closing, here's a great quote from ITOE that sheds more light on Rand's idea of purposefulness.


    A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes —he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly. Thus all his actions have to be guided by a process of teleological measurement. (The degree of uncertainty and contradictions in a man’s hierarchy of values is the degree to which he will be unable to perform such measurements and will fail in his attempts at value calculations or at purposeful action.)

    Teleological measurement has to be performed in and against an enormous context: it consists of establishing the relationship of a given choice to all the other possible choices and to one’s hierarchy of values.

    The simplest example of this process, which all men practice (with various degrees of precision and success), may be seen in the realm of material values—in the (implicit) principles that guide a man’s spending of money. On any level of income, a man’s money is a limited quantity; in spending it, he weighs the value of his purchase against the value of every other purchase open to him for the same amount of money, he weighs it against the hierarchy of all his other goals, desires and needs, then makes the purchase or not accordingly.

    The same kind of measurement guides man’s actions in the wider realm of moral or spiritual values. (By “spiritual” I mean “pertaining to consciousness.” I say “wider” because it is man’s hierarchy of values in this realm that determines his hierarchy of values in the material or economic realm.) But the currency or medium of exchange is different. In the spiritual realm, the currency—which exists in limited quantity and must be teleologically measured in the pursuit of any value—is time, i.e., one’s life.

    Since a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep, and the amount of possible action is limited by the duration of one’s lifespan, it is a part of one’s life that one invests in everything one values. The years, months, days or hours of thought, of interest, of action devoted to a value are the currency with which one pays for the enjoyment one receives from it.


  6. 3 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    The happiness that a man feels while alive is not rendered valueless or meaningless accounting to the cessation of death either, not even if his happiness was in his very last moment of life (as the monk who eats the strawberry). His happiness, in each moment it is experienced (including the last), stands eternally as its own justification, an end in itself.

    Your post was an enjoyable read, nicely argued. A small clarification on my part: I do believe that a man should enjoy himself in his last moments on earth. What I'm arguing for is that the Objectivist ethics is useless for that particular context.

    The desire for wellness does not start and end with ethics. It's the reason why people are interested in learning and applying ethics. A man whose days are numbered can benefit from the metaethical philosophy - which gives happiness a noble status, rather than demonizing it like other systems do - but he won't get much from the actual code of values and virtues. Some of it could be useful, but most of it is not suited for that context. 

    Well-being is a fact of reality, a state of consciousness, a biological process. In itself, it's neither good, nor bad. It is. It exists. What makes it good, rather than just a collection of chemicals to be studied under the microsocope, is our experience of it as good and desirable, which is also inseparable from reality, biology.

    It may well be true that there's nobody who doesn't want to live. I also think it's true. But it's important to show why the good is conditional and dependent on various factors, in contrast to the intrinsic theory of values.

    For as long as you want to live, life is good. Metaethical philosophy can merely point out the obvious. A code of values is a 'scientific' guide for implementing your desire, but it may or not be suited for more than one context.

    If by 'ethical' we mean any action that results in wellbeing, then dying people can be said to be ethical even if they do certain things that can be justified only in their context. But I know that you said that if a code of ethics is not always true, it needs to be changed to reflect reality more closely. The practical part of the Objectivist ethics is not at all universal, and most people don't even need the metaethical theory to know that life is good.

  7. 11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

    Choosing to live, as I understand it, means recognizing life with the right degree of focus, just enough for there to be a vague but noticeable alternative.

    To me, the choice to live is the choice to pursue pleasure and well-being, i.e. to act on your desire for happiness (which is the psychological concomitant of proper self-preservation). This in turn necessitates instructions on how to do it well, hence ethics becomes necessary. So the choice precedes ethics the same way that the choice to build a skyscraper (which you desire) precedes the need to design its blueprint. Acting on that blueprint is an analogy for ethical action. But you can, at any point, change your mind about the skyscraper, rendering the blueprint unusable.

    The point Rand wanted to make is that a desire, for a volitional being, does not deterministically entail that a man needs to act on that desire, i.e. he can choose to eat when he feels hunger pangs, or to starve himself and die. But preceding this choice is metaphysical fact: the nature of the organism, which can merely be accepted in the same way that you embrace any other metaphysicaly given fact (as opposed to man-made facts). This is why denying your desire to live would mean denying the realm of reality, not the realm of ethics.

    Only an intrinsicist or duty-based moral philosophy would say that because life exists, you must live (and excellently too), whether you want it or not. It means turning the metaphysicaly given into a god, the way Spinoza did, then giving moral significance to your obedience to the metaphysicaly given. "You exist, therefore: if you want to live, you're moral. If you don't, you're rotten."

    Even if somebody lives in a state of chronic low-focus, his bodily sensations, such as hunger, will still jolt him into at least a peripherial or implicit recognition of the alternative (pleasure/pain, life/death). Every choice to eat rests on an implicit choice to feel good and live, instead of to suffer and die.

    12 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    But don't you see? Claiming that what he "needs" is pain relief is itself an ethical claim. ("Needs" why? For what end? What's the source of this apparent value he should act to gain or keep?) If a man is to make choices -- meaningful choices for himself -- then he needs to do so against some standard, for some reason or end. But this is the stuff of ethics.

    The standard of ethics is 'the good life', in the context of a healthy existence being possible. Suicide is calculated by the standard of 'painless death'. If the standard was life, then life would be the result of the moral action.

    Cannabis is calculated by the standard of 'a painless existence'. The result would be life, but not the life proper to man. Such a patient wouldn't be conscious (any degree of being sober would mean suffering and tragedy) and he wouldn't be able to pursue his passion, or romantic love, or any values for that matter. He would live not as a man, but like a brain in a vat being fed pleasure and a simulated reality, a reality where life is possible.

    Wanting to live is not a sufficient precondition of ethics, you also must be able to live. Is the standard of ethics 'survival of man qua man', or 'survival of man qua survival at any cost'? Or 'painless death qua painless death'?

    All three of those standards are life-related, but that doesn't make all of them ethical. A dying patient would not need some third party, or code of ethics, to tell him that he should seek a painless death, or a painless last month of life. Suppose you tell him: "it's very ethical what you're doing, to kill yourself painlessly. And it's good that you're using reason to discover the best suicide method." That would be unimaginable.

    Contrast this to the virtue of pride, explained to a healthy individual. "Never put your well-being in danger (unbreached rationality) and never settle for anything less than the best. This will shape your moral character, which will result in a sense of self-respect, which will further result in more passion for values and even the possibility of approaching romantic love in a healthy way. Your moral character will turn you into a machine of efficiency and ability, and this will make you confident in yourself, instead of living in perpetual anxiety for the future. Never create unearned guilt by expecting omniscience from yourself, and never accept guilt from people who preach an irrational morality based on self-sacrifice."

    Ethics is for the long run. Even if it was immoral for a man to kill himself painfully, he will neither go to hell for it, nor be around after the suicide to say "Drats, now I feel guilty. I know it was my very last moment of life, but did I have to experience that pain?".

  8. 11 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    LOL, well... erm, this is awkward, but I'd thought you yourself raised the topic of babies in your first post in this thread.

    It doesn't matter if babies have some degree of volition or if they're truly deterministic robots. Even if we get conclusive proof that babies aren't entirely automatons, they still can't use ethics. It's not enough to have a desire to live, in whatever form a baby might have such a thing, you must also be capable of implementing and understanding a thing like ethics. I didn't expect my baby reference to blow into a detailed discussion.

    Healthy, happy teens and adults aren't more likely to choose against life than a baby is. Since virtually everybody wants the good life, ethics has a good target demographic.

    11 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    If something tragic happens that makes living unbearable to you in some actual context, in reality, you might yet need ethics to manage your exit as best as possible, for even then some exits will be preferable to others, in reason.

    You might certainly need reason, but not ethics. I'm glad that we agree on many points, but we may never reach consensus on this one. Using reason to figure something out does not automatically make it a moral action. What about the other supreme and ruling values, purpose and self-esteem? Justice, integrity, pride, all of those things are for a certain context, namely long range well-being via principled, repeated action. Wanting to figure out the best way to go is completely understandable, but it's a practical issue of a wholly different nature.

    The same thing would apply to a terminally ill man who decides to remain alive till the end of it. What he needs is not ethics, but some form of pain relief. Nowadays they provide Cannabis to such patients in order to help them cope with their fate. I suspect more people would choose that instead of painless suicide.

  9. 4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    If he is responding to the idea of a person who would commit suicide "as a primary and end-in-itself," then I would call such a creature into question just as much as a baby who makes choices.

    But let us also note the (lack of) applicability here to "a person who would commit suicide" because of a tragic cause, or in other words, on the basis of some "grounds" or reason.

    My quotation excludes a paragraph in which he says that under certain tragic circumstances, suicide is justified. I was only concerned with the status of the primary choice, so I excluded that side note.

    4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    ...the "desire to live" (is that equivalent to the "choice to live"?)...

    No. The choice is to follow the desire, instead of denying it. Adult humans have volition in this regard, animals and babies do not. This is why babies are entirely excluded from the field of ethics (not sure why we're bringing them up).

    4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    You're saying that the "desire to live" is not moral, because "morality only pertains to the realm of volitional, conscious and deliberate choice"; but every action is a product of choice (in that it "presupposes a choice") -- albeit not one that is "volitional, conscious and deliberate."

    The desire to live is metaphysicaly given, assuming a healthy organism. You can't judge an organism for being built in such a way as to cause the acting agent to desire life. This is the sense in which it is not moral. I did not say that every action presupposes an automatic, non-volitional choice

    The point is that desire is intricately linked to choice, but not in a deterministic or behaviouristic fashion (and this can be said only about adult humans). 

    4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    Does this mean that someone acting on whim (or "mindlessly") is, er, acting amorally -- because "morality only pertains to" conscious choice?

    There is no such thing as an 'unconscious choice', excluding sleepwalkers or people on LSD. The source of the whim may well be automatic - the emotional mechanism merely reacts to your stored conscious or subconscious premises - but people have the faculty of volition, i.e. of choosing whether to follow their whims or not. "Should I think about it, or should I just act on my impulse?" This is why we can hold criminals accountable for their actions.

    4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    Life? Or milk?

    Don't conflate 'choosing to live' with 'choosing to survive'. Ethics is geared towards a flourishing life, not (just) keeping the agent alive.

    Every time you pursue a value, it's implied that you want the end goal of that value (more about this in a second). No matter how intricately connected a desire might be to the resulting choice, they are not to be seen as the same thing.

    All choices presupose that you want the object for some end, i.e. enjoyment, well-being, pleasure, happiness, safety. Metaphysicaly, enjoyment is an indicator of proper self-preservation, but psychologicaly you don't really care about that. Your concern is the enjoyment, the pleasure. Pursuing well-being is pursuing life, and this is how it works for all higher animals. The major difference is that we don't have automatic knowledge of good or bad. If we don't choose our pleasures properly we end up obese, or addicted to heroin, or struggling with an STD. So it's both, life and milk.

    You don't need values if you don't want the end-goal of those values. The end goal is life, and it's psychological concomitant is pleasure.

    If you want to die for no reason (like the creature in the example of the philosophy professors), or if something tragic happens that makes living unbearable to you, what do you need ethics for? To hang it on the wall?

    What about people who choose live, but only so that they can continue whipping themselves, drinking laundry water and starving themselves on purpose? That would be an example of pure immorality.

  10. 5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    In this case, I didn't realize that's what you believed Peikoff was doing: tackling this "apparent paradox." I don't think he was.

    0:55: "Now, on the face of it that's paradoxical, because if it's primary it's the beginning, and yet if it's not groundless there must be grounds for it."

    5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    You think Peikoff was claiming here that "the choice to live" is amoral? Fair enough. But I don't hear that in his words (maybe accounting for some bias on my part?)

    It's from an advanced seminar on OPAR. He goes through the entire book and explains what he wrote in more detail. The members of the audience each have their own copy of the book with them, so they can follow Peikoff and ask specific questions. 

    At 0:21 he announces that he'll comment on a topic from the bottom of page 324. He then dicusses it for the rest of the video. In the final version of OPAR, which went for publication, the page is 247 (according to the booklet). I am reproducing the portion here:

    "When they hear about the Objectivist ethics, philosophy professors from both groups [intrinsicists and subjectivists] ask, as though by reflex, the same question. "If the choice to live precedes morality,", they say, "what is the status of someone who chooses not to live? Isn't the choice of suicide as legitimate as any other, so long as one acts on it? And if so, doesn't it mean that for Rand, too, as for Hume and Nietzsche, ethics, being the consequence of an arbitrary decision, is itself arbitrary?


    The professors I just quoted [...] seek to prove that values are arbitrary by citing a person who would commit suicide, not because of any tragic cause, but as a primary and end-in-itself. The answer to this one is: no.

    A primary choice [primary = preceding morality] does not mean and "arbitrary,", "whimsical,", or "groundless" choice. There are grounds for a (certain) primary choice, and those grounds are reality - all of it. The choice to live, as we have seen, is the choice to accept the realm of reality. The choice is not arbitrary, it is the precondition of criticizing the arbitrary; it is the base of reason.

    A man who would throw away his life without a cause, who would reject the universe on principle and embrace a zero for its own sake [...] would be disqualified as an object of intellectual debate. One cannot argue with or about a walking corpse, who has just consigned himself to the void. The void of the nonconscious, the nonethical, the non-anything. 

    Ethics is conditional, i.e., values are not intrinsic."

    (square brackets and bolded text mine)

    5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    So let's clarify the matter between us, then: a "choice" that people do not make in time or space is not a choice; by claiming that people "make a choice" but one not in time or space, you are claiming A to be not-A.

    A choice implies that you desire the end goal, either for its own sake, or as a means to another goal. The moment you act on a desire, you choose to act on that desire. Simple as that. Even people who act mindlessly, on random impulse, choose to follow that impulse instead of an alternative, e.g. thinking about the situation. If you restrict 'choice' to the conceptual level and forget that every action is a choice, whether it was triggered by whim or by logic, then I cannot convince you that every single action you do presupposes a choice. 

    You can't conflate commitment with choice. Every choice made toward self-preservation implies a choice to live. Any protest against being harmed is an expression of that choice. At the root of your interest in learning and applying ethics, there is the implicit choice to follow your own desire for life. If that's not a choice, I don't know what a choice is.

    Morality is conditional. It's source is an if.

    5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

    What I mean is that it is usually useful to comment on the third-person material that one provides to a thread, rather than just dumping a quote or a YouTube clip or such and letting people try to figure for themselves what you mean by it.

    I believed that no further explanation was required (the video text, as well as the video title are self-explanatory), but fair, I'll take heed of this advice next time and provide a summary of the contents. Leaving this point aside, I disagree that Peikoff is in any way unclear in the video.

  11. 7 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

    Since this was left without any comment (not my favorite thing in the world), I don't know how it's meant specifically to relate to the ongoing conversation.

    Not sure what you mean. It's related simply by tackling the topic of this thread. I'm sharing it in case somebody finds it of interest.

    Peikoff tackles the apparent paradox of a choice being justified, but not moraly justified. If a choice is both primary (preceding morality) and justified, on what grounds do you justify it?

    His answer is that the ground is reality itself, i.e. a fact of reality, the existence of life.

    How will that convince anybody to live? It won't. It merely points out that there is no other imaginable justification for a living being to exist, other than the fact that it exists, that it has a certain identity. All living beings are pre-programmed to want to live, and (excluding Homo Sapiens) they have the automatic knowledge to make it happen.

    When, in time and space, do people make the choice to live? They don't. Everybody wants to live, unless something turns out terribly wrong. If morality only pertains to the realm of volitional, conscious and deliberate choice, then the desire to live is not moral, but inherent in the nature of life.

  12. 1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

    At risk of further confusing a discussion already characterized by complexity, regard the famous Buddhist parable, "The Monk, the Tiger and the Strawberry"

    I love this parable, it's one of my favorite stories to tell.

    I would not (Galt forbid) compare somebody sentenced to death to somebody of old age, or to somebody who does not expect his own death. Unless the first man has incredible strenght, or is a practicing Buddhist, such a blow can render him immune to any kind of happiness whatsoever, no matter what methods or 'ethics' he tries. Ethics depends on certain conditions, such as the possibility of happiness and a body/mind that does not rapidly crumble with each passing day.

    1 hour ago, KorbenDallas said:

    Realizing there are other connecting threads to this one, I'm not sure if this has been posted:

    This one was also posted (I think by Nerian). I think it's an exhaustive look at the issue discussed in this thread.


  13. 1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

    When we claim that certain choices can be termed "better" or "worse" by appealing to some standard, it is an ethical claim. We don't have the power to define morality out of existence.

    OK. I personally agree with Peikoff that ethics is not for the dying.

    According to Rand, man requires ethics because he needs to survive and flourish, but doesn't have an innate, automatic knowledge of how to do it. What does that imply? That those who need ethics have a life ahead of them, and that they're free individuals.

    A dying man decides whether to kill himself or not, in the context of not having a life in front of him. His purpose and context are completely removed from what ethics is.

  14. 26 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

    You may have to explain what you mean further if you'd like me to understand the distinction you're attempting to draw, but at present those look like the very same concepts from where I sit.

    It's an important distinction, because exceptions to a moral code do exist. I'm trying to draw a distinction between the moral code, per se, and justifiable deviations from it. This is not just about toning down the virtues of integrity and intellectual honesty if you live under a communist dictatorship, it's also about emergency situations where you have to throw morality out the window entirely.

    In regard to suicide: O-ist ethics can't claim that it's moral for a terminally ill man to kill himself and immoral for him to remain alive till the very end. Apart from the fact that such a man wouldn't care if his suicide is moraly justified or not, he would be looking for an entirely different type of guidance, not for a set of instructions on how to achieve eudaimonia. According to Peikoff, such a man is not subject to ethics anymore (link to a Peikoff podcast where he covers this)

    47 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

    All right. If we're talking about a "choice" which (most) people "have no choice" about, then it isn't a choice.

    Yes (reminder: Rand did not believe in a self-preservation drive). This theory would mean that, since such a desire is amoral, an amoral fact of nature gives rise to the phenomenon of morality. Wanting to live can't be called a subjective desire, or a moral desire. It's merely the act of embracing reality, just like any other living being. The guy who sent Biddle the question was looking for a list of reasons to live, outside any context whatsoever. This question implies that people have a choice in the first place.

    Whether Biddle believes that a choice is possible or not, his answer was accurate. You can't give people reasons to live sans context. Morality itself is given birth by that choice, or fact of nature, or whatever you believe it is.

  15. 1 hour ago, KyaryPamyu said:

    I don't think that 'moraly justified' is the same as 'moral'.

    I can no longer edit my previous post, but I want to clarify that a justified tweak to an otherwise fixed morality is still moral. I merely pointed out that since those tweaks are rare exceptions, they need to be distinguished from the parent moral code that is being tweaked.

  16. I believe that the choice is made for you, via an innate self-preservation drive. The same story applies to (mostly) every other living being on earth. But human beings have a distinct capacity to defy or skew that innate desire to live. So if the question is the moral value of suicide, it depends on the context.

    I don't think that 'moraly justified' is the same as 'moral'. If a Christian man kills a criminal that intends to bomb a school, then his action is generally seen as 'moraly justified' by the Christian community, but not necessarily moral, since he broke one of the Ten Commandments. If an Objectivist kills himself on understandable grounds, maybe he was moraly justified to do so, but not moral insofar as morality's purpose is to teach you how to live and flourish as long as life is both possible to you, and desired by you.

    An example of an immoral type of suicide would be the Heaven's Gate incident. Those people wanted to live, but they believed that in order to achieve their goal they must escape the 'recycling' of the Earth and enter the Kingdom of God. They let themselves be fooled by an extraordinarily ridiculous claim. 

    If morality is a guide to fulfilling your life in the context of already wanting to live, what about the man who does not want to live? Say that a man is born with a rare condition that makes him impulsively suicidal. I don't know if such medical condition exists, but I've read about some very weird cases, and would not hasten to say that it's impossible. The doctors try in vain to cure him, but there is no hope is in sight. Would the man be immoral if he kills himself? Christian ethics would say: immoral, or not subject to moral judgement due to the nature of his motivation. But what would O-ist ethics say?

    I would not conflate 'choice' with 'commitment'. A commitment is something you do at a specific moment in time, and then you try to stick to the commitment as honorably as you can. But a choice can be a one-off decision, like choosing a parking space at a comic book convention, or choosing what to eat at said convention. 

    Deciding to go to a comic convention is a one-off choice, and you can say that every moment a man stays at the convention is a choice in favor of being there, as opposed to the choice of leaving that convention and doing something else. At some point in time, such a man can say 'Well, that's enough cosplay for today', and then choose to go home.

    Not so if you commit to going to every possible comic convention in your country or state, and to attendending all of them for a minimum of six hours. That's a decision you try to go through regardless of momentary emotions or inner protests to the contrary. 

    I believe that most people have no choice in this matter - as I wrote previously, saying 'I choose to live' is, in most cases, a rationalization of a desire you have no control over. But for the purpose of defining what I see as a 'choice to live', I would say it falls into the first category: an ongoing type of choice that need not necessarily be conscious or explicit.

    If life is an ongoing choice, people don't endure hell because they are 'selflessly' commited to life, they do it because they see a light at the end of the tunnel and want to be alive to enjoy that bright future. But a man who 'commits' to living does so on an alleged moral ground (moral duty), and even if he faces a terminal illness, he either chooses to stick to his commitment no matter what, or he decides to 'break off' his commitment - he does not choose to die, mind you, he breaks off his commitment, the same way he would break off a marriage. 

    If you see the choice to live the way I see it, then yes, it's a choice and it's pre-moral. I can justify wanting to live on non-moral grounds, such as 'a self-preservation instinct' or 'life's awesome', but not on moral grounds, i.e. "I have a moral obligation to live, and it's my duty to stay alive even if I don't want to".

  17. Rand did say that living is a choice throughout Galt's speech and in her essay "Causality Versus Duty" - a choice distinct from another type of choice, namely your choice of the goal that your moral action is meant to serve. 

    To put it in context, Rand denied the existence of a self-preservation instinct in humans, instead calling it a 'desire to live', which she believed to not be automatic, and she mentiones that some people do not even have this desire, simply living because everybody else seems to do it. 

    Rand was right that you don't need morality if you're dead. If you're alive but choose to die, then by definition you're a soon-to-be dead person. In that situation, you wouldn't need any morality anymore, you would need a suicide method. Wanting to be alive is the precondition of morality.

    So, is living a choice? You could say that any person that is alive right now expresses his choice to live by the very fact of being alive and intending to take future action toward self-preservation. Every moment in which a man is alive is a testimony to his choice. The choice is expressed the moment a baby cries in order to signal to his mother that he's hungry or in distress.

    But, can you make that choice consciously and volitionaly, and does the choice take place in a certain place and time? Not likely, unless you extend 'volitional choice' to mean: the volitional choice to obey or defy your natural self-preservation drive. In this sense, any conscious choice to live is simply a rationalization of a desire that people can't actually control (If they're sane).

    (But unlike plants and other animals, humans have a distinct 'capability' to volitionaly kill themselves to reach higher, immortal levels of existence, and cults such as Heaven's Gate are the scary testimony to this).

  18. 25 minutes ago, softwareNerd said:

     Also (an aside.... not really on point, but anyway): "Epicurean" should not be used as a synonym for "Hedonistic". [I used to conflate the two, so my antenna tingled :), but you may not have meant it that way.]

    Yeah, Hedonistic was the right word.

    13 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

    Do you mean that there's something I've said following my main post that you disagree with?

    No, just that it was the only post that I read before I replied. I just finished reading the whole thread and I have no complaints. I also disagree with Kelley on this matter, and wholeheartedly subscribe to your thoughts about cheesecake.

  19. 1 minute ago, StrictlyLogical said:

    Um... was not this addressed in my post?  Restricting one to "Basic survival needs" as you put it, actually handicaps a person's ability to survive and is thus increases the risks to a person's survival.

    I skipped your long post when I first posted here. I have read it now and it looks like we're on the same page, especially with:



    I am now taking the position that there is nothing wrong in holding survival as the objective fundamental standard.  One error often made is the oversimplification of what provides for survival (not an oversimplification of survival itself which is stark and binary), and an ignorance of how survival depends upon a current state of flourishing or languishing of an individual, and finally that Man's flourishing both physically and mentally, specifically spiritually (a mental aspect) is crucial to immediate and long term survival.

    One must remember, taking "life" or "survival" as the ultimate Good, or to indulge in a metaphor the "source of all good", that does not negate the fact that other aspects of reality, actions and a multitude of types of things, necessarily and consequently are themselves good (or not) by virtue of their serving (or not) the ultimate good, often in a very complicated unobvious way.


    This being said, I personaly prefer thinking in terms of 'happiness' as the standard, since I already know that I'm not using it in the Epicurean sense. More explicitly, I hold happiness as the goal, while aknowledging that the only way to accomplish that goal is to choose values according to the standard of Life (physical and mental well-being).

    This helps avoid two misunderstandings. The first one is a simplistic view of survival, as you pointed out. The second one is forgetting that survival is only desirable if happiness is possible, unlike the example of being kept alive in a hospital bed by medical devices, or being condemned to toil day and night for scarce amounts of food.

  20. 22 hours ago, New Buddha said:

    Edit:  You write wonderfully.  Is English your first language?  If not, what language do you read German Philosophy in?

    Thank you, New Buddha. English is my secondary language, but it's the one I use for thinking - a side effect of reading mostly English language material.

    Since the works of the German Idealists are very long (and incomprehensible, even for native German speakers), I just browse around for summaries. Here is an outstanding source for learning about philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html 

  21. 24 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

    Interestingly, notice that 1. implies pursuit of life necessarily leads to happiness.

    So doing 2. always leads to life and happiness.

    Notice that doing 4. does not always lead to life and happiness...


    What can be said about the non overlap of 2 and 4... and the consequence of their being inverses of each other?

    Upon closer reading, I'd also throw in nr. 2 into the mix, but only if we remove the "happiness as merely instrumental to life" part.

    Not everything that leads to pleasure (point 4) will necessarily lead to happiness, e.g. drug abuse. But on the other side of the coin, pursuing life does not always necessarily lead to the attainment of happines (points 1 and 2), e.g. toiling day and night for bare sustenance, or being kept alive exclusively by medical devices. Or here's a horror-story scenario:

    Imagine there is a peculiar device attached to your neck that monitors all of your activities. You are allowed to pursue your basic survival needs: food, water, shelter, clothes, walking. But pursuing any social relationships, hobbies, entertainment, love or work is denied to you. If you attempted to trangress this restriction, the device would instantly kill you. The device cannot be removed by any means.

    This is why I think that points 1, 2 and 4 must somehow all be present.

  22. 18 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:


    1. AND 2. 

    For me it's a mixture of 1 and 4.

    Ayn Rand absolutely hated nr. 3. In her last public appearance she was asked to elaborate on life as the standard and happiness as the standard. If looks could kill...

    Edit: here's the link.

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