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Eric D

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  1. I thought I did consider your precious answers. For instance, you said: You also said: As I argued above, it's a conceptual truth that a choice isn't something that happens to us; rather, it's the notion of something we do. And as you said, the choice to live is not rational (it's super- or pre-rational). But for a choice to be a choice, it must be grounded in something, if only a methodology of choosing, or it's not a choice. Now you seem opposed to the notion that Eiuol posited, and that I defended, above, viz. that the initial choice must therefore be based on whim. Y
  2. I don't think so. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have considered whether the life of pleasure and power could be the good life. It has undeniable attractions, after all, and human history is in no small part a tale of those who have sought power and pleasure. The ancient philosophers answered that it could not be the good life, but they gave reasons for those answers. No one, as far as I can tell, has taken the life of pains of bleeding from slit wrists to be a contender for the good life, so there's a relevant disanalogy at work here. You seemed to concede
  3. Suppose I choose to live because I find that I desire to dominate and oppress others. Ex hypothesi, this cannot be a bad reason to choose to live, since this choice is essentially pre-rational. However, why isn't my reason then in the service of the whim on which that choice was based? That is, the choice to live isn't itself robust enough to ground what Rand goes on to do with it, and if her conception of practical reason makes it fundamentally dependent on that initial choice for its standards and aims, and if that initial choice is admittedly whim-based, then why wouldn't practical reason a
  4. Thanks Eioul, that's a very helpful answer indeed!
  5. Strictly Logical, maybe putting the question this way would help: Can I go wrong in choosing to live/not to live? That is, can I go wrong either (a) with respect to the choice itself (i.e. make the wrong choice), or (b) with respect to any reasons I might adduce for a particular choice (or is the notion that we adduce reasons to support the choice to live or not itself wrong, in the sense that this is fundamentally a non-rational choice)? And if I can go wrong with respect to either (a) or (b), is that a moral mistake, or a more broadly rational mistake? Finally, if I cannot go wrong in either
  6. What are you talking about? You can provide the context in the premises. Indeed, many arguments for a particular conclusion contain sub-arguments for each premise. This literally has nothing whatsoever to do with rationalism. Tell me, what is rationalism? I ask because you're not using the term as any philosopher I've read has used it.
  7. I'd agree in the sense that there's also 'nothing in the fabric of the universe willing or obligating' me to e.g. abide by modus tollens. That is, I tend to think that the normativity of (legitimate) moral precepts is no more spooky or bizarre than the normativity of (legitimate) logical precepts. When I violate a logical precept, I go wrong in thinking in an objective way, and when I violate a moral precept, I go wrong in acting in an objective way. Would you then say that the choice to live (or the choice not to live) is not rational (perhaps not in the sense of being irration
  8. I'm not likely to have much time to participate in this discussion for some weeks going forward, so I'd like to thank all of you for the enjoyable conversation. I hope to get clearer about how Rand thought about ethics from you in future discussions, or as we continue this discussion (since I will come back to check the thread when I have the time, and hope to respond to any additional comments that I find helpful).
  9. But I thought we were discussing the initial choice of whether to remain alive, not some proposed subsequent choice about how to remain alive. Indeed, the passage you just quoted seems to support the notion that there's a hypothetical imperative lurking somewhere here, for *if* you choose to remain alive, then you *must* do certain things, for those requirements are 'determined by [the organism's] nature'.
  10. Okay, but then how is that not a hypothetical imperative?
  11. If we choose not to live, have we violated any rational or moral precepts? Or is it the case that those rational and moral precepts depend for their normativity on our having decided to live in the first place?
  12. Dream_Weaver, if Rand thinks that all of morality depends on some fundamental choice, such as the choice to live - and if she thinks that the choice to live implies certain choices in action - then it's difficult to see how her ethics isn't based on a hypothetical imperative (though one formulated in terms of choosing, not willing). But we need not define hypothetical imperatives by contrasting them with categorical imperatives. Rather, we merely need define them in terms of their essential conditionality, i.e. an imperative is hypothetical when the necessity of willing/choosing to do such and
  13. Would you say that Rand's ethics in a sense starts with a hypothetical imperative, the antecedent of which is, 'If you will to live, then you must will to do such and such'? If that's right - or at least on the right track - then how would you fill out the consequent of that hypothetical imperative? Incidentally, I understand Kant's argument against the notion that morality can be reduced to hypothetical imperatives to go something like this: our concept of morality just is the concept of practical principles that bind all (well-functioning) rational beings, regardless of their particular
  14. Eiuol, I know that some philosophers - indeed, some exceptionally sharp and talented philosophers - would say that reasons are not shareable, but I have a difficult time seeing why anyone ought to believe that this is the case. So, suppose I believe that the fact that I find studying philosophy to be enjoyable counts as a reason for me to study philosophy. If someone else also enjoys studying philosophy, why wouldn't I be committed to the notion that that fact is minimally a pro tanto reason for her to study it as well? Sure, her situation may be such that it's not a sufficient reason to study
  15. Yes. Each person has his own mind, but now ask the all important further question: what does a practical being (here 'practical' concerns reflection on how to act) do with its mind qua practical being? It adduces reasons for acting! And if reasons are inherently shareable, then you implicitly acknowledge reasons to which others can appeal when you adduce reasons for your own actions (which you do whenever you act). And if you recognize their legitimacy in your own case, then it's only on pain of irrationality that you can refuse to acknowledge their legitimacy when others (in relevantly simila
  16. I can't get the lines out of the last portion of that last post, whatever I try, and I'm not going to rewrite the post again! My apologies.
  17. Could you clearly lay out the premises and show how they lead to that consequence? Because none of the many Kant scholars I've read agrees with you. That doesn't make you wrong, of course, but it surely does put the onus on you to make the reasoning at the back of this claim - for so far, it is merely a claim - explicit. If I desire to help you - say, I enjoy helping others - and I help you only because I enjoy it, then I've acted from inclination - that is, from desire and emotion and etc. - and not from duty. For, as I said earlier, had I not desired to help you, I wouldn't ha
  18. It's not arbitrary at all. Indeed, it seems to be part of the concept of a reason that reasons are shareable. So imagine that two qualitatively identical agents, A1 and A2, are in qualitatively identical contexts, C1 and C2. Further suppose that R is a reason for A1 to do some act A in C1. Now to say that reasons are not shareable is to say that, given all that, R may nonetheless not be a reason for A2 to do A in C2. But why think that?
  19. That's not 'the level of abstraction' at all. This is another very common misunderstanding of Kant's ethics. Recall that it's maxims that we plug into the CI, and so the consequences of the CI are always relative to a maxim. Applications of the CI never result in, 'it's never permissible to do such and such in any context', since every application of the CI will include a specific context. Now some means - such as lying - do seem to lead to maxim failure via a contradiction in conception regardless of the additional content (i.e. the ends and the context) the maxim contains, and so perhaps lyi
  20. I'm not persuaded that any account of normative ethics can accomplish this (which is to be expected, given that that's not (primarily) why we work on developing such accounts). That said, the best a Kantian could do, I think, is emphasize that whenever we act, we act for a reason - this is part of the concept of an action. Now the reason for which we act is either a genuine reason, or it is not, and if it's not a genuine reason, then we've failed to live in accord with the sort of being we are in some deep sense (here one could get into autonomy, but I'll shelve that for the sake of brevity).
  21. The term 'efficacy' is understood in accord with its acceptation. So, if your proposed means to achieve your end (as expressed in your maxim) is a lie, then lying must be efficacious, i.e. it must genuinely be a means to your end. If universalizing your maxim renders your means - here, the lie - inefficacious (in the conceptual space of the world of the universalized maxim), then your maxim contains a contradiction in conception, and acting on that maxim is impermissible. (Our means are expressed in the form of hypothetical imperatives, viz. if you will such and such, then you must will so and
  22. Simplifying a bit, the right reason is a genuine reason, i.e. a reason that you could will any agent, in a similar situation, to act upon. If your maxim expresses a reason that you must will others to reject if your maxim's means are to retain their efficacy, then the reason you propose in your maxim isn't a genuine reason (since, as I said above, reasons (on this view) are by their nature shareable, i.e. a reason for me to do such-and-such in a given context is a reason for you, and for any other agent, to do such-and-such in that context). Keep in mind that the CI primarily (a) rules ou
  23. "Always, you'll know, stressing the 'other' (as one's standard of moral value, I add)." That's not the 'standard of value' for Kant. Indeed, Kant only recognizes an imperfect duty to help others. (Perfect duties, which for Kant follow from contradictions in conception (of maxims), must be satisfied in all circumstances, though these are mainly negative duties; imperfect duties, which for Kant follow from contradictions in the will (expressed in maxims), however may be followed or not as the agent judges best in a particular set of circumstances.) The standard of value, as I understand Kan
  24. That's a very common misinterpretation of Kant - indeed, I mistakenly held it when I first began learning about his ethics. Kant does not believe that if you enjoy doing your duty, then your act lacks moral worth. Rather, he's interested in distinguishing (a) acts done from the motive of duty from (b) acts done from the motive of inclination but that accord with duty. So, imagine that in a particular situation, duty requires one to do act A. (An act, for Kant, is a composite of bits of behavior done for reasons expressed in maxims, so although for the sake of clarity I'm just talking abou
  25. We could, as Wood does, distinguish Kant's ethics - that is, the ethical system developed by Kant in his ethical writings - from Kantian ethics - that is, ethical systems based on the fundamental principles of Kant's ethics, but that are not identical to Kant's ethics. I don't think that there's any reason to conclude that a devotee of Kantian ethics is committed to the existence of immortal souls. Kant himself was led to believe in immortality primarily because he was convinced that virtue had to be rewarded with happiness, and since in this life it's often not so rewarded, we must (or so he
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