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The Laws of Biology

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  1. I apologize. I do see that I have let my emotions run amuck. I regret that. I appreciate the reminder about basic courtesy. I did need it. If I post again, I will try to do better. Best wishes to all.
  2. I hate it when people ask others in discussion forums to explain things that might take many hours and many pages to explain. So, I'll do my own research on this question. I suspect that Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff have addressed this issue. The fact that I am unaware of how they addressed it is the fault of me alone. So, I will investigate. I have seen Ayn Rand write that the duty of honesty is not a social duty done for the benefit of others, but is rather a duty to oneself, a striving to maintain one's personal integrity. But I wonder if that really provides a sufficient justification for Objectivism's doctrine of Universal Rights. But, as I've said, I will educate myself on this matter, and draw my own conclusions, to the best of my ability. I fully admit that I am insufficiently educated in the field of philosophy. I often don't know the right terms for things.
  3. I have always assumed that Ethical Egoist involves the individual making calculations about what to do or not do, in each particular personal circumstance, based on Rational Self Interest. But Objectivism, with its insistence on a strict and absolute ethical duty to always respect the rights of every other person living on the earth, forbids the individual from making a Rational Self Interest calculation in particular situations about whether to steal, to deceive, or initiate violence. Thus, Objectivism seems to be a form of Ethical Egoism with an element of Altruism built into it. Well, I suppose that is not how Objectivists would view this. Okay. So, how then do Objectivists justify removing from individuals the right and freedom to choose, i.e., to make personal, individual Rational Self Interest calculations about whether to steal, to deceive, or initiate violence in a given set of circumstances? (P.S. I am NOT advocating in favor of anyone stealing, deceiving, or initiating violence! But my opposition to those things is not based on Ethical Egoism, but on my own personal, sentimental feelings of goodwill and good wishes to the whole of humanity, past, present, and future. I.e., I indulge in spirituality, religion, mythology, legends of heroes and saints, utopianism, and so on.)
  4. Under the philosophy of ethical egoism, the aim is to always act in ways that maximize one's personal survival, pleasure, and satisfaction. Under the philosophy of ethical egoism, you do not factor in the good of the whole society of strangers. And so, it seems logical to me that the best way to maximize one's personal survival, pleasure, and satisfaction is to always pretend to respect the rights of others, but to definitely not respect the rights of others whenever you estimate that respecting the rights of others would hobble your ability to survive or prosper or be happy. Why so? Because under the philosophy of ethical egoism. the one and only TEST of the goodness or rightness of an act is whether it promotes your survival, well-being, and satisfaction. And so, I suppose I am coming to the conclusion that the philosophy found in the book The Prince by Machiavelli is the pure ethical egoism. That book recommends that a man be deceptive, violent, and steal whenever he estimates that doing so will promote his own survival, well-being, and satisfaction. Any philosophy, such as Objectivism, that demands that people always respect the rights of other all other people (i.e., don't steal from them; don't intiate violence against them; don't deceive them when they have a right to know the truth), is requiring people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the well-being of other people, and is promoting a way of life that lessens a mans ability to survive and prosper. I'm not saying that people must or should be Machiavellians. I'm just saying that Machiavellianism seems to be the only pure, unadulterated ethical egoism. I'm saying that we need to be intellectually honest and accurate about what various philosophical systems are teaching. I, for one, want to see reality as clearly as possible. In politics, one expects all sorts of deception, "spinning," and so on. But philosophers must lay it all out as honesty and clearly as possible, no matter who this pleases or displeases, and no matter what the consequences for the political system. Socrates modeled this approach, I think. To me, a philosopher should be a reality revealer, not a mythmaker.
  5. My preliminary thought is that Ayn Rand's ethical system does not take into consideration the phenomenon of Scarcity, as described in sciences of Biology and Economics. The phenomenon of the Scarcity of resources a profoundly important aspect of the sciences of Biology and Economics. Scarcity gives rise to what economist call competition and what Darwin called "the struggle for existence." As far as I know, Ayn Rand did not acknowledge that an ethical man would ever think competitive thoughts, feel competitive feelings, or have competitive intentions, in his work and in his dealings with other men. Here is Ayn Rand explaining her view of competitiveness: "Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." (SOURCE: The Moratorium on Brains,” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 2, 4, as found on http://aynrandlexicon.com/ ) If one assumes that Scarcity is a fiction or a lie or a false doctrine of a false philosophy, then one can imagine that men are never necessarily and unavoidably (just as a result of being a living, biological being) in life-or-death conflict with one another. And so, one can then imagine that respecting the rights of other men would never undermine one's own ability to survive and prosper. One can imagine that there is always and naturally enough "stuff" (land, food, water, medicine, potential reproductive mates, etc.) for everyone, so there never need be an life-or-death conflict between men (unless someone initiates force). I think Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy, and also some forms of Libertarianism, do hold that perpetual and inherent Scarcity is a fiction or a lie or a false doctrine of a false philosophy. I think they think that Scarcity is a lie invented by Collectivists to justify the intervention of the Government to fairly distribute the Scarce resources, so that the right of all to live may be protected and actualized. But is Scarcity a fiction, or is it an undeniable, scientifically verified, and universal phenomenon of reality? As far as I know, Scarcity is a perpetual, profound, undeniable, scientifically verified, and universal phenomenon of reality. If that is so, I think it logically follows that always respecting the rights of others, no matter the circumstances or the stakes, will reduce one's ability to survive and prosper. And so, Objectivism's ethical rule of always respecting the rights of all others is a rule that requires self-sacrifice for the sake of other people, just as in Socialism, Altruism, Christianity, etc. I think this is all logical.
  6. Why should anyone feel compelled to believe that every man has the same and equal right to live, right to be free, right to pursue his own happiness, and that all men are seriously and absolutely ethically BOUND to respect these rights of other all other men in all circumstances, even if respecting these rights sometimes undermines an individuals ability to survive and prosper? I mean, religious prophets have declared things on the authority of a supposed immortal deity who lives on a mountain or in the heavens. The U.S. Declaration of Independence pronounced some of these rights, but so what; it is just a document written by some particular men in a particular circumstance. Why should anyone who believes in ethical egoism and individualism ever sacrifice or endanger his life, his liberty, his wealth, his well-being for the sake of the abstract rights supposedly held by all other men? Once a person accepts, as a matter of principle, that it is sometimes righteous, legitimate, and necessary to sacrifice or endanger his life, his liberty, his wealth, and his well-being for the sake of the abstract rights supposedly held by all other men, how then can such a person criticize Socialism for likewise promoting the ethical principle that it is sometimes righteous, legitimate, and necessary to sacrifice or endanger his life, his liberty, his wealth, or his well-being for the sake of the abstract rights supposedly held by all other men. Objectivism seems to have a Socialist or Christian or Altruistic premise at its core. The scope of the Socialism within Objectivism is much reduced as compared to Marxist-Leninist Communism. But, in this obeisance to the doctrine of universal rights, the basic principle of "love of neighbor" (Altruism, Socialism) seems to be there in Objectivism, just as it is in Socialism, Christianity, Judaism, Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, Buddhism, etc. At least, so it seems to me at this time. I can't see any other logical way to interpret this matter.
  7. Charles Darwin wrote this: “All that we can do is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio; that each, at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation, or at intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle we may console ourselves with the full belief that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” (Origin of Species) Charles Darwin wrote this: "The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem: all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage. On the other hand, as Mr. Galton has remarked, if the prudent avoid marriage, whilst the reckless marry, the inferior members tend to supplant the better members of society. Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring. (The Descent of Man) Charles Darwin wrote this: "[Y]ou have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. … Lastly, I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world. (Letter to William Graham, July 3, 1881)
  8. It seems to me that true ethical egoism would respect the rights of others when it is advantageous to do so and would not respect the rights of others when it is advantageous to ignore other peoples' rights. If a person is dedicated to respecting the rights of others no matter what the circumstances or stakes in play, then such a person will, sooner or later, end up sacrificing himself and his survival and his well-being on the altar of the abstract rights of others. This sacrifice seems to be the essence of altruism and socialism. Thus, it seems that Ayn Rand's Objectivism concedes the core point of socialism, altruism, and Christianity, which is that there are circumstances in which it is legitimate, necessary, and righteous to sacrifice one's own life, survival, well-being, and happiness for the sake of other people. I think the true ethical egoist would follow the philosophy of Machiavelli, and thus make a pretence of always respecting the rights of others, but would not actually always respect the rights of others. Suppose you are a very wealth businessman who has been sued by an opponent. You are required by law to testify under oath in your case. You realize that if you answer questions honestly on the witness stand that you opponent will end up taking your entire fortune worth ten billion dollars, and you and your spouse and children will all end up with no money and no careers. You and your loved ones will lose everything. However, you know that if you lie on the witness stand that you will get alway with the lies, since there are no other witnesses or documentary evidence to contradict you. Now, should you tell the truth and lose everything? The other people in this trial (and the whole community) have a legal and moral RIGHT to receive honest testimony from you on the witness stand, since you are testifying under oath. But should you tell the truth and lose everything that you and your love ones possess? I think the true ethical egoist would lie on the witness stand and not sacrifice his well being and the well being of his loved ones on the altar of the abstract rights supposedly belonging to other people. Or what if a man is on trial for his life, and if he lies he can avoid the death penalty, but if he tells the truth on the witness stand, or if he declines to testify, he will get the gas chamber? Should he sacrifice his very life for the abstract principle of telling the truth when under oath? Here is Ayn Rand explaining her theory of universal rights: "Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore, the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another. For instance: a man has the right to live, but he has no right to take the life of another. He has the right to be free, but no right to enslave another. He has the right to choose his own happiness, but no right to decide that his happiness lies in the misery (or murder or robbery or enslavement) of another. The very right upon which he acts defines the same right of another man, and serves as a guide to tell him what he may or may not do." (SOURCE: “Textbook of Americanism,” The Ayn Rand Column, 84, as provided on ) I think we can see from the above Ayn Rand quote that in Objectivism it is deemed right and proper that the supposed rights of others set limits on one's own ability to survive and prosper. See especially the line above from Ayn Rand that says "The very right upon which he acts defines the same right of another man, and serves as a guide to tell him what he may or may not do." I am focusing on this part: "right of another man...to tell him what he may or MAY NOT DO." Well, isn't that Socialism, or Altuism, even if it is a form of Socialism or Altruism that is reduced in its scope? But the basic principle is there, of sacrificing for others for the sake of some abstract ethical ideal, isn't it? It's the heroic ideal of setting limits on my own survival for the sake of the well being others. That sure seems like Socialism or Christianity.
  9. This whole response is very well argued and very well written. I will have to study it and contemplate it further so that I may really grasp the flaws in my reasoning, in my data, or in my soul or character. My initial thought is that Ayn Rand and Aristotle disgreed with Darwin and Freud on the matter of human nature. Whereas Ayn Rand and Aristotle viewed human nature as essentially rational, just, ethical, and peaceable, Darwin and Freud viewed human nature as essentially and irredeemably irrational, injust, unethical, and aggressive. The view of Ayn Rand and Aristotle can be seen in the 1949 movie "The Fountainhead" (based on Ayn Rand's book). The view of Darwin and Freud can be seen in the 1968 movie "Planet of the Apes" (written by secular humanist Rod Serling and the one-time Communist Party member Michael Wilson). I find it fascinating that Shakespeare has his character Hamlet express both views of human nature in this passage (and elsewhere in the play, too): "What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me." But how shall any rational person decide, with integrity (and not arbitrarily, and not with mystical faith, and not with wishful thinking) between the optimistic and the pessimistic view of human nature? I have always thought that modern science, and empiricism, as found in modern biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, is the way to decide with integrity. (I.e., lots and lots of data; and data collected and organized meticulously and analyzed mathematically and statisitically, as per the modern scientific method; I think here of Francis Bacon's criticisms of those of his era who clung to the methods of Aristotle to reach their conclusions about phenomenon in nature and in Man) Also, the modern story of the history of humankind is helpful. Our modern historians know so much more than the ancient historians (e.g., the historians who wrote in the times of ancient Greece and Rome). But isn't there a danger that people with a pessimistic view of human nature will enact a "self fulfilling prophecy," and thereby prevent the creation of a better future society due exactly to that pessimism? Yes, that is a danger, and that danger is pointed out by the Ayn Rand Objectivists, and also by others, such as the Democratic Socialists, the Rosicrucians, the Catholics for Social Justice, Secular Humanists, and so on. As for me, I feel torn, like Hamlet. I want a better future. I want an ethical society. But I also want to shun delusions and noble lies. I'm tired of being deceived and deluded by all sorts of utopian and idealistic promises of a better world, and I don't want to join in movements and philosophies that deceive and delude others, even if doing so might be of some materialistic advantage to me. Furthermore, I tend to think that whatever better future is possible will be achieved by having leaders that shun delusions and noble lies, and who face and deal with the hard realities of existence for biological beings (in this vein, I think of Francis Bacon's praise of Machiavelli's book The Prince for reminding him of how men often or usually tend to act, even though Francis Bacon did not himself approve of cynical, dishonest, manipulative leadership).
  10. Just looking around the present world, and looking back at history, it seems that tyranny is far and ahead the dominant form of government. Just today I saw a news report that a gov't official in Russia had said that domestic opponents to Russia's current war in Ukraine will be sent to concentration camps. What was achieved in the USA in 1789 (when the U.S. Constitutioin was instituted) may be really anomolous and unsustainable. Even in ancient Greece, in places like Athens, they had democracy from time to time, but I think more often they had tyrants, oligarchs, and so on, and eventually they got Alexander the Great (just as later on other locates got the various Caesars, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Putin, and so on). Maybe tyranny just follows from the dominant human nature. Thus, the January 6, 2020 riot at the U.S. Capitol can be viewed as a preview of the coming tyranny, oligarchy, or whatever you want to call it. (cf. Beer Hall Putsch of 1923) Maybe the Objectivist conception of a better future is just a beautiful dream. Maybe it is comparable, in a sense, to the very different beautiful dream a better future held by the Democratic Socialists. Maybe. But, in any case, Ayn Rand is definitely a great novelist and a great philosopher.
  11. I suppose this is one of those occasions in which different people are using the same words/phrase to mean different things. Yet, this whole activity of "philosophy," whatever it really is, involves, necessarity, tedious and wearisome definitions of terms. Didn't Wittgenstein write something famous about how philosophy is all sort of word games and is ultimately, mostly meaningless? And then there was that famous instance in which President Bill Clinton said, "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is." I've heard this all goes back to philosophical topic of "Nominalism" which may have its origins in Plato's theory of forms in which there is, in the abstract heavens, a perfect, eternal, unchanging, unchangeable, ideal form of everything (justice; truth, the good; reason; beauty, honor, love, etc.). But don't trust me. I'm just some random guy on the Internet. But I will admit to liking lately the thought of Francis Bacon.
  12. The Ayn Rand Lexicon does have an entry titled "Subconscious." So, Ayn Rand did recognize the existence of a subconscious part of the mind in the human mind, and so, in a general sense, did agree with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung on this point. The decision of an individual or a group of persons to operate only at a rational level, and to recognize as real and important only rational arguments, propositions, facts, and conclusions, seems to me to be arbitrary. I recently watched a lecture by a Harvard professor of psychology who stated that much of the general theory of the subscious as articulated Freud has been verified by repeated scientific experiments. Any Rand and others can dismiss the Freudian or Jungian theory of subconscious as "mysticism," but while the reality of God, gods, angels, and demons, as found in religions, CANNOT be verified by scientific experimentation, the dynamics of the subconscious mind HAVE very definitely BEEN verfied by scientific experimentation. Again, one can decide to ignore or reject that science, if one chooses to. But that decision seems aribitrary. Also, that decision may ultimately lessen one's ability to survive, thrive, and to be an effective leader of others. I can't help but speculate that if Aristotle were alive to today, and if he had a chance to learn all there is know in the modern fields of biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, physics, and chemistry, he would not stand by his ancient writings on ethics and metaphysics. During World War II the U.S. government hired a psychoanalyst to produce a analysis of the psychology of Adolf Hiter, so that U.S. government leaders could make the best possible predictions about what Hitler might do in various scenarios as the war proceeded. As I see it, this was wise, and shows the value of recognizing that human beings operate at more than a rational level. As I see things, the value and necessity of rational ethics for producing and inspiring good behavior, success, self esteem, personal responsibility, social responsibility, personal produtivity, law-abiding conduct, etc., is not diminished by the recogntion and understanding of powerful irrational dynamics in every human mind (some of these dynamics having their origin in early childhood, when the boy or girl was unable to process events, needs, loves, desires, fears, traumas, relationships, etc., in the manner of Aristotelian logic)
  13. I clicked that link and found the text written by Ayn Rand. It looks interesting. I will study it this evening. Thank you.
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