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Dionysus

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  1. Rationalcop, Well, I can sort of see how this confusion could occur but only if you ignored about half of what I've written. The idea of that mangling of the Rand quote was to ask how you could say one version was true (Rand's) and the other was not (mine) ie to point out that Rand's version was not the only possible version. I think my version is defensible because you could argue that all processes, including the maintenance of the organism's life are dedicated to reproduction (because life must be maintained in order for reproduction to occur but life is often sacrificed, risked or compromised for reproduction). However you cannot defend the claim that processes dedicated to reproduction are also dedicated to the maintenance of the organism's life. This is clearly not the case. So, you pointing out a few biological processes dedicated to maintaining life neither support Rand's position (what I thought you were trying to do), nor refute my hypothetical alternative position (what you now tell me you were trying to do). D
  2. I understood it to be the former as well. But what's the difference? Both are false. How could it be disproven? Personally I would use science. Ecology and evolutionary biology have taught us much about the focus of the effort of organisms. What are they attempting to do? Rand claims they are attempting to maintain their own lives. Evolutionary biology and ecology tell us they are attempting to reproduce which necessistates living long enough to achieve that goal, in a similar way that living necessitates eating to achieve that goal. These sciences clearly show us that longevity is subservient as a priority to reproduction. As I have stated elsewhere, where they clash, reproduction wins. It cannot be any other way because that is what evolution selects for. An organism which favours its own life over reproduction is an evolutionary dead end and so this not a trait which you will find widespread in nature. So, if we are to use priority heirarchies, reproduction is at the top, "the maintenance of the organism's life" comes out second. The only way around this is to argue as drewfactor did that the latter contains the former but, as I previously argued, I think doing so would fundamentally change the progression of the objectivists argument. This doesn't seem to me be any kind of logical progression or explanation, just a list of unrelated and unsupported assertions. Point 1 appears to have no justification. Why can you not have a handful of basic values? What is it that fundamentally tells us we must have an ultimate value? Point 2. Your bracketed addition appears to only deal with humans which appear to be the only species on the planet capable of accepting or rejecting the realm of reality. This being the case, does it imply no other species have values? This is certainly not the opinion of Rand is it? Without adding it, we could still say that reproduction is the ultimate value. Point 3 relies on your addition to point 2 Point 4 is a statement without support from, or reliance on, the previous points Point 5 is also an isolated point without support and does not follow logically from the previous points. I understood all of this, my question is about Rand's logical progresstion to the argument that an organism's life is the only possible ultimate value. You seem to be using the conclusion I am questioning the basis of to justify reaching this conclusion. I'm afraid I don't understand what you're saying here. Not just that I don't understand your point but I literally do not understand the sentences in bold. I've read it several times and I just can't get what you're talking about. If you are claiming that I would not wish to defend the existence of costs of reproductive organs, even in the absence of reproduction, yes I would. Actual reproduction adds additional costs. Reproductive hormones in humans are costly to our health and to our longevity even if we have perfect nutrition and good hygeine and health care. Of that, there is no doubt. That is the sort of claim I am willing to defend. Are we on the same page or not? I can't tell.
  3. drewfactor, Thanks for your reply and your comments about the clarity of my writing are understandable. I'm working on it. As to the above question, are you suggesting that within "maintenance of the organism's life" we should include reproduction? This is neither explicit nor implied by any of the sources from Rand or Peikoff and i believe its inclusion would change the flow of the argument. For example, successful reproduction implies a fundamental concern for the welfare of your offspring, beyond your own lifespan (something I think the vast majority of parents experience). None of Rand or Peikoff's work that I've read or heard place importance on the future beyond the objectivist's own lifetime. Such an inclusion would change many fundamentals of objectivism I would have thought. But then, i've been wrong before.
  4. Rationalcop, You are mistaken and your entire latest post is flawed because you have made an irrational leap in your thought process about my argument. Here, again, is the statement that I said was false: You seem to be attempting to refute a stance that I never held ie that no biological processes are dedicated to maintaining the organism's life. Now, it's important to see that doing what you set out to do (ie demonstrating there are biological processes that serve the purpose of maintaining the organisms life) does not prove the above statement by Rand correct. Instead of listing a small number of examples, you need to demonstrate that all biological processes are dedicated to the maintenance of the organism's life, as this is the claim made by Rand. I certainly believe there are biolgical processes that are dedicated to maintaining life and I have never claimed otherwise. What I am refuting is the notion that all of them are. Explain to me the manner in which the biological process of sperm production serves to maintain the male organism's life. How about milk production? Do we need more examples? Can you see that all you need is a single exception and the above statement becomes false? This is not a pedantic argument either because in every instance in nature where successful reproduction clashes with the maintenance of the organism, reproduction wins out. It must, that's what evolution selects for. Now, of course you can come up with individual organism for whom this is not the case, that's one of the consequences of variation. However, all of these individuals still possess biological processes which have a metabolic cost and do not serve to maintain their lives. Again, any argument about a rational being's life and the way that Rand mean's man qua man and all that stuff is irrelevant to this discussion because it is about the above statement and others like it which are not referring to man specifically but rather to all life. I hope this and the above post make my position clearer. D
  5. You've still missed the entire point. This is not about what I believe or what I think it's about what Rand and Peikoff wrote and said and how they use that as part of the flow of thought and logic that underpins objectivist ethics. I'm beginning to regret that I ever mentioned the whole reproduction thing. As I said, I was not actually suggesting we replace life with reproduction as the ultimate value, I was just saying that it was a more natural conclusion to draw from Rand's line of thought once you corrected her mistake about the ultimate goal of living organisms. All I was doing was trying to see what the consequences of her line of thinking were if you correct the error and then continue. It seems to me that if you do this, you would more naturally lead to reproduction as the ultimate value than to life. That's not to say it is or should be, just that it seems to be the natural conclusion for that exercise. As I also spelled out, and again, not a single person addressed it, this is all based on the rather fuzzy logic in both Rand and Peikoff's work bridging between existence exists, going through their comments about life in general and then onto man's life as the ultimate value. To some extent, in my exercise of correcting the mistake and following the logic onwards with the correction taken into account, I have to guess a little because Rand and Peikoff do not make their line of thinking particularaly clear in the works I've read and heard. However, in all three cases they do take the argument through the (despite what rationalcop might say) erroneous claims about all organisms. Peikoff even goes on to say what is suggested in other works that all of Objectivist ethics and politics rests on this. The fundamental issue was about the claim by Rand that ethics could be objectively derived. So, to me, it's not good enough to say "well, she got that bit wrong but we'll just continue with her conclusion despite the flawed logic that led to it." If you cannot correct the mistake and rebuild the logical bridges then you can no longer claim the philosophy is objective. This was the exercise I was hoping we could collectively undertake but so far it has taken this long just to get a couple of people to see that there was a problem that needed addressing. As I said, I hold myself responsible for that as I must not have communicated it well. I also think, in retrospect, that my deliberately provocotive title to the thread might have got people off on the wrong foot (though nobody has yet demonstrated to me that objectivism is not fundamentally flawed - or even taken up my arguments really). I could be totally wrong about this whole subject. It's possible that I have misunderstood Rand's logic path. However, nobody has even addressed this part of my question so at this point I'm assuming my thinking is correct on the flow of thought that leads to "my life" as the ultimate value. I can see some others are choosing to derive it another way but again, that is not my point. My point is about the work of Ayn Rand. ps if my statement was so deliciously refutable, why didn't you refute it? I stand by it and am certainly willing to defend it until it is effectively refuted.
  6. OK, perhaps I have been assuming a level of knowledge it is not safe to assume. I believe you would struggle to find a single biologist on the face fo the planet who would agree with: Now, you can hold onto your agreement with Rand over the opinions of biologists (of which I am one, so I have some educational and professional credibility here, certainly much more than I have with philosophy). That's clearly your choice. I would, however, say that by doing so you are not dealing with reality. If you would really like, I can provide some evidence that the above statement by Rand is false (we could start a separate thread on it if you like to save distraction from this one). However, it seems to me to be so obvious that I haven't as yet thought it was necessary and I would have thought that the few examples given earlier in this thread are enough to start the thought processes that would readily lead to this conclusion. The simple fact is that all organisms that reproduce do so at the expense of their own lives and all organisms reproduce (in the generic sense rather than the individual sense). Many organisms directly sacrifice their own lives in order to reproduce. How can it then be claimed that all of their physical functions are directed towards a single goal and that goal is the maintenance of their lives? It is as demonstrably false as the idea that the world is flat and that is why I used the words I did when discussing it. The only alternative is that I have somehow misunderstood the intention of Rand's words. This, however, does not seem likely as it appears to be written quite clearly (unlike a lot of my own writing. ) Ian, Thank you for your reply. It is well written and certainly answers a significant part of my question. It has given me much to think about. I really appreciate it. I will give it the thought and consideration it deserves before responding fully. D
  7. Mrocktor, I'm getting a bit tired of this. Did you read the thread? Have you read Rand and/or Peikoff? Here are some quotes from earlier in the thread. I'll even put some parts in bold to help you focus on what I'm talking about. Now, please explain to me how, when Rand writes "in the single cell of an ameoba" she is talking only about a "rational volitional being". Cheers, D
  8. Marc, I couldn't help myself, I just had to reply to this despite my determination not to follow side discussions not addressing the central point. You have defined the question into absurdity. Of course you can't speak of biological reproduction without speaking of biology. Can you speak about mashed potato without speaking about potato? You, however, can talk about potato and about mashing without the other. Let's try this. What is life? Life is an assemblage of self reproducing molecules with varying orders of complexity. Ooooh can we define life without using reproduction? Self replication in its various forms is, in fact, a defining feature of life is it not? What forms of life exist without it? Mortality, and therefore ethics, if we are to believe Rand, depends on reproduction. The mortal form without reproduction does not exist for long. And what end is that then? Is it the same one served by the production of sperm? Presumably also the production of eggs and milk? Is it that end? If not, which end do all those biological processes, and eating, serve? I agree, let's go back as far as we can reasonably go. Presumably, in the shallows of some water body, the right conditions came about that a very strange molecule formed which had an odd binding habit. It would attract particles similar to those of which it was made and, when a full copy of itself was made, they would split apart. This would soon lead to a shortage of the rarest of the constituent parts of this molecule. A mistake in replication occurs at some point with one of the molecules and this part is replaced by another more common part, so we now have 2 forms of life. Mistakes in copying continue to occur occasionally, selected for if they increase the number of copies left behind, selected against if they do not and through this process a steady increase in complexity occurs until you have modern life including humans. That's as far back as I think we can realistically take it. Now, with that in mind, does your argument make any more sense? You would still not exist if not for reproduction. Reproduction is the defining characteristic of life, it's what sets life apart from other arrangements of molecules is it not? While it is possible for you to not reproduce and still exist, it is not possible for you to exist with parents who did not reproduce. There is no infinite regression here, just a simple cause and effect. Life does not exist without reproduction. It was the incredible, unlikely event of the formation of a self replicating molecule that began life (as best as we can discern that is) and therefore, we can say that reproduction occurred where there was no life. Can we not? It was the advent of this reproduction that initiated life, before that there was just chemistry and physics..... well there still is..... you know what I mean.
  9. OK, I'm starting to get paranoid about my communication skills. So many words but nobody is discussing the question I'm trying to ask. I can see this could be partially my fault because I've responded to so many of the previous posts that weren't answering my question and thus have encouraged some of the distraction but surely we can do better. OK, here it is spelled out as simply and clearly as I can manage. 1. I do not think that reproduction is or should be the ultimate value. I would ask all those attacking or criticising me for holding this opinion or saying I am mistaken for having it to please read what I have written here. 2. In all of Rand and Peikoff's work, in explaining why life is the ulitmate value they follow through from the argument about the primary goal of all living organisms being the sustaining of its own life and go on to say while other organisms have insticts to do this, man must choose to do it. Somehow... here it is .... here's the essence of the issue..... this leads on to the suggestion (rather presented as fact) that this is what man must do and that this is the ultimate value. This is what is then built upon to form the entire argument for selfishness etc (and therefore seems rather fundamental to me). Given that the assertion that the primary goal of living organisms is the sustaining of their own lives is clearly false, what does this mean for the way objectivist ethics is justified and explained by Rand and Peikoff? Some of you seem to have come close to addressing this but not quite gotten there, particularly mrocktor and I appreciate what you have written. There is much in your post I would like to reply to but will save it for now as I don't want to muddy the already murky waters. I'll just say, mrocktor, that the content of your post can be extrapolated to get us logically to "life" but it does not get us to "my life" (at least not exclusively) and it does not explain the meaning and the implication of Rand and Peikoff's words. OK, how, in a line of reasoning, objectively speaking, can we go from "existence exists" to my life is my ultimate value, without going through the flawed assertion that the maintenance of its own life is every organisms primary goal? Do Rand and Peikoff take the argument through this path as I have suggested or am I mistaken? That's the question I'm hoping somebody will tackle, not what life is or what having reproduction as the ultimate value might mean or why life is a better choice than reproduction but rather a logically constructed argument for my life being the ultimate value and how such an argument relates to the comments made by Peikoff and Rand about organisms in general. Why do they bring this up in all of their works on this subject if you all seem to think it's not relevant?
  10. If we believe in our senses and in science then I think we can very confidently say that this statement is incorrect. I suppose it could depend on how you define "influence" but your definition would have to be fairly narrow. The nature of humans is that we are very versatile in language and culture but, ultimately, all the big picture things are pretty much hard-wired. There is an entire emerging field, evolutionary psychology, dealing with these issues and it would be impossible to summarise it here. Like all emerging fields of study, there's a lot of rubbish in it but if you filter your way through that to the core ideas, they are undeniable. We were produced by evolution and we have not been set free from it. In western society, we have removed many of the selective forces that acted upon our ancestors but the removal of selective pressure does not equate to the removal of the consequences of past selective pressure, only the relaxation of their enforcement. The enforcement has been relaxed for only the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms and there has therefore been little time for drift to have resulted in much change. The evolutionists chicken and egg argument. I personally don't believe there is a correct answer to this question any more than there is a correct answer to "which came first the chicken or the egg?" The action of the "selfish gene" is uneniable but the gene must have a vehicle (the body or the cell) and it is the vehicle that is the unit of selection. It is the package that the vehicle contains that receives life's pass or fail grade, not an individual gene. Anyway, as I said, this is one of those eternal debates which probably has no correct "answer" because the real dynamic certainly contains aspects of both sides of the debate rather than a black and white, one or the other.
  11. Lathanar, You are discussing the consequences of a potential conclusion, not it's validity. I agree, the consequences of replacing "life" with "successful reproduction" are dramatic indeed. However, the consequences of a conclusion should not be a factor in determining whether or not a conclusion is correct should they?
  12. An organism must eat in order to be alive. Does this "heirarchy" mean that eating is more important than being alive? A necessity heirarchy does not necessarily reflect a heirarchy of cause and effect or of importance. Reproduction must have occurred for an organism to be alive. We can play chicken and egg all you like but it's not going to answer the question. Marc, You're right about the linguistic contradiction. I chose my words poorly but I think your argument here is semantic rather than constructive. To better explain my intention, the sentence perhaps should have been: "Much of all organisms biological processes are dedicated to reproduction and these processes come at the cost of maintaining the organism's life." That sentence more clearly spells out what I meant which I suspect you understood initially but I appreciate you forcing me to use more accurate and appropriate language.
  13. Dear Saraswathi, Thank you. You appear to be the first person who has actually addressed my question. Given the misunderstanding has been almost universal, it seems likely that the problem is with my communication of my question rather than with everybody else. For this, I apologise. I agree with all that you say but I suppose the thing that I like most about Rand's work was the claim that we could objectively determine what was right and wrong. I liked the idea that this might be so but was unconvinced by the thought process that led to this conclusion. This has been the essence of my question, an attempt to get one of the adherents of Objectivism here to explain what appears to me to be a logic gap between "existence exists" and the idea that my life is my ultimate value. Felix kindly pointed me to the lecture by Peikoff. I haven't listened to whole thing yet but I think I've listened to the relevant section where, once again, he appears to link biological imperatives of organisms in general to the concluded ultimate goal of humanity. Felix, I don't think you have answered my question because my question is one about philosophy and about the logic of Rand's Objectivist ethics, not one of applying her philosophy but one of understanding it's root arguments and assumptions. My real question is illustrated by my version of Rand's words where I substitute "successful reproduction" for life. The essence of my question is: what, objectively, makes Rand's version correct and mine incorrect? If there is no way to determine this then objectivist ethics loses it's claim to objectivity. I've just read back over the thread and, while I confess that my first post was far from clear, my subsequent posts seem to spell out my question quite clearly. I'm no longer convinced that the fault of the miscommunication here lies with me. Perhaps it is rather that these discussion boards are mainly about discussing how to implement the teachings of Rand ie discussions about Objectivism rather than actual discussion of Objectivism. Does that make sense and would it be a reasonable suggestion? I was alarmed quite early in Peikoff's book by his open claim that he was not a collaborator with Rand but merely a chronicler. The way he spoke about this was very similar to the way that chronicler's of religious profits describe their roles. No input and no critical thought was involved and, indeed, it would have been blasphemous to have even contemplated such. I suspect, based on this, that Peikoff is not of the calibre of Rand and that, perhaps, he is even the antithesis. He parrots rands words about using the mind and the senses to reach your own conclusions with no indication that he does this himself. Definitions ad nauseum do not answer the question I am asking. How do we get from "existence exists" to the ultimate value being man's life? Every single instance where this is explained by Rand and Peikoff that I've been able to find (or that I've been pointed to) runs through the logic that sustaining life is the fundamental goal of all organisms and then leads on to man needing to choose to do this. Somehow, the fact that other organisms do this instinctually but that man must do it by choice, leads the discussion on to the suggestion that man should do this by choice and that this is, in fact, the ultimate value. The discussion follows this path but lacks the bridges between each step necessary to explain why this path is taken or to justify it. Your explanation of how rand uses the word life is actually much further along the entire process and is, as far as I can tell, irrelevant to the orgins of Objective ethics. It is certainly relevant to the implentation and understanding of objectivist ethics but not to the origins.
  14. David, I thought of a better analogy for your "mistake" argument. You have somebody elses money and you lose it gambling at a casino. Could you claim that the loss was a mistake because you believed you were going to win and that nobody can really pin blame on you for having a mistaken belief? I see your internet connection argument to be identical to this scenario. You are deliberately taking a risk and then claiming it was a mistake when the dice do not fall your way. This, to me, is not a mistake at all.
  15. Felix, I still don't think you've answered it at all. I think you're reading my question in too a narrow a sense. I'll explain below. No, I don't. For maybe the third or fourth time, I don't think reproduction is a better fundamental value than life or that it's more appropriate, I just cannot see how, objectively, one can arrive at the conclusion that life is the logical ultimate value when equally valid alternatives, such as reproduction (which also appears more logically defensible), are available. I only brought reproduction into this whole debate because of Rand and Peikoff's erroneous claims that all organisms have sustaining their own lives as their ultimate objective. The simple fact is that the whole of an organisms ecology is based around maximising successful reproduction (meaning the production of successful offspring) and managing the tradeoffs between reproduction and self preservation such that lifetime reproductive output will be maximised. This makes it very clear, that if you were to make generalisation about the fundamental "objective" for want of a better term of living organisms, it would be reproduction because all else is traded off to achieve this objective. Let me butcher the Rand quote that Hal provided in order to illustrate my point. My changes to Rand's words are in bold. What this does is correct the obviously incorrect first paragraph of Rand's work and then follow the logic onward. Now, as I said in a previous post, the logic does not follow all that clearly but nor does it, imo, in the original text or in Peikoff's work. So, again, the reason for bringing up reproduction on this thread is not because I believe it is a more appropriate ultimate value or that I personally value it more than my life, but rather because it seems a natural conclusion after correcting a mistake in Rand's work and following on from the consequences of correcting that mistake. Isn't the whole point of objectivist ethics that we have to choose our values and that we can derive the appropriate choices through rational and logical analyses? That there is an objective ethics? You appear to be arguing that we value life and therefore it's the value. This doesn't seem very objective. Suicide, war, extreme sports etc etc would suggest we don't put much value on life. Is that argument really any diferent from yours? Indeed, we are maladapted, in an evolutionary sense, to modern western society. I think it's extremely likely we will go extinct because of this very phenomenon (no value judgement whatsoever involved there, I don't particularly care if humans go extinct, it's just a prediction).
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