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Everything posted by Dionysus

  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).
  16. Using somebody elses internet connection is not equivalent to picking up a dropped pen. The connection has not been "dropped" by anybody. It is not dissociated from it's owner, you just don't know who it's owner is. These are very different things. You don't know what kind of internet plan they have, whether they are charged by the megabyte, or have download limits. You don't know anything about the thing you are taking or the person you are taking it from all you have is generalities and odds. Of course there can be implicit agreements in society but those involved must know about them. Also, because there are always likely to be people who do not wish to abide by this implicit agreement I think such agreements cannot involve the use of others property where that use involves the consumption or temporal monopolising of a potentially limited or valuable resource. If you have an agreement with a friend that you share your bicycles with each other, it doesn't make it right to just take an unkown persons unlocked bicycle when you need it simply because you and your friend are willing to share yours with others. Nor can you claim you had made a mistake in believing that they had left it unlocked specifically so that others could use it given that you had no reason for believing that in the first place aside from projecting your own knowledge, actions and attitudes onto an unknown stranger.
  17. You appear to have avoided or missed the major point I was making. There is no mistake in this case, there is a deliberate action taken with the full knowledge that the owner of the connection may not approve of you using it. If you put a bullet and in a revolver, spin the barrel, point it at somebody and pull the trigger and end up shooting them you cannot claim that it was a mistake because you didn't know the bullet was in that chamber. What's the difference? You are deliberately taking an act which you know may be violating somebody's rghts. You say that you are making a mistake in believing that you have permission but you have no reason for believing this at all. You have reason to believe that that it's possible you have permission (maybe even likely). This is not the same thing. In each actual instance you have no information to inform your belief at all. How can you form an opinion that you have permission when you have no information to support that opinion? I assert that you do not have a belief that you have permission. If you did, you could be mistaken. What you have is a knowledge that the connection may have been deliberately left open. If you saw a gift wrapped sitting on a table in a friends house, with no card or label and you took it, do you think it would be reasonable to claim you were mistaken when it turns out it wasn't for you? It could have been for you but it could also have been for somebody else and you had no information to determine which and therefore no reason to believe it was for you and no justification for taking it or claiming that doing so was an honest mistake. It would be different if, perhaps, it was your birthday and they had previously said they had a gift for you. In this instance you have some information from which to form an opinion, without that, it's just roulette.
  18. But if you do not know whether or not you have been invited to enter then you would find out before entering would you not? Why is the same not true for the internet connection? It seems to me, that without clearly knowing that a connection has been deliberately left open, this is theft. If you find something of value say, sitting outside a store. It's not obviously associated with the store and nobody seems to be nearby who might own it, is it reasonable to take it? Of course not, if you suspected it was abandoned or that the store owner was getting rid of it, you would go inside and ask before taking it. The fact that you cannot ask the person who's internet connection you have found open does not, imo, change the moral equivalence of the situation. Without knowing whether or not they would approve of you using the connection, the possibility exists that they would not and if they do not approve then you are stealing. So, by using it, you are potentially stealing but cannot know whether you actually are or not. In my opinion, doing so anyway, is the same as stealing. This is not about being mistaken at all. It's about making making an assumption which you know may not be correct. It's not that you believe all internet connections are deliberately left open. If that was the case then you find that you are mistaken. Each specific instance you simply do not know whether it is deliberate or not and you are therefore, simply taking a chance with the full knowledge that you may be using the service against the will of the owner. There is no way in this scenario that you are "mistaken" because you have no basis for an opinion one way or the other, at best all you have is odds. The simple fact is that many people do not know they have to secure their networks and may not have the knowledge to do so. I know of several examples of this myself. You are assuming that others have your knowledge and consider the same things obvious that you do. Your argument sounds no different to me to a car thief saying that the person didn't lock their car so clearly they meant for anybody to use it. I understand that few people would actually intend for anybody to use their car whereas there clearly are some people who intend for others to use their wireless connection (though I suspect the number is very small compared to the number of unsecured connections) but the point was illustrative rather than being truly equivalent. But you are not making a mistake about intention when you use somebody elses connection, you are making an assumption about their intention which you know, full well and clearly, is an unfounded assumption. That's not making a mistake, it's playing roulette and claiming it was a mistake when your number doesn't come up. You knew full well before you played that your number might not come up. How can that be a mistake? Can you see the distinction?
  19. Felix, Thanks again, I'll definitly check it out. I take your point but how can we objectively say that you have it the right way around and that, in fact, life is not just a part of reproduction? It's not my opinion that procreation is the ultimate value, I was merely pointing out that I cannot see an objective way to rule it out as the ultimate value particularly given that procreation (even if you do not procreate yourself) opposes the maintenance or prolonging of one's own life whether one is a human or a dung beetle. This fact appears to undermine the basis on which Rand reaches her conclusion about the ulitimate value. I say it appears to because neither in the Peikoff book nor in the section Hal quoted is the flow of thought very clear (well, not to me anyway). Why not? As an aside, just wanted to pick up on something here. If somebody were to tell you that they were going to kill your son immediately after you die but you could prevent this by posting a letter requesting that it not be done (and for some reason all of that was actually credible) would you post the letter and prevent your son's death? It would mean taking time from furthering your own ends to prevent something occurring after you're gone so, assuming nobody else knew about the threat, I assume you would not post the letter. Is that a reasonable conclusion? The worker bee is not fighting for the continuation of its species either. It's just doing what comes naturally to it. All of the things that the majority of humans find pleasurable have obvious evolutionary origins, from sweet and fatty foods to music, sex etc etc so, by doing things you enjoy you are doing precisely what the worker bee is doing. The difference, as I see it, is that you can choose not to do them. Many of the things that were evolutionarily useful in our past are maladaptive to modern western society (such as our love of fatty foods) and many others no longer serve their purpose effectively. Sex being pleasureable in our past was enough to ensure reproduction but technological and medical achievements mean that we are able to dissociate sex from reproduction. However, this still means that the reason you find sex pleasureable is because, in the past, people who found pleasure in sex ended up leaving more descendents than those who did not, just as those who liked fatty foods and ate as much of it as they could on the rare occasions it was available left more descendents than those that did not. Of course, there are enough humans that any generalisation you can make has exceptions. I don't particularly know what this has to do with the discussion at hand but I just thought your comment about the worker bee was off the mark.
  20. Hunter, Finding something everybody values is not the same as finding an ultimate value though is it? Is water the ultimate value? It seems like everybody values it. There are innumerable other examples of course. Could we ever really find something valued by everyone? Some people end their own lives and you could certainly find some people who claim they do not value their life and act accordingly. No, actually all organisms value reproduction over being alive (in a metabolic sense). The existence of reproductive organs and reproductive hormones is at the cost of the maintenance and fitness of the body. By the way, I am not actually saying that I think reproduction is the ulitimate value, I just don't see how, logically and definitively, you can conclude that the preservation of your own life is when there are alternatives, such as reproduction. This is all within the context of Rand's claims that we can determine objectively what is good and and what is evil. Yes, values have to be chosen but Rand appears to claim that there is an objective way to determine which ones should be chosen. I like the idea and I follow some of the reasoning but this issue remains unresolved for me. How do I go from "existence exists" to "my life is the ultimate value" without going through Rand's flawed general assertions about biological organisms?
  21. Thanks Hal, I really appreciate you copying this here for me. This is clearly and undoubtedly false. Much of all organisms living processes are dedicated to reproduction and this comes at the cost of the maintenance of the organism's life. It seems to me that the rest attempts to follow on and build on this flawed assumption. Is that right? If not here, where does the ultimate value argument actually begin? I never said it would or that it should, I just answered a question. The rest of your post on this subject is all directed at addressing points I've never made and opinions I've never had. I don't know where you got them from but it wasn't from me. My questions were about the origins of Ayn Rand's ethics, not about the origins of human drive. Sorry if my communication in my original post was poor. Rand appears to build from generalisations about organisms up to specifics about man. That seems to be the way Peikoff's work reads and also the way that section quoted by Hal reads. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Your points about altruism are well taken and I agree with them for the most part. The question was somewhat tongue in cheek.
  22. Hi everybody, thanks for all your responses. Perhaps a little background is required. My only exposure to objectivism so far is that I've read Atlas Shrugged and it prompted me to read Objectivism: the philosophy of Ayn Rand by Peikoff. I found objectivism immediately appealing because of the ambition of Rand to build a philosophy from the ground up based on reality and the senses and I particularly like Rand's epistemology. However, there were several points where I perceived jumps in logic, missing the necessary bridges to convince me the next conclusion was justified. This is perhaps the shortcoming of reading a work like Peikoff's which attempts to include so much material in one reasonably short volume. Your responses have convinced me that I misunderstood this particular aspect of objectivism but have not helped me replace my misunderstanding with anything concrete. Unfortunately I'm in no position to order further material from Amazon as was suggested and even if I could it would take weeks to arrive here if at all. I went back to Peikoff's work and found the section that led to my previous conclusions. He spends a bit of time discussing how animals instinctively act towards the preservation of their own lives but how man must choose to do so. This, I suppose is how I got the impression that objectivism adopts the attitude that it is right to preserve one's life because it is natural to do so. Some quotes from the section below. Please forgive any typological misquotes, I have only an audio copy of the book. I will try to spell out my confusion as clearly as possible - a difficult task given its nature. I accept the philosophical proposition that a fundamental choice exists to live or not to live. However, I do not see how this leads, necessarily, to the choice to preserve one's own life to be "good" and to supersede any other value. Similarly, choosing to die is not a rejection of reality. How do we take the logical step from acknowledging the choice between life and death to "Goal directed entities do not exist in order to pursue values; they pursue values in order to exist"? I can see how we could conclude that the fundamental value is life but how are we able to limit it to the only value being our life as opposed to other life and how do we distinguish between our life and the lives of our potential descendants? Is there a concrete distinction between the two? "Only self-preservation can be an ultimate goal, which serves no end beyond itself." Why is this true? Could reproduction not be an ultimate goal which serves no goal beyond itself? Could self-preservation not serve this goal? I will follow this post with some specific to some of your replies. Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this with me and help me get more clear about it. Dear Saraswathi, Dawkins made some fantastic contributions to evolutionary biology, there is no doubt about that. We can have a long and in-depth discussion about units of selection if you like but at this point I'd just like to caution you about treating "the selfish gene" as some kind of evolutionists bible. In this instance we are discussing choices made by organisms. Selfish gene principles may be driving some of the choices being made but the the genes are not the units making the choices. I don't see what the rest of what you wrote has to do with the discussion at hand. Perhaps I'm missing something. The answer to your question is, of course, yes. People that do not have children are evolutionary dead ends. Simple as that. I don't see how your question is relevant to the basis of ethics though. Perhaps you can explain that to me. To throw the question back at you; aren't there lots of people out there living happy and productive lives who act according to altruistic motives? Don't they throw a spanner in the objectivist works? I feel like I'm missing everybody's point. This sounds like a circular self-referencing argument to me. Objectivism tells us that the fundamental value is to live in an objectivist sense and that we can derive this from first principles? Is that what you're saying? Do we need objectivism to explain objectivism and if so we are in real trouble. OK, I accept that. It seems to me that the true strength of humans is their versatility. We must choose our values, as Rand writes. Given that it's a choice, I still haven't seen where the logic comes from that our own lives are necessarily the logical choice for the primary value. It has instinctive appeal but that's not the same as logical support.
  23. I will have to paraphrase as I don't have any of the material at hand. My understanding of objectivist ethics is that it is based on the idea that the principle drive of organisms is for their own survival. Is this a reasonable understanding of the objectivist stance? I don't think you would find a single evolutionary biologist or ecologist who would agree with this assertion. The principle drive of organisms is for reproduction. Self protection and survival are necessary in order to reproduce but when the two clash in the natural world, reproduction wins out over self protection every time, indicating that it is the fundamental drive. Salmon could stay in the ocean living many more healthy years but instead they make the one way trip up river to spawn and die. For many male spiders reproduction often results in their death at the fangs of their female conspecifics. They also could live longer and healthier lives if they stayed away from the females but they do not. There is a universal trade off between reproduction and longevity and it is only the extinct organisms that have taken the path of self protection and longevity. Does this imply a fundamental flaw right at the base of objecivist ethics? Are objectivists evolutionary and biological dead ends? If not, why not?
  24. I was hoping somebody could clarify for me what reason Ayn Rand gave for basing morality on biology (albeit a flawed understanding of biology but perhaps that is best saved for a post in a different section of the forum) ie self preservation. Is the reason simply that there is nothing else to use or is there a greater imperative?
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