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bell jar

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  1. I define armed force, police, court, administrative agency and suchlike as "coercive instruments". To many people who accept ideologies that support freedom, "coercive instruments" constitute the "fatal difference" between the political and the ethical. "Coercive instruments" or lack thereof become a determinative of the way people regard a thing. For the same norm, if implemented by government, it is a coercion and unacceptable; if spontaneously implemented by ordinary people without any government's agitation, it is not a coercion and "acceptable". But if a bad effect can be rendered by both "coercive" and "non-coercive" mechanisms, the dichotomy of coercion/non-coercion (or political/ethical) is not as fatal as some people speculate. According to my speculation, politics is not independent from ethics; rather, it is a particular form of ethics. Without ethics, there will be no politics. The operation of a coercive instrument lies on a series of directives. The mechanism is: the superordinate (officials of higher ranks) give incontestable directives to the subordinate (ordinary people or officials of lower ranks) and the subordinate implement those incontestable directives no matter what they are. The directives can be a resolution to build a skyscraper or the repression of a massive demonstration. The contents of directives are irrelevant to the operation of a coercive instrument. Consider one member of the subordinate refuses to implement the directive of a ruling entity, what will be the end. Needless to say, he/she will be punished for his refusal to implement the ruling entity's directives. This means, 1) he is able to refuse to implement directives. But 2) if he exerts this ability (which means he does refuse to implement directives), he will be punished by superordinate via various coercive instruments. Any ruling entity cannot prescribe a person's ability, so it needs a backup supports to punish those who employ their abilities which are not favored by superordinates. But "to punish the apostate" is also a directive. Then ruling entity faces the same situation: what if the second member of coercive instruments refuses to implement these directives again? The ruling entity can only employs its rest members of coercive instruments to punish the former two apostates. Thus it again faces the same situation of the possibility of the third, forth, fifth … members of its coercive instruments becoming apostates. The end of this circle is the complete disintegration of the entire coercive instruments and therefore any political oppression will become impossible. In the preceding example I assume that the members of the coercive instruments becoming apostates is a successive process. In fact, those members can become apostates simultaneously. It is possible that 20% of members of the coercive instruments become apostates simultaneously, or 95%, or 100%. I also omit ordinary people. Because if ordinary people violate the directives of superordinates, they will be punished as those apostates of coercive instruments. Given this fact, how a coercive instrument can stay surviving and political oppression is tangible and effective? It is right to say that the coercive force itself can maintain its existence. If we cast some consideration to the preceding example, we will see that ultimately it is the ethics that maintain its survival: it is the ethical belief that any member of the coercive instruments and ordinary people must unconditionally implement the various relevant directives of their superordinates. If no one believes this ethical norm, any coercive instrument must collapse and the whole society must become an anarchist society. If a lot of members of coercive instruments refuse to accept this ethical norm, the effectiveness of political oppression will become impaired. In August Coup of Soviet Union, many military officers refused to implement their de facto superordinates' directives of enforcing martial law and arresting Boris Yeltsin. Thus the Coup became abortive only three days later. People usually highly discriminate the "legal" government from "illegal" government. They are prone to observe the directives from a "legal" government and refuse to observe the directives from an "illegal" government. (In some enlightened countries, people only implement humane directives. If G. W. Bush issued the directive that dissolve the Democratic Party, no one would implement it.) This inclination can only be regard as an ethics, because this inclination logically precedes any government. So all governments, although commanding coercive instruments, still need to justify its legitimacy and legality. In democratic countries, electoral governments are seen as legal. If some other aspirants initiate a coup and organize a new government, it is highly possible resisted by ordinary people as well as members of coercive instruments. In dictatorial countries, governments must use propaganda and public education to construct an ethical atmosphere in which it is regarded as a legal government. Or else their coercive instruments will not be so obedient to governments. This is how ethics underpins politics. Fear of possible punishment is another underpinning that make coercive instrument staying surviving and political oppression keeping tangible and effective. Every country has colossal coercive instruments which include a large number of personnel. If the whole coercive instrument is to collapse, all of its personnel must refuse to implement its superordinates' directives simultaneously. This is less possible. If some of its personnel want to refuse to implement the superordinates' directives, they will scruple at the fact or anticipation that other members of coercive instrument will still implement the leaders' directives and thus they themselves will be punished by those other members. So the integration of a coercive instrument is hard to break and political coercion is still highly effective. But this dilemma is not unique to members of coercive instruments. If someone fears the possible moral sanction of other people, he will still do things he doesn't like to do. Again there is no fundamental difference between the ethical and the political in this respect. If there is no such a "fatal difference" between politics and ethics, the mentality that keeping stern attitude toward government and tolerant attitude toward "civilian norms" will be problematic. For example, the restriction of dressing is a worldwide trouble. Disregarding quite a few bigoted people who must restrict other people's freedom of dressing, some people still differentiate two kinds of restriction: One is Saudi Arabia's legislative restriction of dressing; another is the customary restriction of dressing. Therefore the former is coercion and should be condemned; and the latter is not coercion and should be tolerant. (Or people who condemn this customary restriction usually be condemned. This is often the case.) But the fact is that "legislative restriction" is just a roundabout manifestation of "customary restriction". If no one or only a few one think it is ethical to restrict people's freedom of dressing, how can the government legislate this restriction and how can the police effectively implement this restriction? No custom, no law. The political are ultimately the ethical. My last conclusion is that current anti-government movement is theoretically fruitless. Because the hazard of politics is indeed the hazard of ethics (or morality). If ethics is not shaken, government will keep intact. [P.S., some people believed that morality must involve the question of harm. If no harm, it is not the realm of morality. But most people don't think so. For example, when Bush commented on his intended prohibition of same-sex marriage, he said same-sex marriage is immoral; same-sex marriage violates morality (at least in my language the word he used is "morality"). Is this a "grammar mistake"? I think the concept "normativity" cannot substitute the concept "morality". Because morality is more than a norm, it has fused a positive or affirmative value judgment of people. It is not just a "norm" but a "good norm". ]
  2. No. After 50 years under communism, most people have been domesticated. Most of them don't want change because they have been trained to believe their government and system is best. This is a kind of religious emotion resulted from classical conditioning. Only a few clear-minded people discern the evil and want to change. If you look at oversea Chinese, you will find most of them love the CPC and defend it automatically, though they live in a capitalist state.
  3. If ethics can only be applied to humans, why Ayn Rand wrote this?
  4. If you are a construction worker, the restriction of your dressing is to protect your safety, that's a rational ristriction. So is with a firefighter or a diver. But if you work in an office where you just sit on a chair and type before a computer, I can't see the necessity to restrict your dressing. This is a groundless accuse. If I didn't see the fact that there are dress code, why do I come up with my unsatisfaction with dress code? Only blind obedience constitutes the identification of reality? If so a doctor who tries to eradicate poliomyelitis is also evading reality. This is highly idealistic and only remains theoretical. The fact is that enforcing dress code has been ethicized and every corporation is enforcing it. Besides joblessness, the only thing I can do is to unwillingly restrict my own freedom. In this respect we all live in Maoist China and just have to lie there and take it. It is common trick for a dictator to take an extreme example to oppose a reasonable request. (For example, "I cannot give people freedom, or else they will be free to go outside and kill other people arbitrarily.") To see how many people can get rid of the dictator's mentality. I never acquaint you so this has nothing to do with me. But I still advise that you had better check your very emotion to clarify the reason why you are dissatisfied with a conduct which never physically hurt you. Everyone has a particular prejudice. I am also averse to ugly men's faces, but after all I know this emotion is built on irrational judgement and I will never express my very emotion with a sense of righteousness. No one has answered my Chinese dilemma. Suppose Situation A : a dictators group enforces a code which restricts people's harmless conduct, the result is that everyone must observe it without exception. Situation B: after 50 years' indoctrination of this code, it has become an ethical norm , every person will automatically punish those who violate it without agitation from dictators group, the result is also that everyone must observe it without exception. Is there any difference between the two when the result is the same? If you say the former involves political coercion and the latter doesn't involve political coercion, sorry I still take a communist regime for example. Shortly after a communist regime has been built , the regime's policies and laws which prohibit critiques from the people are seen as signs of political coercion. Via 50 years' education of historical materialism, people all accept communism as morality. Thus people automatically sanction those who criticize the communist regime without the regime's agitation. So the problem of political coercion no longer exists and communist regimes become as good as democratic countries.
  5. Maybe this is your ethics that is founded upon the "facts of reality". When we have intercourses with others, theoretically "seeking an intersection of both parties' interests" is more important or "non-initiation of force" is more important when other people's interests include restricting your harmless action? People usually think if the whole society disagree with your conduct in a situation then no matter whether you have infringed on others you have to change your courses of action to those that people satisfy with. It seems that even you also think that questioning whether a social convention in certain situation is proper or not is superfluous. Maybe that's why no one answered the question "Besides blind obedience, could it be a rational choice to launch a "freedom of dressing movement"?" In Chinese cultural revolution, most people were persecuted not by Mao or Mao's instructions but by those "nobodies" who has been brainwashed by Mao's spirit before. When people thought that you had "capitalist inclination", they would isolate you automatically. Then if you wanted to by some rice, no one would sell it to you; if you wanted to by some clothes, no one would sell them to you; if you got ill and wanted a doctor, no one wanted to treat you. The prospect of you was death. This was a famous fact in China even when cultural revolution is officially over. So I have to conclude that you deserved death. Other people had the right of inaction when they have intercourse with you. In this situation, someone of course may say that you can leave that country. But could it be a rational choice to point out the absurdity of this isolation in front of other people? Almost all Objectivists advocate abolishing taxation. Though in most people's eyes people who oppose taxation is not patriotic or even the "apologists of wealthy exploiters ". So how do you do in front of these people? You can choose to have intercourse only with those people who have agreed with you. But if so this fact would become unintelligible: why do you advocate your own stances publicly? Why do you explain your reason to advocate abolishment of taxation to those who do not comprehend or even oppose you? Why so many of you are willing to reply people's questions to Objectivism? Are Ayn Rand's books never sold to people who criticize Objectivists? Apparently many of you don't want to passively accept the status quo but want to actively shape a new cultural atmosphere which is more beneficial to you. You are constructing your own cultural atmosphere. Why construct your own cultural atmosphere? Do you want a culture in which accepting Objectivism is seen as a good character? To say "for the rest of the world we do have the freedom of dressing any way we want" is problematic. Yes, outside working place we can wear whatever we want to wear. But why in working place we cannot were whatever we want to wear? Suppose from January to June you need not pay any tax but from July to December you have to pay tax, then there is no problem of violation of "freedom from taxation". Dressing code in working place is not a thing that has gone through mutual consent. It is unilaterally enforced by the employer's side. Employees can do nothing but only to accept it. Enforcing something to people is "action" or "non-action"? Yes, theoretically you can find a working place where you can wear whatever you want to wear. But that only remains theoretical. In a cultural atmosphere where the dressing code in working place is seen as "normality", where can I find a working place where dressing freedom is protected? That's a cultural pressure that is imposed on every people. {_If you were a competent attorney, I bet you could make a bundle, since as you know, one of the less obscene derogatory expressions for attorney is "suit" _} Why don't you employ your "category of causality" to give this a demonstration? How "competent attorney" has a causal relationship with "wearing suit". Of course in a culture of torture a man who wears layer-by-layer "suit" in 35 degrees centigrade in the hot sun is still "less obscene derogatory". (Or a woman wear a miniskirt in –15 degrees centigrade in snow is "less obscene derogatory").
  6. This is exactly what I resent. I like dress freely because I think what I wear is absolutely my own business. It infringes upon no one. But sadly the whole world doesn't respect the freedom of dressing. Though I think this phenomenon has the biological basis of sexual selection, yet it is inhuman and violate people's rights. Besides blind obedience, could it be a rational choice to launch a "freedom of dressing movement"? That means you are succumb to other's irrational ethics. In this situation I probably also choose to restrict my own rational freedom but it is hard to say that "it's my choice". The punishment resulted from my defence of my rational freedom is entirely manmade. But if almost everyone withdraw their society from you just because you do something that are not pleasing to their eyes but what you do physically infringe uopn no one, it is still acceptable? Respect of other people's choices is seen as a virtue. But when this respect results in the violation of your own rational freedom, then who is wrong?
  7. According to my observation, ethical codes usually have these three features: * It is a norm or a bunch of norms which tell you to do something or not to do something. (They usually take the form of permission: they permit you to do something or don't permit you to do something.) * You have the ability to do the things which those norms prohibit you doing or not to do the things which the norms permit or require you to do. * In the circumstances where these norms are in practice, if you use your very ability other people will discriminate you, boycott you or even punish you, which make your situation become undesirable. The third feature is crucial. In many circumstances if you violate an ethical code, the punishment does not come from "the nature" but from other people . Then your impetus to observe an ethical code is not enjoying its "good result" but the fear of the boycott from others . If an ethical code itself is barbaric , but in consideration of the possible boycott from others, people usually have to onserve it. So ethics itself has a great side effect. How do Objectivists think about this ? ======================= PS . If a boss fire an employee , can the employee find a new job? Some said he or she can if he is really excellent . But I don't think so. Because there is a tenet which is widely accepted that if someone is fired , then he is a loser. When this tenet becomes a norm and produces a pressure on people , a boss is possible not to employ the jobless because if the boss do that he will be seen as "mindless ". How do you think about this ?
  8. I want to know what are your definitions of "morality", "ethics" , "normativity", "ought", "should". What is the scope ethics focuses? When mentioning suicide you just dismiss it as something outside the realm of morality. Even if it is not in the realm of morality it is still in the realm of normativity. Does ethics only research morality and dismiss other normativity? Which discipline study other normativity? Your logic seems that: 1. To live is a morality; to die involves no morality therefore it should be dismissed. 2. In order to live, people must take some course of action to support their lives or even further their lives. 3. What course of action should be taken is determined by facts and laws of morality. You call this "derivation of an "ought" from an "is". But there is a question: why to live is moral? And the term "ought" seems open to different interpretations. When I looked up dictionary, I found that "ought" has two usages: one is used to indicate an obligation or duty; the other one is used to indicate a probability or likelihood or expectation. If I say, "She ought to finish her work in three days because she is clever.", I am using the second meaning. If I say, "You ought to eat in order to sustain your life.", I am still using the second meaning too. It seems that what can be derived from an "is" is the "ought" in the second meaning. But how about the first meaning? Only this "ought" is an ethical concept. An obligation or duty cannot logically derived from a fact. It can only derived from a purpose. But a purpose can be a arbitrary thing. It can have no factual basis. It cannot be logically derived from facts. If someone set him the purpose of death, he can still derived an "ought" from an "is" in an Objectivist way: If I stop breathing I will die. ==> I ought to stop my breath ==> I should hang myself because according to the facts of reality this can stop my breath. ==================== This seem just the Objectivist stance and not widely accepted. It seems an argument in a circle. If I choose death volitionally I still need some guides. How about those guides? This "ought" means a probability or likelihood or expectation, not an obligation or duty. Therefore this is not an ethical demonstrations. (I think now I understand that the problem lies on the meaning of "ought". Only the first meaning has something to do with ethics. You are confusing the concepts. Still I haven't see anyone who can reasonably derived it from any facts of reality. )
  9. I accept that life is the necessary condition of a purpose. But a living man can set verious purposes for himself. He can even set a purpose to sacrifice for others before he dies. And this is what Objectivism opposes. If an "ought" is founded upon an "is" in this way, then why Objectivist ethics has its unique content that is different from other ethics? I am also confused with the fact that to live is optional. If a conclusion can be logically deduced from a premise, it is a necessary process. I mean, as long as the premise is true, the conclusion must be true too. For example, if the premise "France is in Europe" is true, then "Paris is in Europe" must be true. So if the "is" means the facts of reality, then why "to live" become a choice? I think the only correct conclusion is that "to live" is an axiom and cannot be reduced. Logical reasoning is always to deduce a conclusion from an premise. If the ought is the logical conclusion of the fact of reality, why can't it be attained through deduction? If "ought" can only be induced then it must be a kind of probability. Induction can render no decisive conclusion. And I don't know how to induce an "ought" from an "is" (besides "whatever is so ought to be so".). It seems that some of you also accept that the necessity to presuppose "to live" and this presupposition cannot be reduced. Therefore "to live" is the ethical axiom of Objectivist ethics. Again it presupposes "you disire to live". I think it's problematic to redifine the concepts in order to have things fit their case. I heard there is a kind of spider, when the baby spiders have been hatched out, the mother have her body eaten by her offsprings.
  10. It seems that Objectivism doesn't deduce an "ought' from an "is" either. The first reply clearly told me that there is an extra premise "Do you want to live?". Only when you answer "yes" then can we talk about morality or ethics. Otherwise we must stop here. I think "ought to live" is the forth axiom which is parallel to your other three axioms, and it cannot be reduced to the other three axioms. Then, Objectivist ethics is founded upon the ethical axiom "ought to live", rether than the fact of reality. If people choose the "ought to live" option, then they ought to maintain and further their lives. But the second "ought" is the derect inference from the axiomatic "ought" . Our reference to the facts of reality can be established only after our axiomatic &/or inferential "ought"s has been chosen. The post #4 wrote, "If you want to live, you have to do certain things because reality demands it". In this sentence what I see is that "you want to live" is not logically inferred from "have to do certain things." Rather, only when we establish the purpose of " want to live" , can we resort to reality to determine what course of action can serves our purpose. The former is one sufficient condition to the latter. "Ought to do ___" precedes to "See how can we achieve ___ according to the demands of reality" . The sentence in post #3: " With the "is" referring to a fact of reality, the "ought" is derived from "how must I relate this 'is' in a such a way that it best serves my rational self-interest" also gives me an impression that the "ought" is actually not deduced from an "is". In this sentence there are three key words: "is", "ought" and "my rational self-interest". What can be deduced from "is" (a fact of reality) is only "a way that it best serves ___". As to the "___" (this is a purpose) you can substitute it with "my rational self-interest", or "the interests of other people", or "the Glory of God", or "suicide". These four substitutes can all reasonably finish the sentence "With the "is" referring to a fact of reality, the "ought" is derived from "how must I relate this 'is' in a such a way that it best serves ____". I know "the interests of other people" and "the Glory of God" are rejected by Objectivism. So the proposition "With the "is" referring to a fact of reality, the "ought" is derived from "how must I relate this 'is' in a such a way that it best serves my rational self-interest" doesn't clarify how to deduce an "is" from an "ought". Post #3 wrote"Objectivism doesn't "choose it" per se, Objectivism provides a principle and reasoned framework (or guideline) for the individual to determine how he must relate to facts of reality (the "is") within the parameters of the context in which he must deal with this "is". " This is irrelevant to ethics. It's a technical one. Because whatever purpose I set for myself, (no matter suicide or self interest), I must determine how to "relate to facts of reality (the "is") within the parameters of the context in which I must deal with this "is"." My viewpoint is that, an "ought" must presume a purpose. But the purpose is not logically deduced from facts of reality but established independently by a person . What purpose the person chooses depends on his ethical premises and ultimately, "ought to live" or "ought not to live", that's the ultimate premise and no more reduction. As to the cognition of reality and the determination of how to comply with the laws of nature (or reality) in order to best serve our purpose is just a technical question. This question only comes after the state of affairs that a purpose has been out there is established. This question is not the logical precedent of purpose. Objectivist ethics is founded upon the axiom "ought to live", not "facts of reality." If someone even reject the axiom of "ought to live", he is hard (or even impossible) to be persuaded through valid reasoning.
  11. I heard that Objectivism is dissatisfied with is/ought dichotomy. It maintains that "ought" can be deduced from "is". I wonder what kind of "is" can be the basis of "ought". Because I see one kind of "is" cannot be the basis of any "ought". In our society, many people usually think "whatever is so ought to be so" or "whatever is not so ought not to be so". They take a thing's existence (or nonexistence) itself as the justification of its rationality to exist (or not exist). They take a "default" course of events as a moral code. This is an example that deduces an "ought" from an "is". Nature worshipers believe in this. If they see a place that has not been exploited yet, they usually say that "people ought not to exploit it " or "it is wrong to alter the nature." Anti-cloning activists also believe in this too. They believe that it is wrong to clone humans because the state of affairs is that humans are sexually reproductive animals. According to this ratiocination, suppose if people took the fact that "viruses exist" as a moral code, then hospitals, doctors and medical science would be all "immoral". Apparent the "is" that a thing exists cannot be the basis of morality. So how does Objectivism choose its proper "is" to serve as the basis of its "ought"?
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