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  1. Well, that seems to me to hinge partially on whether it can actually be done. Which is what I'm skeptical of - that value cleanly reduces to a computable and calculable system.
  2. I put a higher value on the hypotheticals than you do, not because I expect to find myself in an unpleasant disintegrator situation any time soon, but because they seem to me useful tools for isolating individual concepts and claims out of an ethical argument. Hence trying to break the hypothetical, while generally easy, misses the point. The problem becomes one of how values are weighted, indeed - are the contents of Room B the single element "10 million strangers," or the sum value of 10 million units of the element "stranger." In practice both are unsatisfying as hard and fast rules, as the former requires a ridiculous proliferation of elements on the hierarchy, while the latter involves shifting definitions of how to add value. (Since it does not seem to me probable that it will always be strictly additive, as value is not strictly additive in other contexts) Closely related to that is still the question of measurement. But this may be the point you were noting is unanswered by Objectivism. Though I must say, I find it to be a rather strikingly fundamental point.
  3. Not particularly, since I'm not trying to argue my philosophy vs. Objectivism here - I'm trying to understand how Objectivism comes at some basic problems in philosophy. (Actually, more broadly I'm trying to understand the attack on Kant, but that seems to be coming down to not liking his answers to some basic problems, which is leading me to wonder what answers Rand prefers.) So I'll remain silent on my own views of self-defense, as they seem like a thread-derail. The view that my life is my highest value does seem to answer my question of what obvious thing you felt I was missing. I do take that to be non-obvious. Not necessarily untrue, but at least non-obvious.
  4. There are tons of answers to this question. Descartes's answer was based on his attempted proof of God's existence. Kant essentially turned the question around and asked "Given that there is no way to conceptualize beyond my senses, I may as well turn to phenomenology." Others have ended up with an answer along the lines of "Oh, crap, I have no way of checking." What I'm wondering is what Rand's solution to this fairly fundamental epistemological problem.
  5. Presumably any words I used to define them would also be. Dare I ask Rand's philosophy of language?
  6. and Well, it's more fair to say that you're using specialized definitions of terms that I am using more casually than that I don't understand the difference, but the point is taken. Though in your description, it seems to be a hierarchy of values that is still subjective inasmuch as it varies, at times arbitrarily, from person to person. (To go quite low on my hierarchy of values, I much prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate. There is no reason for this preference beyond my assessment of the pleasure each gives to my specific taste buds. The distinction is, for all practical purposes, arbitrary.) Which does suggest that it is subjective at least inasmuch as the base hierarchy depends on individual subjectivities. But what I find more interesting here is the idea that this hierarchy provides a basis for comparison. Obviously these comparisons are straightforward when only two elements on the hierarchy are in play. But what is the measurement employed when multiple elements are in play? To create a classical silly ethical hypothetical, my wife and n random people are placed in a pair of rooms, the contents of which will be disintegrated. My wife is in Room A, the n random people are in Room B. I have the means to stop one of the disintegrators, but not both. It is clear that when n=0, I stop the disintegrator in Room A, because my wife is a higher value for me than no value whatsoever. The decision is similarly easy when n=1. It is equally clear that when n=population of Earth-2, I stop the disintegrator in Room B, because my wife is not a higher value for me than the sum total of values of every other given person. But the problem becomes much harder when n is not at either of the limit cases. What is the unit of measurement that I ought employ in figuring out the problem in the general case?
  7. OK, let's drop the general case and address a specific classic problem from philosophy - Descartes' malevolent demon. This is, in many ways, the problem that sets off the chain of philosophy that culminates in Kant's phenomenology. What is Rand's response to the problem? To review, the problem is this: how do I know that my experiences are, as I assume, experiences generated from the reflection of light off of actual objects to my eyes, the vibrations of my ear drum caused by actual sound waves, etc? How do I know that all of these things I consider experience are not merely the tricks of some malevolent and all-powerful demon deluding me into believing in an existence that cannot actually be supported by any independent evidence?
  8. Again, my means of obtaining books are greatly limited at the moment, so please forgive my endless questions. Does she, as that sentence implies, take the equivalence between perception and reality as axiomatic, and thus as an article of faith?
  9. I assume, extrapolating upon this logic, that if I were to come upon a scene of one man obviously trying to kill another, and I had a gun, it would be immoral for me to shoot and kill the aggressor? Since in this case it is not my life and thus my highest value that is on the line? Fascinating. I had always assumed, apparently wrongly, that Objectivism offered an objective ethics, not a subjective one where what is morally right for one person may not be morally right for another. This thread has been really helpful. Thank you all. That seems to me an important critique of the primacy of hypotheticals in ethical debate. The advantage of hypotheticals, of course, is that we get to control for various factors and thus ask questions about the specific detail of ethics that we are interested in. But we must not confuse ethical hypotheticals for scenarios that come up in life. I am not familiar. Sadly, neither I nor my library owns either of these, and I do not have the disposable income to go book-buying, so I shall have to rely on the good will of the forum to answer the questions I have on these matters.
  10. Thank you - this is a helpful answer. The problem seems to come very early on in the Critique of Pure Reason, and seems almost more a problem of Hume than Kant, since Hume is where the biggest blow to simply taking existence straightforwardly comes via his savaging of empiricism. Kant's turn to a priori knowledge and consciousness is totally unnecessary if you can get around Hume's objections some other way. Does Rand (or another Objectivist) have a refutation of Hume? Or, perhaps more broadly, what is Rand's model of the relationship between perception and reality? Does she treat them as 100% equivalent? (In which case the question of how she gets around Hume comes up again) Or does she have a more complex model of that relationship?
  11. You are taking something as self-evident here that is not self-evident to me, but I can't actually figure out what, so I'm going to risk asking the stupid question. Why is it it is "obviously evil" to say that it is bad to kill in self defense?
  12. So it sounds like you can't answer my question of what passages in Kant Rand cites as being so objectionable. Pity. That's very surprising to me. I can't imagine, given the seeming importance that is attached to Kant as the root of so much evil, that nobody has done a detailed study of Kant, taking Rand's conclusions seemingly as an article of faith based on a little bit of reading.
  13. The problem seems to me to come up in whether the moral worth of a human being is situational or absolute. If it's situational then yes - you could decide that in certain individual cases a person's worth as a human being has been devalued such that you can kill them to protect your presumably still valuable life. But that seems to me a headlong slide into the ethical mess of utilitarianism, because suddenly you need to figure out how you're going to measure worth - worth to whom? How do we deal with predicted future worth, which is a part of the value of any object? (As, in this logic, the decision to kill someone is an active rejection of all future worth they may have) What unit of measurement do we propose for moral worth? I mean, that's not to say that there isn't a system of ethics that could be constructed around a measure of moral worth. Just that it's a tarpit that is not actually necessary in this case - you can just as easily construct a system of ethics that decides to value all human life equally. (Or, as the Kantian ethics I was taught would have it, simply ignores the question of value and treats the action as "permanently destroying rational free will" without any attempt to measure the quantity of rational free will being destroyed. But this is somewhat off-topic. I still want to know - what does Rand object to in Kant? Where can I find an extended Objectivist reading of Kant that demonstrates this evil that mainstream philosophy doesn't seem to see (not only in the sense of not criticizing, but in the sense of describing Kant totally differently)?
  14. I'm wondering why Rand objects so much to Kant, because her objections seem disproportionate with what I know of Kant. I find an answer turning that around on me to defend Kant unsatisfying, for what should be obvious reasons. In my understanding, an action is ethical if the underlying reason for taking the action could be universally applied without contradiction. The example I remember is against killing in self-defense. The underlying reason there is "I must take your life in order to protect my own." Or, to expand, "I must terminate your existence as a rational free agent in order to prolong my existence as a rational free agent." Which, when universalized, involves either an inconsistent prioritizing of the importance of existence as a rational free agent (sometimes my existence is more important than yours, other times yours is more important than mine), or it involves megalomania (my existence is all that matters). Hence that action is rejected as unethical because the underlying reason is logically contradictory. Which does not depend on any appeal to an outside authority that I can see - it just depends on the supremacy of logic.
  15. My understanding is that ethics are defined almost tautologically here - that it really is simply a matter of whether the underlying maxim can be universalized without logical contradiction. With all due respect, I would think that the onus for specific quotes would be on the more marginal view that Kant is evil and a monster. I mean, I assume that Rand, Peikoff, or another prominent Objectivist did a close reading or annotation of Kant, or at the very least a sustained engagement with his writing, no? What quotes do they present?
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