Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Bob G

  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by Bob G

  1. No, and no. The virtue at issue here is the individual's morality. Morality isn't just doing the right thing when you think you will get caught it is doing the right thing because it is right. Do you or do you not agree that it is fraudulent to keep money that you know is not yours?

    I specifically changed that response to fit the actual situation. He does know that the money doesn't belong to him. I'm not putting words in your mouth I'm fitting the words to the situation. Your example explicitly ignored the fact that he knew the money wasn't his. I was merely putting that fact back into context because it is his knowledge that makes this a moral question in the first place.

    Government, your parents, the guy that owns the liquor store down the street... I don't care who it was, nor do I care what his rules are, I care about my morality. As I said. When you put down your morals at what point is it proper to pick them up? Perhaps you think that because a manufacturer produced a product that didn't live up to what you believed it was supposed to you have the right to rob that manufacturer from that point on.

    Do you believe that the government in paying for his education is not acting in good faith?

    So now you are saying that the only people whom you must treat fairly are those that treat you fairly first? What if you find out a man who has never done anything to you has cheated on his wife would you then feel justified in stealing from him?

    This sounds far more like conspiracy theory than real life. You do realize that the vast majority of people who deal with the government are not ripped off as a matter of course don't you?

    Another thing. Your excuse for not doing the right thing is that it's too much of a trouble? How much trouble is it to phone and talk to someone, write a letter and a cheque and send it registered mail, getting someone to witness what you put inside and watch you put it in the mail? Seriously, if that constitutes "significant time" then some lessons in time management are in order.

    You still don't have the right to use the car. The correct course of action and one that will not incur any legal complications is to call them and tell them to get their car off your property.

    This whole thing is not about the government, it's about the individuals moral action.

    The question that is still being evaded is... is it moral to keep money you know you should not have been paid.

    Yes or No.

    *edit for typo

    Zip, the nicest thing that I can say is that no one has suggested anywhere that anyone steal or not "do the right thing" (or are you changing the example so you could yell at another straw man?). The fact that you have jumped up and down and gotten excited is not a justification for accusing me or RH of doing anything, considering doing anything, or suggesting doing anything immoral. As the quotation from AR suggests, you missed a point. Telling me that "I don't have a right to use the car" when I suggested no such thing is an indication of your inattention to detail and the specifics of a moral discussion. The question was not "is it moral to keep money you know you should not have been paid". No one suggested that it was. The question was, what to do in regards to the government and its activities. That you do not understand the difference between today's government and a private citizen is concerning.

    Your willingness to ignore the real, concrete issues in daily moral decisions is another thing. You say just "call them up". Are you serious? You come out and find a car sitting in your drive (your example). Who are you going to call? If there is a note, fine. But the car could be anyone's. The only thing to do is to call the police, tell them there is a car you don't own on your property, and ask their advise. Hopefully, they'll impound it and hope someone calls. After a while they'll claim it to be abandoned. But only you suggested that the homeowner use the car. Some other person's actions do require you to throw out your plans, your values and spend your time "doing the right thing". Yes, you could be too busy. If you're in a hurry, leave the damn thing. It's already sat there for hours. It is not a life and death situation. You fit it in as your judgment dictates.

  2. I’m sorry. I forgot the most important point!!! You can’t be morally blamed for wanting and keeping what has already been stolen from you. The government, our government is a thief. It forces you to pay money to them every year. Getting your money back, in whatever form you can is wholly justified. Again the only concern is self-defense.

    From Ayn Rand, “The Question of Scholarships”, The Objectivist, Vol. 5, No. 6, June, 1966.

    The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare stateism.

    Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it.

    The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice.

    The same moral principle and considerations apply to the issue of government research grants. [see the provisos].

    ...government jobs [provisos].

    It is a hard problem [accepting government money], and there are many situations so ambiguous, and so complex that no one can determine what is the right course of action. That is one of the evils of welfare stateism: its fundamental irrationality and immorality force men into contradictions where no course of action is right.

    All italics were in the original article.

    Regarding the issue “welfare-state laws”, it is not a respect for the laws of the welfare-state, especially as it becomes as large as it is today. It is the issue of self-protection. You don’t expose yourself to the force of those laws unless it is unavoidable, which their laws attempt to achieve, or you can strike a very significant blow for freedom. The respect for law in a welfare-state has already been lost.

  3. So then if one day you woke up to find a car in your driveway with the keys in it and the ownership and registration inside, but the car is owned by the Chrysler Corporation would you feel similar justification in keeping it?

    You are rationalizing fraud. Acting in a fashion like the one you suggest is exactly the kind of thing that get otherwise good people thrown in jail... "No one will ever know..." & "No one will ever find out I did it..." = famous last words

    Your example is faulty. If the government sent you a tax refund that was wrong and you knew it to be wrong but keep it anyway, then you are a criminal.

    If there is one thing I have learned with my dealings with the army (almost 25 years worth) it is that they are continually auditing, checking and ensuring that their money isn't being taken by people. It may take years for them to catch a mistake but they usually do. Hell for the first 3 years of my career I was overpaid by $5 a pay. After 3 years they caught the mistake (which I didn't know about) and took their money back.

    You are undoubtedly one of those people who believe that paying your taxes and doing what the government tells you is a virtue. And I specifically did not say that the taxpayer knew anything, therefore you put word in my mouth just to make an accusation.

    You need to identify that the government is an entity that deals in stolen money as a matter of course, that has no respect for the residents of the country, that functions according to arbitrary rules and regulations, that fears sticking their head out and making any kind of decision, and that their employees are generally not capable of doing productive work. This entity does not meet the test of the honest individual or corporation who must be dealt with fairly. This entity will treat you arbitrarily. You could follow the rules they tell you about and you could still be ruined. The Miltary payroll organization functions very differently than the normal government office.

    In this case one of the real possibilities is that if he leaves the money at the school the government could still demand that he pay it back on the grounds that it was paid on his behalf and it was his responsibility to straighten it out. He could send in a check and they deny that received it. We are not talking about an entity that believes in fairness or justice, just rules and regulations.

    RH will have to spend significant time in just trying to find who and how to return the money. How much is his time worth?

    If you found a private individual's property your responsibility is not open ended. The car sitting on your drive way is an inconvenience and you would be within your rights to charge the company for using your property and for the time required to get the car off your property. There is no duty to see after other peoples' property. Respecting their property does not require your time, effort, or expense. If you find it on your property, make a reasonable effort to see it returned, and they do not act to reclaim it or to meet your expenses, you can certainly salvage it. They come over and abandon something on your land without your permission, then it is their responsibility. If someone stole it an left it on your property, it would then be the authorities responsibility (a legitimate governmental function), and still not yours. You would want to find out where the thing came from, if you can, before deciding what the appropriate action would be. But it would be legitimate for you just to call a towing company with an impound lot and let them handle out.

  4. I think the word just bugged me a little because the formating of the word makes it looks like it could be used to imply there was something wrong with strict moral judgement as such, or often condemning people regardless of how the judgments were derived. I have long had a similar slight sense of being ill at ease with the word "rationalize" too though, since I've often seen it used by people easily who don't really quite understand it and just assume meaning from the structure of the word along with knowing it has something negative associated with it to think that any time somebody gives an explanation for having unpopular views, their explanations are just rationalizations and they should be ashamed of their dirty, heathen ways anyway. In the case of "rationalize" though, I think the root "rational" is meant more like the word that is pronounced "ra-shun-AL" (as in, a line of thought given for something) rather than the word that is spelled the same, but pronounced "RA-shun-ull" (meaning logical, or that a conclusion is derived through the application of reason.) A person can have a badly made "ra-shun-AL" thus fine to have a word using it for something negative, but the "RA-shun-ull" is never a bad thing. It's just that "rationalize" has the "rational" part pronounced more like "RA-shun-ull" than "ra-shun-AL" that is the little bit of trouble.

    I, on the other hand, know precisely which English words you are discussing. The use of the term "rationalize" as you are concerned with basically means to make things up to justify what someone has already decided, but is unwilling to admit their real reasons. This is also similar to the "ra-shun-AL" use of the word, as it is a justification. The reason (using a real word) that makes sense is that the "Rationalists", a group of "philosophers", did the same thing, that is, made things up, in their case to "explain" the world (I couldn't write without the " key.) The use of the term regarding the error that (usually male) Objectivists make is to forget that the term refers to all of the characteristics of an existent, and just use the defining characteristic. (Sorry, I know that I am being needlessly repetitive.) Neither use really has anything to do with reason as we know it. Both have more to do with the earlier philosophical position that there is a split between the physical world and conceptual knowledge, or universals. It was held that perceptual awareness could not lead to concepts, but only to isolated facts. Universals could only be known via intuition and direct imput from god. This is also known as a priori knowledge. A prioi knowledge could be used in reasoning, a deductive process and would give you certainty. This was know as Reason, until Ayn Rand. You might think that people understand you when you talk about using Reason or being rational, but most do not have any idea. They might think "deduction", making things up, special appeals to god, maybe, who knows. Objectivism has a very clearly defined understanding of what reason is and why it is important. It is just one of the ways that Ovbjectivism trains man to think differently than he has been, and let him focus on the world and enjoy life. The people you hear are speaking a different language.

  5. If you could get away with it, would you steal a government vehicle and sell it for cash on the grounds that you were taxed? I understand that on a daily basis it becomes harder and harder to distinguish the US government from the Soviet government, but it can be done.

    Sorry guys, there is a difference between being sent money that you didn't ask for or want and if you try to return it they are going to put you through hell vs. stealing.

    This is like the times the government through their own fault send you a tax refund that they later decide is wrong and treat you as a criminal.

  6. Bob G,...

    "Moralizing is separated because the implication is that when one judges out of context more often than not the conclusion is one of condemnation." See, I wondered if that was going to be said, but I think that also says something disconcerting. It is entirely possible for somebody to make unjustified leaps to moral praise rather than moral condemnation on insufficient or no evidence (ex: like on nothing more than once nice quoted sentence about the importance of reason jumping to the conclusion that somebody must be one of the greatest people you've ever heard of, not looking so far even as to see that in their next few sentences this person had gone on to make clear that they were from the rationalist school of thought and thought that induction was invalid and not part of reason and blah blah), so why is it that there still seems to be an assumption that even people who are trying to support Objectivism will be notably weighted in favor of condemnation rather than praise? It makes sense for people with non-reality based ethics to be weighted n favor of condemnation since nobody can really live, especially not live well, while consistent with their moral codes so to them people are always failing to be good enough their whole lives basically. But why would people who support Objectivism still be weighted in favor of condemnation? I guess statistically it's true most people we come across in our normal comings and goings aren't very great in large part due to bad philosophic ideas they hold. But does this weighting in favor of condemnation still hold while dealing with others you know are seeking to be as reasonable as they can?

    "So it isn't just being out of context but also tied to a negitive judgment." Hmm, I guess the issue for me here is it still sounds to me too much like we've got one word for brunettes in general, and now we're talking about making another word specifically for brunettes with long legs, especially pretty brunettes with long legs. I see a list of stuff, but I'm not yet clear on what is the essential difference I guess.

    Hmmm, maybe if a guy is particularly turned on by pretty brunettes with long legs he might have created his own concept (your examples are always fun, Blue). Purpuse or context can always be a reason for having concepts, like the Eskimoes who have a bunch of different words for snow. There is a problem, but it isn't that people jump to positive judgments. Unfortunately, some have such a narrow, context dropping view of what Objectivism is that they jump to condemnation. It happened a lot. It was nortorious. Big arguments. Its like the guys who dyed their hair orange. Or the music students who would only play Chopin. Or thought the only place to live was NYC and love tall buildings. The question asked was "Is this person acting in the narrow view of Obj. that I have and if he doesn't he is immoral?" If over time, this activity stops being a tendency, the word would drop from use.

  7. If you're not interested in general examples as tools to examine a real one, then the actual dilemma is explained in the bottom half. Putting down all of my thoughts took much more space than I had anticipated.

    Case 1: You are in the queue for rations in a communist society. You receive more than your allotment of meat, perhaps because the official mistakenly thought you are married when you are single, or for any other reason. Assume that you are able to leave with it and be sure that you won't be discovered or punished. Is it an immoral fraud to passively accept this mistake, or are you obligated by honesty to report it?

    Case 2: You receive an overpayment in the mail from the government in America, in payment for a legitimate function of the government, as an American citizen. Assume that if you passively accept the mistake it won't be discovered (it's not a tax refund). Is it an immoral fraud to passively accept this mistake, or are you obligated by honesty to report it?

    Case 3: You purchase a soda from a vending machine, but two are accidentally dispensed. What, if anything, do you do with the extra soda?

    I think the moral behavior of case 3 is to treat it similarly to a salvage situation. It's clearly between two private parties (you and the vending machine operator), but the other party has made a mistake that you cannot reasonably rectify. The vending machine operator presumably knows his machine will occasionally make mechanical errors and has proceeded to establish his machines anyway. The expense to correct the mistake would exceed the value of the mistake, both to you and to the vending machine operator. It makes the most sense to treat the extra soda like abandoned property and claim it.

    In case 1, moral relationships between men have broken down because of the interposition of the state in the economy making it impossible to act morally. Although an individual somewhere in that communist country produced the meat, you are not able to pay him for his productivity. It is fraudulent to accept more than your meat ration, however the premises of the situation make defining it as a fraud nonsense. The "fraud" and the ration itself are purely artificial constructs of the state meddling in the economy. In this case I think it makes sense to treat it as a survival situation that cannot be handled by normal rules and to take anything you can get.

    It's case 2 that bothers me. My emotional, instinctual reaction is to treat it similarly to case 1 because the state's involvement in my everyday life is ubiquitous and tends to distort the situation closer and closer to case 1. The state pays me to go to a state school, I get there on a state bus driven on a state road, etc. In an Objectivist society, in my situation only the state paying for my education would be legitimate and only as a special case that I will explain.


    I am going to school by using the GI Bill, after serving four years in the military. I consider it to be legitimate compensation for working in a legitimate function of the government because it's something that is codified in law just like military basic pay rates, housing allowances, uniform allowances, etc, are. It was a primary reason for deciding to enlist in the first place. I think it's as legitimate as getting a pension or any other benefit above a salary from a private company. I did have to think about it for a while though because receiving a check when I'm not actually working anymore bothered me a healthy amount, and that's a good thing.

    These are the facts to the situation. The amount that the government overpaid is over $1,100. I am in my first year of college (at 23). The school I am attending initially charged my tuition to the government as out-of-state instead of as a resident (there are lower rates for residents). I am actually a resident of the particular US state that I live in, so after discovering they were charging me as out-of-state by default, I brought the paperwork to prove my residency to the school. Now at the end of the semester, it seems the paperwork has caught up because not only did they change my residency status, they retroactively refunded the difference between resident and non-resident tuition. However, instead of refunding the government, they wrote a check personally to me.

    It's a case of the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. For clarity, keep in mind the government's budget and the schools budget are very much independent entities, even if that doesn't make sense at first.

    This money was produced and taxed by an individual in this country (technically a very small fraction of the sum of all the productivity and taxation), and it's immoral to accept their money in excess of the legal compensation for my own services to them while I was in the military. That much is clear to me. However, there are two things that are inclining me to do so anyway.

    First, the level of the state's intervention in the economy has grown to the point that there may not even be a tangible relationship between accepting/not accepting the money, and taking/not taking money from those individuals. Take for example the actions of Congress after realizing TARP would "only" lose $141b instead of $341b and fighting over how to reallocate the extra $200b windfall of money in another way instead of reducing spending in the first place. To the taxed individual, does it matter anymore where his money goes if his tax burden will be the same no matter what? It's slowly becoming a shade of accepting extra meat rations like in case 1. Of course this is what's wrong with our society today; "the government takes my money anyway so I'm going to get as big a piece of the pie as possible." I am not about to go apply for welfare or vote for it, but it's how many other people justify it when they don't have a moral framework that can identify that kind of limit. This is all also made slightly more complicated because this is a state school, because the situation becomes ever less clear with the more state actors involved. The situation may have been different in a private school.

    The second and more practical problem is that there may not even be a way to return this money to the state in the first place. The state, as far as it is concerned, has not overpaid. It received a bill, I successfully completed all of the classes, and it paid the bill. To the government I won't become a resident of that state until the next semester. To the school, I was a resident at the beginning of the first semester. Take my word for it that the government will get its money every time if it believes it is owed anything or has made a mistake in payment. However in this case their computers do not calculate that, even though they obviously have. Anyone I ask at the school or the Department of Veterans Affairs will most likely have no idea how to return this money. They will most likely tell me I am crazy for trying to give the government an extra $1,100 of what is now "my" money. This problem makes the situation similar to case 3, except with the government operating the machine. There is an extra $1,100 that is floating around with no one to return it to. Even if I could return it though, I don't think it would even matter and I would just be throwing it away without a good reason to.

    What do I do? What can I do, anyway? It may not even be possible to refund it, but if I don't cash it, it sits in the school's account, and they have the least claim to it. Do I accept this as a fortunate and rare windfall resulting from a difference in how two government entities perceived a bill? Am I responsible for trying to reconcile two different interpretations of the same bill between two government entities? If the situation were the other way around and the school charged me that extra $1,100 and the government only compensated them for in-state tuition, I would simply be screwed out of that money without a recourse.

    What do you think?

    I think that you are pretty much on the right track here, especially since none of this is your fault or intention. I would not worry about the issue of the "rights" to the money.

    What I would worry about is the ultimate government accounting, which is to say that somebody in the government might come back to you or the school and want the money back. If you got it, they could easily at any time tell you to pay it back and be quite unreasonable about it. My concern, self-defense.

    If you decide to take the money, set up a paper trail in which you establish that you attempted to give it back. Mail certified letters, make calls and keep records of when you called and who you talked to, including title; ask for supervisors; etc. This way you will at least be able to prove that you are an "upright" citizen and have an argument that they should treat you with a little respect and consideration. You'll still have pay it back, if they come calling, but more on your terms, maybe.

    I don't know if all of that is worth $1100, but the annoyance and threat factor of hearing from the government later is also a major pain.

    Good luck.

  8. I don't think I recall seeing "rationalizing" used that way before even among circles discussing O'ism. What I have always seen is things described as being rationalistic in method, just never seeing it used as a verb for that meaning. I kind of like keeping them separate too, easier to tell when you are referring to which meaning specifically. Also, was this a typo? "a definition refers to all of the attributes of a thing, not just the defining characteristics" Doesn't a definition refer to the defining characteristics? I thought a definition referred to the essential, while a *concept* referred to everything, not just the essential, defining part that differentiates that concept from other concepts. Also, listening to those lectures would be nice, but I think I recall them being expensive. So, I won't be listening any time soon . . . unless of course somebody has them and just so happened to find it worth while to loan me them for however long it took me to get around to finishing them. ;o Haha, no I'm just kidding. Also, about making moral judgments out of context, I suppose it is one of those things where I haven't quite understood what makes it essentially different from anything else out of context to thus make a new concept needing a new word. Hmm . . . Eh, maybe with a little more thought on it I'll see what the essential difference is.

    Right off the top of my head I can't think of a specific reference for seeing the use of rationalistic in the manner that I mean. Yet, I know that I have used it that way often since I heard Dr. Peikoff's lecture and I know that I have often heard it used that way. If I think of a reference I will let you know. This usage is based upon Rationalism, referring to DeCartes and his followers, e.g., Leibniz, who took a minor point and expanded it into an entire universe. DeCartes had an entire physics, philosophy of science, and general philosophy beginning with his "I think therefore I am" bit. All of it thought up by sitting in his study. I doubt that he even looked out his window.

    I don't think that you want to separate a concept from its definition that way. Yes, the definition helps in clarity, differentiation, and so on, but it is not separate from the concept and both refer to the existents that the concept stands for in all of their identiy, their reality. The definition is for epistemological purposes only, not to separate it from the real. The definition states the essential but refers to the entire existent. When you make a definition you are not separating the defining characteristic from the other characteristics or ignoring that an existent has many characteristics, many of which may not be known. It is saying that within our knowledge at this time, this characteristic differentiates it from other things and so on.

    Moralizing is separated because the implication is that when one judges out of context more often than not the conclusion is one of condemnation. So it isn't just being out of context but also tied to a negitive judgment. There are lots of bad consequences. Of course, doing anything out of context will lead to bad consequences, but a moral judgment of another person is somewhat worse.

    One of the points in the lecture series I mentioned is Dr. Peikoff's discussion of values. He talks about how personal values are and that what appears to be "Objectivist" values, because they are in the novels or that AR personally liked them, does not make them be ones that anyone should have. For example, he suggested that someone brought up in the Southwestern U.S. might not enjoy a big city skyline. A big city skyline is not a necessary value. He mentioned ways his values differed from Miss Rand, e.g., he did not get excited about the space program and the as a kid he loved horror movies. The lecture series opens up a person's perspective on Objectivism.

  9. I thought it looked like that based on the word structure, but rationalization is a process of creating false strings of explanations after the fact while evading other information in order to try to justify a prior conclusion and hide actual motives and reasons for a position....

    Also, rationalizing within Objectivist circles can mean thinking like a rationalist, meaning using deductive reasoning from definitions (among other things) that you treat as floating abstractions. Which was a poor way of saying that you end up with conclusions that are cut off from reality because you forgot that a definition refers to all of the attributes of a thing, not just the defining characteristics. It is a trap that Objectivists, especially the males, easily fall into. Listen to Dr. Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism". That is a very important set of lectures. Moralizing is doing some similar things and tends to miss context.

  10. I have been a member of this Forum for only a few months, but a trend is very clear. Do you notice that we are sitting ducks for everyone who wants to take a swing at Ayn Rand and Objectivism. In recent months we have seen a guy who is nearly as pure a Kantian as I have seen since grad school carry on for days and days. I expect he thought that he was playing with us. And of course, those hangers-on, sort of camp followers who sort of want to be Objectivists, but actually don’t want to use reason and think pop up all the time, sometimes waiting for months before revealing themselves. I am talking about the libertarians, anarchists, Kellyites, and Brandon lovers (either one). It is interesting that this latter group feel so strongly that they need to attach themselves to Objectivism and Ayn Rand. Notice how they attack her or her ideas whenever they get the chance, and then yell at the top of their voice that they really are Objectivists. One way to tell that they are who they are is that they blame AR for their problems, mistakes, or psychological problems. It isn’t wrong to have problems, make mistakes, or have psychological problems. They aren’t AR’s fault, never. Anyway, I’m not interested in carrying on a conversation, or shouting match about this. I just thought that it was interesting that it happens. It will keep happening. There is no way to stop it. The annoyance is like taxes. If you get mad every year or every time you think about it you just waste time and energy. Ignore it as best as you can. Now some idiot will say that I am not fair or am closed minded or some such drivel. They choose to ignore or not find out that I went through all of those debates when the events happened, i.e., when Brandon’s betrayal was revealed, the birth of libertarianism, Kelly’s stupidity (fortunately, I wasn’t here for the release of Kant’s spores or Dewey’s blabbering). There is no need for me to revisit it.

  11. Let us provide som further context for the bizarre suggestion that Kant was in any relevant sense "pro-happiness". Because, in fact, when Kant says that it is our duty to pursue happiness, then that is actually, within the larger context, proof of how depraved Kant's moral philosophy is. After all, what he is saying is that if you do not pursue your happiness INDIRECTLY, then you will not be eager to do your duty. Why would one not be eager to do one's duty? Because it is in conflict with one's happiness.

    In The Groundwork of the Metaphyhics of Morals, Kant makes it very clear that your duty is in conflict with your happiness:

    "Against all the commands of duty which reason represents to man as so deserving of respect, he feels in himself a powerful counterpoise in his wants and inclinations, the entire satisfaction of which he sums up under the name of happiness. Now reason issues its commands unyieldingly, without promising anything to the inclinations, and, as it were, with disregard and contempt for these claims, which are so impetuous, and at the same time so plausible, and which will not allow themselves to be suppressed by any command. Hence there arises a natural dialectic, i.e., a disposition, to argue against these strict laws of duty and to question their validity, or at least their purity and strictness; and, if possible, to make them more accordant with our wishes and inclinations, that is to say, to corrupt them at their very source, and entirely to destroy their worth- a thing which even common practical reason cannot ultimately call good." (http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/metaphys-of-morals.txt)

    Kant also makes it clear on more than one occation that you can never know for sure if you are acting from duty or merely in accordance with duty. Kant writes:

    "In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that action and to so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like them to flatter ourselves by falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see."

    And: "... I am willing to admit out of love of humanity that even most of our actions are correct, but if we look closer at them we everywhere come upon the dear self which is always prominent, and it is this they have in view and not the strict command of duty which would often require self-denial. Without being an enemy of virtue, a cool observer, one that does not mistake the wish for good, however lively, for its reality, may sometimes doubt whether true virtue is actually found anywhere in the world, and this especially as years increase and the judgement is partly made wiser by experience and partly, also, more acute in observation..."

    Consequently he also writes:

    "It is much harder to make this distinction when the action accords with duty and the subject has besides a direct inclination to it. For example, it is always a matter of duty that a dealer should not over charge an inexperienced purchaser; and wherever there is much commerce the prudent tradesman does not overcharge... Men are thus honestly served; but this is not enough to make us believe that the tradesman has so acted from duty and from principles of honesty: his own advantage required it; it is out of the question in this case to suppose that he might besides have a direct inclination in favour of the buyers, so that, as it were, from love he should give no advantage to one over another. Accordingly the action was done neither from duty nor from direct inclination, but merely with a selfish view."

    The only way you can be sure you are acting from duty is through your own suffering. In The Critique of Practical Reason Kant writes:

    "...the moral law as a motive is only negative, and this motive can be known a priori to be such. For all inclination and every sensible impulse is founded on feeling, and the negative effect produced on feeling (by the check on the inclinations) is itself feeling; consequently, we can see a priori that the moral law, as a determining principle of the will, must by thwarting all our inclinations produce a feeling which may be called pain..." (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/ikcpr10.txt)

    Rand and Peikoff have not created a "straw man". They knew what they were talking about. I know because I have read and study Kant in original for years. Every single claim by them have been verified by reading Kant. And I know that everybody, who are honest, and who spend some time to study Kant, in original, will come to the same conclusion.

    Excellent work, Knast. And thank you for the references.

  12. You describe security guards and arbitrators. Government provides retaliatory use of force, not preventive. Non sequitor.

    You are correct about the non sequitor and the idiocy of competing governments. However, I would not dismiss preventive measures from a police force. (Arbitrators, I agree.)

    The idea of the beat cop is preventive, as well as some of the measures taken in NYC in recent years.

    And remember the full page ad a few years ago in which Dr. Peikoff and two other authors condemned the NYC police for not providing protection for the Rushdie publisher when the muslims threatened (my name was proudly on that ad). I think that there are many things that police could do that would be preventive. That probably would not include permanent security guards generally, perhaps, and certainly not anything preemptive.

  13. I have a question, which presupposes a good understanding of Objectivist epistemology. So if you have not read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and/or listened on various lectures on the nature of reduction and induction, such as Objectivism Through Induction, then please do not bother.

    This is the background. I have inductively validated the following propositions:

    There is a subconsciousness. (As proved by the fact that most of the things we know, are we not consciously aware of at any given moment.)

    Our subconsciousness makes some integrations. (E.g., You think about a problem, but you get stuck and so you "give up" for the day and go to sleep. Then, the next day it all comes together in your head, with total clarity, and you scream: "Eureka!" - even though you have not put any more _conscious_ thought on the problem.)

    There is such a thing as automatized knowledge. (E.g., our vocabulary and a basic grasp of syntax; otherwise we would not be able to talk, read or even think. All of this knowledge comes to me automatically, i.e., without any conscious effort.)

    However, Ayn Rand also claims that our subconsciousness is the faculty that automatize our knowledge by integrating it. Here is the relevant quote:

    "The subconscious is an integrating mechanism. Man’s conscious mind observes and establishes connections among his experiences; the subconscious integrates the connections and makes them become automatic."


    Now, my question is simply this: What do I have to look for in order to validate this claim inductively? I have tried hard to figure it out on my own, but I have failed.

    I think my problem here is that while I know that my subconscious is doing some integrating and thus some automatization, I also know that my consciousness is doing some integrating and thus also, I presume, some automatization. So why, then, emphasize the role of the subconscious? For all I know, all or most of my automatizations might be the result of my conscious efforts to integrate my knowledge.

    Any suggestions?

    Some of the automatizations will be shown through your emotions. Many emotions that you experience that you can identify as ratonal have been created while you are an adult. Try looking at things that you have learned are good or bad since you have read AR and see what you experience.

  14. I don't see the distinction. Kant is still attacking the notion of self-interest, which is congruous to the position Objectivists hold toward him. He is saying, in essence, "It's alright if one fortuitously accrues some benefit, but personal gain shouldn't be what induces one to action."

    I still think that is pretty despicable.

    You are quit right.

    Kant is worse because he would say that a fortuitously accrued benetif would undercut the morality of the action.

  15. I'd suggest using a text somewhat closer to the philosophical mainstream as an introduction to the history of philosophy.

    If your purpose is to understand Kant a mainstream history does not necessarily give you an accurate view. Dr. Peikoff does give you an unadultrated view as close to Kant as is possible.

    You cite the right text to go to, but you grossly misread it. Kant doesn't thnk that "you receive no benefit at all from doing your duty" but rather that actions that you perform motivated by your own benefit don't express a good will or moral worth.

    If I was talking about actions performed from your own motivation you would be right. Since I was referring to Kant's view of ethical actions you have misread my statement. It is true that I am going on memory some years old I will allow for some inaccruacies. Yet, I am quite sure that Kant explicitly said that a moral action should elicit no emotion in the actor. A moral action would be performed solely because it is moral and have no consequence for the actor.

  16. I do guess that Ayn Rand would dislike a great many reality TV shows whose subject is the degradation of human beings (Shot at Love, Flavor of Love, etc.). But she would probably like the ones that celebrate human achievement like The Amazing Race.

    It is always dangerous to guess what Ayn Rand would like. She once said that she liked "Charlie's Angels" because no one was going to take the show seriously, they could do what they liked, and AR thought it was enjoyable.

    I also remember AR asking people not to send her music because no one knew what her tastes were.

    But even more important, AR's tastes have no direct philosophical or moral meaning. She wrote about the philosophical issues in aesthetics, but the consequences of those views provide for a wide range of personal preference. "Understanding Objectivism" by Dr. Peikoff is an excellent source.

  17. If no one has the right to enslave, then no one has the right to free? Why do we have the right to freedom, but no one has the right to enslave? Slavery is called immoral by consensus, and is therefore collective. Aren't these "inalienable rights" just a consensus between a majority rather than self-evident?

    Egosum, the issues that you included are important, vital. But it seems from how you wrote out your questions that you do not understand the basics. Perhaps it is a language problem. Either way, it is not clear what you want to ask or what you understand. It might help if you talked about your background or why you want to talk about these issues.

  18. That does not meen that sex cant be something important, intimate and meaningful, off course.

    But that does not meen its immorall to have sex when its not as important, intimate and meaningful.

    Satisfaction IS in my interest, as long as any potential longterm effect wouldnt make it something else.

    And so far I can not see that being the case.

    But as long as it appears obvious that it does, it would be silly not doing it.

    Cheer up, Lasse, often, especially on personal stuff, making mistakes is the way we learn. Reality can be tough. Ha! Tough love.

  19. I am having problems with imaging a private profitable city park.

    I mean, if all parks in a city were owned privately, woudln't the owners find thousand ways to use that property to cut the trees and build something profitable (a supermarket, a skyscraper, a gas station)? Wouldn't parks disasppear?

    I am talking about a park with trees where you can go to read a book, kiss your lover or see your children play.

    One important principle from Fredric Bastiat it "The Seen and the Unseen". We, having been brought up in this mess of a mixed economy are only use to its poor thought processes. We see only what they have done and not what someone thinking freely could do when not encumbered by taxes and regulations.

    If people want space not covered with buildings, someone will find a method of providing it. If we can't think of a way here, we don't really have the incentive.

    Certainly, if a developer of a block of land discovered that he could get the price he wanted if there was land open as a park, he would find a way to provide it. There could be various methods. Just let freedom ring and wonderful things can happen.

  20. Not long ago I decided to dig in and read some of Kant's work. My attitude was essentially "I'll see for myself". However, I quickly became unsatisfied and unsure with that approach. Not necessarily because I felt overwhelmed or confused by his writing. But because it became apparent that I lacked a lot of crucial information about the time period and context he worked in. His definitions and the philosophic view when he uses the word "reason" and "freedom" I suspect are surprisingly different than what I'd assume them to be today. I haven't given up on ever reading his work, but it's something I realize I'm not properly prepared for and it's best to set it aside for now.

    Does anyone have recommendations regarding reading or a companion to help grasp Kant's work in it's total context?

    A history of philosophy will also give you some context. Dr. Leonard Peikoff's tape series will do an excellent job. Start with Descartes to see what Kant started with.

    For this period, reason tends to be a subjective adherence to logic and internal consistency. It is very Platonic. The person who introduced this view was Descartes, as in "I think therefore I am". Today we call it Rationalism. It is also a sort of Disney version. Leibniz was using "reason" when he came up with monads and "the best of all possible worlds". One thing it doesn't do is connect with sense perception.

    To understand Kant's ethics the book I think you have to read is Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. It discusses the categorical imparative and duty. Freedom for Kant is that your moral choice is not tied to the object or the physical world. It is also cut off from yourself. You receive no benefit at all from doing your duty. This includes even a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment. You will feel nothing.

    I am sorry to say that all of that nonsense is right there in his writings. His style is one of the most difficult to read and understand. Sentences can go on for a page or more. Have fun!

  21. I am currently re-reading OPAR because I want to have a better technical understanding of Objectivist metaphysics. The question I am wrestling with is: what is action? This came up because last week in my philosophy class I asserted that cause preceeds effect and the T.A. asked me to prove that and it ended up in him asking me to answer this question of "what is action?" and me being dumbfounded to come up with a response (even if the response was "that's a stupid question")

    Here is where I am running into a circular argument:

    - What is action?

    - It's what entities DO.

    - How do entities DO things?

    [i'm unsure if there needs to be something else inserted here]

    - Via the law of cause and effect.

    - What is cause and effect?

    - It is action applied to entities.

    - What is action?

    The responses that you have received are good. Let me add one or two things.

    Objectivism defines things a little differently so that when we talk about cause, laws, and certain basic concepts we are using a very different approach than the people you will find at school. It helps here to have a little knowledge of the history of philosophy.

    For example, there are three different schools of "causality" that you run into, Hume, Plato and Kant. Hume says that when he sees one ball strike another he does not see a cause and effect. To him anything could have happened. Humans can say that they have seen it always happen, but they can't conclude that what we call effects will always happen in the future, as there is nothing requiring it to happen. This is probably the stance of your teacher.

    Plato says that laws are imposed on matter by some outside law giver. Matter will perform these laws, but not perfectly, thus, if we try to learn them from matter, our ideas will not be clear or perfect. It is better if we intuit them. But the laws are floating out there and are independent of matter and the world. People who talk about laws as if they are independent things are Plato's children.

    Kant says that we make everything up ourselves in our own heads, and there really isn't anything happening like we think there is in the "real world". Space, time, matter, etc., are all mental constructs that humans have.

    Ayn Rand argues that all that exists are things, which have attributes. Actually, things are their attributes. When they act, that is to say that when they interact with other things, they do so in accordance with those attributes. The cause is what the thing is. What it is also includes its place, relative speed, direction of motion, color, molecular structure, spin, charge, that is what ever science discovers. We understand what a thing is conceptually (on to the ITOE). So a cause is not a separate thing from entities. When two or more entities interact, the cause is what they were before and the result is what they are afterwards.

    Laws are our conceptual understanding of actions that we have found in certain types of entities. The wider our conceptual field, the better we understand the world.

  22. I was reading a book criticizing Objectivism: Is Objectivism A Religion? by Dr. Albert Ellis

    He referred to one of Ayn Rand's quotes: "man's emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program--and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses (Rand, 1961a)." and for some odd reason assumed that rand was saying that--

    I was thinking over it. Values--it seems he had a different concept or just forgot about that word in Ayn's quote. If my friend's happiness is more valuable to me than the taste of my friend's cooking, even if the food is disgusting, I will humor her.

    Anyone read this Dr. Albert Ellis' book? I'm only on page forty and I can see a few errors but overall it's a good read--the only book about Objectivism in our library at school/public library.

    So far it is impossible to find a critique of AR, for some reason. It would be a good thing to find someone who has a different philosophy who attempted to critique her actual positions. To my knowledge, it has not happened yet.

    One thing you will findout about Ayn Rand is that she treats all of reality the same. She holds that a rational man will work to know it as it is. She applies this principle to the people she studied, including those she disliked. She did not create straw men.

    The problem with my first my second sentence is that for anyone to attempt to know AR, they would have to use reason to identify her philosophy. Not many from the school's of the last century or so are capable of doing that.

    You are better off trying to come up with criticisms of your own, using your own reason. But that is thinking things through yourself, which is Objectivism.

  23. (I should preface this inquiry by saying that I am new to Objectivism. I have only read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue Of Selfishness, and For The New Intellectual; so obviously I have only a somewhat superficial understanding of Objectivism and philosophy in general. Nevertheless, Miss Rand's philosophy has been extremely helpful to me in many ways, and I certainly plan on further study.)

    Rand is extremely critical of Immanuel Kant. From what I gather she was antithetical to his view on the mind and its functions. Essentially, Rand says of Kant's view, the mind is responsible for distorting the material provided by one's senses, thus, in effect, creating reality (if I am incorrect in describing her interpretation, please let me know). My question is this: is her assessment correct? Is there anyone who has read Kant and can explain why Miss Rand came to this conclusion?

    Thanks all.

    Just in case you want another testimonial, I have read not only the Critique but also several other books, including his primary works on ethics. I was a graduate student in philosophy. I remember a class in which I was talking to another student about Kant's stand on ethics. The professor heard my comments and said that yes Kant wrote that, but that it was too extreme and he (Kant) didn't really mean it.

    I suspect that reading Kant in English actually tones down his philosophy. In the German, I would expect it to sound more extreme.

    It pays to remember that Kant had a purpose in his philosophy. He was very concerned by Hume's "empiricism". Kant was afraid that Hume's influence would undermine Christianity and its ethics. His intent was to disconnect the ethics from the physical world and strengthen it. I think one reason why Kant was as influential as he has been is because he had a strong position in ethics that was consistent with the generally accepted Christian beliefs. Of course, he had little opposition (until now).

  24. Get Peikoff's audio courses from the Ayn Rand bookstore (or try to get them secondhand if it's too expensive for you). Especially "understanding Objectivism" "Objectivism through induction", "Judging, feeling and not being moralistic" and "The art of thinking".

    These are excellent, especially "Understanding Objectivism". These assume that you have first studied the "Introduction to Objectivism" course.

    Let me also suggest that you read through the first non-fiction that AR wrote, i.e., "The Objectivist Newsletter" and "The Objectivist". Until just recently I had forgotten how helpful that was before I heard the first set of "Introduction to Objectivism" tapes.

  • Create New...