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Everything posted by greich

  1. I wish I had the time for a detailed discussion but I was and am writing this from work. But I think your overall point is well-taken. It's easy enough to say "you haven't read x" or "go read x again" -- it's much more challenging and potentially rewarding to actually explain the relevant points in x in one's own words. I'll tell you what -- I'll give it a try. Here's why I think FreeCapitalist is mistaken when he writes that for Objectivism "virtue is an act... A sum total of all his acts...indicate the magnitude of his virtue/vice." I will try and put it in positive terms. Let me start by briefly reviewing my understanding of the Objectivist ethics. Objectivist ethics is fundamentally based on moral values to be achieved by following certain principles. Principles are basic generalizations that exist (or should exist) in all intellectual and applied fields and in ethics they take the form of the moral virtues. As someone already pointed out Ayn Rand defines virtue as "the act by which one gains and/or keeps it[value]." Now the purpose of the virtues is to achieve moral values and the most important values and virtues have been laid out in Atlas Shrugged, Virtue of Selfishness, as well as OPAR and other sources. The virtues are: Rationality Honesty Independence Integrity Productiveness Justice Pride The values are: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem. The most important vice is the initiation of physical force. It has been pointed out by Dr. Peikoff (I think that's mentioned in OPAR) that the above virtues are not necessarily exhaustive (for example there are other important ones such as courage). It also has been pointed out in various lectures that Objectivism, in common with the ancients, views these virtues as one -- in a sense they are all different aspects of rationality. A violation of any single virtue implies abandonment of virtue as such. Now let's talk about assessing virtue and vice. All the virtues are principles and their application is viewed to be contextually absolute, that is, as long as their context applies it is immoral to violate them because violating them goes against your chosen overall goal of pursuing your life as a rational being. Thus it is not the case that virtue or vice is assessed by the number of times a virtue is followed or a vice is committed. While there are indeed degrees of good and evil (Dr. Peikoff has discussed them in his excellent course "Judging, Feeling and Not Being Moralistic.") it is nevertheless the case that a deliberate violation of the virtues constitutes an anti-life action and thus vice and similarly an initiation of force against innocents (in a normal context) is also a clear vice. This has very much to do with the principled nature of the virtues. I'm not intimately familiar with Aristotle but it does sound as if in this respect there is no opposition between the two philosophies.
  2. Okay, I have to ask this: Where did you get the idea that Objectivism countenances a "quantitative" approach? This is simply not the case. I can only suggest that you definitely need to go back and study some of the literature on virtues and principles. You could start by listening to the free lecture "Why should one act on principle?" by Leonard Peikoff, available at the Ayn Rand Institute with free registration. I have not listened to Dr. Hull's lectures but Dr. Peikoff's "Moral Virtue" lectures still available from Ayn Rand Bookstore are very helpful in this regard. As for printed material, I recommend Peikoff's OPAR and Dr. Tara Smith's Viable Values.
  3. On the quality of recent Objectivist writings I couldn't agree more. And, despite recently taking advantage of an early voting opportunity to cast my vote for Bush, I think the writing and arguments of the pro-Kerry Objectivists have been first rate as well and made me seriously question whether I wanted to vote for Bush and they (particularly Dr. Peikoff) deserve a lot of credit for drawing attention to rise of religion and its potential threats. I wish these arguments had been published in a printed forum similar to the way Commentary magazine publishes a forum with 10-20 essays on a single topic. TIA is great (whenever it shows up ) but I have never seen anything like that in it. And I think this is definitely an issue where reasonable people can disagree on the best strategy (as in fact, they have). Though I expect Bush to win, I am somewhat pessimistic about what either candidate will do but I am very optimistic about our movement's growing vitality and strength. More and more Objectivist books are published, there are numerous blogs, growing numbers of Objectivists at Universities, op-eds, interviews, online bulletin boards, public events, growing support by businesses for ARI, increasing participation in the essay contests and on and on...Cheer up everybody -- our future looks bright!
  4. First of all, obviously Objectivists "believe" in evolution to the extent that they think it's true. That said, it has already been pointed out that the false alternative between life as "designed" and "random chance" is resolved by the concept of causality. Causality refers to the fact that entities (including living entities) in reality have a nature, an identity, and act (and react) accordingly. This includes the ability to mutate genetically, which is a causal property of such entities. Mutations do not happen "randomly," they happen for specific biochemical reasons, it's just that they are not related to any kind of grand design. The natural selection process is also causal and involves the interaction of living entities with their environment. The organisms that successfully survive and reproduce are able to pass on their genetic material to the next generation of organisms. I really fail to see what exactly is "degrading" about this. "Degrading" to whom? Why? I often hear from theists that atheist lack a greater "meaning" or "purpose" in life but I think any so-called "purpose" or "meaning" that is in fact divorced from life and based on mystic fantasies can only lead to disaster as history has in fact shown. Purpose is a crucial value but it must be established in the context of life and the facts surrounding it.
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