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dakota

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  1. Well, I don't see that killing the severly retarded is any different than killing a dog or a cow, if, as is claimed here, they aren't really human. After all, no one has a specified "right" to kill animals, but that doesn't mean that they aren't killed. I can see a whole lot of persons, and not just the retarded, being declared "non-man" according to the definitions given here. It's not a big step to decide that people that don't act as rationally as you think they ought to aren't "man qua man" either. That's what the Nazis were good at -- determining who did and didn't meet their standard of a human being with rights. I hope you can provide a better basis for the right to life than has been given so far here, because they are horribly open to abuse and manipulation.
  2. Based on this, it would appear that the severly retarded do not have any right to life. *** *** Mod's note: For continued discussion on retarded human beings, see this thread. - sN *** ***
  3. I wouldn't be so comfortable about abortion remaining "not very controversial" in Western countries: in those countries, there remains a significant difference between the non-Muslim and Muslim birthrates. Islam opposes abortion -- so you can expect that as they assume majority status (which they will in some European countries in 20-30 years), abortion will be severly curtailed. Also, surveys show that the American population continues to become more anti-abortion, especially in the younger age groups (Gallup, May 2010). I think the subject will become more controversial in the coming years, not less.
  4. I have a few more minutes to try and answer the rest of your post, Eiuol. To be honest, this long delay in posting my responses is tedious, and since I'm very busy I'm not likely to remember everything I wrote in a previous response -- so, since I can't see my previous posts today, I might be repeating myself. It's important for a number of reasons. First, I think rand's quote simply reinforces the difficulty I have with Objectivism being objective (in some areas). I have no doubt tnat for some individuals, putting work ahead of family and friends is necessary if they are to remain true to their hierarchy of values. I don't have a problem with that, if that's what suits that kind of individual. But I fail to the demonstration that it is objectively true of everyone, so that Rand can say that it is "immoral" to do otherwise. This suggests that Rand's vision of what constitutes "man qua man" is too narrow and does not allow for the wide range of personality types, interests, and passions of humans. I think we would agree here. I would prefer the word "stupid" rather than "immoral", but we're close enough. Now we disagree on this one. If someone has no particular desire or ability for "endeavors", and is happy to do any kind of work that enables him to provide for his family which he does value highly, he is simply using his reason to provide for his highest good. That's not immoral, it just reflects a different hierarchy of values. It's not "one size fits all". Anyway, as I mentioned, this delay is posting my responses is getting tedious. Thanks for your answers, Eiuol -- I appreciate it.
  5. OK, I have another minute or two to spare, so I'll try to get through the rest of your post: I don't think that at all, so you're addressing a position that I don't, in fact, hold. Yes, it is desirable and possible to try and figure out what would best further one's life. I don't think, though, that Objectivism is the only answer, nor do I think it is objective beyond a certain point. Gotta run again.
  6. I would respond that it doesn't, at least in the developed West, take much striving at all. It's a given: you didn't "choose" to be born, and in our society it's fairly easy to sustain biological life. No one chooses to stop their own natural breathing, or chooses to stop one's heart from beating, and we don't oversee the minute-by minute functions of our kidneys. In our society, it's fairly easy to secure food and water without much difficulty, which is where we do need to act volitionally. And here's where I always find the conversation to bog down: Objectivists will then point out that "life" is not merely biological life, that it's life as "man qua man". OK, fine, but then we get into what one person's idea of what that life SHOULD be. At the same time, it is maintained (as you just did) that "the only other option is death". So we're back to biological life. I'm not satisfied that Objectivist ethics are actually objective. That's OK -- they're still admirable ethics. And I agree with you that it is possible that there might be an exact answer or demonstration that CAN be given. I just don't see it yet. Sorry, I hadn't realized that I had been vague. Let me be more clear, then: to thrive is to be happy (what all humans ultimately strive for), fruitful, and emotionally healthy. A person who thrives is not dissatisfied with himself, is happy with his work, and is emotionally stable and able to enjoy human relationships. I think where you and I part company is that it appears, from the discussions here and in my reading, that Objectivists decide (subjectively, as objective science does not support some of these decisions) very narrowly, and according to their own preferences, just who can "thrive". For example, I have no problem whatsoever believing that a group of Buddhist monks living in a monastery are quite capable of thriving. People who value friends and family are quite capable of thriving, even if they may be stuck in rather dull work to pay the bills. Gotta run -- I hope I can finish this later.
  7. Of course not, and the reason is obvious: human health is objectively measurable. This you admit by your later statement that: "The most obvious and salient direct effect [of not washing one's hands] is the increased risk of contracting infectious diseases." End of story. That's a measurable effect. Otherwise, there would be no basis whatsoever to say that washing one's hands after going to the bathroom was desirable - we might LIKE the idea of washing one's hands; we might think it is appropriate for any number of reasons (including religious or other reasons); but without that objective effect on one's health that you admit, it truly would be just a preference. I agree, because not all actions carry with them the weight of life vs. death. However, if we are going to claim that a certain set of ethics is the ONLY ONE that will fulfill man's purpose of life (in this case, life as the primary "choice"), then for that set of ethics to be truly objective (quite a claim), demands that those ethics be demonstrable in its basic forms. Anything else is simply a subjective guide or suggestion for how one ought to live one's life. I don't think we disagree at all. I have no problem with a set of moral principles being based on an effective use of man's unique faculties to achieve success. You and I would likely agree, for the most part, on what "success" means -- but that is obviously subjective. Objective facts are not going to back up what you and I think of as most desirable. I have often thought that Objectivist ethics were perhaps best suited for specific personality types who could best maximize their business potential by adhering to them. This is not at all to say that they would be a good set of ethics for those who desired, for example, a rich family life (that would be me). Rand herself said that people who place family, friends, and human relationships above creative work are "immoral" -- that might be true if one's goal is success in business, but it is certainly not true based on science. That's all I'm saying. I agree with your reasoning and conclusion here, but I have to say that there are a thousand self-help books on the shelf that will promulgate the same thing -- the importance of genuine self-esteem is not exactly an ignored topic. Not that all approaches to it are rational, or that all recognize what genuine self-esteem is, but some do -- and they do not spring from Objectivist thought. This furthers the concept of Objectivism as a subjective set of ethics that sometimes hits upon more universal aspects of human nature that other "isms" also recognize . This is not to degrade Objectivist ehtics: I think they would be most helpful for an individual seeking to succeed in business. I doubt I would have any problem at all with the chain of reasoning supporting any particular Objectivist moral principle. I'm probably going to agree with it whole-heartedly. We simply disagree that these principles are objective (beyond certain scientifically objective areas). Cheers.
  8. I think you've entirely missed the point of my posts. I have never questioned the desirability of Objectivist ethics, but I have questioned if they are, as apparently claimed, truly objective (i.e., based on scientific, demonstrable facts and not opinions). And so based on what I find in Rand's writings and here on this forum, I find the assertion made that Objectivism is the ONLY valid philosophy. Well, we might agree that it is certainly preferable to many other "isms", but actual reality does demonstrate that man can and does survive (and sometimes even thrive) by other "isms". Objectivism, therefore, does not appear to be factually objective in the general sense of the word. If it truly were objective, then I would expect objective science demonstrate that only Objectivists live long and productive lives, and those that Objectivists condemn as irrational would be condemned by objective science (that is, they die young and do not prosper). So your question here seems hopelessly fuddled: rationality is certainly used by those whose ends are not consonant with Objectivism. That is, a man might, in using his reason, conclude that it is rational to kill a weak but potentially annoying competitor. "Might makes right" has been a reasonable choice made by many who prospered with that as their philosophy. Many other "isms" emply reason to achieve their aims. Reason as an end instead of a means is an intriguing concept and a nice ideal, but is simply not a scientific, objective fact. It all depends, doesn't it, upon the definition of "success". It's subjective. What you think of as "success" is not scientifically verifiable, but is instead an honorable and admirable set of principles that will likely bring the practitioner some success in the business world. It's a very valuable set of principles, to be sure -- but it isn't objective. This presumes that the rational faculty is infallible. It's not, as even the most casual observer of human nature can see. We are all quite capable of self-deception, and often what we decide is a "rational" answer to a particular problem is, in reality, our own biases and wishes distorting reality to accomodate our particular desire to see an action as good or bad. I don't know how a reasonable person could deny that humans are capable of such self-deception. "Beyond the fact that I am the one espousing it.." -- are you kidding?? You've just explained why your view is subjective! And it does not follow, as you claim, that "By that standard, no knowledge could ever be objective" -- nonsense. A is A. Water is made up of a particular combination of hydrogen and oxygen, regardless of your espousing it or not. If you don't eat or drink, you will die, regardless of your espousing eating and drinking or not. If you jump from a tall bridge into a river, you will probably die, regardless of your espousal of gravity or not. Not true. They are a benefit to you if and only they directly contribute to your well-being in some concrete manner. If you are an author, for example, it is perfectly possible for utter nincompoops to buy your books for all the wrong reasons and so contribute concretely to your success. Their rationality doesn't pay your bills, their money does, and whether the money or other means of support comes from your subjectively-decided class of rational or irrational does not matter in the slightest. If you have children (obviously you don't!!), then you know that they can be, at times, the most irrational of creatures, but nonetheless they are a benefit beyond all measure. I have not argued anything of the sort. Since I don't believe what you now claim I am arguing for, I have very little to say. The issue, in this specific case, is Rand's claim that people who place family, friends, and human relationships above creative work are "immoral". (The exact quote, I think, is on a previous page of this discussion). I want to know what objective, scientific facts exist to make that claim. The fact is, it can't be objectively proven. It's just one woman's opinion. And that is the crux of the matter: Objectivism is great, honorable, sensible, and admirable, but it doesn't appear to be objective. That's all.
  9. I have never questioned the wisdom of choosing rationality as a means of survival. If you think that I have been doing so, you have entirely missed the point of my previous posts. You have nicely demonstrated my problem: you are concerned with a subjective view of what man OUGHT to be, not what man demonstrably is. "Man qua man" is far more complex than Rand's particular description. Again, don't get me wrong: I think her moral directives have a great deal of merit, but they simply have no anchor in science. Of course I say "thank you" to all who make my way through life easier -- but am I really supposed to say thanks to those who make my life "cheap"? Nope -- no one who devalues what I do and cheapens it is worth my thanks. What sort of odd sacrificial offering do you think I owe those who would cheapen my life?? I never said that individuality is necessarily sacrificed because we are not truly self-sufficient islands. My point was that the claim that only self-suffiency meant freedom was very limited by the actual facts on the ground: people are subject to their company's success; their individual creative projects may not find a buyer (Rand herself was only successful because of other people buying her books); their possibly very real skills as salesmen are limited by the use of their company's products and its continued success; their success as a doctor is dependent entirely upon others (patients). A good doctor has no problem geting patients, to be sure -- but only because there are so many others (patients) around that he can have a good practice. The only truly objective independent and self-sufficient individual that I can see is a farmer who grows his own food, produces his own power, and can educate his own children. That is a free person. I desire that my children may have the same abundance of happiness, joy, and satisfaction that I enjoy. Obviously I can't dictate or force that, but if by my example I show them the results of a life lived to its fullest, than that would be a goal accomplished. So far, so good -- my kids are happy despite the sickening culture around them. They appear to have absorbed the love of family that I hoped they would. I suppose you were looking for some other "accomplishment", but I can think of no other work more important than the forming of one's own sons and daughters. That is creative, in every deepest sense.
  10. I think you and I have already agreed that there are certainly situations that are objective even though they relate to certain individuals -- for example, if one has a fatal allergic reaction to peanuts, then it is objectively true for that person that if survival is desired, then they ought not to eat peanuts, though that doesn't apply to everyone. I think the word is misleading because it implies that it is objective; i.e., pertaining to facts, and not someone's opinion or feeling about how man OUGHT to be. This is not at all to say that I think other moral theories are objective. And again, this is NOT to say that I don't think Objectivist ethics are good and reasonable and ought to be adhered to -- you and I would agree, I suspect, on the desirability or undesirability of most actions. I just don't think they are scientifically demonstrable, outside of the obvious life-and-death situations, where science can show that a particular action (eating peanuts if one has a fatal allergic reaction to them) has a certain demonstrable outcome. We agree that her situation is not desirable. Even if she goes on to live a long and happy life, justice is not served because we are all compelled to foot her bill. All I'm saying is that objective science does not apply here, as she is not going to keel over and die. Lots of people live and thrive despite less-than-honorable lifestyles. The Mafia has been around for over a hundred years -- sure, some get caught, but most don't. They get rich, have families, and continue on. Nature doesn't come in and smite them all because they aren't living as you and I think they ought to be. That's all I'm saying. I'd be happy to see the scientific data that shows that increased lifespan is the reward for not living off of others. Does someone who lives in a monastery live a demonstrably shorter life than someone who starts a company? You just can't -- for starters, longevity is far more affected by one's heredity than it is by receiving a welfare check. But how do you square that with Rand's quote that people who place family, friends, and human relationships above creative work are "immoral"? I value those things very, very highly. Obviously not everyone does -- Rand never had children. I'm sure there are others like her. But can you scientifically demonstrate that my placing my family, friends, and human relationships above my crative work is "immoral"? I don't think it can be done. We agree about this, to the extent that obviously making choices which can be scientifically demonstrated to hasten death (being an alcoholic, doing drugs, driving recklessly, etc.). I mentioned my pompous uncle, who lived a luxurious life entirely off the money his father had made - he died at 87. Can you objectively demonstrate that he would have lived longer if he had been a self-made man? But that isn't what Rand said -- specifically, she said that putting human relationships ahead of one's creative work is immoral. Of course it's not good to put everyone else ahead of one's self -- but, for many people (myself included), it's the love and closeness of friends and family that bring me joy. My work is very secondary to that. How do sccientifically demonstrate that I'm immoral? It's a question of what people prize and value highly, and it's not going to be the same for everyone. I value my family and friends for non-utilitarian purposes -- they don't need to provide encouragement (this is especially true of one's kids), and they don't need to help me achieve specific goals.
  11. Actually, Rand wrote in her diary, when she was thirteen years old, that she wanted to be known as the greatest enemy of religion. So it's reasonable to think of Objectivism as her attempt to validate a philosophical system that has the ethical objectivity of religious belief without a god. Her atheism preceded her philosophical system. So no, you can't be a religious Objectivist because atheism is the founding premise.
  12. But as is clearly shown by the history of man, man is just as capable of being irrational -- and surviving nonetheless. Man can survive by slaughtering others to further his own ends; by enslaving others; by sponging off of others, by living off of inherited wealth. "Man qua man" is a nice standard of what man should be, according to Rand, but it isn't scientifically demonstrated that man can't survive by adopting other standards. She's not my friend. Anyway, the chances of that funding being cut off are slim to none -- this is New York we're talking about. I suppose there's always a risk, of course, but it's a small one and it is rational of her to conclude that her funding is likely to continue. Don't get me wrong -- I think sponging off of others is reprehensible. That she calls herself an Objectivist is ludicrous. All I am saying is that the Objectivist ideal standard of living is not objective. She won't die because she's chosen to live off of others. That would be an objective proof that the standard id indeed scientifically demonstrable as opposed to being simply a good standard to live by. Reality isn't as neat and clean as all that. If I am a scientist, I have to get funding somewhere. If I am a doctor, I rely on having other people as patients. If I am in computer sales, I rely upon other people to buy my products. Anyone who works for a company is subject to the uncertainties that affect that company. Companies are affected by economic trends. No one is really an island, with the possible exception of a self-suffiecient farmer who raises his own food and produces his own power. See above. For many people (including myself), having the love and closeness of family and friends is its own reward, regardless of its "productivity". These are what makes life richer for many people. That it doesn't make the top of the list for you or for Rand is your choice (possibly determined by your personality), but it isn't a scientifically demonstrated fact. That is a fictional character in a work of fiction. I'm talking about reality.
  13. I provided you with dictionary definitions of how I am using the words, so that we can be on the same page. Yes, I know that Rand means different things by those words, but that's not the way I am using them. I am using them in the generally accepted meaning of the words, according to the definitions I gave. Why and how she asssigned different meanings isn't useful to this discussion, as it only creates confusion. Why she chose to create this confusion is another topic. We agree about this. However, this is the crucial point: when you say "life is a proper standard", that's objective only to the extent that it refers to biological life. If you don't do particular actions such as eating or drinking, you will die. That you will die is objective proof that eating and drinking is necessary to sustain biological life. But you go beyond objective as soon as you modify this basic standard by adding the word "proper". "Proper" according to whom? Again, you and I would likely agree on most of what a "proper" life consists of, but it isn't scientifically verifiable as objective. You can be a parasite and live. You might not live as I would like you to, but you would live. If you can scientifically demonstrate that she will not live beyond 5 years, then we can agree that the "standard of life" is usefully and objectively applied to this situation. You can't. I would agree that a standard of biological life (i.e., if you don't do this, you will die; if you do this, you will live) is in fact an objective standard of life. Science supports you in that. But as soon as you start talking about the type or quality of the life lived, you go beyond what can be proven scientifically. Your idea of what the ideal ife looks like is simply subjective. We agree that "job" and "productive work" are not always identical. However, that some far-off goal (sometimes realized, sometimes not) should be placed above family and friends is strictly a subjective opinion, not a scientific fact. I have no doubt that a few individuals (such as Rand) might be driven to a certain goal in their minds such that they could have no peace unless that creative goal was accomplished, and anyone else be damned. However, most people prize family and friends over such idealism. If your standard truly was "objective", then only those who achieved their particular creative goal would live a long and happy life. But close friends and a happy family still matter a great deal in people's measure of happiness -- you seem unable to grasp that what you think man "should' be is not exactly what man "is". You haven't given me a shred of data that suggests that objective science supports your idea of "man as he should be" vs. "man as he is".
  14. The Greeks were NOT atheists. They were a polytheistic society, which recognized many gods in a hierarchy.
  15. I agree -- I mentioned her "credentials" because that was what she relied on when I challenged her assertion that she was living by Objectivist principles. Her argument could be boiled down to: "I used reason to attain my highest value", and "I know what I'm talking about, because I've gone to such-and-such conference; I've attended meetings and lectures; I've been so devoted that I made a pilgrimage to Ayn Rand's gravesite, so I know more than you do about Objectivism." Again, she's probably right about the last bit, but otherwise her argument wasn't persuasive. Eiuol -- I don't have the time to answer you now, as it will take more time than I have tonight. Thanks for your explanation, but it doesn't convince me. I'll address your post tomorrow or Saturday, but I think we'll have to agree to disagree: though I admire Objectivism in many areas, I don't see it as objective as you claim.
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