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(My thread was directly inspired by this incredibly thought-provoking discussion from a few years back. If you're not familiar with it, then I would recommend that you at least skim through the thread as a way to familiarize yourself and to provide you with a little bit of context. I will highlight a few key points which grabbed my own attention the most.) In The Virtue of Selfishness, Miss Rand wrote the following: "Since all values have to be gained and/or kept by men's actions, any breach between actor and beneficiary necessitates an injustice: the sacrifice of some men to others, of the actors to the nonactors, of the moral to the immoral. Nothing could ever justify such a breach, and no one ever has. ... The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action" The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 9-10 To me (and evidently to others as well), this immediately brought up a wide array of follow-up questions. I have chosen to narrow it down to a total of four different questions: Must the actor be the sole beneficiary of an action? Must the actor's personal gain be the exclusive motivator for taking an action? Can the desired gain of both actor and beneficiary serve as a morally proper motivator for taking an action? Can the actor's personal gain be only a secondary consideration before taking an action? To me, it's clear that the answer to the first question must surely be in the negative to an Objectivist since any other answer would essentially negate the idea that the interests of rational men do not clash. If I take an action where I am truly the sole beneficiary, then I must be dealing with someone irrational (e.g., an enemy or a crook). Upon reflection, I think the answer to the second question must also be in the negative, although here I do experience some doubt. As a concrete example, let's say that I want to buy a gift for my partner. It would not be my own personal gain that would serve as the exclusive motivator in regards to bringing the action (i.e., the purchasing of the gift) to fruition unless you want to get somewhat convoluted and say something to the effect of "I will selfishly enjoy seeing the joy which the gift will bring to my partner and this is the sole reason why I would buy the gift". Now, I don't necessarily dispute that this kind of reasoning would constitute an element of my own motivation, but would you honestly say that it provides the picture in its entirety? Think for yourself, engage in introspection. Speaking for myself, I would say no. I find the idea shallow and limiting. Therefore, I would answer the third question in the affirmative. I think it's perfectly rational and non-altruistic to act for the gain of yourself (the actor) as well as the gain of the beneficiary provided that said beneficiary is an objective value or a victim of injustice. The fourth follow-up question is undoubtedly the trickiest one for me to answer satisfactorily. Through introspection, it is evident that I do take actions where my personal gain is at best indirect (e.g., experiencing a sense of delight from seeing the person I care about light up as a result of something I did), but I would not say that this is altruism. However, the relevant question is whether or not such actions are consistent with pure, unabashed egoism. And this will provide a suitable bridge to the next point. In merjet's thread, there were a few posts which revolved around whether or not one can say that any action which is non-altruistic is morally justifiable (i.e., in a person's rational self-interest). Notice the shift in emphasis in going from egoistic to merely non-altruistic. "Egoistic" implies a positive, whereas "non-altruistic" instead implies the absence of self-sacrifice. It seems to me that the first question which needs to be addressed is whether or not "non-altruistic" actions can even be conceptualized as belonging to a coherent category to begin with or if they should just be grouped together with egoistic actions. Fundamentally, I think it comes down to how broad your conception of egoism is. How you respond to the four follow-up questions that i provided could possibly be an indicator of that. What do you all think? Postscript: Do excuse me if my thread comes across as rather jumbled and all over the place. I tried to make it as clear and concise as possible to the reader while simultaneously incorporating all the main issues which grabbed my attention from merjet's thread. Perhaps it was somewhat unnecessary to create an entirely separate thread when his thread still exists but ultimately I chose to carve out a space where my own personal reflections could hopefully be adequately addressed. @Boydstun
I was having a conversation with an Objectivist lately about the tenets of Objectivism, and I was directed toward this forum section to try to get answers. Part of Objectivist philosophy is egoism, but as far as I can see, egoism leads to socialism when it is adopted on a societal scale. Here is how I see it: Egotistical people, almost by definition, care greatly about "getting theirs". When there is a critical mass of egotistical people in any society and they aren't "getting theirs", they band together and begin using socialism to take from "the rich" who "already have theirs". And that's how they "get theirs". This is especially true when said society is an electoral democracy where the masses of people, for better or worse, have the authority to choose who governs on the basis of the greatest number of votes. In other words, they clearly turn to socialism as a mechanism to service their egoism. To use an Atlas Shrugged example: Fred Kinnan is an apt example of what most people would consider an egoist. He's a fatcat union boss who blatantly leverages socialism in the service of his egoism. The vast majority of socialists are just like Fred Kinnan. They hate it when they are called on that, but that's what they are.
http://www.appliedphilosophyonline.com/immigration_and_applied_egoism.htm Immigration and Applied Egoism By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. 06/09/2012 I have known many immigrants to the United States over the years, and all of them have been very intelligent, personally motivated to achieve their values, and hamstrung by government regulations that will not let them immigrate freely; so long as they are not criminals, acting to overthrow the US government, nor carrying some deadly disease that is incurable. If one looks into the details of our current immigration policy, one will see that it is motivated by the moral principles of altruism. Altruism is the moral doctrine that one ought to be more concerned with the welfare of others rather than having a primary concern for oneself and one’s own well-being (egoism). It takes this form within immigration policy of making it nearly impossible for rational, self-sufficient immigrants to move to the US if the country of origin is suffering due to polices of that country that are against such individuals. In other words, there was a great push to limit immigration from the former Soviet Union because any intelligent observer understood that by letting the best and brightest Soviet citizen immigrate to the USA, the Soviet Union would become impoverished to the point of eventual collapse. But it was US policy not to let this happen, because the well-being of a foreign country took precedent over the well-being of the United States – i.e. applied altruism. It didn’t help matters that many policy officials in the USA considered Communism to be a moral / political ideal themselves, and therefore did not want to see a Communist State collapse due to its fight with the reality of the fact that Slaves of the State are unproductive. So, under an altruistic policy, immigration levels are set, country to country, in terms of what effect such immigration will have on the other nation, not on what such immigration will lead to in the United States. Clearly, if the best and the brightest are permitted to immigrate here due to our greater freedom and hence greater opportunities, then the other nation will indeed suffer and we will benefit. But what of it? Had the Soviet Union collapsed within a few decades, the whole Cold War would have ended and various real but proxy wars would never have happened. In effect, by having such an immigration policy, the US was acting against itself, but this is virtuous according to altruism. Objectivism takes a far different stance due to it’s assertion of rational egoism and the right of an individual to live his life to the fullest, earning as much wealth as he can by being a productive individual. It was the original immigration policy of the Founding Fathers, who understood that vast areas of the Colonies were unsettled wilderness and that by permitting such individual to immigrate freely that the economy would improve and civilization would flourish. An argument being made today is that we no longer have such wilderness areas that require development, and hence immigration ought to be restricted to cut down on city populations. But if highly populated cities were so detrimental to those living there, people would move out into less populated areas, and they are certainly free to do this. However, what we have observed over the centuries is that we can have huge productive cities, so long as men are free to act in their own self-interest. But, again, this requires understanding the morality of egoism, and not trying to make a pre-determination by government edicts of what is best for others living in the cities. And altruism implies force directed against others, since the other’s welfare is uppermost in the altruist’s mind, and the individual simply cannot be expected to live well on his own without someone, including the State, helping him out by making his life decisions for him. Hence, the State must decide for the other whether or not such individuals would be better off in the Soviet Union versus the United States. The idea that an individual ought to be free from the force or fraud of others comes about due to the idea that the individual is able to make rational decisions on his own. By rejecting this principle, altruism forms a type of collectivism, whereby a select group – often the State – claims to know more than the individual and can therefore impose edicts onto him for his own well-being. So, not only is altruism anti-individual on the moral level, it is anti-individual on the requirements of reason; since reason, in fact, is an attribute of the individual and can only operate if that individual chooses to use his own mind. An “open immigration policy” would recognize all these facts about the productive individual and would set each individual free from his former slave to semi-slave State; which would be virtuous, according to the principles of reason and egoism. In short, current US immigration policy is against the success of the United States and ought to be changed to better reflect the achievements that are possible by free, rational men, who go through the effort to start a new life for their own betterment in a free country.