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My first thread made me realize my mistake : I thought my own sense of morality was consistent with Objectivism. I just discovered that there is a fundamental difference between my own morality and Rand's and it just made me realize how much of a Potter fan I am. (I'll be quoting Dumbledore , Rowling's equivalent of Galt, here). The post is sufficiently long. Anyone who does not want to consider even the possibility that my argument can be true can move along. So, the fundamental problem I have with Rand's philosophy is the assumption that survival is the ultimate purpose of a living being and the sole measure of the worth of existence. The problem is that an individual's survival is impossible given a long enough time frame. Every living thing (and consequently all species including us) must cease to exist at some time in the very distant future due to the increasing entropy of the Universe ("Thermal death" or "Heat death" of the Universe), assuming some "Big Crunch" hasn't happened already. So the point is : life cannot exist for eternity. So I asked myself the question : 'If I am going to die anyway, why don't I [or any body] just kill myself [or themselves] and be done with it?'. The answer came as quickly as I had asked it [a testament to how much I used to like the Potter series] : 'The question is not about how long you live, but what you did while you where alive'. There is a simple analogy to computers ; Someone may ask : 'If I am going to shut down down my computer anyway, why should I switch it on in the first place'. The conclusion is similar : 'The purpose of switching on a computer is not to shut it down, but to do whatever you want with it, although it must necessarily to come to an end'. The effect of these simple questions made me realize the root cause of my disparity [Yes, everything I said in the previous thread was ultimately a derivative of these ideas. Simple difference, really, but far-fetching consequences] with the Objectivist philosophy [although there is much in common]. Basically, morality is not based on a question of life and death. Survival is not a fundamental. The question is not about how long you survive [as even the most moral person must die], but what you do so long as you are alive (such as aquiring knowledge 'additionally' as a matter of curiosity rather than as a means for survival. It is this additional part that matters. Knowledge used for survival is only like the electricity used to run a computer. Both are only the pemises, not the main feast). Rand's morality is based on an unachievable dream [survival], finally giving no incentive to the practitioner [DD : " Time is making fools of us again " & "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live"]. A hint of such existence where survival is the only concern is hinted at in the third HP book, probably the only reason for introducing the dementors : ["You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no ... anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever ... lost" -Lupin]. Before I state more, I shall say : Survival is important. But it is only a premise to achieving something else : positive emotions. There, I said it [a crime, isn't it?]. This was also the moral foundation for the Harry Potter series - this was something that Voldemort ignored : he went in search of immortality while he slighted the importance of love [positive emotion] and the message is this : the preference goes to positive emotions over survival . Voldemort had additional evils, which where shared by many characters, such as Dumbledore himself and countless others. But it was only he who despised love [so don't go assuming his problems lie elsewhere]. Harry's mother sacrificed herself out of love for Harry. Harry sacrificed himself out of love for everybody. Even Rand said something about self-sacrifice for a loved one [superiority of positive emotions, which might have lead me to believe that our beliefs overlapped]. Basically employing reason is a means to achieve survival, a premise for achieving positive emotions [knowledge, love, curiosity, even sadness, what are poems for?]. The desire to survive ceases immediately when it is to be achieved at the cost of positive emotions [which happens often, if you apply the principle to everything you come across], taking "surival" off the pedestal as a fundamental. Do not confuse positive emotions with Rand's concepts of "happiness" & "love", which are basically physical manifestations of the mind's pursuit of survival [which can never be achieved, but only a false assurance] and which gives a sense of selfishness [in case of pleasure], or productivity [drinking, smoking, etc - they used to hint productivity]. My case of morality is where positive emotions are a fundamental and although survival is necessary to achieve it [you can't feel anything if you're dead], our survival upto now has no effect on it [the same reason why every living person, although obviously surviving, experience different emotions], making positive emotions more fundamental than survival itself [even Rand's evil characters had negative emotions while the good characters had positive emotions]. These are achievable while survival is not. Before people start bashing, try to see from this perspective [and allow a few days to get used to it]. And don't assume I am one of the "altruists", just because I am not an objectivist. Actually I hate altruists more than anything [another thing that convinced me that my morality may be similar to Rand's]. You will see that the Harry Potter series retains some of the best aspects of Objectivism : Rational self-interest [Harry, Hermione], fight against altruists [in the form of slytherins], individualism [Dumbledore, Hermione], free will [courage is emphisised as a means to make individual choices; for gryffindors], second chances [which death does not give], protection of minorities [house elves] and majorities [muggles] through reasoning, rejection of mysticism [divination] etc. Sure, both philosophies deal with death. But Rowling accepts that death is inevitable and trying to conquer it is an unrealistic motivation, which must end sooner or later. Young people are more prone to the convicton that death can be somehow overcome, through power, popularity, etc (DD - "Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty, if they forget what it was to be young.") Rand claimed that emotions are not reality. Well, negative emotions are not a reality [it does not allow any kind of suvival, which is a premise to experiencing positive emotions]. Long term survival is also unrealistic, a foolish motive to base your life on if you ask me. Consider a similar analogy to reproduction: Sure food is important, but it is foolish to consider food more fundamental than reproduction. Food is only the premise to achieve reproduction, the ultimate aim : this is also because group survival is more attainable than individual survival. [but survival of any type is unattainable. What I presented is only an analogy]. One of the things that Objectivism allows is power [see my previous thread]. Although it allows survival [strictly because the kind of power I am speaking of does not involve force, but rather the lack of it, which is actually quite dangerous], it stifles up positive emotions. Some DD quotes: “We both know there are other ways of destroying a man, Tom,…Merely taking your life would not satisfy me, I admit—” “There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” (voldemort) “You are quite wrong,…Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness—” “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (meaning, death is inevitable. Although death is contradictory to our will to survive, there is no way around it. So by accepting death, by accepting the fact that it is impossible for you to survive, you shall have conquered death - a major theme in the book) "You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying" "Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him." (emotions can be used as a means to pretend that survival can be achieved, although it cannot be truly achieved) “Its our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (suggesting that there are non-altruists, who have the ability, but go out of their way to achieve an unattainable ideal - survival). "It's the unknown we fear when looking upon death and darkness. Nothing more" "Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it." (Putting all your energy on survival can numb the pain for a while, but death is inevitable) I have one theory why Rand considered survival so important (and this influence can't be neglected) : her experience with Russia. She could have had a great fear for death, basically convincing her of the existence of only two entities : survival vs. death; intelligence vs. stupidity; selfishness vs. altruism; America vs. Russia. She then constructed an entire philosophy based on this assumption and made a crude mistake : she forgot that electricity is not merely enough to justify the existence of a computer. Survival is not merely enough to justify the existence of life. I'll reply when someone actually considers/understands my argument [that survival is not fundamental] objectively and then replies. If anyone intends to quote Rand, justify how it relates to the topic and the basic argument [as I have already considered that Rand if fundamentally wrong, you should attempt to directly tackle the fundamental problem. Avoid using derivatives of her philosophy which are based on this fundamental assumption. Using derivatives of an argument to prove the original argument is a flaw in logic].
Hi, I've been lurking on these forums for a past few weeks while reading "The Virtue of Selfishness" slowly and trying to process the information presented and how it fits with my current views. I am new to Objectivism, "The Virtue of Selfishness" being my first text on the subject. The only other book I've read by Ayn Rand is "Anthem" (several years ago as required high school reading). First the passages from "The 'Conflicts' of Mens Interests" that made me think of this question: What I'm comfused about is: how does one go about identifying desires through a process of reason? how does one find the "rational" reason to continue doing an activity that makes you feel happy/fulfilled if you cannot use emotion as a valid basis for your interests/values? If you cannot put a reason for doing an activity into words, does this make continueing the activity "irrational?" 1) If desires are NOT tools of cognition, how can goals be dependent on desires? What is the point of identifying desires with reason if desires depend on a man's values but at the same time are NOT a valid standard of value? I'm confused about how one finds whatever it is they desire through reason. What type of thought process is this? 2/3) To use myself as am example: I like to draw and I draw a lot. Drawing has been the one constant in my 20 years of life. I want to get a BFA and do illustration professionally and full time (this August marks 1 year as a part-time freelance illustrator for me so I do have a glimpse of what I am trying to get into). But I am struggling to put to words WHY I want to be a professional illustrator. Many reasons I come up with start with "Because I want to..." and I feel like that thought process is extremely flawed if I'm trying to figure out if it's rational for me to pursue this goal. I've tried putting my reasons in a "Because I value..." form but how do I know when a reason is rational? It's difficult because my personal bias and enjoyment of the activity makes me WANT to believe it is a good and rational goal, but I am afraid that I can prove this goal irrational through reasoning since I can't seem to put a "good enough" validation/justification into words. Can changing my reasons for my actions allow me to rationally pursue this activity or would doing that not-rational in some way? I simply want to live being honest with myself, with others, and with no more self-sacrifice (something I thought was good and normal, and regularly practiced it, before reading "The Virtue of Selfishness.") I look forward to your perspectives.