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  1. Hey guys, do you agree that empathy for other people is something we have to choose to engage in? That it is not automatic? And that it should be chosen for those that you care about? And if you don't do so, it automatically means you don't care about that person? Do you also agree that once you have embarked on the path of empathy in a case where you see someone under extreme suffering (like being burned alive or being physically tortured in the most ugly way) - whether friend, stranger or foe - it is impossible to maintain focus on any actual values except the need to be free from such pain? That it is psychologically impossible to empathize with the person in the scene and not feel an urge to end that suffering immediately? An urge that overrides anything else in your mind, no matter what positive values to your own life you would have to sacrifice for that? I could also ask: Do you agree that the most horrible pain is stronger than the highest pleasure, so both cannot be experienced simultaneously for weighing the pros and cons? Or I could ask: Do you agree that the only reason we can stand seeing Hitler tortured is because we don't feel any need to empathize with him? So now: What if - for some odd reason, be it like living under a dictatorship etc. - you had to make an explicit choice between being able to making love to someone or something you really enjoy most in life, or saving someone else that you are close to - maybe your parent or one of your siblings - from such extreme torture that he would otherwise have to endure for the rest of his life. To put it bluntly, your dictator has captured your close brother and says (and you have no prospect of escaping the country or winning a rebellion etc.): "You either give up any contact with your most sacred earthly pleasures and shun any contact with the opposite sex for the rest of your life, or we will physically torture your brother and physically harm him for the rest of his life, permanently, making sure he's fouled up beyond all recognition!" So it's a pure either-or choice. The reason I'm making up this scenario is not because I'm crazy, afraid it might happen, or think it is anywhere near likely to happen. But it couldn't be better suited for self-testing on values. It is not easy to really prove your values when there is no real conflict, so you have to come up with the most extreme scenario thinkable, however bizarre that may be. So unless you have any objections to the physical possibility of this scenario, please don't pester me with questions about "why would this happen". When making a decision here, the following things come to my mind: Should the amount of suffering that the brother has to endure play any role whatsoever in this decision making? Is absence of pain for someone you care about itself already a value? If yes, what would you have do to assess the situation? Wouldn't it mean you would have to try to simulate the pain in order to get some taste of what it is like? In order to achieve the maximum amount of empathy that you can still undergo without seriously harming yourself? That is, trying to put your hand on the stove for a little bit longer? Or putting the shower at maximum heat level and leave it that way until you're close to burning and run screaming out of the shower? Or hitting yourself into the balls until you almost loose conscience? Just to name a few things, and just to get an idea about what the brother would have to endure on a daily basis all the time. After all, you care about him, right, so you need to stay in the reality of his suffering. None of these simple pains like getting an injection, having a headache or a stomach ache, or stumbling and falling to the floor. Those pains are so common and known to you, you can easily expect someone to tolerate them. No! We are talking about the real pain here, and it's huge! Nothing you can easily imagine and just brush off as endurable. We're talking about the kind of pain that makes you wish to die immediately, if it doesn't stop right now! But your torturers will never grant you that wish. You cannot really know this pain because it would make your life unworthy of living. So you actually need to learn about it by experiencing it first hand as far as you have the nerves to. But then again, if it is psychologically impossible to maintain a focus on your own positive values that way, wouldn't this be the wrong approach? This would always mean, the brother wins. Or should you ask yourself the following first: How much is the other person worth to you independent of the amount of his suffering, that is, just in terms of how much his existence as a person means to you? Don't look at his suffering, don't look at his pain, just evaluate what you gain from him compared to what you gain from making love to a partner. Well in this case, the partner wins, of course. But then, assuming you choose the partner, you still have to psychologically deal with your brother anyway: With the fact of his suffering and the idea that you are restricting yourself from helping him. And in order to allow yourself the status of "I care about him, he means something to me", you really need to grasp the reality of his suffering, so you still have to empathize, and in order to empathize you have to put yourself under the aforementioned physical pain, too, in order to really get the picture. Which again would lead you to reversing your choice, the pain is so unbearable. Or committing suicide, because it's so unbearable regularly undergoing all these self-torture sessions just to stay in reality. The other option is - having chosen your partner - to psychologically treat your brother like a stranger and engage in no empathy for him for the rest of your life, to completely forget about him, pretend like he doesn't exist, in order to make the time with your partner worthwhile. Because otherwise, it would be "plus" the joy with your partner and "minus" the extreme pain you feel for your brother, which boils down to a zero sum - or rather negative sum - game. You would have to pretend like he died, even though this would mean you are doing something at least close to evading. In one sentence: You care about him, but you have to act opposite. Would this be the best thing to do? If, on the other hand, you were to choose your brother, you sure wouldn't have to deal with the pain problem and could spare yourself all your self-torture sessions. But now you have a bad conscience, because you have placed your brother above your partner. "It shouldn't have been him, it should have been my partner!", you revolt in deep shame. You have given up your highest value and most likely will contemplate suicide out of misery and due to the prospect of never being happy again. Which approach do you think is the proper one? Or would you just brush off the whole situation as one of those so-called "lifeboat situations" to which morality doesn't even apply? Also, do you think this is a perfect demonstration of why Bentham's calculus of value doesn't really work?
  2. What is value? Value is an abstract concept. A value as such is a place within a particular hierarchy. To value something is to judge where within a particular hierarchy a particular thing is. Ayn Rand asserted that a value is that which one acts to gain or keep however she confuses “value” here with a few other concepts. Her confusion is innocent however ironic. I say it is ironic because it was she who discovered precisely how to define a concept. “When in doubt about the meaning or the definition of a concept, the best method of clarification is to look for its referents-i.e., to ask oneself: What fact or facts of reality gave rise to this concept? What distinguishes it from all other concepts? ” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology) So indeed, what facts give rise to the concept “value”? “Value” is used in many contexts and yet always holds the same characteristic in each context. It is used in all numerical contexts. A numerical value is always positive or negative. “1” is a “value”. “-17,000,000,000,000” is also a “value.” “Value” is used also in philosophical contexts. If something is moral, i.e., in one’s rational self interest, it is of positive “value” to one’s life; it is highly valuable. If something is immoral it is of negative value to one’s life; it is destructive. What then distinguishes the primary use of “value” from all other concepts? ... (Clean here To finish reading "On The Definition Of Value")
  3. I owe everyone on this forum an apology. I hope you will consider forgiving me for a mistake I made. I failed to fully appreciate the fact that you are all here- or claim to be here- to discuss Objectivism which is quite admirable. I am very happy that this forum exists not only because it is devoted to discussing logical principles, but because also, there is far, far too little discussion of logical principles and philosophy elsewhere in the universe today. (I say Universe because people live on the International Space Station [i.S.S.] and their premises in fact are quite illogical since the context in which the I.S.S. presently exists is illogical; communistic ((you may refer to my essay "On The Official Establishment of U.S. Space Territory" if you want a further explanation of that assertion))) This forum is very valuable and expressing that judgement should have been in my first post, not my sixth! I am sorry. Now, because I failed to explicitly identify my value-judgement of this forum my first post "A Letter To Readers" was presented to you out of context, and it was in fact, an implicit insult to you. I shall explain what I mean by "implicit insult". I wrote "A Letter To Readers" to everyone who reads at present and anyone who ever will in the future. Most readers however are neither Objectivist nor advocates of any particular, fundamental principle of Objectivism. The implicit insult here is that I implied, when I posted "A Letter To Readers" here, that you ought to be regarded as just "anyone who reads" since you absolutely are not! As I said, this is a very valuable forum and thus it should be treated as such. I should have expressed my appreciation for this forum, properly introduced myself to you, and told you what I hoped to achieve here, at which point it would then have been logical to share "A Letter To Readers With You". Again, I am very sorry and I most certainly hope you will forgive me. With that now on record, I would like to formally introduce myself to you. My name is Sean O'Connor. I am a 26 year old philosopher and writer. (I write mostly essays, and on occasion I write a story). I have five priorities as a philosopher: 1) To discover as much as possible about meaning in general and the meaning of essential particulars. 2) To improve and clarify as many definitions as possible 3) To discover as much about the optimal navigation of the mind as possible 4) To present philosophy as a field of science and change the way it is taught, understood, and applied 5) To be one of the best essayists in history I have been writing since I was eight or nine. I have been studying literature (poetry, prose, and philosophical essays) since I was 18. I self published a book of short stories and word collages (that I now condemn) when I was 23. Last April I wrote the first essay I was proud of. It is called "In Condemnation of Apathy". After writing five essays I took a break and kept a study journal. (That didn't last long). I then began blogging and strictly on politics, and considered running for political office. I was not satisfied with the idea of being confined to potlics and experimented with photography and film. That didn't last long however. I then kept a daily philosophical video blog entitled "Thrive!". I didn't like blogging every day as I wanted more time to prepare my thoughts and visions and present them as clearly and thouroughly as possible so I began outling ideas, and taking my time. I wrote two short stories and then I began writing a third however I got an idea for an essay! That idea was unfortunately interuppted when I realized that I needed to find a new room to live in as the lease for the one I am currently living in has expired. Since I was low on cash, and was worried that I might not find a room, I decided to ask readers for help- specifically readership and promotion. (It is true that I said I was "open to donations or sponsorship" but readership matters to me much more than money and the fundamental task of the essay was not to raise money, but rather to discuss the issue of poverty, the relationship between ideology, psychology and circumstances how the relationship between those three concepts relates to our present economic disaster, to promote the ideals of independence, capitalism, responsibility, rationality, to discuss self investment, present my philosophical discoveries, and explain my literature). There are five things I want to achieve on this forum. 1) I want to share my discoveries and ideas with you. 2) I want to help you understand my discoveries and ideas and indeed inspire discussion/debate. (You might think I have contradicted myself somewhere and if you do, that's okay. To quote my hero, Dr. Nathaniel Branden, "I'm open to learning. But let's be clear about what I have said and not said" (I am presently completing an epistle to Dr. Branden which I shall share with you very soon). The only thing I don't tolerate, or entertain is an insult. 3) I want more and more people to appreciate philosophy in general- to think about it, and talk about it. I will, from time to time, promote discussions here on Facebook as part of an effort to achieve this goal. 4) I want to build an audience; I want to get enough people reading and talking about what I have written as to have evidence for an ambitious, virtuous book publisher to know for certain that my literature is marketable. 5) I want to convince you that my assertions and judgements are logical. I shall tell you a little more about myself because learning about someone's personality enhances our idea of him or her; it adds meaning to everything else he or she tells us. I live in East Windsor, New Jersey. I hate living here and for two reasons: the geography does not match my sense of life. (The tropics do) 2)Despite a "Republican" governnor, NJ is heavily Socialist and it is quite depressing. I want to live instead, on the U.S. Virgin Island: St. John- because I love the Caribbean and it is a politically free (or semi-free) American Island. Regarding my education: I have decided to write an essay on it because I take a lot of pride in it so I shall confine myself here to writers and philosophers I have studied (some in greater depth than others) in chronological order, as to provide you with a bit more context; an idea of "where I am coming from" so to speak; an indication, based on my interests and decisions of who I studied, of how I have evolved ideologically and what I have learned. I have studied The Bee Gees (yes I studied them) and other pop-music lyricists (They're not worth naming here) Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Hume, William James, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, Schopenhauer, Dostoevsky, Fitzsgerald, Hemmingway, Henry Miller, The Bible, Kant, Napoleon Hill (and other writers on "The Law of Attraction"), James Joyce, Ayn Rand, Aristotle, Leonard Peikoff, Karl Marx, Obama, Hitler, and Nathanial Branden. (my education does extend beyond literature but I shall discuss that in my essay) I am still educating myself. My top hobby is watching movies and television shows. My favorite movies are "Atlas Shrugged Part 2", "Die Another Day" , "Atlas Shrugged Part 1", "Moonraker", "Phenomenon", and "Limitless". My favorite television programs are "Star Trek", "The West Wing" (not for its politics, but for its glimpse inside the West Wing, as I am interested in politics and how the government functions in general) and "The Glenn Beck Program" (despite his metaphysical and epistemological mistakes). My favorite musicians are "Vivaldi" and "Bach". Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for taking the time to read my introduction. I look foreword to having valuable discussions with you and I wish you achieved ideals, Sean O'Connor
  4. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I will answer questions on the good in American culture, romance between an atheist and a believer, the limits of humor, and more. This episode of internet radio airs on Sunday morning, 30 December 2012, at 8 PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET in our live studio. If you miss that live broadcast, you can listen to the podcast later. This week's questions are: Question 1: The Good in American Culture: How is American culture better today better than people think? I've heard lots of depressing claims about the abysmal state of American culture lately, particularly since Obama won the election. You've disputed that, arguing that America is better in its fundamentals that many people think. What are some of those overlooked but positive American values? How can they be leveraged for cultural and political change? Question 2: Romance Between an Atheist and a Believer: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter? Question 3: The Limits of Humor: When does humor work against my values? Sometimes I wonder whether my jokes work against what I value. (For example, what's the most selfish sea creature? An Objectifish!) How do I draw the line? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. Again, if you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio podcast from the episode posted in the archive: Radio Archive: 30 December 2012. Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives. Be sure to follow Philosopy in Action via our blog, RSS feeds, and Facebook too. P.S. I've started a new thread because the old thread had "webcast" in the title, but I'm now purely on radio.
  5. Guest

    What is love?

    I posted this question in Aesthetics also, but I guess this is related to ethics as well. I am just trying to get a clear picture of how ethics affects one's love. I still cannot answer the question of what love is, and I can't really understand Ayn Rand's explanation. Is love rational? If so, what the heck does that mean? I have been thinking about the concept of "love" for some time, and I would like to ask for your ideas on it. I love beauty, and I can fall in love with pretty much anything that reflects it, I think. Beauty attracts me. My question is: How does one fall in love? What is the experience really like? I guess I would like to know what your understanding of what love is. If you have fallen in love before (I think all of us might have at some point), how do you describe it, how do you put it into words? It is such a powerful emotion, that I think it cannot be expressed. I also have hard time relating the concept of love to what Ayn Rand called "sense of life". I have read her books with great enjoyment, but I guess I do not know what the real life application of that would be like. If you have a relevant knowledge or experience to share, or give me any advice, or point me towards a direction so I can better understand "love", I would greatly appreciate it.
  6. As I have openly noted in previous posts, I am an admirer of Ayn Rand but not an Objectivist. I tend to lean more toward Pragmatism. The most common objection to Pragmatism is that it is unprincipled. This is not an unfair criticism since pragmatism (little 'p') is a widely used (and abused) term in popular discourse often meaning the adoption of a position based on the immediate expediency. But Pragmatism (big 'P') is a more formal concept and not at all contradictory to principle. However, there is a second criticism of Pragmatism that, I think, is more accurate: Pragmatism cannot but used to discover values. Pragmatism, simply stated, is the belief/claim that a statement or theory is true if and only if it is useful. A statement or theory is useful if it helps you realize your values. So, of course, the Pragmatic test rests on previously established values. Trying to use Pragmatism to discover values leads to a circularity. I appreciate that Rand attempted to ground values in objective reality but I am not at all convinced that she succeeded. (And I fully expect to be stoned for that statement.) A popular alternative is to say that values are varied and given, not universal truths. Thus, for example, one person may value equality while another values freedom. And there certainly at least seems to be a good deal of truth in that as a matter of observation. Of course, an Objectivist would answer that those who value equality over freedom are wrong. What I am wondering is whether there is something here that could be tested empirically. Is any concept of value falsifiable? I can imagine several possibilities but before I do I'd like to point to our own value profile instrument: http://www.conquistador.org/qvalue It's not at all scientifically constructed but one might image doing something more rigorous and testing various values hypotheses. While you can't test varied and given vs. wrong, you might test value before and after an Objectivist education. If values can be changed by exposure to Objectivist ideas that would imply that they are not intrinsic but discovered. What do you think?
  7. A major criticism of Objectivism is that Rand talks a lot about the objective value life, yet fails to recognize (or intentionally leaves out) that production and creation do not follow from this value of "life." Do men need reason to survive? Yes. But if it's necessary to use Rand's philosophy to survive, this premise begs the question of how men survived before Rand came along. I think this argument is flawed in many ways, but it does point to a flaw I feel is in Objectivism. Yes- we need reason to survive. But how does it follow production is a moral virtue? Rand defines virtue as how one acts to attain a value. A value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. If building skyscrapers is something to be admired- why? Why is the person who builds a skyscraper more virtuous than a Transcendentalist who goes to live in a shack in the woods? The problem here, I believe, is the failure of Objectivism to explicitly state a "lemon test" on how and why a certain value would be objective instead of mindlessly self-indulgent. If I wanted money, would this be a legitimate value or not? Would it virtuous for me to become a porn director? What if I value lying in the sun instead of making steel? Why is the Objectivist hero the man that moves the world? What if I feel my happiness can be better served doing nothing? I'm assuming Objectivism's answer to this is that life must be furthered. Just as a lion does not have the leg of a deer and say "I'm done", as a tree doesn't grow 4 feet tall and die, man too must further his life and survival. Steel mills, smokestacks, industry, and skyscrapers are all examples of this. The critic could ask that life would be furthered in what way? How has Objectivism come to the conclusion that the furtherment of life entails industry? Again the question must be asked whether these other things would be valued by Objectivists. It is because man survived by adjusting his background to himself that industry is desirable? What of the men before technology? -- While you're contemplating your answer to that question, I would like to talk about this in terms of the whole Mises economic theory. If I understand it correctly, (Which may or may not be true) Mises held that values were ultimately subjective- that what they value today they may or may not value tomorrow. Additionally, how they act and what they buy today may or may not be the same as tomorrow, and even if they were consistent in simple situations, that does not mean they will be consistent in complex situations. Thus his support for "a-priori" knowledge and opposition to empirical evidence. I'm not exactly sure what the Objectivist take on this would be. Do the values that Mises talks about mean economic values (i.e. Pepsi or Coke), whereas Rand is referring more to abstract, philosophical values? Can they co-exist? Are they in complete opposition? What is the Objectivist view of Emprical Evidence in economics? I know there were *some* threads about this, but none really made sense to me. When talking about the last part, please try to dumb it down please and thanks.
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