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David Kelley's Moral Theory Contra Objectivism

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brandonk2009
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The list of virtues should not be closed. I've opened up the list some more:

1. rationality

2. independence

3. integrity

4. honesty

5. justice

6. productiveness

7. pride

8. benevolence (if someone deserves it)

9. malevolence (if someone deserves it)

10. ambivalence (while you suspend judgment)

11. turbulence (if your judgment flip-flops)

Just for more fun.

I believe in at least a couple of cases your additions are called out as consequences of the first seven (and #2-#7 are themselves consequences of #1). In any case, any additions would technically not be Objectivism, because AR did not add them herself. Though they would be logically consistent with it. ("post-Objectivism" anyone?)

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In any case, any additions would technically not be Objectivism, because AR did not add them herself. Though they would be logically consistent with it. ("post-Objectivism" anyone?)

Old Toad was joking, and is doing a pretty good job of poking fun at David Kelley's ideas. And you fell for it :lol:

Benevolence is not a virtue, it is covered under the virtue of justice. He added the others to make that point. :dough:

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Ayn Rand on the relationship between justice and good will:

Since men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally, a rational man regards strangers as innocent until proved guilty, and grants them that initial good will in the name of their human potential. After that, he judges them according to the moral character they have actualized. If he finds them guilty of major evils, his good will is replaced by contempt and moral condemnation. (If one values human life, one cannot value its destroyers.) If he finds them to be virtuous, he grants them personal, individual value and appreciation, in proportion to their virtues.
–Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Newsletter: Vol. 2, No. 2, February, 1963, Check Your Premises: The Ethics of Emergencies (italic emphasis original, bold emphasis added).

Good will (benevolence) is the product of a proper act of judging.

To say that good will toward strangers is a virtue would be like saying that a boat—a product of productivity—is a virtue.

Edited by Old Toad
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To say that good will toward strangers is a virtue would be like saying that a boat—a product of productivity—is a virtue.

This is very true, and for twenty years others have been pointing out that benevolence is an emotional reaction. None of the virtues are emotional reactions, but rather a proper means of thinking, and benevolence is not a means of thinking. It is quite possible that some people are just grumpy old men, even when young, but that emotional reaction is neither a virtue or a vice, but rather a sense of life reaction. A sense of life is neither a virtue nor a vice. Once can say that someone's emotional reactions are not in tune with the actual facts due to some flaw in their thinking (since emotions are derived from one's value premises), but to claim that benevolence is a virtue is to say that an emotional reaction is the root of judging; when the root of judging is rationality.

In this sense, I see Kelley's position as being an intellectual fraud. Emotions are not tools of cognition; just because one has an emotional reaction (positive or negative) it does not mean that one has gone through the appropriate thinking required to come to a cognitive conclusion regarding the facts and their relationship to human life by man's life as the standard.

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There is another crucial aspect to this treating of strangers, and that is once one sees how their mind is operating, they are no longer strangers. And if one takes ideas seriously, then if they are spouting irrationalities, one ought not to treat them as if they are a young child who just doesn't know any better. If they are old enough to present ideas, say on a board like this one, then they are old enough to be treated like adults and to be told they are wrong when they are wrong and to hold them as responsible for their thinking or lack thereof.

For example, many people have come on this board over the past several years and written up huge tracts of rationalistic gibberish claiming that we don't have free will. Well, they are definitely wrong and need to be told so, and need to have it pointed out to them that free will is self evident to one's own consciousness.

Likewise, many people have come on this board from other philosophic based systems and have trashed Objectivism, and I don't think they need to be treated kindly; especially since most of them have never read much Ayn Rand.

Once someone begins to open their mouth about their ideas and one sees that those ideas fly in the face of reality, then one can no longer be benevolent towards them if they choose not to correct their thinking, once the facts and reason are pointed out to them.

And if one takes ideas seriously, then one is confronting their ideas and not the person, and there are some people who believe that attacking an idea is attacking the person. The Kelleyites are definitely this way. They think benevolence -- as we can see is not a virtue -- should be extended to a person no matter what their ideas are and no matter how irrational they come across. They probably even make the claim that Kim Jong Il of North Korea is not evil because he hasn't yet sent missiles to South Korea; when a rational person would say that he is evil just for making the threat.

Giving the benefit of the doubt or having benevolence towards strangers is only operative until one does have the facts about their mental processes, which can be understood in a few paragraphs once one learns how to do philosophic detective work.

It is not an issue of being quick to condemn, but rather being able to observe that they are not going by the facts in a rational manner.

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In case anyone is interested, I have been thinking on the relationship between benevolence and “giving the benefit of the doubt.”

Practicing the virtue of justice, i.e., the recognition of the character of other men--that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly. Employing the appropriate methodology to one’s purpose is critical to making a good—that is a useful—judgment. In making a judgment, two issues always are involved:

1. Establishing who has the burden of proof; and

2. Establishing the appropriate standard of proof.

The burden of proof is a device to recognize reality, such as the fact that men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally (as quoted from Ayn Rand, above on this thread), and to avoid logical fallacies, such as imposing a burden to prove a negative. The one who does not carry the “burden of proof” has “the benefit of assumption,” meaning he needs no evidence to prove the assumption. The one who does carry the burden of proof has the burden to overcome the assumption. An example of a burden of proof is “the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.” Thus, under the proper burden of proof, the judgment of an accused in a criminal matter is and remains: “innocent until proven guilty.”

The standard of proof is a device to recognize one’s purpose and values in making a judgment. One’s purpose in making a judgment can range, for example, from a parent judging whether a person is safe to be a babysitter for one’s child, to a civil court judging a financial dispute between two businessmen, to a criminal court judging whether a person is guilty of a crime involving the initiation of force against another where the penalty would be imprisonment. In the first case, a parent may justly use a very low standard of proof, even as low as a mere “whiff” of reason to mistrust may be enough to disqualify the person, bearing in mind that the person has no right to be hired as a babysitter. In a case of a civil court judging a dispute between two businessmen, the risk of erroneous judgment is equal to both, and after establishing who has the burden of proof, the standard of proof is mere “preponderance of the evidence,” i.e., “more likely than not.” In the last case, where the risk of erroneous judgment would unjustly imprison an innocent, the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” What standard of proof should be employed depends on one’s purpose and values in making the judgment.

(In addition, a fair procedure for making a judgment usually requires, especially in legal contexts, a fair opportunity to be heard.)

Under her judgment of good will and benevolence toward strangers, Ayn Rand sometimes referred to “giving the benefit of the doubt,” for example as reported by Leonard Peikoff:

Despite her many disappointments, Ayn Rand did not make collective judgments; she did not become malevolent about people as such. To the end, she felt goodwill toward newcomers and gave them the benefit of the doubt—for as long as they could prove they deserved it. When, as an ignorant and confused teenager, I met her for the first time, she answered my philosophical questions urgently, for hours, struggling to help me clarify my thinking. To her, ideas were the decisive power in life, and a functioning intelligence, however confused, was of inestimable value. The same generosity is evident in many of her letters—lengthy letters of philosophical explanation and analysis sent to complete strangers who had written her their ideas or asked a question. When Ayn Rand thought that an intellectual letter was honest and intelligent, her attitude, especially in the early years, was "price no object"; in the name of full clarity, she could be extravagant in pouring out on paper her time, her effort, her concentration, her knowledge.

As to the people whom she knew personally and cared for, the sky was the limit, as you will see (and as I was lucky enough to learn firsthand). To her friends, Ayn Rand gave unwavering support, in every form possible—intellectual, emotional, and material—from all-night philosophical sessions to editorial advice to food packages (for friends stranded in postwar Europe) to an apartment she herself furnished and decorated (for her sister Nora) to immigration assistance (for her old nanny) to girls of money.

In this respect, too, The Fountainhead's Howard Roark was made in her image: using character Peter Keating's words, she was the original example of the "kindest egoist" in history. As the letters reveal, she also knew when to stop being kind. She drew the line according to the principle of justice. She would not give someone the unearned; she would help a friend in need, but she turned away the would-be moochers (as soon as she recognized them).

--Leonard Peikoff, The Letters of Ayn Rand, Introduction

In judging a man interested in ideas, Ayn Rand acknowledged both her burden of proof, i.e., the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, and her standard of proof was “giving the benefit of the doubt.” I estimate this standard of proof is between “preponderance of the evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but somewhat closer to the lower than the higher. I think this reflects Ayn Rand’s judgment of the standard of proof that justice to a person interested in ideas deserves.

Notice that "giving the benefit of the doubt" is not benevolence, it is the standard of proof Ayn Rand used for turning away from the presumptive judgment of benevolence.

Of course, none of this post addresses the nature of the evidence and logic that should be considered under this standard of proof.

I apologize for this lengthy post. I did not have time to write a shorter one.

Edited by Old Toad
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In judging a man interested in ideas, Ayn Rand acknowledged both her burden of proof, i.e., the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, and her standard of proof was “giving the benefit of the doubt.” I estimate this standard of proof is between “preponderance of the evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but somewhat closer to the lower than the higher. I think this reflects Ayn Rand’s judgment of the standard of proof that justice to a person interested in ideas deserves.

Thanks for that informative post. I don't think I disagree with anything in it. The problem is in ascertaining when and if someone is seriously interested in ideas. I go through a great deal of effort to explain my position, because I do think ideas are important and because the more people who understand Objectivism, the better off I will be. If someone is stating that 2+2=5, and I can show, with evidence, that 2+2=4; and that is rejected; that's when I become suspicious of their regard for ideas. I don't mind at all explaining Objectivism to people, and that is one of the reasons I run a local OPAR Study Group and why I do not have the standard that those participating must already be Objectivists. But how much effort one puts into the presentation does depend on how serious the other side is about reason and logic. And if they continue to insist that 2+2=5, at some point, you definitely know they just aren't getting it.

So, yes, justice is very important in dealing with others; however, that is saying that it is not benevolence that is a virtue, but rather justice. That someone is innocent until proven guilty, and that can be very difficult to judge if someone continues to insist that 2+2=5. Are they being evasive, or do that not understand the argument? At some point, you have to make that determination.

Saying that benevolence is a virtue is the philosophical equivalent of saying 2+2=5, and it can clearly be shown that benevolence is not a virtue, and yet there are people who insist that 2+2=5; and they imply and even say at times, that one ought to be benevolent with them until one can prove that they are an ax murderer!

I do think that anyone who has read up to this part of the thread and who is on the Kelley side of the argument, and remains on that side, is not being rational regarding the virtues. The arguments against Kelley and for Objectivism have been clearly presented -- for the umpteenth time, I might add.

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Actually, on second thought, I would like to modify something Old Toad said in his conclusion, though I acknowledge that he has done an excellent job in showing that benevolence is subsumed under the virtue of justice, if it is earned.

He said, "In judging a man interested in ideas, Ayn Rand acknowledged both her burden of proof, i.e., the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, and her standard of proof was “giving the benefit of the doubt.” "

I got caught up in his argument, and didn't realize the mistake he made.

Ayn Rand knew that here ideas were new to the world, and so she knew that the burden of proof was on her to make her case for Objectivism. So, her burden of proof was not the presumption of innocence, but rather presenting Objectivism in a clear, logical manner, based upon the facts available. If someone showed that they were interested in her ideas, then she would press forward in presenting them to that person, so long as the listener was rational. The standard here would be that if she could show that their premises were mistaken, and they were willing to think it through, then she gave them the benefit of the doubt (that they were mistaken and not irrational). But in all such cases, reason and reality were the ultimate standards.

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There might be two issues at stake here regarding standards of proof: 1) the primary standard of proof is did the person presenting material prove his point?; 2) the secondary standard of proof is did the person witnessing that proof evade it?

I think Old Toad was originally thinking of standards of proof that someone is evading, compared to merely mistaken, and the level of evidence that must be presented to come to that conclusion. And I think I agree with him that it would be the equivalent of the preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond the shadow of the doubt. I say this because one is not morally obligated to present material to another. It's more of a trade, and so it depends on what the presenter is getting out of it. In other words, since the burden of proof is on he who is asserting the positive, once he asserts the positive in a logical and rational manner, he is not morally obligated to go any further. If someone hearing this proof shows a willingness to think it through, then the presenter may very well conclude that he can go further with this person, in helping him to think it through in more detail.

I mean, there is a pleasure derived in seeing another mind operating rationally; and presumably that is the pleasure we all get from participating in these discussions.

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... I think this reflects Ayn Rand’s judgment of the standard of proof that justice to a person interested in ideas deserves.

My sentence here was mistaken. Of course, a person deserves to be treated for what he is.

A standard of proof, however, is a device to protect a value against a possible error in judgment. Again, consider the different consequences to one's values between making an error in judgment in the hiring of a babysitter for one's child versus the making an error in judgment in the conviction of a person for a crime. The selected standard of proof sometimes allows a person who, in fact, would be a good babysitter, to not get the job (bearing in mind he is not entitled to it), and it sometimes allows a person who, in fact, is guilty, to go free.

To correct my prior statement, I think Ayn Rand chose to "give the benefit of the doubt" to protect against an error in judgment that would be an injustice to a person who is, in fact, innocent, and to whom, in justice, one should be benevolent.

Edited by Old Toad
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To correct my prior statement, I think Ayn Rand chose to "give the benefit of the doubt" to protect against an error in judgment that would be an injustice to a person who is, in fact, innocent, and to whom, in justice, one should be benevolent.

Yes, one can give that initial benefit of the doubt as to whether someone is rational or irrational. However, the further assessment of this issue comes about when the other person replies or makes a statement as to his position. If after hearing the more rational position (the onus of proof being shown to be true), then if he is innocent (rational) as opposed to being irrational or evasive, then he will change his mind in accordance with the more rational approach. Now, he doesn't have to do this overnight or immediately, but he does have to give some indication that he will think it through in accordance with the rational approach based upon the facts in a non-contradictory manner. If he doesn't do this, then his innocence (rationality) becomes suspect.

The further issue is that once someone writes out a long philosophical tract full of errors and irrationality -- i.e. he is not logically consistent with the facts and avoids any references to facts -- then the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. He is no longer innocent until proven guilty, because his guilt is written all over the pages.

I would most definitely make this claim regarding Kant, who never made any references to the facts of reality; and one of the positions of those siding with Kelley is that Kant was merely mistaken and not guilty of massive evasion (because he evaded all of reality).

Similarly, for over twenty years, David Kelley has stood by his position without checking his premises -- that is he still stands by "Truth and Toleration" (or his other title for it), when it can be clearly shown that his stance is incorrect (i.e. Dr. Peikoff's "Fact and Value" as well as other writings against his position). That is ideas are not primarily true or false, but have a moral implication as to their effects on men who accept them (for their life or against their life) and also have an implication as to the rationality (morality) or irrationality (immorality) of those coming up with those ideas or of holding those ideas -- especially once they are shown to be wrong.

In other words, that open benevolence granted to the innocent until proven guilty or granted to a fellow human being who has the potential to be fully rational, no longer applies if that other person has been shown to be avoiding or disregarding the rational approach. If he doesn't check his premises in the face of rational opposition, then he is no longer innocent, but rather guilty of evasion.

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I am not here to discuss anything with Tom Miovas—for reasons he alluded to but the moderators do not want discussed here. Please do not assume that my silence regarding his numerous and lengthy posts is necessarily any kind of sanction of him or agreement with him. I hope the moderators will allow me to make this minimal public statement here, as he is dogging me on this thread.

My thoughts in my posts #232 and #236 on this thread are preliminary and not thoroughly fleshed out. I hope to receive some discussion with others.

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I hope the moderators will allow me to make this minimal public statement here, as he is dogging me on this thread.

Old Toad, you sure know how to misread me and my posts, especially in this thread. I have been supportive of you efforts to flesh out the relationship between "benevolence" and justice. I suspect, as before, you are reading some sort of negative tone of voice into my posts; and as I told you before, I'm just being factual.

However, if you don't want my support and my encouragement, then I will withdrawal it.

Jesus Christ! :P

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Tom,

I understand that you were trying to be supportive to my efforts here. Nevertheless, in case there is any doubt, I do not want to have any discussions with you. Further, the mods have made it clear this is not the place for me to explain to you (again) or to the readers.

-- OT

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I understand that you were trying to be supportive to my efforts here.

Then I apologize for thinking you were misreading my intent to support what you were saying. It was my attempt to help to heal some old wounds.

At any rate, I stand by what I said in this thread regarding the Kelley position.

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Returning to the topic at hand, I am prompted by a discussion in chat to add a comment regarding the burden of proof.

I think that “the burden of proof” is not merely a matter for use in adversarial debate or legal proceedings, but also applies in the courtroom of one’s mind. In the process of judging, whether the object is an abstract idea or a person or anything else, establishing the burden of proof is an important step because it establishes the starting point or the default position.

(Of course, the same applies to "the standard of proof.")

Edited by Old Toad
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  • 2 weeks later...

In chat several days ago, a couple of us were discussing what David Kelley says about judging an idea, and where people get the idea that he says one cannot. Consider this statement from his book:

An idea can be evaluated [i.e., judged] good or evil [i.e., morally] only[i.e., only] in relation to some action: either

its [actual] consequence, the action it [actually] leads someone to take; or

its cause, the mental action that produced the idea.

--Kelley (emphasis added.)

In plain English, in this statement Kelley excludes morally judging a mere idea.

I think that in judging an idea in the “abstract,” it is judged on the basis of if and when the idea were to be put into action, i.e., the hypothetical consequences. I think this obviously includes another implicit assumption: that a person who acts or would act on the idea understands the idea and its hypothetical consequences (which may not necessarily be the case regarding a particular person).

Of course, ideas do not enact themselves. For example, architectural ship designs do not enact voyages by themselves. But in response to David Kelley’s arguments for this Hegelian concern, imagine applying his method of limiting the evaluation of a ship design only in relation to some action: the consequences after the ship is built and put to sea; or its cause, the mental action of the particular ship designer that produced the idea. An idea—at least any idea pertaining to choices, such as whether to put a ship design into practice—certainly should be evaluated in the abstract. Any other approach would be extremely costly or disastrous. As in, it would be an extremely bad idea.

Edited by Old Toad
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That exact phrase is presented in his Introduction to his book, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand:

The most important single issue in this debate concerns the distinction I drew between error and evil. In "A Question of Sanction," I observed that "Truth or falsity is the essential property of an idea," a property it has inherently in virtue of its content. An idea can be evaluated good or evil only in relation to some action: either its consequence, the action it leads someone to take; or its cause, the mental action that produced the idea.

And it would be necessary to see what he means by this. Certain ideas, by their necessity, if accepted and practiced consistently, would lead to a man acting against his own self-interest and man's life as the standard, and therefore it would be a bad idea or an evil idea. So, even if no one actually accepted it and followed it, it would still be a bad idea or an evil idea. Kelley seems to dismiss this. As to the cause, yes, mistakes are possible to any man, but some ideas are so contrary to reality and reason that only someone evading (i.e being immoral) could have come up with them.

So, unless someone can point to an example of what Kelley means by the above phrase, in his own words, from his book, then his thesis would have to be shown to be incorrect. In that Introduction, he claims Peikoff is presenting a Hegelian statement that ideas act on their own; when, in fact, Dr. Peikoff means that certain ideas are necessarily anti-man and anti-life, and those who came up with them are necessarily irrational (immoral).

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In “A Question of Sanction,” I observed that “Truth or falsity is the essential property of an idea,” a property it has inherently in virtue of its content. An idea can be evaluated good or evil only in relation to some action: either its consequence, the action it leads someone to take; or its cause, the mental action that produced the idea. - CLAR p.16

How can a person know that ideas are good or evil without a relation to reality i.e., to actions? Every idea comes from an integration of experiences and logical extensions of those experiences. This is why many theories usually have to be tested to know if they are true or false, good or bad. Often, the effects of ideas are not so obviously clear from the theory itself. Theories are validated by actions, actions are not validated with theories.

When judging the general character of a man there are only three options:

A. A man's ideas have a greater moral significance than his actions. (Words speak louder than actions)

B. A man's ideas have an equal moral significance when compared to his actions. (Actions and words are equal)

C. A man's actions have a greater moral significance than his ideas. (Actions speak louder than words)

A. is clearly false. A person can obviously be disintegrated. He can think that force is the only possible way people can deal with each other, yet not live what he preaches. A man can think that God created the universe, and that all people should go to church, yet never initiate physical force.

B. also seems problematic. What idea could a person possibly think is true (that in fact is false) that would be as evil as initiating force? What fantasy could a person believe in that would make him the moral equal of a murderer of children?

C. is obviously how most people judge, and rightly so. I'm far more concerned with knowing if a person is going to act with civility around me than if he agrees with Objectivist ideas or pays lip-service to Objectivism but does not live it.

I think option C is supported by these quotes:

We can evaluate an idea by its effects—the actions it leads people to take—as measured by the standard of human life. And we can evaluate an idea by the mental actions that produced it, as measured by the standard of rationality. In either case, the value significance of the idea is a derivative property, which depends not only on the content of the idea but on the nature of the relevant action. And in either case, as I said, “the concept of evil applies primarily to actions, and to the people who perform them.” It applies only in a derivative way to the ideas themselves. CLAR p.39 - David Kelley

Also consider this quote:

An old saying states that actions speak louder than words, and nowhere is this as true as in the realm of values. Every man can identify his actual values-and those of others-by identifying what each individual pursues in action. Objectivism in one lesion, Chapter Two, p.13 Andrew Bernstein
.

And finally consider this quote from the Ray Newman interview with Ayn Rand:

NEWMAN: When do you classify someone as immoral?

RAND: Only when he has done...done, in fact, some immoral action... When someone in action [Rand's emphasis] does something which you know, can prove, is an immoral, vicious action -- a sin, not a value; or a vice (whichever you want to call it) -- then you have to judge him as he has proved.

None of this means the refusal to judge a person for his ideas. There may be plenty of contexts where the content of a person's beliefs are so obviously false and evil, that it reflects very heavily on the psycho-epistemology of that individual and in that case, how the person acts is relatively insignificant and one ought to properly discontinue the relationship. Assume that you have the option to choose a business partner between two people of equally decent character, however, one is an Objectivist the other is a Christian. There is no reason to select the Christian over the Objectivist. A person who is integrated can be the most evil or the most good, depending on the ideas he integrates into actions. Between disintegrated individuals, it is the actions of a person that are the most important to consider. This is why when it comes to moral judgement, actions are more important than words.

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A person who is integrated can be the most evil or the most good, depending on the ideas he integrates into actions. Between disintegrated individuals, it is the actions of a person that are the most important to consider. This is why when it comes to moral judgment, actions are more important than words.

But you are talking about how to judge someone of mixed premises; someone who is not consistent with his most explicit ideas; someone who acts, say, according to good cultural norms (the "work ethic"), but holds ideas in conflict with being productive and other rational virtues (say he does well at work though his explicit ideas are against productivity as a virtue). In that kind of case, one cannot disregard his explicit ideas, say if you are looking for workers, because he may decide at any point to become more integrated to his non-productive ideas. The best option would be to find someone who is explicitly for production and does a good job. In either case, however, one would have to morally evaluate the non-productive ideas as being against production as a virtue -- as a viceful idea; it's just that the guy happens to not be acting on that idea at the moment.

Regarding the initiation of force, yes, that is certainly evil; but the question is how do we judge the idea that it is OK to initiate force? We have to evaluate the idea of the initiation of force as being evil -- as not to be acted on. In other words, Hitler was very evil to even speak of herding up the Jews and throwing them into concentration camps. If Hitler had never taken over Germany and had never harmed one single Jew, that idea that they ought to be treated that was is still evil; just as the Militant Islamic idea that Israel ought to be erased from the maps is an evil idea, even if they are never given the chance to put it into practice.

The point of morally evaluating ideas before they are put into action is to prevent harm coming to a man -- which is why the threat to murder someone must be taken seriously before the murder. You cannot just say, well it was only an idea, and therefore the person proclaiming that he is going to murder you is not to be thrown in jail.

However, the initiation of force is not the only type of evil that is out there. If someone comes up with a whole string of ideas that if put into practice would render a man's mind incapable of dealing with reality; then that is evil. And this is what Kant did. It doesn't matter that he never said: Kill the Jews! By disconnecting man's mind from reality, he rendered the moral evaluation of ideas moot, so that when Hitler was talking about herding up the Jews, no one took him seriously. And this is why Kant was far more evil than Hitler. Kant made Hitler possible; he unleashed the monsters by throttling reality oriented rationality.

By the way, this is what it means to take ideas seriously -- to project what would happen if such ideas are put into practice before the fact.

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I completely agree with Old Toad's post number 232.

Let's say, there is a new person around. Someone who is completely new to Objectivism, and belongs to a strange amalgamation of other philosophies. Let's say this person is confident in his particular area of expertise, that this person has an ego, a healthy ego. And a rational mind that only accepts new facts when they can be proven.

Let's say you, the reader, as an Objectivist, gets into a discussion with this new person, we can call him Larry. Larry is not a troll, he's genuinely interested in learning about Objectivism, in this hypothetical.

Larry's talking about some scientific thing, probably having to do with the area of Quantum Mechanics, as that is a topic which is very heated for many Objectivists here, and he's spouting off something that violates the law of identity. Now, the first reaction, of course, would be to attempt to correct Larry, to explain the law of identity, and see what he says.

Larry is dubious. He's not sure he quite agrees with the law of identity. Larry's only read Atlas Shrugged so far, and he knows he likes this philosophy but he has very little knowledge of the specific intricacies involved in this philosophy, or, for that matter, in the study of philosophy at all.

I have seen Objectivists go one of two ways here. One kind immediately condemns Larry, she begins to talk about her moral judgements of his character based on his supposed unwillingness to adhere to the truth which is -obviously- plain right in front of him. She grows continually irate, and at some point calls Larry a troll, and responds to his statements with snark and bile. She assumes all further questions he asks are said with malicious intent.

The other kind of Objectivist is more patient with Larry, he attempts to ask Larry questions about where he came from in his position, he asks questions socratically to try and help Larry learn where the Objectivist stance comes from. He builds rapport with Larry, and remains entirely polite to Larry so long as Larry's stance is one of wishing to learn. Larry doesn't even have to say he's willing to learn, by the mere fact that he is in the company of Objectivists, asking -real- questions that a layman might ask about Objectivism, so long as Larry remains polite, he is obviously willing to learn.

The problem with Objectivist A is that she ruins Larry's opinion. Do you know anybody who will gladly sit around and be berated for 'getting an answer wrong' that has any semblance of self esteem? I do not. This is the genesis of Kelley's problem with Objectivism, though Kelley himself hasn't the integrity nor intellect to understand it.

You don't have to roll out a red carpet for every newcomer, but if your goal is to spread Objectivism as a philosophy to as many people as possible (without compromising any of the principles of Objectivism) yet you lack the patience to be cordial to those who are willing to learn, but do not learn as quickly as you like, please defer to someone who does have such patience.

NOTE: The hypothetical characters used in my examples do not refer to any person or persons on this board.

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The issue of benevolence is contextual, and keep in mind that all we know about most people who post here is what they advocate when they post and how they respond once the rational approach is presented to them. I certainly agree that a given individual is innocent of irrationality until proven otherwise, and that people make mistakes. Not everyone had the benefit of coming across Objectivism early on in life or grew up with parents who were enthusiastic about Objectivism.

Old Toad covered the innocent until proven guilty part, but that isn't all that is involved, even if we do use the trial analogy. For example, one doesn't say that a given person on trial for murder is innocent until proven guilty, and his guilt is clearly shown, and then conclude that because he was innocent until proven guilty that we shouldn't throw the death penalty at him. Similarly, if a given person is given the benefit of the doubt because we don't know him, and he comes up with wild claims that he cannot back up that fly in the face of reality, then he has to be considered irrational. Sometimes, a person makes a turn-around once the rational approach is presented to him, and in that case one can conclude that he was mistaken and he will think it through better, which is good for him.

But a person has to be held responsible for the ideas that he is advocating, and he must be judged as being rational or irrational based upon the information that we do have about how his mind works as evident in his posts. Unlike a trial, one doesn't usually get "all the facts" related to a case in the sense of not knowing the person and not having access to how he is off the board. Maybe he is only having difficulty with one or two things in relation to Objectivism and reason, but if that is all he is posting on, what other evidence do we have to go on? Judging someone must be done on a continual bases, taking all you know about him into account. And as I have mentioned before, if he is only mistaken, generally he will indicate that he has changed his mind about a topic he was wrong about previously.

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To be judged as a virtuous person, it is not enough to just hold the right ideas, or to think or dream about being productive. A person has to transform his good ideas into actions. The same is true for vice. It is not enough to hold false or wrong ideas. To be judged as a vicious or evil person, false or wrong ideas have to be transformed into actions.

Consider the following:

For example, if a man states that five million dollars would be an enormous benefit to his life, but takes no practical steps to earn it, the money cannot properly be said to be one of his values; rather, it is no more than a wish or a pleasant fantasy. What it would take to transform this dream into a value would be action. If the individual gets a job and starts to earn money; if he works out a budget and begins to save; if he accepts a second job and saves all of the money he earns from it; if he accepts a second job and saves all of the money he earns from it; if he invests his money and carefully monitors his gains; if he does all of this, then it can truthfully be claimed that wealth is a value to this man.
- Objectivism in one lesion, Chapter Two, p.13, Andrew Bernstein
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To be judged as a virtuous person, it is not enough to just hold the right ideas, or to think or dream about being productive. A person has to transform his good ideas into actions. The same is true for vice. It is not enough to hold false or wrong ideas. To be judged as a vicious or evil person, false or wrong ideas have to be transformed into actions.

Andrew Bernstein is talking about the pursuit of values, and that if a man does not go through the effort to earn a value, then he can't be said to actually value it; since a value is that which one acts to gain or to keep. And I would agree that merely holding an idea is neither a virtue or a vice; after all, I hold the idea in my head of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." It is an idea that I do have in my consciousness. But I don't go around advocating that this idea in my head is the height of morality, or recommend that people act on it. Advocacy is a type of action, and writing to a discussion forum is a type of action. And one can judge whether or not someone is rational (moral) or irrational (immoral) based upon what he advocates and how his mind operates by means of knowing what he advocates.

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