Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

David Kelley's Moral Theory Contra Objectivism

Rate this topic


brandonk2009
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello Donovan,

As I explained in my first post on this thread, this definition "… tolerance … means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence" is wrong.

Example where tolerance does apply:

... you have judged that she is not likely to fit the profile of one who "should have known what the function of government ought to be." In this situation, it is acceptable to have a civil attitude and it is not necessary to boycott the waitress or the restaurant.

If this is your judgment, you have not practiced "tolerance" under any of the ordinarily-accepted senses and definitions.

-- Toad

Edited by Old Toad
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 317
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Hello Donovan,

As I explained in my first post on this thread, this definition "… tolerance … means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence" is wrong.

If this is your judgment, you have not practiced "tolerance" under any of the ordinarily-accepted senses and definitions.

-- Toad

Toad,

I do not see how putting up with someone that says things you know are incorrect, is not tolerance. I think I am being tolerant in having this discussion. If I were being intolerant I would have condemned everyone I disagree with, removed my sanction and I would not even bother to deal with people at all. The reason why I am being tolerant in this conversation is because I have not seen evidence that anyone here has malevolent intentions and I do not assume that because others have a different view that I always know their intentions. Degree and measurement matters in morality. I think you are very confused between the concept of moral relativism and tolerance. I think you are also being unfair to Kelley because you are taking his quote to mean suspending all judgment as apposed to not judging someone's character automatically based on their ideas or actions (because we lack evidence).

For anyone that is interested in knowing a little about how these two concepts differ, consider these links:

Moral relativism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism

Toleration:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolerance

Intentions and degree matter in morality:

Basic elements:

In common law jurisdictions, murder has two elements or parts:

the act (actus reus) of killing a person

the state of mind (mens rea) of intentional, purposeful, malicious, premeditated, and/or wanton.

While murder is often expressed as the unlawful killing of another human being with "malice aforethought", this element of malice may not be required in every jurisdiction (for example, see the French definition of murder below).

The element of malice aforethought can be satisfied by an intentional killing, which is considered express malice.

Malice can also be implied: deaths that occur by any recklessness or during certain serious crimes are considered to be implied malice murders.

Exclusions:

Unlawful killings without malice or intent are considered manslaughter.

Justified or accidental killings are considered homicides. Depending on the circumstances, these may or may not be considered criminal offenses.

Suicide is not considered murder in most societies. Assisting a suicide, however, may be considered murder in some circumstances.

Capital punishment ordered by a legitimate court of law as the result of a conviction in a criminal trial with due process for a serious crime.

Killing of enemy combatants by lawful combatants in accordance with lawful orders in war, although illicit killings within a war may constitute murder or homicidal war crimes. (see the Laws of war article)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder#Common_law

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would you be willing to say that EC is immoral for his convictions relative to his views on the issue of Homosexuality?

I believe it is a case of willful irrationality. So yes, I think he is being immoral.

Consider these quotes:

"Of all the points I made in “A Question of Sanction,” none has been so thoroughly discussed, or so often misunderstood, as the distinction between error and evil. Peikoff has interpreted my position as a defense of ivory-tower amoralism, a demand that ideas and intellectuals be exempt from morality. This is a complete distortion. But he is right that my position is quite different from his."

- David Kelley, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, Page 40

"To pass a moral judgment on someone for the ideas he holds, it is not enough merely to evaluate those ideas by their consequences. We must also consider his motive: we must consider whether and to what extent his beliefs are the product of a rational process of thought."

- David Kelley, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, Page 50

"The principles of justice also determine the limits of toleration. Tolerance is not appropriate, as I said in “A Question of Sanction,” when a person is willfully irrational. Thus I do not hold, as Peikoff claims, that tolerance means suspending moral judgment in the realm of ideas. It means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence."

- David Kelley, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, Page 62

It's been quite a while since I've read The Contested Legacy, and I don't remember the context of these quotes. However, I'll try to reply to them.

Quote #1: There isn't much to discuss here. Peikoff and Kelley do have radically different viewpoints on the moral implications of ideas and even actions.

Quote #2: I don't want to quote Peikoff, I prefer to formulate my own answers, but this is basically Peikoff's stance. According to Objectivism, when one is evaluating an idea morally, one should not subjectively attach a positive or negative evaluation to it. If an idea is consonant with reality, then its consonance implies that a logical process formed the idea, hence the idea is good and any actions derived from that idea will also be good. The other side of the coin is, if an idea is inconsistent with reality, then its inconsistence implies that an illogical process formed the idea, hence the idea is bad, etc.

I also maintain that a logical process of thought cannot result in an idea that is inconsistent with reality and that an action derived from such an idea cannot be immoral (and vice-versa).

The truth or falsity of an idea therefore, implies its moral significance—the relationship between fact and value. Objective value results from objective truth. I agree with Peikoff when he asserts that Kelley's moral theory denies the relationship between fact and value. Such a denial is unacceptable and is not compatible with Objectivism.

A false idea is derived from an illogical process of thought or an irrational motive, both are immoral and can/should be forgiven only if that person recognizes their mistakes and their irrationality and changes their mindset.

Quote #3: Insufficient evidence of what? The motive of holding a false idea?

Edited by brandonk2009
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brandon,

Why bother with differentiating between epistemology and ethics at all then? Does every fact hold a moral significance? And, since you have declared that EC is immoral, have you decided what to do about it? Is there a spectrum when it comes to morality or is he just as bad as a killer? I am also wondering, since you think that all irrational ideas automatically manifest into evil actions, why advocate a free society? Why not punish people for their ideas? As soon as you hear EC say "Gays are immoral," you believe you can infer that he must be an evader, he must have the intention to do harm, he is evil. Why not persecute him? Even in Dante's Inferno there was acknowledgment of degree and measurement. Sounds like Peikoff's version of hell would be even worse than the Inferno! And, I thought the Christian hell was packed full of souls!

Compare these statements:

Quote 1:

In no sense does Ayn Rand regard any particular value as a metaphysical given, as pre-existing in man or in the universe. She begins by observing the facts that create the need for values.

Page 29

Quote 2:

Just as she begins her treatment of ethics with the question: What facts of reality give rise to and necessitate values? - so, in her treatment of the specific issue of selfishness, she asks: What in fact constitutes man's self-interest? - not: Is it moral for a man to act on his desires?

Page 34

- Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel Branden, 1962

The first issue concerns the basic relationship between fact and

value and its implications for moral judgment. Ayn Rand held that values

are rooted in the fact that living things must act to maintain their own

survival. Since I agree with her position, I do not accept any dichotomy

between fact and value, or between cognition and evaluation. On the contrary,

I hold that values are a species of facts, evaluation a species of

cognition. But this does not mean that we are obliged to pass moral judgment

on every person or action we encounter, as Peikoff claims.

- David Kelley, Page 15 - The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand

Peikoff claims that “every fact bears on the choice to live.” The

claim is obviously false as stated. The number of hairs in Plato’s beard, or

blades of grass in Peikoff’s lawn, has no bearing on my choice to live.

Perhaps in light of such examples, he qualifies the claim by restricting it to

the facts we know about. His central point is that “cognition implies evaluation,”

i.e., that “every fact of reality which we discover has, directly or

indirectly, an implication for man’s self-preservation.” His argument is

that cognition is not an end in itself. Even in the highest reaches of philosophy

or mathematics, the function of thought is to serve man’s life, not

to engage in a disembodied contemplation of the world. The goal of

thought, therefore, must be the discovery of those facts that do have “an

implication for man’s self-preservation.”2

- David Kelley, Page 20 - The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand

To read a full version of Kelley's paper use this link:

http://www.objectivistcenter.org/David%20K...0Toleration.pdf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand said that she found homosexuality to be disgusting, but she didn't say it was immoral.

Here you go:

In 1971, the exchange was as follows:

Q: This questioner says she read somewhere that you consider all forms of homosexuality immoral. If this is so, why?

A: Because it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises, but there is a psychological immorality at the root of homosexuality. Therefore I regard it as immoral. But I do not believe that the government has the right to prohibit it. It is the privilege of any individual to use his sex life in whichever way he wants it. That's his legal right, provided he is not forcing it on anyone. And therefore the idea that it's proper among consenting adults is the proper formulation legally. Morally it is immoral, and more than that, if you want my really sincere opinion, it is disgusting.

http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/bio/biofaq.html#Q5.2.6

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am going to ask both of you, respectfully, one more time, NOT to use me in your discussion anymore. To see you two using my name as if I am not here and have not provided any reasoning for my views on an issue that has nothing to do with what you are talking about is pissing me of, to say the least.

I have been developing my thoughts on homosexuality the last few days and will make a post in the appropriate thread then. Then and only then, if you have a problem with my ideas or logical arguments, then you're free to challenge them and we will have a discussion, and reality will decide who is right. But until then, in this thread, regarding this issue try to keep my name out of your mouths, or in this case, I guess off your fingertips and my monitor.

Don't say things on this forum about me that I don't either of you would have the courage to say to my face. Thank you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would like to remind all participants that the topic of this thread, as established in the initial post, is Kelley's repudiation of Objectivism as observed in his theory of moral toleration: it is not the history of the views of EC or any other forum participant on homosexuality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not see how putting up with someone that says things you know are incorrect, is not tolerance. ...

Your raising a different definition of "tolerance" is irrelevant to the fact that this definition that you cited from Kelley "… tolerance … means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence" is wrong. You first cited this quote on this thread. There is nothing "unfair" about me pointing out that it is wrong.

Regarding your example, if your judgment is that a person is not guilty of a moral breach ("not one who should have known what the function of government ought to be"), what have you "tolerated"? Ignorance of a waitress in an area that does not pertain to her services to you. But you have not "suspended judgment."

-- Toad

Edited by Old Toad
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your raising a different definition of "tolerance" is irrelevant to the fact that this definition that you cited from Kelley "… tolerance … means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence" is wrong. You first cited this quote on this thread. There is nothing "unfair" about me pointing out that it is wrong.

I think you are mistaken in your analyses, because you are refusing to accept the context in which that was written.

Regarding your example, if your judgment is that a person is not guilty of a moral breach ("not one who should have known what the function of government ought to be"), what have you "tolerated"? Ignorance of a waitress in an area that does not pertain to her services to you. But you have not "suspended judgment."

You have suspended a moral judgment (pronouncement) of the waitress' total character, because you don't have enough facts to make a judgment (conclusion) one way or another based on only knowing that she is a Democrat. Our Grandmother was a Democrat, but I don't think she was immoral because of it. And I certainly practiced tolerance, it would have been wonderful if Grandma had been an Objectivist.

Toad please answer these 2 questions:

"… tolerance … means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence"

1. What type of judgment is Kelley talking about?

A. Moral Judgment

B. Epistemological Judgment (True/False)

C. Judgment of one's Character in toto

D. Political judgement (criminal judgment)

E. All of the above

2. What "sufficient evidence" do you think Kelley is talking about?

A. The actions one has taken (past actions)

B. The person's intentions (malice or benevolent) & context of knowledge

C. Potential actions (possible future actions)

D. All of the above

This discussion is reminding me more and more of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwGLNbiw1gk...ature=rec-fresh

Edited by Donovan.A
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would like to remind all participants that the topic of this thread, as established in the initial post, is Kelley's repudiation of Objectivism as observed in his theory of moral toleration: it is not the history of the views of EC or any other forum participant on homosexuality.

The reason why it's being brought up is because I am questioning how some Objectivists are justifying their practices of tolerance, which is the subject of discussion here. But, I agree, there is no need to continue pointing to this person as an example.

My apologies,

Donovan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is also relevant to note this:

Libertarianism was the topic of debate which lead to the split between ARI and Kelley. Quotes are from ON MORAL SANCTIONS by Peter Schwartz. I find the whole paper to be disturbing! (This is written as an addendum to [Fact and Value], in order to amplify some points about the principle of not sanctioning evil.)

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...ivism_sanctions

The weapon necessary to defend against evil is justice: the unequivocal identification of the evil as evil. This means the refusal to grant it, by word or by deed, any moral respectability. It is by scrupulously withholding from the irrational even a crumb of a moral sanction—by rejecting any form of accommodation with the irrational—by forcing the irrational to stand naked and unaided—that one keeps evil impotent.

How is one supposed to live this?

IS LIBERTARIANISM AN EVIL DOCTRINE? Yes, if evil is the irrational and the destructive. Libertarianism belligerently rejects the very need for any justification for its belief in something called "liberty." It repudiates the need for any intellectual foundation to explain why "liberty" is desirable and what "liberty" means. Anyone from a gay-rights activist to a criminal counterfeiter to an overt anarchist can declare that he is merely asserting his "liberty"—and no Libertarian (even those who happen to disagree) can objectively refute his definition. Subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism are not merely present in certain "wings" of the Libertarian movement; they are integral to it.

Republicans and Democrats do not do this?

Does this restrict the options open to Objectivist speakers? Certainly. Objectivism is a restrictive philosophy. It holds that the irrationalities of today's culture should not be aided. However, this fact does not require Objectivist thinkers to communicate only with those already in basic agreement. Ayn Rand, after all, somehow managed to convey her ideas to many millions without having to violate her principle of not sanctioning evil.

I guess we should try to somehow change people's ideas and the culture.

Aside from the books and articles to be written, there are countless non-Objectivist audiences that speakers can profitably address. There are college and high school students. There are numerous professional groups, such as medical or legal associations. And there are those with mixed ideologies, who hold mistaken but not necessarily irrational views, such as various conservative or liberal groups. There may be nothing wrong in cooperating or debating with those who merely hold mistaken views (as long as one makes clear what one disagrees with); there is nothing wrong in implying that they are moral. It is the irrational that ought not be granted a moral sanction; it is the irrational that should not be addressed as though it were open to reason.

This makes no sense to me.

Libertarians will readily listen to a talk on Objectivism and liberty—and the next day they will invite someone to speak on why the Bible is the only basis for liberty—and the next week they will hear someone argue why only skepticism and amoralism can validate liberty, etc. They lap this up.

This does not happen on Fox News with Yaron Brook?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you are mistaken in your analyses, because you are refusing to accept the context in which that was written.

...

"… tolerance … means suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence"

...

This definition is wrong -- in every context. No matter "what type of judgment" one is making, it is contrary to any of the ordinarily-accepted senses and definitions. I do not think we should enter into the confusions that would result from using a word in a manner that is obnoxious to its ordinary definitions -- like defining "white" to mean "black" -- in any context.

Further, as I explained above, this is an epistemologically (logically) invalid approach to making any judgment in any context. Based on David Kelley being a professor, I judge that he should be presumed to know the meaning of the words he uses and that he means what he says. If he has retracted this definition and approach as mistaken, please let us know. But context cannot turn “white” into “black,” or “suspend judgment” into “judge.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This does not happen on Fox News with Yaron Brook?

No, it doesn't. Whatever bias it may have, the purpose of Fox News is to report important events and to provide analysis of these events. As with other news channels, the idea is to let people know what is happening in the world, and what people are saying about it. When someone sees Yaron Brook on Fox News, they are not going to say "How nice, another perspective on moderate conservatism. Of course, everything is relative and all perspectives are equally good." On the contrary, the actual content of his ideas will be the important thing, which determines whether people agree with him or not. If someone were to appear on Fox and declare "I staunchly support the Republican party because I contacted a ghost using a ouija board and he told me to do so", he would not be taken seriously.

Now, consider what happens when an Objectivist goes to a Libertarian convention. The fundamental difference is that in this case his ideas will not be taken seriously. The only thing that will be taken seriously at such an event is the common belief in a political platform of liberty. What makes it impossible for a true Libertarian to take the ideas of an Objectivist seriously? He may sit in the audience during a speech about Objectivist epistemology, hang on every word, and conclude that he agrees with the speaker. He may even conclude that he rejects the ideas of the next speaker, say a fundamentalist Christian. The problem is that the conclusions he has reached will not affect his actions. He will not proceed to shun the second speaker and praise the first. Instead, he will conclude that, in the realm of external reality (i.e. of actions), everyone present can work together for common goals. To take an idea seriously is to apply it to reality (if you agree with it), or at least to hold that ideas should determine action. There can be no benefit in interacting with those who explicitly deny this. You cannot promote an idea by discussing it with those who see all ideas as subjective opinions, social constructs, or anything else with no relation to reality.

Years ago, I was rather excited about the Libertarian movement. This changed when I met a Libertarian who would not take a defninte position on any issue, philosophical or otherwise, and who declared himself to be "sort of a relativist". What could anyone who holds reason as an absolute possibly gain by associating with such a person?

Not only will Dr. Brook speak on Fox, he will also debate with those who hold nearly opposite political views (such as Thom Hartmann). No one listening to Hartmann and Brook argue is going to conclude that Objectivists do not take ideas seriously. What if Hartmann declared at the beginning of his program "This is a show dedicated to promoting peace and love among men. We will now here from Dr. Brook, who has his own unique perspective on how this should be done." No speaker from the ARI would ever appear on his show again. As it is, debate between them is possible because Hartmann never tries to insinuate that they agree when, in fact, they do not. Hartmann is badly mistaken about most issues, and deserves to be judged for his evasions accordingly. This does not, however, imply that he and his listeners are not open to reason. It is nothing less than absurd to debate with a barbaric dictator (such as Khomeni) or with a moral relativist. Neither one of these even recognizes the importance of debate, except as a political facade of a meaningless game.

In general, I am defending two criteria which need to be met in order for debate to be acceptable:

1. Participation in the debate must not imply, in and of itself, any sanction for the ideas of one's opponent.

2. One's opponent must take the idea being debated seriously. In other words, he must believe that the idea being debated can and should translate into specific courses of action in reality. One's opponent need not be completely innocent of evasion.

I believe that the actions of ARI speakers meet both criteria admirably.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How is one supposed to live this?

By never failing to pronounce moral judgement.

And according to Kelley, one cannot judge a person's rationality or irrationality merely by judging them according to what they hold or promote, which is flat out wrong. What they think and advocate is evidence for how their mind works and whether they are rational or not. For example, one could not judge that Kant was an evil evader, because according to Kelley, he never did anything that would show that he lived an immoral life. I mean, he was supposedly very polite, and was jolly to be around at parties, and he never killed anyone; so how in the world could anyone ever consider him to be evil? Well, his philosophy is blatantly irrational, and therefore he was blatantly evil. He didn't have to shoot a little ole lady crossing the street to be judged that way; the proof is in what he wrote.

And to answer another issue you brought up, such as why we don't just lock up everyone who is irrational, it is because one can be immoral and never initiate force or even advocate it. Rational law is there to protect us from the initiation of force, not to protect us from people, who in our judgement, are evil evaders. That is why even someone as evil a Kant must be left free to speak his evil mind. If the law was going to throw people in jail because of the ideas they express, short of advocating the initiation of for or fraud, then anyone could be thrown in jail for uttering something that doesn't make sense or that some politician didn't like to hear. But the right to free speech does not mean that one ought to morally tolerate the irrational; he doesn't have to be thrown in jail, but a rational man ought not to associate or grant moral assurance to the irrational.

Kelley's stance leads to a sort of moral agnosticism, that no one can be morally judged no matter what they say or advocate; and that just gives a free run to any irrationality out there.

As Ayn Rand said, the uncontested absurdities of today become the slogans of tomorrow. But that only happens because those were not challenged, not just epistemologically, but morally. If someone had come out at the beginning of the environmentalist movement and told them they were not only irrational, but immoral, I doubt if we would be hearing a lot about environmentalism today. But no one wanted to condemn them, and so those evil ideas spread and now they are everywhere. That is why I said that those who are spreading those types of ideas, even without realizing they will lead to the destruction of civilization, ought to be treated like the carrier of a deadly disease. Typhoid Mary was innocent of any wrong doing, but she had to be kept away from crowded places because she would give them typhoid. Similarly, if someone is spreading irrational ideas that they don't realize are irrational, they need to be told that those ideas are irrational and why, but if they continue to spread them, then they ought to be shunned at least insofar as being told that you disagree with them and that those ideas are evil because of what will result from the spreading of those ideas, once they become the slogans of today.

One doesn't have to get into a big philosophical discussion with one's waitress, either. If she says something expecting you not to say anything back, then that is the wrong way for her to be. One can simply tell her that you strongly disagree, and that what those in political power are doing today is evil because they are violating individual rights. But one only has to speak out if one's silence will be taken as a moral sanction of their position. It does not mean that one has to go around explicitly condemning everything you hear or overhear. And you don't need to ask them in casual acquaintances, such as shopping at the local mall or grocery store. What Ayn Rand is advocating is speaking your mind when it is appropriate, and not go around trying to save everyone's soul.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ideas that a person holds can provide some evidence for the workings of his mind. That point is not in dispute. Kelley noted specifically in his essay that within the contemporary academic world, there are many people who advocate ideas whose irrationality is so blatant that one has no reason to doubt their intentions. However, he also noted that the manner in which those people present their ideas is often as much of a factor in forming such a judgement as an evaluation of the ideas as being advanced. However, again, he noted that one cannot draw a definitive conclusion merely or only on the basis of a person's ideas.

A highly rational person can hold what someone else considers irrational ideas because of the context within which they reached their own conclusions i.e. the scope of their knowledge. It is also possible for a rational person to consider an otherwise rational argument by someone else to be wrong because he disputes their premises or some step in their reasoning. The entire issue that we are discussing would, I think, fall into this category, even acknowledging that not everyone would accept such a conclusion. Perhaps a better example would be to consider the case of Newton's laws of motion. Those laws rested on the assumption that time was an absolute. Those laws were tested and re-tested within the context of every conceivable ordinary situation and found to be true. Against that was Einstein's initially highly abstract argument that, amongst other things, challenged the notion of an absoulte frame of reference. The experimental verification of most of Einstein's conclusions took some time. Imagine what would be the state of physics had Einstein's ideas been shot down, out of hand, on the grounds that they had to be irrational because they were clearly at odds with rigorously tested scientific laws that had stood the test of time, and because Einstein's ideas seemed to promise a highly non-absolute, non-objective physics (which is often how they have been interpreted philosophically).

To consider the case of Kant, the conclusion that he was an evil evader rests on the assumption that he could not have reached his conclusions without having been one. For that to be true, it would not be enough to show that his ideas were irrational, but one would have to show evidence that he was consciously malevolent in advancing them (i.e. had reasonable expectations of their having particular and clearly forseeable consequences), that no rational man could have reached similar conclusions or accepted his conclusions, and that Kant's manner of developing and communicating them did not show any respect for rational, scholarly methods or discourse. There is no evidence to support any such conclusion. Wanting Kant to be Ellsworth Toohey and so characterizing him doesn't make it so.

The plainer explanation of Kant is that his conclusions were accepted because they appeared to solve certain philosophical problems that classical Enlightenment thinkers had failed to resolve. Consequently, an at least equally reasonable evaluation of his character and motives, one that is consistent with all of his other behavior and well-known political liberalism, is that he put forward his ideas in that spirit i.e. as his best (but wrong) solution to legitimate philosophical problems. Since no one is omnisicient, one cannot judge his character retroactively based on an evaluation of his ideas made with the benefit of 200 years worth of hindsight. Rand had a long time to make the connections and identify the errors that resulted from Kantian ideas. There is no basis for believing that Kant or any of his contemporaries had that sort of knowledge or foresight. In fact, Kelley addressed this point in his essay, too, when he said that an observer at the time armed with the knowledge of Objectivist insight could have predicted that no good would come of Kant's ideas, if they became widespread. However, Kelley also correctly noted that no one at the time had that knowledge (including Kant) nor could anyone predict the specific consequences of those ideas, nor whether those ideas would become widespread. To conclude otherwise is to assume that Kant had enough knowledge to resolve the philosophical problems he faced rationally (in the sense an Objectivist would use the concept) and deliberately chose not to do so. That's conspiracy theory "reasoning" developed without any evidence beyond one's after the fact evaluation of Kant's ideas. It simply is not credible. Worse, it is irrational.

If you think this evaluation of Kant is wrong, recall that Toohey, after all, expected to rule; what did Kant expect to get? Are we to assume that he was smart enough to understand his errors (and thus by definition to know the correct and moral answers), to forsee the full extent of their consequences if adopted, to deliberately introduce them into a set of ideas and then to sit back and proceed on his way without knowing whether they'd even be accepted just because he was an evil S.O.B and had time on his hands?

All of this explains why "actions speak louder than words." In evaluating a person, one must consider the full context of their behavior. What a person actually does often reveals more about what they really think than what they actually say. I fail to see how one gets "moral agnosticism" from Kelley's position. I'd say, again, that he is calling for accurate judgement. The problem with judging primarily on the basis of ideas is that it's not a truly reliable method of making a definitive conclusion. It is a factor, but that's all. Otherwise, we're into the equivalent of what Orwell called "thoughtcrime" and what medieval Christianity did when it said that an evil thought (e.g. lusting in one's heart) was equivalent to an evil action. Ironically, by not actually hearing the other person, we end up not actually judging him, just our image of him, which may bear not resembalance to fact. Past a point, no self-respecting person will accept that sort of judgement from another. Moroever, when otherwise productive, normal people are equated with Hitler, Stalin and company (and that's how Kant is treated by Peikoff and libertarians by Schwartz), we simply lose all credibility with honest, thinking people. They will conclude that we are irrational and stop listening. One might want to consider that at least some of the difficulties Objectivism has had with the broader culture are a consequence of that approach.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The plainer explanation of Kant is that his conclusions were accepted because they appeared to solve certain philosophical problems that classical Enlightenment thinkers had failed to resolve.

Only to those who were looking for a way to deny reason. Have you read Critique of Pure Reason? It starts with the quotation "I have had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith." This is not the statement of a rational but mistaken man. It is the statement of someone explicitly setting out to smash men's minds.

Consequently, an at least equally reasonable evaluation of his character and motives, one that is consistent with all of his other behavior and well-known political liberalism, is that he put forward his ideas in that spirit i.e. as his best (but wrong) solution to legitimate philosophical problems.

He explicitly tells us otherwise.

Since no one is omnisicient, one cannot judge his character retroactively based on an evaluation of his ideas made with the benefit of 200 years worth of hindsight. Rand had a long time to make the connections and identify the errors that resulted from Kantian ideas. There is no basis for believing that Kant or any of his contemporaries had that sort of knowledge or foresight.

No impossible god-like powers are required to predict the general results of denying reason and rationality.

In fact, Kelley addressed this point in his essay, too, when he said that an observer at the time armed with the knowledge of Objectivist insight could have predicted that no good would come of Kant's ideas, if they became widespread. However, Kelley also correctly noted that no one at the time had that knowledge (including Kant) nor could anyone predict the specific consequences of those ideas, nor whether those ideas would become widespread.

Many people had enough knowledge to predict what would happen if Kant's ideas became accepted. Aristotle and many of the famous Greeks could easily have seen the conclusion. To rely on the defense that Kant had no way to know if his ideas would become widespread is absurd. He was trying to make them widespread.

To conclude otherwise is to assume that Kant had enough knowledge to resolve the philosophical problems he faced rationally (in the sense an Objectivist would use the concept) and deliberately chose not to do so. That's conspiracy theory "reasoning" developed without any evidence beyond one's after the fact evaluation of Kant's ideas. It simply is not credible. Worse, it is irrational.

To conclude otherwise is to take Kant at his word when he said that he set out to deny reason. It is quite damning of Kelley to see that he defends Kant. How much more clear cut can you get? Kelley is clearly aware of Kant's philosophic atrocities, and gives him the benefit of the doubt despite Kant's explicit purpose.

If you think this evaluation of Kant is wrong, recall that Toohey, after all, expected to rule; what did Kant expect to get?

Kant hoped to preserve faith, mysticism, and altruism. He explicitly tells us this, we don't have to guess.

Are we to assume that he was smart enough to understand his errors (and thus by definition to know the correct and moral answers), to forsee the full extent of their consequences if adopted, to deliberately introduce them into a set of ideas and then to sit back and proceed on his way without knowing whether they'd even be accepted just because he was an evil S.O.B and had time on his hands?

He was a smart guy who wanted to preserve religion, faith, and altruism at all costs. Countless thousands of men have dedicated their lives to this cause. It is not terribly surprising that even a few intellectuals have joined the band-wagon.

All of this explains why "actions speak louder than words." In evaluating a person, one must consider the full context of their behavior. What a person actually does often reveals more about what they really think than what they actually say.

I agree with this part, but I would like to add that actions are caused by ideas. Further, immoral ideas will lead to immoral actions.

I fail to see how one gets "moral agnosticism" from Kelley's position. I'd say, again, that he is calling for accurate judgement. The problem with judging primarily on the basis of ideas is that it's not a truly reliable method of making a definitive conclusion. It is a factor, but that's all.

If he really did defend Kant, then moral agnosticism seems overly complimentary. He is tolerating one of the most destructive and evil philosophers of all history. One who Rand vehemently denounced. This makes Kelley's "toleration" seem like a moral blank check.

Otherwise, we're into the equivalent of what Orwell called "thoughtcrime" and what medieval Christianity did when it said that an evil thought (e.g. lusting in one's heart) was equivalent to an evil action.

Do you also give a moral blank check to everyone? I fully understand not rejecting people for honest mistakes or for a lack of knowledge. This is not what you seem to be advocating.

Ironically, by not actually hearing the other person, we end up not actually judging him, just our image of him, which may bear not resembalance to fact. Past a point, no self-respecting person will accept that sort of judgement from another.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that none of Kant's critics have read Kant? I have read him, and he is every bit as vile and repulsive and Rand and Peikoff say he is.

Moroever, when otherwise productive, normal people are equated with Hitler, Stalin and company (and that's how Kant is treated by Peikoff and libertarians by Schwartz), we simply lose all credibility with honest, thinking people.

Kant wrote the ideas that Hitler and Stalin acted on. Is he devoid of all blame for the actions of people who took his advice?

I will say that Schwartz and libertarians seems a little insane. He said it was ok to talk to Repulican, or Democrat groups and call them moral, but he seems to think that libertarians are so far beyond the pale that it is immoral to even talk to them.

They will conclude that we are irrational and stop listening. One might want to consider that at least some of the difficulties Objectivism has had with the broader culture are a consequence of that approach.

I can't help it if irrational people decide I am irrational because I denounce an evil man. I can try to persuade them that my actions are rational, but only if they will listen.

Edited by Scott_Connery
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps a better example would be to consider the case of Newton's laws of motion.

Newton's Laws of motion are true. The fact that they "break down" at very high speeds and/or precisions of measurement is not relevant: there was never any evidence that they did apply at those speeds and precisions. To have arbitrarily suggested that they applied at very high speeds (before relativity was discovered) would be to ignore the context of all existing experimental evidence. The general principle is that truth is independent of the scope of it's context, as long as the context is properly defined. Thus, knowledge is possible no matter how narrow the context, and insufficient evidence is no excuse for a false conclusion. The man who observes three Europeans, all of whom have light skin, and then concludes that all humans have light skin is irrational. To uphold faith in place of reason as Kant did is worse: there is in fact no context in which faith is a proper standard for action.

That's conspiracy theory "reasoning" developed without any evidence beyond one's after the fact evaluation of Kant's ideas. It simply is not credible. Worse, it is irrational.

Isn't that a rather harsh judgement of my ideas? How can I be expected to know the truth anyway?

They will conclude that we are irrational and stop listening. One might want to consider that at least some of the difficulties Objectivism has had with the broader culture are a consequence of that approach.

The conclusions other people may draw about me because of my ideas are not relevant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To consider the case of Kant, the conclusion that he was an evil evader rests on the assumption that he could not have reached his conclusions without having been one.

<snip>

The plainer explanation of Kant is that his conclusions were accepted because they appeared to solve certain philosophical problems that classical Enlightenment thinkers had failed to resolve. Consequently, an at least equally reasonable evaluation of his character and motives, one that is consistent with all of his other behavior and well-known political liberalism, is that he put forward his ideas in that spirit i.e. as his best (but wrong) solution to legitimate philosophical problems.

<snip>

Otherwise, we're into the equivalent of what Orwell called "thoughtcrime" and what medieval Christianity did when it said that an evil thought (e.g. lusting in one's heart) was equivalent to an evil action. Ironically, by not actually hearing the other person, we end up not actually judging him, just our image of him, which may bear not resemblance to fact. Past a point, no self-respecting person will accept that sort of judgement from another. Moreover, when otherwise productive, normal people are equated with Hitler, Stalin and company (and that's how Kant is treated by Peikoff and libertarians by Schwartz), we simply lose all credibility with honest, thinking people. They will conclude that we are irrational and stop listening. One might want to consider that at least some of the difficulties Objectivism has had with the broader culture are a consequence of that approach.

This represents a complete moral inversion. Kant is to be given a pass, but Peter Schwartz and Dr. Peikoff are to be condemned as irrational -- based on what they wrote!

And I will point out once again that under Objectivism the irrational is the immoral, so you are saying that Kant is not immoral but that Peter Schwartz and Dr. Peikoff are immoral because they are irrational -- based on what they wrote!

It seems that old adage is still true: Kelleyites are willing to tolerate anyone and anything, except Objectivists. Or to put it another way, they are willing to tolerate anyone who will not make a moral judgement; and to anyone who is willing to make a moral judgement based on the evidence of one's reasoning or lack thereof, you condemn them as being irrational.

I will second what a previous poster said: That if Kelley is willing to give a pass to Kant, then he has become more corrupted then I ever thought he could be. However, that stance is the logical result of claiming that ideas cannot be judged as being moral or immoral; that one's thinking process or lack thereof as provided by one's explicit ideas cannot be taken as evidence of rationality or irrationality. This is corrupt to the core.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will say that Schwartz and libertarians seems a little insane. He said it was ok to talk to Repulican, or Democrat groups and call them moral, but he seems to think that libertarians are so far beyond the pale that it is immoral to even talk to them.

Unlike Libertarianism, Republican and Democratic political organizations are not ideologies, they are just means to pool votes to elect particular individuals to office. Each organization is an inherently unprincipled "big tent" welcoming all who will vote for their candidates. The ideological factions of conservatives and liberals each attempt to influence and control its chosen horse, so it would be conservative and liberal groups that an Objectivist speaker should be wary of appearing to endorse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spreading/advocating ideas is action. I do not dispute that point.

I did not say that Peikoff or Schwartz were immoral nor did I say that Kant was moral. I said that I found their use of a particular analogy to be wrong. I also consider the analogies in question to be unreasonable and thus believe that when people not party to the debates of Objectivism hear an Objectivist make such analogies, they will tune out on that basis. It is by equating

The conclusions other people may draw about me because of my ideas are not relevant

They are if you want to persuade them of what you are saying.

To the extent that anyone interprets Kelley as calling for "suspending judgement", his essay makes clear that, at best, this a very context-specific conclusion. The context in question is identified as not having enough information to make a fully informed judgement or not concluding that the person in question is worth the effort. Suspending means stopping an action that is in progress. It does not mean rejecting the line of thought one has pursued to that point nor does it mean "not judging at all". No one is obliged to drop everything else that they are doing just to complete a comprehensive judgement of a particular individual.

I also want to make clear that I am not defending Kantian ideas. David Kelley has never defended the merits of Kant's ideas. He simply does not consider him to be equivalent to Hitler or Stalin and he disputes other Objectivists over the nature of Kant's role as an enabler of those men. Kelley's discussion of the nature by which ideas do take effect explains what he considers to be the relationship between the two (ideas and consequences) and the relative responsibility of the various parties involved is fairly clearly described.

Kant wrote the ideas that Hitler and Stalin acted on. Is he devoid of all blame for the actions of people who took his advice

No. He is responsible for developing irrational ideas that other men chose to accept and develop further. Once those ideas had been developed further, they reached a form and had enough influence that a political program such as communism (and subsequently fascism) became possible. Kant did not advocate mass murder or enslavement. Even acknowledging that his objectives were to preserve faith etc (and I'll note that I should have addressed that point since he did actually tell us that), that is not the same thing as advocating murder. Hitler and Stalin were responsible directly for their actions. The people who chose to follow them were responsible for doing so. I am not my brother's keeper and there are degrees of advocacy. Whipping up a crowd to riot or lynch someone is one thing, as is explicitly calling for violent revolution (e.g. Marx) or exterminating the Jews (e.g. Hitler). There is a very clear causal link in such cases, which is why the law considers incitement to riot to be a crime.

Many people had enough knowledge to predict what would happen if Kant's ideas became accepted. Aristotle and many of the famous Greeks could easily have seen the conclusion. To rely on the defense that Kant had no way to know if his ideas would become widespread is absurd. He was trying to make them widespread.

If it were as self-evident as that, why was there not a backlash at the time? It was, after all, the height of the Englightenment. To say that this would have been clear to the Greeks, one must note that the Greeks were not uniformly rational either. Aristotle had perfectly rational reasons for defending slavery and for denying the humanity of non-Greeks. Plato might well have agreed with Kant, as he is the father of the entire non-Aristotlean line of philosophy.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that none of Kant's critics have read Kant? I have read him, and he is every bit as vile and repulsive and Rand and Peikoff say he is.

What I'm saying here is that you have to judge the person based on his context, not just yours.

Do you also give a moral blank check to everyone? I fully understand not rejecting people for honest mistakes or for a lack of knowledge. This is not what you seem to be advocating.

No. I merely give them the benefit of the doubt until I have reason to judge otherwise. I do not require it essential that I judge everyone to the same degree, which I think is the point that Kelley is making. I also do not think that an irrational idea is inherently immoral because I see examples all around of people who hold irrational ideas and yet seem to live happy, peaceful and productive lives. A person trapped on the proverbial desert island needs morality, a point Rand correctly recognized. There have been instances of such people who, while engaging in highly rational and common sense efforts to survive, also drew enormous strength from their (religious) faith, just as there are people who do this in their day-to-day lives. Yes, their belief is irrational, but clearly it contributes to them living. George Washington was pretty certainly a Deist (and Franklin was for sure), and yet he spoke of Providence as a factor in events. This is not offered as a defense of such beliefs, but rather as the basis for asking whether the Founders were immoral because they were not (completely) rational. Did immoral ideas lead to immoral actions? In answering, remember that atheism was known to them and the specific issues surrounding it were in fact being debated. Many of them simply chose to reject that conclusion, even if they also rejected much of Christianity (or organized religion more broadly). This was not an innocent error. Adam Smith, to take another famous example, was vitriolic in his opposition to atheism, even though he defended self-interest and formulated the basis for capitalism. Same question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They are if you want to persuade them of what you are saying.

The question being debated is: to what extent can we judge a man by his ideas? In order to come to a valid conclusion, only relevant facts should be considered. Such facts do not include anyone's potential evaluation of the conclusion reached. Concretely, the fact that John Smith may refuse to associate with me if I reach a certain conclusion is entirely irrelevant.

There is a very clear causal link in such cases, which is why the law considers incitement to riot to be a crime.

Firstly, incitement to violence is properly considered a crime because it is not speech in the philosophical sense, but action. A mafia boss saying "go kill them" is not attempting to express any idea about reality. My point is that the difference between Kant and a mafia boss ordering an execution is one of kind, not of degree. The actions of the boss are illegal because rational men cannot function while he is free to kill. A rational man, on the other hand, is free to ignore Kant's ideas. Secondly, this is a legal distinction, and is not directly relevant to the task of judging either Kant or the mafia boss. Conversely, the judgement that Kant is the moral equivalent of Hitler does not imply that any legal action should be taken against him (which, of course, it shouldn't).

There have been instances of such people who, while engaging in highly rational and common sense efforts to survive, also drew enormous strength from their (religious) faith, just as there are people who do this in their day-to-day lives. Yes, their belief is irrational, but clearly it contributes to them living.

Irrational beliefs are beliefs in contradiction to reality, and strength is strength to live in reality. Therefore, it is impossible to draw strength from an irrational belief. It is possible to lead a moral, productive life in spite of irrational beliefs. The degree of irrationality will determine the degree of unhappiness. Do you believe that Benjamin Franklin would have been a less efficacious individual had he been an atheist? I claim that his deism acted as an impediment, however small, to his achievements, which were nevertheless formidable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spreading/advocating ideas is action. I do not dispute that point.

I did not say that Peikoff or Schwartz were immoral nor did I say that Kant was moral. I said that I found their use of a particular analogy to be wrong. I also consider the analogies in question to be unreasonable and thus believe that when people not party to the debates of Objectivism hear an Objectivist make such analogies, they will tune out on that basis.

Now, wait a minute. You came right out and said that Dr. Peikoff and Peter Schwartz were irrational. If one is going to take Objectivism seriously, then one has to take the Objectivist ethics seriously, and to call someone irrational under Objectivism means that you are saying that they are immoral. You are trying to say that it is possible to be irrational and yet not to be immoral, and that directly contradicts the Objectivist ethics.

You are not willing to say that Kant was irrational, but you are willing to say that Peikoff and Schwartz are irrational; yet you are not saying that Kant was not immoral and that Peikoff and Schwartz are not immoral.

Rationality is a virtue under the Objectivist ethics, and irrationality is a vice; if you conclude that someone is irrational and are not willing to call them immoral, then you have breached integrity, which is immoral.

And that is what Kelley's moral theory will lead to. According to you, you have enough evidence to say that Peikoff and Schwartz are irrational, and yet you are unwilling to call them immoral. That not only means that you don't take ideas seriously, but also that you don't take the Objectivist ethics seriously.

With that in mind, I have never understood why those following Kelley are so hard up on calling themselves Objectivists. Why in the world would you want to call yourselves Objectivists if you think the major proponents of Objectivism are irrational, and therefore immoral? But, of course, you don't want to call them immoral, which makes you a moral coward, which means that you don't want to follow through with a logical moral conclusion based upon the facts as you know them.

You can't have it both ways, and yet the Kelleyites have been trying to straddle that fence ever since "A Question of Sanction" came out in about 1989. Your moral uncertainty is the result of following David Kelley's moral theory. And you are repulsed by anyone making a moral pronouncement. You cannot come out and morally condemn the irrational, so how could you come out and morally condemn explicit actions based upon the irrational?

And then you say that Kant was not irrational but that Dr. Peikoff and Peter Schwartz are irrational.

The inversion is complete.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To the extent that anyone interprets Kelley as calling for "suspending judgement", his essay makes clear that, at best, this a very context-specific conclusion. … Suspending means stopping an action that is in progress. It does not mean rejecting the line of thought one has pursued to that point nor does it mean "not judging at all". No one is obliged to drop everything else that they are doing just to complete a comprehensive judgement of a particular individual.

So “suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence” means “stopping an action” of judging the available evidence “that is in progress” : stop think. But somehow, when we stop judging the available evidence, we are supposed to keep and use the resulting judgment, the product of stopping? In addition to Kelley’s definition of “tolerance … means … suspending judgment when we lack sufficient evidence” being wrong, the second part is logically invalid even under this interpretation.

It is not possible to judge evidence one does not have. Whether or not one pursues obtaining more evidence is a separate question, including based on one’s purpose and one's judgment based on the available evidence.

“Just as a judge in a court of law may err, when the evidence is inconclusive, but may not evade the evidence available, …—so every rational person must maintain an equally strict and solemn integrity in the courtroom within his own mind, ….

Ayn Rand, “How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?” The Virtue of Selfishness.

Edited by Old Toad
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...