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David Kelley's Moral Theory Contra Objectivism

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brandonk2009
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What I disagree with is that the moral evaluation of an idea (as good or bad for us) can precede the determination of its truth or falsehood.

That is not what I said. Usually that would be true. Sometimes it can, for example when value destruction is obvious given your context of knowledge. Let's jump together out of a window on a 10th floor. True or False?

I did not claim that establishing the relationship of an idea to reality is not an element. I stressed out that the ultimate purpose of judging is the establishment of value and not just factuality. Factuality without an understanding of value is meaningless.

Moreover, such evaluation of someone else's ideas in no way requires that I concern myself with their character as such or pass judgement upon it before proceeding.

When judging a man by his ideas (or actions) - the purpose is to determine his character, his values. The purpose is to know what can you expect from him. Should you protect yourself from him or become his friend?

Kant's character is a fact of reality, as is yours, mine, Rand's and everyone else's. It is a fact of absolutely no value significance to me because it in no way affects my evaluation of his ideas.

True when evaluating ideas alone, their factuality and effects - whether or not Kant was a good father or a good friend is irrelevant.

(and hence one reason why I think Peikoff is wrong to say that every fact has value signifiance and also why I do not hold that moral judgement of other people is a duty in all contexts).

That is not what Dr. Peikoff said.

I don't dispute this. I don't think Kelley is either.

I provided a quote in which he stated that ethical matters apply primarly to actions. He uses words such as primarly or essential to minimize the importance of something which is a vital element.

one must understand the process by which he reached his conclusions.

Yes, when evaluating someone's character. But the degree of importance of the cause (as knowing it accurately being a value to your life) will depend on the scope of engagement. I don't need to make as deep evaluations about a grocery clerk as I should about someone I am thinking of dating, for example. In my previous post I gave an example of my thinking while interviewing potential babysitters. In that case, knowing the effect of their ideas (their correspondence to reality) is enough for my purpose and the cause is irrelevant. A potential candidate may not be immoral (perhaps their wacky ideas ARE due to honest mistakes) but nonetheless it maybe be immoral for me to employ them.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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The value of an idea, if ideas are to guide man's action, depends first on whether it is true or false i.e. corresponds to reality or not. The value judgement that follows depends on this. How can one determine the value of an idea without knowing or establishing first whether it is true?

Neither truth nor evaluation can be given any sort of precedence over the other in the context of ethics. Unevaluated facts and evaluations based on falsehoods are equally useless to human life. Hence, since life is the standard of value, it is wrong to separate the two (again, in the context of ethics). This is basically the central point of Fact and Value.

The value of an idea, if ideas are to guide man's action, depends first on whether it is true or false i.e. corresponds to reality or not.

(Bold mine)

Implicit in your statement is that the very purpose of determining the truth or falsehood of an idea is to determine its value; i.e. to evaluate it. Here is a parallel (fallacious) argument:

The purpose of a sword is to cut. Hence, the value of the sword depends first on the sharpness of its blade, i.e. whether it can cut or not.

This argument is intrincisim: the sharpest sword in the world will have no value lying in the middle of a desert. Conversely, a blunt, rusted sword will not cut an enemy. Observe that both the sharpness of the sword and its intended use are essential, and are included in the definition of the concept "sword".

Similarly, a true idea has no value apart from its use in guiding the action of a man. The reverse fallacy is to suggest that false ideas can be used for evaluation, which is subjectivism. Hence Dr. Peikoff's (very correct) claim that Kelly accepts the dichotomy of intrinsicism vs. subjectivism.

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Proof of misrepresentation:

The concept of evil applies primarily to actions and those who perform them. … Truth and falsity, not good or evil, are the primary evaluative concepts which apply to ideas… (P11-P12)
David Kelley

Morality, says Kelley, applies only to actions.
Robert W. Tracinski

http://www.lyceum.dk/tracinski.html

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Proof of misrepresentation:

...

On this issue, I completely agree with the following (bold mine):

I provided a quote in which he stated that ethical matters apply primarly to actions. He uses words such as primarly or essential to minimize the importance of something which is a vital element.
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Kelley concedes that ideas can be judged, but within his moral theory, ideological moral judgment is complicated and thus leads Kelley into a discussion on how, in most cases, one must not judge a person based on his ideas because there is too much room for error or arbitrary judgment. Kelley makes an attempt to morally judge a man's ideas and his actions (he places more emphasis on actions, since an idea that is not explicitly acted upon has less of an effect). The problem lies in the fact that once he cuts a man's ideas/motives (intentions)/mind) from his actions/consequences/body, he accepts a dichotomy between a mental cause and a physical effect--between an intention and a consequence--between the mind and body. Every action is united with an idea behind it, every effect has a cause.

What would be an action done without some sort of mental idea, motive or intention? It would be causeless--in direct violation of cause and effect. What would be an idea that is kept within one's self, without any sort of action promoting it? This is an impossibility. One's (explicit and implicit) philosophical principles and ideas impact and influence one's every action.

When one morally judges a person, one ought to judge him for his ideas and actions, his motives and his consequences, his mind and his body. He should not separate one's ideas/motives/mind into one category and his actions/consequences/body into another and then try to assign equal weight. This is the Objectivist moral theory and Kelley does not share it.

I'm yet to understand what's wrong in "separating" motives and consequences, because they are separate! If you want to judge them as whole you need to first integrate them into one entity. What is that entity?

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My comments used Kant as an example of how one could infer a different motivation for his writings than the one commonly held in Objectivism. It was not intended as a defense of Kant or his ideas. It is unrelated to anything that Kelley has written on Kant, of which I don't think there is too much. Kelley does not agree with Kant's system.

My comments, more generally, reflect my understanding of Kelley's position, based on my reading of TT and Peikoff's FV. I have attempted to represent them as honestly as possible, but if you'd prefer me to paste in lengthy excerpts from TT to support them, I will be happy to do so.

I would really appreciate it if you did.

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Neither truth nor evaluation can be given any sort of precedence over the other in the context of ethics. Unevaluated facts and evaluations based on falsehoods are equally useless to human life. Hence, since life is the standard of value, it is wrong to separate the two (again, in the context of ethics). This is basically the central point of Fact and Value.

A sequential process in no less integrated for it being sequential. One can determine truth and then value without considering them to be separate. As a matter of epistemology, the process must take place in sequence. Once one is at the ethical stage, the truth of an item and its relationship to human life having been determined, they would have equal precedence, but only to the extent that the truth of a particular fact was actually of relevance to one's life. Kelley's point was that not all facts have value significance when measured against the requirements of human life, and especially when applied to the context of a particular individual's life. Moreover, a fact can be true, can be judged in relationship to the objective moral requirements of one's life and be found to be irrelevant, not moral or immoral.

Implicit in your statement is that the very purpose of determining the truth or falsehood of an idea is to determine its value; i.e. to evaluate it. Here is a parallel (fallacious) argument:

The purpose of a sword is to cut. Hence, the value of the sword depends first on the sharpness of its blade, i.e. whether it can cut or not.

This argument is intrincisim: the sharpest sword in the world will have no value lying in the middle of a desert. Conversely, a blunt, rusted sword will not cut an enemy. Observe that both the sharpness of the sword and its intended use are essential, and are included in the definition of the concept "sword".

Similarly, a true idea has no value apart from its use in guiding the action of a man. The reverse fallacy is to suggest that false ideas can be used for evaluation, which is subjectivism. Hence Dr. Peikoff's (very correct) claim that Kelly accepts the dichotomy of intrinsicism vs. subjectivism.

I don't actually understand the point you're making with this example. As an example of the fallacy of intrincisim, I would accept your example. With respect to your second paragraph, I would agree that a true idea has no value apart from its use in guiding the actions of a (particular) man. But, he doesn't just "know" the truth. He has to determine whether it is true or not. That implies evaluation in terms of its truthfulness. You seem to be using the term "evaluate to mean establishing something's "value" in a context synonymous with "moral value" i.e. value to one's life. That is not the sense in which I used evaluate. Perhaps I should have said "to determine" the truth of an idea.

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That is not what I said. Usually that would be true. Sometimes it can, for example when value destruction is obvious given your context of knowledge. Let's jump together out of a window on a 10th floor. True or False?

My point should not be taken to mean that there are no instances in which your claim is true i.e. value destruction can be obvious in some cases, as your example illustrates. The whole point of Kelley's position is that they are not always so.

I did not claim that establishing the relationship of an idea to reality is not an element. I stressed out that the ultimate purpose of judging is the establishment of value and not just factuality. Factuality without an understanding of value is meaningless.

Agreed.

When judging a man by his ideas (or actions) - the purpose is to determine his character, his values. The purpose is to know what can you expect from him. Should you protect yourself from him or become his friend?

True.

That is not what Dr. Peikoff said.

The following are the two relevant paragraphs from "Fact and Value" taken from the ARI's website. Bolded items are by me.

In the objective approach, since every fact bears on the choice to live, every truth necessarily entails a value-judgment, and every value-judgment necessarily presupposes a truth. As Ayn Rand states the point in "The Objectivist Ethics": "Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every 'is' implies an 'ought.'" Evaluation, accordingly, is not a compartmentalized function applicable only to some aspects of man's life or of reality; if one chooses to live and to be objective, a process of evaluation is coextensive with and implicit in every act of cognition.

This applies even to metaphysically given facts (as distinguished from man-made facts). Metaphysically given facts, Miss Rand points out, cannot as such be evaluated. Sunlight, tidal waves, the law of gravity, et al. are not good or bad; they simply are; such facts constitute reality and are thus the basis of all value-judgments. This does not, however, alter the principle that every "is" implies an "ought." The reason is that every fact of reality which we discover has, directly or indirectly, an implication for man's self-preservation and thus for his proper course of action. In relation to the goal of staying alive, the fact demands specific kinds of actions and prohibits others; i.e., it entails a definite set of evaluations. For instance, sunlight is a fact of metaphysical reality; but once its effects are discovered by man and integrated to his goals, a long series of evaluations follows: the sun is a good thing (an essential of life as we know it); i.e., within the appropriate limits, its light and heat are good, good for us; other things being equal, therefore, we ought to plant our crops in certain locations, build our homes in a certain way (with windows), and so forth; beyond the appropriate limits, however, sunlight is not good (it causes burns or skin cancer); etc. All these evaluations are demanded by the cognitions involved—if one pursues knowledge in order to guide one's actions. Similarly, tidal waves are bad, even though natural; they are bad for us if we get caught in one, and we ought to do whatever we can to avoid such a fate. Even the knowledge of the law of gravity, which represents a somewhat different kind of example, entails a host of evaluations—among the most obvious of which are: using a parachute in midair is good, and jumping out of a plane without one is bad, bad for a man's life.

Whether Peikoff has dark hair would be a fact of reality that has no value significance to any aspect of my (or anyone else's) life, within the context he's referring to in his piece. I might evaluate it as being meaningless to me and thus evaluate it at some level, but it would not be either moral or immoral, good or bad within the context of the requirements of my life.

Yes, when evaluating someone's character. But the degree of importance of the cause (as knowing it accurately being a value to your life) will depend on the scope of engagement. I don't need to make as deep evaluations about a grocery clerk as I should about someone I am thinking of dating, for example. In my previous post I gave an example of my thinking while interviewing potential babysitters. In that case, knowing the effect of their ideas (their correspondence to reality) is enough for my purpose and the cause is irrelevant. A potential candidate may not be immoral (perhaps their wacky ideas ARE due to honest mistakes) but nonetheless it maybe be immoral for me to employ them.

Agreed. Again, I don't think Kelley and those of us accepting his position would disagree. The source of the disagreement is that we must pronounce moral judgement of all facts, including the character of someone else, in all contexts, and that the scope of honest error is so limited that character is self-evident through the evaluation of a person's ideas. In this connection, consider that Rand wrote in "How Does one Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society" the following:

To judge means: to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. It is not an easy task; it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one's feelings, 'instinct', or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. It is fairly easy to grasp abstract moral principles; it can be very difficult to apply them to a given situation, particularly when it involes the moral character of another person.
Italics Rand's.

This does not suggest that the issue of judgement, especially moral judgement of another's character, is quite so straightforward as Peikoff states "Fact and Value".

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First, I would like to note that I was using "evaluation" in the same context as it is used in Fact and Value; to denote the determination of value.

A sequential process in no less integrated for it being sequential. One can determine truth and then value without considering them to be separate. As a matter of epistemology, the process must take place in sequence.

Your claim that evaluation depends on cognition is true in a sense. If I am being chased by an enemy, and see a sword lying on the ground, my verdict as to whether the sword is good for my life (evaluation) will depend on whether its blade is sharp or dull in reality (cognition). In a different sense, I may have already reached the verdict that the sword is good for my life only if it is sharp (evaluation), before actually examining its edge (cognition). In effect, I have performed a conditional evaluation on the sword; conditional on my cognition of it. I think the potential mistake here is adoptiong a view of man as an entity that goes around collecting facts randomly, determining the truth of those fact, and only then deciding their relevance to his life. So if you meant that, given a specific idea, one cannot evaluate it without determining its truth, I would agree with you. One should not forget, however, that man (in order to live) must constantly search out those particular facts which will help him to achieve his goals, and that cognition depends on evaluation in that sense. I will give a final example: an inventor will typically begin with a goal, which he evaluates as "good for man's life", and will only then proceed to design the device to meet that goal (cognition). The opposite path is also possible, but certainly not necessary.

Once one is at the ethical stage, the truth of an item and its relationship to human life having been determined, they would have equal precedence, but only to the extent that the truth of a particular fact was actually of relevance to one's life.

Kelley's point was that not all facts have value significance when measured against the requirements of human life, and especially when applied to the context of a particular individual's life. Moreover, a fact can be true, can be judged in relationship to the objective moral requirements of one's life and be found to be irrelevant, not moral or immoral.

The evaluation of a fact as irrelevant is still an evaluation. The point is that some verdict has to be reached about the value of a fact, or else man has no way to live. Notice that a man who did not evaluate irrelevant facts would spend his life counting ceiling tiles. In fact, just try for a moment to discover a fact without deciding whether it is good for, bad for, or irrelevant to your life. Such a thing would require a conscious act of evasion. In regard ideas, truth emphatically does not have primacy over value to life (and vice versa). The two are inseparable and they stand and fall together.

The point of my sword example is that the essence of intrinsicism is giving primacy to cognition over evaluation. Properly, cognition and evaluation always go together, and one without the other is useless as a guide to action. As a further example, I will give three trains of thought below, illustrating the difference between subjectivism, intrinsicism, and Objectivism (thoughts in parentheses).

Intrinsicism:

Dog barking in the distance (true), sound of horn (true), truck heading toward him (true)... intrinsicist dies.

Subjectivism:

Dog barking in the distance (bad), sound of horn (irrelevant), truck heading toward him (good)... subjectivist dies.

Objectivism:

Dog barking in the distance (true, irrelevant), sound of horn (true, irrelevant), truck heading toward him (true, bad for my life)... leaps out of the way and survives.

To conclude, the essence of your argument now appears to be that evaluation is entirely dependent on cognition, and therefore has precedence over it, which is intrinsicism. From your comments in that discussion, you seemed to be claiming that a man can hold false ideas and still consistently take actions (based on those ideas) which benefit his life, and that is subjectivism.

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Whether Peikoff has dark hair would be a fact of reality that has no value significance to any aspect of my (or anyone else's) life, within the context he's referring to in his piece. I might evaluate it as being meaningless to me and thus evaluate it at some level, but it would not be either moral or immoral, good or bad within the context of the requirements of my life.

I didn't see your post before I made mine, so I just wanted to address this example specifically. Imagine if you discovered that Peikoff has dark hair, and then made no evaluation of that fact. In other words, you make no attempt to discover its relation to your own life. You will be reduced to mindlessly proclaiming "Peikoff has dark hair... true", and then going on to discover other trivial facts. Every is implies an ought. Is: Peikoff has dark hair, ought: irrelevant to my life, so do nothing. Without the second part, you will be at a loss: you will be overwhelmed by thousands of truths, all of which are equally true, but of which only a few are important to your life.

Every day, we constantly make the choice not to act in the face of millions of trivial bits of information (of course, this choice becomes automatic). We are, however, constantly on the alert for facts that do have a bearing on our lives. If we don't evaluate the trivial facts (automatically), how are we to know that they are trivial, as opposed to matters of life and death?

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A man.

That doesn't help at all. How do you judge man's actions? By judging man himself? But if that does not require evaluating his actions, you got trashy moral theory. If it does, on the other hand, you simply got circular dependency.

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... How do you judge man's actions? By judging man himself? But if that does not require evaluating his actions, you got trashy moral theory. If it does, on the other hand, you simply got circular dependency.

Hello Lex,

It seems – at root – you are asking why we cannot separate cause and effect.

A man’s mental processes are the cause for his mental action (the effect) of holding or rejecting an idea. The ideas a man holds are the cause of his voluntary physical actions (the effects). A man is responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of his voluntary actions. In morally judging any action of a man (and responsibility for its consequences), it is always necessary to consider the cause – the contents of the man’s mind.

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The whole point of Kelley's position is that they are not always so.

That is NOT Kelley's point at all. No rational person would argue against the necessity of true/false indentifications. The only reason Kelley is stressing it to the degree that he does (calling it a primary) is so that he can downplay value judgment (placing it somewhere on the side by calling it a derivative).

It is true that judging another's character is often not an easy task and that we should be cautious with both our praise and condemnation. Justice demands that it must be factually based. When judging a person their context of knowledge is very significant and errors of knowledge (including epistemological) are frequent even among adults thanks to the terrible state of public education (I disagree with Dr. Peikoff in term of his assessment of frequency of errors - but this is not a philosophical conclusion - it is an empirical observation). But Kelley instead of perhaps stressing the fact that this is a very serious matter - that a moral judgment must be performed correctly - he is instead advocating to as close to moral agnosticism (in terms of judging person's ideas) as he can get (as close because he knows that all of the man-made is a subject to moral evaluation and he can't say otherwise) He is essentially advocating not following a principle most of the time or at least some of the time. Instead of teaching how to do it properly - he is saying let's not because the possiblity of error is high.

Whether Peikoff has dark hair would be a fact of reality that has no value significance to any aspect of my (or anyone else's) life, within the context he's referring to in his piece. I might evaluate it as being meaningless to me and thus evaluate it at some level, but it would not be either moral or immoral, good or bad within the context of the requirements of my life.

Facts do vary in significance to your life but the requirement to judge what you *encounter in relation to man's life is an absolute. Evaluation of a particular fact's significance IS a value judgment which further allows you to decide how much time you should devote to that particular fact. So every discovered fact does imply a choice - if only a choice, based on it's evaluated significance - to not think about it further.

*life does not require you to make effort to discover and evaluate every fact although some facts ARE crucial and thus require an active pursuit.

The source of the disagreement is that we must pronounce moral judgement of all facts, including the character of someone else, in all contexts, and that the scope of honest error is so limited that character is self-evident through the evaluation of a person's ideas.

(bold mine)

That is an incorrect understanding of Objectivist position (a strawman). There is no duty to pronounce moral judgment (although in a certain context speaking up will be a matter of justice - of fighting for your values). The abolute here is the judging part (a rational person is a valuer) so you can take correct action and not it's pronouncement. The purpose of morality is selfish - to serve as a guide for your actions and for that you have to judge. People get too much concerned with morality being about open praise or condemnation of others. Justice is of course important in terms of creating the kind of world one would want to live in (in our rational self interest) - and that can only be created by granting people what they deserve but morality is not just a social construct. Morality would apply even when living on a deserted island. At it's root is judgment for yourself so that you can choose the right action.

As with any philosophy, there is a chance that people may misunderstand a principle and thus misapply it and engage in an unnecessary and maybe unjust moralizing but that is not what Objectivism is advocating. This is not the problem with a principle. It is NOT either moralizing or moral agnosticism philosophically as Kelley is making it a to be. That is a false dichotomy. Kelley's let's not judge people by their ideas most of the time is a philosophical error about a very significant issue and thus leading to very significant negative consequences.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been re-reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (actually listening to it as an audio book on my Blackberry during my daily commute).

Regarding Kelley's position on "suspending judgment," I came across this from "Galt's Speech":

Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict “It is.” Non-thinking is an act of annihilation, a wish to negate existence, an attempt to wipe out reality. But existence exists; reality is not to be wiped out, it will merely wipe out the wiper. By refusing to say “It is,” you are refusing to say “I am.” By suspending your judgment, you are negating your person. When a man declares: “Who am I to know?” he is declaring: “Who am I to live?”

This quote from Galt's Speech is in the Ayn Rand Lexicon under the heading "Evasion."

Edited by Old Toad
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I think Kelley misunderstands Objectivsim. Most of the arguments that I've seen of his seem to treat ideas as if they contained their heiarchical dependants, with its implication that examination of an idea is to automatically examine its proper roots. This is Intrincisism. The opposite idea is the idea that ideas can't be related heiarchically because they don't contain all that information in their root, which is Subjectivism.

The Intrincisit: An idea MUST contain its roots within it for it to be dependant upon heiarchy, and it does therefore it is.

The Subjectivist: An idea MUST contain its roots within it for it to be dependant upon heiarchy, and it doesn't therefore it isn't.

The Objectivist: An idea does not contain other ideas within it but rather its validity to the real world depends upon a heiarchy of other ideas.

The point of the Objectivist idea is that properly thinking about an idea requires not only contemplation of the idea itself but also having previously identified the roots of that idea in the context of reality and being conscious of all such facts upon which the idea depends.

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  • 9 months later...

Tolerance, in Kelley's view as I understand it means acknowledging a person's context. It means waiting to make a final judgment until you have enough evidence to know if a person is willfully dishonest, evasive or in honest error. This is not inconsistent with Objectivism. See these relevant quotes:

“If you do not know how to judge the character of a person because the facts available to you are insufficient and the evidence of his flaws is inconclusive, you must give him the benefit of the doubt not on the ground of mercy but on the ground of justice. Because to let off the guilty is less disastrous than to condemn the innocent. Because virtues are more important than flaws. Because justice demands that a man be considered innocent until proved guilty and this principle applies in law courts as well as in your personal relationships with people. Except that in personal relationships, when you give the benefit of the doubt you do not dismiss the case. You wait for further evidence to prove the good or bad character of the person before you pass a moral judgment.” - The Basic Principles of Objectivism - Nathaniel Branden, Justice vs. Mercy Track 1 at 9:23

"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)

“Therefore in place of the slogan “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” Objectivism answers: judge and be prepared to be judged and more, be prepared to be judged for your judgments. Because, one of the solemn responsibilities entailed in the act of passing moral judgments and one of the reasons why most men are frightened to pass them, is precisely because any third person is then able to look at your judgment and to look at the object of your judgment and to judge you on the bases of the kind of moral judgment you have passed. And that is precisely the responsibility which many men dread.” - The Basic Principles of Objectivism - Nathaniel Branden, Justice vs. Mercy Track 2 at 14: 35

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On motives and consequences:

When a consequence does not match a person's motives, I believe this is called an accident. What seems to be in dispute here is: Can we deduce (without a doubt) a man's motivation solely by evaluating the results of his actions? In my view, it is illogical to think that you can always know a person's motives based on the consequences of his actions.

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You asked: "Can we deduce (without a doubt) a man's motivation solely by evaluating the results of his actions?" My answer is no, and further that no one here has indicated otherwise. What has been said, and what I will now reiterate, is that harmful consequences are the result of irrational ideas. Does the fact that the consequences were harmful mean absolutely that a person's professed motives were harmful as well? Not necessarily. One may have a very benevolent motive, but if, in fact, their ideas are irrational, they will tragically realize that the consequences were not what they wanted. In other words, their benevolent motives combined with their irrational ideas resulted in harmful consequences.

What does this mean? It means that at some point in their formulation of ideas they suffered a misstep and erred. Further analysis of the mistake may show that it was an honest error of knowledge... or it may show that the person willfully evaded the facts of reality. Both do not reflect kindly upon the person. The former implies a certain degree of irrationality within their thought processes; the latter implies a willful dedication to the false and irrational. In regards to moral judgment, you should not regard the former as immoral, but the latter should be judged so.

From Fact and Value

"Let us consider what is involved in judging a man’s actions morally. Two crucial, related aspects must be borne in mind: existence and consciousness, or effect and cause. Existentially, an action of man is good or bad according to its effects: its effects, positive or negative, on man’s life... But human action is not merely physical motion; it is a product of a man’s ideas and value-judgments, true or false, which themselves derive from a certain kind of mental cause; ultimately, from thought or from evasion. Human action is an expression of a volitional consciousness..."

"Both these aspects, I repeat, are essential to moral judgment. An action without effects on man’s life (there are none such) would be outside the realm of evaluation—there would be no standard of value by which to assess it. An action not deriving from ideas, i.e., from the cognitive/evaluative products of a volitional mental process, would be the reflex of a deterministic puppet or of an animal; it could not be subject to moral judgment."

"The same factors apply in regard to the other main branch of moral judgment: judging a man’s conscious convictions or ideas. In judging an idea morally, one must (as in the action case) determine, through the use of evidence, whether the idea is true or false, in correspondence with reality or in contradiction to it. Then, in exact parallel to the case of action, there are two crucial aspects to be identified: the mental process which led to the idea, and the existential results to which the idea itself leads (which means in its case: the kind of action that flows from it). In judging an idea morally, it is not relevant whether its results are enacted by the idea’s originator or by his later followers. The existential issue here is: what kind of effects—pro-life or anti-life—will this idea have by its very nature, if and when men start to act on it?"

It is important to emphasize here that when one judges a man, one takes the evaluations of actions and ideas, and evaluates them within the total context of a man's life. One does not isolate an action apart from a man's ideas apart from his verbally expressed statements or existentially expressed actions.

The crux of the issue here, and the reason why Kelley's entire moral argument is out of sync with Objectivism, is that he maintains throughout his entire discussion on moral judgment a mind-body dichotomy between the moral evaluation of an idea and the moral evaluation of an action. His theory of tolerance only emphasizes his divergence. He writes and explains why a person holding irrational ideas—an expression of evasion to a greater or lesser degree—but who has not yet expressed them in existential actions can be, and many times ought to be, tolerated.

Edited by brandonk2009
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Here's my half a cent:

I agree with Peikoff on the relationship between fact and value. It makes logical sense. But there are degrees of evil. The democrat waitress is not as evil as Kant, and Kant is not as evil as Stalin. Similarly, I'm not (currently) as good as Ayn Rand, and Ayn Rand is not as good as John Galt. I agree with Kelly that toleration means innocent until proven guilty----real, objective judgements predicate a more patient/reasoned approach than some objectivists are willing to make. The objectivists who claim that their democratic neighbor is as evil as Stalin, are not only being intellectually dishonest, but also eliminate a possible value. Yes, they are irrational/evil. Fact and value are connected. But they are not Stalin, people. That is a bizarre claim. The world is complex..that's not a cop-out, but a reason to be patient during the trial on a person's morality. Let's be tolerate with potentially valuable people. Remember your journey to objectivism (assuming you weren't born to objectivist parents). You were, at one time, evil. I agree with that. But you were not Kant or Stalin. You were patient and reasonable. It wouldn't of done your learning self any good to have a devout objectivist come out of nowhere and kick you in the crotch. In short, there's a lot of evil out there..let's have a rational sense of proportion.

Edited by James Bond
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There's a lot of evil out there..let's have a rational sense of proportion. Give credit where credit is due. Give judgement where judgement is due. I think Branden deserves credit for the work he's done on objectivism. I value it...but I still think he was immoral in many ways. It's hilarious that people at ARI refuse to acknowledge Kelly's work with objectivism. Kelly is more of an objectivist than anyone who says he's not an objectivist because pope Peikoff said he wasn't. Use your own minds, people. A real objectivist should be willing to reject anything that is irrational, even if it's something Peikoff or *gasp* Ayn Rand said. If 99% of what Ayn Rand/Peikoff said is true, which I think it is, let's honor her for her unprecedented achievement. It would discredit her work to agree indescriminately, or to hold anyone else's mind above your own.

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I don't think anyone is saying that your average democratic neighbor is as evil as Stalin. That democratic neighbor could just be a "habitual" democrat, a very a-political person who just strolls through life, voting democrat out of habit, not too interested in principles and ideas. But if this democrat is actually interested in ideas, and principles, and actually understands them, and is openly promoting these falsehoods, then he is just as evil as the person who makes the logical leap of putting these ideas into action. Because "democrat" dont actually have a homogenous "ideology" its difficult to say who is and who isnt as evil as Stalin, but the marxist professor that Kelley gives as an example most definitely is.

And about Kant. An intelligent person whose lifes work is the destruction of the human mind, is responsible for the people who take his ideas into action, no matter whether Kant himself was nice to kittens and always greeted his neighbors.

Just like David Duke is as or even more evil as the racists lynching and killing non-white people, even though he himself may be a civilized person.

Also:

A real objectivist should be willing to reject anything that is irrational, even if it's something Peikoff or *gasp* Ayn Rand said. If 99% of what Ayn Rand/Peikoff said is true, which I think it is, let's honor her for her unprecedented achievement. It would discredit her work to agree indescriminately, or to hold anyone else's mind above your own.

Yes, that is true, if you show us the 1% where Ayn Rand and Peikoff are wrong. Usually this argument is just thrown out there because people expect by default that no single person could have been correct about everything. They never require proof, they just state it as if it were true by default that even the best ones are just 99% correct.

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I don't think anyone is saying that your average democratic neighbor is as evil as Stalin. That democratic neighbor could just be a "habitual" democrat, a very a-political person who just strolls through life, voting democrat out of habit, not too interested in principles and ideas. But if this democrat is actually interested in ideas, and principles, and actually understands them, and is openly promoting these falsehoods, then he is just as evil as the person who makes the logical leap of putting these ideas into action. Because "democrat" dont actually have a homogenous "ideology" its difficult to say who is and who isnt as evil as Stalin, but the marxist professor that Kelley gives as an example most definitely is.

And about Kant. An intelligent person whose lifes work is the destruction of the human mind, is responsible for the people who take his ideas into action, no matter whether Kant himself was nice to kittens and always greeted his neighbors.

Some objectivists condemn libertarians or socialists with the same blanket of judgement as they would a dictator. That's not a rational judgement, and that's my point. I assume my democratic neighbor (or libertarian) is open to reason (innocent), until I have evidence otherwise (guilty). People who actively profligate their bad ideas are evil. A Marxist professor is evil--but let's talk with him first before we condemn him. Let's debate him. If Schwartz was ARI's pope he would command his minions to not even talk or debate with libertarians or socialists.

Kant was not out to destroy mankind. That's absurd. He was a philosopher. He was wrong, and many of his ideas were pure evil, but he was not giving orders to Hitler. People who use force to slaughter millions are more evil than those who think about it. There are degrees of evil. It's lazy to say that everyone who isn't an ARI objectivist is evil..and it's false.

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Yes, that is true, if you show us the 1% where Ayn Rand and Peikoff are wrong. Usually this argument is just thrown out there because people expect by default that no single person could have been correct about everything. They never require proof, they just state it as if it were true by default that even the best ones are just 99% correct.

So you agree with 100% of what Ayn Rand said? That's pretty unusual. You think that homosexuals are immoral and disgusting? You think that a woman shouldn't be president? You're not sure on evolution? You think Beethoven was malevolent? I don't say things things to discredit Rand, but I do say them to illustrate that she was not perfect. Similarly, objectivism is an integrated truth, but that 1% makes it an open system. More work needs to be done before it can be considered a well grounded philosophy, but as an idealogy it is bullet proof.

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