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David Kelley's Moral Theory Contra Objectivism

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brandonk2009
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A: I think it is a bad idea for a mother to give tequilla to her baby.

B. You can't judge an idea.

A. I just did.

B. Well, you shouldn't judge an idea.

A. You just did.

B. Well, I meant you shouldn't judge an idea as being primarily good or bad, only true or false.

A. It's true: it is a bad idea for a mother to give tequilla to her baby.

B. You can't be so sure. She might have a good reason for doing it.

A. What good reason?

B. Maybe the baby swallowed some rat poison and the tequilla would make the baby vomit.

A. Would that be a good reason for her giving the baby the tequilla?

B. Yes.

A. But you said you shouldn't judge an idea.

B. Well, now that I know about the rat poison, I have enough evidence to judge.

A. What if the mother gave the baby both the rat poison and the tequilla, not knowing it would make the baby vomit?

B. We don't have any reason to think that. You're just making up endless and preposterous scenarios. That's why we shouldn't judge an idea, only an action. Actual situations can be very complex and we can't judge until we have all the facts.

A. How do you know when you have enough facts to judge an action?

B. You suspend judgment until you have time to learn all the evidence that anyone might ever want to put forward, like in a trial.

A. What if you do not have time for a full-blown trial?

B. Then you suspend judgment indefinitely. You don't judge the idea. You primarily judge an action, and only after you have all the possible evidence. That's benevolence.

A. So how can I use ideas as principles for guiding an action?

B. That's when it is OK to secondarily judge an idea.

A. How do I know when I can secondarily judge an idea as moral or immoral, good or evil?

B. Only when you are sure your judgment of the idea will not hurt the feelings of anyone who might hold the idea by mistake.

A. How do I know if a person is holding an idea by mistake?

B. You have to wait until you have all the possible evidence. Like a trial. It's very complex. The chains of reasoning can be long. A mistake can happen at many places in the chain of reasoning. You give the benefit of the doubt. That's benevolence.

A. So I cannot judge an idea for guiding action?

B. Of course you can. But you should only judge an idea as being "evil" if everybody in the world already agrees it is evil so you don't hurt anyone's feelings.

A. That's a really bad idea.

Just for fun.

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James, here are statements where you directly make accusations against Peikoff and Schwartz:

If Schwartz was ARI's pope he would command his minions to not even talk or debate with libertarians or socialists.

I wonder if Peikoff even talks to people who aren't objectivist. He wouldn't want to sanction anyone, after all.

If Peikoff/Schwartz had their way, they would never allow their disciples to read anything that wasn't written by someone from the ARI camp.

It seems like a place where if you don't agree with what Peikoff thinks, you're gone.

But Peikoff admires Ayn Rand so much that I fear he falls into the category of "Ayn Rand can do no wrong, and never has."

That means they shouldn't play the game of supporting only the scholars who Peikoff likes this week.

And there are many others, like this one:

The topic of dogma in objectivism has long been issue, and it's still pertinent today, although arguably it has been diminished of late.

....where you without naming names, imply the same thing.

So could you please provide the evidence you have on these claims. And before you answer anything else, provide the evidence, or apologize.

Your style of debating is: Im going to just lie and distort my ass off, and when im refuted, im going to say i was joking, or that others cant read between the lines.

Please change your style of debate to such that you say what you mean, and nothing else, thank you. But first, provide the evidence for the claims i quoted, or apologize.

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A: I think it is a bad idea for a mother to give tequilla to her baby.

B. You can't judge an idea.

A. I just did.

B. Well, you shouldn't judge an idea.

A. You just did.

B. Well, I meant you shouldn't judge an idea as being primarily good or bad, only true or false.

A. It's true: it is a bad idea for a mother to give tequilla to her baby.

B. You can't be so sure. She might have a good reason for doing it.

A. What good reason?

B. Maybe the baby swallowed some rat poison and the tequilla would make the baby vomit.

A. Would that be a good reason for her giving the baby the tequilla?

B. Yes.

A. But you said you shouldn't judge an idea.

B. Well, now that I know about the rat poison, I have enough evidence to judge.

A. What if the mother gave the baby both the rat poison and the tequilla, not knowing it would make the baby vomit?

B. We don't have any reason to think that. You're just making up endless and preposterous scenarios. That's why we shouldn't judge an idea, only an action. Actual situations can be very complex and we can't judge until we have all the facts.

A. How do you know when you have enough facts to judge an action?

B. You suspend judgment until you have time to learn all the evidence that anyone might ever want to put forward, like in a trial.

A. What if you do not have time for a full-blown trial?

B. Then you suspend judgment indefinitely. You don't judge the idea. You primarily judge an action, and only after you have all the possible evidence. That's benevolence.

A. So how can I use ideas as principles for guiding an action?

B. That's when it is OK to secondarily judge an idea.

A. How do I know when I can secondarily judge an idea as moral or immoral, good or evil?

B. Only when you are sure your judgment of the idea will not hurt the feelings of anyone who might hold the idea by mistake.

A. How do I know if a person is holding an idea by mistake?

B. You have to wait until you have all the possible evidence. Like a trial. It's very complex. The chains of reasoning can be long. A mistake can happen at many places in the chain of reasoning. You give the benefit of the doubt. That's benevolence.

A. So I cannot judge an idea for guiding action?

B. Of course you can. But you should only judge an idea as being "evil" if everybody in the world already agrees it is evil so you don't hurt anyone's feelings.

A. That's a really bad idea.

Just for fun.

Cute, too bad it has nothing to do with the thread, since it has already been established long ago that David Kelley agrees that ideas can be judged morally and on epistemological grounds. When someone states that an idea is good or evil, one must be willing and able to prove it. Ideas are fundamentally epistemological, ignore this and you step into intrincisism which is the mind-body dichotomy. Do you seriously believe that B. is supposed to be a representative of those who agree with David Kelley? I could make an equally irrelevant mockery and smear of the overbearing moralizers that exist throughout the Objectivist movement. Are you acting with objectivity in this debate?

Edited by Lorenzo de' Medici
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Nothing to do with the thread? You previously stated the purpose of the thread is this:

... The purpose of this thread is to discuss how Kelley differs from Peikoff in regard to how one should evaluate a person based on their convictions and beliefs. We can also discuss to what degree ideas hold moral vs. epistemological significance. ...

And yes, I have had elements of that example discussion with various people confused by David Kelley's toleration book. Apart from the specific example of a mother giving tequilla to her baby, I have personally had this part of the discussion with several people, including you at one time:

A: I think it is a bad idea for a mother to give tequilla to her baby.

B. You can't judge an idea.

A. I just did.

B. Well, you shouldn't judge an idea.

A. You just did.

It can take many hours of discussion to get "B" past just this point, if ever. I've personally had discussions like the other parts, too, including in regard to Kelley's "primarily epistemological" argument, his "suspending judgment" argument, and his concession that ideas can be morally "significant," but not "primarily" or "fundamentally," all driven by a desire to avoid being judgmental ("moralistic"). The shoe fits.

Edited by Old Toad
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Rationality is not contextual, it is methodological. Knowledge is contextual, but the method for man to acquire knowledge is not. How else does one arrive at honesty as a virtue without rationality? When the link between epistemology and ethics is broken or ignored, rationalism is the only result. When one assess a value, he has to ask of value to whom and for what purpose, in relation to life and happiness. Life as the standard refers to the metaphysical, happiness refers to the spiritual to your consciousness. To ignore either happiness or life means to enter the mind-body dichotomy. There can be no compromise, no conflict between happiness and life. This is why rationality must be the standard of our actions. Morality is primarily focused on actions which is why actions speak louder than words. You can use deductive reasoning to hypothesize a person's motives from their actions, but you have to be very aware that this is not absolute.

Interesting Donovan... You say that you agree with Kelley's theory of moral judgment, meaning that you accept the nonsense that actions are measured according to the standard of life and ideas are measured according to the standard of rationality. "In judging an action, therefore, we are concerned not only with its consequences, measured by the standard of life, but also with its source in the person’s motives, as measured by the standard of rationality." (Kelley, Truth and Toleration). Yet here in this post that I quoted, you say that rationality is the standard of our actions. So do you actually agree with Kelley?

Further, I strongly disagree that morality is primarily focused on actions. Morality is primarily focused on man's choices, which absolutely contains a man's conscious ideas and actions.

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Brandon, I think it is a very good point that morality pertains to man's choices, not "primarily actions," but I do now know what can be meant by morality being "primarily focused" on man's choices. What else does morality address?

Kelley saying that ideas are "primarily epistemological," is analogous to saying that physical entities are "primarily metaphysical." To push the analogy further, this suggests that we should "primarily" evaluate my truck for whether it exists and what it is made of, not for its purpose of transportation. Of course, my truck's purpose is "significant," but it might hurt somebody's feelings if my truck has a higher payload capacity.

Edited by Old Toad
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Brandon, I think it is a very good point that morality pertains to man's choices, not "primarily actions," but I do now know what can be meant by morality being "primarily focused" on man's choices. What else does morality address?

I only meant that morality pertains to everything that is within man's capacity to choose (and how/why he makes a particular choice). This includes everything within the sphere of our thought and our actions. I'm not sure what rests outside of that sphere. Do you have an example in mind?

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Sorry, Brandon, I made a typo of "now" where I meant "not." I'm struggling with a different keyboard than I'm used to.

I meant to write: "I do not know what can be meant by morality being "primarily focused" on man's choices." I was asking you what you meant by this. Using "primarily focused" suggests that morality additionally pertains to something other than man's choices.

It was a bad typo because the consequence was that it changed the meaning of the sentence to something confusing, but I do not think I am immoral. Even without David Kelley's moral theory, I am able to distinguish between errors of fingers and errors of knowledge. Just kidding. :confused:

Edited by Old Toad
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... Ideas are fundamentally epistemological, ignore this and you step into intrincisism ....

It is not ignoring that "ideas are fundamentally epistemological" (or that physical entities are fundamentally metaphysical) that leads to intrinicism, but failing to understand the relation of ideas (and physical entities, and ultimately, reality) to man:

The objective theory [of the nature of the good] holds that the good is neither an attribute of "things in themselves" nor of man's emotional states, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man's consciousness according to a rational standard of value. (Rational, in this context, means: derived from the facts of reality and validated by a process of reason.) The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man—and that it must be discovered, not invented, by man. Fundamental to an objective theory of values is the question: Of value to whom and for what? An objective theory does not permit context dropping or "concept-stealing"; it does not permit the separation of "value" from "purpose," of the good from beneficiaries, and of man's actions from reason.

Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Theory and History, What Is Capitalism?

Note that Ayn Rand did not write: "Fundamental to an objective theory of values is that ideas are fundamentally epistemological, and don't forget it or you'll become an intrinsicist."

Edited by Old Toad
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You know, Old Toad; if you keep this up, you might understand why I was on the lookout for the type of people you are arguing against, and why I wasn't being rude to make similar arguments to what you are making. I'm beginning to admire you, so maybe I do owe you an apology for a misunderstanding. I made similar arguments to yours twenty years ago (almost to the date) when the Kelley schism first began right here in the Dallas /Fort Worth area during the same weekend of a major Objectivist conference held here. That was The Meeting of Minds Conference that hosted David Kelley, and it was that weekend that Peter Schwartz came out with his article against Kelley, and then Kelley wrote "Truth and Toleration" as his reply. I have tried and tried to get through to them, to no avail, throughout these twenty years, so perhaps my patience isn't as good as yours. I have even lost some former good friends over the issue.

So, keep at it. You are beginning to understand.

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Tom,

I sincerely appreciate some of your comments, but I am not “beginning to understand” that you were not being rude to others who I welcome to participate in the North Texas Objectivist Society. There is a difference between making an argument and rudeness. My standards for civility and for who is welcome to participate remain unchanged, as explicitly stated on the NTOS “About” page. I continue to think it is good to be patient--or at least not rude--with anyone who is welcome to participate. Until one of us changes our understanding of these issues, we are not beginning to understand each other.

Edited by Old Toad
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Nothing to do with the thread? You previously stated the purpose of the thread is this:...

No it has nothing to do with the thread. This is what happens when and if someone falls into a straw man. I expected intellectual honesty, I am concerned that the straw man you are presenting is not an error of knowledge. Check your facts. Have you actually read The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand? If not, then here is a link for you. Judge for yourself the validity of Kelley's arguments: The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand

And yes, I have had elements of that example discussion with various people confused by David Kelley's toleration book. Apart from the specific example of a mother giving tequilla to her baby, I have personally had this part of the discussion with several people, including you at one time:

The confusion comes from people who accuse Kelley of something he does not say, not from David Kelley. If you want to debate the topic in person, I am willing to engage you, that is if you can abide by your own rules of civility.

It can take many hours of discussion to get "B" past just this point, if ever. I've personally had discussions like the other parts, too, including in regard to Kelley's "primarily epistemological" argument, his "suspending judgment" argument, and his concession that ideas can be morally "significant," but not "primarily" or "fundamentally," all driven by a desire to avoid being judgmental ("moralistic"). The shoe fits.

Just because the shoe fits, that does not mean it is your shoe. Why are you ignoring the supporting quote I provided from Nathaniel Branden's Basic Principles of Objectivism Course?

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My intent was not to bring up old grievances regarding NTOS, but only to state that the Kelley issue, in a sense, was at the heart of our disagreement; and Old Toad's recent comments led me to think that he had decided most definitely not to be morally tolerant. But I am not going to focus on NTOS, but rather the Kelley issue.

Part of their assessment of how to deal with people is to have an infinite patience with those who are not only not integrated, but who do not care to become integrated, and to stand by those -- Kelley especially -- who put forth moral theories that lead to disintegration. Ideas must be judged as to whether they are harmful to man's life or detrimental to man's life; and those who put forth ideas can also be morally judged as to whether they are rational (moral), irrational (immoral), or mistaken. Kelley claiming that one must judge ideas as true or false, but not moral or immoral, disconnects or disintegrates the relationship between ideas and a man who accepts those ideas and follows through on them. To them, there is no connection between the ideas a man accepts and what he does, or the ideas that he espouses and his rationality or lack thereof.

I most definitely do not have an infinite patience, nor do I seek to have that, since I don't think it is virtuous. I state my position and back it up with reason and facts; and there is only a certain amount of patience I have with people who won't go by reason. Now, maybe that makes me come across as overly harsh or rude to some people, but I am not going to disintegrate my own mind in an effort to "be fair." I state it as I see it, and I expect the same from others.

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RationalParadigm,

You accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, but, by your own admission, you have insufficient evidence for this. I will not sanction your lack of benevolence with a substantive response. :thumbsup:

More importantly, your post certainly does not meet my civility standards for the North Texas Objectivist Society. Under these circumstances, I decline your invitation for any further discussion on this topic, in person or anywhere else.

-- Toad

Edited by Old Toad
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Brandon,

I thought you might be interested in the following quotes from Ayn Rand on the difference between "values" and "virtues." (I am sure you are familiar with Galt's Speech, and perhaps you already know of the other.)

"Value” is that which one acts to gain and keep, “virtue” is the action by which one gains and keeps it.

...

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man's virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

-- Ayn Rand, Galt's Speech (Bold emphasis added).

Now consider the issue of love, benevolence, good will and friendship among men. Surely it is clear to you that love and friendship are personal, selfish values to a man, that he derives a personal, selfish pleasure and benefit from them; a "selfless," disinterested, charity-motivated love or friendship would be an insult to its object. (l refer you to pp. 32-33 of my paper on "The Objectivist Ethics.") Therefore, concern and desire for the welfare of one's loved person or of one's friends is a rational part of one's personal, selfish values. ...

A rational man has to recognize that reason permits no arbitrary, subjective beliefs or values—and that the value he attaches to his own life and his objective right to it are based on the nature of life in general and of human life in particular; therefore, if he values his own life, he has to recognize the right of all other human beings to value their own lives in the same way, for the same reasons and on the same terms. If he holds the support of his own life by his own effort and the achievement of his own happiness as his primary goal, he has to grant the same right to others; if he does not grant it, he is guilty of a contradiction and cannot claim any rational validity for his own right. If he recognizes that living among other men (in a free society) is to his self-interest, he cannot be blindly indifferent to other men or "refuse to lift a finger to save a human life." It is his self-esteem and his self-interest that are the root of his benevolence toward others. (But if men enslaved him to serve their needs in a collectivist society, that root would disappear and it is then that he would feel indifference or hatred or contempt for others.) ...

--Ayn Rand, The Letters of Ayn Rand, Letters To A Philosopher (italic original emphasis, bold emphasis added).

What do you think?

Edited by Old Toad
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Part of the issue of benevolence has to do with the value that others offer you by being who they are and by the ideas they propagate. For the man on the street who may be unknown to one, a natural good natured benevolence for mankind in general is at work depending on one's assessment of man due to one's own value to oneself, as Miss Rand explained in the quotes above by Old Toad. However, this does not mean having benevolence towards anyone who is fighting against one's ideals -- as the Kelleyites and the Brandonites are doing with their confusions about Objectivism. David Kelley and Nathaniel Brandon ought to know better; and while the rank and file may not be aware of the evasions of Brandon or Kelley, they are still spreading intellectual poison and need to be treated as carriers of a dangers intellectual mix brought about by the disintegrated proselytizing of Brandon and Kelley.

I do fail to understand why Old Toad doesn't take the next logical step encompassed by his wonderful posts on this topic recently.

I just don't get it.

How much effort one puts forth to convince someone of the truth depends on their value to you qua rational individual, and I have been primarily writing against the Kelleyites and the Brandonites in this thread...not such much to convert them to Objectivism, though I recognize that would be good, but rather to speak out against them without going through the enormous effort that would be required to present a re-integration of Objectivism to them.

The issue with total strangers is to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I have no doubts about the disintegration techniques of Brandon and Kelley, and those who, fo0r some reason or another, just don't understand or are evading the destructiveness of their positions.

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

1. rationality

2. independence

3. integrity

4. honesty

5. justice

6. productiveness

7. pride

8. benevolence (if someone deserves it)

9. malevolence (if someone deserves it)

10. ambivalence (while you suspend judgment)

11. turbulence (if your judgment flip-flops)

Just for more fun.

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My intent was not to bring up old grievances regarding NTOS, ...
Then do not do so.

Just stop it!

It is inappropriate to raise the issue on the forum, when it is something that other members have insufficient context to judge. I also remember that either I or some other moderator requested that any such discussion be continued in the single thread about NTOS. That way, the rest of us can simply ignore it.

So, once again; please stop it.

Edited by softwareNerd
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