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Why is self-sacrifice irrational?

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brian0918
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What is your fundamental choice: by what standard are your actions evaluated as "good" or "bad"?

I guess what I'm asking for is simply the line of reasoning as to why self-sacrifice is irrational and should be rejected. I will let you (the opponent) define what altruism is as you will be the one showing it to be irrational.

Edited by brian0918
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I guess what I'm asking for is simply the line of reasoning as to why self-sacrifice is irrational and should be rejected.
You didn't answer my question. If you can't, that's okay, but you should say "I have no idea" so I know where this starts. You asked a question about "should" and "good", so I want to know where you think these concepts come from.
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You didn't answer my question. If you can't, that's okay, but you should say "I have no idea" so I know where this starts. You asked a question about "should" and "good", so I want to know where you think these concepts come from.

Alright: I have no idea. What is your definition of altruism and what are your steps for concluding that it is irrational?

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What are the steps leading from the statement "Altruism says I should sacrifice my own good for someone else's good" to "Altruism is irrational and should be rejected"?

Here is a simple sketch of the answer. I am still trying to get a better grasp of these ideas myself, so for a more detailed answer I urge you to read Ayn Rand's essay The Objectivist Ethics in her book The Virtue of Selfishness.

Life requires rational selfishness to be self-sustaining. Altruism, if consistently applied, commands that you give your personal values for the values of others, even if they are not of great value to you. Altruism is antithetical to rational selfishness. The only reason why we need concepts of "good" and "bad" is because we are conscious, living beings capable of exercising free will in choosing a goal-directed action. Some actions can objectively advance our life, which will be called "good" and others will objectively harm our life, which will be called "bad". Thus, if we wish to continue to live a flourishing life, we must engage actions that advance our life. Since life requires rational selfishness to be sustaining, we must engage in rationally selfish actions and unhesitatingly reject altruism.

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Alright: I have no idea. What is your definition of altruism and what are your steps for concluding that it is irrational?

I'm just going to make one friendly suggestion.

You might consider that the answer to David's question might also be the answer to yours, and that, that's why he asked it.

The answer to both is contained in what I consider to be one of the greatest pieces of non-fiction ever written: The Objectivist Ethics in "The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand.

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Life requires rational selfishness to be self-sustaining.

You have defined the opposite of altruism (selfishness) as the requirement for self-sustainability from the very beginning; this is a rephrasing of what I am asking you to show.

Altruism, if consistently applied, commands that you give your personal values for the values of others, even if they are not of great value to you.

And what if your personal values (ie, what you believe to be good) include actions that benefit others but not yourself? In other words, what if you believe to be good something that benefits other people but not yourself? It does not benefit yourself (ie, it is not for your own good), but you believe it to be good. This is what it is to be altruistic.

Edited by brian0918
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Alright: I have no idea. What is your definition of altruism and what are your steps for concluding that it is irrational?
I do hereby repeat my first question. "What is your fundamental choice: by what standard are your actions evaluated as "good" or "bad"?". Totally forget altruism for the moment. Focus on "good". Once you understand "good" and "should", then we can talk about altruism. An understanding of "good" is the foundation of this discussion. What is "good"? Now, if you are saying that you don't know what "good" is or what man's fundamental choice is, then I know where to start.
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I do hereby repeat my first question. "What is your fundamental choice: by what standard are your actions evaluated as "good" or "bad"?". Totally forget altruism for the moment. Focus on "good". Once you understand "good" and "should", then we can talk about altruism. An understanding of "good" is the foundation of this discussion. What is "good"? Now, if you are saying that you don't know what "good" is or what man's fundamental choice is, then I know where to start.

Something is "good" if it has a desirable quality or outcome. A person has ideas about what would be desirable outcomes for himself - ie, what would be good for himself. These outcomes may include extending his life, increasing his productivity or financial income, etc. These outcomes are on his list of "that which is good" - this is his list of values; he should spend his life devising actions capable of bringing about these outcomes. When these actions occur to him, they are for "his own good" - ie, they bring about desirable outcomes. When these actions occur to another individual with similar values, they are for "their own good" - ie, they bring about desirable outcomes for those individuals.

So what you basically have to show is that it is irrational to include on your list of values, your list of good outcomes, something that does not directly impact some other aspect of "your own good".

To clarify, here is a sample list of good outcomes according to an altruist:

1. An outcome that extends the life of the user of this list

2. An outcome that increases the productivity of this user

3. An outcome that increases the financial income of this user

4. An outcome that extends the life of a person who this user does not know

This 4th outcome is the altruistic one (duh :P). Let's suppose that in practice, this 4th outcome does not effect any of the other outcomes on the list; so, other than being a desirable outcome in itself, it is not for the user's "own good". What you have to show is why it is irrational to include the 4th outcome in this list of outcomes.

Edited by brian0918
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"Good" is an evaluation of a choice, considered as a means of reaching an end. Given the fundamental choice to exist, the recognition that you cannot simply "exist" abstractly but must exist as something, and the fact that you can identify your nature -- you are a man, not a mouse -- that means that "good" is that which advances your goal of existing as a man, and "bad" is that which detracts from the goal.

Altruism is irrational because it contradicts the fundamental choice "that which advances my goal of existence as a man". It says that your existence is not the fundamental standard for judging good and evil, in fact it tends to demand that you act to destroy yourself if some other person can benefit from your death (but it is not consistent in that respect). It is irrational, then, in embracing contradiction (random decisions as to whether you should or should not self-destruct right now, and simultaneously embracing the concept of "value" which is possible only if you choose to exist, while rejecting "your existence" as the ultimate goal).

Do you have a good grip on the relationship between "good" and "evil", their relationship to an ultimate goal, and the relationship between "value" and the particular choice of existence as that goal?

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The answer to both is contained in what I consider to be one of the greatest pieces of non-fiction ever written: The Objectivist Ethics in "The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand.

The answer is also contained in the greatest piece of fiction ever written: Galt's Speech in "Atlas Shrugged" :P

Edited by KevinDW78
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You have defined the opposite of altruism (selfishness) as the requirement for self-sustainability from the very beginning; this is a rephrasing of what I am asking you to show.

Actually, you asked:

What are the steps leading from the statement "Altruism says I should sacrifice my own good for someone else's good" to "Altruism is irrational and should be rejected"?

Nevertheless, this is fine. If you wish to ask the subsequent question: "Why does life require rational selfishness?" then the short answer is because if you do not take necessary actions to advance your life then your life will not flourish in the long run.

And what if your personal values (ie, what you believe to be good) include actions that benefit others but not yourself? In other words, what if you believe to be good something that benefits other people but not yourself? It does not benefit yourself (ie, it is not for your own good), but you believe it to be good. This is what it is to be altruistic.

Values are not arbitrary. Values are objective goals that, if achieved or created, will enhance your life. Maintaining a health lifestyle, acquiring applicable knowledge, earning a doctorate, keeping a nutritious diet and fomenting emotionally healthy and rewarding relationships with others who share your ideals are all objective values that advance your life.

What values do you believe an individual could have that would be both rational and of absolutely no benefit to himself?

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Values are not arbitrary. Values are objective goals that, if achieved or created, will enhance your life.

Again, you have defined values that way. Others will not define what they value in the same way that you do here.

Maintaining a health lifestyle, acquiring applicable knowledge, earning a doctorate, keeping a nutritious diet and fomenting emotionally healthy and rewarding relationships with others who share your ideals are all objective values that advance your life.

Yes, but where does the requirement that values must enhance your life come from?

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Again, you have defined values that way. Others will not define what they value in the same way that you do here.

Yes, but where does the requirement that values must enhance your life come from?

Because life is what makes values possible and necessary.

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Again, you have defined values that way. Others will not define what they value in the same way that you do here.
It doesn't matter whether other people have a deluded understanding of value. The argument that altruism is irrational does not depend on how people define value, it depends on a thing in reality, namely value. With reference to that thing in reality (which is the foundation that the concept "good" rests on), altruism is irrational.
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When these actions occur to him, they are for "his own good" - ie, they bring about desirable outcomes. When these actions occur to another individual with similar values, they are for "their own good" - ie, they bring about desirable outcomes for those individuals.

So let's talk about a drug addict. Is his next heroin fix actually good for him? That is, is it good for him with respect to the decision to stay alive?

As people have been saying: "good" is objectively defineable.

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Again, you have defined values that way. Others will not define what they value in the same way that you do here.

You need to then ask the opposite of altrusists. Do they value that which does NOT serve your life?

If so, then your definition of "value" is "death" (as is explained in Galt's Speech.)

To believe in altruism and its "rationality" you would need to first acknowledge this premise.

To quote Galt, "In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win."

Edited by KevinDW78
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  • 1 month later...
Something is "good" if it has a desirable quality or outcome. A person has ideas about what would be desirable outcomes for himself - ie, what would be good for himself. These outcomes may include extending his life, increasing his productivity or financial income, etc. These outcomes are on his list of "that which is good" - this is his list of values; he should spend his life devising actions capable of bringing about these outcomes. When these actions occur to him, they are for "his own good" - ie, they bring about desirable outcomes. When these actions occur to another individual with similar values, they are for "their own good" - ie, they bring about desirable outcomes for those individuals.

So what you basically have to show is that it is irrational to include on your list of values, your list of good outcomes, something that does not directly impact some other aspect of "your own good".

To clarify, here is a sample list of good outcomes according to an altruist:

1. An outcome that extends the life of the user of this list

2. An outcome that increases the productivity of this user

3. An outcome that increases the financial income of this user

4. An outcome that extends the life of a person who this user does not know

This 4th outcome is the altruistic one (duh :blush:). Let's suppose that in practice, this 4th outcome does not effect any of the other outcomes on the list; so, other than being a desirable outcome in itself, it is not for the user's "own good". What you have to show is why it is irrational to include the 4th outcome in this list of outcomes.

Please tell me, how can someone rationally and non-contradictrory(sp?) value something that gives him no value? Its a bit like saying "it is bad to be good", or "the best thing for life, is death". If Mr.A values Mr.B's health and life, and pays for his bypass surgery, it is not an act of altruism, if Mr.B's life is more valuable TO MR.A than Mr.B's death&the money that the surgery costs. If Mr.A does not value Mr.B's health enough to pay for his surgery, but does it because of some sense of obligation or peer pressure, then this is an altruistic act. He has done an irrational act, as the sense of obligation to other people is not consistant with life on earth. Imagine if there was 10,000 people in this world and none of them acted in a way that tried to fulfill their own values, but the values of others. Well, everyone would value the other people, ergo, noone would value anyone as the ones they valued just valued everyone else. It is in no way or form possible to have a consistant system of ethics, where altruism is applied as good to everyone. Altruism, for it to even be possible in practice, requires some of the people being drones without any own values, and some of the people as receipients of these drowns productivity.

The absurdity and irrationalilty of altruism grows even weirder, when you consider that if you yourself, cannot act on your own values, then that means that any value someone else has, is good, just because it is someone elses. The absurd situation arises of you helping out a scumbag who wants to rape your daughter, because you actually value your daughters wellbeing, which is wrong, as you should value the values of everyone else, including the rapists who wants to rape your daughter. A father, who loves and values the wellbeing of his daughter, posts the picture and adress of his daughter to some pedophile-forum, and gives them information about when the daughter is available for rape, because he should not put his values first(the wellbeing of his daughter) and should instead put the values of other people first(the rapists). This, is what consistent altruism is, and i hope i dont have to explain why it is immoral.

Obviously, there is an even more absurd example. You value that i die-> I kill myself

Your 4th alternative, "An outcome that extends the life of a person who this user does not know" as i understand it, is just the example i gave in the daughter/rapist example but i have to admit that i dont fully understand what you mean by it. If i make an action, that is of no value to me but of value to others(helping a possible rapist rape my daughter) instead of pursuing my own values(the wellbeing of my daughter). Even the daughter, if she is old enough to have reason and morals, should value the rapists values, and let the rapist rape her but then also be mad at herself as her father didnt want her to get raped. Then, if we consider that the rapist is also an altruist, and no other people in the world exists, we are at a point where total absurdity exists. The father(who values the wellbeing of his daughter) and the daughter(who doesnt want to get raped) goes and demands the rapist to rape the daughter, but the rapist(who wanted to rape the girl) declines.

Also:

The daughter may act in accordance with his fathers values and doesnt want to get raped. Then the rapist acts in accordance with the daughters values and does not rape. But, the father acts in accordance with the rapists values, and forces the rapist to rape her daughter. Absurd, much?

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