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Automatic values

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gerrymanderer
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I have searched and found contradictory views on "automatic values". While AR said man has no "automatic values", I have heard biological necessities (e.g. breathing for animals, sunlight for plants) talked about as "automatic values"--those based on the nature of the organism. My question is not whether man has biological necessities (e.g. sleep), but rather whether these may be classified as "automatic values" which AR said man cannot have. And if these are not "automatic values" per se, then what are they?

I am trying to apply this distinction to a moral discussion. Science shows that moral principles are to some extent genetically inherited. I was wondering, with the distinction between man's values and an animal's values, whether I could relegate inborn "moral principles" to the level of sleep, blinking, and so on: those things he, by his nature, acts to gain and keep.

Another way I have considered to resolve the incongruity between inborn moral principles and the Objectivist ethic is by undermining the possibility of automatic knowledge itself (instinct), considering the fact that all values emerge from knowledge. If I redefine the concept of "instinct", from "automatic knowledge", to something like "knowledge present in every specimen of a particular species, that is innate, and that cannot be overridden", could that eliminate the problem of inborn moral principles? Instinct would be incompatible with volition and thus eliminable.

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I am trying to apply this distinction to a moral discussion. Science shows that moral principles are to some extent genetically inherited. I was wondering, with the distinction between man's values and an animal's values, whether I could relegate inborn "moral principles" to the level of sleep, blinking, and so on: those things he, by his nature, acts to gain and keep.

It's a oxymoron. Yes, I think I've seen Binswanger and company discuss the "values" of plants and animals, but these are not the province of morality, because they are automatic.

Morality is not genetic, and actual moral principles are not things you're born with.

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Science shows that moral principles are to some extent genetically inherited.
Not sure what you mean by this. Are you speaking of the things you call "automatic values"? i.e. Do you mean that things like the value of breathing or sleep etc. are inherited. Or, are you speaking of things like criminality. If the latter, then I would contest that science has shown they are genetically inherited. They are often learnt from parents and peers, and therefore display characteristics of being culturally "inherited". While many scientists think there is a genetic component, I would contest that "science shows" it.
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This is at the heart of my views regarding the immorality of homosexuality.

What do you mean by that? Do you regard homosexuality as something that can be chosen purely by free will and thus subject to moral judgement, or do you regard homosexuality as not subject to moral judgement because it is genetic and not subject to choice?

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I have searched and found contradictory views on "automatic values". While AR said man has no "automatic values", I have heard biological necessities (e.g. breathing for animals, sunlight for plants) talked about as "automatic values"--those based on the nature of the organism. My question is not whether man has biological necessities (e.g. sleep), but rather whether these may be classified as "automatic values" which AR said man cannot have. And if these are not "automatic values" per se, then what are they?

I don't know where Rand says that we have no "automatic values," but she did have a conception of "value" which pertained to the goals which organisms other than humans acted to gain/keep, whether consciously (e.g. animals) or not (plants). This was her generic definition of value, "that which one acts to gain and or keep," in which the "action" applies to automatic internal goal-directed actions (e.g. blood circulation), instinctive goal-directed actions towards an external goal (e.g. hunting for prey), or volitional actions directed inward (e.g. introspection) or outward (e.g. choosing what to buy at the store).

The only type of "nonautomatic value" I'm aware of is the type of values applicable to us, "moral values." Because they are chosen, they are not automatic. She may have been speaking of man not having automatic values in the context of morality, which I would agree with.

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What do you mean by that? Do you regard homosexuality as something that can be chosen purely by free will and thus subject to moral judgement, or do you regard homosexuality as not subject to moral judgement because it is genetic and not subject to choice?

The first one. I think it is a choice. And a choice that doesn't coincide with man's unity of body and soul.

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The first one. I think it is a choice. And a choice that doesn't coincide with man's unity of body and soul.

Do you have any scientific backing?

Last I checked, most evidence suggests it is a mix of hormonal and psychological factors.

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For a human being there are no such things as automatic values for the simple reason that all of our values are predicated on the choice to live. If a particular man decides that life is no longer worth living then that's the end of values for him, no matter what his body's cells are programmed to do. As outsiders we can formulate our opinion regarding whether he is rational to make that decision or not, but even if we determine the latter we cannot say that he should value this or that. If a man does choose to live then even then he has a wide variety of options to choose from. All that his physical condition does is influence the content of that array of options. The choice among those options is his to make. Consequently, values do not exist for a man until they are made by him as a result of a cognitive process that he volitionally undertakes.

There is no sense in trying to separate the issue of biological needs from moral needs. They are all predicated on the same one choice: to live or not? Morality is just a code for satisfying worldly needs, including the biological, to be adopted because he is born without knowing how to live - all of which presupposes that the actor chooses to continue to exist in this world. If his choice is to live, then moral precepts become potential values, but they too must be discovered and adopted by him, just as for any values whatever. Even without getting into the epistemological nitty gritty of concept-formation and measurement processes, it is clear that once you accept the existence of volition, of the power to choose thoughts and hence actions, then the whole idea of innate knowledge - including innate values and hence innate moral ideas - is thrown out the window.

JJM

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Do you have any scientific backing?

Don't need any. This is a pre-scientific matter of--first, man's metaphysical nature, second his means of knowledge of the world or epistemology, and finally a moral judgement based on the previous two facts. Science can only find evidence that will prove those things (assuming that they are correct). If it seems that science is contradicting rational philosophy--then it is the scientific "interpretations" that should be thrown into question first.

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Don't need any. This is a pre-scientific matter of--first, man's metaphysical nature, second his means of knowledge of the world or epistemology, and finally a moral judgement based on the previous two facts. Science can only find evidence that will prove those things (assuming that they are correct). If it seems that science is contradicting rational philosophy--then it is the scientific "interpretations" that should be thrown into question first.

Interesting.

Do you assert that, given enough volition, a man could change his sexual orientation?

Much like aesthetics, do you hold that orientation is a response to core values?

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Interesting.

Do you assert that, given enough volition, a man could change his sexual orientation?

Much like aesthetics, do you hold that orientation is a response to core values?

Yes, absolutely. But more--it is part of a man's nature to be attracted to the opposite sex.

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Yes, absolutely. But more--it is part of a man's nature to be attracted to the opposite sex.
At what point are you talking? Is it part of an adult gay man's nature to be attracted to the opposite sex? Clearly not; he is by definition already gay, and presumably content with it (ie. it is natural). Or how about a gay teenager? I would say no, again, since by definition he is already gay. A gay baby? Since that is pre-adolescence, it doesn't apply. So, when would it be going against one's nature to change his sexuality? At what point can a person change sexuality? Have you known many, or any, people who have done it?

But even accepting that a person can change presupposes that it can be in his nature to be oriented either way. The next question, then (still assuming he can change), is, why would he? Furthermore, given the social stigma against gay people, not to mention an enlarged dating pool, if it were possible to "change straight," why wouldn't more gay people do it?

Look around you, EC. There is plenty of evidence against your assertions, here. It is clear that man's nature can include gay, straight, or both.

Edited by JASKN
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Do you assert that, given enough volition, a man could change his sexual orientation?

Yes, absolutely.

By your own standard then, if I asked you to name some food item that you utterly detest to the point of getting sick - let's say, eating a live termite queen (see http://www.mycolog.com/16-5_termite_queen.jpg) then if you REALLY tried hard enough, you could volitionally "choose" to enjoy them and feel they were the best thing to eat!

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That is clearly a false identification, and contradicts the nature of sexual attraction, values which are chosen and not metaphysically given.

Are they chosen in animals too? Or did man coincidently develop a rational valuation of sexual attraction coincident with the metaphysically given (i.e., instinctual?) attraction of lower animals?

Does man choose to feel pleasure from sex? Is the pleasure sourced in man's drive to create, to conquer, to fill holes or some other value that we all happen to share?

I think this obsession with rejecting instinctually-based behavior in man is a mistake. Rand refers to the metaphysically given valuation provided by the pleasure/pain mechanism. In man, this mechanism can be overridden by reason. In some animals it can be overridden by training. (And, of course, in some humans, the line between training and reason can get a little blurry.)

But that does not mean that it does not exist in man.

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Questions about animals are not valid when asking about man.

No, logically, questions about animals in general are essential to understanding why man, an animal, is different from all other animals. When man exhibits a behavior that is essentially the same as a behavior exhibited by all other higher animals, it is a valid exploration to understand if that behavior is based on his animal-ness, or if it is based on his man-ness, and completely coincidental to its existence in all other animals. (Which would seem a rather difficult assertion to support, without asking that question about other animals)

This obsession with what animals do is mistaken, and leads to the conclusion that man can properly be seen as a source of food.

I'd like to see the set of syllogisms that leads one to that conclusion. Or, are you asserting that man is not an animal?

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No, logically, questions about animals in general are essential to understanding why man, an animal, is different from all other animals.
When you ask "Are they chosen in animals too?" you are clearly setting man apart from animals. I think that is fair, given that the distinction between man and animal is universally made and well grounded. So given that distinction, which you presumed, my answer stands.
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When you ask "Are they chosen in animals too?" you are clearly setting man apart from animals. I think that is fair, given that the distinction between man and animal is universally made and well grounded. So given that distinction, which you presumed, my answer stands.

So, you are asserting that man is not an animal, in the sense that the characteristics of man are in no way logically ascribable to animals (and vice versa), though some may occur coincidentally (as snow and polar bears are coincidentally white).

Given the virtually universal acceptance of man's evolution from lower animals, and the evolution of lower animals from even lower animals, this is a difficult assertion to accept.

What, other than the (presumptively) unique development of reason, logically supports an epistemological separation of man from lower animals? (That's not to assert that reason is not enough to justify separation, only to say that the separation based on reason does not automatically lead to any other separation, including the dismissal of instinctive behavior in man)

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Given the virtually universal acceptance of man's evolution from lower animals, and the evolution of lower animals from even lower animals, this is a difficult assertion to accept.
Then why did you ask "Are they chosen in animals too?". You have no difficulty accepting the assertion some of the time.

Your reasoning is that man must be an instinctual beast lacking in a conceptual faculty or volition because he historically evolved from such beasts. That is obviously an error, since it leads to the conclusion that mammals are cold-blooded because mammals evolved from cold-blooded beasts. You fail to take into account the fact that "evolve" means "change", so something true of a historically earlier ancestor of man is not necessarily true of man. The radically different nature of human consciousness is quite obvious, and yet you insist on denying it because of our slug ancestors -- that reasoning is invalid.

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Your reasoning is that man must be an instinctual beast lacking in a conceptual faculty or volition because he historically evolved from such beasts.

This statement clearly implies that instinctual behavior is mutually exclusive to conceptual facility and volition.

Can you argue to support that?

For instance, could you, if presented with the long chain of man's evolutionary development, point to two consecutive generations of proto-man, the first of which demonstrated instinctual behavior and no conceptual facility or volition, and the second of which demonstrated conceptual facility and volition, and therefore was devoid of instincts? Because that's what that assertion really boils down to.

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Can you argue to support that?
Before I even contemplate doing so, I'd like you to acknowledge the invalidity of the claim "since reptiles operate instinctively and man descended from reptiles, may operates instinctively". I want you to cleanly cut the cord with this "because lower animals do it...." reasoning.
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I want you to cleanly cut the cord with this "because lower animals do it...." reasoning.

Yet, this is the "scientific evidence" that supposedly supports the "morality" of homosexuality.

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Yet, this is the "scientific evidence" that supposedly supports the "morality" of homosexuality.
Even though I still maintain that you are wrong in your claim that man is necessarily hetero, the counter-argument "monkeys and worms do it" is specious. The bigger generalization is, invalid arguments are, well, invalid.
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