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Making a Virtue of Selfishness?

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If someone with bandwidth listens to the audio, and catches Huemer saying, in his first time at the lectern, that he is bringing up those examples because Objectivism *appears* to be inconsistent with rational egoism in those cases, please tell me *when* he said so. I recall no such statement and according to my recollection, only during Q&A did he appear to concede that O-ism did not in fact call for murdering people to make a buck.

I only had time to listen to the debate, not the QA, but I had the same thoughts. If I can find the time today I'd like to listen to the entire thing all the way through without distraction.

I agree that Objectivists should be able to answer why self-interest would prevent one from violating another's rights in those situations, but I think Huemer's statements went beyond that. I think he asserted that Objectivism would lead to rights-violations when one could "profit" from it, like when the net result could be the gain of one dollar. And that's just not true. Just look at what was quoted on the Think! website.

From http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/center/think.shtml: (emphasis mine)

Dr. Michael Huemer: "Ayn Rand champions an excessively egoistic ethic, one in which individuals must place themselves before everyone and everything else. This ethic can lead one to hurt, exploit, or simply ignore the needs of others, when it suits one's own interests to do so. Rand's ethic of selfishness clashes with the moral sense of philosophers, spiritual leaders, and ordinary people the world over. These people are not all wrong -- Ayn Rand is wrong.".

if "this ethic" is referring to anything Ayn Rand stated, I'd say the burden of proof would be on him.

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That is one more reason why I have trouble with NoumenalSelf's interpretation of his argument.

Though NoumenalSelf is correct in stating that Objectivism's respect for the rights of others is one of the more difficult parts of O-ism to understand, I do not think that's Huemer was trying to get at.

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Darren quotes Michael Huemer:

Ayn Rand champions an excessively egoistic ethic, one in which individuals must place themselves before everyone and everything else. This ethic can lead one to hurt, exploit, or simply ignore the needs of others, when it suits one's own interests to do so. Rand's ethic of selfishness clashes with the moral sense of philosophers, spiritual leaders, and ordinary people the world over. These people are not all wrong -- Ayn Rand is wrong."

Huemer is using a timeworn, standard method of philosophical argumentation here: reductio ad absurdum. This method involves noting that an idea has absurd consequences, and then rejecting the idea because of those consequences. We Objectivists use the same method all the time. We say, for example, that environmentalism logically implies that man should commit suicide for the "interest" of nature. Environmentalists will then always get offended and say, "But we don't think we should commit suicide!" And then we have to explain that we are talking about the essence of the idea of environmentalism, which most environmentalists hold inconsistently, because they do not grasp its meaning or implications.

Huemer is doing exactly the same thing. He's saying that Ayn Rand is wrong to advocate egoism, because the *idea* of egoism *logically* implies exploiting other people even if Ayn Rand doesn't recognize that it does. Of course I think he's wrong that it implies this, but no where here does he say anything like the following: "Ayn Rand says we should hurt, exploit, or ignore the needs of others. She is wrong to say this." If he had said anything like this, then there would be a problem. But he doesn't. The simplest explanation of what he's doing here is giving a reductio ad absurdum style of argument.

Edited by noumenalself
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Of course I think he's wrong that it implies this, but no where here does he say anything like the following: "Ayn Rand says we should hurt, exploit, or ignore the needs of others. She is wrong to say this." If he had said anything like this, then there would be a problem. But he doesn't.

Actually, around minute 26 in the mp3 file he stated (emphasis mine):

So, the claim that is, well, even if you think that those situations are not actually going to occur, still, you can reason about what would be true if they did occur. And it looks as if the egoist theory entails absurd consequences, that you should kill the innocent person and that you should not save the drowning child.

Now I want to make some comments about how to choose between common sense and the egoist theory of Ayn Rand.

He's not saying it with the exact words you used, but what he stated means the same thing.

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He said that if saving a random drowning child is not in my self interest? Meaning that the random child and I would most likely die if I go in to try to save them? Sheesh, how often does this stuff happen? I would take a risk maybe but it depends.

EDIT:Here's a thread on it: http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ing+child\

Edited by dadmonson
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His proposed criteria for judging two conflicting ethical systems:

examine basic premises of both and:

1) look out for which one seems more obviously correct to you (as an initial judgment)

2) how wide spread certain assumption is within your vicinity

3) cross cultural appeal - how universal it is

4) persistence over time (if it is was held for 2000 years it is unlikely that the assumption is wrong - if the idea is from 40 years ago is more likely mistaken)

He did say that this will not constitute a definitive proof with certainty of which one is correct but he did say these are pieces of evidence that are indicators of which is more likely to be correct.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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That sounds like a mutt mix of conservative intuitionist justification.

His proposed criteria for judging two conflicting ethical systems:

examine basic premises of both and:

1) look out for which one seems more obviously correct to you (as an initial judgment)

2) how wide spread certain assumption is within your vicinity

3) cross cultural appeal - how universal it is

4) persistence over time (if it is was held for 2000 years it is unlikely that the assumption is wrong - if the idea is from 40 years ago is more likely mistaken)

He did say that this will not constitute a definitive proof with certainty of which one is correct but he did say these are pieces of evidence that are indicators of which is more likely to be correct.

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I would like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation for those here who have chosen philosophy as their profession.

I work in science and it is an epistemological heaven in comparison. What you are doing is important and I think I personally would not be able to handle it as my professional work. If such criteria for judgment of conflicting ideas was presented at a scientific talk - such person would be laughed out of the room. And yet in your field that is probably not the worst you have encountered. Dealing with this on regular bases, given that the expectations for professionals are higher, would be very challenging for me.

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