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The Individual
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Someone you love is not more valuable than your life.

For you and perhaps for a lot of people. It is however not something that you can decide for everyone - it is a personal value judgment. Giving your life for someone you value greatly can be a moral choice. A person may not want to continue living without them.

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Yes, and in the situation under discussion, you don't kill her -- the terrorist does. FYI, failing to prevent an action is not the same as performing the action.

Ok. Just imagine yourself in that situation. The moment before you kill your wife, would you tell her "Sorry, honey. It's either you or me"?

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Giving your life for someone you value greatly can be a moral choice.

The standard of morality is your life. A moral choice is one in which you gain a value, by that standard. When you give your life away, you do not gain any values, you, and your values, both end.

You may choose to end your life, for some goal such as the survival of someone you love, but that doesn't make it moral. Ethics is a specific thing, and it has nothing to do with the conditions under which, and the reasons why, people decide to die.

Objectivist Ethics prescribes the principles one requires to live, when one chooses to do so. When one's life is not the goal, Ethics is not useful.

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And, it is not an immoral choice either. I think one has to explicitly point that out, and then the rest of your post is clear.

If that person is essential to your life, then it is not immoral, absolutely. Life is not possible, so there are no moral choices. If there aren't any moral choices, then there are no immoral ones either. I meant to say that, but looks like it got cut in the editing process:)

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And, it is not an immoral choice either. I think one has to explicitly point that out, and then the rest of your post is clear.

I think it's fair to say that once a person has given his/her life for someone else, he/she doesn't really care what moral pronouncement others make of his/her decision. :) He's/She's dead.

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The standard of morality is your life. A moral choice is one in which you gain a value, by that standard. When you give your life away, you do not gain any values, you, and your values, both end.

Not that this is a very important issue for me but I am not convinced that the decision itself lies outside of the sphere of morality. One is still holding life as the standard when evaluating one's life, in this case, without this person (other cases could be: one's life when very ill, or in great physical pain, or life without intact mental faculties). The "reward" is not to have to go through it. My point was that there are situations in which such decision can be rationally defended within the Objectivist ethics of self-interest. Perhaps I should have said instead: It could be rational to value another's life more than your own.

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Not that this is a very important issue for me but I am not convinced that the decision itself lies outside of the sphere of morality. One is still holding life as the standard ...
Yes, you're right. Now that I think about it more carefully, it is not the same as a hypothetical pre-moral decision of "do I want to live or not". Thanks for clarifying that.
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Not that this is a very important issue for me but I am not convinced that the decision itself lies outside of the sphere of morality. One is still holding life as the standard when evaluating one's life, in this case, without this person (other cases could be: one's life when very ill, or in great physical pain, or life without intact mental faculties). The "reward" is not to have to go through it. My point was that there are situations in which such decision can be rationally defended within the Objectivist ethics of self-interest. Perhaps I should have said instead: It could be rational to value another's life more than your own.

Alright, I'm sold on the idea that choosing how to end your life lies within the sphere of Ethics.

I also agree that one can value someone to the point where his own life becomes a non-value without them. But your own life is still the ultimate value, and with it being a non-value, there cannot be any other values.

I think that valuing something more than the source of all your values, your own life, is not possible. Or I should say, it would be altruism, since there are many ways to sacrifice your life for another, not just dying for theirs.

How about this: 'you can value another's survival more than your own' ?

So, if your final act is to facilitate that person's survival, that is a moral choice, if the alternative is a life without any values at all, or death without at least saving that life.

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My friend recently presented an interesting scenario.

He said: If you value your life as your greatest value, then you should have as many altruistic "friends" as possible, knowing that they will sacrifice their life for you, thereby preserving your greatest value.

On Objectivist ground, I rejected it (I said I'd be thankful if people sacrificed their lives for me but I wouldn't approve of their actions on altruistic ground) but he claimed that it isn't consistent with my philosophy of one's life as the greatest value.

Ultimately, it was reduced into what mattered more - my philosophy or my life. I explained to him that my life is built upon my philosophy. Therefore I value my philosophy more than my life.

Was it a correct way of argument?

Edited by The Individual
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Was it a correct way of argument?

I'd say no, sorry. I think the correct argument is that in a free society, you don't need people sacrificing their lives to save yours, all you need is professional soldiers and policemen who defend your life without sacrificing theirs, for reasons that are completely selfish.

As for whatever else altruists have to sacrifice, for your sake, you don't need it, and they wouldn't give it to you anyway: altruists take from those who create value, and give to those who do not.

As an Objectivist, your morality requires of you to be productive, rather than a parasite, so your altruists friends would not be of much use to you. Your friends argument that it is rational to be a parasite completely disregards human nature, and shows that he is not familiar with Objectivism. There is a reason why it is not a good idea to be a parasite, other than your philosophy. That reason is metaphysically given, and cannot be avoided, even if you choose to reject Objectivism. That reason is your nature, and you will suffer the consequences of disregarding it: you will be miserable, as a parasite supported by his altruist friends, even if they bathe you in gold.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I'd say no, sorry. I think the correct argument is that in a free society, you don't need people sacrificing their lives to save yours, all you need is professional soldiers and policemen who defend your life without sacrificing theirs, for reasons that are completely selfish.

As for whatever else altruists have to sacrifice, for your sake, you don't need it, and they wouldn't give it to you anyway: altruists take from those who create value, and give to those who do not.

As an Objectivist, your morality requires of you to be productive, rather than a parasite, so your altruists friends would not be of much use to you. Your friends argument that it is rational to be a parasite completely disregards human nature, and shows that he is not familiar with Objectivism. There is a reason why it is not a good idea to be a parasite, other than your philosophy. That reason is metaphysically given, and cannot be avoided, even if you choose to reject Objectivism. That reason is your nature, and you will suffer the consequences of disregarding it: you will be miserable, as a parasite supported by his altruist friends, even if they bathe you in gold.

I see. Thanks.

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  • 8 months later...

*** Mod's note: Merged topics. sN ***

Theres nothing wrong with masturbating. Is there anything wrong with watching porn to "get a boner" (i.e. as a tool to masturbate with.)

I am not trying to be "gross" but we are all human and your a GD liar if you say don't play with yourself. (Unless you have a regular lover who you frequently have sex with then I guess I could see that you could hold back for the pleasure with the other person, but most people who do have sex even three times a day probably find the time to go "solo").

Edited by softwareNerd
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*** Mod's note: Merged topics. sN ***

Theres nothing wrong with masturbating. Is there anything wrong with watching porn to "get a boner" (i.e. as a tool to masturbate with.)

I am not trying to be "gross" but we are all human and your a GD liar if you say don't play with yourself. (Unless you have a regular lover who you frequently have sex with then I guess I could see that you could hold back for the pleasure with the other person, but most people who do have sex even three times a day probably find the time to go "solo").

1) As long as you keep a good idea of sexuality separate of fantasy your fine. This means you shouldn't encourage any dangerous deviations you have too, like rape porn and such.

2) I think the only ethical concern with pornography is whether or not someone should work in porn, which I don't think you are concerned about.

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The physical act of masturbation itself may not be "metaphysically given," but the capacity to orgasm is. And all people are naturally curious about their bodies when they are young. That's where masturbation comes from: a natural curiosity about your own body and it's various functions and abilities. There is not a single immoral thing about discovering your own body. It builds self-esteem, in fact, to become acquainted with, safe, comfortable, and confident with your own body.

Masturbation is perfectly moral and even desirable in many situations. When you want to discover your own body. When you lack a lover but want sexual pleasure. When your lover is temporarily away and you masturbate to thoughts of him/her.

It can just as easily be immoral, depending on *what* you masturbate to. If your...material or the substance of your fantasies involved anything immoral, then the act would also be immoral. That would include anything such as child porn, rape, sado-masochism, necrophilia, scatological elements, and probably many other things I probably don't even want to think about. It can also be immoral if you masturbate all the time instead of having sex with your lover. It would also hint at a problem in your relationship. It would also be immoral if that's all you did, and it interfered with work and your livelihood. Although I doubt that can really happen.

Pornography is, I think, debatable. First it depends on what you define as pornography, and the content thereof. If the content involves any of the above, then it is most definitely immoral. If it is simply the normal sex act, between two consenting adults then it is not immoral. However, a lot of pornography is misogynistic and degrades and demeans women. It also typically fulfills perverted fetishes, which is defined as sexual attraction to an inanimate object. That doesn't necessarily harm anyone...although I can't be sure...but it's psychologically destructive because it perverts the proper nature of sex.

As for the morality of the actors: it's hard to say, but performing sex for money is rather like prostitution. What's worse is that they are performing sex with the knowledge that millions of strangers will be enjoying their "performance." It degrades sex to the level of exhibitionism.

Overall, probably 99% of pornography is repulsive to anyone with any self-respect and respect for sex. Which is why I avoid it.

A lot of other things are repulsive about most pornography. The actors are hideous, both female and male. They are usually surgically enhanced, which is a whole other layer of grotesque. They usually aren't the most quick-witted people around, to put it nicely. And the scenarios are often comical and stupid. If they are meant to fulfill someone's fantasy they certainly aren't fulfilling mine.

"Pornography" that I think is totally fine, is nude or semi-nude pictures although I don't know if you can call that pornography. Even that is wrong, though, if you look at it while you're in a relationship. It would also indicate that something is wrong with your relationship if your lover isn't enough for you, so to speak.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Concerning prostitution, I just can't get why, in principle, should be considered immoral.

I rather think that prostitution is immoral when it implies faking a reality. When it acts as a substitute for real sex, when it makes you fake/undermine the meaning of sex in a lucid life. And that requires a special context.

For example, a person that regularly pursues sex with a prostitute INSTEAD of pursuing a relationship based on recognition of virtues and shared preferences and projects.

Other than that, paying for a prostitute or being paid for an act of prostitution is like paying/getting paid for a massage in a spa.

In an spa, customers pay for receiving massage in the muscles of their back, arms, chest, legs, neck.

Customers pay because they value the physical pleasure obtained through that massage.

So what is the difference in paying for having another person massage your genitalia in a way that leads you to an orgasm?

Doesn't an orgasm make you feel good, relaxed, cheerful, peaceful, confident?

In my understanding, Objectivist morality differs from Hedonism in that pleasure (and happiness) is not the STANDARD of value, but lucid flourishing life.

However, Objectivism does not reject that physical pleasures can be values, and rational values, and that happiness is the end (while not the standard) of a moral life.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Regarding Ayn Rand's view of sex as a celebration of life, I think the same could be applied to almost any human and daily activity, particularly those activities linked to pleasure.

For example, Ayn Rand could have said that EATING should be a celebration of life. The creativity, culture, imagination, sensuality, nutrition placed in every plate should make us consider each meal as a moment of celebration. Eating is too good to be undermined by having a quick lunch in the Fast Food area of a shopping mall. Eating is too good to be munching pizza while watching the SupwerBowl. You don't need to be a gourmet to appreciate the profound humanity of the act of eating.

However, quickly munching fries in a Fast Food section of a shopping mall is not bad in principle. You may be hungry, not able or willing to spend more time, effort, money or imagination in preapring yourself a healthy and delicious dinner. You may just want to indulge yourself because you love French fries so much.

But prefering fast food on an almost daily basis over real eating would be irrational and hence immoral. It would be faking the act of eating. Faking the reality of you as a rational being capable of provinding yourself with an act of celebrating life in each meal.

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Concerning prostitution, I just can't get why, in principle, should be considered immoral.

I rather think that prostitution is immoral when it implies faking a reality. When it acts as a substitute for real sex

Isn't the object of prostitution sex? It is sex you are having, not a substitute to it. It just happens to be the wrong kind of sex.

Regarding Ayn Rand's view of sex as a celebration of life, I think the same could be applied to almost any human and daily activity, particularly those activities linked to pleasure.

For example, Ayn Rand could have said that EATING should be a celebration of life. The creativity, culture, imagination, sensuality, nutrition placed in every plate should make us consider each meal as a moment of celebration. ... You don't need to be a gourmet to appreciate the profound humanity of the act of eating.

However, quickly munching fries in a Fast Food section of a shopping mall is not bad in principle. You may be hungry, not able or willing to spend more time, effort, money or imagination in preapring yourself a healthy and delicious dinner. You may just want to indulge yourself because you love French fries so much.

That's true, there's nothing wrong with fast food. That's why eating fast food isn't analogous to prostitution.

The satisfaction of eating something tasty, be it a gourmet meal or fast food, is purely a physical reaction to the taste of an inanimate object: the food. Sex is not, it is an emotional and physical interaction between two people. Prostitution, unlike fast food, isn't essentially the same thing as its "gourmet" version. One of the parties isn't enjoying it, physically or emotionally (in fact she is usually dreading it).

If someone wanted to merely enjoy the physical part of sex, they could, by masturbating. The reason they need a woman there is because they seek more than that physical sensation, and they're not going to get it from a prostitute.

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Isn't the object of prostitution sex? It is sex you are having, not a substitute to it. It just happens to be the wrong kind of sex.

People seek prostitutes for a variety of reasons.

Let's consider these ones:



  1. Soothing a sexual urge (e.g. after long periods of abstinence, with little attention to the quality or sensuality of the act)
  2. Getting more intense physical pleasure than that obtained by masturbation or by a partner with a sexual disfunction or clearly underskilled
  3. Esthetic preferences (for example, a man can look for call a blonde prostitute for the sake of having sex with a blonde, regardless of the quality of the sex act)
  4. Clarifying ambivalence in sexual orientation
  5. Having someone to talk with (frequent among old lonely men)
  6. Learning sexual techniques when no lover is available, or when the lover is not knowledgable or willing
  7. Curiosity
  8. Desire to love and be loved

I think that reason number 8 is frequently the underlying reason for seeking a prostitute, and represents evasion, the faking of what I call "real" sex, and hence immoral.

But other acts should be judged in their appropriate context.

For example, take a prisoner that has spent one year without sexual activity. He saves enough money to pay for a prostitute to be sent to his jail. The prisoner does not expect to gain from this act any spiritual contact with the prostitute. He just thinks it is about time to release himself without harming anyone. He knows that masturbation alone is not enough, because there is a natural need in any heterosexual man to look, touch, grasp and kiss a feminine body. It is like spending a year receiving liquid food through a tube that goes directly to your stomach in a otherwise healthy man that desires to chew and taste solid food.

In this case, the prisoner is not evading. He is not pretending to be a lover. He is not seeing the prostitute as a lover. He is not seeing the sexual act as a loving affair. He takes the act he has deliberatly chosen for what it means. I see no immorality in this.

This is why I say that, in principle, prostitution should not be consdiered immoral.

Same applies to extra-marital sex, for example. It may or may not be immoral. It depends on the overall evaluation of the case.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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People seek prostitutes for a variety of reasons.

Let's consider these ones:



  1. Soothing a sexual urge (e.g. after long periods of abstinence, with little attention to the quality or sensuality of the act)
  2. Getting more intense physical pleasure than that obtained by masturbation or by a partner with a sexual disfunction or clearly underskilled
  3. Esthetic preferences (for example, a man can look for call a blonde prostitute for the sake of having sex with a blonde, regardless of the quality of the sex act)
  4. Clarifying ambivalence in sexual orientation
  5. Having someone to talk with (frequent among old lonely men)
  6. Learning sexual techniques when no lover is available, or when the lover is not knowledgable or willing
  7. Curiosity
  8. Desire to love and be loved

Well, do you at least agree with specifically what Jake said about what sex is? "The satisfaction of eating something tasty, be it a gourmet meal or fast food, is purely a physical reaction to the taste of an inanimate object: the food. Sex is not, it is an emotional and physical interaction between two people." Any other idea of sex would be focusing on it as something purely physical and primarily about sensation, making it literally just a rubbing of skin together. That taken alone does not make seeking prostitution immoral, though. The disagreement here is primarily about you trying to make a distinction between spiritual sex and regular sex that I think is unnecessary. I understand your massage example, but obviously there is a world of difference when a sexual act is involved. Now the context may be entirely different if talking about people you actually value but maybe yet quite romantically, but the context here is a prostitute, meaning you don't know the person at all. Really I'd think seeking prostitution is only immoral to the extent that it is ignoring that sex is about the emotional connection. Most simply put, you'd be seeking one value - sex - rather than what makes that experience more meaningful, which would be another person of some high degree of valuing. In other words, hierarchy of value would be, at the very least, lopsided. In some extreme cases prostitution may be moral, but probably only in cases when a person is near death.

1 is immoral because of what I explained above.

2 is another case of taking the emotional element out and focusing on the physical part only.

For 3, aesthetic preference is again focusing on the physical.

You wouldn't be able to figure out 4 anyway, unless you define sexual orientation to be about what kind of sex you like to have rather than who you are attracted to. In which case the immorality would be for different reasons.

5 is silly, there is still sex involved. If you hired a prostitute just to talk though, that wouldn't be prostitution.

6 if you REALLY want to figure out better techniques, just watch pornography (here's one point that may put this thread a little bit more on track).

7 just goes back to the main part of my post.

8 we both agree is immoral anyway.

Edited by Eiuol
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Hi Euiol

If I take Jake's view of sex as "an emotional AND physical interaction between two people" I will still miss the full meaning of sex.

It is not just the interaction of bodies and emotions, but the result of a valuing process.

Two people watching a football game can still exchange emotions, and sometimes hug and kiss, why not.

Sex, as Objectivism understand it (or at least as I believe Objectivism understands it) goes beyond this interaction and presuposes LOVE.

So, what I am pointing out is that when you take a physical and emotional interaction with a prostitute (by the way, with a prostitue you can have a lot of emotional interaction) as real sex, you are evading, you are faking sex, and this is immoral.

But when you deliberately, with open eyes, seek a prostitute just to have a physical interaction (like the massage of a spa) or a physical plus emotional interaction (like with a prostitute that you really lead to an orgasm)in the appropriate context, without irrational expectations, it might not be necessarily immoral.

If you don't want to call these interactions "sex", that's OK. As you cleverly pointed out, people confuse sex for what is only "rubbing" and "getting emotional about rubbing". My point, then, could be paraphrased as "Rubbing with a prostitute, and getting emotional about this rubbing, is not immoral in principle".

Let me quickly mention two other marginal errors in this discussion:

First. It is naïve and false to think that porn will always teach you better techniques than a prostitute, as it is naïve and false to think that a prostitute will always teach you better than porn. There is a WIDE diversity of prostitutes, porn materials, teaching methods, learning styles, and the like. So every person would have a different experience at the didactic capacities of each one.

Second. it is naïve and false to think that physical pleasure obtained by masturbation will always substitute for seeing, touching, grasping, kissing and penetrating/being penetrated by a real partner. And maybe the opposite is also true: it is naïve and false to think that having regular sex with a real partner provides you with more pleasure than masturbation. The sexual experience in this regard is also extremely diverse. And within the same person this would change from time to time.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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