Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Virtue Ethics

Rate this topic


Dante
 Share

Recommended Posts

What is the deal with "virtue ethics"? After reading the Wiki page on it, it seems that Objectivism falls under it in a lot of respects, but obviously it's a lot broader of a philosophical position. Are there any scholarly Objectivist discussions of virtue ethics and its relation to Objectivism? (Other than Tara Smith's short commentary on a few virtue ethics theorists in the beginning of Viable Values) Are there any threads on OO.net already discussing virtue ethics? (I didn't find any in a preliminary search)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is the deal with "virtue ethics"?

"Virtue ethics" is a bogus classification primarily for Aristotle's ethics, given that his ethics focused heavily on virtues.

What's amusing is to read about all the convoluted attempts to try to have an ethics system without a concept of 'virtue.'

To deny that men need virtues to live, and that those virtues have to be chosen & fostered by a given individual is to deny the volitional conceptual nature of man's consciousness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
What is the deal with "virtue ethics"? After reading the Wiki page on it, it seems that Objectivism falls under it in a lot of respects, but obviously it's a lot broader of a philosophical position.

Objectivist ethics qualify as virtue ethics. They certainly don't qualify as consequentialist or deontological.

Are there any scholarly Objectivist discussions of virtue ethics and its relation to Objectivism? (Other than Tara Smith's short commentary on a few virtue ethics theorists in the beginning of Viable Values)

Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, The Virtuous Egoist by Tara Smith, published by Cambridge University Press. The book seems to be written in a way that positions Ayn Rand's ethics into the current debate about virtue ethics. She does reference some of the modern virtue ethicists like Hursthouse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why would identifying virtue ethics be a bogus classification?

I answered your question implicitly in my post:

What's amusing is to read about all the convoluted attempts to try to have an ethics system without a concept of 'virtue.' To deny that men need virtues to live, and that those virtues have to be chosen & fostered by a given individual is to deny the volitional conceptual nature of man's consciousness.

There is no proper ethics which does not involve virtues. By proper I mean that which is appropriate for man qua man. Once the concept of value is reduced, validated and shown to be genetically dependent on the concept life, and once it is demonstrated that man's life depends on his particular kind of consciousness, i.e., the volitional/conceptual kind, then the concept of virtue necessarily follows.

In other words, there is no such thing as a proper code of values to guide man's choices and actions, which does not cover and/or elaborate on virtues qua value, i.e., there is no proper code of ethics which does not elaborate on the necessary, volitionally developed, aspects of character and/or habit any given man will need to have to achieve any given values. Virtues are the necessary conditions for the achievement of values given man's nature and given the nature of values.

Man has no choice about needing virtues for the same reason he has no choice about the need of values. Virtues are the means to achieving values.

It would be proper to argue about which virtues a given ethics includes and why, or argue about which, if any virtues are more important hierarchically for men to develop, and therefore, there could be a classification of certain ethical systems by how their virtues are arranged and/or emphasized, but it is completely improper to speak of ethics which don't have virtues.

I suppose one could classify the various modern attempts at ethics according to how they're malformed and/or deficient, i.e., like a pathology.

But once we are speaking of value, properly defined, virtues logically follow.

I regard the modern study of ethics, which have classification such as "virtue ethics", "consequentialist" or "deontological" etc. etc. etc. as just scholars attempting to make sense of the hodge podge of theories floating around.

As a rule, mainstream modern scholars don't ask, "what facts of reality give rise to the need for the concept... x, y, z..." That is a uniquely O'ist question.

As Ayn Rand summarizes the point, "the concepts are here... how did they get here?... (They have no answer.) Any "concept" any "classification" is as good as the next, after all they are all arbitrary..."

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

...It is completely improper to speak of ethics which don't have virtues.

As I understand it: VE represents a collection of normative ethical philosophies that place an emphasis on being rather than doing. Morality stems from the identity and/or character of the individual, rather than being a reflection of the actions (or consequences) of the individual. It comes as a result of intrinsic (not objective) virtues.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is no proper ethics which does not involve virtues. By proper I mean that which is appropriate for man qua man. Once the concept of value is reduced, validated and shown to be genetically dependent on the concept life, and once it is demonstrated that man's life depends on his particular kind of consciousness, i.e., the volitional/conceptual kind, then the concept of virtue necessarily follows.

This doesn't make the classification "bogus." The classification is real because it divides between actual ethical systems. Just because those systems are wrong does not mean that they cannot be categorized.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I understand it: VE represents a collection of normative ethical philosophies that place an emphasis on being rather than doing. Morality stems from the identity and/or character of the individual, rather than being a reflection of the actions (or consequences) of the individual. It comes as a result of intrinsic (not objective) virtues.

Was your statement intended to be a rebuttal of my statement, or was it an attempt to support my statement? Because it seems to be in the form of a rebuttal, but it very nicely supports my argument.

If "virtue ethics" (VE) is how you understand it, i.e., is as you describe it above, then you are supporting my claim that it is a bogus classification, i.e., it is utterly improper to speak of ethics/morality which does not have a concept of virtue.

This is so because it is improper to attempt to divide men into two arbitrary parts, the "being part," and the "doing part." Man in a proper state is an integrated being of mind and body, and it is precisely the science of ethics, whose goal it is to maintain this integrity between mind and body, thought and action.

You state that according to VE,

Morality stems from the identity and/or character of the individual, rather than being a reflection of the actions (or consequences) of the individual.

My position is that it is improper qua man, to attempt to carve a man up into this kind of arbitrary dichotomy of a man's character versus his actions.

I assume it feels like a useful division because modern philosophy has been attempting to carve man up in this way in epistemology, which gave rise to the parallel false dichotomy in ethics.

But cutting man in half necessarily leads to his death, whether it is his mind or his body.

See the O'ist theory of good for a lead, and more particularly see how the O'ist epistemology does not permit the false 'Mind-Body Dichotomy": For example, in "Capitalism the Unknown Ideal", page 22 regarding Ayn Rand's identification of 3 basic theories of good she states:

"The subjectivist theory holds that the good bears no relation to the facts of reality, that it is the product of a man's consciousness, created by his feelings, desires, "intuitions," or whims, and that it is merely an "arbitrary postulate" or an "emotional commitment.

The intrinsic theory holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man's consciousness; the subjectivist theory holds that the good resides in man's consciousness, independent of reality.

The objective theory 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."

(Note: "good" is just a concept, therefore, this last paragraph can be seen as just an extension of the O'ist epistemology as it applies to a particular concept, i.e., to the concept of good. The point being that the ultimate answer to why attempting to create a mind-body dichotomy in ethics is wrong, is that such a dichotomy is derived from one's acceptance of a false theory of concepts in epistemology.)

Also, for a more motivational passage from "Galt's Speech, which is aptly fitting,

"They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth—and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.

They have taught man that he is a hopeless misfit made of two elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost—yet such is their image of man’s nature: the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the knowledge that everything known to man is non-existent, that only the unknowable exists.

Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine was designed to ignore? It was man’s mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart. Once he surrendered reason, he was left at the mercy of two monsters whom he could not fathom or control: of a body moved by unaccountable instincts and of a soul moved by mystic revelations—he was left as the passively ravaged victim of a battle between a robot and a dictaphone."

Ayn Rand Lexicon: Mind-Body Dichotomy

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Was your statement intended to be a rebuttal of my statement, or was it an attempt to support my statement? Because it seems to be in the form of a rebuttal, but it very nicely supports my argument.

Interesting response. It was not a rebuttal - for the most part: I agreed with the essence of what you said.

However, Virtue Ethics appears to have a concept of virtue - just an improper one. And given its view of the source of virtues and relationship to values, the rest of what you say is correct.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This doesn't make the classification "bogus." The classification is real because it divides between actual ethical systems. Just because those systems are wrong does not mean that they cannot be categorized.

I never said that you cannot categorize them. Obviously, they have been categorized. I am not arguing for not classifying them.

But are those others "actual ethical systems"? I think that is highly debatable. What makes them ethical systems? That we are told they are?

What facts of reality give rise for the need of the concept of ethics?

Just because someone tells you something is an "ethical system" does not mean it actually is.

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting response. It was not a rebuttal - for the most part: I agreed with the essence of what you said.

However, Virtue Ethics appears to have a concept of virtue - just an improper one. And given its view of the source of virtues and relationship to values, the rest of what you say is correct.

Yes. I agree. "Virtue Ethics" does have a concept of virtue. Aristotle really did have a concept of virtue. O'ism really does have a concept of virtue. So, if one wants to classify O'ist ethics as "Virtue Ethics" go ahead.

My argument is that all proper ethical systems are necessarily "virtue ethics" so making such a division is non-essential, i.e., possessing virtues is not fundamental to classifying ethical systems.

The implication is that we would have to throw out most of what we are told are "ethical systems."

I think in 1000 years, what we are told are "ethical systems" today may still exist as a sort of pathology of previous attempts at anti-ethics.

In O'ist terms, I believe the vast majority of what we are told are "systems of ethics," such as deontological, utilitarian, pragmatic are not just "bad" ethics, but they are fantastic "package deals", intending to destroy the actual valid concept of ethics.

“Package-dealing” is the fallacy of failing to discriminate crucial differences. It consists of treating together, as parts of a single conceptual whole or “package,” elements which differ essentially in nature, truth-status, importance or value. (“The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 24.)
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/package-...fallacy_of.html

[Package-dealing employs] the shabby old gimmick of equating opposites by substituting nonessentials for their essential characteristics, obliterating differences. (“How to Read (and Not to Write),” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 26, 3.)
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/package-...fallacy_of.html

This is not the place to elaborate my entire thesis, but the idea, is that a so-called ethical system like Kant's, is an attempt by Kant to put forth a fraud and call it "ethics" in the hope people will accept it as "ethics".

"A typical package-deal, used by professors of philosophy, runs as follows: to prove the assertion that there is no such thing as “necessity” in the universe, a professor declares that just as this country did not have to have fifty states, there could have been forty-eight or fifty-two—so the solar system did not have to have nine planets, there could have been seven or eleven. It is not sufficient, he declares, to prove that something is, one must also prove that it had to be—and since nothing had to be, nothing is certain and anything goes." (“The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 28.)
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/package-...fallacy_of.html

(Note: also see "anti-concept" http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/anti-concepts.html)

Proving the thesis would probably take a book, one that I'm not going to write.

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

But are those others "actual ethical systems"? I think that is highly debatable. What makes them ethical systems? That we are told they are?

They are ethical systems because they are codes of values for people to live by. Do you disagree with Ayn Rand and all the other Objectivist philosophers who characterize certain positions like "Kant's ethics" as ethics?

What facts of reality give rise for the need of the concept of ethics?

Irrelevant to the question at hand. If we were to follow this kind of reasoning, then the only type of "philosophy" would be Objectivism. That just isn't true--there are a lot of philosophies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They are ethical systems because they are codes of values for people to live by. Do you disagree with Ayn Rand and all the other Objectivist philosophers who characterize certain positions like "Kant's ethics" as ethics?

I am not sure why it matters if I agree or disagree with Ayn Rand and/or other "Objectivist Philosophers". Am I supposed to search out a counter opinion or statement to to stop myself from thinking? If Ayn Rand wrote a whole book one why Kant's System of "ethics" is a definitive example of "ethics" is that supposed to stop me from thinking for myself?

"Characterizing something vs. definition

There's a difference between "characterizing some object" in a certain way, and actually working up a formal classification of it. The moderns make every attempt to "characterize" their non-objective systems as morality or ethics, but that does not mean they are. In fact, I would argue such philosophers relish when people are duped and mistakenly include their systems of rationalizations as ethics, because it pushes legitimate ethics out of consideration without argument. This is the point of anti-concepts.

If the vast majority of people mistakenly believe Kant's "Ethics," is one of the greatest examples of ethics, and force us to fund the printing of text books which says that, and Kant purposely tries to "characterize" it as ethics; then it probably serves a purpose to call it "ethics," especially if our goal is to expose it as a fraud. But when new evidence is discovered demonstrating the necessary conditions required for a science of ethics to be defined, and new examples of objective ethics are produced, then we have an obligation to our lives to refine our definitions and/or our classifications.

An analogy is Alchemy vs. science. Some claim that Alchemy was the precursor to the Science of Chemistry. However, once the Science of Chemistry exists, and people are producing clear examples of Chemistry, Alchemy can no longer be confused with Chemistry, because it is so easy to differentiate the two, i.e., to differentiate a pseudo-science from an actual, real science. Kant's so-called ethical system is like Alchemy. Ayn Rand, Aristotle and others produce many refined examples of the Science of ethics.

In the time of transition between Alchemy and Science, a layman would look at the works of Chemists and mistakenly call them works of Alchemy. Some part time Chemists probably dabbled in both Alchemy and Chemistry for a time. But when a sufficient amount of evidence of the nature of the Science of Chemistry became available Alchemy could no longer posture as a science.

Do we keep calling Alchemy a science? No, we improve our definitions and the wholesale utilization of the Science of Chemistry explodes and men prosper.

However, corrupt alchemists like corrupt philosophers, love to dupe people in to believing their pseudo-science and the snake oil it produces is on par with the products of science.

If we fail in our responsibility to refine our definitions and produce new higher standards, and allow the various "alchemies" to stand on par or worse as equivalents with actual science we destroy the concept of science.

Kant's so-called "code of values?

Please explain how Kant's ethics has a "code of values"? What values? His ethics is called de-ontological for a reason, i.e., that it is supposedly morality without ontology, i.e., without reality. What objective values are there that have no relation to reality?

Or: if we are going to consider Kant's system as providing guidance for living one's life on earth, whatever it is he is providing guidance for it is not a man, certainly not man qua man (qua rational being).

This is at least one precondition of any legitimate ethics, that it offers up guidance to man qua man. Using this criteria alone we could flush several so-called ethical systems. If what one is "characterizing" their work as ethics and does not prescribe a code of objective values for man qua man, then are we still talking about ethics? Can we have a science for developing a code of values to guide "man's" choices and actions, without man? Again, whatever Kant was writing for and was attempting to "characterize" as ethics, it was not for man qua man. Thinking men, i.e., beings with volitional/conceptual consciousness do not need and cannot use "categorical imperatives," nor can they use any system created to work in a figment "noumenal world" cut off from a "phenomenal world".

Irrelevant to the question at hand. If we were to follow this kind of reasoning, then the only type of "philosophy" would be Objectivism. That just isn't true--there are a lot of philosophies.

There's no more relevant question at hand.

Philosophy as such vs. ethical systems

Including some set of beliefs under the classification of "philosophy" is far easier than defining what does and does not qualify as the science of ethics, especially, when we include the context of Ayn Rand's monumental derivation of the concept value from the concept life, and her theory of concepts. When new knowledge and new technologies, like Ayn Rand's discoveries regarding the concept value are available, they can provide us with tools for refining our thinking.

Pluralists like you, and pluralism in general is amusing. "We have to have many classifications and types of things! Why? Uh... because we just have to have more than one... no one can possibly define something exactly!"

Really, what does it matter if some of the mainstream garbage ethical theories are pushed out of discussion, qualified, and/or relegated to works of ethical pathology?

Or what if there was only one major rationally demonstrable philosophy that took hold in the mainstream culture?

You act as if defining/classifying an object destroys volition/freewill.

But it is freewill/volition which gives rise to the need of classification, and it is our precious lives which give rise to the need for the clarification and refinement of our definitions.

Precisely defining objective, rationally demonstrable standards for philosophy, including ethics enhances our lives, the same way having standards for measuring enhances our lives in every science, field and human activity.

Defining a standard for the quality or the identification of a given object, does not make the phenomena it excludes (and/or clarifies) no longer exist. If we precisely define what properly belongs and qualifies under the class "science of ethics," and why they belong there as opposed to the next closes relative class; the hodge podge of primitive works does not go way. Alchemists and Anti-ethicists are still free to publish and to try to dupe people.

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not sure why it matters if I agree or disagree with Ayn Rand and/or other "Objectivist Philosophers". Am I supposed to search out a counter opinion or statement to to stop myself from thinking? If Ayn Rand wrote a whole book one why Kant's System of "ethics" is a definitive example of "ethics" is that supposed to stop me from thinking for myself?

It doesn't matter, I just wanted to know if you were familiar with what was written in the Virtue of Selfishness and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Tell me if you agree with the following statements, and if you don't, what your objections are to them:

A moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value. The standard is the end, to which man’s actions are the means.

A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly.

And:

What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life.

However, corrupt alchemists like corrupt philosophers, love to dupe people in to believing their pseudo-science and the snake oil it produces is on par with the products of science.
Would you say a dictatorship is a system of government, or not?

This at least one precondition of any legitimate ethics, that it offers up guidance to man qua man.
To qualify as a system of ethics, the system does not have to be based on a rational standard of value. Why would it?

Pluralists like you, and pluralism in general is amusing. "We have to have many classifications and types of things! Why? Uh... because we just have to have more than one... no one can possibly define something exactly!"
I have exact definitions though--and they're based on subsuming all of the concretes instead of throwing them out. You don't have a concept if you only have one concrete.

But it is freewill/volition which gives rise to the need of classification, and it is our precious lives which give rise to the need for the clarification and refinement of our definitions.
I agree that definitions and classification are important, that's why I am using proper ones.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would you say a dictatorship is a system of government, or not?

Yes, it is.

Tell me if you agree with the following statements, and if you don't, what your objections are to them:

QUOTE (Ayn Rand @ Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology)

A moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value. The standard is the end, to which man’s actions are the means.

A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly.

And:

QUOTE (Ayn Rand @ Virtue of Selfishness)

What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life

Yes I agree with these statements, they provide wonderful support for my position. :D

To qualify as a system of ethics, the system does not have to be based on a rational standard of value. Why would it?

A "system of ethics" may not need a rational standard of value, but a "science of ethics" would have to because a science of ethics is an objective value to man qua man, i.e., ethics is a necessary condition for sustaining and/or enhancing a man's life.

Irrational "values" can not by definition be and objective value for man qua man, neither can systematizing a collection of irrational "values".

If sustaining and/or enhancing one's life qua man is one's goal, then a rational standard of value is required.

However, if the goal is just to confuse and write books, publish papers, or consolidate power then collections and/or systems of irrational values will fit the bill.

I have exact definitions though--and they're based on subsuming all of the concretes instead of throwing them out.

I never claimed throwing out concrete examples of a given object. I am stating remove concretes that have mistakenly been placed under a given classification, and place them where they properly belong.

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes I agree with these statements, they provide wonderful support for my position. :D

To your assertion that virtue ethics is a "bogus" classification?

A "system of ethics" may not need a rational standard of value, but a "science of ethics" would have to because a science of ethics is an objective value to man qua man, i.e., ethics is a necessary condition for sustaining and/or enhancing a man's life.

Irrational "values" can not by definition be and objective value for man qua man, neither can systematizing a collection of irrational "values".

If sustaining and/or enhancing one's life qua man is one's goal, then a rational standard of value is required.

You're preaching to the choir.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To qualify as a system of ethics, the system does not have to be based on a rational standard of value. Why would it?

Would you say that a person studying ghosts and their effects on statyic electricity in a room is a physicist or not? If not, would you say that the absence of rationality is what disqualifies him from being one?

Why wouldn't that apply to Ethics the same way it applies to natural sciences? Why would we suddenly allow for the arbitrary to be classified as "Ethics"?

If I think men should eat lots and lots of marmalade every day, does that make me the creator of a new system of Ethics? According to your definition it does. As for Kant, he did create a system of Ethics,he went to great lengths to make sure his nonsense is technically "Ethics", but he was wrong. Just as physicists can be wrong. Whether the same applies to virtue ethics depends on what virtue ethics is, not on any of the unrelated criteria you mentioned so far in the thread.

If it just means that the concept of virtue has to be a part of it, then it's a bogus classification.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the reason the classification is "bogus" is because virtue is implicit in ethics. What exactly people choose to consider virtue may vary considerably, as will their standard of value (not all make proper rational decisions on these counts). But ultimately virtue is a concept identifying how to achieve value, and value is the purpose of ethics. In the Objectivist ethics (and in reality), the ultimate value is life, therefore virtues define how to achieve that ultimate value. But no matter what the value is, you need a concept of virtue to tell you how to get there. The word "virtue" preceding ethics creates a redundancy.

Improper use of language aside, Wikipedia expresses the difference succinctly as

Deontological ethics or deontology (from Greek δέον, deon, "obligation, duty"; and -λογία, -logia) is an approach to ethics that determines goodness or rightness from examining acts, rather than the consequences of the act as in consequentialism, or the intentions of the person doing the act as in virtue ethics

I suppose on this basis Objectivism could properly be called "all of the above" to some extent. I haven't read enough about each classification, or enough works within each, to offer a definitive answer, though.

Gotta love how Wiki gives credit to Rothbard for the non-initiation-of-force principle though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the reason the classification is "bogus" is because virtue is implicit in ethics. What exactly people choose to consider virtue may vary considerably, as will their standard of value (not all make proper rational decisions on these counts). But ultimately virtue is a concept identifying how to achieve value, and value is the purpose of ethics. In the Objectivist ethics (and in reality), the ultimate value is life, therefore virtues define how to achieve that ultimate value. But no matter what the value is, you need a concept of virtue to tell you how to get there. The word "virtue" preceding ethics creates a redundancy.

I definitely agree!

I would say it is implicit in any (literally) "valid concept" of ethics. I.e., if the author is trying to pass some work off as "ethics" and it does not contain an exposition on "virtues" then that is a good indicator that the author has not been proceeding from a valid concept of value, and/or has not been proceeding from a valid concept of man qua man (i.e., qua rational living being, i.e., a being whose consciousness is of the type volitional/conceptual.)

E.g., it may very well be the author has been proceeding from a conception of man qua animal. After all man has to be man by choice, i.e., rationality is a matter of choice, because the nature of his particular kind of consciousness is that it operates both volitionally and conceptually.

There are many ways for an author to hold a concept of man qua animal. For example, he can implicitly or explicitly deny the volition of man or he can implicitly or explicitly deny that man possesses a conceptual faculty, or he could generally implicitly or explicitly deny that man's consciousness possesses identity at all. Whatever the case if the author is not proscribing action for man qua man then what ever he's proscribing can hardly be called an "ethics."

Man qua animal does not need a conceptual code of anything.

Only man qua man needs a conceptual code to guide his choices and actions. And that need is rationally demonstrable, i.e., ethics is a life or death, objectively necessary condition for sustaining and/or enhancing his life.

So, this begs the question: why is the author attempting to go through the motion of developing a "conceptual" work if he explicitly or implicitly believes in some way or other that man is not a man? Why is the author attempting to direct men's behavior? If he's presumably giving advice and that advice is not for sustaining and/or enhancing a man's life, then what is his motive?

For the answer see the title essay of Ayn Rand's "For the New Intellectual," or the final chapter in "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" or even the title essay from "Philosophy Who Needs it?"

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The validity of the ethical system isn't what I was getting at. Any system of ethics, valid or not, must have a definition of "the good" (valid or not). Virtue is the means to "the good". Even altruist ethics has a statement of what is good, and what a "good person" (ie, a virtuous person) is. Even if the formulation of good and virtue are flawed or incomplete, the ethical system still necessary concerns itself with virtue. It's redundant in the same way "electric lightbulb" is redundant: it's technically true, but the descriptor is 100% unnecessary because there is no lightbulb which is not electric.

If ethics is broadly a science identifying principles for how man should live life, that concept subsumes both rational and irrational systems of ethics. One could (improperly) say that man should live qua animal, pillaging, plundering, consuming without regard to future, to rights, to anything. Sure he won't survive long, and that school of the science of ethics is wrong, but I think it can still be fairly placed within the broader concept, ethics. Otherwise, we'd have to come up with 2 additional concepts - one which subsumes both correct and incorrect formulations of how man should live, and one for the incorrect formulations themselves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The validity of the ethical system isn't what I was getting at.

I was not talking about the "validity of the ethical system." I am not sure how the term validity applies to "ethical system." I was talking about the validity of the actual concepts being used in a particular argument made by the author of a particular proposed ethics. If some of the essential concepts used in an argument are not valid, i.e., the do not have a general relation to the facts of reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If ethics is broadly a science identifying principles for how man should live life, that concept subsumes both rational and irrational systems of ethics. One could (improperly) say that man should live qua animal, pillaging, plundering, consuming without regard to future, to rights, to anything.

If that is the case then the author has stolen the concept man. You would be stealing the concepts science, identifying, and principle. There is no such thing as an irrational science, or irrational identifications. An principle doesn't mean any statement of the form: All S is P.

Its always hard for me to understand why some people try to hold and use valid definitions of concepts only when it is convenient.

Man qua animal and/or animals do not objectively need conceptual codes of action, because by definition they are not on the conceptual level.

Accomplishing these outcomes:

pillaging, plundering, consuming without regard to future, to rights, to anything.
. . . are not an objective need of man qua man.

Ethics has to have a subject matter. Only one subject matter gives rise to the need of ethics, and that is man qua man.

It's redundant in the same way "electric lightbulb" is redundant: it's technically true, but the descriptor is 100% unnecessary because there is no lightbulb which is not electric.

I didn't realize you were suggesting that the concept of virtue is a tautology.

I emphatically disagree with you.

Just as value does not refer to any action taken, virtue does not refer to any so-called method suggested to get to a given arbitrarily chosen "value".

As I stated before:

Ethics serves are real, objective need for man, i.e., it is an objective value for man, i.e., it is a necessary condition for man's survival. It is the fulfillment of this need that the real science of ethics serves. Man like all of existence possesses identity, he has a very specific nature, which means that not just any random actions, floating abstractions, stolen abstractions, or arbitrary imperatives will serve as a means to sustaining his life. Only a very specific course of action will work. Ayn Rand makes the point in "The Virtue of Selfishness" on page 24,

"Yet he needs that knowledge in order to live. He is not exempt from the laws of reality, he is a specific organism of a specific nature that requires specific actions to sustain his life. He cannot achieve his survival by arbitrary means nor by random motions nor by blind urges nor by chance nor by whim. That which his survival requires is set by his nature and is not open to his choice."

Ayn Rand continues stating why man needs a code of ethics . . .

"What is open to his choice is only whether he will discover it or not, whether he will choose the right goals and values or not. He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see. Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every "is" implies an "ought." Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction. Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.

What, then, are the right goals for man to pursue? What are the values his survival requires? That is the question to be answered by the science of ethics. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why man needs a code of ethics. (VOS, 24)

Your argument seems to be that anything an author writes which steals the concepts of "should or ought", and then prescribes arbitrary actions for men to take qualifies as "ethics". (Note: it even more unclear what you believe would qualify as a "science" if this does.)

If we call anything that makes such prescriptions: "ethics," then we are still left with the problem of conceptualizing man's real, life and death need, which means we would then need a new word for it. The need of ethics is real, vital, life threatening, so to call any document that contains arbitrary prescriptions of action for men to follow, "ethics," is just as I said above: it is like calling alchemy "science", or calling "science" alchemy, it is foolish and/or dangerous.

So, what are we left to do? Do we invent a new term like "Living-ics" where men can go to find solutions for his real problem of how to live on earth, and then abandon the words ethics and/or morality?

No. I argue we reclaim the concepts that only we, qua men, are entitled to use.

Edited by phibetakappa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not disagree with what you've said, except for your claims on what my argument is. I think we're getting stuck on how we're defining our terms, specifically ethics. Let us agree on your description of ethics as the science identifying principles for man's life qua man. What term do we use to identify the altruist (or other ethical systems') codes for how man should live? Do we simply announce that their use of the words "ethics" and "virtue" are fundamentally irrational and therefore cannot be used to identify their concepts defining "how man should live" and "what is good"? If so, what words can they use? I'm just trying to get us on the same page here, so we don't waste time and emotional energy talking past each other. What's important is the concept, not the word. The word is only good insofar as it allows us to communicate the concepts to each other.

I agree very much that irrational "ethics" (I use the quotes to refer to what people call ethical systems, as distinguished from a real, valid system of ethics) use an improper standard of value, and that as a science ethics must properly apply logic to reality. It is properly a science defining how man should live qua man. But the word "ethics" existed long before Ayn Rand. There's a reason why we use the terms "altruist ethics" as opposed to "Objectivist ethics". The descriptors altruist and Objectivist specify the kind of ethics we're talking about. Are you saying that we should dispense with that, call Objectivist ethics "ethics", and call everything else "(something) else"?

"Virtue" is an implicit concept within the concept "ethics". That's not to say virtue is ethics, but merely that one cannot have "ethics" without "virtue" - even if the concepts "virtue" "value" and "good" have been stolen or otherwise corrupted. I'd say there's more to both than their relationship to each other. But again, I'd like to be very clear on how we are defining our concepts for virtue, value, and good, and how we are defining the concept altruists are talking about when they say virtue, value, and good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...