Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Is it moral to accept sacrifical offerings from altruists?

Rate this topic


Axiomatic
 Share

Recommended Posts

But what if the terrorists refuse to leave you alone? In that case, you have no choice but to interact with them--and to interact with them by FORCE.

Come on. Interaction involves back and forth. You don't treat a terrorist as a man with a rational mind, who has something to say. You treat him as a pest to be gotten rid of. Do you interact with a roach infestation?

When I meet another individual, my first choice is to interact with him as a trader. But a trade takes two traders, and if the person is not one, I cannot interact with him as a trader. This means I have to find what my second best choice is.

Usually, my second best choice is to walk away.

In the case of the terrorist, my second best choice is to blow him into pieces and then walk away.

In the case of the gift-bearing altruist, my second best choice is to take the gift, and then walk away.

Is it? What in Objectivism leads you to conclude that?

Everything I read, including Rand's explanation of the trader principle in VoS, but also pretty much the entirety of AS, tell me the exact opposite. You do not take the unearned, you reject the irrational on principle and entirely. Anything less than that is a compromise that strengthens evil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 62
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

"The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material."

"One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment."

You just aren't talking about the same philosopher we are, that's all. The subject of this forum is Ayn Rand, the person who created Objectivism, not some subjectivist you studied wherever you studied. Read and understand Virtue of Selfishness, and then start responding to people's questions about Objectivist Ethics. If you're looking for somebody who doesn't moralize, Ayn Rand ain't your gal.

More arrogance. I have read everything she has written; maybe it is you who fails to understand.

1. The trader principle applies only to ethical issues. You simply fail to understand that all human choices/actions are not ethical. You can't even see that choosing a flavor of ice cream is not in the realm of ethics.

2. It follows that moral judgments are not always appropriate. The quotes you continue to use are inappropriate here.

3. I use "moralize" as AR did - to mean judging or condemning without knowledge or cause. It involves applying moral principles where they don't apply. That is what you are doing, but not what AR did!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. The trader principle applies only to ethical issues. You simply fail to understand that all human choices/actions are not ethical.

Rand's entire philosophy is centered around the ideal of moral perfection. The notion of someone suspending his own rational mind, in any choice, let alone important choices, is self defeating. And finally, if it's true that you've read the literature, your evasion is revolting.

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours.

3. I use "moralize" as AR did - to mean judging or condemning without knowledge or cause. It involves applying moral principles where they don't apply.

If you can produce a quote of Ayn Rand using moralizing to mean "applying moral principles where they don't apply", I'll eat my hat. It's getting ridiculous how you make things up.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rand's entire philosophy is centered around the ideal of moral perfection. The notion of someone suspending his own rational mind, in any choice, let alone important choices, is self defeating. And finally, if it's true that you've read the literature, your evasion is revolting.

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours.

You can talk the party line well; now you need to apply it properly.

To suggest that I have "suspended my rational mind" or am evading is truly insulting and is avoiding the distinction I am trying to make. You have never truly negated anything I have said except by using quotes out of context. I'm moving on. (And I know that will please you since you are at such a loss.) I am now going to choose another web page without any thought of morality!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can talk the party line well; now you need to apply it properly.

To suggest that I have "suspended my rational mind" or am evading is truly insulting and is avoiding the distinction I am trying to make. You have never truly negated anything I have said except by using quotes out of context. I'm moving on. (And I know that will please you since you are at such a loss.) I am now going to choose another web page without any thought of morality!!!

Yes you are. But you really shouldn't. I think Ayn Rand put it best, in Virtue of Selfishness: "one must never make any decisions, form any convictions or seek any values out of context, i.e., apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge"

Edited by Jake_Ellison
Link to comment
Share on other sites

But in the case of receiving a gift as discussed here, there is no trade involved, there is no force imposed, there is no expectation of unearned gain and there is no conflict of interest. If the giver chooses to freely give knowing that you do not wish him to sacrifice, you have no moral obligation to refuse nor to judge the gift as unjust.

I believe you and the person you are debating are operating under different definitions of the word "trader." As Ayn Rand uses the concept in discussing the trader principle, it applies to much more than the exchange of material things for other material things, as it means in other contexts (economics, etc). Economic trade is only one application (perhaps the most obvious) of the trader principle in action.

Anytime I interact with another to pursue my own long-term self-interest, in a way that is consonant with others' pursuit of their own rational self-interest, I am making a trade. This applies just as strongly to gift-giving and romantic love as it does to economics.

Let's say I give a gift to someone. I may do it because I believe that they have done something in particular, or are just the kind of person in general, that deserves what I have given them. In other words, they are worthy, according to my own standards. This is considered a trade, even though I receive nothing material in return. I receive the benefit of having acted according to my own standards, and furthered those standards in my own character.

Let's say I instead give a gift to someone because it is what society expects of me, because I feel pressured into it, etc. I am giving a gift not to someone whom I have judged deserving, but for some other reason. I gain no long-term benefit from acting in accordance with my own standards; I gain no long-term benefit at all. This is a sacrifice on my part.

If I'm on the receiving end, the same is true in reverse. If I am in a position to receive a gift because the person thinks I deserve it, and I agree with their assessment, taking the gift is in my own self-interest. If not, taking the gift is not in my own interest.

Objectivist values are values precisely because they further one's own life. If I deserve a gift because I have such values, taking the gift is encouraging those values, which furthers my life. Ergo, this gift-taking is moral. If I do not think I deserve a gift, then in taking the gift I am discouraging values in my own moral character, by furthering an implicit assumption of mine that I don't need objective values in order to get benefits. This is ultimately harmful to me, and this is the root of the immorality of accepting sacrifices.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you view everyone who performs altruistic acts as true philosophical altruists, then (as AR said) there is potential conflict of interest and harm to one's self-esteem by receiving such a gift.

On the other hand, if most "altruistic" people do not truly believe that you don't deserve what they want to give you - that they want to give knowing that you don't want them to sacrifice themselves, then accepting the gift is not acting as a "taker" of the unearned and is moral. And I believe this is the case: that most altruistic acts are not performed by true altruists and cannot be judged philosophically as if they were.

Even if they don't want you to sacrifice yourself in return, or believe that you deserve their gift for some reason which you disagree with, taking their gift harms your long-term well-being. You're basically telling yourself "I don't need moral values in order to gain benefits." In doing so, you're undermining your own moral character.

It doesn't even matter that the above statement is true in this particular context. With this altruist, it is in fact true that you don't need values to get the money or whatever that they're giving you. However, this is not going to be true consistently, in the long term. The ONLY way to consistently maximize your chances of gaining values throughout your life is to act in accordance with life-furthering values. If you undermine your subconscious belief in the importance of moral values, you're undermining the tools you need throughout your life in order to live and be happy. You're gaining a temporary material benefit at the expense of something you will need to gain benefits in the long term. In effect, you're eating the seed corn.

Every choice you make affects and alters your moral character. One of the most important positive benefits of acting virtuously is the effect it has on building your character, and making it easier for you to act morally in the future. Accepting something you know you don't deserve, even if others think you do, undermines the connection in your mind between acting virtuously and gaining values.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Accepting something you know you don't deserve, even if others think you do, undermines the connection in your mind between acting virtuously and gaining values.

Finally, someone who speaks my language! :)

I suppose you take this to be an argument for not accepting the gift from the altruist. My position, however, is that I do deserve the gift, since I receive it in recognition of my "sins," such as rationality, productivity, and pride. Thus, accepting it will in fact strengthen the connection in my mind between acting "sinfully" virtuously and gaining values.

If the reason for the gift is that I've been observed to be unproductive, helpless, and "needy," then that would change the picture completely, of course. In that case, accepting the gift would not be the first immoral thing I did.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Scottd was correct: this forum is getting too silly! Actually, worse than silly. So I’m compelled to respond one last time.

To Dante: There is no difference in how we define “trader”, just how we apply it.

The trader principle in an ethical principle; it necessarily involves justice.

When a choice is not a moral choice – does not involve justice, the principle does not apply.

Re. the altruist gift, I never suggested that one should accept it when he knows he doesn’t deserve it.

Simply because it comes from someone who shows signs of altruism does not necessarily make receiving the gift harmful to the receiver.

Scottd was dealing with the question of flavor choice; he was not dealing with conditions that could make the choice ethical.

To David: you answered that the choice to live is not a moral choice; that is correct, yet it contradicts your bold statement about no choice being a non-moral choice. That choice precedes ethics. Other choices also are outside ethics; e.g. things dealing with material values (like how to spend one’s money). In such cases, there is “evaluation”, just not moral evaluation. (There are also Metaphysical and Epistemological evaluations.)

Moral values are for the purpose of guiding actions that impact one’s life. Once they are determined, the narrower set of material values can be easily determined; but the latter do not involve morality; i.e. the material values cannot be traced back - linked - to man’s standard of value.

Your statement “I'm kind of stunned than anybody here would think for an instant that there are alternatives that somehow don't need to be evaluated” is confusing: that was never expressed to my knowledge. See above.

I can say, however, that I am stunned that several of you can’t see how choosing a flavor of ice cream is not a moral issue.

To QuoVadis: you are partly correct. However, ordering a flavor simply because you do not like would be stupid but still not immoral. Can you truly believe that that would violate some philosophical principle?

To Mrocktor: your argument that a choice only approaches “non-ethical” when it approaches “non-choice” is illogical.

To all: perhaps such differences here are partly a matter of semantics. But it appears that some are taking AR’s comments out of context and applying principles where they need not be applied. Objectivism is difficult enough for most without over-raising the “bar.”

*** Mod's note: The discussion on 'choice of flavor' was moved to a separate thread. - sN ***

Edited by softwareNerd
Thread-split notice
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When a choice is not a moral choice – does not involve justice, the principle does not apply.

That's not Rand's definition of moral, only your rationalization of it. Here's Rand's definition:

If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a “moral commandment” is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is compint to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

Not the rational in matters of "justice" as opposed to matters of judgment in general, but the rational period. Here's her response to your position directly:

You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island—it is on a desert island that he would need it most.

Other choices also are outside ethics;

No one can make it any clearer than this, not even Rand:

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.

“Man’s survival qua man” means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice. (Ayn Rand, VoS)

But it appears that some are taking AR’s comments out of context and applying principles where they need not be applied. Objectivism is difficult enough for most without over-raising the “bar.”

The bar has been set well within everyone's reach: “Accept the fact that…nothing less than perfection will do.” (AR) :thumbsup:

Moral perfection is "unbreached rationality". As Tara Smith puts it: The commitment to moral perfection consists in a person's conscious effort always to ascertain what he should do, and then do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doesn't the answer to the original question require one to focus on whether or not accepting that specific gift is a properly selfish act, or not?

If an altruist Pharmacist is offering your (for free) a medicine that will save your life qua life, should you make the choice not to accept it since it is unearned? (Assume this is prototype medicine costing more than you could ever begin to pay back over your lifetime... and no payment of any kind would ever be accepted anyway)

Accepting the unearned is morally distinguishable from desiring the unearned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see it as moral because one is not advocating that another sacrifice themselves for you. In fact if one explicitly outlines that one does not accept that morality and they sacrifice anyways and it benefits you, (lets say monetarily but the benefit could be anything) such as write up a will and continue their self-destructive behavior in the name of their morality, then to say that one should reject that concrete benefit in the name of ones own morality, would that not be self-sacrificial and hypocritical?

The situation that would be appeasing altruism would be if one encouraged or asked for another to sacrifice themselves implicitly or explicitly. But if you do not do so, and they are going to sacrifice themselves anyways for any whim, then why not it be you who benefit? Would it not be moral to benefit in this way.

As I said I still have doubts hence my posting this question.

I believe accepting a sacrificial offering from an altruists is as murderous as handing them a leach to hang themselves. I think it would be morally acceptable to give them a rational cause why they are being a hindrance to themselves and if reasoning doesn't suffice. Let them find someone else to lift their whimsical burden. Otherwise, I don't think I would want to feel like a cheat, because that would be a sign of your own moral standard, which in all cases I hope to not practice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, lets concertize. say a relative that you despise dies and leaves you with a large sum of money, would you take it? Or on the principle that you hated and condemned the person, would you refuse?

I would take it, but it wouldn't be unearned. I would assume that I was good in his eyes and that he wanted to prove his altruistic behavior which I would have disputed with him beforehand. Then again, how he earned that money is no concern to me, because fortunately I have earned it. I'd suspect he knew from reason I'd use it for better purpose. I'd say we have to think logical and rational. The money is now mines, why should I care. It's how I use that matters most.

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...