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People do act to gain or keep things that do not serve their lives short or long term. It is within the scope of ethics to consider all of those actions and the goals to which they are directed, but they cannot be considered as referents of the concept value if they lack the attribute of improving life. Still, they are otherwise similar. The definition that sets the scope and the definition that sets the standard are different and each should be used within its proper context.

Is this really how Rand used the word "value?" Because it seems to me that if value means only those values which are rational and life-furthering, the term "irrational value" would be an oxymoron, yet Rand used it quite often. I would say that what you call value per se, she termed objective value. Saying that her ethical structure is meant to delineate the values proper to man seems to imply that values improper to man are possible.

I agree very strongly that the concept of goals which are life-furthering is incredibly important to differentiate from overall goals, and that the content of ethics is fleshing out what those proper goals are, but I just don't think that "value" is the word describing the proper goals. Value is a broader class, "that which one acts to gain and or keep," to which the smaller class of "objective values" belongs.

Also, as I said before, the practical case for capitalism is the moral case. Now, when I say "practical" case, I don't mean what most people think of when they say the practical case for capitalism, of course. I'm not talking about maximizing social welfare (whatever that even means). However, the practical success of capitalism is an immensely important piece of inductive evidence supporting the importance of man's unhindered mind in supporting his life. I believe Rand once said that it would have been much harder to see the role man's mind played in his life before the Industrial Revolution. I think that that is very true, and it is important for people to understand that capitalism is not a system which is inimical to their life and happiness.

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Is this really how Rand used the word "value?" Because it seems to me that if value means only those values which are rational and life-furthering, the term "irrational value" would be an oxymoron, yet Rand used it quite often. I would say that what you call value per se, she termed objective value. Saying that her ethical structure is meant to delineate the values proper to man seems to imply that values improper to man are possible.

I agree very strongly that the concept of goals which are life-furthering is incredibly important to differentiate from overall goals, and that the content of ethics is fleshing out what those proper goals are, but I just don't think that "value" is the word describing the proper goals. Value is a broader class, "that which one acts to gain and or keep," to which the smaller class of "objective values" belongs.

Searching for "irrational value" on Phil Oliver's Objectivism CD produces no hits. As a positive example to the contrary I offer from Galt's speech "Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud...".

When Rand cast her attention beyond the lives of men and found values in the actions animals and plants, she found similarity on a biological basis not a rational basis because animals and plants are not rational. 'Biological basis' means specifically the actions taken and the life (the goal) toward which the actions are directed. We should not be picking one aspect over the other, such as the action over the life. Action and life are jointly the conceptual common denominator of the concept value.

I just checked, a CCD can be comprised of multiple elements. see the 2nd Lexicon entry for CCD

Here is another argument which is wrong. All values right or wrong are rational in the genetic sense of being caused by his rational faculty. From Roark's courtroom speech: "From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning mind." In the introduction to The Fountainhead Rand clarifies that she is referring to ethical abstractions as the product of man's reasoning mind, as opposed to the product of supernatural revelation. Many things are the product of man's reasoning mind but not all of them are reasonable or rational due to the possibility or error either willfully or mistakenly committed. Proper and improper varieties of thinking, acting and valuing are both the product of man's reasoning mind or there is no volition. But using this reasoning to classify irrational values as still values contradicts the example I gave above about honesty from Galt's speech. (With this paragraph I started off thinking it was plausible then changed my mind. I could have just deleted it but I did all the work writing it.... so.)

Check out Greg Salmieri's course on "Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing" for more on what Rand means by valuing.

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Rothbard was a natural rights theorist.

Not fundamentally. From what I remember, though he seems to expresse a natural rights perspective, when discussing any issue his arguments tend to "X is right because it produces Y, otherwise Z would happen" - a utilitarian mindset through and through.

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Rand discusses choosing one's values and even mentions irrational values in "The Objectivist Ethics". "If he chooses irrational values, he switches his emotional mechanism from the role of his guardian to the role of his destroyer." The Objectivist Ethics

If you only define "value" as the objective values which support your life, than how can I choose those values? I don't have a whole lot of options, as I either choose "values" or something else entirely, which makes no sense in my reading of that essay. I've also seen articles in the Objective Standard on ethics which take my view of values as well (that crack can be a value to a crack addict, it just isn't a good one). Indeed, that seems to be the point of contention more than anything: values can be good or bad, for life or against it, but they are all values if someone acts to gain or keep them. We can evaluate them as to their "value" as values, but they're still values. And economics is properly concerned with the category "that which one acts to gain or keep", i.e. values in the broader sense.

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Not fundamentally. From what I remember, though he seems to expresse a natural rights perspective, when discussing any issue his arguments tend to "X is right because it produces Y, otherwise Z would happen" - a utilitarian mindset through and through.

Well, what do you expect? A moral argument is ridiculously short once you've reached the conclusion "the initiation of physical aggression (force) against a human being or his property is immoral in any and all cases," you're done.

Here is how easy it is to address issues from that point:

Taxes- forcible expropriation of wealth, immoral.

Public schools- funded by taxes, enforced through fines and fees, which is forcible expropriation of wealth, immoral.

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SCHIP, Obamacare, TANF, etc etc.- can only be funded by taxes, involuntary participation, expropriation of wealth, immoral.

All economic regulations- can only be enforced through fines and jail time, interferes with voluntary exchange of property titles and voluntary actions, initiation of force, immoral.

Wow. The moral argument against any and all government programs (excluding, perhaps, children and the insane) can be formulated in one page. You can't write a book on such a subject. The above is all that is necessary to do a strictly moral argument against all of those things (once you've reached the ban on initiation of force/physical aggression). That isn't going to be satisfying to anyone however. Describing what consequences such activities have, and how capitalism could do it better, is interesting, and is a much fuller presentation. If capitalism led inevitably to misery and pain, even if you could logically derive that it is the only moral system (i.e. the only system where each person is free from coercion and live), you'd have a tough time making people accept your views. So incorporating an analysis of the consequences of X. I'm reading his book "For a New Liberty" right now, and he argues that initiation of force is wrong, and always makes the case that, for example, conscription is slavery, taxation is theft, etc. and then goes on to show the various negative consequences of government action and how capitalism and liberty can make it better.

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Have any of you guys read the epistemological treatise by Hans-Hermann Hoppe "Economic Science and the Austrian Method"? It explains Mises' approach of relying heavily on the synthetic a priori method of deducing knowledge from axioms. It seems to follow the “Kant didn't really mean it” line in regards to the primacy of consciousness and criticizes Rand for being to arrogant and not knowing enough about Kant. What exactly is wrong with synthetic a priori?

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Rand discusses choosing one's values and even mentions irrational values in "The Objectivist Ethics". "If he chooses irrational values, he switches his emotional mechanism from the role of his guardian to the role of his destroyer." The Objectivist Ethics

If you only define "value" as the objective values which support your life, than how can I choose those values? I don't have a whole lot of options, as I either choose "values" or something else entirely, which makes no sense in my reading of that essay. I've also seen articles in the Objective Standard on ethics which take my view of values as well (that crack can be a value to a crack addict, it just isn't a good one). Indeed, that seems to be the point of contention more than anything: values can be good or bad, for life or against it, but they are all values if someone acts to gain or keep them. We can evaluate them as to their "value" as values, but they're still values. And economics is properly concerned with the category "that which one acts to gain or keep", i.e. values in the broader sense.

"Irrational values" shows up there and in "The Age of Envy". Sorry for not finding that earlier. The plural form mattered.

"Irrational values" are a borderline case. A "Borderline Case" "is an existent which shares some characteristics with the referents of a given concept, but lacks others." Some of the shared characteristics are: they are still chosen, they are still the objects of action. Not being able to choose them is not the problem, rather that they contradict your life.

Borderline cases are named by modifying the word used for the root concept to which they are similar. "Values" should be reserved for the referents which are both the objects of action and aid life, "irrational values" "nonobjective values" or even "disvalues" refer to the similar almost-values. "Valuing" in the form of a verb refers particularly to the action of gaining or keeping, and does validly refer to the relationship between an addict and his heroine without modification. One can value (verb) something which is not a value (noun), because value (noun) is not identified automatically and correctly.

The relationship between the concepts of value and irrational value is hierarchical, value comes first and irrational value is derivative. The set-subset relationship has to be "irrational value" as the set, value as the subset. So Dante, I agree with that relationship but not the assignation of the words used.

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Have any of you guys read the epistemological treatise by Hans-Hermann Hoppe "Economic Science and the Austrian Method"? It explains Mises' approach of relying heavily on the synthetic a priori method of deducing knowledge from axioms. It seems to follow the “Kant didn't really mean it” line in regards to the primacy of consciousness and criticizes Rand for being to arrogant and not knowing enough about Kant. What exactly is wrong with synthetic a priori?

Economics is the science of human action, says Mises, continuing:

Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and

mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification and falsification on the ground of experience and

facts. They are both logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical facts. They are a

necessary requirement of any intellectual grasp of historical events.

This is quite impossible. There is no a priori knowledge, even logic derives from experience. Analytic-synthetic is a false alternative refuted by Leonard Peikoff in an essay within the book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Basically, there cannot be two kinds of truths without metaphysical dualism being true, and metaphysical dualism is false. The metaphysical dualism referred to is the mind-body split and started in the modern era with Descartes' representationalism. Kant strongly and cogently attacked representationalism but replaced it with a more consistent dualism between noumenal-phenomenal. Noumenal-phenomenal has been dropped, but the essential subjectivism has been preserved in the social construction theory of knowledge.

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"Valuing" in the form of a verb refers particularly to the action of gaining or keeping, and does validly refer to the relationship between an addict and his heroine without modification. One can value (verb) something which is not a value (noun), because value (noun) is not identified automatically and correctly.

The relationship between the concepts of value and irrational value is hierarchical, value comes first and irrational value is derivative. The set-subset relationship has to be "irrational value" as the set, value as the subset. So Dante, I agree with that relationship but not the assignation of the words used.

Well, again, I think that a value (noun) is something that someone values (verb). So, for example, the heroine addict values heroine (I think you would agree with that statement). Now, I think that a basic rule for conceptual clarity is that if I can use a noun in the form of a verb, then the subject of the verb should thus be an example of the noun. So in this case, value can be used as a noun, "Cocaine is a value (implicitly this has 'to [insert person here]' tagged at the end, just as with all values)", and a verb "I value cocaine" (I don't, but as an example to make the distinction clear). So when I say "I value cocaine", to me that should be identical to "Cocaine is a value to me." Otherwise, I think we'd be having trouble with grammar/words and thus with keeping concepts straight in our heads. In that schema, "rational value" and "irrational value" would both be hierarchically dependent on the broader concept "value", neither being a borderline case. That strikes me as a far more satisfying and clear conceptual hierarchy (more along the lines of "dining table" and "desk").

At the very least, there would have to be a term that describes everything that people act to gain or keep.

And Mises' epistemology was completely off base, I agree with you. But I agree with him insofar as I think the "laws of economics" are of a similar calibre as the laws of logic or mathematics (though obviously slightly lower on the ladder, as economics would proceed via logic and perhaps mathematics), in that it can and should be based on statements that apply to everyone everywhere. That was the strategy Rothbard took, saying that the "axioms" of praxeology/economics were derived from experience in the same way that the laws of logic are. That does not strike me as out of line (necessarily) with Objectivist epistemology.

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Well, again, I think that a value (noun) is something that someone values (verb). So, for example, the heroine addict values heroine (I think you would agree with that statement). Now, I think that a basic rule for conceptual clarity is that if I can use a noun in the form of a verb, then the subject of the verb should thus be an example of the noun. So in this case, value can be used as a noun, "Cocaine is a value (implicitly this has 'to [insert person here]' tagged at the end, just as with all values)", and a verb "I value cocaine" (I don't, but as an example to make the distinction clear). So when I say "I value cocaine", to me that should be identical to "Cocaine is a value to me." Otherwise, I think we'd be having trouble with grammar/words and thus with keeping concepts straight in our heads. In that schema, "rational value" and "irrational value" would both be hierarchically dependent on the broader concept "value", neither being a borderline case. That strikes me as a far more satisfying and clear conceptual hierarchy (more along the lines of "dining table" and "desk").

I think you are relying on an intuition here that it would be contradictory for the subject of a verb to not be an example of the noun form. That intuition is correct, but that contradiction is possible and one that actually exists in the case of valuing what does not serve one's life. Curbing our language so it would not seem contradictory would prevent it from being able to describe the reality of some people's actions. Describing, corresponding or conforming to what exists has to be the overriding goal of our concepts, words and language not being neat.

Also, your analysis does not look at the conceptual common denominators at all, the attributes whose similarity justifies concept formation in the first place. Value and rational value are redundant in that both have the same ccd, while irrational value lacks the ccd of value (Rand's ccd was "life-serving action"). Gaining a certain clarity by discarding the life-serving nature of valuing as an action is not a good trade off (your proposed ccd would be "action"). That discards any reason to regard the difference between rational and irrational values as defining anything relevant, precluding reducing the abstraction of the methodological distinction between rational and irrational down to an observable consequence. Action is common between rational and irrational values but life is not, so you have to bring it back anyway and it is present in plants and animals all along, so life should be acknowledged in the root concept before considering rationality.

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I think you are relying on an intuition here that it would be contradictory for the subject of a verb to not be an example of the noun form. That intuition is correct, but that contradiction is possible and one that actually exists in the case of valuing what does not serve one's life. Curbing our language so it would not seem contradictory would prevent it from being able to describe the reality of some people's actions. Describing, corresponding or conforming to what exists has to be the overriding goal of our concepts, words and language not being neat.

We have established rules of grammar for clarity in understanding and communicating ideas. I think you would have to change the definition of "valuing" (verb form) to fit your definition of value, rather than leave them as contradictory forms of the same word. Or, as I suggest, use "that which one acts to gain or keep" as the definition of value.

Also, your analysis does not look at the conceptual common denominators at all, the attributes whose similarity justifies concept formation in the first place. Value and rational value are redundant in that both have the same ccd, while irrational value lacks the ccd of value (Rand's ccd was "life-serving action"). Gaining a certain clarity by discarding the life-serving nature of valuing as an action is not a good trade off (your proposed ccd would be "action"). That discards any reason to regard the difference between rational and irrational values as defining anything relevant, precluding reducing the abstraction of the methodological distinction between rational and irrational down to an observable consequence. Action is common between rational and irrational values but life is not, so you have to bring it back anyway and it is present in plants and animals all along, so life should be acknowledged in the root concept before considering rationality.

I do not see how making "value"'s ccd "action" makes the difference between rational and irrational values seem insignificant. Life-serving actions are non-life serving actions aim at enormously different things (life and death, respectively). So rational values are those that are life-affirming and irrational values are those which are not. How does that preclude reducing the abstraction of rational and irrational down to observable consequence? Rationally derived values affirm life, irrationally derived values (generally, barring luck) do not. That isn't by definition, but can be derived by an analysis of rationally derived values. That is exactly what reducing the abstraction of rational/irrational down to observable consequence, and makes it explicit (by saying "rational value" rather than simply "value"). That seems like it would add to intellectual clarity. Life is acknowledged automatically in the concept "value" anyway, as the only things which may act are things that are alive, and so the ccd "action" brings in the concept life, while the subcategories of value (rational and irrational) can be distinguished either by "rationally derived" or by "life affirming", as the two go hand in hand, as Rand showed.

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We have established rules of grammar for clarity in understanding and communicating ideas. I think you would have to change the definition of "valuing" (verb form) to fit your definition of value, rather than leave them as contradictory forms of the same word. Or, as I suggest, use "that which one acts to gain or keep" as the definition of value.
"Valuing" (verb form) could be "acting to gain or keep something", describing an action as an action and leaving the object out of the definition. The similarity in the action is the real basis of the similarity between valuing real values and valuing irrational values, the object is where all the difference lies.

I do not see how making "value"'s ccd "action" makes the difference between rational and irrational values seem insignificant. Life-serving actions are non-life serving actions aim at enormously different things (life and death, respectively). So rational values are those that are life-affirming and irrational values are those which are not. How does that preclude reducing the abstraction of rational and irrational down to observable consequence? Rationally derived values affirm life, irrationally derived values (generally, barring luck) do not. That isn't by definition, ...
Because it is not part of the definition, it does not matter. Values defined simply as the objects of action can not discriminate among methods or among results even when differences exist. Having to consider life-affirming separately rather than making it a part of the definition of value is extra work and does not acknowledge that the issue also arises in non-human organisms, and is in fact the distinguishing feature between animate and inanimate entities.

Life is acknowledged automatically in the concept "value" anyway, as the only things which may act are things that are alive, and so the ccd "action" brings in the concept life, while the subcategories of value (rational and irrational) can be distinguished either by "rationally derived" or by "life affirming", as the two go hand in hand, as Rand showed.
This is not accurate. Dennett writes this way sometimes, that inanimate objects do things but don't really act, maybe you got it from him. In Objectivism, entities act and most entities are inanimate. Those entities are falling, evaporating, burning, blowing, gravitating, discharging, etc... We live in a 'furniture store' of many diverse forces acting on us and the vast majority of the causes of those forces are inanimate entities. Living organisms and falling rocks both act, but the action of a living organism is distinguished by its goal directedness aimed at its own continuity. Even without considering people and rationality there is a need to use life to distinguish between kinds of actions. Action does not implicitly bring in life, which is why Rand uses a ccd with the two elements action and life.
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Having to consider life-affirming separately rather than making it a part of the definition of value is extra work and does not acknowledge that the issue also arises in non-human organisms, and is in fact the distinguishing feature between animate and inanimate entities.

A value is something which one acts to gain or keep. The only things which can act to gain and keep something are things which are animate. It is nonsense to say, for example, that a proton "values" an electron because it "acts" to attract one and form a hydrogen atom. That completely takes the concept "value" (and perhaps the concept "act") outside its bound. I agree with Rand that the concept value depends on the question "to whom?", that is, it only applies to living things. This does not require, so far as I can tell, that "value" be defined specifically as "things which one acts to gain or keep that affirm one's life". Indeed, I do not know why considering life-affirming separately from value doesn't acknowledge that values arise in non-human organisms, as they too can act to gain and keep things which support their life (indeed, as they do not have volition, they must).

This is not accurate. Dennett writes this way sometimes, that inanimate objects do things but don't really act, maybe you got it from him. In Objectivism, entities act and most entities are inanimate. Those entities are falling, evaporating, burning, blowing, gravitating, discharging, etc... We live in a 'furniture store' of many diverse forces acting on us and the vast majority of the causes of those forces are inanimate entities. Living organisms and falling rocks both act, but the action of a living organism is distinguished by its goal directedness aimed at its own continuity. Even without considering people and rationality there is a need to use life to distinguish between kinds of actions. Action does not implicitly bring in life, which is why Rand uses a ccd with the two elements action and life.

Hold on though, to say "value is that which one acts to gain or keep" makes absolutely no sense at all when applied to anything inanimate. Again, it makes no sense that, as another example, molasses values house flies because it acts in such a way as to prevent them from flying away (that is, it "keeps" them). Value requires something to behave in a goal-directed manner, or else one cannot be said to be "acting to gain or keep" something. The definition of value then requires goal-directed action, and the only things that have goals are living organisms.

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A value is something which one acts to gain or keep. The only things which can act to gain and keep something are things which are animate. It is nonsense to say, for example, that a proton "values" an electron because it "acts" to attract one and form a hydrogen atom. That completely takes the concept "value" (and perhaps the concept "act") outside its bound. I agree with Rand that the concept value depends on the question "to whom?", that is, it only applies to living things. This does not require, so far as I can tell, that "value" be defined specifically as "things which one acts to gain or keep that affirm one's life". Indeed, I do not know why considering life-affirming separately from value doesn't acknowledge that values arise in non-human organisms, as they too can act to gain and keep things which support their life (indeed, as they do not have volition, they must).

Hold on though, to say "value is that which one acts to gain or keep" makes absolutely no sense at all when applied to anything inanimate. Again, it makes no sense that, as another example, molasses values house flies because it acts in such a way as to prevent them from flying away (that is, it "keeps" them). Value requires something to behave in a goal-directed manner, or else one cannot be said to be "acting to gain or keep" something. The definition of value then requires goal-directed action, and the only things that have goals are living organisms.

'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep first appears in Galt's speech.

"A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. 'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps it. 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question: <as_931> of value to whom and for what? 'Value' presupposes a standard, a purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative. Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible.

So we know that the 'one' refers to not just an animate entity but also 'a being of volitional consciousness'. That the 'one' is alive and is required to act to remain alive, and has a purpose and standard for acting is all built-in to the definition, but easy to overlook. All the extra attributes of value (the attributes beyond being an object of action) are packed away into that word 'one'. If you take that definition of value out of its context you've got to remember on your own to unpack it again just as Galt/Rand did when it originally appeared.

Also notice how Galt segues straight into virtue after value. If 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps a value, and values proper include irrational values, then there are virtues for obtaining irrational values. There are certainly means to obtain irrational values, but it makes no sense to describe those means as virtues.

A comment on action: The carnivorous pitcher plant traps insects by getting them stuck in a liquid, an action indistinguishable from the action of molasses on a fly. Like the molasses, the liquid a pitcher plant uses has organic components but is not itself alive. An inanimate action is integrated into an organism. The chemistry of digestion is also inanimate but harnessed to the greater cause. In general all of the separate parts of a living organism are inanimate, it can only be considered alive when considered as a whole. Animate things can act because they are comprised of inanimate things that can act. So I agree molasses does not value house flies, but it does act upon house flies.

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So we know that the 'one' refers to not just an animate entity but also 'a being of volitional consciousness'. That the 'one' is alive and is required to act to remain alive, and has a purpose and standard for acting is all built-in to the definition, but easy to overlook. All the extra attributes of value (the attributes beyond being an object of action) are packed away into that word 'one'. If you take that definition of value out of its context you've got to remember on your own to unpack it again just as Galt/Rand did when it originally appeared.

...Animate things can act because they are comprised of inanimate things that can act. So I agree molasses does not value house flies, but it does act upon house flies.

Well then you just dumped the fact that bacteria and plants have values, because you just defined "one" to be "a being of volitional consciousness" (when used in the definition of "value"), which you criticized the idea of "rational value" for doing. I'll agree with you on "act" though.

In any case, whether we want to call the broad category of "that which one acts to gain or keep", sans the need for the object which you are acting to gain or keep furthers one's life, as "value" or something else, does not preclude the fact that we need such a category. Economics is the study of how every single person achieves their goals/"values"/"things they want" without regard to whether those aims/wants/"values" are good or bad, in a condition of scarcity. So whatever you would like to call the category of "the aim of any action taken by a human", that broadest of broad categories is what economics is concerned with, and deciding upon the morality of any of those aims is the place of ethics (and such considerations may be informed by the analysis of the science of economics, just as with all other sciences). Sciences, i.e. the study of the facts of reality (excluding ethics, as it is its own thing), do not make normative conclusions about their objects of study.

One last point on "value"", many words have more than one definition, to describe similar though different things, particularly with regards to use in the sciences. "Value" could then have two definitions, "that which one acts to gain or keep" that presupposes the need for an organism to live, and "anything which one acts to gain or keep" that concerns itself with all object of human action and which finds specific use in economics (one would then say, if one were to use such a statement in conversation "value, in the economic sense,..." just as one does in, for example, a discussion of fruits and vegetables, which have different definitions in botany than in common parlance).

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Well then you just dumped the fact that bacteria and plants have values, because you just defined "one" to be "a being of volitional consciousness" (when used in the definition of "value"), which you criticized the idea of "rational value" for doing. I'll agree with you on "act" though.
Irrational or nonobjective values lack one or more of "a standard, a purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative" so are only possible to a being of volitional consciousness. The values of bacteria and plants have these features implicitly, they come built-in to the identities of those organisms. So there is similarity and continuity between rational human values and biological values, they can be referred to by the same concept.

I agree about "needing the category", and "nonobjective value", "irrational value", "wants" or "desires" can all do the job of naming the concept. All human action is within the scope of ethics, but if ethics cannot discriminate between better and worse actions it is useless. Economics deals with a subset of all human action, and it too is useless if it cannot distinguish better from worse.

Sciences, i.e. the study of the facts of reality (excluding ethics, as it is its own thing), do not make normative conclusions about their objects of study.
I already made the case that epistemology is normative, so I won't repeat my disagreement. But if ethics does not study the facts of reality then it is not possible for it to be objective. This leads straight into the issue of the possibility of deriving an "ought" from an "is" (the fact-value dichotomy), and takes the position that it is impossible. The set of consistent contrary positions is that objectivity is possible, "ought" can be derived from "is", and that ethics is a science. Ethics is not a special science employing methods of quantitative analysis, but is still a science concerned with facts and making correct identifications.

Two definitions for the same word could work if economists and readers could be relied upon keep the correct context in mind, but currently they don't.

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But if ethics does not study the facts of reality then it is not possible for it to be objective. This leads straight into the issue of the possibility of deriving an "ought" from an "is" (the fact-value dichotomy), and takes the position that it is impossible. The set of consistent contrary positions is that objectivity is possible, "ought" can be derived from "is", and that ethics is a science. Ethics is not a special science employing methods of quantitative analysis, but is still a science concerned with facts and making correct identifications.

Two definitions for the same word could work if economists and readers could be relied upon keep the correct context in mind, but currently they don't.

My suggestion is that we keep our study of "is"'s separate from our study of "oughts". The behavior of scientists doing research is informed by ethics (so they can't, for example, torture people, etc.). But the science itself, the actual study, should be kept separate from ethics, because they can be and at least at present, need to be.

It serves no purpose for every scientist to continually be making moral pronouncements on the conclusions of their work, or, more particularly, to claim that such a thing is a necessary part of being a scientist. An ethicist or philosopher can take the data given by all the other sciences and make pronouncements based on it. That is why it is a separate field of inquiry. A physicist or an economist, within the bounds of their respective fields, do not make ethical pronouncements about the facts of reality they discover. If they do, they aren't "economists" anymore, they are now in the role of "ethicist". The same person can move between the fields, but certain things are in one field, and certain things are in another. Normative pronouncements are in the field of ethics, non-normative factual statements are in the "sciences", i.e. economics, physics, mathematics, biology, psychology, etc. To say economists must make moral pronouncements (as well as all other scientists) is to eliminate the field of ethics entirely, as it has disappeared into everything else.

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To say economists must make moral pronouncements (as well as all other scientists) is to eliminate the field of ethics entirely, as it has disappeared into everything else.

Every science has to be logical and non-contradictory, that does not make epistemology and metaphysics disappear.

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Wow. The moral argument against any and all government programs (excluding, perhaps, children and the insane) can be formulated in one page.

Brilliant, isnt it?

You can't write a book on such a subject.

And we can't let objectivity stand in the way of writing books? ;)

he argues that initiation of force is wrong

And there lies the problem. He simply starts with this affirmation ("the non aggression principle") as if it were an axiom - he does not so much argue it as he does simply assume it. Point in fact, go argue with any Rothbardian libertarian and ask him why it is wrong to initiate force. You get two answers: the utilitarian argument (Capitalism produces wealth which is good for everyone therefore "the non aggression principle" is right) and the ad hominem argument ("Whaaat? You are in favor of aggression? Statist! Criminal!" therefore the "non aggression principle" is right).

Fact is Rothbard does not connect his moral imperative to the nature of human beings, thus his whole ethics is a huge exercise in begging the question. And the fact that it is unconnected to reality creates some pretty bizarre applications (such as the "right" to abandon a child, to list one of the more outrageous).

Edited by mrocktor
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Fact is Rothbard does not connect his moral imperative to the nature of human beings, thus his whole ethics is a huge exercise in begging the question. And the fact that it is unconnected to reality creates some pretty bizarre applications (such as the "right" to abandon a child, to list one of the more outrageous).

In his The Ethics of Liberty he discusses natural law and the fact then men need to use reason and produce in order to survive. He also makes an explicit logical argument for why it is simply necessary that each individual have an absolute right of control over themselves (self-ownership), namely that the other alternatives for control of people lead either to internal inconsistency, infinite regress, or the death of humanity in a matter of days. So, from that argument, you have to "own" yourself (have a moral right of control over yourself), and then he goes from there. Perhaps he doesn't say why it is immoral, but he makes an argument which I find satisfying that the only logical possibility is that it is immoral, and any other assertion leads to inconsistency (is that a good enough reason? I think it is).

The only application I found in that book that I didn't like was his conclusion about children, and there I think he made a logical error in his reasoning, rather than a systematic error in approach. The key is that a child is by its nature dependent and incapable of surviving without someone else. He argues that you have the right to claim "ownership"/guardianship of the child and thereby exclude everyone else from helping the child, but then not provide for its survival. The nature of a child however means that you are making a decision to kill it, i.e. to violate its right of self-ownership. You, by taking on guardianship must agree to provide for the child, if you choose not to do that, you forfeit guardianship and someone else can step in and take over for you. As for abandoning a child, I'm a little fuzzy as for why that would be wrong, as you are basically putting it up for adoption (now dumping it in a garbage can is a different story altogether, that would be attempted murder).

His other conclusion I'm not so sure about is anarcho-capitalism. His argument rests on a) taxation is theft (we all agree on that) and :) you should have a right to secede, which results in no logical stopping point until you get down until, at least, the level of an individual piece of property owned by an individual person. That part I'm not sure about, though I haven't heard secession talked about much in Objectivist circles, and I haven't worked out exactly why it would be politically prohibited (though perhaps morally it would be inadvisable in many instances).

Overall though I found, with those exceptions, his "Ethics of Liberty" a great book, good arguments, and a well-though out system, which happens to agree nicely in nearly every respect (politically) with Objectivism, and one needn't debate morality for a few dozen hours with someone before you can get anywhere in your political argument (which is easier for me, because once someone agrees there, it is easier, I've found, to at least sway them in the direction of Objectivist ethics and epistemology).

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The more you learn about Objectivist Epistemology the less you will regard that book. Even though we agree with many of the conclusions. :)

I understand Objectivist epistemology stresses integrating data from experience and using logic to come to conclusions. However I find that Objectivists stress induction too much. Once you've formed a concept, if you perform deductive analyses using it, you reach true conclusions (provided the initial concepts are valid). So, if Rothbard, or the Austrian economists, begin with true premises which we can validate inductively are of essentially universal applicability, then the deductive conclusions they draw are necessarily of essentially universal applicability as well. That's the beauty of Austrian economics, in my view. They begin with a small set of universally applicable statements about human beings, and then build up all of economics on that foundation. Any issues with the economics then are either a result of invalid deductive method, or an issue with the fundamental concepts/statements used. Induction must provide you with concepts and those statements, but from there you can validly deduce a very large amount of information. Which is, in my opinion, a wonderful thing, which sometimes it seems many Objectivists avoid because they're more cautious about not being rationalistic than they need to be.

I've read ITOE for instance and I don't see why using deduction, keeping the context of your premises in mind, could be a problem.

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I've read ITOE for instance and I don't see why using deduction, keeping the context of your premises in mind, could be a problem.

I'll just point you towards any Intellectual Property debate between Austrian Ecnomics slanted libertarians and Objectivists. That should be very rich for you in discovering just how badly ungrounded concepts can bite you in the ass.

Here, this one is good: link (bonus points: who am I?)

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I'll just point you towards any Intellectual Property debate between Austrian Ecnomics slanted libertarians and Objectivists. That should be very rich for you in discovering just how badly ungrounded concepts can bite you in the ass.

Here, this one is good: link (bonus points: who am I?)

I'm gonna guess Silas Barta.

I haven't looked deeply into the the property rights question, but I haven't seen any real need in that arena beyond copyright. Copyright obviously protects books and all the rest, but if you copyright an invention, none of your buyers can copy the invention, and you make it known that it in all dealings you are not giving anyone permission to copy your property (it is a right you reserve to yourself). And anyone who didn't deal directly with you who creates an identical machine either violated your copyright to get it or (highly unlikely) created it himself (which, if it is extremely similar or identical, he would be forced to prove, as all the evidence would point insurmountingly to him copying it). I don't see much need for patents, as inventions, designs, and other productions could be protected under such a copyright system. I think Rothbard claimed such a system would be something he would agree to as well, so I don't think there is a necessary conflict.

Perhaps the only thing which wouldn't be covered would be patents on methods, for example Apple's patent on "pinch to zoom" and the like (I'm not really convinced something so astoundingly obvious for touchscreens, and something so extremely general, should be able to be patented in the first place; it strikes me as akin to patenting cursive writing or a dance move). Perhaps I'm missing something though. I need to think about it further.

I do object to ungrounded concepts. But my contention is more that the concepts and "axioms" of Austrian economics are indeed grounded (if not by their founders, they can be grounded by an Objectivist), and that as a result any deductions from them are as widely applicable (provided the caveats of the deductive chain, which progressively restricts the cases to which the conclusion is applicable, something the Austrian's accept and a major feature of praxeology in analyzing the consequences of government interventions) as the initial "axioms". Now, I think their anti-IP stance may very well be grounded on faulty positions with regards to property, but that does not, necessarily, imply that Austrian economics itself is invalid, or their method.

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I haven't looked deeply into the the property rights question, but I haven't seen any real need in that arena beyond copyright. Copyright obviously protects books and all the rest, but if you copyright an invention, none of your buyers can copy the invention, and you make it known that it in all dealings you are not giving anyone permission to copy your property (it is a right you reserve to yourself). And anyone who didn't deal directly with you who creates an identical machine either violated your copyright to get it or (highly unlikely) created it himself (which, if it is extremely similar or identical, he would be forced to prove, as all the evidence would point insurmountingly to him copying it). I don't see much need for patents, as inventions, designs, and other productions could be protected under such a copyright system. I think Rothbard claimed such a system would be something he would agree to as well, so I don't think there is a necessary conflict.

The difference between patents and copyrights is that the value of the subject matter of patents is the function performed (functional), while the value of copyrighted matter is entirely within the form of expression (formal). Simply prohibiting copies of identical machines would be useless. A copyright system that could effectively protect patents by protecting functions would also have to apply to the meanings of sentences. Patents and copyrights are necessarily different.

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