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Our Moral Code Is Out of Date

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Trying to convince the lay-person reading an article on CNN that egoism is the rational ethical system is great, but I think the approach this article takes is miguided. Monetary profit (and also "personal profit" which will be read the same way by the CNN crowd) as a moral ideal makes sense to someone who has studied Rands ethics, but for the lay-person reader the focus should have been on rational self interest, and the trader principle, and how sacrifice is antithetical to life. The comment about the billionaires pledge mentions nothing of the fact that people left free to produce such wealth, are also free to do with it what they please. Reading the comments section confirms my suspicion that this short article will be misunderstood. Greedy capitalists stepping over dead bodies to get their ever sacred "monetary profit" again.

just my opinion

j..

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I agree with you, Jay.

I felt genuinely sad and disgusted by most of the comments, but that feeling was obliterated by the horror that replaced it when I read the linked "Billionnaire's Pledge." It doesn't even seem real; it's so absurd. I would have hoped that such people- those who have successfully amassed enormous wealth- would be the first to understand that there is no obligation to give one's profits away! Clearly that principle didn't apply before they had so much that they suddenly feel guilty about having it. The comments from this linked article were even worse... give their wealth to the poor, needy, and destitute because they will use it wisely??? If that were so, why are they poor, needy and destitute? Ugh.

And I'm not in any ivory tower; I've worked my way out from my parents' lazy welfare lifestyle to one that is still admittedly 'poor', but my quality of life is fantastic, and my wealth is increasing as I learn how to manage what I have, and amass more through the work of my own hands. I would be completely horrified to be in reciept of a sizeable donation from a wealthy merchant because he thought that because I am poor, I am owed the fruit of his labour!!! Wow. Yuck. Especially if it is was his supposed, "...God-given responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the most disadvantaged..."

I'm not suffering; I'm learning! Pity me if I refuse to learn, but don't pay me for it!

Of course, I do hope that they are giving their money to enhance their lives and not as penance for their success, but at least a few of them seem to be doing the latter. :(

Edited by Imogen
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By way of devil's advocate, if these über-rich are entitled to do what they will with their money, what is the difficulty in their choice to give it away to whom they will?

Take care,

Kane

Thats my point, criticizing the "pledge" in that context is going to be mis-understood by the lay-person.

j..

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just my opinion

j..

I agree with you. A friend forwarded me this article, I read it, and this was my reply to her:

"I don't know about this one. It makes sense from an Oist standpoint or to someone well-versed in Oist ethics at least, but it's not going to have an impact with the population at large, as you can see from the comments. It's like starting in the middle. He never justifies why morality is a personal code of conduct and decision making (though it is) and does not explain why subjectivism and hedonism are incompatible with such a code. I guess there wasn't space but I feel like articles like this hurt more than they help."

Sometimes I feel like Yaron Brook is to Objectivism as Richard Dawkins is to evolutionary biology. I hope I'm wrong about that.

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By way of devil's advocate, if these über-rich are entitled to do what they will with their money, what is the difficulty in their choice to give it away to whom they will?

They're certainly entitled to do so, but that doesn't mean they should. It all depends on the reasons that they're giving. If they think that, because of their success, they have a moral obligation to relieve the suffering of others, they are accepting a moral viewpoint which frames them as guilty for being successful when others were not. That sort of a moral standard, in which the successful owe the unsuccessful, pits men against one another. Every poor person who comes along is a threat to the rich man's moral standing. This is inimical to the true spirit of benevolence and generosity. True benevolence is not given because it is morally owed to the recipient; it is given in the spirit that other men are a potential benefit. It is only under a moral code which does not demand charitable giving in response to need where men's interests can be aligned rather than adversarial.

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I was rather disappointed with the article. I think they focused too much on the profit motive and as a result they ignored the real morality behind the philosophy.

Objectivists aren't about profit for profits sake. Profit in and of itself does not equal a moral action. Bernie Madoff made some huge "profits" without ever coming close to acting in a moral fashion.

I understand where Dr. Brook was going with this but I consider myself to be an Objectivist already, I know the causal chain from the axioms to living ones own life to productive effort to profit. The people who read and responded to the article on the other hand, apparently have no such knowledge.

A big miss IMO

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There seem to be two parts to the article--first, to point out that conventional morality (of faith and collectivism) is incompatible with scientific inquiry and the freedom that lead to industrialization--and second, to offer a fully consistent alternative morality.

The first part is well explained in the article by means of several examples. But I think that the second part would be difficult to understand without grasping that morality is an objective necessity for living. Before answering what constitutes a proper morality, one must first understand the purpose of morality.

If a reader understands the conflict presented in the first part, that alone may motivate him to try resolving his contradictions. For this reason, and given that it's on CNN, I consider the article pretty good. But if the second part on a revolutionary morality is so daunting, even for honest readers, does the article does more harm than good? I'd say no, because if we keep speaking up, Objectivism is the only place honest readers will eventually end up, even if they first reject it. If it's not possible to present the full Objectivist Ethics to CNN readers, we should at least make them uncomfortable in their present home--so they come out running!

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I was rather disappointed with the article. I think they focused too much on the profit motive and as a result they ignored the real morality behind the philosophy.

Objectivists aren't about profit for profits sake. Profit in and of itself does not equal a moral action. Bernie Madoff made some huge "profits" without ever coming close to acting in a moral fashion.

I understand where Dr. Brook was going with this but I consider myself to be an Objectivist already, I know the causal chain from the axioms to living ones own life to productive effort to profit. The people who read and responded to the article on the other hand, apparently have no such knowledge.

A big miss IMO

Agreed. As I alluded to in my original post, I think perhaps this is a slight issue of context dropping, the context being your audience. There was only so much space alotted, but I think Rand would agree, if you have 300 words to validate a rational egoistic code of morality, it may be best to fold that hand.

j..

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