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Objectivism and Sacrifice

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Ryan1985
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"Sacrifice" - from dictionary.com:

the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

Rand defined sacrifice as the opposite of dictionary.com, ie trading a greater value for a lesser value. My question is why does Rand define sacrifice differently than the conventional definition? I understand that Rand would say the conventional definition is not a sacrifice it's a profit, and I'd agree its a profit but that still doesn't stop it being a sacrifice too.

For example, when a leader says "I need you to sacrifice to win this war" they mean its both a sacrifice (as per dictionary.com above) and also a profit (since freedom and winning the war is a greater value than whatever one is sacrificing).

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I think the answer is that value is objective. Thus, the key part of the (bad) definition you cited is "considered as having a higher or more pressing claim". "Considered" by whom and for what purpose? If the answer is anything other than "by the actor" and "to enhance his own life", then the action is a sacrifice; otherwise, it is a favorable tradeoff (i.e. a profit). The definition from dictionary.com is bad because it does not explicitly distinguish a sacrifice from a profit, and yet these two concepts are obviously very different (you don't need a dictionary to know that). Instead of being made explicit, the distinction is buried in the interpretation of the part of the definition I quoted above.

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Speaking a Roman Language it's extremely easy to figure out what sacrifice implies: SACRED - TO DO. Sacro, Facere, but I double checked and according to:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sacrifice

sacrifice (n.)

mid-13c., from O.Fr. sacrifise (12c.), from L. sacrificium, from sacrificus "performing priestly functions or sacrifices," from sacra "sacred rites" (prop. neut. pl. of sacer "sacred," see sacred) + root of facere "to do, perform" (see factitious). L. sacrificium is glossed in O.E. by ansegdniss. Sense of "something given up for the sake of another" is first recorded 1590s. Baseball sense first attested 1880. The verb is first recorded late 13c. Related: Sacrificed; sacrificing.

I understand Ayn Rand's concept of sacrifice, as surrendering something actually - or objectively - prized or desirable for something purportedly desirable: like Heaven or Freedom from the Enemy.

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"sacrifice", also from Dictionary.com:

5. a loss incurred in selling something below its value.

8. to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.

9. to dispose of (goods, property, etc.) regardless of profit.

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2. a ritual killing of a person or animal with the intention of propitiating or pleasing a deity

3. a symbolic offering of something to a deity

4. the person, animal, or object surrendered, destroyed, killed, or offered

5. a religious ceremony involving one or more sacrifices

6. loss entailed by giving up or selling something at less than its value

-----------------

Essentially all the other definitions contradict the one you cited.

Ayn Rand's definition is the conventional definition that corresponds to how it is thought of by religionists, which is where it originated. It just isn't Dictionary.com's first definition.

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Essentially all the other definitions contradict the one you cited.

You're right, it seems that conventionally the word sacrifice is used for more than one meaning. I guess Rand clarified which one she thought was the right one.

I think what Ryan is trying to say is "Rand used a different definition for a word than a dictionary uses, so everything she ever said is wrong."

Not at all.

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If you are trading a lesser value for a greater value, you are not making a sacrifice, you are doing a business. I think the common definition of that term is an emotional impression base on how much one have to throw in but never considered how much one can get out. If one thinks rationally, it doesn't make sense to generate profit from a sacrifice.

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" My question is why does Rand define sacrifice differently than the conventional definition? I understand that Rand would say the conventional definition is not a sacrifice it's a profit, and I'd agree its a profit but that still doesn't stop it being a sacrifice too..

Because Ayn Rand was not a conventional thinker and seeked to destroy that package deal and its inherent contradictions. Her re-definition of some words taken for granted with little analysis, like Sacrifice, or Selfish, can be seen as her biggest contributions. That is what checking your premises means.

Concepts and its "material" representations, words, have a constantly evolving and changing relationship; Ayn Rand decided to make it explicit and spell out unapologetically words and meaning according to her. Defining and understandig, thinking, what everybody does privately, in the worst cases automatically, she did explicitly and "objectively" as possible. The more abstract the concept, the more definitions it's inherently opened to: not causing deformation of an otherwise clear-cut concept, but furthering its discovery. Things like Freedom, Happiness, ultimately God, are so abstract a word that they depend on us finding its meaning and not the other way around.

The opposite of this would be an onomatopoeia, a word so bound to reality, the connection to it is direct, requiring little conceptualization and interpretation of definition, like Snap, Crash or Whisper.

I believe you question is not only genuine but very much needed to clarify some things. Objectivism has been in the past compared to a cult, and that is, mainly, because cults deliberately change the meaning of words so that it can only be (mis)understood by its members. In Objectivism, Ayn Rand tried to deprogram us from the biggest cult of them all: an altruistic egotist humankind, in all its horrible (Russia) and less horrible (America) ways (Just by taking a peek at the conventional definition of sacrifice in English and in Russian you'll see that life in Russian-speaking places is more miserable). In doing so however, her readers begin to actually change the meaning of some words, like sacrifice and selfish but also Capitalism, and it may look weird. But is it not true? or more true? It could be said, in the conventional sense, that Ayn Rand "sacrificed" freedom from proneness to difamation for the quest for the truth. And isn't that sacred after all?

Both the Atom and the Galaxies were less known in the past and will probably will be better known and thus inexorably redefined in the future.

IF you are lucky enough to find an old Physics book, or even a dictionary, you'll see how Atom is defined as the smallest integrating unit of material existence, irreductible. When it was split the definition had to be changed. It was around the time Ayn Rand changed the definition of Sacrifice, that other irreductible value of sheer good, to a more acurate, analyzed (splited) definition.

On another note the word "sacrifice" in Russian, is, according to google, translated as:

sacrifice - жертва (zhertva)

Which according to Babelfish is translated to a series of words that don't look the least good when bunched together:

жертва in English

sacrifice, offering; immolation, oblation; victim, prey; price; casualty

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"Sacrifice" - from dictionary.com:

Rand defined sacrifice as the opposite of dictionary.com, ie trading a greater value for a lesser value. My question is why does Rand define sacrifice differently than the conventional definition?

I'm pretty sure Rand defined sacrifice long before dictionary.com.

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On another note the word "sacrifice" in Russian, is, according to google, translated as:

sacrifice - жертва (zhertva)

Which according to Babelfish is translated to a series of words that don't look the least good when bunched together:

жертва in English

sacrifice, offering; immolation, oblation; victim, prey; price; casualty

Google gave you the noun.. i.e., that which is being sacrificed. (I took some Russian many years ago.. we didn't get this word but it has the form of a noun, not a verb, which would almost invariably end in -ить or -ать or -ять in the infinitive.) On checking this in my dead tree dictionary it tried to claim this as the verb for "giving up of something" but the example sentence actually gave me a verb phrase, идти на жертвы. Digging further down gave me the actual verb form, жертвовать (note how it ends).

(And before someone asks where the verb in the phrase above is, идти is highly irregular and breaks all the rules; it "ought" to be идить. It generally gets a lesson of its own (lesson 6 in my old text), and it generally means to go somewhere by foot, but obviously this is an idiomatic usage here.)

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You're right, it seems that conventionally the word sacrifice is used for more than one meaning. I guess Rand clarified which one she thought was the right one.

Rand established the context in which she used the concept.

You dropped the context by selecting a different sense that sacrifice could be used as with your opening definition, and tried to equivocate her usage, substituting the definition you selected in its place.

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"Sacrifice" - from dictionary.com:

the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

It should also be pointed out that by this definition, any action toward any goal is a sacrifice. I "sacrifice" 40+ hours every week for a paycheck. I "sacrifice" some of my hard earned money to buy food, and then "sacrifice" more time to sit down and eat. Just about everything, short of accepting free gifts and handouts, can be considered a "sacrifice".

Words have specific meanings, this is a good example of how dangerous it can be when people forget, or evade that fact.

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"Sacrifice" - from dictionary.com: "the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim."
Suppose I get a really good deal on a huge-screen TV and decide to buy it. I am still parting with a fair amount of money, so am I sacrificing?
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