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Anylesca
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John Galt was someone who didn't compromise his right to live, and what he thought was right. He went as far as being tortured to stand up for it, and he would have died for it as well (I assume). I'm just wondering how extreme this is? How do we apply this to reality? For example, how far should one go in doing what they think is right, and in expressing and going after what they want, when their parents say no? Or when the government is doing something wrong? I know someone who sees these things in black and white, that you should always do what you think is right no matter the consequences or hardships, and I would like to know your thoughts about it.

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The way you frame the question appears to say that we have to choose between the moral and the practical. Instead ask: what values should I pursue, to bring me happiness? When Henry Ford was working night after night on the problem of getting his first "car" to work, he was not some embittered soul struggling against the world. Well, in a sense he was, but that was not how he felt it, psychologically. It's more accurate to say that he was having fun pursuing his dream.

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For example, how far should one go in doing what they think is right, and in expressing and going after what they want, when their parents say no?

Unless and until you are paying for your own room and board, the answer is "not very far at all". Your parents are responsible for you, and you ought to be respectful and obedient. When you pay your own way, then you can ignore them and go after what you want.

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...how far should one go in doing what they think is right, and in expressing and going after what they want, when their parents say no? Or when the government is doing something wrong? I know someone who sees these things in black and white, that you should always do what you think is right no matter the consequences or hardships, and I would like to know your thoughts about it.

Ultimately, morality is all about the well-being of the moral agent. Morality should be a tool to assist you in living your life well. This means that if some action you're thinking about taking is "right," then the consequences of not taking that action are worse for you than the consequences of following through. There should be no dichotomy or distinction between what is right and what is practical, when practicality and morality are properly understood. If you look at the positive characters in Rand's novels, every time they underwent hardship, it was because by not doing so, they'd lose something that was worth much more to them.

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How far should one go in doing what they think is right, and in expressing and going after what they want, when their parents say no? Or when the government is doing something wrong? I know someone who sees these things in black and white, that you should always do what you think is right no matter the consequences or hardships, and I would like to know your thoughts about it.

To keep it simple:

Consequences matter; e.g. telling a lie in self-defense is moral.

And many actions are not restricted by morality; e.g. deciding which movie to go to.

If one's parent or a spouse says he/she does not want you to do something, it is not immoral to refrain from doing it if their value is greater than what you gave up.

Violating a law that is immoral is not itself immoral. ETC.

In other words, follow your values but don't be restricted when values are not at play.

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And many actions are not restricted by morality; e.g. deciding which movie to go to.

Actually, according to Objectivist ethics, such actions as "deciding which movie to go to" are very much within the realm of morality, though the consequences may be very minimal. Every action you take (or don't take) impacts your life in some fashion or another to varying degrees.

Violating a law that is immoral is not itself immoral.

That is contextual... it may very well be immoral depending on lots of circumstances.

Edited by RationalBiker
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John Galt was someone who didn't compromise his right to live, and what he thought was right. He went as far as being tortured to stand up for it, and he would have died for it as well (I assume). I'm just wondering how extreme this is? How do we apply this to reality? For example, how far should one go in doing what they think is right, and in expressing and going after what they want, when their parents say no? Or when the government is doing something wrong? I know someone who sees these things in black and white, that you should always do what you think is right no matter the consequences or hardships, and I would like to know your thoughts about it.

He's right. But, when deciding what you want, you must decide by weighing everything, including the consequences of pursuing what you want. The process shouldn't be:

1. Think of things I want.

2. Obtain them no matter the consequences.

Instead, it should be a long process of constantly repeating a few of these steps and more:

1. What is morality, how does it apply to everyday life, and even more importantly: How can I become a moral person?

2. What specific things do I want (what are my values), why exactly is it that I want those things (is it a rational goal, is it a whim, is my psychology damaged by fear, insecurity, the absence of self esteem, anger etc. and driving me towards self destructive behavior).

3. If what I want is irrational, back to step 1. If what I want will affect the people I love in a way that is unacceptable to me, back to either giving up the plan, or reconsidering the reasons why I love these people who are placing themselves in the way of my values.

4. If what I want is rational, how important is it? (where does it fit into my hierarchy of values).

5. What is a practical, long term plan to make it happen, and is it important enough for me to be worth making it happen. If it isn't, back to step 2. If it is, accomplish it, but in the mean time continue thinking about my entire life, and the lives of those I love.

This process is something I speed typed out, off the cuff, nowhere near complete or fully thought out, definitely not meant as a road map for you or anyone to follow like a checklist. I'm only posting it to give you an idea of what some of the specific elements are in the process of "constantly thinking and weighing the consequences", as opposed to whim worship.

Objectivism is a philosophy that preaches rational egoism, not whim worship. The difference is huge.

P.S. I'm editing this because I feel a little guilty about talking to a teenager about love without further explanation. Both in my personal experience, and from what others tell me, teenagers confuse infatuation with love. You should also learn what love really is (as part of that first step), don't make the mistake of acting on your feelings for someone you don't even know very well.

Edited by Tanaka
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Actually, according to Objectivist ethics, such actions as "deciding which movie to go to" are very much within the realm of morality, though the consequences may be very minimal. Every action you take (or don't take) impacts your life in some fashion or another to varying degrees.

That is contextual... it may very well be immoral depending on lots of circumstances.

1. Not true: my choice of a movie is not a moral choice - unless you want to argue that choosing a movie that (for ex.) has an immoral theme and against my values is wrong; but that was not the context.

2. I presented the context - a law that is not moral can morally be violated - with obvious risk.

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The OP question actually conflates two issues together in a packaged deal. On the one hand, there is the fact that values are hierarchical and man must choose between alternative values. On the other hand there is the question of the practicality of never compromising one's values.

Most of the time when people speak of compromise of values vis-a-vis certain hardships imposed, it just has to do with the concretes involved in trading off a lesser value in exchange for a greater value, not the surrender of an abstract principle like one's right to live. But it is important not to make a packaged-deal fallacy and equate that with the idea that only compromise of one's values is practical (i.e. ethical subjectivism, pragmatism, “everything is a sacrifice” ethics, etc.) Because values exist hierarchically and one must choose between the exclusive alternatives of something more valuable and something less valuable, and that that might entail hardships is not grounds to declare that sacrifice is necessary for practical success (it would be a sacrifice actually to not make such a trade-off.) Any rational pursuit of value requires acceptance of basic metaphysical categories of life and existence as a starting point. One cannot expect automatic values, or having one's desires automatically fulfilled. Value-achievement requires struggle, danger, and the possibility of failure, even risking one's life when certain values are at stake.

You might try reading chapters 7, 8, and 9 or The Virtue of Selfishness, which deals with this topic.

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1. Not true: my choice of a movie is not a moral choice - unless you want to argue that choosing a movie that (for ex.) has an immoral theme and against my values is wrong; but that was not the context.

Just for general interest, a thread discussing the morality of trivial choices can be found here.

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P.S. I'm editing this because I feel a little guilty about talking to a teenager about love without further explanation. Both in my personal experience, and from what others tell me, teenagers confuse infatuation with love. You should also learn what love really is (as part of that first step), don't make the mistake of acting on your feelings for someone you don't even know very well.

I find everything you said very helpful, and I appreciate it (that goes for everyone else too). I do believe that I know the difference between infatuation and love, because I've grown from bad experiences in the past. I'm sure I have a lot more to learn, but I know the basic difference, and I know that love is based on shared values (am I right?) as well as feeling strongly connected to the person in various ways, to sum it up very, very shortly. Infatuation doesn't feel the same. Without something more, it feels empty to me.

Edited by Anylesca
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Principles apply only within certain contexts. They always apply within those contexts and it does one no benefit to just throw them aside because you simply don't WANT them to be true in those contexts, but they do not apply outside those contexts. I mentioned in your other thread that you being a minor is an important part of the context of your life right now. Objectivism is primarily a guide for adults to go about successfully guiding their individual lives. While one is still a child, one doesn't have the same capacities as an adult to be able to go about their life the same way adults can and should, thus the existence of parents who can, should, and do place various controls on children under their charge whether the children agree with them or not, controls which very often they could not properly enact with other adults. The adults, especially as the child gets older, may or may not actually know better than the child on any given subject about what is actually right and best for the child, but so long as the child's rights as a child are not violated, it just comes with the territory that you may have to go along with many things your parents decree that you don't agree with. Doing so is not immoral though at all because, as a child, you don't have the same capacities as an adult does and therefore cannot be held to the same expectations of how you should go about existing as they do. Adults morally have to judge for themselves and make their own way in the world following those judgments. Kids though, you aren't ready yet. If you have to do things your parents decree that aren't really so good for you, go ahead and do so, but the parents are the ones guilty here as the adults, not the kid.

As for when the government makes bad laws, supposing we're talking about adults here, this is a particular sort of unusual context too. The government by its nature is characterized by backing up anything they tell people to do with the threat of force if people try not to comply. The principles of Objectivism are about what one should do given that they are free to follow their own rational judgment about what would be in their long term best interest. If somebody is threatening you though to make you do what they say you should do or else they will come exert force on you, you are not operating in the context of freedom in this instance. So, it is not immoral of you to do something you otherwise wouldn't think was the best thing to do because some government or random thug off the street is threatening you. Because somebody else is doing something they shouldn't by threatening to use force on you or actually going through with forcing you, your following what they say is just you doing your best to defend yourself and your values while the other party threatening you is guilty of immorality for their bullying of you.

As for John Galt, he was in a very unusual extreme situation. I'm pretty sure I recall he was worried that if he didn't do things how he did them, even if it meant getting killed, they would torture Dagny, and that would just be too terrible for him to bear. Normally if somebody was, for example, threatening to shoot you if you didn't give them your wallet, you wouldn't be guilty of compromising your principles because you gave it to them rather than get shot telling them to stick it where the sun don't shine because you support property rights.

There is a lot more you can learn about the contexts in which various principles apply in various Objectivist non-fiction writings. Somebody has recommended some nonfiction already above. Another good idea to get around to at some point may be Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand which deals with how the various principles are formed and for what purpose, thus making it easier to tell when they apply and when you are out side of the scope of their relevance and purpose in existing.

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Principles apply only within certain contexts. They always apply within those contexts and it does one no benefit to just throw them aside because you simply don't WANT them to be true in those contexts, but they do not apply outside those contexts. I mentioned in your other thread that you being a minor is an important part of the context of your life right now. Objectivism is primarily a guide for adults to go about successfully guiding their individual lives. While one is still a child, one doesn't have the same capacities as an adult to be able to go about their life the same way adults can and should, thus the existence of parents who can, should, and do place various controls on children under their charge whether the children agree with them or not, controls which very often they could not properly enact with other adults. The adults, especially as the child gets older, may or may not actually know better than the child on any given subject about what is actually right and best for the child, but so long as the child's rights as a child are not violated, it just comes with the territory that you may have to go along with many things your parents decree that you don't agree with. Doing so is not immoral though at all because, as a child, you don't have the same capacities as an adult does and therefore cannot be held to the same expectations of how you should go about existing as they do. Adults morally have to judge for themselves and make their own way in the world following those judgments. Kids though, you aren't ready yet. If you have to do things your parents decree that aren't really so good for you, go ahead and do so, but the parents are the ones guilty here as the adults, not the kid.

I understand where you're coming from, but it is hard for me to completely agree. I will be 18 in six months. If I am not ready now to make at least most of my own decisions, what will change in these six months that will prepare me?

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Oh, be prepared to do so alright. Just for now, be prepared to do what you think is right when the time comes while for now you are still technically a minor and thus their charge that has to accept their rules when you cannot come to an agreement. Go out and live your own life according to your own judgment as soon as you are really prepared to, but until such time, you're in training and getting ready for your full life still and thus not quite yet held to all the same standards as typical adults. You can do a lot of thinking and disagreeing with your parents even while you may still have to practice their rules.

Edited by bluecherry
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I understand where you're coming from, but it is hard for me to completely agree. I will be 18 in six months. If I am not ready now to make at least most of my own decisions, what will change in these six months that will prepare me?

Cognitively, probably not much. At 18 you are very young, and have never had to provide for yourself -- being the means of your own support imposes a certain discipline as well as confronting choices as to how best to accomplish your goals.

On a purely practical level, turning 18 means becoming of legal age -- your parents are no longer obliged to support you. They can toss you out on your behind if that furthers their own happiness. You would be wise to prepare yourself for this emancipation by figuring out now how you will support yourself. If you remain a parasite on your parents after your coming of age, then you have no grounds to rebel against their authority.

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I understand where you're coming from, but it is hard for me to completely agree. I will be 18 in six months. If I am not ready now to make at least most of my own decisions, what will change in these six months that will prepare me?

In my experience, it will take you another decade or three to figure out how to behave as a happy adult. If you are lucky. It was, in my estimation, not an accident that the characters in Atlas Shrugged are of the 30- or 40- something age bracket -- old enough to know better, young enough to have energy left to do something about it.

- ico

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Wow, it seems like a few people in this thread don't have too much faith in the decision-making skills of teenagers. Unfortunately (from that perspective), you can't simply wait until you're thirty and "wiser" to live your life; you have to make decisions in the present based on the best information you have from 17 years of life. As long as you've thought out the important stuff as much as you can, all you can do is go with your own thoughts and feelings. Best of luck to you.

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Wow, it seems like a few people in this thread don't have too much faith in the decision-making skills of teenagers. Unfortunately (from that perspective), you can't simply wait until you're thirty and "wiser" to live your life; you have to make decisions in the present based on the best information you have from 17 years of life. As long as you've thought out the important stuff as much as you can, all you can do is go with your own thoughts and feelings. Best of luck to you.

Au contraire. What I have, is experience to look back on. And there is no substitute for DOING something, and teenagers just haven't done enough to know enough to be certain of much of anything. So what? We are each limited and fallible within our own scope, and that scope increases with experience, no?

So, what I am trying to get across is this: experience accumulates, combined with rational thought (another form of experience), to reach plateaus of insight/enlightenment; and without sufficient fuel (experience), even the best rocket engine will not be able to create thrust.

A young person must take special care with decisions, to make them yes, but also to identify and learn from mistakes early and often, pulling out the weeds as you go, rather than arrogantly sticking with bad choices and refusing to cut and run when sunken costs become unrecoverable.

This is really important, so if you care to, I'd be happy to continue discussing and clarifying. I wish someone had told me, maybe I could have saved a decade or so in growing up.

- ico

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my choice of a movie is not a moral choice

Aside from the fact that is still not true, that is not what you said, you said;

And many actions are not restricted by morality; e.g. deciding which movie to go to.

... which is presented as a contextless general principle of advice you are offering someone else without you being the actor. More importantly, I was pointing that it is subject to morality according to Objectivist ethics, not TLDism ethics.

I presented the context - a law that is not moral can morally be violated - with obvious risk.

This again, is different from what you said above, and is still without context. You said;

Violating a law that is immoral is not itself immoral.

That is a blanket statement saying that any time and in any situation it is not immoral for the actor to violate an immoral law. Determining the morality of the specific action requires a specific actor in their specific circumstances, not a contextless blanket statement as you presented. Additionally, throwing that minor "with obvious risks" disclaimer on the end also figures into the morality of violating immoral laws. The way you state it the second time around is more accurate.

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That is a blanket statement saying that any time and in any situation it is not immoral for the actor to violate an immoral law. Determining the morality of the specific action requires a specific actor in their specific circumstances, not a contextless blanket statement as you presented. Additionally, throwing that minor "with obvious risks" disclaimer on the end also figures into the morality of violating immoral laws. The way you state it the second time around is more accurate.

My statements were consistent.

I know what you are saying. But you can't show where my choice of a movie - assuming I could rationally see either - is a moral one. Same with violating immoral laws; and I never said "any time and in any situation". I am speaking as an Objectivist; you have to assume I know when such an action is appropriate or not. In the case of the minor questioner, that simply changes the risk, not the principle.

"Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil." An action would have to be seen as irrational and negating life; and some actions simply do not fall into that category.

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TLD,

I've demonstrated how your statements were not consistent but I'm not going to belabor that point. Also, i don't have to assume anything about what you post if it appears to be inconsistent with what I understand about Objectivism.

When I have time later i think i can show you why a choice of movies is moral or immoral for rational people. In yiur case, i dont know what value or values you are pursuing when you go to the movies; what purpose movie-going serves for you.. Is it safe to assume that you don't go to the movies for the sole pupose of consuming a small amount of time between birth and death?

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Wow, it seems like a few people in this thread don't have too much faith in the decision-making skills of teenagers.

I taught at the High School level for a few years -- maybe that's why. However, some teens can and do make good choices, as I saw time and time again. Nevertheless, they are not self-sufficent and thus do not bear any of the responsibilities of providing food, shelter, education, clothing,....on and on and on. Therefore, as hard as it is for a young person to accept, their parents are the ultimate authority and until they are providing for themselves they ought to respect that authority regardless of whether they agree or disagree.

Unfortunately (from that perspective), you can't simply wait until you're thirty and "wiser" to live your life; you have to make decisions in the present based on the best information you have from 17 years of life. As long as you've thought out the important stuff as much as you can, all you can do is go with your own thoughts and feelings.

Not if they are in conflict with the wishes of one's parents. They're paying the bills and are legally responsible for you -- you can indulge your thoughts and feelings, if they are in conflict with your parrents, when you're not living off of them.

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I find everything you said very helpful, and I appreciate it (that goes for everyone else too). I do believe that I know the difference between infatuation and love, because I've grown from bad experiences in the past. I'm sure I have a lot more to learn, but I know the basic difference, and I know that love is based on shared values (am I right?) as well as feeling strongly connected to the person in various ways, to sum it up very, very shortly. Infatuation doesn't feel the same. Without something more, it feels empty to me.

Thanks for the feedback. What I would add to your definition of love is that it's not just about some values, or about what a person's overt beliefs are, but admiration for the highest values, which define his/her character. Not just the values he chooses to show, but the values you recognize in him or deduce from his actions, as you get to know him.

Edited by Tanaka
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