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Yeah, there's Rand's analysis of value and especially her immortal indestructible robot example. If I'm not mistaken Branden also touches on this in his "The Concept of God" chapter in The Basic Principles of Objectivism, but I don't feel like looking it up right now. In not, then definitely in the chapter on ethics discussing the facts that give rise to the concept of values. There's also Ludwig von Mises' analysis of the logic of action and values (and implicitly of identity and causality) as applied to the concept of God, and provides a praxeological refutation of God as a valuing and acting being. The conclusion he reaches is that the concepts of value and action apply only to real living organisms in this reality of identity and causality which are, in his terms, weak, possessing limited knowledge, and imperfect (by which he just means not immortal, indestructible, infallible, etc.) Not sure if the page numbers in my copy of Human Action coincide with the pdf file online, but it's located in section 11 "The Limitations on Praxeological Concepts" of chapter 2.

The orthodox answer to the question of "Why did God create the universe?" was answered by St. Augustine as having to do with God's omni-benevolent nature, but of course, this only compounds the contradictions, as now we have to deal with things like "the problem of evil" to say nothing of the original question. It was the heretical sects from Plotinus to Hegel that argued God was imperfect and discontented in some way, and so created the universe, man, and all the creatures out of loneliness or something.

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It is baffling to me that Objectivists are incapable of seeing the horrendous error in equating "inability" to "ability" and "weakness" to "strength". Your argument basically says that in order f

"Worship"?? What you tell me by this inflammatory use of the term is that no rational discussion with you is possible. Good day, sir.

Yes. God. Have I ever seen Him? Do I have empirical proof that He exists and that He doesn't have a cause? No. Do I need it? No. Instead of asking insinuating questions with vague implic

I assume what 2046 is referencing here is Ayn Rand's argument in her essay "The Objectivist Ethics," where she proposes that the concept of value presupposes "an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible." She goes on to argue that the only fundamental alternative that exists in the universe is existence or non-existence, which pertains only to living things (i.e. entities which can cease to exist qua living things). She illustrates this point by contrasting living things with a hypothetical immortal, indestructible robot, concluding that such a being "could have no interests and no goals."

I did not really understand this argument when I first read this essay by Rand, and it greatly helped me to read Tara Smith's explication of it in Viable Values. The section particularly relevant to this argument (that immortal beings cannot have values) is "Imagining Immortality," a subsection of "Life Makes The Concept of Value Possible." I believe that the entirety of the section "Imagining Immortality" can be viewed in the Google books preview here (if the link doesn't work, simply Google "tara smith viable values imagining immortality" and its the first result). The section spans pages 87-90, which I believe are all available to view on the Google books preview.

Thank you for providing the link. I went to 2 local bookstores and couldn't find the book (I'll continue looking though). I have actually heard many good things about Tara Smith recently so I have been looking forward to reading some of her material. I am sorry that this was the first exposure that I had with her. Not only do I disagree with that section of her book, but I am grieved that such a position would be advocated by an Objectivist and widely accepted among an Objectivist audience. If thought through (taken to it's logical conclusion), it is a very nihilistic view of reality and it is utterly irreconcilable with those amazing aspects of the Objectivist sense of life that I love so much. One of my favorite Rand quotes is the following:

"You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live." - Atlas Shrugged

I cannot imagine a way to reconcile the sense of life indicated in that quote with the positions advocated by Smith in that section of her book (or by Rand, herself, with the robot analogy). The essence of both is the premise that the meaning and significance of life is contingent upon the possibility of death; that the meaning and significance of pleasure is contingent upon the possibility of pain. It is, in essence, the same form of argument (with the same nihilistic premises) as the argument which opened this thread concerning the omnipotence of God. Strength requires the possibility of weakness, life requires the possibility of death, pleasure requires the possibility of pain, the positive in the universe is dependent upon the existence of the negative. Think through what this means. It means that the degree to which one is incapable of dying, one is not really alive and therefore to really be alive, one must be teetering just on the edge of death. It means that the degree to which one is incapable of pain (sort of like Roark only having the "pain go so deep"), one is not really capable of pleasure- that one must be teetering just on the edge of pain to fully experience pleasure (Sadism). I cannot and will not EVER accept any such premise- and to the extent that Objectivists genuinely do, it will be the end of Objectivism (to MY great dismay).

Pleasure is NOT the absence of pain. Life is NOT the absence of death. Reward is NOT the absence of punishment. The Positive is NOT the absence of the Negative. All incorporate the absence of their opposite- but all are SO MUCH MORE than the absence of their opposite- and therefore are abundantly possible, meaningful, and significant apart from their opposite.

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I think you completely missed the point. The negative is the absence of the positive, and it IS true that a thing cannot be said to exist in any meaningful way unless there is some conceivable alternative. How is it nihilistic to say that values presupppose an alternative to life, which is non-life or death? If there is no alternative to being alive then it would actually be true that it doesn't matter what you do. Why is this problematic?

I cannot imagine a way to reconcile the sense of life indicated in that quote with the positions advocated by Smith in that section of her book (or by Rand, herself, with the robot analogy). The essence of both is the premise that the meaning and significance of life is contingent upon the possibility of death; that the meaning and significance of pleasure is contingent upon the possibility of pain. It is, in essence, the same form of argument (with the same nihilistic premises) as the argument which opened this thread concerning the omnipotence of God. Strength requires the possibility of weakness, life requires the possibility of death, pleasure requires the possibility of pain, the positive in the universe is dependent upon the existence of the negative. Think through what this means. It means that the degree to which one is incapable of dying, one is not really alive and therefore to really be alive, one must be teetering just on the edge of death. It means that the degree to which one is incapable of pain (sort of like Roark only having the "pain go so deep"), one is not really capable of pleasure- that one must be teetering just on the edge of pain to fully experience pleasure (Sadism). I cannot and will not EVER accept any such premise- and to the extent that Objectivists genuinely do, it will be the end of Objectivism (to MY great dismay).

Pleasure is NOT the absence of pain. Life is NOT the absence of death. Reward is NOT the absence of punishment. The Positive is NOT the absence of the Negative. All incorporate the absence of their opposite- but all are SO MUCH MORE than the absence of their opposite- and therefore are abundantly possible, meaningful, and significant apart from their opposite.

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I cannot imagine a way to reconcile the sense of life indicated in that quote with the positions advocated by Smith in that section of her book (or by Rand, herself, with the robot analogy). The essence of both is the premise that the meaning and significance of life is contingent upon the possibility of death; that the meaning and significance of pleasure is contingent upon the possibility of pain.

I get what you're saying, but the main idea about Objectivist ethics is that it is entirely based on an alternative of life or death. If there was no such thing as death, then there would be no need to act or do anything because existence would be something that occurs automatically without effort. You don't have to be teetering on the brink of death for the choice for life to be present, and the whole point about the quote you gave is precisely what it would mean to strive for life as opposed to striving for death like all the altruists ultimately did in Atlas Shrugged.

I don't want to get into it more since I've discussed it so many times, but since you brought up both Tara Smith and Atlas Shrugged in this context, this is a good lecture/talk to listen to:

http://aynrandnovels.com/learning-more/atlas-shrugged/no-tributes-to-caesar.html

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The negative is the absence of the positive,

I completely agree. But the positive is NOT the absence of the negative.

and it IS true that a thing cannot be said to exist in any meaningful way unless there is some conceivable alternative.

Allow me to reword this in order to show the devastating error:

"A thing can only be said to exist in a meaningful way if there is conceivable alternative."

"A is Non-A"

A, only if Non-A.

Life, only if Death.

Pleasure, only if Pain.

How is it nihilistic to say that values presupppose an alternative to life, which is non-life or death?

This assumes that the essence of life is non-death; that the sum total of the meaning of life is avoiding death. It is true that one must avoid death in order to live (and so non-death is a prerequisite) but if there is ANYthing more to life than avoiding death (and all of Objectivist ethics says there is!), then life is possible and meaningful without the possibility of death.

If there is no alternative to being alive then it would actually be true that it doesn't matter what you do. Why is this problematic?

So, you would say that the ONLY reason what I do matters is to avoid death? Do you not have a category for ENHANCING life? for THRIVING? For reaching for the absolute best?

This is very very dis-heartening to me. I sincerely hope that this doctrine is not widespread among Objectivists.

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Think through the alternative: there is no difference between being alive and being dead, the animate and the inanimate can and do both act in the pursuit of values.

Why would my position mean that there is no difference between life and death? Or that the inanimate would act in pursuit of values??

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Why would my position mean that there is no difference between life and death? Or that the inanimate would act in pursuit of values??

The point of Rand's drawing attention to the alternative of life and death is not to make the metaphysical case that death makes life possible, but the epistemological point that of the genus entity we can note that the differentia between the animate and the inanimate is this necessity to act to continue in existence.

If you want to reject that distinction then propose a better basis to separate the living and the non-living.

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The point of Rand's drawing attention to the alternative of life and death is not to make the metaphysical case that death makes life possible, but the epistemological point that of the genus entity we can note that the differentia between the animate and the inanimate is this necessity to act to continue in existence.

If you want to reject that distinction then propose a better basis to separate the living and the non-living.

The ability and necessity to act in order to enhance existence.

OR, simply "the ability to act" would suffice.

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The ability and necessity to act in order to enhance existence.

Now why would an entity without the possibility of going out of existence have a "necessity" to "enhance existence"? (enhance along what standard? What is at the negative end of such a standard, if not death?)

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Now why would an entity without the possibility of going out of existence have a "necessity" to "enhance existence"? (enhance along what standard? What is at the negative end of such a standard, if not death?)

It wouldn't have the necessity to enhance it's existence. It would simply have the necessity to act should it desire to enhance existence. And why do you need a negative end to a standard? I'll submit one, but I don't understand the need.

The "negative end" would simply be living a bland, lowest common denominator life as opposed to thriving and enjoying everything possible.

I'd like to point out, though, that I have already demonstrated that the doctrine of "the positive being contingent upon the possibility of the negative" to be contradictory and destructive to all of Objectivist ethics. You're only problem now is that it messes up (slightly) your conception of what the term "life" means.

Certainly life encompasses the concept of non-death, but it is and must be MORE than that.

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This is the extra step that you continue to make, that I am questioning; that 'choosing to act' and 'acting entirely of its own accord' are always and everywhere one and the same thing, two different ways to reference the exact same group of phenomena. I see no support for the proposition that volition is the only quality of an object that enables it to initiate action, or that "volition" and "the ability to initiate action" are two different ways of saying the same thing. Your argument fundamentally relies on your assumption that you can simply hash together self-directed with volitional as you do, when I am saying that you are importing additional things when you do that; self-directed becomes consciously self-directed when you move to volition.

That's because they do go together. A thing either acts accidentally or on purpose, unintentionally or intentionally, chosen or unchosen, willfully or coerced, volitional or reactionary. There is no possible third magical category for a thing that acts non-accidentally but not on purpose, not unintentionally but not intentionally, not chosen but not unchosen, not willfully but not coerced, not volitional but not reactionary. These are A or Non-A scenarios.

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That's because they do go together. A thing either acts accidentally or on purpose, unintentionally or intentionally, chosen or unchosen, willfully or coerced, volitional or reactionary. There is no possible third magical category for a thing that acts non-accidentally but not on purpose, not unintentionally but not intentionally, not chosen but not unchosen, not willfully but not coerced, not volitional but not reactionary. These are A or Non-A scenarios.

You're considering only beings with volitional consciousness. There are entities capable of self-generated action that do not possess faculties of volition. Like all known living things other than human beings.

Unless I'm vastly misunderstanding something, your point only applies to volitional agents, and does not apply to instinct or to involuntary actions (such as scab formation).

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You're considering only beings with volitional consciousness. There are entities capable of self-generated action that do not possess faculties of volition. Like all known living things other than human beings.

When you say "self-generated" here, though, you mean something different from volitional self-generated action. "Self-generated action" which is non-volitional is just a label given to reactionary action which is a reaction to something internal rather than external-- but it's being internal does not negate the fact that it is a REaction.

Unless I'm vastly misunderstanding something, your point only applies to volitional agents, and does not apply to instinct or to involuntary actions (such as scab formation).

Instincts are a combination of REactions to genetics and stimuli. Scab formation (and all other involuntary actions) are REactions to internal (and sometimes external) phenomena.

As I said above, there is no magical third category for non-volitional action which is not a reaction to prior action.

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