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To do good to one another

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Dániel Boros
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The most common objection to objectivism I hear is that objectivists don't want to help each other or those in need. Obviously altruists hold the idea of helping others above all else including themselves as well. Altruism is a simple concept and one can understand how it isn't necessary to go into detail who to help if everyone should be helped.

Ayn Rand said that there are perfectly good reasons to try and help others. She mentioned love as the primary reason, but what about the people who are not loved and have little value to others? What of the people who can't survive on their own? While Rand didn't deny that one should have the freedom to do charity she certainly did not approve of it. While it is true that charity in of itself is not a moral virtue that doesn't mean one should not be involved with it, however what could justify giving some of our rightfully earned money to someone who has literally no value to us? Even if every human had some minimal basic value there would always be a lot of people who possessed more value than a stranger. Unlike in the case of our loved ones helping strangers could not be justified by the value they themselves carry. So we shouldn't help them right? If they have no value than there is no reason to give to them anything, but than why is "helping the poor" so important to so many people? Is it just cultural bias?

Some areas of human nature strongly suggest that helping the poor is an important aspect of any human being. Empathy is a real emotional response to the suffering of someone else.

I would say empathy works like this:

I. the person recognizes someone in pain (hunger, depression, loneliness etc..)

II. the person will feel some of this pain. (more pain if it is a loved one less if it is not)

III. the person would naturally want to stop his own pain and to that would be only possible by helping the that someone.

IV. depending on the values of the person and the suffering of the one being helped the help can vary in nature and in amount.

Empathy is a negative feeling and by that I mean the more you have it the less you want it and the more you wish to get rid of it. Love is a positive feeling. The more you have it the more you want it... like drugs.

Now just because a lot of people have empathy doesn't mean that helping others is justified. After all we should not act on our whims and who knows whether acting according to our own mammalian nature would serve our rational self interest. Ayn Rand -as far as I can tell - did not justify or approve such ways of thinking even if she often practiced it herself. She did smoke cigarettes even though that was not in her best long term rational self interest. It was only something her body identified as necessary for existence even though it clearly wasn't ( unlike food ).

So is there any real, justifiable reason to help the poor? People who are unable take care of themselves including their basic needs would cease to exist if others didn't help them. People don't just exist in the present but in the future as well, which means that if they die now the possibility that they will have value to us and to themselves will go with them. Letting them die would not be in our rational self interest but letting them continue their life the way they do would not be in our interest either. We value those who live by the same values we do therefore the main goal of helping others would be to make them self reliant and selfish. So as I see it we - who agree with the concepts above - should have organized voluntary help that could rehabilitate and help integrate the poor into the market and society.

So.. is this in accordance with objectivism or not?

Edited by Dániel Boros
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So as I see it we - who agree with the concepts above - should have organized voluntary help that could rehabilitate and help integrate the poor into the market and society.

Well, as we are not a global state (not yet, thankfully) that will differ where ever you go.

Such things do exist here. Non-profits, run with private voluntarily donated funds whose purpose is to help teach dependants to support themselves.

If you are unaware of such a thing already existing in Hungary and you have an interest in the matter by all means you should look into finding like minded people and setting something up.

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I think you may have missed my question at the end.

I am not trying to recruit anyone I am just asking if this would work or not inside objectivist ethics.

Is this something that should discouraged, promoted or just ignored?

I mean there is some value any human has over a rock or an animal from simply existing even if that value is minimal and much less than our own.

So acting for keeping that value would be an objectively desirable action would it be not?

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I didn't miss your question.

My statement to seek out other like minded individuals to do it with you was in response to this:

" we - who agree with the concepts above - should have organized voluntary help" that you stated.

If you deem such a cause to be in your rational self interest and you want to do it because there is value in it for you then of course it is moral and falls within proper behavior. Where it would fall outside of proper behavior is if you were doing it for any second-handed reason ie- the approval of others, admiration, feeligns of guilt, wanting the gratitude of the needy.

If you

a) don't like to watch people suffer

and

b ) have the wherewithal to do something about it

and

c) would find personal value in doing something about it

then of course it is the rational thing to do.

Seeking government funds for such a thing would be absolutely immoral however.

Edited by SapereAude
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If you

a) don't like to watch people suffer

and

b ) have the wherewithal to do something about it

and

c) would find personal value in doing something about it

then of course it is the rational thing to do.

I think there is another layer to that: it is not rational to do something just because you find subjective personal value in it - your values need to be rational too.

There are subtleties in the Objectivist ethics because of such layers - which fundamentally arise because the "objective" derives from the relation between reality and your mind, and you are not infallible. I think the simplest way to put it is like the above with the rider that: and make very sure that your values are in fact rational. However while you do believe those values are rational, and if acting on them doesn't violate the actual basis of morality, then it is moral to act to achieve them (indeed, can be immoral not to). For example, I recall Harry Binswanger once telling someone that if they had "green" values they should act on that: but they should examine their premises. However no Objectivist would say that kind of thing to a Nazi setting out to kill people, because it doesn't matter how sincere their belief is, it violates fundamental morality about the initiation of physical force.

Ayn Rand's view on this particular topic might be best summed up by here comment: "The question is not whether I give a dime to a beggar; it is whether I have a right to exist if I don't." There is nothing wrong with giving dimes to beggars or setting up a foundation to do so: as long as it is entirely voluntary, and I would add: runs on the principle of justice not mercy. (Note that justice does not exclude giving someone the benefit of the doubt).

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I think the primary reason most people do help strangers is because they hate to see others suffer.

Its that simple really. Its more like

"I don't want to live in a terrible world"

rather than a

"I have a duty to help those is need"

That is why people who don't give to charity are seen as bad because most people see them as being at best apathetic and cynical, and at worse sadistic.

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The most common objection to objectivism I hear is that objectivists don't want to help each other or those in need. Obviously altruists hold the idea of helping others above all else including themselves as well. Altruism is a simple concept and one can understand how it isn't necessary to go into detail who to help if everyone should be helped.

Ayn Rand said that there are perfectly good reasons to try and help others. She mentioned love as the primary reason, but what about the people who are not loved and have little value to others? What of the people who can't survive on their own? While Rand didn't deny that one should have the freedom to do charity she certainly did not approve of it. While it is true that charity in of itself is not a moral virtue that doesn't mean one should not be involved with it, however what could justify giving some of our rightfully earned money to someone who has literally no value to us? Even if every human had some minimal basic value there would always be a lot of people who possessed more value than a stranger. Unlike in the case of our loved ones helping strangers could not be justified by the value they themselves carry. So we shouldn't help them right? If they have no value than there is no reason to give to them anything, but than why is "helping the poor" so important to so many people? Is it just cultural bias?

Some areas of human nature strongly suggest that helping the poor is an important aspect of any human being. Empathy is a real emotional response to the suffering of someone else.

I would say empathy works like this:

I. the person recognizes someone in pain (hunger, depression, loneliness etc..)

II. the person will feel some of this pain. (more pain if it is a loved one less if it is not)

III. the person would naturally want to stop his own pain and to that would be only possible by helping the that someone.

IV. depending on the values of the person and the suffering of the one being helped the help can vary in nature and in amount.

Empathy is a negative feeling and by that I mean the more you have it the less you want it and the more you wish to get rid of it. Love is a positive feeling.

Daniel,

I wouldn't say empathy is negative - if one feels it, it is reality, and like

everything real, should not be buried.

Perhaps you mean empathy is impossible to fully act upon (to put right for the person,

or whole world for that matter, who is experiencing pain.)

The irrational is the impossible or the insane. [AR]

That's the problem with empathy, that it is an involuntary, emotional reaction

which is hugely limited in what can be done.

The tipping point in responding to pain, imo, is how much can I do to alleviate

someone's pain? How much should I continue doing, before it becomes self-sacrificial?

Is a monetary gift sometimes much less significant than one's time, advice,

and full consciousness given to the unfortunate person?

What we hear is that the world will be better for everybody helping each other.

I think the world will be better if less people needed help - if there were a culture

of self-reliance, not one of constant victims. I believe Rand's central point is

that suffering should be viewed as a temporary anomaly in mankind - it is not his proper

state. Now THAT we should encourage in others, not victimhood feeding off our guilt.

For the rest, (iro charity) one's own values and volition come into play, as other posters have noted.

In the short term, it's right and moral to respond to a stranger's distress: Galt's Oath does not state

"I shall not assist another being" - but rather - "I shall not live my life for another."

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"I shall not assist another being" - but rather - "I shall not live my life for another."

Yes, this is the difference and the basis for the true benevolence. Only man who lives his life in full for himself can value life of others , feel an empathy and desire to help. A man who sacrificed his life to others doesn't appreciate his own life, let alone the life of others.

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