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Dániel Boros

A Game of Words

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In an interview Ayn Rand said that she regards alturism evil. While I don't disagree what she meant by that I do disagree about semantics.

As far as I can tell there are two kinds of wrongdoings: Self sacrifice and the unjustifiable violation of someone else's rights.

I believe that these two are not equally bad even though both of them are wrong. Self sacrifice is more of a mistake than a crime.

That is why the government protects us against criminals and not against mistakes. At least not mistakes inflicted upon ourselves (there is no such thing as a victimless crime right?).

On the other hand government trying to protect people from themselves is more than a mistake. It is a violation of fundamental human rights.

Therefore I believe that since there are two kinds of incorrect behaviour of man we should label their moral worthiness differently.

So...

  • Self sacrifice is wrong (or bad)
  • Hurting others is evil (i.e. violating someone's rights)

Of course everything that is evil is also wrong (or bad), but not everything that is wrong is evil.

I also think this is why we have two separate words to describe the same thing. Almost the same...

Therefore in my opinion Rand was a bit harsh in the interview.

Because neither altruism nor the peaceful indoctrination of children to believe in altruism violates human rights.

Peace

Edited by Dániel Boros

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If you indoctrinate a child to believe in altruism (presumably to accept, live by or practice - since I believe in altruism, I know it's out there and that I would rather not practice it), are you helping or hurting that child?

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Hurting of course, but not all rights apply to children, therefore it is not evil, since you cannot violate a right that does not exist.

The right of free choice is limited to the extent of the parent's wishes.

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Hurting others is evil.

Indoctrinating a child with regards to how to practice altruism is hurting the child.

Because they are a child, the parent is allowed to hurt them in this manner and it is not evil.

I think you've appropriately titled your thread.

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Altruism by it very nature doesn't recognize rights. Comte, the father of Altruism, says, in his Catéchisme Positiviste, that:

"The social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service.... This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

So altruism is evil because it eliminates the concept of individual rights altogether.

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In addition to these other comments that make a lot of sense, I would also add that as Rand pointed out, almost all evil done in human history has been under the guise of altruism. So, although you're right that on a personal level it's more of a mistake than evil, the concept of altruism is the cornerstone of much evil.

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Self sacrifice is more of a mistake than a crime.

It's a crime toward yourself. Self sacrifice really is the worst thing you can do to yourself.

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Self sacrafice and other self harming wrongs aren't crimes because to make them crimes would be criminal (and altruistic) in itself, it doesn't make it any less wrong.

A thief and a nun are both equally sad people in my mind,.

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Daniel, according to your semantics, Kant was merely wrong. Self-sacrifice and the violation of other people's rights are both just catagories of self-destruction.

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Hurting others is evil.

Indoctrinating a child with regards to how to practice altruism is hurting the child.

Because they are a child, the parent is allowed to hurt them in this manner and it is not evil.

I think you've appropriately titled your thread.

If indoctrinating your children was evil, than the state would have a legit reason to intervene and state founded schools would be the only "good" schools.

Does the parent have the right to select what his or her children will be thought, even if that something teaches something immoral? Yes of course, who else could have that right if not the parent?

I am not saying that it is not wrong to teach altruism. I am merely suggesting that it is not evil.

Altruism by it very nature doesn't recognize rights. Comte, the father of Altruism, says, in his Catéchisme Positiviste, that:

"The social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service.... This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

So altruism is evil because it eliminates the concept of individual rights altogether.

Yes but that doesn't mean an altruist won't have rights in a free society, or that an altruist will eventually take away someone's rights.

In addition to these other comments that make a lot of sense, I would also add that as Rand pointed out, almost all evil done in human history has been under the guise of altruism. So, although you're right that on a personal level it's more of a mistake than evil, the concept of altruism is the cornerstone of much evil.

Altruism is the public face of power hungry people. The lust for power over people is the real culprit. Some people are addicted to taking away people's rights, which is by my definition evil.

It's a crime toward yourself. Self sacrifice really is the worst thing you can do to yourself.

Indeed but it is still not a crime. Is using drugs a crime? Crime has to do something with some sort of legal system I believe.

Using the word "crime" outside of any implied legal framework is wrong.

Self sacrafice and other self harming wrongs aren't crimes because to make them crimes would be criminal (and altruistic) in itself, it doesn't make it any less wrong.

A thief and a nun are both equally sad people in my mind,.

Yes but the nun only hurts herself and not someone else as well.

Daniel, according to your semantics, Kant was merely wrong. Self-sacrifice and the violation of other people's rights are both just catagories of self-destruction.

Yes of course

That is why both self sacrifice and crimes are "wrong".

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As far as I can tell there are two kinds of wrongdoings: Self sacrifice and the unjustifiable violation of someone else's rights.

Wrongdoings by what standard? Just because you declare that something is wrong, doesn't make it so. Do you have a reason why self sacrifice and violating someone's rights are wrong, or are you just another mystic expecting me to believe you without any arguments?

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As far as I can tell those are the things objectivists regard evil and/or wrong, and since this is an objectivist forum I don't think I need to go into a detailed explanation of why they are regarded so.

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When I consider ethical issues I try to think of them from the perspective of the individual invovled. So, although a thief may hurt someone else, making a thief more dangerous to others, and more evil to others, that doesn't make the thiefs actions any more self destructive than a nun who does nothing with her life in the name of god.

This is really the point of egoism. Obviously theives are more evil to other people, however that doesn't mean thefts is a greater evil.

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"Yes but that doesn't mean an altruist won't have rights in a free society, or that an altruist will eventually take away someone's rights."

A person who denies the rights of others in principle forfeits his own rights.

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Both are evil. Hurting others or hurting yourself is still the process of denying someone the ability to live. Changing the target does not change the ethical standard, both have a victim. Ethically, suicide and murder are equally evil if life is your standard of value. The fact people accept the self-inflicted kind is sad and the ethic systems that ask for this should be condemned for encouraging it, but it is still evil since the person doing it chooses to do it. They could have chosen to respect their life just as the criminal could have chosen to respect his fellow man’s life.

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Hang on, so you think it's alright to hang socialists?

No, as long as they don't hang you or infringe your rights. But if people proclaim that rights don't exist and use force to implement their ideas, it would be proper to retaliate.

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Altruism by it very nature doesn't recognize rights. Comte, the father of Altruism, says, in his Catéchisme Positiviste, that:

"The social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service.... This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

A valuable passage. Seldom is altruism defined so clearly or unevasively.

(Or even pridefully.)

"...to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries."

Sounds like a variant of Original Sin: a 'given', born into with no escape for the duration of life. Except to men, not God.

I'm thinking of it as 'Original Debt'.

Edited by whYNOT

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A game of words can only be played by agreeing on rules, i.e. definitions. Altruism, by design and definition, requires a denial of self, e.g. "selfless" or "unselfish". Can anyone choose a behavior without giving preference to their own choice?

The statement, "I want to be unselfish", appears contradictory in that it imlpies I want to act without regard to what I want.

The statement, "You ought to be unselfish (like me)", appears equally contradistory by expressing a 'selfish' desire for others to act without regard to what 'I' want.

The definition of 'evil', as that which causes harm or destruction or misfortune, implies that any attempt to practice contradictory behavior is evil, whether self imposed, or imposed on others.

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Your definition yes. Regardless of any definition I don't see many people calling others evil simply for making bad decisions...

Because sometimes the self-induced hurt is not commensurate to the damages inflicted the victim.

And? Why should the criminal pay for more than what he inflicted on himself?

If unselfishness is the only evil in crime than why should the criminal pay for the pain of someone else? Wouldn't that be forced charity i.e. altruism? I doubt the criminal likes the victim, so...

People have an exceptional interest in upholding human rights, therefore violation of these rights is not merely wrong but evil.

There may be no scale that could differentiate between evil and wrong, but they are in the end still different.

A scale with 5 pounds of gold on one side and 5 pounds of silver on the other would balance out, but they wouldn't be the same.

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Your definition yes. Regardless of any definition I don't see many people calling others evil simply for making bad decisions...

It isn't my definition by common usage.

https://www.google.c...iw=1280&bih=885

Making a bad decision isn't evil per se, because one learns from mistakes. However the practice of intentional contradictory behavior, e.g. ascribing some personal benefit to an action presumed to be personally non-beneficial, meets one element of the common usage of the word 'evil', whether or not you are aware of the recognition of this behavior by others.

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