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Isn't all subjective morality actually intrinsic morality?

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Rand defines all morality into three categories: subjective, objective, and intrinsic. As far as I can tell, all subjective moralities essentially collapse into intrincisim.

If I claim, "what is right is whatever my concious opinion deems to be right," then I am proclaiming my opinion to have intrinsic moral value. The same could be said for hedonism or any other form of whim-worshipping.

Is this a logical conclusion?

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This is a good question I've asked myself. I'm not sure that I'm the best person to answer.

The way it seems to me is that intrincisim is just one offshoot of subjectivism, so really the two opposites are objective or subjective. (Because what those intrinsic values are ultimately have to come back to your or someone else's whims) I'm supposing that while that is true, perhaps what she was going after with these classifications was only to identify the 3 most fundamentally expressed types.

I'm interested to see what others have to say.

Edited by IchorFigure
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Onkar Ghate described God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son as supernatural subjectivism, and that puzzled me until I understood it as actually a brand of intrinsicism.

A moral subjectivist will not claim that morality is an immutable eternal code emblazoned on a block of stone coming from a supernatural being or a revelation etc. Unlike the intrinsicist, he will rather claim that no objective morality is possible (even though the intrinsicists' version of 'objective' morality is an intrinsic one).

If you claim "what is right whatever your conscious opinion deems to be right", you are not yet saying about what category you're falling into.

Now if you were to answer what your conscious opinion rests on with "the Ten Commandments", "mystical revelations from my rabbi", "Dianetics" or even "Atlas Shrugged", then you would reveal yourself as a moral intrinsicist.

On the other hand, if you were to answer "I think it is right because I think it is right", that would make you a moral subjectivist (your 'consciousness' is the source of your morality, not reality as understood by reason).

Now, how is supernatural subjectivism a brand of intrinsicism? Your conscious opinion in this case would rest on "whatever God thinks is right". In this case, God's consciousness, intrinsic in reality, is the source of morality.

Intrinsicism vs. subjectivism serves to distinguish which part of existence gets denied (evaded, blurred out, attacked) by various schools of thought -- either man's consciousness and his capacity to reason and think (as is in the case of Platonism, Egyptian polytheism, Christianity etc.) or the external reality (as is in the case of hedonism, whim-worshipping, moral nihilism etc.).

But both categories ultimately have to result in emotionalism. In both cases, objectivity (reason's continuous volitional adherence to reality) is rejected, leaving only emotions to govern the source of one's actions. That's the common element unifying the two schools -- their result.

Duty is just rationalized whim worship is it not?

No, "duty", understood in the context of ethics and not colloquially (as in the context of "an officer's duties"), is a central concept in altruism, with its key tenet that you must drop purpose, desire, need, reason, goals, wishes (i.e. all of your consciousness) in favor of an unknowable reality (or, in reality, whatever an authority or collective tells you to do). (Incidentally, it's also an anti-concept.) It's a prime exponent of intrinsicism.

"Whim-worship", on the other hand, says that you should drop reality and pursue what your consciousness has conjured up, whatever that may be.

Note how both positions drop reason. But they are distinct in their methods of dropping it.

Edited by ppw
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Rand defines all morality into three categories: subjective, objective, and intrinsic. As far as I can tell, all subjective moralities essentially collapse into intrincisim.

If I claim, "what is right is whatever my concious opinion deems to be right," then I am proclaiming my opinion to have intrinsic moral value. The same could be said for hedonism or any other form of whim-worshipping.

Is this a logical conclusion?

I have come to a different conclusion in studying this. The tricky part in studying false ideas is to distinguish between what they state literally and what actually happens in the process of failing, and that ideas can be classified based on either criteria. In other words, there is a theory versus practice distinction which is real for false ideas and depending on your purpose either theory or practice can be taken as the essential.

Given the above as a preface, here is an old piece of writing concerning this topic in which I classified by the theory because I found in practice the false ideas all degenerate into subjectivism. (The categories I used below are to be understood as true contradictories: they are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. In "arbitrary vs. caused" the term arbitrary means not-caused and in "impersonal vs. personal" the term impersonal means not personal.)

Objectivity in Truth and the Good

Ayn Rand describes three theories of the good in the essay "What is Capitalism?" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:

There are, in essence, three schools of thought on the nature of the good: the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. The intrinsic theory holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors and subjects involved. It is a theory that divorces the concept of “good” from beneficiaries, and the concept of “value” from valuer and purpose—claiming that the good is good in, by, and of itself.

The subjectivist theory holds that the good bears no relation to the facts of reality, that it is the product of a man’s consciousness, created by his feelings, desires, “intuitions,” or whims, and that it is merely an “arbitrary postulate” or an “emotional commitment.”

The intrinsic theory holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness; the subjectivist theory holds that the good resides in man’s consciousness, independent of reality.

The objective theory holds that the good is neither an attribute of “things in themselves” nor of man’s emotional states, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man’s consciousness according to a rational standard of value. (Rational, in this context, means: derived from the facts of reality and validated by a process of reason.) The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man—and that it must be discovered, not invented, by man. Fundamental to an objective theory of values is the question: Of value to whom and for what? An objective theory does not permit context-dropping or “concept-stealing”; it does not permit the separation of “value” from “purpose,” of the good from beneficiaries, and of man’s actions from reason.

Intrincism is wrong because it omits the relationship of value to valuer, which I will describe as an impersonal theory. Subjectivism is wrong because it omits reality, identity and causal relatonships, so its assertions are necessarily arbitrary. Objectivism includes both the personal relationship of valuer to value and recognition of causal relations that create value. It struck me that there was one combnation missing that would complete the taxonomy of possible theories: a combination of an impersonal theory of value and causal relations. Is there is any actual theory that has these perspectives? Yes there is, we call it determinism.

Determinism is not an actual theory of the good so Rand was correct to omit it above.

The evaluation above takes these ideas at face value, i.e. literally. In actual implementation practice does not match the theory. For example, there is no such thing as an actual intrinsic value even though there are intrinsicists. The things intrinsicists assert to be intrinsic values are arbitrary, which makes them subjectivists. There are such things as subjective values, for example the relationship of a drug addict to his drug is one of valuing. Valuing is an action which if not willfully directed to be objective will default to being subjective. Subjectivism creates values which are good in theory but not in practice by evading identity and causality. Determinists are rationalists spinning a theory from an arbitrary starting point in science; the arbitariness relegates them to a species of subjectivism.

A diagram:


The perspectives and methods of thinking described above can be fleshed out with concrete examples of content compatible with each for other fields of philosophy. (Given in epistemlogical/ethical/political order.)

Impersonal/arbitrary: intrinsicism


holy relics/religious duty

divine totalitarianism

Impersonal/caused: determinism


dialectal materialism/ bad evolutionary psychology/social duty

scientific totalitarianism

Personal/Arbitrary: subjectivism

primacy of emotions/whims


anarchy and then obedience to a totalitarian

Personal/caused: Objectivism

perception/integration/contextual knowledge

personal values/virtues

self obedience/rights/capitalism

Objectivity is a personal perspective on causal relations. Objectivity rests on you identifiying the causal factors that make something true or valuable or lawful. Impersonalism or the third-person perspective is not necessary to objectivity and will actually make objectivity impossible to apply to your own life.

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The trichotomy of those 3 also serve to pose as useful contrasts to the uniqueness of Objectivism.

Subjectivism is focused on the subject. Intrincisism is focused on the object. Objectivism is focused on the relationship between the subject and the object.

So looking at it this way you can see the essential differences in classyifying them like this, is to break them down to what their target of the philosophy is aimed at. On the subject, on the object, or on the relationship between them.

Like Grames said, this is not to say that in real-world practice that intrincisism doesn't become subjective.

Edited by IchorFigure
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