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Immorality

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Pete
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Ayn Rand stated that morals are ethical principles. If a person acts immorally or unethically, could you say that they don't really know any better? Can all acts of immorality be traced back to an error of knowledge?

I'd say "acts of immorality" happen more often when one blinds oneself to knowledge rather than an "error"
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I'd say "acts of immorality" happen more often when one blinds oneself to knowledge rather than an "error"

That's a good reply; but, I know people that think they're doing the moral, humane action, by voting for a democrat that won't cut Social Security, believe they are supporting a moral idea; when in reality, the idea they're supporting is immoral.

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If a person acts immorally or unethically, could you say that they don't really know any better?

In a few cases. For instance, a child needs to learn morality just like he has to learn anything else. There are cases, too, in which the issues are sufficiently complex that a man may act in a way he believes is the moral course, only to later find out that the consequences were not in his best interests. One can't require omniscience, so it would be wrong to condemn such a person. In judging anything, including morality, context must be kept.

Can all acts of immorality be traced back to an error of knowledge?

Not all of them. Be careful about what you consider an error of knowledge, and the extent of the leniency you give to someone on that basis.

Also, not having an explicitly defined, proven and integrated code of moral conduct is not an excuse. One can't get away with lying, for example, by claiming that they don't agree with the Objectivist ethics, or that "everybody else does it." A lack of knowledge about ethical principles is not an excuse for not acting ethically. It is objectively true that lying is unethical -- regardless of whether one wishes otherwise.

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If a person acts immorally or unethically, could you say that they don't really know any better?
Yes, not knowing better is probably always the case. The only exception I can think of is if someone who completely learned Objectivism decided to be immoral. Not knowing any better is not a justification.

Can all acts of immorality be traced back to an error of knowledge?

I haven't come to a very sturdy opinion on this yet (because I am still examining it), but I tend to agree with Leonard Peikoff in Fact and Value (below). All of the tools are available to us to come to the right conclusions, and I don't believe it is impossible to do so without any help (See Ayn Rand as an example) I wouldn't treat a person who came to the wrong conclusions angrily unless he was acting in a way not worthy of debate.

Now we must note that falsehood does not necessarily imply vice; honest errors of knowledge are possible. But such errors are not nearly so common as some people wish to think, especially in the field of philosophy.
EVEN IN REGARD to inherently dishonest movements, let me now add, a marginal third category...

... this third group consists almost exclusively of the very young—and precisely for this reason, these youngsters get out of such movements fast, on their own, without needing lectures from others; they get out as they reach maturity. Being conscientious and mentally active, they see first-hand what is going on in their movement and they identify what it means; so their initial enthusiasm turns to dismay and then to horror.

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That's a good reply; but, I know people that think they're doing the moral, humane action, by voting for a democrat that won't cut Social Security, believe they are supporting a moral idea; when in reality, the idea they're supporting is immoral.

The key part of what you wrote is: "believe" they are supporting a moral idea. "Belief" would have no part in the equation if he wasn't evading reality. Especially when it comes to morals

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Ayn Rand stated that morals are ethical principles. If a person acts immorally or unethically, could you say that they don't really know any better? Can all acts of immorality be traced back to an error of knowledge?
If an adult Muslim blows himself up in order to kill a large number of non-combatant civillians because he thinks Allah will reward him in paradise with 72 virgins for destroying infidels, is this an immoral act or merely an error of knowledge?
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If an adult  Muslim blows himself up in order to kill a large number of non-combatant civillians because he thinks Allah will reward him in paradise with 72 virgins for destroying infidels, is this an immoral act or merely an error of knowledge?

That's the question, Citizen: is it both...can all acts of immorallity be traced back to an error of knowledge? I'm wondering if there are those that, at the core of their being, hate life so much that they intentionally try to destroy it, not being fully aware of what they're doing. The fundamental choice: to live or not to live; and they chose not to (referring to the James Taggarts and some of our more hard core liberals).

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned choice yet.

Yes, all evil is at root the product of errors. However the question is not WHETHER but WHY someone commited that error.

Do they choose to be irrational? If they have, then their errors are chosen. They are guilty.

If they choose to be rational, then go on to miss some facts neccesary for proper conclusion on an issue, and then act upon that conclusion, then they have not acted immorally even though their action was also the product of error. They are innocent.

In this case, the innocent's error is explained by the non-omnicience of their mind, not by the choice of not to use it.

Edited by AndrewSternberg
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