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Another Question of Right and Wrong

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tjfields
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I posted a scenario and question regarding right and wrong awhile ago. You can read the scenario, question, and the responses here:

 

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=26166

 

I have revised the scenerio a little in the hopes of revitalizing the conversation and getting a more clear answer to the question. I would appreciate responses from people who identify as Objectivists. If you are not an Objectivist I still welcome your responses but my goal is to learn and understand Objectivist thinking from Objectivists.

 

Please consider the following scenario:

 

I live completely alone on an island in the middle of the ocean.

 

I think that a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep and that the ultimate value, that which is the final goal, or end, to which all lesser goals are the means and by which lesser goals are evaluated, is my life. Because my ultimate value is my life, that which furthers my life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil.

 

Since I am a human and by my nature I have no automatic code of survival, no automatic course of action and no automatic set of values, everything I need or desire has to be learned, discovered and produced by me, by my own choice, by my own effort, and by my own mind. I must choose my actions, values and goals in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy the ultimate value, the end in itself, which is my own life. And I do.

 

The island and the ocean immediately around the island provide a wide variety of resources. I value the basic necessities that allow a human to live. Obtaining the basic necessities that allow a human to live are a value and goal that I have chosen because obtaining the basic necessities contribute to the furthering and fulfillment of my life. I use my reason and my ability to think and I devise ways of turning the resources available to me into those basic necessities, e.g. I devise means of collecting and storing fresh water, I make tools for growing, gathering and/or hunting food, I discover or construct shelter. Since achieving my value of obtaining the basic necessities allows me to further and fulfill my ultimate value, it is good.

 

The island also provides the means of achieving solitude. I value solitude. Solitude is a value and goal that I have chosen because solitude contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, the ultimate value. Since achieving solitude contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, it is good.

 

Since I am able to use the resources available to me to achieve the goal of obtaining the basic necessities, and I am able to use the island to achieve the goal of solitude, I am able to spend time devising ways to use the resources available to me to achieve lesser goals that contribute to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, i.e. provide luxuries and means of entertainment.

 

When I examine my life on the island, I realize I am achieving my values and living for my own sake. Since happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's own values, and to live for one's own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is a man's highest moral purpose, I conclude that I am happy because I am achieving my values, and since I am achieving happiness by achieving my values, I am reaching my highest moral purpose.

 

One day, a man comes up on the beach. I have never seen this man before and I have never had any interaction with this man. I do not know from where the man came or how exactly he arrived on the island as there is no physical evidence to on which to make a determination e.g. no boat, floatation devices, aircraft, wreckage, etc.

 

The presence of this man on the island means that I cannot continue to achieve my value of solitude. Since achieving my value of solitude is good because it contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, not achieving my value of solitude is evil because it does not contribute to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life; rather it negates, opposes and destroys my life.

 

Since my ultimate value is being opposed by the presence of this man, I kill him. After the man is dead, I am able to once again achieve my value of solitude which is good because it contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, the ultimate value.

 

Given the above scenario, do you agree that killing the man on the beach was right? If not, why was it not right?

 

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Your characterization of solitude as a value is a bald assertion, an error which you have buried and disguised in a not so carefully constructed "question".

 

Solitude is an absence of people not a value.  In general individuals can and are of great value.  If you think killing the man on the beach is right given the above scenario alone, you would be wrong. 

 

You don't buy your own fake logic. So why would we?

 

 

Now pseudo-repeat what I have said in your reply which is a statement formed as a question, and do so for the next 50 pages and 2 months and delight in telling your buddies how we Objectivists are clueless because we aren't like the skeptics, mystics, or rationalists or whatever-have-you type of individual the only members club you actually belong to is comprised of.   

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Your characterization of solitude as a value is a bald assertion, an error which you have buried and disguised in a not so carefully constructed "question".

 

Solitude is an absence of people not a value.  In general individuals can and are of great value.  If you think killing the man on the beach is right given the above scenario alone, you would be wrong. 

 

You don't buy your own fake logic. So why would we?

 

 

Now pseudo-repeat what I have said in your reply which is a statement formed as a question, and do so for the next 50 pages and 2 months and delight in telling your buddies how we Objectivists are clueless because we aren't like the skeptics, mystics, or rationalists or whatever-have-you type of individual the only members club you actually belong to is comprised of.   

 

Responding to both Strictly Logical and tjfields:

 

It is wrong to kill him, in a non-emergency situation, because just like you have an inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" so does he, you are both rational beings. As soon as other human beings enter the picture of your life (even just one), one has to think about how objective ethics, which applied to just you before meeting anyone, apply to people within a social context (social meaning interactions between individuals). Just as him committing force upon you would have disrupted your rational thought and action in living your life, so vice a versa. To say that the same requirements don't apply to him, whilst they do to you, is total evasion, and will ultimately psychologically destroy you if you are claiming that this hypothetical individual is a rational egoist in the objectivist sense of the term.

Edited by abott1776
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In fact you claim an ownership rights on the whole island. I don't think that you have a basis for such a claim. You may claim an ownership on the limited space you occupy and actively use-your house and surroundings, your fields, maybe part of the beach in your vicinity. Even small island can accommodate two and more people. Rights means freedom of action in social context. if you don't respect such a freedom of other people how  do you expect them to respect yours? There is no conflict of interest between rational people and a simple agreement between you two could solve the problem without any need of killing.

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What you have done is decided being alone makes you happy then made it a rule which supersedes everything that follows.  The fact that you’re asking it means you know it's wrong; you’re just not able to come to the conclusion.  First you need to expand on the nature of man and the need of principles before deciding why you value then expand your context to include politics since your applying ethics to a social situation.  

 

Does being lone advance your life?  Does it allow you to thrive?  Let’s say it does since you’re the last rational person in the world.  Still, is it a dogma that allows you to initiate force?  What are the principles with dealing with others? Does kill in the name of my value to prevent there’s a part of that? 

 

This isn’t even covering direct facts of the situation, like is murder the only method of dealing with one other person who arrives on an island of undetermined size and resources? 

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StrictlyLogical,

 

Thank you for your answer in post #2. While I do not understand your last paragraph, outside of some attempt to insult me, I will make an assumption that since you both took the time to read my post and to craft a response, rather than it ignore it, that you desire a discussion. I have a question about what you wrote but if the last paragraph of your response was actually a statement that you do not desire to discuss this topic further I will not be offended and respect your decision.

 

You wrote, "Solitude is an absence of people not a value." Can you explain this statement? According to Ayn Rand (in the essay 'The Objectivist Ethics') a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. If solitude is something that I act to gain and/or keep then, according to the definition, it is a value to me.

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I must choose my actions, values and goals in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy the ultimate value, the end in itself, which is my own life. And I do. . .

The island also provides the means of achieving solitude. I value solitude. Solitude is a value and goal that I have chosen because solitude contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, the ultimate value.

Let's elaborate on how solitude relates to human life. Because you're right, TJ Fields; Miss Rand didn't cover that nearly enough in her nonfiction.

In order to live, man must act. In order to act, man must learn HOW to act and WHY; facts and values.

And learning is not a quick or easy process, in the long run; imagine how much time it consumes in a single human lifespan.

And time is the currency of life.

Since knowledge is good and wasting time is evil, whatever can enhance this learning process is profoundly good.

How does this relate to other people?

---

Alone on a desert island, you must come up with all of your own ideas, by yourself, which takes time from the ultimate value.

In the OP you aren't gaining the value of solitude (which holds legitimate value only under certain circumstances); you're flushing all of that knowledge and your own life time down the toilet.

---

There are social aspects of selfishness which Ayn Rand didn't cover at all. But if she were to be reanimated and asked to elaborate, she wouldn't describe altruism OR antialtruism; she'd describe friendship and good manners.

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abott1776,

Thank you for your answer.

In post #3, you wrote, "Just as him committing force upon you would have disrupted your rational thought and action in living your life, so vice a versa. To say that the same requirements don't apply to him, whilst they do to you, is total evasion, and will ultimately psychologically destroy you if you are claiming that this hypothetical individual is a rational egoist in the objectivist sense of the term."

I do not understand this statement or how it is used to determine if the action of killing the man on the island was wrong.

In the scenario, I never stated anything to the affect that the requirements of life apply to me but do not apply to another. I acknowledge that the ultimate value of the man on the beach is his own life. I acknowledge that the man on the beach must choose his actions, values and goals in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy the ultimate value which is his own life. I acknowledge that, because his ultimate value is his life, that which furthers his life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys his life is the evil. I further acknowledge that since my action destroyed his ultimate value, from his point of view that action was evil.

But so what? The ultimate value of the man on the beach is his life and the ultimate value to me is my life. His presence on the island prevented me from achieving my ultimate value therefore, from my point of view, it was evil and my act, an act which allows me to achieve my ultimate value, was good.

Can you explain further why it was wrong to kill him?

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Devil's Advocate,

Thank you for your response.

In post #4, you wrote, "Why is it necessary to kill to achieve solitude? Without knowing your visitor's intentions, how did you arrive at the conclusion that your solitude was in jeopardy??"

The man's presence on the island prevents me from achieving solitude. The fact that I see the man demonstrates that I do not have the solitude that I value.

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Leonid,

 

Thank you for your response.

 

In post #5, you wrote, " In fact you claim an ownership rights on the whole island. I don't think that you have a basis for such a claim."

 

Why do you state that I have no basis for a claim of ownership on the whole island? What is the basis for your claim that I have no basis for a claim?

 

You also wrote, " Even small island can accommodate two and more people."

 

The presence of the man on the island prevents me from achieving my value of solitude. The fact that I see the man demonstrates that my value is not being achieved. Since I cannot achieve my value, I cannot achieve my ultimate value, which is my life. That which furthers my life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil. The man's presence on the island negates my ultimate value and is therefore evil. There can be no agreement, simple or otherwise, between good and evil.

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abott1776,

Thank you for your answer.

But so what? The ultimate value of the man on the beach is his life and the ultimate value to me is my life. His presence on the island prevented me from achieving my ultimate value therefore, from my point of view, it was evil and my act, an act which allows me to achieve my ultimate value, was good.

Can you explain further why it was wrong to kill him?

If you're taking all of this seriously, do you know what you just confessed to? Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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With that statement, "his presence on the beach prevented me from achieving my ultimate value" you didn't just assume the legitimacy of that value; you slipped into an implicit "men are evil".

That's not the morality of life.

I sincerely hope that you're not being serious.

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Spiral Architect,

 

 

Thank you for your response. I will to happy to address your statements and questions, however, I find your post difficult to read. It may just be my misunderstanding and I apologize if it is but I do not want to read and respond to your post one way when you meant to convey something different.

 

 

My confusions arise from (from post #6):

 

 

" The fact that you’re asking it means you know it's wrong; you’re just not able to come to the conclusion." I do not know what "it" refers to.

 

 

" First you need to expand on the nature of man and the need of principles before deciding why you value then expand your context to include politics since your applying ethics to a social situation." Do you mean "your" or "you're"?

 

 

"What are the principles with dealing with others?" I do not know what this means. Is it the same a 'What are the principles for dealing with others?"

 

 

"Does kill in the name of my value to prevent there’s a part of that?" I do not know what this means.

 

 

Again, if this is my problem, I apologize and will renew my effort to understand, but I do not want provide answers that do not fit your meaning.

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Leonid,

 

 

 

Thank you for your response.

 

 

 

 

In post #5, you wrote, " In fact you claim an ownership rights on the whole island. I don't think that you have a basis for such a claim."

 

 

 

 

Why do you state that I have no basis for a claim of ownership on the whole island? What is the basis for your claim that I have no basis for a claim?

 

 

 

 

You also wrote, " Even small island can accommodate two and more people."

 

 

 

 

The presence of the man on the island prevents me from achieving my value of solitude. The fact that I see the man demonstrates that my value is not being achieved. Since I cannot achieve my value, I cannot achieve my ultimate value, which is my life. That which furthers my life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil. The man's presence on the island negates my ultimate value and is therefore evil. There can be no agreement, simple or otherwise, between good and evil.

Ownership means right to use and dispose at will. You alone cannot occupy and use the whole island, unless it's a very small one. Been right ownership also means a freedom of action in social context. Since you are alone and want to maintain your solitude ,the concept of rights and ownership is inapplicable to your situation. Solitude is not an ultimate value, your life is. Happiness is also not an ultimate value, it is an effect of your living your life qua man. The evil is not what you consider to be evil but what is objectively prevent you to live such a life. Finally, contradictions don't exist and rational people have no conflict of interests. If you found such a conflict you should check your premises. In your particular case the premise that solitude is an ultimate value is wrong.

Edited by Leonid
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Harrison Danneskjold,

 

Thank you for your response.

 

First let me state that the scenario in the original post is hypothetical. This is a scenario designed to help me learn and understand some of the principles of Objectivism. The scenario and my comments are written in the first person for ease of reading only. While I am surprised I need to state this, I nevertheless will: I do not live alone on an island in the middle of the ocean. I have never been alone on an island in the middle of the ocean. I never met a man on the beach of an island that I was never on. I did not kill a man that I never met on the island that I was never on. Again, this scenario is hypothetical.

 

As for your post (post #8), you wrote, " Since knowledge is good and wasting time is evil, whatever can enhance this learning process is profoundly good."

 

Please define "wasting time". As stated in the original post, I use my time to achieve my values. How is this wasting time?

 

You wrote, " Alone on a desert island, you must come up with all of your own ideas, by yourself, which takes time from the ultimate value."

 

Ayn Rand wrote (in the essay "The Objectivist Ethics'), "Everything a man needs or desires has to be learned, discovered and produced by him, by his own choice, by his own effort, by his own mind." I agree with this statement. Whether I am alone on an island, or in the middle of the most crowded city on the planet, I still have to come up with all of my own ideas. Coming up with my own ideas is not a waste of time nor am I flushing my life time down the toilet by coming up with my own ideas, rather, coming up with my own ideas is a requirement for my life.

 

In post #14 you wrote, "With that statement, "his presence on the beach prevented me from achieving my ultimate value" you didn't just assume the legitimacy of that value; you slipped into an implicit "men are evil".

 

Please explain how I slipped into an implicit "men are evil". I do not think, nor did I state, that "men are evil" and I never implied it. That which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil. The presence of the man on the island negates, opposes or destroys my ultimate value therefore it is evil.

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I know it's hypothetical, TJ. I'm not accusing you of literal murder; I'm pointing out what you have revealed of the content of your own mind.

Purposeless time is wasted time and a wasted life is nothing more than a string of that. This is why lifelong goals are crucial to thriving.

If you mean what you've said of the learning curve then please explain how you discovered the universal law of gravitation. Did you even look at the empirical evidence? If so then elaborate.

Else concede the point.

On that final point you've arranged for a philosophical Kobayashi Maru, in which the stranger's very existence threatens your own happiness (because you value solitude). When this has been pointed out you've ignored the question repeatedly.

What I think you fail to realize is how close this comes to a description of moral insanity.

At this point there are two possibilities.

Either you actually think in such terms, in which case you need professional help, or the entire question is some sort of game to see what response you can provoke, in which case the joke will be on you once your life is spent.

Live long and prosper.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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Leonid,

 

 

In post #17 you wrote, " In your particular case the premise that solitude is an ultimate value is wrong."

 

 

It appears that you did either did not read or did not thoroughly read the original post. In the original post I clearly state that the ultimate value is my life. I state this many times. Solitude is a value I pursue because solitude contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, the ultimate value.

 

 

You also wrote, "You alone cannot occupy and use the whole island, unless it's a very small one." This seems to be a statement of fact however, in the scenario I do occupy and use the whole island so either it is a very small island or your statement is not statement of fact. If you meant this statement as some kind of universal or fundamental law that 'one person cannot occupy and use a whole island' then please explain, in objective terms, how this statement is derived and why it is correct.

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Harrison Danneskjold,

 

 

In post #21 you wrote, " On that final point you've arranged for a philosophical Kobayashi Maru, in which the stranger's very existence threatens your own happiness (because you value solitude). When this has been pointed out you've ignored the question repeatedly.
What I think you fail to realize is how close this comes to a description of moral insanity."

 

 

I do not understand what question you think that I have ignored repeatedly. Can you explain? I answered the questions and/or addressed the points you raised in post #8 and post #14.

 

 

You also wrote (in post #21), " If you mean what you've said of the learning curve then please explain how you discovered the universal law of gravitation. Did you even look at the empirical evidence? If so then elaborate.
Else concede the point."

 

 

I do not understand your point. In post #8, you wrote, " Alone on a desert island, you must come up with all of your own ideas, by yourself, which takes time from the ultimate value." I responded that regardless of where I am I must come up with my own ideas.

 

 

Now I took this to mean that you were referring to ideas that further my ultimate value not necessarily the sum total of human knowledge. I agree with you that if I attempted to come up with the sum total of human knowledge by myself it would take time away from my ultimate value. But I am not attempting to gain the sum total of human knowledge; I am attempting to pursue and obtain my values that lead to the fulfillment of my ultimate value.

 

 

As for your example of knowledge of the universal law of gravitation, this knowledge does not further or fulfill my ultimate value. In the scenario I laid out what I value starting with my life as the ultimate value, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of the basic necessities that allow me to live, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of solitude, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of luxuries and means of entertainment. While these may be just some of my values, I have determined that they are the most important to me. If acquiring and having knowledge of the universal law of gravitation is a value to me, it is further down the list and is not as important as my other values.

 

 

Spending my time pursuing my values that are important to me, is not a waste of time and it is not purposeless. I agree with you that lifelong goals are crucial to thriving. That is why I spend my time pursuing my goals, because the achievement of my goals allows me to thrive. Now if you value knowledge about the universal law of gravitation, and you feel that that knowledge will further and fulfill your ultimate value, which is your life, then you should seek to obtain and keep your value.

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tadmjones,

 

 

Thank you for your response.

 

 

In post #22, you wrote, "Are you using this scenario to explore if murder could ever be considered ethical by o'ist standards or principles ?
Or whether values are exclusively either subjective or objective?"

 

 

The scenario is designed to help me learn and better understand some Objectivists principals so it could be used for both of the purposes you mentioned. I think that the question of whether values are subjective or objective is the more important question.

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Since achieving my value of solitude is good because it contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, not achieving my value of solitude is evil

Check your premise (your value).

I once valued drug abuse. I felt it contributed to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life. That didn't make it "the good." The good is not "whatever I value".

It is best for man to live in a way that best suits his nature; this includes living among men, where the sharing of knowledge and division of labor are two of the many things that are good for Man, because they provide life-saving knowledge and reduce the amount of [life]time spent on the more mundane aspects of existence, giving him more [life}time to spend on better pursuits.

Double check your premise. Spend a month on a desert island and see if it's a rational value.

I know a member of an enviromentalist group--the Earth Liberation Front--who said industrial civilization is evil and the good (for Man) is to "go back to nature". In less than a month of camping out in the Oregon boondocks, he realized the value of supermarkets and microwave ovens and air-conditioning and computers etc., all made possible by men living among men--Man living as Man.

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