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Is morality objectively derived from the facts of reality?

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Is morality objectively derived from the facts of reality?

 

Objectivists (at least some of them) claim that Objectivism is superior to other schools of philosophical thought because Objectivism is objective and not subjective. Specifically, Objectivists claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality and is therefore not subjective.

 

I do not understand this claim and I wish to learn if this claim is true. To that end, I will take the following position:

 

Morality is not objectively derived from the facts of reality and is subjective.

 

Before I continue, please note that I am taking this position in order to facilitate the discussion. It is the claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality that I am questioning. I am not criticizing Objectivism as a philosophy nor am I claiming the Objectivist moral theory is invalid. I am also not making any claims that there is no such thing as morality or that reality does not exist. All that I am questioning is the Objectivist claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality and is therefore not subjective.

 

Before starting the discussion, I will provide the definitions and/or explanations of some of the terms and concepts that I will be using.

 

Morality: I will be using Ayn Rand’s concept of morality as she presented it in the essay ‘The Objectivist Ethics’ and in "Atlas Shrugged". Ayn Rand stated morality is a code of values accepted by choice, man’s life, which he must choose, is his ultimate value, and all that is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.  This is her, and hence Objectivism’s, starting point and basis for all discussion of morality. Therefore, the concept of morality is:

 

A man’s ultimate value is his life. *

 

All that is proper to the ultimate value is moral. **

 

All that which destroys the ultimate value is immoral. **

 

Action: Ayn Rand used the phrase “all that which is proper” and “all that which destroys” in her concept of morality. I will define “all that” to mean an ‘action’ and/or the ‘consequences of an action’ and will refer to actions and consequences of an action going forward. ***

 

The Objectivist Model: I will refer to the method of examining an action and/or the consequences of an action ("all that") and evaluating how the action and/or consequences of an action affects a man’s ultimate value ("is proper to" or "that which destroys") in order to make a moral determination as the Objectivist Model for Determining Morality or the Objectivist Model.

 

Objective: When I use the term ‘objective’ it will have the definition of ‘objective’ as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as:

 

of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers:  having reality independent of the mind ****

 

Moral Topic: In order to focus the discussion, I will be concentrating on, and relating the discussion to, one topic which I believe to be fundamental in any discussion of morality: the action of killing a man. It is my hope that if conclusions can be reached concerning this topic, then conclusions can be reached on other similar topics using the same line of reasoning.

 

So let us consider the claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality and is therefore not subjective.

 

To start, I will demonstrate the process of making an objective moral determination by first, asking a question; second, using the Objectivist Model to provide an answer; third, provide an objective reason for the answer; and fourth, provide an explanation of how the reason is objectively derived from the facts of reality.  I will then attempt to use the same process to make an objective moral determination about the action of killing a man.

 

The Question: Is it moral or immoral for a man to fall from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent?

 

The Answer: The action of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent is immoral.

 

The Reason: If a man falls from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent, the consequence will be the man’s death. Using the Objectivist Model, since the fall from the cliff will cause the man to die, thus destroying his ultimate value, the action of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent is determined to be immoral.

 

The Explanation: The consequences of the action of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent can be objectively derived from the facts of reality. Applying the concepts of physics such as gravity, terminal velocity, etc., and by applying knowledge about the nature of the human body e.g. how much force bones, organs, etc. can withstand, it can be shown that the consequence of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent will be, will only be, and will always be death for the man. *****

 

Conclusion: If a man's ultimate value is his life, then it would be an immoral action to fall from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent.

 

Now before moving on, I know from past experience that some people may wish to discuss why the man fell from a 10,000 foot high cliff, e.g. did he jump off, did he slip and fall off, did his parachute fail after he jumped, did someone pick him up and throw him off, etc., and may even claim that one cannot make a moral determination about the situation without knowing why it occurred. While I am not dismissing the question of why an action occurred and will discuss it later, for now I will point out that the Objectivist Model for Determining Morality does not need to have an answer as to why an action occurred in order to make a moral determination about that action. The only information needed is how the consequences of the action will affect the ultimate value.

 

Now, let us consider the issue of the action of killing a man in the same manner as the action of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff.

 

The Question: Is it moral or immoral for a man to kill a man?

 

The Answer: The action of killing a man could be moral or it could be immoral.

 

At this point, the Objectivist Model for Determining Morality does not provide a definite answer to the question because the consequences of the action and the affect of the consequences of that action on the man’s ultimate value are not known.

 

The reason that the consequences of the action of killing a man are not known is because there is no objective phenomenon that will occur as a result of that action - no law of physics or aspect of human physiology or anything similar will cause any consequences as a result of the action.

 

The only consequences which occur from the action of killing a man are a result of man’s perception of the action. This is where the question of ‘why’ enters the picture+. The question of ‘why did the action occur’ (or a derivative of that question) is used to determine the perception of the action.

 

For example: A man took the action of killing another man. The question is asked: “Why did the man take the action of killing another man?” One possible answer is that the man took the action of killing another man because he thought it would be fun to watch him die. Another possible answer is that the man took the action of killing another man because he thought the other man was trying to kill him so he acted in self defense. Another possible answer is that the man took the action of killing another man because he is a soldier fighting in a war and the other man was an enemy soldier. Even though the action, killing another man, was the same regardless of the answer as to why the action occurred, the perception of the action could be, and for most people is, different depending on the answer as to why the action occurred.  

 

Once men decide how they are going to perceive an action, the consequences, out of a choice of many possible consequences, will be determined. Since the consequences are determined by men, they are manmade. Manmade consequences, while real and will affect you, are derived from the minds of men and are not objective.

 

Depending on how the action is perceived, the manmade consequences can be different. Consider some of the various manmade consequences that can occur based on how men choose to perceive the action of killing a man - doing community service, a term of years in prison, life in prison, execution, and no consequences at all.

 

Again, consider the act of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent. The question is asked: “Why did the man fall from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent?” One possible answer is that the man fell from the cliff because he slipped. Another answer is that the man fell from the cliff because he jumped. Another answer is that the man fell from the cliff because someone pushed him. Even though the action, falling from the cliff, was the same regardless of the answer as to why the action occurred, the perception of the action could be different depending on the answer as to why the action occurred. However, the consequences of the action are independent of the perception of the action and remain the same. Regardless of the perception of the action, the affect of the consequences of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff on the ultimate value is the same and regardless of the perception of the action the moral determination of the action remains the same.

 

So, is the action of killing a man moral or immoral? The answer will depend on how that action is perceived by men and what the consequences men decide there will be for the action.

 

Now, I am not stating that the Objectivist Model for Determining Morality does not work. On the contrary, the Objectivist Model works very well when the consequences to the ultimate value are known. If, for example, you know for certain that if you kill a man you will be convicted of murder and executed, then you can use the Objectivist Model to determine the morality of the action. In this example, since the act of killing the man results in your death, the destruction of your ultimate value, then the action of killing the man is immoral.

 

If the Objectivist claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality is true, then just as falling from the cliff is immoral and is always immoral because the consequences of the action are always the same despite any perception of the action, if it is determined based on the facts of reality that it is immoral to kill a man, then it should always be immoral to kill a man regardless of the circumstances and the consequences of killing a man should always be the same regardless of the circumstances. But this is not the case. Depending on how men perceive the action of killing the man and what consequences men decide there should be, the act of killing a man could be moral or immoral.

 

Since the act of killing a man could be either moral or immoral, morality is not objectively derived from the facts of reality. Morality is subjective.

 

 

Notes:

 

*For the purposes of this writing, it will be assumed that a man’s ultimate value is always his life and not death unless stated otherwise.

 

** Ayn Rand appears to use the terms, ‘good and evil’, ‘right and wrong’ and ‘moral and immoral’ interchangeably in her writing. I will consistently use ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ even if a particular sentence would read better using one of the interchangeable terms.

 

***It is, in my experience, very common to describe something (a person, or thing, or idea) as moral or immoral when it is the actions and/or the consequences of those actions taken and/or caused by something (a person, or thing, or idea) that are either moral or immoral. Consider the phrase, ‘Joe Smith is immoral’. Does this mean that the actions taken by Joe Smith are immoral and he is therefore immoral for having taken those actions, or does it mean that Joe Smith is immoral and therefore any actions taken by Joe Smith are immoral because they were taken by Joe Smith? Based on my reading of Objectivist thought, I think that an Objectivist would conclude that it is the actions of Joe Smith that are immoral not Joe Smith qua Joe Smith. For the purposes of this writing, moral determinations will be made for actions and/or consequences of the actions not people, things, or ideas.

 

**** The term ‘sensible’ as used in the definition of ‘objective’ will be used as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary: as perceptible to the senses or to reason or understanding.

 

*****I realize that with the statement, “…will always be death for the man” the conclusion could be challenged with some future looking statement like, ‘At some point in the future, man may live on another planet were the gravity is different than Earth and a fall from a 10,000 foot high cliff on that planet would not kill the man so you cannot claim it will always be death for the man therefore your whole argument is discredited’. While I do not think that these types of criticisms either add value to the discussion or discredit the discussion, I will state that for the purposes of this discussion, we are referring to Earth and it is assumed that the conditions on Earth as they are at the time of this writing with regard to the natural laws that govern those conditions will remain the same indefinitely.     

 

+ The term ‘why’ in this context is used to determine the reason the action occurred not an attempt to understand why an action is what it is or why the consequences of an action are what they are. If, for example, someone is ignorant of the laws of physics, or has never seen someone or something fall from a cliff, that person may not know why falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff with no means of stopping or slowing the decent will kill a man. In this context, asking the question why is used differently that asking why an action occurred. When the question of ‘why’ is used in the case of this post it is assumed to mean that the question is being asked to determine the reason the action occurred.

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This is an excerpt from "How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation" by Harry Binswanger

 

All ideas do have to be shown to be valid. But “validation” is a wider idea than “proof.” There are, broadly, two forms of validation: by proof and by direct perception.


Proof is a process of inference — deductive or inductive inference. In either form, inference is a process of moving in thought from something known to something else logically related to it. An inference is made from something, not from nothing. Consequently, there must be a starting point. The starting point of any valid chain of proofs, however long, is the information given in direct awareness — i.e., the self-evident.

 

If you see footprints in the sand and conclude that someone has walked by, that conclusion is reached by inference. But your seeing of the footprints constitutes direct, non-inferential perception; the presence of those shapes in the sand is self-evident to you.

 

As Aristotle observed, it is illogical to hold that absolutely everything has to be proved. Proof is indispensable when direct observation is not available. But proof is neither necessary nor possible in regard to the basic information on which all knowledge is based: perceptual data. As important as proof is, it is the secondary, not the primary, means of validating ideas. The primary means is direct awareness.

 

Self-evidencies, directly perceived facts, are what make proof possible. To state the point in an extreme form: proof is what we resort to when something is not self-evident.

 

And let us ask: why does proof prove? What makes it “work”? Proof establishes an idea by connecting it to the directly perceived, the self-evident. To demand, therefore, a proof of the self-evident is an absurd reversal.

 

From "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" in the chapter "Faith and Force", Ayn Rand prefaces the following with: "I cannot summarize for you the essence and the base of my morality any better than I did it in Atlas Shrugged. So, rather than attempt to paraphrase it, I will read to you the passages from Atlas Shrugged which pertain to the nature, the base, and the proof of my morality."

,

Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. His life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act, he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain food without the knowledge of what food is and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch-or built a cyclotron--without the knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think.

 

"But to think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly call 'human nature,' the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival so that for you, who are a human being, the question 'to be or not to be' is the question 'to think or not to think.'

 

"A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. 'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps it. 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? 'Value' presupposes a standard, a purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative. Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible.

 

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not; it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and-self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.

 

"A plant must feed itself in order to live; the sunlight, the water, the chemicals it needs are the values its nature has set it to pursue; its life is the standard of value directing its actions. But a plant has no choice of action; there are alternatives in the conditions it encounters, but there is no alternative in its function: it acts automatically to further its life, it cannot act for its own destruction.

 

"An animal is equipped for sustaining its life; its senses provide it with an automatic code of action, an automatic knowledge of what is good for it or evil. It has no power to extend its knowledge or to evade it. In conditions where its knowledge proves inadequate, it dies. But so long as it lives, it acts on its knowledge, with automatic safety and no power of choice, it is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer.

 

"Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. Are you prattling about an instinct of self-preservation? An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An 'instinct' is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man's desire to live is not automatic: your secret evil today is that that is the desire you do not hold. Your fear of death is not a love of life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.

 

"Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man - by choice; he has to hold his life as a value - by choice: he has to learn to sustain it - by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues - by choice. "A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.

 

"Whoever you are, you who are hearing me now, I am speaking to whatever living remnant is left uncorrupted within you, to the remnant of the human, to your mind, and I say: There is a morality of reason, a morality proper to man, and Man's Life is its standard of value.

 

"All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.

 

"Man's life, as required by his nature, is not the life of a mindless brute, of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a thinking being not life by means of force or fraud, but life by means of achievement not survival at any price, since there's only one price that pays for man's survival: reason.

 

"Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life.

 

If the desire is to learn that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality, seek to differentiate the self-evident basis for morality from the derivatives of the self-evident based on the examples provided. The place to begin is with the proposed offering of validation, not a contrived thought experiment designed to isolate it from what are deemed to be the relevant aspects thereof.

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The crux of your question is whether or not morality (and morality according to Objectivism) is subjective and you conclude that morality is subjective.

 

You have NOT, however, defined what you mean by "subjective" nor offered to agree on a definition with which to work in carrying out your discussions.

 

Since it is absolutely necessary for a rational conversation about the subject YOU have chosen... I strongly suggest your clearly and definitively describe and define exactly what you mean by

 

 

"Subjective"

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"Specifically, Objectivists claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality and is therefore not subjective."

 

Objectivism claims that an  INDIVIDUAL's mind is capable of deriving objective knowledge of the world in which he lives.  This is not to say that man's knowledge is infallible or omniscient -- nor does it imply that every "rational" man must reach the exact same conclusion.

 

Too many people confuse "objectivity" with "certainty", which is what I believe you are doing.

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The Question: Is it moral or immoral for a man to fall from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent?

The Answer: The action of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent is immoral.

Where does Objectivism say this? Objectivism, as such, does not say that you must live or that you must prolong your life.

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StrictlyLogical,

 

You are correct that I did not provide a definition of subjective. I will correct that oversight now.

 

Subjective: When I use the term ‘subjective’ it will have the definition of ‘objective’ as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as:

 

characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind

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dream_weaver,

 

I desire to to learn that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality. Since you say that I should " seek to differentiate the self-evident basis for morality from the derivatives of the self-evident based on the examples provided", please help me to do so. I have read the quotes that you provided, and it is not self-evident to me that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality. Can you tell me the self-evident basis for morality?

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Where does Objectivism say this? Objectivism, as such, does not say that you must live or that you must prolong your life.

 

Also, falling is not a volitional action to which moral status may apply... the individual is helpless but to fall... in fact it is not something a person does... it is something the earth does to the person.

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StrictlyLogical,

 

You are correct that I did not provide a definition of subjective. I will correct that oversight now.

 

Subjective: When I use the term ‘subjective’ it will have the definition of ‘objective’ as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as:

 

characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind

 

While you are at it, what do you think the words:

 

"intrinsic"

 

and

 

"objective"

 

mean?

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New Buddha,

 

In post #4 you wrote, " Objectivism claims that an INDIVIDUAL's mind is capable of deriving objective knowledge of the world in which he lives. This is not to say that man's knowledge is infallible or omniscient -- nor does it imply that every "rational" man must reach the exact same conclusion."

 

I agree with your statement that an individual's mind is capable of deriving objective knowledge of the world in which he lives. This happens all of the time even for everyday occurrences. Suppose you order a meal at a restaurant. When the meal arrives you observe that there are no fries on the plate. The fact that there are no fries on the plate is objective knowledge of the world as it is perceptible by all observers and is independent of individual thought.    

 

I also agree with you that man's knowledge is not infallible or omniscient. Further, I agree with you that every rational man must not reach the exact same conclusion.

 

Your meal arrived and there are no fries on the plate. It does not matter if someone else does not know that there are no fries on the plate or that someone thinks that the peas on the plate are fries or that someone states that there are fries on the plate. The objective knowledge is that there are no fries on the plate.

 

You also wrote, "Too many people confuse "objectivity" with "certainty", which is what I believe you are doing."

 

I do not understand what you believe I am doing. I never claimed, for example, that one has to be certain that a fall from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below without any means of slowing or stopping the decent will kill a man. However, just because one is not certain does not mean it will not happen.

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softwareNerd,

 

In post #5 you wrote, "Where does Objectivism say this? Objectivism, as such, does not say that you must live or that you must prolong your life."

 

I never claimed that Objectivism says that you must live or that you must prolong your life. I repeated that Objectivism states that a man's life is his ultimate value. I acknowledge that a man can decide whether to choose life or death as his ultimate value. But I specifically stated that for the purposes of the post that it was assumed that man would choose life as his ultimate value.  

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StrictlyLogical,

 

In post #8 you wrote, "Also, falling is not a volitional action to which moral status may apply... the individual is helpless but to fall... in fact it is not something a person does... it is something the earth does to the person."

 

If you do not like the example of falling from a cliff, the original post could easily be changed to read:

 

The Question: Is it moral or immoral for a man to eat five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention?

 

The Answer: The action of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention is immoral.

 

The Reason: If a man eats five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention, the consequence will be the man’s death. Using the Objectivist Model, since the eating the cyanide will cause the man to die, thus destroying his ultimate value, the action of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention is determined to be immoral.

 

The Explanation: The consequences of the action of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention can be objectively derived from the facts of reality. Applying the knowledge about the nature of the human body e.g. how cyanide affects tissue, organs, etc., it can be shown that the consequence of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention will be, will only be, and will always be death for the man.

 

Conclusion: If a man's ultimate value is his life, then it would be an immoral action to eat five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention

 

This however does not change the question about the morality of killing a man and the purpose of the original post remains unchanged.

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dream_weaver,

 

I desire to to learn that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality. Since you say that I should " seek to differentiate the self-evident basis for morality from the derivatives of the self-evident based on the examples provided", please help me to do so. I have read the quotes that you provided, and it is not self-evident to me that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality. Can you tell me the self-evident basis for morality?

Recompile the following:

 

Conclusion: Man's mind is his basic tool of survival.

 

His life is given to him, survival is not. - Man is born. It is self-evident he has life. Once you learn what life is, you observe the difference between animate and inanimate.

 

His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. - Man qua man, has a body. It is self-evident he has a body.

 

His mind is given to him, its content is not. - Man qua man, has a mind. By introspection, it is self-evident that he can learn.

 

To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act, he must know the nature and purpose of his action. - This is transitional. As a baby, reflex actions provide the sustenance and survival. As he ages, discoveries of the relationship between knowledge and action develop.

 

He cannot obtain food without the knowledge of what food is and of the way to obtain it. - As he ages, he develops the understanding of what food is, and how to obtain it.

 

He cannot dig a ditch-or built a cyclotron--without the knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. - This is a broader application of the application of reason to yet other areas of life.

 

To remain alive, he must think. - This is what the previous 3 aspects have in common. Thinking is what the mind does.

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...

His life is given to him, survival is not. - Man is born. It is self-evident he has life. Once you learn what life is, you observe the difference between animate and inanimate.

...

 

Dude, I'm sooooooo tempted to jump in here, as an extension of "that other thread"...

 

For example, the difference you observe "between animate and inanimate", along with the self-evidence of being alive, is key to the proper foundation of an ethical right to life.  In my mind, that's the easy part of the proof; distinguishing between the quick and the dead, and choosing to remain part of the former;  it's good to be alive, or at least better than the alternative.

 

I dare you to cross-thread this;  I double dare you...

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Thank you for the clarification.

 

 With the Merriam Webster definition of subjective, the insistence of the value of 'solitude' is a subjective one. Whereas, the potential for objective value brought by another human to the issue of survival on a deserted island, far out weighs the subjective preference for solitude. Surviving alone anywhere is not a matter of leisurely solitude, it is a matter of continual choices about the details of possible objective actions that may or may not promote your continued survival. Consider also the mitigation of risk the presence of another human brings to the islanders situation. Another human is more likely to enable a few moments of leisure in which you may enjoy your solitude, regardless of the fact you have no solitude while interacting with them. The objective additive value of the this persons potential trumps the islanders desire for immediate gratification of a subjective desire for solitude. QED: killing the hapless victim is immoral. It is precisely on a deserted island where Objectivist ethics are most valuable.

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StrictlyLogical,

 

In post #8 you wrote, "Also, falling is not a volitional action to which moral status may apply... the individual is helpless but to fall... in fact it is not something a person does... it is something the earth does to the person."

 

If you do not like the example of falling from a cliff, the original post could easily be changed to read:

 

The Question: Is it moral or immoral for a man to eat five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention?

 

The Answer: The action of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention is immoral.

 

The Reason: If a man eats five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention, the consequence will be the man’s death. Using the Objectivist Model, since the eating the cyanide will cause the man to die, thus destroying his ultimate value, the action of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention is determined to be immoral.

 

The Explanation: The consequences of the action of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention can be objectively derived from the facts of reality. Applying the knowledge about the nature of the human body e.g. how cyanide affects tissue, organs, etc., it can be shown that the consequence of eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention will be, will only be, and will always be death for the man.

 

Conclusion: If a man's ultimate value is his life, then it would be an immoral action to eat five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention

 

This however does not change the question about the morality of killing a man and the purpose of the original post remains unchanged.

 

The act of eating the cyanide, as performed by the man, can be evaluated morally.

 

His "not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention" is not an action of the man and cannot be evaluated morally as something "he should or should not do" because it is, technically, beyond his ability.  As worded, this is something which simply does or does not happen to him. It does not form part of his actions.

 

If you want a separate moral evaluation of others' action or inaction while observing the man die, that is a second and separate matter

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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The Question: Is it moral or immoral for a man to eat five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receive, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention?

 

The question should be broken into different perspectives:

  1. Is it moral to me to eat cyanide? (first perspective)
  2. Does my neighbor consider it to be moral for himself to eat cyanide? (second perspective)
  3. Is eating cyanide moral in some cosmological sense such that everyone must agree - and therefore, perhaps, justify the prohibiting others from doing so? (third perspective)

​Existentially, the first perspective is the only one that you can influence.  You have ZERO control over the second perspective.  And the third perspective leads to either mysticism or materialism (both of which end in gas chambers).

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Dude, I'm sooooooo tempted to jump in here, as an extension of "that other thread"...

 

For example, the difference you observe "between animate and inanimate", along with the self-evidence of being alive, is key to the proper foundation of an ethical right to life.  In my mind, that's the easy part of the proof; distinguishing between the quick and the dead, and choosing to remain part of the former;  it's good to be alive, or at least better than the alternative.

 

I dare you to cross-thread this;  I double dare you...

A self-evidence of being alive would provide further justification. Thanks.

 

Morality is derived from mortality; specifically how to avoid it, if one chooses to.

We are mortal. How would one go about avoiding being what one is? Read slightly differently, morality is not about the avoidance of death, rather it is the embracing of life - while we yet possess it.

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A self-evidence of being alive would provide further justification. Thanks.

 

We are mortal. How would one go about avoiding being what one is? Read slightly differently, morality is not about the avoidance of death, rather it is the embracing of life - while we yet possess it.

 

Don't go shy on me... You stated, "Man is born. It is self-evident he has life."  What further justification is required from the POV of one who is alive and aware of that fact?

 

On the 2nd part, I think coming to terms with being mortal is all about figuring out how to avoid it, or at least putting it off as long as possible.  We embrace life because we know we aren't immortal, and fear being cheated of those moments we have yet to experience.

 

Tick tock tick tock...

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It is sufficient justification. First hand observation of what it is to be alive imputed to others.

 

And being alive, others recognize this quality of life in themselves, again self-evidently, thus providing a stable foundation for making objective observations about having ethical rights to independent instances of life...

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dream_weaver,

 

I agree with everything that you wrote in post #13. I agree that man must think to remain alive and that man's mind is his basic tool of survival.

 

But this did not explain how morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality.

 

We both agree that man must think to remain alive. So there appears to be two choices open to man when it comes to morality (if man chooses to live). The first, man uses his ability to think to objectively derive morality from the facts of reality. Or second, man uses his ability to think to decide what he wants and then uses his ability to think to create morality.

 

As I demonstrated in the original post with the example of the action of killing a man, the Objectivist model cannot provide a moral determination about the action because there is no objective phenomenon that will occur as a result of the action. Because there no objective phenomenon that will occur as a result of the action, man uses his ability to think to decide how that action will be perceived and what the consequences are going to be for that action.  Since the perception of the action and the consequences for that action are the product of man's mind, it is subjective.

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StrictlyLogical,

 

In post #16, you wrote, "His "not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention" is not an action of the man and cannot be evaluated morally as something "he should or should not do" because it is, technically, beyond his ability. As worded, this is something which simply does or does not happen to him. It does not form part of his actions."

 

The reason that the phrase, 'not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention' is included as part of the example is for clarity. If I simply wrote, 'is it moral or immoral to eat five pounds of cyanide in an hour' I would most likely get comments along the lines of, 'you can use that example because it is not certain that the man will die because maybe the man has an antidote or maybe the man built up a tolerance over the years'.  The cyanide question is asked the way that it is so that the death of the man is certain. Since the death of the man is certain as a consequence of the action, a moral determination about the action can be made.

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New Buddha,

 

In post #17 you wrote, "The question should be broken into different perspectives:

  1. Is it moral to me to eat cyanide? (first perspective)
  2. Does my neighbor consider it to be moral for himself to eat cyanide? (second perspective)
  3. Is eating cyanide moral in some cosmological sense such that everyone must agree - and therefore, perhaps, justify the prohibiting others from doing so? (third perspective)

​Existentially, the first perspective is the only one that you can influence. You have ZERO control over the second perspective. And the third perspective leads to either mysticism or materialism (both of which end in gas chambers)."

 

The Objectivist model for determining morality states that, all that is proper to the ultimate value is moral and all that which destroys the ultimate value is immoral. Since eating five pounds of cyanide in an hour and not receiving, or never having had received, any kind of treatment or medical attention will kill, and will always kill, a man (a consequence that can be objectively derived from the facts of reality), the action is immoral. It is immoral from every perspective because regardless of the perspective (or hopes, or wishes, or desires, or anything else) the consequence of the action is the same and that consequence is the destruction of the ultimate value.

 

If you wish to break a question into different perspectives in order to make a moral determination, and it is possible to do so, then you have confirmed my argument that morality is not objectively derived from the facts of reality and is subjective.

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