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Is morality objectively derived from the facts of reality?

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tjfields
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tjfields,

If you would attempt to answer "who decides" what is moral and immoral (regarding the killing) I think you will might grasp the issue better.  So who decides?

 

  1. The moral position guy?
  2. The immoral position guy?
  3. You?
  4. Me?
  5. A third party?

Select one.  And then tell me if it's an Objective or Subjective decision.

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"Man has no automatic code of survival.

- Again, she opens with a conclusion.

 

His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice.

- This is derived from post 35, in contrast to post 45 & post 50

 

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.

- She rewords the opening conclusion of this paragraph.

 

Are you prattling about an instinct of self-preservation?

- This is a fairly common misconception.

 

An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess.

- Her disagreement with it is stated quite plainly here.

 

An 'instinct' is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge.

- What possesses an unerring and automatic form of knowledge? See post 50 again.

 

A desire is not an instinct.

- The misused term of instinct should be desire.

 

A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living.

- Even so, knowledge is not acquired by desire, as pointed out in posts 13 & 26.

 

And even man's desire to live is not automatic: your secret evil today is that that is the desire you do not hold.

- Do Hedonism, Altruism or God's commandments, put the requirements of life first and foremost?

 

Your fear of death is not a love of life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it.

- Again, as pointed out in posts 13 & 26, knowledge is not automatically given.

 

Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform.

- A process of thinking is how knowledge is acquired.

 

Man has the power to act as his own destroyer and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.

- How many times do you hear that the world is going to hell in a hand basket? Or the commentator on the evening news ask "What's wrong with the world"?, giving the sense of some evil force is at work? How many people support their oppressive theocracy by calling for more intervention when seeing a perceived wrong? How many people choose to let others make the decisions of what ought to happen in their world, giving rise to dictatorships?

 

Would you consider this to be a fair assessment?

Do you, as of yet, find anything to be subjective here?

Edited by dream_weaver
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"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.

- This is pretty straight-foreword. Does this appear subjective to you?

 

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.

- As is this. Is this where you are finding subjectivity?

 

"A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.

- Because when you put it all together, it is the identification of what a code of morality is.

Edited by dream_weaver
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New Buddha,

 

Since I agree with you when you wrote in post #32, "You decide what is right or wrong in all things - there is no alternate." and with you when you wrote in post #39, "It is moral to one individual and immoral to the other. Each individual must decide for himself.", the answer to your question in post #52 is that each of the choices you listed decides and it is subjective.

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"....the answer to your question in post #52 is that each of the choices you listed decides and it is subjective."

 

But it's not subjective to each person who makes the choice.  Each one can have an objective position based on the context of knowledge that is available to him.

 

Look at it another way.  In a higher-up post I stated that the difference between objective and subjective knowledge (including morality) is how the information is acquired.  Objectivism states that an individual, human mind gains objective knowledge from the evidence of his senses (including his concept of right and wrong) and through the process of abstraction and concept formation.  Subjectivism posits several other sources of knowledge such as: divine revelation, a priori, rationalism, instinct, metaphysical essenstialism, idealism, etc.  But all of these are false.  Subjectivim is not a choice because it is a groundless, floating abstraction full of contradictions in all its forms.

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dream_weaver,

 

Everyone of your post leads up to the definition of Morality which I defined in the original post as:

 

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.

 

All of your posts provided the background for that definition and I could have easily put all of them in the original post.

 

I have not now nor have I ever contended that this definition of morality is subjective. It is a workable definition of morality and I even included the example in the original post of falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff to demonstrate how this definition can be applied to make a moral determination of an action. I could have also included many examples of knowledge that man has objectively derived from the facts of reality that tell him what he should or should not do to maintain his life (the ultimate value) such as: do not eat cyanide, do not go without ingesting water for a month, do not try to breathe underwater without any equipment, etc.

 

But these examples, and others like them, all have objective consequences that apply to everyone. The consequences do not depend on an individual's knowledge, or lack thereof, their perception of the action, their thoughts about the actions, or anything else.

 

And if Objectivism stopped there and stated that moral determinations can only be made about actions that have objective consequences, such as falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below with no means of stopping or slowing the decent, then I would not claim that morality is subjective.

 

But Objectivism does not stop there. Objectivism attempts to apply this concept of morality to actions whose consequences are not only unknown but are completely determined by men.

 

In the original post, I provided the example of killing a man and showed that a moral determination about that action could not be made using the Objectivist concept of morality because the consequences of the action on the ultimate value are not known and will be decided by men. This is where the concept of morality becomes subjective.

 

Your posts and the quotes that you provided, do an excellent job of explaining the Objectivist definition of morality. I am confident that for those who have not read Ayn Rand and did not know from where exactly I got the definition of morality that I provided in the original post, the quotes are helpful. However, your posts do not explain how morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality once a moral determination needs to be made concerning an action whose consequences are not objective.

 

I still maintain that morality is subjective.   

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tjfields,

 

I realize the example I'm asking for was from another thread, but I think I've identified the crux you are having an issue with.

 

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.

 

1. He has to hold his life as a value.

2. He has to learn to sustain it (his life).

3. He has to discover the values it (his life) requires and practice his virtues.

 

Can you answer how killing (murdering) a man awash on |his| beach sustains his life?

Can you answer how refraining from such an activity would be detrimental to his life (i.e., cause him to cease to live)?

 

Can you explain how solitude is required to sustain life?

Can you demonstrate that a lack of solitude (though it may be desired) is by itself, detrimental to life?

 

As to the action of plummeting 10000 feet from a cliff, choice is instrumental in ascertaining the morality/immorality of the action.

  • If the man slipped, the fall would be accidental. He would not be deemed to be immoral.
  • If the man leaped, the fall is intentional. The term generally used here would be suicide. (The question of the suicide being moral or immoral would require further contexualization.)
  • If the man were pushed, the fall was not of his own doing. A push involves a pusher. The pusher would be guilty of murder.
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tjfields-In fact you ask-why man cannot initiate use of force to sustain his life? The answer is that man has to live qua man. The man's tool of survival is his mind, not force and this is fact of objective reality. If man lives by force he lives as an animal, not as a man. However, objectively he cannot do that. If he does, he forfeits his mind and his life. 

Edited by Leonid
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dream_weaver,

 

In post #60, you wrote:

 

1. He has to hold his life as a value.

2. He has to learn to sustain it (his life).

3. He has to discover the values it (his life) requires and practice his virtues.

 

1. I agree that a man has to hold his life as a value.

 

2. To sustain his ultimate value man has to learn what are the basic necessities of life that are objectively determined by the nature of man e.g. water, food, shelter, and he has to act to gain and keep those necessities. Anything that an individual believes sustains his or her life beyond the basic necessities is determined by the individual not derived objectively from the facts of reality.

 

3. This answer is the same as number 2. Anything beyond the basic necessities is determined by the individual and not derived objectively from the facts of reality.

 

You then asked the following questions:

 

"Can you answer how killing (murdering) a man awash on |his| beach sustains his life?"

 

Killing a man is not a basic requirement of life so it does not objectively sustain his life. However, since anything beyond the basic necessities of life is determined by the individual, if an individual believes that killing a man will sustain his life, then killing a man will sustain his life.

 

"Can you answer how refraining from such an activity would be detrimental to his life (i.e., cause him to cease to live)?"

 

Refraining from killing a man is not a basic requirement of life so it is not objectively detrimental to his life. However, since anything beyond the basic necessities of life is determined by the individual, if an individual believes that refraining from killing a man will be detrimental to his life, then refraining from killing a man will be detrimental to his life.

 

"Can you explain how solitude is required to sustain life?"

 

Solitude is not a basic requirement of life so it does not objectively sustain his life. However, since anything beyond the basic necessities of life is determined by the individual, if an individual believes that solitude will sustain his life, then solitude will sustain his life.

 

"Can you demonstrate that a lack of solitude (though it may be desired) is by itself, detrimental to life?"

 

Lack of solitude is not a basic requirement of life so it is not objectively detrimental to his life. However, since anything beyond the basic necessities of life is determined by the individual, if an individual believes that the lack of solitude will be detrimental to his life, then the lack solitude will be detrimental to his life.

 

You then wrote, "As to the action of plummeting 10000 feet from a cliff, choice is instrumental in ascertaining the morality/immorality of the action."

 

As I explained in the original post, choice is not instrumental is ascertaining the morality or immorality of the action. Ayn Rand stated, "All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil." If an action destroys the ultimate value it is immoral - the cause of the action is irrelevant.  If you need to ask why an action occurred in order to make a moral determination, you are trying to determine your perception of the action. Once you decide how you are going to perceive the action you then you decide the moral determination. At this point, it is not objective, it is subjective.

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New Buddha,

 

It appears from post #58, and other posts, that you are under the impression that when I use the phrase subjective, that I am referring to some school of thought called Subjectivism. This is not the case. When I use the term 'subjective' it is defined as " characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind."

 

So when you write, "But it's not subjective to each person who makes the choice." I say that this is subjective because it is not independent of mind. Each person is using his or her mind to make a moral determination so it cannot be objective; objective meaning independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers: having reality independent of the mind.

 

As for your question in post #62, I refer you to the original post where I stated, in part:

 

"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."

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When I stated the following: " Subjectivism posits several other sources of knowledge such as: divine revelation, a priori, rationalism, instinct, metaphysical essenstialism, idealism, etc."....

 

.....I was directly addressing this type of thinking:  "objective, meaning independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers: having reality independent of the mind."

 

You are stumbling on the most important line that demarcates Objectivism from all other Western philosophies throughout history - namely, the source of knowledge.  Subjectivism is not just "some school of thought" -- it is THE school of thought that has dominated Western philosophy and culture for the last 2,500 years.  It was in response to Subjectivism that Rand created Objectivism.  You have to understand one to truly understand the other.

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tjfields,

 

In post 63 you wrote a lot of things. In regard to how morality is attributed to men when it 'just happens' to rain men from the sky. Actions do not happen in a vacuum. Actions are caused by entities. The entity you speak of is man. Man is a unique entity in that he is causally efficacious, thus is morally responsible for only his own chosen actions, not the actions done to him which he is not the provocateur of.

 

Just as Miss Rand's proof establishing the objectivity of morality involves many aspect and elements to which you agreed is self-evident per this reduction, and not subjective - you've got to discover the inter-relationships involved in determining the objectivity of anything that steps outside your narrow niche of 'only life's barest of necessities for survival.' It might be worth considering how to do such an exercise for yourself, considering your apparent interest.

 

It's one thing to make a moral case within a subdivision of morality, such as how much to learn about nutrition to eek out a few more seconds of life.

Or, perhaps to try to make a moral case out of the selection of a piece of artwork to hang on one's wall.

 

The extent of the relevant factors that need be considered depends on the hierarchal distance from the moral framework.

 

If you want to make a moral case for killing another human being, rationalizing it as subjective is not the route, nor is expecting others to flesh out the full objective chain of reasoning for what is enshrined in just about every legal system almost universally as murder.

 

I do thank you for your kind words regarding my first attempt to reduce Miss Rand's proof of her basis of morality.

 

Respectfully,

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Following only the last few posts in the previous page and the ones on this page.....

TJ is bringing up what has been posited as an equivocation between survival and flourishing in the Oist conception of "sustaining life" or survival.

The other thing I see is an equivocation in this thread between two different senses of "objective". There is ontological objectivity and there is epistemic objectivity. There is the fact that things are "out there" as mind-independent entities (ontological), and there is the need of correspondence of thought to the external state of affairs by "adhering to the object"(epistemic objectivity) . Rand called this the metaphysically given vs manmade.

Edited by Plasmatic
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dream_weaver,

 

In post #66 you wrote, "Actions do not happen in a vacuum. Actions are caused by entities. The entity you speak of is man."

 

Actions that can destroy the ultimate value are cause by something and not just man. Animals, bacteria, viruses, natural disasters, etc., can all cause actions that destroy the ultimate value.

 

You then wrote, "Man is a unique entity in that he is causally efficacious, thus is morally responsible for only his own chosen actions, not the actions done to him which he is not the provocateur of."

 

I have never claimed that a man is not morally responsible , or morally responsible, for anything; I do not even know what you mean by "morally responsible". The basis for the Objectivist concept of morality is "All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil." If the action of a virus destroys the ultimate value, the action of that virus is immoral. If falling from a 10,000 foot high cliff destroys the ultimate value, the action of falling from the cliff is immoral.  Claiming that a man is or is not "morally responsible" is irrelevant as the moral determination is based on the consequences of action on the ultimate value.

 

You also wrote, "...you've got to discover the inter-relationships involved in determining the objectivity of anything that steps outside your narrow niche of 'only life's barest of necessities for survival.'"

 

Are these inter-relationships objective and I discover them or are they subjective and I use my mind to create them? Can I discover the inter-relationships that objectively determine the morality of killing a man? If so, how?

 

You then wrote, "If you want to make a moral case for killing another human being, rationalizing it as subjective is not the route, nor is expecting others to flesh out the full objective chain of reasoning for what is enshrined in just about every legal system almost universally as murder."

 

I am confused by this statement. I have never tried to rationalize killing another human being. I maintain the morality of killing another human being cannot be objectively determined and the moral determination of killing another human being is therefore subjective. Consider what you wrote: killing another human being is enshrined in just about every legal system universally as murder. In the original post I provided three examples of killing a man: the man took the action of killing another man because he thought it would be fun to watch him die; 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; and 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. Does just about every legal system universally enshrine each of those reasons for killing another human being as murder? Further, even if just about every legal system almost universally enshrines killing another human being as murder, it would still be subjective since legal systems are manmade and even the term 'murder' is a term to describe a manmade concept. To further point out that what is enshrined in just about every legal system is subjective, consider the historical fact that the legality of slavery, in some form or another, has been enshrined in just about every legal system of the past.  

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tjfields,

 

One of the things you wrote in post #68: "If the action of a virus destroys the ultimate value, the action of that virus is immoral."

 

Presumably the 'ultimate value' here is "man's life". The problem with your analysis, on this specific, is that the action of the virus is amoral. Morality, as identified earlier and you agreed to, is a code of values accepted by a rational mind being conducive to the maintenance of his own life. Unless you know something I don't know about virus' - I'm led to believe, are not capable of deriving a code of values via rational thought. They, at best, act instinctively.

 

Having a virus, and understanding how it might be detrimental to your ultimate value may sway you to consult a doctor. This action would be considered both prudent and moral on your behalf, given the extenuating circumstances.

 

As a former radio show host used to proclaim: "You need to discriminate the crucial differences."

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dream_weaver,

 

In post #70 you wrote, “The problem with your analysis, on this specific, is that the action of the virus is amoral. Morality, as identified earlier and you agreed to, is a code of values accepted by a rational mind being conducive to the maintenance of his own life.”

 

Man’s first choice of value is his own life, the ultimate value. Man must choose his own life as the ultimate value first and then he can choose other values that support the ultimate value. Once life is chosen as the ultimate value, man is able to make moral determinations of actions using the Objectivist concept of morality which is based on, I once again quote Ayn Rand, “All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.” (emphasis added)

 

It does not matter who or what caused the action and it does not matter why the action was caused. If the action destroys man’s ultimate value, his life, then the action is immoral.

 

This appears to be drifting from the purpose of the original post. How does any of this, including your references to other threads in post #60, demonstrate that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality?

 

 

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TJ Fields:  Thank you; I greatly appreciate the elaboration in this one.

 

Since you've defined "objectivity" as whatever is independent of the mind (and apparently volition?) you're right; killing a man may have no consequences whatsoever, by that definition.

You may waste some of your time, but apart from that, nothing may happen at all in the objective reality (as far as any other observer could see).

My previous response by the way, about wasting time, still stands.

 

However, how does anyone know anything about this objective reality?

 

I have a hypothetical scenario for you.
 

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Suppose a man became a police officer and spent his first several weeks fulfilling his lifelong dream; out in the filthiest of slums, with the junkies and the whores, dodging bullets with a solemn sort of thrill (driven by his selfish pursuit of justice).

Suppose further that after some time of this he noticed himself gradually beginning to change.

He began having the most horrific nightmares, in which fresh memories of his own peril rearranged themselves and repeated endlessly.  He lost sleep and began losing patches of time, throughout the day, in which he went about his duties "on autopilot".  He could no longer bring himself to feel any of the compassion which had driven him to that career; he had lost it beneath this new, perpetual and universal fear.

Suppose one day he realized that, although he couldn't identify when or how, he had developed the habit of reaching for his hip at the first sight of a human being.

 

If at that point, he were to reconsider his career, would it be moral for him to continue- despite the objective [observer-omitted] threat of losing his regular paycheck?

 

I think you should reexamine that definition and the way you've applied it.  Our own minds set the terms by which we have any chance of understanding reality; if "identity" is mutually exclusive with "consciousness" (which is the meaning of the term "subjective") then there is nothing it could ever actually apply to.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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