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VECT
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DA, I don't know the point of the first part? Are you saying morality is dependent on interaction with other people, and if we analyze it without the social part, it'll be unavoidably subjective or meaningless? That is only a plausible angle to explain why the concept "morality" grew and developed, as opposed to an explanation of morality. Even if it were true that it explains morality itself, we still run into VECT's question: Why use this standard as opposed to another?

Why wouldn't someone wonder if it's okay to do an act if they were alone? "Simply acting" is not any promise something beneficial will happen, so at the least, it's plain stupid to "simply act". A hidden premise here appears to be psychological egoism, where people always pursue their self-interest. If that were true, simply acting would always be in your interest, so morality would be irrelevant - you do what's in your interest anyway. The problem is, many people really do ignore their interests or fail to consider their interest, so end up doing something besides what is in their interest. We don't even have a meaning to "self-interest" by which to act, it is a moral concept that doesn't happen automatically. Ethics is still meaningful before we start talking about social topics, partly why it's a separate topic than political philosophy.

Of course if someone really is alone is unlikely, and looking for a social basis for ethics to the root of ethics is going to overlook life as the root to that social basis being relevant! Taking a social basis will be other-centric, because you already rejected ethics as being self-centric. The issue there is altruism at least implicitly, where we must act with regard to what other people may say or do in response to you. Then, out of guilt, you'd wonder "is it okay for me to do such and such?", not just out of a need to think and evaluate.

All I agree with is that choice is what makes deliberate action possible. The choice need not be deciding one day "I must live!" It only needs to orient our action. Rand brings out a fundamental choice, but it isn't saying what we ought to choose. That happens developmentally - Rand's explanation is rooted in pleasure/pain, and other explanations may be possible as to why babies don't need to be instructed to live. Values will arise in life-furthering action, just by nature of living. Foods, activities, and so on. It's possible to declare "I don't want to live!", and there's no "duty" to avoid it. But it involves deliberately denying or evading existing values. Nihilism perhaps.

If you want to persuade a person to further their life, it requires pointing out their values and how it goes along with happiness. Reason has power there - I can guarantee your friend VECT, does have values to pursue, and grasps why it matters. It takes noting how drug users fail to lead a good life - real world evidence.

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For clarity Eiuol, my point is that ethics requires some referant other than oneself for the same reason politics does. One will certainly act in any case, but without reference to the actions of other actors, what benchmark of proper behavior is being used? You could say, "every day I survive on my own proves my ethical behavior is correct", but compared to what??

 

Yes, choice is what makes deliberate action possible, but ethical behavior is only relevant to interactions with others.

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How does it follow from "I know what is bad for me in reference to others" to "ethics becomes relevant when I consider the consequences of interacting with others"? All you're saying now is that I need to observe others to be able to know what is good or a bad - a perfectly legitimate claim that I agree with. Aristotle's Golden Mean is basically that, where we look to others to see how a virtuous person acts. If living in total isolation, you'd have no information to work with to help you figure out how to be virtuous.

This is totally different than saying morality is only an issue in social settings with consequences - which always leads to moral relativism I described earlier. Social consequences makes for varying moral systems depending on the society and time period. To judge moral systems, we need a standard to measure them that can apply man qua man rather than man qua society. A more sensible standard is where we start developmentally and by nature, which is aiming for life. That isn't "it's good because it's natural", it's that it's the only standard and time to need a code. It provides the means to happiness, that's the purpose ethics serves.

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I appreciate your reference to Aristotle's Golden Mean (the virtues of moderation), but I think the following observation by Aquinas more closely represents my position in this case:

 

"The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing."

 

Individuals don't will themselves into existence; that much has been accomplished for them. What does concern them is the measure of control (choice) they have over their existence.  This where ethics becomes relevant in some form of, "do as you're told" vs "you're not the boss of me".  Self-governance is the ideal and ethics (governing interaction with others) provides a means to happiness, where happiness is defined as maintaining peace between self-governing individuals.

 

The only necessary element to ethics, the only necessary good if you will, is choice, e.g., to continue living, or not to, to become a member of, or to stand alone.  So it follows that evil is primarily represented by impediments to choice.  I think this view is compatible with Objectivist ethics and responds to Vect's subjective choice, which is primarily subjective because an individual can choose to opt out for any number reasons that are only important to that individual.

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All you're describing is the Objectvist view on rights. And redefined happiness for no reason as "maintaining peace".

 

"It's only in consideration of the consequence of interaction with others that an ethical view (of proper action) becomes relavent."

 

isn't what you are saying now:

 

"What does concern them is the measure of control (choice) they have over their existence.  This where ethics becomes relevant in some form of, "do as you're told" vs "you're not the boss of me" "

 

You are saying different things. But then you throw in "some form of" that doesn't follow. You are saying ethics is primarily about choice, and it is primarily about impediments to choice. There is more to choice than impediments, and two primaries is impossible. Then you avoid the OP's question anyway by saying "oh, some people have reasons to opt out". That's the topic of the thread: why not opt out?

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The view that ethics depends on and derives from interaction with others is called by Oism the "Social Primacy of Conciosuness" view of ethics.

1976 lectures lect. 7:

Social primacy of consciousness

"society demands that we act a certain way. Other men issue arbitrary commandments and that is the source of ethics. On this view you get the bromide that there is no ethics on a desert island because there's no society or social authority there. This desert island bromide, as you can see, is simply the secularization of the religionist viewpoint"

TPO Edited by Plasmatic
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"A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context." ~ ARL, Individual Rights

 

All you're describing is the Objectvist view on rights. And redefined happiness for no reason as "maintaining peace".

...

Unless Objectivist ethics are devoid of moral principles, I fail to see how ethics and politics are unrelated in this regard.  I am saying that ethical standards are only relevant to promoting as large a measure of self-governance (choice) as possible in a social context, that that is the ethical good being promoted.  I would also say that a moral principle that doesn't allow for dissent becomes a moral duty which transforms choice to obligation, which is bad.

 

That ethics is primarily about choice isn't contradicted by efforts to minimize reductions of choice, so long as the individual can choose to opt out.  I'm not sure how to make that point clearer... I'll think about it and get back to you.  My use of the phrase "some form of" was intended present an ethical range between social permissions and prohibitions.  If it's your position that O'ist ethics is only concerned with identifying moral absolutes, e.g., one ought to choose to live because morality demands it, then I'm clearly off base here, not being able reconcile oughts with absolutes while maintaining choice. 

 

The view that ethics depends on and derives from interaction with others is called by Oism the "Social Primacy of Conciosuness" view of ethics.
...

 

Thank you for the link.  I'll look into this, but my position doesn't dispute the need for morality on a desert isle, or anywhere else.  Moral individuals adopt (social) ethical standards in order to interact socially.  However if an individual is operating outside the scope of social interactions, which is to say he is having no affect on others, what is the relevance of maintaining an ethical (social) standard.  Who exactly is he being social with??

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Incidentally, this is one of the differences between OPAR and TPO 1976 lectures.

Ayn Rand said:

A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations.

Any group that does not recognize this principle is not an association, but a gang or a mob . . . .

The notion of “collective rights” (the notion that rights belong to groups, not to individuals) means that “rights” belong to some men, but not to others—that some men have the “right” to dispose of others in any manner they please—and that the criterion of such privileged position consists of numerical superiority........

It is not society, nor any social right, that forbids you to kill—but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a “compromise” between two rights—but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not derived from an edict of society—but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society—but is implicit in the definition of your own right.

Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute.

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I never argued that they're unrelated. You're talking about rights, then somehow saying ethics is only relevant in a social setting. Ethics is broader, it applies to all actions. Rights are a type of moral principle, not a principle that makes morality relevant... Again, you are talking about rights, all by saying ethics is only about social context. Your point isn't clear because your posting is rife with equivocating rights to morality.

"Thank you for the link.  I'll look into this, but my position doesn't dispute the need for morality on a desert isle, or anywhere else. "

You said the exact opposite in post #29:

"If it were possible to be entirely self-sufficient, to live without any interaction with others, then ethics would be irrelevant."

Edited by Eiuol
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OK Eiuol, I can see the confusion my initial post generated.  I have been distinguishing between ethical standards and moral belief, the former being primarily relevant to a social context and the latter expressing individual values.  For example, a lawyer who is morally opposed to murder still represents a accused murder according to an ethical standard of being innocent until proven guilty.

 

It would be helpful to me if you could identify what distinction, if any, exist between ethics and morality.

 

The following is a fair representation of the kind of distinction I see:

http://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethics_vs_Morals

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Contrary to the reference page on the difference between ethics and morals, Rand refers to ethics as a science, rather than a political application of morality.

 

What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code.

 

To restate your example: why not;a lawyer, morally opposed to murder, still represents an accused murderer according to a political standard of being innocent until proven guilty, where innocent until proven guilty emanates from the the moral principle of individual rights?

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The moral lawyer is still adopting an ethical standard of practice by a group, is he not?  Even if it emanates from his own morality and just happens to agree with the morality of others, the ethical standard is only relevant to a group practice of law. It wouldn't, for example, be relevant to a moral lawyer on a desert isle where there were no others to practice with.  At least that was the distinction I was working with in my initial post #26.

 

Perhaps you could provide an example of an ethical standard that is relevant to the life of a moral individual on a desert isle?

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OK Eiuol, I can see the confusion my initial post generated.  I have been distinguishing between ethical standards and moral belief, the former being primarily relevant to a social context and the latter expressing individual values.  For example, a lawyer who is morally opposed to murder still represents a accused murder according to an ethical standard of being innocent until proven guilty.

Okay, that explains a lot! What you're saying makes sense. But I have to say, I don't think the OP is talking about "ethical standards", it's talking about the basis or reason to choose to live in the first place. I'd argue that your moral/ethical distinction only opens the door to an altruistic or duty-bound society. I treat the words as a synonym. That's a topic for another time, though.

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I took the OP's ultimate conditional to refer to the Pursuit of Happiness, as described by Ayn Rand in the Lexicon, Pursuit of Happiness, Right to, and generally accepted that the only way to achieve happiness is to live to enjoy it.  However, I don't believe a subjective choice is impermeable to reason, and I responded that an individual's choice is subjective in the sense that there can be any number of reasons that are only important to that individual.  But Vect's IF/THEN conditional raised an interesting issue for me.

 

Life is conditional, but the choice to live means the choice to continue living.  You never had the choice to be born, that was another's choice, and no small amount of another's labor went into getting you to the point where you could consider any choices.  So when it comes to choosing life as ones ultimate value, there remains some argument as to who actually owns that life as a result of creation and/or labor to maintain.

 

In an altruistic or duty-bound society, the title to ones life is paid for by returning a service to others, and the issue is further complicated by a need to interact with others in order to survive.  So the only real check on any ethical standard is having the ability to choose otherwise (to opt out), and that is provided by the individual who either endorses or rejects that standard.  Thus the necessary distinction between ethics (as a science, or a religion, or a political arrangement) and morality (of its interactive members).

 

So even though life precedes choice, I believe the ultimate value is choice, without which not else matters.

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I took the OP's ultimate conditional to refer to the Pursuit of Happiness, as described by Ayn Rand in the Lexicon, Pursuit of Happiness, Right to, and generally accepted that the only way to achieve happiness is to live to enjoy it.  However, I don't believe a subjective choice is impermeable to reason, and I responded that an individual's choice is subjective in the sense that there can be any number of reasons that are only important to that individual.  But Vect's IF/THEN conditional raised an interesting issue for me.

Right. This is moral relativism. As I said before. And exactly why it fails to address Vect. What you said "makes sense" now, but it is still a lot of equivocation that avoids the clear context of Rand's essay "Objectivist Ethics".

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The moral lawyer is still adopting an ethical standard of practice by a group, is he not?  Even if it emanates from his own morality and just happens to agree with the morality of others, the ethical standard is only relevant to a group practice of law. It wouldn't, for example, be relevant to a moral lawyer on a desert isle where there were no others to practice with.  At least that was the distinction I was working with in my initial post #26.

 

Perhaps you could provide an example of an ethical standard that is relevant to the life of a moral individual on a desert isle?

For now, the Lexicon entry dealing with needing morality on a desert isle will have to suffice.

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Right. This is moral relativism. As I said before. And exactly why it fails to address Vect. What you said "makes sense" now, but it is still a lot of equivocation that avoids the clear context of Rand's essay "Objectivist Ethics".

 

Moral relativism to suggest that an individual's choice is subjective in the sense that there can be any number of reasons that are only important to that individual?

 

Meh, I'd think that choosing to place ones life (ones ultimate value) at risk for strangers, as is routinely done by soldiers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, medical personnel, neighbors, etc., and then claiming that behavior is consistent with selfishly valuing ones life (above all others) would provide a greater target for that kind of charge.  Valuing the ability to choose how to live seems less equivocal to me, particularily when free-will is redefined as, "... your mind’s freedom to think or not (a choice), the only will you have (to choose), your only freedom (to choose), the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character."

 

My response is not intended to be a criticism of Objectivism, or unappreciative of whatever feedback I get, but rather as following Ayn Rand's advice to be a detective in search of essentials (from Philosophy, Who Needs It?).

 

What in this case is essential to pursuing any value?

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For now, the Lexicon entry dealing with needing morality on a desert isle will have to suffice.

 

Then you are in agreement with Eiuol, et al, that ethics and morality are one and the same, without distinction, or only distinguishable as synonyms?

 

To return to the example of a moral lawyer on a desert isle, how would he practice the ethical standard of 'being innocent until proven guilty' that eminates from his moral principle??

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Moral relativism to suggest that an individual's choice is subjective in the sense that there can be any number of reasons that are only important to that individual?

That there are multiple valid standards of morality. Subjective to the degree in your case you are broadly stating morality as based on whatever an individual deems important. To you all that matters is that "choice" happens. Not a mention of what SORT of choices are right. So in comes ethics to get us to interact peacefully. The ethics-as-distinct idea you've defined in only social terms, and making no judgment of another person's choice as right or wrong, only judging IF a choice is made or able to be made. As long as I act peacefully, literally anything else is valid. Stated differently: only those who seek destruction of the social world is wrong. If someone wants to be a hedonist, that's just as right as someone who holds Catholic morality as their standard.

 

The essential question is, as you stated: "What in this case is essential to pursuing any value?" Choice is one important part, but that alone misses things, like how some choices lead to loss of value, or how to measure a value in the first place.

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Then you are in agreement with Eiuol, et al, that ethics and morality are one and the same, without distinction, or only distinguishable as synonyms?

 

To return to the example of a moral lawyer on a desert isle, how would he practice the ethical standard of 'being innocent until proven guilty' that eminates from his moral principle??

I generally use morality, but when I hear or read ethics, I generally think of it in terms of morality.

 

I don't think a lawyer on a desert isle would be practicing law, except as mental gymnastics in what spare time he may have not exercising survival skills.

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I generally use morality, but when I hear or read ethics, I generally think of it in terms of morality.

 

I don't think a lawyer on a desert isle would be practicing law, except as mental gymnastics in what spare time he may have not exercising survival skills.

 

Then we should be able to agree that, except as mental gymnastics, the same ethical standard of 'being innocent until proven guilty' that is relevant to his social life as a lawyer, isn't relevant to his survival on a desert isle.

 

...

 

The essential question is, as you stated: "What in this case is essential to pursuing any value?" Choice is one important part, but that alone misses things, like how some choices lead to loss of value, or how to measure a value in the first place.

 

We agree that deliberate action isn't possible without choice, so it follows that moral action depends on choice. I claim that choice is good, and impediments to choice are bad; that's my moral benchmark. Let's test it...

--

You're on a beach watching the sun set. Farther down the beach a tall cliff rises above the surf. You notice a man at the top of the cliff who is also watching the sun set. He turns to look in your direction and appears calm. Then he steps over the edge and falls into the surf. The tide pulls his body away from the beach and he is never seen again.

--

As a credible witness well versed in Objectivist ethics, would you judge his action to be morally good or bad?

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Then we should be able to agree that, except as mental gymnastics, the same ethical standard of 'being innocent until proven guilty' that is relevant to his social life as a lawyer, isn't relevant to his survival on a desert isle.

The desert isle illustrates to me that 'innocent until proven guilty' is not an ethical standard, it is a political one.

 

From an epistemological standpoint, understanding how to achieve certainty identifies the criteria needed for proof. Ethically, certainty helps guide our selection of criteria for what we deem are the right things to do to live individually. Politically, 'innocent until proven guilty' sets the bar for being certain that a social infraction has taken place.

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As a credible witness well versed in Objectivist ethics, would you judge his action to be morally good or bad?

You're asking about the morality of suicide. It is the only sort of choice that is itself not a choice of morality, as it is the foundation to good or bad. I explained this in my first few posts in terms of the choice to live. So, his actions are neither good nor bad.

 

Yes, impediments to choice are morally bad and I agree. If that is your benchmark, you are missing numerous other considerations of Objectivist ethics and grant many standards as valid by implication, thus moral relativism.

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You're asking about the morality of suicide. It is the only sort of choice that is itself not a choice of morality, as it is the foundation to good or bad. I explained this in my first few posts in terms of the choice to live. So, his actions are neither good nor bad.

 

Yes, impediments to choice are morally bad and I agree. If that is your benchmark, you are missing numerous other considerations of Objectivist ethics and grant many standards as valid by implication, thus moral relativism.

 

Isn't it a bit of a cop-out for an Objectivist, who promotes life as the ultimate value and judges others accordingly, to avoid judgement by claiming suicide is amoral?  It seems problematic enough to allow that risking ones life to pursue some other value, e.g., saving/protecting/healing other lives, somehow enhances ones own ultimate value.  How does pursuing any other value that involves personal risk not place ones "ultimate" value further down the list?

 

I intentionally left out of the example knowing for certain that the man intended to commit suicide.  Perhaps he thought he could impress you by surviving the fall?  The point was to limit your knowledge to what you saw him choose to do with his ultimate value.  If the man was a life guard jumping to save a swimmer in distress would you withhold moral judgement?

 

The example presented no evidence of coercion or aggression, or being altruistic, i.e., none of the stated evils that Objectivism identifies.  Handicapped as I am with choice as my moral benchmark, I'd be inclined to claim his action was morally good even if it was a suicide.  Does he not have a moral right to dispose of his ultimate value as he chooses, or must he live for the sake of your morality?

 

Suppose ones choice falls between existence or non-existence, as is the case for individuals who value life by placing their own at risk?  I think that is the area I'm most concerned about.

 

edit:  Sorry for the flurry of questions.  I did look back to your earlier posts and read again Objectivist Ethics from the Lexicon, but didn't find the answers I'm looking for.  If you feel you already covered any of this earlier, could you please point me to the relevant post #(s)??

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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The desert isle illustrates to me that 'innocent until proven guilty' is not an ethical standard, it is a political one.

 

From an epistemological standpoint, understanding how to achieve certainty identifies the criteria needed for proof. Ethically, certainty helps guide our selection of criteria for what we deem are the right things to do to live individually. Politically, 'innocent until proven guilty' sets the bar for being certain that a social infraction has taken place.

 

I was getting in enough trouble trying to distinguish individual morality from social ethics, and now you want to discriminate ethics from politics... oy veh!

 

Actually that does help me a bit, thanks.

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