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Benevolent Universe Premise and Benevolent People Premise (BUP/BPP)

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I wanted to start a thread just for general discussion of a benevolent or malevolent sense of life, and in particular, the concepts of a benevolent universe premise (BUP), malevolent universe premise (MUP), benevolent people premise (BPP), and malevolent people premise (MPP). Which of these do you identify with personally, and why? And do you have any reservations or disclaimers you want to add?

In general, one can have a benevolent or malevolent sense of life. A "sense of life" is the basic emotional stance one has on life that comes from one's implicit metaphysical value judgments. Metaphysical value judgments are one's overall value judgments or feelings about the essential nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence.1

If one has an overall positive judgment about the metaphysical nature of reality and of man, then one's basic emotional stance on life will be positive. One will have a benevolent sense of life. Likewise, if one has an overall negative judgment about the metaphysical nature of reality and of man, then one's basic emotional stance on life will be negative; one will have a malevolent sense of life.

Someone with an overall benevolent sense of life has a philosophical conviction that their life and the universe are good and valuable, a conviction that is not shaken simply by going through trying circumstances. They have a conviction that joy, exaltation, beauty, greatness, and heroism are the meaning of life, and not any pain or ugliness that they may encounter. They believe that happiness is what matters in life, but suffering does not, and that the essence of life is the achievement of joy, not the escape from pain. Pain, fear, and guilt are inessential and are not to be taken seriously as a scar across one's view of existence. Their basic stance when it comes to any question is that they love being alive, and they love the universe in which they live. "We exist and we know that we exist, and we love that fact and our knowledge of it" (Augustine).

One's sense of life can be further analyzed into two basic categories: one's judgment of the universe, and one's judgment of man. An overall positive or negative judgment about the nature of the universe is what Rand calls the "Benevolent Universe Premise" (BUP) or "Malevolent Universe Premise" (MUP), respectively; a positive or negative judgment about the nature of man is the "Benevolent People Premise" (BPP) or "Malevolent People Premise" (MPP)2. A fully benevolent sense of life will combine a benevolent judgment of the universe and a benevolent judgment of man: both BUP and BPP. One may have a characteristically mixed sense of life, with a benevolent universe premise but a malevolent people premise (BUP/MPP), or a malevolent universe premise but a benevolent people premise (MUP/BPP).3

A benevolent universe premise (BUP) is characterized by a reverence for the Universe, and the belief that the universe, by nature, is intelligible to man, and that his happiness is possible in a place such as this. It's the belief that the things around you are real and ruled by natural laws, and that reality is stable, firm, absolute, and knowable. Tragedy is the exception in life, not the rule. Success, not failure, is the to-be-expected. It's the conviction that man is not ultimately doomed in this universe, but rather that a human way of life is possible.

A benevolent people premise (BPP) is characterized by a reverence for Man, and the belief that man, by nature, is to be regarded as rational and valued as good. It's the belief that man has the power of choice, the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, and the power to direct the course of his life. It is the conviction that ideas matter, that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters. It's this conviction that leads to a respect and goodwill toward men, and an attitude, in individual encounters, of treating men as rational beings, on the premise that a man is innocent until proven guilty. One is unable to believe in the power or triumph of evil; evil is regarded as impotent and unreal, and injustice is the exception in life, not the rule. Consequently one has confidence in one's ability to judge others, to communicate with others, and to persuade them by rational argument, and a belief that the great potential value of men is the to-be-expected. The rationality in others is what matters, not their irrationality, and in essence they are a potential source of value, not a potential threat of dis-value.


1. For more on "sense of life", see the chapter "Philosophy and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand

2. "Benevolent People Premise" is a term coined by Objectivist Dan Edge in blog posts back in 2007. You can find them here and here. Also see his thread here on Objectivism Online here.

3. See how Ayn Rand applies the BUP/MPP and MUP/BPP mixtures to the field of literature in her chapter "What is Romanticism?" in The Romantic Manifesto, where she discusses "volition in regard to existence, but not to consciousness" and "volition in regard to consciousness, but not to existence".

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World history, or even the history of just the past 100 years, thoroughly debunks the Benevolent People Premise.

I saw some interesting footage and thought of your post today. This is very recent footage from a major American university, the University of California at Berkeley.

Just looking at this video, the fact comes to mind that even if you don't think in terms of race, guess what?

They do.

Even if you don't think in terms of tribe, guess what?

They do.

Even if you want to be a Rationalist, living in an Objectivist Republic guess what?

They don't.

And there are hundreds of times more of them than there are of you.

One of the biggest reasons why I am a monarchist is because monarchy is the best system ever devised for mitigating this. The person of the monarch has been able to represent the people of all colors and ethnicities in a way that no republican president or prime minister has ever been able to "pull off" even halfway as well. Not even a tenth as well. That is why monarchy is the most stable form of government especially when you are talking about a large, multi-ethnic, multi-racial country such as America. In the wake of the collapse of monarchies because of republican revolutionaries is when the bigtime ethnic bloodbaths have happened. Right off the top of my head I can think of the Armenian genocide under the "Young Turks" regime in the mid 1910s, the genocide of the Cossacks under the revolutionary government of Vladimir Lenin, the genocide of the Ukrainians, the Ingrian Finns, the Kraelian Finns, etc., under the second USSR leader Josef Stalin, the Trail of Tears here in America under the seventh president of the republic (Andrew Jackson), etc.

Edited by Dustin86
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You seem to have a strong interest in reactionary groups, "tribes" if you wish to call them. Is violent reaction proscribed among those of your tribe?

Commentary on student demonstrations: Objectivism advocates private education. Do you think these antics would be allowed on a privately own campus?

Commentary of monarchy: Do you think violent mob action would be impossible in a monarchy?


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3 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

World history, or even the history of just the past 100 years, thoroughly debunks the Benevolent People Premise.

World history verifies that terrible things happen; it also informs us of incredible discoveries in medicine, science, human behavior, to say nothing of the creation of wealth through industrialization. While terrible things may be the result of both nature and human effort, the incredible advances in human progress may be almost entirely credited to human resourcefulness,i.e. benevolent people. Your debunking is anything but thorough, however, you may try to make a more convincing argument to support your claim. 

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It appears that the BPP is a misapplication and corruption of the BUP. While the universe is indifferent to our existence, being neither for nor against us, and thus providing a factual basis for the BUP, the same cannot be said of people in general. People, being value-seekers, are very much concerned with the affairs of others and often act for or against us in the pursuit or defense of values. Clearly people are not indifferent to us, in the way the universe is. And this fact must be accounted for in any ethical-political premise.

It is not necessary to invent a BPP in order to justify being nice and civil to people in general. All one needs to do is recognize and understand the virtue of justice. We should treat people the way they deserve to be treated. In the case of a stranger, this typically means we treat them as a potentially rational person who might become a friend. We engage them with reason and kindness. But in some cases it might be entirely justified to condemn someone intellectually or morally after only a few minutes, based on the extremely evil nature of what they are saying or doing.

Edited by MisterSwig
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On 10/28/2016 at 6:47 AM, Dustin86 said:

World history, or even the history of just the past 100 years, thoroughly debunks the Benevolent People Premise.

They who? And why do they think this way? You are speaking as though "They" is well-defined.

Your post doesn't stand against " the belief that man has the power of choice, the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, and the power to direct the course of his life." It doesn't mean bad things don't happen, it doesn't promise that progress always happens, moral decay is possible. At the very least, your post affirms that "progress" is not a guarantee. It does not show that by NATURE people are ultimately cruel or all idiots. What about the history of ancient Rome? What about the past 10 years? Sure, some people are malevolent, but no one here denies that.

Objectvism really only says capitalism is the ideal society, not that a Republic is the best way to implement this. There are good reasons to say it's good. Is there an individualist take on monarchy? Maybe.

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People can have deeply mistaken beliefs morally, politically, etc. But that doesn't mean they can't be persuaded rationally. They are still rational beings. Ideas do matter.

They are still people, and we all share the same values, and while some people are mistaken about what things are, how things work, the best way to achieve their values, etc., if you can show them the nature of their mistake, that they are holding a contradiction, that reality doesn't conform to their expectations, that they aren't achieving their values by the methods they believe in, and show them the right ideas and the right way, then you can change their mind.

There are many, many stories of this happening, and a video of some irrational protesters running around doesn't change the basic reality.

Edited by epistemologue
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