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Can "God" be found through reason?

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While I agree with Aquinas's rejection of Rationalism, his five ways don't hold up. I don't see any contradiction in believing that existence exists. Not that it just exists right now, but that existence has always existed. The fact that existance exists is an axiom. What reason do we have to believe that it at one point sprung out of non-existence?

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Cole,

No, I did not avoid your question, but answered in an earlier post (#156). The answer to your question is, simply, nothing.

I don't understand how that's an answer to the question. You said that a supernatural claim can be proven by reason. I asked- if the existence of a supernatural assertion is based in empirical evidence, then what is supernatural about the assertion? Your response is that there is nothing supernatural about the assertion.

Were you recanting your original claim of supernaturalism being provable by reason?

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No, saying that a certain feature (in this case, an action) cannot have evolved is not the same thing as saying it has no cause.

Actions do not exist divorced from the entities which act, and you are saying that a entity which reproduces cannot have evolved -- which is patently arbitrary.

The whole point of this is not to come up with some wild theory to disprove your wild theory. It's to illustrate that no matter where you stop and say "this is irreducible, and I can't think of anything else so it must have been designed" is wholly in error. Anyone else can come by and claim with equal validity "well DNA and reproduction were made by aliens who stopped here millions of years ago in their space ships and left behind no trace", or whatever else they might want to dream up.

If there is no actual evidence to suggest a conclusion, then you cannot make the conclusion. Dreams and fantasies are no substitute for a failure to explain something.

There was no reason for ancient people to say "well, we have no means of discovering what causes lightning and we can't think of anything else, so it must be a god" -- just as there is no reason for you to do so now with reproduction. The principle hasn't changed, only the existent upon which you claim irreducibility or inability to explain through any other means.

Throughout history, whereever science stops, that's where mysticism begins. When science makes a breakthrough, mysticism moves with it, repeating the same old chant, all through the ages. "Well we can't explain it and we can't think of anything else, so it must be a god".

Oh, whoops -- we discovered that lightning is electricity. Well, we don't really know what causes electricity and we can't think of anything else, so it must be a god. And so on, and so forth.

In reality, you don't even need to ask the question. Knowing what the cause of lightning was would not have changed ancient man's life anymore than knowing the cause of reproduction will change yours or mine.

Edited by TomL
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Cole,

I have read and heard many counter-arguments of Aquinas' "five ways" as well as what could be called "counter-counter" arguments, and have discussed them at length with colleagues...At this point, I agree with the reasoning in favor of Aquinas' five ways, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the re-defining of terms (such as "universe") that I see in some of the counter-arguments. The "five ways" are simply part of the equation for me; they do not constitute the whole.

I don't see any contradiction in the statement, "existence exists", either: it's fine, as far as it goes. I never said it was contradictory---I'm not sure where your comment comes from. Nor do I dispute that existence has always existed, though I do question the idea that the universe has always existed.

Regarding the latter part of your post: I think we are misunderstanding one another. No, I'm not recanting my claim that one can arrive at the existence of God by reason. That, by the way, was and is my claim---now, you may disagree with my reasoning, but that's another matter. My point was, and is, that the claim (posited by the post I initially responded to) that belief in the existence of God is based on faith, is false, at least as far as Thomistic Catholicism is concerned. That there are elements of Christianity (Protestant fundamentalism in particular) that are not rationally based, and indeed even look down on the use of reason, I will freely (though with regret) admit. The existence of those elements does not invalidate the claims of Thomism. What I was saying, in answer to the question I thought you were asking, was that the assertion "God exists" is not a faith-based assertion. My apologies if that was unclear.

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Anyone else can come by and claim with equal validity "well DNA and reproduction were made by aliens who stopped here millions of years ago in their space ships and left behind no trace", or whatever else they might want to dream up.

Yeah. The reasoning that Aquinas uses to relate the "efficient agent" to the Catholic God is somewhat circular. For example; in his Proof from Motion, he concludes that God must have been the beginning in the chain of motion. He would say that the reason why an alien couldn't have filled this role is because the first mover must be pure actuality (purely perfect). According to religious texts (the same ones that depend on the validity of his five ways for their support), God is the only being that is purely perfect. An alien, having potential (since God is the only being lacking potentiality) could not have been the first mover- because it would have required another mover before it. You can see that he falls into the trap of using conclusions as premises.

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Since you (AqAd) have read OPAR, could you please counter the argument that it is impossible for god to be omnipotent and/or infinite? (If you don't have a copy, I can type the quotes in, but I'd rather not. :D ) These seem irrefutable to me, but you must not think so.

Thanks,

Zak

[edit to specify who "you" was]

Edited by realitycheck44
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I don't see any contradiction in the statement, "existence exists", either: it's fine, as far as it goes. I never said it was contradictory---I'm not sure where your comment comes from. Nor do I dispute that existence has always existed, though I do question the idea that the universe has always existed.

Aquinas's theory depends on there being a definite beginning to the chain.

When I say that "existence exists," I mean that something is actually existing.

Regarding the latter part of your post: I think we are misunderstanding one another. No, I'm not recanting my claim that one can arrive at the existence of God by reason. That, by the way, was and is my claim---now, you may disagree with my reasoning, but that's another matter. My point was, and is, that the claim (posited by the post I initially responded to) that belief in the existence of God is based on faith, is false, at least as far as Thomistic Catholicism is concerned. That there are elements of Christianity (Protestant fundamentalism in particular) that are not rationally based, and indeed even look down on the use of reason, I will freely (though with regret) admit. The existence of those elements does not invalidate the claims of Thomism. What I was saying, in answer to the question I thought you were asking, was that the assertion "God exists" is not a faith-based assertion. My apologies if that was unclear.

You're now leaving out a key term in this discussion- "supernatural." My claim was that an entity that exists supernaturally exists outself of the realm that is perceivable by humans. (I deny that such a realm exists, or that there is any aspect of reality that is not perceivable by humans. I reject supernaturalism, but use it as a concept for the argument's sake). In order for something to be described as "supernatural," it must exist in a way that is unperceivable by humans. Otherwise it would just be "natural." I said that, if there is empirical evidence of something's existence, then it is not supernatural. Supernaturality depends on the validity of the theory that a reality exists which is unknowable to humans. However, reason depends entirely on an extrospective look at reality as it is perceivable by humans. Since you can't use reason to discover a supernatural being's existence, then the only tool left (which isn't actually a tool at all) is faith. You told me that what I said "isn't necessarily the case." I took that to mean that you think that God is a supernatural entity which can be proven by reason. Since being proven by reason requires being perceivable by humans (which contradicts a classification of "supernatural"), I asked you what was supernatural about a belief in God. You responded "nothing," which seemed to contradict your original response.

Do you think that God is a supernatural being?

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Do you think that God is a supernatural being?

Cole-- here's a question to you: assuming the guy answers yes to this question what is the point in continuing the conversation with him? In others words, what value will you personally gain in debating someone that is such a messed up mental state that he "believes" or fools himself into thinking that he's "reasoning"(rationalization) the existence of a "supernatural" anything. I suppose maybe debating skills? Such a person should be recommended to seek the help of a mental health professional, not debate with Objectivsts.

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I would ask him how he can use reason (a tool that depends on examing perceivable facts of reality) to know of the existence of a supernatural entity (a category that depends on being unperceivable to humans).

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In reality, you don't even need to ask the question.  Knowing what the cause of lightning was would not have changed ancient man's life anymore than knowing the cause of reproduction will change yours or mine.

That doesn't make any sense to me (maybe I'm just reading it wrong) isn't it THAT question which provokes the "how do I (as man) harness that power?" Aren't those the exact questions that Scientists ask when attempting to make man's life easier? It seems that it's not the question that's the problem, but the cause of the question.

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Reading Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology will help you to understand the basis for our objective theory of definitions. Saying "it's really semantics" does not end the discussion, becuase inaccurate definitions can be proven as such.

I don't understand your last sentence. Which two words have the exact same meaning? I figured that when you refered to it as being a matter of semantics, you meant that we disagreed on what the word "supernatural" means.

I'm not really arguing Objectivist Epistemology (and considering I'm still on the first essay of VoS, give me some time to get there :D ). I'm simply saying that it's interesting when two different ways, arrive at the same conlusion (i.e. differents words with the same meanings).

Example- This book. Talks about position and stance and Chi (life energy). While scientists don't see Chi (being a supernatural idea) The effects of "Chi" are backed up by science. Good posture, Running from your body, not just your legs, using big muscles to do little work vs. little muscles to do big work. It's coming from different angles, yet arriving at the same conclusion.

Edited by Styles2112
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I'm not really arguing Objectivist Epistemology (and considering I'm still on the first essay of VoS, give me some time to get there  :( ).  I'm simply saying that it's interesting when two different ways, arrive at the same conlusion (i.e. differents words with the same meanings). 

Example- This book.  Talks about position and stance and Chi (life energy).  While scientists don't see Chi (being a supernatural idea) The effects of "Chi" are backed up by science.  Good posture, Running from your body, not just your legs, using big muscles to do little work vs. little muscles to do big work.  It's coming from different angles, yet arriving at the same conclusion.

The question is: what is "chi" exactly? Can you actually find something in the body which would be called "chi" or is it actually an elaborate physiological process which has nothing to do with "chi?" Have you considered the possibility that the benefits to the body are not caused by a mystical "chi" at all but rather are just things which are good for the body?

The best example of something which was beneficial to people but which they considered mystical at the time was God's orders to the Jews on dietary guidelines as recorded in the Biblical book of Leviticus. At the time the rules were written, cooking procedures weren't perfected nearly as well as they were today. As a result, food such as pork and shellfish were disease-ridden and dangerous to eat. The Jews' dietary guidelines probably saved more than a few people then but they are contradictory and useless today.

Mystics love to take a perfectly normal process and make something mystical out of it. For examples, look at the ghost chasers who look for electromagnetic energy to detect "ghosts," people who move ouigi boards by the power of suggestion, so called ESPs who use cold reading to make it look like they're talking to the dead, etc. The question you have to ask: is it actually a mystical process or is it something perfectly normal?

This sounds like a good topic for Penn & Teller: Bullsh*#t. :P

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The question is: what is "chi" exactly? Can you actually find something in the body which would be called "chi" or is it actually an elaborate physiological process which has nothing to do with "chi?" Have you considered the possibility that the benefits to the body are not caused by a mystical "chi" at all but rather are just things which are good for the body?

What difference does it make? Chi, essentially, is another word for energy.

Have you ever listened to a guy named Tom Lehrer? A very funny guy. Does musical comedy. He has a song called "New Math" Talking about when New Math was introduced (the idea of, it doesn't matter if you get the right answer as long as you understand the process) and poked huge fun at that. This is kind of the same thing. What's the difference between seeing 15/3=5 and 2+3=5. They're both two ways to get the same answer.

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What difference does it make?  Chi, essentially, is another word for energy. 

Have you ever listened to a guy named Tom Lehrer?  A very funny guy.  Does musical comedy.  He has a song called "New Math"  Talking about when New Math was introduced (the idea of, it doesn't matter if you get the right answer as long as you understand the process) and poked huge fun at that.  This is kind of the same thing.  What's the difference between seeing 15/3=5 and 2+3=5.  They're both two ways to get the same answer.

I don't believe it deserves responding to when you compare new math to the mystical force of "chi." The difference is: chi doesn't exist and you can't prove it exsists outside of normal physiological processes which have their own name. New math was a theory of learning, a bad theory of learning but a concrete theory that did exsist, nonetheless.

Your statement is very pragmatic. If I were to accept Aquinas' views on God's existence through "reason," would it be justified since I have used reason (be it faulty reason), since reason is one of the Objectivist values?

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Your statement is very pragmatic. If I were to accept Aquinas' views on God's existence through "reason," would it be justified since I have used reason (be it faulty reason), since reason is one of the Objectivist values?

You want to know the beautiful thing about life and, especially reality? You can be justified in believing whatever you want, and be happy with it, as long as it doesn't affect me. In this case, using reason, if God + Altruism = Happy, and Atheism + Objectivism = Happy what difference does it make how we go to be happy, as long as the INDIVIDUAL is happy?

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You want to know the beautiful thing about life and, especially reality?  You can be justified in believing whatever you want, and be happy with it, as long as it doesn't affect me.  In this case, using reason, if God + Altruism = Happy, and Atheism + Objectivism = Happy what difference does it make how we go to be happy, as long as the INDIVIDUAL is happy?

We also have things like Drug Addict + Cocaine = Happy, too. Do you think that a life of addiction to hard drugs is a happy life? Do you think it's a good life? You're promoting Hedonism here.

Also, in what sense are you "justified in believing whatever you want ... as long as it doesn't affect me"? You may be legally within your rights to do whatever you want without violating another's rights, but you are not morally justified if it means you are diminishing your own life.

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You want to know the beautiful thing about life and, especially reality?  You can be justified in believing whatever you want, and be happy with it, as long as it doesn't affect me.  In this case, using reason, if God + Altruism = Happy, and Atheism + Objectivism = Happy what difference does it make how we go to be happy, as long as the INDIVIDUAL is happy?

Objectivists believe that happiness is the state of non-contradictory joy. It rejects Hedonism, and rejects the idea that pleasure is the standard of morality instead of reason.

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We also have things like Drug Addict + Cocaine = Happy, too.  Do you think that a life of addiction to hard drugs is a happy life?  Do you think it's a good life?  You're promoting Hedonism here.

Also, in what sense are you "justified in believing whatever you want ... as long as it doesn't affect me"?  You may be legally within your rights to do whatever you want without violating another's rights, but you are not morally justified if it means you are diminishing your own life.

I'm not promoting Hedonism here. You're being accusatory. And where do you get Drug Addict + Cocaine = happy? I've never known anyone who was or is happy that they are a drug addict. (In my experience talking to druggie friends). You're point is not well made.

And at what point did I say I was diminishing my own life? Are you the judge of my life? Who are you to say? Who is the judge? You? Society? I follow societies rules, so I'm not diminishing my own life? Elaborate further on how MY life is DIMINISHED.

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Objectivists believe that happiness is the state of non-contradictory joy. It rejects Hedonism, and rejects the idea that pleasure is the standard of morality instead of reason.

And there's that "Believe" word that Objectivists slam everyone else for. Can you prove that that is what happiness is? A question I asked before, is happiness something you measure? Am I happier than my christian friend because I don't believe in god and he does? We have the exact same things in life. A good job, a loving wife, a family....But, I'm happier, because "reason" says so.

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And there's that "Believe" word that Objectivists slam everyone else for.  Can you prove that that is what happiness is?  A question I asked before, is happiness something you measure?  Am I happier than my christian friend because I don't believe in god and he does?  We have the exact same things in life.  A good job, a loving wife, a family....But, I'm happier, because "reason" says so.

I seem to be repeating myself here. Happiness is an emotion, and emotions are a mental effect. They can only be defined or measured mentally, through introspection. Ask yourself what happiness, and define it in terms of reality, according to man's nature. It is measured by oneself and onself only, by the measuring stick of the goals one sets for one's life (and all possible goals one could reasonably set for oneself). Introspect, and say it ain't so.

In this, and other posts, you seem to reject out-of-hand that there are varying degrees of emotion. Just as you can be a little ticked off, vs. screaming in a rage angry -- so to can the amount of one's happiness vary.

When we talk about happiness, we are not talking about a single instance of joy or emotional pleasure. We're talking about a background emotion that one feels. For example, you've probably observed how some people are in general angrier, meaner people than others. These people may still feel an instant of joy now and then, but they are not "happy", in general.

If you study Objectivist epistemology, you will see that it is true that there is a reason for the varying degrees of individual's background emotions, and the reason is the premises they hold and the consistency with which they live according to those premises. You will also see that while the purpose of the emotional mechanism is to tell an individual is one is taking the correct action or not, it does not automatically have the proper emotions for a given action. If you lie to yourself and act on the premise that "cocaine is good", you will feel "happy" at being high on cocaine -- but that as far as your happiness can go. If you try to establish in your mind that being high on cocaine somehow makes you more "alive" -- obviously, you are only lying to yourself, and implicitly every such person knows this. This is where reality wins, and frustration negates some degree of happiness, no matter how much one would like to lie to themselves and say they are just as happy as the next guy.

To increase one's level of happiness, one must make choices that are consistent with reality, and not just consistent with one's premises. If one's premises are not consistent with reality, there will be some degree of pleasure, but it will be fleeting and will not result in a generally positive background emotion that one feels about oneself.

But to come to this understanding, you must study Objectivist epistemology because a couple of statements and explanations in a forum is not comprehensive enough to convey the ideas needed to grasp it.

Edited by TomL
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And there's that "Believe" word that Objectivists slam everyone else for.  Can you prove that that is what happiness is?  A question I asked before, is happiness something you measure?  Am I happier than my christian friend because I don't believe in god and he does?  We have the exact same things in life.  A good job, a loving wife, a family....But, I'm happier, because "reason" says so.

There is such a state as non-contradictory joy, i.e. a joy wherein there is no conflict between one's values or between one's values and reality, a joy undiluted and untainted by pain or fear or guilt. What could be a happier state?
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And there's that "Believe" word that Objectivists slam everyone else for.

Quote me.

Can you prove that that is what happiness is?

Yes. When the standard of values guiding your ethics is in line with the objective values identifiable with man, then you can be truly happy. You can't be truly happy when there is a contradition between the values that guide your actions and the values that are required by you as man qua man. Altruism necessitates this contradiction. Altruism holds that your ultimate value is something other than your own life.

A question I asked before, is happiness something you measure?

I don't know of any unit of measurement for happiness. That doesn't mean that the word doesn't have a specific definition refering to a certain concept.

Am I happier than my christian friend because I don't believe in god and he does?

Not necessarily.

But, I'm happier, because "reason" says so.

No, "reason" only says that you aren't capable of true happiness when you hold something other than your own happiness as your ultimate standard of value, because doing so would contradict with what is necessary for true happiness.

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Quote me.

I did...go back and read.

Yes. When the standard of values guiding your ethics is in line with the objective values identifiable with man, then you can be truly happy. You can't be truly happy when there is a contradition between the values that guide your actions and the values that are required by you as man qua man. Altruism necessitates this contradiction. Altruism holds that your ultimate value is something other than your own life.

Now, that's what I'm looking for. HOWEVER, if one makes a free choice to place another's value over his own, isn't that still his choice? He obviously saw a higher value. I know Ayn Rand said that humans are the only species that can act for their own destruction, but maybe there's a reason for that? Maybe that's all still in line with values? I like what you said, but I still think you can't judge that one is truly happier than the next by that. Like TomL said, it's an introspective thing, making outside judgements means nothing at that point.

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Cole, TomL, et al:

Your posts reveal a misunderstanding of Aquinas' "five ways", in varying aspects. I'll try to explain the argument more clearly, and would also add that this is merely one particular argument: there have been at least two dozen very different sorts of attempts to prove the existence of God. Aquinas does not address all of them.

The "five ways" are really essentially one way: the "cosmological argument". The logical structure of all five proofs is the same:

1. There are really three premises:

a. an implicit logical principle: the tautology that either there is a First Cause or there is not. (The proofs prove there is a First Cause by showing that the alternative entails a contradiction; this presupposes the Law of Excluded Middle: that there can be no middle alternative between two mutually contradictory propositions; thus, to disprove one is to prove the other. Along these lines someone accused me here of setting up a "false dichotomy", and actually proposed a "third alternative" which was, in fact, not a proposition at all but indeed part of the First Cause proposition, though simply not drawn to its logical conclusion.)

b. an explicit empirical datum (motion, causality, etc.)

c. a metaphysical principle, which is neither tautological like a, nor empirical, like b, but known by metaphysical insight or understanding: e.g., "If there is no First Cause there can be no second causes", or "nothing can cause itself to be".

2. There are two possible hypotheses to explain the empirical data:

a. that there is a God (First Mover, Uncaused Cause, etc.)

b. that there is no God

Aquinas shows that in each of the five "ways" that the metaphysical principle (1c) coupled with the empirical data (1b) makes 2b impossible. Thus only 2a is left, if we admit 1a to begin with.

3. However, two "weakening" qualifications must be added:

a. Each proof individually, and all five together, prove only a thin slice of God, a few attributes of God. Aquinas deduces more later in the Summa Theologica, but some is not provable by reason at all---and now we get into "faith". This probably is what Cole is getting at: Cole, I am not saying that faith is not part of the Catholic understanding of God. I am merely saying that faith is not required to ascertain the existence of God.

b. Each proof ends with a sentence like "And this is what everyone calls God"---an observation about linguistic usage that basically says, in effect, that the God proved here by philosophy, though "thinner" than the Christian understanding of God, is thick enough to refute an atheist. There are simply no other candidates for the position of First Cause, Unmoved Mover, Perfect Being, Cosmic Designer, etc.

The other arguments typically fall into a few categories: ontological (Anselm), cosmological, psychological, analogical (Plantinga), practical (Pascal's Wager), historical, etc. Personally, I find some of the psychological arguments to be compelling, as well as the Kalam (time) argument (which is under the cosmological category).

One item that I think is being forgotten by some of you is that demonstration can be made in two ways, either a priori or a posteriori. The demonstration of the existence of God is made a posteriori: as Aquinas writes "When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause's existence. This is especially the case in regard to God, because, in order to prove the existence of anything, it is necessary to accept as a middle term the meaning of the word, and not its essence, for the question of its essence follows on the question of its existence. Now the names given to God are derived from his effects; consequently, in demonstrating the existence of God from his affects, we may take for the middle term the meaning of the word "God" "

I hope that helps. I would also ask that politeness be maintained---I am surprised by the level of hostility shown here. I did not come here to "proselytize", as someone claimed, but I wished to ask some questions regarding the eternity of the universe, which, if I recall, was a tenet of Objectivism (it has been quite a few years since I read Objectivist material). I haven't even begun to ask questions, but in responding to a poster repeating the usual myth (belief in the existence of God requires faith), I find myself insulted repeatedly, with my honesty questioned. How old are you people? This makes you appear as if you are all of college- or high-school- age, and have some of the arrogance associated with the age group. If you can't maintain and defend your philosophy rationally and politely, then do your philosophy the service of keeping your insults to yourself.

Edited by AqAd
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I did...go back and read.

When I quote a specific statement and then follow that quotation with a response, you can assume that my response is in regard to the quote.

I meant; quote me from when I slammed anybody for using the word "believe."

HOWEVER, if one makes a free choice to place another's value over his own, isn't that still his choice? He obviously saw a higher value.

Yes, humans have volition and are able to choose to act irrationality.

Morality is not subjective. The fact that a person "sees a higher value" in acting for the ultimate benefit of somebody else instead of himself doesn't mean that doing so will make him happy, simply because he thinks it should.

I know Ayn Rand said that humans are the only species that can act for their own destruction, but maybe there's a reason for that? Maybe that's all still in line with values?

Can you elaborate on that theory?

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