Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Metaphysical sanction (authorization) for an ethical system vs. Supernatural, Pragmatic, or Biological Sanction

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

  • It occurred to me that Ayn Rand's Objectivism has a metaphysical sanction (authorization, justification, proof) of its ethical system, and, by contrast, some other ethical systems are sanctioned by reference to one of these:
  • Supernatural revelation (example: Judeo-Christian Natural Law theory, as held by Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett)
  • Pragmatic reasoning (example: the philosophy of William James--the view that we must settle for "truth" being merely whatever works best in a given time and place, and that nothing more definite, permanent, or grand can be said about what is the "truth")
  • Biological programming (DNA; evolution) (example: the philosophy of Professor Larry Arnhart, as expressed on his blog named "Darwinian Conservatism"; the philosophy of Dr. Jordan Peterson is another example of the biological sanction of an ethical system)
  • Some people object to Ayn Rand's Objectivism because they object to all metaphysical sanctions of ethics as a matter of principle. In short, they view metaphysics as a semi-secularized form of supernaturalism. In this view, the ancient Greek philosophers took the primitive Greek religion (what we now call myths) and rationalized that religion. Socrates was executed by religious fundamentalists for promoting the rationalization of religion, and, in the view of those fundamentalists, was weakening traditional religion and thus weakening the authority and legitimacy of the Greek city-state and its culture and form of government. But, according to those who reject metaphyics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle retained within their phillosophical systems key elements of the basic supernaturalism and mysticism of the ancient, pre-scientific world. All three of them spoke/wrote about the reality and importance of the supernatural God within their philosophical systems. During the Middle Ages, leading scholars (e.g., Thomas Aquinas, Averroes ) viewed Aristotelian metaphysics to be fully in harmony with fundamentalistic Christian and Islamic supernatural revelation.
  • Proponents of metaphysics assert that the basic approach and tools laid out by Aristotle in his treatise which is called "Metaphysics" provide a basis for making definite statements about the fundamental nature of Being/Reality, and, furthemore, that every human being always has explicit ideas or implicit assumptions about the nature of Being/Reality, and so metaphysics is necessary and inescapable. 
  • Ayn Rand was very critical of Kant because Kant cast serious doubt on the ability of humans to reach definite knowledge in the realm of metaphysics.
  • Marxism seems to be based on what can be termed a historical sanction. Karl Marx believed that he had discovered the true Laws of History, and he thought he could project those laws forward in order to predict and/or prescribe what will happen and/or ought to happen in human society.
  • Is this comment an accurate statement of things?
Edited by The Laws of Biology
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, The Laws of Biology said:

Is this comment an accurate statement of things?

No. 

The central issue is how value is calculated. If the criteria is conformity to reality, then the value is truth or falsehood. If the criteria is temperature, then the value is cold and heat. And so on.

If the criteria is survival value, then the value is good and bad, as in: beneficial or detrimental. That is Rand's thesis. 

This rejects the notion that good and bad is a property of things. For example, the presence of sugar is a property of fruit. But goodness or badness is not a property located in the fruit, which can be separated from the fruit and put into a jar. Good and bad is a calculation.

If life didn't exist, then some machine could still calculate temperature or truth values, but there would be no criteria to judge the good. That is because the calculation is based on the specific kind of organism. Jogging is good for humans, pointless for fish.

For humans, actions are motivated by prior intentions. You don't have to worry that your legs will suddenly start moving on their own and jump of a tall building, because you don't do things unless you have some reason.

Now, prior to any choice between alternatives - sleep or TV, steak or ice-cream, music career or enginering career - there is a prior choice. That choice is how 'awake' you are. Awake, as in how much context you are aware of.

For instance, if you just go by your immediate feelings, you might pick ice-cream instead of steak. But if you enlarge your awareness of the context, you might remeber that you are trying to build some muscle and therefore you want to fill your stomach with the protein first, since there's limited space in there and ice-cream might curtail your appetite.

This primary choice, behind all other choices, Rand identified as volition (or free will). Her phrasing was: "the faculty of reason is the faculty of volition".

The basic virtue for human survival is rationality. The 'hunter-gatherer' mode of existence only became obsolete some 10.000 years ago (despite this species being 200.000 years old) precisely because so few souls ever stopped to do what Rand was talking about, i.e. question their mode of living and come up with easier, better ways to live. They went by the seat of their pants, and for this reason did not achieve a better existence than that of animals.

Rand defines instinct as an innate 'know-how'. Not an ability, but a method: a method of building dams (beavers), where to go (bird migration) etc. People learn stuff like this from thinking or from the initial discoverers, and they stagnate for millenia if they don't have the benefit of busybodies that keep questioning things.

Rand locates the locus of human survival in three values:
- A rational mode of operation
- Making nature conform to our needs through production and trading, contra the hunter-gathers and animals
- Moral absolutism and determination. The more bad things you let accumulate in your life, the harder undoing them becomes. It's the bad apple/domino effect.

Or, to use her terms: reason, purpose, and self-esteem.

Her ethics is based on metaphysics only in the sense of being based on the kind of species man is (his metaphysical, i.e. natural characteristics). Philosophy, to Rand, is a set of disciplines required universally by man, regardless of career, interests and so on, namely:

- how to discover new things, and detect B.S (epistemology)
- how to determine what's beneficial and detrimental for living (ethics)
- how to ensure that living with others does not wreck the requirements of your life (government)
- the 'why' of upholding naturalism or supernaturalism (metaphysics)
- examples, heroes, concrete statements of one's worldview (art).

Neither of these sciences are 'derrived' from each other. They are connected only in the sense that a field will make use of discoveries from other fields.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Her ethics is based on metaphysics only in the sense of being based on the kind of species man is (his metaphysical, i.e. natural characteristics).

Wow. 😄 I found this whole answer to be fascinating, poignant, sharp, rich, deep, and insightful.

I will study it further and contemplate how I can integrate this into observations and concepts that I have been holding, or, perhaps, use this to correct or replace certain conclusions I've been holding.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a possibility omitted here and unconsidered:  epistemological sanction.  

Biological sanction is equivalent to determinism, values are assigned to animals by nature.  Man is an animal too and starts off acting like one as an infant but grows into a wider consciousness.  Man needs to choose his own values, and must learn how to value, and at some point choose whether or not to continue to value (to live or die).  That valuing is so wrapped up into his consciousness makes Rand's ethics epistemological.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:

Supernatural revelation (example: Judeo-Christian Natural Law theory, as held by Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett)

That supernatural natural law sure is the worst amirite

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:

the ancient Greek philosophers took the primitive Greek religion (what we now call myths) and rationalized that religion.

No, they didn't, don't know where you got this from. You didn't even mention a name.

21 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:

All three of them spoke/wrote about the reality and importance of the supernatural God within their philosophical systems.

No, they didn't mention God, only Plato really had a supernatural belief but even then it wasn't some supernatural creator God.

21 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:

During the Middle Ages, leading scholars (e.g., Thomas Aquinas, Averroes ) viewed Aristotelian metaphysics to be fully in harmony with fundamentalistic Christian and Islamic supernatural revelation.

Fully in harmony? I'm not sure you understand what Aristotelian metaphysics even is.

I'm not even sure that you explained what a metaphysical sanction would be. Do you mean a justification of an ethical system based on facts? Going by that, biological would be the same. Plus that is simply an ethical system that says there are moral facts. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...