Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Judging Other People

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Does that mean that once you have consistent observations about the person over a long enough period of time, he no longer has free will and is now determined to remain honest?

It means that once you have consistent observations about a person you trust for a long enough period of time, you can count on honesty precisely because they have free will.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 292
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

It means that once you have consistent observations about a person you trust for a long enough period of time, you can count on honesty precisely because they have free will.

That makes no sense to me. Why can you count on them being honest because they are capable of choosing to be dishonest?

Link to post
Share on other sites
That makes no sense to me. Why can you count on them being honest because they are capable of choosing to be dishonest?

Mrs Speicher,

I didn't want to get into this earlier, but I think Lirio may have a point. If we go by your epistemological standard, then one can say that we can't be certain of just about anything (except one's own existence).

Thus, i can't even know with certainty if your name is "Betsy" because you have free will and you could have possibly changed your name in the last two hours.

I think the correct epistemology demands that we go by what we have already established (through simple perception or higher integration) and be certain of that, until we are sure a change has actually occurred. This is why I am certain that I have a white car (even if it's possible someone might have stolen it as I am typing here; or sprayed red paint all over it).

In legal justice, this ties in with the principle of presuming someone innocent until proven guilty; we have to be certain of his innocence until it is disproved. In moral justice, you grant someone what they have earned (until it's proven that they no longer deserve it - or that they've now earned it's opposite).

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it depends on how you see certainty. I do not think you can be certain that another human being's actions will be X (as in: this is the only metaphysically possible option that was open for them to take, so you know they would take it). Based on how well you know someone, and by judging the type of person that they are, I do think you can very, very accurately predict what they will do in a given situation. But I think it is obvious that sometimes people do act against their own habits and character.Especially given the fact that human beings are not infallible, it is possible that a person does something unexpected because of a mistake they made in considering the matter.

Edited by Maarten
Link to post
Share on other sites
I think it depends on how you see certainty. I do not think you can be certain that another human being's actions will be X (as in: this is the only metaphysically possible option that was open for them to take, so you know they would take it). Based on how well you know someone, and by judging the type of person that they are, I do think you can very, very accurately predict what they will do in a given situation. But I think it is obvious that sometimes people do act against their own habits and character.Especially given the fact that human beings are not infallible, it is possible that a person does something unexpected because of a mistake they made in considering the matter.

By that argument and standard, Maarten, you can't even predict what you yourself will actually do in a given situation. Does that mean you can't even know yourself (with "certainty")? Obviously the point is moot.

The relevant point, i think, is not prediction (future) but judging (present) based on what you know about someone (past), until proven otherwise. I believe that's how Objectivist epistemology works.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I didn't want to get into this earlier, but I think Lirio may have a point. If we go by your epistemological standard, then one can say that we can't be certain of just about anything (except one's own existence).

That is not my point at all.

There are many things we can be dead-bang, 100% certain of such as the nature of physical entities because all things in existence are strictly determined -- with one exception. That one exception is man who has free will.

People are not rocks.

Link to post
Share on other sites
An individual can introspect and know for sure whether he has made an honest error or evaded, but it would take mindreading or the other person's reported -- and reliable -- introspections to know if someone else is mistaken or evading. When it comes to judging others, all we can do, and what we should do, is judge whether their actions and statements are (1) true or false and (2) good for us or bad for us.

Betsy's statement nearly amounts to the claim that it is impossible to make an objective moral judgment of another person. Since mindreading is impossible, it is obviously not a source of objective data. Presumably Betsy thinks moral judgment is still possible because it is possible for the other person to confess his own introspections to us. But if this is the last refuge for objective moral judgment, we're in trouble, at least if we're talking about judging another to be an evader. Such a confession would amount, in effect, to the liar's paradox: "I am lying to you right now." How can we treat as reliable the testimony of a person who is telling us that they are evading? No, if objective moral judgment is possible, it will have to come from somewhere else. But Betsy doesn't think it can come from anywhere else. This is why she says "all we can do, and what we should do, is judge whether their actions and statements are (1) true or false and (2) good for us or bad for us."

Betsy's statement is a stunning admission that puts in perspective much of the debate from the last year over Peikoff's politics and the direction of the Objectivist movement. I say this because the position Betsy takes above—and elaborates in detail in the remainder of this thread—is almost indistinguishable from the position taken by prominent supporters of David Kelley in the debates about moral toleration in the early 1990s. Betsy's position uses one of the same premises (that moral judgment is like mindreading) and comes to one of the same conclusions (that we can only judge ideas as true or false, and resulting actions as good or bad) as Kelley. Betsy used to claim to oppose Kelley and support Peikoff. But it is now no big surprise that Betsy is receiving such enthusiastic support from Kelleyites over at the Objectivist Living forum.

Betsy uses three separate arguments to reject the possibility of objective moral judgment of others. Each of them fails:

1) The argument from the impossibility of mindreading.

Betsy says we cannot read minds, we cannot divine the innermost thoughts of others, we can only introspect our own thoughts. Therefore we cannot decide whether others are evading or merely mistaken. It is of course true that we do not have access to others' thoughts in the same way that we have access to our own. But it does not follow from this that we cannot make objective judgments about the thoughts of others. Mind and body, after all, are causally integrated. A person's words and actions provide evidence for what they are thinking. Indeed, if a person does not act on what they believe, it is almost incoherent to say that they really do believe it.

From this perspective, we "read minds" all the time. Sure, we don't do it with a crystal ball or by any powers of intuition. We do it by looking at the evidence of a person's behavior. There are all kinds of situations in which evidence can point to what a person knows or does not, and what a person intends or does not intend. If we have every normal reason to think that a person has normal color vision, and we have no special, independent evidence that he is color blind, we have every reason to think he can see the difference between red and green, and as such, we know that he should know that not all apples are red (if he is older than 3 years old). So if he continues to claim that all apples are red even after we find no evidence of color blindness, then if we have no special reason to think he's pulling our leg, we can know, without having to consult his own confessions of evasion, that he is evading.

Of course no one would probably ever evade about the color of apples, so consider a more real-life example. A woman's husband is cheating on her. She finds lipstick on his collar, she notices that he's out late at night and comes home with lame excuses, she notices that he's not interested in sleeping with her anymore, etc. Lots of standard evidence piles up. Suppose we know the husband and know who he's sleeping with. We confront the wife with the evidence, but she refuses to believe it. On what grounds could we say she couldn't actually know? Not only has she seen the evidence first-hand, but she's gotten testimony from a reliable friend. And on what grounds could we say that she doesn't actually intend to be lying to herself? It's clear that she does: she finds the pain of acknowledging the truth to be too much, so she willfully blanks it out.

2) The argument from free will.

Betsy says that the reason we judge others morally is to know what they are likely to do in the future, whether they will be good or bad for those of us who have to deal with them. This is true. But she then says that because human beings have free will, it is always possible for them to choose unpredictable things. "A man who is honest today can, and might, choose to become a liar tomorrow."

Notice that if this is true in the way she means it, we can never judge someone to be a bad person or a good person. But if that's true, then what use is moral judgment after all? If we need moral judgment to predict the future concerning other people, but we can't predict the future concerning other people, then it seems that moral judgment doesn't serve its purpose. Betsy doesn't even try to explain what other role moral judgment might play, e.g. by making judgments of probability about the future. She just leaves the implication that unless a person confesses to his own immorality, we can never judge them ourselves (without noticing that this loophole is paradoxical).

There are all kinds of problems with this argument. First, and most obviously, you don't need to judge with certainty to make a moral judgment (although I think it is still possible). This is true of thought in general. Much of what we get by with in life is mere probability, but that does not make it any less of a guide for action. Objectivity is not the same as certainty. A judgment can be objective, as long as it is based on the evidence, even if it is not certain. So even if it is true that people might act uncharacteristically, it doesn't follow that we can't make judgments of probability about their character, pronounce them, and act on them.

Second, the fact of free will means that it is metaphysically possible for men to act unpredictably. But this does not establish epistemologicaly possibility. When we make character judgments, we are depending on the fact that some metaphysically possible options would never occur to certain people, because they have subconsciously automatized certain thinking habits. Ayn Rand had free will, but would we say, in 1960, that maybe some day she will rob a bank and join the communist party? No, there would have been no evidence for that possibility. This means that the fact of free will does not generate a genuine epistemological possibility for us to have doubts about. It does not establish that certainty is impossible in the realm of moral judgment.

3) The argument from arbitrary possibility

As in the example concerning free will above, Betsy's argument continuously trades on the ambiguity between metaphysical and epistemological possibility. When we judge something as certain, we are declaring it to be free from the possibility of doubt, i.e. free from the epistemological possibility. But the confusion is not restricted to the free will question. Betsy makes the same mistake in her discussion of the colorblindness example. She says that a person who denies that all apples are red might be innocently mistaken, because he might be color blind.

Yes, colorblindness is metaphysically possible. But when we make judgments about the truth of particular propositions, the question we face when considering these metaphysical possibilities is: is there any specific evidence to believe that this possibility is actualized in this circumstance? To excuse someone morally for the denial about apples, we would need to have specific, independent evidence of their color blindness. In the absence of that evidence, this possibility is arbitrary, and no grounds for doubting that this person is evading.

Simply to dream up a possibility that would excuse someone's actions, rather than citing specific evidence for its possibility, is to engage in the arbitrary. But the possibility of arbitrary doubt does not dismiss the possibility of objective judgment, and that includes the possibility of objective moral judgment.

==

I can't fully understand how someone who considers herself to be an Objectivist can ignore some of the basic epistemological points mentioned above. I also can't fully understand how someone who was an active participant in the 1990s debates about toleration could fail to see how these points were relevant in refuting Kelleyites--or how she can think they might not apply to her own statements.

It is interesting that the Kelley split also originated in a debate about politics. At the time: whether or not to support libertarians. Now the same kind of debate is arising about whether or not to support conservatives. Once again, the question is about the influence of basic philosophy on derivative political positions. And once again, basic epistemology helps to resolve the question. Why don't we learn?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just because I love my new Objectivism Research CD-ROM, I think I might but in (quite appropriately to the discussion) by quoting from it:

How, then, is he to arrive at the right judgment? By basing it exclusively on the factual evidence and by considering all the relevant evidence available. But isn't this a description of "objectivity"? Yes, "objective judgment" is one of the wider categories to which the concept "justice" belongs. What distinguishes "justice" from other instances of objective judgment? When one evaluates the nature or actions of inanimate objects, the criterion of judgment is determined by the particular purpose for which one evaluates them. But how does one determine a criterion for evaluating the character and actions of men, in view of the fact that men possess the faculty of volition? What science can provide an objective criterion of evaluation in regard to volitional matters? Ethics. Now, do I need a concept to designate the act of judging a man's character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available, and of evaluating it by means of an objective moral criterion? Yes. That concept is "justice."

We can make moral judgements about a man, based on the facts present to us. His past is vital to this. It doesn't declare that he will always act that way - we would have to have omniscience to say that we know that he will always behave that way. But that doesn't mean we can't make a judgement about them. A judgement doesn't require omniscience, it requires a decision made with all the facts available.

It seems to me like you're almost insistent on our inability know anything, judging from your posts:

An individual can introspect and know for sure whether he has made an honest error or evaded, but it would take mindreading or the other person's reported -- and reliable -- introspections to know if someone else is mistaken or evading.

Compare with: .

Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.

Certainity isn't a matter of knowing the future - just like science isn't the art of secularised-psychics. Science is about looking at the past to predict future. If it has been in the nature of a man to act, for the most part, in an honest nature, then we know the degree to which we can trust him to be honest. The more honestly he has acted, the more certain we can be he will be honest in the future. We can never be omniscient of the fact, we can only make a certain judgement. But we will never be wrong ourselves for making that judgement, so long as we were honest ourselves - and as you say, we can definitely be sure of our own honesty.

Link to post
Share on other sites
That is not my point at all.

There are many things we can be dead-bang, 100% certain of such as the nature of physical entities because all things in existence are strictly determined -- with one exception. That one exception is man who has free will.

People are not rocks.

My argument against that is the same one I gave to Maarten.

If your basis for rejecting certainty (concerning another person's honesty, etc) is true, then you can't even say that you are certain of your own honesty (as you said). Because that basis - possession of free will - applies to yourself as well. You, in other words, are not a rock either, and if only "physical entities" that are "strictly determined" can be known, then you can't know yourself.

The principle you are probably overlooking is the idea of a "self made soul". If it is MADE, it can be known (even if, like other entities, it can subsequently change), through integration.

Thanks.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Betsy's statement nearly amounts to the claim that it is impossible to make an objective moral judgment of another person.

That is the opposite of my real view. In fact, here's what I did say:

When judging others, our knowledge is necessarily incomplete, but we must judge, given the evidence we do have, as carefully and as rationally as we can.

Judging, given the evidence we do have, as carefully and as rationally as we can, is what objective moral judgment is all about.

To judge means: to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. It is not an easy task; it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one's feelings, "instincts" or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. It is fairly easy to grasp abstract moral principles; it can be very difficult to apply them to a given situation, particularly when it involves the moral character of another person.

As Ayn Rand indicates, even when a person is ruthlessly objective and rational it can be very difficult to apply abstract moral principles when it involves the moral character of another person.

Since mindreading is impossible, it is obviously not a source of objective data.

It isn't.

Presumably Betsy thinks moral judgment is still possible because it is possible for the other person to confess his own introspections to us.

You presume wrong. (And that's the kind of presumption that can lead to non-objective judgments.)

In fact, as I said, we can judge "whether their actions and statements are (1) true or false and (2) good for us or bad for us" and, as Ayn Rand indicated, the way we evaluate a person's actions and statements is by reference to an abstract moral principle or standard.

But if this [reported introspections] is the last refuge for objective moral judgment, we're in trouble, at least if we're talking about judging another to be an evader.

I never said anything about any "last refuge."

Betsy's statement is a stunning admission that puts in perspective much of the debate from the last year over Peikoff's politics and the direction of the Objectivist movement. I say this because the position Betsy takes above [...] is almost indistinguishable from the position taken by prominent supporters of David Kelley [...] Betsy used to claim to oppose Kelley and support Peikoff. But it is now no big surprise that Betsy is receiving such enthusiastic support from Kelleyites over at the Objectivist Living forum.

[...]

This and all that follows is an outrageous, gross misrepresentation of my actual position along with an incredible amount of unsupported negative insinuations and wild speculation.

OK "Quinn Wyndham-Price," whoever you really are. You are obviously not a friend of mine. The board information says that you joined today and this is your first post. Did you come here just to dump on me? It sure looks like it.

Well it won't work. I am damn proud of my forty-five year very public history and my consistent track record in support of facts, values, Objectivism, and Ayn Rand. My real views are are well-known or available to anyone who cares to look, so any attempts to misrepresent my record and my views will backfire. Others have tried to get me in the past and they're all gone while I'm still here. I was able to out-fact, out-value, and out-virtue every single one of them. :D

Link to post
Share on other sites
OK "Quinn Wyndham-Price," whoever you really are.
It's fine to attack his claims. It is not fine to imply that he/she isn't Quinn Wyndham-Price. If you have concrete evidence to show that this is a pseudonym, you should present that evidence (leaving aside the question of whether it even matters if it's a pseudonym). Do not attempt to degrade the reputation of a member of this forum by accusing him/her of deception, unless you present the evidence of the deception.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Having stepped into this discussion, after this post I will step out. I have now seen what happens when a reasoned argument is presented to Betsy Speicher. In another forum, she accuses my post of being a "long, nasty personal attack." If you read my post carefully, you will see that the post is indeed long, but you will search in vain for evidence of a personal attack. I stated specifically that Betsy's statement resembled Kelley's view that objective moral judgment is possible, and then proceeded to spend most of the time explaining why I thought that.

True, I suggested that the similarity may help explain the deepening breach in the Objectivist movement, but I said nothing about Betsy's intentions or character. But perhaps I should have, because Betsy's first impulse was to turn to speculating about my intentions ("did you come here just to dump on me?"), and to permit members of her forum to speculate about the same. The attention being thrown to me and my mysterious identity, my actual arguments were then easily brushed aside. You will notice that Betsy hardly deals with my actual arguments, and when she does, she fails to understand their significance.

I gave a direct quote of Betsy's view about moral judgment. Let me give it again:

An individual can introspect and know for sure whether he has made an honest error or evaded, but it would take mindreading or the other person's reported -- and reliable -- introspections to know if someone else is mistaken or evading. When it comes to judging others, all we can do, and what we should do, is judge whether their actions and statements are (1) true or false and (2) good for us or bad for us.

I said that this view nearly amounts to rejecting the possibility of objective moral judgment. "Nearly amounts" is a statement about logical implication, not about explicit statement. I'm sure that Betsy is quite unwilling to state explicitly that objective moral judgment is impossible. My point is that she does not seem to realize that the ideas contained in the quotation above imply that it is impossible. In her response, she does nothing to explain away the implication.

She digs up an old quote in which she says "when judging others . . . we must judge, given the evidence we do have, as carefully and as rationally as we can." Fine, but this quote is completely consistent with the kind of moral agnosticism that I am saying Betsy's first quote implies. It may very well be that we should judge people carefully and rationally according to the evidence, but everything Betsy has said in this thread suggests that there is never enough evidence to say anything definite about whether someone is in error or evades.

Yes, of course it can be difficult to gather evidence about another person and judge them morally. But Betsy is saying more than that. Look again at the first quotation. She says "When it comes to judging others, all we can do, and what we should do, is judge whether their actions and statements are (1) true or false and (2) good for us or bad for us" (my emphasis). Now look, I'm reading Betsy literally here. To say that all we can do when judging others is to do X is to say that the only thing we can do is X. Betsy says that we can only judge others statements as true or false, and as beneficial or harmful. But this is not moral judgment!

Simply to judge a statement as true or false is not yet to judge the moral character of the person making it. That is why an error of knowledge is not necessarily an error of morality. And simply to judge an action as beneficial or harmful is not necessarily to judge it as moral or immoral. The sun is beneficial to us, and hurricanes are harmful, but these judgments are not moral judgments. Sure, we need abstract moral principles to judge whether something is beneficial or harmful to ourselves, but that does not yet involve objective moral judgments of others. A moral judgment of another person necessarily involves a judgment about the knowledge, intentions and/or character of the person. Knowledge of these is what helps us to predict a person's long-range course of action, and therefore determine what his long-range effect on us will be. This is why it is so important that objective moral judgment of others requires being able to distinguish between their evasion and mere error--which Betsy doesn't seem to think is possible. Notice that all of this is discussed in "Fact and Value," the essay by Peikoff which explained why David Kelley was wrong.

So if all Betsy can offer in defense of her belief that objective moral judgment is possible is the fact that we can judge statements as true or false, and that we can judge actions as beneficial or harmful, this is not a defense of objective moral judgment. Notice that I charitably attempted to find another reason (a "last refuge") Betsy might still cite for the possibility of objective moral judgment of others: "because it is possible for the other person to confess his own introspections to us." But Betsy suggested that this was a misattribution, even though, once again, in the very first quotation, she says: "it would take . . . the other person's reported -- and reliable -- introspections to know if someone else is mistaken or evading." And Betsy does not answer my objection that such reports would not be reliable if they are coming from a person who is evading. So her last refuge does not work.

Lost in all of this discussion are my three responses to Betsy's points about mindreading, free will, and "possibility." Choosing only to contest my interpretation of her conclusion, Betsy never saw fit to defend her arguments for it. But I will leave that for others to assess, as I now must bid you all adieu.

Edited by Quinn Wyndham-Price
Link to post
Share on other sites
There are many things we can be dead-bang, 100% certain of such as the nature of physical entities because all things in existence are strictly determined -- with one exception. That one exception is man who has free will.

This thread has been somewhat contentious, and I think this is the heart of the matter, and it is a confusion about the nature of free will. Betsy seems to be arguing is a determinism - random dichotomy. A more fundamental way to characterize all things in existence is as causal. All things, including free will are causal. Free will is not random. That, is if a person is rational today, one does not say that it is entirely possible that tomorrow they will become an evading second hander, simply because they have free will.

So then is it an issue of incomplete knowledge, or an error in the thinking about free will. I think the very interesting question that tests this is: "Can we judge ourselves with 100% certainty?" That is, with respect to fundamental choice of free will, to focus or not, can we be certain of our own long term commitment to such a proposition? Betsy is skeptical that you can ever know with 100% certainty of others' position, but is she skeptical that she cannot know herself with 100% certainty, that she might one day, beyond her knowledge choose to stop focusing for no other reason than she has free will? If this is her position, then this is itself a case of determinism, claiming itself as volitional, that something beyond her will will cause her to not have free will.

I think if this is the posiiton implied, it is ludicrous. There is one volitional consciousness of whose commitment to focus, now and in the future, I am 100% certain about: MY OWN. Free will does not mean acausal, and so the "determined for the rest of the universe" argument does not hold water with me. I am certain of my own choice to focus, now and in the future, not because I am determined, but because I will determine it. If one consciousness is then causal and can be known with certainty, it follows that given the essential information about another consciousness and the causal nature of free will, that that a person can be judged with certainty. Notice this is not the prediction of a particular decision (since many factors including simple error can occur here), but rather a prediction of the continued choice to focus. Rand said knowing this was complex and difficult. I haven't seen where she said it was impossible. So saying that you cannot know with 100% certainty smacks of the skepticism argument, and arbitrariness.

Once you admit the causality of free will then you can open up a discussion about what is the fundamental characterizations that will allow you to predict its behavior. Part of this stems from the fact that a focused rational consciousness self-reinforces the choice to focus through efficacy.

Link to post
Share on other sites
You will notice that Betsy hardly deals with my actual arguments, ...
This is the typical risk you run when you are not absolutely clear and when you hint at comparisons with Kelly, while not implying it quite as much as a casual reader might think on a first reading. A follow-up post like you made, clarifying the situation helps, of course -- but it should be a lesson to aim for more clarity the next time (i.e. wherever else you post).
Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread has been somewhat contentious, and I think this is the heart of the matter, and it is a confusion about the nature of free will. Betsy seems to be arguing is a determinism - random dichotomy.

I am doing no such thing.

A more fundamental way to characterize all things in existence is as causal. All things, including free will are causal. Free will is not random.

I agree.

That, is if a person is rational today, one does not say that it is entirely possible that tomorrow they will become an evading second hander, simply because they have free will.

Why not? If a person seems to be rational today, it is extremely unlikely that tomorrow they will become an evading second hander -- but it is possible. Stadler and Branden come to mind.

So then is it an issue of incomplete knowledge, or an error in the thinking about free will. I think the very interesting question that tests this is: "Can we judge ourselves with 100% certainty?" That is, with respect to fundamental choice of free will, to focus or not, can we be certain of our own long term commitment to such a proposition?

Yes we can and we jolly well ought to be.

Betsy is skeptical that you can ever know with 100% certainty of others' position, but is she skeptical that she cannot know herself with 100% certainty, that she might one day, beyond her knowledge choose to stop focusing for no other reason than she has free will? If this is her position, then this is itself a case of determinism, claiming itself as volitional, that something beyond her will will cause her to not have free will.

That silly position is the exact opposite of mine.

I think if this is the posiiton implied, it is ludicrous.

I'm not the one doing the implying here.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not the one doing the implying here.

Then what are you implying? Why did you start this thread? Was it split from another thread? (I didn't see any indication that it was.)

The purpose of judging someone's character is not to predict how they will act in the future, it is to know whether you can predict how they will act in the future. If someone is irrational, immoral, and whim-driven you cannot predict how they will act and this is precisely why depending on them in any fashion is masochistic. On the other hand if, on the basis of evidence, you judge someone to be rational (i.e. predictable) in some respect or all respects you know you can depend on them on that basis.

This need to ascertain someone's predictability also determines to what extent you will need to perform moral judgment on others. In terms of your hairstylist, you only need to know that she is rational as regards to hair: that she knows what she is doing. That is the extent of your involvement with her. On the other hand her employer needs to know a great many more things about her: that she shows up for work on time, that she reports her earnings correctly, that she is polite to customers, that she doesn't steal from the till, that she doesn't steal supplies, etc. He needs to know her behavior is predictable in a much wider setting. It is, in fact, for this reason that many employers prefer to continue employing people that are predictably dishonest in small ways (they swipe a few quarters on occasion) rather than fire them and deal with a completely unknown quantity.

You may never be able to predict with perfect certainty, but you can know with absolute certainty whether someone's behavior is predictable, i.e. consistent. It is largely someone's consistency that you are evaluating when you pronounce moral judgment.

Link to post
Share on other sites
That silly position is the exact opposite of mine.

Oh, you mean this one here?

If a person seems to be rational today, it is extremely unlikely that tomorrow they will become an evading second hander -- but it is possible. Stadler and Branden come to mind.

If we "jolly well ought" to be able to be certain about ourselves, then it follows that it is possible (although difficult) to be jolly well certain about others. This is a misunderstanding of the concept of possible. Stadler and Branden simply highlight the fact that it is difficult, and you could be in error, not that it is impossible to be certain about others. This is asserting the arbitrary. They are statements of your ignorance buried in the word "seems".

So let me be clear in asking. Are you uncertain because they have freewill, or are you uncertain because the causal aspects of freewill are difficult to assertain. Your original statements would indicate the former which is incorrect, regardless of what you think is silly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

1) I am 100% certain that - barring natural disaster - my fiancee Kelly will show up at our wedding. To put this statement in epistemological terms: Within the context of my knowledge, based on the evidence I have gathered about Kelly's character over an extended period of time, I am certain that she will decide to come with me to Greenville, South Carolina to marry me.

2) I am 100% certain that Newton's Law of Gravity holds true with a margin of error of less than 1% for objects traveling at less than 100 mph. All of the evidence points to this conclusion, there is no evidence for any other conclusion, and no evidence contradicts this conclusion.

How are 1 and 2 significantly different in epistemological terms? I don't see how they are any different.

--Dan Edge

Link to post
Share on other sites
So let me be clear in asking. Are you uncertain because they have freewill, or are you uncertain because the causal aspects of freewill are difficult to assertain. Your original statements would indicate the former which is incorrect, regardless of what you think is silly.
Just an FYI Betsy, your statements here, here and here, also seem to indicate that you are implying the former. That is you seem to not be relying on the difficulty of knowing the causal aspects of free will as a reason for uncertainty, but the fact of freewill itself.
Then what are you implying? Why did you start this thread? Was it split from another thread? (I didn't see any indication that it was.)
I believe it was split from Black Diamond's original thread on the feud.Nice post by the way. Edited by KendallJ
Link to post
Share on other sites
Right. Except when you have integrated the person's character from past interactions with her and other facts you know about her (in short, you know her, or you know the people who know her), then you already know that the person is honest, etc etc.

But you don't know that. The only person whose honesty you can know about with certainty is your own.When judging others, you look at the evidence you have and, if you have never seen the person being dishonest, you can assume that he will be honest in the future. If you see him being honest in a situation where it is embarassing or disadvantageous to tell the truth and he could get away with being silent or telling a lie, it is evidence that he is actively truthful and will probably be honest in the future. Yet you can never be as certain with others as you are with yourself. In addition, free will plays a huge part. A man who is honest today can, and might, choose to become a liar tomorrow.

That's right. When judging others, our knowledge is necessarily incomplete, but we must judge, given the evidence we do have, as carefully and as rationally as we can.

I don't understand what you trying to say here. I would appreciate further clarification.

This is an exact quote from Betsy: "The only person whose honesty you can know about with certainty is your own."

...so I can't know for certain that Pres. Bush, Jr. mislead the American people when he 1) named Iran as part of _his_ "Axis of Evil" and yet 2) in two terms, he has failed to take decisive and overwhelming military action against Iran (even despite the evidence that Iran is supporting the forces in Iraq that kill American soldiers on a regular basis AND despite the fact that he did use great (though deficient) military force against Iraq during the "shock and awe" period?)

I dare you to say that this is a case where President Bush has an error of knowledge (keeping in mind that anyone who has followed the news knows that Iran has been at war with America for decades.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

What made Galt certain? It was not omniscience but rather confidence, confidence in his ability to gather all of the related evidence (his own ability to perceive), then confidence in the process of drawing conclusions from that evidence (his own use of reason). If you have the same confidence your conclusions are as certain to you as his were to him.

Edit:

It also includes the conviction that all of reality is knowable.

Edited by ~Sophia~
Link to post
Share on other sites
1) I am 100% certain that - barring natural disaster - my fiancee Kelly will show up at our wedding. To put this statement in epistemological terms: Within the context of my knowledge, based on the evidence I have gathered about Kelly's character over an extended period of time, I am certain that she will decide to come with me to Greenville, South Carolina to marry me.

2) I am 100% certain that Newton's Law of Gravity holds true with a margin of error of less than 1% for objects traveling at less than 100 mph. All of the evidence points to this conclusion, there is no evidence for any other conclusion, and no evidence contradicts this conclusion.

How are 1 and 2 significantly different in epistemological terms? I don't see how they are any different.

--Dan Edge

In the fabulous play Camille by Dumas fils, Armand is as certain as Dan is with Kelly that Marguerite Gauthier will marry him. Then Armand's father has a talk with Marguerite and explains that because she has been a prostitute, if she marries Armand, she will destroy his career in the diplomatic corps. I suppose I've already spoiled enough of this plot, so I'll just say that Armand's certainty is rocked.

We cannot be as certain about another person's choice as we are about Law of Gravity because man has the metaphysical capacity to change his mind, which unconscious matter and physical forces do not have.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Then what are you implying? Why did you start this thread? Was it split from another thread? (I didn't see any indication that it was.)

It was split from a previous thread by a moderator, not me. See the first post.

The purpose of judging someone's character is not to predict how they will act in the future, it is to know whether you can predict how they will act in the future. If someone is irrational, immoral, and whim-driven you cannot predict how they will act and this is precisely why depending on them in any fashion is masochistic. On the other hand if, on the basis of evidence, you judge someone to be rational (i.e. predictable) in some respect or all respects you know you can depend on them on that basis.

Then the issue is over how well you can know and predict another person's behavior. I agree that when you know someone very well, you can predict their behavior rather well, but you can never have the same degree of certainty about another person's future actions as you can about your own. The reason why is rather obvious: you are in control and can be aware of your own mind, but not control or read the minds of others.

This need to ascertain someone's predictability also determines to what extent you will need to perform moral judgment on others. In terms of your hairstylist, you only need to know that she is rational as regards to hair: that she knows what she is doing. That is the extent of your involvement with her. On the other hand her employer needs to know a great many more things about her: that she shows up for work on time, that she reports her earnings correctly, that she is polite to customers, that she doesn't steal from the till, that she doesn't steal supplies, etc. He needs to know her behavior is predictable in a much wider setting.

Is the need for or depth of moral judgement a matter of predictability or is it a matter of something more essental: the impact that person might have on your life? The hairstylist's customers might end up having a bad hair day, but her employer could end up losing a lot of money or his entire business.

It is, in fact, for this reason that many employers prefer to continue employing people that are predictably dishonest in small ways (they swipe a few quarters on occasion) rather than fire them and deal with a completely unknown quantity.

Really? I would fire them as soon as I found out they were stealing from me.

You may never be able to predict with perfect certainty, but you can know with absolute certainty whether someone's behavior is predictable, i.e. consistent. It is largely someone's consistency that you are evaluating when you pronounce moral judgment.

Not me. I am selfishly evaluating whether they are good for me or bad for me using the moral standards Ayn Rand taught me. It has helped me successfully separate the people I can trust from the ones I can't and the people who have values to offer me from the ones who don't or who threaten my values.

Link to post
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...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...