Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Judging Other People

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 292
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

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

I see the note now, I guess I missed it before or something, thanks.

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.

I tend to think that the former includes the latter. A person that is going to have negative impact on your life is not going to be predictable, period: Leonard Peikoff gave the example in his "Why Should One Act on Principle?" speech that there is no such thing as a person that rigorously and scrupulously lies all the time except maybe in a mental institution. A person that is fundamentally unpredictable in a number of matters is of no earthly use to you at all.

Likewise it is possible to judge how predictable someone is based on their past actions: if they have a record of consistency they are going to be a good person in whom you can rely.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Myrhaf writes:

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.

You make a good argument, but I disagree on several points.

First: While I acknowledge the existence of degrees of possibility, I do not acknowledge degrees of certainty. One is either certain or he isn't. A claim to certainty must fulfill a set of epistemological requirements, and if it fulfills those requirements it must be treated as an absolute within a specified context. For me to allow that Kelly may decide not to marry me, simply because I can imagine events occurring otherwise, would be an appeal to the arbitrary.

Second: I believe that your post (and Betsy's) implies that there is such a thing as "metaphysical certainty," as opposed to "epistemological certainty," and that one can be more certain of things which, if they were otherwise, would be "metaphysically impossible." I know it is common for people to distinguish between metaphysical and epistemological possibility, but I believe this is misleading terminology. "Possible," "probable," and "certain" are epistemological concepts that have meaning only in the realm of epistemology.

Finally: To reiterate, I believe that one is fully justified in claiming certainty about the future actions of another man, provided that he has gathered sufficient evidence to fulfill the epistemological requirements for certainty. These are, to paraphrase Peikoff's handy standards from OPAR,: all evidence leads to one conclusion, there is no evidence of any other conclusion, and there is no evidence contradicting the conclusion.

Don't ruin any more plays for me! :)

--Dan Edge

*Edited to attribute quote to Myrhaf

Edited by dan_edge
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, you mean this one here?

NO! I meant it in response to the quoted text immediately preceding my comment which was

That silly position is the exact opposite of mine.

If you are going to criticize my ideas, please have the decency to take issue with what I actually wrote and not some mangled version you created by attaching my response from one statement to another statement where is doesn't belong.

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".

The idea that it is impossible to be certain about others is something I never said, do not believe, and would not defend.

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.

I am not "uncertain" and not for the above "reasons."

To reiterate my actual position:

A person can be directly, introspectively aware of, and in causal control, of his own consciousness. He cannot read minds or be directly aware of anyone else's consciousness but must infer the content, state, and operations of another's consciousness from their statements and actions. As a result, he cannot be as certain about another's consciousness as he can be of his own. In addition, the other person has free will and can choose to change and make different choices in the future than he did in the past. This is what can make accurately predicting the future actions of others so difficult -- but not impossible.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The topic of this thread is: Judging other people, Can we be certain of other people?

Our moral judgment of others does not depend on our prediction of their future behavior (and our certainty about it) but rather their past and current actions and ideas. It is based on those facts available to us today that we make a decision to deal with them or not.

To me this discussion is similar to saying: how can you ever be certain that you have all of the necessary observations (here it has been said: how do you know they won't change?) - since you can't be certain about that - you can't be certain about your conclusions.

New facts may become known to you tomorrow and people can change (there is some predictability as has already been mentioned) but how does that affect our ability to be certain and the possibility of an objective moral judgment?

It does not.

Am I missing something?

Edited by ~Sophia~
Link to post
Share on other sites
This is an exact quote from Betsy: "The only person whose honesty you can know about with certainty is your own."

To clarify, since this seems to be the issue, I am talking about absolute certainty, the truck-like certainty of sense-perception and the axiomatic, self-evident certainty of the Law of Identity. I call anything else "probability" (rather than speak of "degrees of certainty") to avoid confusion with absolute certainty.

It is possible to have a great deal of knowledge about others and to make moral assessments and predictions about their future actions that are highly or extremely probable. These assessments and predictions of others are made by inference, and can never have the truck-like certainty that only direct awareness (in this case introspection) can provide.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I believe that your post (and Betsy's) implies that there is such a thing as "metaphysical certainty," as opposed to "epistemological certainty," and that one can be more certain of things which, if they were otherwise, would be "metaphysically impossible."

My position is that certainty is totally epistemological. I use the term "certainty" or "absolute certainty" to describe direct sense perception, axiomatic truths, and causal explanations that can be shown to reduce to sense perception and logical inference (using axiomatic truths).

I use "degrees of certainty," "possibilty," and "probability" to describe the epistemological status of knowledge -- but knowledge that is not absolutely certain.

Link to post
Share on other sites
NO! I meant it in response to the quoted text immediately preceding my comment which was

If you are going to criticize my ideas, please have the decency to take issue with what I actually wrote and not some mangled version you created by attaching my response from one statement to another statement where is doesn't belong.

Hi Betsy, first of all, you misattributed my quote. 2nd all you actually wrote was "That silly position is the exact opposite of mine." My response was to clarify the "mine" your position which you didn't actually state. It is very difficult to take issue with something that doesn't exist. I have to quote you from somewhere else since your position isn't exactly evident from the "mine". taking issue with it is a bit tough, isn't it?

Instead I went 2 lines up in the same post where you actually made a position statement. If you don't like people mangling your posts, then please actually state your position in your response. Otherwise, I'm going to have to go get it from somewhere else.

Edited by KendallJ
Link to post
Share on other sites

Betsy,

While I appreciate your recently-posted clarification as to what you mean by "certainty", I would much rather prefer that you respond to my question. I picked that question for more than one reason. While it is beyond the scope of this thread to discuss Dr. Peikoff's D.I.M. hypothesis or his views regarding America's political future, various people have taken great issue with those ideas. (That is, they have _judged_ him.)

I submit the following facts:

1) The President obligated himself to operate in order to protect the American citizenry _throughout_ the entirety of his terms.

2) The entire world was put on notice when Bush gave his speech following the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks on America. That speech named Iran as one of the 3 nations comprising the "axis of evil".

3) Up to now in his two terms, the Bush administration has failed to eliminate or even mollify the Tehranian administration.

I will broaden the evaluative scope of my question. Betsy, do you think that President Bush mislead Americans with his "Axis of Evil" speech given _any_ rational standard? (Please use and specify whatever standard that you would like.)

Edited by tps_fan
Link to post
Share on other sites
..., do you think that President Bush mislead Americans with his "Axis of Evil" speech given _any_ rational standard?...
Are you using this as a means to illustrate the topic at hand: i.e., whether we can judge Bush? Or, should this be a new topic?

Assuming the former, are you making the following point: that answering either "yes" or "no" would show that one can judge Bush? In other words that one can judge people? Or is it a different point?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Are you using this as a means to illustrate the topic at hand: i.e., whether we can judge Bush? Or, should this be a new topic?

Assuming the former, are you making the following point: that answering either "yes" or "no" would show that one can judge Bush? In other words that one can judge people? Or is it a different point?

Yes, the former. No, it isn't a different point; it shouldn't be split off because it is entirely relevant. I'm not interested in an evaluation of Bush for myself since I already know what I think. I need the question for the purpose of clarifying what Betsy meant.

Here's what Betsy stated in post #1:

Observe that here Ayn Rand says, "an action you know to be evil" NOT "an action they know to be evil." Her statement applies to judging and choosing one's own actions, not to judging others.

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 want to know how Betsy can reconcile her previous statement given the context of my recent posts.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I submit the following facts:

1) The President obligated himself to operate in order to protect the American citizenry _throughout_ the entirety of his terms.

2) The entire world was put on notice when Bush gave his speech following the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks on America. That speech named Iran as one of the 3 nations comprising the "axis of evil".

3) Up to now in his two terms, the Bush administration has failed to eliminate or even mollify the Tehranian administration.

I will broaden the evaluative scope of my question. Betsy, do you think that President Bush mislead Americans with his "Axis of Evil" speech given _any_ rational standard? (Please use and specify whatever standard that you would like.)

I really don't have enough information know whether Bush meant it when he gave his "Axis of Evil" speech. I suspect it was written for him by a speechwriter who understood the situation far better than the President and Bush delivered it because it probably made him feel good to say the words. Based on how I have seen Bush deal with abstract ideas and principles in other contexts, I have serious doubts that he really understood what he was saying.

Does that answer your question?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Really? I would fire them as soon as I found out they were stealing from me.

Really? If you had a sales rep that makes you say, $100,000 a year in business deals, but has a habit of taking home office supplies, you'd fire him? Or what if you have a broker that closes million dollar business deals regularly, but also likes to charge his strip club visits to expense accounts? You'd fire him?

Maybe you would. I don't know what experience you have running a business, but chances are you'll suffer far higher losses during their absence. If your objective in business is to make money (and I don't see why else you'd be in business), it seems to make far more sense to keep a money maker and bite the small loss.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I really don't have enough information know whether Bush meant it when he gave his "Axis of Evil" speech. I suspect it was written for him by a speechwriter who understood the situation far better than the President and Bush delivered it because it probably made him feel good to say the words. Based on how I have seen Bush deal with abstract ideas and principles in other contexts, I have serious doubts that he really understood what he was saying.

Does that answer your question?

I know that it would be ideal for me to definitively say "Yes" or "No", but since I have several (central and tangential) implications to think about, I will say:

Yes... probably.

I still have one other last question left though, and that relates to Post #1. "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." This doesn't make sense to me. For example, I have no problem judging the President at some level even though no one can read minds. I fail to see how the President could determine that _diplomacy_(!!!) is the best course of action for dealing with Iran.... based on an error of knowledge?!?

Betsy, if your position in its simplest form is that: "We can judge people, but we can't read their minds.", then I concur. ...but then I don't know who wouldn't agree with that (and now I'm wondering whether I should go find and (re?)read the original thread that this one was de-linked from.)

Edited by tps_fan
Link to post
Share on other sites
Really? If you had a sales rep that makes you say, $100,000 a year in business deals, but has a habit of taking home office supplies, you'd fire him?

The original context was someone secretly stealing money from a business owner. A certain amount of personal use of business supplies or business time for personal matters is generally considered OK and even useful rather than stealing.

Or what if you have a broker that closes million dollar business deals regularly, but also likes to charge his strip club visits to expense accounts? You'd fire him?

It depends on whether the visits were business-related entertainment expenses. If he was charging personal entertainment to the business, I would deduct the cost from his pay and warn him never to do it again. If he did it or anything like that after the warning, I'd fire him.

Maybe you would. I don't know what experience you have running a business, but chances are you'll suffer far higher losses during their absence. If your objective in business is to make money (and I don't see why else you'd be in business), it seems to make far more sense to keep a money maker and bite the small loss.

I have had a long and successful career as a software consultant and project manager for some of America's largest corporations. Making money is a goal -- and I have made quite a bit -- but the noble end of making money does not justify using or sanctioning immoral means.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Why not? It would follow from this line of argument that I can never be certain of the future actions and character of the man I may marry, even 50 years after being married to him. To hold out the arbitrariness of dishonesty at that point would be just that - arbitrary. Certainty in judgment is possible with regards to honesty and depends on two things: how consistent are the observations, and how long have they been going on?

Can I take it that you disagree with the following?

Never attempt to predict what someone will do. You can establish a strong probability. If you know a person well enough to know his basic premises, then you can say with assurance that the chances are he will make the right choice, if he understands a given situation. But you can't say that with full confidence ... [...] If you know a person is moral, you can expect his actions to be better than the actions of an irrational person. But the idea of attempting to predict human action, in the way you would predict an eclipse, is improper. You cannot and need not predict human actions that way.
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.

It seems here that you are saying we cannot know if someone is evading unless we receive their "reliable introspections" to that effect. And later you write:

In a case like your apples example, I would ask the person why he said what he did. If he said, "I don't care what they look like. I'll be damned if I'll give you the satisfaction of proving me wrong," then I would have conclusive evidence of evasion.

So, do you mean here that this person's statement is a "reliable introspection," because previously you said that you require "reliable introspections" to determine if someone is evading? If this is your position, then what makes the man's statement an introspection, and what makes it reliable? That bit is not clear to me. If you do not think the man's statement is a "reliable introspection," then why is it considered "conclusive evidence of evasion?"

You also posted this:

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 understand that we must judge based on the evidence at hand. But I don't understand why such knowledge is "necessarily incomplete." Is it your position that, where moral judgment is concerned, "conclusive evidence" results in "necessarily incomplete" knowledge?

And in these cases, is our knowledge incomplete simply because we cannot read minds, or is there some other reason?

Edited by MisterSwig
Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems here that you are saying we cannot know if someone is evading unless we receive their "reliable introspections" to that effect.

I mean that we cannot know for sure -- i.e with the same certainty that we have about our own minds -- when we evaluate the minds of others. Their introspections, if available and reliable, can provide the necessary data.

And later you write:

So, do you mean here that this person's statement is a "reliable introspection," because previously you said that you require "reliable introspections" to determine if someone is evading? If this is your position, then what makes the man's statement an introspection, and what makes it reliable?

While not 100% reliable, statements like that are pretty close to it. The reason why is that most people tell lies to gain a value or prevent a disvalue. When they make statements or confessions adverse to their own interests or where they have nothing to gain by making the statement, like the one I made up, such statements tend to be very reliable.

It is the report of an introspection because the person is directly perceiving something in his own consciousness (introspecting) and reporting it ("I refuse to look at the facts because ...").

You also posted this:

I understand that we must judge based on the evidence at hand. But I don't understand why such knowledge is "necessarily incomplete." Is it your position that, where moral judgment is concerned, "conclusive evidence" results in "necessarily incomplete" knowledge?

No, it is that necessarily incomplete knowledge can still result in a conclusive moral evaluation.

We can have conclusive moral evaluations of others, but the standard when judging people is different from the one we use judging physical phenomena. With physical phenomena, conclusive evidence consists of showing a necessary causal connection and explaining why any other conclusion would contradict the nature of the thing. When we judge people, conclusive evidence is simply "beyond a reasonable doubt." That's the best we can do.

And in these cases, is our knowledge incomplete simply because we cannot read minds, or is there some other reason?

When it comes to another person's past and current actions our knowledge is necessarily incomplete because we can't read minds. When it comes to his future actions it is incomplete because we can't read minds AND he has free will.

Link to post
Share on other sites
While not 100% reliable, statements like that are pretty close to it. The reason why is that most people tell lies to gain a value or prevent a disvalue. When they make statements or confessions adverse to their own interests or where they have nothing to gain by making the statement, like the one I made up, such statements tend to be very reliable.

How reliable does an introspection have to be before you can know whether someone is evading? Let's say that you think his particular introspection is 90% reliable. Is that enough for a "conclusive moral evaluation?" Does it need to be 100% reliable? If so, can you give an example of what a 100% reliable introspection would be? Does the guy have to say something like, "I've looked inward at my thinking process, and, you know what, I have been evading this whole time?"

Link to post
Share on other sites
The original context was someone secretly stealing money from a business owner.

The original context was the employee stealing a few quarters. If stealing a few quarters is no different from stealing a few hundred thousand dollars, in principle, the neither should be stealing office supplies.

A certain amount of personal use of business supplies or business time for personal matters is generally considered OK and even useful rather than stealing.

"A certain amount" is tolerable, yes. But since we're talking about stealing, let's just go ahead and assume that the employee is stealing beyond that arbitrary, subjective amount.

It depends on whether the visits were business-related entertainment expenses. If he was charging personal entertainment to the business, I would deduct the cost from his pay and warn him never to do it again. If he did it or anything like that after the warning, I'd fire him.

The problem is oftentimes it would be extremely hard to replace someone that's very good at what he does. Personally if the employee makes far more money for me than whatever he is expensing, I would just consider it the cost of doing business.

I have had a long and successful career as a software consultant and project manager for some of America's largest corporations. Making money is a goal -- and I have made quite a bit -- but the noble end of making money does not justify using or sanctioning immoral means.

So I am guessing that given your job, you've never actually ran a business, nor have had to make decisions from the position of the owner? I don't actually think your employee stealing from you constitute using an immoral mean to make money. Your employee is the one morally responsible -- not you. Furthermore, you do not have a moral responsibility to punish him at a cost to yourself and your business.

I am currently a stock broker. But prior to this job I worked for my family business of a construction company. I had a manager who was extremely good at his job -- able to broker good deals on supplies, always have the projects finish on time, well-connected with the union, and most important had the respect of the workers. Unfortunately he had an habit of skimming a couple hundred bucks here and there when purchasing supplies and equipments. What did I do about it? Nothing. He was one of the best man I know at what he does, one of the most valuable assets of the company, and virtually impossible to replace. To fire him over a couple of hundreds of dollars was like junkyarding a Ferrari because it had a scoff mark.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Personally if the employee makes far more money for me than whatever he is expensing, I would just consider it the cost of doing business.

And if he comes late to work every day for no good reason? And if he occasionally calls you an idiot, but still closes million-dollar deals?

Aren't all these just costs of doing business to you? If not, where do you draw the line? And why should everyone draw the line where you draw it? (What's the principle?)

Are you an Objectivist?

Link to post
Share on other sites
And if he comes late to work every day for no good reason? And if he occasionally calls you an idiot, but still closes million-dollar deals?

It depends on the context. Can my company survive without him? Would it suffer grievous losses without him? Is he doing what I am paying him to do? Is he right to call me an idiot? Does his behavior have a negative effect on the rest of the company by setting a bad precedence?

Aren't all these just costs of doing business to you? If not, where do you draw the line? And why should everyone draw the line where you draw it? (What's the principle?)

Yes they are all part of the cost. In the reality we occupy, not everyone is always rational or moral, so I make do with what I've got. Did I ever said everyone should draw the same line as me? I gave rational examples of why an employer would not fire an employee even if he wasn't 100% honest in response to previous posts.

In general though I would probably not fire someone that is integral to my business unless I already have plans for his replacement lined up, or unless by not firing him there are potentially more serious consequences down the road.

Are you an Objectivist?

No. But Objectivism is probably the closest philosophical system that I identify with.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I am currently a stock broker. But prior to this job I worked for my family business of a construction company. I had a manager who was extremely good at his job -- able to broker good deals on supplies, always have the projects finish on time, well-connected with the union, and most important had the respect of the workers. Unfortunately he had an habit of skimming a couple hundred bucks here and there when purchasing supplies and equipments. What did I do about it? Nothing. He was one of the best man I know at what he does, one of the most valuable assets of the company, and virtually impossible to replace. To fire him over a couple of hundreds of dollars was like junkyarding a Ferrari because it had a scoff mark.

He sounds like an idiot-savant. If he was worth that much to the company wouldn't it be more rational to ask for a raise than not risk being caught stealing and establishing a reputation as a thief? You, yourself, imply that you would give him a raise. Also, how do you know he wouldn't take a great deal more if given a chance? How do you know he wasn't stealing from customers? He clearly had not problem stealing, so I don't see what would stop him from doing so.

At the end of the day I have real contempt for thieves, and prefer integrity and honesty to wealth. I'd fire such an individual on the spot, as a matter of principle.

As to the Ferrari with the scoff mark, I don't agree with the analogy. It's more like a case of rust eating away at the chassis.

Link to post
Share on other sites

With respect to judging a person, I think a fair amount of information regarding them over a long period of time is required, and even then it is hard to accurately judge another person. I have found that if I analyize their actions over a period of time, it is their actions and behavior that I find myself judging and not the person themselves.

Link to post
Share on other sites
So I am guessing that given your job, you've never actually ran a business, nor have had to make decisions from the position of the owner?

You guess wrong. I have been the owner of my own business, Speicher Systems, registered in the State of California since 1978. Before that I worked as a senior consultant employed by several software companies in New York City.

I don't actually think your employee stealing from you constitute using an immoral mean to make money. Your employee is the one morally responsible -- not you. Furthermore, you do not have a moral responsibility to punish him at a cost to yourself and your business.

I have fired employees who stole from me or lied to me. It's not the money. It's the principle of the thing. I will not rely on, nor have the fate of my company at the mercy of, someone I don't trust.

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...