Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Judging Other People

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Barring error, no one rationally makes any claims beyond the evidence that they have.

How would you evaluate a claim by someone who tells someone else, "I don't care if you think you want X. I know what you really want and it's Y." How would you evaluate such a statement?

Thus, such claims can never be wrong, because all claims are contextual. All rational claims are made with respect to the known evidence, which means that they are as invincible to disproof as your "absolute certainty" is. Otherwise, the claim was improperly framed and claimed more than the evidence warranted, i.e. was in error -- but was so all along, and this could have been known all along.

The "known evidence" may be certain, but not the conclusion inferred from the known evidence. Given a particular action a person is known to have taken, there may be several possible motivations for taking that action. Roark and Keating had very different reasons for being architects.

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

Top Posters In This Topic

To clarify, are you saying that someone in this thread has claimed or argued that lacking any evidence with respect to a person's honesty, that it is proper to be certain that a person is honest or that they would personally be certain of that person's honesty? If so, please provide the quote.

Or...

... are you saying that they have only presented "insufficient evidence" of honesty, but no evidence of dishonesty, and they are certain of that person's honesty?

The latter.

If so, please tell me what constitutes "sufficient evidence" by your standard.

I would consider seeing two instances where a particular person is honest where it works to his disadvantage and he could get away with not being honest. I gave examples of Dr. Peikoff doing that in this post. Another example of disadvantageous honesty was a friend of mine who lost an expensive ring and was compensated for it by her insurance company. Many years later she found the ring and tried to return the money to the insurance company and her insurance agent said she should forget it. She insisted on returning the money.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Here is a question I have for Betsy. What gaps are there in knowing someone's intent?

The biggest problem is that we can't directly perceive someone else's intent. All we can perceive are their actions from which we infer their intent.

The problem is that for any given action, there may be many different reasons a person took that action. You can't just assume one possible motivation and ignore all the others until and unless you have enough evidence to do so. Gathering and analyzing the necessary evidence to accurately evaluate another person is probably one of the most difficult and challenging intellectual tasks there is.

Link to post
Share on other sites
If I integrate all that evidence, I can conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt (not beyond all doubt), that Branden deceived Ayn Rand.

I'm still not clear here: what OTHER doubt can a rational person have, besides reasonable doubt? What doubt can exist between reasonable doubt and ALL doubt? [i think this is what DavidOdden was also essentially asking earlier?]

In order for you to identify what other doubt remains (apart from reasonable doubt), you will need to show why someone can still rationally have that doubt - but that means it is "reasonable" doubt. You have a contradiction.

Link to post
Share on other sites
If so, please tell me what constitutes "sufficient evidence" by your standard.

Are you suggesting that we cannot be certain of someone's honesty unless we observe them in two of these types of situations? What if they are never in such a situation? What if being honest has always worked to their advantage?

Also, are you saying that observing two such instances is sufficient evidence of another's honesty? Is no other knowledge about them necessary? What if a communist tells you about 1) his weekend romp with a capitalist years ago and 2) his current sexual fetish involving a replica of the Statue of Liberty? Would you evaluate him as an honest human being? Has he met your standard of proof?

Link to post
Share on other sites
I wonder if being honest ever works to a person's disadvantage. Like, are there people for whom dishonesty is a virtue?

Well...politicians seem to think so. Take a recent ruling that I heard about. Used to be one could set up a long distance service in conjunction with one's regular phone service and be charged the taxes only once, on the primary phone service. Now, however, the two services cannot be bundled together, without jumping through some hoops, one is now charged the taxes on the basic phone service and the long distance service -- I mean the Federal tax on phone services. So, they get double the loot at the signature of a pen. Wish I could double my income so easily. I can't say that the Feds are providing me with any extra services. They just found a way to close a loophole. No dishonesty there.

Internet scammers also seem to think so, you know those ones who are constantly hiding their true identity via anonymous emails and re-directed URL's in the fake ads. PayPal says your services will be discontinued unless you log on, and one double checks the URL only to find it's not PayPal at all. I suppose such scammers would claim that the person clicking on their fake links were voluntarily providing them with the log-in information. No dishonesty there.

Or take someone who agrees in principle that a woman he loves can have a chaperone, because he really wants that date. He eagerly looks forward to meeting her anew, only to find out that the agreement was worded in such a way to the unwary that he has given total access of his privacy over to some snoopers. And he found himself continuously being harassed to the point of being driven nearly insane by the so called chaperones. But, hey, the snoopers would say, you agreed voluntarily. No dishonesty there.

So, there are definitely persons out there who would consider dishonesty to be a virtue in collecting more cash or shady agreements from the suckers.

But reality can't be avoided. The cheats will get their just reward.

They have chosen a path whereby reality will be the victim's avenger, though that may take a while.

After all, when it comes to the initiation of force or fraud -- which they have accepted as the norm -- the murderer wins out over the pick-pocket.

Link to post
Share on other sites
After all, when it comes to the initiation of force or fraud -- which they have accepted as the norm -- the murderer wins out over the pick-pocket.

I should have mentioned that this is a principle elucidated by Ayn Rand.

It is said that one cannot cheat an honest man, because the honest man is not looking to get something for nothing, and therefore does not go around seeking shady dealings that will result in him getting something without paying for it in full and by the explicit agreement of the owner.

However, a dishonest man doesn't operate that way -- he is looking to get something for nothing and is looking for shady dealings because that is his policy. It might start off with him dealing with characters that he knows are shady -- perhaps stolen goods, for example, that he wants to buy for pennies on the dollar. But once he begins to associate with those kinds of characters, they might decide to steal from him, and how could he honestly complain about his goods being stolen when he has sanctioned the stealing of loot? It escalates to the point where the disagreements he has with his shady associates can only be resolved via force, because the law must be kept out of it (for obvious reasons). Once the disagreements reach a certain point of escalation, the ultimate resolution is reached -- he is causing too much trouble for his associates, and they murder him to keep him quiet.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm still not clear here: what OTHER doubt can a rational person have, besides reasonable doubt? What doubt can exist between reasonable doubt and ALL doubt? [i think this is what DavidOdden was also essentially asking earlier?]

In order for you to identify what other doubt remains (apart from reasonable doubt), you will need to show why someone can still rationally have that doubt - but that means it is "reasonable" doubt. You have a contradiction.

The issue is not one of having a doubt, but of having enough information. One either has enough information to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt or one does not.

To be certain beyond all doubt would require an unbroken causal chain of evidence from perception to conclusion. You can have that about yourself but, because you must infer rather than introspect about the motives of others, the causal chain between the motives of others and their actions is broken at the point at which you infer their motives.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you suggesting that we cannot be certain of someone's honesty unless we observe them in two of these types of situations? What if they are never in such a situation? What if being honest has always worked to their advantage?

They very well could be extremely honest people, but I would not have enough evidence to know that about them. There are some virtues, like courage, that are difficult to judge unless you see someone in a situation that puts them to the test.

Also, are you saying that observing two such instances is sufficient evidence of another's honesty?

No, but it is very strong evidence that he has that virtue and is likely to be honest in the future.

Is no other knowledge about them necessary? What if a communist tells you about 1) his weekend romp with a capitalist years ago and 2) his current sexual fetish involving a replica of the Statue of Liberty? Would you evaluate him as an honest human being? Has he met your standard of proof?

Everything I know about a person, or can find out, enters into my evaluation of him.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The biggest problem is that we can't directly perceive someone else's intent. All we can perceive are their actions from which we infer their intent.

What about the concept of reasonable foresight? Let's take a simple example like lighting a cigarette. The assertion is that I intended to light the cigarette, the evidence is that I had the cigarette in my mouth and a lighter which I used to light it, before puffing away. Can we agree that we can know with 100% certainty that my intent was to light the cigarette?

What about eating a cookie? The assertion is that I intended to eat the cookie, the evidence is that I opened the bag of cookies, grabbed one, popped it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed it. Can we agree that we can know with 100% certainty that my intent was to eat the cookie?

Edited by Seeker
Link to post
Share on other sites
What about the concept of reasonable foresight? Let's take a simple example like lighting a cigarette. The assertion is that I intended to light the cigarette, the evidence is that I had the cigarette in my mouth and a lighter which I used to light it, before puffing away. Can we agree that we can know with 100% certainty that my intent was to light the cigarette?

That is significant evidence, but not 100% certain. It could be the intent was to quit smoking, but willpower failed.

What about eating a cookie? The assertion is that I intended to eat the cookie, the evidence is that I opened the bag of cookies, grabbed one, popped it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed it. Can we agree that we can know with 100% certainty that my intent was to eat the cookie?

No, for the same reasons as the above. Observing the actions first-hand, I can know, with 100% certainty, that you puffed on the cigarette and ate the cookie, but I cannot know, with equal certainty, what you intended to do.

Link to post
Share on other sites
That is significant evidence, but not 100% certain. It could be the intent was to quit smoking, but willpower failed.

No, for the same reasons as the above. Observing the actions first-hand, I can know, with 100% certainty, that you puffed on the cigarette and ate the cookie, but I cannot know, with equal certainty, what you intended to do.

I have a real problem with the assertion that lighting the cigarette and eating the cookie could be unintentional. Fundamentally, human beings are responsible for their actions, they aren't mindless robots, they act according to their conscious intentions and free will. It may be that the intention to smoke or eat (to satisfy cravings, let's say) is contrary to a prior intention (to quit or cut back), but it is a conscious intention nonetheless. It may be satisfying an irrational desire, but it is an intention.

Edited by Seeker
Link to post
Share on other sites
To be certain beyond all doubt would require an unbroken causal chain of evidence from perception to conclusion. You can have that about yourself but, because you must infer rather than introspect about the motives of others, the causal chain between the motives of others and their actions is broken at the point at which you infer their motives.

I must dispute this argument because of the premise it is based on: it assumes that the motive of a person is always important with respect to virtues (thus, if i don't know the motive then i can't know if the virtue exists, at least not with total certainty). That premise is false.

Let's take honesty. Is it necessary that the motive for honesty be right for one to be judged as honest? No. If a person always tells the truth merely because he does not want to burn in hell, does that mean he is not really honest? Or if a person only tells the truth because he wants people to respect him (which is a second-handed motive) or to become a "clear" soul (Scientologically), does that mean he is not really honest even if his words and actions always conform to reality?

Similarly, we can look at other virtues in the same way. If a person is productive because he wants to have a lot of money and be praised by every person for being rich, does this mean the person is in fact not productive - no matter how much he produces? I think he may be judged as lacking independence, but not necessarily lacking productiveness. Since it does not matter what motive this person has for his "apparent" productiveness, we can be totally certain of his productiveness whether or not we know his motive. Which means i can be AS certain of his productiveness as I am of mine, which means that the idea that total certainty is impossible with respect to judging another person is false.

Black.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well you've got the definition of honesty right here:

if his words and actions always conform to reality?

but you misapply it here:

If a person always tells the truth merely because he does not want to burn in hell, does that mean he is not really honest?

Is a person who does not want to burn in hell conforming to reality?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Is a person who does not want to burn in hell conforming to reality?

Marc, not wanting to burn in hell can be something that motivates a person to be honest in his words and actions. It would therefore be part of his metaethical system, but not necessarily part of his ethics. And yes, someone can honestly believe in such a system, I think.

Would you disqualify Victor Hugo's truthfulness (from being the virtue of honesty) just because it was motivated by a desire to become as holy and majestic as God himself?

Further, would you say there is no one who is honest except Objectivists (since almost everyone else has a wrong metaphysics or meta-ethics)?

Link to post
Share on other sites
blackdiamond:

Truthfulness and honesty are two different things.

Marc: I think you are nit-picking. I used the word 'truthfulness' because I didn't want to use the word 'honesty' twice in that sentence (since it's the term under question), but I could rephrase it for you (with scare quotes) and ask you to answer the question (from essentials):

Would you disqualify Victor Hugo's "honesty" (from being the virtue of honesty) just because it was motivated by a desire to become as holy and majestic as God himself?

[or to use a less controversial example: suppose you know a guy who always, always tells the truth (in non-emergency situations) and never ever steals (for sixty years), and his reason for this is that he believes such vices cause bad health in a person. Would you fail to trust such a person with your money just because of what motivates his "honesty"? Would you refuse to judge him as honest? Now return to the Hugo question.]

edit: added the sentence "in non-emergency situations" to avoid paedophilia-type scenarios! .

Edited by blackdiamond
Link to post
Share on other sites

blackdiamond:

I guess I'm unsure of the problem we are having. I understood your definition of honesty to be: conforming to reality in thought and action. Do you disagree with this definition?

There is only one reality, agreed?

I don't know enough about Victor Hugo to answer your question. As to the person who doesn't lie because he thinks it causes bad health; I agree so I would trust him with my money. I would not entrust a "truthful" person with my money if his motivation for being "truthful" was the fear of a lightning bolt striking him dead if he lied; he is not being honest with himself, he is faking reality.

The reason I used the example of a pedophile is because it is usually only an emergency situation that can compel an honest person to lie.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Your argument was that a truthful person would tell the truth even in a situation where he probably shouldn't, but an honest person would not because he only conforms to reality. I didn't want to branch off into this debate, but I think there is no real distinction between truthful and honest. Truth is reality (only the real is true, no?). So, a truthful person conforms to reality (in words and actions).

However, this does not mean that the premises of a person who acts honestly are always true themselves. There are many reasons why a person can have wrong premises, besides just dishonesty. A low level of intelligence can be one of those, or a mistake in the reasoning process (which happens even to smart people), and so on.

Am I clearer?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Your argument was [...]

I made no argument, I simply defined my terms and asked if you agreed.

[...] I think there is no real distinction between truthful and honest.

We are talking about Objectivism right? If so, there is a distinction.

Truth is reality (only the real is true, no?). So, a truthful person conforms to reality (in words and actions).

Truth is "the recognition of reality". Reality isn't true or false, it just is. A certain proposition is either true (if it identifies a fact of reality) or false (if it contradicts reality) or arbitrary. A person is truthful if their statements always identify facts. However there are situations in which an honest person would intentionally not state a fact.

Just out of curiosity: how did you establish that lying causes bad health?

By observing liars and by observing myself when I have lied I have determined that lying is especially detrimental to one's mental health.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I made no argument, I simply defined my terms and asked if you agreed.

You made an argument here:

blackdiamond:

Truthfulness and honesty are two different things.

If a man values his children and a pedophile asks him where they are, he could be truthful and tell the slimebag but then he isn't being honest -- that is, conforming to reality.

The content of my statement shows I was responding to that argument.

Truth is "the recognition of reality". Reality isn't true or false, it just is.

I did not say reality is true.

A person is truthful if their statements always identify facts. However there are situations in which an honest person would intentionally not state a fact.

So, I take it you do not believe that honest people are truthful? I take it you believe that being truthful (as a character trait) is a vice?

By observing liars and by observing myself when I have lied I have determined that lying is especially detrimental to one's mental health.

Lying leads to mental illness? Should we believe that Bill Clinton (and his wife) is mentally "unhealthy"? (Your theory may be plausible; I'm just not sure you've gathered enough evidence to support it scientifically.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
I did not say reality is true.

Well whatever you are saying here is incorrect.

So, I take it you do not believe that honest people are truthful? I take it you believe that being truthful (as a character trait) is a vice?

You'll have to explain how you arrived at that conclusion from anything I have said.

Being honest means not faking reality. Most of the time this entails being truthful. However, on occasion, being honest means lying (as in the example I gave of a pedophile). And yes, on those occasions where one should lie, being truthful would be a huge vice. Being truthful most of the time is covered by the virtue of honesty.

Lying leads to mental illness? Should we believe that Bill Clinton (and his wife) is mentally "unhealthy"?

Yes. And Bill Clinton is a good example.

Really I think lying leads directly to spiritual illness -- a degradation of the moral fiber that makes up your character. Given enough quantity or severity of lies, mental or even physical illness will result. But I have no intent to prove this to you, it has been my observation.

Now, I am still unsure of where we stand. Leaving the mental illness issue aside, with which of my other statements do you disagree?

Since you bring it up and apparently you disagree with my assessment of the issue perhaps you could restate my pedophile example in your terms. Define your terms and substitute them into this sentence: "If a man values his children and a pedophile asks him where they are, he could be truthful and tell the slimebag but then he isn't being honest -- that is, conforming to reality." Then tell me if you think your version comports with the philosophy of Objectivism.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well whatever you are saying here is incorrect.

Hm. That’s an interesting assertion to make in a debate.

But anyway, perhaps it would require another thread to discuss this. To sum, I believe that Truth and Reality are just the same “thing”, one being the epistemological aspect and the other the metaphysical aspect (of the same “thing”).

You'll have to explain how you arrived at that conclusion from anything I have said.

What you said was this:

A person is truthful if their statements always identify facts. However there are situations in which an honest person would intentionally not state a fact.

It appears to me that you are saying what makes a person “truthful” is that they ALWAYS tell the truth (“always identify facts”). Whereas an honest person will not always tell the truth, but will always “conform to reality”.

So, an honest person can not be truthful since by definition truthful means they have to ALWAYS tell the truth, even in emergencies. Therefore, you are saying an honest person can not be called truthful (by your own definition). And since you say it is WRONG for a person to ALWAYS tell the truth (even when they should not – like in emergencies), you are saying it is WRONG for a person to be truthful. Thus truthfulness (or to be a truthful person) is a vice.

That’s my reductio. Did I miss something?

Since you bring it up and apparently you disagree with my assessment of the issue perhaps you could restate my pedophile example in your terms….Then tell me if you think your version comports with the philosophy of Objectivism.

My simple answer (which I hinted on earlier) is that “truthful” or “honest” does not apply in an emergency situation or when dealing with an initiator of force. These terms apply to your character (as virtues) in normal every-day situations, but can not be used to describe you or your actions in emergency situations.

Thus, telling a lie to a killer/paedophile is not honesty and it is not dishonesty; it is not truthfulness and it is not untruthfulness. [i’m not sure we’re still on-topic.]. It is just telling a lie to a killer/paedophile!

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...