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My gut tells me that I need to eat something. :)

But seriously, I think there are some things that are in the realm of mere preference. A friend of mine greatly enjoys comic books. I do not. However, I think reading comics is an objectively valid means of recreation. I imagine that people enjoy it for the visual sensations and the stories. I prefer books and movies to comics. Those are my preferences among the objectively valid choices.

I do not see how the possibility of preference renders all of morality subjective. In some areas, objectivity runs all the way down, and there truly is only one correct answer. A clear example would be whether it is morally proper to murder another person for no reason.

In other areas, however, you can only get objectivity down to a point. For example, at a general level, people require sustenance. That is objective as can be. If you don't get nutrients, water, etc., you will die. At an uber-specific level, though, it is purely subjective, as far I am aware, whether you prefer nutmeg in your egg nog. It's not a harmful substance, that I know of, and its use is purely a matter of taste.

Just because some things are subjective, does not mean all things are subjective. And I do not know how you feel, but I am not in the least bit uncomfortable with some things being subjective. It does not interest me at all to determine whether it is objectively proper to have nutmeg in one's egg nog. I am completely content to leave that in the realm of the subjective.

That's my start to the question. I don't claim this to be Objectivism, just my own thoughts on the subject. If Objectivism or anyone else has something contrary to say on the subject, I'd love to hear it.

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Yes, it can be, IF it doesn't conflict with your higher values. In my case, it is conflicting with a higher value, the desire to be lighter and healthier. Being lighter and healthier will afford me

Our opinions DO NOT change the fact that riding a motorcycle on roads and highways with other traffic around is a dangerous activity. This discussion is not even about the fact that riding is dangerous (that’s a given) it is about the Objectivist concept of what constitutes objective values.

No, that's not a factual given. I mentioned that earlier. I also went on to describe how I thought dangerous applied to this context.

Me:

I think the general connotation of "dangerous" is in line with this last definition suggesting that something is likely or probable to cause serious injury or death, not simply an increased possibility however so slight.
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I have never said that I do not believe him. I believe that he has reasoned out why he chooses to participate in an optional activity that has a relatively high degree of risk. I also believe him when he says that he is being objective. We just disagree about what an objective value is. I believe a value is an objective value only when it is consistent with the facts of reality governing what it takes to stay alive and flourish.

Again, by your logic (of what Objectivism supposedly says), then you shouldn't be flying planes, right? Very dangerous activity and you can better be served by getting from point A to B by taking the bus or a commercial flight.

This question: “Who are you to say that RB is taking "undue" risk in his recreational activities if you deny the context of his value judgements?” indicates that you believe that value judgments are and should be subjective. You see KendallJ, who I am or what I think about this does not change the objective reality that certain activities do not aid and abet (promote) human life. It doesn’t matter what RB thinks either or how many reason he comes up with. No amount of thinking and reasoning can change the facts of reality. This is what Objectivism is all about—you must eliminate this idea that you seem to have that this is about my opinion verses RB’s opinion. Our opinions DO NOT change the fact that riding a motorcycle on roads and highways with other traffic around is a dangerous activity. This discussion is not even about the fact that riding is dangerous (that’s a given) it is about the Objectivist concept of what constitutes objective values.

Rsalar, you have given me perfect evidence for my claim that you are an intrinsicist. You misread and misunderstand my statement because of it. If I had stopped at the word "activities" you would be perfectly correct in asserting my demand for subjectivity. You missed the qualifier, which negates that claim and is based on the fact that objective reality is contextual. "Riding motorcycles is dangerous" is true, but it is not complete. It is a statement of ignorance of context as much as it is a statement of objective reality. The context of RB's decisions and actions changes the level of "objective risk", and as such may change the basis for his decision relative to others. Additionally, you discount the objective level of reward (or recreation) he may obtain from riding and its role in his flourishing, which is also contextual. This is why Smith claims that suicide, in the right context, may be consistent with the role of flourishing. This is clear evidence to me of your missing the point, you quote Smith and yet ignore the clear example that refutes your understanding of context. Suicide is clearly very life threatening activity, and yet what context would allow it to be consistent with flourishing?

If you deny context, then you have no business claiming objectivity in the face of it. That is my point.

When you deny context, you turn Objectivism into dogma.

If someone can prove to me that doing something that is dangerous (when there are safer alternatives that accomplish the same goal) is or can be an objective value to person’s life I would love to hear from them, otherwise I will have to follow the lead of RB and Groovenstein and discontinue this discussion because at this point we are just going around in circles.

What's the "goal" Rsalar? You admit that you don't fly planes to get from point A to B, but in large part for the emotional reward you receive from it. Dagny and Reardon flew and in part Rand shows that it was for the same reason. If objectivism says what you say it does, why doesn't Rand show her characters doing much safer activities when they can? If you want to discount everything but "utilitarian transport" function of various method of transportation then your analysis is correct, but there is more to flourishing than getting from point A to B. Recreation and emotional recharging are topics for the science psychology, but if it turns out that emotional recharge, and recration are important parts to flourishing, then it is you who are being non-objective by discounting their roles.

When I exercise, I ride my bicyle out on the open road. By your logic, the utilitarian benefit of exercise can more safely be accomplished by riding on a stationary bike in my garage. However, the emotional component of such is much more enhanced by a ride on the open road, and coupled with the fact that I ride safely, the risk warrants the benefits. IN the same way that Rand thought that emotional recharge by viewing art is "critical" to flourishin, and in the same way that Binswanger says such choices are also critical, so too the emotional recharge from RB's riding, or my riding, or your flying must be viewed as a critical component of life and cannot be discounted because you think they fly in the face of "objective reality".

PS: Do you have any empirical evidence to back up the allegation: "You are very much an intrincisist."? Or are you just stating your subjective appraisal as a form of argument from intimidation?

Like the response above, you have shown me in several different threads (which I'm not going to rehash again) that you are still unclear on the meaning and role of context in Objectivism.

I suggest The Art of Thinking by Peikoff to you as he covers both context and certainty and so clearly refutes your claim about the "objective certainty" of statistics used.

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If someone can prove to me that doing something that is dangerous (when there are safer alternatives that accomplish the same goal) is or can be an objective value to person’s life I would love to hear from them, otherwise I will have to follow the lead of RB and Groovenstein and discontinue this discussion because at this point we are just going around in circles.

I'll give you basics of how I'd look at it.

Certainly if something has value towards the goal of flourishing, then you'd agree that there is some level of risk that it is worth taking to acheive it, right? We're not debating that we should walk to work instead of driving. That's really what Objecitivism has to say on the subject. What constitutes a particular value, and what the risks are are left up to various sciences.

For instance, psychology might tell you that recreation and emotional recharge are important aspects of flourishing, i.e. of healthy mental well being.There might be other facets, but let's use this for an example of one.

If this is the case, and I believe that it is, then there is some risk that is worth taking in order to pursue this value. You would agree to that right?

Now, as long as it is emotionally healthy, then the particular choice of activity may be artibtrary. Arguing it is like arguing what philosophy says your favorite color should be. It doesn't, and won't. That part of the analysis is arbitrary, and can't be argued. How much emotional recharge RB obtains from riding is different than mine, and rightly so. Now if someone obtains emotional recharge, from acitvities that are high risk, simply because they are high risk, then this is neurotic, and emotionally unhealthy, however, I don't think this is RB's assertion.

The 2nd part of the analysis is that with different understandings of causality, and different actions taken by different individuals, that a given activity may have different risk levels for different people. This is the part we can argue objectively. Not that any activity can be reduced to zero risk, because we've already established that if we can show value, then some level of risk is acceptable.

I think that refutes your analysis. Given a value, choice of activity is arbitrary, and risk level is directly contextual, therefore it is conceivable, that some people might engage in what is nominally (very important) a high risk activity because a) they gain additional value from it than just its surface utility, and B) they act in their specific context to change risk level. This analysis would be perfectly objective, yet yeild a different result for a different person. This is not subjectivity.

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No, that's not a factual given. I mentioned that earlier. I also went on to describe how I thought dangerous applied to this context.

dan·ger·ous (dānʹjər-əs) adjective

1. Involving or filled with danger; perilous.

2. Being able or likely to do harm.

dan·ger (dānʹjər) noun

1. Exposure or vulnerability to harm or risk.

2. A source or an instance of risk or peril.

Regardless of how you want to define the word dangerous (or danger) is it not true that (everything else being equal—road conditions, traffic, speed, operator’s ability, etc.) riding a bike is more dangerous than driving a car? Some drunk driver in a pickup sideswipes you on your bike and he sideswipes me in my big heavy Cadillac, you go down, I drive away with a dent. Let me ask it this way: Does the safety factor of one mode of transportation over another (or of one recreational activity over another) make any difference at all when it comes to whether or not that mode of transportation or recreational activity is in FACT an objective value. Or do you think the degree of danger is irrelevant? If it does matter, at what degree of danger does a particular activity stop being a value? Maybe you are able to provide us with the objective standards that should be used when evaluating risk and reward? Let’s not get hung up on the bike verses auto issue—let’s instead focus on the exact amount of increased risk that is acceptable given a fixed amount of resulting joy, pleasure, fulfillment, etc. Also I would like to know if joy, pleasure, fulfillment can be objectively measured and how.

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Regardless of how you want to define the word dangerous (or danger) is it not true that (everything else being equal—road conditions, traffic, speed, operator’s ability, etc.) riding a bike is more dangerous than driving a car? Some drunk driver in a pickup sideswipes you on your bike and he sideswipes me in my big heavy Cadillac, you go down, I drive away with a dent.

This is all true. But it is only a part of the context. All other things are rarely equal, therefore in a given context it is possilbe that the risk is minimized to the level at which the value obtained is worth the risk.

The very obvious example is that, most drivers choose to not give their "full attention" or even the same level of attention to driving, whereas objective motorcycle drivers realize that they must always give more attention to riding (this is what RB has articulated). That fact alone means that in aggregate (i.e. ignoring the objective reality of the particular) riding is more dangerous. However, in context, there exists in reality motorcycle riders that are safer than many motorists. Even if the particular rider cannot lower his risk level to the same level as equivalent driving, the value obtained by riding over driving may justify the incremental risk.

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Certainly if something has value towards the goal of flourishing, then you'd agree that there is some level of risk that it is worth taking to acheive it, right? We're not debating that we should walk to work instead of driving. That's really what Objecitivism has to say on the subject. What constitutes a particular value, and what the risks are are left up to various sciences.
I think that the things we decide will allow us to flourish (achieve happiness) must be objectively chosen. It can't be a matter of "it feels good" because that is the basic premise behind hedonism and just because an activity provides an "emotional recharge" does not make that activity an objective value for the same reason. There has to be a real value, an objective value, a measurable value that can be proved. It seems to me that you are directing your argument towards the issue of what constitutes an objective value—this is what I want to discuss. Thank-you. Tara Smith, in her book "Viable Values" has a section on "flourishing," where she tries to make the point that, "we must not equate positive feelings with the activity of authentic flourishing, however."

On page 147 she continues: "Flourishing is a process that consists of living in a pro-life way. Since objective standards determine what is pro-life, objective standards determine what constitutes living in a pro-life way. This is the heart of flourishing's objectivity. Nature sets the terms for objective flourishing just as it sets the terms for surviving." We might want to focus on this quote ... but I want you to note that positive feelings must not be equated with authentic flourishing. And wouldn't you call an “emotion recharge” a positive feeling?

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I think that the things we decide will allow us to flourish (achieve happiness) must be objectively chosen. It can't be a matter of "it feels good" because that is the basic premise behind hedonism and just because an activity provides an "emotional recharge" does not make that activity an objective value for the same reason. There has to be a real value, an objective value, a measurable value that can be proved. It seems to me that you are directing your argument towards the issue of what constitutes an objective value—this is what I want to discuss. Thank-you. Tara Smith, in her book "Viable Values" has a section on "flourishing," where she tries to make the point that, "we must not equate positive feelings with the activity of authentic flourishing, however."

feeling?

We are saying the same thing here. Yes it must be objectively determined, but philosophy per se does not specify all of these things. This is why I provided a basis in psychology for the role of recreation and or emotion recharge, and a qualifier for the possibility of use of feelings that would be irrational and non-objective (e.g. the neurotic, thrill seeker). This is still objective, and uses emotions in their proper role.

A science in addition to philosophy must provide the objective criteria for what could constitute value; however, even if it does, I don't expect it to fully specify down to the level of "motorcycle riding is intrinsically anti-flourishing". There will still be portions of the analysis that will be arbitrary and thus lead to different contextual outcomes. No philosophy or science will convince me that there is a "correct favorite color", just as there is not one "best favorite pastime".

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A science in addition to philosophy must provide the objective criteria for what could constitute value; however, even if it does, I don't expect it to fully specify down to the level of "motorcycle riding is intrinsically anti-flourishing". There will still be portions of the analysis that will be arbitrary and thus lead to different contextual outcomes. No philosophy or science will convince me that there is a "correct favorite color", just as there is not one "best favorite pastime".
What if you remove the word "intrinsically" and just said, "motorcycle riding, because of the risk of bodily harm, regardless of how much joy one gets, is not pro-life"? That seems to be a true statement. The only argument that one could raise (and RB has) is that “life” is more than just survival. I have addressed this aspect of the, “motor-cycle riding is pro-life because it makes my life worth living” argument by pointing out that the things that make life worth living must also be pro-survival if they are in fact real authentic values. (A value can not be an authentic value if it is harming you or likely to harm you.)

The favorite color analogy does not hold water because a person’s choice of a favorite color has no impact on his chances of survival (unless he insist on wearing a black suit while jogging at night on busy rural roads—saying,” I am only happy when I jog in a black suit.”). The things that make us happy should also be consistent with or physical survival needs. I don’t see any relation between my choice of a favorite color, my choice of Pepsi over Coke, or whether or not I like nutmeg on my eggnog, and real life and death risk decisions. Some decisions do in FACT affect my likelihood of survival. I hold firm that riding a motorcycle decreases ones chances of survival. The question here should be how does one determine when the risk is objectively too great relative to the resulting objective positive outcomes.

We need an objective standard to assess objective risk verses reward as it pertains to our goal to flourish as human beings. Until we have that, objectivity in this matter is impossible.

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I don’t see any relation between my choice of a favorite color, my choice of Pepsi over Coke, or whether or not I like nutmeg on my eggnog, and real life and death risk decisions. Some decisions do in FACT affect my likelihood of survival. I hold firm that riding a motorcycle decreases ones chances of survival. The question here should be how does one determine when the risk is objectively too great relative to the resulting objective positive outcomes.

You say "real" life and death risk decisions. Do you have the numbers on the risk of death when driving a motorcycle, assuming proper safety gear and driving techniques? I will not consider it a "real" life and death risk until I know how much of a risk is really there. There's a risk of death in a car. As we saw from the other day, there's a risk of death in an airplane. There's a risk of death from slipping in the shower. That doesn't mean any of these things are likely. And unless you show me that riding a motorcycle carries a risk of death that actually matters, I will not consider it a "real" risk. Am I saying the risk isn't there? No. I am saying I don't know that the risk is statistically meaningful.

As for the eggnog example, that was meant solely to demonstrate an example of a value I think is subjective.

I have noted other examples of foods, such as meat, that involve a risk of illness or death. I am still curious how you address that risk, as clearly eating meat is not necessary for survival.

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At an uber-specific level, though, it is purely subjective, as far I am aware, whether you prefer nutmeg in your egg nog. It's not a harmful substance, that I know of, and its use is purely a matter of taste.

Just because some things are subjective, does not mean all things are subjective. And I do not know how you feel, but I am not in the least bit uncomfortable with some things being subjective.

This is only true if you have switched the definition of "subjective" to "peculiar to the subject." In fact, the preference for nutmeg is an objective fact about you, Groovenstein. It is an objective fact that Groovenstein recieves a more pleasureable sensation from imbibing eggnog with nutmeg versus without (or whatever the case actually is).

This is because your biological makeup is objectively different from others. Not so much that we aren't all classified as human beings, but enough so that we have objective cause to prefer different flavors, hobbies, and colors.

This can even hold true for non-biological differences. If you haven't acquired the taste for something that is, as they say, "an acquired taste," then it is an objective fact that you will not enjoy it. Whether it is of value for you to acquire that taste or not will vary with your context. And so it is the same with hobbies...

Does that help?

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Wow, I think so. Let me take something that doesn't involve food to see if I understand.

I like the Boston Red Sox. I enjoy following them, rooting for them, thinking about why they make certain managerial decisions, their statistical philosophies, etc.

Why? I don't know. From 1983 (when I was 2) until 2002 I lived in the Boston area, and my family and I frequently watched them in our home. So maybe it's that. I don't feel about any other baseball team the way I feel about the Sox. I don't really care to psychologize myself, I don't think it really matters why I like them. Following them and cheering for them is a very positive leisure pursuit for me. I learn some things and get some relaxation and enjoyment out of it. If it were destructive, then I might wish to understand its cause and eliminate it. But it is not destructive.

So, Matt Stein likes the Red Sox = objective fact (redundant, I suppose, but I'll leave it for clarity's sake). Whether someone else should like the Red Sox = question for them to decide based on what facts they know about themselves.

Am I there? Or at least getting warmer?

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If someone can prove to me that doing something that is dangerous (when there are safer alternatives that accomplish the same goal) is or can be an objective value to person’s life I would love to hear from them.
Okey dokey.

First, there is no alternative way to experience riding a bike. If you are saying that the goal of experiencing riding a bike has to be justified in terms of your ultimate value of physical survival, then THE question is:

An ethical system does not have to have physical survival as the ultimate value in order to be objective. Do you agree with this, RSalar?

I ask because you seem to be pushing the false dichotomy that either physical survival is Objectivism's ultimate value or Objectivism isn't objective.

Once (if?) you answer this question, it's easy enough to show that reward need be a universal consideration in an objective ethical system and danger/risk doesn't.

I do not know the objective standards that should be used to assess risk and reward. There may not be any objective standards—in which case there would be no objective way to determine if the risk is worth the reward.
Your divergent uses of 'objective' again entangles you. Objective qua universal (and not qua faculty of reason), I'd agree with your statement. Objective qua faculty of reason, there are many, many, many different objective standards of determining whether a risk is worth its potential reward.

Regardless of how you want to define the word dangerous is it not true that (everything else being equal) riding a bike is more dangerous than driving a car?... Or do you think the degree of danger is irrelevant?
Riding a bike is more dangerous, but this is irrelevant - danger doesn't need to be a universal consideration in an objective ethical system.
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I have noted other examples of foods, such as meat, that involve a risk of illness or death. I am still curious how you address that risk, as clearly eating meat is not necessary for survival.
The choices of what types of food we eat definitely effects our survival chances and are therefore important ethical considerations. Being overweight and out of shape is not pro-life.

RB gave you the statistics of the relative danger on riding motorcycles verses driving automobiles. I thinks it’s absurd to try to argue that riding a bike is as safe as driving a car—it’s like saying that downhill skiing is as safe as walking. If this is the only way of defending the activity as being an objective value I think the argument is lost at the outset. You have to do as RB attempted—show that the value gained is worth the risk taken. I still do not know how you do that objectively—especially in light of the vague concept of what actually makes a life worth living. I can say that about almost any activity: “Base-jumping is so much fun that without it life would not be worth living.” That to me is pure subjectivism. And listing the reasons that you base-jump does nothing to remove the subjective nature of the decision. The fact is that base-jumping is a dangerous past time and as such is not pro-life.

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This is only true if you have switched the definition of "subjective" to "peculiar to the subject." In fact, the preference for nutmeg is an objective fact about you, Groovenstein. It is an objective fact that Groovenstein recieves a more pleasureable sensation from imbibing eggnog with nutmeg versus without (or whatever the case actually is).
It's an objective fact that some people enjoy doing dangerous things--that does not make those things objective values.

What if a person said to you that they love the taste of rat poison? They sprinkle some on their eggnog because it makes it taste better. That's an objective fact—but so what? Noting the objective facts about what you enjoy does not automatically lead you to seek objective values.

If your goal is to live long and prosper then you should enjoy only those things that are objectively pro-life.

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I like the Boston Red Sox. I enjoy following them, rooting for them, thinking about why they make certain managerial decisions, their statistical philosophies, etc. Why? I don't know.
I think that rooting for the home team regardless of their virtues (not saying that you are) is like loving your parents regardless of what kind of people they are. There is no objectivity in that decision. You should be able to identify the qualities that you admire and those qualities should be objectively good qualities. (According to Objectivist ethics as I understand it.)
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So, Matt Stein likes the Red Sox = objective fact (redundant, I suppose, but I'll leave it for clarity's sake). Whether someone else should like the Red Sox = question for them to decide based on what facts they know about themselves.

Am I there? Or at least getting warmer?

Yes, I think so. The cause of that fact is currently not known, and from what you describe, isn't worth it to investigate. Not everything is. But, the fact that you derive an enjoyment from the Red Sox is just as objective as any other, even though it is likely a man-made fact. But just because it is personal to you, and man-made, does not make it subjective except in the sense of being peculiar to the subject.

Once the causes of it are known, then we might be able to say if it is based on whim or not. But like I said, the benefit to your life of knowing that may not be worth the time and effort needed to determine those causes.

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What if a person said to you that they love the taste of rat poison? They sprinkle some on their eggnog because it makes it taste better. That's an objective fact—but so what? Noting the objective facts about what you enjoy does not automatically lead you to seek objective values.

Don't read too much into what I said. I never said that this kind of fact represented an objective value, only that they are facts, within the contexts given.

Now, I understand that you are asking a question about Objectivism here. It's not a question of whether you think it is proper that RB rides his hog; you have stated that you do think that's a fine activity. The question is whether the principles of Objectivism are compatable with such an activity. Your current position is that Objectivism does not support riding a Harley within RB's context, but you do. I'm just stating this here because I don't think that's clear to everyone yet. (hope that helps)

A side question: You seem to be quoting Tara Smith's book as representing Objectivism for the purpose of this question... but since it is a text about Objectivism, and not an Objectivist text, shouldn't you first examine whether that view is in fact accurate of Objectivism?

I think that rooting for the home team regardless of their virtues (not saying that you are) is like loving your parents regardless of what kind of people they are. There is no objectivity in that decision.

I have heard (although I don't remember precisely the context; it was either Dr. Peikoff or Dr. Hurd) some Objectivists argue that love for one's children can come from other sources than their character; that one can love them, to a point, regardless of their characters. I won't be specific because I don't want to misrepresent what was said.

Now obviously, this isn't the absolute, unconditional love that is advocated by many, which is perhaps what you meant.

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Maybe I missed something.
Maybe.

**As you continue to not address you multiple usages of "objective" and "subjective", I'll try to use "universal/not universal" and "rational/irrational" instead; for now, my use of "objective" will only be used for things that are necessarily rational and universal, and "subjective" for things that are neither rational nor universal.**

One person might primarily choose to pursue actions that have the greatest possible reward (treating risk/danger as virtually irrelevant). This is rational - obtaining the greatest reward means gaining the greatest benefit. This is not universal - other people may rationally not pursue rewards that have risks beyond specific thresholds.

This is not subjective.

Among the things you are "missing":

  1. You repeatedly imply that danger needs to have a universal standard in order to be rational. You've given no argument why this would be true.
  2. You continually ask how can riding a bike be an objective (rational?) value... but ignore answers you don't wish to accept. I've already said (and you've "missed") that riding a bike is rational because you can gain a rational value and that there is no (need for a) universal risk vs. reward standard in order to be rational.
  3. You (incorrectly) say that physical surival is (or ought to be) the objective ultimate value of Objectivism. Tara Smith quotes notwithstanding, that's outright wrong, and you have "missed" this.

This all pertains to Objectivism, because

  • Physical survival is not Objectivism's ultimate value
  • While there are many different rational ones, there is no single (i.e. universal) rational standard in Objectivism (or any other objective ethical system AFAIK) for determining whether a attempting to gain a value is irrationally risky. And rationality doesn't require such a universal standard.

Feel free to "miss" this as well.

Edited by hunterrose
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A side question: You seem to be quoting Tara Smith's book as representing Objectivism for the purpose of this question... but since it is a text about Objectivism, and not an Objectivist text, shouldn't you first examine whether that view is in fact accurate of Objectivism?
It was RB's suggestion that her book might help clear up the issue for me. (It did—but not in the way he thought it would.)

You are correct that I believe that we should pursue the things that we enjoy doing (even when they may be risking our health). And yes, I was asking about Objectivist Ethics and how "dangerous" activities are viewed. The way I read the Objectivist pro-life standard, a person (if they want to enjoy objective values) must protect his own life first and foremost. That means eating right, exercising regularly, getting check-ups, going to the dentist, wearing a seat belt, looking both ways before crossing the street, and finding joy only in safe activities. One should not go downhill skiing when one could go x-country skiing instead, for example. I know Ayn Rand enjoyed smoking until her doctor convinced her that it was harming her, at which point she quit. It was not logical for her to enjoy an activity that was harming her. I am sure you know the Objectivist theory of emotions—that they are the result of the way we think—of the premises we hold. So if we enjoy an activity, the joy we experience, is the result of the way we perceive that activity—if we know it is dangerous the knowledge should stop us from experiencing the joy we experienced prior to the knowledge. Then of course there is the whole issue of invasion and rationalization that might allow us to invent reason why the dangerous activity isn’t really that dangerous.

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Bring in some numbers. You can't just say downhill skiing is dangerous with no regard for context. Sure, it's probably pretty dangerous to fire down a double black diamond when you're ten years old, have never skied, and lack proper safety equipment. It's probably not that dangerous for a trained professional with proper equipment and a properly maintained slope.

Hmm. If we can find the data, I'm curious what things result in death and serious injury more frequently than skydiving. I'm guessing we'd see some surprising things on there.

And how much injury are you talking about here? Is it okay by your standard to take on a small risk of a broken bone to have some fun skiing? Assume I can afford the medical care, and it won't interfere with my job. Am I immoral if I decide I can put up with a little pain and inconvenience to have a great few days on the slopes?

You keep saying pro-life, pro-life, dangerous, dangerous. You give no context, you put no meat on your standards. You should probably resolve that before you continue taking clear or subtle jabs at people (e.g. "Then of course there is the whole issue of invasion and rationalization that might allow us to invent reason why the dangerous activity isn’t really that dangerous.").

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The implication from some of RSalar's posts seems to be that Objectivism says, "He who maximizes the number of days he is alive has achieved the moral ideal"; but, Objectivism does not say that. This straw-man seems analogous to the one that was raised in another thread about "Productive Career"... i.e. Objectivism does not say, "He who ends up with the most money is the most moral man."

So, assuming that we aren't addressing a straw-man, what is the issue?

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The implication from some of RSalar's posts seems to be that Objectivism says, "He who maximizes the number of days he is alive has achieved the moral ideal"; but, Objectivism does not say that.

I can understand (to some degree) why he gets that from book I recommended (Viable Values by Tara Smith), but that's not all it says because it does also discuss the contextual nature of values, "optional values", and refuting the concept of intrinsic value. Unfortunately, she does not spend alot of time of "Viable Risk Assessment" and values. His argument for what is considered dangerous appears to be based solely on comparison to other activities, and not what actual level of risk is involved specific for the specific person in the specific context in which they engage the activity. As I understand how he is determining what is "dangerous", if you applied his standard to eating food, one could say that eating solid food is dangerous because there is a greater risk of choking from solid food than food that is pureed (or processed like baby food).

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I can understand (to some degree) why he gets that from book I recommended (Viable Values by Tara Smith), ...
I need to read that some day.

One doesn't have to go to another book; I'll readily concede that one could get the same idea from reading the first essay of VoS, if one read it in isolation. However, in Ayn Rand's case, since she was an author who was also trying to concretize her conception of ideal men in her novels, we have a fairly rich set of fictional examples to look at in order to try to understand what she meant.

The big problem with fictional examples is that one might mistake the optional values for universal ones (like "I should like skyscrapers", or "I should be an acrhitect"). If all we had were the novels, then we wouldn't really have Objectivism. However, with both taken together - the principles laid down in the short essays she wrote, and the novels as a source of examples of her idealization of man -- we can form a pretty good idea of what she meant.

So, on the question of maximization of life-duration, measured solely in "time-alive", one must cross-check with the examples from her fiction. We don't see Kira, Roark, Rearden, Galt, or Danneskjöld [;)] living their lives by this standard, so it's reasonable to conclude that this is not what she meant.

With these examples in mind, one can go back to the first essay in VoS and when one finds her saying:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life,...
... one can conclude that she did not mean happiness to be synonymous with "alive-time-maximization".

The full sentence from which I quoted was as follows:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
From this and from much else that she has written, one can conclude that Ayn Rand thought that happiness was a goal, but that it could not be achieved by any whimsical action, but rather that there were certain things that would not bring a man happiness even if man really wished they would.

Take the case of riding a bike. It is actually a good example to illustrate the original question: "is Objectivism too difficult to follow?"

Does one justify bike-riding by it being happiness-enhancing or by it being life-enhancing? The Objectivist answer is that if it is one, then it is the other -- those are simply two different ways of describing the same fact of reality (from slightly different perspectives). If one uses the term "happiness enhancing" a hedonist may think one is agreeing with him. If one uses the term "life-enhancing" one might focus on "life" and meaning a beating heart and a pulse with all else excluded, and conclude that bike-riding is not "life-enhancing" and therefore must not be "happiness-enhancing". So, if one enjoys biking, and then one reads VoS's first essay, one might conclude that one's hobby is a form of hedonism. One might conclude that one is not being moral unless one takes up a risk-free hobby, like stamp-collecting. This would be a mis-reading of Objectivism, but the reasoning that underlies it is the one that is responsible for many people concluding that the particular concrete activity they enjoy is hedonistic according to Objectivism.

When it comes to concretes there are many reasons why people do similar things. Without knowing anything about bikers other than that they come from the society around me, I'll be willing to guess that some of them bike for the wrong reasons, and that biking is not "life-enhancing" or "happiness-enhancing" for them, even if they ride more cautiously than the average biker!

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