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Is Objectivism too difficult to follow?

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A quick response to the above three posts: 1) If I am jabbing anyone—it is myself. Let’s not be so sensitive that we are unable to look at our own actions and judge them objectively. 2) Risk is a relative thing—some things are in fact more risky than others. Risk also should be measured against the reward one gets by taking the risk. The risk of choking on solid food is real—we could get the same nutritional value from pureed food—so the risk of eating solid food must be worth the value of the feeling we get from chewing and savoring the texture/flavor. Didn’t your Grandmother tell you to chew your steak? That little bit of extra time chewing could save your life. 3) There is no straw man here—I have provided quotes in this thread and in the Productive Career thread. Words have meanings. 4) I am not promoting my theory of ethics—I am reading the actual words put forth by people who claim to be Objectivists. If you don’t agree with them then you are in my camp (actually I am starting to agree more and more as I explore this topic—I think we should enjoy safe activities.) 5) Safe activities verses dangerous ones—I have stated that being objective in terms of a measuring risk and reward is difficult and perhaps impossible. This only adds to my suspicion that Objective Values may be an improper concept—there may not be any such thing. The only means of measuring risk (that I can see) is on a relative scale: X is riskier than Y. The same goes for the emotional reward one receives from the activity. Perhaps a relative measure is an objective measure? (Food for thought.)

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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

Rsalar,

If you are willing to use the standard of the reward being worth it for not eating only pureed food, then why aren't you willing to use it for riding a bike?

You mention that the reason you can't process riding a bike is because one could substitute safer activities and get the same rewards, so why not apply that standard to food? By which I mean, if you can comprehend that the experience of solid food cannot be replicated with a series of pastes, then why can't you comprehend that there is no safer substitute for biking?

Unless you think that Objectivism does demand a liquid-only diet in which case I don't think anyone will be able to help you...

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Risk also should be measured against the reward one gets by taking the risk.
I agree with this and some other things you're saying, but I do not think there is (or needs to be for objectivity) a single rational standard.

Suppose an acquaintance tells me that she's going to invent and manufacture Galt engines, and wants me to put a huge portion of my money into her venture. If the venture has a 99.9% chance of failure, is there any reward that is worth it? If so, how much must the reward be in order to be a rational value? IMO

Gaining
any
reward (with no loss) is worth it; to condemn an obtained value on the basis that it was unlikely to be obtained would itself be an irrational condemnation. If you benefit from an action, then it's a rational value.

If(??) that's true, then anyone pursuing something with a chance of benefit (e.g. investing in the engine business) is acting rationally... regardless of the risk of other actions.

Similarly, suffering a detriment (with no gain) is not worth it, and a person who doesn't invest in Galt Co. is also acting rationally... regardless of the risk of other actions.

Unless one is prescient (in which case there is no risk :lol: ), there is no universal way/standard to choose between rationally taking a chance and rationally not taking a chance.

This is quite different from a friend who asks for asks for capital to build an altar to pray for profits or start a mafia empire. According to Objectivism, both ventures have a 0% chance of benefit - thus there is no reward.

I (not being an Objectivist :worry: ) don't know if I entirely agree that there is a 0% chance for both, but the point is that if (and only if?) one determines that there is no chance of benefit, then a general standard can be made (i.e. don't do it!)

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I found this rather interesting set of statistics that provides a little more information about the risk (actual and relative) involving motorcycling.

The most recent year, 2003, indicates there was an average of 38 fatalities per 100,000,000 miles ridden. Without a doubt, this exceeds the 1.2 deaths in 100,000,000 miles for passenger autos, but when one looks at the odds, they are still REALLY slim. However, if one holds that one should use the safest method of similar methods to accomplish the same goal, then perhaps they should be riding buses.

Given that I have engaged in training and educational efforts that likely reduce the risk for me, that I wear a helmet, that I do not consume alchol at all, and some other factors, I suspect I'm somewhere in "winning the lottery" range in terms of being in a fatal motorcycle accident.

[Edit - corrected auto stats 100,000,000 not 1,000,000,000 - RB]

Edited by RationalBiker
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If you are willing to use the standard of the reward being worth it for not eating only pureed food, then why aren't you willing to use it for riding a bike?
I am. The difference is that we HAVE to eat. We do not have to ride motorcycles.

Given that I have engaged in training and educational efforts that likely reduce the risk for me, that I wear a helmet, that I do not consume alchol at all, and some other factors, I suspect I'm somewhere in "winning the lottery" range in terms of being in a fatal motorcycle accident.
"I suspect ..." As in "surmise?" meaning: To infer (something) without sufficiently conclusive evidence. ???

Excerpted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition Copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products N.V., further reproduction and distribution restricted in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.

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3) There is no straw man here—I have provided quotes in this thread and in the Productive Career thread. Words have meanings.
It is not what you have quoted but what you've ignored, of Kira, Roark, Rearden, Galt, or Danneskjöld, and so on. One could take Ayn Rand's "sex is good" phrase and take it anywhere. You need to ask yourself what she meant by integrating all you have read of her writings on the topic.

So, you can say "safety is good", and that's fine, -- who would disagree? However, Objectivism does not say "safety is the standard of value".

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"I suspect ..." As in "surmise?" meaning: To infer (something) without sufficiently conclusive evidence. ???

Yes, we know you can use a dictionary. Was there something unclear about that sentence that necessitated looking up "suspect"? Part of risk assessment often involves a lack of certainty, an impossible standard you wish to apply that has absolutely nothing to do with Objectivism on this topic. Since you are handy with a dictionary, you might look up "inductive reasoning". If you want to discard the lottery comment fine. But if you wish to refuse to acknowledge that training, experience and education typically improve a person's odds and abilities when engaging in a task, then you simply being unreasonable.

I am. The difference is that we HAVE to eat. We do not have to ride motorcycles.

Objectivism does not dictate we restrict our activities to only those things necessary for physical survival. It would appear you skipped over the chapter that discussed optional values.

However, the fact that we have to eat does not refute the claim that you have an unreasonable interpretation on a standard for dangerous. By your standard, you should still restrict your nutritional intake to baby food because of the increased risk of eating solid food. Solid food is dangerous.

Edited by RationalBiker
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  • 4 months later...

RationalBiker,

I too ride bikes and am at risk of being injured if involved in an accident as is anybody else using any form of locomotion. Our ancestors looking at the horse for the first time and thinking "hmmm I bet I could cross over to the hunting grounds and be back before sundown If I could ride one of those" I'm sure they failed in their first attempts to ride the beast, but with enough disciplined thought they eventually conquered the task. Fast Forward centuries later and we have men flying in aircraft and circumnavigating the planet. This is where Objectivism has taught me to THINK! I use my mind to learn about riding motorcycles in a successful manner. I have had friends that were under the influence of a foreign substance that caused them to ride in an impaired manner and lose their lives. Being alert (Alive) to your surroundings, wearing the right gear, understanding your machine, anticipating scenarios that could occur at the next intersection or onramp. I have ridden "Ironbutt rides" 1K miles in < 24 hrs. & 1.5K miles in < than 36 hrs. If a person unfamiliar to riding were to attempt one of these rides, they would probably fail on their first attempt. They might not eat the right foods that would lead to tiredness, or they may not be able to read the terrain to determine adjustments to be made. They may not know how to dress & put themselves in danger of hyperthermia or the opposite. They may be afraid to ride next to a semi-tractor trailer rig and lose their focus.

If you've never experienced the smell of fresh cut hay after a rain shower at evening time in Oklahoma. The full moon as your only companion in Kansas on a warm summer night. The smell of bakeries at morning time in small Texas towns. Roads covered with miles of tree canopy in Missouri. A February midnight ride in 68 degree temperatures in Arizona. Riding through the palm trees of Southern California. Riding underneath the Stealth fighters around Holloman AFB in New Mexico. The Mountain pass vistas in Colorado. A foggy morning ride with new friends in Arkansas. Just a few of many points in time that I have experienced in a way that is unequalled on any other form of locomotion.

Thinking is a delicate , difficult process, which man cannot perform unless knowledge is his goal, logic is his method, and the judgment of his mind is his guiding absolute. Thought requires selfishness, the fundamental selfishness of a rational faculty that places nothing above the integrity of its own function. [Leonard Peikoff, OP, 334; pb 308.]

RationalBiker, I know why you ride.

Edited by Cnqwst
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  • 2 years later...

The biggest problem I have with Objectivism, although it in no way makes me not hold Objectivism to be true, is one of the problems Peikoff listed.

In softwareNerd's post: "He might conclude that he is not really a good person because he does not have a central purpose in life, and while he likes various things, none really interests him enough to make it his life's passion."

I have no central purpose as yet, I have nothing I live to do. I'm passionate about many things, but I'm not an expert at anything, nor am I compelled to live my life doing any particular thing. Nothing interests me so far.

The first two conflicts listed in the post make no sense to me. A philosophy is meant to define one's life, and as such it's going to be harder than living without a philosophy. Without a philosophy, one can do whatever he or she wishes with no guilt. With a philosophy, we must force ourselves to do what is right, which is often in conflict with what feels good. To live life rationally, though, one must not base their decisions on what feels good, but instead on what serves your long term rational self interest without disobeying your morals.

The third conflict listed in his post, where some may feel that Objectivism has no use in normal every-day life, has failed to do an essential part of the process of adopting a philosophy - applying it. Objectivism has little use if not applied, and there's no more important application of it than to one's own life. Once one realizes this, and begins applying Objectivist principles to their lifestyle, most will find that their life is greatly altered.

I think that adopting and applying Objectivist principles to one's life may be difficult - but that is no reason to not do it. Many of the rational decisions you have to make in your life are difficult, and doing the right thing is often far more difficult than doing the thing that feels good or that others think is right.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I have no central purpose as yet, I have nothing I live to do. I'm passionate about many things, but I'm not an expert at anything, nor am I compelled to live my life doing any particular thing. Nothing interests me so far.

It is not clear to me what aspect of Objectivism you find problematic? If I understand your post you're saying that it is not so much that you find anything problematic "in theory", but that you find one aspect hard to practice: specifically that you have not yet identified a central purpose in life.

Just to be clear, the example you quoted from my post was meant to highlight an erroneous way of understanding Objectivism. Specifically, just because one does not have a central purpose, does not imply that one is immoral -- or even morally "lesser" in any way.

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