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Incoherent rant on the O'ist ethics.

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Gabriel
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Let me clarify some of my remarks made in the Homosexuality thread... (this is not the essay I'm working on)

Objectivism teaches us to live life qua man, which implies surviving (staying alive) and living out one's nature.

It is my oppinion that "one's nature" has 2 components: the common nature of all humans, and the particular nature which arises from one's own context (I am male, I have ~this~ life experience, I have ~this~ education, etc)

As far as the common nature goes, I'd say it is pretty limited, and can be formulated as: "animal with the capability for reason". (it is in our nature to be capable of reason, but not to choose it/use it automatically).

Concerning these common traits, I'd like to first examine sexuality.

Objectivism holds that proper sexuality is the result of self-esteem, a celebration of the value of the 2 partners. It also states that there's no separation between a proper sexual relationship and a proper romantic one. We are also told that whatever your state is, you can change your mind to fit this pattern.

What we're not told is that effort is required, and that this effort depends on one's particular nature. I think we should also consider the posiblity that the effort required by this change might be grater than the gains.

I think that it is common human nature to have sexual apetite much in the same way one has digestive appetite. It is a matter of neurotransmitters and hormones levels. The quite common morning erection in men is proof enough of that. Human have sexual apetite even in the absence of a proper mate, or even any mate at all.

But, man is integrated: This bodly urge is matched by the psychological desire for sex. (an erection might be automatic, but the desire to "do something about it" is felt consciously).

Masturbation can only satisty the bodly need, but not the matching mental one. The proper value for the satisfaction of sexual desires is sex with another person.

At this point I'd like to state that my view is that there can be a sexual relationship without any romantic involvment, and that it is proper for a man to engage in such a relationship, depending on the level of his invididual sexual desires. This does NOT mean that I support some kind of mind-body split. It means that I think that romantic relationships imply sex, but sex does not imply romance.

The need for sexual pleasure and behaviour and the need for romance and visibility are 2 different needs, with 2 very different values and coresponding virtues. Saying that one should only have sex with his romantic partner is saying that one should only eat the best restaurant food available. (the value obtained from sustainance is different from the value obtained from a sophisticated dish that might have no nutricious value).

It is great when all of one's sexual needs are satisfied in a romantic relationship, but I'm not sure that that's possible for all humans (variety is pleasurable in itself, for some).

Also, non-romantic sex si a self-esteem minus ONLY is one holds ethical views which condemn it. Ancient greece is a proper example of non-romantic sex which even gave a self-esteem plus. If my philosophy tells me that satisfying my natural needs for sexual behaviour is virtuous, then I will grain esteem by acting our my values.

Another issue, marginally related to sexuality, which i'd like to discuss is "gender roles".

Ayn Rand, particularly, was a big supporter of traditional gender roles. This is not so much as a result of cultural indoctrination but perhaps more of her individual preference for BDSM and "power exchange" practices. We are all familliar with her (in)famous rape scenes and the way she describes sex between her characters. Unfortunatelly, she doesn't provide, and CAN'T provide, a reasonable justification for idealizing man total physical domination and brutal sex acts.

The woman is supposed to be a rational producer in her professional life, a proper moralist and judge of character, a good capitalist and romantic artist, but when it comes to her romatic relationship, she is supposed to "worship" her man, and expect to be "valued". She is allowed to "just feel", the poor thing, while a "real man" has to take charge and dominate the couple.

A big blunder is also Ayn Rand's essay in which she states that no real woman would ever want to be president. That's so ludicrous that I'm not even going to go into it.

She also describes relationships are requiring unauthenticity and denial. (the scene in which Rearden is depressed, but he forced himself into hiding it from Dagny). There is no clear distinction made between wanting to reach a mental place, and acknoleding that you're not there yet, and not faking it, especially in front of your most intimate relationship.

I'd like to stress, again, that this is achievable, but that each person's effort to achieve it is dependent on his/her own context, and that this might not be desirable for a vast majority of the population. (namely, those who aren't into domination, DBSM or power exchange).

Let us focus next on Contextuality, Effort and Specialization.

The point that I'm trying to make is that what Ayn Rand identified as being "ideal" might not be "ideal for you", since your nature has an individual component.

Let us stick to the area of sexuality. If for example, due to some early childhood experince, Joe has a strong sexual prefference for dominiring women.

According to Ayn Rand, it is immoral for Joe to desire to be dominated by women, therefore he ought to abstain from sex, and attend therapy to address this issue.

In this context, I'd like to say that, the objectivist romantic ideal is not Joe's ideal. Why should he deny himself sexually, and spend much money in therapy trying to fix something that might not even be fixable, instead of finding a proper woman for his needs?

Therefore, Joe should live life "qua Joe", because living "qua man" tell us only so much before we have to face individual "quirks".

The same reasoning can be applied to homosexuality, or any other activity between consenting adults. Even IF it is "fixable", why fix it? In some cases, the advantages would overweight the costs, but it some it wouldn't.

As far as identifying and exploring one's individual nature, one's personality, Objectivism does a poor job. We're not taught to explore and accept outselves as a "work in progress". Instead, we are taught to abstain from "evil" at all costs. (yes, I do consider that some evil is universal, like socialism, and some evil is personal, like denying one's identity in the name of another person's ideal).

We are not all John Galts. He has his own personality, and a very unrealistic one. Ayn Rand reduced John Galt to the common nature of all men, adding sparcely some individuality according to her own preferences.

While some of his characteristics are admirable, that doesn't mean that they will also work for all of us.

Perhaps living so many years as a unskilled worked during the day, and as a scientist in your own lab at night, while keeping an eye on Dagny for years, might work for him, it sound pretty shallow to me, and certainly not living "qua man".

Don't take me wrong... survival (as staying alive) and economic prosperity have priority, because they form the base of life, but as far as one's psyche is concerned, we should introspect more, and think of sollution and ideals that work for us, and that are reasonable.

And I don't mean introspection like thinking about how to imitate John Galt, but on sincerly examining one's self, for the sake of knowledge, not in the name of the obsession for change.

Our primary obligation is to reality, not to Ayn Rand, as right as she is on some topics.

Returning to pleasure, the initial target of this post, I think that all pleasure is part of the individual context. Each person has its own individual view of what's pleasurable and what's painful, physically and mentally. Of course there's a lot in common for most people, but that doesn't mean we must generalize.

Objectivism holds that one ought to enjoy one's own rational decisions, and one's pride and virtues and so forth. That is all good and fine, but does it cover all of man's sensorial and sensual experiences? I think not.

A platinum dress will provide pleasure and excitement for Ayn Rand's characters in "Penthouse Legend", but will certainly scare most people. Are most people sick and in need of therapy because they don't enjoy a particular "sense-of-life" (sense-of-sexuality, in this case)?

Some pleasure can be orthogonal in relation to survival and some pleasure can be anti-survival. Deciding if to abstain from it it's a matter of context. A gains-loses analysis.

Not to annoy you, I'll keep my comments on the nature of evil, for another post/essay.

I am sincerly and openly waiting your replies.

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There is too much here to reply to without making another book (or at least another chapter to the chapter you have produced). I will therefore focus upon one of your more fundamental principles. You say:

"What we're not told is that effort is required, and that this effort depends on one's particular nature. I think we should also consider the posiblity that the effort required by this change might be grater than the gains."

Let's break this down:

(I am ignoring the part where you claim we are not told effort is required to make a change. That is simply a false statement.)

First - You are establishing that one's "particular nature" (ie the sum of their experiences etc - which therefore is NOT rightly called one's "nature") can stand in opposition to the nature of man. This is quite true. Man can explicitly or implicitly lead a life that is not in accord with his nature - ie with reality. This conflict is between the metaphysical and the man-made.

Second - You establish that changing one's philosophy and sense of life (what you call the "particular nature") is not something one can do either automatically nor instantaneously. Again this is true. Changing what one's subconscious has automatized (emotional responses, habits, etc) does indeed require a focus of mind over an extended period of time. In other words, correcting one's cognitive errors - adjusting the man-made - is not a simple thing to do.

Thirdly - You posit that bringing one's errant emotions, etc into line with one's nature (with reality) may not be worth it. You suggest that the man-made should not be changed. You even imply that the man-made is NOT changable (thereby contriving to portray it AS metaphysical).

Here we have a problem.

By what standard do you suggest man live if not by reality? And what exactly does man "gain" by rejecting reality? Since nothing exists BUT reality, such a suggestion asks man to give up everything for nothingness. That is certainly NOT rational. But then again, whim-worshipping never is - and that is precicely what your premise rests upon: the fulfilment of whim (the man-made) in place of recognition and adherence to reality (the metaphysical).

In other words, your premise is indeed counter to Objectivism. It is pure subjectivism. In fact, it is a blatantly Primacy of Consciousness principle.

As such, you will not find any takers here for it.

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Your post, Gabriel, is filled with the mind-body dichotomy, context-dropping, a blatant misunderstanding of the philosophy of Objectivism, and pure subjectivism (as RadCap previously stated).

First, the mind-body dichotomy. As you correctly stated, a human being is an integration of mind and body. However, you fail to grasp this principle correctly. I believe based on your post, that you mistake a human being as an integration of mind and body for a human being as being comprised of mind and body, as two separate realms with very little or no connection to each other. On numerous occasions throughout your post, you state that one can successfully achieve a physical value while completely ignoring the mental one. While you seem to imply that the "best" way of going about it is to satisfy both the mind and body, you still hold that one can succesfully achieve physical values (such as sex) while ignoring the mental values associated with them (such as romance).

A human being IS able to attempt to divorce the mind from the body by attempting to achieve one while ignoring the other. However, this policy is not beneficial to one's own happiness and success. Thus, a human being would be able to engage in sexual intercourse without romance, however, ignoring a central tenet of one's own nature (an integration of mind and body) is not conducive to success.

Secondly, this is completely wrong:

Objectivism teaches us to live life qua man, which implies surviving (staying alive) and living out one's nature.
I am not sure what living out one's nature is supposed to mean, however, you fail to make a critical distinction between physical survival and ultimate happiness (perhaps because of your mind-body dichotomy problems). Human beings, according to the Law of Identity, have an identity (their nature), and must act in a specific way in order to survive. But survival can vary in degree; one can enjoy a very good and prosperous survival (or it can be referred to as life) or one may have a quite meager and difficult survival. According to Objectivism, one should strive for the best survival possible (possible, in this context meaning, based on reality). Another term for "best survival possible, is happiness (which is very similar to Aristotle's eudaimonia, literally meaning, ultimate flourishing). As a human being must act in a specific way, based on his identity, in order to achieve a basic survival, so must he act in a specific way in order to achieve ultimate survival (happiness).

This "specific way" of acting in order to achieve one's happiness refers to one's philosophy, and correspondingly, the actions that you take as the result of this philosophy. Again, you fail to make another distinction, this time, between one's philosophy and one's personal tastes. What is required in order to achieve one's ultimate happiness is the proper identification of reality and the proper principles guiding one's actions based on this observation of reality. Metaphysics and epistemology determine the first, ethics determines the second. Ethics defines the principles required for achieving one's ultimate happiness. However, ethics defines the principles behind the proper course of action, not the concrete course of action which must be taken. For example, ethics demonstrates that rationality is the primary virtue, but it does not demonstrate that all people should be philosophy professors. While one's personal tastes are based on one's philosophy, there is still the ability to choose many different paths of concrete action which adhere to the ethical principles required for achieving one's own ultimate happiness.

In regards to your comments about Rand's ideas on gender roles, a human male and a human female are DIFFERENT. A male and a female are DIFFERENT physically and therefore are correspodingly DIFFERENT mentally. That's all I have to say on that subject for the moment.

Fourth,

The point that I'm trying to make is that what Ayn Rand identified as being "ideal" might not be "ideal for you", since your nature has an individual component.

Hello, pure subjectivism. Re-read my seventh paragraph to understand why this statement of yours is nonsense.

The rest of your post is nonsense, and I believe that my comments, as well as those of RadCap, properly address that nonsense.

As my last comment, I'd like to say, that you seem to have a really poor understanding of Objectivism. Perhaps it would be beneficial for you to attempt to properly understand Objectivism before trying to do what you just did. I also think that based on your absolute lack of proper understanding of Objectivism, you should limit your questions and/or objections to a single subject at a time.

You need to do a lot of studying of Objectivism, and quite a lot of checking of your premises.

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In regards to your comments about Rand's ideas on gender roles,  a human male and a human female are DIFFERENT.  A male and a female are DIFFERENT physically and therefore are correspodingly DIFFERENT mentally.  That's all I have to say on that subject for the moment.

While I thought the rest of your post was very well said, I must object to this rather rationalistic argument. The fact that men and women are different physically in no way implies any significant mental difference (and certainly doesn't make it obvious what that mental difference would be). Allow me to use a reductio:

A tall man and a short man are DIFFERENT physically and therefore are correspondingly DIFFERENT mentally.

or

A red-haired man and a blonde-haired man are DIFFERENT physically and therefore are correspondingly DIFFERENT mentally.

If you'd be willing to expand on your rationale in a new thread, it would be very helpful.

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I would just like to address a couple of specific points, beginning with this:

We are not all John Galts. He has his own personality, and a very unrealistic one. Ayn Rand reduced John Galt to the common nature of all men, adding sparcely some individuality according to her own preferences.

While some of his characteristics are admirable, that doesn't mean that they will also work for all of us.

Perhaps living so many years as a unskilled worked during the day, and as a scientist in your own lab at night, while keeping an eye on Dagny for years, might work for him, it sound pretty shallow to me, and certainly not living "qua man".

Steve already dealt with this somewhat, but I would like to more explicitly state that this idea is a complete straw man. Nowhere does Ayn Rand state, nor does the philosophy of Objectivism imply (as you imply here that it does), that everyone should be a clone of John Galt, that the fact that man has an objective nature means that everyone should be identical, or that each individual's context should have nothing to do with the way they live their lives.

Should everyone "[live]...as a unskilled worked during the day, and as a scientist in your own lab at night, while keeping an eye on Dagny for years," as you imply that Ayn Rand implies everyone should? Of course not--that's just absurd. Obviously, there can and should be differences between individuals. Neither Ayn Rand nor any other Objectivist has ever denied this, so your arguing for this point is completely pointless. Even in her fiction, Ayn Rand portrayed many different heroes, all of whom apparently qualified as her vision of the ideal man.

Something like a career choice is a disjunctive--personal preference legitimately plays some role. This does NOT, however, imply subjectivism. Rationally, I have no choice about the fact that I need SOME career--and my choice of that career is somewhat limited by the purpose of the task (which is set by the nature of man's life and the world in which he lives). I can choose to be a doctor, a writer, a composer, an actor, a scientist, a businessman, or any number of other things. I cannot, however, rationally choose to be a prostitute, a drug dealer, etc. One's personal preference, I therefore think, plays an important role in many areas of one's life (what could be called "optional values" and which would be determined by an individual's specific context), but are certainly not primary, as you seem to be suggesting.

That said, I'd also like to reiterate what other's have already pointed out, namely, that saying one should separate sex from romantic love is blatantly an instance of the mind-body dichotomy, and as such, can never have an ultimately positive effect on one's life. Perhaps, as you say, man can have a purely physical urge due to his physical composition (hormones and what not)...but that does not mean that it is proper to focus this general physical urge to a desire for another specific person, particularly one who does not meet one's romantic standards. Personally, I feel no physical attraction whatsoever towards specific individuals for whom I do not also feel a corresponding "spiritual" attraction. If you do, I suggest that you check your premises...you've definitely got a mind-body dichotomy problem going on.

RadCap and Steve covered the rest of your post pretty well, so I'll leave it at that for now.

P.S. By the way, I completely agree with your point Dan, although you should be careful, you know what they say about reductios... :):P

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