Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Gary Brenner

The Prudent Predator argument

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Freddy,

Thanks. That is considered reply, and one I'll have to give some thought. Unfortunately, you've sort of swtiched to some of Kant's terminology (as in CI) and before I'll answer I have to study up a bit just to make sure I'm using the terminilogy right.

I'm not sure that you've represented Rand correctly however. Item 3 is the most problematic for me, but you've used terminology that is different than the rand terminology (unless you can provide me a source to check it.)

What exaclty is a "standard of reason" as opposed to a "standard of value" as Rand uses it? How am I to interpret what a "standard of reason" is?

Could you please describe the mechanism by which reason is a means to survival as you see it? I just want to get a sense for what you mean by that phrase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not sure that you've represented Rand correctly however. Item 3 is the most problematic for me, but you've used terminology that is different than the rand terminology

Rationality at the most basic level is to identify facts of reality. Building an atomic bomb in order to terminate mankind requires that you are very rational and focused. From an ethical point of view however we also need a criteria for what we ought to focus our mind on in order to determine what is ethically rational. The criteria in the Objectivist ethics is individual survival. I think that is pretty clear from the basic steps of Rands argument.

The CI on the other hand is a requirement for universal moral laws to be non-contradictory, which also seems to be a requirement for something to be rational. The first formulation of the CI is:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

For example you wrote:

Productivity makes no such claim. It is entirely non-contradictory, which is why it becomes a derivative virtue of rationality and why looting is it's counter vice.

This is wikipedia entry for CI explaining the same thing:

According to his reasoning, we first have a perfect duty not to act by maxims that result in logical contradictions when we attempt to universalize them. The moral proposition A: "It is permissible to steal" would result in a contradiction in conceivability because the notion of stealing presupposed the existence of property. But were A universalized, then there could be no property, and the proposition has logically annihilated itself.

This is in essence the idea you are framing. I also think Rand makes quite heavy use of the same basic thought.

The catch is that there can be a tension between the individual and the universal. In my last post the example was a looter who extended his survival in disagreement with the CI. According to the criteria of individual survival (which is the most basic moral critera of Objectivism) this is the right thing for him to do, but according to the CI it is not, because if everyone did the same the whole society would fall apart to no ones benefit. It's not clear how you adress this tension. The argument that you die if you violate the CI simply do not hold up, it is therefoe not clear how this tension is resolved.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KendallJ wrote:

Thanks for this Gary, now I have you on record as saying it. I\\\'ll be back to it in a second.

Excuse me. You are right; I mispoke. Would you like “misquoted” replaced with:

a. “grossly misrepresented” or

b. “exceedingly misinterpreted” ?

Either of those is correct. Before you say neither, I will call you out on that claim.

Since you’re the one making the charges, you decide.

Who said anything about the common generalizations being based upon productivity. I know I didn’t.

Let’s not get too testy here. The adjective is modifying the tactic, not you or your name. I’m not at all claiming that you are making the argument as a subjectivist or pragmatist. I thought we’d covered that.

Good, then we need not exclude non-productive men, specifically looters, from the class of man qua man or moral actors.

I’m not at all convinced that I’ve presented an argument that is necessarily subjectivist or pragmatist.

As to the evidence, I provided very striking evidence through your quotes that you indeed would not argue with any particular objective being introduced, and I would submit that every almost every example of a contextual evaluation you’ve submitted in this thread has been based upon cost benefit toward any particular goal.

You yourself haven’t claimed any particular class of goals as meeting a standard and others as not, but if you’d like to do so now, that would be fine. Note that if it involved deciding against doing something due to a cost benefit (or risk benefit) analysis, well then that sort of proves my point.

If selfishness is a virtue, then why the dichotomy between cost-benefit and virtue?

Submitted for your consideration: Selfishness is a virtue. The standard of X’s values is X’s life. What extends, enriches, and enhances his life is the good; what shortens, impoverishes, reduces his life is the evil.

If you’d like to gather up all of your posts and present them in one place so we can count, please be my guest. As for me, the thread is my evidence, it’s not going anywhere. Anyone who wants to can go sample it.

And while the intrepid reader is sampling your posts, he might bump into one or two of mine along the way.

I never said that. You should read Rand’s essay one more time. Neither did she.

Glad to hear that looting does not violate anyone’s standards here.

I’m not quoting anyone. I’m careful when I quote to leave the header in place so that anyone who happens to read my posts can click directly to the quote in its full context. You’ll never see me do otherwise. Quotes like this one are “scare quotes”. It’s a form of summarizing a position, with a tinge of mockery. :lol:

I’m specifically accusing you of stealing the concept, so that would mean you use it that way, and drop the context of a definition. I provided evidence of you using the term in the way that I suggested you did. If you’d like to argue that you didn’t mean your statements that way, then I’m all set for the context you’ll bring that makes that clear. If you want to claim that you use reason according to Rand’s definition then I’ll call out the specific examples I cited as mistakes in your method. Either way, you pick.

Oh, I see. You weren’t quoting me; you were summarizing a position. Presumably a position that is not your own. And perhaps not even one that is relevant to this discussion.

Let’s look at what you wrote:

“What requires a standard in the ethical analysis? The answer in short is: reality. Objectivism is tied to reality at every turn. Unlike empiricism which dispenses with conceptualizations and just jumps right to the data, Objectivism steeps itself in reality as it assembles each and every concept in its analysis. The standard then is defined by man’s common, unique and essential requirements for survival. For the same reason that man needs a code of ethics, his primary virtue is the faculty which will determine that code for him: reason.

Rationality is the cardinal virtue, and reason is man’s means of identifying reality.”

How do we get from recognizing “man’s common, unique and essential requirements for survival” (presuming there are such) to a prohibition on the initiation of force? If the looter grants that there are certain requirements for survival, where exactly is the argument against letting others perform those essential requirements and then just stealing from them? You have not shown that there is a contradiction between a person’s recognizing man’s unique requirements for survival and then looting from others. The looter does not deny the reality of these requirements. What he denies – correctly – is the idea that reality somehow forbids him to steal.

Yeah, this is where I needed that quote of yours because it makes a point that I think you either missed or is not clear. It is also covered in much detail in Rand “Conflict in Interests” essay. It is fundamental. If Gary you fail to take on this point directly or fail to grasp it, I won’t go much further, because if you really are playing devil’s advocate, we may have hit upon your fundamental objection. If you actually believe what you say (ie. if that “subjectivism” really is there, your claims to the contrary notwithstanding), then there’ll be no convincing you even though this next point will be sitting right under your nose.

This directly makes the claim of 2 rationalities. It is not an arbitrary claim that productivity is rational and looting is not. Reality makes that definition. That is, it is not just an arbitrary definition. Rationality is directly tied to reality through survival. To claim that you believe in rationality as the key tool to survival, and then to ignore the product of rationality destroys your claim of belief in the principle.

Reason as the means of survival is the inductive evidence for looting as irrational. If reason is the non-contradictory identification of reality, then that “reasoning” which arrives at a contradictory identification of reality is irrational.

Let us stipulate that survival is rational. Let us further stipulate that thinking and effort are required to keep man alive on earth. But we can’t jump from there to calling the looter “irrational.” We can only do so by arbitrarily defining “rationality” so as to exclude those who loot. By the same methodology, we could call television watching irrational, inasmuch as it is not tied to reality through survival. The looter is not ignoring “the product of rationality.” He is gobbling it up, although presumably no faster than the productive man can make it.

It is not a contradiction for a looter to recognize that his ability to coerce the productive man is greater than the productive man’s to fight back. For the looter to deny this advantage would be to deny reality. As Rand would say, to “blank out.”

Only looting claims that the product of a productive man‘s rationality, his wealth, and the product of a looter‘s “rationality”, his loot, are one in the same.

Only looting claims that one cake is the product of two different men’s rationality, and it is “reasonable” that only one man have it and eat it. That is contradictory identification of reality.

No, the intelligent looter understands the difference between earned gold and stolen gold. It must be earned before it ends up in the looter’s pockets.

The intelligent looter understands that the cake is the product of a baker’s skill and investment. He further understands that only a cunning use of force will allow him to transfer the cake to his own possession without incurring negative costs. Only an irrational man (or one born before the invention of the knife) would think that a cake could only be owned or eaten by one man. To think so is to deny reality.

Productivity makes no such claim. It is entirely non-contradictory, which is why it becomes a derivative virtue of rationality and why looting is it’s counter vice.

This is exactly what you implicitly claim above, and also each time you’ve claimed that a looter is acting rationally. In fact, you so much as correctly identify that it is the product of the productive man’s rational faculty which creates the wealth to be looted.

It is not contradictory to recognize the fact that some are better at producing and some are better at stealing. Failure to recognize this is to deny reality.

It is a measure of the looter’s rationality to see that it makes no sense to rob men who are incapable of producing anything or getting anything by taking. The rational looter recognizes the importance of not imposing too heavy a burden on the producer. Just as lower tax rates mean greater revenue for the tax collector, less frequent stealing means greater plunder in the long run.

Thank you. I have no idea if you seriously believe what you’re arguing or if you’re playing devils advocate, but it’s comments like these that give me hope it’s the latter. Please don’t mistake my form of spirited debate as a personal attack. I view it more as mental sparring. If you’d like me to tone it down a bit, please let me know.

I have no complaints about the tone of this debate. And I hope I’ve conducted my part with courtesy. As to whether I’m a devil’s advocate, I have already made it clear in the thread that I am opposed to looting, that I favor individualism, property rights and capitalism. I was hoping to find a well-constructed deontological ethic for the free market. But more and more, I’m convinced that Objectivism is not it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nate wrote:

So what do you mean by context? How does it differ from a concrete?

They are not the same thing.

No conflating of “context” and “concrete” was performed by me. Nor is it necessary to do so to establish the relative value of leisure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hunterrose wrote:

Why do you think Mao didn’t destroy himself through his looting? Because of his lifespan and accumulation of appropriations.

Because there is nothing in the published data on Mao to indicate that he suffered physically or mentally as a result of his murderous career.

Then you agree that the act of accepting an irrational process is self-destructive regardless of the process’s results in a given case.

Frankly, I do not understand the question. If one eats contaminated spinach and one’s resistance to pathogens is sufficiently low, one will die. If we know that, say, 20% of all spinach on the market is contaminated, it would be a foolish risk (irrational process, if you like) to eat a plate of it, assuming one values his long term survival many times more than the pleasures of spinach. On the other hand, if the rate of contamination is only one in ten million, it would not be foolish to eat it.

By your first standard of “destructive”, an irrational process would be self-destructive depending on its results in a given case (e.g. playing the lottery and random defusing would be practical if you win, and destructive if you lose.)

By your second standard of “destructive”, if looting is irrational, then Mao\'s looting was self-destructive regardless of the process’s results in his given case. And your pointing out his wealth/health is immaterial to the charge of destructive qua looting.

I have not yet seen a demonstration that looting is ipso facto irrational or self-destructive. If you would care to submit one, we can consider it and then perhaps continue the debate about Mao.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rationality at the most basic level is to identify facts of reality. Building an atomic bomb in order to terminate mankind requires that you are very rational and focused. From an ethical point of view however we also need a criteria for what we ought to focus our mind on in order to determine what is ethically rational. The criteria in the Objectivist ethics is individual survival. I think that is pretty clear from the basic steps of Rands argument.

You're doing the same kind of thing that Gary is. Parse Rand's argument for me and show me where you come up with anything like what you claim above. It looks similar, but you've sort of misplaced reason, criteria, and survival in the analysis. That and the terminology is different (such as "ethically rational").

The catch is that there can be a tension between the individual and the universal. In my last post the example was a looter who extended his survival in disagreement with the CI. According to the criteria of individual survival (which is the most basic moral critera of Objectivism) this is the right thing for him to do, but according to the CI it is not, because if everyone did the same the whole society would fall apart to no ones benefit. It's not clear how you adress this tension. The argument that you die if you violate the CI simply do not hold up, it is therefoe not clear how this tension is resolved.

Specifically, I think the standard/purpose distinction of Rand's specifically resolves the supposed paradox of generality in conflict with the specific that you claim.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Freddy,

...

What exaclty is a "standard of reason" as opposed to a "standard of value" as Rand uses it? How am I to interpret what a "standard of reason" is?

Could you please describe the mechanism by which reason is a means to survival as you see it? I just want to get a sense for what you mean by that phrase.

By the way, Freddy, I'm not sure if you answered these questions, but I woudl like you to attempt them. I didn't see it clearly in your last post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have not yet seen a demonstration that looting is ipso facto irrational or self-destructive.
Let's not stipulate. If you demonstrate that cutting random wires on a bomb is ipso facto self-destructive, then I will submit what you ask for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Since you’re the one making the charges, you decide.

Ok then, "misrepresented Rand" it is.

Good, then we need not exclude non-productive men, specifically looters, from the class of man qua man or moral actors.

Well, I didn't exclude them on that basis. I excluded them on the more general characteristic of being irrational.

If selfishness is a virtue, then why the dichotomy between cost-benefit and virtue?

Gary, I had not seen your comment about deontology before, but I'm now confused, if you're looking for a deontological argument from Objectivism (which you won't get since it is not deontological) then aren't you looking for a dichotomy between cost-benefit and virtue?

From the Wiki on deontological ethics, emphasis mine.

In ethics, deontological ethics or deontology (Greek: Deon meaning obligation or duty) is "the theory of duty or moral obligation."[1] One of the most important implications of deontology is that a person's behavior can be wrong even if it results in the best possible outcome. And an act can be righteous even if it results in a negative outcome. In contrast to consequentialism, a philosophy famous for its claim that the ends justify the means, deontology insists that how people accomplish their goals is usually (or always) more important than what people accomplish.

Submitted for your consideration: Selfishness is a virtue. The standard of X’s values is X’s life. What extends, enriches, and enhances his life is the good; what shortens, impoverishes, reduces his life is the evil.

As I said, "misrepresenting Rand". Unless of course you're claiming that this is your position. I don't recall seeing "selfishness" listed in the explanation of the Objectivist virtues anywhere. Maybe you could cite?

Let’s look at what you wrote:

“What requires a standard in the ethical analysis? The answer in short is: reality. Objectivism is tied to reality at every turn. Unlike empiricism which dispenses with conceptualizations and just jumps right to the data, Objectivism steeps itself in reality as it assembles each and every concept in its analysis. The standard then is defined by man’s common, unique and essential requirements for survival. For the same reason that man needs a code of ethics, his primary virtue is the faculty which will determine that code for him: reason.

Rationality is the cardinal virtue, and reason is man’s means of identifying reality.”

How do we get from recognizing “man’s common, unique and essential requirements for survival” (presuming there are such) to a prohibition on the initiation of force? If the looter grants that there are certain requirements for survival, where exactly is the argument against letting others perform those essential requirements and then just stealing from them? You have not shown that there is a contradiction between a person’s recognizing man’s unique requirements for survival and then looting from others. The looter does not deny the reality of these requirements. What he denies – correctly – is the idea that reality somehow forbids him to steal.

Right here:

This directly makes the claim of 2 rationalities. It is not an arbitrary claim that productivity is rational and looting is not. Reality makes that definition. That is, it is not just an arbitrary definition. Rationality is directly tied to reality through survival. To claim that you believe in rationality as the key tool to survival, and then to ignore the product of rationality destroys your claim of belief in the principle. Thus when you look at reason's direct tie to reality (as a process), you must also consider the products of reason in that examination, because it literally is the products of reason through which we survive. This is as crucial and pivotal a point as exists, and it is how Objectivism integrates with reality and such philosophies that would give credence to the prudent predator disconnect with reality even if they claim (as you do) to do so.

Let us stipulate that survival is rational. Let us further stipulate that thinking and effort are required to keep man alive on earth. But we can’t jump from there to calling the looter “irrational.” We can only do so by arbitrarily defining “rationality” so as to exclude those who loot.

I didn't jump there by making an arbitrary definition. I explained why it was not arbitrary but linked to reality. It is because survival is linked to rationality, through the products of that rationality. What does it mean to "stipulate" that reason is man's means of survival? Doesn't it not only mean that you recognize that a process is required for survival, but also that it is specifically the products of that process that are required for survival? To say you recognize that principle means you recognize it all. It is laying claim to the products of another's as the simultaneous product of your rationality that is contradictory and thus irrational.

It is not a contradiction for a looter to recognize that his ability to coerce the productive man is greater than the productive man’s to fight back. For the looter to deny this advantage would be to deny reality. As Rand would say, to “blank out.”

No, the intelligent looter understands the difference between earned gold and stolen gold. It must be earned before it ends up in the looter’s pockets.

The intelligent looter understands that the cake is the product of a baker’s skill and investment. He further understands that only a cunning use of force will allow him to transfer the cake to his own possession without incurring negative costs. Only an irrational man (or one born before the invention of the knife) would think that a cake could only be owned or eaten by one man. To think so is to deny reality.

It is not contradictory to recognize the fact that some are better at producing and some are better at stealing. Failure to recognize this is to deny reality.

It is a measure of the looter’s rationality to see that it makes no sense to rob men who are incapable of producing anything or getting anything by taking.

Every single one of these statements is identical. It is true that it is not irrational to recognize that I may have the ability to loot. I'm not denying that. What is irrational is actually making the claim to rationally produced goods as a product of the looters "rationality".

I realize you prefer a deontological (moral obligatory) derivation, but Objectivism isn't deontological. It is reality based. I am particularly interested in this discussion because I'm working through Tara Smith's Viable Values which is one of hte first scholarly explanations of Objectivist meta-ethics. If you intellectually honestly seeking analysis don't take the word of us amateurs. I would highly suggest you read the books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fine. Explain why the man who kidnaps Africans and sells them to plantation owners is not “dealing with reality successfully,” not achieving self-efficacy and self-esteem and happiness. If you tell me it is because he is not using reason, then that is to define “reason” in a way to specifically exclude looting. But that is an argument that would only be convincing to the already convinced. Man needs reason for survival and happiness. Reason does not permit looting. Therefore looters will self-destruct and be unhappy.

I maybe was not clear. The slaver does use reason. Just not consistently. If he is successful, he obviously applies it to his business and makes a good profit. But I suggest that he does not apply it properly to ethics.

Okay, let’s hear the inductive case.

The success of any endeavor must be measured in its own terms. If i were to ask "Are you happy?" and you were to answer, "I made $370,000 last year." or "I have 147 apples." It would not be helpful. This is what your argument amounts to.

Ethics is a the study of how you ought to behave. It can certainly be limited to how you ought to behave in a particular instance, but that is not what the objectivist approach is about. What you are really asking is "How ought someone behave if they wish to make money with as little cost as possible?"

Objectivism asks how man ought to behave to benefit his life qua man's life. The answer, which I gather that you understand is for him to do what is in his rational longterm best interests.

When I look to other people in the world, wealthy and poor, what kinds of things determine their apparent happiness in life? Close relationships with family and friends, liking themselves, lacking cognitive dissonance, material comforts-not necessarily in great excess, free time, a lack of stress, a productive activity that they enjoy...that sort of thing. Not just free stuff.

How close of a relationship can someone who views humanity as a bunch of sacrifical lambs for their own benefit, actually have? No more then the kind of relationship I have with a cheeseburger. When he decides to ignore the social contract and make the entirety of the human race his sworn enemy, how could life not be extremely stressful and filled with paranoia?

Objectivism's answer to finding happiness is as follows:

"My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists - and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason - Purpose - Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge - Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve - Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worth of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man's virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride."

Ayn Rand

And remember live does not mean exist in this context.

I never made any such categorical decree, so I am not sure this point has any relevance to the discussion.

I never said you did. It is what is implied in your line of questioning though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Parse Rand's argument for me and show me where you come up with anything like what you claim above. It looks similar, but you've sort of misplaced reason, criteria, and survival in the analysis. That and the terminology is different (such as "ethically rational").

Let's make a distinction. We can let smartness be the ability to identify facts of reality, the ability to identify means towards ends, the strategic and tactical abilities to carry out plans and so forth. Those abilities are universal and can be used for good or evil. Rationality then in Objectivism is the proper use of smartness. The criteria for what is proper goes back to the fundamental alternative, thus rationality is the use of smartness in the battle against non-existence. I think this follows pretty straightforward from the early steps of Rands argument.

Specifically, I think the standard/purpose distinction of Rand's specifically resolves the supposed paradox of generality in conflict with the specific that you claim.

The looter is according to the disussion above rational, he is using his smartness to promote his survival. And yet, you claim this is somehow irrational because he violates the CI. How is this resolved by the standard/purpose distinction? The standard goes back to the same fundamental alternative the looter is using as his criteria for evaluation, existence or non-existence. According to Rand, happiness, which is the purpose, is supposed to follow if you successfully carry out actions that benefit your survival. And the looter (from my first post) does carry out actions that benefit his survival and must therefore attain happiness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Freddy, I'm going to parse this, just so I can make sure I'm following you.

Let's make a distinction. We can let smartness be the ability to identify facts of reality, the ability to identify means towards ends, the strategic and tactical abilities to carry out plans and so forth. Those abilities are universal and can be used for good or evil. Rationality then in Objectivism is the proper use of smartness.

So far I'm with you. I think the vocabulary is a little clumsy, but in general this seems correct. I'm a little hesitant about your deicison to make rationality something as distinct from what you call smartness, but let's see if it works.

The criteria for what is proper goes back to the fundamental alternative, thus rationality is the use of smartness in the battle against non-existence.

I disagree with the dependant clause. Using your terminology, the criteria for what is proper does go back to the fundamental alternative. This is what Rand calls the standard of value. But the standard is universal. You make it seem as though it is specifically contextual. Rationality is not the use of smartness, in any manner, in the battle. You've just collapsed ethics into a cost-benefit analysis. That is, given my goal, my survival, you are implying that any use of smartness conforms with life as the standard.

Your use of rationality and smartness now makes sense to me. Smartness is a process to you, independant of its product. By claiming that the vitue of rationality is simply the employment of process for survival, you disconnect it from product. This is why I asked you to clarify what you thought the mechanism of smartness -> survival looked like.

So I can correct this. Rationality in Objectivism is the complete recognition of how smartness works to bring an end like survival to fruition. That integrated completeness is brought out in the standard of life, that is generalized survival, as it is true of all men. The virtues each bring out some aspect of the complete unity of rationality working toward survival. Only once the virtues are defined, do you bring them down to the specific context of my life to determine proper action.

Productiveness, is not a separate virtue in respect to Rationality, it recognizes and aspect of what it means to be "rational". i.e. It recognizes that the process of rationality and the product of rationality are linked in survival. That smartness without a product is not survival, nor is a product disconnected from the smartness that generated it survival either.

Using your terminology then, Gary is saying effectively, 'smartness is common to all men. It is therefore a virtue. Survival is my value, therefore any situation where I use smartness to my survival, is by definition the good.' This is completely subjective.

Is it like a CI in this sense (a generalized course)? well yes., but I would expect ethics to have a generlized component regardless. It does not use the criteria of hte CI to determine if it is good or not - that is the fundamental difference. The problem with the CI as Kant defined it is that it was the only test for an ethical principle. It is somewhat like a "golden rule" of ethics. It doesn't say why any particular proposition shoudl be good, only that universality makes it so. Objectivism recognizes no such criteria. It's grounding comes from the general requirements for survival.

I think this follows pretty straightforward from the early steps of Rands argument.

The looter is according to the disussion above rational, he is using his smartness to promote his survival. And yet, you claim this is somehow irrational because he violates the CI. How is this resolved by the standard/purpose distinction? The standard goes back to the same fundamental alternative the looter is using as his criteria for evaluation, existence or non-existence. According to Rand, happiness, which is the purpose, is supposed to follow if you successfully carry out actions that benefit your survival. And the looter (from my first post) does carry out actions that benefit his survival and must therefore attain happiness.

It does not follow from Rand's argument. Happiness follows if you carry out actions that 1) advance your survival, and 2) fit with the requirements of man's survival in general. Only certain actions lead to happiness.

Note, happiness or life, is not plain vanilla survival. Many actions will keep you alive. Only a subset of those action leads to what Rand means when she says life as the standard. Ethics helps define which are which.

Edited by KendallJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hunterrose wrote:

Let’s not stipulate. If you demonstrate that cutting random wires on a bomb is ipso facto self-destructive, then I will submit what you ask for.

I thought I clarified my position sufficiently for you. Cutting random wires on a bomb is not ipso facto self-destructive. Yes, cutting a wire that detonates a bomb is self-destructive -- no ifs, ands or buts. But cutting a wire that disables the bomb is not. If the wire-cutter does not know which of two bomb wires is the detonater and which is the disabler, his chances of self-destruction are 50%. And if he is anything but a fool he will altogether abandon the task of cutting wires and get the heck out of there.

On the other hand, if the wire-cutter is well informed about the nature of the bomb (if he is what I described earlier as a “cunning, resourceful strategist”), his chances of survival dramatically increase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KendallJ wrote:

[1]Ok then, \"misrepresented Rand\" it is.

[2]Well, I didn’t exclude them on that basis. I excluded them on the more general characteristic of being irrational.

[3]Gary, I had not seen your comment about deontology before, but I’m now confused, if you’re looking for a deontological argument from Objectivism (which you won’t get since it is not deontological) then aren’t you looking for a dichotomy between cost-benefit and virtue?

[1]Unproven assertion.

[2]Which is based on an arbitrary definition of “rationality,” an instance of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

[3]My understanding of Objectivism is that it treats selfishness as a virtue, and thus regards benefits to the self as the good. I was hoping that it also had some convincing argument for the recognition of the rights of others as being derived from that premise. Apparently not.

[1]As I said, “misrepresenting Rand”. Unless of course you’re claiming that this is your position.

[2]I don’t recall seeing “selfishness” listed in the explanation of the Objectivist virtues anywhere. Maybe you could cite?

[1]It should be clear from the context that I was offering an argument for the rational predator to counter the Objectivist’s position. I contend that the counter-position is just as logically valid as the Objectivist’s

[2]Read the Rand’s “Introduction” to The Virtue of Selfishness: “concern with his own interests is the essence of a moral existence, and that man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions.” Also note the title of the book.

Right here:

I didn’t jump there by making an arbitrary definition. I explained why it was not arbitrary but linked to reality. It is because survival is linked to rationality, through the products of that rationality. What does it mean to \"stipulate\" that reason is man\'s means of survival? Doesn’t it not only mean that you recognize that a process is required for survival, but also that it is specifically the products of that process that are required for survival? To say you recognize that principle means you recognize it all. It is laying claim to the products of another’s as the simultaneous product of your rationality that is contradictory and thus irrational.

I have explained elsewhere that the predator’s actions do not deny reality, survival, or the necessity of rationality. For example, he recognizes that one cannot have gold unless someone first figures a way to get it out of the ground and performs the work. The predator is all for the producer getting the job done. Nor does the predator deny the product of rationality. It is that very product that his life is focused on seizing. To say the predator does not recognize the principle of a certain process being required for survival is nonsense. The predator knows it will do him no good to kill the gold miner before he has hauled the treasure out of the mine.

Every single one of these statements is identical. It is true that it is not irrational to recognize that I may have the ability to loot. I’m not denying that. What is irrational is actually making the claim to rationally produced goods as a product of the looters “rationality”.

I do not make the claim that rationally produced goods are exclusively the product of the looter’s rationality. To be precise, my argument 1) recognizes that rationality is necessary for man’s survival on earth, 2) holds that he predator’s action of taking from the producer is not a denial of the necessity of the producer in the process of survival, and 3) emphasizes that the predator must, at every step of the way, be aware of objective reality if the predator is to succeed, i.e. obtain stolen goods with little or no negative costs.

I realize you prefer a deontological (moral obligatory) derivation, but Objectivism isn’t deontological. It is reality based. I am particularly interested in this discussion because I’m working through Tara Smith’s Viable Values which is one of hte first scholarly explanations of Objectivist meta-ethics. If you intellectually honestly seeking analysis don’t take the word of us amateurs. I would highly suggest you read the books.

I said elsewhere that I was looking for an ethical defense of capitalism superior to that offered by utilitarianism. Day by day. it is growing clearer to me that Objectivism involves too many unproven assumptions and leaps in logic to qualify as that ethic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[1]Unproven assertion.

It's been pointed out your mis interpretation of the Rand quote that started this discussion by several people here, and by myself here. I suggested to you earlier that you were mis interpreting Rand and that her ambiguous statement is clarified in further passages, which I provided you in that that post. The only unproven assertion is yours above.

My next step is a grammar lesson.

[2]Which is based on an arbitrary definition of “rationality,” an instance of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

Speaking of unproven assertions. I have run this at least 3 times now to which you just respond this way. really. Parse my argument. Show me why it's not arbitrary. Any ethical derivation in the end will allow you to state that "No unethical person is ethical." The question is what is the derivation for classifying behavior as ethical or not. I've given you the basis, you can certainly argue it if you like, but continuing to assert that it is arbitrary is getting old.

If I took your logic and flipped it around, I am sure all of the sociopaths and schitsophrenics out there would loudly decry you for having arbitrarily defined them out of the virtue of rationality.

[3]My understanding of Objectivism is that it treats selfishness as a virtue, and thus regards benefits to the self as the good. I was hoping that it also had some convincing argument for the recognition of the rights of others as being derived from that premise. Apparently not.

It doesn't provide such a basis because the premise as you state is not Objectivism, your continuing assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. Tara Smith very clearly distinguishes between benefits and virtues in her book.

[2]Read the Rand’s “Introduction” to The Virtue of Selfishness: “concern with his own interests is the essence of a moral existence, and that man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions.” Also note the title of the book..

Well, that's interesting. I've always thought book title should suffice as actual arguements. Oddly enough both Rand and Peikoff go on to list virtues in detail and "selfishness" as such is not one of them. So if you simply take the term and define it however you like and call it Objectivism, well, I guess you'd have a tough time getting anyone to argue with that. IT's stunning to me that you continue when so much material is available to you to rely on book titles and few sentences of Rands, when the context of her work clearly indicates your misrepresnting her.

I have explained elsewhere that the predator’s actions do not deny reality, survival, or the necessity of rationality. For example, he recognizes that one cannot have gold unless someone first figures a way to get it out of the ground and performs the work. The predator is all for the producer getting the job done. Nor does the predator deny the product of rationality. It is that very product that his life is focused on seizing. To say the predator does not recognize the principle of a certain process being required for survival is nonsense.

As I've said several times, the failure of recognition is not in the example of his own survival, but in the example of his victim's survival. He recognizes perfectly well that his own surival is advanced by obtaining such products. What he refuses to recognize is that his victims survival is not advanced through the use of his own reason if he cannot actually keep the products of that reason for himself.

To recognize a general principle (as you keep claiming you are stipulating to) as true for yourself and deny it to others is to not recognize any general principle at all. You stipulate that reason is necessary to survival and then deny survival to your victim even when he is using his reason. You've stipulated to nothing.

I do not make the claim that rationally produced goods are exclusively the product of the looter’s rationality.

No, you make the claim that the products of your victims rationality are not his at all. You make the claim that reason is necessary for your victims survival, even when it doesn't result in any product for him.

I said elsewhere that I was looking for an ethical defense of capitalism superior to that offered by utilitarianism. Day by day. it is growing clearer to me that Objectivism involves too many unproven assumptions and leaps in logic to qualify as that ethic.

Again, I've suggested to you that Tara Smith's book specifically deals with such claims, specifically Contractarianism (more generally pragmatism or utilitarianism, then) so I'm sure you'll check it out before you make your final decision. She also takes on the "live bad person" example (I believe it corresponds to your "I only need to show one example of a living looter to disprove") as ludicrous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
aequalsa wrote:

I maybe was not clear. The slaver does use reason. Just not consistently. If he is successful, he obviously applies it to his business and makes a good profit. But I suggest that he does not apply it properly to ethics.

The success of any endeavor must be measured in its own terms. If i were to ask “Are you happy?” and you were to answer, “I made $370,000 last year.” or “I have 147 apples.” It would not be helpful. This is what your argument amounts to.

You will have to show that the slaver has not properly applied reason to ethics. Right now you have only made an assertion.

As for happiness, I do not claim that material wealth is a measure of happiness, anymore than I would say poverty is necessarily an indicator of unhappiness. Happiness has many possible causes and is at present not objectively measurable. I have no way of knowing whether a slaver (or a basketball player or a gardener or a beautician) is happy except by asking him and hoping that he will speak truthfully.

Ethics is a the study of how you ought to behave. It can certainly be limited to how you ought to behave in a particular instance, but that is not what the objectivist approach is about. What you are really asking is “How ought someone behave if they wish to make money with as little cost as possible?”

No, the basic question is stated in the title of this thread. I wish to address the issue of all looters, from dictators and slavers right down to the petty Cheezit thief someone mentioned.

Objectivism asks how man ought to behave to benefit his life qua man\'s life. The answer, which I gather that you understand is for him to do what is in his rational longterm best interests.

When I look to other people in the world, wealthy and poor, what kinds of things determine their apparent happiness in life? Close relationships with family and friends, liking themselves, lacking cognitive dissonance, material comforts-not necessarily in great excess, free time, a lack of stress, a productive activity that they enjoy...that sort of thing. Not just free stuff.

I share all of the above values. Unfortunately, not everybody in the world thinks the way you and I do. There are some men who care nothing about family, who thrive on risk and stress, and who enjoy exercising power over others. For that reason, I cannot rule out the possibility of the slaver’s happiness.

How close of a relationship can someone who views humanity as a bunch of sacrifical lambs for their own benefit, actually have? No more then the kind of relationship I have with a cheeseburger. When he decides to ignore the social contract and make the entirety of the human race his sworn enemy, how could life not be extremely stressful and filled with paranoia?

A predator does not have to make “the entirety of the human race his sworn enemy.” There is no reason why an absolute monarch could not have a close relationship with his queen and his son, who will one day be king. In fact, as I have pointed out before, it is possible to perform a once in a lifetime grand theft from a single victim. That would hardly cause enmity between oneself and the rest of the species.

Objectivism\'s answer to finding happiness is as follows:

“My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists - and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason - Purpose - Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge - Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve - Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worth of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.”

Ayn Rand

This portion of Galt’s speech is quite dramatic, but it does not constitute a logical proof against looting. It is merely a description of who are the heroes in Atlas Shrugged.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KendallJ wrote:

[1]It’s been pointed out your mis interpretation of the Rand quote that started this discussion by several people here, and by myself here. I suggested to you earlier that you were mis interpreting Rand and that her ambiguous statement is clarified in further passages, which I provided you in that that post. The only unproven assertion is yours above.

[2]My next step is a grammar lesson.

[3] Speaking of unproven assertions. I have run this at least 3 times now to which you just respond this way. really. Parse my argument. Show me why it’s not arbitrary. Any ethical derivation in the end will allow you to state that “No unethical person is ethical.” The question is what is the derivation for classifying behavior as ethical or not. I’ve given you the basis, you can certainly argue it if you like, but continuing to assert that it is arbitrary is getting old.

[1]There is no reason to treat Rand’s statement as being ambiguous. I take her to mean exactly what she says. And the meaning is confirmed by looking elsewhere in her works. See, for example, the “Introduction” to VOS.

[2]I look forward to it.

[3]Because your definition of “rationality” does not conform to any generally accepted definition of the word. By contrast, I can declare that “rationality” is using any means necessary to further one’s life, and then determine that people who have scruples about violating the rights of others are “irrational.” It is no weaker an argument than yours.

[1]If I took your logic and flipped it around, I am sure all of the sociopaths and schitsophrenics out there would loudly decry you for having arbitrarily defined them out of the virtue of rationality.

[2]It doesn’t provide such a basis because the premise as you state is not Objectivism, your continuing assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. Tara Smith very clearly distinguishes between benefits and virtues in her book.

[3]Well, that’s interesting. I’ve always thought book title should suffice as actual arguements. Oddly enough both Rand and Peikoff go on to list virtues in detail and “selfishness” as such is not one of them. So if you simply take the term and define it however you like and call it Objectivism, well, I guess you’d have a tough time getting anyone to argue with that. It’s stunning to me that you continue when so much material is available to you to rely on book titles and few sentences of Rand’s, when the context of her work clearly indicates your misrepresnting her.

[1]That reinforces my very point about the importance of using generally accepted definitions.

[2]So when Rand wrote, “An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil,” it is obvious to you that she didn’t mean what she said.

[3]Then A must be non-A, and the Objectivist ethics is not based on the standard Rand explicitly stated in “The Objectivist Ethics.”

But here is the more vital point. Even if we remove cost benefit as a criterion in the Objectivist system, the argument is not any stronger. Why should one embrace the principle of the non-initiation of force? Because it is “virtuous” to do so? Very well, then. Why be virtuous at all? Or, alternately, why not embrace a different set of virtues that produce different results?

[1]As I’ve said several times, the failure of recognition is not in the example of his own survival, but in the example of his victim’s survival. He recognizes perfectly well that his own surival is advanced by obtaining such products. What he refuses to recognize is that his victims survival is not advanced through the use of his own reason if he cannot actually keep the products of that reason for himself.

[2]To recognize a general principle (as you keep claiming you are stipulating to) as true for yourself and deny it to others is to not recognize any general principle at all. You stipulate that reason is necessary to survival and then deny survival to your victim even when he is using his reason. You’ve stipulated to nothing.

[3]No, you make the claim that the products of your victims rationality are not his at all.

[4]You make the claim that reason is necessary for your victims survival, even when it doesn’t result in any product for him.

[1]And I have repeatedly stated that the prudent predator (or rational looter) would not attempt to end the survival of the victim, if the predator wishes to loot from him again. This is why the government looters in the U.S. are eminently more rational than those in Burma or Zimbabwe. As for your claim that the “victims survival is not advanced through the use of his own reason if he cannot actually keep the products of that reason for himself,” that is true only in the most limited sense. If a hacker illegitimately transfers $10,000 from a billionaire’s bank account to his own, to what extent has he impaired the rich man’s survival? Should we assume that once the victim leans of the theft, he will commit suicide on the spot? That he will despair and give up his lucrative career? That he will destroy his remaining fortune? Hardly. In all likelihood, he will continue to survive and produce and make more treasure that the prudent predator will try to capture again.

[2]For the prudent predator to recognize that the producer is better at creating wealth and the predator is better at stealing wealth is to come to grips will an undeniable fact of reality. It would be irrational for the predator to ignore this datum. Furthermore, there is nothing in logic that dictates that every organism within a species has to follow the same path for survival. Nor is it self-contradictory to see that one can benefit from others even if oneself does not produce benefits for others in turn. My existence/survival was made possible by my parents. That does not entail I must follow their example and produce children of my own.

[3]I am suggesting that unless you or someone else presents a better argument, we have no basis for assuming the existence of absolute or natural rights in property.

[4]I have said repeatedly that in most cases it is not in the prudent predator’s self-interest to attempt to end the survival of his victim. If Victim Y cannot eat, then he cannot pull fish out of the sea. And if Y has no fish for X to steal, then X will die.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[1]There is no reason to treat Rand’s statement as being ambiguous. I take her to mean exactly what she says. And the meaning is confirmed by looking elsewhere in her works. See, for example, the “Introduction” to VOS.

[2]So when Rand wrote, “An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil,” it is obvious to you that she didn’t mean what she said.

[3]Then A must be non-A, and the Objectivist ethics is not based on the standard Rand explicitly stated in “The Objectivist Ethics.”

OK, here we go. Its been repeatedly brought up. You continue to want to pull a specific quote up and claim it means something that it does not mean. This is the basis by which you claim that Objectivism is a cost-benefit analysis in ethics, which you've been repeatedly told its not, to which you repeatedly bring up the quote. You bring this quote:

An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil,” it is obvious to you that she didn’t mean what she said.

To which I bring this one up, which you seem to not want to acknowledge in context.

The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value-- and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.

The difference between "standard" and "purpose" in this context is as follow: a "standard" is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or guage to guide a man's choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose. "That which is required for the survival of man qua man." is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose - the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being - belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.

Man must choose his own actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man - in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

The two statements in bold are parrallel. In one, man is the subject, in the other organism is used. Man is a class of organism so it is suitable to assume that she intended these statements to say the same thing. (even if she did not, that would mean you'd look more toward the statement with man in it to discuss human ethics rather than the other).

The first statement is ambiguous, your exhortations to the contrary nothwithstanding. Let's parse the statements:

"An organism’s life is its standard of value"

"ethics holds man's life as the standard of value-- and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man."

In the first statement "an organism" is ambiguous. "An" is an indefinite article that can either mean any particular member of the class or it can mean the general class itself. "its" does not fix the meaning in any way. It is only parallel in number to the noun and even if it is general it can be a singular noun and take a singular possessive. This statement is ambiguous. The following "its" in the next sentences are subsequently also ambiguous.

However, the 2nd phrase is by no means ambiguous. "Man's" is the general class otherwise you would use "a" or "the". Use without an article is specifically referring to the class. Rand makes this even more clear by emphasising the second classification under purpose by the use of "his own life". These statements must be congruent, unless you have an explanation from Rand why they should be different. They are too close in construction and refer to exactly the same object, "standard of value". Additionally man is a member of the class of organisms. Also, if you claim they are different, then for the purposes of human ethics, it woudl seem that you would have called out the 2nd rather than the first, which you are avoiding like the plague. One can only conclude that the ambiguousness in the first is resolved by the 2nd, in which case you have been misrepresenting it all this time.

I realize you have an issue with the standard/purpose distinction, but misrepresenting Rand is not the way to deal with it. If you think there is support for your representation of Rand's beyond this little phrase or any one like it, then by all means bring it up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[3]Because your definition of “rationality” does not conform to any generally accepted definition of the word. By contrast, I can declare that “rationality” is using any means necessary to further one’s life, and then determine that people who have scruples about violating the rights of others are “irrational.” It is no weaker an argument than yours.

[1]That reinforces my very point about the importance of using generally accepted definitions.

Well, you can certainly argue that Objectivism has broader implications for what "rationality" means, but that does not make it arbitrary. Rand uses that consistently and I've showed why it is specifically tied to reality. It may be different, but it isn't arbitrary.

This seems to be a common charge to Rand, without most people realizing that most philosophical positions have their own vocabulary and you first have to ask what is meant by usage in a particular way. Luckily Rand makes her definitions clear.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[1]And I have repeatedly stated that the prudent predator (or rational looter) would not attempt to end the survival of the victim, if the predator wishes to loot from him again. This is why the government looters in the U.S. are eminently more rational than those in Burma or Zimbabwe. As for your claim that the “victims survival is not advanced through the use of his own reason if he cannot actually keep the products of that reason for himself,” that is true only in the most limited sense. If a hacker illegitimately transfers $10,000 from a billionaire’s bank account to his own, to what extent has he impaired the rich man’s survival? Should we assume that once the victim leans of the theft, he will commit suicide on the spot? That he will despair and give up his lucrative career? That he will destroy his remaining fortune? Hardly. In all likelihood, he will continue to survive and produce and make more treasure that the prudent predator will try to capture again.

[2]For the prudent predator to recognize that the producer is better at creating wealth and the predator is better at stealing wealth is to come to grips will an undeniable fact of reality. It would be irrational for the predator to ignore this datum. Furthermore, there is nothing in logic that dictates that every organism within a species has to follow the same path for survival. Nor is it self-contradictory to see that one can benefit from others even if oneself does not produce benefits for others in turn. My existence/survival was made possible by my parents. That does not entail I must follow their example and produce children of my own.

[3]I am suggesting that unless you or someone else presents a better argument, we have no basis for assuming the existence of absolute or natural rights in property.

[4]I have said repeatedly that in most cases it is not in the prudent predator’s self-interest to attempt to end the survival of his victim. If Victim Y cannot eat, then he cannot pull fish out of the sea. And if Y has no fish for X to steal, then X will die.

This is an equivocation on "survival" and "life". As I said to Freddy.

Note, happiness or life, is not plain vanilla survival. Many actions will keep you alive. Only a subset of those action leads to what Rand means when she says life as the standard. Ethics helps define which are which.

If we replace survival with life in our discussion we must remember that Rand didn't use "survival" so when we start to use a meaning that is only related to survival, then we're equivocating. So you also seem to have forgotten that Rand passage you so cling to.

An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil

Use in its proper meaning then, does taking $10,000 from any man further his life or threaten it? You admit youself that this is true, but "ony in the most limited sense". So then can I assume we've properly convinced you that whole-hog looting is "irrational", and a whole-hog looter is evading a very obvious truism? Maybe you're just stuck now on very limited parasitism, or looting, only in it's most "limited sense".

Here is how Tara Smith deals with it.

Life is not a high wire act in which any false move seals instant doom. A person will not drop dead at his first failure to choose the life-promoting path. Consequently, the pulse of a person who has not practiced the life-based moral code does not refute Rand's theory. Believing that it does is like believing that a person who shows up for a doctor's appointment needs no examination since he has made it to the office. "He's alive, so he must be find." This is ludicrous. Because such a snapshot does not capture everything relevant to the person's condition, further examination is needed. An illness need not kill a person to be bad for him. A cold or hepatitis does not spell instant death, but it nonetheless works against one's life - by sapping energy, dulling mental alertness, or weakening resistance to worse forms of illness, for instance.

Recall that life is a process of actions. This process can be flowing in one of two basic directions: life furthering or lfie diminishing, making the person more fit and likely to live or less so. A person can be described as dying when his actions proceed in a life-diminshing direction. In the usual sense, of course, anything this side of the morgue counts as living. If your vital organs are operating, you qualify. Yet among all those who are alive in this technical sense, we can make finer distinctions, as we find a wide specturm of degrees to which a person might be promoting his life or impeding it.

So do you deny that the "rational" looter is denying this fact in his victim? To whatever extent his infraction is to the victims productivity? If rationality is non-contradictory identification, specifically in this case of the fact that reason leads to survival through the products of that reason, then he must deny exact same principle in his victim to whatever extent his loots his victims productivity.

True in any limited sense is still true, right?

By the way, I'm done here. I've not seen you budge and inch, spout the exact same issue you did at the beginning, and even when countered not really attempt to chew any of the ideas presented to you. I have to assume at this point that the subjectivism I thought was there originally, actually is, and you can't get your head around anything that claims it could know what causes a flourishing life. At least not in any more sense that I know what does for me, but that doesn't mean I can say what does for anyone else. With such a perspective, why are you even interested in ethics anyway?

Edited by KendallJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I thought I clarified my position sufficiently for you. Cutting a wire that detonates a bomb is self-destructive. But cutting a wire that disables the bomb is not.

The act of accepting an irrational process is self-destructive regardless of its results in one case or another.
Let’s stipulate all of the above.
I agreed with enough of it to grant the point.
I politely answered your question by expressing agreement in general on the point you made.
So... when you thrice said that you agree an irrational act is self-destructive regardless of its results, you actually meant that you think an irrational act is self-destructive depending on its results? Forgive me for misunderstanding you.

One more clarification of "self-destructive", if you will. Eddie paints fences. Mao knocks him unconscious in as a result of his envy of superior whitewashing skills. You think painting fences here was self-destructive?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KendallJ wrote:

OK, here we go. Its been repeatedly brought up. You continue to want to pull a specific quote up and claim it means something that it does not mean.

I claim it means what it says it means.

Now some person reading the statement “An organism\\\'s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil,” might take it to mean “Something other than an organism’s life is its standard of value.” And that’s fine. Perhaps liberal interpretations of a belief system’s tenets allow for more followers to enter the big tent. But surely the tent is also big enough to accommodate strict constructionists, as well.

This is the basis by which you claim that Objectivism is a cost-benefit analysis in ethics, which you\\\'ve been repeatedly told its not, to which you repeatedly bring up the quote.

Being repeatedly told something is an effective technique only for those who assume that the more times something is said, the truer it becomes. For those who need harder evidence, the technique is less effective.

I notice the absence of the term “cost benefit” in Rand’s writing. So I find the use of the phrase by a supposed adherent of Objectivism somewhat curious. Precisely what does “cost benefit” mean as you use it? And how does it differ from “selfishness”?

You bring this quote:

To which I bring this one up, which you seem to not want to acknowledge in context.

The two statements in bold are parrallel. In one, man is the subject, in the other organism is used. Man is a class of organism so it is suitable to assume that she intended these statements to say the same thing. (even if she did not, that would mean you’d look more toward the statement with man in it to discuss human ethics rather than the other).

Got it. If we assume the statements are non-contradictory and that they are universally applicable to the subject in question, man, then we should find no exceptions to the ethic. “Standard” is a gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose, as in, say, how to get $10,000 bucks quickly. “That which is required for the survival of man qua man is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man,” even to the guy who wants $10,000 by tomorrow morning. And, of course, our subject has to understand that “the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being - belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.” And he must choose certain actions in order to “achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.” (emphasis added)

Okay, so tell me why X, when threatened by the mob with a free fitting for concrete boots, should not steal $10,000 from his grandmother’s mattress? If what is required for X’s survival is to respect the property of another, then clearly respecting another’s property does not apply to every man, in this instance X. For X will die (i.e. not survive) if he does not steal. On the other hand, in order to live he must ignore respecting the proprietary holdings of another. Why should he respect another\\\'s property if the ultimate value is “that end in itself,” his own life?

The first statement is ambiguous, your exhortations to the contrary nothwithstanding. Lets parse the statements:

“An organism’s life is its standard of value”

“ethics holds man\\\'s life as the standard of value-- and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.”

In the first statement “an organism” is ambiguous.

In what sense is “organism” ambiguous? That it could apply to pigs as well as man? If that is the case, then the word “man” is ambiguous; it could apply to Aristotle or Mao Zedong.

“An” is an indefinite article that can either mean any particular member of the class or it can mean the general class itself. “its” does not fix the meaning in any way. It is only parallel in number to the noun and even if it is general it can be a singular noun and take a singular possessive. This statement is ambiguous. The following “its” in the next sentences are subsequently also ambiguous.

However, the 2nd phrase is by no means ambiguous. “Man’s” is the general class otherwise you would use “a” or “the”. Use without an article is specifically referring to the class. Rand makes this even more clear by emphasising the second classification under purpose by the use of “his own life”. These statements must be congruent, unless you have an explanation from Rand why they should be different. They are too close in construction and refer to exactly the same object, “standard of value”.

How very silly. Are you seriously suggesting that because of her use of the article “an,” Ayn Rand was only talking about one particular organism? Perhaps a single tadpole or an individual amoeba – out of the billions of possible examples! Why would she be concerned with such a trivial and ultimately irrelevant case when she is trying to set forth principles of general morality? To suppose otherwise is tantamount to a claim that Rand had different standards for different individuals. Is that how an admirer parses the mother of Objectivism? If so, then let me try the same technique. In the “Introduction” to VOS, Rand writes, “Observe what this beneficiary-criterion of morality does to a man’s life.” Emphasis: “a” man’s life. So by your insistence on the specificity of “an,” we must interpret Rand’s criticism of altruism to be applicable to one person only!

Additionally man is a member of the class of organisms. Also, if you claim they are different, then for the purposes of human ethics, it woudl seem that you would have called out the 2nd rather than the first, which you are avoiding like the plague. One can only conclude that the ambiguousness in the first is resolved by the 2nd, in which case you have been misrepresenting it all this time.

I realize you have an issue with the standard/purpose distinction, but misrepresenting Rand is not the way to deal with it. If you think there is support for your representation of Rand\\\'s beyond this little phrase or any one like it, then by all means bring it up.

No valid indictments for “misrepresentation” have been submitted.

If man is a member of the class of “organism,” then what Rand said about organisms with her inclusive term “an organism” is also true for man – at least by Rand’s own argument as seen elsewhere in her writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How very silly. Are you seriously suggesting that because of her use of the article “an,” Ayn Rand was only talking about one particular organism?

Nope, I'm claiming just the opposite. Did you not read what I said? I am claiming what she meant in the first phrase was the same standard / purpose distinction that she was explicit about in the 2nd.

Edited by KendallJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Happiness has many possible causes ...

I see. This is where we disagree. I do not believe happiness has many causes. I believe it has one cause and one cause only. Self-esteem. And further that self-esteem cannot be had except through virtue. Happiness here, I think of in the long term sense of the word. So chocolate cake does not qualify as making someone happy.

If you mean happiness in the more shallow short term way, then I am in agreement. The automatic emotional response of happiness can be derived from any number of things. Watching someone get hurt or killed in a bizarre way might be funny and make some people laugh.

I misunderstood your meaning when you said looters were happy. You didn't mean that they live long joyful lives, just that they are capable of laughing. I don't disagree.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I see. This is where we disagree. I do not believe happiness has many causes. I believe it has one cause and one cause only. Self-esteem.

That's where he and I left off, as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...