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Found 9 results

  1. Treat others as you wish them to treat you, including with respect, courtesy, empathy, friendliness, non-criminality, and non-tyranny. This applies to low-life mass men and high-quality noble souls.
  2. On an Objectivist forum one poster recently wrote: "Benjamin Franklin wanted to achieve moral perfection so he wrote in a journal and marked in his journal everytime he violated one of his virtues... I want to do something similar but with the Objectivist virtues ...". Objectivist Virtues Since the question concerns, Objectivist virtues, let's examine what those might be. Ayn Rand made two lists of virtues, one published in The Virtue of Selfishness, the other unpublished in her Journal, in a section called, "The Moral Basis Of Individualism." The published list of virtues includes: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem, Rationality, Productiveness, and Pride. The unpublished list of virtues includes: Integrity [which Rand described as, "the first, greatest and noblest of all virtues"], Courage, Honesty, Honor, Self-confidence, Strength, Justice, Wisdom, and Self-respect. What Virtues Are Virtues are the characteristics of a moral individual and a moral individual is one who lives by moral principles. Such a life will necessarily be characterized by the moral virtues. Of the two Ayn Rand lists of virtues, the unpublished one is superior, beginning as it does with integrity, which she said, "is that quality in man which gives him the courage to ... remain whole, unbroken, untouched ...," that is, to be a truly moral individual. Integrity is the virtue that makes all the other virtues possible. In an earlier version of The Moral Individual I described a moral individual as, "one who choose to take responsibility for his own life, neither desiring or seeking anything in life but what he has achieved or acquired by his own effort, fully confident in his own ability and competence to live happily and successfully in this world, gladly bearing the consequences of his wrong choices, and proudly enjoying the rewards of his right ones, neither needing nor wanting the agreement or approval of any other individuals, always seeking to be the best he can be in all things, mentally, morally, and physically." A Sparkling Life Of Achievement, Joy, And Happiness Moral or ethical principles are commonly thought of some kind of obligation, or duty imposed on individuals, but true moral principles are not limitations to life but the means to success and happiness. The article, "Principles," which lists the ten most important moral principles, concludes with these words: "Are these principles hard! Yes they're hard and yes they are demanding, as hard and demanding as life itself. To evade them is to evade life. No moral individual regards them as limits or restrictions on their life, however, because they are the means of achieving and being all that life makes possible. Living by these principles is the only way to live a life that is worth living." The Pursuit Of Virtue Virtues are not achieved by pursuing them directly. One does not learn to be honest or just or wise by attempting to practice them the way one learns to type or play a musical instrument. The moral virtues are natural consequence of living by moral principles. The moral individual is whole which is the integrity of no contradiction between any aspect of his being, his values, his thoughts, his beliefs, his choices, and his actions which all agree and spring from the same understanding of and love for reality. He is honest because he cannot be a fake or cheat denying his own nature. He is honorable because he loves the truth above all things. He is self-confident because he knows he has done everything he possibly can to learn and be competent to live his life successfully. He is strong, whether physically strong or not, he has that strength of character that comes from knowing he is right enabling him to persevere in the face of any difficulty. He is just because he allows nothing but reason to determined his judgment. He is wise because he does not allow himself to be influenced by appeals to his irrational feelings, sentiments, and desires, discerning the truly important from that which has no real significance, both immediately and long-term. His self-esteem is inevitable because he knows what his true value is. Then Why Mention Virtues? Pursuing virtues will not make an individual moral, but being moral will produce the moral virtues. Understanding what the moral virtues are cannot produce morality, but can be used as a gauge of one's own life. If one finds a lack of moral virtue in their own life it indicates something wrong which is usually a mistaken ethical view or other wrong values. If you are interested in knowing more about morality and ethics the following articles, beginning with the one mentioned above, will be helpful: Principles Ethical Principles Ayn Rand's Ethics Objective Ethics for Freedom and Happiness (The Is/Ought Fallacy)
  3. The other thread on the nature of "evil" got me thinking in a few different directions. Particularly on so- called "victimless crimes". Prostitition, according to Objectivist doctrine, is considered bad, but legally acceptable. The rationale being prostitution (or any money-for-sex relationships) is "faking reality" on part of both the prosittute and the john. Sex, according to Objectivism, is held to be an exclusive good between two mutually valued partners, and money-for-sex arrangements are morally offensive. But let me ask you a question: is the crappily paid McDonalds worker who orders your food "faking reality" when she makes a smile she forced to make in order to please her customers and keep her job? Honestly, it's really no different for most prostitutes. It's a job and means of making his/her living. In most cases it's a woman (90% maybe) due to the economics of the demand for sex (always more favorable to women than men). Is she "wrong" for capitalising on this imbalance, while allowing herself to make a living and make men who otherwise could not access sex less frustrated and needy? Furthermore, most male/female relationships always have some elements of a financial transaction, whether explicit or implicit. This has been the case throughout all of human history and in all cultures. Taking girls out to dinner, divorce settlements, alimony payments, dowrys, wedding rings, etc,. are all elements of "normal" financial transactions in so called "normal" relationships, but somehow, these transactions are not frowned upon? If a man A marries a woman for 7 years, afterwards they get a nasty divorce, he pays her a $500,000 divorce settlement plus $40,000 a year in alimony. Meanwhile man B pays a prositute $300 an hour for sex, over the course of seven years this adds up to $50,540 (24 partners a year). Who made the more "rational" decision? Or man B pays his beautiful, young, model mistress $2000 a month for 4 years, after which they part ways amicably. No alimony, no settlements. Is man B somehow "worse off" because he did'nt get married? Is man A morally superior to man B when there were clearly "financial transactions" in both scenarios? IMO there is no good reason one way or another to declare prostitution a "moral evil" at all. Comments?
  4. I used to believe so, since, per Peikoff's audio lectures, it is employs hypothetical, not categorical imperative. But someone, at another forum, objected to this, saying: "you have not apprehended the concepts of Objectivism. Consequentialism is anathema. Morality is principled, not conditional to outcomes.... The utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham is a well known example of consequentialism. By contrast, the deontological theories of John Locke and Immanuel Kant are nonconsequentialist." I sure agree than Kant is a non-consequentialist. But Kant, also, is against hypothetical imperative. Assuming that both Peikoff and my objector render AR's view correctly, what I fail to see is why the hypothetical does not necessarily imply consequentialism. Thanks for any help.
  5. Discussing Herman Cain's business career in another topic, I said that the companies with which Cain found success - Burger King, Godfather's Pizza, and Nabisco - do not sell anything I would eat. MSK replied with a tout for Glenn Beck's double deep fried cherry pie. That brought me here to read about deep fried Twinkies. Does anyone else here actually care about what they eat? We could argue a lot, but there must be some basic understandings in order to provide valuable information. For instance, over on RoR in a healthfood thread, one of the regulars boasted of his nut butter sandwiches. But he makes them on wheat bread and wheat has serious downsides. My wife just gave it up and immediately shed ten pounds and the desire for a fourth meal each day. Wheat clearly agrees with some people, and also, not with everyone. My point is that if you care about your health, you probably follow a regimen of some kind that you find best for yourself. The question is really whether that comes from reading informed and informative materials or just eating whatever you want. If you eat whatever you want - whim worshipping at the dinner table - you probably are not engaged in optimal behavior. We are all living longer. Consider prostate problems. What problem? Historically, you would get eaten by a bear long before your prostate killed you. Now, lacking bears, you live long enough to have the problem... unless you eat this, avoid that ... Woman and breast cancer is another consequence of the agricultural revolution. Time was, women breast fed their kids for three years, doing that several times a day. Now, they have huge boobs that they never use. Consequence: things go wrong... When you lived to 30 it was not a problem... Live to 60 and it is. Myself, I am a big fan of Durk and Sandy. To me, food is just a way to faciitate the uptake of vitamins. I eat meat, but not pork, and I eat tofu. I eat mixed nuts, but minimal wheat bread - a loaf lasts a week to ten days. I eat eggs, milk, etc., but the milk could be goat's milk as easily as cow's. I avoid processed foods, hormones, and antibiotics. I prefer grass fed, small lot animals. I eat fruits alone, i.e, not with other foods within an hour. I follow the maxim that the world could live well on bananas and fish. I know I do. I eat wildcaught ocean fish only, nothing farm raised; nothing freshwater. I do eat canned tuna, light not white because white has more mercury. Also, have been big on other canned fish. At my age (62), I have gone through a lot of phases since I got hip on nutrition 40 years ago. It might not matter too much what you eat as much as what you avoid. Objectivists know that there is no dichotomy between the moral and practical, the logical and empirical, the political and the economic. I point to this: Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization by Richard Manning. It is no accident that agricultural societies are slaveholders.
  6. If you aren’t familiar with the phenomenal podcast series available at www.econtalk.org, I highly recommend selecting an episode or two from the archive and listening during your daily commute or exercise. One could select virtually any of the podcasts as a rich starting point for discussion, but one episode in particular had a profound impact on my intellectual framework, and I would like to share it here: www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/01/david_rose_on_t.html In this episode, economist/author David Rose discusses some of the central themes of his book, The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior, with host of the program Russ Roberts. It’s best to listen to the hour-long podcast for yourself if you have the time, but here is the main idea of his argument: “This book explains why moral beliefs can and likely do play an important role in the development and operation of market economies. It provides new arguments for why it is important that people genuinely trust others-even those whom they know don't particularly care about them-because in key circumstances institutions are incapable of combating opportunism. It then identifies specific characteristics that moral beliefs must have for the people who possess them to be regarded as trustworthy. When such moral beliefs are held with sufficient conviction by a sufficiently high proportion of the population, a high trust society emerges that supports maximum cooperation and creativity while permitting honest competition at the same time.” (Source: Amazon.com) Before adopting Rose’s framework of evaluating economic behavior, I was much more influenced by utilitarian principles such as those espoused by legal theorist/economist Richard Posner. To take an example, Posner’s “efficient breach of contracts” theory – arguably the dominant view in modern jurisprudence - holds that one party should be legally (and morally) free to breach a contract and pay damages to the other party if the overall outcome is more efficient. In the amoral view of contracts, the ends justify the means of the breaching party. Simply evaluate the likely outcome of breach, and if the benefits outweigh the costs, then the actions were justified. Everyone wins in such situations, right? Rose argues that there is no such thing as this free lunch. The costs of Posner ‘s utilitarianism are less easily quantified than the benefits, but nevertheless the costs are very real in the form of eroded social trust. A society in which people act according to a principled moral foundation, Rose explains, is more efficient because individuals will engage in a wide variety of economic behaviors they otherwise could not have in a utilitarian culture because of fear of being sacrificed to a “greater good” or prohibitively high transaction costs. This is one reason why I reject utilitarian tolerance of skyrocketing social security disability fraud as the easiest way of "buying off" individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to find employment. I believe - and I think Rose would agree - that tolerating this deceitful behavior fosters a culture in which individuals will breach trust and cheat each other as long as they can identify some benefit outweighing those costs. It’s also why I reject utilitarian platform elements integral to the Progressive movement, such as affirmative action. If individuals fear they are in danger of being sacrificed to a greater good by the elite, they will no longer place trust in the system and they will instead engage in defensive, protectionist behavior with high social and economic costs for everyone. In a world where promises are categorically kept, there is a much lower need for government protectionism. This is why I feel Rose’s position is more in line with libertarian and objectivist principles than Posner’s, and why we should reject progressive utilitarianism and its view that individual eggs are expendable in creating a more perfect social omelet.
  7. I will start school next month as a freshman. My financial aid package comes from the federal government, the state government, and the Army. I'm conflicted with the morality of accepting government aid, and I would prefer to only use private loans, but the current market just isn't set up for this kind of loan shopping. Every single student who attends university will use some form of government-subsidized financial aid (unless the student attends a private university and pays all tuition and fees personally). Is it moral to accept government-subsidized financial aid as a student? It seems literally impossible to pay for school without it, since students are *expected* to either pay for everything out of their pockets or accept government aid. I don't want to have to accept government aid, but it seems like the only available option whether I had more money or not.
  8. There are many ways to kill yourself and many reasons to do so. When I lived in Livingston County, Michigan, there was this old couple, married a hundred years more or less and she passed away first and a few days after the funeral, he died. No one asked any questions or needed to. His death was ruled "natural causes" and it was close enough. Even a nominally young person could face unremediable prospects of disease, paralysis, overall loss of life quality. Why delay the inevitable as it just gets worse? (Clearly, someone 20 has more likelihood of better outcomes over time than someone 60. "Nominally young" could mean early to late middle age.) The point is that as your life is your own, what you do with it is your business. But "business" implies calculation. Businesses are economic entities of profit. And yes, they fail and are liquidated. But not because everyone's favorite accountant quit. And when they go, the board of directors does not call in professional dynamiters to bring the building down. In fact, arson is one of the common crimes of business - a failing business is destroyed - and it is considered a crime. In other words, the decision to close a business is calculated ... and suicide often is not. Objectivists recognize that children have fewer rights than adults. It is easy to say that if a policeman sees an adult poised to jump off a bridge, the moral imperative to act is different than if the jumper were a child. If the two were only walking the bridge for fun, the same standard would apply: the adult has a right to risk his life; the child does not. I submit that anyone who attempts a dramatic death is not rational. Therefore, they do not enjoy thte rights of an adult. With the legal status of a child, that person can and should be restrained for their own good, as a moral imperative of the state which has a compelling interest in the well-being of all under its protection. Another way to approach this is to ask if you have the right to sell yourself into slavery. When I brought this up on RoR, one reply was that the voluntary choice to involuntary servitude is a contradiction and therefore does not need to be discussed. However, that ignored the reality of the Roman latifundists: thousands of farmers became slaves through debt. Here and now debt is real. By the standards of Objective moral philosophy, can you agree to sell yourself for the rest of your life to pay off your debts? Can that include your children? At what age or by what other standard could they agree, if they wanted to? (In America, at first, the children of slaves were considered freeborn, but that became inconvenient.)
  9. Seeing as how Rand founded her ethics on an inquiry into value, basically assuming on the part of living beings that they "act to gain and/or keep" ends as part of their nature, I think her account of value could best be restated if it was founded on the Austrian school's axiom of action. I also think that it's necessary to stop regurgitating phrases such as "man's life qua man", "life makes value possible", "there is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence", etc. For me and for some others I know, their meanings were fuzzy and they prohibited the understanding of what is actually a profound and intuitive argument that no one could rationally deny. (I found that, like F. A. Hayek, I couldn't make "heads nor tails" of Galt's speech the first few times I read it -- until I read Rasmussen's paper, "A Groundwork for Rights" and Tara Smith's Viable Values.) In other words, I believe the argument for life as the ultimate value could be reinterpreted so as to be stated in much clearer terms. The idea of a "premoral choice to live" I also believe is best rejected in favour of Rasmussen and Den Uyl's notion of a natural end that you are always affirming, every time you act: Living beings engage in goal-directed action, pursuing “values” that they “act to gain and/or keep”. This is known as the “action axiom”. Any attempt to deny that living beings act purposefully would itself constitute purposeful action, hence self-refuting. Action is distinguished from unconscious, involuntary responses to physical stimuli. A person asleep or in a coma obviously does not act. But the proposition is that living being acts, i.e. that one of its distinguishing features is conscious, self-directed (or “self-generated”, as Rand termed it) behaviour -- not that it always acts. At the bottom of every decision to engage in a particular action is the decision to engage in any action whatsoever: the, as it were, decision to make decisions. In order to act at all, a living being must evaluate that it would be preferable to be an acting, choosing entity than a non-acting, non-choosing entity. No decision and evaluations can be made without reference to a standard, a parameter one is intending to maximize. Since most ends are merely means to other ends, there must be an end-in-itself, an ultimate standard or, in Rand’s words, “ultimate value” to prevent an infinite regress. Ultimate value gives rise to the phenomenon of choice (i.e. action), by providing a living being with the capacity to reject alternative states of affairs as suboptimal. The decision to act is the decision that existence (life) is preferable to non-existence (death), because life requires, not only particular actions and particular values, but action and valuein themselves. A living being engaged in goal-directed action must therefore have life as its ultimate value. At the most fundamental level, it has decided to maximize this parameter by fulfilling its basic requirement: engaging in action. Consequently, at all other levels, no matter the content of the action (decisions about content also constituting action), life remains the ultimate standard throughout, because without it there could be no evaluation of action as preferable to non-action in the first place. Any attempt to deny that action has life as its ultimate standard qua value would constitute an action affirming life as its ultimate standard qua value: like the action axiom, also self-contradictory and self-refuting. Unlike other ends, life is an end-in-itself, because it is a means to itself. “Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action”; i.e. it is composed of action (good or bad) that takes the shape of a structural, cyclical chain. Goal-directed action requires life qua ultimate value. Life qua ultimate value requires goal-direction action, which itself requires life qua ultimate value. Et cetera. (Conscious living beings cannot avoid engaging in action since the decision not to act would itself be an action.) Obviously, "life" just refers to survival, which Irfan Khawaja helpfully defined in an essay in "Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue" as the promotion of optimal conditions for the operation of your essence across your natural lifespan. Yet Smith makes clear that the requirements of survival are long-range as well as short-range. Survival includes psychological as wellas physical health. In order to pursue sustenance, human beings must first be convinced their life is worth sustaining. For example, a person who pursues passions, fruitful relationships, hobbies, and a life of self-esteem clearly has better survival prospects than someone who is antisocial and suffers recurring bouts of mania and psychological depression. Human beings must therefore not only eat and have a pulse, but must objectively flourish: live in such a way as to be able to continueto live. We need happiness and self-esteem in the same way a plant needs water. Flourishing is thus, in keeping with the Aristotelian-scholastic moral tradition in which Randian ethics can be confidently categorized, man’s natural end: the summum bonum or ultimate good. I think the argument for moral principles can be stated like this: Goal A could be best achieved by doing X, Y, and Z. You want to achieve Goal A. Therefore, you should do X, Y, and Z. Goal A is your natural end, an "ought" you implicitly accept every time you act. Ergo, asking why you ought to obey moral principles is like asking why you should train for a 100-m sprint. Why run in that case? How can you win without training? As Khawaja wrote in the appendix to his review of Viable Values: "In choosing to live, one is conditionally bound by the requirements of life [...] if I will life as an end, I must will the means to it; if I refuse to will the means, I must give up the end." Your natural end cannot be rejected (unless you somehow completely shut down and stop acting). Hence, moral principles are obligatory.