nickcoons

Objectivism and Supporting Government

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I've talked to quite a few Objectivists, and have gotten about as many different answers as people I've spoken with. So far, none of them satisfying, but I press on.

I believe this explains well what I've come to conclude about you. I believe that you are simply looking for someone who shares this opinion with you. That supporting the government as an Objectivist is contradictory.

I'm not looking for people to agree with me for the sake of finding like opinions. All of my close friends already agree with me. I'm trying to understand how a philosophy like Objectivism, populated with very intelligent people that have a huge amount to offer, can go on for decades with this core contradiction slipping by seemingly unnoticed. What I've generally gotten in response are generally evasions (i.e. that I'm taking things out of context, that I'm rationalizing, etc) which don't actually address the question but instead criticize the way I'm asking the question. I'm not sure what the intention is behind these sorts of responses, other than perhaps what you alluded to, that people go to great lengths to not go through process of working out contradictions because they don't like where it takes them.

Well, i suppose tax evasion is a volatile issue. Objectivists uphold rational self-interest, therefore, I suppose they believe that the risk isn't worth the reward. One might argue that they aren't considering their fellow man or future generations(1). Well, you won't find any Objectivists martyr's,lol, as they don't believe in self-sacrifice, I suppose not even for the cause of their esteemed ideaology.

I am interested in your ideas on dealing with this issue.

1. Rand herself wasn't very fond of children

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I originally thought the same thing but concluded later that I think Nick tends to read into things too much. The contradiction he sees of thinks there is in Objectivist philosophy and government is one of them. I think what needs to be kept in mind is that Rand new there would be places that did not necesarily want government and might be able to be self-governing as indicated by her writing about the community Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart visited just outside of the plant where they found John Galt's motor.

However, like she and I think other Objectivist authors concluded man's nature requires government. James Madison made this point in The Federalst Papers that If men were angels no government would be necessary.

I believe this explains well what I've come to conclude about you. I believe that you are simply looking for someone who shares this opinion with you.

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Now, if you say that you support a state and you simultaneously do not support the initiation of force (like taxation), then you're holding two contradictory ideas at the same time, which is the crux of my original post that started this thread.

Nick,

I thought we were talking about human beings, not just syllogisms.

Just for one issue, I am of the view that the human brain is roughly divided into three sections (sometimes called the triune brain). This is an oversimplified concept, but it holds true for broad strokes--and has been verified through testing.

When you devise a system of strict NIOF, you are taliking about a system for Martians or some unknown creatures of some sort. Humans have and always will initiate force against each other. The real issue is not how to eliminate this. That's like trying to eliminate hunger in one fell swoop. The trouble is that the next day people have to eat. The real issue is how to set and enforce rules on aggressive force so that people in group are organized more by our neocortex and less by our reptilian brain (which will prompt anyone to initiate violence if it feels threatened or some other basic survival stuff).

Amputating the reptilian brain and mid-brain (limbic) from the human species is not a viable option--not unless you inhabit the land of floating abstractions. And if you belong to that land, just ignore the parts of realty that don't fit your mental construct. I'm cool with that. Different strokes for different folks. But you won't ever sell your idea to people who know reality.

To put it another way, if I said all elephants are red, Bruno is an elephant, but Bruno is not red, yes, I have a logical contradiction.

The problem is that not all elephants are red.

In like manner, your premise sits on a view of human nature that is not totally wrong, but is incomplete enough to make it meaningless for social organization.

I'll keep my contradiction if we use your premises, thank you. But it is not a contradiction based on my premises.

I hold that your premises are not connected to reality enough to matter. I.e., they are floating abstractions. Use all the logic you want on floating abstractions. I personally need more--specifically a correspondence to reality.

Michael

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Awesome! You know about the triune brain theory. I just found out about it a couple days ago. I hope its the same that I found. That the human brain has three parts: reptile, mammal, neo-mammal(human).

Edit: Yep, that's it. That would make for an interesting discussion thread. I have a test today otherwise I'd probably start the thread myself.

Edited by Aristocrates

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Aristocrates,

This following is only scratching the surface, and it is admittedly oversimplified by broad strokes, but here is how I understand the triune brain in general terms of morality.

The reptilian brain doesn't care anything about morality or higher abstractions. When it processes an encounter, it only has a few concerns:

(1) Is that thing a threat? In other words, do I have to run from it or stand up to it and kill it?

(2) Can I eat it?

(3) Can I hump it?

(4) Can I ignore it?

(5) If 1, 2 or 3, should I send the info up to a higher brain, or act now, or both?

It doesn't go much further than that.

The limbic brain (mammalian brain) does a lot more higher animal stuff and emotions, but the morality focus is on other people. And it understands those real well. Here is how.

(1) You have to defer and be nice to people who have more power than you (big dudes, law enforcement, bosses, parents, etc.).

(2) You should be nice to people on your level, but you don't have to (classmates, coworkers, siblings, etc.).

(3) You can crap all over people under you if you feel grumpy.

That's the morality of the limbic brain left on its own. In other words, the power urge in human relations resides here and it ain't pretty.

The neocortex is where language, math, problem solving, concept formation, reason, logic, etc. happen. And here is where morality--including individual rights--resides.

Note that all new sensory messages first pass through the reptilian brain before being sent up to the higher levels. The reptilian brain is a gatekeeper, so to speak. It knows that if the higher brains get overloaded with too much useless information, the organism is potentially in danger. For this reason, it makes sure that a lot gets ignored. And its filters are pretty simple for the stuff that goes up--basically the concerns I gave above.

Even though the neocortex has resolved that all men are created equal, the reptilian brain will have none of it. It will prompt the person to kill or hump in a heartbeat if left unchecked. It does this to protect the organism and species at its level of understanding.

I have a speculation that, since the brain is highly interconnected and neuroplasticity is a fact (which means that the mind can physically alter the brain), neural pathways can be conjured up in the neocortex and run to the limbic brain and reptilian brain with enough connections (that physically create dentrites and axons) to influence those regions. True, only up to a point--but at least enough to put a lid on the more excessively violent emotions and drives.

These neural pathways can be philosophical and/or religious premises, or emotional traumas, or habits, or any number of things. Here's the kicker, though. Just because you create a new neural pathway and reinforce it with repetition (focused or otherwise), this does not annul what already exists. In other words, the primitive stuff doesn't go away. It just goes underground. The variations from all this can lead from nirvana to violent psychosis, from depression to ecstasy, or often, to just plain common sense.

This ties into government because people bounce all over the place in their minds from day to day. There has to be a set of rules coming from the neocortex if life on the neocortex level is to exist, otherwise, the reptilian brain will make sure human existence operates only on its level. That means unchecked killing according to the whim of each individual. And the limbic brain will make sure bullying is the ruling principle in relationships.

You either get government by a strongman, which is basically bullying, or by a document of principles that demands frequent changes of powerholders. That one--a constitutional republic--comes from the neocortex.

But note. As I said earlier, you cannot amputate the reptilian and limbic brains. They are still there and they are extremely powerful in influencing human behavior. So I believe that a society of no government whatsoever would allow the reptilian brain to set the standards of human interaction. And as things progressed, going from reptilian to limbic, gangs (or tribes or other similar groups) would form before too long. History has borne this out, too.

Just because one person develops his neocortex, that does not mean another will. This is mostly volitional. And a person who does not develop his neocortex can turn violent on a dime by mere suspicion of a threat--that's his reptilian brain doing its thing.

Like I said, I only scratched the surface. If you really want to start getting down and dirty, look into neuroscience. There are two scientists who come to mind immediately for some really interesting stuff: V.S. Ramachandran and Bruce Lipton (a cell biologist). They go way beyond the triune brain. Google them for a wild ride if you get the time.

Michael

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What I've generally gotten in response are generally evasions (i.e. that I'm taking things out of context, that I'm rationalizing, etc) which don't actually address the question but instead criticize the way I'm asking the question.

Nick,

Accusing Objectivists of evasion is, well, a big accusation. Especially since evasion is something that happens inside an individual's consciousness and not something you can observe directly.

Responses like "you're taking things out of context" and "you're being rationalistic" (which isn't the same as "rationalizing") aren't evasions. They're methodological and epistemological concerns with your argument.

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Completely agreed.. I don't advocate abolishing the state in order to increase liberty. The state goes away, as an effect, as people have a rational grasp on reality.

I certainly think that's a possibility.

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That may be, but reasons people choose to live in certain areas are not necessarily principle-based. I choose chocolate over vanilla not out of any principle, but because its preferable. The difference between the US and North Korea is much larger than chocolate and vanilla, so let's say chocolate and dirt. Again, no real principle that I know of behind that choice, I just don't care for the taste of dirt.

Neither choosing where to live nor what to eat is a moral issue.

But according to Objectivism, it is. At least this is what I have been told on another thread, where it was pointed out that in Objecitivism, "every choice is moral".

Do we have Rand's exact words on that?

Edited by Xray

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That may be, but reasons people choose to live in certain areas are not necessarily principle-based. I choose chocolate over vanilla not out of any principle, but because its preferable. The difference between the US and North Korea is much larger than chocolate and vanilla, so let's say chocolate and dirt. Again, no real principle that I know of behind that choice, I just don't care for the taste of dirt.

Neither choosing where to live nor what to eat is a moral issue.

But according to Objectivism, it is. At least this is what I have been told on another thread, where it was pointed out that in Objecitivism, "every choice is moral".

Do we have Rand's exact words on that?

A moral issue is a subcategory to moral. All choices are moral simply because they are choices which appertains to free will. An action then taken is moral, amoral--that is, morality doesn't seem to matter or is slight, or immoral.

Essentially, that's all.

--Brant

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That may be, but reasons people choose to live in certain areas are not necessarily principle-based. I choose chocolate over vanilla not out of any principle, but because its preferable. The difference between the US and North Korea is much larger than chocolate and vanilla, so let's say chocolate and dirt. Again, no real principle that I know of behind that choice, I just don't care for the taste of dirt.

Neither choosing where to live nor what to eat is a moral issue.

But according to Objectivism, it is. At least this is what I have been told on another thread, where it was pointed out that in Objecitivism, "every choice is moral".

Do we have Rand's exact words on that?

A moral issue is a subcategory to moral. All choices are moral simply because they are choices which appertains to free will. An action then taken is moral, amoral--that is, morality doesn't seem to matter or is slight, or immoral.

So my choosing a peach over an apple is a moral choice because my free will was involved? Give me a break, Brant! :D

I'd like to see Rand's direct words on all choices being moral. I always thought it was Peikoff who said that, not Rand.

So TIA for providing the direct source.

Edited by Xray

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That may be, but reasons people choose to live in certain areas are not necessarily principle-based. I choose chocolate over vanilla not out of any principle, but because its preferable. The difference between the US and North Korea is much larger than chocolate and vanilla, so let's say chocolate and dirt. Again, no real principle that I know of behind that choice, I just don't care for the taste of dirt.

Neither choosing where to live nor what to eat is a moral issue.

But according to Objectivism, it is. At least this is what I have been told on another thread, where it was pointed out that in Objecitivism, "every choice is moral".

Do we have Rand's exact words on that?

A moral issue is a subcategory to moral. All choices are moral simply because they are choices which appertains to free will. An action then taken is moral, amoral--that is, morality doesn't seem to matter or is slight, or immoral.

So my choosing a peach over an apple is a moral choice because my free will was involved? Give me a break, Brant! :D

I'd like to see Rand's direct words on all choices being moral. I always thought it was Peikoff who said that, not Rand.

So TIA for providng the direct source.

I'm not doing Rand, here, on this subject. I may be contradicting her. I'm doing precision of thought, which seems to be wasted on you.

--Brant

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So my choosing a peach over an apple is a moral choice because my free will was involved? Give me a break, Brant! :D

I'd like to see Rand's direct words on all choices being moral. I always thought it was Peikoff who said that, not Rand.

So TIA for providng the direct source.

I'm not doing Rand, here, on this subject. I may be contradicting her. I'm doing precision of thought, which seems to be wasted on you.

I'm all for preciseness. Do you seriously believe your argument that all choices are moral is convincing? What about the bizarre results one gets in choices like the one I listed above?

Since you don't have Rand's direct words on that, my question to the other posters: Did Ayn Rand say that "every choice is moral"?

Edited by Xray

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I'm posting because I've browsed through here a bit and find that there appear to be some bright people in these forums, and I have a question that I've had difficulty locating a satisfactory answer to. Specifically, the question is about the contradiction between the non-aggression principle ("No man may initiate the use of physical force against another"), and the support of government (which Rand defined as an institution that claims a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force). That is, any group of people that claim a monopoly (and intend to enforce that monopoly) must do so through the initiation of force. Roy Childs Jr. explained it well in his Open Letter to Ayn Rand:

http://www.isil.org/ayn-rand/childs-open-letter.html

My question involves specifically the logical contradiction in this position, not the argument from apocalypse justifications for holding a contradictory position (i.e. without a government, there would be chaos!).

I look forward to some illuminating responses.. thank you!

Roy Childs' letter is a very interesting read.

I think Ayn Rand had good deal more realism than many anarchists in that she clearly saw that anarchism can't work.

Childs citing Rand:

1. "If a society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door," etc.

Hard to refute, this argument.

In a 2007 talk, Steven Pinker cites a source where it says that:

..."the timing of the decline of homicide in Europe coincided with the rise of centralized states."

http://www.kranti.org/component/k2/item/23-steven-pinker-on-the-myth-of-violence.html

Pinker also points out that eruptions of violence can be seen

"...in zones of anarchy: in failed states, collapsed empires, frontier regions, mafias, street gangs and so on."

Childs's letter starts off with:

Dear Miss Rand:

The purpose of this letter is to convert you to free market anarchism. As far as I can determine, no one has ever pointed out to you in detail the errors in your political philosophy. That is my intention here.

Did Childs seriously believe that pointing out a contradiction in a philosophy would convert its founder to the critic's philosophy?

Does anyone know of a philosopher who abandoned his own philosophy A, switching to philosophy B after philosopher B pointed out contradictions in philosophy A?

Edited by Xray

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I'm posting because I've browsed through here a bit and find that there appear to be some bright people in these forums, and I have a question that I've had difficulty locating a satisfactory answer to. Specifically, the question is about the contradiction between the non-aggression principle ("No man may initiate the use of physical force against another"), and the support of government (which Rand defined as an institution that claims a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force). That is, any group of people that claim a monopoly (and intend to enforce that monopoly) must do so through the initiation of force. Roy Childs Jr. explained it well in his Open Letter to Ayn Rand:

http://www.isil.org/...pen-letter.html

My question involves specifically the logical contradiction in this position, not the argument from apocalypse justifications for holding a contradictory position (i.e. without a government, there would be chaos!).

I look forward to some illuminating responses.. thank you!

Roy Child's letter is a very interesting read.

I think Ayn Rand had good deal more realism than many anarchists in that she clearly realized that anarchism can't work.

True, but she hated direct, intellectual competition. She also used the top-down model which naturally embraces the state. That spilled over to her own life, both personal and professional. Over 40 years ago a couple of libertarian, left wing anarchists were pictured on the front of the NYTimes Sunday magazine, I think with raised fists. The communist cultural overlap was obvious. That would have completely pissed her off.

--Brant

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So my choosing a peach over an apple is a moral choice because my free will was involved? Give me a break, Brant! :D

I'd like to see Rand's direct words on all choices being moral. I always thought it was Peikoff who said that, not Rand.

So TIA for providng the direct source.

I'm not doing Rand, here, on this subject. I may be contradicting her. I'm doing precision of thought, which seems to be wasted on you.

I'm all for preciseness. Do you seriously believe your argument that all choices are moral is convincing? What about the bizarre results one gets in choices like the one I listed above?

Since you don't have Rand's direct words on that, my question to the other posters: Did Ayn Rand say that "every choice is moral"?

Not to you. I simply explained the hierarchy of different, but related concepts. You have yet to address that. You just keep bulldozing ahead, swimming in your intellectual molasses, as has always been your wont on OL.

--Brant

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Since you don't have Rand's direct words on that, my question to the other posters: Did Ayn Rand say that "every choice is moral"?

Not to you. I simply explained the hierarchy of different, but related concepts. You have yet to address that. You just keep bulldozing ahead, swimming in your intellectual molasses, as has always been your wont on OL.

The discussion here was not about "different but related concepts". I had directly addressed a post by Nick Coons who wrote:

"Neither choosing where to live nor what to eat is a moral issue." (N. Coons, #71).

My reply was:

"But according to Objectivism, it is. At least this is what I have been told on another thread, where it was pointed out that in Objectivism, "every choice is moral". (Xray, #83).

So if I was wrong on that and according to Objectivism, not every choice is a moral choice, I'll stand corrected of course. That's why I'm interested in Rand's direct words on it.

Edited by Xray

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Roy Child's letter is a very interesting read.

I think Ayn Rand had good deal more realism than many anarchists in that she clearly realized that anarchism can't work.

True, but she hated direct, intellectual competition.

It's somewhere in the back of my mind that Rand did not reply to Childs's open letter in any form, but merely made some disparaging remarks about it to her friends.

She also used the top-down model which naturally embraces the state. That spilled over to her own life, both personal and professional.

Interesting point. I too think that Ayn Rand was in some way quite a hierarchically oriented person, a hero worshiper who placed the "prime movers" on top.

Over 40 years ago a couple of libertarian, left wing anarchists were pictured on the front of the NYTimes Sunday magazine, I think with raised fists. The communist cultural overlap was obvious. That would have completely pissed her off.

I think Ayn Rand loathed anything even vaguely reminding her of communism. Not hard to understand, in view of her her direct experiences with this system.

Edited by Xray

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Since you don't have Rand's direct words on that, my question to the other posters: Did Ayn Rand say that "every choice is moral"?

Did Ayn Rand ever say that every specific choice is moral? I'm certain she would say no. I don’t have Ayn Rand’s exact words on this issue. I don’t know that she ever spelled it out. However, to his credit, Peikoff did clarify it very well in Understanding Objectivism.

Every action can be classified as moral or immoral—i.e., every action can be evaluated as either pro-life or anti-life. However, this is not true of every choice. Moral principles define a wide range of options, and within that range, any number of concrete choices are perfectly moral.

Eating, working and dressing yourself in the morning are all moral actions, and what you specifically want to eat or the particular work you choose or how you dress yourself are all optional within the range of pro-life concretes—i.e., those concretes which favor life. Any number of concrete options are legitimate, and which of them you choose is not a moral issue. However, if you venture outside the criterion of that which is pro-life—if you choose something which is destructive to life—e.g., eating poison, ‘working’ as a mafia hitman or donning a burka—your choice/action is immoral. Your choice makes your action something which is, in principle, destructive to your life.

So I would say that all actions are either moral or immoral, but not all choices. And I think that would be Ayn Rand’s viewpoint as well.

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Her position on "choice" inherently implies that there is something of value that is to be chosen.

From Galt's speech:

If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a “moral commandment” is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the
chosen
, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.

From her essay, "Causality versus Duty," in Philosophy: Who Needs It [page 99]:

Life or death is man’s only fundamental alternative.
To live is his basic act of choice.
If he
chooses
to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his
choice
. If he does not
choose
to live, nature will take its course.

From The Objectivist Ethics, in The Virtue of Selfishness[page 13]:

What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man’s
choices
and actions—the
choices
and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code.

Vanilla or chocolate ice cream is not a moral choice, but the fact that your mind is engaged in the choice implies a rational moral process.

Adam

best I can do on this one Angela

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That is, any group of people that claim a monopoly (and intend to enforce that monopoly) must do so through the initiation of force.

But is it an initiation of force, rather than retaliatory force? I realize that Roy Childs, as an advocate of anarchocapitalism, may believe that the government initiates force on rival private protection agencies, but it is not clear to me that establishing a "legal territory" for a government isn't actually a retaliatory use of force.

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Welcome to OL, Nick.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later in life, Roy Childs came to reject anarchocapitalism. So he rejected the weight of his argument in “Open Letter to Ayn Rand” and the weight of his arguments in “The Invisible Hand Strikes Back”* which was a rejoinder to Robert Nozick’s ethical-individualist refutation of anarchocapitalism. Apparently, Roy never wrote his reasons for rejecting his earlier arguments.* (I met Roy on a couple of occasions, but those were in the '70s, during in his anarchist period.)

Why I reject anarchocapitalism—in addition to the arguments concerning procedural justice given by Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia—is given in my essay on property rights in land, the land state, and its financing: “Rights, Games, and Self-Realization” / Intro / Part I / Part II / Part III / Follow-on

Pertinent and Important

“Justice Entrepreneurship in a Free Market” by George Smith*

“Life, Liberty, and Property” by David Kelley* **

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS

I notice that in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy (June 2011), there is a chapter on Property (#35) by David Schmidtz and a chapter on Libertarianism (#41) by Eric Mack.*

Forthcoming from an OL participant, concerning the principle of non-initiation of force and the axiom of non-agression: Robert Hartford (August 2011).

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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