Is there ever a conflict between self interest & morality?


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The unreal premise is "there was only supplies for one of us to survive."

So before you get carried away with movie scenarios, ask: supplies for how long - indefinitely? until rescue? Ambiguous; if so, then two could survive for a long while, I guess. Impossibly if not, morally both should benefit til supplies run out, and before starvation, each could then consider going for a long swim...

So you suggest asking these questions to the creator of the unreal premise.

Excellent idea.

I was discussing Objectivism with a friend of mine who said he'd be an Objectivist but he believes there are situations where morality and acting in your self interest come into conflict. The example he gave me was that if the 2 of us were stranded in the middle of nowhere & there was only supplies for one of us to survive, wouldn't it be in our individual self interest to kill the other?

Poster WhYNot is of the opinion that your friend's premises are unreal.

Do you agree with WhYNot's assessment?

Edited by Xray
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The unreal premise is "there was only supplies for one of us to survive."

So before you get carried away with movie scenarios, ask: supplies for how long - indefinitely? until rescue? Ambiguous; if so, then two could survive for a long while, I guess. Impossibly if not, morally both should benefit til supplies run out, and before starvation, each could then consider going for a long swim...

So you suggest asking these questions to the creator of the unrealistic premise.

Excellent idea.

I was discussing Objectivism with a friend of mine who said he'd be an Objectivist but he believes there are situations where morality and acting in your self interest come into conflict. The example he gave me was that if the 2 of us were stranded in the middle of nowhere & there was only supplies for one of us to survive, wouldn't it be in our individual self interest to kill the other?

Poster WhYNot is of the opinion that your friend's premises are unrealistic.

Do you agree with WhYNot's assessment?

1) You have supplies for one, therefore, once you assess the situation, you go down to 1/4 rations. You begin to acquire bugs, grubs, roots etc. Crushed grubs and bugs, strained through a square of your clothing provides an excellent protein tea. There are edible mushrooms, the environment is replete with food;

2) You need to decide whether one person is going to walk out for help while the other just stays put;

These false hypotheticals are evasive Socratic exercises which need to be aggressively questioned for particulars and then dismantled.

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1) You have supplies for one, therefore, once you assess the situation, you go down to 1/4 rations. You begin to acquire bugs, grubs, roots etc. Crushed grubs and bugs, strained through a square of your clothing provides an excellent protein tea. There are edible mushrooms, the environment is replete with food;

2) You need to decide whether one person is going to walk out for help while the other just stays put;

These false hypotheticals are evasive Socratic exercises which need to be aggressively questioned for particulars and then dismantled.

My main objection to the premise given in the # 1 post: since supplies won't last that long anyway, even if there should only one person be left, the day would soon arrive where that person too would be confroned with death.

But the suggestion to look for more real scenarios is certainly sensible advice.

One could take something that has actually happened, and then it test it through by applying Objectivst principles.

For example, one could ask the question whether it is, per Objectivist standards, immoral to leave behind in the jungle your companion with whom you managed to flee from a terrorist camp where the two of you had been kept as hostages.

But after you fled, it soon turns out that the companion is too weak to continue the flight.

What are you going to do, and how do you ethically justify what you are going to do?

Since such scenarios have happened in reality (for example in Ingrid Betancourt's life), rejecting the scenario as non-real would not apply.

Edited by Xray
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If you are sure, solid about what you love, what you believe in, you get the bravery to do even things that might obliterate you. Hopefully, those things are well-put together--truly moral, as in in alignment with reality. In alignment with the flow of the universe. You will know what to do, and do it. This is what separates a highly-evolved human from those who are not. One of the sad, frightening realizations that is obtained when you are working on your personal evolution is that there are those who walk on this earth who are not fully human. Empathy is a survival mechanism, a component even, from what we see in evolutionary psychology, say. Real empathy is one of the things that allow us guides, markers, to make good decisions. If you know what is truly right (in harmony with all existence), it is very likely you will try to do that right thing.

Every day, we all make nearly-countless amounts of decisions; little ones, medium ones, and occasionally very large ones. And sometimes, what might appear off-rip to be a very small one is very impactful--it requires a discerning, honest eye: awareness (in the fullest sense of that word). In the larger ones that come roaring in at you, the biggies, this is where you find out exactly how "strong" you are. And that kind of moment is always an incredible realization--to have yourself instantly gauged by what reality has brought to you, so to say. It's actually a good moment of consciousness, but by then you are usually too far engaged in deciding to truly enjoy it.

rde

Edited by Rich Engle
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Remember that Objectivism rejects the conventional, religious view of "selfishness" as lacking all concern for others. True selfishness requires that a person have a clear grasp of their own value hierarchy, and act in such a way that you never sacrifice a higher value for a lesser one. So the first thing to note is that selfishness does not always equate to simple self-preservation. If there is a choice between your life and someone else’s life, it may be selfish to step in front of a bullet to save another’s life if the person represents a value without which you would not care to live.

The "hierarchy of values" issue combined with the "selfishness" issue leads Rand to some very controversial moral judgements. For example, she asserts that it is "immoral" to risk one's life in attempting to save a stranger.

Imo "moral judgements" of this type go against the idea of individualism. Instead they unnecessarily squeeze the mind into a corset of rigid morality.

Countless people are pobably forever grateful that complete strangers have risked their lives to save them. But since risking one's life to save strangers does not fit into Rand's "an individual has to be of personal value to me" system, she labels such acts as "immoral".

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