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Objectivism and Children

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Mrs and I went over yesterday to baby sit the grandchildren ( a mere 9 mile ride). After hugs and kisses I just sat down to watch them play with each other (ages 8.5, 8.5 4.92). I did not say much. They were having fun which the main business of children. I just soaked up their joy. I was WONDERFUL!. Ba'al Chatzaf

Bob,

4.92 years? Is that as precise as you can be?

Only a mathematician...

It must be enjoyable without the anxieties of being daddy.

Closest to having your cake and eating it, perhaps.

Tony

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Mrs and I went over yesterday to baby sit the grandchildren ( a mere 9 mile ride). After hugs and kisses I just sat down to watch them play with each other (ages 8.5, 8.5 4.92). I did not say much. They were having fun which the main business of children. I just soaked up their joy. I was WONDERFUL!. Ba'al Chatzaf
Bob, 4.92 years? Is that as precise as you can be? Only a mathematician... It must be enjoyable without the anxieties of being daddy. Closest to having your cake and eating it, perhaps. Tony

Children are the price. Grandchildren are the payoff.

Don't get me wrong. Making and bringing up kids has its high points, but the labor is great. Grandchildren are mostly gravy.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Denis,

I tried to listen to it, but the question was all wrong. It gave LP a strawman to bludgeon, and bludgeon he embarked on with all due moral fire and brimstone.

The guy asked if continuing the human race was "man's purpose on earth."

I absolutely hate these kinds of contextless questions based on fuzzy language. God, I'm sick of this stuff. It reminded me of that guy pleading with Obama to please raise his taxes.

It sounds like a total plant. What's worse, in Obama's case, I have no doubt it was a planted question. In Peikoff's case, I am pretty sure it wasn't.

Here is a cold hard fact. It everyone decided not to have children, the human race would become extinct with the death of the last member.

Hello out there. Can anyone deny this?

Here is another cold hard fact. When the majority of people are having children, an individual is free to choose to have children or not based solely on his druthers. The scope of his action is so small within that context that it will not affect the survival of the species one way or the other.

That's one context.

If the species becomes threatened with extinction (like, say, after an outbreak of a mega-plague), the context changes. This is where species survival kicks in as a consideration.

Frankly, I don't want to live around people who would look at a situation like that, see that the human race is facing extinction, then claim they have no part or responsibility in combating the threat.

I am pretty sure this would be Peikoff's position and, if it is, I want no part of that.

I am an individual human being, with everything that implies. I am not an individual blob floating around as a freak of the universe.

Michael

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Here's another thing I don't get with this mentality.

Peikoff would be the first person to say the Romantic Realism is an exceptionally moral art because it glorifies man.

So how does that work if you are convinced that concern with the survival of the human race is not a moral issue?

How can you preach both at the same time?

Why would it be moral to glorify man if you don't think it is a moral issue to ensure that people continue to exist so they can do and see the glorifying?

This is a glaring contradiction. Either that, or to people who preach both, glorifying man is nothing more than aesthetic masturbation. And I doubt Peikoff would be comfortable calling Atlas Shrugged "aesthetic masturbation."

But that's where these premises in conjunction lead.

Michael

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Michael,

The other side of the coin is that we live on a planet with finite resources, that's a cold hard fact too. I once raised the issue of overpopulation on another Objectivist forum and received a very hostile response, in fact it was nearly enough to turn me off objectivism completely. Some of the responses were truly absurd, such as "we'll move to other planets".

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Davy,

I definitely believe overpopulation is a moral issue.

It's not a government issue, though, unless a risk from overpopulation becomes an imminent catastrophe, which I find hard to imagine--even for China with it's rights-chomping one child per family policy.

I see an easy way to deal with this, both for extinction and overpopulation.

Include a rational approach to family values and responsibilities within the culture--including all the different aspects of what it means to be born into a situation you don't choose, but one that strongly informs the adult you turn into. Or deals with family love, which is different than romantic love (except for the couple at the core, which I believe should nurture both for greatest happiness). And the obvious things like child rearing, abortion, etc.

Family is where reproduction takes place since reproduction means more than birthing new human beings. It also means taking care of them to adulthood. To address your concern, family is where we learn out habits of consumption and how to measure life's resources.

In the rational philosophy world, we have practically left the this area (with an exception or other)--and respective moral issues--to religion by default. So we all get in the mainstream what the churches dish out. How could it be otherwise?

Media, especially broadcast media, has become a second force in this respect. Media companies like revenue, so we get what the big media companies dish out, too--essentially a growing vision of family being an impediment to commercial hedonism, with emphasis on younger folks (i.e., the longer lasting and more easily manipulated customers).

The result of this is what I call the remote control mindset, where if you don't like one reality, you push a button and change a channel to get another reality. People who think like this get really flustered when they push a button and can't get rid of real things like wars or a serious illness if they get one. They handle these things poorly.

Imagine what would happen if people adhering to one of those kooky ideologies get power one day and they decide to do China one better and make all kinds of limitations on how families can be structured. Without a strong rational culture of what a family is and the value of that, it would be hard to generate the intellectual arguments to combat such ideology's "rational approach."

For example, China caved easily on this, and China has always had a strong family culture. But it is based more on tradition than reason, so it was easy for the dictators to implement the one-child policy without any formidable resistance. The dictators had rational arguments on their side, however skewed their reasoning.

In the particular light of overpopulation, the concern with the environment that pervades our culture, and so forth, we need to include what family means to propagating the species as a moral issue--not THE BIG moral issue (like what Nazis did in Germany), but one among the many moral issues a person has to deal with in normal living.

I hold that the model of a healthy family is one of the best forms of human living, both as an individual and as a member of the human species. As a model, you don't have to choose individual versus family. You can have both. It's rational to have both. It's rational to value both. It's rational to seek both.

It's rational to accept both--both your individual nature and the family you were born into, including love for your family members (unless they are so neurotic or evil they don't let you function, so you have to get away from them).

And it's rational to want to improve both as your life unfolds.

Michael

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Michael,

The other side of the coin is that we live on a planet with finite resources, that's a cold hard fact too. I once raised the issue of overpopulation on another Objectivist forum and received a very hostile response, in fact it was nearly enough to turn me off objectivism completely. Some of the responses were truly absurd, such as "we'll move to other planets".

Careful. The finiteness of resources is not a philosophical issue, but a complex technical one. And notice your use of the plural rather than the singular. Whale oil is a finite resource, only it's not a resource anymore. What will the human race do? What will it do? I'm only using this obvious historical example to make my basic point, not to get into a discussion about this or demographic trends which are beginning to imply an eventual population implosion of sorts.

The most important resource of all, aside from water, is probably energy. Energy comes from a multiplicity of sources with new ones yet to come on line. Some of these last are as yet unimaginable--by anyone. Lack of imagination is not an argument for your personal position. Electricity is going to be the most important way to make things go on the surface of the earth, displacing oil which will continue to be used for other things. Electric cars and trucks are apparently inevitable. Natural gas may be used in the in-between. Sometimes we have to let the future take care of itself. The primary way to do that is by leaving the innovators free to innovate and the producers free to produce.

--Brant

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We were hard-wired to father/mother the maximum amount of off-spring possible in our primitively short life, yes. That's where it stops.

Separately, any consideration of our culture, or philosophy dwindling and dying out is not metaphysical; it's cognitive, and rational. Just thought I'd be clear on this.

We, each of us, are not *hard-wired* to consider the survival of the species, or culture; we just want to make babies.**

Tony

I don't think so. I think that taking the more gene-centric approach is a better fit to reality.

I think our "altruism" correlates quite well to genetic closeness. Other than your spouse (who is important for obvious reproductive reasons) we generally trend to act altruistically in inverse relation to kin distance. This explains family bonds, extended family relationships, tribalism, racism among other behaviours and is quite indeed hard-wired into us according to recent studies.

Ignoring this, to me simply does not make sense.

"We, each of us, are not *hard-wired* to consider the survival of the species, or culture; "

I think this is quite demonstrably incorrect.

"The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/27/AR2007052701056.html

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"We, each of us, are not *hard-wired* to consider the survival of the species, or culture; " I think this is quite demonstrably incorrect. "The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable." ]

I think you have pulled a bait and switch, here. I made no reference to "placing the interests of others before their own", or altruism. You introduced a study of a "primitive part of the brain" that responds with "pleasure"to altruistic acts - but THAT does not prove that "considering the survival of the species" is one of those acts that the primitive part of the brain responds to. i.e.,is pleasurably altruistic.

Do you really believe the primitive brain could make such a cognitive leap? I don't.

I don't doubt that the primitive brain responded favorably to observing dozens of children around.

But when a man could conceptualise a species or culture, his brain was no longer primitive - by definition.

Don't you agree?

It does lead to the interesting question, of how much man has had to over-ride his own "hard-wiring" - conquer nature, in effect.

Nature, metaphorically, is an unconscious brute that has not the slightest concern for the individual in a species, and barely any for the species. Which could also be disposed of easily. Therefore, she is 'collectivist', and so is hard-wiring: 'built-in' for the survival of primitive species.

Man discovered the value of individual life, rationally.

Therefore, the study you quote is completely predictable, and unsurprising, I think.

It's a fallacy which we see come up often - that hard-wiring is intrinsically 'good'. No, it just gives us good sensations. "Pleasurable", as you say. It can't be our guide or authority.

Tony

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It's a fallacy which we see come up often - that hard-wiring is intrinsically 'good'. No, it just gives us good sensations. "Pleasurable", as you say. It can't be our guide or authority.

Tony

"Intrinsically good" doesn't matter, only the "intrinsic" part is what I'm commenting on.

The problem I have is with the 'human nature' part of this. Good or bad doesn't matter for this. What "is" matters. It is in our nature to be altruistic, clearly. But now somehow only the selfish motives become the good. That's a leap I cannot take.

<speculation> Rand had to take this leap and ignore reality, because if she didn't, her politics fail. Ultimately I think this was most important to her, and I don't like that.</speculation>

Bob

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Species values.

In identifying man as reproductive creature, metaphysically - it does not follow to introduce an identification of man as 'species-value' driven, metaphysically, too.

We were hard-wired to father/mother the maximum amount of off-spring possible in our primitively short life, yes. That's where it stops.

Separately, any consideration of our culture, or philosophy dwindling and dying out is not metaphysical; it's cognitive, and rational. Just thought I'd be clear on this.

We, each of us, are not *hard-wired* to consider the survival of the species, or culture; we just want to make babies.**

Tony

It may translate as "we just want to make babies", but without the biological hardwiring at the basis of it, the wish to have babies would not exist. Just as we are biologically hardwired to find babies 'cute'. The appeal of this 'small child pattern' is so strong that it extends also to the young of other species (puppies, kittens, piglets, etc.).

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It's a fallacy which we see come up often - that hard-wiring is intrinsically 'good'. No, it just gives us good sensations. "Pleasurable", as you say. It can't be our guide or authority. Tony
"Intrinsically good" doesn't matter, only the "intrinsic" part is what I'm commenting on. The problem I have is with the 'human nature' part of this. Good or bad doesn't matter for this. What "is" matters. It is in our nature to be altruistic, clearly. But now somehow only the selfish motives become the good. That's a leap I cannot take. <speculation> Rand had to take this leap and ignore reality, because if she didn't, her politics fail. Ultimately I think this was most important to her, and I don't like that.</speculation> Bob

Animal altruism?

Is this what you're basing man's ethics on?

The need for our distant ancestors in trees to group, protect one another, and have as much offspring as possible was an innate survival mechanism.

Now, as "rational animals", nothing has changed, and we are still slaves to sensations hard-wired in us?

You must be joking.

Your view of the nature of man is severely skewed to the pre-cognitive and pre-voltional - and pre-moral.

Tony

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Species values. In identifying man as reproductive creature, metaphysically - it does not follow to introduce an identification of man as 'species-value' driven, metaphysically, too. We were hard-wired to father/mother the maximum amount of off-spring possible in our primitively short life, yes. That's where it stops. Separately, any consideration of our culture, or philosophy dwindling and dying out is not metaphysical; it's cognitive, and rational. Just thought I'd be clear on this. We, each of us, are not *hard-wired* to consider the survival of the species, or culture; we just want to make babies.** Tony
It may translate as "we just want to make babies", but without the biological hardwiring at the basis of it, the wish to have babies would not exist. Just as we are biologically hardwired to find babies 'cute'. The appeal of this 'small child pattern' is so strong that it extends also to the young of other species (puppies, kittens, piglets, etc.).

I was a little simplistic, since I don't think animals or primitive man "wanted to make babies" - but only to mate.

There couldn't have been any awareness of the causality.

Once born, however, the next stage of hard-wiring kicked in - the cuteness factor - in order that the baby was protected until adulthood. ( Carnivores will often eat the young of the same species, but never (rarely?) their own.The hard-wired bond between parent and offspring.)

You indicate that you've seen where this is going: That essentially Nature is a confidence trickster, implanting powerful urges to find mates, procreate and nurture. This - in the human's case - is 'benign' hard-wiring, that can easily be integrated with our consciousness and rationality.

Where hard-wiring is malign, I think, is our inbuilt tribalism or pack mentality that rejects, distrusts, or hates others of differing race, beliefs, etc.

The "Us against Them" instinct. And it's not the only example of self-damaging hard-wiring.

Like everyone, I am a push- over for puppies and kittens (and probably piglets too, if it came to that), and that's interesting. Why are we instinctively drawn to caring for the young of other species?

Tony

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Tony,

There are several definitions for altruism. One of those is biological and another is philosophical. Look it up and you'll see.

Bob consistently uses the biology definition for philosophy and essentially says, "Gotcha," usually followed by a comment about how cuckoo Rand was.

People have pointed out the differences several times, but he keeps on keeping on. Must be a different drummer he's marching to or something.

Anyway, he's done this so often, I stopped paying attention to it.

Michael

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On a lighter note (okay, I admit it), best examples of objectivist foster parenting: "Leon: The Professional" and "The Man from Nowhere".

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The problem I have is with the 'human nature' part of this. Good or bad doesn't matter for this. What "is" matters. It is in our nature to be altruistic, clearly. But now somehow only the selfish motives become the good. That's a leap I cannot take.

As altruistic as genes, yes.

That's reciprocal altruism and kin selection.

<speculation> Rand had to take this leap and ignore reality, because if she didn't, her politics fail. Ultimately I think this was most important to her, and I don't like that.</speculation>

Rand didn't know much about evolution. All the more kudos to her to have said nothing that contradicts the theory. She was talking about *sacrificing values*.

Being kind is usually *not* altruism.

A mother risking her life to save the loved offspring is usually *not* altruism.

Both are usually merely adequate expressions of one's values.

They *can* be sacrifical: A host nurturing a cuckoo, for example.

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The problem I have is with the 'human nature' part of this. Good or bad doesn't matter for this. What "is" matters. It is in our nature to be altruistic, clearly. But now somehow only the selfish motives become the good. That's a leap I cannot take.

<speculation> Rand had to take this leap and ignore reality, because if she didn't, her politics fail. Ultimately I think this was most important to her, and I don't like that.</speculation>

Bob

I'm not so sure there is any biological altruism, if 'altruism' means the opposite of selfishness. It's just that evolution works in a statistical sense, which doesn't say anything about an individual case.

Paul Lutus calls it the 'Symmetry Principle' -

Because someone will surely argue that the case of a person killed while trying to save a stranger contradicts an expectation of reciprocity, I will reply that symmetry, like natural selection, works only in a broad statistical sense, even as it fails in many individual cases. Because of the peculiar and counterintuitive mathematics of natural selection, a tiny fitness advantage can in time become a trait shared by an entire species.

and:

Contrary to first impressions, symmetry doesn't favor a particular political outlook. Initially it seems to support the outlook of liberals, who would identify coöperation in nature as vindication for their views. But to an equal degree it favors a conservative political outlook, because symmetry, like natural selection, is a bottom-up game plan — it works at the lowest imaginable level (even of single-celled creatures) and doesn't require any sophisticated cognitive machinery, higher reasoning powers or centralized authority. Indeed, it can be argued that modern government (like modern religion) contradicts the Symmetry Principle by not conferring any advantage to the flock.

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Your view of the nature of man is severely skewed to the pre-cognitive and pre-voltional - and pre-moral.

Tony

The problem here is that you and Michael consistently fail to adeqately address is why certain elements of reality are skipped, or at least glossed over. It's not that we're a slave to our animalistic impulses. This is a strawman. The question is why we should arbitrarily discount some elements of our nature and embrace others? Where's the justification for dismissing altruistic tendencies (or at the very least making them optional) but making the egoistic impulses the mandatory and the 'good'? It's clear that both are a part of us. It's also clear that these altruistic tendencies do NOT lead to ruin as Rand would have us believe and have important, perhaps even indispensable value.

Is it a coincidence that the elements that lead to a failure of Rand's politics are dismissed? No way. No friggin' way.

Bob

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Tony,

There are several definitions for altruism. One of those is biological and another is philosophical. Look it up and you'll see.

Bob consistently uses the biology definition for philosophy and essentially says, "Gotcha," usually followed by a comment about how cuckoo Rand was.

Translation: Rand mucks with definitions to fix the argument so that she can't lose. The specific biological definition I use is perfectly adequate - "conferring a survival advantage to another at a survival cost to oneself". This works just fine for both purposes. Rand stressed reality. Biology is reality.

Cuckoo? No. She was wrong and I believe deliberately manipulative.

People have pointed out the differences several times, but he keeps on keeping on. Must be a different drummer he's marching to or something.

Anyway, he's done this so often, I stopped paying attention to it.

Michael

Translation: There is no reasonable argument against this so I've stopped trying.

Bob

Still waiting for a decent answer to this....

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This works just fine for both purposes.

Bob,

No it doesn't. But I'm not going to argue over something so obvious. I start by reading dictionaries, not opinions of people with agendas, for my definitions.

Almost any dictionary, including ones for kids, comes with multiple definitions for words.

The problem here is that you and Michael consistently fail to adeqately address is why certain elements of reality are skipped, or at least glossed over

You really should read more.

I have said a gazillion times that Rand's take on human nature has scope problems--and I have mentioned where they are and how to look at the respective issues in light of them.

The difference between my approach and yours is that you like to call Rand cuckoo (in meaning, if not in actual word) at every opportunity and I seek wisdom when I find problems.

We agree that Rand's view of human nature has issues, but that is about all the common ground between us.

We seek different big-picture values.

Michael

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This works just fine for both purposes.

Bob,

No it doesn't. But I'm not going to argue over something so obvious. I start by reading dictionaries, not opinions of people with agendas, for my definitions.

Dictionaries? You're kidding right? Rand's definition of altruism is in line with a dictionary? Hardly.

Rand: "The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction"

Biology: "Survival benefit to someone else at a survival cost to the individual'

If we stay away from the "evil" vs "good", then these definitions are quite clearly compatible. Rather obviously.

Almost any dictionary, including ones for kids, comes with multiple definitions for words.

So what? Those are the two definitions I explicitly state I am dealing with. There is no ambiguity.

We seek different big-picture values.

Seems so. I look for a little thing called truth. Haven't figured out what you're up to....

Bob

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Your view of the nature of man is severely skewed to the pre-cognitive and pre-voltional - and pre-moral. Tony
The problem here is that you and Michael consistently fail to adeqately address is why certain elements of reality are skipped, or at least glossed over. It's not that we're a slave to our animalistic impulses. This is a strawman. The question is why we should arbitrarily discount some elements of our nature and embrace others? Where's the justification for dismissing altruistic tendencies (or at the very least making them optional) but making the egoistic impulses the mandatory and the 'good'? It's clear that both are a part of us. It's also clear that these altruistic tendencies do NOT lead to ruin as Rand would have us believe and have important, perhaps even indispensable value. Is it a coincidence that the elements that lead to a failure of Rand's politics are dismissed? No way. No friggin' way. Bob

I am sincerely doing my best to avoid "straw-manning" your argument.

You are not making it easy.

You do realise that you are taking the nature of man from his primitive brain - solely?

That, your whole justification for altruism is the release of chemicals in one's brain?

That 'hard-wiring' has its ugly, sub-human elements?

That you ignore the hierarchical construct of man beyond his animal biology - right up through to his conscious (and self-conscious) mind and chosen morality?

That you have not put forward a single sensible, philosophical, argument for altruism?

That, now, you rationalize a 'selective' altruism (by making it "optional") - and naturally so, because you wouldn't have survived til today if you practised it constantly, and consistently? ("conferring a survival advantage to another"... etc, etc.)

And that you make a strawman of egoists, who you judge could never benevolently help anyone. Apparently.

Bring some real arguments to the table please.

Tony

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That, now, you rationalize a 'selective' altruism (by making it "optional") - and naturally so, because you wouldn't have survived til today if you practised it constantly, and consistently? ("conferring a survival advantage to another"... etc, etc.)

Firstly, no. I do not argue for making it optional. My point was that I have not heard a reasonable argument for the complete dismissal of or the 'optional' status of altruism.

In fact if we didn't receive altruism 'constantly, and consistently' during our younger years, indeed none of us would be here.

That you have not put forward a single sensible, philosophical, argument for altruism?

The irony is rather amusing considering it RAND who argues philosophically FROM nature (reality). But when that nature is in fact misidentified, instead of adjusting your conclusions you attack the applicability of reality to philosophy. Perhaps you think this is 'slick' or something, I don't know. But its simply BS.

The idea above applies to your other so-called arguments. You argue that reality isn't applicable. Ain't gonna fly.

Bob

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There's no scientific evidence for pure altruism, but plenty for cooperation with an expectation of reciprocity. For pure altruism you need religion. As Rand said:

Now there is one word—a single word—which can blast the morality of altruism out of existence and which it cannot withstand—the word: “Why?” Why must man live for the sake of others? Why must he be a sacrificial animal? Why is that the good? There is no earthly reason for it—and, ladies and gentlemen, in the whole history of philosophy no earthly reason has ever been given.

It is only mysticism that can permit moralists to get away with it. It was mysticism, the unearthly, the supernatural, the irrational that has always been called upon to justify it—or, to be exact, to escape the necessity of justification. One does not justify the irrational, one just takes it on faith. What most moralists—and few of their victims—realize is that reason and altruism are incompatible.

I don't see the big issue with altruism. A lot of people pay lip-service to it, but how many really live it? And you should examine carefully the motives of those who advocate it.

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