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STRONGEST Anti-Objectivist Arguments

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Bob,

What is most revealing is that you called your wife "someone else"... So, you either have low regard for her, or - I repeat - you don't understand rational selfishness.

An investment in her future is a selfish desire on your part - now. Twist as much as you want, but which is more important to you: the money you spend, OR her long-term security (and your peace of mind)?

Altruism pertains to the unknown, unvalued, anonymous 'someone' - not to child, mother, business partner, friend - or wife. Anybody you value is a selfish value.

The only way your argument works is (more or less your words)

a) My wife is NOT another person

b) Investing in another's future is a selfish act

You accuse me of "twisting"?? C'mon now

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This is classic 'begging the question' fallacy.

You define anything that is of value to you is a selfish value - " Anybody you value is a selfish value."

Therefore, there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO to act altruistically toward this person. This assumes the conclusion in the 'premises' of your argument which is fallacious reasoning.

Again, nonsense.

Bob

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Stupidity != Altruism

So it's a misunderstanding.

You call my behavior stupid, altruism is something else for you, got it.

You agree with me that it was wrong to give this relative money.

That basically means we're in agreement, all we're fighting about is definitions.

Now that we got that sorted, we can both laugh about it and relax. There's no real conflict.

Right?

Michael's nonsense aside, what I was getting at was that regardless of whether your act was altruistic or not, it was a dumb thing to do. Some altruistic acts are going to be a bad idea, just like some selfish acts will be a bad idea. However not all altruistic acts are bad. The point was don't throw all atruism into the "bad idea" pile because you did something dumb. It's not the same thing. That's my point.

Bob

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Ayn Rand wrote works.

She defined the terms she used in those works. She defined them clearly.

To validly understand, agree or disagree, with an idea in her works, you have to use the meaning she gave the word she used to express it. Otherwise, you are agreeing or disagreeing with something in your own head, not Ayn Rand's concept.

Now, decades after her death, along comes Bob.

He says Rand should not have used her definitions for her words, but his instead.

You point out that Rand is dead, so she can no longer adopt his definitions, even if she agrees with them.

No problem for Bob. He starts talking about a word she used, but he uses his definition, says that her idea was wrong because it doesn't align with his understanding of the word she used, so she was disconnected from reality, yada yada yada.

You point out that he is misrepresenting Rand's idea, but he says he is not--that Rand did not use his definition, so she is wrong.

If you agree with Rand on her idea (since you agree to look at it using her meaning), he says you are wrong because the word that expressed her idea can only have his definition, not hers.

In short, he doesn't understand the idea you agree with, nor does he show signs of wanting to. He cannot legitimately say if Rand's idea is right or wrong because he doesn't know what it is.

He just says it's wrong, blanks out the fact that the idea he is criticizing is not anything Rand ever tried to convey, much less conveyed, and further blanks out the rest.

That doesn't mean the idea he refuses to look at--Rand's idea with her meaning--doesn't exist. It does. It just means that it is beyond his perception and cognition--and that he chooses to think (and not think) that way.

Anyone who does not see the difference between biological altruism and Comte--after sources have been provided--is not interested in understanding.

And anyone who keeps applying the concept of biological altruism to instances of volition does not understand the nature of ethics as a code of values to guide man's choices.

Prewiring is not ethics. Ethical principles are chosen.

Michael

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Bob, What is most revealing is that you called your wife "someone else"... So, you either have low regard for her, or - I repeat - you don't understand rational selfishness. An investment in her future is a selfish desire on your part - now. Twist as much as you want, but which is more important to you: the money you spend, OR her long-term security (and your peace of mind)? Altruism pertains to the unknown, unvalued, anonymous 'someone' - not to child, mother, business partner, friend - or wife. Anybody you value is a selfish value.
The only way your argument works is (more or less your words) a) My wife is NOT another person b) Investing in another's future is a selfish act You accuse me of "twisting"?? C'mon now

Nah. Cute, but now you're wriggling.

I explained the context, and you know what I mean.

Altruism = concern for 'others'. (From "alter"- other. OK?)

From Auguste Comte, to Ayn Rand, to now, altruism is a doctrine which promotes concern for others over Self.

Auguste wasn't stupid; he would have known there are people in our lives who do not fall under altruism, *because *we*love*them*. Self-evidently.

So, e.g. I discriminate between my daughter - and "others".

Until I get to know them personally, I have only value and respect for others' humanity, and no more.

If you don't accept Branden's explanation of romantic love, then say so, and why.

If you do, then it follows that gaining a loved one's happiness and safety is a selfish value ("celebration") - otherwise one depreciates actions on a loved one's behalf to the level of insulting and dutiful sacrifice.

If one has little Self, one has not much to give.

Tony

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We had a great thread on this subject on OL a while ago.

Which one?

I also think that the de-manning of men and the feminization of men has led to a "psychological impotence" in young men.

I relate to that extremely.

I grew up without male role models. The best male influence was geeky. The only dominant, assertive male there was was also a complete moron, so that I unfortunately drew the wrong conclusion of associating male dominance with primitivity.

Although I didn't swallow the feminist pill completely on an intellectual level, it sure took its toll.

This is one of the reasons why I have issues with pedophilia-scare: Accusing a man of sexual offence is the feminist's most potent weapon and the one I was always scared of most.

Additionally, the public growth of "kink" has also added to decay. The largest group in the D/s community, percentage wise are male submissives. Dominixtrixes are growing. [...]

I think the public growth of "kink" is a natural reaction to the leftists damnation of authoritariansim in general and the traditional marriage in particular. Many people desire authority in relationships, especially in sexual ones. Since it was considered to be a sick perversion in normal relationships, it's natural that people begin to seek it explicitly under the admission it's not normal. What else can they do?

The surge in submissive men could have many causes, one of my pet theories is simply the "de-manning" on men you mentioned.

At any rate, I think those effects are symptoms not causes. That also goes for pornography in my book.

Also, one has to be careful: Do you know how frequently or healthy people had sex 50 years ago? It's very difficult to say, McKinsey or not.

Maybe the internet is, to some extent anyway, only revealing issues that have always been there.

Very fascinating topic.

EDIT: I should note that Germany's climate regarding feminism has changed dramatically. But where it seems that Germany has recovered, the US seems to have just reached her peak - if I get the correct impression from over here.

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...what I was getting at was that regardless of whether your act was altruistic or not, it was a dumb thing to do. Some altruistic acts are going to be a bad idea, just like some selfish acts will be a bad idea. However not all altruistic acts are bad. The point was don't throw all atruism into the "bad idea" pile because you did something dumb. It's not the same thing. That's my point. Bob

Mixed altruism/rational selfishness, in ethics.

That's the same principle behind 'mixed economy' (half control, and a half freedom) , or 'mixed epistemology' (half rationality, and half instinct). It's a skeptical and agnostic position.

Cold water with hot water is lukewarm. One foot on the brake, and the other on the gas, will get one nowhere.

Playing it safe, sitting on the fence.

Altruism defines this era's cynical zeitgeist that places high morality on a person paying a substantial price for something - way beyond its obvious value.

(If it don't hurt enough, then you don't mean it.)

It has no place in the economy, in a healthy society, or in loving relationships.

Tony

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We had a great thread on this subject on OL a while ago.

Which one?

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=7880&st=0

It's a shame that Angie does not have the time to post as much as she used to - remarkable asset, well you know what I mean,

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Tony,

Just to be clear, I am a strong defender of charity.

I hold that taking care of hopelessly weak people is a good thing. It's win-win for everyone unless it makes the caretakers helpless. (I don't know anyone who does not feel great after voluntarily helping someone he perceives that needed it and has seen a good result.)

But I hold that this comes from a person's character in defining himself as a member of the human species. I do not believe it belongs in government, since I do not believe that taking from one person to give to another is charity. You take from your own pocket and give of your own free will. That's charity.

I do support some provisions of last resort in the government, though, like last-resort orphanages. (I do not support the mountain of paperwork for adoption that currently exists and some other stuff, but that discussion is outside the scope here.)

Once again, I want to mention Glenn Beck. I was listening to his radio show a couple of days ago and he mentioned an article a member of his staff had posted on The Blaze. It was about a woman who ran a charity for lost women, usually drug addicts and alcoholics. She cleaned them up, gave them hope and brought them into a decent way of living. Part of her recovery program was religious. They were free to leave, but if they wanted to stay, they had to do religious classes, work in a thrift store and things like that.

She had received government money to stay open for years, but finally a government inspector of some sort became aware of her program and told her to ditch the religious teaching requirement or lose the funds. She chose to lose the funds. She said she did not know how to help lost women without Christ.

Beck had his staff investigate her and get her on the radio telephone. It was funny because she barely knew who he was. On the air, after giving her a couple of trick questions and being satisfied that she was sincere in her undertaking, he said he would cut her a check to make up for the government money she lost by sticking to her beliefs. It was about $55k if I remember correctly.

Note that the principles here do not involve religion. The situation does, but the principles do not. One is if you take money from the government, you have dance to the government's tune, even if that means betraying the values you hold sacred. Another principle is that true charity may depend on money, but it doesn't need much. More than money, it needs purity of a person's intentions and beliefs. Otherwise, if a person sells out his beliefs, it becomes a scam.

A really strong principle--one that no one talks about--underlies Beck's action. If individuals do not take care of hopelessly weak people, the government will end up doing it. There is no way a civilized society will sit back and watch helpless folks suffer and die without any care whatsoever and not speak up. But if speaking up does not come with stepping up, then you get what you get, i.e., the government's version of charity. And that means the government taking from one person to give to another.

Beck could have positioned himself as a goody-goody two-shoes with his gesture. Instead, he said he hopes more government inspectors get tough on giving out funds for charities. Then charity would move to the individual where it belongs. That's why he stepped up. He led by example.

(He also struck a blow for the religion, which he holds dear, but from what I observed, that was gravy for him--a much lower priority. The real meat was getting charity out of the government.)

I don't think there has to be such a battle between production and charity as Rand promoted. She even gave to different charities most of her life. I do agree with her, though, that it is easy to hide power-mongering and looting producers behind a smokescreen of charity.

In fact, on an individual conscience level, I hold production and charity should not be compared at all. Both are human values that involve choice and provide win-win when they are done with integrity.

It's like asking which is more important to your survival, your liver or your heart. You need both to be whole.

Michael

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Stupidity != Altruism

So why was, in your opinion, giving money to that relative a bad idea? Stupid, even?

Was it because I said I didn't like the person or did you have a different reason for calling it stupid?

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Michael:

There's one thing I want to add to your take on charity.

I believe it's necessary, although not nice, to make clear that charity is that: charity.

That is, it's not a right to be housed, provided for, healed by a doctor, tought in schools, not even a human right, it's charity.

I feel that very strongly because I have made the experience that the more people get for free without being forced to acknowledge that they get something they don't deserve, it makes them ugly.

The typical case is the welfare state but I think the cause is ideological and also applies to private transfer of wealth.

Think of spoiled children. Or that beggar you gave 50 cents and he insulted you because it wasn't a dollar.

The government, at least in Germany, isn't handing out any charity - it hands out what is your *right*. That is a very strong, unanimous feeling in the population.

I would even say it like that: Most people in Germany believe you have a right to everything most people ever wish for anyway. The meaning of the word "to deserve" is lost.

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John,

I think it is anyone's right to teach charity who wishes to teach it.

It is no one's right to make someone practice charity, but in the marketplace of ideas, I get really antsy when people say you should not teach something.

Anyway, your example of the beggar cussing you is not the way I practice charity. Nor, as I said, is state involvement.

Also, I lived in Brazil where there was a strong population of German immigrants. I think I know what you mean by the mentality of entitlement that something like a handout is your "right." I knew several German immigrants like that.

Michael

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You can have an argument that is 100% correct, but ends up with false conclusions because the premises are incorrect. This is what I mean.

An argument cannot be 100% correct if it leads to false conclusions because its premises are faulty. Such an argument is zero percent correct, other things being equal. Yes, a longer and more involved exchange can include various interesting facts and truths along the way. That is not what is being offered here, though. As I said above with reference to Hayashi's explanation of the Argument from Arbitrary Metaphysics, you cannot just accept any claim as a 'hypothetical'.

Altruism means self-sacrifice.

The truth is a little self-sacrifice is a good thing (think about your mother).

As a parent myself, I thought often of my mother and of my own role. I assure you that although she missed the benefit of objective morality, I was 100% selfish as a parent.

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Michael:

"I hold that this comes from a person's character in defining himself as a member of the human species."[MSK]

Yes indeed!

A developed character - and individual choice - and a value system (from oneself, expanding to all humanity) - and rational selfishness.

From top to bottom, they all converge.

That goes for romantic love, or donating to charity.

In arguing against the concept of altruism, I don't even consider charity - they are so disconnected, in my mind.

(BTW: Often, I take the stance of "state an argument at its greatest extremes"... then, see if it holds up. If it does, then apply it mentally to as many cases you can imagine,or observe - and check it again. I've done this for a long time contrasting egoism and altruism.)

Where Objectivists often make an error - in my view - is that they fall into the trap of altruism being what you do FOR other people - exclusively. There is a component of this, sure. But they tie themselves in knots, working out when it's OK to give to charity, and why. What AR said and did. All to avoid that ogre 'altruism', by the prevailing definition. Which sets up a strawman response (by some) that is hard labor to refute.

It is solved so simply, by having a firm character, recognizing value in the human race - as you say - and finally if you choose to give - GIVE.

There are so many reasons to give - appreciation, admiration, or just fondness; someone you know benefiting from a cause, or having a general empathy for kids, animals, etc.

These are single, voluntary, actions, not a dedicated lifetime of service, and cannot have anything but the most positive effect on one's sense of self. Initial values recognized, become secondary values gained, in effect.

Altruism isn't always so narrow and benign as this.

There is altruism by brute force, from the power of State.

There's altruism by stealth - more subtle force - which religions perpetrate through moral authority and guilt.

But we often 'do' these, in forum. They're obvious.

However, I think Objectivists often miss the most important part of altruism while focusing on the 'FOR' others.

It is living THROUGH others, the psycho-epistemological component, that is the real destroyer. Sacrificing independence of mind to a single person, or to the great mass of people. Or, conversely, on the other side of the coin: robbing others' independence to gain power over them. The coward and the bully, as we know, are one and the same.

A "second-hander", made explicitly and implicitly clear in Rand's works.

Here's altruism at its lowest.

(Heh, you got me started there...)

Tony

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This is classic 'begging the question' fallacy. You define anything that is of value to you is a selfish value - " Anybody you value is a selfish value." Therefore, there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO to act altruistically toward this person. This assumes the conclusion in the 'premises' of your argument which is fallacious reasoning. Again, nonsense. Bob

No, yes, yes, no, no.

Let's assume - play along with me, now - that we have established and agreed upon the Objective definitions of A. Altruism B. Romantic love C. Rational selfishness.

Then,

According to C : Where B is in existence, A is redundant, and immoral;

Where A is present, B is impossible.

To value an entity, pre-supposes a selfish valuer.

Altruism pre-supposes no value gained, by an unselfish actor.

By definition (remember, we agreed), there is indeed, in your words "NOTHING YOU CAN DO to act altruistically toward this person." Including donating an organ, risking your life in her defence, buying life insurance, etc.

That's love. By definition, one's highest value outside oneself. (Are you ever altruistic to yourself?)

(Well, I suppose one could arbitrarily kill oneself 'for' her for some crazy reason; that's altruism.)

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Also, I lived in Brazil where there was a strong population of German immigrants. I think I know what you mean by the mentality of entitlement that something like a handout is your "right." I knew several German immigrants like that.

Wow, that's fascinating. Can you tell more about this? What did they think they were entitled to? Do you know anything about their social background?

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John,

After WWII, there was a huge immigration to Brazil from Germany, both Nazi leftovers and non-Nazis. Many settled in a state called Santa Catarina and even further south. From the way they have cultivated that state, I think they found paradise. You will find some of the best farms in Brazil there.

Brazilians often made jokes about the German mentality. (The Brazilian way of joking about these things is rarely malicious. They are simply fun-loving people.) A typical comment is that if a German is stopped at a red light and it turns green, it doesn't matter if there is a bunch of cars zipping by in front of him. He will close his eyes and step on the gas because the green light is his right and, by God, he is going to take it.

:smile:

(I have to admit, even today, a German musician trying to play Samba is a hoot. Talk about lack of swing! :smile: )

I remember being at the Brazilian Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro once. We had to sit on bleachers and the tickets were very expensive. The bleacher "seats" were marked off by painted lines. They were numbered.

One of the people in our group was unable to sit with us. That was a drag because Carnival goes on for hours and hours. There is a lag of about 45 minutes in between each Samba school. You have nothing to do but talk to the people you are with. Time goes really slow during this down-time

There was a couple right next to me, but I saw there was nobody for about three or four seats next to them. The lady was German. I told my friend to come on down and we would squeeze him in. This pushed me over a bit. I did it while we were standing so I would not bump into the lady. But she got real nasty to me. I tried to be polite. I asked if it was possible for them to scoot down a bit so we could make room for my friend. If people showed up for the seats next to them, I would have my friend return to his official seat and they could scoot on back.

She said absolutely not. They paid for numbered seats and those were not the empty ones next to her husband. They were the ones on her ticket. I was occupying a half-seat that was hers and she wasn't going to stand for it. I should be satisfied with my number and not even think about her number. And on and on she went. She didn't say this. She practically yelled it in my face.

That's never a good thing to do to me. So it was a pretty awful Carnival, both for the people I was with and for the couple. :smile:

On another note, I had a very close friend, Elimar, who taught me a lot about translating. (He is now deceased--killed while traveling of all the stupid ways to die. I might write this story up later.)

He was from the Nazi immigration, although I only found that out by accident. I learned computers at the same time I learned translating and Elimar was my main teacher. Then I discovered a first-person shooter game called Wolfenstein and fell in love with it. One day I asked Elimar if he ever played that game. He said he tried it out, but it was all about killing Nazis and that just wasn't cool.

:smile:

Elimar did not have that sense of entitlement we are talking about, though. I only mentioned him because writing about this stuff brought him to mind. He was a very dear to me and I still miss him.

Michael

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Ayn Rand wrote works.

She defined the terms she used in those works. She defined them clearly.

To validly understand, agree or disagree, with an idea in her works, you have to use the meaning she gave the word she used to express it. Otherwise, you are agreeing or disagreeing with something in your own head, not Ayn Rand's concept.

Now, decades after her death, along comes Bob.

He says Rand should not have used her definitions for her words, but his instead.

Again, you are spectacularly brilliant at missing the point. I am clear on Rand's definition. What I take exception to, is the blatantly obvious fact that she utililizes a twisted definition so she can conclude that there is absolutely no value in helping others, that charity is morally neutral at best.

She simply goes to great and nonsensical lengths to remove any and all virtue of service to others. In fact, she states your acceptance of altruism is connected to your degeneracy in proportion.

She wrote: (Virtue of Selfishness)

"If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance):


  1. Lack of self-esteem—since his first concern in the realm of values is not how to live his life, but how to sacrifice it.

  2. Lack of respect for others—since he regards mankind as a herd of doomed beggars crying for someone’s help."

and more utter and complete nonsense. This is just bullshit. Worse than bullshit - politically motivated bullshit - the worst kind.

Bob

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According to C : Where B is in existence, A is redundant, and immoral;

Tony, this is clearly fallacious. It couldn't be clearer. The conclusion is included in "According to C". That is called 'begging the question'. Look it up.

Bob

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Michael:

Funny stories, and I can easily believe that.

I was confused as I only knew about the Nazi-emigration and "sense of entitlement" isn't what I would have associated with those (or that entire generation even).

Now I understand what you mean - Germans are law-and-order fanatics: They would die by driving on green even though the others don't bother, but they would also stay on red when nobody's there.

That's still the case today (to a lesser extent): Even pedestrians wait on red, even when there's no car to be seen anywhere. It's the law, that's all that matters.

I wouldn't call this sense of entitlement because it goes both ways. But the modern German culture has been corrupted by welfare and liberalism in the way that people begin to believe that they are entitled to all sorts of things that only benefit them.

One example is to have a right to a job. Meaning, if you're unemployed, you are a victim, and therefore morally above those who work (it's not mainstream, but there's a strong minority who believes that).

Who can blame them? It's in the human rights charter.

He was from the Nazi immigration, although I only found that out by accident. I learned computers at the same time I learned translating and Elimar was my main teacher. Then I discovered a first-person shooter game called Wolfenstein and fell in love with it. One day I asked Elimar if he ever played that game. He said he tried it out, but it was all about killing Nazis and that just wasn't cool.

Funny. I believe to a great extent many of the so-called Nazis were in the end only the ones who were not Commies. There was no strong non-collectivist ideology in the Weimar Republic, so you had to pick sides or emigrate. "Better dead than red." is probably all that it took to put you in the Nazi camp.

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What I take exception to, is the blatantly obvious fact that she utililizes a twisted definition so she can conclude that there is absolutely no value in helping others, that charity is morally neutral at best.

In other words, if a person holds that one valid definition of altruism is the system Comte devised, then that person is promoting a "blatantly obvious fact" that is "a twisted definition."

Right.

Bob does not use such "a twisted definition"--one that generations of scholars have used since the 1800's.

Got it.

Bob is right about English usage. The authors of dictionaries in the entire English-speaking world are twisted.

Boy do I feel "spectacularly brilliant."

Michael

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Here is an added thought for the reader. Notice the quote Bob gave (my bold)

She wrote: (Virtue of Selfishness)

"If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance)...

Now here is what Bob reads (going from his criticism and belligerence):

"If a man accepts biological altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance)..."

If it was a snake, it would have bit him right there in his own post, but I think he just doesn't see it.

Michael

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Here is an added thought for the reader. Notice the quote Bob gave (my bold)

She wrote: (Virtue of Selfishness)

"If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance)...

Now here is what Bob reads (going from his criticism and belligerence):

"If a man accepts biological altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance)..."

If it was a snake, it would have bit him right there in his own post, but I think he just doesn't see it.

Michael

Michael,

I don't know who you think you're fooling with this - not me. You have to separate the arguments.

Yes, biological altruism leads to different conclusions, this much is true. That's not the issue.

The issue is Rand's altruism leads to these conclusions: (Her words)

" If a man who is passionately in love with his wife spends a fortune to cure her of a dangerous illness, it would be absurd to claim that he does it as a “sacrifice” for her sake"

Bullshit. Bull-frigging-shit. It might be for his own sake, or it might be purely for her sake depending on the man. I want my wife to be financially secure if I die for her sake, and her sake alone. Another man may want to enjoy her security while he's alive or whatever, so be it, but I don't. I don't want her to worry about money if I die for HER sake alone. I would also like to hope she'd marry another man that loves her if I die - for HER sake alone. Rand calls this absurd? Bite me.

"If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty"

That's just psychotic...

See the difference?? It's Rand's goofy conclusions that I'm focusing on. "Goofy" is a mild term.

Rand's morality deeply offends me on a number of levels.

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Oh, dear, Bob, it's true Rand didn't do a good job of thinking through the self-interest/sacrifice thing. All you have to do is correct her and her philosophy therefore. It'll still be called "Objectivism," however, for you'd be better objectifying it, no? Such is the difference between Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and Objectivism--for the rest of us who care about truth and right knowledge.

I hope this doesn't stick in your throat.

--Brant

really, sincerely

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Rand's morality deeply offends me on a number of levels.

Bob,

That is another issue.

I only object when you mischaracterize Rand's ideas and try to scapegoat her for it.

You do that a lot.

So long as you continue to do that, your levels of offense will never be clear.

(I have a different take on the examples you cited, but I am not interested in getting into a nit-picking war over words when you still don't understand some of the fundamentals. Leave it to say I don't approve of the monstrous implications you claim Rand's examples represent, but I also don't believe you see what she was getting at. And, from reading your constant ranting and railing, I don't believe you are interested in seeing.)

Michael

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