samr

A metaphysical argument against objectivism

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Objectivism believes that man is inherently an individum, and a creature fit for independence.

But, since a human being could never survive on his own (we are all born babies), it shows that connection with other human beings is a primary condition of existence. Therefore, man, is primarily a dependent entity, not an independent one.

Second, objectivists argue that "a right to have clothes, shelter and food" is not a right. But, without these survival is impossible, therefore the need to have clothes, shelter and food is in the nature of man. This is part of what makes the whole concept of rights possible.

Since life is a primary concept, and it is possible to speak of our actions only if we do have a life at all, whatever is necessary to protect our life is morally right, even if it comes at the expense of other human beings.

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Objectivism believes that man is inherently an individum, and a creature fit for independence.

But, since a human being could never survive on his own (we are all born babies), it shows that connection with other human beings is a primary condition of existence. Therefore, man, is primarily a dependent entity, not an independent one.

Second, objectivists argue that "a right to have clothes, shelter and food" is not a right. But, without these survival is impossible, therefore the need to have clothes, shelter and food is in the nature of man. This is part of what makes the whole concept of rights possible.

Since life is a primary concept, and it is possible to speak of our actions only if we do have a life at all, whatever is necessary to protect our life is morally right, even if it comes at the expense of other human beings.

It is possible to acquire all these "required" items without resorting to force or violence. Which is why humans organize themselves into societies. This is promote specialization of labor and co-operation for survival. Man is a social animal, not a hive animal or a herd animal.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Even so, if man is metaphyscially (primarily) a social animal, then the basis for selfishness is... what?

Altruism is based on the idea that man is primarily a social animal.

Egoism is based on the idea that man is primarily an individum.

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I think that maybe it is possible to argue that the life of a baby depends on a choice of the father and the mother, to have the baby, and a choice of the father and the mother of each other. So life is primarily independent.

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samr,

I have struggled with this issue, also.

In my mind, I came to the following conclusion. Instead of positing the human nature distinction you are mulling over as either-or (i.e., man is either all individual or all social), I did the common sense thing and decided that people consisted of both. That's what I see all around me and what I have seen during my entire experience in life.

In other words, we are not just individual things. We are individual members of a species--and that species has a specific nature. Like all things organic, the species acts (through the individuals within it) to survive. Thus we have reproduction. And so on for a few other metaphysical considerations.

So just as a rule-of-thumb, I use 20% social and 80% individual as the make-up of human nature to help guide my own thinking and living as an individual. This division slides around to greater and lesser depending on the situation at the time. But for responsible learning, growing and/or producing, the individual part always has to be the greater one.

When the social part is greater and you are going from the perspective of the individual, you get people in helpless situations who would die without care from others. From the perspective of the group, you get crowd psychology that a skilled person can manipulate.

Not only are "social needs" built into our existence by the requirement to be cared for by others during a long time as we grow up (on pain of not surviving), the social urge is deep within our psyches. Monster companies like Facebook and Twitter are built solely on supplying satisfaction for that social urge.

This is a big issue and it does not necessarily negate Objectivism. But if you use my division as your human nature frame (or premise), there are parts of Objectivism you will adapt when you use the principles and think through the ideas.

When I use this frame, I often see that Rand was spot on when you apply her insights to the individual part, but many of these ideas don't work--or need clumsy rationalizations--when you apply them to the social part. So, when I criticize her work, my main observation is not that she was wrong--like her bashers always say, but that she suffered from a scope problem. Her insights are deep and perceptive and true, but many of them apply only to part of human nature, not all of it.

I cannot escape the conclusion that if the field of ethics is to be based on human nature, we have to include the social part. So rather than have an ethics that is all selfish or all social, I hold we can have both. And if we keep our chosen values within the confines of accurately reflecting the proportion of these sides of human nature, we can validly have both--and anyone can check it just by looking.

Interestingly enough, the size and shape of the brain roughly falls within my division. The neocortex (where conceptual cognition takes place) is vastly larger than the middle brain, which is where social urges are located.

Another confusion takes place with conscious awareness. We can have a strong urge in our middle brain (like a social urge to follow a crowd) and override it with our neocortex through sheer willpower and conscious awareness. This leads some people to imagine that we can always do that, so they dismiss the innate urge altogether.

But willpower and conscious awareness are organic just like anything else in life. They have moments of strength and moments of rest. When they need rest, the urge is still there. It didn't go anywhere. That leads to all kinds of confused arguments if you have dismissed it.

It also leads you to wonder, after you have messed up real bad, "What on earth was I thinking?"

Ethically, if you are fighting with an urge in a certain kind of situation and your willpower is weary, it makes sense to simply say to yourself you will not act one way or another, but judge this situation later after you are rested. This is especially useful when everybody is doing something, saying it is great and prompting you to go along, and you feel strongly like you want to, but in your conceptual mind, you have decided that what the group is doing is not good. The decision to not act and to seek rest--rather than act and judge against it--might be all the willpower you can muster at that moment.

Michael

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Michael,

I don't think that saying the nature of man is "both individual and social" really means anything. It is just a contradiction.

The only real system that is able to explain how man is metaphysically an individual that I know of is buddhism. In buddhism (my understanding is probably flawed; I twist buddhism to mean what I want it to mean, like a protestant does with the bible), man reincarnates; each human being has existed from time immemorial; Not just matter like in objectivism, but consciousness is an irreducible primary, and I guess that one could say that so is selfhood.

In this sense, in buddhism, one could say, that it really is fair that one is born smarter, and the other more stupid, since it is the consequence of results of his previous actions. (Howard Roark in the next life would be different from Peter Keating; he would have much more to start with. AND INDEED, if the account of life of Howard Roark, and Peter Keating is true, then only reincarnation can explain why is it that they were born with such different personalities.

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I think every difference in values reflects a difference in metaphysics.

I think so by because when I read good literature (not too often those days), I get the sense that one's values are one's deepest sense of life. And one's deepest sense of life is what reality is actually about.

For example, arguing that social reality actually is about "The strongest survives", that this is the nature of social reality, doesn't imply certain values, but actually is certain values.

Is this clear?

Because social values and individualist values are different, the metaphysics they have to reflect, have to be different.

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No that it not clear.

It's muddled.

I don't see the contradiction in claiming that man is rational animal and a social animal at the same time, especially since "social" is an inherent part of the genus "animal" (herding, flocking, mating, etc.), but I am not interested in continuing right now.

Michael

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Maybe the terms "individual" and "social" are not well defined.

For example, I think , that one's nature is independent or dependent, they are a dichotomy.

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I think Michael is correct... Oh crap...did I write that???

Sumbitch...

But anyway, he really is correct, and I agree quite strongly with the following:

"Instead of positing the human nature distinction you are mulling over as either-or (i.e., man is either all individual or all social), I did the common sense thing and decided that people consisted of both."

Yep.

"I use 20% social and 80% individual as the make-up of human nature to help guide my own thinking and living as an individual."

Sounds reasonable.

"Monster companies like Facebook and Twitter are built solely on supplying satisfaction for that social urge."

Nice observation.

"I cannot escape the conclusion that if the field of ethics is to be based on human nature, we have to include the social part."

Like, totally!

You're right, I see now I've convinced nobody :cool: !!

"This is a big issue and it does not necessarily negate Objectivism."

D'oh!!!!!!!!

Besides this statement sliding dangerously close to a contradiction on its face, I don't get it. I've tried to get it, but my tiny little mind just can't grasp this last part. There must be some deep meaning in there or something, but it escapes me.

But how do you think Rand herself might address this???

Bob

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Maybe the terms "individual" and "social" are not well defined.

For example, I think , that one's nature is independent or dependent, they are a dichotomy.

I don't think so. Even mathematically.

Pick an attribute to maximize (profit, money/price are easy examples). Even achievement works but is admittedly less precise, but I think the principle applies.

There will be a maximum attained at some combination of individual oriented actions and dependency needs somewhere in the middle ground area.

Price a good too high, no customers, no profit. Too low, no profit either. Somewhere in the middle a max profit point exists.

Bob

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I think Michael is correct... Oh crap...did I write that???

Sumbitch...

Oh crap is right.

You're right, I see now I've convinced nobody :cool: !!

Bob,

I've been saying this kind of stuff way before I ever read anything by you. It's all on record.

This is the crap I don't like from you.

Along with the strawmen arguments.

Funny how you only just now noticed my position. I thought you had been reading my stuff for some time. It's not like there's a lack of my posts to read that deal with this...

Michael

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Maybe the terms "individual" and "social" are not well defined.

For example, I think , that one's nature is independent or dependent, they are a dichotomy.

samr,

Sorry I was grumpy. I'm under the gun right now.

Ayn Rand defined the human being as "rational animal," with "animal" being the genus and "rational" the differentia. If you don't know what this terminology means, look at Chapter 5 of ITOE.

I've looked and looked and, to the best I can conclude, she never was too clear on how to arrive at the genus in her definitons. It's one of her fuzzy areas (unless there is still something out there I have not yet seen).

For instance, I don't have time to get a quote right now, but in one of the masterclasses for ITOE (which are transcribed and edited by Binswanger in the new edition of ITOE), she gave a really fuzzy answer as to why "rational animal" was more correct as a definition than "rational primate." It had something to do with primate being a biological term or something like that. I should revisit this passage because it sure as shootin' did not convince me back when I delved into it. I didn't just read it back then, I mulled it over and looked for other stuff about it for several days--and sporadically I've gone into it a few times since.

In either case, whether "animal" or "primate" is the genus, Rand often disconsidered the "animal" part of her definition and, instead, focused on the "rational" differentia as if that were the whole shebang.

This resulted in her tabula rasa notion, her claim that man has no inherent knowledge--not even anything that grows by itself as man grows (she attributes all knowledge to experience and "integration"), no instincts, etc.

"Animal" awareness to Rand was the equivalent of the perceptual level (which she called "the given"). I don't recall her discussing much else as distinguishing what "animal" means (like mobility, reproduction, etc.). But these things do exist and belong among the essential characteristics of animals.

Michael

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Sorry I was grumpy. I'm under the gun right now.

No problem; I know I can be muddled sometimes.

I didn't use the terms rational vs. social, I said individual vs. social. So did you, only after some time you switched to rational vs. social.

I think that you can speak of individualism vs. collectivism as a world-view. In that sense, they are ideal types.

And, I think that to every world-view, there should be some basic element of nature that identifies it. First-principles.

So, as a world-view, is man primarily an individual or a social being? Independent or dependent? His brain seems to suggest the first, but the fact that he can't survive alone.

As to whether man is an animal... This is a huge can of worms, I am not sure I want to get into it. I don't think that metaphysically man is an animal.

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I think Michael is correct... Oh crap...did I write that???

Sumbitch...

Oh crap is right.

You're right, I see now I've convinced nobody :cool: !!

Bob,

I've been saying this kind of stuff way before I ever read anything by you. It's all on record.

This is the crap I don't like from you.

Along with the strawmen arguments.

Funny how you only just now noticed my position. I thought you had been reading my stuff for some time. It's not like there's a lack of my posts to read that deal with this...

Michael

The obvious fact that you are so hostile, yet agree almost entirely with what I'm saying is your problem, not mine. My strawmen are your strawmen, but the reality is that the straw is only in your mind.

The fact that you don't conclude that your (and my) position essentially guts Objectivism of its key tenets is a contradiction you have to deal with. The fact that you agree with me almost completely, but cannot take that final step speaks to an emotional commitment, not a rational one.

But hey, I'll let the reader decide if your posts are emotional or not. Now isn't that charitable of me? :cool:

Bob

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Bob,

I love the way you always congratulate yourself for stuff you make up about people.

Have you noticed that nobody else ever congratulates you?

Ever?

The sound of one hand clapping must get awfully silent at times.

I feel sorry for you. (Seriously.)

Michael

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I didn't use the terms rational vs. social, I said individual vs. social. So did you, only after some time you switched to rational vs. social.

samr,

I actually said "rational animal" and "social animal." I was talking about definitions.

This is not a switch from individual vs. social, but instead a derivation.

Rand proposed that the rational faculty was man's only means of survival. She got to her focus on individualism from there. In other words, she considered all forms of collectivism irrational.

I think that you can speak of individualism vs. collectivism as a world-view.

I have no idea what you mean by "world view." I thought I did, but the way you use it is confusing to me.

I don't think that metaphysically man is an animal.

You don't think a human being is a mammal or primate?

Those are categories of animal.

So, what life form to you propose humans to be?

Sorry, but a fact like that is not a matter of opinion. It's a fact.

I suggest looking through a basic biology textbook. Hell, Wikipedia or whatever...

If you don't get that part right, there is no way for you to learn anything valid about humans. It will all be opinion and nothing more.

Michael

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In this sense, in buddhism, one could say, that it really is fair that one is born smarter, and the other more stupid, since it is the consequence of results of his previous actions. (Howard Roark in the next life would be different from Peter Keating; he would have much more to start with.

Buddhism's premises contradict this assumption. For Roark's blowing up the building is an act of violence, destroying the work of many people.

Buddhism would also label Roark's as act as hateful. (hate is one of the 'three poisons' in Buddhism):

http://buddhism.abou...hreepoisons.htm

Buddhism teaches that harboring the three poisons leads to evil (akusala) and suffering (dukkha). The Three Poisons are lobha, dvesha and moha, most often translated as "greed," "hate" and "ignorance."

Lobha, greed or desire, is attraction to something we think will gratify us.

Dvesha (Sanskrit) or dosa (Pali) is anger, hatred, animosity, ill-will, aversion.

Moha is ignorance or delusion. The first two poisons have ignorance as their root. Because we see ourselves as small, limited and needy, we pursue things we think will make us happy and hate things that cause us discomfort.

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In this sense, in buddhism, one could say, that it really is fair that one is born smarter, and the other more stupid, since it is the consequence of results of his previous actions. (Howard Roark in the next life would be different from Peter Keating; he would have much more to start with.

Buddhism's premises contradict this assumption. For Roark's blowing up the building is an act of violence, destroying the work of many people.

Buddhism would also label Roark's as act as hateful. (hate is one of the 'three poisons' in Buddhism):

http://buddhism.abou...hreepoisons.htm

Buddhism teaches that harboring the three poisons leads to evil (akusala) and suffering (dukkha). The Three Poisons are lobha, dvesha and moha, most often translated as "greed," "hate" and "ignorance."

Lobha, greed or desire, is attraction to something we think will gratify us.

Dvesha (Sanskrit) or dosa (Pali) is anger, hatred, animosity, ill-will, aversion.

Moha is ignorance or delusion. The first two poisons have ignorance as their root. Because we see ourselves as small, limited and needy, we pursue things we think will make us happy and hate things that cause us discomfort.

Yeah, he destroyed their work destroying his work--and they got paid too boot. Gimme a break! You come up with a better climax then criticize Rand literarily. Everything else in the context of her great novel is petty and uninteresting bs.

--Brant

bombs away!

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Bob,

I love the way you always congratulate yourself for stuff you make up about people.

Have you noticed that nobody else ever congratulates you?

Ever?

The sound of one hand clapping must get awfully silent at times.

I feel sorry for you. (Seriously.)

Michael

Bob, congratulations for being uncongratulated!

--Brant

knows how to put Michael in his place

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Buddhism teaches that harboring the three poisons leads to evil (akusala) and suffering (dukkha). The Three Poisons are lobha, dvesha and moha, most often translated as "greed," "hate" and "ignorance."

Lobha, greed or desire, is attraction to something we think will gratify us.

Dvesha (Sanskrit) or dosa (Pali) is anger, hatred, animosity, ill-will, aversion.

Moha is ignorance or delusion. The first two poisons have ignorance as their root. Because we see ourselves as small, limited and needy, we pursue things we think will make us happy and hate things that cause us discomfort.

In a nutshell, Buddhism teaches us that to pursue values is bad (Lobha), that defending oneself is bad (Dvesha) and that if you don't realize this, there's something wrong with your brain (Moha).

The last thing is extremely important, because without an attack on reason itself, somebody might be wondering if Buddhism is a belief system by and for idiots.

But the last point will induce enough self-doubt in him to prevent that.

That's why virtually all Buddhists are losers.

(That's how you troll properly - I've got to post this somewhere else for better fireworks...)

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But, since a human being could never survive on his own (we are all born babies), it shows that connection with other human beings is a primary condition of existence. Therefore, man, is primarily a dependent entity, not an independent one.

Second, objectivists argue that "a right to have clothes, shelter and food" is not a right. But, without these survival is impossible, therefore the need to have clothes, shelter and food is in the nature of man. This is part of what makes the whole concept of rights possible.

Since life is a primary concept, and it is possible to speak of our actions only if we do have a life at all, whatever is necessary to protect our life is morally right, even if it comes at the expense of other human beings.

Born babies, we do not remain helpless. Your parents brought you into the world. It was upon them but not me or my parents upon whom the burden and the claim was made.

Ayn Rand said that it is the moral responsibility of the parents to ensure that their child can survive. In our society, that means surviving as a producer (and hopefully creator) of economic values. You might owe your parents something (simple thanks or moral tribute) but you do not owe anything different to the person who invented the traffic light, the tennis shoe, or open heart surgery.

The distinction is between the metaphysical and the man-made. (See the essay by that name in Philosophy Who Needs It? You are right, we are all (physically) "man-made" i.e., born of woman. However, we are also (morally) self-made. I remember being frustrated learning to write in the first grade and my teacher being patient and helpful and I am grateful even now 55 years later, but all of humanity is not so indebted to its collective First Grade Teachers.

I believe that Michael MSK is off-base here on this, and in no way speaks for Objectivism, but only as a person who has been influenced by Objectivism.

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I believe that Michael MSK is off-base here on this, and in no way speaks for Objectivism, but only as a person who has been influenced by Objectivism.

I have never spoken "for Objectivism," and I object to what that phrase implies.

Objectivism is simply a body of ideas. It is not an entity. It is not a religion.

There are no high priests that "speak for it."

Michael

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