Lying and Objectivism


DallasCowboys

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Hi Angela: That's pertinent to the fine distinction between what I consider, roughly, explicit and implicit altruism.

Putting others at service to one through deceit (or force) is implicitly altruist of him/her, in that it emerges from an earlier self-sacrifice of his independent mind to others. Also in consequence, he's explicitly altruistic in his subsequent dependence on them.

Lying cuts both ways, one becomes the server by way of being the served.

One thing. Is irrational egoism at all possible, or is anything that isn't rationally selfish necessarily a form of altruism?

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Tony writes:

Lying cuts both ways, one becomes the server by way of being the served.

That's true.

Lying forms a closed circle consisting of:

...predators becoming the prey of prey who become predators becoming the prey of prey who become...

Each deserving the other.

Greg

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Hi Angela: That's pertinent to the fine distinction between what I consider, roughly, explicit and implicit altruism.

Putting others at service to one through deceit (or force) is implicitly altruist of him/her, in that it emerges from an earlier self-sacrifice of his independent mind to others. Also in consequence, he's explicitly altruistic in his subsequent dependence on them.

Lying cuts both ways, one becomes the server by way of being the served.

One thing. Is irrational egoism at all possible, or is anything that isn't rationally selfish necessarily a form of altruism?

That's an intricate one. To give it my best shot, "irrational egoism" (egotism) is highly possible and evident everywhere. As soon as a person departs from real, objective standards (of what is the nature of man and existence) into subjective wishes and fancies, he is implicitly claiming that his desire for something is all that counts - because HE desires it. I.e. He is the subject of his need, and his need alone is just cause. If it's dependent on whatever others must supply him (as it usually is) he has become the quintessential "explicit" altruist. 'Give' and 'take' are different sides of the same coin, which presupposes that served and server (unless coerced) have negated reality, and their minds in the process. I think too, that the egotist swops around 'man's life as the standard and his own as his purpose' - I suppose, subconsciously - making his own life the standard, and others' to his purpose. Very Nietzschean I think.

I think it's not possible to be be mutually exclusive here, since I think rational egoism is more of a general state of being, a commitment, than any single act at one moment of one's life. One's focus and attention (and therefore, mind-independence) will slip at times. Hardly would you call yourself 'altruist' at those times it did!

A searching question; I haven't uncovered all the layers and it would be useful to hear others' responses.

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Here's a very good book on fiction writing, actually it's a classic:

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block

I recommend it to all writers interested in producing fiction, Objectivist or not.

:smile:

Michael

Fiction presented as fiction is not a lie since it is not intended to deceive, rather it is intended to entertain.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Darrell, do you believe that fidelity is only about sex? By definition, fidelity is about faithfulness demonstrated by loyalty and support with no mention of sex specifically. Depending on what you mean by "stepping out," even if no sexual acts occur, it could still be considered infidelity.

Hi Deanna,

I was using "fidelity" in reference to sex, but it could refer to other things as well. A man who gave a condo, a Ferrari and two Bentley's to his girlfriend would be considered unfaithful to his wife, even if he never had sex with his girlfriend. He would be unfaithful with regard to marital property.

I wouldn't consider lusting after someone other than one's spouse to be unfaithful, so long as it didn't progress any further. We can't always control the notions that pop into our heads. I might have a sudden urge to hit someone, but if I didn't actually do it, I wouldn't consider it assault or battery.

Any sort of affectionate, erotic physical contact with another person would certainly cross the line.

Planning or scheming to engage in any kind of out-of-bounds activity would also cross the line --- conspiracy to be unfaithful is infidelity.

Darrell

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...

In this sense, honesty is indeed contextual: The context is an individual, his character and his entire life.

I do agree with your points, I just think there's more. The scope of honesty/dishonesty has to be widened from the explicitly of merely telling falsehoods, to include the whole, implicit, range, e.g. on cheating; or revealing the truth to those who have the moral right to know it.

(A great and selfish consequence of it is a sense of light-heartedness, the release that comes from opening to the truth, and guarding oneself from living in a lie in future. Um, in my experience...)

Hi Tony,

I was using "honesty" in the narrow sense --- telling other people the truth (or what you believe to be the truth). In that sense, honesty is different from, for example, integrity --- telling oneself the truth.

If you want to use it in the broader sense, that's fine, but sometimes it is hard to make the necessary distinctions if one paints with broad strokes.

Darrell

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Cheating on one's spouse isn't necessarily dishonest and it's not really cheating either, it's breaking a promise. The promise is either explicit as made in one's marriage vows or implicit --- it is the promise of fidelity.

But doesn't the very notion of "cheating" automatically involve dishonesty?

Can one 'cheat honestly'? This sounds incompatible, 'oxymoronic'.

So whether one cheats at a school test, at a game, or on one's spouse - dishonesty is always involved. For the cheater always wants to conceal the truth about what he/she is doing.

Hi Angela,

I'll give you the same answer I gave Tony. I was using "honesty" in the narrow sense --- telling other people the truth.

Imagine a guy on a business trip. He wasn't planning to sleep with anyone else, but he met a woman in the hotel restaurant and they ended up sharing a bed. He returned home and life returned to normal.

Did he do anything wrong? Yes. He was unfaithful.

Was he dishonest? Well, he didn't tell any lies.

You might argue that he had an obligation to tell his wife about the occurrence because he should tell her anything and everything that is important to their lives and therefore committed a sin of omission. But, is that part of the concept of honesty? Or, part of the concept of fidelity?

We've already seen that it's not necessary to tell people things if that information doesn't pertain to them. So, for example, it's not necessary to tell a nosy neighbor about personal finances. Not telling someone something isn't being dishonest. However, it might be a violation of a relationship with that person. Not telling a business partner about a problem with the finances of the business would violate an obligation of fidelity to that person or to that relationship, but it wouldn't necessarily be dishonest. What if a person forgot?

What if the guy told his wife the truth after the fact --- when he got home? Then he wouldn't be guilty of a sin of omission. So, he would have cheated and been honest about it.

I'm just trying to define concepts, not advocating a certain course of action.

Is the cheater dishonest? Almost always. I mostly agree with your statement.

Darrell

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Darrell writes:

I wouldn't consider lusting after someone other than one's spouse to be unfaithful, so long as it didn't progress any further.

Yes.

Only actions are real. Thoughts are only virtualities.

We can't always control the notions that pop into our heads.

Bingo.

We are not our thoughts. We are that which observes our thoughts. Our minds are like radios, and we are the ones who are listening to the broadcasts.

Humans have the unique ability to choose to act contrary to our thoughts and emotions. This is why our intellect and emotions are NOT to be trusted. If thoughts tell you the truth nine times and you believe it when it lies to you the tenth time... you're screwed. That's why it's important to know when and when not to act on your thoughts and the emotions they engender. To do this properly we need to rely on something which is of a higher order than thought and emotion, something which is absolutely objective all of the time and can accurately reveal each of our thoughts and emotions for what they truly are in regards to being morally right or wrong.

I might have a sudden urge to hit someone, but if I didn't actually do it, I wouldn't consider it assault or battery.

Exactly.

That urge is only a unrealized emotional potential of an angry thought which cannot become real unless we choose to make it real. We are the ones who choose which thoughts and emotions we will act upon... and which we let go by unresponded.

There is great power in this choice... indeed, our very lives depend upon choosing wisely.

Greg

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Darrell, do you believe that fidelity is only about sex? By definition, fidelity is about faithfulness demonstrated by loyalty and support with no mention of sex specifically. Depending on what you mean by "stepping out," even if no sexual acts occur, it could still be considered infidelity.

Hi Deanna,

I was using "fidelity" in reference to sex, but it could refer to other things as well. A man who gave a condo, a Ferrari and two Bentley's to his girlfriend would be considered unfaithful to his wife, even if he never had sex with his girlfriend. He would be unfaithful with regard to marital property.

I wouldn't consider lusting after someone other than one's spouse to be unfaithful, so long as it didn't progress any further. We can't always control the notions that pop into our heads. I might have a sudden urge to hit someone, but if I didn't actually do it, I wouldn't consider it assault or battery.

Any sort of affectionate, erotic physical contact with another person would certainly cross the line.

Planning or scheming to engage in any kind of out-of-bounds activity would also cross the line --- conspiracy to be unfaithful is infidelity.

Darrell

Where do I sign up to be that guy's girlfriend? (JUST KIDDING!!!!)

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Darrell, do you believe that fidelity is only about sex? By definition, fidelity is about faithfulness demonstrated by loyalty and support with no mention of sex specifically. Depending on what you mean by "stepping out," even if no sexual acts occur, it could still be considered infidelity.

Hi Deanna,

I was using "fidelity" in reference to sex, but it could refer to other things as well. A man who gave a condo, a Ferrari and two Bentley's to his girlfriend would be considered unfaithful to his wife, even if he never had sex with his girlfriend. He would be unfaithful with regard to marital property.

I wouldn't consider lusting after someone other than one's spouse to be unfaithful, so long as it didn't progress any further. We can't always control the notions that pop into our heads. I might have a sudden urge to hit someone, but if I didn't actually do it, I wouldn't consider it assault or battery.

Any sort of affectionate, erotic physical contact with another person would certainly cross the line.

Planning or scheming to engage in any kind of out-of-bounds activity would also cross the line --- conspiracy to be unfaithful is infidelity.

Darrell

Where do I sign up to be that guy's girlfriend? (JUST KIDDING!!!!)

Well, he's probably looking for a new girlfriend since his current (ex?) girlfriend released a recording of his racist rant to the press.

BTW, I'm not really buying his story (or her story) that they never had sex. Of course, they could be using a Clintonesque definition of "sex."

That reminds of a joke about two golfers and hitman ... :smile:

Darrell

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...

In this sense, honesty is indeed contextual: The context is an individual, his character and his entire life.

I do agree with your points, I just think there's more. The scope of honesty/dishonesty has to be widened from the explicitly of merely telling falsehoods, to include the whole, implicit, range, e.g. on cheating; or revealing the truth to those who have the moral right to know it.

(A great and selfish consequence of it is a sense of light-heartedness, the release that comes from opening to the truth, and guarding oneself from living in a lie in future. Um, in my experience...)

Hi Tony,

I was using "honesty" in the narrow sense --- telling other people the truth (or what you believe to be the truth). In that sense, honesty is different from, for example, integrity --- telling oneself the truth.

If you want to use it in the broader sense, that's fine, but sometimes it is hard to make the necessary distinctions if one paints with broad strokes.

Darrell

That's true. Though the narrow stroke is integral with the broad, without division, as we know from experience. For example, sometimes one has to weigh carefully what someone important to us 'should' know of(an overheard, innocuous remark about your friend, say), which might hurt or embarrass them unnecessarily. Nothing major, naturally, but you might choose to not report it.

I think the broad brush stroke of implicit honesty has to be solidly laid down first, followed with the ever finer strokes of personal values and exceptions, over it. Other way round, and the fine nuances get obscured by the always/never categorical imperative of honesty at all cost. ("Brush strokes", heh... it sure is an artistic philosophy).

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Xray wrote:

But doesn't the very notion of "cheating" automatically involve dishonesty? Can one 'cheat honestly'? This sounds incompatible, 'oxymoronic'.

end quote

Definition of dishonorable (adj) Bing Dictionary

dishonorable shameful and to somebody's discredit: morally unacceptable and liable to make somebody lose the respect of others without morals or integrity: behaving in a dishonest or morally unacceptable way.

I just read Robert Harriss book, Conspirata, about Rome in the time of Cato and Caesar, as told from the perspective of Cicero, whos every utterance was recorded by his slave Tiro. Someone could do a dishonorable act openly. Or the same dishonorable act may never be known by another soul. In both instances the immoral wrongness is the same.

Ancient Romes Caesar was famous for sleeping with other aristocratic mens wives and because there are always slave/servants around, stealth was useless. Of course many marriages then were marriages of convenience to consolidate wealth and influence and women had little say in the matter so it is not as if the partners swore to fidelity as occurs in a romantic marriage. But still, men and women were not supposed to get caught or become notorious. And even under those circumstances involving these aristocratic unions, most people considered fidelity to ones partner as a key indicator of honesty in the rest of ones life. And it is.

Ancient Romes familial dishonor is very similar to the fictional dishonor brought upon a Klingon family by one of its members dishonorable act.

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Hi Angela: That's pertinent to the fine distinction between what I consider, roughly, explicit and implicit altruism.

Putting others at service to one through deceit (or force) is implicitly altruist of him/her, in that it emerges from an earlier self-sacrifice of his independent mind to others. Also in consequence, he's explicitly altruistic in his subsequent dependence on them.

Lying cuts both ways, one becomes the server by way of being the served.

Tony,

I'd like to have this illustrated by an example:

In what way had a person who e. g. embezzled money 'earlier self-sacrificed his/her independent mind to others'?

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Anonymous writes:

In what way had a person who e. g. embezzled money 'earlier self-sacrificed his/her independent mind to others'?

Taking from others what rightfully belongs to them is slavery in itself, because you have robbed yourself of the freedom and independence of earning it for yourself, and have become a dependent leech feeding off of what productive people earn.

Because an embezzler did not honestly work to earn the money, he lacks the moral character to properly handle what he stole from others. And he will inexorably lose money to another swindler who is just like he is.

"No man may be smaller than his money."

--Francisco d'Anconia

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Hi Angela: That's pertinent to the fine distinction between what I consider, roughly, explicit and implicit altruism.

Putting others at service to one through deceit (or force) is implicitly altruist of him/her, in that it emerges from an earlier self-sacrifice of his independent mind to others. Also in consequence, he's explicitly altruistic in his subsequent dependence on them.

Lying cuts both ways, one becomes the server by way of being the served.

Tony,

I'd like to have this illustrated by an example:

In what way had a person who e. g. embezzled money 'earlier self-sacrificed his/her independent mind to others'?

Unless one believes a deceiver for material gain (an embezzler) is one from birth or becomes one instantly, out of the blue, we'd have to think he arrived there by a long string of gradual evasions of his own mind and of the minds of others. I think it takes more in this case- an outright act of will, to choose to subjugate your own mind and sense of reality, only to become dependent on others' duped minds... as well as dependent on their wealth. The implicit and explicit surrender of independence, so self-sacrifice, iow.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I must be stupid. I don't get the categorical imperative of truthfulness, however nicely decorated with situational exemptions like having a gun put to your head. Being absolutely candid and forthcoming in private should be reserved for a spouse and one's children (tailored to their developmental progress and timely benefit). Everyone else should properly get an edited version of the facts as you understand or recollect them. There is no public right to know anything that you currently believe to be true, not even under oath in a court of law.

The decision to confess or profess something close to the truth is fraught with consequences, which I know from personal experience as an author and public personality of modest intelligence. I blab far too much. On occasion it resulted in death threats -- and they weren't kidding or blustering. Bob was on the right track when he said that spies can't (and shouldn't) tell anyone the truth. In the past, when I advised a client, the first thing I advised them was to say nothing. I cultivate, so far as possible, the habit of forgetfulness.

The job of living is dynamic. What you think you know today pales in comparison to what you will discover about yourself, about the world, about moral philosophy and constitutional rights in the future. At a certain age, the learning slows. But learning remains a potential opportunity provided that you aren't foreclosed to it by stubbornly insisting on THE TRUTH as you perceive it at this moment in time.

Sorry. I regret speaking candidly. Few seem to understand or appreciate it, in my experience. It is almost never rewarded.

The Psychology of Free Expression

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Wolf:

Objectively, it is not The Truth as a "categorical imperative", but honesty as a common currency, in my view.

You've indicated you know they are not always the same, that at best, honesty is partial truth, or truth as best one knows it to be-at the time.

But you underscore very nicely for me the necessity for rational selfishness--to an Objectivist. One does not owe anything to anybody which can or could rebound against one's self-interest. This, because most people inhabit a sort of variable reality - subjectively- which means they can subvert truthfulness to themselves, or misrepresent it to others - when they feel like it, to their own ends (or so they feel). Ultimately, they do not and they lose. However, an objectively honest individual would be at a total disadvantage, at their 'mercy': therefore a very good reason for the morality of rational egoism, to always act in one's own interests, in the short and long term. ("Long term" can be a chimera - when in doubt, acting in the now, faithful to one's basic virtues of honesty and integrity is all one can do).

As objective *rational egoist*, it's one's dedication to reality which is above all. Nobody ~deserves~ truth/honesty from you except those few you esteem highest, and by definition their value demands that corresponding honesty, I think. For dealing with all others, it can only be irrational (and self-negating by consequence) as well as the "only real immorality committed on others", to deliberately and with forethought deceitfully point them wrong. Honest good will in the face of a shared reality is about the benevolent extent of one's relations to most people (unless it is clearly undeserved to some). That's fundamental justice, and apart from that the rest is silence. All to say, that I agree with some of what you say, especially "stubborness"- and the dynamics of time and life.

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I had general anesthesia recently. Coming out of it, I was so truthful that my wife didn't speak to me for a month. She was mortified by certain loud remarks I made to a very competent African-American nurse in recovery about Barack Obama, "the Negro-In-Chief."

It ought to be part of the Boy Scout oath: Brave, clean, and absurd.

UPDATE: very nice truthful article at ZH this morning "Embracing Inequality"

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  • 2 months later...

The ability to deceive also seems to be part of our evolutionary heritage.

A while ago, I watched a documentary where some clever monkey in the jungle uttered a loud 'warning cry' which made the others of the group flee because this type of cry signaled 'imminent danger' to them

The smart monkey, now alone, then feasted on the coconuts the group had left behind. For it was those coconuts he had coveted. :smile:

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Yep, lie to your populace, such a perfect National Socialist position.

Looking east at the Bear yet?

You damn well should be.

A...

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...which I know from personal experience as an author and public personality...

Huh? You're a "public personality"?!!!

J

Yep. So are you. So am I. It's only a question of amount and quality, not the category.

--Brant

wondering if I should become a celebrity

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...which I know from personal experience as an author and public personality...

Huh? You're a "public personality"?!!!

Past tense. Experience as.

Getting noticed is easy. First newspaper profile of me at age 17, first TV interview at 19, first wire service photo of me in 1971. Five months of tabloid gossip in the mid 80s, another bout of publicity in London in the early 90s, NPR interview, Library Journal review, VIP section of the Hollywood Christmas Parade, then the hoopla of Laissez Faire City, featured every week above the fold with 40,000 readers. Quarter million words of published work under several pen names, praise from Reuters columnist Alex Salmon, TV awards and IMDb credits.

Bugs you, huh? That's nice.

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