mpp

What can be said about 'dignity' in Objectivism?

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She endorsed this line from The Miracle Worker: "Cleanliness is next to nothing" apropos the father saying, "Cleanliness is next to God."

--Brant

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Hello

What is the nature of dignity in Objectivism? Has Ayn Rand written explicitly about it?

Thank you.

mpp,

From Roark's courtroom speech:

Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man's independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence.

Google the following and there's more stuff:

"Ayn Rand" dignity

All you have to do is dig. Google is your friend.

I have the research CDROM, but it's in a computer that needs to be reconnected. (That darn CD won't work in my main computer, probably because of the 64 bits configuration.) Otherwise, I would do a search.

Is there anything in particular you wish to know about this, any special reason? Or just curiosity?

Michael

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Thanks everyone for your interest in my post.

@Michalel -- thanks I've searched but I've been trying to find an explicit treatise on the nature and role of virtue by Ayn Rand. But I now don't think it exists. I've found writings in which Rand used the word "dignity" but never - to my knowledge - did she define it.

I'm curious about dignity in terms of value hierarchy and in its relation to self-respect:

Can it ever be moral to surrender one's dignity? If to save one's life?

Can dignity ever be taken from you, or must one always resign it? What if the choice is resigning it or death, wouldn't it then be taken from you?

Is dignity a consequence of self-respect, a corollary, or a cause?

What would be a formal definition (genus+differentia) of dignity?

What then marks instances in which dignity was violated? What are violations of dignity--active and passive?

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I once jumped out of a helicopter and ran as I hit the ground for I didn't know if we were taking fire. It was undignified. True dignity comes from integrity. Phoney dignity comes from concern with appearances. In some cultures it's inbred and may reflect concern with machismo and/or demand for respect. If it's important to you as a first-hander you treat others with respect--that is, with dignity. As a second-hander you might demand it for yourself from others. I give everybody I don't know a certain basic level of respect when I interact with them and expect it in return. If I don't get it the other person will get educated if it's off the walls inappropriate and I have the time. I don't treat the consequent dignity as any primary and don't even think about it. It's all respect. This paragraph may read somewhat confused, but it's just my way of saying how trivial the idea of "dignity" per se is respecting human interactions. You won't find any discourse in it from any Objectivist I've ever read qua Objectivism that I remember. It's not important and certainly no primary.

--Brant

the definition is in any dictionary

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I once jumped out of a helicopter and ran as I hit the ground for I didn't know if we were taking fire. It was undignified. True dignity comes from integrity. Phoney dignity comes from concern with appearances. In some cultures it's inbred and may reflect concern with machismo and/or demand for respect. If it's important to you as a first-hander you treat others with respect--that is, with dignity. As a second-hander you might demand it for yourself from others. I give everybody I don't know a certain basic level of respect when I interact with them and expect it in return. If I don't get it the other person will get educated if it's off the walls inappropriate and I have the time. I don't treat the consequent dignity as any primary and don't even think about it. It's all respect. This paragraph may read somewhat confused, but it's just my way of saying how trivial the idea of "dignity" per se is respecting human interactions. You won't find any discourse in it from any Objectivist I've ever read qua Objectivism that I remember. It's not important and certainly no primary.

--Brant

the definition is in any dictionary

I don't think it's that simple. That you don't find it in objectivism must not necessarily mean that it's not important. In many european countries there are laws against violations of dignity; you are not allowed to treat people in a way which would hurt their dignity.

It seems to be an important topic. Even more so in an egoist code of ethics. If you don't know what exactly is the nature of dignity, how are you going to live a dignified life? Which presumably dignity is a necessary (not sufficient) part of.

In your post you pretty much equate dignity with respect. I think that is making the matter too simple. Disrespect towards people can be tolerated, violations of dignity can be punished by law. What makes the difference? It seems like dignity includes rights. Which ones?

Incidentially, what's the difference between dignity - self-respect - respect?

Must dignity be learned? Earned? Is it objective, i.e. can you tell someone: you shouldn't do this, it's hurting your dignity (e.g. throwing of dwarfs)?

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I'm only honoring the thread you started, with Objectivism front and center. I don't find your "dignity" in Objectivism so I posited "respect" as a possible, implicit alternative. If you think that bridge is weak that's fine. Make a choice: which side are you on? Respect or dignity? I made my choice--the former. I can't imagine any good use for the latter unless one is marching to the gallows or sitting on some kind of throne.

--Brant

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I once jumped out of a helicopter and ran as I hit the ground for I didn't know if we were taking fire. It was undignified. True dignity comes from integrity. Phoney dignity comes from concern with appearances. In some cultures it's inbred and may reflect concern with machismo and/or demand for respect. If it's important to you as a first-hander you treat others with respect--that is, with dignity. As a second-hander you might demand it for yourself from others. I give everybody I don't know a certain basic level of respect when I interact with them and expect it in return. If I don't get it the other person will get educated if it's off the walls inappropriate and I have the time. I don't treat the consequent dignity as any primary and don't even think about it. It's all respect. This paragraph may read somewhat confused, but it's just my way of saying how trivial the idea of "dignity" per se is respecting human interactions. You won't find any discourse in it from any Objectivist I've ever read qua Objectivism that I remember. It's not important and certainly no primary.

--Brant

the definition is in any dictionary

I don't think it's that simple. That you don't find it in objectivism must not necessarily mean that it's not important. In many european countries there are laws against violations of dignity; you are not allowed to treat people in a way which would hurt their dignity.

It seems to be an important topic. Even more so in an egoist code of ethics. If you don't know what exactly is the nature of dignity, how are you going to live a dignified life? Which presumably dignity is a necessary (not sufficient) part of.

In your post you pretty much equate dignity with respect. I think that is making the matter too simple. Disrespect towards people can be tolerated, violations of dignity can be punished by law. What makes the difference? It seems like dignity includes rights. Which ones?

Incidentially, what's the difference between dignity - self-respect - respect?

Must dignity be learned? Earned? Is it objective, i.e. can you tell someone: you shouldn't do this, it's hurting your dignity (e.g. throwing of dwarfs)?

"Laws against violations of dignity".

In its advocacy of the "right to dignity" the State makes further inroads on personal liberty, abrogating for itself what is the concern - only- of the private individual. That is, not just protecting individual rights (its only reason to exist) the State busies itself attacking 'undignified' actions and speech -- as our bureaucratic, moral High Priests. By way of what superficially appears a benign purpose, closely tied to overcoming 'inequality', 'wealth redistribution' etc., the citizens hand over more personal responsibility, and imbue ever more power in their gov't.

So I think real dignity is selfishly earned, not granted or learned, a natural consequence of virtues: independence of mind, integrity, pride and self-respect. It seems in a few individuals I've known, to carry both a personal authority and a basic respect to all, on the assumption others have earned similar self-respect. It rubs off on other people, and by example sets them a standard of behavior - you've probably noticed. Dignity is also not to be confused with 'stuffiness', faked superiority and affectation. Come to think of it, many of Rand's characters demonstrate one or other sides, true dignity and the pompous counterfeit.

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No I'm still here. Been thinking about it. I think the topic hasn't been dealt with at all.

I'm not sure yet, what dignity is suppose to be. Yet it is always used by everyone with such confidence that its meaning is clear--including Rand. (examples in Atlas Shrugged are many).

As for laws to protect dignity. It would be hard to prove these laws objectively. For instance, it shouldn't be forbidden to hire a midget for a funny yet degrading entertainment event (example dwarf throwing in wolf of wall street). If the little person wants to do it, he should be allowed to do it--even if it's immoral.

The topic gets more complicated, however, if you think about it in the function of the state. If there are no laws to protect dignity, in the free society, a government could broadcast its prisons for a TV show, and show the inmates in the bathroom, showering, etc....the inmates would have no lawful protection, of what we would now say is a violation of their dignity.

Further, you wouldn't have a standard by which to decide how you are going to treat inmates. What is dignified/undignified management? What if you have them walk around naked to prevent the hiding of weapons? Does a person have a right to decency? On what grounds if not some kind of dignity?

The case can be made that there must be some derivative laws from the "law to one's rights" that include dignified contact. Just as you would have privacy laws, that are derivates of your property rights.

Yet still, what is "dignity"?

How does it differ from self-respect. And is dignity a sufficient condition for self-respect, or is self-respect a sufficient one for dignity? Or is it a necessary condition....

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mpp,

I have some comments on dignity, but I have been crazy busy.

I'll get to it before too long. Just two things for you to mull over in the mean time.

1. Dignity is not in a linear hierarchical conceptual relationship with other values and virtues like respect (one being the condition for the other, etc.). Concepts are a little more complicated than that. Or simple, depending on how you look at it.

2. Open any dictionary and you will find that almost all of the words in it have more than one definition. Dignity will be no different when you look.

More later.

Michael

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Any new insights or comments about this?

Much appreciated :smile:

J.

Welcome to OL, late to the table.

Whenever, that I have run into some scarcity in Ayn's known writings and do not come up with something specific that she wrote, I go back to Aristotle.

“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.”

― Aristotle

A...

It's a start...

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Any new insights or comments about this?

Much appreciated :smile:

J.

Welcome to OL, late to the table.

Whenever, that I have run into some scarcity in Ayn's known writings and do not come up with something specific that she wrote, I go back to Aristotle.

“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.”

― Aristotle

A...

It's a start...

That's a nice quote. Thank you.

Still looking for a rational definition of dignity. I want to find out whether dignity is (morally) absolute, whether it can be taken or must be given away, if one abdicates his own dignity, must he also do so with everyone else's?

What do we mean if we say "I have dignity, my dignity is not for sale" or speak of "dignified behaviour"? How is it different from self-respect or pride...

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Frankly, I think you don't need anybody's help or that anybody is able to help for it's too much subjective land so the answers would be all over the map. Dignity for Peter Keating is not being found out he's a cheap, phony louse. A second-hander with nice clothes and a celebrated occupation. Appearances. For Howard Roark, he wouldn't know what the hell you're talking about. His "dignity" is perfectly congruent with his type of individualistic human being. The most fruitful area for study would be in machismo societies such as Mexico or Middle-eastern Muslim Arabic. I'd be curious how machismo plays differently between the two major Muslim sects and how it might play into jihad. You see, machismo is all about "dignity" and ability to impregnate with lots of children as proof of one's manhood. Or, dignity = respect = manhood. A Howard Roark has no need or want of that; his manhood is simply autonomous. This is the core of individualism. Dignity is all about the nature of your social existence, about you being controlled existentially (socially) or not. Respect and dignity are not necessary companions insofar in that respect doesn't need dignity but dignity needs respect.

--Brant

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Frankly, I think you don't need anybody's help or that anybody is able to help for it's too much subjective land so the answers would be all over the map. Dignity for Peter Keating is not being found out he's a cheap, phony louse. A second-hander with nice clothes and a celebrated occupation. Appearances. For Howard Roark, he wouldn't know what the hell you're talking about. His "dignity" is perfectly congruent with his type of individualistic human being. The most fruitful area for study would be in machismo societies such as Mexico or Middle-eastern Muslim Arabic. I'd be curious how machismo plays differently between the two major Muslim sects and how it might play into jihad. You see, machismo is all about "dignity" and ability to impregnate with lots of children as proof of one's manhood. Or, dignity = respect = manhood. A Howard Roark has no need or want of that; his manhood is simply autonomous. This is the core of individualism. Dignity is all about the nature of your social existence, about you being controlled existentially (socially) or not. Respect and dignity are not necessary companions insofar in that respect doesn't need dignity but dignity needs respect.

--Brant

Sure -- but in all this you use a constant definition of dignity. Even if you say it can differ subjectively how people think they reach that. But what is your definition of dignity you had in mind when writing this?

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I promised to write on this, but the more I think about it, the more I want to do an article or something more serious.

Here are some random thoughts, though.

There are several meanings for the word "dignity" and there is no official Objectivist meaning to my knowledge. However, I do believe it is possible to describe the concept as I have seen it used by Rand.

Dignity refers to self-respect (or self-esteem, pride, etc.) plus a component of standing before others. A person with dignity does the equivalent of saying, "I love myself, but there's more. In relation to you, my life has worth, even if only moral worth and even if only by example. I am not your moral inferior."

It's funny, but this "you" can be a part of the same person. I believe Rand was referring to this when she used the term "personal dignity" in The Fountainhead. In other words, as she worked her slow path toward identifying "sanction of the victim," which would only come years later, she recognized that there was a part of the soul that could be corrupted with undeserved guilt. A person with personal dignity does not grant that part of himself or herself any validity and essentially tells it, "The rest of me is not morally inferior to you."

Essentially, I think the statement, "I am not morally inferior to you" reflects well the concept of dignity within an Objectivist frame. That conviction is what nobody can take from you--as in, "You can take everything I own, but you can't take my precious dignity." In other words, "I am a morally good human being, not a morally inferior one, and you can't make me believe differently." That, to me, is dignity.

But this needs elaboration and further discussion.

Michael

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I promised to write on this, but the more I think about it, the more I want to do an article or something more serious.

Here are some random thoughts, though.

There are several meanings for the word "dignity" and there is no official Objectivist meaning to my knowledge. However, I do believe it is possible to describe the concept as I have seen it used by Rand.

Dignity refers to self-respect (or self-esteem, pride, etc.) plus a component of standing before others. A person with dignity does the equivalent of saying, "I love myself, but there's more. In relation to you, my life has worth, even if only moral worth and even if only by example. I am not your moral inferior."

It's funny, but this "you" can be a part of the same person. I believe Rand was referring to this when she used the term "personal dignity" in The Fountainhead. In other words, as she worked her slow path toward identifying "sanction of the victim," which would only come years later, she recognized that there was a part of the soul that could be corrupted with undeserved guilt. A person with personal dignity does not grant that part of himself or herself any validity and essentially tells it, "The rest of me is not morally inferior to you."

Essentially, I think the statement, "I am not morally inferior to you" reflects well the concept of dignity within an Objectivist frame. That conviction is what nobody can take from you--as in, "You can take everything I own, but you can't take my precious dignity." In other words, "I am a morally good human being, not a morally inferior one, and you can't make me believe differently." That, to me, is dignity.

But this needs elaboration and further discussion.

Michael

Hi thanks for following through!

I'd love to read your article on dignity.

As for your description of the concept, so you would differentiate dignity from self-respect by saying self-respect is the recognition of one's own value in one's own eyes while dignity is the recognition of one's value in relation to others?

Your description of seeing oneself as a morally good human being I would say fits better into self-respect than into dignity, as it is a judgement one passes about oneself in one's own court.

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Your description of seeing oneself as a morally good human being I would say fits better into self-respect than into dignity, as it is a judgement one passes about oneself in one's own court.

mpp,

I think you are making an error by separating dignity from self-respect. They are intertwined, but not equal. Dignity rests on self-respect--self-respect comes in the conceptual hierarchy before dignity.

Your observation is like saying, "Your description of a vehicle with four wheels fits better into the concept of car than the concept of a Porsche."

A Porsche is a type of car. Just as dignity is a type of self-respect, or maybe an extension of self-respect.

Dignity without self-respect is not dignity. However, I can imagine self-respect without dignity, especially when a person needs to cow before bullies (like the government) just to survive. In other words, play-acting to avoid total destruction.

There is no dignity in self-doubt and self-loathing.

Is there dignity in suffering? Only if a person has enough self-respect to face it and make the best of it. A perpetual whiner is not dignified.

Michael

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I promised to write on this, but the more I think about it, the more I want to do an article or something more serious.

Here are some random thoughts, though.

There are several meanings for the word "dignity" and there is no official Objectivist meaning to my knowledge. However, I do believe it is possible to describe the concept as I have seen it used by Rand.

Dignity refers to self-respect (or self-esteem, pride, etc.) plus a component of standing before others. A person with dignity does the equivalent of saying, "I love myself, but there's more. In relation to you, my life has worth, even if only moral worth and even if only by example. I am not your moral inferior."

It's funny, but this "you" can be a part of the same person. I believe Rand was referring to this when she used the term "personal dignity" in The Fountainhead. In other words, as she worked her slow path toward identifying "sanction of the victim," which would only come years later, she recognized that there was a part of the soul that could be corrupted with undeserved guilt. A person with personal dignity does not grant that part of himself or herself any validity and essentially tells it, "The rest of me is not morally inferior to you."

Essentially, I think the statement, "I am not morally inferior to you" reflects well the concept of dignity within an Objectivist frame. That conviction is what nobody can take from you--as in, "You can take everything I own, but you can't take my precious dignity." In other words, "I am a morally good human being, not a morally inferior one, and you can't make me believe differently." That, to me, is dignity.

But this needs elaboration and further discussion.

Michael

Hi thanks for following through!

I'd love to read your article on dignity.

As for your description of the concept, so you would differentiate dignity from self-respect by saying self-respect is the recognition of one's own value in one's own eyes while dignity is the recognition of one's value in relation to others?

Your description of seeing oneself as a morally good human being I would say fits better into self-respect than into dignity, as it is a judgement one passes about oneself in one's own court.

There are two kinds of dignity--the natural consequence of self respect and the unnatural consequence of machismo. Machismo comes from inferiority and envy and is the kind of posturing that demands a fight in lieu of granting the kind and amount of respect demanded for the respect needed is not in the person demanding it. There's a great deal of this in Mexico and it greatly suffuses much if not most of Arab-Moslem culture. This is deeply ingrained second-handerism. They are completely beyond reason about this. All you can do if you can't avoid them is to get them to defer to you by beating them up. They'll then respect you in the only important way that would be desirable for a first-hander: they appreciate a bad-ass badder than they are, even to the point of joining up with you and fighting with you so they too can partake of a greater bad-assism. (Such is the appeal of ISIS today: sanctioned rape and murder and conquest in the name of Allah. What more could a young man want?) This is not conversion. It's diversion--a way for a coward to sublimate fear by tightly embracing the cause of the fear gaining its seeming approbation and protection. Keating did that with Roark, but it all was for naught at the end. Wynand did too. Gail Wynand destroyed every perceived first-hander he could get his hands on for his amusement and to self-justify his lousy life until he met Roark whom he couldn't destroy or even mark. Wynand fell in love with Roark because Roark was his disowned first-hander self. The only salvation for Wynand would have been literally a homosexual relationship with Roark the dominant partner, but that was impossible for if Wynand was anything he was completely an alpha male whom Roark, being one himself, would not accept buggery from as he wouldn't/couldn't from anyone. So, with two unbuggerable men, Gail Wynand had no place left to go. That was the end of him. Gail needed to fuck Roark (he tried metaphorically and gave up right at the beginning)--to hell with Dominique--Howard had no need to fuck Wynand--hello, Dominique! Rand recognized, however, if only subconsciously, the actual, relative sexual nature of each man to the other. That's why Wynand got the name "Gail." Between a Howard and a Gail, a Howard is the fucker and a Gail is a fuckee. There was no way Rand was going to go anywhere with that idea.

--Brant

I used these words and ideas that some may object to as grappling hooks on those readers' minds--and the Gail-Howard love story was the real love story in The Fountainhead for the reason that Ayn Rand was so in love with each man who therefore had to be alpha to her feminine albeit "in a bad mood" Dominique and naturally enough had to love each other too--a menage a trois of first-handers

Howard: a first-hander being a first hander so he had it the easiest

Gail: a first-hander consciously choosing to live as a second-hander who learned (the hard way) he was mistaken and couldn't keep going

Dominique: a first-hander wrongly thinking first-handerism was impossible who learned (the hard way) she was mistaken so she reverted

Peter: a pathetic second-hander living as such

Toohey: a thoroughly evil, intellectually capable, second-hander

theme: the impotence of evil (Rand hung her entire existential professional life on this, both in art and philosophy), one facet only

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Yet still, what is "dignity"?

The price of human dignity is purposeful action. That presupposes a larger universe than

one’s infantile playpen. Yes, you were born. Now what? If you never challenge the Unknown,

you will do a lot of thumb-sucking. Winning at Monopoly doesn’t change this basic proposition.

With stacks of money or none, the universal question of humanity is how to redecorate

your world -- to take spiritual action, to surmount psychological obstacles, to dare oneself

in life -- because no state or tribe can live an individual life for you. You can imitate the majority,

swim with the tide. But that’s a cop-out... evading one’s responsibility as a moral being. It

specifically connotes the disgrace of treason, collaborating with New Rome on the Potomac,

instead of fighting them. [Laissez Faire Law, pp.95-96]

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