Arkadi

giving one's life in battle

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I heard Ayn Rand saying that this might be perfectly compatible with objectivist ethics (i.e., not necessarily "altruistic"). Yet how can this be possible, given that (1) life is the ultimate standard of value and (2) only individuals exist? What value can I possibly gain in exchange for my life? ~Thanks.

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Since you're so into bringing Rand into this, look at what Galt said he'd do if they put Dagny on a torture rack -- that was a battle.

Frankly, I'm glad this isn't going to be a substantial discussion, but in the movie Patton, Patton said he didn't believe in dying for your country--let the guy on the other side die for his.

--Brant

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Thanks, Brant. Sure, Galt's behavior confirms what I heard Rand saying directly. My question is how this squares with her ethical theory of "egoism".

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It was in some video interview, and also in her speech addressed to West Point graduates. Also Peikoff mentions this in his lectures. Sorry, can't give exact references from top of my head.

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To get what you want from your thread it's best to start by actually quoting her. Better than quoting Peikoff, btw. On such a question there's no point in quoting anyone but Rand. Just let this go for a day or two and see what happens here foundationally. It's not that this thread might go off on a tangent, it's that it won't get going at all.

--Brant

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"What value can I possibly gain in exchange for my life?"

Brant advice is good. Distance yourself from this stuff and introspect.

The answer is your life. Its opposite is self sacrifice.

A threat approaches (clear enough, he has a weapon and is menacing and verbally threatening), and will take your life if you do not defend yourself. Would you risk dying to save yourself? Take that tangible threat and apply it to your abstract notion.

This idea had bothered me for years in the context of WW2,  knowing how people wouldnt resist and in some cases would rather die than struggle. I didnt watch Shindlers List until I adequately resolve it for myself. My repugnance was based on the willingness to surrender ones life without putting up a fight.

My father in laws (John) (class of '44) brother, his Tactical Officer at West Point died accepting surrender of Germans (they pulled tommy guns from their coats). In his words, "I had something to prove." His other brother, went to retrieve the body and his jeep ran over a mine and he evacuated to England and returned when he could walk again. Johns best friend and class mate was the subject of Lars Andersens book, The All Americans. Approaching Omaha Beach he took a bullet stepping off a Hutchins boat, evacd to England and returned to the field of battle. 

This was the backdrop for Europe.

If you ever played team sports you have but one/enth scintilla of understanding of the attitude and what comprises a band of brothers. Rand worshipped their cause. Brant is a veteran. Im a veteran army brat who was born at West Point and grew up surrounded by West Pointers. ) I didnt stand a chance. )

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turkeyfoot --"Distance yourself from this stuff and introspect"--That's precisely where my question comes from. I am from Russia. Speaking of WWII: if not for the Soviets, those of us who would be alive now (not me, neither Rand, as biogenetically Jewish) would be living under Nazis. This fact is still suppressed in the West. Have you heard of the battle of Stalingrad, of the siege of Leningrad? Do you know the number of "Russians" (=the Soviet people of various ethnic descent) who died in that war? If you do not, check it out--you may be surprised. So, were all those people (or most of them) just zombies indoctrinated  by "altruism" as Rand understands it? Would it not be better for them to survive and live in slavery? If not, why (on Rand's grounds)? What value did they gain in exchange for their lives? I do have an obvious answer to this question but in its light Rand's whole theory stinks. So I'm eager to hear a better answer if you have it.

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If it were the only way to protect my child, I would give up my life.  The remainder of his life is more valuable to me than the remainder of my life.  I have experienced a full life already. He is 11 years old.  The potential for what he can do and see and accomplish is just that much greater.

You asked, "Would it not be better... to survive and live in slavery?"  Not if dying meant that my son would not have to live in slavery.  There are some things worse than death, and there are some things worth dying for.

How that fits with Rand, I have no idea.

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dldelancey--I share your view as expressed 100%. "How that fits with Rand, I have no idea"--On this one point I would go a bit further: as far as I can see, this view does not fit with Rand's theory at all and thus, if true, falsifies that theory.

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16 hours ago, Arkadi said:

I heard Ayn Rand saying that this might be perfectly compatible with objectivist ethics (i.e., not necessarily "altruistic"). Yet how can this be possible, given that (1) life is the ultimate standard of value and (2) only individuals exist? What value can I possibly gain in exchange for my life? ~Thanks.

Slightly but critically wrong. "MAN's life is the standard of value". One's own life is one's ultimate value.

If one gets Emiliano Zapata's meaning: "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees" - then one might begin to know what the abstractions of "Man's life" - "standard" - and "value" mean, too.

Presuming a soldier is a professional, it follows he understood when volunteering that his life may be lost, and follows that he understood first, that the high values he will be fighting for are worth the risk. The risk, while possible is not definite, and is of lower value for him than the potential rewards (for he and his countrymen to live in liberty). Iow, in his mind the prospect of losing his life in battle would not be self-sacrifice..

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1 hour ago, Arkadi said:

turkeyfoot --"Distance yourself from this stuff and introspect"--That's precisely where my question comes from. I am from Russia. Speaking of WWII: if not for the Soviets, those of us who would be alive now (not me, neither Rand, as biogenetically Jewish) would be living under Nazis. This fact is still suppressed in the West. Have you heard of the battle of Stalingrad, of the siege of Leningrad? Do you know the number of "Russians" (=the Soviet people of various ethnic descent) who died in that war? If you do not, check it out--you may be surprised. So, were all those people (or most of them) just zombies indoctrinated  by "altruism" as Rand understands it? Would it not be better for them to survive and live in slavery? If not, why (on Rand's grounds)? What value did they gain in exchange for their lives? I do have an obvious answer to this question but in its light Rand's whole theory stinks. So I'm eager to hear a better answer if you have it.

Find your answer Arkadi. I have mine and there are a multitude, as varied as the people whose lives you count. Yes on WW2. The question is a hypothetical for you. You need to make it real for yourself to be in a position of knowing. I suppose the ultimate eye opener for myself was reading Black Earth by Timothy Snyder and integrating it with everything else I know. In short, human nature.

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anthony -- "The risk, while possible is not definite"--There are situations when it is definite. "We'll die but we'll not leave the fortress". "I'm dying but I won't surrender. Farewell, Motherland. 20.VII.41." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_Brest_Fortress ) Was a person who wrote this an "altruist" zombie? "If one gets Emiliano Zapata's meaning"--I do get it. But I also get that Zapata was not an individualist/"egoist" in Rand's sense.

 

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1 hour ago, Arkadi said:

anthony -- "The risk, while possible is not definite"--There are situations when it is definite. "We'll die but we'll not leave the fortress". "I'm dying but I won't surrender. Farewell, Motherland. 20.VII.41." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_Brest_Fortress ) Was a person who wrote this an "altruist" zombie? "If one gets Emiliano Zapata's meaning"--I do get it. But I also get that Zapata was not an individualist/"egoist" in Rand's sense.

 

Arkadi: Whom it came from is irrelevant - I think only the concept in isolation matters here. And as you say, you understand the abstraction of "man's life" - which is a rational, independent and free life, proper to man and to a man. If Zapata's ideal (or the ideals of "Motherland" or 'Fatherland') doesn't align with true freedom, that's by the way in this context. Then we'd have to genuinely question the value or disvalue of dying for false ideals.  

A moral and just (self-defensive) war - if fought rationally by govt and generals - should hardly ever come down to those last-ditch stands which are so glamorized. It strongly appears from my war reading, that over the course of most wars those instances you point to are the exceptions rather than the rule. Certainly at any stage the soldier has to act with resolve and conviction supported by his values. And don't ignore the rational soldier's value hierarchy: He isnt only fighting for abstractions "liberty" or "country" or "culture", he knows he is defending the concrete 'good', of the lives of specific individuals he cares about back at home and his life as proper to him. He is fighting for the soldiers beside him. If it gets down to the last resort, yup he might well make his last moments count.

Is this whom you see as a self-sacrificing "altruist"? 

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anthony -- "Is this whom you see as a self-sacrificing "altruist"?" -- I do not see anybody as a self-sacrificing "altruist". I'm using Rand's term (hence quotation marks) trying to understand what she meant by it. I.e., I do understand some aspects (e.g., that "altruism" is the opposite of generosity) but not the others.  "those instances you point to are the exceptions rather than the rule"--But in philosophy, exceptions are precisely the litmus tests of the general validity of the ideas. Either you say that those "glamorized" individuals behaved as heroes or you say that they behaved as idiots. There is no third possibility, as far as I can see. But I may be mistaken, so I'm all ears.  

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p.s. And BTW, are the majority of industrialists like John Galt? As far as I can tell, such ones are, also, "the exceptions rather than the rule." Yet I do not think that this fact blunts the edge of Rand's argument. In philosophy, it is precisely an exception that makes a point.

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Well, one might review Peikoff's Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand pp. 232, 234-236 and on from 236 where he delves into egoism.

"Giving one's life in battle" isn't a very Objectivist locution. And still, no references.

--Brant

Objectivism is for living

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2 hours ago, Arkadi said:

anthony -- "Is this whom you see as a self-sacrificing "altruist"?" -- I do not see anybody as a self-sacrificing "altruist". I'm using Rand's term (hence quotation marks) trying to understand what she meant by it. I.e., I do understand some aspects (e.g., that "altruism" is the opposite of generosity) but not the others.  "those instances you point to are the exceptions rather than the rule"--But in philosophy, exceptions are precisely the litmus tests of the general validity of the ideas. Either you say that those "glamorized" individuals behaved as heroes or you say that they behaved as idiots. There is no third possibility, as far as I can see. But I may be mistaken, so I'm all ears.  

I don't think it's possible to know for sure whether each of those individuals were behaving as heroes or as idiots because we can't put them in full context.  Unless you know a soldier personally, you don't know his value hierarchy or whether he arrived at that hierarchy rationally.  Rand's thoughts on values and the objective means by which we choose them is relevant.

On the other hand, you have some soldiers right here sharing their experiences in full context.  Are they heroes or idiots?  (That's a rhetorical question.)

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10 hours ago, Arkadi said:

turkeyfoot --... I am from Russia. Speaking of WWII: if not for the Soviets, those of us who would be alive now (not me, neither Rand, as biogenetically Jewish) would be living under Nazis. This fact is still suppressed in the West. Have you heard of the battle of Stalingrad, of the siege of Leningrad? Do you know the number of "Russians" (=the Soviet people of various ethnic descent) who died in that war? If you do not, check it out--you may be surprised. So, were all those people (or most of them) just zombies indoctrinated  by "altruism" as Rand understands it?

It is interesting that you actually believe what I bolded.

If not for the Soviets:

Almost seventy million (70,000,000) individual human beings would be alive.

If not for American lend lease the Soviet "economy" would have had your army throwing rocks.

If not for the utter stupidity of Hitler as a war commander you would not have been able to have Mother Russia's "climate change" work as effectively as it did on the other European dictator Napoleon.

Finally, I would caution you on what can be interpreted as a condescending attitude as to what Americans know about WWII, especially here on OL.

A...

Post Script...

Do you believe that the Soviet Communists did not suppress what you "learned" about Soviet history?

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14 hours ago, Arkadi said:

anthony -- "Is this whom you see as a self-sacrificing "altruist"?" -- I do not see anybody as a self-sacrificing "altruist". I'm using Rand's term (hence quotation marks) trying to understand what she meant by it. I.e., I do understand some aspects (e.g., that "altruism" is the opposite of generosity) but not the others.  "those instances you point to are the exceptions rather than the rule"--But in philosophy, exceptions are precisely the litmus tests of the general validity of the ideas. Either you say that those "glamorized" individuals behaved as heroes or you say that they behaved as idiots. There is no third possibility, as far as I can see. But I may be mistaken, so I'm all ears.  

Well yes it's so, as a spin off, that war will show up the "idiots", and will also turn up some "heroes". I don't view wars in a glamorous light - although as a dramatic setting it makes for some good films and fiction - so for me these are not important or true alternatives. The third?  Simply - "professionals". Men who have enlisted for military careers. (For the real values they recognize need protecting, and for individual, selfish benefits).

When a conflict arises, you ( the pro) always understood it may and could and that you are going to do the sometimes necessary job you contracted for. You know it is better that you the cool and skillful pro do it, since war is a filthy, savage business which most needs rational, non-savages for its undertaking and quick ending. You know what reason there is to fight it, you know the purpose and rational objectives, you know how to "make the other guy die for his country" at least risk to your life, and how to finish it off so that the other guys can't and won't try it again. Sometimes you get killed, but mainly, you get to go home after. War is an aberration but which can't be forever avoided if one values anything.

There are at least four men I read of on OL who've been in the military. Maybe they agree with my assessment. I've heard some men personally (drafted into the SADF) who fought in wasted and purposeless wars on this continent.

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dldelancey--"On the other hand, you have some soldiers right here sharing their experiences in full context"--I was talking of the soldiers who gave up their lives.  Now Brant tells me that "American soldiers risk their lives. They don't give them. That's Kamikaze". Ok, let's, then, talk about a mother who says: "If it were the only way to protect my child, I would give up my life." Brant--is this also Kamikaze from your perspective? And if not, what is the difference? We have such a mother here, so "full context" is available.

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