Two Points of View


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5 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

If you are talking about health, I still disagree with generalizing so much. For example, I prefer someone who has studied medicine to diagnose me than a layman when I get sick. For that context, that would be top down. If I cut my finger and the wound is not too deep, I'm fine with putting a little alcohol and a bandaid on it. For that context, that would be bottom down.

So a cut on your finger would be an acute health issue. That is definitely where top-down is more effective. But for long term health, you don't want to be on medication (which brings me to another thing you said that I'll bring up in a second), and therefore you are in a situation analogous to building a house... you want to start from the bottom up (diet, exercise, environment etc). The reason I use health as an example, and I say you cannot alternate between induction, deduction and back, is because 1. the stakes are too high--once you kill someone with your experiment, the experiment is over, and 2. everybody is different--you can't even get a new subject to experiment on. So if people have experience enough and intelligence enough to organize all of their abstractions and abstractions of abstractions in their minds, and they can understand how all of the evidence is pointing in a certain direction without sufficient inductive evidence to persuade someone without that combination of experience/intelligence, it would be beneficial if we could figure out how to bridge that gap so that we can minimize the well-intentioned mistakes in such a high-stakes area of life.

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Now if you are talking about government, I really really really don't see a choice.

I'm talking about economics, not specifically government. Most people (the vast majority of people I've talked to, read, watched) take a top-down approach to economics in that they prioritize the overall and immediate effects of a policy over the theoretical soundness of a policy. I will repeat myself that there is something arrogant about it because it's based on the assumption that all of the information is available, or will be shortly available, when in reality hidden costs and benefits are impossible to keep track of within complex systems (which is what this all comes down to). This is why I say there is an element of faith to a bottom up approach to such issues... Why can't the government force the restaurant to take down the "No Blacks" sign? I have not heard an answer that would satisfy the typical, top-down thinker. To a leftist, it sounds superstitious the answers people come up with: holding "principles" (property rights, in this case) up like a god.

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So it's not about which approach is better, top down or bottom up. It's about how much government you want to tolerate.

This is similar to the health problem that requires perpetual medication that I said I'd get back to. You bring up something that is sort of a general principle some people have, that I do, where I want as much independence as possible, for myself, for others, and even for other things, because it brings stability (which is needed for growth--a very bottom-up idea). That's actually a good way of explaining the different uses for top-down vs bottom-up solutions: top-down is for solving a problem (productive destruction), where bottom-up is useful for creating new value.

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Note that it is possible to live in an authoritarian society with great health care. That's a crap shoot, though, not a causal outcome from opting for top down or bottom up approaches. If Fearless Leader is intelligent, manages people will, and has mostly good intentions, health care can be awesome. If Fearless Leader is an asshole, well, you take your medicine with bugs in it.

I disagree. It's not possible because of something you mentioned: human nature. No one person has enough knowledge to make that system work, and anything good about it would have to be stolen from another, freer nation. It's like saying it's possible to be healthy while eating fast food, staying up all night, and smoking... if you have the right medication. I know you're only playing Devil's Advocate to your own argument, but the reality is that complex systems cannot be managed from top-down.

You are coming at this from a moral standpoint, which is fine, and fitting as I put this in the Ethics forum, however, the point of this thread is not about what is right, it's about communication (which you talk about in your next post).

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From "the particular" (this trade, today's sunrise, this water, etc.etc). to "the general" (all trades, all sunrises, all oceans) IS induction. And it requires cognitive effort to avoid drawing f

Top down and bottom up are not either-or. They are mental frames for perceiving and mentally processing reality. You need both to get a clear picture. Choosing one over the other is linear t

You might also want to check out Harlow's monkeys: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow Ellen

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6 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Since when does evidence persuade the majority of people?

🙂

From what I observe, the majority of people get persuaded by some really stupid things mixed with smart things--and almost always, this comes in story form.

Hmm... well this ties in to the other thread I made recently where I brought up how people learn through mimicry and that probably can tell us something about effective communication. I have to take some time to think about this... my thoughts are all over the place at the moment.

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Here in O-Land, there is a great example. Without The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand's philosophy to persuade on any large scale would not have stood a chance.

Even for libertarians who are not into Rand, the David vs. Goliath underdog story of Ron Paul in Congress all those years did more persuading than the actual ideas he espoused. Ditto for Bernie Sanders, for that matter.

Yeah... well the brain is fueled by emotion, so this is probably mostly true.

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4 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

I disagree. It's not possible...

D,

I have lived in such a system.

Brazil. Military dictatorship.

So I know it is possible.

The problem with benevolent dictators, if efficiency is your standard (as seems to be in your discussions on health), is they pass. The next guy up might be (and usually is) a jerk with no regard for human life. Then corruption ramps up and the quality of healthcare disintegrates.

Also, you might be surprised about the following. Health care is generally top notch in Islamic countries, even in some of the most dictatorial ones. It's almost a cultural thing. Look and you will see.

The point is, human nature is not a principle. It is what it is. Some very bad people can be interested in--and cultivate--some very good things. And vice-versa.

Michael

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4 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

The reason I use health as an example, and I say you cannot alternate between induction, deduction and back, is because 1. the stakes are too high--once you kill someone with your experiment, the experiment is over, and 2. everybody is different--you can't even get a new subject to experiment on.

D,

I have no idea what this means.

The mind goes back and forth between induction and deduction because that is what it does. You can't not do that. Stakes and individual differences have nothing to do with it. This is like saying you can't see and hear at the same time. You have no choice about being born with these faculties and their automatic operations.

You can operate these things up to a certain point with volition. And, after studying a bit of neuroscience and modern psychology, I found it surprising how little volition actually controls these things. But what volition does control, it controls. (That's another discussion.) The bottom line is you can't shut them off by will. You have to physically damage yourself to do that.

Law of identity and all that...

Michael

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20 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I have no idea what this means.

You observe something, induce abstract building blocks, if you will, then use deduction to theorize a way to utilize or manipulate those building blocks to improve the situation... then you use induction again to check your work.

Science is all about vigorous attempts at disproving a theory, up to a certain standard. However, that involves circumstances that can be controlled and recreated. A person's overall health, just like the health of an economy, can not be measured in relation to a specific change that happened within the complex system. If controllable experiments were possible in these regards, the issue of communication would not be so important because there would be "proof" to point to.

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42 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I have lived in such a system.

Brazil. Military dictatorship.

So I know it is possible.

"...anything good about it would have to be stolen from another, freer nation."

 

I'm not saying good things can not happen in a dictatorship. But the system is not working. It's not generating the "good." That is assuming there is no freedom within this dictatorship, which obviously couldn't be true, so their is some room for creativity even if it is only possible by breaking the laws.

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D,

Here is a premise you need to check.

Mankind has not been free throughout most of history, yet all the things we take for granted, including improvements in health, emerged regardless of whether the government was tyrannical or not. 

Trying to peg this to tyranny only by saying "X is impossible under tyranny" is leaving out way to much.

Tyranny is bad, even evil, but it doesn't have nearly the power to hold back human progress that you are attributing to it. In fact, the human species is one of the most successful species on the planet--just look at population, life extension and mobility for easily observable proof--and this has developed since ancient times mostly under tyrannies. 

Tyranny can slow down human progress in a specific region, like it often has, but it can also sponsor progress, like it often has.

Once again, we are in identify correctly so you can judge correctly territory.

As an aside, today we need to stop a globalist tyranny by technocratic elite, but we can't even make a dent without identifying why based on proper identification.

In that regard, I think President Trump has a much firmer handle on it--meaning the reality of it--than most people in our subcommunity. Notice that the first thing he cuts in tyrannies is funding. And it works to diminish their power. How many Objectivists or libertarians do you know who think that is the right thing to do as they espouse "free trade"?

That's not the only thing, either. 

Michael

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On 5/25/2020 at 6:56 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

You have hit the fundamental issue squarely in the middle.

Induction is the true bottom-up process for creating principles since it relies on observation at root. (Rand calls the process of grouping observed instances into a whole "integration.")

I have seen many people here in O-Land do nothing but top-down thinking, meaning that they take a principle as a given (as reality) and try to deduce everything from there.

For example, a typical error is to start with individual rights, then deduce social structures, justice, etc., from that. Doing it this way allows them to ignore large chunks of human nature--of observable human nature. And once that happens, off they go into the la-la land of utopia and argue your ears off while going nowhere practical. 🙂 

Communists do this, too, starting with a different principle (equality of outcome) and deducing everything from it. Notice that massive bloodshed always happens. That's because fighting is part of human nature (definition-wise, it's part of the "animal "genus in "rational animal"), and ignoring this allows it run unchecked--at least by those who can get away with it--within the systems that get built from principles only. After all, if we ignore or don't correctly identify a critical issue that is out there in reality, how can make rules that work for organizing and taming it?

This is why the checks and balances system was so brilliant and works so well for keeping an ongoing government functioning. The Founding Fathers did not try to ignore quest for power as part of human nature. They accepted it as a given and made a system where power exists at the foundation, but was highly restricted by others always trying to get more than their share, which is how human nature has worked, works and will work for the foreseeable future.

I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say the following, but this is for readers, especially those who are not clear on how this stuff works. We can deduce a lot from a principle and this is a great shortcut and extension to observation for many things, but reality is primary, not the principle. When the principle does not result in correspondence with reality, the principle needs to change since reality will not.

And the only way we can find out what reality is, unfortunately for those who prefer manmade rules as their primary mental foundation 🙂, is to observe it.

Michael

Yes, I think sometimes that some thinking folks and scholars don't get out much. It is more ivory towers and less hands on experience.

I am convinced that induction has been down-played and ignored, not just by other philosophers, famously Hume, but it doesn't get the highest recognition it deserves from O'ists, too.

We say rather glibly: This is a philosophy based in reality and reason, starting with one's senses.

But how do we *know*? How to begin to "create" the concepts? Not without inductive reasoning, we don't. And then comes the support of deduction from induced principles, to test them out in practice, in reality. And then (critically) comes one's educated - learned - knowledge to support and to be integrated with both. The combination is powerful, an irrefutable methodology.

In my reading of him, Hume almost totally eradicated induction. I reckon he (and his later university professor fans) has a lot to do with contemporary skepticism and the greatest loss of reasoning in a century.

His one statement (roughly) " I have seen the sun rise every morning, but I have no assurance it will do so tomorrow". 

Which is so ludicrous it defies inductive inferences AND deduction AND educated knowledge (the properties of planetary motion, etc.etc.) Makes one realize the uncertainty and lack of *personal* knowledge many people live in, without independent minds. And why others' minds, pseudo-scientism and authoritarian control well suits them. They will demand:

"You must "prove" to me the efficacy of (e.g.) Capitalism!!" To which the first rational reply is: Can you SEE? (if you can't, what more can be said).

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1 hour ago, anthony said:

In my reading of him, Hume almost totally eradicated induction. I reckon he (and his later university professor fans) has a lot to do with contemporary skepticism and the greatest loss of reasoning in a century.

His one statement (roughly) " I have seen the sun rise every morning, but I have no assurance it will do so tomorrow". 

Tony,

The big switcheraroonie here is to presuppose that irrefutable deduction through propositions (which is kinda the propositional form of reductionism) is the only valid form of assurance.

It becomes clear if you spell out the meaning, then apply it to a different case.

Using your paraphrase (if paraphrase it is--and I am too lazy to look it up right now), here is what it looks like with the meaning in clear terms: "I have seen the sun rise every morning, but I have no way to irrefutably deduce from propositions it will do so tomorrow."

Now, let's apply it to a different case. Look at a friend or spouse or child. Then say to them, "I have seen you have one head every morning, but I have no way to irrefutably deduce from propositions I will not see you have two heads tomorrow."

🙂

In other words, one does not deduce fundamental patterns. One observes them and creates a name or concept for them (with accompanying storylines). One can deduce things about them, but one cannot deduce them into existence or out.

There is a cognitive category of observations where that is commonplace and valid, though. It is called fiction.

Michael

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10 hours ago, Jules Troy said:

One of the biggest life extending “medical” advancements that increased human longevity was running water.  The Romans did a pretty good job with that.

And having one sex partner. One "mate."

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14 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

The big switcheraroonie here is to presuppose that irrefutable deduction through propositions (which is kinda the propositional form of reductionism) is the only valid form of assurance.

It becomes clear if you spell out the meaning, then apply it to a different case.

Using your paraphrase (if paraphrase it is--and I am too lazy to look it up right now), here is what it looks like with the meaning in clear terms: "I have seen the sun rise every morning, but I have no way to irrefutably deduce from propositions it will do so tomorrow."

Now, let's apply it to a different case. Look at a friend or spouse or child. Then say to them, "I have seen you have one head every morning, but I have no way to irrefutably deduce from propositions I will not see you have two heads tomorrow."

🙂

In other words, one does not deduce fundamental patterns. One observes them and creates a name or concept for them (with accompanying storylines). One can deduce things about them, but one cannot deduce them into existence or out.

There is a cognitive category of observations where that is commonplace and valid, though. It is called fiction.

Michael

All of this leads to the final, grandest feat of induction: "the one from the many". While not "the One" as being "God" (- that indicates the theologians were on the right track, while concluding wrongly).

Existence = the one. The totality and singularity of all things. Which we can induce from many observed, specific entities and existents and causal relationships.

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22 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Mankind has not been free throughout most of history, yet all the things we take for granted, including improvements in health, emerged regardless of whether the government was tyrannical or not. 

 

Michael

"Things we take for granted". That's something I have noticed increasingly. "Forgranted - itis"  I call it, and another sign of this unthinking era. For whatever cause - people's jaded ennui, cynicism or plain boredom and not enough to do.

Have you seen Michael, those mostly Leftists, and their inversion of identification? They take the institutions, the government, the producers, the creators, the arts, and all the rest which is *man made* - "for granted" -- as if it is all the *metaphysically-given*. Those things are just THERE. To them. Like Nature.

Which means logically that they will have zero appreciation for the hard won liberty and freedoms they enjoy - the effects of past thinkers and actors who removed mankind from despotism? Coming out of the US, especially. I've read and heard in the last decade of much self-criticisms, guilt, self-doubt and self-flagellation from Americans, all of which I have to say dismayed me. The Constitution too has been belittled, as you know. 

So your's wasn't and isn't a "perfect" society and nation. Outside of Utopia, where is one? Yes, there were some past wrongs. But don't you know what you have? (I wanted to tell them). You have the freedom, among others, to harshly critique your own country (and that too is taken for granted by you).

[To take for granted: Related to the fallacy of the stolen concept, being dependent upon a concept or presuming upon it, in order to degrade or reject it). Like socialists do with Capitalism]

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20 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

D,

Here is a premise you need to check.

Mankind has not been free throughout most of history, yet all the things we take for granted, including improvements in health, emerged regardless of whether the government was tyrannical or not. 

Trying to peg this to tyranny only by saying "X is impossible under tyranny" is leaving out way to much.

Tyranny is bad, even evil, but it doesn't have nearly the power to hold back human progress that you are attributing to it. In fact, the human species is one of the most successful species on the planet--just look at population, life extension and mobility for easily observable proof--and this has developed since ancient times mostly under tyrannies. 

Tyranny can slow down human progress in a specific region, like it often has, but it can also sponsor progress, like it often has.

Once again, we are in identify correctly so you can judge correctly territory.

As an aside, today we need to stop a globalist tyranny by technocratic elite, but we can't even make a dent without identifying why based on proper identification.

In that regard, I think President Trump has a much firmer handle on it--meaning the reality of it--than most people in our subcommunity. Notice that the first thing he cuts in tyrannies is funding. And it works to diminish their power. How many Objectivists or libertarians do you know who think that is the right thing to do as they espouse "free trade"?

That's not the only thing, either. 

Michael

There are degrees of freedom, and with zero freedom survival is impossible. All the things we take for granted came out of the freedom that people had to act on their deliberation, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes... which is why the biggest leap forward in quality of life, by far, was in the freest nation to ever exist. When the system is allowed to work, which means the individuals that make up that system are unencumbered, you will have relatively greater creation of value in every aspect of life, depending on how long that freedom has existed vs another nation with much less freedom but a much longer history.

Again you are making this purely a moral issue when there is also the fact that we can see in other systems, where morality is not a question, that the same philosophy works better. Top down control is not just morally wrong when it comes to societies, it doesn't seem to work in any system. When people are not interested in your morality, because they are looking at society from the top-down, what do you do? Appeal to their perspective or try to make them look at it from the other way?

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16 hours ago, anthony said:

I am convinced that induction has been down-played and ignored, not just by other philosophers, famously Hume, but it doesn't get the highest recognition it deserves from O'ists, too.

Induction is automatic, though... you don't have to convince someone to use induction. Induction is how liberal policies are conceived... quickly and recklessly. Deduction requires very careful induction, making sure what you are inducing is so simple that it can be disproven very easily... and if it cannot be disproven it is safe to use as a building block.

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How to begin to "create" the concepts? Not without inductive reasoning, we don't. And then comes the support of deduction from induced principles, to test them out in practice, in reality.

I basically said this exact thing a few posts ago to Michael... he said it made no sense.

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"You must "prove" to me the efficacy of (e.g.) Capitalism!!" To which the first rational reply is: Can you SEE? (if you can't, what more can be said).

Can you see what? Of course they can see, they just don't make the same connections you do. Why? Because they are not using deduction to enhance their perspective.

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3 hours ago, anthony said:

"Things we take for granted". That's something I have noticed increasingly. "Forgranted - itis"  I call it, and another sign of this unthinking era. For whatever cause - people's jaded ennui, cynicism or plain boredom and not enough to do.

Have you seen Michael, those mostly Leftists, and their inversion of identification? They take the institutions, the government, the producers, the creators, the arts, and all the rest which is *man made* - "for granted" -- as if it is all the *metaphysically-given*. Those things are just THERE. To them.

Which means logically that they will have zero appreciation for the hard won liberty and freedoms they enjoy nor for past thinkers and actors who removed mankind from despotism? Coming out of the US, especially. I read and heard of more self-criticisms, guilt, self-doubt and self-flagellation from Americans in the last decade, all of which dismayed me.

Tony,

I have been mulling over the idea of ideological imprinting. Take a look at this article:

Konrad Lorenz's Imprinting Theory

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Lorenz (1935) investigated the mechanisms of imprinting, where some species of animals form an attachment to the first large moving object that they meet.

This process suggests that attachment is innate and programmed genetically.

He took a large clutch of goose eggs and kept them until they were about to hatch out.  Half of the eggs were then placed under a goose mother, while Lorenz kept the other half hatched in an incubator, with Lorenz making sure he was the first moving object the newly hatched goslings encountered

The naturally hatched baby goslings followed their mother, while the incubator hatched ones follow Lorenz.

To ensure imprinting had occurred Lorenz put all the goslings together under an upturned box and allowed them to mix.  When the box was removed the two groups separated to go to their respective 'mothers' - half to the goose, and half to Lorenz.

. . .

Hess (1958) showed that although the imprinting process could occur as early as one hour after hatching, the strongest responses occurred between 12 and 17 hours after hatching, and that after 32 hours the response was unlikely to occur at all.

. . .

Lorenz and Hess believe that once imprinting has occurred, it cannot be reversed, nor can a gosling imprint on anything else.

Here's a video from that article:

 

And imprinting in humans? Rand covered this in "The Comprachicos," albeit she did not use the term "imprinting." She mentioned a Catholic group that said, "Give us a boy until 7 years old and you can do what you like with the man," or something to that effect.

We know that the brains of young people don't stop developing until they are in their 20s. So I wonder if there is a time stretch in their school years where they are susceptible to ideological imprinting. Instead of following a parent, like the geese, they follow a core set of ideas and a core set of storylines that frame their perception of reality and social interactions.

An entire generation of Americans has been indoctrinated by leftwing propaganda in schools and universities--probably imprinted. In the last 20 years we have seen them come into adulthood. Ergo the mess you have observed.

And notice how hard it is to reason with them.

Imprinting isn't the whole story for something as complex as the human mind, but based on what I have seen, it sure explains a lot.

I am almost certain that Trump Derangement Syndrome is based on imprinting for many people. Their hatred of him is visceral. I think it might go back to them being bullied when their brains were susceptible to being imprinted (or a process similar to that), or they took to heart stories where the bad guy or monster did similar things (like bragging, calling people names, etc., in a gruff voice) and this scared the hell out of them. 

If these young people were taught--at an imprinting stage of their brains--that stuff and human progress came from their surrogate "parents" and not from the human mind, that would explain why they take stuff and human progress for granted. In the abundance we live in today compared to previous centuries, what do they have to compare their imprints against? In their brains, so long as they follow their surrogate parents (the state or group or whatever), they will always have stuff and progress. And they always do. In reality, it's not because their surrogate parents provided it, but it sure as hell looks like that to them.

I have done a lot of thought about why elitists feel deep down that they are superior to the rest of mankind, they are the slavemasters by right and birth, so to speak. Some are highly intelligent people who should know better. I wonder if they were imprinted that way in their families or social environments right around the time their brains were susceptible to this process.

If so, that's why no amount of reasoning works with them and, even today, many still believe President Trump was elected by Russian meddling. The people they follow say so, thus that is what they believe sight unseen. They have been imprinted to believe what they are told by people in certain roles.

And that is probably why the people who snap out of this talk about how difficult and painful it was to do that. 

Michael

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7 hours ago, anthony said:

All of this leads to the final, grandest feat of induction: "the one from the many".

Tony,

Although Rand does not harp on it, when something is integrated into a whole, the one is always more than the sum of its parts.

This is one of the things Peikoff got right in his DIM hypothesis when he talked about mis-integration and the Frankenstein monster. You can collect arms, legs, torso, head and so on, but if they are not integrated, they are body pieces grouped together and nothing more than they are. Integrated, they are a human being, which is much more than the sum of those parts.

This applies to concepts to which new knowledge is constantly added. The concept is more than just the instances of knowledge that are integrated into it. That's why we can do more with concepts than with their parts only.

In a general sense, I suppose we become aware of wholes through induction and the parts through deduction, but I want to think on that more before raising it to a principle. I'm thinking specifically about holons right now, but not exclusively about them.

And even more, I'm thinking about how far I am able to drift from a topic. 🙂 

Michael

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I see this thread is in Ethics, so I will plant a garden there. I looked up the name “Wolfgang” and found a reference to Mozart and some interesting letters about Objectivist ethics from Ghs, Gayle Dean, Steve Reed, Bill Dwyer, Ellen S, BB, etc. This thread was huge so I cropped out a bunch of letters near the end. Sorry, to those authors. Peter

From: "George H. Smith" Reply- To: "Atlantis" <Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Randian hermeneutics Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2001 22:21:29 -0600. Gayle Dean wrote: "I do not think that George's method of interpreting textual quotes from Rand (while ignoring her fundamentals) is productive.  When abstract "text interpretations" contradict fundamental premises, then I'm going to stick with the fundamentals and assume that it is the interpretations that are incorrect."

Translated: We should not pay attention to what Rand actually wrote when attempting to ascertain what she meant. All we need do is to consult Gayle about "fundamentals" and go from there.

Okay, Gayle, let's deal with fundamentals. Rand attacked what she called a "beneficiary criterion" of ethics, i.e, she opposed the notion that the beneficiary of an action should be our primary consideration in determining the moral worth of an action. That sounds pretty fundamental to me. If you have textual citations to the contrary, I would like to see them -- or do you regard *everything* Rand wrote as irrelevant in matters of interpretation? I previously joked about Gayle "channeling" Rand's views from beyond the grave. I thought this was a far-fetched joke, but now I'm not so sure.

Gayle wrote: "Bill has provided many quotes from Rand which have been interpreted differently by George."

Such as? It would take no more time for Gayle to actually quote these passages than it does to explain, over and over again, why she needn't quote them.

Gayle wrote: "As far as my providing textual evidence, I forwarded lengthy papers by Ari Armstrong that carefully examined the parts of Rand's text where most people go astray and Ari dispensed with many of George's points in those papers."

If Ari would like to participate in this discussion, then he is more than welcome. As things stand now, however, I am arguing with Gayle, and I will not bow to her constant appeals to authority.

Gayle wrote: "And to suggest that Rand is not an egoist --as George did in an earlier post-- is the height of nonsense.  I consider Rand to be a narrow, consequentialist, egoist.    But, if George won't even take Rand's word for that basic fact --i.e., that Rand is an egoist -- then how can he be expected to correctly interpret anything else she has to say in support of her egoism?"

I never said or suggested that Rand was not an egoist of some sort. I merely said -- what Rand herself admitted -- that her egoism is of a highly unusual variety, and that her conception of "self-interest" is not the same as has been widely understood in the history of ethical theory. (Read the Introduction to VOS, where Rand says much the same thing.)

I notice that Gayle conveniently dodged two questions from my earlier post, so I will quote them in the hope that they will catch her attention this time: "I would therefore ask Gayle the following questions: (1) If your interpretation of Rand is correct, then why did she insist that her "egoism" was not of the conventional variety? (2) And what did Rand mean in stressing the importance of *justice* in her ethical theory?"

In asserting that Rand is "a narrow, consequentalist egoist," Gayle has partially answered the first question. She is saying that Rand differs not at all from the egoists who preceded her, so Gayle is also saying that Rand was incorrect in attempting to distinguish her ethics in any fundamental way from many earlier egoists. But I would like Gayle say this explicitly, so there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that Rand (according to Gayle) was simply advocating the same garden-variety egoism that we have seen many times before.

But this interpretation, if correct, leaves hanging the second question, namely,  "What did Rand mean in stressing the importance of *justice* in her ethical theory?" Rand's stress on the concept of justice is very difficult to reconcile with a "narrow consequentialist egoism." Yet she leaves no doubt that the concept of justice is a *fundamental* element in her *social* ethics, one that distinguished her approach from other egoistic theories. So why did Rand say this? Was it just something that popped out during an unthinking moment, something that she really didn't mean to say? Is this what Gayle thinks? Or just Gayle prefer to deal with this like she deals with other inconvenient passages, i.e., by ignoring it altogether? That's some method of interpretation. Ghs

From: Will Murphy To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Re: Checking Premises Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2001 20:37:15 -0800 (PST) --- Gayle Dean wrote: > Rand held that any action that is not in one's self-interests (i.e., moral) is against one's interests (i.e., immoral.)

This view of Rand's philosophy is completely specious. Gayle is attempting to put the cart before the horse. Moreover, it gives additional credence to George's accusation that Gayle has altogether failed to textually justify her interpretation of Rand's ethics. Rand most certainly did not, as Gayle suggests, define good and evil in terms of what is in one's self-interest and what is against it.  In the "Objectivist Ethics" (VOS p. 23) she clearly states that: "The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics- the standard by which one judges what is good or evil- is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.  Since reason is man's basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil."

This is irrefragable evidence against Gayle's interpretation.  Rand's derivation of the standards for good and evil necessarily precedes her considerations of the ethical status of self-interest. To deny this is to do a grave injustice to her philosophy, regardless of whether or not Gayle agrees with Rand's ideas. Will Murphy

From: "George H. Smith" Reply-To: "George H. Smith" To: "Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Checking Premises Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2001 23:13:37 -0600 I wrote: "Moral principles, as Rand emphasizes, are *guides* to actions; they are not categorical imperatives that must be obeyed unconditionally, apart from context."

Gayle wrote: "Right, but in any given context, principles cannot conflict and if an action is the moral action to take (in a particular context), then it must be taken.  Rand held that any action that is not in one's self-interests (i.e., moral) is against one's interests (i.e., immoral.)"

Exactly where does Rand say "that any action that is not in one's self-interests (i.e., moral) is against one's interests (i.e., immoral.)" -- or am I once again out of line in asking for textual corroboration of Gayle's arbitrary assertions? Rand's analysis was far from being this simplistic. In any case, Bill previously agreed with me (or at least I think he did) that the starving man in an emergency scenario is not faced with one, and only one, legitimate moral alternative. He *may* choose to steal, but he also may choose *not* to steal, and in either case his choice would be morally justified. Now these two options conflict in the sense that they may lead to incompatible consequences. The man would survive with the first option, but possibly not with the second. But if *either* of these two conflicting results may be morally justified, then each must be based on the application of a moral principle that "conflicts" with the other. It's quite simple, really, for those who are not trapped in a dogmatic and unduly narrow view of "obligation." Or does Gayle contend that the starving man has the moral *duty*  to steal food, that this is morally *mandatory,* and that no other option is even morally *permissible*? If so, then Gayle is even more of Kantian than I previously imagined.

But if this is not Gayle's position, if she agrees that the starving man is faced with legitimate moral options, and that stealing food is not his *sole* moral alternative, then where do these legitimate options come from, if not from different moral principles, not all of which can be applied *simultaneously* to this situation?

In short, if various options with incompatible results can be justified in an emergency situation, then those legitimate options can be justified only by appealing to different (and "conflicting") moral principle which will generate those incompatible results. If, when deciding whether to sacrifice myself or the life of a close friend in a "lifeboat" emergency, an egoistic ethics cannot proclaim that one alternative alone is my moral "duty" (as Bill conceded) -- i.e., if either option can be justified -- then we are indeed dealing with the conflicting *application* of  moral principles, since the application of one principle will lead to one justifiable result, while the application of the other principle will lead to another justifiable result. (Note that I said conflicting *applications,* rather than conflicting principles per se.)

I eagerly await Gayle's defense of the view that the starving man has only one moral option, and that he is "immoral" if he chooses *not* to steal -- for this duty-based view of egoism is the only way she will be able to support her otherwise untenable view of moral principles. I eagerly await, in other words, Gayle's version of Kantian egoism.

Gayle wrote: "George is still missing the argument.  While it's true that one can (morally) choose to lie in contextual circumstance #A, it is not the case that in circumstance #A the moral course can be --either to lie or to not lie.  And this is what George is saying, in essence. George himself is dropping the very context he is advocating. Bill and I are not saying that one must NEVER lie as a categorical imperative.  We are saying that in *each case* the moral action is to either lie or to not lie.  It cannot be both and it cannot be either/or. It must be *only one* of the two options.  There cannot be conflicting principles."

I have stated before that I agree that there should not be any conflict in one's theoretical ethics. But we are here discussing the *application* of highly abstract principles to complex real-life situations. And since an emergency situation, by definition, is one in which there is a legitimate conflict of interests, it stands to reason that the *application* of moral principles, which were *not* formulated with emergencies in mind, might easily compel us to choose among conflicting values. This, after all, is the purpose of moral deliberation and judgment -- concepts that would be unnecessary if moral choices consisted of nothing more than the mechanical application of imperatives to particular situations, including emergencies. Ghs

From: Ellen Stuttle  To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: what's wrong with 'solipsistic' egoism? Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2001 00:28:51 -0500. Then it seems that what you're asking is the question "Why be moral?" No one *does* have to "live any type of life that he doesn't want for himself."  To use the example of a Mafia gangster, very possibly nothing I or anyone else could say to a person who wants the life of a Mafia gangster would dent the desire.  But would it be a good life by the standard of a rational ethics?  No, it wouldn't, any more than consuming a quart of alcohol a day would be a healthy life. Or, to make this personal:  If you yourself don't want to live according to a rational code of values, then you don't gotta do it. But if you want to, then you need to know what a rational code of values is, and that's what ethics can tell you. Ellen S.

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Question for Gayle (or: Lies and Rights in Gayle's Language) Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2001 01:19:46 -0500. Gayle, In a circumstance where you think it would be advisable to lie (for whatever reason), does the lie become not a lie? If a lie is a lie, why ever told, then why would you claim that in a circumstance where you think a rights violation is justifiable, rights become not rights?  How do *you* define rights such that you consider them to disappear when their violation is justified?  Or maybe you don't think the concept of rights has any validity at all, period? Ellen S.

From: "George H. Smith" Reply-To: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Food for thought Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 01:28:17 -0600. It is hardly surprising that the issues now being discussed on Atlantis -- specifically, the relationship between self-interest and rights -- was discussed in some detail by 18th century moral philosophers. For this was the age when "self-interest" -- or "cool self-love," as Joseph (aka Bishop) Butler called it -- was in the ascendancy. Self-interest was often compared to Newton's law of gravitation, for it was the universal principle of human action, the fundamental principle of social "attraction" which could explain the spontaneous harmony of interests (both moral and economic) that resulted from voluntary interaction.  The writings of Bishop Butler (his "Sermons" and "Dissertation Upon Virtue") are especially interesting in this respect. Butler is well known among moral philosophers for three things: (1) his discussion of "conscience" and its role in moral decision making (something that would have a profound impact on Adam Smith and other moralists); (2) his refutation of psychological egoism, according to which all actions are necessarily egoistic, because every action is necessarily motivated by some "interest" or "end" of the acting agent; and (3) his defense of "cool self-love" as fully compatible with benevolence and other actions which are supposedly "other regarding." (Thus his reconciliation of benevolence and self-interest would also apply to rights.)

Butler, like many philosophers of his day, distinguished between two kinds of "self-interest." The first (which we might call irrational or short-sighted self-interest) was often dubbed "selfishness," whereas the other was called self-love, or rational self-interest -- or "cool self-interest," in Butler's memorable phrase. Butler's analysis is quite subtle and complex, so I cannot possibly do it justice here. But I will quote a brief passage or two, in the hope that this may motivate others to read him in more detail:

"Self-love and any particular passion may be joined together; and from this complication it becomes impossible in numberless instances to determine precisely, how far an action, even of one's own, has for its principle general self-love, or some particular passion....The very idea of an interested pursuit necessarily presupposes particular passions or appetites; since the very idea of interest or happiness consists in this, that an appetite or affection enjoys its object. It is not because we love ourselves that we find delight in such and such objects, but because we have particular affections towards them. Take away these affections, and you leave self-love absolutely nothing at all to employ itself about; no end or object for it to pursue, excepting only that of avoiding pain.....

"The truth of that observation might be made appear in a more formal manner of proof: for whoever will consider all the possible respects and relations which any particular affection can have to self-love and private interest, will, I think, see demonstrably, that benevolence is not in any respect more at variance with self-love, than any other particular affection whatever, but that it is in every respect, at least, as friendly to it.

"If the observation be true, it follows, that self-love and benevolence, virtue and interest, are not to be opposed, but only to be distinguished from each other; in the same way as virtue and any other particular affection, love of arts, suppose, are to be distinguished. Everything is what it is, and not another thing. The goodness or badness of actions does not arise from hence, that the epithet, interested or disinterested, may be applied to them, any more than that any other indifferent epithet, suppose inquisitive or jealous, may or may not be applied to them; not from their being attended with present or future pleasure or pain; but from their being what they are; namely, what becomes such creatures as we are, what the state of the case requires, or the contrary. Or, in other words, we may judge and determine, that an action is morally good or evil, before we so much as consider, whether it be interested or disinterested....Self-love in its due degree is as just and morally good, as any affection whatever."

These passages are from the two-volume anthology *British Moralists* ed. by L.A. Selby-Bigge, which has been reprinted in one very thick volume (around 900 pages) by Bobbs Merrill. This invaluable anthology contains very long excerpts from 17th and 18th century works that are exceedingly difficult to find, such as those by Hutcheson, Cudworth, Clarke, Wollaston, Price, and others. I don't think this book is in print, so you should definitely buy any used copy that you are fortunate enough to find. I cannot think of any anthology that is as useful as this one is, since many of the discussions focus on various problems relating to self-interest (which, as I said, was a dominant theme during this period). Ghs

From: "George H. Smith" Reply-To: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: AR on interests Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 04:50:49 -0600 In Ayn Rand's essay, "The Conflicts of Men's Interests," she discusses four aspects of that "wide abstraction" called "interests." These are Reality, Context, Responsibility, and Effort. And it is highly significant that in at least two of these discussions she explicitly argues that a rational man must take the moral status of *others* as "ends in themselves," into account when determining his *own* interests.

For example, under "Context," Rand writes: "A rational man does not indulge in wistful longings for ends divorced from means. He does not hold a desire without knowing (or learning) and considering the means by which it is to be achieved. Since he knows that nature does not provide man with the automatic satisfaction of his desires, that a man's goals or values have to be achieved by his own effort, *that the lives and efforts of other men are not his property and are not there to serve his wishes* [my emphasis] -- a rational man never holds a desire or pursues a goal which cannot be achieved directly or *indirectly* by his own effort" (VOS, p. 52).

Under "Responsibility," Rand writes: "In dropping the responsibility for one's own interests and life, one drops the responsibility of *ever having to consider the interests and lives of others* [my emphasis] -- of those others who are, somehow, to provide the satisfaction of one's desires" (p. 54).

This last statement -- that a responsible person must take "the interests and lives of others" into account when determining his own interests --is a clear a repudiation of the solipsistic egoism that Bill and Gayle have been attributing to Rand. And Rand's earlier statement -- that context demands that a rational person keep in mind "that the lives and efforts of other men are not his property and are not there to serve his wishes" -- is a remarkably clear formulation of her argument that my interests do *not* determine your rights, but rather the reverse, viz: *Your* rights define and delimit the sphere of *my* morally legitimate interests.

These comments, remember, come from Rand's most detailed discussion of how she viewed the notion of "self-interest." Thus, from Rand's perspective, Bill and Gayle have everything 180 degrees in reverse. This was the point of my earlier (and somewhat over the top) Bizarro analogy. No doubt Gayle will once again accuse me of quoting irrelevant, out-of-context passages which are not consistent with  her  mystical insights into Rand fundamental premises. Be that as it may, I prefer sticking with what Rand actually said (time and again), since I have a inherent distrust of crystal balls. When it comes to understanding Rand's position, Gayle bids me to read Ari -- whereas I bid her to read Ayn. Ghs

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: PS: ATL: what's wrong with 'solipsistic' egoism? Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2001 06:57:47 -0500. I've been struck by a thought about Luka's questions (as I said before, I find his questions interesting). I gave the example of a Mafia gangster. I said: "...very possibly nothing I or anyone else could say to a person who wants the life of a Mafia gangster would dent the desire. But would it be a good life by the standard of a rational ethics?  No, it wouldn't, any more than consuming a quart of alcohol a day would be a healthy life."

 

An example on the other side of the street: Very possibly nothing I or anyone else could say would ever have deterred one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from writing music. Mozart had his personality quirks which didn't get ironed out -- after all, he had a tyrannical father, difficult life circumstances, and he died at age 36.  His life wasn't what I'd consider "ideal." But, along with close to 100% of other knowledgeable musicians whose opinions on Mozart I've ever heard, I would rank Mozart as the most amazing musical genius ever.  And if asked, was it good, by the standard of a rational ethics, that he was consumedly dedicated to his art?, I would answer, yes, oh, yes.

The issue of what's good or bad isn't an issue of what arguments you might use to change a person.  Several times I've noticed people (not just Luka) asking, well, if you can't convince the person, how is it good?  The standard isn't an issue of whether or not anyone chooses to adopt it, but of what does in fact conduce to a rational human life. Ellen S.

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: what's wrong with 'solipsistic' egoism? Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 09:14:22 EST. Luka wrote: <What is wrong, logically, with the claim that the standard of value for any given person is the type of life that he wants for himself? For those of you who disagree with this claim, I'd like to hear a non-duty based reason to reject that standard.>>

A lot is wrong with the idea that the standard of value for any given person is the type of life that he wants for himself. First and foremost, it is utterly subjective. If, for instance, I decide that I value idleness, then it is perfectly legitimate for me to mooch off other people in order to have the money to be idle. If I decide that I  value being thought an innovator, then it is perfectly legitimate for me to lie and cheat about my accomplishments and to steal other people's work, in order to achieve this goal. And there go rights, and reason, and objective values.

As Ayn Rand stated, with which I agree -- and for which she gave a lengthy and important validation in Galt's speech -- *life,* not subjective preferences, is the standard of value. If survival is the good, then man's life (according to his nature as a rational being) is the only defensible standard of value. May I suggest, Luka, that you reread this section of Galt's speech. I consider it probably the most important and innovative identification in her philosophy: the proof that values arise from facts; that man's life is rationally his highest value because he requires the acceptance of that value in order to survive. Barbara

From: Steve Reed To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: The Smith graduate ethics seminar Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2001 08:37:14 -0600. I know that I'm not of the disposition, at least at the moment (with many other events and concerns hitting my life), to initiate or get into the thick of a dialogue on ethics. Yet I can appreciate when some substance on the topic, and some sprightly leads to further inquiry, are being offered.

George Smith has been more generous, on this score, and especially yesterday (Saturday), than we have any right to expect, and I want to thank him for it in a public manner. It should be apparent that I see him being the one, in this tilt-o'-tonsils with the determinists, who's backed up his points.

What has gone beyond this, though, is his offering links and resonances from other writers. I especially enjoyed his citing Bishop Butler's commentary on "cool self-interest" last night.

It's hard to keep in mind the specifics of just -how- Rand's work was imbedded in a centuries-long effort of inquiry ... especially when those at ARI are working overtime to discourage our being aware of any of it. George is sharing a genuine and productive erudition in giving us examples, many of whom likely slid past us in undergraduate philosophy courses. (As happened with me. But too many such faculty were Kantian moralists for me to learn from their efforts when it was happening, back then.)

I know I've been soaking this up, on the sidelines of the Smith v. Dwyer battle royal, and find what George offers to almost comprise a postgraduate seminar. Or what's better than a static "education" ... live leads to productive inquiry on one's own. I always learned more, on the way to my own B.A., from my own reading (or what others sparked me to find) than from what was prescribed in courses. It remains that way. * SteveReed

"The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, so bring snacks and a magazine." -- Kay Crain

From: "Gayle Dean" To: "Atlantis" <Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Emergencies Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 09:42:53 -0500. Barbara wrote: >You can't simply pick and choose among rights, Luka. Rights are not separable  into different categories according to whatever situation one happens to be  in or according to what suits one's convenience of the moment.

Sure they are!!  What happened to the context, Barbara??  Criminals lose some, but not all of their rights.  Mentally ill people lose some, but not all of their rights and both can either lose or retain them, depending on the situation.  A thief loses his right to freedom (when he robs people) but retains the right to not be physically attacked while in jail.  What are you talking about?? Again, rights are not an intrinsic property that inhere in people as George and Barbara seem to believe. Gayle

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: ATL: What's wrong with 'solopsistic' egoism? Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 09:47:11 EST

Luka wrote: <<What is wrong, logically, with the claim that the standard of value for any given person is the type of life that he wants for himself? For those of you who disagree with this claim, I'd like to hear a non-duty based reason to reject that standard.>>

A lot is wrong with the idea that the standard of value for any given person is the type of life that he wants for himself. First and foremost, it is utterly subjective. If, for instance, I  decide that I value idleness, then it is perfectly legitimate for me to mooch off other people in order to have the money to be idle. If I decide that I  value being thought an innovator, then it is perfectly legitimate for me to lie and cheat about my accomplishments and to steal other people's work, in order to achieve this goal. And there go rights, and reason, and objective values.

As Ayn Rand stated, with which I agree -- and for which she gave a lengthy and important validation in Galt's speech -- *life,* not subjective preferences, is the standard of value. If survival is the good, then man's life (according to his nature as a rational being) is the only defensible standard of value. May I suggest, Luka, that you reread this section of Galt's speech. I consider it probably the most important and innovative identification in her philosophy: the proof that values arise from facts; that man's life is rationally his highest value because he requires the acceptance of that value in order to survive. Barbara

From: DXIMGR To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Three Quick Questions for Bill Dwyer Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 10:22:37 EST 1. Could Bill please address what he imagines the legal code of a free society, working under Objectivist legal principles, would be as regards his view of emergencies? It would seem that in any putative rights violation, judges and juries would have to not only deal with objective issues (A ate B's bread) but also extremely subjective issues (A claims he was in an emergency situation...A claims he *thought* he was in an emergency situation...expert witness C claims A could have lasted x more days without B's bread...neighbor D claims he would have offered bread to A had A asked...etc...) Does Bill have no concern that arbitrating such more elaborate issues might aggregate more power than is prudent in the hands of the government? Would he be surprised, for example, to find politically favored groups or individuals find themselves in more emergency situations than others?

2. Does Bill claim Rand's famous aphorism in Atlas Shrugged should, more explicitly, be read as: "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine, unless I find myself in an emergency, in which case I will be free to ignore the second clause."?

3. Assuming Bill's interpretation of Rand's philosophy is correct, there is an interesting question arising from the Atlas Shrugged plotline; on the assumption that the collapse of the entire economy constitutes a true emergency (transportation was breaking down; Mouch couldn't get his grapefruit juice, mass starvation was likely only days away), why were Wesley Mouch and Jim Taggert wrong to torture Galt in order to force him to save the economy? Surely Galt has no right not to be tortured if Mouch and the others find themselves in an emergency situation and torturing Galt is the only way they see they might be able to save themselves. Does Bill think they were right to torture Galt? Ross (just dropping in for a moment) Levatter

From: "George H. Smith" Reply- To: "Atlantis" <Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Emergencies Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 09:51:09 -0600 Barbara Branden wrote: "You can't simply pick and choose among rights, Luka. Rights are not separable into different categories according to whatever situation one happens to be  in or according to what suits one's convenience of the moment."

And Gayle Dean replied: "Sure they are!!  What happened to the context, Barbara??  Criminals lose some, but not all of their rights.  Mentally ill people lose some, but not all of their rights and both can either lose or retain them, depending on the situation.  A thief loses his right to freedom (when he robs people) but retains the right to not be physically attacked while in jail.  What are you talking about??"

It is highly instructive, is it not, that Gayle defends the theory of (partially) vanishing rights by comparing the ex-rights of a completely innocent person -- whose only "crime" happens to be that someone else needed his property -- to rights which are taken from criminals. We are thus moving, by the inner logic of vanishing rights, closer and closer to a kind of outright altruism of most vicious sort -- wherein Gayle's *needs* can make you the moral equivalent of a criminal by depriving you of the selfsame rights that we take from criminals, even though your only "crime" was to own something which Gayle needed in order to survive. This is really getting creepy, like something straight out of the mouths of villains in *Atlas Shrugged.*

On a more technical and less polemical note: We can (ideally) deprive criminals of rights in proportion to the crimes they have committed (hence the notion of proportionality in justice, i.e., the punishment should "fit" the crime). But what crime have I committed, if I am unfortunate enough to be the object of Gayle's "emergency" needs? What crime have I committed against which we can measure which rights I should lose, and which rights I should be permitted to retain, as in the case of a criminal?

The answer, of course, is that I have not committed any crime whatsoever. I have done nothing to *deserve* being stripped of any rights, but have merely found myself, through no fault of my own, in the unfortunate position of being the object of Gayle's emergency *needs.* Thus my rights exist in an inverse ratio to Gayle's needs. If she needs my food, and if I am not at home at the time, then she may graciously concede that I still retain my right to life, since she doesn't *need* to kill me to get the food. But if she does *need* to kill me (e.g., if I am at home but refuse her entry or assistance of any kind), then I lose my right to life as well.

The case of a criminal and the case of a person in need therefore constitute two radically different cases. Rights can be proportionally taken away in the former instance, because the criminal has committed specific acts of injustice which can serve as a measure of sorts. But in the latter case, I have committed no injustice against others, so the only measure of my rights -- i.e., the only criterion as to which rights do and don't vanish -- is Gayle's needs. And if she should need to kill me, then *all* my rights vanish, including my right to life.

Hence the only security that my right to life will not vanish in an emergency scenario is if I am lucky enough not to be home at the time that Gayle barges in demanding food. In other words, my right to life exists only if I am too far away from Gayle for it to do me any good. And at the moment that my right to life does become relevant (i.e., at the moment that I might come into physical contact to Gayle), then my right to life suddenly vanishes, according to Gayle's theory.

 

All this is a purely a matter of happenstance, not principle, according to the theory of vanishing rights. For all intents and purposes, I have lost all rights, including my right to life, when confronted with Gayle's overriding need to my property. For the moment when I most need my right to life is precisely the moment when my right to life disappears in a puff of moral sophistry. Ghs

From: "William Dwyer" Reply-To: "William Dwyer" To: <atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  Checking Premises

Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 10:48:17 -0800 George Smith wrote, "It is the defining characteristic of a categorical imperative that it admits of no exceptions whatever, regardless of the circumstances of a given case."

It is true that a "categorical imperative" is one that is unconditionally and universally binding, so that its universality is considered a necessary condition of its existence.  But to say that a categorical imperative is "defined" as one that admits of no exceptions is problematical, because no principle, moral or otherwise, can admit of exceptions ~qua principle~.

A moral principle or moral imperative applies universally to the cases subsumed under it.  That is, it prescribes conduct over an entire range of cases, however circumscribed the range.  As such, no imperative can tolerate exceptions to itself, for in that case, it would be prescribing conduct over a given range and not prescribing it over that range, which is a contradiction.  So I wouldn't say that advocating an "exceptionless" principle is equivalent to endorsing a "categorical imperative", since all principles are exceptionless within their sphere of application.

George wrote, "And this is how Bill treats our obligation to respect the rights of others. This "obligation," in Bill's theory, is a matter of either-or -- *either* the starving man has the obligation to respect the rights of the owner, in which case he cannot be morally justified in stealing his food, *or* the owner has no rights whatever, if the starving man is justified in saving his own life."

I didn't say that the owner has ~no rights whatever~.  He has no right against the man's stealing the food, but that doesn't mean that he has no right against the man's burning down his house or unnecessarily damaging his property.

George gives the following example of a principle: "I may accept as a general principle that I should be honest with my friends, but, unlike Kant, I do not regard this as a categorical imperative that should always be observed in each and every case, regardless of extenuating circumstances. There may be cases where I might legitimately choose to lie."

But if being honest with one's friends is not a principle that George believes should always be observed in each and every case, then why does he say that ~rights~ are a principle that one is obligated to observe in each and every case?

Moreover, precisely what principle of honesty is George accepting? It's not the principle that he should ~always~ be honest with his friends, for he doesn't regard that as a true principle.  The principle that he is accepting as true is one in which he should always be honest with them ~except~...(and here we can fill in the "extenuating circumstances" under which he considers it appropriate to lie). However, it is still true that the (qualified) principle of honesty that George is accepting, is ~itself~ one that he should observe in each and every case.  Otherwise, it's not a genuine principle.

George says that moral principles are "guides to action" not "inflexible commands", but how can a moral principle guide you, if it doesn't specify one course of action ~rather than~ another?  If it doesn't prescribe what you should do under a specific set of circumstances, then it's no guide at all.  Yet the fact that a principle applies universally to all of the cases it covers qua principle does not make it a categorical imperative.

 

I think what distinguishes Kant's categorical imperative is not its universality but its unconditional, non-consequentialist character. Kant's principle that one should never lie under any circumstances was based on something other than utilitarian values -- something other than its consequences.  For it is clearly self-sacrificial ~never~ to lie, even when your life depends on it.

A hypothetical imperative, by contrast, says that ~if~ one values certain (utilitarian) consequences, then ~in order to realize those consequences~, one should take certain actions or adhere to a certain principle of conduct.  An imperative based on the egoistic consequences would never rule out a lie that is necessary to one's self-interest.

BTW, as long as we're discussing honesty, it might be worth quoting Rand on the subject.  "[H]onesty," she says, "is not  social duty, not a sacrifice for the sake of others, but the most profoundly selfish virtue man can practice:  his refusal to sacrifice the reality of his own existence to the deluded consciousness of others."  As I understand it, she defended honesty on the grounds that in fabricating a lie, one became dependent on living one's life ~around the lie~, of expending a great deal of energy trying to cover it up, along with the attendant anxiety and worry of being found out -- that it just wasn't worth it in terms of the sacrifices one had to make.  But she did, of course, countenance dishonesty in exigent circumstances.

George wrote, "In an earlier analysis of emergency situations, I noted that self-preservation is not necessarily the only moral course of action open to the starving man -- that he might legitimately choose to respect the property rights of the owner and take his chances by looking elsewhere for food. And Bill, as I recall, agreed with this analysis, so he evidently agrees that stealing, while a legitimate moral *option,* is not the *only* moral action available to the starving man. Yet this kind of analysis would make no sense unless we also agree that different moral principles, with conflicting *applications,* are operative in emergency scenarios. For on what possible ground could the starving man legitimately choose to respect the rights of the owner, if that owner no longer has any rights?"

I don't recall agreeing with George's analysis.  What I did agree to (and I'm sure I didn't make this clear) is that a person would be justified in committing murder to save his own life, but not obligated to do so if he did not regard self-preservation as worth the trauma of killing an innocent human being.  But its difficult to see how a person could be so horrified by the prospect of stealing someone else's food that he'd willingly sacrifice his own life to avoid it.

Assuming that a person values his life enough to steal food when he has to in order to survive, his situation is not morally optional. Either he thinks he can find food elsewhere or he doesn't.  If he does, then he has not yet judged his situation as sufficiently exigent -- as a genuine emergency wherein he ~must~ steal in order to survive.  In that case, he must still regard the owner as having a right against his taking the food.  If, on the other hand, he recognizes that he cannot afford to look elsewhere, then he has decided that he is no longer obligated to abstain from taking the food.   In that case, however, he can no longer regard the owner as having a right against his action. Bill

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Question for Gayle (or: Lies and Rights in Gayle's Language) Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2001 17:21:00 EST

Gayle wrote: <<Ellen, rights and lies differ in the fact that rights don't even arise without a second person being involved. Lies are lies, and exist independently. >>

Who can one lie to, if not another person? Lies are lies, but like rights, they don't even arise without a second person being involved. Barbara

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: to Luka, getting the rights part out of the way Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2001 23:10:58 -0500

Luka, I wanted to get the rights part off my mind.  This provides a "nutshell" summary of where I think we diverge.  We can discuss it if you want, but unless you have major questions, I'll turn my thoughts to the other issues you asked about.

In my last letter, I expressed irritation at your commenting: "...are you [Ellen] saying that a right can't be described as 'Those conditions of freedom that we should allow [in the sense of permit] others'? That truly surprises me."

I asked: > Where have you been if you're surprised that *I* do not think  that I have a moral claim against aggression from you only "when it is [in your] interest to give [me]" such a claim.

You then said: "Where are you getting the quote 'when it is [in your] interest to give [me]"? Nowhere in the passage that you are responding to do I use that phrase or anything like it. Certainly that's my position but it isn't really part of what I was saying was in that passage you're responding to there."

Where did I get it? In your post just preceding the post I quoted, you had written: "If a right is just 'those conditions of freedom that we should allow others', then it seems possible to me that in different situations it would be in our interest to allow others different degrees of freedom."

I had objected, saying: [Y]ou're evidently missing that Barbara, George, I and others don't have this definition of rights, and furthermore think that what you're defining isn't "a right" at all. To which you then came back, as quoted above, leaving off the second part of what you'd previously said.  But I hadn't forgotten the second part, and from having read your posts all along, I could easily interpret the word "allow" in your truncated version as meaning "permit."

And you then confirmed exactly this meaning when you responded: "My position is that others have rights insofar as it is in my interest to respect them. That is to say, others have a MORAL CLAIM that they are entitled to WHEN IT IS MY INTEREST TO GIVE THEM A MORAL SPHERE OF ACTION. So, there is a moral claim there. It just doesn't exist _irrespective_ of my   circumstances."

Thus I was quoting from the bold-faced words in your response when I said that: > [No,] *I* do not think that I have a moral claim against aggression from you only "when it is [in your] interest to give [me]" such a claim.

I further said that I didn't think you were paying attention to my posts, else you'd never imagine that I agree with your views on rights.

So you've now responded: "You guys claim that rights are _always_ present regardless of the situation and in emergency situations it _might sometimes_ be okay to violate them. "All I [Luka, am] saying is that rights are conditions of freedom that we should allow others. Period. I don't think that Barbara or George would disagree with that description. Maybe they wouldn't DEFINE the concept in such words but that's another thing.

"So, again, are you saying that rights DON'T fit that description? That they aren't 'conditions of freedom that one should allow others'? If you're disagreeing with this description, then can you tell me why? (Again, please notice that in the description I'm not referring directly to the moral agent's interests at all. Only to the fact that they _should_, for whatever unnamed reason, allow others certain conditions of freedom (or moral spheres     if you like that term better.)

"Also, let me know if my brief summary above on your view of rights that I stated above is wrong. Here it is again, 'You guys claim that rights are _always_ present regardless of the situation and in emergency situations it _might sometimes_ be okay to violate them.  Isn't that right?"

Let's get clear first what "[us] guys" say rights ARE.  I shall speak for only one of us guys, myself. I'll give you my provisional definition -- I don't know if I'll be happy with this as my "final" definition.  The form of it and the first part of it I've taken from Rand, but the second part is a attempt to state explicitly what's implied in what she said: Rights are moral principles defining and sanctioning the conditions of freedom from aggression by others which the individual needs to have respected by others and, if necessary, legally enforced in order to live as a self-responsible moral agent. Now, I have little questions about precise details of wording. But one very important point to notice is that, in my proposed definition, as in Rand's, *the focus of reference is the individual whose freedom of action is at stake*.  It is NOT the self-interest of the potential aggressor.

The problem with your approach is that instead of thinking of rights from the standpoint of the individual who might need protection from being aggressed against, you're thinking of the issue from the standpoint of the person who might do the aggressing.  In other words, I'd call your approach bassakwards, wrong ways about.

Thus when you say, "You guys claim that rights are _always_ present regardless of the situation and in emergency situations it _might sometimes_ be okay to violate them," I'm not really sure what you're saying.  I don't know how you're defining "rights" here. If by "rights" all you mean is an obligation on you not to aggress, then obviously if you aren't obligated not to aggress, you aren't obligated not to aggress -- it's tautologous.

If, on the other hand, by "rights" you mean the other person's moral claim against your aggressing, then I would or wouldn't agree with the word "always" depending on how the status of a criminal is to be thought of.

I'm not sure myself on that one, whether it's better to think of a criminal as a person who's stripped of rights due to default on rights-respecting behavior, or instead as a person whose rights are rendered inoperative due to default on rights-respecting behavior. But in the kind of scenario the list has been talking about, where, e.g., a shipwreck survivor comes upon a deserted cabin with some food in it, yes, I'd say that the property owner's rights are intact throughout, even though, depending on how the starving person goes about things, it's not blameworthy for that person to violate the property owner's rights.

As to whether your description --"rights are conditions of freedom that we should allow others" -- is valid, the "allow" there is a very dangerous word, Luka.  Again, it implies that my moral claim to not being aggressed against by you doesn't really exist, that all that exists is your -- graciously or not, depending on your "self-interest" --  permitting me to live my life free from aggression on your part.

Instead, using my definition of rights, I'd say that rights are conditions of freedom you should *respect* in others, I would hope of your own desire, but if not from desire, then under threat of just reprisal.

Maybe that makes clearer to you where we diverge.  Next time: standards, values, goals and such like. Ellen S.

From: AchillesRB To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Did Ayn Rand discover the NIOF principle? Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 14:22:09 EST I have a definitive Rand quote to help settle the dispute summarized in the following comments:

Ellen Moore: > It is only libertarians who want to call the Objectivist politics "Libertarianism".  They want to grasp onto the Objectivist premise of "non-initiation of force" identified by Rand.  They want to grasp onto her moral premise of "individual rights".

Bill Dwyer:  >Is Ellen suggesting that Rand was the first to identify the non-initiation of force principle, and that libertarians simply appropriated that principle after she discovered it? As I recall, Rand did claim that she was the first to discover the principle that rights can only be violated by the initiation of force (or fraud).

Morganis Chamlo:  >I'd be very interested in any verification (or, as some would demand: "proof") of this, Bill.

Bill Dwyer  >Well, I ~heard~ her claim it in her own words on tape, but it's been a long time and I can't remember the precise source.  So if anyone asked me to back it up with a citation, I'd be hard pressed to do so. What I  remember is that someone asked her {Ayn Rand} a question about what she considered original in her philosophy, and I just remember her saying that in the area of politics, not much except the NOIF [NIOF} principle -- that she considered that an original contribution.

Barbara Branden:  >It is possible that you are correct that Ayn Rand was claiming the nonaggression principle to be her original contribution, but it is highly unlikely. I never heard her make such a claim, nor, to the best of my knowledge, is it present in her written work. I think it much more likely that she was claiming originality for her integration of the nonaggression principle with the whole of her philosophical system.

Bill Dwyer:  >it is nonetheless clear that the non-aggression principle is not one that Rand originated, and for her to claim that she did sounds just a bit disingenuous, Morganis Chamlo:

>Pardon me if I interject here, but, I do believe that Rand never claimed anything of the kind. She *claimed*, if anything, to have made a rationally-based metaphysical and epistemological Logical justification of the idea  properly being a basic tenet in the arena of Morality. No small feat! She did not claim to have "originated" the *idea*, any more than she did of the *idea* of Pegasus. She... merely...showed the logical Integration of the idea in any rational "Philosophy of Life"; something no one else had managed to do. Whoever came up with the *idea* of the non-aggression principle is of interest to only historians. Whoever came up with the Justification of it; now, that's of interest to all freedom-lovers.

In Leonard Peikoff's 1975-76 lectures on Objectivism, Ayn Rand took part in some of the question-answer sessions, and in lecture 8, she corrected a questioner about what were the "important" concepts of her philosophy, and she said: "I would say the most important parts of my philosophy are my definition of concepts, of concept-formation, my ethics, and my discovery or definition in politics that the violation of rights consists of the initiation of force."

Peikoff underscores this point in lecture 9, where he says: "Now, how can rights, speaking of proper, individual, political rights, be violated? In essence, by one method only, by compulsion, by the involuntary -- in other words, by physical force, directly or indirectly. THIS IS ONE OF AYN RAND'S MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES IN THE FIELD OF POLITICS. THE ISSUE OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS WAS GRASPED IN THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES, BUT EARLIER THINKERS LEFT OPEN THE ISSUE: HOW DO YOU KNOW ~OBJECTIVELY~ WHEN A RIGHT HAS BEEN VIOLATED?

Just prior to this (also in lecture 9), Peikoff was discussing "the Objectivist principle of the evil of the initiation of force," which he regarded as "a final principle necessary to understand before we turn explicitly and systematically to politics." Now, it's important to note that even though, as Peikoff says, Objectivism holds this as "a fundamental social principle," neither Peikoff nor Rand (so far as I know) made any claim that the NIOF principle is original to Objectivism or Ayn Rand.

What ~is~ original to her and/or Peikoff, and I find it very impressive, is the explanation of NIOF in terms of the objective-subjective-intrinsic trichotomy. And their thorough philosophic justification of this principle -- even apart from the further connection to individual rights violation, and even granting that NIOF itself was not Rand's discovery -- is a genuine philosophic contribution.

So, Bill is correct (and Ellen Moore is incorrect), in regard to Rand's "identifying" the non-initiation of force principle. As Bill has noted, its roots are deep in our Western, individualist heritage, and it is clearly absurd to say that Rand "identified" NIOF, in the sense of originating it.

However, Bill is incorrect in saying that Rand plagiarized the idea and/or claimed to have originated it. What she claimed as her original discovery was not the identification of the NIOF principle itself, but instead identification that the violation of rights with the initiation of force. Since the latter concept is an ethical concept and the former a political concept, this amounts to the core of Rand's bridging the gap between ethics and politics. As such, it is a highly important contribution. And my own reading of Auberon Herbert and others Bill cites does not convince me that they really hit the nail on the head. Instead, it appears that they very eloquently and inspiringly danced all around it, while Rand gets the cigar for thinking in terms of fundamentals. She really ~was~ an integrative, systematic thinker, as Barbara and Morganis state. (And there, Morganis, is your "proof" that Rand did claim, as Bill originally, correctly stated, that she discovered the principle that rights can only be violated by the initiation of force (or fraud) -- and the "proof" that she did ~not~, as Bill later, incorrectly stated, claim to have discovered the NIOF principle itself.) Best to all, Roger Bissell

From: Barbara Branden To: objectivism Subject: Re: OWL: The Selfish Virtue of Charity Date: Fri, 4 May 2001 01:55:24 EDT Eric Nolte wrote (4/20): << I will argue that charity amounts to a bow before the recognition that there go I, but for the grace of our great good luck in the cosmic sweepstakes for the time and place of birth. . . We do not enjoy the tiniest bit of control over being born healthy free, white, rich, American, and male (which gender matters only because cultures have always tended to deny opportunities to girls.) Neither do we have any control over arriving as a sickly girl, born into an illiterate family that is all dying of AIDS, living in a vermin infested thatch hut with a dirt floor, in some god-forsaken, blistering hole in sub-Saharan Africa. >>

I am inclined to agree with much of what Eric Nolte has to say about charity. I know that sometimes I receive a phone call asking me to give money for some purpose, and my first inclination is to refuse -- and then I look around my house, I see how I live, and I agree. However, I strongly disagree with the following statement by

Eric: << In this essay I seek to add to our list of objectivist virtues, charity, when it is properly defined to exclude approval of any collectivist, government orchestrated and coercive system of welfare. >>

The list of Objectivist virtues is intended to include only those virtues that are necessary to human life. Whatever value charity might have, it is not essential to human life, and cannot, therefore, be included as a specifically Objectivist virtue.

Eric wrote: <<I do not mean by charity anything that exudes even the faintest whiff of an obligation>>

However, the Objectivists virtues ARE obligations. They tell us what we MUST do, what we MUST practice, if we choose to live and to be rational. If charity is not an obligation, it does not belong in the list of Objectivist virtues.

There are many other problems with Eric's defense of charity. To whom should we give--to the girl in Somalia or to an American who has suffered misfortune through no fault of his own? How much should we give? Ought we to give up to or past the point of depriving ourselves? Should we give to cancer, heart, Aids, or Alzheimer research, or to the undeserved suffering of people in Africa or China? If I want to go on a trip, simply for pleasure, is it wrong? -- am I irrationally depriving someone somewhere of the money that could change his or her life? These and endless other questions need to be answered before one can defend the idea of charitable giving, much less make it a virtue in the Objectivist sense. Barbara Branden

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3 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

D,

You are fishing and, going by your post, you haven't understood what I am talking about.

And I'm a bit out of time right now.

It's all good...

Michael

I am assuming that you are a capitalist. You are trivializing the costs of a totalitarian state on the economy, stating that not all aspects are always bad because people are so driven and innovative. This means morality is the only real reason you are a capitalist. Is this wrong? This is how Rand felt... we've all heard her comments about Milton Freedman.

 

The thing you said about Trump is besides the point because you were talking about international issues... and I probably agree, though you were vague. I think there are exceptions, particularly in that area, which is sort of like the difference between an acute health problem and a chronic health problem (international vs domestic economic policy). With international economics, namely trade, you are dealing with damage reduction, rather than growth... because there are so many threats.

 

Domestically the goal is growth. And that is why I say the system must be allowed to work. Top-down control cannot work because there is way too much information that will undoubtedly be missed and misinterpreted. There is no "big picture" analyses that can help inform policy, because even the proponents of the system admit they do not know exactly how it would work... they can give a lot of examples of it working, but the whole point is that the system "knows" more than any individual. Just like you feel sick when you switch your diet to something healthier... you don't use induction to conclude it's not working... you wait it out and trust the fundamental reasoning behind the diet and let your body work.

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5 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

Induction is automatic, though... you don't have to convince someone to use induction.

Automatic? No. Not. It's an essential component of reasoning - and volitional. Your senses are "automatic" but you have to recognize/grasp what they're seeing, touching, hearing --

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26 minutes ago, anthony said:

Automatic? No. Not. It's an essential component of reasoning - and volitional. Your senses are "automatic" but you have to recognize/grasp what they're seeing, touching, hearing --

Animals can make inferences from what the see and experience. I don't know how much more automatic it could be...

 

I will say there is a quality component to induction in that the amount of information you seek out is important, and that part is not automatic.

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