Sign in to follow this  
Victor Pross

Objectivist ethics: Life as the Standard.

Recommended Posts

Now, you can use whatever meaning for the word you like. You can have it refer to a particular way of boiling crayfish if you want. I don't mind. But if you are going to use it to mean this:

"Induction is making the initial category, the initial concept."

...then there is no problem!

We agree? Wonderful!

Notice that without the initial classification, there can be no prediction. Nor can there be (in the words of the Wikipedia article), a generalization "about the properties of a class of objects based on some number of observations of particular instances of that class of objects." So, regardless of modern interpretation of induction, or any interpretation for that matter, the truth is that there can be no "class of objects" without an initial classification. How do you suppose that original classification came about? Certainly not deduction. And it did not spring up magically from thin air. It happened by induction.

Frankly, there is a much better discussion of induction here: The Problem of Induction. This deals with the older and newer concepts. There is a lot of good stuff to consider there and I have only skimmed it.

>In your chess example, I think that the analogy with Scrabble is not so good. It comes off better by saying that Hume's problem is trying to play chess with only the pieces of one side. There can't be a game that way, although the rules of the game can stay the same.

Well, whatever, you still don't get "ought" from "is" though do you?

Just to be clear, the players of the other side represent induction. In short:

Can "ought" be derived from "is" with deductive logic alone? No.

Can "ought" be derived from "is" with deductive logic predicated on induction? Yes.

Have a good trip. I agree that this has been fun. I have actually learned something. And I will stop by your blog. (Somebody has to actually defend poor Rand over there—and not just sound off like a Randroid—once in a while!)

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem is not that there's no connection between the two. The problem is that you CANNOT proceed from an IS to an OUGHT without an overt or implied OUGHT as part of the chain of reasoning. The smuggled OUGHT is always open to question because it is NOT an IS.

I'd like to re-pose a question that GHS asked on A2 some years ago, I don't recall seeing a satisfying answer there, so perhaps someone here will be up to the task:

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem is not that there's no connection between the two. The problem is that you CANNOT proceed from an IS to an OUGHT without an overt or implied OUGHT as part of the chain of reasoning. The smuggled OUGHT is always open to question because it is NOT an IS.

I'd like to re-pose a question that GHS asked on A2 some years ago, I don't recall seeing a satisfying answer there, so perhaps someone here will be up to the task:

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Just because an argument is fallacious, doesn't mean its conclusions must be false.

For the record, much but not all of what Rand says we ought to do or value I agree with. What I disagree with is the 'certainty' with which she proclaims her ideas to objectively valid and iron clad. This just isn't the case, and that's why I object. I also have suspicions regarding motivation for such irrational ideas but of course that is just speculation. She went to such great lengths so quash dissent even as much as to contradict herself - clearly contradict herself, as others have pointed out, but never would admit it.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know what Rand thought about issues of biology and evolution, beyond what I've cited. I've never been able to make sense of her supposed "biological" basis, from the first time I read Atlas Shrugged, in early June 1961, when I was 18 1/2, since I was so well familiar with Darwinism by then, she seemed to me outmoded.

I've also found Rand's attitude with regard to evolution puzzling, it's as if she was uncomfortable with the idea.

I don't find it puzzling. I think Rand could not attack Evolution, even though it posed serious problems for a number of her ideas for at least the following reasons:

- It's a damn good theory and she'd most certainly lose any head-on battle.

- Religious folks attack it so she wouldn't like agreeing with them even if her reasons were different.

The best/only thing she could do was to avoid it the best she could. And that's what she did.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just because an argument is fallacious, doesn't mean its conclusions must be false.

True, but in terms of the question posed that observation is irrelevant (and I think it side-steps epistemological concerns within the overall problem). The question is only concerned with the status of the argument itself....

I could argue, for example, that "grass is green therefore dogs bark" (notice, by the way, the only reason we know that the conclusion is true, despite the fallacious argument, is because we've gone through the proper observation/reason chain to conclude that yes, indeed, dogs bark), but using this kind of fallacious argument isn't how we derive knowledge, or make judgments--we do so, as human beings, through volitional reason, logic, and formal argumentation. Surely, you wouldn't say the above example is a valid argument? Ought not then, we reject it?

So, from where I am sitting the question posed by GHS is still unanswered...

For the record, much but not all of what Rand says we ought to do or value I agree with. What I disagree with is the 'certainty' with which she proclaims her ideas to objectively valid and iron clad. This just isn't the case, and that's why I object. I also have suspicions regarding motivation for such irrational ideas but of course that is just speculation. She went to such great lengths so quash dissent even as much as to contradict herself - clearly contradict herself, as others have pointed out, but never would admit it.

I could certainly sign on to this as a general statement about Rand's many value prescriptions (without hesitation in the field of aesthetics), adding my own qualifications here and there...but, in terms of the larger problem I'm not convinced that it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is".

RCR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know what Rand thought about issues of biology and evolution, beyond what I've cited. I've never been able to make sense of her supposed "biological" basis, from the first time I read Atlas Shrugged, in early June 1961, when I was 18 1/2, since I was so well familiar with Darwinism by then, she seemed to me outmoded.

I've also found Rand's attitude with regard to evolution puzzling, it's as if she was uncomfortable with the idea.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the contemporary admixing of Darwin's theory with those of "Social Darwinists"...

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
in terms of the larger problem I'm not convinced that it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is".

RCR

Then you don't understand the problem.

Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

Bob

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Good example.

More formally.

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Smuggled "ought" - "Accepting fallacious arguments is bad."

Now, notice that I did not say "Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error." This is an observable fact - a conclusion of a different kind. But we still need "Accepting errors is bad." to reach the final "ought" conclusion.

We ALWAYS need another "ought" in there. Inescapable.

Bob

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Good example.

More formally.

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Smuggled "ought" - "Accepting fallacious arguments is bad."

Now, notice that I did not say "Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error." This is an observable fact - a conclusion of a different kind. But we still need "Accepting errors is bad." to reach the final "ought" conclusion.

We ALWAYS need another "ought" in there. Inescapable.

Bob

We need another ought? That's right. A normative "ought" such as bad, good, or neautral. So the error can be benefitcial or harmful to man, his well-being and life as the standard. It’s done all the time. How is this not an observable fact as to the effects of the error?

I think Christian's point is clear.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Good example.

More formally.

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Smuggled "ought" - "Accepting fallacious arguments is bad."

Now, notice that I did not say "Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error." This is an observable fact - a conclusion of a different kind. But we still need "Accepting errors is bad." to reach the final "ought" conclusion.

We ALWAYS need another "ought" in there. Inescapable.

Bob

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Fact - Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Isn't this the generally accepted meaning of the word "ought"? How many mathematicians or scientists would disagree with the conclusion that fallacious arguments ought not to be accepted, because they can lead to error? How many would insist that the proviso be added that "accepting fallacious arguments is bad"?

Martin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Victor:

>Morality is not just about preserving life (Man qua Man) but of maximizing life (Man qua man).

Victor, as I have said before, ' maximising' life as "man qua man" simply means "upholding Objectivist values". As such, as the answer to the question "why should we hold Objectivist values?" it is circular, thus a fallacious argument.

Daniel’s remark here entails that Rand's ethics is some sort of duty that you "should" follow independently of your own choices and values—independent of facts and the objective requirements of life--but Rand completely rejected the idea of such duties. Rand stands in a long tradition in ethics, which started with the classical Greeks and also included many Enlightenment thinkers. In this case, the study of ethics is a form of applied knowledge, similar to engineering or medicine, (constant examples I have been using in which Daniel did not dare challenge) whose purpose is to identify the means needed for achieving certain results in order to guide the actions of those who want to accomplish these results.

Ethics, it is true, is a field that is wider in scope and more fundamental than other forms of applied knowledge, because it guides the most basic choices that affect everything in your life. But the pattern and basic principles are the same. But it is Hume that has clouded the vision of those who are unable to conceptualize beyond the immediate “experience” of their noses.

-Victor

Edited by Victor Pross

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Good example.

More formally.

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Smuggled "ought" - "Accepting fallacious arguments is bad."

Now, notice that I did not say "Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error." This is an observable fact - a conclusion of a different kind. But we still need "Accepting errors is bad." to reach the final "ought" conclusion.

We ALWAYS need another "ought" in there. Inescapable.

Bob

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Fact - Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Isn't this the generally accepted meaning of the word "ought"? How many mathematicians or scientists would disagree with the conclusion that fallacious arguments ought not to be accepted, because they can lead to error? How many would insist that the proviso be added that "accepting fallacious arguments is bad"?

Martin

It DOES NOT MATTER how much the "Ought" makes sense. I in fact AGREE with the argument, but it IS NOT DEDUCTIVE. There is a value judgment/opinion inherent in the concept of BAD.

It is sloppy thinking to jump over the gap. How can you observe "BAD"? Can't.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Use premises, verifiable by observation ('IS' statements - no opinions allowed) and proceed via DEduction to arrive at a moral prescription. Try it.

"If an argument *is* fallacious, does this mean we *ought* not to accept it? If so, how can this be, if it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is."

RCR

Good example.

More formally.

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Smuggled "ought" - "Accepting fallacious arguments is bad."

Now, notice that I did not say "Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error." This is an observable fact - a conclusion of a different kind. But we still need "Accepting errors is bad." to reach the final "ought" conclusion.

We ALWAYS need another "ought" in there. Inescapable.

Bob

Premise - Argument A is fallacious.

Fact - Accepting fallacious conclusions can lead to error.

Conclusion - We ought not to accept it.

Isn't this the generally accepted meaning of the word "ought"? How many mathematicians or scientists would disagree with the conclusion that fallacious arguments ought not to be accepted, because they can lead to error? How many would insist that the proviso be added that "accepting fallacious arguments is bad"?

Martin

It DOES NOT MATTER how much the "Ought" makes sense. I in fact AGREE with the argument, but it IS NOT DEDUCTIVE. There is a value judgment/opinion inherent in the concept of BAD.

It is sloppy thinking to jump over the gap. How can you observe "BAD"? Can't.

Bob

Firstly, based upon how I responded to Bob a few posts ago, I'm obliged to post another quote from GHS, from another thread on A2 that clarifies his thinking on the first quote I posted (which, I think, I obfuscated).

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/atlantis_II/message/21269

We do not need to hold a scientist, mathematician, or engineer "responsible" for his reasoning in order to evaluate the worth or accuracy of his conclusions. The same conclusions would be accurate (or not), regardless of who originated them. This is not true of moral reasoning, which presupposes that we can identify the (morally) responsible agent in order to judge his actions. Moral judgments are personal in a way that scientific reasoning is not.

Secondly, I wonder if this quote from GHS (from another thread on A2) sheds any new light on the issue...

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/atlantis_II/message/3366

I have no objection to Rand's argument that life is a standard of value, at least in regard to *moral* values. My objection pertains to Rand's claim that a value is "that which one acts to gain and/or keep." I contend that action per se is not a defining characteristic of "value."

This is true whether we are speaking of subjective OR objective values. I have already explained my reasons in regard to subjective values, so let's turn for a moment to objective values. Let us assume that productive work is an objective moral value by Rand's standards. Okay, so is productive work an objective value even for a lazy person who does not act to gain and/or keep the value of productive work? Yes, of course it is. In calling productive work (or anything else) an objective value, we are saying that X would benefit a person even if he chooses NOT to pursue it. To describe X as an objective value is to say that X would objectively prove beneficial a person, which is to suggest that a person OUGHT to pursue X. But the relationship described by this objective value judgment holds even if a person does nothing in the way of acting to gain and/or keep X. In short, the truth or falsity of an objective value judgment (and this cognitive assessment is one thing that distinguishes objective from subjective value judgments) has nothing to do with whether or not a person actually acts to gain and/or keep X.

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry about arriving late to this discussion.

A few posts back, Martin Radwin asked which of the following accounts of the origin of species Aristotle adhered to:

(1) All species of life have always existed

2) All species of life were created at once by a creator

3) All species of life just appeared sponteneously

4) All species of life evolved through a series of steps from simpler life forms

Definitely not (4). Aristotle believed in the fixity of species. You can't get from some antiquated land-dwelling mammal to a whale through a series of successive changes, not even over many generations.

Definitely not (2). Aristotle's god is too uninvolved in the affairs of the universe to go about creating anything. He wouldn't have taken the trouble to create the heavenly bodies, let alone life forms that come into being and pass away.

As for (3), Aristotle couldn't rule out "spontaneous generation" of living things from some inanimate matrix (the hackneyed example is maggots arising from rotting meat, though I don't know his biological works very well, and that example may not be his). But it wouldn't have been part of an evolutionary scheme.

The standard interpretation of Aristotle is (1).

Ellen asked what kind of biology Rand got exposed to in her Russian education. That is a question for Chris Sciabarra. We can set some limits on the inquiry, though. Rand left Russia well before Josef Stalin made Trofim D. Lysenko his pet biologist. On the other hand, one wonders how up-to-date education in biology was during the early Soviet years. I know from some work I've done on Jean Piaget (whose education in biology basically took place between 1906 and 1917) that Lamarckian doctrines were still generally accepted in the French-speaking world during that period; Piaget would never shake them off completely. The neo-Darwinian synthesis was just under way in 1920, and early reactions to modern genetics included grossly confused notions (from today's point of view); for instance, that "mutationism" is incompatible with "Darwinism," so you must pick one or the other.

I also wonder what Rand's early exposure to "social Darwinism" was like (and whether it took place before she arrived in the US). She hated Herbert Spencer's ideas (on the basis of what acquaintance I don't know). How did she think Spencer's theories related to more modern evolutionary conceptions?

Dragonfly's suggestion, that Rand's rejection of theism was partly religious in its motivation (man ought to be the object of worship, not god), strikes me as plausible. If correct, it would shed further light on Rand's insistence that human beings ought to strive for moral perfection.

Whatever the reasons for Rand's wanting to keep evolution at arm's length, its legacy is a weird disconnect about evolution out in some neighborhoods of Rand-land. When presented with "intelligent design," an ARI acolyte will insist that biological evolution is incontrovertible scientific fact and that "intelligent design" advocates are the sheerest of theological obscurantists. Yet, when asked whether evolution has any relevance to metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics, the ARI acolyte, quoting Dr. Peikoff, will insist that evolution is forever outside the scope of philosophy. And when questions are raised as to why Rand was uncomfortable with evolution, well... we know what happened to Neil Parille when he ventured into that territory a while back.

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Whatever the reasons for Rand's wanting to keep evolution at arm's length, its legacy is a weird disconnect about evolution out in some neighborhoods of Rand-land. When presented with "intelligent design," an ARI acolyte will insist that biological evolution is incontrovertible scientific fact and that "intelligent design" advocates are the sheerest of theological obscurantists. Yet, when asked whether evolution has any relevance to metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics, the ARI acolyte, quoting Dr. Peikoff, will insist that evolution is forever outside the scope of philosophy. And when questions are raised as to why Rand was uncomfortable with evolution, well... we know what happened to Neil Parille when he ventured into that territory a while back.

Robert Campbell

Allow me to venture a guess why Rand stood away from Evolution Theory. The Theory of Evolution in its current state puts us in a continuum of descent from a common ancestor to the chimps and the bonbobos. The chimps and bonobos manifest behavior which not purely instinctual. This is not to say the chimps (for example) equal humans in linguistic ability or mental abstraction. But they do show conceptual ability at some level as is exhibit in certain problem solving scenarios. Think of the prehomonids portrayed in -2001: A Space Odessy-. The difference between the bone weapon and an orbiting space station is one of degree as was shown in the famous "toss the bone" seqway in the motion picture. Likewise, humans exhibit some "wired in" tropes and behavior modalities. See -The Blank Slate- by Steven Pinker for more on that.

Rand, if I understand her correctly, insisted that man is the only advanced mammal -without- instincts. It just ain't so. It may be true that Man is not -ruled- by instinct, but we do have them and we occasionally overcome them with effort and training. If you grant Evolution, as it currently is, then Man differs from his cousins on the evolution tree sometimes only in degree and at other times by kind. We are not totally sundered from those species with whom we share 95+ percent of our genes. To put a point on it, I belief Rand did not like the theory of evolution for some of the same reasons that the religious folk of Britain had when they objected to Darwin's thesis. She did not believe Heroic Man was a Great Ape's cousin.

Ba'al Chatzaf (Chutzpah Guy).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dragonfly's suggestion, that Rand's rejection of theism was partly religious in its motivation (man ought to be the object of worship, not god), strikes me as plausible. If correct, it would shed further light on Rand's insistence that human beings ought to strive for moral perfection.

Whatever the reasons for Rand's wanting to keep evolution at arm's length, its legacy is a weird disconnect about evolution out in some neighborhoods of Rand-land. When presented with "intelligent design," an ARI acolyte will insist that biological evolution is incontrovertible scientific fact and that "intelligent design" advocates are the sheerest of theological obscurantists. Yet, when asked whether evolution has any relevance to metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics, the ARI acolyte, quoting Dr. Peikoff, will insist that evolution is forever outside the scope of philosophy. And when questions are raised as to why Rand was uncomfortable with evolution, well... we know what happened to Neil Parille when he ventured into that territory a while back.

Robert Campbell

I don't know what happened to Neil Parille. Was it on RoR? SOLO? Could someone give a link to the thread?

However, I know what happened to me a couple times (basically I was ignored -- I didn't then push the issue, just dropped out of the conversation) when I commented on how much it surprises me to see Objectivists touting Dawkins -- they tout him especially for his The God Delusion but some of them praise his The Blind Watchmaker and even The Selfish Gene too -- while apparently not realizing how BIG the disconnect is between Dawkins --any Darwinian evolutionist's -- views on the nature of man and Objectivism's views.

Bob wrote:

To put a point on it, I belief Rand did not like the theory of evolution for some of the same reasons that the religious folk of Britain had when they objected to Darwin's thesis. She did not believe Heroic Man was a Great Ape's cousin.

That says in a pungent way just what I think her problem with evolution was. She saw "an enormous gulf" between man and the other animals (see her Ayn Rand Letter on "The Anti-Conceptual Mentality"); the theory of evolution entails that there isn't anywhere near so enormous a gulf as she saw. I doubt that she had familiarity with details of the theory. I don't know if she ever even read a book by an evolutionist. And there is the question what she was taught in Russia, and what her views were, maybe mixed up, about Spencer and his place in evolutionary theory -- even about what he was saying. But my bet is that, at the most basic level, she sensed that evolutionary theory doesn't provide the mental disjunct (the disjunct in how cognitive processes work) between man and other animals which she thought existed.

Ellen

PS: Robert, you did miswrite in saying: "Definitely not (1)." You meant "Definitely not (2)."

___

Edited by Ellen Stuttle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brant and Ellen, thank you for the editorial advice. I should have followed Martin's possibilities in their original order, instead of trying to work from the least compatible with Aristotle's worldview to the most.

Neil Parille put an essay about Rand and evolution on the old SOLOHQ:

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Parill...Evolution.shtml

Neil's essay was subsequently blasted by Don Watkins (in a blog entry no longer available on the Web) for having the temerity to suggest that Ayn Rand was irrational and dishonest.

Whereupon Diana Hsieh tried to outdo Mr. Watkins by writing off the entire content of Neil's essay as a series of arbitrary assertions:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2005/07/poisoning-well.html

When I was still foolish enough to venture into SOLOP, I wrote about the entire mess here:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/798

One correction that I see is necessary: I said in the SOLOP entry that Mortimer Adler's book was recommended during the NBI days. In fact, it was recommended by Nathaniel Branden when he operated Academic Associates. However, I doubt that his thinking about human evolution had changed much in between.

Robert Campbell

PS. During none of the hullabaloo over Neil's essay did a single one of his critics ever comment on Rand's speculation that there are "missing links" among us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael,

Thank you for linking to an archived version of Watkins.

I'm amused to see that the second comment on his old blog page refers to Adler's book.

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One correction that I see is necessary: I said in the SOLOP entry that Mortimer Adler's book was recommended during the NBI days. In fact, it was recommended by Nathaniel Branden when he operated Academic Associates. However, I doubt that his thinking about human evolution had changed much in between

Are you sure it wasn't recommended during the NBI days? I've somehow remembered it as having been recommended then.

Thanks, Robert, for the thread links, and, MSK, for the Watkins blog link. I'll try to get a chance to read the material in the next few days.

Ellen

___

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I want to weigh in here with a quote from Barbara Branden from The Passion of Ayn Rand on the is/ought problem (pp. 265-266). I found Barbara's terminology to be extremely precise.

When she began writing Galt's speech, Ayn thought that the purely conceptual planning had been done, that she knew precisely the issue she would cover. But she found that new thinking was required and new ideas have to be included. The most notable was her theory of the origin of values, to which she had given only cursory consideration before. The statement of that theory was one of Ayn's outstanding intellectual achievements; in a few paragraphs in a novel, she took a major step toward solving the problem that has haunted philosophers since the time of Aristotle and Plato: the relationship of "ought" to "is"—the question of in what manner moral values can be derived from facts.

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence are nonexistence—and that pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms," she wrote. "The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. . . . It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil. . . . Man has no automatic course of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives, by means of volitional choice. . . . Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative is nature offers him is: rational being for suicidal animal. . . . A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.

Notice that Barbara stated the issue correctly. She did not state that "ought" is deducted from "is" as a stand-alone proposition. She mentioned "the relationship of 'ought' to 'is'—the question of in what manner moral values can be derived from facts." (My emphasis.) And, of course, the manner is to establish the standard of life and death as a fundamental metaphysical choice open to a human being and include it as a conditional part ("if one wants to live, one ought to do X with Y because the nature of both in such action produces that result.")

I was very pleased to find this.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

Adler's book may well have been verbally recommended in the NBI days, sold by NBI book service, etc. I just haven't found confirmation of that in print. Academic Associates printed NB's review of the book.

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this