Letter from Nathaniel Branden on Morality


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Two questions (maybe three):

1) To what extent do you want to people to help each other?

2) Do you suppose we rehab criminals instead of punish?

3) If the answer to number two is yes, then do you realize that criminals have to want to be rehabbed and that punishment is also a crime preventative measure?

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Nathaniel's argument misses the point that it takes more than one meal to help an abondoned, starving child. What would the man do, feed the child and then walk on, knowing that the next day the chil

I would like to live in a world where people help others

Having read this whole thread, I'd like to acknowledge Fran for identifying the context: How far from civilization? What does the wandering adult do with the starving child after sharing a snack? etc

I'm not persuaded that ethics of emergencies are pertinent.

On public policy, see Flag, Faith and Family Values. My essay on Property defended starving children in particular. It's impossible today to retract my definition of justice, which honors the innocent. See The Freeman's Constitution.

Having said all that, I think the matter of helping others is ultimately a question of personal choice, period. As Miss Rand once said: You will not be stopped from choosing to indulge in kindness or charity. Where we have to draw the line, I think, is broad purpose. For instance, the word "give" was anathema in Galt's Gulch.

W.

Edited by Wolf DeVoon
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~ It's great to see another's "cup runneth over" with benevolence.

~ It's not great to see their cup drained by its holes of 'duty.'

~ All depends on why the help is given...'benevolence' vs 'moral Duty.'

LLAP

J:D

P.S. Of course he's a hero! She sure oughtta regard him that way when she grows up. 'Sides, she might be the next Ayn Rand for all anyone knows!

Edited by John Dailey
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According to Objectivism, “there are no unchosen obligations,” and therefore there is no reason to get indignant or angry at the passer-by who refuses to save the child.

Why focus on the passer-by? If I were in that situation, I wouldn't be concerning myself with what other people are doing; I would just take appropriate action to help the child. It's none of my business if someone else doesn't help, for whatever reason.

Example: If I see a desert tortoise in the middle of the road, and it's safe to do so, I stop the car, get out, and move the tortoise out of the way. I don't get indignant about why somebody else didn't save the tortoise earlier.

Maybe a better example would be a situation you hear about, but you weren't present at the time. An example is the climber who didn't stop to assist another climber in distress. I personally would have interrupted my climb to help. (On the other hand, I would never put myself in that situation - risking my life to climb a mountain just to say I'd done it!) But I don't think it's right to fault someone else for not helping. It is totally up to the person as to whether the Good Samaritan act is worth doing or not. After all, it's not the competent climber's fault that the incompetent (or unlucky) climber is in trouble.

Another somewhat-related example was in the news the past few days. Parents of a profoundly retarded girl (mental age of a 1-year-old with no hope of improvement) had her undergo a hysterectomy in an effort to stunt her growth to make her easier to take care of. Wouldn't you know, the Peanut Gallery has to chime in about how abhorrent it is to do such a thing. But they're not involved in this girl's care. They don't have any direct knowledge about the situation. And yet, they presume to dictate how someone else handles the situation.

So, my view is that we should spend less time second-guessing other people's moral behavior, mind our own business, and personally do what we think is right, ourselves.

Edited by Laure
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Nathaniel so often finds innovative, yet simple ways to make us think and feel.

If you look at it as he says to here, you have a feeling, a tug. At least you do if you have a bit of connectivity to other humans in your body, a bit of what we all have in common.

Yeah, it feels wrong. Way wrong. Why? Because, maybe, you can think: what if that was being done to me? OUCH!

You can go off on religion, but there are things. The golden rule works nicely.

Maybe the core of it involves preservation of the species in general. We do better survival-wise when we have good others around.

There might be something in evolutionary psychology that addresses this.

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The reason we view someone who would pass a starving child in the wilderness with contempt is that they view human life as so low in their hierarchy of values as to value whatever it was they were doing out there higher than the life of the child. I think someone who could do this has an abominable set of priorities and is reprehensible, but we can't hold someone criminally responsible for failure to render aid.

This is of course, an emergency scenario. What most would do in real life is to call the police.

Jim

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P.S. This Objectivist will gladly call the man who rescued the abandoned baby a hero.

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson
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Gosh, here's another one, CNN.com poll today:

Is it fair to criticize Oprah Winfrey for building a school in Africa instead of donating to U.S. schools?

:blink:

What a strange poll. Why sit around and criticize Oprah when we could be out making our own money and donating it to whatever cause we like. I, personally, would donate my money to the Kori Needs An Apartment Fund.

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I’m willing to recognize this guy as a hero, but only to the extent that he suffers--and not to the extent that others gain. No, no, others should gain and that's all that is important...Wait a minute…damn, I sound like a freaking altruist. Oh, damn these philosophy 101 type questions and their conundrums! :hmm:

Edited by Victor Pross
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Two questions (maybe three):

1) To what extent do you want to people to help each other?

2) Do you suppose we rehab criminals instead of punish?

3) If the answer to number two is yes, then do you realize that criminals have to want to be rehabbed and that punishment is also a crime preventative measure?

One answer to punishment being a crime preventative measure: in the UK teenagers who cause serious social disruption are often given ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders), which restricts their movements in the areas in which they committed the crimes and also the time at which they can be outside of their homes. ASBOs are now being seen as a badge of honour by these groups of teenagers. It's 'cool' to have an ASBO - hardly preventative.

The majority of people who commit crimes come from deprived backgrounds - they were probably emotionally, sexually or physically abused as children and didn't receive the necessary moral guidance. So, you take these 'damaged' people and chuck them in prison where their peer group is now hundreds of other criminals - how is this going to give them the necessary guidance to change their actions?

One alternative is restorative justice. This has been used successfully in Reading, UK. Burglars meet the people whose homes they burgled - by hearing and understanding the suffering that they've caused, and receiving empathy for their own reasons for committing the crime, they're far less likely to do it again.

Here's a link to an article on restorative justice for anybody who is interested:

http://www.cnvc.org/diankillian.htm

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  • 13 years later...

With just skipping through this old thread I'd like to point out that Danny abandoned Hank to a month of flying around Colorado looking for her with hardly a second thought knowing what he was doing. NB declaimed against this saying they (the strikers) could have called him off.

I don't think it reflects badly on AR, however. AS was a gigantic plot driven painting by the numbers work of art. There was so much to do making it.

Hank, the abandoned, starving baby.

--Brant

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