Starving Child in the Wilderness Revisited


Michael Stuart Kelly

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Now what does this mean? You won't initiate the use of physical force against a starving child or you won't share your C-rations with him? Or both? I have to say at least I've never heard of a purported Objectivist who has rationalized out the philosophy this way--and you aren't an Objectivist. I don't call myself one, but I can't express myself this way for it's not me in any respect. I don't contemplate a starving child and review my principles; I knew what to do at the age of three. Now I'm 63 but not yet senile so I don't have to rethink this. I find your remark gratuitous and worthless save for the self-revelatory part--goes along with your human beings as "meat machines," general denigration of philosophy and extreme mechanistic materialism.

--Brant

1. I am a materialist right down to the molecular level. A great deal of empirical evidence supports this position. I will not apologize for acting in the most reason guided way and I will not let mawkish sentimentality cloud my thinking. I am proud to have a hard heart and and even harder head. I have worked very hard for the last forty years or so in dumping any compassion except the quantity that I require to care and support my family. I love MY kids. I don't love YOUR kids (assuming you have any). Of course I will do nothing to harm you and yours provided you and yours are no danger to me and mine.

2. Philosophy, outside of some technical linguistic and semiotic approaches has not "delivered the goods". It does not tell us what the world is made of and how it works. Science (particularly physics) has done a great deal along these lines. Physics and and its applied related arts (engineering, for example) has "delivered the goods" and they have made us prosperous and strong. I go where the success is, not where the failures are. So it is failed efforts that I denigrate. If metaphysics and ethics worked (qua philosophy) I would support such efforts because I am practical. I go with what works, not with what fails.

Human endeavors have a Darwinian aspect. The fittest survive, the less fit do not.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Proper philosophy protects, nurtures and makes possible science and its continuing right application. Science is not possible without that kind of philosophy. It is strangled in its crib--by philosophy's absence or philosophy's wrongheadedness evil.

--Brant

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In the supermarket today I saw a child, acting like a child, and I felt love for that child. He was not my child. It never would have occurred to me to dump or eviscerate my capacity to feel such love. I am not suicidal.

--Brant

Neither am I. Love requires energy and I have just so much of it so I save it for Me and Mine. If you want to spew Good Feeling then do so. There is no law against it. Frankly, I see no great value to it, but your mileage may vary. As a general rule I ask crass questions like:

1. Will doing so and so add a dollar to my bank account?

2. Will doing so and so make me a pound lighter?

3. Will doing so and so take an inch off my waist?

4. Will doing so and so add a healthy day to my life span?

You know, crass materialistic questions like that.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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In the supermarket today I saw a child, acting like a child, and I felt love for that child. He was not my child. It never would have occurred to me to dump or eviscerate my capacity to feel such love. I am not suicidal.

--Brant

Neither am I. Love requires energy and I have just so much of it so I save it for Me and Mine. If you want to spew Good Feeling then do so. There is no law against it. Frankly, I see no great value to it, but your mileage may vary. As a general rule I ask crass questions like:

1. Will doing so and so add a dollar to my bank account?

2. Will doing so and so make me a pound lighter?

3. Will doing so and so take an inch off my waist?

4. Will doing so and so add a healthy day to my life span?

You know, crass materialistic questions like that.

Ba'al Chatzaf

When I feel love I feel love. It's energizing. Why fight that? Now that's what would take energy!

--Brant

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~ Ya know, I saw a (apparently approx 16-17 yr old 'child') yesterday in Wal-Mart's, 2 buying-counters down, acting like a 'child'.

~ Attractive she was, yes; feeling 'love' for her, HA!

~ Yet 2 buyers in front of me a 'child' (9-11?) was trying to act like an 'adult', paying for his 3 items (quietly supervised, I noticed); here, I know what Brant describes.

Baal:

~ If you haven't raised kids, don't do a Bill Maher/W.C.Fields and talk about them. Really. Your questions would apply just as much to any trustworthy friendship.

LLAP

J:D

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Baal:

~ If you haven't raised kids, don't do a Bill Maher/W.C.Fields and talk about them. Really. Your questions would apply just as much to any trustworthy friendship.

LLAP

J:D

My wife and I have four children and five grandchildren. My good wife and I babysit our three New Jersey grandchildren at least twice a week and we see our Buffalo grandchildren at least ten times a year. We keep in touch with our older grandchildren by phone and e-mail and by exchange of letters and cards when we are not with them.

Bottom line: My wife and I have raised kids and grandchildren.

Arrrghh! What's in yerrrr nursery?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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Brant:

~ Quite a stable to...keep an eye on. Have had all. Keep an eye on those cats (and, I love 'em); you know they're keeping an eye on *you.*

Baal:

~ Interesting. This makes your 'crass questions' criteria perplexing.

~ Re *my* nursery...

add a couple years to this

...plus a new dog, 'Nemo' (got him from a shelter; already named such. Yes: we lucked out in 'Finding Nemo.') A ger-shep/boxer mix (with a vet-confirmed hint of pt-bl); an oversized puppy (think Marmaduke) who terrorizes next door apt-neighbors by growling/barking at them when they walk by our fence-enclosed yard, merely because he's frustrated at not being able to get to them to jump on and play with; not that they realize this.

~ Ah-h-h, kids...

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey
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Proper philosophy protects, nurtures and makes possible science and its continuing right application. Science is not possible without that kind of philosophy. It is strangled in its crib--by philosophy's absence or philosophy's wrongheadedness evil.

--Brant

Yeah. Like Aristotle's nonsense concerning motion of bodies. That really protected science. And don't forget the crystalline spheres that held the planets as they rotated around the Earth. Aristotelean junk physics delayed real physics for nearly a thousand years. Modern physics developed -in spite- of Aristotle, not because of Aristotle.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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Proper philosophy protects, nurtures and makes possible science and its continuing right application. Science is not possible without that kind of philosophy. It is strangled in its crib--by philosophy's absence or philosophy's wrongheadedness evil.

--Brant

Yeah. Like Aristotle's nonsense concerning motion of bodies. That really protected science. And don't forget the crystalline spheres that held the planets as they rotated around the Earth. Aristotelean junk physics delayed real physics for nearly a thousand years. Modern physics developed -in spite- of Aristotle, not because of Aristotle.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Did I say Aristotle represented right and true philosophy? This is sophistical!

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Did I say Aristotle represented right and true philosophy? This is sophistical!

--Brant

My apologies for leaping to a conclusion. Who did you have in mind? Surely not Ayn Rand. What philosophical material has she ever produced that enhances natural science?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Did I say Aristotle represented right and true philosophy? This is sophistical!

--Brant

My apologies for leaping to a conclusion. Who did you have in mind? Surely not Ayn Rand. What philosophical material has she ever produced that enhances natural science?

Ba'al Chatzaf

The general freedom we have had in the West for the last several centuries has helped science and I think philosophy has helped with securing that freedom.

I am more and more of the opinion that a proper philosophy needs to explicitly encompass the scientific method and eschew absolutism beyond the axiomatic base. This means that not only am I no longer calling myself an Objectivist (extant), but that I may have to stop thinking of myself as one.

--Brant

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Major Ebola outbreak in Congo confirmed, up to 166 deaths could be linked

Sep 12, 2007

Breitbart

Anyone want a real good SELFISH reason for compassion, since biological wiring doesn't cut it with some? At least enough compassion to not allow vultures to eat live starving children?

I don't see ebola breaking out in the USA or any other civilized country, even if a case or two happened. A plague needs certain conditions to take hold and spread. Well, ebola will be one mother of a plague once it hits civilized countries (which I dearly hope it does not).

Anyone care to see a cause and effect here?

Michael

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Major Ebola outbreak in Congo confirmed, up to 166 deaths could be linked

Sep 12, 2007

Breitbart

Anyone want a real good SELFISH reason for compassion, since biological wiring doesn't cut it with some? At least enough compassion to not allow vultures to eat live starving children?

I don't see ebola breaking out in the USA or any other civilized country, even if a case or two happened. A plague needs certain conditions to take hold and spread. Well, ebola will be one mother of a plague once it hits civilized countries (which I dearly hope it does not).

Anyone care to see a cause and effect here?

Michael

I am missing something. Hep me. Hep me. What is supposed to be causing what?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Hi Michael,

Sorry that I have been out of the loop for a while, but I do feel a need to comment on this thread. I have read through all of the replies and I think that people are missing the point. The apparent ethical dilemma that Michael posed can be solved by noting that, on average, the existence of other human beings is a net positive value to one's own life. This point is extremely important to Objectivist thought, though I think that sometimes Rand herself ignored it.

First, let's look at how the principle applies to some of the situations that you described. In the case of the baby in the toilet, there are several things to note: (1) The baby is innocent. (2) The person finding the baby doesn't know what the baby would do if he/she grew up. (3) The amount of effort required to save the baby is minuscule.

The first two points relate to the amount of knowledge that the person finding the baby had about the baby. Since the person doesn't know anything about the baby, other than that is is a baby, he should, rationally, ascribe a small positive value to the baby --- the average value that he would ascribe to all human beings. He might add to that the joy that any baby can bring to a person who notices the beauty of such a creature.

The third point, relates to the value (disvalue) of spending one's time rescuing the baby. All the finder had to do was remove the baby from the toilet and resuscitate it until emergency services arrived. After that, it was not his problem any longer.

So, the net value of the baby minus the value of the effort expended to save the baby was a positive value to the rescuer, so rescuing the baby was the correct, rational decision.

We would correctly view a person as depraved if he stood idly by doing nothing because we would correctly surmise that such a person must be incapable of seeing the value of the baby or so full of false importance that he cannot break, even momentarily, from his busy schedule to exert the minute amount of effort required to save the baby.

In the case of the vulture baby, the situation is somewhat more complex. If the context of the story is that there are scores, or perhaps thousands, of children in similar straits, then it may seem futile for an individual to intervene and attempt to help. However, one could make the case that we, as a nation, should attempt to bring justice to such people.

This brings me to an important point. Objectivists and Libertarians sometimes speak as if justice can be assured at no cost. We blithely assume the existence of a police force that will swoop in and arrest criminals at no expense to ourselves. But such is not the case. Police cost money. Armies cost money. And in the absence of police, we must put our lives at risk to do the policing ourselves.

Now, if other people were not, on average, a net value to each of us, we might decide that it is easier to ignore a criminal with the thought that they are unlikely to attack us personally, then to do something about him/her. But, if we view other people as a net value, then an attack on any good person is an attack on each of us personally. Seen this way, it becomes an easy, and rational, decision to expend some amount of effort to attempt to thwart a criminal act --- to pay to join a protection society, to provide information to the police, or even to accept a small risk to our own lives.

In terms of foreign policy, one can easily make the case that it is in our interest to intervene in the affairs of other countries. Everything from security issues to foreign trade are possible considerations. A free and prosperous Africa, for example, is very much in our own self-interest. Of course, we must weigh that against the probable cost and the potential for failure. And in pursuing such goals, we should examine all possible methods of achieving success including education/advice, threats, covert assassinations and even warfare. And yes, it may be rational, in some cases, to risk American lives to achieve success.

Objectivists and Libertarians seem to have a really hard time with the notion that it is sometimes ok to risk American lives to achieve an objective such as the liberating of a foreign country. But their arguments fail on two levels. First, the loss of life is not a forgone conclusion. We are not expending American lives to rescue other people. We are assuming a risk in order to achieve our ends. Second, the provision of justice always involves the assumption of risk. Police sometimes die in the line of duty. In the absence of police, each of us would have to assume some risk in order to achieve justice. But, the rewards outweigh the risks. So, it is rational to take the risks in order to reap the rewards.

Part of the problem is an us-versus-them mentality. But, if we assume that we would be better off eliminating half the world's population (or at least adopting a hostile stance towards them) then we are ignoring the positive value of other human beings. Somewhere in the vast billions of oppressed peoples of the world might be the person that cures cancer or develops the means of extending human life. To ignore that fact is profoundly irrational.

I'm not saying the U.S. can solve all the world's problems. But, we should be actively engaged in trying to bring freedom and capitalism to the rest of the world. We should advise people on the value of property rights. We should educate them about the kinds of institutions that can help them secure their freedom. We should threaten, depose and assassinate thugs. We should fund insurgencies against oppressive regimes. And, yes, we should even go to war from time to time in order to help bring justice to the world.

We worry about our government becoming oppressive. What better way to ensure our liberty than to create a free world in which dictatorships are a temporary anomaly. By refusing to engage the rest of the world, we actually imperil our own freedom. Our government needs criticism from countries worthy of delivering such criticism. Currently none exist. It is in our interest to create them.

There are other issues that need to be addressed in regard to this issue, but I will stop here for now.

Darrell

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Darrell,

Thank you for those thoughts. I want to say something, but first things first.

I am missing something. Hep me. Hep me. What is supposed to be causing what?

Bob, I'm supposed to be causing confusion in you and you causing exasperation in me. :)

Back to Darrell.

I rarely like the following writer's articles (since I started reading them more carefully), but Joe Rowlands recently posted a fairly good one that covers the issue of foreign policy: The Omnipotence Premise.

Leaving aside some of his more imprecise thoughts (there is a strong insinuation that philosophy is not based on observation, for example), he did nail an idea I have not seen discussed often. Rights should be a guide for how we conduct foreign policy, especially in terms of identifying allies and enemies, potential or otherwise, but we have to remember that force is only subservient to rights if people so choose. Otherwise it is not. Thus the USA is not unbeatable and there are those out there who do want to beat us. But those out there are also human beings and deserving of rights.

Ignoring either leads to the strange pronouncements we now read in the libertarian and Objectivist world of complete isolationism or "nuke 'em all." Neither takes the full context into account.

Using ethical principles as the guide to foreign policy, I see no problem whatsoever in intervening in a dictatorship to put an end genocide.

I have additional thoughts to add to the benefit of saving infants in peril—when possible and viable—and getting rid of adults who promote starving them (among other horrors), but I will expound later. I have already written some things.

I will leave it at this for now. Is it possible for a person to be fully realized as an individual (with a society that reflects this) and still be part of a species (with a society that reflects this), too? Of course, I not only think it is possible, I think it is the only truly rational way.

Michael

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I rarely like the following writer's articles (since I started reading them more carefully), but Joe Rowlands recently posted a fairly good one that covers the issue of foreign policy: The Omnipotence Premise.

Interesting article. He is certainly correct that we should be engaged with the rest of the world and cannot afford to be either isolationists or "nuke-em-all" warmongers. But he misses the real point. The problem is not philosophical purity. The problem is incorrect premises. If we start from the notion that other people generally have no value to us and that we should only tolerate them as long as they don't interfere in our lives, then we end up where the article starts, i.e., with isolationists or warmongers. If the existence of other people is only barely tolerable, then it seems rational to snuff them out as soon as they misbehave in the slightest. But if we view other people as generally beneficial to our own existence, then it makes sense to tolerate some misbehavior and to spend the time and effort necessary to sort out the bad actors from everyone else.

Darrell

Edited by Darrell Hougen
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I rarely like the following writer's articles (since I started reading them more carefully), but Joe Rowlands recently posted a fairly good one that covers the issue of foreign policy: The Omnipotence Premise.

Interesting article. He is certainly correct that we should be engaged with the rest of the world and cannot afford to be either isolationists or "nuke-em-all" warmongers. But he misses the real point. The problem is not philosophical purity. The problem is incorrect premises. If we start from the notion that other people generally have no value to us and that we should only tolerate them as long as they don't interfere in our lives, then we end up where the article starts, i.e., with isolationists or warmongers. If the existence of other people is only barely tolerable, then it seems rational to snuff them out as soon as they misbehave in the slightest. But if we view other people as generally beneficial to our own existence, then it makes sense to tolerate some misbehavior and to spend the time and effort to sort out the bad actors from everyone else.

Darrell

The sure-fire way of accomplishing this is to make -the other people- customers for our goods and services. That way, they are valuable to us, because of the business they bring and we are valuable to them. It is a win win situation. Trade is the most peace producing relationship there can be among the different peoples of the world. We don't have to love each other, but we can value each other's business. Of course, this scenario presupposes mutual good will. This is something entirely lacking when we deal with Muslim nations. They look at us as loathsome creatures who must be made to submit to their religion or be wiped out.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Trade is the most peace producing relationship there can be among the different peoples of the world. We don't have to love each other, but we can value each other's business. Of course, this scenario presupposes mutual good will. This is something entirely lacking when we deal with Muslim nations. They look at us as loathsome creatures who must be made to submit to their religion or be wiped out.

Bob,

I have problems with this on both counts. They are both in theory and not in practice. In practice, FREE TRADE "is the most peace producing relationship." When trade is entered with a dictator or corrupt politicians/businessmen, the game is anything goes—and that often is war. (I won't even start about our end.) In the case of Muslim nations, some parts of the populations feel as you say. Others do not.

I have a principle I came up with back in my college days and one day I intend to use it as a theme for a literary work. If a person is content to be going along in a life of habit and modest means, then you come and offer him wealth he never dreamed of, he will take it, but he will forever hate you for it. I see this working just as strongly, if not more so, in oil countries where the general education level is low than appeals to the Qur'an and bigotry.

Michael

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I rarely like the following writer's articles (since I started reading them more carefully), but Joe Rowlands recently posted a fairly good one that covers the issue of foreign policy: The Omnipotence Premise.

Interesting article. He is certainly correct that we should be engaged with the rest of the world and cannot afford to be either isolationists or "nuke-em-all" warmongers. But he misses the real point. The problem is not philosophical purity. The problem is incorrect premises. If we start from the notion that other people generally have no value to us and that we should only tolerate them as long as they don't interfere in our lives, then we end up where the article starts, i.e., with isolationists or warmongers. If the existence of other people is only barely tolerable, then it seems rational to snuff them out as soon as they misbehave in the slightest. But if we view other people as generally beneficial to our own existence, then it makes sense to tolerate some misbehavior and to spend the time and effort to sort out the bad actors from everyone else.

Darrell

The sure-fire way of accomplishing this is to make -the other people- customers for our goods and services. That way, they are valuable to us, because of the business they bring and we are valuable to them. It is a win win situation. Trade is the most peace producing relationship there can be among the different peoples of the world. We don't have to love each other, but we can value each other's business. Of course, this scenario presupposes mutual good will. This is something entirely lacking when we deal with Muslim nations. They look at us as loathsome creatures who must be made to submit to their religion or be wiped out.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Maybe they figure the greater their adversary ("The Great Satin") the more credit they get for kicking our butts. Here is what they have going for them: religion (irrational), destructive endeavors (it's easier to destroy than to create), warriorhood (mostly vicarious) and fear of women (keep them covered up).

--Brant

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The sure-fire way of accomplishing this is to make -the other people- customers for our goods and services.

This is, of course, the standard Objectivist and Libertarian answer to the problem. And, I have no objection to that approach, as far as it goes. But, my point is that we need to engage other nations politically as well as economically.

It turns out, for example, that it is hard to start up and run businesses in some countries simply because property rights are ill-defined in those places. It's hard to borrow money against your land when you have no deed to the land. Such countries could benefit from studying English and American law and we could help them (more than we are) and it would be in our self-interest to do so.

Darrell

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