Starving Child in the Wilderness Revisited


Michael Stuart Kelly

Recommended Posts

If the "model" does not respect what is then it is-not a model of it.

It's real easy for people to simply claim to have modeled reality by claiming that man was created by some kind of intelligent designer. But if that claim is not in accordance with what actually exists in reality then it cannot actually be a model of it.

Yes it is, that's why I said some methods of modeling, like religion, are highly speculative. But no field is immune from speculation, but some try to minimize it. People have been arguing for thousands of years about 'what is' so this is a dead end, as became apparent with advances in quantum mechanics. Getting people to agree about "what is" is impossible, the best we can do is make models and compare them to our experience. Even our most exact sciences have to make assumptions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did not meant to say there are not many definitions for individual words floating around. I did mean to say there is only one rational definition for each word.

Well that is manifestly false. Just look at your use of the word "individual" here, which means "a distinct thing". This is one rational definition, and compare to "individual" as "a human being"--another rational definition.

Shayne

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the "model" does not respect what is then it is-not a model of it.

You're trying to ascribe a rational definition to the term "model", however, the coiners of that term have nothing rational in mind when they use it. It's a pure Kantian construct meant to convey a dichotomy between the alleged noumenal and phenomenal realms.

It's real easy for people to simply claim to have modeled reality by claiming that man was created by some kind of intelligent designer. But if that claim is not in accordance with what actually exists in reality then it cannot actually be a model of it.

This is a very healthy reality-oriented reaction but it will get you nowhere in an argument with the "modeler" mentality.

Shayne

Why be concerned about what Kant has to say?

Under Objectivism if someone says they have "modeled" reality that claim needs to be supported by what reality actually is; otherwise the claim is false.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the "model" does not respect what is then it is-not a model of it.

It's real easy for people to simply claim to have modeled reality by claiming that man was created by some kind of intelligent designer. But if that claim is not in accordance with what actually exists in reality then it cannot actually be a model of it.

Yes it is, that's why I said some methods of modeling, like religion, are highly speculative. But no field is immune from speculation, but some try to minimize it. People have been arguing for thousands of years about 'what is' so this is a dead end, as became apparent with advances in quantum mechanics. Getting people to agree about "what is" is impossible, the best we can do is make models and compare them to our experience. Even our most exact sciences have to make assumptions.

OK! But what religion does in this regard is to begin with nothing. Then it tries to advance ideas from that perspective. And they end up with absurdity. Since Religious "modeling" is based on the existence of nothing; that is what it produces - nothing. When nothing is modeled - no model exists. To model reality from a religious perspective is a contradiction in terms - it cannot be done.

At least science begins with something and then advances ideas from that perspective. When science "models" reality the resultant is theoretically rational.

A scientific model is called a theory where a religious model is called absurdity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did not meant to say there are not many definitions for individual words floating around. I did mean to say there is only one rational definition for each word.

Well that is manifestly false. Just look at your use of the word "individual" here, which means "a distinct thing". This is one rational definition, and compare to "individual" as "a human being"--another rational definition.

Shayne

So what is your point?

You don't agree that individual words exist or is it that you don't agree that individual humans exist?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So what is your point?

You don't agree that individual words exist or is it that you don't agree that individual humans exist?

Well quite clearly the answer is both. Neither words exists nor humans nor Kant nor models nor any chance of ever communicating with you on anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why be concerned about what Kant has to say?

Why be concerned when my point goes over your head?

Are you Kant?

OMFG

Are you praying to God for guidance? That's not very objective!

You made a reference to Kant. I simply asked why you are concerned about what Kant might say. As an Objectivist your only interest ought to be what reality is and how you relate to it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So what is your point?

You don't agree that individual words exist or is it that you don't agree that individual humans exist?

Well quite clearly the answer is both. Neither words exists nor humans nor Kant nor models nor any chance of ever communicating with you on anything.

Why are you becoming upset? I can only respond to what you're actually saying.

You tried to prove "individual" has more that one rational meaning by trying to show it applies differently to words than it does to humans. If you can do that - go ahead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A scientific model is called a theory where a religious model is called absurdity.

That may seem true nowadays but at one time religious scholars were the most knowledgeable people around. I find the best way to look at this is that religion may be thought of as primitive science and science as modern religion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A scientific model is called a theory where a religious model is called absurdity.

That may seem true nowadays but at one time religious scholars were the most knowledgeable people around. I find the best way to look at this is that religion may be thought of as primitive science and science as modern religion.

Which is why religion jailed Galileo...

Religion is only about one thing: mass control of sheep.

Shayne

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which is why religion jailed Galileo...

Religion is only about one thing: mass control of sheep.

Science seeks to control as well. Eat healthy and exercise! Why? Because science says so. Objectivism says embrace rational self-interest, etc. All of our systems seek to change behaviour, that is nothing new.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A scientific model is called a theory where a religious model is called absurdity.

That may seem true nowadays but at one time religious scholars were the most knowledgeable people around. I find the best way to look at this is that religion may be thought of as primitive science and science as modern religion.

You can choose to look at it that way if you wish to but I don't see the value in doing that. This is because religion is not based in knowledge, its based in belief.

Notice how its possible to believe anything. To possess knowledge requires a sensual stimulation. Believers cannot physically reference what they are talking about so they simply ask others to believe they can.

However I agree that some science is beginning to look more like religion than science.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A scientific model is called a theory where a religious model is called absurdity.

That may seem true nowadays but at one time religious scholars were the most knowledgeable people around. I find the best way to look at this is that religion may be thought of as primitive science and science as modern religion.

Which is why religion jailed Galileo...

Religion is only about one thing: mass control of sheep.

Shayne

And if you would rather not believe what religions is telling you the religious will gladly force you to act as if you do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which is why religion jailed Galileo...

Religion is only about one thing: mass control of sheep.

Science seeks to control as well. Eat healthy and exercise! Why? Because science says so. Objectivism says embrace rational self-interest, etc. All of our systems seek to change behaviour, that is nothing new.

That's simply not true. Science discovers how ones diet impacts ones health and then lets one decide what to do with that information.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's simply not true. Science discovers how ones diet impacts ones health and then lets one decide what to do with that information.

We need to be careful here. 'Science' doesn't tell people how to behave, scientists do. Same with religion, the theory that God exists is one thing, the attempts of religious leaders to use this theory to influence people is another thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's simply not true. Science discovers how ones diet impacts ones health and then lets one decide what to do with that information.

We need to be careful here. 'Science' doesn't tell people how to behave, scientists do. Same with religion, the theory that God exists is one thing, the attempts of religious leaders to use this theory to influence people is another thing.

But notice how religious leaders MUST tell people how they ought to be acting. This is because the basis of their ideas cannot be known. For example: I have no way to determine how you think I ought to be acting other than you telling me. When I place my actions under your perspective as to how I ought to act; then, you MUST tell me how to act.

Science does not do that. Science simply presents information about what can be know. It is my responsibility to verify whether what they are presenting is information or is fancy (if I have the tools). If I don't have the tools then I am left with belief. Meaning I can believe the scientist is telling me the truth and then act in accordance with it - or not. But that is my choice. Science does not tell people how to act. The only purpose of science is to uncover information about what is known to exist and present that information for consideration by others.

When a person says "smoking is bad for your health" this is scientific fact.

When a person says "stop smoking because its bad for your health" this is not science - and it matters not if that person is a scientist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 13 years later...

I was looking up something about a place I lived, called Halsey Circle and I found this old gem. Peter

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Re: abortion EM, LFL, PinkCrash, Morg Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 01:13:02 -0400. Roger says: >... the state, government, private agencies -- these are all ~people~.

Debbie replies by repeating her image of the agencies designed to protect children as being "accountable to no one and operat[ing] according to no established rules at all."  "They do as they please," Debbie says, "and it often comes down to a raw struggle for power -- the state against the parents and the facts of the case be damned."

I think that Debbie has had some experience in her own past with such agencies which leaves her negatively inclined toward all of them.  I also think that there's considerable variability from place to place in what child-welfare agencies are like. But I want to interject here a word of personal experience with one such agency.

When I first moved to Connecticut in the mid-80s, I had an office-temp job for a while working for the State Department of Child Welfare.  I went to the job with both curiosity and trepidation:  I was rather expecting to find that the social workers were similar to Catherine Halsey in *The Fountainhead.* That isn't what I found.  Instead, with one exception in a department of some twenty-five social workers, plus support staff, every person there genuinely cared about children and was genuinely concerned to help children.  The terrific frustration which was experienced was that often legal mechanisms were too slow; there were cases where it was well known by the social workers that a child was being abused, but it could be very difficult to remove the child from parental custody.

One such case was comparable to the one Barbara described: an infant boy who was being beaten and starved by a half-senile grandmother.  I won't describe the details.  The situation was a race against time, trying to get a court-order fast enough. The race was lost; the boy died.  And the grief felt by those who had been trying to save him was deep.

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of Roger's observation: the people employed by child-welfare agencies are people.  They aren't THE STATE, faceless and monolithic.  Although I'm sure that there's variability from locale to locale in the quality of those employed by such agencies, it's stereotyping to think that all of them are the monsters whom Debbie paints them as being. Ellen S.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

Hmmmm. The moral complexities of emergencies. I can’t remember if these have shown up lately so here they are, maybe again. Peter

From below: No more damn fool questions if you stop writing damn fool arguments, ya hear! ES

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: A Last Word for the Moment on Rights Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 03:27:51 -0500. Trying to analyze my emotional reactions to the prudent predator scenes we've been discussing, I've realized that part of what bothers me here is that sneaking into movie theaters, etc., seems so ignoble.  If there's one thing the early Objectivist movement did have, despite its numerous and acknowledged flaws, it had an emphasis on trying to lead a heroic life, a life of high character. Thus it seems to me so antithetic to the *spirit* of everything Ayn Rand stood for to think of her work being interpreted as sanctioning a lifestyle of "prudent" predating.  I find this esthetically offensive. I probably won't make any friends on this list by saying that, but it's something I had to get off my chest. And now I'm going to have to drop out of the rights discussion again for the next month or thereabouts: other demands on my time are looming. Ellen

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Why be moral when you have cancer? Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 16:24:17 -0500 I, too, lack the time to get into this again, but I would point out to Gayle that the possibility of pursuing *rational* self-interest -- which is the only form of "self-interest" pursuit which Rand's ethics upholds -- is rendered inoperative in a social context where the principle of rights is not honored. Turn the thing around, Gayle:  what you're saying is that your pursuit of *your* *rational* self-interest is legitimately at the mercy of anyone who happens to feel like killing you. Some ethics! Ellen S

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  Why be moral when you have cancer? Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 16:35:37 -0500. Bill, as he has multiple times before, quotes Rand as saying: "The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action...." She does say this, but I notice, Bill, that you *always* leave out of consideration the full context (read the WHOLE Introduction to VOS!) and *always* leave out the "but" which immediately follows. Here's the quote including the "but."

"The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action.  BUT [my emphasis] his right to do so is derived from his nature as man and from the function of moral values in human life -- and, therefore, is applicable ONLY [her emphasis] in the context of a rational, objectively demonstrated and validated code of moral principles which define and determine his actual self-interest."

Let's not delete the part of a Rand quote (or of any quote) which happens to be inconvenient for one's thesis. ES

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  Why be moral when you have cancer? Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 00:58:08 -0500. Bill responded to a post of mine today with basically the answer I expected, but, fact is, I don't think Bill's answer holds in the context of his own previous posts about rights.  (See his full reply below; for his earlier presentations see the archives.)

We're seeing here a repeat of an argument which long-standing list members have gone round and round on, the argument as to whether or not "egoism" is the foundation of Rand's ethics. Bill has argued in the past that the sentence "[t]he Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always by the beneficiary of his action" is the "hallmark" of the Objectivist ethics. I disagree, and I think that even her Introduction to VOS can't correctly be interpreted thus.  Precisely the central thrust of this Introduction is that a beneficiary criterion of ethics is *wrong*.  This applies to *any* beneficiary criterion, whether altruist or egoist.  Everything Rand says against altruists adopting a beneficiary criterion applies equally against egoists doing so. What I think Bill's view comes down to, as I've explained in the past (please read the archives if interested), is that sometimes it's ok to sacrifice others to oneself.  But I don't read Rand's analysis even of emergency situations as supporting this conclusion. The whole subject is one which is obviously very troublesome for interpreters of Rand.  It's also a subject which I'm not desirous of debating at length (psychology, where I *don't* see eye-to-eye with Rand, is my area of major concern).  Thus I'm going to step back out of a debate which I stepped into against my better judgment. I'll merely add that I agree so strongly with George Smith's interpretations of Rand, I feel safe in adding "ditto" to his posts. Ellen S.

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  Why be moral when you have cancer? Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 18:16:24 -0500. Bill says:   << "You apparently don't think that stealing someone's property to further your own interests entails "sacrificing others to oneself".  >>

Read carefully the way you put that and then tell me you aren't opening the door miles wide to Luka. Would you like to rephrase your question to me?

>I don't think you're grasping what's at issue between Luka and me.  He's >objecting to my argument for individual rights, which is based on the  >idea that the benefits of freedom depend on each person's willingness to  >respect the rights of others even when he can profit in the short run by  >violating them.  He doesn't think that's egoistic.

It might be "egoistic," a la you, but it isn't a good argument, and isn't Rand's argument.  See George's posts on that one. He's been doing a great job.

>I don't think you've been following our discussion very closely.

Bill, I was watching the whole history of how Luka would develop implications from details in your posts. I really do recommend studying the archives!! Ellen S.

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Moral Complexities: (was Emergencies) Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 11:13:13 -0500 [Sorry if this post appears twice; it duplicates a post which hasn't yet shown up.] I'll interject a personal comment here -- this isn't to be taken as a statement on how Rand would have analyzed things. If I were the person in the shipwreck scenario, I'd think of my helping myself to food from a convenient deserted house as borrowing on the presumed benevolence of the lender and with every intention of repaying the loan.

If it were a case of forcibly taking the food of some other shipwreck survivor, I wouldn't take the food.  I wouldn't be emotionally capable of doing this unless the someone else were someone I considered despicable (and there are few persons whom I consider despicable). Ellen S.

From: "George H. Smith" To: <atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Moral Complexities: (was Emergencies) Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 21:59:18 -0600. Ellen Stuttle wrote: "If I were the person in the shipwreck scenario, I'd think of my helping myself to food from a convenient deserted house as borrowing on the presumed benevolence of the lender and with every intention of repaying the loan. If it were a case of forcibly taking the food of some other shipwreck survivor, I wouldn't take the food.  I wouldn't be emotionally capable of doing this unless the someone else were someone I considered despicable (and there are few persons whom I consider despicable)."

Although Ellen presents this as her own opinion, without attributing the same view to Rand, I think the two are in basic agreement. By this I don't mean that Rand would personally refuse to take the food of another survivor by violence (I don't know if she would or not), but rather that Rand considered this to be one among several possible moral options. Although Rand apparently believed that saving yourself at he expense of someone else may be morally justified, I see no evidence that she regarded this kind of action as morally *mandatory.*  I think (though I cannot prove this) that Rand, like Ellen, would base her own emergency decision on the severity of the action that would be required to save her own life. If she were shipwrecked and hungry, would she *kill* the innocent house owner in order to get to his food? I have my doubts, but neither am I certain that she would necessarily condemn someone who did, if it was either that or die from starvation. Would I steal in order to save my own life? Yes, most probably. Would I murder one innocent person to save my own life? Here I'm not absolutely certain -- it would depend on the circumstances of the scenario in question -- but probably not. Would I kill my wife or daughter in order to save my own life? Most certainly not.

There are situations where we face legitimate moral options, i.e., where more than one possibility is morally permissible, and no single option is absolutely required. I think emergency cases are of this type. A lot depends on the specific details of the emergency case in question, as well as on the personal beliefs and values of the people involved. In other words, it depends on the context. As Rand wrote in "The Conflicts of Men's Interests":

"The term 'interests' is a wide abstraction that covers the entire field of ethics. It includes the issues of: man's values, his desires, his goals and their actual achievement in reality." (VOS, p. 51) There is an excellent movie starring Tyrone Power, in which he must make a decision to cast some people overboard from a lifeboat, because there is no way that everyone can survive. I can't remember the title offhand -- and, no, it's not "Lifeboat," the Hitchcock film, which has a similar theme -- so maybe someone can refresh my memory. In any case, it is based on a true story, and it deals with the lifeboat case in an extremely thoughtful and interesting way. I recommend it highly. Ghs

From: "William Dwyer" To: <atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  Rand's emergency ethics Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 22:10:59 -0800. Ellen Stuttle wrote, "I asked you this question before about the blankets scenario.  I wonder if your answer is still the same about the shipwreck scenario. To whom does the food belong which the starving person takes? To whom does the house belong which the starving person enters?"

Gosh, Ellen, I don't remember my answer to the "blankets scenario". What did I say?  Please tell me; I sure wouldn't want to give a different answer to the "shipwreck scenario".  You know how much I value consistency, and how difficult it is to keep track of all those "scenarios".  And there you go again asking me embarrassing questions, like I know the answers!

Okay, okay.  To whom does the food belong which the starving person takes?  Hmm.  Now that's a good one.  Let's see...it doesn't belong to the starving person, right? -- even though he is justified in taking it. Then does it belong to the owner?  Wellll.... (let's see, how can I squirm out of this? -- are you listening, Jason; I wouldn't want you to miss this one!).  Ahem!  I'd say...that it doesn't belong to the owner either, at least not at the time the starving person is justified in taking it.  Why not?

Well, you see, if the food belongs to the owner, then the starving man shouldn't take it. But it's not true that the starving man shouldn't take it.  He needs it to survive. Therefore, the food does not belong to the owner. Kind of a modus tollens argument, if you know what I mean!  I.e., If A, then B; not-B; Therefore, not-A. Sound good?  I knew you'd like it.  Then I will happily use the same argument to answer the second question. Whew!  Got by that one in a pinch, didn't I?! Billy D. P.S.  Now Ellen, you be a good girl and don't bother me no more with these damn fool questions, ya hear!

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  Rand's emergency ethics Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001 06:13:07 -0500 Bill says:  > Sound good?  I knew you'd like it.

No.  Sounds dumb.

>Then I will happily use the same argument to answer the second question. Whew!  Got by that one in a pinch, didn't I?! Billy D.

The second question was whether the house belonged to the starving person who had entered it.  I assume Bill does realize the extent of the possessions -- the property -- he divested from that poor hapless homeowner who happened to get in a starving man's path.

>P.S.  Now Ellen, you be a good girl and don't bother me no more with these damn fool questions, ya hear!

No more damn fool questions if you stop writing damn fool arguments, ya hear! ES

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Whose bread is it anyway? Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 01:17:17 -0500 I'm glad to see Bill acknowledge in so many words that the conclusions he draws from Rand's definition of rights are his own, but I must take issue with his comment that:

>This whole debate over "disappearing rights" has become little more than a semantic issue....

I have argued from the beginning -- by which I mean since somewhat more than a year ago, when I first began paying attention to Bill's views on rights -- that the implications of his precise arguments are deadly.  I have no doubt at all, pointed questions and remarks notwithstanding, that *Bill himself*, fully respects individual rights and would never himself take any of the actions to which his implications could lead. But others wouldn't be as scrupulous. Like George, I much respect Bill's dedication to philosophy, but what I think is that often the details of how Bill puts his arguments open the door to consequences at which he would shudder. Thus I caution him to keep in mind that philosophy indeed IS powerful, and that he'd be better off spending more time on the details of how he puts things before he fires off his typically rapid responses.  He might thus spare himself and all of us months' worth of repetitive debate. Ellen S.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Peter said:

Hmmmm. The moral complexities of emergencies. I can’t remember if these have shown up lately so here they are, maybe again. Peter

Peter,

There is a story to go along with this thread (which is one in a series of threads).

Back then (but without looking it up, I don't remember where on these threads), in an interaction with Roger and Ellen, I said I was going to write a short story to illustrate issues involved with the baby in the wilderness. Both Roger and Ellen back then were (and are) my prompts for this story.

I am now at a point in my fiction writing where I feel I can finally finish this damn thing.

The story is called "Melody's Edge" and I have accumulated a crap-load of information, outlines, notes, and so on. In fact, I found a perfect setting called The Devil's Courthouse in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. (Just think of the symbolism! :) )

Once in a blue moon, I keep Ellen apprised of my progress. I rarely communicate with Roger these days. Here are some pictures from an offline communication I had with Ellen from a while back. 

On 10/16/2019 at 8:11 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I forgot to include a picture. Here is what Whiteside Mountain looks like from a distance:

image.png

Absolutely gorgeous. Easy to fall off and kill yourself, but, also, plenty of ledges to fall on. Just like--symbolically--Objectivism. Or Christianity for that matter. And, man is the view from the top something! :) 

Here are some pictures of the Devil's Courthouse hike:

image.png

Plenty of places off the path to leave an abandoned baby.

image.png

image.png

Here is the stone observation deck. I will not be using this for any action, but I may use it as the reason people go on this hike.

image.png

I'm still looking for a good ledge, but there are many stories from Whiteside Mountain of people falling off, being saved by a ledge or trees, then followed by complicated rescues.

 

Before I finish writing this story, I really should go there and see with my own eyes. But I feel mature enough to write the story without that. Still... Let's see... I know I want to go...

As self-discipline, I have refused to write and publish any other fiction until I got "Melody's Edge" right. I realized it was going to be a long trek when I started, but I didn't realize it was going to be this long. Well over a decade. Good grief! :) 

But from what I have learned about story, neuroscience, modern psychology, trance, tracking, and a whole lot of other things, I am glad I set this out for myself the way I did.

Anyway, I am now comfortable discussing this project in public because I know it will not be too long before I finish it.

Michael

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've hiked to Devil's Courthouse. It is beautiful but because the trail is short, popular, and pet-friendly, it is always packed with people and dogs. I can see that being the reason why someone would abandon a baby there - very likely to be discovered and rescued quickly (assuming the abandoner wanted the baby to survive), but I can also see it being a reason why it would be difficult to abandon a baby there undetected. Also, it's not very likely that a random lone person would do the discovering. There would be a BUNCH of people around to witness it.

Sorry MSK, not trying to ruin your plan. Hopefully it's info that helps. A nighttime or very early morning abandonment/discovery could work. Or off-season although that does reduce the likelihood of the baby surviving alone very long. Or perhaps your story line includes a group of people discovering the baby.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now