Barbara Branden

Altruism

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"We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for, I don't know."

W.H. Auden

I love Auden. That craggy old face, those sharp bon mots. But the biggest stumbling block for me regarding Objectivism is the antipathy to altruism (or maybe 'altruism'). I live my life by a strict accordance to how people treat me. If they consider me, I consider them. If they think only of themselves and what benefits themselves, I don't consider them fully human. If they have no urge, hidden, vestigial, dormant or within reach, to empathize with others, to care about other people, and to occasionally put their own short term advantage aside while considering its implications for others, I withdraw from congress with them. I don't want to live in a community that is ruled by selfishness.

Having said that, I do understand the concept (in Randianese), and reject an imposed altruism, or the religious guilt trips that enforce putting others First above all. But I also reject that black and white are enough to see by. All or nothing. Red or Blue. Right or Left. If we actually lived in a social world where there were Altruists and there were the Selfish, the Altruists would exterminate the Selfish.

We don't live in that world. We live in a world of human colour, where each human being is dependent on others. And although there are evils associated with altruism, and although there are evils associated with selfishness . . . I don't believe any human being is without altrustic impulses, or -- to put a fine point on it -- without the ability to sacrifice for another, if only in a small way.

To illustrate my point, during the hideous crash and sinking of Flight 90 in the Potomac on January 13, 1982, several people leapt into the freezing water to try to rescue the doomed. I wept, not for the dead and injured, but for the altruistic efforts of those rescuers. I regard that impulse, from whatever depth of humanity, to be part of human glory. What other animal would do that? It certainly wan't Kant who pushed them into the water at the risk of their own death.

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To illustrate my point, during the hideous crash and sinking of Flight 90 in the Potomac on January 13, 1982, several people leapt into the freezing water to try to rescue the doomed. I wept, not for the dead and injured, but for the altruistic efforts of those rescuers. I regard that impulse, from whatever depth of humanity, to be part of human glory. What other animal would do that? It certainly wan't Kant who pushed them into the water at the risk of their own death.

That impulse cost some of the rescuers (or would be rescuers) their own lives.

What was it that Oscar Wilde once said? No good deed will go unpunished.

Seriously now, I think these folks operated on a sub rational impulse. I similar thing happened to me. About twenty five or so years ago I was working at DEC as a contractor. While putting my nose to the grindstone I heard someone choking in the kitchen area which was near my desk. Now this is what happened: I went into full auto, raced to the kitchen and applied the Heimlich maneuver. The alarming thing is that I have no recall of a single logical rational thought during the whole business. I just acted. There was no reason, there was no logic, nothing rational was at work. After the incident, I was shaken. All I recall is what I did and in slow motion at that.

I have spent years in trying to figure out what was wrong with me that day. I pride myself on being a man of reason and rationality. Further, I pride myself on acting in my long range self interest. None of that was at work on that day at that instant. I have never quite forgiven myself for the lapse. It was pure animal, genetically wired in impulse. May I go so far as to say it was instinct? Shame, shame, shame on me!

I would never weep for the irrational, why do you? I might blush, but never weep.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Seriously now, I think these folks operated on a sub rational impulse. I similar thing happened to me. About twenty five or so years ago I was working at DEC as a contractor. While putting my nose to the grindstone I heard someone choking in the kitchen area which was near my desk. Now this is what happened: I went into full auto, raced to the kitchen and applied the Heimlich maneuver. The alarming thing is that I have no recall of a single logical rational thought during the whole business. I just acted. There was no reason, there was no logic, nothing rational was at work. After the incident, I was shaken. All I recall is what I did and in slow motion at that.

I have spent years in trying to figure out what was wrong with me that day. I pride myself on being a man of reason and rationality. Further, I pride myself on acting in my long range self interest. None of that was at work on that day at that instant. I have never quite forgiven myself for the lapse. It was pure animal, genetically wired in impulse. May I go so far as to say it was instinct? Shame, shame, shame on me!

Rational didn't work because there was no time and no need. You had already prepared yourself. Now, if you had placed yourself in grave physical jeopardy that would be more interesting to examine; then there might have been a need to be rational and you might have stopped in your tracks. That might have been the right thing to do: stop and be rational. The stop might only be seconds--maybe the only time needed to be rational.

--Brant

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Your impulse to act and the fact that you did and although you don't mention it I suppose that you did save a life made me try to remember a similar event in my own life.

I was serving in the military in Korea while the war was raging in VN. It was considered a hardship tour but there were compensations. We were not in a combat zone although we were stationed on the traditional attack route from the North to Seoul.

Actually it was a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) and we took care of civilians as well as military.

One day a pregnant Korean woman was brought in who was supposed to be only eight months pregnant. She had eleven children already but was having rectal bleeding and the doctor wanted a barium enema done the next morning.

I had spent the day mountain climbing on nearby ridges so I was dressed in my fatigues and combat boots and was schmoozing in the nurses station while down the corridor of the ward we could see another nurse taking the pregnant woman to the bathroom at the other end of the ward after giving her a cleansing enema in preparation for the xray study the next morning.

Suddenly we heard the nurse call for help and while the nurse called the surgeon I ran down to the bathroom. I saw the nurse standing face to face with the Korean woman who was still standing halfway in the bathroom stall. As I approached we heard more than saw the newborn drop into the toilet water. I squeezed by in time to fetch the newborn baby up out of the drink.

I recall standing holding the baby just as the surgeon arrived and I could see him beyond the Korean mother and the nurse. He laughed heartedly as did we all. The newborn was fine, and, considering that many newborns were dropped in the rice paddies where nightsoil was used, his birth was relatively sterile.

One does not have to have an explicit conceptual thought in order to act in a rational manner.

galt

Edited by galtgulch

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Would anyone say it is somewhat act of altruism to write and publish a philosophical treatise? Is it not to inform and help others find meaning in their lives?

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Would anyone say it is somewhat act of altruism to write and publish a philosophical treatise? Is it not to inform and help others find meaning in their lives?

Or maybe doing so, demonstrates how smart the author is.

There is nothing wrong in doing an act that happens to benefit others, as a side effect.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Your impulse to act and the fact that you did and although you don't mention it I suppose that you did save a life made me try to remember a similar event in my own life.

I was serving in the military in Korea while the war was raging in VN. It was considered a hardship tour but there were compensations. We were not in a combat zone although we were stationed on the traditional attack route from the North to Seoul.

Actually it was a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) and we took care of civilians as well as military.

galt

When did you go through Ft. Sam? I was there spring and summer 1965.

--Brant

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There is nothing wrong in doing an act that happens to benefit others, as a side effect.

Is it a reasonable corollary of this to say "There is something wrong in doing an act that benefits others, as a primary effect"? Your subjective take on the ethics would be interesting.

I wonder if this thread could become like the wonderful "Baby in the Woods" thread on Rebirth of Dogma . . . in that thread I got the impression that every last Objectivist would pick up the baby and carry her to the Ranger Station, but that each Objectivist (except MSK and the other people banned) would defend to the death the right of any person to walk on by and have the infant die.

Regarding the irrational act, the 'sub rational impulse' . . . I agree. As I asked, "what other animal would do this?" (act altruisticly, jump in the water, rush to do a Heimlich, be ready to offer assistance to the birthing Korean, lay down his or her life for another on the field of battle, etc). What does it suggest about the nature of the beast?

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Your impulse to act and the fact that you did and although you don't mention it I suppose that you did save a life made me try to remember a similar event in my own life.

I was serving in the military in Korea while the war was raging in VN. It was considered a hardship tour but there were compensations. We were not in a combat zone although we were stationed on the traditional attack route from the North to Seoul.

Actually it was a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) and we took care of civilians as well as military.

galt

When did you go through Ft. Sam? I was there spring and summer 1965.

--Brant

Brant, I was at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio from September17th thought October of 1969 and then flew to Korea where I remained for thirteen months. Camp Mosier. I spent the last eleven months back here at Carlisle Barracks, Dunham Army Hospital in Pennsylvania because it was closest to my home of record in Brooklyn, New York.

I met my wife while I was stationed in PA and never would have met her otherwise so it was all worth it.

Where did you go after Ft. Sam?

galt

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Regarding the irrational act, the 'sub rational impulse' . . . I agree. As I asked, "what other animal would do this?" (act altruisticly, jump in the water, rush to do a Heimlich, be ready to offer assistance to the birthing Korean, lay down his or her life for another on the field of battle, etc). What does it suggest about the nature of the beast?

The Beast is not fully rational. Next question?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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There is nothing wrong in doing an act that happens to benefit others, as a side effect.

Is it a reasonable corollary of this to say "There is something wrong in doing an act that benefits others, as a primary effect"? Your subjective take on the ethics would be interesting.

That does not follow logically. Here is an assumption to conjure with: any act that does not produce some value for the actor is a bad act or at least a mistaken act. One might hope that every act however beneficial to others, produces a greater value for the actor.

May the G-D of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob smite me dead if I ever do anything altruistic to my own detriment.

Jesus saves, Moses invests.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Baal is a racist of the worst order. Here's some of his writings...

__________________________________

June 10, 2005

"The only way to redeem the loss at WTC is to exterminate the Moslems to

the last man, woman and child. We will probably have to settle for less. "

Feb 4, 2006

"Not true. I finally saw the danger after 9/11. And I don't -hate-

Moslems. I just see that that are dangerous to me and mine and I wish to

eliminate the danger.

If thine enemy smite thee on they cheek rip his head off and shit down

his neck. Then slay his family and his friends. "

Mar 22, 2006

"And I would feel ten times better if both Iran and Iraq where carpet

bombed with nukular weapons.

The best Muslims are dead Muslims.

Bob Kolker"

Feb 8, 2006

"> He's also never made it clear what his plans would be for

> the 5 million odd muslims in the USA.

Deportation or death camps. Are you happy now? We might be able to get a

number of them corrected and re-educated. "

____________________________________________________

That just what I pulled up with 5 minutes of looking around. I'll never spend one more second on this worthless piece of crap. I knew he was a simmering racist freak. I like Victor a whole lot better now....

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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"We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for, I don't know."

W.H. Auden

...the biggest stumbling block for me regarding Objectivism is the antipathy to altruism (or maybe 'altruism'). I live my life by a strict accordance to how people treat me. If they consider me, I consider them. If they think only of themselves and what benefits themselves, I don't consider them fully human. If they have no urge, hidden, vestigial, dormant or within reach, to empathize with others, to care about other people, and to occasionally put their own short term advantage aside while considering its implications for others, I withdraw from congress with them. I don't want to live in a community that is ruled by selfishness...

To illustrate my point, during the hideous crash and sinking of Flight 90 in the Potomac on January 13, 1982, several people leapt into the freezing water to try to rescue the doomed. I wept, not for the dead and injured, but for the altruistic efforts of those rescuers. I regard that impulse, from whatever depth of humanity, to be part of human glory. What other animal would do that? It certainly wan't Kant who pushed them into the water at the risk of their own death.

William, if I understand you -- and I think I do -- I agree with the intent of your post. The lack of empathy, the inability to identify with and to vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person, the inability to care about other people, is a disease. In the psychological literature, as I'm sure I don't have to tell you, it is considered a prime symptom of a personality disorder. But feelings of empathy are perfectly consistent with the Randian concept of selfishness, although not with its usual definition. Rand spoke of rational self-interest as being synonymous with her concept of selfishness, and it is the term I prefer to use.

To understand, care for, and to help others can certainly be to one's self-interest. And in your post you named the reasons why it can be. You wrote: "I live my life by a strict accordance to how people treat me. If they consider me, I consider them. If they think only of themselves and what benefits themselves, I don't consider them fully human." In other words, if you see a value in them -- in this case, the value being that they treat you with consideration -- you will treat them with consideration. If you see no value in them, you won't deal with them or be of assistance to them. What sort of person would you be if, seeing values in them, you treated them without consideration? As Rand said, "A value is that which one acts to gain and keep."(italics mine)

Further, rational self-interest often requires putting our own short term advantage aside while considering its implications for others. If a friend is ill, you presumably would not take as a primary that you intended staying home and reading a book rather than taking your friend to the hospital. Again, the issue is one of personal, selfish values: you value your friend's health more than than you value reading that book that day.

And similarly with the example you gave of people leaping into freezing water to save those who were drowning. Altruism would consist of doing so even if you knew that the people drowning were terrørists headed for New York. But if you are a good swimmer, you could very well weigh some risk to yourself against the horror pf certain death for others. Human life is a value, and short of knowing that the people drowning were killers or the equivalent, you would be right to consider the preservation of innocent lives to be a value.

Rational self-interest is not solopsism, it is not indifference to human suffering, it is not the absence of fellow-feeling. It consists of the pursuit of values -- and of taking action to preserve those values.

Barbara

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While putting my nose to the grindstone I heard someone choking in the kitchen area which was near my desk. Now this is what happened: I went into full auto, raced to the kitchen and applied the Heimlich maneuver. The alarming thing is that I have no recall of a single logical rational thought during the whole business. I just acted. There was no reason, there was no logic, nothing rational was at work. After the incident, I was shaken. All I recall is what I did and in slow motion at that.

I have spent years in trying to figure out what was wrong with me that day.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Nothing at all was wrong with you. Clearly, your subconscious was wiser than your subsequemt "rational" thinking, the failed thinking that led you to conclude that something was wrong with you.

Barbara

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Nothing at all was wrong with you. Clearly, your subconscious was wiser than your subsequemt "rational" thinking, the failed thinking that led you to conclude that something was wrong with you.

Barbara,

I sense this deep human value in Bob, too. It's one of the reasons I both tolerate him and rag him to death. He usually preaches nonsense (I think it's to get attention).

He is one of the few cases where I prefer to look ONLY at what he does and not even listen to what he says. I usually—but not always in weak moments—apply the Brazilian filter I learned (very loosely paraphrased to make sense to an English-speaking audience):

When one donkey lets loose and brays loudly, the other beside him lowers his ear to keep out the noise.

This also applies to jackasses...

:)

Michael

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And similarly with the example you gave of people leaping into freezing water to save those who were drowning. Altruism would consist of doing so even if you knew that the people drowning were terrørists headed for New York. But if you are a good swimmer, you could very well weigh some risk to yourself against the horror pf certain death for others. Human life is a value, and short of knowing that the people drowning were killers or the equivalent, you would be right to consider the preservation of innocent lives to be a value.

Rational self-interest is not solopsism, it is not indifference to human suffering, it is not the absence of fellow-feeling. It consists of the pursuit of values -- and of taking action to preserve those values.

Trying to base the notion of rational self-interest (in Rand's terms the negation of altruism) on the condition of pursuing values will lead to an empty tautology, as any action can be described in terms of the pursuit of values. Suppose someone is giving away all his money and possessions to save starving children in Africa. I'm fairly sure Rand would condemn such an action and would call it altruism, not rational self-interest. But to that person helping those starving children is a greater value than his own comfort or even his own life. Saying that this is not in his self-interest is begging the question, who are we to say that saving his own children at any cost is in his self-interest but saving the lives of other children is not? That our priorities would be different is not relevant, values are subjective, not objective. Therefore Rand's theory of altruism vs. egoism is not objective, but reduces to the sum of her personal views (like the notion that "kneeling buses" are an example of altruism).

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Suppose someone is giving away all his money and possessions to save starving children in Africa. I'm fairly sure Rand would condemn such an action and would call it altruism, not rational self-interest.

Dragonfly,

I am fairly sure Rand would not have condemned such an act. She might not have done so herself, but she surely had no restrictions against anyone disposing of his property as he saw fit.

She condemned forcing people to give. And she condemned those who preached the goodness of giving as a form of sanctioning such force against others. As to giving per se (especially to strangers) I don't think she had much of an opinion.

This is the message I got from her writing.

Michael

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I am fairly sure Rand would not have condemned such an act. She might not have done so herself, but she surely had no restrictions against anyone disposing of his property as he saw fit.

I don't think so, I seriously doubt that she'd say that that person would act in his rational self-interest. She'd probably argued that such a person would do it out of duty, that it was the result of indoctrination with evil ideas. She might have said that he was legally right but morally wrong.

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Suppose someone is giving away all his money and possessions to save starving children in Africa. I'm fairly sure Rand would condemn such an action and would call it altruism, not rational self-interest.

Dragonfly,

I am fairly sure Rand would not have condemned such an act. She might not have done so herself, but she surely had no restrictions against anyone disposing of his property as he saw fit.

She condemned forcing people to give. And she condemned those who preached the goodness of giving as a form of sanctioning such force against others. As to giving per se (especially to strangers) I don't think she had much of an opinion.

This is the message I got from her writing.

Michael

Maybe she would wonder what he was going to do next? Alleviate a blood shortage by donating all his blood leaving him dead? The example cited is so over the top as to put the focus on the pure irrationality of the action, not the altruism. I do know (I think :rolleyes: ) what she would have said: "That's his choice. I don't care to figure out something so irrational."

--Brant

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William: "As I asked, 'what other animal would do this?' (act altruisticly, jump in the water, rush to do a Heimlich, be ready to offer assistance to the birthing Korean, lay down his or her life for another on the field of battle, etc). What does it suggest about the nature of the beast?"

It suggests that most of us do value other human beings, and that perhaps "beast" does not describe us.

Dragonfly: "Trying to base the notion of rational self-interest (in Rand's terms the negation of altruism) on the condition of pursuing values will lead to an empty tautology, as any action can be described in terms of the pursuit of values. Suppose someone is giving away all his money and possessions to save starving children in Africa. I'm fairly sure Rand would condemn such an action and would call it altruism, not rational self-interest."

Rand would ask, first of all, why the person wanted to give his money and possessions to children in Africa. If the answer were that God had ordered it, she would certainly say the act was irrational and altruistic. But if, for instance, he had had a child who had been lost in Africa, and he had valid grounds for believing that saving lives there might save his own child, she would say it was to his rational self-interest to do so. But she would probably also say that to attempt to help by pouring money into Africa is ultimately futile and self-defeating; it doesn't go to the recipients for whom it's intended, it goes to their rulers, increasing the power of those who are responsible for widespread starvation -- and that it is not to one's rational self-interest to make oneself a pauper to help dictators. That, surely, is altruism.

Personally, I am dubious of the Americans who rush around the world trying to save everyone but Americans. I wonder about their motives. And I am dubious of the people who donate money only to the handicapped, and ignore the many talented young people who cannot afford to do the work they should do, the young scientists and writers, etc., whose work would benefit all of us -- including the starving African children.

Barbara

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Here is a quote from Rand that illustrates what I get from her writing. The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 7 January 3, 1972, "What Can One Do?":

This question is frequently asked by people who are concerned about the state of today's world and want to correct it. More often than not, it is asked in a form that indicates the cause of their helplessness: "What can one person do?"

I was in the process of preparing this article when I received a letter from a reader who presents the problem (and the error) still more eloquently: "How can an individual propagate your philosophy on a scale large enough to effect the immense changes which must be made in every walk of American life in order to create the kind of ideal country which you picture?"

If this is the way the question is posed, the answer is: he can't. No one can change a country single-handed. So the first question to ask is: why do people approach the problem this way?

Suppose you were a doctor in the midst of an epidemic. You would not ask: "How can one doctor treat millions of patients and restore the whole country to perfect health?" You would know, whether you were alone or part of an organized medical campaign, that you have to treat as many people as you can reach, according to the best of your ability, and that nothing else is possible.

It is a remnant of mystic philosophy—specifically, of the mind-body split—that makes people approach intellectual issues in a manner they would not use to deal with physical problems. They would not seek to stop an epidemic overnight, or to build a skyscraper single-handed. Nor would they refrain from renovating their own crumbling house, on the grounds that they are unable to rebuild the entire city. But in the realm of man's consciousness, the realm of ideas, they still tend to regard knowledge as irrelevant, and they expect to perform instantaneous miracles, somehow—or they paralyze themselves by projecting an impossible goal.

Rand's example of an epidemic could equally apply to starving children of Africa. I noticed that Rand did not consider the doctor's role as somehow demeaning or morally repugnant, although he undoubtedly would have to treat many people who were morally compromised. There was no moral prequalification at all for the victims of the epidemic, i.e., only the good ones get saved and the bad ones left to fend for themselves. Instead the prequalification was you have to treat someone who was ill and "you have to treat as many people as you can reach."

I didn't see Rand call the doctor an altruist, nor condemn him because, under such circumstances, he would—by necessity of the circumstances—have to do much work without getting paid. In other words, he would choose to give his knowledge and the hours of his life (the most valuable property a person has) to perfect strangers and there would be nothing at all wrong with that. From the above passage, Rand found it absolutely normal that a doctor would treat all the ill people he could and do it to the best of his ability—as many of them as he could reach.

I have no doubt at all she would apply the same standard to a person wanting to help starving children of Africa. Barbara made a perfectly valid point in mentioning where the money goes to—the dictators, not the afflicted. So preaching that one is helping starving children, but in reality he is supporting a brutal dictator, is the equivalent of spitting on the souls of all those dying children. It is an outrage. That's the message I get from Rand. These people preach a moral good to justify the most contemptible results. Except for these kinds of considerations, I have never seen Rand condemn a person for wanting to help children in dire need, or even ip her nose at doing that.

I believe this is not the reason this issue is usually raised, though. I constantly see an attempt between the lines to portray Rand as a heartless psycopath with depraved indifference to the suffering of others for a soul. That is inaccurate and it is not backed up by her works or life (although she could be callous at times, just like we all can be). On the contrary, I get the feeling of a deep love of mankind in her works and a burning desire to honor the best of men.

Michael

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I believe this is not the reason this issue is usually raised, though. I constantly see an attempt between the lines to portray Rand as a heartless psycopath with depraved indifference to the suffering of others for a soul. That is inaccurate and it is not backed up by her works or life (although she could be callous at times, just like we all can be). On the contrary, I get the feeling of a deep love of mankind in her works and a burning desire to honor the best of men.

Michael

Michael -

I am sympathetic with your concern. In all fairness, the attempts you describe (and I agree that they occur) are in a small but very vocal minority, at least on OL. They are not well sustained in the face of reading Rand - and I note that many of those who are most vocal with this sort of commentary are among those who openly talk about how little they have read Rand - other than reading short quotes (necessarily absent full context) provided by others. Some forms of ignorance are quickly driven away by a little knowledge. I am surprised that when someone is repeatedly told that they are misrepresenting Rand, by numerous people (who cite specific statements by Rand to substantiate this) they don't either quit the misrepresentation or at least go read the source to find out for themselves.

Bill

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I appreciate the comments by Barbara Branden in response to my notes on altruism in post 2. I have been thinking about harsh Objectivist attitudes toward 'other-directed' behaviour since I first posted to O-online forums. I infer from the comments in this thread that I may be conflating several concepts.

-- Altruism in the strict Comtean sense means self-sacrifice; taken literally, and to the extreme, you die in order to allow another to live, or you reduce your chances at life in order to increase another person's chances. You act in service to another person with no thought for yourself and your own survival.

Rand is clear on Altruism:

The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

From this primary, I should not be too surprised at hardline Objectivist revulsion to any human action that seems to exemplify this self-destruction. Perhaps the conflating terms in my mind also are mixed together in the hardliner's minds -- generosity, regard for other's well-being, cooperation, benevolence, empathy, charity.

Still, I have to ask myself, "do I want to live in a community of ostensible Objectivists, if so many 'other-directed' actions are seen as suspect if not evil?"

I referred to a 'Baby in the Woods' discussion on Rebirth of Dogma. This was in a topic called "Altruism Against Freedom." As the thread developed, it was argued that there should be no criminal law that mandates a person to pick up the baby and rescue it from death by exposure.

It was argued by some hardliners (Luke Setzer among them) that while it was a good and moral thing to rescue the baby, to enforce this through law (whether by penalties against 'depraved indifference' or other strictures) was grossly immoral and evil.

I tried and tried to understand how aiding the distressed infant led to a sacrifice. Intellectually, I could understand a principled rejection of compulsion, but I could not stomach the attitude, the anger, the ugly comments that were directed against those who defenced the idea that the baby should be helped.

In this instance, I thought, "most people would reason out the situation; walk by, baby die. Who would walk by? If none of these good Rebirth of Dogma people would walk on by, why the argument?"

In response to a loaded series of questions by Ed Thompson, I wrote:

Your dystopic fantasy seems designed to illustrate a hidden premise that newborns do not deserve food if their parents can't provide it. While this premise may be sound, it is mostly irrelevant in the real world we inhabit -- individuals and societies do not idly stand by debating Randian ethics when children starve.

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