Dennis Edwall

Are There Moral Standards?

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With respect to the issues of sciences not including/using/utilizing math the discussion really is just splitting hairs.

There is a slight problem with the statement, it should read "Only pure mathematics uses axioms, science does not." Micheal, you keep bringing up this point and I wish I could make you see the difference. When a scientist uses any kind of mathematics he is attaching a physical meaning to the symbols whereas the mathematician is not. This is a huge difference. When we attach a physical meaning then we get to apply some measure of "truth" or "false" to the relation but in pure mathematics we are only concerned with consistency. So science utilizes mathematics (your use of 'include' is somewhat ambiguous) and sometimes it even precedes mathematics as the above example illustrates, but science is a fundamentally different activity.

(I'm sorry I still don't know how to quote)

Yes, this is true however when the scientist adopts what was a "pure math" model he expects/experiments with it until he is satisfied that the particular 'consistent' 'pure' math model he thought was appropriate properly resembles reality. Once the model that approximates or nails the phenomenon is discovered or developed it would be improper to say that mathematics was not included or utilized in the discovery and that mathematics was not fundamentally necessary to its discovery.

To connect the above and the prior discussion I'd say that the moral standards, physics, and math we're discussing are all very analogous to a game of sudoku. You could guess that a 2 belongs in a spot and make plenty of 'discoveries' about where the rest of the numbers go after inserting the 2. But, until some more numbers are put in you will not be able to verify whether that 2 was supposed to go there. These moral standards are the same way, humanity has only just started discovering some of the most complex laws of the inanimate universe. There are still far too many open boxes in the sudoku board to determine whether some of these moral standards are properly defined in their respective boxes but that does not mean the sudoku board of the universe will not spring back at you when you try to put "people can be tossed in wood chippers feet first" in the 3 box on the 5th row.

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Electrical circuits were around before mankind and his mathematics. One can postulate a relationship without quantifying it. The measurements we make serve to make our understanding of relationships more accurate.

More than that. Quantification of the laws of physics and physical hypotheses in necessary to test them empirically.

Here is a problem for you. Try stating Ohm's law without mathematics.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Mathematics is the predominant language of science. Abstract philosophy is the language of metaphics,epistemology, morality and political economy. Empirical scientific examination and rigorous scientific method is the laboratory which validates the use of a mathematical framework in a given scientific context. History of political economy, the nature of reality and identification of man's attributes as an entity are the empirical laboratories that validate an abstract philosophy.

Science and philosophy have some overlap in identification of the nature of reality and identification of man's attributes as an entity. However, philosophy starts with entities as wholes and identifies actions and attributes. The predominant paradigm in science is hierarchical reductionism. So there is more predominantly a top-down approach in philosophy: identify what we can observe about the world around us using no special tools. Science uses special tools.

Up until recently science wasn't developed enough to say much about disciplines that involve human intentionality. Much of what it has to say now is still devloping as brain sciences develop.

Both abstract philosophy and mathematics have axioms. At its base level, science involves observation of reality and base level philosophy (metaphysics and evidence of the senses) does too.

Jim

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Here is a problem for you. Try stating Ohm's law without mathematics.

High voltage gives strong current, low voltage small current, no voltage, no current. Similar for resistance. Of course this doesn't give you the linear relationship of Ohm's law, but you can see the latter as a more accurate version that gives more information, and that was GS's point. Of course without mathematics physics couldn't go much beyond rather elementary theories and as such it is an essential tool, but the foundations of that tool are not the province of physics.

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Here is a problem for you. Try stating Ohm's law without mathematics.

High voltage gives strong current, low voltage small current, no voltage, no current. Similar for resistance. Of course this doesn't give you the linear relationship of Ohm's law, but you can see the latter as a more accurate version that gives more information, and that was GS's point. Of course without mathematics physics couldn't go much beyond rather elementary theories and as such it is an essential tool, but the foundations of that tool are not the province of physics.

That is correct. That is why usable mathematics preceded rigorously grounded mathematics. The physicists invented the mathematical tools they needed and the mathematicians extended them in an abstract logical manner revealing the cracks and flaws. Strangely enough it was the extensions of the mathematics that came back to aid physics. Example: Riemann's abstract geometry of manifolds and tensors is just what Einstein needed to develop his theory of gravitation, The General Theory of Relativity.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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With respect to the issues of sciences not including/using/utilizing math the discussion really is just splitting hairs.

There is a slight problem with the statement, it should read "Only pure mathematics uses axioms, science does not." Micheal, you keep bringing up this point and I wish I could make you see the difference. When a scientist uses any kind of mathematics he is attaching a physical meaning to the symbols whereas the mathematician is not.

Emmanuel,

You are a little late to this discussion and it is far from splitting hairs. So I will try to give you some of what is behind the arguments.

1. There are those who state that logic and math have no relationship to reality, that they are only abstract constructions according to arbitrarily chosen rules.

2. These same people usually try to claim that philosophy is invalid and only science is valid, or philosophy is not important but science is, in some kind of weird competition (which only exists in their arguments, or those of orthodox Objectivists, who claim that philosophy is more important than science—all of which I find silly at root since mankind happily goes on its way producing knowledge in both fields).

3. In the Objectivist theory of concepts (as I understand it so far), math is connected to reality because "1" is a unit of something, and we first get that notion of something as infants from observing what exists.

4. In the Objectivist theory of concepts (as I understand it so far), logic is connected to reality because it is based on the law of identity, which also serves as one of the fundaments of concept formation and governs our selection of categories. Once again, we discover the law of identity as infants from direct observation.

Thus when you say "pure mathematics," there is disagreement over what this means. The Objectivist view (once again, in my understanding) finds unit identification reality based, which is why it works with reality. The "useful tool" school claims that math works with reality "somehow," but never lets you know how or why. The same approach applies to logic.

Both types of thinking admit that there are rules and syntax for math and logic that are abstract, but one kind of thinking severs the rules from reality and the other grounds them in reality, especially the law of identity.

When we come to axioms, the science-is-better-than-philosophy school claims that there are no axioms in science. I mentioned math, but as you see, there is a fundamental difference between what math means according to these different views.

(And I still have not seen how the body-of-knowledge—science—exists without math as an essential component of that knowledge. Trying to get rid of the math after acquiring the knowledge is what is called a "stolen concept fallacy" in Objectivism, wherein you develop a concept based on certain premises, then start using it as if those premises did not apply any longer.)

Incidentally, there is even a more basic fundamental axiom on which science is based, which is "consciousness exists." The basic idea behind that is that science is a body of knowledge and you cannot have knowledge without conscious awareness. However I have read from the science-is-better-than-philosophy school that consciousness does not really exist, but instead is a "user illusion" and things of this nature.

Those are the essentials of this discussion.

It all boils down to whether you believe your knowledge derives from reality and could not be otherwise, or that what knowledge you do have that works is nothing more than a happy accident.

Both views allow for correcting knowledge that is not accurate, but the knowledge-derives-from-reality side claims that knowledge is based on the initial context of our five senses and a brain. Since we are not omnipotent, we are unable to observe all things at all times, so by reason of this biological limitation, concepts are categories that are open-ended. Thus the category becomes solid knowledge based on observation, but what goes into the category can be modified by later observation. The other view claims that we can only know with certainty abstract thought that is disconnected from reality because it is based on arbitrary rules that we design, and they use these abstract rules to "falsify" propositions (or essentially opinions) about reality as their form of verifying what works and what doesn't.

I express this as a discussion of the interface between consciousness and reality. Bob Kolker has used a term I like very much, "in here" and "out there."

I firmly believe that "in here" reflects "out there" correctly because it is made of the same stuff as "out there" and follows the same laws of nature. This applies to "pure math" and "pure logic." The other view claims that "in here" is nothing more than a by-product of "out there," but somehow operates differently. And they present "pure math" and "pure logic" as an example.

This is not just splitting hairs. The fundamental world-view and view of man's nature are different.

Michael

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I'm sorry, I think I should have been more specific. I haven't quite learned to quote messages far back from mine, but in one post general semanticist said something about pure mathematics. There is a distinction within the field of mathematics between applied mathematics and pure mathematics. I understood that his post about "pure mathematics" and drawing the distinction and explaining that distinction was splitting hairs.

With respect to the ultimate question that you mentioned below I think that all knowledge derives from reality and could not be otherwise which is what I was trying to get at with the sudoku analogy. That even in the circumstances where you think you have found a happy accident you are in reality being bound by reality in subtle ways of which you may not be immediately aware of but that will be discovered and become apparent as experimentation continues.

Forgive me for not being clear.

With respect to the issues of sciences not including/using/utilizing math the discussion really is just splitting hairs.

There is a slight problem with the statement, it should read "Only pure mathematics uses axioms, science does not." Micheal, you keep bringing up this point and I wish I could make you see the difference. When a scientist uses any kind of mathematics he is attaching a physical meaning to the symbols whereas the mathematician is not.

Emmanuel,

You are a little late to this discussion and it is far from splitting hairs. So I will try to give you some of what is behind the arguments.

1. There are those who state that logic and math have no relationship to reality, that they are only abstract constructions according to arbitrarily chosen rules.

2. These same people usually try to claim that philosophy is invalid and only science is valid, or philosophy is not important but science is, in some kind of weird competition (which only exists in their arguments, or those of orthodox Objectivists, who claim that philosophy is more important than science—all of which I find silly at root since mankind happily goes on its way producing knowledge in both fields).

3. In the Objectivist theory of concepts (as I understand it so far), math is connected to reality because "1" is a unit of something, and we first get that notion of something as infants from observing what exists.

4. In the Objectivist theory of concepts (as I understand it so far), logic is connected to reality because it is based on the law of identity, which also serves as one of the fundaments of concept formation and governs our selection of categories. Once again, we discover the law of identity as infants from direct observation.

Thus when you say "pure mathematics," there is disagreement over what this means. The Objectivist view (once again, in my understanding) finds unit identification reality based, which is why it works with reality. The "useful tool" school claims that math works with reality "somehow," but never lets you know how or why. The same approach applies to logic.

Both types of thinking admit that there are rules and syntax for math and logic that are abstract, but one kind of thinking severs the rules from reality and the other grounds them in reality, especially the law of identity.

When we come to axioms, the science-is-better-than-philosophy school claims that there are no axioms in science. I mentioned math, but as you see, there is a fundamental difference between what math means according to these different views.

(And I still have not seen how the body-of-knowledge—science—exists without math as an essential component of that knowledge. Trying to get rid of the math after acquiring the knowledge is what is called a "stolen concept fallacy" in Objectivism, wherein you develop a concept based on certain premises, then start using it as if those premises did not apply any longer.)

Incidentally, there is even a more basic fundamental axiom on which science is based, which is "consciousness exists." The basic idea behind that is that science is a body of knowledge and you cannot have knowledge without conscious awareness. However I have read from the science-is-better-than-philosophy school that consciousness does not really exist, but instead is a "user illusion" and things of this nature.

Those are the essentials of this discussion.

It all boils down to whether you believe your knowledge derives from reality and could not be otherwise, or that what knowledge you do have that works is nothing more than a happy accident.

Both views allow for correcting knowledge that is not accurate, but the knowledge-derives-from-reality side claims that knowledge is based on the initial context of our five senses and a brain. Since we are not omnipotent, we are unable to observe all things at all times, so by reason of this biological limitation, concepts are categories that are open-ended. Thus the category becomes solid knowledge based on observation, but what goes into the category can be modified by later observation. The other view claims that we can only know with certainty abstract thought that is disconnected from reality because it is based on arbitrary rules that we design, and they use these abstract rules to "falsify" propositions (or essentially opinions) about reality as their form of verifying what works and what doesn't.

I express this as a discussion of the interface between consciousness and reality. Bob Kolker has used a term I like very much, "in here" and "out there."

I firmly believe that "in here" reflects "out there" correctly because it is made of the same stuff as "out there" and follows the same laws of nature. This applies to "pure math" and "pure logic." The other view claims that "in here" is nothing more than a by-product of "out there," but somehow operates differently. And they present "pure math" and "pure logic" as an example.

This is not just splitting hairs. The fundamental world-view and view of man's nature are different.

Michael

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I'm sorry, I think I should have been more specific. I haven't quite learned to quote messages far back from mine, but in one post general semanticist said something about pure mathematics. There is a distinction within the field of mathematics between applied mathematics and pure mathematics. I understood that his post about "pure mathematics" and drawing the distinction and explaining that distinction was splitting hairs.

With respect to the ultimate question that you mentioned below I think that all knowledge derives from reality and could not be otherwise which is what I was trying to get at with the sudoku analogy. That even in the circumstances where you think you have found a happy accident you are in reality being bound by reality in subtle ways of which you may not be immediately aware of but that will be discovered and become apparent as experimentation continues.

Forgive me for not being clear.

I think the difference between pure mathematics and applied mathematics absolutely crucial. Do you consider pure mathematics knowledge? Knowledge of what? About the only thing one could say pure mathematics is knowledge of is possible relations that we can discern. So on one hand we have all known possible relations (mathematics) and all known empirical relations (everything else). Huge, important difference.

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I think pure mathematics is very important. How long does a pure mathematics problem stay 'pure' anyway? Some of the most complex algebra problems out there started out as pure math problems and are now being used in computer science. Pure mathematics models sometimes show parallels to applied mathematics models and tell you exactly what to expect. The line you're trying to draw is just not solid enough to be valid. Too many things move from the pure side to the applied side. Sure, you can say that mathematical models that have not been applied at this moment may be "possible known relations" and "pure". However that's equivalent to saying that calculus was pure mathematics at the time of the cavemen.

I'm sorry, I think I should have been more specific. I haven't quite learned to quote messages far back from mine, but in one post general semanticist said something about pure mathematics. There is a distinction within the field of mathematics between applied mathematics and pure mathematics. I understood that his post about "pure mathematics" and drawing the distinction and explaining that distinction was splitting hairs.

With respect to the ultimate question that you mentioned below I think that all knowledge derives from reality and could not be otherwise which is what I was trying to get at with the sudoku analogy. That even in the circumstances where you think you have found a happy accident you are in reality being bound by reality in subtle ways of which you may not be immediately aware of but that will be discovered and become apparent as experimentation continues.

Forgive me for not being clear.

I think the difference between pure mathematics and applied mathematics absolutely crucial. Do you consider pure mathematics knowledge? Knowledge of what? About the only thing one could say pure mathematics is knowledge of is possible relations that we can discern. So on one hand we have all known possible relations (mathematics) and all known empirical relations (everything else). Huge, important difference.

Edited by EDonate

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I have been toying with the idea of an 80-20 split (or something similar) on an individual-to-species standard.

Hi Michael,

First, thanks for the lit. recommendations.

80-20 split... Psychology research today points to three moral orientations - individual, social, and divine (way of nature and universe). Neuroscience also seems to point to these three possible methods of moral thinking. By assigning 80-20 split, you're suggesting a hierarchy between moral systems. I've been wondering whether I actually believe individual trumps social or vice-versa. Think Mother Teresa, .. or the fact that many people choose love over being right. Sure, an integrated moral system supports love through independence, but if we don't go equal weight to both systems, I actually think as humans we're more programmed to gravitate (and experientially prefer) social ethics.

I hate to say it, but I'm buying in more and more to the idea that we're biologically more social than independent. (and I'm saying this on an Objectivist forum!)

Chris

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I hate to say it, but I'm buying in more and more to the idea that we're biologically more social than independent. (and I'm saying this on an Objectivist forum!)

We're social because of the advantages of the division of labor. Also, we get to meet lots of girls.

--Brant

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I hate to say it, but I'm buying in more and more to the idea that we're biologically more social than independent. (and I'm saying this on an Objectivist forum!)

We're social because of the advantages of the division of labor. Also, we get to meet lots of girls.

--Brant

There is a more basic reason. We have big heads to hold our big brains. Which means we are born in a relatively undeveloped state (in comparison to our full adult state of development). In a manner of speaking we come half baked from the oven. This means human infants have to be nurtured, protected and fed for a longer period of time before they can fend for themselves or be useful. The family which is the basic social unit for humanity exists for that reason. The extended family based on reciprocal altruism and specialization of labor is the minimal state in which humans can live and survive over long periods of time.

All social and economic improvements to our state derive from the existence of extended families and this is a matter of biology.

Lone Heroes exist only in Fiction. John Galt would not have been a successful Lone Hero if he had not learned to talk within the confines of his not so great family.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Christopher,

When you speak of “the idea that we're biologically more social than independent” do you mean to include intellectual independence?

Intellectual independence is definitely self-assertive, as against going along with others, wouldn’t you say? Yet intellectual independence seems to be a regular part of social life, of individual lives in society.

Leonard Peikoff

Just as egoism does not mean retreating to a desert island, so [virtuous] independence does not mean rediscovering on one’s own the sum of human cognition. The ability to profit from the thinking of others is the time-saver that makes human progress possible. One should, therefore, learn as much as he can from others. The moral point is that he actually be learning, i.e., engaged in a process of cognition, not of parroting.

Virtue does not require that one’s mental contents be original. What it requires is a certain method of dealing with one’s mental contents, whoever initially conceived them. The moral issue is not: who was first? but: is one a man of reason or of faith? (pp. 255−56 in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand)

Nathaniel Branden

An individualist is, first and foremost, a man of reason. It is upon the ability to think, upon his rational faculty, that man’s life depends; rationality is the precondition of independence and self-reliance. An “individualist” who is neither independent nor self-reliant, is a contradiction in terms; individualism and independence are logically inseparable. The basic independence of the individualist consists of his loyalty to his own mind: it is his perception of the facts of reality, his understanding, his judgment, that he refuses to sacrifice to the unproved assertions of others. That is the meaning of intellectual independence⎯and that is the essence of an individualist. He is dispassionately and intransigently fact-centered. (“Counterfeit Individualism” in The Virtue of Selfishness)

Rand 1957

Do you ask what moral obligation I owe to my fellow men? None⎯except the obligation I owe to myself, to material things, and to all of existence: rationality. I deal with men as my nature and theirs demands: by means of reason. I seek or desire nothing from them except such relations as they care to enter of their own voluntary choice. It is only with their mind that I can deal and only for my own self-interest, when they see that my interest coincides with theirs. When they don’t, I enter no relationship; I let dissenters go their way, and I do no swerve from mine. I win by means of nothing but logic, and I surrender to nothing but logic. I do not surrender my reason or deal with men who surrender theirs. I have nothing to gain from fools or cowards. I have no benefits to seek from human vices: from stupidity, dishonesty, or fear. The only value men can offer me is the work of their mind. When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit. (pp. 1021−22 in Atlas Shrugged)

Rand 1946

I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man’s soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.

I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned.

I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold. (p. 88 in Anthem)

I think that individualism and intellectual independence, in the sense these concepts are upheld in Objectivism, are a necessary part of human survival and progress. They are necessary for prosperous society. That can be the case consistent with the fact that every sound individual is profoundly a social being.

Two other Objectivist compositions in this area worth digging into are David Kelley’s Unrugged Individualism and Marsha Enright’s “Why Man Needs Approval.”

From the back cover of Kelley’s monograph:

What is the nature of benevolence toward other people? How does it differ from altruism? Is it a major or a minor virtue? How does it relate to the benevolent sense of life? David Kelley answers these questions in a groundbreaking work. Unrugged Individualism is the first philosophical analysis of benevolence from the Objectivist point of view, and a major addition to the Objectivist ethics. http://www.objectivismstore.com/

ABSTRACT of Enright’s essay:

It is argued that the desire for positive responses from others is engrained in both our animal nature and our rational nature. This is the story of the profoundly social and emotional nature of intelligent human being. From interactive smiling in the crib, to sharing visual attention, to acquisition of language and registration of the feelings and intentions of others, to full-grown independent mind, this is how we are woven. This is the tapestry of our symbolic consciousness, our individuality, and our sociability, the tapestry of our wings for creation, romantic love, and happiness. http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume1_number2.html#67

Stephen

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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80-20 split... Psychology research today points to three moral orientations - individual, social, and divine (way of nature and universe). Neuroscience also seems to point to these three possible methods of moral thinking. By assigning 80-20 split, you're suggesting a hierarchy between moral systems.

Chris,

That's too competitive for my way of thinking. It's like saying that there is a 95-5% split size-wise between head and body, and this suggests the body trumps the head or vice-versa. As a general statement, that doesn't make any sense.

I believe the same perspective applies to morality. One does not trump the other. They interact and both are needed.

I happen to like Ken Wilbur's Quadrants for thinking about these divisions. But when we get to volition, I give more prominence to it because it can counteract prewired behavior. You can even do things like altering your heartbeat by training your volition.

Michael

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Language can be viewed as an extra-neural adaption of mankind that allows individuals to learn from other individuals without actually experiencing the same things. This is best exemplified in science and the results of which have lead to man's incredible success as a species on planet Earth. Science can be accomplished without any sort of "moral code" except that which governs scientific method.

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I hate to say it, but I'm buying in more and more to the idea that we're biologically more social than independent. (and I'm saying this on an Objectivist forum!)

We're social because of the advantages of the division of labor. Also, we get to meet lots of girls.

--Brant

There is a more basic reason. We have big heads to hold our big brains. Which means we are born in a relatively undeveloped state (in comparison to our full adult state of development). In a manner of speaking we come half baked from the oven. This means human infants have to be nurtured, protected and fed for a longer period of time before they can fend for themselves or be useful. The family which is the basic social unit for humanity exists for that reason. The extended family based on reciprocal altruism and specialization of labor is the minimal state in which humans can live and survive over long periods of time.

All social and economic improvements to our state derive from the existence of extended families and this is a matter of biology.

Lone Heroes exist only in Fiction. John Galt would not have been a successful Lone Hero if he had not learned to talk within the confines of his not so great family.

Good points, except JG was not a "Lone Hero."

--Brant

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GS,

Maybe we can agree on one thing?

You can't have science without human beings. How's that for an idea?

Michael

I agree 100%, science is a uniquely human activity, in fact, one that can be used to define humans.

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GS,

Part of being human is (1) having a conceptual faculty, (2) having the faculty of volition—the ability to choose as a primary cause, (3) requiring values in order to both survive and use those faculties to the utmost, and (4) using those faculties as the main ones in obtaining and keeping values.

If science is a uniquely human activity, it is based on this as part of the mix.

Michael

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Hi Stephen,

You bring up a brilliant point - that independence of thought can exist in a social environment. Hmmm.... as Michael brought up, Ken Wilber introduces a manner of looking at humans through quadrants based on three fundamental perspectives, namely I, WE, and IT (first, second, third-person).

Rand was really good at attempting to join the I-IT perspectives, but was so vociferously individual that she (in my opinion) virtually neglected the shared experiences of empathy that very much matter to human life (the WE). It can suck to be around people who are in pain, but we feel their pain whether or not we're responsible for it. We end up caring about people whether or not we choose to.

Ba'al Chatzaf gave a very nice explanation on humans being social-oriented creatures. When I think of social, I am implying that we feel through social connection. Pride, productivity, reciprocal respect - these are all emotions derived strictly from personal (I-perspective) relationship with the world. To be social is to feel care, empathy, and love. We can be independent thinkers from a standpoint of consideration for the subjective experiences of others, but this does not imply the same autonomous and independent thinking performed in relationship to considerations of justice and human rights (I'm thinking about the works by Lawrence Kohlberg & Carol Gilligan).

Chris

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Chris,

I think that distinguishing empathy from norms of reciprocity is correct. Jerome Kagan writes:

Because all 2-year-olds have experienced the unpleasant feeling that follows being hurt, chastised, or teased, they are able to infer those psychological states in others. Hence children are biologically prepared to restrain actions that might harm others. I believe that this restraint is acquired by every child, even if no aggressive action had ever been punished. (“Morality and Its Development” in volume 3 of Moral Psychology (2008), Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, editor)

Kagan is not arm-chairing it, of course. He is drawing conclusions from psychological research.

In The Nature of the Child, after reviewing some moral development in the third and fourth years, Kagan writes:

The imperative quality of any standard can be based on more than one mechanism. The standard of kindness, for example, can be based on identification, on approval of authority, and on empathy with another. All three mechanisms are operative by seven years of age, and the balance among them depends on cultural conditions. . . . Adult sanctions and identification with parents are formative during the first decade. Peer approval becomes ascendant during pre-adolescence. During late adolescence and adulthood, after formal operations have emerged, logical consistency between standards and the facts of experience becomes salient. Adults in Western society find it easier to ignore a standard based only on social approval because they place a high value on a private, autonomous conscience. Standards based on an identification are more difficult to alter, especially those that spring from membership in sex, age, class, or race categories. (NC 142–43)

Carol Gilligan’s famous book In a Different Voice has been waiting on my shelf for many years. Turning to it just now, I gather that it examines development of morality during adolescence and adulthood. Looks like a really good book.

While society may affirm publicly the woman’s right to choose for herself, the exercise of such choice brings her privately into conflict with the conventions of femininity, particularly the moral equation of goodness with self-sacrifice. Although independent assertion in judgment and action is considered to be the hallmark of adulthood, it is rather in their care and concern for others that women have both judged themselves and been judged. (70)

If you head towards philosophy, there is a very challenging book out from Soran Reader titled Needs and Moral Necessity (2007). It “analyzes ethics as a practice, explains why we have three moral theory types—consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics—and argues for a fourth: needs-based theory.” From the 19th century, you might like to look into Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality if you have not done so already. He mounts a serious critique of Kant’s ethics and offers a virtue ethics in its place, one based on compassion. This is purely naturalistic, I should say, not religious. Much later in the century is a personal favorite of mine, who is secular and individualist. Like Rand he argues his morality from the nature of life, but his result is not an egoistic morality. His name is Jean-Marie Guyau, and I have written some about him here and there.

http://www.solopassion.com/node/4570#comment-52448

http://www.solopassion.com/node/4610#comment-52751

Like the Stoics and Nietzsche, Rand disapproved of pity (and self-pity), which she regarded as disrespectful. She sensibly distinguished that sort of responsiveness from a related one she called compassion. Her fictional protagonists are shown as sympathetic and compassionate towards certain other characters and towards people more generally. She remarked in an interview: “I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty.” The word “only” is here an exclusion within the context of suffering due to social causes; it is not meant as an exclusion of responsiveness to suffering more generally.

Rand maintained that one should help another “if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle. . . . Man’s fight against suffering” is a value (Atlas Shrugged 1059–60). In this passage, Rand is commending acting on one’s pleasure in a value-operation not one’s own. It seems to me that this is an occasion of egoistic action that is not directly for one’s own sake, only indirectly so. One has the pleasure directly, but the object of one’s intelligence yielding the pleasure is a value-operation not one’s own and a value-operation whose aim is success (e.g., truth or relief from suffering) for one not oneself. See further: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4240

Rand does not seem to condemn sympathy and compassion so much per se as to try to resituate them in a new life-grounded ethical egoism, which strengthens people (e.g., her character Hank Rearden) against being exploited by appeals to those decent things. Near the end of his radio address, her protagonist of Atlas calls to good people and especially to his beloved: “Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, your love—the endurance that carries their burdens—the generosity that responds to their cries of despair—the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil . . . —the love, your love of life . . . .”

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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Rand disapproved of pity (and self-pity), which she regarded as disrespectful. She sensibly distinguished that sort of responsiveness from a related one she called compassion. Her fictional protagonists are shown as sympathetic and compassionate towards certain other characters and towards people more generally. She remarked in an interview: “I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty.” The word “only” is here an exclusion within the context of suffering due to social causes; it is not meant as an exclusion of responsiveness to suffering more generally.

As my girlfriend stated after I read this quote aloud, "well, it's a good thing Ayn Rand never made a mistake." Rand here is talking about conditional love par excellence. This is every child's nightmare parent.

My first impression was that you mentioned compassion and not empathy. Compassion is an emotion derived independently and not interpersonally. I believe compassion is to see the beauty of others through identification of the beauty within yourself. Conversely, empathy is an interpersonal emotion that man experiences as subjectively centered on another person. Rand wouldn't have had empathy, it was interpersonal and therefore she would have less control over it. Also, the very fact that she used the word "disrespectful" identifies the particular relationship style she was referring to between men - this is not interpersonal. Have you ever had a parent say to you 'I love you, but you'll have to earn my respect' ?

In my own experiences we have a lot of control over compassion. You can turn it off and on through thinking patterns, although it's sad that she chose not to feel compassion towards everyone regardless - she maintained a set of negative subjective experiences for the purpose of validating her cognitive philosophy, but by choosing not to feel compassion and instead emotions such as disgust or contempt, she's the one that subjectively suffered.

"Resentment is a poison you drink and wait for the other person to die."

Chris

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Chris, when I represent the views of Rand or any other thinker, I try to give references to statements in their own texts. However, I have been unable to recall the place in which Rand (Branden?) drew a distinction between two responses, which she put under the terms pity and compassion. As I recall, it was in a discussion of relationships between adults, not parents and children.

I should mention a really horrible experience I had as an adult concerning familial unconditional love and pity. There was an Evangelical niece-in-law who was always writing to me (known to be a gay person and not a Christian) that “we love you” and “we’re praying for you.” In their case, it was just ignorant pity, disrespectful of my person. They had no interest in finding out who I was or what I valued. Yet all the talk of love. Really disgusting.

I do have friends who are Christian and Catholic and Jewish. We love each other. We know each other and admire each other.

A bit about myself and views of Rand:

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Boydst..._of_Place.shtml

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...1498_1.shtml#35

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Quotes/0946.shtml#1

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS

I notice an attitude towards error that Rand included in presenting her concept of pride as a moral virtue. She remarked that pride in this sense is the process of achieving self-esteem by thinking for oneself (AS 1057), by “unbreached rationality” (AS 1059), “by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected” (“The Objectivist Ethics” 27; see also “Selfishness without a Self.”).

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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