Christopher

Settling the debate on Altruism

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Man is free to choose values antithetical to his survival, but he is not free to escape the consequences. The consequences are played out in reality - perhaps he has worse relationships, perhaps his mind or body becomes unhealthy, perhaps he risks the possibility of early mortality. In any case, the conflict between man's choice of values and the demands of reality is where man will suffer.

So what about when a soldier sacrifices himself in a war? Suppose you are ordered into a mission where the odds are very poor that you will survive or high casualties are expected , a practicing objectivist would not accept this would he?

If you want to see what Rand said about this in The Wreckage of the Consensus, you can find:

"A volunteer army is the only proper, moral—and practical—way to defend a free country. Should a man volunteer to fight, if his country is attacked? Yes—if he values his own rights and freedom. A free (or even semi-free) country has never lacked volunteers in the face of foreign aggression. Many military authorities have testified that a volunteer at-my—an army of men who know what they are fighting for and why—is the best, most effective army, and that a drafted one is the least effective."

Bill P

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Christopher:

Do you have any children? Don't be so sure you would be so willing to die and leave them to starve under Stalin.

"Wouldn't you go to war with poor odds against Stalin rather than slowly (or quickly) die living under him? I certainly would."

"Here's an ethical dilemma (true story) I've never had the perfect answer for. I would love to hear what you think:

Two journalists living in Iran wrote news articles vehemently against the Iranian government. Eventually the government went after them both and demanded they stop writing antigov articles. One journalist complied, wrote pro-government articles for roughly a year, then moved to England and wrote anti-Iranian gov. articles. The second journalist refused, was imprisoned for about a year, then left the country upon his release. Who acted more consistent with Objectivist ethics?"

Neither and both. This is the damn litmus test that drove so many away.

I remember a long argument at NBI over one of the ridiculous "what if...". I finally arrived at a rhetorical answer after years of refuting them - my answer is what if hell freezes over and we are all dead tomorrow? It is just as speculative as some of the scenarios people dream up.

By the way, the issue posed to Rand or Branden or both as to a small town with one drug store. A father gets a prescription to fill that will save the child's life [specious scenario at best] and takes it to the one drug store in town that is owned by a mean capitalist who will not go down on a Sunday and open the pharmacy.

Would the father be justified in breaking in and getting the medication to save his child's life?

Adam

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I just lost another post. I'll have to remember to keep posting them before I'm done writing them and then continue with the edit function.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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[Xray]:

So it was Ayn Rand who chose the objectivist standard of values, and once chosen, it is regarded as an invariant absolute?

['Thom T G' post='67261' date='Apr 11 2009, 12:19 AM]:

'Xray, to be clearer, I could have written more concretely, "We can choose whichever standard of length to use for measurement purposes. But once it is chosen, that is an invariant absolute." If you want to measure pieces of lumber to build a bench, then choose your standard of length and start measuring; but don't switch standard in mid-activity and confuse yourself.

I see what you mean. In the bench example, it makes no sense to switch the standard in mid-activity to because then the pieces of the bench won't fit together. Still, one might decide (even in mid-activity) to switch the standard of length for measurement, but this would mean one has to start all over again. For example, I could decide in mid-activity to switch from 'yards' to 'meters' but then I'll have to cut the wood pieces anew.

This is why I have problem with the word "invariant absolute" here. For we can change our standards.

[Thom]:

That is what is meant by retaining a standard as an invariant absolute. Similarly, for purposes of choosing and ranking values to live one's life, a chosen standard of value is an invariant absolute.

The key word is "chosen". For indeed, standards of value always imply that these standards have to be chosen, and a 'choice' is always subjective.

Now, you asked the follow-up question: "So it was Ayn Rand who chose the Objectivist standard of values, and once chosen, it is regarded as an invariant absolute?" My short answer is: Yes, for herself.

Another key element: for herself. Like you said, it was her personally chosen standards. It doesn't matter whether she called her philosophy Objectivsm - the standards of value she selected for herself were her personal choice.

My long answer is the rest. Read on. In both the above cases, who does the choosing of the enumerated categories of standards? Anyone, really. It is you for your bench, if you want to make one; it is you for your life, if you want to live.

Who does the categorizing from which I then choose?

[Thom]:

Ayn Rand discovered and elaborated on two such standards. There is the standard of the second-hander psycho-epistemology. There is also the standard of the first-hander psycho-epistemology. For short, let us call these long-naming standards by the synonym of cognitive styles.

When a person 1) observes something, 2) makes a judgment on it, based on some standard of evaluation, and then subsequently 3) reports to you about it; what do you do cognitively about the report? If your chosen cognitive style is of a second-hander, you zero in exclusively on the person doing the observing, judging, and reporting; you evaluate his social standing, his notoriety, his political pull; and then you take whatever he reports as your own judgment--regardless of any actual personal observation and/or any actual personal judgment from observation (based on some standard). On the other hand, if you adopt the first-hander cognitive style, you do consider the reporter's credibility as part of the larger context, of course, but more importantly, you take the report as an invitation to do the observing yourself, if feasible, and to make the judgment yourself, if you adopt the same standard; and once having made your own independent judgment, you evaluate the reported judgment against your own before accepting or rejecting it.

So per Rand, the "second-handers" don't do the litmus test on what is being served to them, since the "WHO" says something is more important to them than WHAT is being said?

[Thom: (bolding mine)

I would argue that some second-handers will accept NB's judgment wholly, uncritically. Some other second-handers, following other figures of authority, of different social standings, etc., will reject NB's judgment wholly, uncritically.

By contrast, the independent first-hander, I would argue, will read the report and decide to accept or reject the proffered standard of mental health on its own logical merit. If he rejects the standard, the entire report is dismissed. If he finds the standard plausible, he goes on to observe first-hand the dancing of beatniks, and then to judge their activities in accordance to the standard. Only then will he make the secondary judgment about NB's judgment of the dancing of the beatniks

Another variable to be considered in that context: N. Branden himself may have acted as a "second-hander" here, mirroring Rand's own disapproval of the way the beatniks danced.

I would approach the subject by asking Branden to elaborate on his chosen "standard of mental health" and then ask him to explain why he thinks dancing like that is detrimental to it.

Edited by Xray

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So everyone who danced like that got the thumbs down from Rand and Branden because they "know" it is no "authenic enjoyment" and these people are purposeless, mindless, senseless?

Frankly, I have read similar lectures on the "wrongl" way to dance in Jehova's Witnesses' brochures. :)

Branden also uses the word "crippled" in combinaton with lesbian ("crippled lesbian").

What "objective" standards of values are these?

Xray,

They aren't.

They are merely opinions set forth as standards.

Here's the litmus test. Observe with your own eyes. A standard of value is easily discernible by anyone in relatively good health (both physically and psychologically).

I observe some standards of value vastly different than—and incompatible with—the ones used by Rand and NB for these two cases. (Rand not only endorsed this, she essentially stated the same thing in other places.) What I observe does not fall within their measurements, although their rhetoric suggests that their standard can measure all cases.

One problem I have had on re-examining all the Objectivist premises I once held as a young man is scope. This applies here, also. Look how it plays out.

Do I know of very stupid people who like to jerky dancing? Yup. I can even see how a mind like that can enjoy that kind of dancing.

Is stupidity a requirement for enjoying that kind of dancing? Nope. Not when I see hordes of intelligent people doing it and expressing enjoyment.

Same for lesbians. Are there lesbians who are psychologically crippled with a connection between the two? Yup. I have known several lesbians who had serious issues that held them back big time and their sexual behavior (the part that can be disclosed in public) reflected those issues.

Is being psychologically crippled a requirement for being a lesbian? Nope. Not when I see hordes of happy and productive women who are lesbians.

Once I understood this scope issue, life got a lot simpler for me with respect to Objectivism. Oversimplification and overreach (which are scope issues) are not applicable to everything Rand and NB (back when he was with her) wrote, not even the vast part. But where they do apply has caused some of the deepest controversies in the Objectivist world and have given critics a solid leg to stand on.

Michael

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I remember a long argument at NBI over one of the ridiculous "what if...". I finally arrived at a rhetorical answer after years of refuting them - my answer is what if hell freezes over and we are all dead tomorrow? It is just as speculative as some of the scenarios people dream up.

By the way, the issue posed to Rand or Branden or both as to a small town with one drug store. A father gets a prescription to fill that will save the child's life [specious scenario at best] and takes it to the one drug store in town that is owned by a mean capitalist who will not go down on a Sunday and open the pharmacy.

Would the father be justified in breaking in and getting the medication to save his child's life?

My question about the Iranian journalists applies to actual real circumstances of two people in Iran. This is not a litmus test, this is a real question in which people chose different behaviors. We're observing the aftermath, but you've dismissed it out-of-hand. The goal of both these men was to stand against the government. However, is it better to stand up for your freedoms and go to jail (like Nelson Mandella perhaps?), or to tell untruths for a year, stay out of jail , but lose credibility with Iranians who might have otherwise been more supportive of your cause? Very very valid question, ver very real question, set in the real world.

Let's look at the real issue involved: What is the best way for an individual to stand against an aggressive government and improve the chances of bringing down that government, perhaps risking self in the process? What should Iranians living in Iran to do? Many intelligent ones just leave the country. If you don't have a solution that works from the inside, then you're hardly in a position to argue that Iranian citizens are responsible for their government.

You're countering with the Heinz dilemma, which is the "what if..." ethical question par excellence that you claim the Iranian situation to be. The Heinz dilemma is totally ficticious and intentionally restrictive in options to gain a perspective of moral thinking (there is no right answer by definition in this test, and the environment is set outside the real world).

Chris

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My question about the Iranian journalists applies to actual real circumstances of two people in Iran. This is not a litmus test, this is a real question in which people chose different behaviors. We're observing the aftermath, but you've dismissed it out-of-hand. The goal of both these men was to stand against the government. However, is it better to stand up for your freedoms and go to jail (like Nelson Mandella perhaps?), or to tell untruths for a year, stay out of jail , but lose credibility with Iranians who might have otherwise been more supportive of your cause? Very very valid question, ver very real question, set in the real world.

It is a very real question indeed, and that's what ethics is about.

It looks like the journalist who went to jail had more courage than the other, especially since he could not even know whether he would ONLY be imprisoned - for he might as well have been tortured and killed.

But unless we know more about his motives, all we can do is speculate.

The other journalist may be perceived as having betrayed the rights of the oppressed citizens by cowtowing to the dictators, writing articles supporting them. One is inclined to think his primary interest was saving his hide, but again, what drove him to do this we don't know. He may have had a large family to support and felt he could not let them down, etc.

Imo self-interest motivates us all 100 per cent of the time. The one one who went to jail for example may have found the idea unbearable to be considered "a coward".

Edited by Xray

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[...]
[...]

That is what is meant by retaining a standard as an invariant absolute. Similarly, for purposes of choosing and ranking values to live one's life, a chosen standard of value is an invariant absolute.

[...]

The key word is "chosen". For indeed, standards of value always imply that these standards have to be chosen, and a 'choice' is always subjective.

[...]

Now, you asked the follow-up question: "So it was Ayn Rand who chose the Objectivist standard of values, and once chosen, it is regarded as an invariant absolute?" My short answer is: Yes, for herself. [...]

Another key element: for herself. It was her personally chosen standards. It doesn't matter whether she called her philosophy Objectivism - the standards of value she selected for herself were her personal choice. [...]

Xray, a choice, the action per se, is always made by some chooser (in the same way a valuation is always made by some valuer). So from the chooser's perspective, it is a personal, subjective choice. There is no dispute about this as a psychological aspect of the action. What is in dispute is whether the thing chosen--be it a standard, a value, an activity--is chosen objectively, or subjectively, or intrinsically, by means of that personal, subjective choice as a moral aspect of the action. In the history of philosophy, Objectivism stands alone in reasoning that the thing chosen can be objective. (For a justification of the objectivity of values, see my elaboration to Anonrobt's point in my Post #38.)

[...]
[...] My long answer is the rest. Read on. In both the above cases, who does the choosing of the enumerated categories of standards? Anyone, really. It is you for your bench, if you want to make one; it is you for your life, if you want to live.

[...]

Who does the categorizing from which I then choose? [...]

The responsibility is always on the chooser to discover and organize his knowledge. Since knowledge does not grow like trees in nature, it has to be discovered directly from nature or learned indirectly from original discoverers. And categories of standards do count as organizations of knowledge. In the two cases so far discussed, there is a category of standards of measurement for the purpose of measuring lengths, and there is a category of standards of teleological measurement for the purpose of measuring values. Thus, there are many standards floating around per category of measurement. Not so long ago, there weren't that many, or even none, and some were unstable. The foot and the yard, allegedly, were re-standardized with each reigning king per geographic region. Nevertheless, the responsibility ultimately rests on the measurer, on the individual human being. Anything he does cognitively requires a standard of measurement. Some are better, some worse (again, by yet a more fundamental standard); and if there is none, he has to discover one. Two quotations from Ayn Rand may help in this context:

Measurement is the identification of a relationship--a quantitative relationship established by means of a standard that serves as a unit. Teleological measurement [requires a standard that] serves to establish a graded relationship of means to end. [iTOE 33]

The requirements of a standard of measurement are: [1] that it represent the appropriate attribute, [2] that it be easily perceivable by man, and [3] that, once chosen, it remain immutable and absolute whenever used. [iTOE 7]

If mankind did not have an Ayn Rand or an Aristotle, or even a Kant or a Plato, every individual would still need to discover for himself various standards of measurement in epistemology, ethics, politics, esthetics. That they existed, that they made their discoveries, helped the rest of mankind. But still, in any purpose requiring measurement, a standard must be chosen; and for each man, this responsibility is inescapable.

[...]
[... In the context of measuring psycho-epistemology, ...]

Ayn Rand discovered and elaborated on two such standards. There is the standard of the second-hander psycho-epistemology. There is also the standard of the first-hander psycho-epistemology. For short, let us call these long-naming standards by the synonym of cognitive styles.

When a person 1) observes something, 2) makes a judgment on it, based on some standard of evaluation, and then subsequently 3) reports to you about it; what do you do cognitively about the report? If your chosen cognitive style is of a second-hander, you zero in exclusively on the person doing the observing, judging, and reporting; you evaluate his social standing, his notoriety, his political pull; and then you take whatever he reports as your own judgment--regardless of any actual personal observation and/or any actual personal judgment from observation (based on some standard). On the other hand, if you adopt the first-hander cognitive style, you do consider the reporter's credibility as part of the larger context, of course, but more importantly, you take the report as an invitation to do the observing yourself, if feasible, and to make the judgment yourself, if you adopt the same standard; and once having made your own independent judgment, you evaluate the reported judgment against your own before accepting or rejecting it. [...]

So per Rand, the "second-handers" don't do the litmus test on what is being served to them, since the "WHO" says something is [sic] more important to them than WHAT is being said?

[...]

Yes, I would agree to this interpretation.

[...] (bolding mine)
[...] I would argue that some second-handers will accept NB's judgment wholly, uncritically. Some other second-handers, following other figures of authority, of different social standings, etc., will reject NB's judgment wholly, uncritically.

By contrast, the independent first-hander, I would argue, will read the report and decide to accept or reject the proffered standard of mental health on its own logical merit. If he rejects the standard, the entire report is dismissed. If he finds the standard plausible, he goes on to observe first-hand the dancing of beatniks, and then to judge their activities in accordance to the standard. Only then will he make the secondary judgment about NB's judgment of the dancing of the beatniks.

[...]

Another variable to be considered in that context: N. Branden himself may have acted as a "second-hander" here, mirroring Rand's own disapproval of the way the beatniks danced.

I would approach the subject by asking Branden to elaborate on his chosen "standard of mental health" and then ask him to explain why he thinks dancing like that is detrimental to it.

Maybe. I am willing to consider whether NB acted second-handedly, but where is your reasoning, where is your evidence, as exhibited in the Branden article? Have you identified the proffered standard of mental health? Have you assented to it as an absolute, at least for the duration of analysis? These are preliminary questions I would have to answer before I make a judgment about NB's cognitive style in the present episode.

But regarding the judgment about the dancing of the beatniks, I am in agreement with your approach on the subject. And if I am not mistaken, Branden elaborates on two standards of mental health fifteen paragraphs into the cited article, taking up four paragraphs, beginning with "A rational, self-...," and ending with "... escape from reality" (p. 74). Of the two standards, he chooses the first in judging the dancing of the beatniks. Finally, how well anyone makes a judgment also depends on his adherence to the standard of objectivity, and on whether an error of judgment can be made. And concerning the issue of "scope," a suggestion made by MSK in Post #55, I recently posted something here.

Edited by Thom T G

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I will conclude with your definition of altruism, which I also think is good: "sacrifice of one’s own self-interest for the sake of another person(s)." Even though we can both agree this is true, the act of fulfilling one's self-interest aroused through empathy will be experientially perceived as: sacrificing one's own [ego-attributed] self interest for the sake of another person(s) [as we perceive through empathic experience]. Thus, the chronic miscommunication between philosophical assertion and perceived experience is revealed.

Christopher

I have a challenge for you. Apply all your fancy verbiage to a soldier who falls on a grenade to save his buddies.

Ba'al Chatzaf

You know, I've never been able to figure you out during all my lurking around this place. One minute you could make a very insightful and interesting post, and the next you could turn around and blatantly insult and troll someone who is generally trying to help and explain a point of view in a calm, rational manner, as Christopher took the time to do here. I know you like to stir the pot, and that's fine (and encouraged), but this is not the way to do it. Get back to the style you're successful at conveying here and give Hyde a rest, eh?

The solution, by the way, is that his action is conducive to his chosen obligation to subject himself to potentially life-ending action so long as the end result is better for the armed forces than if he had not. Besides, even if he wasn't in the army, the situation would call for this action if he knew he was the only means by which his friends (who are values to him) will survive. To make sense of this, suppose instead of friends he was surrounded by Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, and all the rest of the SS elite - jumping on the grenade to save them would be, assuming his opposition to these people, a truly wicked act.

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Flagg:

Well put. You raised an interesting question. My father was 35 years with the NYFD, an arson investigator and retired as a Deputy Chief. Before I was born, he was on his way to work standing on the platform of the Flushing lines first stop.

A stranger fainted or became unsteady and feel onto the track unconscious. My father and another gentleman jumped down and attempted to get the man to safety.

As they were doing this, a train began to pull into the last stop.

My father got up and ran towards the train and was waving his arms and obviously he was not killed. He was given a medal and had an article in the Daily News and it was no big deal.

He and I had discussed this one and he said that it seemed like a reasonably good risk, he felt that he could always jump out of the way of the train which was slowing down.

I agree.

However, had he been killed...?

Adam

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My question about the Iranian journalists applies to actual real circumstances of two people in Iran. This is not a litmus test, this is a real question in which people chose different behaviors. We're observing the aftermath, but you've dismissed it out-of-hand. The goal of both these men was to stand against the government. However, is it better to stand up for your freedoms and go to jail (like Nelson Mandella perhaps?), or to tell untruths for a year, stay out of jail , but lose credibility with Iranians who might have otherwise been more supportive of your cause? Very very valid question, ver very real question, set in the real world.

Why would otherwise sympathetic Iranians be opposed to your lying to a hostile government to escape jail time? I would suppose they are not so sympathetic to your cause in the first place if they behave in this manner. And with this same presupposition, what use is it to martyr (or semi-martyr via indeterminate jail time) yourself for people who would have qualms with your lying to a government blatantly opposing inherent rights? Neither solution seems to work here.

Let's look at the real issue involved: What is the best way for an individual to stand against an aggressive government and improve the chances of bringing down that government, perhaps risking self in the process?

Depends on the context. If a core of people who value what you value and who are ready to risk their lives to improve their situation exist, and if you value these people enough to stay in comparison to whatever risk factor is attached to possible escape for you and your friends instead, then the solution is to use all of your means to determine how to best retaliate against the government. Because the government there is overtly opposed to recognizing any of your rights, the proper course of moral action - should you choose to stay - is to enact as much disruption and violence that you can while balancing the risk to you and your supporters.

What should Iranians living in Iran to do?

Seek willing outside help, gather internally via grassroots methodology, and use the resultant recourses to either violently disrupt, or if enough people are available, violently overthrow the oppressing government with extreme prejudice.

Many intelligent ones just leave the country. If you don't have a solution that works from the inside, then you're hardly in a position to argue that Iranian citizens are responsible for their government.

The citizens are responsible either because of complacency or, most likely, because they actually support the regime. Those who do not fit into such categories ought to either organize for violent revolution, beg for a sympathetic country to engage in overt war or at least aid for an internal assassination and overthrow, or leave the country - whatever the situation entails. My Muslim step-uncle, Ali, escaped Iran because most of the people there were either complacent or supportive, as I mentioned before, and he saw them rightly as worthless. When he escaped in the eighties, all the best minds were slipping out with him. It continues today, but the size of the group is negligible. My uncle was actually hoping for a full-scale invasion on the part of the U.S. with a military takeover a la Japan after the War (and this was before 9/11), but I'm not sure if I'd go that far.

If I lived there and there existed no opportunity for revolution or escape, and no hope in the foreseeable future, then I would make the most of life while being prepared to do what I can to take out as many as I could before they succeed in making me disappear in the dark of night.

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Flagg:

Well put. You raised an interesting question. My father was 35 years with the NYFD, an arson investigator and retired as a Deputy Chief. Before I was born, he was on his way to work standing on the platform of the Flushing lines first stop.

A stranger fainted or became unsteady and feel onto the track unconscious. My father and another gentleman jumped down and attempted to get the man to safety.

As they were doing this, a train began to pull into the last stop.

My father got up and ran towards the train and was waving his arms and obviously he was not killed. He was given a medal and had an article in the Daily News and it was no big deal.

He and I had discussed this one and he said that it seemed like a reasonably good risk, he felt that he could always jump out of the way of the train which was slowing down.

I agree.

However, had he been killed...?

Adam

Had he been killed, he'd have gone knowing that, unfortunately, what he assessed to be a negligible risk actually realized. But the presupposition is there - he chose to take a risk conducive to saving a stranger, whom he can (rightly!) do no more than presume is a worthy member of the society in which he chooses to live. Using the "Godwin's Law" rule to contrast this as above - supposing the guy was Hitler instead; your father would be in the right to let him get whacked by the train, unless he assessed that doing so would put a vast number of people on or near the train at risk of injury or death.

I actually am a stormchaser myself - part of the reason is the joy in the days where our hard work preparing a forecast and traveling long distances pays off with some good footage, but the other part touches on the ontologically selfish "altruism" that Christopher touched upon earlier. I empathize with tornado victims because my maternal grandmother was one, and I recognize that many such victims may be innocently subject to such a disaster (i.e. subject without the ability to choose a course of proper action) without the timely warnings that chasers and spotters relay to emergency managers and weather services. So even though I could have chosen a safer hobby that reaped rewards for preparation, the latter portion makes stormchasing part of who I am, and I understand the risk inherent in my hobby/service.

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As Ayn so effectively put it, judge and be ready to be judged as the obverse of judge not lest you be judged.

Well, that was the whole issue with Rand - even LP stated on a recent show that Miss Rand made errors in her personal judgments. Heck, if she were alive today and I told her who I've befriended recently, she'd toss me down the stairs and lock the door behind me - and that's before I would present the points of difference between my philosophy and Objectivism. :lol:

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Flagg:

Exactly. Fascinating field you are in. Thank you for the work that you do and you obviously enjoy it. It's amusing because I was having an serious

discussion about fear yesterday with a very close friend.

We went through most of the arguments. Fear is a survival mechanism. Everyone has fear and it is "what you do with it."

I have grown into the Frank Herbert Dune mode:

LITANY AGAINST FEAR

"I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain."

How do you handle yours? If it is none of my business, I am fine with that, lol

Adam

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Why would otherwise sympathetic Iranians be opposed to your lying to a hostile government to escape jail time? I would suppose they are not so sympathetic to your cause in the first place if they behave in this manner. And with this same presupposition, what use is it to martyr (or semi-martyr via indeterminate jail time) yourself for people who would have qualms with your lying to a government blatantly opposing inherent rights? Neither solution seems to work here.

Interesting viewpoint you state. The Iranian who introduced these people to me condemned the liar and condoned the martyr; she was also someone who emigrated from Iran and sympathetic to the anti-government cause. On a personal note, staying out of jail and lying to an oppressive government (and its people) is totally fine by me... however, on another note becoming a martyr for a cause (that one personally believes in) demonstrates strong leadership by gaining support (as this young lady experienced)... usually the type of leadership and support required to overthrough an oppressive government.

Chris

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[Xray]:

What exactly is a sacrifice? It is an act directed by something which the person peforming the act considers as a greater value then that which is sacrificed. Imo there is NO exception to this principle.

It might be much clearer if you consider who is calling an act a "sacrifice." For example, consider somebody sacrificing an animal to a god. In Rand's view it is a sacrifice of something of value for nothing. To the person doing the sacrificing, it is giving up a lesser value to obtain a greater value.

So whatever a person considers a value (or non-value) is a subjective choice.

Imo by human nature, it is virtually impossible for someone to trade a (perceived) greater

value for a (perceived) lesser value. If Individual A voluntarily trades an apple for an

orange, Individual A values the orange more than the apple, whereas,

Individual B (the other trader) values the apple more than the orange.

It is always a trade-off in self interest. It can't be any other.

The same goes for sacrifices of any kind. The sacrificer wants a personal profit from the sacrifice, whatever it is.

I once asked Jehova's Witnesses at my door why they "sacrifice" so much of their life time to this "activity" (I deliberately chose a neutral term). The answer came promptly "Oh, we want to please God", they beamed at me. " We have his promise that we will be rewarded in an afterlife if we do his will. " There you have it. The reward aspect again.

There is no such thing as altruism imo. The people Rand calls "altruists" in her novels don't put other people first. They put themselves first just as the heroes, only their approach is different.

Take Peter Keating and Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead" for example. Both are motivated by self-interest 100 of the time. They only differ in the way they want to achieve their goals.

Edited by Xray

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xray:

"Take Peter Keating and Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead" for example. Both are motivated by self-interest 100 of the time. They only differ in the way they want to achieve their goals."

Do you think that they differ in what they value?

Do you think that they differ in the integrity they possess and practice?

Do you think that they differ in their work ethic?

Shall I continue?

Adam

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So whatever a person considers a value (or non-value) is a subjective choice.

It's a personal choice, which may be objective.

As for most of the rest of your post, I suggest reading:

1. Psychological egoism

2. "Isn't Everybody Selfish" by N. Branden in the September 1962 Objectivist Newsletter and also (I'm told) in The Virtue of Selfishness.

There is no such thing as altruism imo. The people Rand calls "altruists" in her novels don't put other people first. They put themselves first just as the heroes, only their approach is different.

If you are trying to say that a person can never put another person's welfare in first place and their own in second, then I strongly disagree. It happens a lot in child-rearing, for example.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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So whatever a person considers a value (or non-value) is a subjective choice.
It's a personal choice, which may be objective.

Can you give an example of a personal choice which is objective?

[Merlin Jetton]As for most of the rest of your post, I suggest reading:

1. Psychological egoism

2. "Isn't Everybody Selfish" by N. Branden in the September 1962 Objectivist Newsletter and also (I'm told) in The Virtue of Selfishness.

Quote from N. Branden' essay:

"Selfishness entails:

1) a hierarchy of values set by the standard of one's self-interest

2)) the refusal to sacrifice a higher value to ölowerone or to a nonvalue." (end quote)

So from 1)" the standard of one's self-interest (= a subjective choice, since individuals' self-interests vary) it follows that

2) the (perceived) higher values/lowervalues /nonvalues) are necessarily subjective too.

[Xray]:There is no such thing as altruism imo. The people Rand calls "altruists" in her novels don't put other people first. They put themselves first just as the heroes, only their approach is different.
[Merlin Jetton]:

If you are trying to say that a person can never put another person's welfare in first place and their own in second, then I strongly disagree. It happens a lot in child-rearing, for example.

When you dig deeper into the these issues you will always find self-interest as the motor behind this. Parenting is a classic example. Why are we concerned for the welfare of ourkids, and not for the kids of the Joneses? Because they are our offspring.

The pattern may vary of course, including adoptive children. But the drive and impulse is the same. We see them as "our" kids, want them to thrive, etc, and are ready to make sacrifices for their welfare because they are of value to us.

The fact that we would not make these sacrifices for the Jones's children is the litmus test showing our self interest as the driving force. If a mother values her child, is not the child's welfare in her self-interest by virtue of being something she values? If she acts to keep that value (child), how is taking care of the child not in her self interest?

Edited by Xray

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Xray:

"Take Peter Keating and Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead" for example. Both are motivated by self-interest 100 of the time. They only differ in the way they want to achieve their goals."

Do you think that they differ in what they value?

Do you think that they differ in the integrity they possess and practice?

Do you think that they differ in their work ethic?

Shall I continue?

Adam

Do you think that they differ in what they value?

How is what each values relevant? Do they not both act in self-interest in pursuit of those values no matter the similarity or difference?

Do you think that they differ in the integrity they possess and practice?

What does integrity have to do with it? Are they not both driven by self-interest in pursuit of their values?

As for how we perceive the characters, we enter the realm of subjective validation. I personally find both Keating and Roark repulsive.

Keating is a slick, cunning, manipulative type who uses others to serve his purpose. Keating is the adult version of the kid who cheats himself through school by copying from his more talented classmates.

As for Roark, he is utterly devoid of empathy for anyone, is virtually unable to communicate on a human level, and is prone to acts of violence (as in the rape scene, and when he blows up the building, risking other people's lives). What happened to Rand's credo of non-initiaition of violence?

Roark shares his inability to feel with several others of Rand's heroes /heroines.

In Atlas Shrugged for example, Dagny Taggart says (pb, p. 30):

"I guess I've never felt anything at all."

There you have it again. Their inability to feel anything. Would deserve its own thread imo, to get to the heart of the matter: WHY did Rand choose cold, unfeeling (except maybe hate) heroes/heroines as role models to be emulated? (If there is already a thread on this, TIA for giving a link).

Do you think that they differ in their work ethic?

What does work ethic have to do with my claim that self interest is a natural law which is present in humans 100 percent?

Do you think that Keating was not driven by slef-interest/selfishness every bit as Roark?

Shall I continue?

If you like. TIA for answering the question I asked in this post.

Edited by Xray

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Can you give an example of a personal choice which is objective?

Suppose you have an objective goal that can be achieved in more than one way and neither is clearly better than the other. You choose one, and the choice is both personal and objective.

Quote from N. Branden' essay:

"Selfishness entails:

1) a hierarchy of values set by the standard of one's self-interest

2)) the refusal to sacrifice a higher value to ölowerone or to a nonvalue." (end quote)

So from 1)" the standard of one's self-interest (= a subjective choice, since individuals' self-interests vary) it follows that

2) the (perceived) higher values/lowervalues /nonvalues) are necessarily subjective too.

Huh? I didn't refer to the Wikipedia article or N. Branden's essay to say anything about subjective, but to say all motivation isn't purely selfish. Here is another quote from N. Branden's article: "The fact that a person may feel that he 'wants' to do it, does not make his action selfish or establish objectively that he is its beneficiary."

When you dig deeper into the these issues you will always find self-finterest as the motor behind this. Parenting is a classic example. Why are we concerned for the welfare of our kids, and not for the kids of the Joneses? Because they are our offspring, the carrier of our genes.

I didn't say the parent's self-interest is absent. Your addressing somebody else's child is a diversion. In my opinion parents place their own child's welfare ahead of their own welfare, at least sometimes.

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Take Peter Keating and Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead" for example. Both are motivated by self-interest 100 of the time. They only differ in the way they want to achieve their goals.

To discuss selfishness, acting selfishly, etc. in Objectivism, we need to use Objectivist definitions:

To be selfish is to be motivated by concern for one's self-interest. This requires that one consider what constitutes one's self-interest and how to achieve it-what values and goals to pursue, what principles and policies to adopt. If a man were not concerned with this question, he could not be said objectively to be concerned with or to desire his self-interest; one cannot ve concerned with or desire that of which one has no knowledge.
Obviously, in order to act, one has to be moved by some personal motive; one has to "want," in some sense, to perform the action. The issue of an action's selfishness or unselfishness depends, not on whether or not one wants to perform it, but on why one wants to perform it. By what standard was the action chosen? To achieve what goal?
Ethics is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions... 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question:... Who is to be the intended beneficiary of his actions... The clash between egoism and altruism lies in their conflicting answers to these questions. Egoism holds that man is an end in himself; altruism holds that man is a means to the ends of others. Egoism holds that, morally, the beneficiary of an action should be the person who acts; altruism hols that, morally, the beneficiary og an action should be someone other than the person who acts.

My initial argument on this thread was purely epistemological. I believe altruism as defined by Objectivists is when authentic ethically-good altruism (ontologically self-serving but perceived as acting to the benefit of another) becomes scripture guiding people to act towards the benefit of others even when the empathic drive is absent. Good altruism is like being filled with spirit when praying to God. Bad altruism is like praying to God and reading scripture when deep down you don't believe in God.

Both good and bad altruism exist. Bad altruism (by definition) is not in one's self-interest no matter what one thinks. One's own perception of personal action ("I want") is not the final judgment on whether the act is Objectively ethical. The above points highlight that incorrect perception works both ways: one can perceive one's action as altruistic, but it is ontologically selfish; or one can perceive one's action as selfish, but Objectively it's altruistic. And of course, one can perceive and act altruistically -Keating-, or one can perceive and act selfishly -Roark-. But a perfectly-ethical Objectivist cannot always perceive his/her actions selfishly, otherwise such a person's needs that are epistemologically perceived as the needs of others will never be fulfilled.

I love this stuff!

Chris

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It was Peter Keating's self-interest to end up how he ended up?

--Brant

For some real unintended humor, listen to the Fountainhead movie. In particular, the trailer for The Fountainhead.

"Peter Keating - - - selfish."

Seriously, that's what it says.

Amazing.

Bill P

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I didn't say the parent's self-interest is absent. Your addressing somebody else's child is a diversion.

It was the opposite of diversion. I chose a drastic example to keep the focus on what it is about.

In my opinion parents place their own child's welfare ahead of their own welfare, at least sometimes.

The child's welfare is in the parents' self-interest by virtue of being something they value. They act to keep that value (child), so taking care of the child is in their self-interest.

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