Christopher

Can morality be objective?

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1. On what basis do you make that choice?

Examples: Is another day going to be a pleasure, or is it going to be a pain or burden. A person suffering unremitting pain, could very well prefer the peace of death to going on in pain. Or a person just may have enough of life and another day would be extremely tedious for him. There are lots of sensible reasons for not wishing to go on. But a Shi'ite Objectivist will have none of these, for Rand has spoken.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al -

I"m interested: What is it that you think Rand said about suicide? Please advise, specifically. Citations are appreciated.

Bill P

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Actually the desert island scenario is useful in exposing the fundamental flaw in Objectivist morality.

In brief, Rand declares "life" to be the standard of value--which implies that "life" is itself not a value, but something inherent in reality by which value choices can be measured and judged. But (here is the flaw) she then declares that "life" is something chosen (or at least, sought after), meaning that "life" is itself a "value": the most important value but still a value which must be chosen. ... In other words, not only is life not an "objective standard of value" but simply another value which I can freely choose. ... This is why the "indestructible robot" scenario fails to establish what Rand wants it to establish, since the robot is free to choose something else as its ultimate value. -- Jeffrey S.

Pardon me for not getting back to you on this. Allow me to state your thesis as a positive.

Life is not an "objective standard of value." Life is another value. I am free to choose life or not.

Fair enough summary, but my more precise position would be something like:

Life is not an "objective standard of value". Life is one of several possibilities which a person is free to choose as their primary value, or not.

Objectivism chooses life as the primary value, but that does not mean that life is the only possible rational choice. Love and Truth are other alternatives often chosen; so too are some alternatives everyone here would label as , if not outright evil, at least not-good; such as exercising power over others.

Any attempt to establish life as the objective standard, instead of simply the subjectively chosen preferred primary value [by primary value, I mean the value from which all others are derived], is merely begging the question: the arguments are valid only if one assumes at the start that life should be the primary value.

1. On what basis do you make that choice?

2. Ayn Rand's Objectivism uses the word life in a special sense, especially when discussing morality. It is true that "life" could mean the wildlife in Yosemite or life on Earth or even more generally and abstractly, as when cosmologists theorize which limits of which physical constants are necessary for life as we know it. When discussin morality, life means human life in general and YOUR LIFE in particular in its fullest expression, working from its highest potential.

3. If you decide to "choose" randomly, tossing dice or whatever at every junction, you would not be acting with your life as your standard. Your choices would not be moral. They would be immoral even if they accidentally benefited you.

At least, that's how I understand it.

i understand, and have no problem, with Rand's usage of the term "life". The problem lies in the fact that an individual can choose something other than life as their primary value,[edit: or "life" in a sense that is different from Rand's understanding of human life equalling homo productivus] and there's nothing irrational in that choice. A person could choose to live completely altruisticly--preferring to live a life of total self sacrifice--because they see that as the way to live their life "working from their highest potential"--and there would be nothing irrational about that choice.

There is also this flaw in the ointment: that while Rand chose to focus on the individual as the entity whose life should be the primary value, that's not the only actual possibility. One can choose to make the family, the tribe, the human race, the ecosphere, the Volk and the Fuhrer, the entity whose life is the primary value: the arguments for all of them are as logical as the argument for the individual. We choose to see the individual as the focus of morality, but there is nothing in reality that imposes that chose on us and makes any other choice fundamentally irrational.

Jeffrey S.

Edited by jeffrey smith

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Now the question is are there any suicide bombers who are not fanatics of some sort? ie. not irrational? The act of committing suicide seems very irrational to me. Whatever circumstances leading up to suicide have resulted in a thoroughly irrational person, IMO. Of course this depends on one's concept of irrationality.

Do you think the soldier who throws himself on a live grenade to save his comrades is irrational? A mother who choses to die to save her child?

I would say temporarily irrational. Obviously in these circumstances it would be very difficult to think rationally. There isn't even time. But what about suicide bombers? Are they rational?

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1. On what basis do you make that choice?

Examples: Is another day going to be a pleasure, or is it going to be a pain or burden. A person suffering unremitting pain, could very well prefer the peace of death to going on in pain. Or a person just may have enough of life and another day would be extremely tedious for him. There are lots of sensible reasons for not wishing to go on. But a Shi'ite Objectivist will have none of these, for Rand has spoken.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al -

I"m interested: What is it that you think Rand said about suicide? Please advise, specifically. Citations are appreciated.

Bill P

There's a pretty good discussion of Objectivists and suicide at the Atlas Society site. Here's a link if you are interested:

http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--1287-Suicide.aspx

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That we may loathe the purpose of a suicide bomber doesn't make him irrational. His goal is to destruct others and to die for his purpose. If he succeeds, it is thanks to his rationality. He would be irrational if he prayed to his God and expected that thereby he could destruct others - that method doesn't work. That's one of the typical errors in Objectivism: the fact that rationality is desirable doesn't imply that someone who does things that we detest cannot be rational (with the fallacious conclusion that "evil" is impotent). The two concepts are certainly not equivalent. Being rational makes us efficient in what we want to achieve, but we may disagree strongly with what some people want to achieve.

If a mentally ill man wishes to inflict pain upon himself and bangs his head against the wall to achieve that end, is he behaving rationally? Rationality is not just used to decide how to achieve an end, a rational man has to determine what the proper ends are to begin with.

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1. On what basis do you make that choice?

Examples: Is another day going to be a pleasure, or is it going to be a pain or burden. A person suffering unremitting pain, could very well prefer the peace of death to going on in pain. Or a person just may have enough of life and another day would be extremely tedious for him. There are lots of sensible reasons for not wishing to go on. But a Shi'ite Objectivist will have none of these, for Rand has spoken.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al -

I"m interested: What is it that you think Rand said about suicide? Please advise, specifically. Citations are appreciated.

Bill P

There's a pretty good discussion of Objectivists and suicide at the Atlas Society site. Here's a link if you are interested:

http://www.objectivi...87-Suicide.aspx

I strongly suspect most suicides are basically expressions of revenge and that most suicides or would-be suicides don't realize that. An audience is needed--the people who learn about it. There are, of course, other reasons. Repressed anger is an SOB. Women fail at it much more than men, either out of ineptness or out of a cry for help. They tend to be smarter about it overall; men, in the various techniques. There also is the real big one: the suicide of the United States of America out of venal, power-loving stupidity.

--Brant

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Rationality is not just used to decide how to achieve an end, a rational man has to determine what the proper ends are to begin with.

Good point John! :) It makes sense that rational (or sane?) people will have different goals in life than irrational, unsane individuals.

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1. On what basis do you make that choice?

Examples: Is another day going to be a pleasure, or is it going to be a pain or burden. A person suffering unremitting pain, could very well prefer the peace of death to going on in pain. Or a person just may have enough of life and another day would be extremely tedious for him. There are lots of sensible reasons for not wishing to go on. But a Shi'ite Objectivist will have none of these, for Rand has spoken.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al -

I"m interested: What is it that you think Rand said about suicide? Please advise, specifically. Citations are appreciated.

Bill P

There's a pretty good discussion of Objectivists and suicide at the Atlas Society site. Here's a link if you are interested:

http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--1287-Suicide.aspx

Yes, Mary. There has been discussion by Rand also, which is in direct contradiction of what Ba'al implies above that she has said. Which is why I asked him for his (Ba'al's/Bob Kolcher's) understanding of what Rand has said about suicide.

Bill P

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That we may loathe the purpose of a suicide bomber doesn't make him irrational. His goal is to destruct others and to die for his purpose. If he succeeds, it is thanks to his rationality. He would be irrational if he prayed to his God and expected that thereby he could destruct others - that method doesn't work. That's one of the typical errors in Objectivism: the fact that rationality is desirable doesn't imply that someone who does things that we detest cannot be rational (with the fallacious conclusion that "evil" is impotent). The two concepts are certainly not equivalent. Being rational makes us efficient in what we want to achieve, but we may disagree strongly with what some people want to achieve.

If a mentally ill man wishes to inflict pain upon himself and bangs his head against the wall to achieve that end, is he behaving rationally? Rationality is not just used to decide how to achieve an end, a rational man has to determine what the proper ends are to begin with.

Interesting (and not surprising) how the discusion now has veered from "objective morality" to "rationality".

But morality and rationality are two completely different things.

The error lies in Rand's false premise, for she equates "rational" with "moral", as evidenced in the quote from Galt's speech:

"You who prattle that morality is social and that man woould need no morality on a desert island - it is on a desert island that he would need it most.

Let him try to claim when there are no victims to pay for it, that a rock is is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest tomorrow by devouring his stock seed today - and realtiy will wipe him out as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it." (Galt)

As in the case of morality on a Desert Island. She was dead wrong there.

Dead wrong indeed, by equating an error about a fact, an irrational assumption ("sand is clothing") with "immorality".

"Check your premises", Rand advised. This implies checking hers as well.

Edited by Xray

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That we may loathe the purpose of a suicide bomber doesn't make him irrational. His goal is to destruct others and to die for his purpose. If he succeeds, it is thanks to his rationality. He would be irrational if he prayed to his God and expected that thereby he could destruct others - that method doesn't work. That's one of the typical errors in Objectivism: the fact that rationality is desirable doesn't imply that someone who does things that we detest cannot be rational (with the fallacious conclusion that "evil" is impotent). The two concepts are certainly not equivalent. Being rational makes us efficient in what we want to achieve, but we may disagree strongly with what some people want to achieve.

If a mentally ill man wishes to inflict pain upon himself and bangs his head against the wall to achieve that end, is he behaving rationally? Rationality is not just used to decide how to achieve an end, a rational man has to determine what the proper ends are to begin with.

Interestng to observe how the discusion has veered from "objective morality" to "rationality".

But morality and rationality are two completely different things.

There exists no "objective" morality.

Ah, that good ol' subjective right and wrong.

--Brant

bang! bang!

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If a mentally ill man wishes to inflict pain upon himself and bangs his head against the wall to achieve that end, is he behaving rationally?

Why not? He does achieve his purpose, doesn't he? It may not be good for his health, but was Rational Rand's heavy smoking good for her health?

Rationality is not just used to decide how to achieve an end, a rational man has to determine what the proper ends are to begin with.

And who decides what are the "proper" ends? Are these the ends you happen to agree with?

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Yes, Mary. There has been discussion by Rand also, which is in direct contradiction of what Ba'al implies above that she has said. Which is why I asked him for his (Ba'al's/Bob Kolcher's) understanding of what Rand has said about suicide.

Bill P

I sit corrected. John Galt's willingness to commit suicide and leave the love of his life Dagny to the tender mercy of torture and perhaps rape indicates Rand was not totally anti-suicide.

Also one of the people Dagny meets in her search for the inventor of the motor tells of a suicide of a rotten young man. His suicide is purely for the purpose of inflicting pain on those who rejected him, hence his suicide is not virtuous.

Conclusion it is o.k. to commit suicide leaving one's love to torture and rape, but not to commit suicide to inflict pain on others.

Thank you for the correction.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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If a mentally ill man wishes to inflict pain upon himself and bangs his head against the wall to achieve that end, is he behaving rationally?

Why not? He does achieve his purpose, doesn't he? It may not be good for his health, but was Rational Rand's heavy smoking good for her health?

Rationality is not just used to decide how to achieve an end, a rational man has to determine what the proper ends are to begin with.

And who decides what are the "proper" ends? Are these the ends you happen to agree with?

Good question, who decides? Psychologists have spent a good deal of time working out what humans require for happiness and adjustment. Psychiatrists and therapists know a good deal about what humans do wrong and what they would like to achieve.i don't think we want to live in constant fear of bombs being blown up in our vicinity, for example. It may be easier to say what we don't want. :)

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Is not the whole purpose of the 'desert island' speech to starkly illustrate the penalty for flying in the face of reality? One may survive, and even flourish for a while, in 'normal' society, protected by the systems, or even by the graces of other people - and the underlying irrationality, and yes, insanity, of that person is not met with the justice it deserves, and will definitely get, until many years later.

But there are no non-realists on desert islands; not live ones, anyhow, (or in fox-holes <_< )

To live without rationality or with partial rationality, I believe, means that someone else is being rational on your behalf. Self-evidently this must always be immoral.

So surely, Xray, your statement - "Dead wrong indeed, by equating an error about a fact, an irrational assumption ("sand is clothing") with "immorality." "- is itself, wrong?

Just a general reminder of Rand's basic principle : "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself, and live."

That puts Christopher's original premise of objective morality in perspective!

Tony

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"You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island - it is on a desert island that he would need it most.

Let him try to claim when there are no victims to pay for it, that a rock is is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest tomorrow by devouring his stock seed today - and realtiy will wipe him out as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it." (Galt)

That "life is a value to be bought" is wrong as well. Does anyone recall paying their parents in order to come into existence? :)

To live without rationality or with partial rationality, I believe, means that someone else is being rational on your behalf. Self-evidently this must always be immoral.

Keep in mind that in Rand think, there exists no 'rationality' on others' behalf.

WN: So surely, Xray, your statement - "Dead wrong indeed, by equating an error about a fact, an irrational assumption ("sand is clothing") with "immorality." "- is itself, wrong?

What Galt said is quoted above again so everyone can check it out. Galt thinks that an individual's lack of survival skills on a desert island (based on error about facts) make this person "immoral".

But the very notion of morality makes no sense outside a social context. The idea of "morality" is connected to a set of beliefs and values held by societies (or other groups), having the purpose of regulating the group members' behavior.

WN: Just a general reminder of Rand's basic principle : "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself, and live."

The recommendation to "enjoy yourself and live" is global. For clearly Rand's so-called "parasites, "looters" "moochers", or hard-core criminals also can 'enjoy themselves and live'.

WN: That puts Christopher's original premise of objective morality in perspective!

It is that premise itself ("objective morality") which must be checked if we are to get to the core of the issue.

Since "morality" is based on a code of values, and values can't be anything but subjective, what is there left to say of "morality" other than it cannot be "objective"?

Have you seen the TV video of L. Peikoff yelling and screaming that the destruction of the enemy should not shy away from killing children? It would be very interesting to post it here again in this discussion on whether morality can be "objective".

TIA if someone can give a link to this interview.

View Post Dragonfly, on 24 December 2009 - 11:36 AM, said:

And who decides what are the "proper" ends? Are these the ends you happen to agree with?

General Semanticist: Good question, who decides? Psychologists have spent a good deal of time working out what humans require for happiness and adjustment. Psychiatrists and therapists know a good deal about what humans do wrong and what they would like to achieve.i don't think we want to live in constant fear of bombs being blown up in our vicinity, for example. It may be easier to say what we don't want. :)

It is a person's subjectively chosen goal which determines whether a selected means to achieve the goal is 'proper' or not. "Proper" and "good" always imply suited to purpose, i. e. 'proper/good for what purpose?'. Therefore "proper" and "good" can't be absolutes.

It can be assumed that to suicide bombers, "happiness" (on earth) and "adjustment" (to the society they are fighting against), don't figure at all in their list of chosen goals.

Edited by Xray

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"You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island - it is on a desert island that he would need it most.

Let him try to claim when there are no victims to pay for it, that a rock is is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest tomorrow by devouring his stock seed today - and realtiy will wipe him out as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it." (Galt)

That "life is a value to be bought" is wrong as well. Does anyone recall paying their parents in order to come into existence? :)

Xray -

Did you really read even just the short quote above and come to the conclusion that Rand has Galt speaking about someone "paying their parents in order to come into existence?" How can you get that construction of what Rand wrote?

Read that paragraph to an intelligent person, and see if they think the author is speaking about someone doing the physically impossible - paying their parents in order to come into existence! I doubt you will find that anyone seeking to understand will be so desperately confused.

If you want to be taken seriously, you will do better if you don't engage in such amazing distortion and misunderstanding of rather clear statements.

Bill P

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Bill,

Distorting Rand's meanings is one of Xray's hooks. That's how she gets people to respond to her on an idea level (instead of the entertainment level, being that, from what I have perceived online and off, interactions with her have become entertainment in a soap-opera kind of way and nothing more for most readers).

I predict that as it becomes clearer and clearer that she is not convincing anyone to abandon Rand's ideas, her distortions will become more and more extravagant.

Michael

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To live without rationality or with partial rationality, I believe, means that someone else is being rational on your behalf. Self-evidently this must always be immoral.

Parents supply rationality for their less than prepared young children. By you this must be immoral?

Or perhaps you should think through your positions thoroughly, yes?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bill,

Distorting Rand's meanings is one of Xray's hooks. That's how she gets people to respond to her on an idea level (instead of the entertainment level, being that, from what I have perceived online and off, interactions with her have become entertainment in a soap-opera kind of way and nothing more for most readers).

I predict that as it becomes clearer and clearer that she is not convincing anyone to abandon Rand's ideas, her distortions will become more and more extravagant.

Michael

Michael -

When I read that last post of Xray's (to which I responded above) I at first thought we were dealing in satire. IN someone poking fun at some of the sillier of the Rand critics. But, considering the author and the pattern of Xray's past writings, I think she either means it or at least wants us to take it seriously.

Sad.

Bill P

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Why not? He does achieve his purpose, doesn't he? It may not be good for his health, but was Rational Rand's heavy smoking good for her health?

Rand quit smoking when she was confronted with objective evidence that smoking was damaging her health. You can make the argument that she was guilty of evasion for many years, but she eventually came to the rational conclusion.

And who decides what are the "proper" ends? Are these the ends you happen to agree with?

Reality decides. The rational man survives and flourishes. The irrational man is wiped out, unless he receives assistance from the rational man (or steals from him).

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... considering the author and the pattern of Xray's past writings, I think she either means it or at least wants us to take it seriously.

Bill,

I have no doubt she wants us to take it seriously.

As to whether she believes her own BS, my opinion is that she does not.

She fishes too much and flops all over the place.

Because of the patterns I detect, I interpret this as someone looking for an opening, not as someone looking for an answer.

(btw - A very, very warm Merry Xmas back at you... :) )

Michael

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To live without rationality or with partial rationality, I believe, means that someone else is being rational on your behalf. Self-evidently this must always be immoral.

Parents supply rationality for their less than prepared young children. By you this must be immoral?

Or perhaps you should think through your positions thoroughly, yes?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Well, yes - your admonition rings a bell in me, generally. I know I have a tendency to rush out with my first flush of thought, and only pick it over afterwards; see how she flies, so to speak. (For my own understanding, primarily). So it comes across disjointed, or lacking logic. Possibly A.D.D. :rolleyes:

And also, no : on the child's reliance on parental rationality, you picked one example where I think I'm on solid ground. This seems to me to be special pleading. Can you imagine if in all these debates, to ensure precision, we had to add the caveat > My above statement does not apply in the case of children, the mentally unstable, or brain-damaged < ?

Children are of course of a special status. For all others, who are capable of full self-responsibility, evasion of rationality is inexcusable.

Tony

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To live without rationality or with partial rationality, I believe, means that someone else is being rational on your behalf. Self-evidently this must always be immoral.

Parents supply rationality for their less than prepared young children. By you this must be immoral?

Or perhaps you should think through your positions thoroughly, yes?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Well, yes - your admonition rings a bell in me, generally. I know I have a tendency to rush out with my first flush of thought, and only pick it over afterwards; see how she flies, so to speak. (For my own understanding, primarily). So it comes across disjointed, or lacking logic. Possibly A.D.D. :rolleyes:

And also, no : on the child's reliance on parental rationality, you picked one example where I think I'm on solid ground. This seems to me to be special pleading. Can you imagine if in all these debates, to ensure precision, we had to add the caveat > My above statement does not apply in the case of children, the mentally unstable, or brain-damaged < ?

Children are of course of a special status. For all others, who are capable of full self-responsibility, evasion of rationality is inexcusable.

Tony

Children indeed are a 'case in raising' - that is why they are children and not adults... one doesn't spring full blown like Minerva from Zeus' head... while rationality is of course needed, it has to be learned, which is what is, properly, done in childhood... to use it as a 'failing' of some sort, an 'immorality', is absurd, a concrete-boundedness...

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It is a person's subjectively chosen goal which determines whether a selected means to achieve the goal is 'proper' or not. "Proper" and "good" always imply suited to purpose, i. e. 'proper/good for what purpose?'. Therefore "proper" and "good" can't be absolutes.

It can be assumed that to suicide bombers, "happiness" (on earth) and "adjustment" (to the society they are fighting against), don't figure at all in their list of chosen goals.

Yes, but a mentally ill person can't be expected to choose "proper" goals, ie. their goal may be to kill as many people as they can in a shooting spree. So I agree that 'proper' and 'good' are not absolutely definable but we know the human nervous system functions in a certain way and we know it can breakdown in certain conditions and cause tremendous damage to individuals and society. In this context it should be possible to define certain behaviours as 'good' or 'proper' (sane) and others as 'bad', 'childish', 'unsane', etc.

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Children indeed are a 'case in raising' - that is why they are children and not adults... one doesn't spring full blown like Minerva from Zeus' head... while rationality is of course needed, it has to be learned, which is what is, properly, done in childhood... to use it as a 'failing' of some sort, an 'immorality', is absurd, a concrete-boundedness...

Athena was Zeus' headache. Minerva was Jupiter's migrane.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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