My Objections


bmacwilliam

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Now, we really do get to the heart of it: Do you believe in a free society as Objectivists would call for…or would you call for a social-political manifestation of this (for want of a better description) “biological altruism"? Tell us, how do you envision that society? That would be most interesting. Would that society be different from an Objectivist society or similar? (I'm speaking politics here).

Victor

Excellent question! LF Capitalism is not ideal (although we must define what ideal would be) in just about any sense. Rand got many of these related ideas wrong as well. I do believe in freedom, but very different from Rand's. My vision is considerably different.

I didn't intend to go there (yet) but I could I guess.

Bob

Bob,

Go there! It's a free-for-all convo! Ethics, Objectivism, capitalism or whatever! Ideas here!

-Victor

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MY OBJECTIONS

1. Rand on Gender Essentialism (including the dom/sub style sex, the woman president thing etc)[This is an erroneous application of Objectivism rather than Objectivism per se]

2. Rand on homosexuality [as above, its an erroneous application rather than a point of the philosophy]

3. Rand on Anarcho-Capitalism [for reasons stated in a previous discussion although Im happy to say them again, but I would allege this is not an essential of Objectivism]

4. Rand on Hayek [again, non-essential]

5. Objectivist aesthetics [probably non-essential]

As for Bob_Mac's objections to Objectivist ethics, Im surprised no one has brought up Objectivist epistemology and Rand's solution to the problem of universals. It is in that solution that Rand's ethics are based (i.e. the rejection of intrinsic value is based on the rejection of intrinsic concepts/essences; the fact that all concepts originate within a certain set of empirical circumstances (a context) driving Rand's methodology, etc).

It seems to me no one can fully reject Rand's ethics without throwing out her solution to the problem of universals. Just as one will not really understand Rand's ethics without understanding her theory on the nature of concepts and universals.

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Now, we really do get to the heart of it: Do you believe in a free society as Objectivists would call for…or would you call for a social-political manifestation of this (for want of a better description) “biological altruism"? Tell us, how do you envision that society? That would be most interesting. Would that society be different from an Objectivist society or similar? (I'm speaking politics here).

Victor

Excellent question! LF Capitalism is not ideal (although we must define what ideal would be) in just about any sense. Rand got many of these related ideas wrong as well. I do believe in freedom, but very different from Rand's. My vision is considerably different.

I didn't intend to go there (yet) but I could I guess.

Bob

Bob,

We can talk politics along with any other subject.

As a very basic summary of my political orientation, let me recap where I’m coming from. Let’s take Rand’s definition into account: Capitalism can be defined as "a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned."

Capitalism is the only system that allows people the freedom to act on their own conclusions. People are left alone by the government to trade freely and willingly, and those who carry out the Objectivist virtues of independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride benefit most.

Although "the public good"—or “society” as you would have it--ends up being the effect of such a system, it is neither the cause nor the justification of such a system. The cause and justification of capitalism, of course, is the protection of individual and property rights. Objectivists hold Capitalism as the only moral social system. It is the only system that does not initiate physical force or threat of such force against its members.

Now then, what is your definition and idea of “freedom”?

-Victor

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LF Capitalism is not ideal (although we must define what ideal would be) in just about any sense.

Bob,

If you are going to make this kind of assertion, once again, it is very important to see if you are talking about the same thing Rand did.

In just about every discussion I have ever had or read, when a person is radically against LF Capitalism and you stay with him long enough to see what he means, he ends up meaning one of 2 things: (1) government protected monopolies and/or highly favored business concerns (and this is called capitalism in the press but it still is essentially a government favoritism), or (2) a system where no legal liability for damage to consumers exists or any government involvement at all in the system.

It is wrong to call both the Objectivist form of LF Capitalism.

For an excellent example of how something close to the Objectivist form of LF Capitalism works, think about the explosion of computing and informatics. Intellectual property rights were protected by the government, but the market (with the exception of a few shameful cases) was left alone.

Look at what happened. On a micro level, you and I are communicating right now with each other for so little cost that it doesn't really impact our finances in the least. You can thank LF Capitalism for that. Let the government start regulating informatics all over the place and then see what happens.

OK, it was not all roses. The dotcom bubble popped several years ago. But look at how quickly the free market cleaned that up. It did it much quicker than government intervention would have, that's for sure.

Sorry for the digression. Now back to the issue of altruism.

Michael

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What are your influences when you talk evolutionary theory? And, how do you view the work of people like Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell. Just a thought...

I have read Jung - quite some time ago though. Lately I've been reading Stephen (Steven?) Pinker's stuff and it makes a lot of sense to me.

"How the Mind Works" was very interesting. He paints a very compelling picture of how human morality and other behaviour is largely biologically/evolutionary based.

His other book "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" is next on my list.

Bob

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LF Capitalism is not ideal (although we must define what ideal would be) in just about any sense.

Bob,

If you are going to make this kind of assertion, once again, it is very important to see if you are talking about the same thing Rand did.

Michael

Yes, fair enough. Before I dig into my political thoughts I'll spend some time defining terms first.

Bob

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Bob,

I will look it up for you to get you exact quotes, but going on memory, altruism in Objectivism means a philosophical doctrine used as a basis for morality. It does not mean simply helping people. The philosophical doctrine claims that when you help others, your action has moral import. When you do something to help yourself, it has none. And when you sacrifice something in order to help others, principally if it brings no value to you or causes loss, it has even higher moral import.

Do not confuse this with empathy or benevolence. I admit that lots of Objectivists certainly do.

Michael

Thanks for this clarity Michael. I'm thinking of doing voluntory work overseas, not out of a sense of duty or self-sacrifice because obviously I won't be paid in monetary terms; but because the kind of work being offered is something I would love to do and learn about for a few weeks or months - but wouldn't want to spend years doing. For example, I love archaeology- I don't want to go back to school and do an archaeology degree, but spending a few weeks helping out at a dig, is something I'd find fascinating.

I guess this would only become self-sacrificial if I can't afford to do this financially, and would lose my house or whatever because there was no money coming in.

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'The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value."

And she wrote

"'Sacrifice' is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.... it does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious.. ..it is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don't."

Barbara

Having grown-up in a Christian household where I was taught the opposite of Rand's view; Rand's critique of altruism was the most powerful and sanity-saving piece of writing I had ever read aged 22. I know what it's like to be brought up with the belief that my life doesn't matter and I'm only here to serve others, which I found it to be a sure-fire recipe for rock-bottom self-esteem and an insidious self-hate. I was essentially taught that to do or want anything for myself was wicked, backed up with the threat that God was watching me all the time and so would know when I was thinking of myself.

From my own experience, I am in overwhelming agreement with Rand's two quotes provided by Barbara. Although I have gotten confused between benevolence and altruism before, I am getting much clearer now.

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Fran, in my case, I wouldn't say that the altruism message was hammered into me as a child; it was more of a pervasive fog that I was sort of confused about. But Rand clarified the issue so well and pointed out what's wrong with the message that "you're so selfish; you need to think about others". Like Rand said, "Why is the happiness of another person important and good, but not your own?" That statement points out that altruism is just downright illogical. And if your own happiness is important and good, then why count on other people's altruism to help you achieve it? Who better to pursue your own interests than you yourself? This is the logic of placing your own interests at the top of your hierarchy of values -- not another person's, not society's, not God's, not nature's. Rand once wrote about how "The Gift of the Magi" story, while not intended to, pointed out the futility of altruism.

Your allusion to the self-esteem issue is interesting. I had just been thinking that you would have to have low self-esteem in order to accept altruism as an ideal, and you identify the reverse relation, that altruism lowers your self-esteem. I think the effect goes both ways and it's self-reinforcing.

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See, it's a mistake to assume one's life is the standard of value. You must abandon evolution to accept this. Man evolved. Evolution is driven by GENE replication, not INDIVIDUAL survival. It is too simple, and simply wrong, to assume that maximal individual survival equals maximal gene reproduction. It doesn't work that way. Evidence totally backs me up on this one.

Life is a high priority sure, but from an evolutionary perspective (which I'll call reality) this is simply not always the case - it's more complex than that, much more. Only in Rand's world (fantasy) is life at the top and always at the top.

Bob

I think I understand where you are coming from and here's my response:

According to evolution, men are genetically programmed to want to have sex with virtually every woman of reproductive age that they meet. But I would argue that it isn't in their best interests to do so. They would struggle to find and maintain intimate relationships, for example. I for one would not want to be in a romantic-love relationship with a man who was shagging every woman that he meets.

Evolution wants women to have a baby every year from puberty onwards, but it's not in their best interests to do so. Not just for those who don't want children. Continual pregnancy and childbirth pose great risks to the mother's health and life. Not to mention her psychological well-being (bringing up children is emotionally hard work). I'm not sure that evolution could have foreseen humans being able to interrupt this.

Evolution has no concept of your happiness - why should it - what evolutionary advantage does a happy person have? Happy people may live longer, but in the case of the woman, that's far beyond their reproductive age anyway.

If we accept that happiness is our highest ideal, chances are that we are going to go against evolution at some point. I would therefore suggest that we have evolved in such a way that we can now question the validity of evolution as to whether it is for or against our lives. Whether we are genetically programmed to be altruistic or not, isn't the point; we are volitional animals and can consciously seek to overcome this programming if it doesn't work for us.

Evolution really doesn't care about you, your happiness or your life in general; all evolution cares about is that you reproduce.

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Thanks for this clarity Michael. I'm thinking of doing voluntory work overseas, not out of a sense of duty or self-sacrifice because obviously I won't be paid in monetary terms; but because the kind of work being offered is something I would love to do and learn about for a few weeks or months - but wouldn't want to spend years doing. For example, I love archaeology- I don't want to go back to school and do an archaeology degree, but spending a few weeks helping out at a dig, is something I'd find fascinating.

I guess this would only become self-sacrificial if I can't afford to do this financially, and would lose my house or whatever because there was no money coming in.

There's an error in your thinking. First, there should be no need to justify your wish to do this work in terms of Objectivism and ensure there's no sacrifice involved. Furthermore, saying that it's not sacrifice because you would 'love' or want to do it just introduces unfalsifiability into the equation and the discussion of whether something is selfish or altruistic becomes meaningless.

In reality, like most or all of us, you do feel a desire to help those less fortunate at a cost (an acceptable cost) to yourself. This is natural, and commendable (and I'll explain why later hopefully). This DOES NOT mean this (altruism) has to be the guidepost of your life. We can and do admire altruism AND individual self-centred achievment at the same time often in the same person! It is not either/or. Both are 'good' and have their place. There is no dichotomy.

Bob

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Thanks for this clarity Michael. I'm thinking of doing voluntory work overseas, not out of a sense of duty or self-sacrifice because obviously I won't be paid in monetary terms; but because the kind of work being offered is something I would love to do and learn about for a few weeks or months - but wouldn't want to spend years doing. For example, I love archaeology- I don't want to go back to school and do an archaeology degree, but spending a few weeks helping out at a dig, is something I'd find fascinating.

I guess this would only become self-sacrificial if I can't afford to do this financially, and would lose my house or whatever because there was no money coming in.

There's an error in your thinking. First, there should be no need to justify your wish to do this work in terms of Objectivism and ensure there's no sacrifice involved. Furthermore, saying that it's not sacrifice because you would 'love' or want to do it just introduces unfalsifiability into the equation and the discussion of whether something is selfish or altruistic becomes meaningless.

In reality, like most or all of us, you do feel a desire to help those less fortunate at a cost (an acceptable cost) to yourself. This is natural, and commendable (and I'll explain why later hopefully). This DOES NOT mean this (altruism) has to be the guidepost of your life. We can and do admire altruism AND individual self-centred achievment at the same time often in the same person! It is not either/or. Both are 'good' and have their place. There is no dichotomy.

Bob

Hi Bob,

For clarity I was expressing an area where I have gotten confused between altruism and self-interest in the past. This recently became clear for me, when I considered firstly what if anything I would get out of it, and most importantly, that 'trade' doesn't mean I have to be paid in money. What also helped was to see that I could trade in 'needs' as well. What needs of mine would be met if I help this person, because I feel great when my needs are met? I regret if my previous post impeded your discussion in some way.

I'm learning a lot from this discussion and so I'm grateful to you for posting it. I'm also curious to hear your thoughts on our desire to help others.

Fran

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Bob reminds me of the poster "Gottfried Leibniz" on RoR in his discussions of sex. He thinks the purpose of sex is reproduction. Bob thinks the purpose of our lives is to perpetuate the species.

Why do you guys think that nature, or evolution, has a purpose? They're not conscious entities. We don't need to worry about acting "against evolution" because evolution is just "the way things turn out." If I try to act "to promote evolution" how would I do that? Should I select a large, muscular mate, or an intelligent mate of slight build? How do you know how things are "supposed" to turn out evolutionarily? Same argument applies to global warming, or to killing the polar bear cub or letting him live. How do we know what temperature the earth is "supposed" to be (unless we evaluate it based on human welfare)? How do we know whether a polar bear cub is "supposed" to live or not? Nature is not conscious, and if something is not conscious it cannot have a purpose or an intention.

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I think I understand where you are coming from and here's my response:

According to evolution, men are genetically programmed to want to have sex with virtually every woman of reproductive age that they meet. But I would argue that it isn't in their best interests to do so. They would struggle to find and maintain intimate relationships, for example. I for one would not want to be in a romantic-love relationship with a man who was shagging every woman that he meets.

Evolution wants women to have a baby every year from puberty onwards, but it's not in their best interests to do so. Not just for those who don't want children. Continual pregnancy and childbirth pose great risks to the mother's health and life. Not to mention her psychological well-being (bringing up children is emotionally hard work). I'm not sure that evolution could have foreseen humans being able to interrupt this.

Evolution has no concept of your happiness - why should it - what evolutionary advantage does a happy person have? Happy people may live longer, but in the case of the woman, that's far beyond their reproductive age anyway.

If we accept that happiness is our highest ideal, chances are that we are going to go against evolution at some point. I would therefore suggest that we have evolved in such a way that we can now question the validity of evolution as to whether it is for or against our lives. Whether we are genetically programmed to be altruistic or not, isn't the point; we are volitional animals and can consciously seek to overcome this programming if it doesn't work for us.

Evolution really doesn't care about you, your happiness or your life in general; all evolution cares about is that you reproduce.

Let me dissect this a bit:

It's way too simple to say that evolution is all about reproduction. It's more correct (probably too simple as well) to say it's about gene replication. There's important differences. If I want my genes to reproduce and survive when life was much more difficult in the caves, my best strategy would be to love and vigilantly protect my wife and children.

The other side of the coin is that men and women have different investment levels and therefore somewhat different reproductive attitudes (but not that different). That's a whole new discussion though. A woman has a very similar incentive to reproduce with a more 'fit' male while still in a stable relationship as a man does with another female. The obvious difference is men have more or less infinite reproductive potential, women do not. Therefore women are more selective, but that's the only major difference I see. The value of monogamy is about the same for the genders and that's why it exists.

Happiness next. Evolution indeed DOES care about happiness - a whole lot.

Bob

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MY OBJECTIONS

1. Rand on Gender Essentialism (including the dom/sub style sex, the woman president thing etc)[This is an erroneous application of Objectivism rather than Objectivism per se]

2. Rand on homosexuality [as above, its an erroneous application rather than a point of the philosophy]

3. Rand on Anarcho-Capitalism [for reasons stated in a previous discussion although Im happy to say them again, but I would allege this is not an essential of Objectivism]

4. Rand on Hayek [again, non-essential]

5. Objectivist aesthetics [probably non-essential]

As for Bob_Mac's objections to Objectivist ethics, Im surprised no one has brought up Objectivist epistemology and Rand's solution to the problem of universals. It is in that solution that Rand's ethics are based (i.e. the rejection of intrinsic value is based on the rejection of intrinsic concepts/essences; the fact that all concepts originate within a certain set of empirical circumstances (a context) driving Rand's methodology, etc).

It seems to me no one can fully reject Rand's ethics without throwing out her solution to the problem of universals. Just as one will not really understand Rand's ethics without understanding her theory on the nature of concepts and universals.

Andrew, I think the reason you haven't gotten a reply to your interesting post yet is that it needs fleshing out or a reference to such material more than you've indicated (Rand). As it is there doesn't seem to be enough for me, at least, to grab onto. For Rand herself, the nature of concepts and universals came before she formulated her ethics? If not, how did she understand her own ethics?

--Brant

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Bob reminds me of the poster "Gottfried Liebniz" on RoR in his discussions of sex. He thinks the purpose of sex is reproduction. Bob thinks the purpose of our lives is to perpetuate the species.

What are you talking about?

"Bob thinks the purpose of our lives is to perpetuate the species. "

Evolution has shaped and created the very concept of 'purpose'. Reproduction is the engine of evolution but it is gene replication that is the core concept. This results in much more complex motivations and behaviours than simple reproduction and not just in humans.

For crying out loud, if sex was just about reproduction, why on earth would pregnant women still engage in sexual activity?

"He thinks the purpose of sex is reproduction."

Only one of many purposes, but yeah reproduction is on the list.

Bob

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Fran, in my case, I wouldn't say that the altruism message was hammered into me as a child; it was more of a pervasive fog that I was sort of confused about. But Rand clarified the issue so well and pointed out what's wrong with the message that "you're so selfish; you need to think about others". Like Rand said, "Why is the happiness of another person important and good, but not your own?" That statement points out that altruism is just downright illogical. And if your own happiness is important and good, then why count on other people's altruism to help you achieve it? Who better to pursue your own interests than you yourself? This is the logic of placing your own interests at the top of your hierarchy of values -- not another person's, not society's, not God's, not nature's. Rand once wrote about how "The Gift of the Magi" story, while not intended to, pointed out the futility of altruism.

Your allusion to the self-esteem issue is interesting. I had just been thinking that you would have to have low self-esteem in order to accept altruism as an ideal, and you identify the reverse relation, that altruism lowers your self-esteem. I think the effect goes both ways and it's self-reinforcing.

Hi Laure

I remember the 'pervasive fog' that you mention - never being able to get an answer that made sense.

What also troubled me was that my needs for trust and integrity were not met due to altruism. I was taught to be altruistic and yet I found that this did not make my parents happy, rather it had the opposite effect, and neither could they practice altruism consistently. It became very much a case of: 'do as I say, not as I do'. I found their actions unpredictable and inconsistent; I never knew when they were going to be altruistic and when they were not.

I learnt recently that you can trust people by the consistency and predictability of their actions. Thinking about two friends, one whose actions I find to be consistent and predictable and another whom I don't, I realised just how stabilising these two qualities are for me and how destabilising it is when they are missing.

Fran

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Bob reminds me of the poster "Gottfried Leibniz" on RoR in his discussions of sex. He thinks the purpose of sex is reproduction. Bob thinks the purpose of our lives is to perpetuate the species.

What are you talking about?

"Bob thinks the purpose of our lives is to perpetuate the species. "

Evolution has shaped and created the very concept of 'purpose'. Reproduction is the engine of evolution but it is gene replication that is the core concept. This results in much more complex motivations and behaviours than simple reproduction and not just in humans.

For crying out loud, if sex was just about reproduction, why on earth would pregnant women still engage in sexual activity?

"He thinks the purpose of sex is reproduction."

Only one of many purposes, but yeah reproduction is on the list.

Bob

Bob, you're missing the point. My point is that you seem to be trying to place the concept of "purpose" outside the context of individual human lives. "Leibniz" is doing the same thing (don't know if you've read the discussion over there).

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Evolution has shaped and created the very concept of 'purpose'.

Bob, I don't get that, at all. Can you explain what you mean?

Laure,

Let me add my voice to that question also. Bob has several times attributed evolution with having the characteristics of a living entity with a will instead of being a process that results from the actions of living beings. I am interested as to the reasons for characterizing it that way.

I would be hard put to say something with a similar process, say something like "climate changes care about..." or "climate changes shaped and created the very concept of..."

Is this manner of writing just a rhetorical style, or is this intended the way it sounds?

Michael

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Bob reminds me of the poster "Gottfried Liebniz" on RoR in his discussions of sex. He thinks the purpose of sex is reproduction. Bob thinks the purpose of our lives is to perpetuate the species.

Why do you guys think that nature, or evolution, has a purpose? They're not conscious entities.

I think there is no problem with using teleological language in biology, as long as we know on what it is based. So I see nothing wrong in saying that the purpose of the eye is to make seeing possible and the purpose of a wing to make flying possible as a shortcut for such cumbersome formulations as "the eye has evolved as possessing such an eye generates an evolutionary advantage over those relatives that don't have an eye, while seeing increases it chances of survival and producing offspring by making it easier to find prey and/or to escape predators". Sensible people who are no creationists know that such a purpose is not determined by some intelligent agent but the result of random variation and natural selection of living beings. From an evolutionary point of view such features do have a purpose, even if it is not a consciously chosen purpose but an automatically generated purpose: increasing survivability and thereby increasing the probabilty that the genes will be passed to a next generation.

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Evolution has shaped and created the very concept of 'purpose'.

Bob, I don't get that, at all. Can you explain what you mean?

See my previous post. Living beings that have a purpose are the result of evolution, so in that sense evolution has created the concept "purpose". Without evolution there would be no purpose in the world.

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