Starving Child in the Wilderness Revisited


Michael Stuart Kelly

Recommended Posts

Sorry to break up the digression to the foundations of science . . . :) Sticking to my promise not to torture the members of OL with my lack of scientific knowledge, I must turn back to the original discussion.

I have spent the last hour reading through this thread. First, I am struck by an interesting deontological bent. It is important to distinguish between responsibility and duty (which I will attempt to do in this post). Secondly, I couldn't agree more with Ms. Branden's point that the parents of a child have chosen to bring said child into existence. The import of this statement is much more complex than the conciseness of the point may imply.

As with every choice, personal responsibility for the consequences (whether good or bad) of one's actions is a part of the package. Parents have foreknowledge that the impending child will be incapable of caring for itself (mentally and physically). Therefore, by bringing a helpless, living child into this world, they know that they will have to provide for that child. Of course, this doesn't mean that the parents are capable of caring for the child, but this fact doesn't negate their knowledge nor their responsibility for their decision. If they make a bad choice (bringing a child into this world when they have no means to care for that child), they are responsible for the suffering that the child will inevitably endure from not being provided for.

"Duty" implies self-sacrifice (as in the trading of a greater value for a lesser value). The parents have a responsibility toward (not a duty to) their child. The responsibility comes from the adults' rights to choose their actions (having a child). Since a positive action was taken in order to create the child, there is an implicit value placed on the creation of that child. Therefore, the care of this child by its parents is a responsibility rather than a duty.

On the other hand, if I am forced to care for a child that I have not chosen to bring into this world, thereby I have no responsibility toward, then this "care" becomes a duty. Not only am I duty-bound to a child that I have no responsibility toward, but I am, by default, required to clean up the bad decisions of other adults. I would be required to give of myself for a value that is not mine. This makes my "care" of this child a duty, not a responsibility. Since when are we, as individuals, required to subsume the responsibilities of our fellow individuals?

Yes, the fact that we are discussing poor, uncared for children living in totalitarian societies is heart-breaking, to say the least. However, the parents should not have brought a child into this world knowing what kind of suffering that their child would endure.

As individuals, if we find that helping another person's child is not a sacrifice, but a value, then we have every right to help that child. I have no qualms with people who volunteer their time and/or money to children in need. The problem arises when this individual's decision becomes a moral imperative. The deontological bent to this thread comes suspiciously close to a moral imperative.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Virginia,

The nature of the universe is the "moral imperative" that you speak of. Those who controvert it are trying to push the universe back into the dense point from which it started. They are like hotheaded young men throwing their physical strength against the ocean, which Steinbeck depicted in The Pearl.

I gave a brief explanation of the relevant kinetics of the universe. Ask me or the many better-educated people here if you would like clarification or expansion.

Edited by Peter Grotticelli
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I concur that even Einstein is falsifiable. I concur: we have to be open to new observations. But until we get those new observations, we must consider our current conclusions to be absolutes in science and in philosophy, though we must always scientifically test them based on our new observations. These absolutes are our framework - our paradigms - without which we haven't any springboards for progress. Kuhn gives many examples to prove this in his above-cited book. So the scientists must always attempt to falsify, as you said, but the philosophers cannot do anything but wait for the scientists to do so; in the meantime, they must accept the absolutes without question, for only the scientists have the faculty to question the physicochemical tendency of the universe that I showed to be a template for natural selection and hence objectivism.

Peter,

Now we are getting semantical. However, you didn't show anything. If you refer to the axiomatic base of Objectivism you can greatly simplify things and stop burying yourself in all this verbiage and get on with your life, intellectual and otherwise. Just consider this statement of yours: "I concur that even Einstein is falsifiable." It implies that if he weren't his theories would be even better. In fact, they'd be garbage. On that basis alone they'd be falsified (for not being falsifiable). Experiments would not be necessary. And today we'd have less use for Einstein than Freud. Of course, a proper scientist would probably come along and we'd have, say, Gaede's theories of Relativity or some other genius of renown. :)

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brant,

Ok, I shouldn't have used the word "even" before "Einstein." One cannot speak of unfalsifiability. But philosophy cannot falsify the physicochemical, so I suggest that philosophers consider our current scientific knowledge as the absolute, for according to Kuhn, we need a set of absolutes - a paradigm - to begin progress in a field.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brant,

I concur that even Einstein is falsifiable. I concur: we have to be open to new observations. But until we get those new observations, we must consider our current conclusions to be absolutes in science and in philosophy, though we must always scientifically test them based on our new observations. These absolutes are our framework - our paradigms - without which we haven't any springboards for progress. Kuhn gives many examples to prove this in his above-cited book. So the scientists must always attempt to falsify, as you said, but the philosophers cannot do anything but wait for the scientists to do so; in the meantime, they must accept the absolutes without question, for only the scientists have the faculty to question the physicochemical tendency of the universe that I showed to be a template for natural selection and hence objectivism.

Scientists have been chastened by past experience. No scientific theory or observation is held as absolute. Theories are provisionally held if supported by evidence and not yet falsified by evidence. Observations are held to be so within the resolution of the instruments which made the observations. The only absolute is the requirement of logical consistency of a theory. Contradictions are a no no.

Out best theories will very likely fail on a set of facts yet to be discovered. The more New Stuff we learn the more likely our most beloved theories will be sufficiently falsified to either require a fix or a replacement.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bob,

I agree that scientists must think this way - but what about the philosophers who cannot falsify the science, but must wait for the scientists to do it?

Philosophy has its limitations. It is not a very good way to learn what the world is and how the world works (Aristotle's nonsensical notions about motion is an example of that). Which is why physical science parted company from philosophy about 400 years ago. The Big Questions of philosophy are still unanswered which either proves they are too hard for the discipline, or the questions are not well posed.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just some quick comments...

I have mixed feelings/thoughts about modern science. And by this, I mean the developments in the physical sciences since 1600 or so.

1. Aristotle has been somewhat maligned for some of his primitive, incorrect attempts to explain physical phenomena, and for the fact that his huge reputation as an empirical scientist tended to inhibit out-of-the-box thinking for centuries. The truth is that he laid down a lot of basic methodology for thinkers in any field, including science. He's one of the giants, on whose shoulders we (and modern scientists) stand.

2. The absolutist notions of space and time (as "containers") also limited the advance of physics, until Einstein reconceived them as relative or relational aspects of reality. In this respect, Aristotle was light-years ahead of the early modern scientists, as Rand pointed out in her review of John Herman Randall's book on Aristotle.

3. The influence of Hume on the official working concept of causality has been very harmful. His event-event model has hampered conceptual development especially in the life sciences, where something more than billiard-ball causality is obviously at work. Branden's mid-60s essays are still (IMO) the best discussion on this, though he got his perspective from the great Aristotelian logician H. W. B. Joseph. So, again, Aristotle is a great corrective to the misdirected ideas of some modern philosophers of science and scientists.

4. However...and this is a big "however"...the incredible cascade of inductive developments in modern science was only made possible by certain developments in mathematics such as analytical geometry and calculus, and the discoveries of Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Farraday, Maxwell, and others could NOT have happened in ancient Greece. So, I agree with Bob: modern science, in the fullest sense of science as an empirical-mathematical discipline, did NOT begin until the 17th century. What the ancient Greeks did was NOT science in this fullest sense, because they had no means to ascend to broader and broader generalizations about the nature of physical existence. Lacking the requisite mathematics, their attempts to generalize about the world were thus often laughable and/or perplexing (e.g., the epicycle theory). (In a more general sense, of course, ANY organized, principled study of a field of interest is a science.)

Perhaps this is heresy in a zone so leery of the value of ARI efforts, but I would STRONGLY recommend that anyone not understanding this last point should get Peikoff's excellent lecture course, Induction in Physics and Philosophy. I think that acknowledging the vital importance of mathematics and induction to the fullest establishment of physics as a science is one of the things that Peikoff "gets" very well, and it wouldn't hurt us here on OL to concede that point. In fact, it would clear up a lot of the unnecessary friction and arguing at cross purposes that has taken place on this very thread.

REB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Virginia,

Part of your argument touches on some of what I am questioning (definition of human nature). As a social-political principle for everyday living ("qua man") I am in agreement with your line of reasoning. My problem starts when I philosophically "step back" so to speak.

In philosophy, there is a hierarchy of importance of knowledge because of the nature of the abstractions involved. The rule is that narrower abstractions are based on broader ones. In metaphysics, the abstractions are the broadest, much broader than in epistemology, which has broader abstractions than ethics, which has broader abstractions than politics. For example, if existence is not present in the abstraction (metaphysics) it would not make any difference what we think about it (epistemology). (I will leave out aesthetics for the time being.)

Unfortunately, Rand did not include a "Human Nature" category for philosophy, or even "Life." It is sort of sandwiched in between metaphysics and epistemology, then developed further with ethics and politics. (This has even bothered someone down at the Ayn Rand Institute, since such a category was included in their description of the essentials of Objectivism—see here, albeit they fumble a bit by not defining man as a "rational animal" any longer as Rand did, but as a "rational being" instead.)

Thus I hold that ethics must rest on human nature, not the other way round. And despite there not being such a formal category as human nature in Objectivism, it is a common statement in Objectivism that individual rights derive from human nature (rights being ethical principles—i.e., values—applied to society).

Since, in my mind and during much of this discussion, I am floundering around back before we even get to ethics, (I am bopping back and forth between metaphysics and epistemology and doing some righteous thinking about human nature), I start wondering about the words "responsibility" and "duty" on which you base your observations. Responsible? Have a duty? To whom? In some metaphysical systems, monotheism for instance, a person is responsible to God as a metaphysical fact. To the religious, metaphysically speaking, God created man to serve Him and for His amusement. But is a person responsible or have a duty to a child that way? If so, why?

Biology (from a metaphysical lens) does not make claims on individuals like "responsibility" and "duty." It merely presents the conditions on which we later derive those ideas, i.e., if certain conditions are not met, the individual does not survive, or he lives in a tortured or defective state. The fact that man must be free to exercise his volition in order to live according to his nature is the whole metaphysical basis of individual rights in Objectivism.

However freedom from interference is not the same as enforcement for choosing, and this is where I have a difficulty with your argument (I am saying "your argument" merely for convenience, since it is one shared by many). There is no enforcement without an enforcer. If the reason man has a duty to a child because he chose to put that child in a situation where he cannot survive, metaphysically speaking, who will enforce that duty? For the religious, God will. But for Objectivists? If we say "government" or "society," we then admit that our fundamental principles for organizing society are different than our fundamental principles for forming our ethics. Either that, or we put society above individual rights and I can't see any Objectivist doing that.

Metaphysically speaking, in Objectivism, only reality is the source for deriving responsibilities and duties. Yet, when we talk about adults and children on this level, your argument is that by making a choice to interact with one person (another adult), this creates a duty to even another (the child). Thus this argument steps outside the "ethics derives from human nature" realm. We are no longer considering the individual, but three individuals instead: two with volition and a third that arises without volition (having it, but in an undeveloped state).

That is why I am not convinced that childcare can be logically derived from the metaphysical premise of the existence and exercise of volition. Anyway, I got mine. I survived childhood, even though I was unable to do so on my own. Somebody provided for me. Whether a debt exists or not for this, that is another question.

But one thing threw me for a loop once. At a bookstore, I was thumbing through one of those idiots or dummies guides to ethics (I can't remember which) and Objectivism was mentioned. It stated that the reason Objectivist ethics has not spread is that human beings all go through stages of helplessness like infancy, illness and old age (if they are lucky) because this is part of their nature. But the philosophy ignores that part of the human experience.

That is where the crack opened in my mind. If those stages are part of our nature (the "animal" part in "rational animal"), then why is there no provision for them in our ethics "qua human nature"? Why is it rationalized from the exercise of volition? So I started wondering, is it possible to develop ethics based on rational volition and based on the rest of human nature, too? That would obviously impact rights, since rights are based on ethics, but I am not there yet.

I think it is is possible. There are serious pitfalls. For instance, some men have power-lusting emotions and they would use such ideas to force others to do their will and expand on this to the point of annulling the freedom of innocent people. I am thus very cautious about what I now affirm, but I think it is possible to develop rational ethics for the whole human being, not just one part of him.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in my mind right now. I want to develop this and I will, but I am going slow. This is too important to not get it right.

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just some quick comments...4. However...and this is a big "however"...the incredible cascade of inductive developments in modern science was only made possible by certain developments in mathematics such as analytical geometry and calculus, and the discoveries of Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Farraday, Maxwell, and others could NOT have happened in ancient Greece. So, I agree with Bob: modern science, in the fullest sense of science as an empirical-mathematical discipline, did NOT begin until the 17th century. What the ancient Greeks did was NOT science in this fullest sense, because they had no means to ascend to broader and broader generalizations about the nature of physical existence. Lacking the requisite mathematics, their attempts to generalize about the world were thus often laughable and/or perplexing (e.g., the epicycle theory). (In a more general sense, of course, ANY organized, principled study of a field of interest is a science.)

What the Ionian thinkers did for us was to -naturalize- Nature. The moved the doings of nature from events caused by the gods striving with each other to manifestations of natural law. The Greeks got the first part of science. Where they came up short (besides the lack of mathematical tools) was establishing a testing procedure for their hypotheses. This did not fully blossom until the time of Galileo. The Chinese made the complementary error. They were excessively empirical and far too holistic in their thinking to have a reductive doctrine of causes. That idea of tearing apart nature at the joints (so to speak) was very foreign to Chinese thinking. The Greeks developed theory but neglected practice. The Chinese developed practice but neglected theory. This is an over simplification of the matter, but it identifies the lacunae to some degree.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3. The influence of Hume on the official working concept of causality has been very harmful. His event-event model has hampered conceptual development especially in the life sciences, where something more than billiard-ball causality is obviously at work.

But it isn't just Hume, Roger. It's Harriman's extolled (though mythologized) Newton:

"A body in motion remains in a state of uniform motion and a body at rest remains at rest unless acted on by a (net) external force."

Granted, Newton himself thought that there was a capacity of internally generated action in animate matter, but his views on other forms of vis besides vis inertia went by the wayside. And we ended up with the conservation of mass/energy as bedrock to physics, but there has to somehow be a violation of mass/energy conservation to get intentionally generated animalian motion. Just talking about entity-action causation won't do the trick for a physicist. Something more is needed to challenge the foundations of modern physics. ;-)

As to "induction," I'm currently all up in the air on the subject of induction, since I'm finding Popper persuasive. Can't predict where my thoughts might have gotten to on induction in a few months from now.

What an odd thread for issues of this sort to come up on!

Ellen

Edit: See post #114.

___

Edited by Ellen Stuttle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Granted, Newton himself thought that there was a capacity of internally generated action in animate matter, but his views on other forms of vis besides vis inertia went by the wayside. And we ended up with the conservation of mass/energy as bedrock to physics, but there has to somehow be a violation of mass/energy conservation to get intentionally generated animalian motion. Just talking about entity-action causation won't do the trick for a physicist. Something more is needed to challenge the foundations of modern physics. ;-)

As to "induction," I'm currently all up in the air on the subject of induction, since I'm finding Popper persuasive. Can't predict where my thoughts might have gotten to on induction in a few months from now.

What an odd thread for issues of this sort to come up on!

Ellen

___

"Animalian Motion" is muscle contraction caused by an electrochemical reaction. It is totally physical and governed by physical laws.

Everything that exists is physical.

There is only matter, energy and spacetime.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Roger,

That was a very good Post 108. I have no beef with recognizing the grandeur of what was done since the 1600's or so. I do have a problem with saying that this was when science was invented as if trial and error or controlled experiments or mathematics applied to solving practical problems of building and manufacture never existed at all before that, or even worse, that there was no science at all in the oriental and other cultures.

This, to me, is like saying that literature was invented around that time and place, or that playwriting was, then looking at modern motion pictures and TV and saying "playwriting as we know it."

Also, it is very hard to acknowledge "the vital importance of mathematics and induction to the fullest establishment of physics as a science" if one of the main philosophers of modern science is to be taken seriously—Popper—since he denies that induction exists altogether and that words should not be defined. (That is oversimplified, but it is stressed by him like that.)

btw - Apropos of nothing, I am reading a fascinating 1956 essay right now by George A. Miller called The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. I will probably be writing something on this in the epistemology or psychology section. I am finding this work to be an excellent lens with which to explore the process of induction (among other things—my original interest was in learning skills, speed reading to be exact).

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A correction to my post #111:

I wrote:

Granted, Newton himself thought that there was a capacity of internally generated action in animate matter, but his views on other forms of vis besides vis inertia went by the wayside. And we ended up with the conservation of mass/energy as bedrock to physics, but there has to somehow be a violation of mass/energy conservation to get intentionally generated animalian motion. Just talking about entity-action causation won't do the trick for a physicist. Something more is needed to challenge the foundations of modern physics. ;-)

The verb tense in "but there has to somehow be a violation of mass/energy conservation to get intentionally generated animalian motion" is subject to being misinterpreted.

What I should have written is: ""but there would have to somehow be a violation of mass/energy conservation to get intentionally generated animalian motion."

Meanwhile, Bob K., you responded to the post. I'm not sure if your response was meant as confirming or disagreeing, since I'm not sure how you interpreted the verb. In any event, your response illustrates the point I was attempting to make.

Ellen

___

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael,

There is a danger that this thread will soon require a dissertation :)

First, let me say that I absolutely acknowledge that ethics is derived from human nature.

You stated:

" I start wondering about the words "responsibility" and "duty" on which you base your observations. Responsible? Have a duty? To whom? In some metaphysical systems, monotheism for instance, a person is responsible to God as a metaphysical fact. To the religious, metaphysically speaking, God created man to serve Him and for His amusement. But is a person responsible or have a duty to a child that way? If so, why?"

I don't care how underdeveloped a nation is, its citizens know that unprotected sex creates (or, can create) a dependent human life. There are two important points to this statement. First, the individuals who partake of the sex act (assuming willfully) each have full knowledge of their actions and the possible consequences thereof. As rational beings, we are responsible (to ourselves) for the knowledge we have and the actions that result from that knowledge. If we have unprotected sex and acquire VD, we must suffer the consequences of our actions. A child is a different type of consequence, but from the same action. The responsibility to accept the consequences is no different, since full fore-knowledge is established. It is a matter of self-responsibility, not "enforced" responsibility. Responsibility and knowledge are bound very tightly in my book.

Secondly, the child is dependent -- this is part of the foreknowledge. The creators of this child know that once he is born, he will require full care in order to survive. In a somewhat stark view, this is no different than if I plant a garden. I must make sure that sunlight is available to my flowers and I must water it, otherwise they will die. I knew this prior to planting the garden. So if the garden dies due to my negligence, I have nobody to blame but myself.

The idea of "dependency" is crucial when discussing a child and his rights. A child, although born with a rational capacity, is incapable of using his rational capacity to help him survive. His is physically, mentally, and intellectually underdeveloped in the scheme of human life. This lack of development requires that a more developed human (hopefully a responsible adult) step in and pick up where the child's underdevelopment leaves off. A baby cannot feed itself, so a human that is capable of feeding must feed him. Who shall step in? The people that created a totally dependent being are the only people that should be required to do so. I say "should" because these people willfully chose to create this dependent being. You didn't, I didn't, my neighbors didn't. Hell, if I am going to be responsible for the consequences of someone else's sex act, I would at least like to enjoy the benefits of the act (*wink). This goes back to the self-responsibility issue discussed above.

It is clear that the definition of a child is vital to this entire discussion. Otherwise, any determination of rights is impossible. What is a child? Yes, a child is a human being. A child is also an individual. Beyond these simple points, I believe, the issue can get somewhat controversial (as mentioned by a previous poster, we teeter on the edge of abortion rights issues here). As I mentioned above, a child has a rational capacity. Yet his rational capacity is not sufficient to sustain him at birth. The child, rather is dependent.

Usually when we discuss issues of rights and responsibilities, we presume the the person is independent. So, what rights do dependent humans have? If we say that he has full rights, yet he is incapable of exercising these rights, we must decide who is responsible for exercising his rights for him. If he has full rights, then, in the absence of responsible parenting, society (as the protector of individual rights) must exercise his rights for him. This, in turn, would make all individuals (collectively) responsible for all children. If this is true, then shouldn't society have a say as to the number of children born when and where, and by whom?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Usually when we discuss issues of rights and responsibilities, we presume the the person is independent. So, what rights do dependent humans have? If we say that he has full rights, yet he is incapable of exercising these rights, we must decide who is responsible for exercising his rights for him. If he has full rights, then, in the absence of responsible parenting, society (as the protector of individual rights) must exercise his rights for him. This, in turn, would make all individuals (collectively) responsible for all children. If this is true, then shouldn't society have a say as to the number of children born when and where, and by whom?

Society is a -collection- of human individuals most of whom have no part in the making of the maimed, the lamed and the needy. Are you saying that the lot of us should be presented with the bill for the misfortunes of the few which the lot of us had no part in making unfortunate? Are you proposing that we should be compelled to be our Cousin's keeper (all mankind are Cousins, not Brothers). Or do we become our Cousin's keep by limiting how many children our Cousin's can have. And how do you propose to do that? By having a policy similar to that of Red China? There is no difference in principle to limiting the number of children per couple to one, two three or even ten.

I have a another proposal. Let those who have the number of children that can afford to raise alone. For those who have more children than they can care for, let kind folk -volunteer- to help them. And if not enough do, then the children perish. Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. Let him starve and you can forget all about him.

There are times when a hard heart and an ever harder head are more beneficial than mawkish sentimentality and kindness. Besides, no good deed will go unpunished.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Virginia,

I agree fully with you about the attitude one should adopt about self-responsibility. However, on a metaphysical level, it does not go beyond "if I want this result, I must do that," i.e., causality. The monkey-wrench in the works is the appearance of the third person who is also an "I."

You were very astute in saying we need to define what a child is. I fully agree. I rarely hear this. In my own online discussions, the only Objectivists who have been concerned with defining what a child is have always defined them as some kind of property, like cattle or chickens or other livestock. I have even been told that a child is not a human being. There are Objectivists who get quite passionate about defending this idea. (I must admit that I start losing my class at these moments and words like "boneheaded" and so forth start peppering my discourse.)

This, of course, makes it easy to draw up ethics for healthy productive adults only. And from there is it easy to propose rights for healthy productive adults only. But defining a child as not a human being is a flawed premise, so this whole logical construct collapses. We do need to get to the derivation of rights for human beings, but from correct premises, not flawed ones.

And this leads me to my next point. You asked what rights a person in a dependent state has. I step back once again and ask what values such a person has. And this leads me back to defining what a dependent person is.

When we say "human being," are we merely talking about a snapshot definition of someone (a "frozen in time" definition)? There is one animal, "human being," that is a productive healthy adult. There is another animal, "dependent person entity thing" that is a child, ill person or the very old. I do not like this definition because it is incorrect. The fact is that all these are the same person at different stages of his life. I cannot accept thinking that calls him a human being one minute and not a human being another, unless he becomes a cadaver. Even then, he is a former human being.

Getting to values, according to the "productive healthy adult" snapshot model, a person would have to judge himself to be a parasite at certain times of his life—another snapshot definition. (Believe it or not, I have heard some Objectivists argue that all children are parasites.) But for the sake of argument, let's accept this premise for a minute. What is the basic value of all living beings? Survival according to their nature. For a parasite to survive (even according to its nature), it needs a host. A dependent person is not a producer, so he must consume what is produced by others or what he finds lying around that is either just there or has been hoarded. Of course, I am using the snapshot definition right now. Thus the primary snapshot ethical value for human beings in their different states would be the following:

Productive healthy adult: produce values for self.

Dependent person: find a fat juicy host for self.

Even if we add a "responsibility factor" and exclude children who have responsible parents, and ill and elderly people who have managed to provide for these dependent states in some kind of savings while they were productive healthy adults, we still get the following snapshot ethics:

Productive healthy adult: produce values for self.

Some dependent people: merely consume provisions already set aside for self.

Some other dependent people: find a fat juicy host for self.

Notice how volition is excluded from the snapshot definition. A dependent person who chooses to be a parasite is considered as the same thing as one who does not choose to be in a dependent state, but whose condition is imposed by nature (metaphysical causes).

If volition is one of the defining characteristics of man, it should also be included in this part of ethics, at least on some level.

There is one point where I do want to make a distinction in something you said. You wrote: "Who shall step in? The people that created a totally dependent being are the only people that should be required to do so. I say "should" because these people willfully chose to create this dependent being. You didn't, I didn't, my neighbors didn't."

Rand once mentioned somewhere that to a dead person, it doesn't matter what killed him because he is just as dead either way. The same kind of thinking goes for a newborn. It doesn't matter whether responsible parents, savages or a botched abortion resulted in his birth. He is just as alive either way. Once alive, how do we define him and what are his values? The metaphysical needs of an abandoned child certainly are no different than the ones born to responsible adults. And they are certainly no different than ones both you and I held at one time. We all have the same values at that stage of life.

This leads to some of the things that have been bothering me. In values, there are short, medium and long term values. So why cannot there be short, medium and long term definitions of human beings to determine these values? This also would lead to such short, medium and long term thinking (or categories) for rights.

One thing is for certain. I find it logically incoherent to hold short, medium and long term values for an entity that is defined according to a snapshot criterion.

Thus, saying that if one case occurs, then all cases must occur (i.e., if we take into account the care of one dependent individual, then we must take into account the care of all dependent individuals indiscriminately) tries to impose a snapshot or incomplete definition on a problem with multiple features and time frames.

Another problem is where does idea of species fit in? Isn't species a part of the definition of "human being"? After all, we are not individual disconnected blobs floating around the universe. We were engendered from other homo sapiens individuals. We can reproduce. And we share a host of features with all other homo sapiens individuals. Are there species values? (I believe there are.)

Just as it is an error to think "individual" and let this contradict the individual's nature (by definition) by simply ignoring the part that doesn't fit, I also think that a concept like species should not contradict the nature of the individual. I believe that with proper definitions, it is possible to arrive at proper values.

This is an area where I find Objectivism incomplete. Not wrong. Incomplete. The part that pertains to individuals is correct. The questions I mentioned above (and a few others) are brushed aside. I believe this is an error because establishing correct definitions are involved, i.e., establishing the correct premises. And that is what I am doing right now—without any agenda other than trying to get it right. I am checking premises.

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Usually when we discuss issues of rights and responsibilities, we presume the the person is independent. So, what rights do dependent humans have? If we say that he has full rights, yet he is incapable of exercising these rights, we must decide who is responsible for exercising his rights for him. If he has full rights, then, in the absence of responsible parenting, society (as the protector of individual rights) must exercise his rights for him. This, in turn, would make all individuals (collectively) responsible for all children. If this is true, then shouldn't society have a say as to the number of children born when and where, and by whom?

Are you saying that the lot of us should be presented with the bill for the misfortunes of the few which the lot of us had no part in making unfortunate? Are you proposing that we should be compelled to be our Cousin's keeper (all mankind are Cousins, not Brothers).

Ba'al Chatzaf

Goodness, no! I am definitely not saying that my last paragraph (or your proper interpretation of it) is my opinion. Rather, I am fleshing out an argument that would hold that a child has full, protected rights as adults do. I am sorry that my "if, then" statements weren't clear enough in that regard. I must remember that, unlike on many forums, I am surrounded by intelligent people who will not allow intellectual laziness on my part! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Goodness, no! I am definitely not saying that my last paragraph (or your proper interpretation of it) is my opinion. Rather, I am fleshing out an argument that would hold that a child has full, protected rights as adults do. I am sorry that my "if, then" statements weren't clear enough in that regard. I must remember that, unlike on many forums, I am surrounded by intelligent people who will not allow intellectual laziness on my part! :)

No doubt starving children have rights. I would do nothing to interfere with their rights. If they can get no food on their own or from others they have every right to starve and I would be the last to interfere with that right.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael,

You and I agree that in order to clearly define the rights of a child, supplying a definition of a child is paramount -- and, as you aptly stated, we also need to define the value of a child.

So far, we seem to agree that a child is:

1. A human entity

2. Dependent

3. An individual

I also posit that a child:

1. Has an undeveloped rational capacity

2. The potential for independence

3. The potential for volition based on a developed rational capacity

Sum: A child has the potential to become a productive, rational adult. This conclusion also means that a child cannot be a parasite. A parasite, by definition, has no potential for independence -- or volition tempered by reason for that matter.

Like you, I am filtering through a variety of ideas as we discuss this. So, please feel free to add to (or subtract from) this list. It is, however, a start!

From a slightly different angle, I have been wondering why there seems to be so much difficulty in outlining a child's rights. One possible conclusion is that a child's rights, due to his dependence, are much more complex to sort through than an adult's rights. The complexity arises from the child's dependence on other (adult) individuals. The rights of the child and the rights of the adult are inextricably linked. Binding one person's rights to another's seems antithetical to individualism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Goodness, no! I am definitely not saying that my last paragraph (or your proper interpretation of it) is my opinion. Rather, I am fleshing out an argument that would hold that a child has full, protected rights as adults do. I am sorry that my "if, then" statements weren't clear enough in that regard. I must remember that, unlike on many forums, I am surrounded by intelligent people who will not allow intellectual laziness on my part! :)

No doubt starving children have rights. I would do nothing to interfere with their rights. If they can get no food on their own or from others they have every right to starve and I would be the last to interfere with that right.

Now what does this mean? You won't initiate the use of physical force against a starving child or you won't share your C-rations with him? Or both? I have to say at least I've never heard of a purported Objectivist who has rationalized out the philosophy this way--and you aren't an Objectivist. I don't call myself one, but I can't express myself this way for it's not me in any respect. I don't contemplate a starving child and review my principles; I knew what to do at the age of three. Now I'm 63 but not yet senile so I don't have to rethink this. I find your remark gratuitous and worthless save for the self-relevatory part--goes along with your human beings as "meat machines," general denigration of philosophy and extreme mechanistic materialism.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael:

~ Re your p#117's response to Virginia...

You were very astute in saying we need to define what a child is. I fully agree. I rarely hear this. In my own online discussions, the only Objectivists who have been concerned with defining what a child is have always defined them as some kind of property, like cattle or chickens or other livestock.

...you wouldn't care to, um-m-m, caveat this, especially the 'only' part, would you?

~ I could swear I'd harped on this point in several contexts/subjects, including when you 1st 'visited' this subject on RoR.

~ You still haven't 'defined' your use of the term, btw...even in that whole post. :)

LLAP

J:D

PS: For-the-record, *I* never referred to children as 'property.'

Edited by John Dailey
Link to comment
Share on other sites

John,

A child is a human being in the first stage of life outside the womb. That's a pretty good definition ("human being" is the genus and "in the first stage of life outside the womb" is the differentia). We could probably set a time on "first stage" (like 14 years or so) to be a bit more precise.

As for the definition of human being, I vastly prefer "rational primate" over "rational animal."

I will look up the old RoR thread and take a look-see at your posts. I think it was to an article by Rowlands on altruism or something like that.

I will be frank. Back then I skipped over a lot of what you wrote because of the abbreviations you use as a writing style. Some of them I understood and a great many I did not. A post that would normally take me one minute to read used to take me a lot longer (and still does, albeit less) when I have to decipher it into normal English, and only then concern myself with the subject matter.

I am finally getting used to your style and can understand most of what you write, so I don't skip as much as I used to. But it is still a chore to read.

If you defined child back then, I might have missed it. I'll get back to you on this.

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael:

~ I HADN'T 'defined' child. NO ONE who's used the term HAS (and, *I* never 'used' it)! --- THAT was my whole point about the term usage, then and now!!!

~ I merely used 'legal-minor' to cover the...sometimes purposefully used...ambiguity (which I've argued about itself) of the term 'child'; at least 'legal-minor' clearly covers 1-sec post-birth up to (pick your state) max 17yrs-364dys. --- However (to repeat that argument), 'child' emotionally conveys less than 12, yet is arbitrarily and selectively applied to varied 17-yr olds.

~ I've come to abhor the term in these discussions.

LLAP

J:D

PS: Hope it's not a 'chore' checking back; your responses then didn't indicate this, but...really don't see the need to do the chore, anyway, given my present points herein.

Edited by John Dailey
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now what does this mean? You won't initiate the use of physical force against a starving child or you won't share your C-rations with him? Or both? I have to say at least I've never heard of a purported Objectivist who has rationalized out the philosophy this way--and you aren't an Objectivist. I don't call myself one, but I can't express myself this way for it's not me in any respect. I don't contemplate a starving child and review my principles; I knew what to do at the age of three. Now I'm 63 but not yet senile so I don't have to rethink this. I find your remark gratuitous and worthless save for the self-revelatory part--goes along with your human beings as "meat machines," general denigration of philosophy and extreme mechanistic materialism.

--Brant

1. I am a materialist right down to the molecular level. A great deal of empirical evidence supports this position. I will not apologize for acting in the most reason guided way and I will not let mawkish sentimentality cloud my thinking. I am proud to have a hard heart and and even harder head. I have worked very hard for the last forty years or so in dumping any compassion except the quantity that I require to care and support my family. I love MY kids. I don't love YOUR kids (assuming you have any). Of course I will do nothing to harm you and yours provided you and yours are no danger to me and mine.

2. Philosophy, outside of some technical linguistic and semiotic approaches has not "delivered the goods". It does not tell us what the world is made of and how it works. Science (particularly physics) has done a great deal along these lines. Physics and and its applied related arts (engineering, for example) has "delivered the goods" and they have made us prosperous and strong. I go where the success is, not where the failures are. So it is failed efforts that I denigrate. If metaphysics and ethics worked (qua philosophy) I would support such efforts because I am practical. I go with what works, not with what fails.

Human endeavors have a Darwinian aspect. The fittest survive, the less fit do not.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now