Can you imagine being a non-moralist?


Lukon

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I think we agree that it is not the Ten Commandments, it is not governmental edicts, it is not our neighbors' demands or our fleeting desires. Morality pertains to values . As Rand stated: A moral code is a code of values. So before we ask why we need morality, we must ask if we need values and, if so, why we need them.

Sometimes 'morality' refers to a feeling of what you value but other times it is expressed in words and then it becomes a code of values, like the 10 commandments.

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GS,

Please learn that we are discussing Objectivism most of the time on an Objectivist forum. That means Objectivist meanings are often used in people's posts.

Go on. Accept it. It doesn't hurt.

Challenge Objectivism if you must, but this manner of yours of ignoring that people are talking about it is weird.

Here's a starting hint. Morality and feelings are not synonyms in Objectivism.

Michael

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GS,

Please learn that we are discussing Objectivism most of the time on an Objectivist forum. That means Objectivist meanings are often used in people's posts.

Go on. Accept it. It doesn't hurt.

Challenge Objectivism if you must, but this manner of yours of ignoring that people are talking about it is weird.

Here's a starting hint. Morality and feelings are not synonyms in Objectivism.

Michael

Do you feel like human life is valuable? Is this not a feeling? And when you say "I value human life", are you not expressing this feeling in words? This is not about special "objectivist meanings".

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Do you feel like human life is valuable? Is this not a feeling? And when you say "I value human life", are you not expressing this feeling in words? This is not about special "objectivist meanings".

Not only a feeling but a judgment. A judgment requires abstract brain work, not just emotion and sentiment.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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So far, none of these answers are actually answers to my questions. They are speculations about whether humans have had moral sensibilities throughout history. The historical dominance of morality does not address whether a non-moralist perspective is possible or coherent. We are all well aware how morality dominates the human landscape. What I'm asking is whether YOU can even conceive an alternative to it. Can you?

-Luke-

You are asking whether normal humans can suppress their biologically innate mechanisms of sociability. The answer is no and yes. Under normal conditions, these tendencies will be operative. Under very great stress and danger they may be totally, or nearly suppressed. Humans are naturally sociable which means they have a level of morality built in. Extreme condition could turn human beings into beasts.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ik

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I wrote:

You ask how I chose between right and wrong. My answer is that I don't. I do not understand right and wrong. I have no moral sensibilities.

And Brant replied:

No morality, no Objectivism.

I never claimed otherwise on this forum. I never claimed to be an objectivist here. I respect the integrity of Objectivism as an integrated whole. I would not insult that integrity by trying to make my non-moralism fit into Objectivism.

This worse than a troll pseudo-sociopath immoral didactic pseudo-intellectual crypto-moralizer seems not to realize that if he were honest he could not know he was what he says he is. He hangs his hat on morality and goes swinging through his private jungle of truth impervious to disapprobation but full of crap!

--Brant

If this is an attack on my moral character, the ironic thing about it is that I can't feel any injury from this attack because I claim to have no moral sensibilities whatever. Your sward runs me through my "moral organ," but I don't feel it because I can't detect the very existence of any moral organs. Where are they? Where is the damage to mine?

But, if this is an attack on more than just my moral character, and is also an expression of malevolence toward me, then I do feel the injury. I feel hurt that you want me to suffer the lack of your respect.

If you meant to hurt me, I'll acknowledge your malevolence and do my best to avoid you. I myself wish you no harm.

So, please make yourself clear. Do you harbor malevolence toward me?

But let's address something of substance here too:

… if he were honest he could not know he was what he says he is.

Does this translate to: if I were honestly a non-moralist I could not know the truth about whether or not I was a non-moralist? Are you referring to the link between morality and epistemology, i.e., that truth can be distinguished from falsehood only by the moral choice to focus? Are you then implying that my claim to be a non-moralist implies that I regard that claim as true, which in turn implies that I made a moral choice to focus on reality enough to distinguish truth from falsehood?

If so, I reject this assertion of yours. I can focus on reality and distinguish truth from falsehood by simply DESIRING to focus as such. I don't need morality to do it.

-Luke-

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Why all this agonizing over morality? What ever become of Good Manners?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Additiion to my last post:

Luke, you say you are motivated not by moral considerations, but by desires. What do you think a desire is? Nathaniel Branden, in The Disowned Self , defined an emotion as follows: "An emotion is the psychosomatic form in which a person experiences his esimate of the beneficial or harmful relationship of some aspect of reality to himself." An emotion is a value-response.

I assumethat you have no desire to swallow a deadly poison that would cause you to die slowly and in agony. I assume that if you believed that if a certain political candidate were elected you would lose all your possession in taxes. you would have no desire to vote for him. I assume that if bombs were dropping all around you, you would not find yourself desperately wishing to leave your safe shelter to run out and embrace them. All these are value-responses, resulting from the value you ascribe to your life. To repeat Rand's statement: "A moral code is a code of values."

Barbara

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I wrote:
You ask how I chose between right and wrong. My answer is that I don't. I do not understand right and wrong. I have no moral sensibilities.

And Brant replied:

No morality, no Objectivism.

I never claimed otherwise on this forum. I never claimed to be an objectivist here. I respect the integrity of Objectivism as an integrated whole. I would not insult that integrity by trying to make my non-moralism fit into Objectivism.

This worse than a troll pseudo-sociopath immoral didactic pseudo-intellectual crypto-moralizer seems not to realize that if he were honest he could not know he was what he says he is. He hangs his hat on morality and goes swinging through his private jungle of truth impervious to disapprobation but full of crap!

--Brant

If this is an attack on my moral character, the ironic thing about it is that I can't feel any injury from this attack because I claim to have no moral sensibilities whatever. Your sward runs me through my "moral organ," but I don't feel it because I can't detect the very existence of any moral organs. Where are they? Where is the damage to mine?

But, if this is an attack on more than just my moral character, and is also an expression of malevolence toward me, then I do feel the injury. I feel hurt that you want me to suffer the lack of your respect.

If you meant to hurt me, I'll acknowledge your malevolence and do my best to avoid you. I myself wish you no harm.

So, please make yourself clear. Do you harbor malevolence toward me?

But let's address something of substance here too:

… if he were honest he could not know he was what he says he is.

Does this translate to: if I were honestly a non-moralist I could not know the truth about whether or not I was a non-moralist? Are you referring to the link between morality and epistemology, i.e., that truth can be distinguished from falsehood only by the moral choice to focus? Are you then implying that my claim to be a non-moralist implies that I regard that claim as true, which in turn implies that I made a moral choice to focus on reality enough to distinguish truth from falsehood?

If so, I reject this assertion of yours. I can focus on reality and distinguish truth from falsehood by simply DESIRING to focus as such. I don't need morality to do it.

-Luke-

It's an attack on your moral character. Other than that I have no ill-will or malevolence toward you.

--Brant

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"Non-moralist" is a dependent concept, against that being a moralist. For a true non-moralist to claim he isn't a moralist is only an intellectualization with no personal referent. Actually "moralist" can be a pejorative concept. Properly human beings are moral agents. A moralist is someone who can sometimes use morality as an ad hominem weapon bypassing argument. Such, too frequently, was Ayn Rand. She seemed to use it defensively against overt and implied attacks on her and her philosophy. My animus against Luke is his claim he is not a moral agent. If he has free will, he is a moral agent. Denaturing moral agent with "moralist" is actually obscurantism.

--Brant

PS: Good manners is a secondary virtue.

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The issue is actually epistemology, not morality, since several errors are present in the fundamentals.

In Luke's case (from what I have read so far), his concept of morality is informed by a deeper principle of what knowledge is or is not. Luke's epistemological approach (for the most part so far) is essentially a rejection of applying concepts to consciousness, replacing knowledge with feelings, then beaming awareness outwards from that approach. His non-morality or anti-morality or a-morality (or whatever) is not a fundamental premise or axiom in itself. He is seeking to make it one, but so far, the epistemology is interfering.

I get the impression that Luke is not seeking to identify or understand his view (or even any facet of it) in his discussions, but instead to ferret out justifications for it. The decision has already been made. Now all that is needed are some facts.

I encourage and applaud Luke checking this premise, but I want to caution against a preconceived result in any inquiry. A speculation is one thing and we all have to do that before investigating anything. A belief seeking to become a fact despite any and all knowledge that may be encountered is quite another.

Michael

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The question being overlooked in this discussion is: What is morality? I think we agree that it is not the Ten Commandments, it is not governmental edicts, it is not our neighbors' demands or our fleeting desires. Morality pertains to values . As Rand stated: A moral code is a code of values. So before we ask why we need morality, we must ask if we need values and, if so, why we need them.

We need values in order to sustain our lives. Life and death is the basic alternative facing us. In order to cross the street without being hit by a car, we must know if life is a value to us. If it is, we will get out of the way; it it is not, we will cover our eyes as we cross the street. We cannot avoid holding values, because we must constantly make choices; our choices are a function of our values. The only question is whether or not we hold a consistent code of life-sustaining values or a hodgepodge of contradictory values. But we all hold values.

We need to kmow what principles of action are required in the service of our life. To quote Rand: "It is for the purpose of self-preservation that man needs a code of morality." The man who chooses to be moral is the man who chooses to live.

To say that it is desires that motivate you, Luke, is to say that there are no principles governing your choices of action. Fine. But you must be prepared to accept the consequences -- that is, that some of your desires may be life-serving, but some probably will not be. If you desire to smoke four packs of cigarettes daily, you are free to do so. And if you are afraid to see a doctor when you have a life-threatening illnes, you are free not to see him. But you are not free to escape the consequences of your values and your choices.

I submit that you do, in fact, accept certain life-sustaining values -- that is, certain crucial parts of a rational moral code, or you would not have reached your present age. Presumably, you doh't smoke four packs of cigarettes a day, or refuse medical help when you're ill, or leap in front of oncoming cars. Your choice is not whether or not you hold values -- that is, whether or not you recognize that some choices and actions are good for you and others are not -- but whether or not your values are consistently life-sustaining.

Barbara

Thanks for your contribution to this discussion, Barbara.

Forgive me if I ignore for now some of your specific points. I want to latch on to one basic premise that I believe rests under your entire post here.

I believe your analysis rests on a very important distinction between desires and values. But I believe this distinction fails to support the necessity of morality. I believe this distinction is useful in further amplifying the general distinction between Objectivist ethics and non-morality. Nothing more. This distinction disproves neither Objectivist ethics nor non-morality. it merely drive the axe between them a bit deeper. And I think this is useful in helping moralists imagine the possibility of a non-moralist like myself. So here's my discussion on the issue:

According to Objectivism, values are that which we act to gain and/or keep. This definition does not specify the subjective feelings that may or may not provoke us to so act. Sometimes a value is pursued from one's desire for it. But sometimes a value is pursued for reasons other than one's desire for it. Values may therefore be pursued regardless of subjective desires, even contrary to desires – and vice versa. As Peikoff states in OPAR Page 268: "The satisfaction of a desire, accordingly, is not necessarily a value; it may be a disvalue."

Now observe: it is possible to pursue values we do not desire. Or even less harmonious, it is possible to pursue values against which we have a strong aversion. Pursuing some values means doing things we don't want to do, or doing things we hate and fear. The values exemplified here are what I call "desire-void," they are to be pursued regardless of our desires, even in opposition to our desires. (This subset of values that are to be pursued against desire I call the "deontological glitch of objectivist ethics.")

Now, my problem is that I can't, for all honesty, understand what a desire-void value is. Why would anyone pursue something they don't want, or something they hate or fear? I can't figure this one out.

Moralists of all flavors swear they do it regularly. All moralists insist with great vehemence that certain values are to be pursued REGARDLESS of desires, and in OPPOSITION to desires if necessary. And moralists swear they can't imagine a person who lacked the recognition of such desire-void values.

All I know about desire-void values is what moralists report about them. I have no first-person experience of them. And what I can gather so far is that desire-void values are experienced as similar to desire, in that they urge one to act, but that they are simply not the same thing as desire.

Objectivism stresses causal consequences in the derivation of its values. One needs to look at the causal consequences of reality to measure the particular value of a given action. The standard of this measurement should be something called an "ultimate value," which, in the case of Objectivism is "Human life qua human life." Objectivism's ultimate value is also one of these desire-void values. One is to pursue one's life qua human life REGARDLESS of one's desires, and even in OPPOSITION to desires if necessary.

The supposed consequence and purpose of such a desire-void pursuit is a state called "happiness." Happiness, according to Objectivism, is the psychological state caused by achieving one's values. And this means a person can become happy even by achieving some values that are desire-void. One can become happy even by frustrating desires, so long as one achieves some desire-oppositional value in so doing. In short, one can be happy while experiencing the misery of frustrated desires. And this seems like a bizarre notion of happiness to me. But if objectivists want to define happiness in such a bizarre way, I'll not argue. I'll just avoid using the term "happiness" when I want to express my concern for whether people get what they want, i.e., when I want to express my benevolence.

But the bottom line concerning Objectivism's ultimate value is that it is DESIRE-VOID. It is to be pursued REGARDLESS of our desires, in OPPOSITION to our desires if necessary. But since one can be miserable achieving this value, I don't accept it as MY ultimate value. MY ultimate value is the gratification of my most intense desires. One of my most intense desires is in fact to live qua human. I do act to stay alive, and by means uniquely human. I do so because I desire to, not in spite of my desiring to. I pursue many of the same values as do Objectivists. But I do so because I desire it. My values are all desire-based – ALL of them. My ultimate desirous value is gratification. All other of my desirous values are measured against that ultimate desirous value of mine. I measure the value of life qua human against my ultimate value of gratification. I know from looking at reality that I must stay alive to achieve significant gratification. Another of my strongest desires is benevolence toward others. I know that to live by my own productivity is most compatible with my benevolence toward others. Therefore, to live by my own productivity is also one of my desire-based values.

Speaking for myself only, I don't need desire-void values to do any of this. Desire does the job just fine, for me.

-Luke-

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To Barbara's second, additional post, in which she begins:

Luke, you say you are motivated not by moral considerations, but by desires. What do you think a desire is?

Good question.

Here is my answer, which comprises my attempt to define and describe desire many years ago:

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DESIRE aka WANT: ...is a non-definable, phenomenological primary. One of the two motivations (aversion being the other), the referent of the word "desire" is learned by "sharing" the experience of desire for a common set of objects, usually those evoking pleasure. It is merely assumed that we all feel desire for these common objects by similarity of our actions toward them, such as grabbing them.

[Luke Turner]

DESIRE aka WANT:

Desire is a phenomenological primary for which a full, formal definition cannot be given. In place of a formal definition, descriptive analogies can be offered.

Desire is the soul's magnet turned to attraction.

Desire is one of the two motivations, the other being aversion. Where desire attracts, aversion repels.

DISCUSSION:

Metaphorically speaking, desire is a rubber band born stretched between the subject and (certain) object(s) of individuating consciousness. This band pressures to unite subject with object(s) in a state of non-individuating consciousness (i.e., mimesistic consciousness). Hence desire pressures to undo itself by uniting the very things which in their separation allowed desire to exist.

Hence we may, with Freud, claim that all desire is ultimately a desire not to desire. I would not go this far. For we can also desire to desire. We can also desire some of our desires remain frustrated.

Hence I don't feel the need to posit any death instinct, as an extension of the nirvana principle, as did Fruid, to explain desire. I don't posit anything at all, in fact, to explain desire. Desire is a phenomenological primary for me.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Desire is intentional, pleasure is phenomenal.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

MAXIMS OF DESIRE

1. For any given object of consciousness, there can be one and only one desire relation.

2. For any given desire relation, there can be one and only one object.

(Note: Desire relation means: An instance of desire, in a given individual subject, of specific type and degree - such as positive want of specific degree.)

3. Likewise, there is no such thing as ambivalent desire(s) for a single object at one time.

[Luke Turner]

And now here's a definition I fond terribly circular:

DESIRE: An emotional appetite available to anyone who has an exciting goal and has begun moving toward it.

[bob Moawad, Unlocking Your Potential Student's Guide; Unit 9, P62]

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Incidentally, I don't recall a definition for desire ever appearing in a published work on Objectivism. But this leads to your next item about Nathaniel's definition for emotion.

Nathaniel Branden, in The Disowned Self , defined an emotion as follows: "An emotion is the psychosomatic form in which a person experiences his esimate of the beneficial or harmful relationship of some aspect of reality to himself." An emotion is a value-response.

Now, this definition seems ok to me as long as it doesn't subsume desire. I don't currently think of desire as a mere emotion – not in the strictest sense. So I would object to this definition if it were implied that desire were included.

I say this because, if this definition applies to desire as well, then it would seem terribly circular to me. To see what I'm talking about, let's narrow the definition down to desire.

"A DESIRE is the psychosomatic form in which a person experiences his esimate of the beneficial or harmful relationship of some aspect of reality to himself."

According to such a definition, desire is a form of an experience of an estimation of benefit or harm. This makes a distinction between the estimation of benefit or harm on the one hand, and one's EXPERIENCE of that estimation on the other. The estimating is one thing, and the experience of it is another. Not only that, but I get the impression that the estimating has primacy in this relationship. One must first do the estimating before one can experience it. The doing has causal primacy over experiencing the doing. Hence, one must first estimate benefit or harm before one can feel a desire. First estimate, then desire.

Here's the circularity:

To feel desire, I must first estimate benefit or harm. But to estimate benefit or harm, I must first desire.

For a non-moralist like me, I have only the gratification of desire as a standard by which I can measure benefit or harm. Something benefits me if it supports the gratification of my desire. Something harms me if it frustrates my desire. This makes the definition circular to me because it defines desire as dependent on desire.

This circularity applies only to ME as a NON-MORALIST. You moralists won't have this circularity problem because you can estimate benefit or harm based on desire-void values instead of desire. For you, desires can arise out of desire-void estimations of benefit or harm to your desire-void values.

But I beg you not to embrace this limiting definition because it limits the causes of desire to only your moralistic view of desire. In you, desires may be caused by desire-void moral estimations. But that doesn't mean desires are caused that way in ME. I claim to work differently inside. If you claim I don't work differently inside, you need to provide a supporting argument to that effect.

I assume that you have no desire to swallow a deadly poison that would cause you to die slowly and in agony. I assume that if you believed that if a certain political candidate were elected you would lose all your possession in taxes. you would have no desire to vote for him. I assume that if bombs were dropping all around you, you would not find yourself desperately wishing to leave your safe shelter to run out and embrace them.

I affirm your assumptions. Yes. These are my desires.

All these are value-responses, resulting from the value you ascribe to your life. To repeat Rand's statement: "A moral code is a code of values."

Barbara

I must disagree, based on the argument I presented in my previous reply to you. All these above aren't necessarily my "values." They are more precisely and unequivocally my DESIRES, resulting from the intensity with which I DESIRE my life. As for values, I won't even use that term because sometimes it means desire, but sometimes it means desire-void goals instead. Talk of values is tricky. There's that "deontological glitch" I mentioned in that other post. I won't buy into that deontological glitch. When I use the word "desire," I mean only desire, precisely because I don't want to be mistaken for talking about desire-void values instead. The term "value" is a bate-and-switch" package deal. I won't take that bate. I won't take that package. Well, not without a sound argument at least.

So, if a moral code is a code of values, I don't have a moral code because I don't operate by values, but by desire alone.

-Luke-

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"Non-moralist" is a dependent concept, against that being a moralist. For a true non-moralist to claim he isn't a moralist is only an intellectualization with no personal referent. Actually "moralist" can be a pejorative concept. Properly human beings are moral agents. A moralist is someone who can sometimes use morality as an ad hominem weapon bypassing argument. Such, too frequently, was Ayn Rand. She seemed to use it defensively against overt and implied attacks on her and her philosophy. My animus against Luke is his claim he is not a moral agent. If he has free will, he is a moral agent. Denaturing moral agent with "moralist" is actually obscurantism.

--Brant

Thanks for the clarification, Brant.

You claim:

If he has free will, he is a moral agent.

I think I can see your point here. If "moral agent" is defined precisely as someone who has volition, then I leave open the possibility that I am indeed a moral agent. I may indeed have volition. And if I do, then I am a moral agent by this definition of yours.

But if I am a moral agent, if I do have volition, then we arrive at the next issue. I think, according to Objectivism, the fact of our volition is what makes morality necessary. One needs morality to "guide" the choices one makes. Otherwise, the choices made would be random or something.

I reject this premise. It is too narrow. Why must volition be "guided" only by morality? Why can't desire guide it instead? I say desire can guide volition just as effectively as do moral (sometimes desire-void) values. Why limit this role of "volition guide" to just one category of human drive? I don't get it.

If I am a moral agent, I am one who can't see morality as a guide for my volition. I am a non-moral, moral agent.

-Luke-

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Michael wrote:

The issue is actually epistemology, not morality, since several errors are present in the fundamentals. In Luke's case (from what I have read so far), his concept of morality is informed by a deeper principle of what knowledge is or is not.

I agree. I strive to ground my understanding of morality vs. non-morality in epistemology because I see the relevance in so doing.

Luke's epistemological approach (for the most part so far) is essentially a rejection of applying concepts to consciousness, replacing knowledge with feelings, then beaming awareness outwards from that approach.

Really? I thought I was actually applying concepts to consciousness. I mean, what does it mean to reject such practice? Perhaps you mean that I'm applying ANTI-concepts to consciousness. Is this just a complicated way of saying I'm confused?

And why would you claim I'm replacing knowledge with feelings? Do you really think I regard something as true because I desire it to be true? Do you really think I'm a subjectivist? Where did you get this notion about me? In what post did I even implicitly claim that desire determines truth?

His non-morality or anti-morality or a-morality (or whatever) is not a fundamental premise or axiom in itself.

I agree. It is not an axiom or fundamental.

He is seeking to make it one, but so far, the epistemology is interfering.

Not so. I'm not seeking to make non-moralism into a fundamental. Other non-moralists (especially in the anarchist crowd) might try to do this, but not me.

But I AM trying to challenge the notion that morality IS fundamental. I am suggesting that an alternative exists. Morality AND non-morality may BOTH be valid theories relevant to epistemology. I'm not trying to make either trump the other. I'm not saying morality is invalid. But YOU are definitely saying non-morality is invalid. (Aren't you?)

I get the impression that Luke is not seeking to identify or understand his view (or even any facet of it) in his discussions, but instead to ferret out justifications for it. The decision has already been made. Now all that is needed are some facts.

I'm disappointed that I give that impression.

I encourage and applaud Luke checking this premise, but I want to caution against a preconceived result in any inquiry. A speculation is one thing and we all have to do that before investigating anything. A belief seeking to become a fact despite any and all knowledge that may be encountered is quite another.

Michael

I, Luke, encourage and applaud MICHAEL checking this premise too, but I too want to caution against a preconceived result in any inquiry. A speculation is one thing and we all have to do that before investigating anything. A belief seeking to become a fact despite any and all knowledge that may be encountered is quite another. Yae! We're on the same page!

But here's the thing:

You, Michael, keep bringing up epistemology and saying that my challenges to morality's universality are an error in epistemological understanding. You also mention the book, ITOE as a reference for what I'm missing, asking whether I have read it. Yes, by the way. I have read it. I loved that book. But it has been many years since reading it. Now, I wonder whether you could do me a favor and tell me what specific passages from ITOE you would like me to read again so that I can satisfy your insistence that I become more informed. You understand, I'm just trying to avoid reading EVERYTHING over again. That's a lot of work. And I have both versions of the book, the expanded second edition too. So you can cite either one.

-Luke-

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Luke,

This is as I suspected. You are trying to make desire into an axiom, but without stating what kind of axiom it is.

Desires exist. I will grant you that this is axiomatic (law of identity, etc.).

Desire is knowledge. That is not axiomatic.

A desire is an emotion. It is a preconceptual evaluation that drives you to act by making the brain trigger the release of hormones, etc.

In Rand's world, morality includes knowledge. The choice to think (focus your rational faculty on a specific issue on purpose) is a moral choice, precisely because of the quality of knowledge it provides.

Here's an example of poor quality knowledge. People often prefer not to think about things that are sabotaging their lives and plans because of the pleasure-pain mechanism—it is just too painful (because of traumas, or acknowledging that other values will have to be sacrificed, or whatever). The desire to avoid facing a certain fact is stronger than the desire to think about it and accept it.

Here's a situation for you. Someone makes you very angry in a nonviolent manner and you have a gun. You suddenly desire to shoot that person because you are so mad at him. Should you? If not, and if morality is excluded, why not? If you say it's illegal, why not change the law and make shooting people out of desire legal?

Here's another for you. Do you desire to understand things?

If so, what is your method of understanding? Should you use it, say, if your desire to understand is still strong but your desire to do the donkey-work of learning facts is more on the lazy side and this is stronger? Would you claim to know if you allowed the laziness to take precedence? Or would you just accept an unfulfilled desire to understand?

That being the case, didn't you just accept a "desireless value," i.e., rational thought, as a standard?

Saying, "I will understand XXX because I will now engage my reason, even if this results in painful or bothersome efforts" is a moral choice.

Saying, "The correspondence between my understanding and facts is more important to me as knowledge than the correspondence between my desires and facts," is a moral choice.

You can also say, "I will understand XXX because I will accept my desires as knowledge, so I don't need to face the painful or boring part." That's a moral choice, too.

Choosing our epistemological method for acquiring knowledge is one of the most basic choices of value that we face. No desire on earth will transform itself into better quality knowledge than that acquired by observation, concepts and verification.

Why?

The results of rational knowledge can be used easily because they are constant and repeatable. The results of desires are constantly in flux. What's good at one moment is boring or irritating at another. This is OK for less fundamental issues. This is a life-threatening disaster for others.

I speak with the full knowledge and experience of the desire crack cocaine causes. That's just one example.

Where I will meet you, and where I believe your inquiry is important, is that there are boneheads who belittle or ignore their desires because of adherence to some dogma they present to themselves as value. And if you ignore desire, you ignore an important fact (among other facts) that should be included for proper understanding before allowing an evaluation to kick into action. I am totally against this, just as I am totally against eliminating knowledge from evaluation (and morality).

As an aside, I see your desireless values being able to be divided into both dogma and reality-based values. Just because you are indifferent to something at one moment does not mean you will be indifferent to it at another, and that fact fits both. Still, it is an interesting categorization and one that can be quite useful if used with knowledge.

I, myself, will start using it in my own thinking on a variety of issues where I have not been in the habit of examining their desire component. It's an interesting lens to use for mulling stuff over, one I hadn't given too much thought to until now.

Michael

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Calling a desire an emotion is a bit of an oversimplification and a mistake. Desires are simple and complex. Complex desires are tied up in emotion. But fundamental desires are in a sense "pre-emotional." Consider hunger. I can have the desire to eat beef Wellington. I want to got to my favorie restaurant and enjoy the salad bar, the wine, etc. Now, this is tyied up in my emotional response. I know how satisfied I was and how pleasurable the meal was last time. But had I gone there when I wasn't hungry, eating would have been a chore. My memory now would not be of pleasure, but of boredom. The basic desire is a simple given. It comes from our nature, not our premises. Rand's idea of values is a bit too simple and definitely over-intellectualized. Basic values arise from our nature. One is attracted to someone physically because of their smell or appearance. One is hungrty and food makes one's mouth water. Then one decides one will or will not eat or flirt because the food is fattening or the physically attractive person is morally repulsive. The evalutaion ties into the desire, informs it, and modifieds it. You see a cute girl walking down the street. She turns around, and you see the Che T-Shirt, and all of a sudden she is not so attractive. But the original attraction was a basic physiological response based on perception alone. One cannot talk oneself into being hungry, or finding someone attractive who is not. Rand's affair with Branden indicates a huve naivete to me on her behalf in this. Did Rand tryly think that branden should find her physically attractive even were she "confined to a wheel chair"? rand's idea of value is one of floating desires, rather than floating abstractions. She sees value as fundamentally intellectual. But just as ideas that cannot be tied to the concrete perceptual level are a type of rationalism, so too are values that do not arise from fundamental biological desires.

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Ted,

You are bordering dangerously on instinct, which is a dirty word in Objectivist surroundings. :)

There is the little matter of defining "emotion" in order to discuss your objections clearly.

Incidentally, I have written about how a subconscious drive like thirst arises and develops into action, and how addicts manage to plant an urge for the substance they are addicted to on that level in the mind so that it is tricked into believing in the life-threatening and life-nurturing importance of the substance (as fuel): Understanding Addiction -- One Objectivist's View.

Whether we call this an emotion or instinct or any other term is a matter semantics, not concept. This mental drive exists, it is identifiable, and it is the referent for several words and jargon phrases.

The Objectivist view of emotions is that they are subconscious prompts to action based on value judgments, with survival being the most fundamental value. This is actually where matters get fairly fuzzy.

A page from The Ayn Rand Lexicon gives an overview of quotes (leaving out Nathaniel Branden's work, of course): Emotions.

Here Rand argues that emotions can be consciously programmed and goes back and forth on whether they are automatic or chosen. (This stuff really is not her finest hour.) It is probably more specific to say that she believed that the source of all emotions can be programmed (she called it a premise) and such source can produce or eliminate results (the emotions themselves) according to person's choice in how to plant it, or eliminate it, in his mind.

This is one place in Objectivism where I have a problem with scope. Some emotions can be programmed in that fashion. Rand claims that all emotions can be. But there is a vast number that simply can't. We have an entire line of products in the pharmaceutical industry for treating depression and so forth that thankfully did not adhere to such a limitation.

Other than this, Rand's programmable emotions and the non-programmable ones left over are both subconscious prompts to action and work in an identical fashion by releasing hormones, etc., and prompting action.

Michael

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