SOLO-International Op-Ed—An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Fri, 2010-04-09 04:46

SOLO-International Op-Ed: An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

James S. Valliant
April 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Glenn Beck,

As a fierce defender of the American Founding Fathers and the free market, as well as an atheist, I listened intently to your discussion of "faith" and the founding of America today, April 8, 2010, on the Fox News Channel. Despite my views on religion, I have become a regular viewer because, in my estimation, the history lessons you deliver every night are enormously valuable.

However, today's discussion not only left me unpersuaded of your case, but also profoundly disturbed for the future of American Ideals. If men like you, i.e., the defenders of America's Founding Fathers, have no better an appreciation of the Founders' achievement than you displayed today, then we have a far more troubling problem than a bunch of Leftists who simply ignore the Constitution to create their vision of a socialist America.

Let me take a minute to explain why.

Politics is a field of study like any other and, like any science, it transcends race and religion. Just as there is no "pagan -Greek" physics, "Christian-English" physics or "Jewish" physics, only the contributions of Archimedes, Newton and Einstein, so the concept of individual rights is non-sectarian in this respect, as well. All human beings possess inalienable "rights"—whether they know it or not, and whether they are Christians, Jews or ancient pagans.

More than this, in order to understand and support the concept of individual rights as embodied in America's Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, one does not need to assent to any particular faith, or, indeed, to any faith whatever—i.e., one need not be a Christian or a Jew to grasp and to agree with the American Bill of Rights. Rights are a natural fact and, thus, can be discovered through observation and reason, and no aspect of distinctively Jewish or Christian belief is required to grasp their reality and importance.

John Locke, the well-known political philosopher who argued the case for natural rights that would inspire America's Founding Fathers, did argue from the Bible and from Mosaic Law in claiming that individuals have rights recognized by their Creator, to be sure, but this was not the case for which he would become internationally famous. No, in order to have had the influence he did, Locke's case had to be qualitatively superior to the claims of European kings who also claimed a divine origin for their "rights" (as tyrants).

Locke, and Thomas Jefferson after him, would have had no stronger, and certainly no more "scientific" a claim to rights had Biblical exegesis been the extent of his reasoning. But Locke also argued that the hand and mind of God could be seen in the very nature of humanity itself. Humans are—observably—creatures of reason and choice, and possessed of differing moral statures. As a species, Locke argued, we survive by "mixing" our "labor" with the "soil" to create the material goods we require to live. It is from these facts of human choice, human reason and the requirements of his existence, according to Locke, that one can see that rights are a wholly natural thing—that whether created by God or not, humans are so constituted as to require a respect for their rights: that is, if they are to survive and flourish.

It is this, the natural element in the case for natural law and natural rights, that makes Locke's argument for rights superior to previous supernatural claims of the "Divine Right of Kings." The conservatives' idea that rights "come from God" places the concept in as unscientific, as nebulous, and as arbitrary a position as Louis XIV's claim to being God's choice to rule France. (Not to mention the fact that Louis may also have had the better claim in a strictly Biblical sense.)

Yet, conservative Christians and Jews in America today, such as yourself, claim that rights can only be understood as a unique gift of Jehovah, the Judeo-Christian deity without realizing how dramatically you undermine the Founders' original case in the process. You take "rights" to be a special, mystical endowment like a coat of magical paint God happened to apply to us during creation, and not a scientifically demonstrable fact applicable to all men, and provable to any honest and rational man, regardless of his cultural origins.

Moreover yours is neither Locke's argument nor the Framers'. When they spoke of persons being "endowed by their creator" they meant, in effect, "beings of such a nature," and it is to that natural condition to which they referred. The belief in God which most men shared at the time was mere overlay. Just as Newton's physics was, for Newton, a revelation into the mind of the Creator, but something that would stand or fall on its own evidentiary merits in the minds of men who did not necessarily share his religion, so it was with Locke and the Founders: the idea of rights can and must be established on purely natural grounds, they held, through observation and logic, and be provable to the heathen as well as to the Christian in just the same fashion that Newton could establish the truth of his physics to an atheist.

Let's recall the story of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler in this context. A devout if unorthodox Christian, he sought to read the mind of God by reading the stars. He believed that if the orbits of the five observable planets could be lined up with the five "regular" solids of geometry, he could prove that a divine order had set them in motion, and that Creator was a skilled mathematician who left us geometric clues to his existence. Of course, the orbits of the planets do not line up to the regular geometric solids. (As it turned out, there are even more than five planets.)

What made Kepler a hero of reason and science was his willingness to set aside his Platonic vision of an Ordered Universe in the face of evidence gained from telescopes belonging to men like Tycho Brahe. The facts, not his own dearly-held suppositions about the "mind of God," must dictate our conclusions, Kepler knew, and, in the end, he produced an accurate description of the laws of planetary motion. Whatever "order" to the cosmos there was, he realized, it could be discovered only through observation and sound mathematics. Like the Protestants reading the text of the Bible for themselves in this new era of reason, so the Age of Science saw brave men reading the universe for themselves for the first time, as well, and to the same end: to read the mind of God not through ancient text but through observation of the natural world. For such a man, Christian though he was, the test of truth was the test of reason, and previous "authority" could hold no weight.

So it was with Locke. Christian though he was, he believed that the natural argument was essential to his case.

Yet, contemporary political conservatives in America like yourself seem determined to drain all of the natural reasoning and natural law out of the Founders' case for natural rights.

If the United States was built on distinctively Judeo-Christian principles, as you contend, then the Bill of Rights is no sounder an assertion than had been the claims of Louis XIV to rule France. But, if the science of human nature serves as our guide, then our conclusions will be ecumenically applicable and understandable.

Before mentioning rights as divine endowments, the Declaration makes reference to equality before the law as being the upshot of "the laws of nature and of nature's God." This is crucial, and often misread. According to Jefferson, the laws of nature themselves establish the vision of rights he laid out. Whether or not the laws of nature may be found in the Bible, and on this point the Declaration is silent, the concept of rights can be found in the "the laws of nature." To know God's will, in other words, one needs science, not just ancient text. Notice, too, the assumption that the laws of nature and God's laws must perfectly correspond to one another, and that observations of human nature, therefore, have greater merit than arguments like King Louis' purely Biblical case. It is observable fact, not Biblical text, upon which the Declaration builds its case, and it is not the God of the Bible, but the "God" of the natural world detailed by science, i.e., "nature's God," to which Jefferson appeals.

This is why the Bible was not used as a guide in the framing of the U. S. Constitution. In establishing a "republic," the Framers explicitly used pre-Christian models from pagan Rome as their principal inspiration. There would be no "parliament," but a "senate" and popular assembly, and two executive officers, one of whom possessed a "veto" power over legislation... and even much of the ancient, pagan nomenclature was adopted. No concept of individual liberty, no principle of "freedom of speech," much less one of "freedom of religion"(!) is to be found in the Bible at all. No limits on republican power can be found there because no concept of a "republic" is to be found in the ancient text in the first place, populated as it is with Divinely Chosen or hereditary Kings—even hereditary "messiahs."

Most of America's Founding Fathers were Christians, of course—although men like Jefferson and Franklin cannot be meaningfully described as "Christians"—and the Christian Framers saw their political views as being consistent with their religious views. However, the political philosophy upon which America was founded was based squarely on naturalistic reasoning and ancient, pagan precedents. Such reasoning and such precedents make America the distinctive and outstanding achievement of the Enlightenment and of secular, scientific reasoning—not Christianity. This same Christianity had had the better part of two thousand years to make itself felt politically with no outcome similar to the American Constitution.

You contend that the three pillars of America's foundation are "faith, hope and charity." However, all three of these "virtues" can be practiced by advocates of royal, theocratic or totalitarian governments, just as they were originally articulated by men who had absolutely no concept of limited government.

No nebulous "hope" in a better life-to-come informed the American Revolution, but a worldly demand for a better life right here and now. It was not the concept of "charity" which had been piously practiced by Christian monks throughout the Dark Ages which inspired the Founders, but the concept of worldly property rights and the pursuit of one's own earthly happiness, i.e., a form of ethical egoism, which lit their fuses. It was not "faith" but naturalistic reasoning, as we have seen, that served as the Founders' guide.

As our Islamic foes understand seemingly better than you, America has been the very symbol of worldly ambition, material success, the piling up of the "treasures" of this earth and the selfish pursuit of profit. This focus on the natural and the worldly explains why America has achieved such prosperity, just as the contrasting supernatural focus of the Christian Dark Ages characterizes its superstition and resulting misery.

The American revolutionaries ignored Christ's command to "render unto Caesar," refusing to pay even the modest tax from a king far less tyrannical than Caesar. They also ignored St. Paul's command to obey the governmental authorities placed over them. They ignored the Bible's plea for peace and the advice to "turn the other cheek" to coercive agents of the state. They were rebels akin to the Jewish zealots of Jesus's own time, the zealots of whom Christ was so critical.

No, it is not "faith, hope and charity" that uniquely distinguish even the American Christian, but reason, action and wealth-production that signal the distinctively American approach to their faith—with Reverend Ike advising his parishioners that "the best way to help the poor is not to be one of them," and Christian evangelists who argue for the "divine right to prosperity," notions so strangely out of step with the other-worldliness commended by the Sermon on the Mount.

If your purpose is to convince us that Christians have a special claim to the universal truths embodied by the American Constitution, then you are simply mistaken.

But of your goal is to persuade all Americans, not just Christians, of the virtues of the American Constitution, the free market, individual rights and individual liberty, then you must abandon the sectarian arguments which serve only to associate American liberty with mystical faith.

Sincerely,

James S. Valliant

James Valliant: jsvalliant@cox.net

SOLO (Sense of Life Objectivists): SOLOPassion.com


Rosie

Kasper's picture

Granted my post was about free will in general and not regarding Stan Lauryssen, however, my point with you on that one still stands.

Regarding Stan Lauryssen, what makes you think the objectivist ethics would condone his actions? You have hung around Objectivists long enough to know better than that!

An ethic which is rationally estalished is one that will apply accross the board to a range of issues in your life. It is based on life, human life, as the standard NOT one man's gains over another or everyone out for themselves. Stan Lauryssen has suspended ethics for an immediate practical gain which will benifit him only if he gets away with it. As far as ethics go that is totally unethical. To ethically condone his actions would be to say ethicall it would be ok for all 6 billion Stan Lauryssen's to behave they way he did.

Richard

Rosie's picture

But it was destructive to his life. Fraud does not contribute to an environment where people flourish. Just the opposite.

What do you mean by "flourish"?

S L prospered enormously. That was his goal. To make loads of money and improve his living standard. His conscience was pricked (but only in the evenings as he slept!) I admit but, on waking, not sufficiently to cease acting in the way he did. Would he not consider himself to have flourished in these circumstances? And, if not, on what basis do you claim that he did not flourish? (You see, I suspect that, unlike Kasper's statement below which allows the objectivist to make amoral decisions, you are attributing a Christian ethic to S L's behaviour in saying he did not "flourish".)

Kasper

Rosie's picture

The nature of reality (Objectivism’s metaphysics) offers me a consistent, amoral back-step allowing me to get away with my choices or not. This allows my consciousness to be sovereign over my actions and thereby being free to choose as it pleases.

That is my point. I am not talking about me in this scenario - I do take the consequences in to consideration. I am talking about Stan Lauryssen. He made an amoral choice and got away with it. On your analysis, the objectivist ethic would condone his amoral actions.

But it was destructive to his

Richard Wiig's picture

But it was destructive to his life. Fraud does not contribute to an environment where people flourish. Just the opposite.

I repeat it because, from his perspective, it was not destructive to his life.

If by "it is not the

Richard Wiig's picture

If by "it is not the foundation" you mean that morality is not derived from it, then yes, I agree. Morality is derived from cause and effect, not free will. However, that does not mean that free will is not the base. The base, to my way of thinking, means the foundation. That's what foundations are.

P.S. Explain to me how you can have morality in the absence of free will? Its absence makes it impossible to choose right over wrong, good over evil.

Rosie Free will

Kasper's picture

Rosie.

You are the only Christian that I know who confines the free will concept to the mere ability to choose between two or more options whilst omitting the consequences. This is not free will but the mere exercise of choosing. Remember freedom means the absence of the initiation of force. You are free if no one stops you. The consequences are integral to the decision you make as they are the reference for whether you receive a benefit or disadvantage for the decisions you make. No wonder James sees the Christian concept of free will as incorrect and more appropriately proceeds to call it blackmail.

To have to choose between two choices, god or no god, one where you will be rewarded and another where you will be punished is not free will, especially when you have to choose god out for fear for being doomed to hell for all that original sin you committed.

If I had the choice to choose between god or no-god with the only consequence of either getting to know him or not, with no punishment in sight, then that would be a free choice.

Free will is the freedom for an individual to make choices from all the options in front him without the presence of an impending punishment for having exercising that mechanism. The nature of reality (Objectivism’s metaphysics) offers me a consistent, amoral back-step allowing me to get away with my choices or not. This allows my consciousness to be sovereign over my actions and thereby being free to choose as it pleases.

With the whole god model in the Christian context it is another consciousness, commandments, ethics and an afterlife that one must keep in mind on top of reality. Your consciousness now looses its sovereignty over itself to make decisions freely. It now has to repair to another will, consciousness and ethic before it can proceed with another decision. In other words it becomes like a loaded dice in its decision making naturally loaded or swayed to making particular choices and judgements, this case choosing god.

So I still contend that there is no free will in Christianity. I challenge you to bring a defence to the table that reaches further than your previous confinement of free will where you equated it to the mere ability of a person to choose without granting any significance to the arena that he chooses in or the consequences he may to face.

Richard

Rosie's picture

Free will is the foundation. If there's no free will, then there's no need for a code of ethics. In fact, a code of ethics would be impossible.

A code of ethics (or morality) would not be impossible without free will. (See G E Moore's ideas about morality for example.) It would simply be irrelevant to humans. But free will is not the foundation of ethics, simply that the issues for humans would not arise without it.

Can you see the distinction?

Curt

Rosie's picture

"But stealing (by way of fraud) wasn't destructive to Stan Lauryssen's life....why do you keep repeating it as fact?"

I repeat it because, from his perspective, it was not destructive to his life. He wanted money. He got it. He was not sued. He made a choice that he considered would further his life (if my understanding of his idea of furthering his life is correct).

The moral reason not to defraud the investors (that fraud is wrong) was not sufficient to prevent him from acting on it (and not defrauding the investors) because, I presume, he did not see it as "furthering" his life.

Agree?

Yes. Free will is the

Richard Wiig's picture

Yes. Free will is the foundation. If there's no free will, then there's no need for a code of ethics. In fact, a code of ethics would be impossible.

Free will is a prerequisite of morality only since without free will an action can not be moral.

Bugger off, again! Don't ask

Richard Wiig's picture

Bugger off, again! Don't ask such stupid questions.

Whose life?

Richard

Rosie's picture

This article may aid you in understanding why the basis of morality must be faith. Please read the whole thing. (The second part deals with morality and the atheist.)

Free will is a prerequisite of morality only since without free will an action can not be moral.

Standards

Curt Holmes's picture

Richard Goode: "Whose life?"

Whose faith?

Not Faith, Reason

Curt Holmes's picture

Richard: "No faith is required to observe man."

Rosie: "I did not say that it was. Why is this relevant to our discussion?"

It is relevant in order to gain an understanding of the nature of man.

Stealing

Curt Holmes's picture

"But stealing (by way of fraud) wasn't destructive to Stan Lauryssen's life."

You believe this?

If not, why do you keep repeating it as fact?

Whose life?

Richard Goode's picture

The standard for Objectivist ethics is man's life, or man qua man

man's life qua man is the standard by which something is to be judged as good or evil. That which furthers his life is the good, and that which destroys it is the evil.

Whose life?

Why does it not make sense?

Richard Wiig's picture

Why does it not make sense? Without freewill there is no morality. It is the bottom line.

Bugger off! Which man?

Richard Wiig's picture

Bugger off!

Which man?

Richard

Rosie's picture

The basis of morality is freewill and the requirement that man is free to exercise his will if he is to survive and live.

The basis for the ability to make a decision is free will. The basis of morality cannot be free will. That does not make sense.

And the freedom to exercise that free will to survive and live is not a basis for morality but for survival surely.

Stealing is destructive to man's life qua man.
But stealing (by way of fraud) wasn't destructive to Stan Lauryssen's life. He sought money to improve his living standards and he obtained it through fraud. He could probably plead caveat emptor if questioned about it.

So would the objectivist ethic condone his morality here?

Eudaimoniac

Rosie's picture

If you carefully examine the Objectivist ethics, you will note that all of the virtues, values, etc are ultimately based on a primary choice. Rand characterized this choice as "the choice to live." This is the primary alternative faced by any living thing: to continue to exist as a living thing, or to allow the processes of life to cease.

So are you saying by the above that the objectivist's virtues, according to Rand, are based on the choice to live or die?

Then you qualify this: (Is this qualification your own words?)

Basically, the choice is to further your life or to hinder it. If you choose to further your life, only certain actions will achieve this goal.

So that it becomes not just the choice to live or die but, if to live, to "further" your life in so doing.

When you say to "further" your life (as opposed to hinder it) what does this mean exactly?

My problem with this is that one person's idea of furthering his life may not be the same as another's. For example, Stan Lauryssen saw fit to "further" his life by allowing trusting investors to buy fraudulent artworks by Dali from him. The investors did not end up with an investment but SL ended up with millions of dollars.

Which man?

Richard Goode's picture

The standard for Objectivist ethics is man's life, or man qua man

man's life qua man is the standard by which something is to be judged as good or evil. That which furthers his life is the good, and that which destroys it is the evil.

Which man?

Basis of the Objectivist ethic

Eudaimoniac's picture

An ethic is not based on a standard. It is a standard. It is based on a faith.

If you carefully examine the Objectivist ethics, you will note that all of the virtues, values, etc are ultimately based on a primary choice. Rand characterized this choice as "the choice to live." This is the primary alternative faced by any living thing: to continue to exist as a living thing, or to allow the processes of life to cease.

Basically, the choice is to further your life or to hinder it. If you choose to further your life, only certain actions will achieve this goal. For all humans, there are certain types of actions that are always beneficial; these are reflected in the Objectivist virtues. If you choose not to, that is your prerogative, but every action of this type leads further down the road to death.

The Objectivist ethic is binding to anyone who wishes to continue and further their life. This choice, to do so or not, has been characterized as "arbitrary," but after it is made in favor of life, reality dictates the contents of the resulting moral code.

I am assuming that "standard

Richard Wiig's picture

I am assuming that "standard of value" means ethic to keep the discussion unambiguous. I.e., using the same terms so that we are clear.

By "standard of value" I mean the ultimate value, or standard, by which moral principles (ethics) are measured.

1. How do you get from "existence exists" to the standard of value (or ethic) being man's life qua man?

Well, it's quite a chain, and I'm really not qualified to put it into a nutshell, so I can only suggest that you read OTPOAR. In regards to ethics, Ayn Rand starts by asking if we even need them and, if so, what is their purpose. We need them because we don't automatically know how to live, and their purpose is to help us achieve a happy and prosperous life. She fully validates this. It follows, then, that man's life qua man is the standard by which something is to be judged as good or evil. That which furthers his life is the good, and that which destroys it is the evil.

2. If this is the Objectivist ethic, then please explain how it is the basis for any moral right?

It is the standard of morality. The basis of morality is freewill and the requirement that man is free to exercise his will if he is to survive and live.

3. Returning to the example, the question "why is it wrong to steal?", how does the Objectivist ethic become the first principle?

Stealing is destructive to man's life qua man. What does God say about it? What does Satan say about it?

4. How do you consistently apply this ethic so that all people applying it will come to the same conclusion that it is wrong to steal? Or will they not? Address the Stan Lauryssen story if necessary to explain.

In other words, how do you convey to people that it is ethical? Through reason.

And...

Rosie's picture

No faith is required to observe man.

I did not say that it was. Why is this relevant to our discussion?

No, Richard!

Rosie's picture

It is based on a faith.

An ethic is a principle of right and wrong.

My ethic is based on the Christian faith.
The Objectivist ethic is based on, you say, man's life or man qua man.

To deny that an ethic is based on a faith, you would have to dispute my earlier post (the one that asks you to keep going back asking why, why, why until you get back to your first principle - the principle of your ethic) and explain why you dispute it. As far as I can make out, this has not been done. I.e., you need to answer the question, "why is stealing wrong?" Because....? etc

No, Rosie!

Richard Wiig's picture

It is based on a standard. You cannot measure good or evil, right or wrong, without a standard to measure against. The standard for Christian ethics is the word of God, and it is a faith based standard. The standard for Objectivist ethics is man's life, or man qua man, and it is reason based. Mans life is tangible. God is not. A belief in God requires faith. No faith is required to observe man.

No. An ethic is not based on a standard. It is a standard. It is based on a faith.

Richard

Rosie's picture

It's [Objectivism] holds mans life qua man as the standard of value, and it arrives at that standard by a process of reason.

I am assuming that "standard of value" means ethic to keep the discussion unambiguous. I.e., using the same terms so that we are clear.

1. How do you get from "existence exists" to the standard of value (or ethic) being man's life qua man? My question here is one about philosophy and about the logic of Rand's Objectivist ethic, not one of applying her philosophy but one of understanding it's root arguments and assumptions.

2. If this is the Objectivist ethic, then please explain how it is the basis for any moral right?

3. Returning to the example, the question "why is it wrong to steal?", how does the Objectivist ethic become the first principle?

4. How do you consistently apply this ethic so that all people applying it will come to the same conclusion that it is wrong to steal? Or will they not? Address the Stan Lauryssen story if necessary to explain.

Kasper

Rosie's picture

You seem to have misunderstood what is being said, if I understand your post correctly. (And I must confess I do have some difficulty following your line of reasoning sometimes. Maybe because you are not understanding mine thus making your reply out of sync perhaps?!)

The first point was to show that a moral right is based on a faith.

The act of choosing a faith or a code of ethics is not necessarily arbitrary. The point about arbitrariness follows from people choosing (or being born into) different faiths. Different faiths may have different codes of ethics. And therefore, as Richard Wiig pointed out, there can be arbitrariness between people's codes of ethics. Agreed?

Rosie

Kasper's picture

The point is very simple. The act of choosing does not mean that something is arbitrary. Anyways please do address my post below if you can. It would be appreciated.

Kasper

Rosie's picture

I want to travel to Wellington from Auckland. The act of having to choose to actually move in order to get to my destination is arbitrary is it?

Huh? We are talking about a code of ethics not your travel plans! Big smile

Curt

Rosie's picture

Rosie, might an endpoint to the questioning process be because it is our nature?

How can you answer, "why is it wrong to steal?" with "because it is our nature?"

Why is it our nature?

What does "our nature" mean anyway?

Curt

Rosie's picture

"It doesn't diminish the life of the stealer."

You believe this?

I do not believe this because I believe that any breach in the law of morality (God's morality) is wrong and has consequences (let alone the corruption of the soul) unless followed by true repentance.

But the stealer must believe that his life is improved by his theft or he would not do it. Actually, to illustrate the case, I am reading an autobiography at the moment called "Dali & I" by Stan Lauryssens. S L was an art dealer who sold Dali frauds. He sold them to trusting rich people. (He achieved this job from his first fraud which was making up interviews with famous people and selling these to magazines. The most successful interviews were those he made up with Dali which sold better than blondes on the cover! ) Although he knew full well what he was doing was wrong (and did suffer from a degree of guilt in the form of nightmares and sweaty sleeps as he stashed away millions into his Swiss bank account) he kept doing it.

So....

Kasper's picture

I want to travel to Wellington from Auckland. The act of having to choose to actually move in order to get to my destination is arbitrary is it?

I want to live and I choose to live. The act of choosing a code of ethics necessary for me to achieve that aim is also arbitrary is it?

How then shall I live? And how then should I get to Wellington? Or are these arbitrary problems now as well? In order to get to Wellington I have to act otherwise I wouldn't end up in Wellington.

In order to live well I have to select a code of values via a rational process or I will not achieve my aim. If I wish to live, and live a good life, going around stealing and murdering left, right and centre is just as effective as protecting my individual rights, is it?

If it is arbitrary i.e., on faith, then you would have to equate (ethically) the two opposite moral options above.

Problems such as these demonstrate very clearly that the first question shouldn't be about haggling over which moral code we should adopt but why a moral code is necessitated in the first place. Hence the order of reasoning: Metaphysics, Epistemology and then Ethics.

I am an x Entity which has chosen to live. That choice now necessitates certain actions in order to be fullfilled which I now too have to choose. The employment of ethics is there to help an individual to carry out that act.

Murdering others or inflicting on their rights is morally wrong as it does not rationally help an individual to live long and prosper. The negative consequences would be paranoia about who would dick him over next, how he would get away with it and the overall lack of trust and safety of the world that that individual would continue to live in.

The act of trampling on the individual rights of other individuals commonly has an allure owing to the immediate benefits thought to result from it, especially if one can get away with it. Long term, a person who does that sets himself up for disaster.

Richard

Rosie's picture

It [an ethic] is based on a standard.

No. An ethic is not based on a standard. It is a standard. It is based on a faith.

I agree that faiths can be different and a code of ethics can be different also in accordance with that faith. Obviously. I have more to say about this. One step at a time.

Leonard Peikoff writes: "Morality is a code of values accepted by choice." (Objectivism: the philosophy of Ayn Rand) This would indicate an arbitrary code of values.

The Endpoint

Curt Holmes's picture

Rosie, might an endpoint to the questioning process be because it is our nature?

On Stealing

Curt Holmes's picture

"It doesn't diminish the life of the stealer."

You believe this?

So upon what is this code of

Richard Wiig's picture

So upon what is this code of ethics based? if you say, reason, you are wrong. An ethic is not based on reason.

Of course. It is based on a standard. Reason is not a moral standard, it is a means of knowledge. If you're under the belief that Objectivism holds reason as the moral standard, then you're mistaken. It's holds mans life qua man as the standard of value, and it arrives at that standard by a process of reason. Your standard is God, or as Linz puts it, a lonely goblin, and you arrive at that standard by faith, your chosen means of knowledge. As Kasper rightly points out, faith is completely arbitrary. I, as a Satanist, have faith in Satan as my standard of moral value is equally as valid as your faith in God.

Rosie

Kasper's picture

It is interesting that you need justification for a right to live but no justification for why somebody can take that right away from you. Nobody seems to ask why is it moral for a murderer to be a murderer but they do ask why do you believe you have a right to live... I find that bizzare.

Being a living creature with a rational faculty possessing volition I am free to exercise that as long as no-one interferes compulsively with me. The momemt someone does that freedom is lost. The right to life is a negative one. It simply spells out that we may live and exercise that choice.

The standard of right or wrong does not precede* human life... If it did it would be meaningless. Why? If ethics were based on faith then the ethos would be subject to change at whim. I would be no more right in saying your actions were wrong then you would be in saying mine were wrong. With faith or emotions no distinction can be made between right or wrong because the next guy may have convictions opposite to yours. How would the two of you sort them out?

Ethics as Richard Goode rightly pointed out don't exist in and of themselves (out there in reality). It is only from the recognition of the type of entity that a human being is that ethics become necessitated if that entity wants to live. (Please note the if).

*Ethics cannot precede human life because there are not such metaphysical things as ethics. Nor can one take the implications and meaning of an ethical system seriously when the system is arbitrary, i.e. faith.

Linz

Rosie's picture

Linz said "Rights" is a concept based on the metaphysical fact that we are thinking, choosing beings.

Isn't this a bit loose? Aren't we trying to establish the basis for a right? And in particular an unalienable right? So, isn't it more fundamental to know why we think and choose the way we do in relation to the concept or nature of that right?

There are two types of rights: legal rights and moral rights. (Some rights may be both.)

Legal rights lead to the jural relationships found in Hohfeld's analysis. In law, to get this analysis correct can be crucial. Interesting too (if you like this sort of thing). More about this here.

Moral rights have no legal basis and you have no legal comeback if a moral right, which is not a legal right, is breached.

So, from where do these moral rights originate?

The Miriam Webster dictionary defines moral as follows:-

"1 a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical "

The MW dictionary points out that "ethical" suggests the involvement of more difficult or subtle questions of rightness. So we return to the principles of right and wrong. Ethics. It is a code of ethics upon which moral rights are based. So upon what is this code of ethics based? if you say, reason, you are wrong. An ethic is not based on reason. You may think that it is and it may even appear to be so to the shallow thinker since reasons are often provided for why something is or should be right or wrong. But think more deeply and subtly. And ask why your reason is right or wrong (and again if necessary to that reason given) until you get back to the first principle (which is the same answer to any question you pose as to why something is right or wrong).

For example, why is it wrong to steal? A Libertarian may say, "Because of the NIOF principle." The Objectivist may say, "Because it is life diminishing." The Christian would say, "It is God's forbiddance." Repeat your answer and ask yourself why your reason is wrong. To the Libs: "Why is the IOF wrong?" To the Objectivist: "Why is it life diminishing? It doesn't diminish the life of the stealer. And why is something that is life diminishing wrong?" Keep asking why the reason you give makes it wrong until you reach the first principle upon which your code of ethics is based. You will discover that the first principle can only be faith based: "because I believe this", "because it is the Law of God", "because Buddha decrees it so" and so on.

Thus moral rights are faith-based.

I concur, Commander

gregster's picture

"Surely it's to maintain a need for belief in a God. If rights are not a belief, if they are objective facts that arise from the nature of man, then God loses power. So we can't have that"

Exactly.

Dr No Goode demands; "I put it to you that you have never observed the sovereignty of the individual."

And; "The sovereignty of the individual has never been observed; nor is it the posit of any respectable scientific theory."

Goode here thinks respectability means something. As if being thought respectable adds weight to one's arguments. "Respectable" equates with "commonly held." "Respectable" in his context has nothing to do with facts or truth. It's commonly held that we can spend our way out of recession. It's commonly held that mankind's actions are to cause catastrophic global warming. It's commonly held that morality comes from an unobservable supernatural realm. It's commonly held that we are our brother's keeper.

Dr No Goode has the outrageous blinkered nerve to say "Rand fantasy land" while believing in his malevolent ghost, who begat an earthly son jesus by a virgin Mary. Haha.

Cause and effect.

Robert's picture

Can you see a political concept (e.g. 'unalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness' or 'the divine right of Kings' or Marxism or National Socialism)?

No.

But you can see their effects and you can understand the cause if ~and only if~ you have a consistent philosophy to help guide your thinking.

"It's possible Robert is as confused on this point as you"

Robert's picture

No it isn't.

Dr Goode made a statement that mankind cannot see electricity. But there is no point in discussing things that are derived from the metaphysical (i.e. politics) if the stupid git starts disputing metaphysical facts.

And seeing as this thread has morphed into a theological one, the definition of what constitutes a metaphysical fact might be important if you are ever going to nail Goode to his cross.

Surely it's to maintain a

Richard Wiig's picture

Surely it's to maintain a need for belief in a God. If rights are not a belief, if they are objective facts that arise from the nature of man, then God loses power. So we can't have that.

I'm curious why you demand to see inalienable rights as if with the naked eye but abandon that requirement when it comes to your goblin. And again I remind you you haven't explicated your concept of this goblin.

Ok!

Ross Elliot's picture

C'mon, Richard, give it to us.

Frankly, I'm hoping for some new-age silly shit, but no doubt it'll just be more sophistry.

Actually, that may be doing an injustice to the sophists.

Yes, but ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... I'd love to see him try. Don't spoil our fun! Goode said we all have our own concepts of the goblin, and his wasn't the Christian one. So, what is it?! I'm breathless with anticipation. Eye

He can't...

Ross Elliot's picture

...conceptualise his goblin since it doesn't exist.

It's a floating abstraction, of course.

Actually, Goode can't even *prove* that he exists.

Goode

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Rights are not metaphysical facts like thumbs, skulls, electrical impulses or idiots. It's possible Robert is as confused on this point as you. "Rights" is a concept based on the metaphysical fact that we are thinking, choosing beings. That fact is demonstrable even if you are blind to it.

I'm curious why you demand to see inalienable rights as if with the naked eye but abandon that requirement when it comes to your goblin. And again I remind you you haven't explicated your concept of this goblin.

Robert

Richard Goode's picture

humans have invented instruments to allow them to measure electrical activity inside the skull and then convey that data to the researcher.

we can't see [brain activity] unassisted but we have invented technology that will allow us to perceive it as if we had and in principle there is no difference.

Very good, Robert.

Now, tell us about the instruments humans have invented that allow them to measure unalienable rights inside (or outside) the skull and then convey that data to the researcher. Tell us about the technology we've invented that allows us to see unalienable rights as if with the naked eye.

I once...

Ross Elliot's picture

...had a conversation with a Kantian--who didn't know there was such a thing--about the nature of reality, who asked me, as if in rebuttal, if I considered *ideas* to be reality. I tried my best to explain.

But it fits in with the whole BLANK OUT mentality that words are *substitutes* for reality. If I can imagine it, it's real. If I can think it up, I can bring it forth. If I can *rationalise* it--like God--it must exist.

The current manifestation is the Obama slogan, "Yes, we can!".

No, you can't.

Hot air

Richard Goode's picture

What the hell is lightning then?

Hot air.

All in the cause of

Richard Wiig's picture

All in the cause of evasion.

Only a pedant would contest that mankind cannot 'see' brain activity

Idiot.

Robert's picture

Richard Goode, PhD "You can't see electricity."

What the hell is lightning then? Ever seen a Van der Graaf generator?

If you don't believe that we can perceive electricity unassisted, when you next have a bath, take a plugged in and activated toaster with you - we'll "see" what happens. You won't see it of course, you'll be dead. But between the burnt corpse and the smell of singed flesh and toast, there will be plenty to see even if we were to miss the sparks.

-----------

As for seeing 'brain activity': No, you can't see it with the naked eye. For one thing, there is a skull obscuring your view. But humans have invented instruments to allow them to measure electrical activity inside the skull and then convey that data to the researcher.

In principle this is exactly what the eye does. It measures light of particular wavelengths and transmits those signals for analysis and integration to the brain.

Only a pedant would contest that mankind cannot 'see' brain activity. No, we can't see it unassisted but we have invented technology that will allow us to perceive it as if we had and in principle there is no difference.

Electricity

Richard Goode's picture

Brain activity can be seen and measured.

Brain activity is electrical. You can't see electricity.

Electricity

Then ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... with which part of the stinking stupid Christian superstition do you disagree? Not just a soundbite please, but something that indicates intellectual depth greater than that of a bird-bath. What exactly is your conception of that ludicrous grotesquery, God, if not that of a lonely goblin who got bored and created man, knowing he would damn him to hell?

Oh, no, it's not

Richard Goode's picture

That's your conception.

No, it's not, it's yours. I have no truck with lonely goblins.

No dear!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

That's your conception. I certainly deny the existence of such a cosmic deformity. But you affirm it.

Oh, yes, you do

Richard Goode's picture

I don't [have my own conception of God].

Oh, yes, you do! Your conception of God is

a lonely goblin, existing all by himself for ever, finally creating men for company, then having a hissy-fit and drowning most of them, then sending his virgin-birthed son down to atone for the sins he knew in advance they would commit, then damning them all to eternal torture for the same sins if they didn’t accept his son's 'sacrifice.'

or, more succinctly,

a lonely goblin creating man for company and then damning him to hell, with a lot of other cosmic hissy fits in between time.

This is the God whose existence you deny.

Richard W

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Richard G is just parroting his pin-up, Hume: you can't see necessity, causality, etc. As though you can't form concepts such as these from repeated observations of them in action. Thus, there are no grounds for thinking the sun will necessarily rise tomorrow. Braindeath on stilts. Then he, Goode, slithers from this Humean scepticism to Christian (or some kind of mystic) dogmatism. From denying causality that's staring him in the face to affirming a God whom no one can ... see. Go figure.

Then again, don't go figure. No point in trying to reason with folk who believe in lonely goblins.

So, Goode ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Of course, I have my own conception of God. Everyone does.

I don't. But what's yours?

That's not true. Brain

Richard Wiig's picture

That's not true. Brain activity can be seen and measured. As for volition. Volition isn't a concept that denotes an entity. It denotes a way of being. That way of being is readily observable. Individual sovereignty is not the right to act on your own volition. Rights are abstracted from the fact that individuals are sovereign, and that sovereignty is a requirement in order for them to live and thrive. If individuals are not sovereign, then we can dispense with rights, for there would be no need for them.

Olivia

Richard Goode's picture

Why your god? Why the Judaeo Christian one?

No, not necessarily the Judaeo-Christian God.

Of course, I have my own conception of God. Everyone does.

Sight unseen

Richard Goode's picture

People thinking and acting on their own volition is a demonstrable fact.

Yes, but you can't see people thinking. You can see people's actions but you can't see their volition.

Anyway, individual sovereignty is not the same thing as thinking and acting on your own volition. Individual sovereignty is the right to think and act on your own volition.

I put it to you that you have never observed the sovereignty of the individual. No one has.

People thinking and acting on

Richard Wiig's picture

People thinking and acting on their own volition is a demonstrable fact. So no, it is not like "seeing God".

Seeing things

Richard Goode's picture

Yes, I see it in action everyday. I see it in every person who has chosen to take charge of his own life. I see it in the fact that no one can do your thinking for you.

Is seeing the sovereignty of the individual like seeing God?

I see God in action every day. I could tell you some amazing stories... Every now and then He reveals Himself in the most amazing way and you are just gob smacked when you see His plans being orchestrated in the lives of mortals who will one day put on immortality. I know it's His plan because we could not be that smart. Then I see Him do so many supposed "little" things and I realise just how detailed His plans are.

Yes, I see it in action

Richard Wiig's picture

Yes, I see it in action everyday. I see it in every person who has chosen to take charge of his own life. I see it in the fact that no one can do your thinking for you.

Richard

Richard Goode's picture

[Rights] are moral concepts based on the sovereignty of the individual, discovered through reason.

Who first discovered the sovereignty of the individual?

Well, if you don't know what to look for then you will never see it, will you.

Do you know what to look for? Have you observed the sovereignty of the individual?

Rand fantasy land

Richard Goode's picture

Follow him and you'll end up in a nightmare world where logic and deduction are useless.

You're already in a nightmare world where logic and deduction are useless! Rand fantasy land.

Well, if you don't know what

Richard Wiig's picture

Well, if you don't know what to look for then you will never see it, will you. But that's only to be expected from someone who rejects reason as a means of knowledge.

The sovereignty of the individual has never been observed;

Buy the book Goode

gregster's picture

I'm not here to help you.

"If man existed to serve an entity beyond himself, whether God or society, then he would not have rights, but only the duties of a servant."

O: TPoAR

The sovereignty of the individual

Richard Goode's picture

[Rights] are moral concepts based on the sovereignty of the individual, discovered through reason.

Your belief in the sovereignty of the individual is not based on reason. The sovereignty of the individual has never been observed; nor is it the posit of any respectable scientific theory.

What I've been saying all along

Richard Goode's picture

Rights are not based on reason.

What I've been saying all along. Smiling

Reason is our means of

Richard Wiig's picture

Reason is our means of knowledge. Rights are not based on reason. They are moral concepts based on the sovereignty of the individual, discovered through reason. I guess a superstitious man like you, who rejects reason, will never be able to see that. Everyone is merely banging their heads against a brick wall when it comes to you.

Third time lucky

Richard Goode's picture

It's only a few months ago that morality was a "superstition," according to Goode.

We've been over this before, twice. Here and here.

When I said that morality is a superstition, I meant 'superstition' in the sense of "a belief or notion, not based on reason." Contrast this claim with Jim's claims about rights.

Rights are a natural fact and, thus, can be discovered through observation and reason

[Rights are] a scientifically demonstrable fact applicable to all men, and provable to any honest and rational man

Unfortunately, Jim's belief in rights is not based on reason. Rights have never been observed; nor are they the posits of any respectable scientific theory.

"Rights" is [a] concept (not a metaphysical entity)

Just a concept? A concept of what?

Kasper...

Robert's picture

The way out of your circular argument with Dr Goode is to realize that Dr Goode is a God. Thus morality comes from him. He is above logic, reality and mere mortality... And here's the proof: drop two letters from his surname and it spells God. QED. [Cue evil laughter].

The guy is the manifestation of the rabbit from Alice and Wonderland. Follow him and you'll end up in a nightmare world where logic and deduction are useless.

Yes Olivia

Kasper's picture

but your charge of abject superstition doesn't refute what RG is saying. He is saying it comes from god; any god - take your pick! Even if god doesn't exist it doesn't refute that morality still comes from god (of course it does but when did logic have anything to do with an argument). Coming from god one can only assume he means religion. Only when repairing to religion, faith or the belief in god can someone say I believe in x because it is moral, it is true because I believe it and because my god says so and who are you to argue with me.

But.... Don't dare claim moral certaintly and pretend to justify it on reason because you'll be dismissed for being "bat shit insane."
Round in circles it will go.

Abject superstition...

Olivia's picture

I think morality comes from God.

Why your god? Why the Judaeo Christian one? Why not Zeus or Apollo or any other god who was in the mind of people when Greek civilisation was giving serious thought to morality? It is interesting to note that Jewish culture flourished under Hellenistic influence - not the other way around.

"For example, we have a legal

Callum McPetrie's picture

"For example, we have a legal right to government provided "free" healthcare, but there is no unalienable right to such."

True. I was referring to the legal rights to life, liberty, and property - the same that you would've been referring to when you said "We need legal rights, and a government to uphold them."

"No, it's a fact that unalienable rights are God-given, regardless of whether I think so or not."

Care to prove?

"Louis XIV was mistaken."

He'd say the same about you.

"I've never said that "morality is simply based on what we want to believe, nothing more". I've certainly never made it "abundantly clear". I don't think morality is based on what we want to believe. I think morality comes from God."

Richard, you came up with the alternatives of "faith, delusion or nihilism". When you take any code of ethics based on objectivity out of the picture, you can believe whatever the heck you like, and the only way to decide on morality - aside from simple nihilism - is through what you want/like to believe.

Oh dear!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I think morality comes from God. Whether we want to believe in Him or not.

He's really got it bad now. Capital 'H' for "Him" and all. Jesus! The rubbish that seemingly intelligent humans can believe. Party pills must be far worse than even Jim Anderton claimed..

It's only a few months ago that morality was a "superstition," according to Goode.

We owe him a debt of gratitude for showing incontrovertibly that one so inclined can slither from scepticism to dogmatism with alacrity—since they are indeed, as Objectivism avers, two sides of the same corrupt coin.

Anything but start from actual, empirical, observable, discernible, accessible FACTS (gasp!), such as: humans (distinctively) possess reason and volition. "Rights" is the concept (not a metaphysical entity) by which we ratify those FACTS in human affairs.

Anything but that. Even a lonely goblin creating man for company and then damning him to hell, with a lot of other cosmic hissy fits in between time.

Cosmic crap.

Morality comes from God

Richard Goode's picture

But if there are no unalienable rights, there's no moral difference between a government that respects the NIOF principle and a government that commits genocide.

True. But there are unalienable rights, and there is a moral gulf between such governments.

A legal right is simply an unalienable right in a legal context.

Not so. For example, we have a legal right to government provided "free" healthcare, but there is no unalienable right to such.

Only if you think so.

No, it's a fact that unalienable rights are God-given, regardless of whether I think so or not.

Louis XIV also believed his right to be an absolute monarch was god given.

Louis XIV was mistaken.

you've made it abundantly clear that you believe that morality is simply based on what we want to believe, nothing more.

I'm baffled as to why you think I believe this. I've never said that "morality is simply based on what we want to believe, nothing more". I've certainly never made it "abundantly clear". I don't think morality is based on what we want to believe. I think morality comes from God. Whether we want to believe in Him or not. What's so hard to understand about that?

"We need legal rights, and a

Callum McPetrie's picture

"We need legal rights, and a government to uphold them."

We certainly do. But if there are no unalienable rights, there's no moral difference between a government that respects the NIOF principle and a government that commits genocide. A legal right is simply an unalienable right in a legal context.

"Unalienable rights are God-given."

Only if you think so. As James pointed out, Louis XIV also believed his right to be an absolute monarch was god given. Once again, there's no moral difference between a government respecting NIOF and a government that ruthlessly slaughters its citizens, if both are justified in the name of God.

"Government provided "free" healthcare is funded by theft. The Bible makes it pretty clear that thou shalt not steal."

And if the Bible happened to say "you shall kill every heathen", would that make it right? (In fact, I don't know why I'm asking this; you've made it abundantly clear that you believe that morality is simply based on what we want to believe, nothing more.)

To each according to his need

Richard Goode's picture

"Rights are a natural fact and, thus, can be discovered through observation and reason..."

In other words because the main means by which humans survive [is] by the products of their thought (as opposed to lightning speed, large teeth, wings etc.) they need rights to guard against those products being taken by other humans.

Just because you need something, doesn't mean you've got it. In any case, we don't need unalienable rights. We need legal rights, and a government to uphold them.

These are the observable facts that James is alluding to.

As I already remarked earlier on this thread, rights have never been observed; nor are they the posits of any respectable scientific theory.

You don't need to invoke the supernatural in defense of the Right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Actually, you do. Unalienable rights are God-given.

Invoke the supernatural all you want in your own life. But using it to justify the existence and foundation of a nation is dangerous. For one thing, it allows Pellosi et al to argue that if rights come from God, how could anyone argue that God would deny someone free healthcare...

No, it doesn't. Government provided "free" healthcare is funded by theft. The Bible makes it pretty clear that thou shalt not steal.

Robert

Richard Goode's picture

Goode wrote "Is it even remotely plausible that...

I didn't write that.

the authenticity of this quote from Tacticus is questioned

... by fringe-dwelling historical revisionists.

Nero... inflicted the most exquisite tortures on... an immense multitude

Are you denying that this holocaust took place?

I know it's been awhile....

Jody Gomez's picture

....but...when did all the Christians move in!? Thought I was at a different site for a moment.

The Book to Read

Neil Parille's picture

Is Van Voorst's Jesus Outside the New Testament:

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Ou...

-Neil Parille

Reading the wikipedia entry that Goode cites...

Robert's picture

... one comes upon the section wherein the authenticity of this quote from Tacticus is questioned. Funny how Goode left that bit out.

Funny also how Goode presumes to know the thoughts and feelings of these long dead 1st Century people.

Goode wrote "Is it even remotely plausible that thousands of 1st century Christians, whom were fed to lions by the Romans, were willing to die for a guy that never existed??? NOT a chance!" Emphasis mine.

I hope that the quality of your professional scholarship is better than you have demonstrated here.

Recycled rubbish

Richard Goode's picture

I'm not sure the Almighty

Callum McPetrie's picture

I'm not sure the Almighty will be too happy with the comical, indeed, almost satirical way you're treating his Son, Richard. It may be an extra 500,000 years in Purgatory for you! Sticking out tongue

Dr No Goode

gregster's picture

No response as yet to my: "They've been dying and killing in the name of a ghost."

Jesus the son of the ghost. That is his only claim to fame after all.

Errr...?

Olivia's picture

"...roads, protection, trade.... the aqueduct?"

Yeah... but what have the Romans ever fuckin' done for us Reg?!"

His iPod

Richard Goode's picture

What were the things that the apostles had, that belonged to Caesar?

His iPod.

What were the things that the

Callum McPetrie's picture

What were the things that the apostles - who most probably never had any dealings with Caesar - had, that belonged to Caesar?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.