Is Ayn Rand's metaethic tantamount to whim-worship?

S Wissler's picture
Submitted by S Wissler on Thu, 2013-08-29 12:25

Wise, Shayne

gregster's picture

"Of course, we both know that you're an opportunistic intellectually dishonest tribalist, so you did this on purpose"

I could not agree with you more. Please keep posting your words of wisdom.

Simple Greg

S Wissler's picture

Gee Greg, I must have you quite flummoxed for you to spend at least a quarter of your post just giving me your worthless opinions and advice. But you are a breath of fresh air compared to Terry's intricate intellectual cobwebs of rationalizing dishonesty. You just can't seem to muster his level of obfuscation.

Moving on to a point of actual interest: You quote me talking about re-reading her as if I don't know what she's talking about, but you haven't bothered to figure out what I was referring to. The original article was critiquing Rand's *metaethics*. Which is an entirely different matter from analyzing her theory of *virtue*, which is of course what your context-dropping excerpt was referring to. Of course, we both know that you're an opportunistic intellectually dishonest tribalist, so you did this on purpose right? Otherwise an apology or admission of error on your part would be forthcoming. I think it's quite safe to say it won't be.

Her theory of patents is a laughing stock. Nobody worth mention, not even Objectivists, takes her seriously on that one. Really it's a litmus test of dishonest sycophantic stupidity, as in, if you really buy her theory without revision or question, you're just a complete idiot and an immoralist to boot (since you advocate stealing an honest man's property). And not even real Objectivists buy it. I know, I've talked to them. Even Binswanger recognizes that it has holes. Another prominent Objectivist intellectual I've spoken to said that if you were truly an innocent second inventor and could prove it, then you shouldn't be punished (of course, you shouldn't have to prove your own innocence, but hey, it's something). And then there's the fact that virtually the entire liberty movement (minus the sycophantic Objectivists) think that patents are bunk.

Patents are a real low point in Rand's thinking, something she should have been very embarrassed and red-faced ashamed about, since she gave aid and comfort to criminals. We can criticize her reasoning in various areas, but in this area she deserved moral condemnation as well.

SW

gregster's picture

“you really are a second-handed tribalist."

Shayne, I’ll help temporarily. For a lasting fix you ought to heed Terry’s advice, and mine, and get back to basics. Re-format and reboot. There are several subroutines countering efficiency. Before sending your next article, run the straw man virus app. Program so that levity and nuance aren’t misinterpreted as personal attack, causing ad hominem loops.

“I take his word for it” means I trusted he meant what he said. “I buy it” meant I thought “his story” was reasonable. Second-handed is not the term to describe mutual agreement between two or more independents.

"which are not fully thought out" means: critiques – fine, but shallow hatchet jobs will draw scorn.

“the irony of a self-styled Objectivist proclaiming to derive enjoyment from ridicule” Your repeated errors are contemptible, and ridicule is an appropriate response.

“you pretend that you know my argument is "not fully thought out."”

From your straw figure:

"Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival..." [Rand]

“At this point Rand, having gone on and on like this for a long stretch, is in serious difficulty. Taken literally this is a plainly evident falsehood -- reason (or ethics) is not the means to and realization of many people's lives; this is evident from the rampant irrationality we see.”[Wissler]

This ‘Rand’s metaethics as whim-worship’ has been demolished by Richard & Terry. That you wrote that article, and linked it here, and then admitted “Maybe one of these days I'll go back and reread her and that will help me make sense of why you're saying what you're saying (it has been over a decade since I read the whole corpus in detail, though I have read selected parts for various reasons -- so yes I am rusty)” demonstrates very little thought has occurred.

“And speaking of non-fully thought out arguments, have you seen Ayn Rand's crazy IP arguments?

That’s question-begging. They aren’t crazy arguments. The second inventor loses the race, and the rights, as does the third, fourth, fifth. To claim that the second inventor loses is to acknowledge that value is forfeited. This acknowledges the value created by the inventor. It is concept-stealing to claim rights for the second inventor while denying rights to the inventor. To entertain rights to all inventors, as do anti-patents pygmies, denies another man his right to life, his creative mind.

“Not even Harry Binswanger will go so far as saying that those are fully thought out.”

It is impractical any other way. Why not then rights to the third, fourth..? To quash patents and/or copyrights quashes invention. In comparison with your straw article, that essay is fully thought out.

“I have to remind myself not to blame Rand too much for your behavior.” You haven’t forgotten everything you once knew.

“On the other hand, the way she ran things she created the perfect conditions for people like yourself.” Thank you.

And this is why I claim you guys really aren't Objectivists

S Wissler's picture

Thanks for your answer.

"I take his word for it. Yes I buy it."

I.e., you really are a second-handed tribalist.

"he may be like me, in that, he enjoys ridiculing you because you keep contributing critiques of Rand which are not fully thought out"

I like how you just thoughtlessly tacked on the "which are not fully thought out" part -- threefold poetic irony on top of the irony of a self-styled Objectivist proclaiming to derive enjoyment from ridicule. You can't actually follow the reasoning here (ergo "I'll take his word for it"), yet you pretend that you know my argument is "not fully thought out." And just what does it mean to attack someone for not having *fully* thought something out? If non-weird people did this all we'd see is people attacking each other all day. Hardly any of our ideas are ever "fully thought out."

And speaking of non-fully thought out arguments, have you seen Ayn Rand's crazy IP arguments? Not even Harry Binswanger will go so far as saying that those are fully thought out. And unlike me, *she* is advocating taking the second inventor's stuff away, on the basis of her shoddy arguments. I.e., she advocates theft.

Authentic, serious, and sincere Objectivists really just don't talk, reason, or interact at all like you guys. I know because some of my friends are serious Objectivists. *I* used to be a serious Objectivist. If my impression of Objectivism was to come from you guys I'd think there was something very much more wrong with it than their actually is. In fact, given my distance from Objectivism I have to remind myself not to blame Rand too much for your behavior. On the other hand, the way she ran things she created the perfect conditions for people like yourself.

A face for the poor argumentation..

gregster's picture

 

 

 

 

 

"do you *really* buy his story regarding this so-called "promise", or are you just piling on because you don't like me much?"

I take his word for it. Yes I buy it. But there is a chance he may be like me, in that, he enjoys ridiculing you because you keep contributing critiques of Rand which are not fully thought out.

Terry's Hail Mary method of argument

S Wissler's picture

As described by Bill Burr:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

He just can't stay on subject once he loses.

Curiosity killed the thread...

S Wissler's picture

Gregster,

I know "context" is the catch-all excuse for everything fallacious in the Objectivist realm, but I guess it only applies if you're part of the club, eh? So when I give Terry an ultimatum, and then take it back on account of his context (i.e., he has extremely poor judgement about what is acceptable and what is not, perhaps due to undiagnosed Aspergers), it just doesn't count for me, does it? Now I've broken a "promise" to stop talking to him, so now I'm a "hypocrite."

I know that your powers of rationalization are no match for Terry's (after all, your IQ has got to be at least 30 points lower, don't you think?), but I am curious, do you *really* buy his story regarding this so-called "promise", or are you just piling on because you don't like me much?

I don't figure I'll get much of an answer from you. You're just being opportunistic and tribalistic here. You're just like Terry -- flailing around in pathetically weak ad hominem, i.e. searching around the Internet for more controversy involving me rather than just directly facing what's right here in this thread. So there is no intellectual integrity with you or him. And like I said, you can't do nearly as well at covering your tracks as he can. I figure he'll just come in here with more nonsense based in his Google searches to try to help you out. Gotta protect the weaker members of the tribe, 'cause that's what it's all about for you two. For you, the tribe trumps the truth. And this kind of thing is unfortunately what Rand encouraged. You are the fruit of her labors in service of authoritarianism and sycophants.

Thanks Greg

tvr's picture

You wrote:

"I would add masochist to your description for his type. "

Earlier on in this thread I identified RSMCTS: Remorseless Sado-Masochistic Cyber Tourettes Syndrome. Rationalizing his own philosophy, Phenomenally Emotional Nominalism, permits Shayne to indulge in his RSMCTS without having to deal with it. From what I can tell though, PEN acknowledges the validity of free will, so this leaves hope.

Terry

Terry

gregster's picture

I enjoy most, if not all, of your posts on SOLO. Shayne is notoriously difficult to reason with. And not just here. I clicked on his link and found him to be at his interminable battle against the straw man army of his creation. For one to combat Ayn Rand, it should be expected that one was at least fluent with her output. No such concerns for Shayne. I would add masochist to your description for his type. He's the kind of guy to take on a book such as Leonard Peikoff's DIM and appear to not have read past the first few pages, such was his inaccuracy. Premature ejaculations are his trademark. But, like you, I think he can only improve and wish him well.

Greg

tvr's picture

I wanted to thank you for chipping in earlier before leaving this thread.

Terry

Aspergers?

S Wissler's picture

Terry, *do* you have Aspergers?

1. I issued not a promise but an ultimatum to you: shape up or I'm finished. It's my ultimatum and it's not offering you something of value so calling it a "promise" is just weird and misleading. It's my prerogative to change the ultimatum if I want, and in fact you gave me some reason to reconsider it, as I pointed out. But someone with Aspergers might not understand any of this, so you should fess up so I can comprehend your weird behavior.

2 & 3. If you haven't noticed, I've stopped debating your "points."

It is not a moral black mark to have Aspergers Terry, there's nothing to be ashamed of, but it's very unfair to withhold this information while causing confusion and anger in other parties.

Last Eye Roll

tvr's picture

Your reply does not:

1) Correct, retract or apologize for erroneously asserting that I had made a false claim;
2) Address any of my other numerous points, presumably because you accept they are all valid, including your reaching never before reached heights of hypocrisy, and my observation that you insist on having a monopoly on meanings in conversations;
3) Demonstrate where and how any of my arguments on this thread re ethics are not aligned with Objectivism, as you claimed they aren't (a charge you have since changed to probably aren't).

Instead you are true to form, focusing on attacking the player rather than the ball, responding, as usual, with insolence and insult, implying that I am a "weasel", that I possess "extremely poor judgment" and question whether I have Asperger's syndrome.

The only one here who has problems and is incurable it seems is you.

You know what Shayne, I have finally decided I have had enough of your infantile hypocritical BS, PEN, and RSMCTS. Now, unlike you, I don't issue hollow threats and engage in stooping (stooping BTW is the Owl's attack method...). I just act.

Terry

True to form Terry

S Wissler's picture

True to form, you failed to mention and account for the fact that this whole "promise" business culminated later in my saying "I see." As in, as you explained, I saw a different way of interpreting what you had done such that you weren't a complete weasel, but just someone with extremely poor judgement and some kind of organic brain problem that prevents him from figuring that out.

Yes I got angry with you before and said I was finished, but then took into account your possible "context", i.e. that you possibly aren't doing this on purpose, but have some kind of problem (do you perchance have Asperger syndrome?), and so I said "I see" and moved on.

The ironic thing here is that you just now repeated the pattern of behavior that led me to get angry with you originally. This time however, I'm confused enough about exactly what your problem is that I'm not angry.

I Understand You, But Do You?

tvr's picture

Shayne,

You wrote:

"Claiming I made a promise when I didn't definitely sums up *your* behavior on this thread."

I never claimed you made a promise, that is you putting words in my mouth. I claimed that you didn't follow through on a promise. I took your threat as being a promise. Denying therefore that a promise was received when one was according to my and the conventionally accepted definition of "promise" simply because you didn't "mean" to give one, highlights both the impossibility of being able to communicate meaningfully with you and the impossibility of you being able to communicate meaningfully with anyone else, unless, that is, those others are prepared to adopt, in full, your meanings in place of their own. It is clear to me now that you insist not only on your own "meaning" being attached to the words you use, but also to the words others use including from their own perspective. Your denial of having made a promise, and your expecting me to accept that you didn't, is a case in point. And when someone does not adopt your "meaning" both ways, i.e., in all instances, it is unmistakable that you use the difference in "meaning" as grounds to accuse the other person of poor reasoning and/or dishonesty.

In your book you confess openly that you are "arguably a nominalist". It is no longer arguable – you are a nominalist, as demonstrated right here on this thread. You take the position that all words, including those other people use, can only have the meaning that you give them. Given that you also incorporate phenomenalist and emotionalist elements into your philosophy, which is why I was calling you a Phenomenal Emotionalist, my final verdict is that it is more accurate to call your present philosophy Phenomenally Emotional Nominalism ("PEN").

Just so that everyone who is reading this thread can have no doubts as to your methods and epistemology, and so that you know that I know you game, and that therefore your game is up with me, here is the definition of "promise" which I, the dictionary, and I submit any rational person would accept as to what another person means when they use the word, followed by your promise which you are denying having made:

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

noun
1 a declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen:
e.g. "what happened to all those firm promises of support?"

[with infinitive]:
e.g. "I did not keep my promise to go home early"

[in singular] an indication that something is likely to occur:
e.g. "dawn came with the promise of fine weather"

Your promise:

"You have crossed a lot of lines with me in the past and I've forgiven you, but this time that's it. I'm absolutely finished with you unless you apologize."

I replied: "You will get no apology from me. I have nothing to apologize for." Because I didn't (you were just being pathetic - it's all there in the history of this thread).

You then continued to engage with me without retracting or even addressing your promise. By not following through on your promise you demonstrated a lack of integrity. And by the way, it is too late now to reclaim the integrity you lacked by reneging on that promise by now being "absolutely finished" with me. That boat has passed. Feel free though to be absolutely done with me if it makes you feel better. Given your insistence on being insolent in almost all your communications I saw your offer as a promise and NOT a threat, even though a threat is what you meant by the promise. If you were enjoyable to communicate with, THEN it would have been a threat as far as I am concerned.

And regardless of whether it was a promise or a threat, the point remains: you did not follow through and thus showed a lack of integrity on a thread discussing morality where you were unjustly moralizing. The "height of hypocrisy" observation sticks. How much more evidence do you require before you will accept you are in the wrong??

"I think your views are extremely idiosyncratic, not representative of Ayn Rand's views, and do not have much resemblance to a logical line of thought."

As I have told you many times before, I do not care what you think about my views or me. Show me where I differ from Ayn Rand (other than for those points I have pointed out myself I differ) and where my logic is flawed. That was your claim. You haven't done so. If you cannot, then the rational thing to do is accept my position or else keep quiet on it.

"On top of that you cling very tenaciously to your wrongheaded views."

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy here, this begs the question that my views are, in fact, wrongheaded. Holding "tenaciously" to views that one knows to be right (until and unless shown otherwise) is a virtue, but you obviously conclude that being virtuous is one of the reasons I "just aren't worth debating". Incredible.

"I am ever so slightly open to the idea that I've radically misunderstood Rand"

Oh really? Let's get this straight. I state my position on Objectivist ethics in a lengthy comment below (save changing the concept of "moral perfection" to "perfectly moral" and elaborating on this). You reply to it that my "view sounds similar enough in meaning if not words" to yours, and that "it seems like all this back and forth may just be quibbling over words." Now, with no rhyme or reason given, except that upon re-reading the post I am suddenly "confusing/contradictory", you imply that my and thus Ayn Rand's position (as I understand and apply her ideas) could be "radically" different to yours. You are just all over the place.

"I am even more open to the idea that she said some things that were vague and easy to misinterpret, and that you've slipped into an intellectual trap she inadvertently set. "

The arrogance of this statement is extreme to the point of being farcical.

"it has been over a decade since I read the whole corpus in detail, though I have read selected parts for various reasons -- so yes I am rusty"

Your problem isn't being rusty. It's being non-objective. Don't try removing the rust. Start from scratch. That is a plea. You could be a phenomenal Objectivist.

Terry

Yeah good summary...

S Wissler's picture

Claiming I made a promise when I didn't definitely sums up *your* behavior on this thread. And in any case I did respond.

I think your views are extremely idiosyncratic, not representative of Ayn Rand's views, and do not have much resemblance to a logical line of thought. On top of that you cling very tenaciously to your wrongheaded views. And for all these reasons, you just aren't worth debating.

I am ever so slightly open to the idea that I've radically misunderstood Rand and that she really was as awful as you are in the realm of moral reasoning, but it's going to take more than you and your cherry-picked misinterpretations of Rand to convince me. Like I said, I have my criticisms of her ideas, but I hold her in higher regard than to think she actually thought the things you claim she did.

I am even more open to the idea that she said some things that were vague and easy to misinterpret, and that you've slipped into an intellectual trap she inadvertently set. Maybe one of these days I'll go back and reread her and that will help me make sense of why you're saying what you're saying (it has been over a decade since I read the whole corpus in detail, though I have read selected parts for various reasons -- so yes I am rusty).

The Height of Hypocrisy:

tvr's picture

To insolently and unjustly moralize after not following through on a promise while in the process of discussing the subject of morality.

That pretty much sums up your behavior on this thread, Shayne.

Terry

Mincemeat

S Wissler's picture

To be sure, I'm critical of Objectivism, but you two are making mincemeat out of it. Further, you're so ridiculously bad at reading and reasoning that there's no value in engaging you.

I may come back if/when a real Objectivist joins in, for now, ciao.

Re "Lazy Ad Hominem Bluster"

tvr's picture

Greg,

Employing incessant ad hominem is one of the core tenets of Phenomenal Emotionalism.

Terry

Baby Steps

tvr's picture

Shayne,

You wrote:

"Is it your experience that other Objectivists are in close agreement with you on all these points?"

I wouldn't know. I have not spoken to other Objectivists to this extent on this subject. But I see no contradiction with what I am writing and Ayn Rand's writings. Only the chosen/choosable is subject to moral judgment. That is indisputable (among Objectivists). The rest follows. If one doesn't have the capability of choosing a particular value or course of action, whether due to a lack of knowledge or otherwise, one cannot be held morally accountable for not choosing that value or course of action.

"you're claiming that one either fully knows and practices the code, or one is completely ignorant and incompetent""

… completely ignorant and incompetent only of the full code, not of those principles and virtues one knows and is capable of practicing.

By way of analogy, a virtue or moral principle is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that is a picture in its own right, and when added to the other pieces in a certain way creates a completely new picture. A full moral code is like the full completed jigsaw puzzle whereby one sees the final and unique picture of the puzzle in all its glory. Without knowing and having all the pieces one is completely ignorant of and incapable of assembling and appreciating the full and final picture that is the fully completed jigsaw, but one is nevertheless fully knowledgeable of the pictures of the individual pieces one has, as well as the pictures of the pieces one is knowledgeable of and capable of assembling out of those pieces one has.

You are trying to import into the moral equation the unknown or impossible to practice. That is to corrupt the concept of morality. And I am not letting you.

You are confusing being "perfectly moral" with being morally perfect, which is the difference between a specific individuals' potential being momentarily realized, and man's potential per se being realized.

Terry

Tara Smith

S Wissler's picture

There's nothing wrong with Tara Smith's view in the excerpt you gave. The problem is with the incompetent way you've applied it here.

There's no way Rand would have sanctioned your "Objectivism is a cake walk" viewpoint. She's probably rolling in her grave...

Shayne

gregster's picture

I say Terry is close to Rand's view. Then I gave Rand's view in support, via Smith. If my Rand via Smith isn't in support of Terry's version here then it is up to you, if you wish, to show why not, rather than lazy ad hominem bluster.

Gregster

S Wissler's picture

Where did I say I disagreed with her ethics? On my view, you guys both disagree with her ethics, far more radically than I ever could.

Ha

gregster's picture

Shayne you don't realise you inadvertently are funny. But that's not a purposeful breach of your morality. That's just a result of your shameless ignorance. Now you say you disagree with Rand on her ethics (as well as her metaethics). You really take the bull by the horns huh?

Objectivism as a cake walk

S Wissler's picture

I never thought Objectivism was the cake walk you guys seem to think it is. I think Rand didn't either. E.g.:

“Man has a single basic choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue. Moral perfection is an unbreached rationality—not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind ..."

Full and relentless. Sounds nothing like what Terry is advocating.

My view by the way is essentially Aristotelian: "In Aristotle's sense, virtue is excellence at being human, a skill that helps a person survive, thrive, form meaningful relationships, and find happiness. Learning virtue is usually difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice over time until it becomes a habit."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V...

Gregster

S Wissler's picture

You hardly count as a knowledgable or competent Objectivist. I'm wondering if someone who actually has some of each would support Terry's view.

And of course morality concerns that which is the province of choice. I don't have time to deal with a parade of straw men so I'll just leave it at that.

Wissler's rusty

gregster's picture

Terry, you’re not taking any wrong steps here. Atlas Shrugged: “that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality.” So the ignorant or incompetent is “amoral.” In the Introduction of Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics by Tara Smith:

The thorniest aspect of pride’s practical demands, clearly, stems from Rand’s characterization of pride as a commitment to achieving one’s moral perfection, an ideal that nearly everyone considers beyond mere mortals. Yet once we explain why Rand understands perfection to consist in “unbreached rationality” and remind ourselves that all virtues’ demands must be understood in context – sensitive to the particular person and situation – we will find that this initially daunting demand is completely appropriate.

Terry

S Wissler's picture

I'm really astounded at what you have led yourself to believe and what you can bring yourself to say.

And it just strikes me as extremely idiosyncratic and bizarre and not consistent with my view of what Objectivism is. Is it your experience that other Objectivists are in close agreement with you on all these points? Are there Objectivist lurkers here (who have read most of the Objectivist corpus) who are in complete agreement with Terry?

Anyway, you're claiming that one either fully knows and practices the code, or one is completely ignorant and incompetent, that's just so insane that I see no point in debating the point. Obviously knowledge acquisition is a process, so you can start off ignorant, learn a little, a little more, etc. How can anyone think this is a point of debate?

Disagreeing About Degrees

tvr's picture

Shayne, practicing morality is not the same as playing sport or waitering.

When it comes to a specific moral principle or set of moral principles or a full moral code, then one is either fully ignorant and/or incapable or one is fully knowledgable and capable in respect of that principle/those principles/that code. There is no middle road. One cannot apply moral judgment to that which does not enter the moral equation, i.e., to that which one is inadvertently ignorant of or incapable of practicing. You are begging the question of entering considerations into the moral equation that should not be entered.

Terry

PS It's the wee hours here so I'm signing off now.

Tedium

S Wissler's picture

Trying to converse with you is so tedious.

There is no such thing as a person who is totally incompetent or ignorant. Look at reality once in a while, it might help you understand what the other person means. Incompetence/ignorance *always* comes in degrees.

Begging the Question

tvr's picture

Shayne,

Ignorance and incompetence as these concepts apply to a rational morality are not a matter of degree, but referent. One either is ignorant of a principle or a full moral code or one is incapable of applying the principle or full moral code, or one isn't. I answered your question for both referents. Your question, if it means something other than as I understood it with my answer, I submit, begs the question.

Terry

Learn to read

S Wissler's picture

It's worded correctly. You aren't reading correctly. And now you're yammering off topic rather than trying to figure out what it means.

I'm going to give you one more chance to pack away your ego and straighten up, then I'll be on my way.

Be Responsible

tvr's picture

Shayne, I understood the question as you worded it. Maybe not as you "meant" it. The normal and rational and courteous thing to do is for you to take responsibility for your wording, nicely, and not to accuse me for not understanding your meaning when the wording is so poor. Second time now, please reword your question.

Terry

Believe it

S Wissler's picture

Either you understood my question or not. If I say you did not, then you did not. Period.

Quit squirming and changing the subject. "Keep it simple stupid" and try to focus on actually communicating and answering my question. As opposed to rambling and whining.

Unbelievable

tvr's picture

Shayne,

How can someone understand you if you are not crystal clear as to what you mean which requires not importing non-obvious ambiguities that any reasonable person might miss. You not only want me to do some lateral thinking in order to understand you, you expect me to do so as a MORAL matter. Unbelievable! And worse, you accuse me of "pretending" when there is not an iota of pretense in me.

I can think of no better way to answer your question as you have worded it, so if you are not satisfied with the answer because you think I did not understand the question, then the onus is on you to rephrase your question, this time with a more particular example if possible.

(And if there is anyone following this thread who can provide a third party perspective on that last question, I'd certainly be grateful if they could chip in and say whether or not they understood it as I understood it.)

Terry

Terry

S Wissler's picture

My example is what I say it is. If you misunderstood then you ought to revise your remarks accordingly, not pretend that I meant one thing when I meant another.

Again, I never specified the degree of incompetence or knowledge. On the contrary, I meant that he had some degree of competence and knowledge. Therefore your "amoral" conclusion is non-sequitur at best. Further, you are bringing an entirely new matter into it, namely whether it's possible for an adult with an intact brain to be so thoroughly clueless as to be exempt from moral judgement.

How about you answer the actual question I asked and as meant.

And by the way. I find myself having to ask myself whether your answers here imply bad faith or incompetence. It is certainly one or the other.

Perfecting "Perfectly Moral"

tvr's picture

Shayne,

Your example was someone who repeatedly violates a rational moral "code", not principle, through no fault of their own. I answered accordingly. If a person cannot understand nor practice a rational moral code, they are amoral. Like a young child, or a pet.

Morality only applies to the chosen/choosable. If a person has not had the opportunity to understand a specific moral principle nor the opportunity to practice it, then moral judgment cannot possibly apply to that person's failure to practice that principle. Their non-practicing is thus amoral in respect of that principle. In respect of those principles they do understand and are capable of practicing, moral judgment applies. If they practice those principles as and where appropriate, then they are perfectly moral at least in respect of those principles, but just not in respect of a full moral code. This would therefore require that one add a qualifier to the "perfectly moral" status; the person would not be immoral in any way so "perfectly moral" with a suitable qualifier is, by my reckoning, appropriate, or else one could call such a person "fully moral" rather than perfectly moral, which might be a better way to go. I'd need to think on it more. The point is that they are not immoral in any way.

Terry

Terry...

S Wissler's picture

I didn't say *how* ignorant and *how* incompetent. I didn't say "completely and totally ignorant and incompetent." Ergo I don't see how you are deriving this "amoral".

The Ignorantly Incompetent Who Mean Well

tvr's picture

Such a person is amoral, unless they are that way as the result of engaging in evasion, in which case they would be immoral.

Incompetence

S Wissler's picture

So on your view, a person who is ignorant and incompetent but well-meaning, who therefore repeatedly violates a rational moral code (he tries to not doing it again but has a lot to learn), is perfectly moral.

?

Breaches

tvr's picture

Shayne, it is impossible to inadvertently breach a rational moral code in such a way that one is then morally blemished. One can only ever knowingly breach a rational moral code. If one re-commits to adhering to that rational moral code after breaching it, including making good on the breach by a rational standard of justice, one should then, once again, be deemed "perfectly moral". That is what I mean.

Terry

Concise is nice

S Wissler's picture

Now that I read it, I think your post is kind of long. And I find it confusing/contradictory. But let me extract what I think is a central question, one that should have been easy to settle long ago, but that seems to keep coming up unresolved:

"The referent of "perfectly moral", for me, is the relationship between a set of rational chosen moral principles (virtues) and a person's adherence to them in practice, whereby if breaches occur then they are always repaired such that the person's "fidelity to reality" and loyalty to their rationally chosen values is maintained."

Are you saying here that you sometimes inadvertently violate your moral code, but that you consistently and in good faith try to follow it? If not then what do you say on this point?

One step forward...

S Wissler's picture

It always seems like one step forward two back when I try to communicate with you. It's a lot of work. I'm tired today so I'll look at your other post later.

*Our* Confusion

tvr's picture

Shayne,

After my lengthy post you conclude on first "skim" that my "view sounds similar enough in meaning if not words" to yours. That lifted my spirits so I sent you a helpful pointer because you stated (by implication) that you did not see where we differed. And now, with no further comment from you, we are suddenly worlds apart. WTF? And, as usual, it is all my fault, since, according to your "perspective" I am the only one who can be confused when we are in disagreement about something you have written. Your not having written it clearly, or your being wrong, never enters the equation. The only time you admit to being confused yourself is when you think we are in agreement whereby you question why we are supposedly arguing.

As for your comment "I communicate just fine with a number of people. It's you I have a problem with", obviously I can claim the same. And what?

I understand that we started with meta-ethics, and would be returning to it, but that does not take away from the reasonableness or relevance of the questions in my last post.

Terry

Terry

S Wissler's picture

I truly think we could go on forever and you'd never understand anything I said. You're just very confused.

Anyway the original subject wasn't even ethics, it was metaethics. We got on this tangent from something you said that seemed crazy.

Suffice it to say, for whatever reason, you have absolutely no idea what I'm saying, and I'm sure I wouldn't be able to accurately portray what you're saying either. I know you like to blame me for not communicating clearly, but I communicate just fine with a number of people. It's you I have a problem with.

Agreement vs Disagreement

tvr's picture

Shayne,

My post expressed an Objectivist ethics as I understand it. So if you find no disagreement with what I write, I must ask you, what are you disagreeing with in regards to Objectivist ethics? The only change I make to Objectivist ethics is one of wording, that of changing the term "moral perfection" to that of being "perfectly moral", and explain why I do so.

My understanding of where you differ with what I have written is that you offer no means in your "theory" of being perfectly moral in practice, you only recognize intent.

Should just law only recognize intent?

Terry

...

S Wissler's picture

Terry, I just skimmed your response (will look in more detail later), and I think I'm confused about what you are disagreeing with or why, your view sounds similar enough in meaning if not words. I.e. it seems like all this back and forth may just be quibbling over words.

Morally Perfect vs Perfectly Moral

tvr's picture

Shayne,

(Rational) morality and (just) law are related. Both involve principles derived from reason which one is meant to recognize, accept and adhere to. (Just) law codifies and enforces certain moral principles. Now, if I told you that I am perfectly legal (in what I am doing), you would understand what I mean. But if I told you that I am legally perfect (in what I am doing), you would probably wonder what I am on about. Only the law itself can be said to be "legally perfect". The same goes for "moral perfection" or being "morally perfect" which, in my mind, refers to some abstract moral ideal, implying the perfect morality perfectly applied. That I am "perfectly moral" (as opposed to morally perfect) is not some abstract ideal I have achieved, it simply means that I recognize, accept and consistently adhere to my rationally chosen moral code (the 7 virtues of Objectivism), the purpose of which is to maximize my chances of achieving my rationally chosen moral values. Eddie Willers is someone who was "perfectly moral" also, as was of course Dagny, Hank and Francisco in AS. John Galt by contrast was more than perfectly moral, he was "morally perfect". But, who is John Galt? Really? (Ayn Rand's own notes indicate that she expected the character to have "no progression" and "no inner conflict" because he was "integrated (indivisible) and perfect.")

"You didn't directly answer whether your character was perfect. For clarity here, you should."

The standard of "perfect" does not apply to the concept of "character", that is because the concept of "character" is open ended and includes both moral and non-moral qualities. In so far as perfection applies to moral qualities of character, the concept begs the question of one's chosen morality being the "perfect" one. As you have pointed out, to take the position that one's morality is not able to be improved upon is somewhat conceited and self-defeating. The only place where perfection applies therefore when it comes to moral character is in respect of one's adherence to one's chosen morals, assuming those morals are rationally derived. So no, I do not have a "perfect character", nor a "perfect moral character", but I am (being) perfectly moral by an Objectivist standard of morality and my own judgment.

"Given your "perfectly moral" status, I wonder what you think the point of studying or introspection is."

To improve one's overall character, hierarchy of values, and concept of morality if that is possible. To be the best person one can be so that one may morally pay for and enjoy the best that life has to offer.

"I wonder if there is anything about your character that you think could be improved."

Sure. Plenty. It will take me at least a lifetime to improve everything that can be improved.

"Do you always do the right thing in every circumstance?"

Of course not. Fallibility is a necessary part being perfectly moral. It is consistently correcting one's mistakes that makes one perfectly moral, not the ability not to make mistakes. If one were infallible and all-knowing, then one would be "morally perfect", which I am not.

"Do you ever find yourself thinking "I did this, I should have done that."?""

Of course. But I always make sure to learn from my mistakes, which with what keeps me (being) perfectly moral.

"I wonder what you think the point of philosophy is, for it certainly isn't necessary in order to be "perfectly moral.""

Sure it is. It is indispensable to being perfectly moral.

"And just what is the referent of "morally perfect", and its distinction with "perfectly moral"?"

My opening paragraph indicated this. The referent of "morally perfect" is the relationship of a symbolic figure who practices an ideal morality without ever committing breaches in that morality and that ideal morality. The morality can never be improved upon and the person never falters, making this concept a floating abstraction.

The referent of "perfectly moral", for me, is the relationship between a set of rational chosen moral principles (virtues) and a person's adherence to them in practice, whereby if breaches occur then they are always repaired such that the person's "fidelity to reality" and loyalty to their rationally chosen values is maintained.

"So if the virtue of pride is "moral ambitiousness", how can it be that you are both morally ambitious and also already achieved "perfectly moral" status long ago?"

To be perfectly moral according to a rational morality specifically requires one's practicing moral ambitiousness. And I never wrote "long ago".

"It seems to me that you have to be quite the opposite of morally ambitious when you have nothing more to do in the moral realm. And if you do have more to do in this realm, then why do you claim a "perfectly moral status"?"

You have completely misunderstood what I meant, as I hope is now clear to you from my response in this post. There is plenty to "do" in the moral realm in order to be "perfectly moral", and it is only by "doing it" that one can claim the status of being "perfectly moral".

Now, you write that according to your theory of morality that one can be "morally perfect" only in one sense: intent, but can never be morally perfect in actual practice, as I have described. Do I have this correct?

Terry

Pride

S Wissler's picture

So if the virtue of pride is "moral ambitiousness", how can it be that you are both morally ambitious and also already achieved "perfectly moral" status long ago?

It seems to me that you have to be quite the opposite of morally ambitious when you have nothing more to do in the moral realm. And if you do have more to do in this realm, then why do you claim a "perfectly moral status"?

Character

S Wissler's picture

You didn't directly answer whether your character was perfect. For clarity here, you should.

Given your "perfectly moral" status, I wonder what you think the point of studying or introspection is. I wonder if there is anything about your character that you think could be improved. Do you always do the right thing in every circumstance? Do you ever find yourself thinking "I did this, I should have done that."? I wonder what you think the point of philosophy is, for it certainly isn't necessary in order to be "perfectly moral." And just what is the referent of "morally perfect", and its distinction with "perfectly moral"?

> You seem to be making your morality your purpose or end. Is your purpose by any chance to die as "morally perfect" as possible?

That is a strikingly bizarre misinterpretation. Must you always reach for the most nonsensical way of interpreting? Is that "perfectly rational" Terry?

The better one acts in a given situation, the better. By striving to identify the best way to think/act, and striving to identify any differences from the ideal and your own behavior, you create the possibility of doing better in the future. That's the obvious interpretation of my view.

For the life of me I don't know why you reach for the weird when the plainly obvious is in front of you. I don't know how to interpret your weirdness.

End vs Means

tvr's picture

Shayne,

For someone who "never much liked the use of metaphor/analogy in philosophy" I am surprised - and glad - that you included one.

You asked:

"Would you make the claim that you are morally perfect?"

According to Objectivist ethics, per Galt's speech, "moral perfection is an un-breached rationality" while "The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action … It means a commitment to reason, not in sporadic fits or on selected issues or in special emergencies, but as a permanent way of life." I consider myself to have achieved and to be presently practicing/maintaining an un-breached rationality. I would not call this "moral perfection" though, only my being perfectly moral. The difference is analogous to achieving perfection of happiness versus being perfectly happy. So, as you can see, I disagree with Ayn Rand's wording here.

"Would you say that your *moral character* is perfect? Just what do you mean by "character"?"

A perfect moral character would be synonymous with "moral perfection". Character is "the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual". It is the form that a man's consciousness takes as guided by his consciously chosen values and as expressed in his consciously lived-by principles. If one isolates "moral character" from other qualities of character, that is to focus on what guides and expresses a man's consciousness by his conscious choices: his morality. It is to focus on the causal elements within a man's character.

"I think Objectivists have a childish and self-destructive view on this point"

How is what I have just described "childish and self-destructive" and "an abuse of morality"?

Earlier you wrote:

""I think that thinking of yourself as perfectly rational is the perfect recipe for becoming totally irrational"

I could agree only if you wrote "rationally perfect". You have arrived at this conclusion, I submit, only by conflating the moral sense of rationality with the non-moral senses of the word. One cannot be perfectly knowledgable (omniscient) nor perfectly skillful (infallible). Neither one's intelligence nor the extent of one's knowledge are matters for moral judgment, i.e., for judging moral character. They are however matters for judging a person's overall character. Tell me, how are you not conflating moral character with character, using my definition above?

Returning to your bodybuilding analogy now, how are you not confusing purpose with means? I view morality as a means to an end. That end is my purpose, the successful pursuit of which brings me self-esteem and happiness. You seem to be making your morality your purpose or end. Is your purpose by any chance to die as "morally perfect" as possible?

Terry

Context

S Wissler's picture

Just trying to understand your context. If you've read The Objectivist, OK.

Would you make the claim that you are morally perfect? Would you say that your *moral character* is perfect? Just what do you mean by "character"?

The issue of moral perfection has been discussed a lot by Objectivists, e.g.:

http://www.atlassociety.org/tn...

If I were a body builder, then I'd have an ideal in mind as a standard, and I'd compare myself to that standard to decide how to act, in order to get better. It's a way to guide my workouts. I wouldn't use this perfect standard as a way of making myself feel good or bad about myself, but just as a way of measuring so that I can figure out what to do next. I see a morally perfect standard the same way. I compare my behavior to a perfect standard, and try to become better and better. Further, I have to realize that my grasp of what constitutes "perfect" might evolve over time, as my knowledge expands. It's a very dynamic view.

I think Objectivists have a childish and self-destructive view on this point. They would naturally then either lower their standard to match their current physical appearance, therefore not improving at all, or they'd beat themselves up over not being ideal and feel horrible about themselves, or they'd be deluded and think they match the ideal when in fact they are very far from it. This is an abuse of morality.

Shayne

tvr's picture

"... your remarks seem so misguided that I'm very inclined to blame your ignorance/misunderstanding and not Objectivism"

Perhaps its neither and you simply misinterpreted me? What remarks of mine seem "so misguided"? You do not state.

And I am not meaning to come across as if to speak "authoritatively". I mean only to speak knowledgeably, with the proviso that I may very well be mistaken.

What is the official "corpus" of Objectivism according to you? I own and have read all of the non-fiction books and periodicals listed here, except for Ayn Rand’s Marginalia, Russian Writings on Hollywood and Why Businessmen Need Philosophy which I neither own nor have read, and The Art of Fiction and The Art of Non-Fiction which I own but have not read. Of course I have read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead multiple times, as well as Anthem. I own We The Living but have not read it. Like you though it has been some time since I have read from much of this list.

Note that when I write "Recall that Objectivist ethics does not permit considerations of psychology to come in to ethics other than determining whether one is sane or not", I am writing about applied ethics, not theoretical ethics. I did not mean to imply that a theory of ethics and an understanding human psychology are mutually exclusive, which of course is not the case. Ayn Rand's "Psycho-epistemology" being a case in point. My point was that Objectivism holds that a rational ethics should not require one to psychologize (as a psychologist would) about the subconsciouses of others in order to be able to proceed to judge them morally. This is why Ayn Rand dismissed "psychologizing" as being non-objective. Objective judgment, according to Objectivism, involves judging other people's conscious convictions and actions. Not their subconsciouses. That is my understanding.

Terry

Psychology

S Wissler's picture

Terry, how much of the Objectivist corpus have you read? E.g., have you read Nathaniel Branden's articles in "The Objectivist"?

I admit that it's been many years since I read them, but your remarks seem so misguided that I'm very inclined to blame your ignorance/misunderstanding and not Objectivism. In any case, if you have not read the entire Objectivist corpus I don't think you should be speaking authoritatively about what Objectivism says. And if you have read it, well either it's much worse than I remember, or you're not reading it correctly.

Moving along

tvr's picture

Shayne,

The circumstances of trying to survive day-to-day in a full blown totalitarian state was an example. The point is that where long range considerations are denied due to the use of force, then morality can no longer apply, that is, at least not a rational morality. The question is whether there is on-going psychological effects of habitual amoral living under those forceable circumstances that invariably affects one's ability to be moral when normality is resumed and moral living is required. I am not an expert on psychology so am not making any claims with regards to it. You are making claims with regards to it. I am asking you for evidence to back up your claim of it being "a very common occurrence" for children to grow up being forced to lie, and that the effect of many years of such forced lying causes those children not to be able to cold turkey stop lying when they are adults. Thus far you have refused or unable to provide said evidence. I have accepted that habituated unforced lying is difficult if not impossible to stop cold turkey, the reason being that one is engaging in evasion of reality to engage in that type of lying. I question whether forced and unforced lying have the same psychological effects, since forced lying does not deny one the opportunity to still be true to oneself even though one is being untruthful to others. That is where we are at.

If the evidence you do provide shows that amoral living does not invariably affect one's ability to be moral when moral living is required, then the next question is why is that so? Why is it variable?

Recall that Objectivist ethics does not permit considerations of psychology to come in to ethics other than determining whether one is sane or not. If one is sane, meaning one can exercise free will, and one is not living in amoral circumstances whereby moral living is prevented due to the immorality of others, then morality applies according to Objectivism. Period. With Objectivism, moral perfection is the starting point whereby immorality can enter the equation in degrees. Your theory is different. You want to include psychology in your ethics and not allow moral perfection except in one of your three "senses" (intent). I question but am not dismissing the need, prudence and objectivity of your including psychological considerations in your ethics (other than for establishing sanity/the presence of free will). I have accepted that a lifetime of habitual lying cannot be stopped easily. You are arguing that it cannot be stopped without many failed attempts at stopping to lie, with the reason for this being psychological in nature in that the subconscious automates the lying, with, as I understand it, lots of supposed deeply imbedded lies surfacing subconsciously and needing to be dealt with. One cannot practically deal with all those imperfections in one go. I get the idea. Again, I simply want to know the science behind it, not the philosophy. That is where we are at. It's your theory so I should not by rights be the one doing the work gathering the evidence. And BTW your having "once listened to an ARI Objectivist lecturer on just this point" does not qualify as evidence.

Terry

You sorta got me there...

S Wissler's picture

It's not that I think my rough theory here is perfect (after all I've been refining it here). It's more about this:

> identifying truth in a discussion should be a collaborative and ideally enjoyable joint effort

I was enjoying it up until you went off into crazy land with your unprincipled unilateral dismissal of evidence, followed up quickly by an apparent refusal to even try to generate your own examples that might contrast with your interpretations of the one at hand. At that point I was just irritated.

A Lesson On Collaboration

tvr's picture

Shayne, this now patronizing approach to your psychologizing (and yes, that is what you are engaging in in presuming to know my capacity for effort, exertion of the same, intelligence, attitude and/or motives), begs the question not only that all of the assumptions, facts, inferences, logic and conclusions of your ethical "theory" are infallibly correct, but also that you have explained yourself clearly and fully.

As to my being your "student", all I can say is that identifying truth in a discussion should be a collaborative and ideally enjoyable joint effort, not a confrontational and distasteful fracas as you always seem to want to make it. Surely you can do better. One can always do better, right?

Terry

Psychologizing?

S Wissler's picture

Would it be psychologizing to observe that you're not a very enterprising student and that this is causing me too much work?

All I'm doing is giving your intelligence credit, and making the logical inference about your attitude. Nothing too psychologically fancy really.

See if you can put the pieces together more intelligently than you have done so far and I'll resume. Surely you can do better. One can always do better, right?

E for Ethics

tvr's picture

Shayne, given how inaccurately you identify my psychology from what you "feel" about me over the internet, and given how you continually moralize on your inaccurate assessments of my psychology, I should flunk you on ethics with a capital "E". I won't though, because you do have some interesting things to say, which is why I persist where no one else would. If you want to answer my questions, do so. If you don't, that is fine too, but please do not be so pretentious and presumptuous as to psychologize my motives, effort, attitude or otherwise. It does you no favors.

"Psychologizing consists in condemning or excusing specific individuals on the grounds of their psychological problems, real or invented, in the absence of or contrary to factual evidence."

"Pretentiousness and presumptuousness are the psychologizer’s invariable characteristics: he not merely invades the privacy of his victims’ minds, he claims to understand their minds better than they do, to know more than they do about their own motives. With reckless irresponsibility, which an old-fashioned mystic oracle would hesitate to match, he ascribes to his victims any motivation that suits his purpose, ignoring their denials."

[Ayn Rand, “The Psychology of ‘Psychologizing’,” The Objectivist, March 1971]

C for effort

S Wissler's picture

If you were really using the fullest extent of your effort in trying to make sense of things, I'd feel bad for you Terry, but I tend to think your real problem is your attitude.

Piece Of Work

tvr's picture

This is not you "bowing out", Shayne, it's you "diving". Again.

Terry

Too much work

S Wissler's picture

Terry, I think you're making me do too much work for you.

Bowing out.

Amoral Circumstances, Not Emergency Ethics

tvr's picture

Shayne,

You wrote:

"This is not a "special case"; it's a very common occurrence."

I grant you that what you mention in your example occurs. But a very common occurrence? From what facts are you concluding that?

"I think what you've done here is radically pragmatist."

I think you mean pragmatistic. What I would like you to do is to demonstrate that you are basing your conclusion on real facts and not yourself being radically idealistic. That is me being objective.

"I won't say I question your motives."

Your statement implies that you are questioning my motives.

"I mean, all you've done here is grant yourself an arbitrary license to throw out rational, principled reasoning, on the grounds that *you* have unilaterally declared "emergency!"

I made a sloppy mistake and apologize (I shouldn't have been replying to you in the wee hours when my mind was prone to faltering). I did not mean emergency ethics per se, I meant the ethical equivalent to that of living in a full blown totalitarian state. Ayn Rand wrote on this, and as far as I recall concluded that it was an amoral situation, which made sense to me. This is where I draw the link. In this situation one cannot operate on principle where day-to-day survival is all one is fighting for, in which case each person will fight for their highest value/s, whatever that may be, by whatever means.

Morality is a discipline that can only apply to choice. So in a situation where the assumptions you propose in your example apply, whereby a person has essentially been forced to think like an animal, moment to moment, in that they have no control over their habituated behavior, surely this would create a situation where one should judge and treat that habituated person amorally in respect of their habituated behavior (and amorally only in respect of their habituated behavior)? And where the habituated behavior was initially chosen and not forced upon them, then moral judgment should still apply? THAT is what I meant when I asked whether an ethical theory should be built on such situations, which I cannot accept are "very common"/the norm, certainly not just on your saying so.

Terry

When did you stop beating your wife?

S Wissler's picture

This is not a "special case"; it's a very common occurrence.

I think what you've done here is radically pragmatist. You are forced to be a pragmatist because you are holding Rand's view (as you understand it, or probably, misunderstand it) as absolute instead of reality as absolute. Ergo something has got to give, so now when things break down, you proclaim "exception to the rule!" But that's not how principled thinking works. That's cheating. It's taking the easy way out when you get into a spot of difficulty.

I won't say I question your motives. But I certainly think your thinking method is horrible. There's nothing I can do with it. So this line of questioning, while maybe it led to some more mutual understanding, is futile. Either you are going to be rationally disciplined and principled or not. If you pick "not" as you've done, there's just no authentic communication possible.

I mean, all you've done here is grant yourself an arbitrary license to throw out rational, principled reasoning, on the grounds that *you* have unilaterally declared "emergency!" It reminds me of the government's behavior. They use "emergency" to violate principle too. It's "a war on terror", so we're in a state of war, so to hell with The Bill of Rights. Same authoritarian premises. Same results.

Mulling

tvr's picture

Shayne,

With regards your example, I was not positing my position, I was questioning yours. I was being a devil's advocate. What you write seems plausible, but I think, as your title stated, it is a matter for the science of psychology, not philosophy, to determine what the situation is in special cases like that.

Let me mull on it and do some research. While I am not totally ignorant on the subject, I feel out of my depth on special cases that require a more in depth knowledge of psychology.

My question now is: should an ethical theory be built on the basis of special cases. Is this not akin to emergency ethics? How many children grow up in households where their parents force them to lie habitually for extended periods in self-defense?

Terry

Psychology

S Wissler's picture

This issue of being "painfully aware" would happen if your situation were temporary and you already possessed a sophisticated idea of morality and could, each time you lied, identify the principle behind it, and in that case you probably wouldn't habituate the lying (I can't speak for what might happen if you were stuck in that environment for 30 years) but if you were raised in that environment you'd not make such discriminations.

You seem to be trying to rewrite reality (specifically, psychology) to match your view of morality. In any case, that's just not how people work. A child is not going to do as you say, he's just not developed enough.

As it happens I once listened to an ARI Objectivist lecturer on just this point. He specifically said that being in a PhD program corrupted his habits (he had to learn to be dishonest in certain respects just to make it through), and although he was very aware of why he was doing it and that it wasn't wrong in that context, he caught himself afterwards doing it in inappropriate contexts and had to relearn how to deal properly and honestly with people.

We are not robots, we can't just switch our psychological responses off and on like a switch.

So, I think you're out of line not just with me, but with Objectivists as well.

Habitual liars

tvr's picture

Shayne,

Your example is a good one.

Practically speaking, could it not be that such a person might know consciously each time they are lying that it is wrong, and grow to have a distaste for the lying, because they are in effect being forced to lie because of their situation? I would question whether such a person, far from automating their habit of lying, will be painfully conscious of it and be able to stop it cold turkey when it is no longer required. Why? Because in the situation you have described they are not trying to gain the unearned. They are just trying to protect the earned. In a situation where they are seeking the unearned through their lying, THEN automating the lying would make them morally responsible for their habit. The question in that case comes down to whether they had any inkling that their lying was morally wrong, but they chose to blank out and overrule the fact and lie anyway. Per my last post, if the lying is willful and knowing, then it could be argued that the person should be held morally responsible for the subconscious consequences, but if it is not willful and knowing, then they shouldn't be. I would concede that conscious lying is much more immoral than lying as the result of trying to break a past habit of willful lying.

The issue of distrust is another matter, and I agree with you there that the habit of unfair judgment of others' trustworthiness may quite well become automated and a habit that could be difficult to rectify. But not trusting others does not wrong those others does it? No rational person expects others to trust them as a moral issue. Morally, a rational person does however expect not to be lied to. The virtue of justice pertains primarily to judging and giving praise and condemning the actions of others judiciously and objectively, and is not a matter of "trusting" as far as I understand it.

Terry

Moral habits

S Wissler's picture

I can't see anything to disagree with in your analysis of moral habits.

Let's bring in an example to try to come to terms with your previous question.

Suppose you have a child that grew up in an environment that was very untrustworthy and unjust. So he learned to lie as a self-defense mechanism. There's nothing necessarily immoral about this. Then he gets into a relationship with an actually good person, but still habitually lies. He catches himself at various points *after* he lied, tries to remedy the problem, but in the moment, he lies. (Or it could be even psychologically worse -- he might distrust unfairly -- this is unjust but even more difficult to detect and avoid than lying).

So in one sense he is moral, in the sense that he has good faith and is trying to remedy his bad habit. But in another sense, he is a compulsive liar. He can't stop himself. So in this sense he is not virtuous. I would not levy the charge "immoral!" if he was trying, but technically he is immoral.

Water Under Bridge

tvr's picture

I know you didn't reply twice to any given response. My last word though dealt only to your comment that implied I was being a hypocrite re copyright, and all I did in that comment was demonstrate that I wasn't being a hypocrite. I didn't edit any of my comments later. All editing I did was done prior to any of your replies. Obviously, I do not think that I came across in any way as being spiteful. Let's leave it at that.

Amazon

S Wissler's picture

> It seems Amazon thought at least one of us was being "spiteful".

They would have had to think two of us were for it to fit the facts -- I distinctly recall letting you have the last word and I didn't reply twice to a given response of yours.

Otherwise, you edited your remarks somewhat later, or we just misremembered what was actually said. It's also possible that either of us posted and edited fairly quickly, and the other ended up seeing the initial version of the comment.

Habits & Amazon comments

tvr's picture

Shayne,

I agree re (mental) habits, that is, to the extent that a cognitive habit is subconsciously automated. No such habit would pertain however to what you have described as rationality in your first sense. Nor would any such habit pertain to Objectivism's 6 other fundamental virtues. Not as far as I can make out anyway.

Here is a pertinent quote from Ayn Rand on the subject, from "The Comprachicos":

"The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not an automatic, but a volitional process—i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally. It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned—it is the most crucially important part of learning—and all of man’s other capacities depend on how well or how badly he learns it.

This skill does not pertain to the particular content of a man’s knowledge at any given age, but to the method by which he acquires and organizes knowledge—the method by which his mind deals with its content. The method programs his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function. The programming of a man’s subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires; these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology.

It is a child’s early experiences, observations and subverbal conclusions that determine this programming. Thereafter, the interaction of content and method establishes a certain reciprocity: the method of acquiring knowledge affects its content, which affects the further development of the method, and so on."

I can see how cognitive skill as it relates to rationality could potentially come into the morality equation in the sense that one may be said to be morally responsible for poor mental habits that have been willfully chosen and subconsciously automated. Not all poor mental habits that have been automated by the subconscious are chosen willfully though, or, at least, are not chosen with the knowledge of the consequences, particularly those chosen at an early age. So I would say that to the extent that one has willfully chosen and automated a bad mental habit knowing that one's choice is morally wrong then one may argue that one should be held morally responsible for that habit until the subconscious method of thinking is rectified. But I cannot see how one can ever be said to be morally responsible for poor mental habits that were not willfully chosen knowing that the choice is bad or wrong, or for any errors in fact or logic that result due to a lack of knowledge.

If you can elaborate on my questions from this, when you find time, that would be appreciated.

Re the deleted Amazon comments, I checked and you are correct that you cannot delete comments, so they would have been deleted by Amazon. Amazon writes: "In order to facilitate customer participation in our discussion boards, we encourage them to discuss the topic and information related to it. However, posts which are spiteful will be removed. We do not allow name calling in our discussion boards." (http://tinyurl.com/lwrhon8)

It seems Amazon thought at least one of us was being "spiteful".

Terry

Virtue as habit

S Wissler's picture

Terry, it seems to me it's a rather uncontroversial and classical view of virtue as a habit. It's only a choice insofar as one has a choice to cultivate habits, or when one happens to notice that one has repeated a habit one previously thought was bad. And we can't simply choose to eradicate a bad habit instantly.

I could go into detail on your questions, and maybe I will, but it seems that you're coming from a very weird point of view. Now maybe indeed Rand's view is weird. It's been a long time since I've systematically read everything she had to say. Frankly it wouldn't surprise me if her views here were weird. I think she was sloppy and pretty much immune to being corrected about anything.

In any case I would invite you to step back and do your own thinking on this and then letting me know if your questions still stand as is. If so I'll go ahead and answer.

Allegedly deleted Amazon comments

S Wissler's picture

As far as I know, I have no power whatsoever to delete Amazon comments. In any case *I* certainly didn't delete or edit anything. (In fact I was going to ask you the same question -- when I went back the comments did not seem to be what I remembered.)

In any case I'm trying to avoid too much of getting into *that*... Yeah I mentioned it in passing, not to re-adjudicate who's right or wrong, but just to say that I don't think it's fair to sum up my view as being something in total contradiction to what I say it is, particularly not without doing what you're doing now (i.e. engaging to figure out how it could make sense).

Avoiding Original Sin

tvr's picture

Shayne,

A few more questions, if you would oblige me:

According to you, does morality only pertain to that which is open to one's choice?

Would you agree with the following statement: An error of knowledge (whether due to a lack of knowledge or a lack of skill) is not a moral flaw, provided that the error was not made willfully and you are willing to correct it?

If you do, then isn't the additional 2 senses of rationality that you have outlined of no consequence whatever to a theory of ethics? Should not how one should goes about optimizing one's knowledge and skill as it pertains to reasoning/rationality properly belong in epistemology and not ethics?

For me, rationality is the mental commitment to optimal reasoning and the subsequent practice of the same to the extent that one's ability and availability of knowledge allows. By this definition, perfect rationality in the moral sense is open to all who choose it and follow through. As far as I am concerned, assessing people in moral terms, whether directly or indirectly, according to their reasoning skills and/or availability of knowledge, would be to corrupt the concepts both of morality and virtue (as far as rationality relates to them). It would lead one to the ridiculous conclusion, for instance, that as people age and become more decrepit, they become less moral or virtuous, which I understand is NOT your position, correct (?).

You wrote:

"I will say this. I question your good faith when you pin this "Original Sin" concept on me (as you did in your Amazon review), without first having verified that I actually believe what you think I believe."

You are always questioning my good faith. It is tiresome.

I never stated that you are advocating Original Sin, secular or otherwise, neither here nor on Amazon. Check the records. On the Amazon review I wrote "One could be forgiven for mistaking the idea as forming the basis for a secular version of Original Sin". That is to say that I accepted and acknowledged that you did not "mean" to advocate a secular version of Original Sin in your book, and that I was giving you the benefit of the doubt such that, properly understood, your idea would NOT be a secular version of Original Sin, but, nevertheless, when it is written that ""We must take full responsibility for the integration of individual sensations into a percept", that, for an Objectivist (which is the premise from which I wrote the review, remember), one CAN easily mistake what you wrote for "forming the basis for a secular version of Original Sin". I stand by this.

And how am I "pinning" anything on you here on this thread? I am simply asking you questions to properly understand your position and what it means. Everything on this thread pertains to the branch of philosophy that is ethics, and in postulating your own theory - a side discussion to the main one, which is Ayn Rand's ethics - you are bringing skill and knowledge into the equation. This is a conflation which, unless properly categorized (which is what I am doing by way of clarification), potentially does lead to a secular version of Original Sin.

And while we are on the subject of of Amazon, I noticed just now upon visiting the Book Review page that you seem to have deleted our lengthy comments which pertained to discussing what you saw as the errors in my review. Did you delete them? If so, why?

Terry

Terry questions

S Wissler's picture

> According to your three definitions of rationality then, can one be perfectly rational in all three senses?

No. You can't have perfect knowledge or skill. You can always refine and improve those. But one can be perfect in the 1st sense.

> Do any of these three senses not pertain to morality, whereby one does not engage in vice by not achieving (perfect) rationality in that sense when one could have?

A person of lesser skill or knowledge has more moral room for mistakes. He can make them and still have good faith. So it's the implication of the knowledge/skill that connects to morality, not the knowledge skill as such.

If you believe in a concept of "rational" that is false, and if rationality is commitment to reason, then it can't be reason that you are actually committed to, ergo you cannot be rational. It is not the belief as such that makes you irrational in this sense, it is the implication of the belief.

How much good faith you could possibly have given a certain range of errors depends on your context. A child raised in an insane environment has more excuse to have wrong conceptions.

> What about if one's ability is limited in one sense, does that then mean one can still attain moral perfection in that sense?

The only way I think we can be perfect is in having good faith; the other areas can always be improved.

Since reason is self-correcting, good faith typically leads to improvement in the other areas over time. However, as we age we become decrepit. Our knowledge and skill fade. We become less rational in these senses.

> If all three senses pertain to morality, and one cannot practically attain perfection in all three senses, how are you not advocating that to be human is to be unavoidably immoral in some sense? How would this be any different to a secular concept of Original Sin?

To infer Original Sin from all this (as you accused me of on Amazon) is blatant non-sequitur.

Rather than have me try to guess where on Earth you get that from, you should tell me what wrong assumptions of yours, about my view, have led you to this view.

I will say this. I question your good faith when you pin this "Original Sin" concept on me (as you did in your Amazon review), without first having verified that I actually believe what you think I believe.

Possibility For Moral Perfection

tvr's picture

Shayne,

You wrote:

"And missing details or imperfect expression means imperfection."

According to your three definitions of rationality then, can one be perfectly rational in all three senses? Are you yourself? Do you know anyone who is? Has anyone ever been, and if so, who? Do any of these three senses not pertain to morality, whereby one does not engage in vice by not achieving (perfect) rationality in that sense when one could have? What about if one's ability is limited in one sense, does that then mean one can still attain moral perfection in that sense? If all three senses pertain to morality, and one cannot practically attain perfection in all three senses, how are you not advocating that to be human is to be unavoidably immoral in some sense? How would this be any different to a secular concept of Original Sin?

These are serious and not rhetorical questions by the way, so I hope you will oblige me by addressing each question individually rather than giving a blanket response. Thanks.

Terry

Meaning of rationality; summary

S Wissler's picture

So here is a broad outline of my theory of rationality as a virtue as of now. Take this as a revision of my prior posts.

To be rational can mean one of three things (i.e. there are three senses of the word):

1. Good faith. This is commitment to the broad outlines of doing whatever is right, and knowing that that means figuring out what is right, taking full responsibility for what one decides is right (i.e. independence). Think here of Eddie Willers when he said he wanted to do the right thing, whatever it was.

This is a black and white concept; either you have good faith or you do not. Usually the term "irrational" refers to the opposite of this particular sense but not the others.

2. Knowledge. You have a *correct* idea of what it means to be rational. If your idea of "reason" is a counterfeit, you can't be said to be rational in this sense, because in fact you are not following an authentic reason, you are worshiping a false idol. This is idea of reason is broad and deep (it includes a specific metaphysics and epistemology to the extent that one has worked it out). People can make a mistake, think that reason is one thing, but be honestly wrong. In this case they can still be rational in the 1st sense but not fully the this 2nd sense. But if they get indications that they are on the wrong track and then ignore those signs, then they are not rational in the first sense either.

There are differences of depth of understanding, and therefore there are differences in degree of rationality in this sense.

3. Skill. People can be better or worse at applying their idea of reason, particularly in the heat of the moment. So people can be more or less rational in this respect as well. If they make a mistake in application and then try to improve their skill and correct their error (if possible), they retain their rationality in the 1st sense, but if they do not then they are no longer rational in that sense.

Commitment to reason

S Wissler's picture

My last remark isn't entirely accurate. While one's intentions are black and white (and this was the 3rd aspect of rationality I alluded to but didn't name), to *actually* be committed to reason means to know what reason is. And that's not simple.

So, if you claim to be perfectly committed to following reason, then you are claiming a perfect knowledge of just what reason is, and that kind of arrogance means that you aren't actually following reason, since reason tells us that a perfect knowledge is what we strive for, but don't actually ever reach. We don't become omniscient about what reason is in its fully elaborated glory. What we have at any given time is our expressed idea of it (and my most refined idea of it as of now is in my book "REASON and LIBERTY", at least in fundamental terms), but to be rational, we are open to the idea that we may have missed some details or may be able to express ourselves better or even may have gotten something wrong (just as my previous post isn't quite right). And missing details or imperfect expression means imperfection.

At best you can have a perfectly good intention. (And I think your intentions *may* be perfectly good Terry, but I'm not sure, because it seems like you refuse to correct errors at times.)

Incidentally I was thinking about including a chapter on virtue in my book (it certainly logically belongs), but that got cut in the interest of time/priorities. I may add one in the future.

Who is rational?

S Wissler's picture

I would say if you have an actual commitment, then I would regard you as rational. Skill is not relevant. Judging whether someone actually is committed is not necessarily trivial.

I.e., there are two senses of the word "rational" here, one refers to commitment, the other to skill. If I said, "he is very rational", I'm referring to skill (since "very" implies a degree). If I said "he is rational", I'm referring to commitment (since commitment is black and white).

I know a lot of rational people.

Fidelity vs Connection To Reality

tvr's picture

Shayne,

I agree that virtue involves both a mental commitment and actual practice. I also agree that logic is an acquired skill, making the practice of consistent rationality an acquired skill.

You offer a false dichotomy though in stating that it is a "fantasy view that rationality is a choice and not a complex skill", unless you meant "…is not both a choice and a complex skill".

Falling off the logical bike does not make one irrational unless one has no commitment to get back on the bike when one falls off, or fails to.

Another analogy for you re rationality being all or nothing, with degrees of irrationality. Rationality is like a hull of a ship. It is either water tight or it is not. To the degree that it is not watertight, it will let water in, and the ship may sink, depending on how much water is let in. Now, if one is committed to maintaining an un-breached hull, then if a leak springs, whether through one's own negligence or otherwise, then provided one immediately gets to work fixing it and re-sealing the hull, and so long as one reseals the hull, one qualifies as being fully rational, despite the lapse in water-tightness. This is how I (and as I understand Objectivism, Objectivism) view the commitment vs practice requirement of rationality. To me what you have written reads like if someone is momentarily illogical, then they are at that moment not rational. This is true. But provided they fix the logic, once the logic is fixed and their "fidelity to reality" achieves "connection to reality", they are once again fully rational. It is in this sense that I mean rationality is an all or nothing thing. As I understand you, you would not consider such a person as being fully rational, because they faltered. And there is our discrepancy.

Re your "jab" on children, you should know that I am a proud and interested uncle, and soget to witness much of my nieces' early development, so I am not completely out in the cold.

And as for your judging me as being irrational, again, if you were to adopt my premise and apply my standard and concept of rationality, you would arrive at the fact that I am rational. It is only because you hold a different premise, and apply a different standard and concept of rationality, that I am irrational according to your "perspective".

Can I ask, how many rational people (per your definition) do you know?

Terry

Virtue

S Wissler's picture

I think there are at least two key aspects to virtue: 1) commitment; 2) practice. (I could argue for one more but will leave this here.)

Commitment means you decide that the virtue is good and that you should strive to practice it perfectly. You never consciously betray it. But virtue is complex and you can make mistakes.

For example, as you observe I have called you irrational. I've gone back and forth in my own mind as to whether your problem is with #1 or #2. It is typical of youth to have a problem with #2. They may have thought that a given thread of reasoning was logical, but in fact it wasn't logical at all. They can't be said to be fully rational when they are unskilled at being logical.

But on the other hand, a poor conception of just what reason is, will effectively result in a problem with #1. Objectivists tend to mess this one up when they e.g. have a woozy idea of what the concept "context" can excuse. They tend to over use it, and then cheat a proper concept of reason, letting themselves off the hook for more than they should. This is probably in part to support the fantasy view that rationality is a choice and not a complex skill -- they can't allow themselves to think that they might not be fully rational, therefore they destroy the concept of reason in order to make room for their avoidable mistakes.

The fact is that reason is a complicated concept, so following reason is complicated. It's not a simple choice. The virtue of rationality is a rich concept that is not easily identified in precise terms. And without identifying it precisely, you can't be said to be committed to it perfectly.

And speaking of children, if you had any you'd probably know all this... Smiling

In any case it's probably impossible to see eye to eye on any of this given such a radical difference of opinion on what "virtue" means. I think that thinking of yourself as perfectly rational is the perfect recipe for becoming totally irrational.

Degrees of irrationality, not rationality

tvr's picture

Shayne,

I agree with your comment that using analogies should only be for enhancing communication and not used as a substitute for factual discussion. That is how I used the analogy so I trust you were not implying that I was using it as a substitute?

You are also correct that my position is that "rationality is either on or off". I disagree with you however that there are degrees of rationality, there are only degrees of irrationality. By metaphor, the different types of flightless birds I listed in my analogy were but a sample of degrees of flightlessness, i.e., how far removed the bird is from attaining flight. The reality is that a bird can either fly or it cannot, and in the same way a man is either rational or he is not, honest or not, has integrity or not, etc. Virtues are rational principles that one practices consistently. Vices are rational principles that one does not practice consistently, and to the degree that one does not practice them, one is vicious. Note that etymologically, both words come from the same root - Latin "vitium", meaning "defect, blemish, imperfection,". If man does not employ reason at all then he cannot live and has not lived existentially, he never becomes 'man'. To the extent that he does not employ reason when he is able to, he is irrational. By employing reason as his sole means to knowledge and guide to action, he is rational and is living as "man qua man".

"It's quite possible for someone who explicitly rejects the ideal of total rationality to be more rational than one who explicitly accepts it. So, I can't buy your theory"

If you accept my premise, then you would mean less irrational, not more rational.

"Further, because of the fact that most people are partly rational, there's a foothold for arguing that they should be fully rational. So I reject your initial premise as well."

Again, this is begging the question that one can be partly rational. One cannot be partly honest any more than one can be partly dead. There are degrees of living though.

"Also, you basically just affirmed the title of this thread. You've implicitly said that the choice to follow reason or not is based on a whim."

How have I done this?

Terry

Metaphor: the mirage of reason

S Wissler's picture

That was the title of a talk by Gary Hull some years ago.

I've never much liked the use of metaphor/analogy in philosophy. It's OK as a communication tool, like an orientation of prelude for something that will come later, but it should never be used as a substitute for explicitly addressing the facts in their own terms.

Your position implicitly claims that rationality is either on or off, yet I think there are degrees of rationality. It's quite possible for someone who explicitly rejects the ideal of total rationality to be more rational than one who explicitly accepts it. So, I can't buy your theory.

Further, because of the fact that most people are partly rational, there's a foothold for arguing that they should be fully rational. So I reject your initial premise as well.

Also, you basically just affirmed the title of this thread. You've implicitly said that the choice to follow reason or not is based on a whim.

Hawk vs Owl

tvr's picture

Shayne,

Your reply heading read "Analogies" and for the briefest of moments there I got excited because I thought it said "Apologies". Now, if you were to see the funny side of our interaction you would have done that on purpose and tell me "gotcha!". Anyhow...

"I like how you didn't answer my question. It's your analogy. If you don't want to actually use it for real-world cases, why bring it up?"

I gave you the choice because I thought you'd be more familiar with Bertrand Russell than I am. You did not state why you rejected it despite my showing that it is was apt. What is not fitting?

By my reckoning, Bertrand Russell, along with all other intelligent but non-rational philosophers, should be classed as penguins. They may think that they are flying, and in a certain sense they even may look like they are flying, but they are not in fact flying, nor can they. Interestingly The Penguin, the fictional super-villain who is one of Batman's oldest and most persistent enemies, is known for his love of birds, and unlike most of Batman's foes is in control of his actions and perfectly sane.

Let me extend my analogy further.

Both you and I are fundamentally rational people (your protestations about me to the contrary). We therefore both qualify as flying birds, but we are quite different species, as evidenced by our approach to discussing ideas. I would class you as a Great Horned Owl, myself a Red-Tailed Hawk:

"The Great Horned Owl is fearless and aggressive, and will frequently attack prey larger and heavier than itself, including cats, skunks and porcupines. If a nesting area is threatened, these birds will even attack large dogs and other predators, including humans. They are primarily nocturnal birds and hunt from perches, where they silently watch and listen for prey before taking flight."

"Even though the Hawk is known for being a violent predator, the bird is actually on the peaceful side. Red-tailed Hawks are large, sharp-taloned birds that can be aggressive when defending nests or territories. They frequently chase off … Great Horned Owls."

I'll leave the title of Golden Eagle to the likes of Ayn Rand.

Perhaps you will look to move past the analogy if you don't like it and address what else I wrote in response to you in my earlier post?

Terry

Analogies

S Wissler's picture

I like how you didn't answer my question. It's your analogy. If you don't want to actually use it for real-world cases, why bring it up?

> Which bird would you nominate Bertrand Russell as being?

I wouldn't use your analogy at all, unless I was in a bad mood. And I'd pick a different animal. E.g. my car went into the shop, they didn't install the bumper correctly, so I fixed it myself, thinking that they'd probably just screw it up again if I took it back. I wasn't happy so I called them "monkeys". And indeed I think there's a lot of primate behavior out there.

I don't think Bertrand Russell was right about everything, far from it. I think his dogmatic anti-certainty is blatantly hypocritical, and it's tantamount to philosophical malpractice. However, given his context, I can understand why he adopted this nonsensical posture. But I'm not inclined to call him a "monkey" or a "dodo" or anything else. I'll just point out his folly and also his good works.

Flightless birds

tvr's picture

Shayne,

It depends how far you want to take the analogy.

I think the analogy is apt in that the concept of flight is intimately connected to birds, but in areas where birds have no need for flight to survive qua animal, they lose the ability for flight. By the same token, when man is able to survive "qua animal" in a society without the need for rationality, evolution takes its course. The only way to ensure that "man qua man" survives, and not man qua animal, is to foster a society that rewards rationality and penalizes irrationality, then evolution will take its course in the direction of man qua man.

Some birds are fully flightless like the Kiwi or Dodo, which are both quite pathetic birds really, one on the verge of extinction, the other long since extinct. Others are powerful birds of flight but whose wings have been clipped by humans. Some domestic species have been bred to be flightless but their ancestors are all accomplished fliers, like the Turkey. While others are almost flightless, and use their wings only for display purposes and to glide from predators when in danger, like the Kagu. Some are extremely fast, big and powerful in their own right even though the have no ability to fly, like the Ostrich. While others, like the penguin, swim through water while employing a flying motion, but are, of course, not actually flying (even though they may "feel" like they are).

Which bird would you nominate Bertrand Russell as being?

Terry

Terry

S Wissler's picture

Just to try to get my full bearings on what it is you are trying to say here, would you say that, say, Bertrand Russell was akin to a "flightless dodo"? In rough terms, about how large is this group of "flightless dodos" to whom you refer?

Shayne

tvr's picture

You wrote:

"So at this point, I am merely asking for Rand's reason why one *should* be rational."

Ayn Rand never stated that individuals should be rational without qualification. Rationality is not an Objectivist edict. What she stated was that man must be rational to be man (in the sense of 'man' being the human individual as representing the species, the species being man "the rational animal"). To conclude that an actual individual should be rational presupposes a "given" and an "if". i.e., given that one possesses free will and the capacity to reason, if one wants to live "qua man", i.e., as a rational animal, then one not only should, but must choose to be rational. The Law of Identity demands it.

Ayn Rand implied that non-rational individuals are, in essence, unrealized men, sub-human in the sense that they have defaulted on exercising the very faculty that makes them a member of the species 'man'. Like a flightless bird still being a type of bird, the irrational man is still a type of man, but not a realized man - he is not a man who is living "qua man". The irrational man is thus the human equivalent of a Kiwi, a Dodo, and with the same fate as the latter. A man is irrational by choice though, whereas the Kiwi and Dodo has no choice as to its identity. Man is unique in that he can choose his identity.

Thus, as with A=A, in order for man (the rational animal) to survive as man (the rational animal), he must practice rationality, the mental stance of having 'fidelity to reality'. It is as simple as that. Thus, rationality is axiomatic to Objectivist ethics, which recognizes that it is the choice of each individual as to whether they want to live and survive "qua man", a positive decision necessitating choosing rationality and all that it entails, which is outlined in the Objectivist ethics. The choice not to live "qua man" does away with the need for a rational ethics. One can then believe what one wants, and reap the consequences.

Clarity, Purpose, Self-Esteem, Romantic Love, Happiness, ... these are man's "flying" experience.

Does my answer better address your question?

Terry

Greetings Walter

tvr's picture

Thank you for your excellent post.

Valuing life is axiomatic to the Objectivist ethics. Far from being whimsical, the ethical axiom that life is a value, like all axioms, is necessary to rationality. It is only by identifying and accepting the axiom that one may proceed to reason out a rational ethics. This is the essential point I took from what you wrote.

In your next post you wrote:

"To my mind, there are difficult problems (at least for me) in understanding survival as the standard of all value. As hard as we try to pin down that idea, it remains ambiguous, it seems to me. Of course, Objectivism says that the standard of value is survival as man qua man: surviving as man's nature requires over the whole natural span of life."

Ayn Rand wrote that "man's survival qua man" was "that which is required by man's nature for his survival as a rational being (not his momentary physical survival as a mindless brute)."

Where did the consideration of a "natural span of life" come in to Ayn Rand's meaning of "man's survival qua man"?

Rationality is a specific mental stance in relation to reality - a recognition and acceptance of and commitment to a certain set of premises, in essence, a fidelity to reality. Is it not the ability and possibility and practice of adopting that specific mental stance - of recognizing, accepting and committing oneself to a certain set of premises – that Ayn Rand meant by "man's survival qua man"? I do not see how a temporal consideration at the individual level has anything to do with the concept of "man's survival qua man". Nor do I see how "flourishing" has anything to do with it". Is it not only by man being man, i.e., being rational, that he has the opportunity to flourish?

As for your questioning whether children should or can be a value, surely that is an individual's choice and judgment to make, and cannot be part of a rational ethics?

Terry

Walter: Aside on Children

S Wissler's picture

Not to diminish the value of children, and not to presume to offer comprehensive theory of their value, but I think they share some similarities with priceless, one of a kind, irreplaceable art.

- If you had never experienced art before, it would be difficult to really understand its value.

- When your child is born, it becomes the most beautiful thing on Earth.

- A child is born perfect and generally stays that way unless you do something wrong. Yes they have free will, but really, I think most humans are naturally inclined to good, if raised properly. They are human beings who are "as they can be and ought to be" -- they are akin to art -- and they stay this way until and unless you do a number of things wrong. And just as art can be appreciated as an end in itself, you can appreciate your children in a similar way.

- They are fun! Their personalities are a joy!

- The value of children as rational adults should be as obvious as is the value of rational friends, even to those who have had no children.

Yes there are a lot of risks. Nothing will cause you more anxiety and pain than to know that something bad has happened to one of your children. But there are definite rewards too. I don't see their value as being a trouble area for an ethic of rational self-interest.

Again on Ayn Rand's metaethics

Walter Donway's picture

I had understood that one statement under discussion was that the Objectivist metaethics is "tantamount to whim-worshipping"--that is, not demonstrated by reason--because Ayn Rand offers no valid reason for choosing life as a value.

To clarify, my entire post is arguing that the very consideration of a metaethics presupposes that life has been chosen as a value and that all other possible values depend upon it--making it the guiding value and standard of value.

The Objectivist metaethics does not rest on a whim but on metaphysical fact, which we must accept before we even begin the process of considering any metaethics. It also follows from this that life as the standard of ethical value is the only valid starting point for metaethics. I realize that other issues are under discussion here, including: does the Objectivist metaethics successfully demonstrate how to live, once we have chosen life? I did not address that; I only addressed the notion that the Objectivist metaethics rests on a "whim."

To my mind, there are difficult problems (at least for me) in understanding survival as the standard of all value. As hard as we try to pin down that idea, it remains ambiguous, it seems to me. Of course, Objectivism says that the standard of value is survival as man qua man: surviving as man's nature requires over the whole natural span of life.

But frankly, that makes reproduction--having and rearing children--problematic not only for humans but for all subhuman animals, who, again, according to Objectivism, automatically pursue values that sustain their survival. I think it is no accident that Ayn Rand named the distinguishing aspects of life as "self-sustained and self-generating action." Because virtually all biologists, evolutionists, and other life scientists would add a third distinguishing characteristic: self-reproducing. But it is simply not possible to argue successfully that the huge resources and risks that go into giving birth to offspring and rearing them proceed from choosing actions and values optimal to sustaining survival, even survival "as man."

Confronted with these programs, it has seemed to me that Objectivists then begin to equivocate between life as "survival over the entire span of life" as the standard of value and flourishing as the standard--an Aristotelian concept. But when flourishing becomes the standard, how do you derive all your values from the requirements of long-term physical survival, even long-term survival "as man"? For example, I think we agree that having children is not REQUIRED for our long-term survival as human beings--that we can choose not to have children and still living as "man qua man." At least, Ayn Rand did.\\

It seems to me evolution made made the reproduction and successful propagation of our genes as the priority to which all life is directed. Only human beings, having achieved free will and choice, can go against that evolutionary mandate. But, if so, the Objectivist metaethics hardly can argue that all living creatures are programmed to act automatically for their own survival even in the long term. And that is a major premise established by Ayn Rand when she comes to man. And yet, man may be the ONLY living entity that can choose long term physical survival as the goal of every value, by declining to have children, for example.

I often reflect that Ayn Rand is quoted as saying she did not choose to have children because when you have children your own life is no longer your highest priority; your children become your highest priority. At any rate, there is much thinking to do about the Objectivist metaethics.

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