For someone who is off the path

Rick Giles's picture
Submitted by Rick Giles on Thu, 2013-09-05 07:16

There was a thread, sadly no longer with us, at which may return or may stay gone. Either way, I'd quite like to get Brian and Terry to also write in this thread as they did before about this issue of how to deal with those 'off the path.' But I'd like to think about it within a parenting context inside a family so have put it in this forum.

If you guys, and others, are still interested in this question please chip in. The following was my first reaction to what Brian had to say. And then I'll also make the first post a repeat another which I hope will all make just as much sense if we think of, say, a child "off the path" with a parent taking our advice.

Brian 17/8/13:The point here is as a group, or as a philosophy, do you condemn to hell someone who is off the path, or do you try to understand him, and get him back on the path of healthy behavior?

That's been on my mind over this weekend. This was before I read this thread and the V thread (except for what has, no doubt, been deleted from the record as usual.) This is what I've come up with in brief.

1. First and most importantly make sure you're dealing with the person them self, not with your own reflection. Too many times in the past I've put energy and enthusiasm and time into people who I wrongly assumed to be truth and growth-seeking. In reality some people feed of the energy and attention of others and have learned that all they need to do to feed is to appear interested in you. "Tell me more about philosophy.." they say with a lispy drooling zombie hunger for your brain! And we do, and then go away feeling irritated and quickly learning to hate philosophy. This is really important and I could go on and on and use analogies with angler fish.

2. Secondly, now you know you have someone worthy of your help go ahead and do that. If they are genuine then contempt and condemnation will indeed not help them. At least not directly. I think there's something to be said for helping the world by giving a moral example to others by refusing to enable evil though which may even reform them. But nobody is helped directly by contempt and that's not what it's for. It is fairly typical around SOLO in my long experience of it that people pretend to be friendly and interested in helping and spreading ideas via contempt.

3. Thirdly, contempt in its proper place is a virtue. There are contemptible things in the world (usually not identified as such) which really ought to be held in contempt which would be to put the proper emotion into affect virtuously. When we can do this it's good for us, it's protective and saves us from the many parasites. This brings us full circle back to1. I think being an Objectivist, for example, often goes hand in hand with wanting to be available to questioners because we empathise with being in that position. But that also makes us food for the angler fish unless we have the virtue of contempt. It's not an easy virtue to live in accord's the old Aristotle angry at the right time for the right reason at the right person...thing. Reading what you've said I think you appreciate already how a young Objectivist can become drained of energy and pleasure by these means and I think that's how many of us end up cranky and bitter and throwing about contempt and hate like buckshot when it's supposed to be surgical sniper shot.

Hope you let me know what you think about this.

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tvr's picture

Did you read my last reply to you on the deleted thread? It was quite lengthy but addressed and clarified what you thought were my inconsistencies. I finished by concluding that your final statement summarizing my position was worded correctly except for the use of the word "Wielder", which, to be accurate, should be changed to "Advocate and Utilizer", since exerting power or control over others is NOT what I meant.

Re your request to change context to parenting. Parenting involves an entirely different situation to interacting with others in society, so I see this change of context as highly problematic. A child is of immense value to a rational parent and parenting carries with it a unique set of obligations, whereas a complete stranger is typically of limited value to a rational person and the only obligation one has to that person is not to interfere with their life, so these two contexts require radically different approaches as to how one treats the individual when one is wronged by them. If a stranger demonstrates bad faith, the rational response is to condemn them and isolate them in your life, whereas if your child does the same that would clearly not be appropriate. A child is sovereign over itself only to the extent that it has dominion in its body, whereas an adult stranger is (or should be) fully sovereign in all respects. A child often does not yet have fully established dominion in its mind, as is evidenced by their grappling with mastering exercising free will to achieve desired reality-based outcomes. Nor does a child typically have full dominion over its actions and the effects of those actions, i.e. enjoy liberty and property and the responsibilities that come with liberty and property. While still living in the house of the parents where what the parents' say normally goes, if the child wrongs others legally the parents typically will bear responsibility for the child's actions. So, to treat a child the same as a stranger in exercising moral judgment makes about as much sense to me as judging and treating a much loved domestic pet the same as one would judge and treat a wild animal.

You wrote:

"If they are genuine then contempt and condemnation will indeed not help them."

I disagree. In a non-parenting context, if contempt is deserved, then provided one is free and qualified to pronounce it, contempt should be pronounced. A genuine person will of course be much less likely to be deserving of contempt than a non-genuine person since they would be behaving radically differently toward you, possessing good faith, and thus more in a way that would be deserving of praise and guidance. It is all about being diligently judicious in exercising moral judgment. That is not an easy responsibility.

"It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you—whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?" [Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness]"


For the record ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have no idea at this point how/why the original thread has disappeared. Investigating.

Contempt is your friend

Rick Giles's picture

Well, I think you answered your own question about contempt when you say it drains you of energy and pleasure.

But no, I said the direct opposite! Contempt is what saves us FROM BEING drained of energy and pleasure.

Would you hold a rabid dog in contempt if he wanted to rip you in two?

No not contempt for this, for this there is anger. Contempt is for, say, the rabid local body politicians currently trying to be elected in New Zealand who want to rip us in two by seeming to be fair and good and rational.

If you are young, why waste your time on contempt when there is a world full of people who are worthy of your respect?

So from what you say I can see I haven't made myself clear. And I can also see that you don't seem to have the understanding already so let me be so bold as to teach and old bloke something new?

Like anger and avoidance we should teach our children about contempt. Contempt has its place in the world. Now, anybody can become contemptuous - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time....that's the tricky bit. I'm putting to you that contempt is the virtuous moral kryptonite that fends off parasites.

Where I think you're ahead is that you keep it out 2 in my post above. But where we disagree is that you seem not to appreciate it in 1 and 3 and I'd like to convince you of that.

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