Open Thread: Objectivist Ethics

I have been having a very lively exchange with several readers on my blog regarding the ethics of Objectivism versus the altruist/collectivist theory of morality. Since the discussion was getting seriously off track I’ve relocated the discussion to here, and I encourage the original commenters and anyone else to join the thread. I am still learning the philosophy of Objectivism but will argue from its stand point.

The original thread is here: https://ellis14.wordpress.com/2007/11/09/ok-ok-the-biggie-atheism-vs-theism/ If you’re new to the discussion I strongly recommend you read all the comments to date. This will prevent anyone having to repost something that has already been addressed.

I was unable to move all the comments because there were so many and they were rather circumlocutory. I will post my latest response as a comment below and we’ll take it from there…

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25 Responses to “Open Thread: Objectivist Ethics”

  1. evanescent Says:

    db0 said:

    So if I rationally and logically choose to further my own and very close circle’s best interests by ruining lives (not immediately but in the long term), destroying the environment of third world countries (who don’t care to stand up for themselves…the lazy bums) etc, then all is good?

    Perhaps you missed the part where I said “as long we you don’t violate the rights of other people”?

    You might say that I am not acting rationaly and then I would say that you are the one not acting rationaly. Who is right?

    Me. You cannot act rationally whilst disregarding the rights of other people.

    Of course noone since there is no higher “true morality”.

    Yes there is. Morality is a code of values that guides man actions. Anything that contributes to and sustains man’s life is good. Anything that has the reverse effect is evil. Sounds pretty objective to me.

    You can say what you wish but the person who still acts more egoistic than you is still more powerful because he does not have the same moral holdbacks as you.

    You’re stealing the concept. You cannot import that concept of “no moral holdbacks” without tracing its antecedents; these come from irrationality. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it; you’re asking me to grant that a person could be rational but also immoral, just because you say so. But a rational person wouldn’t, by definition, disregard the rights of others and STILL be acting rationally.

    At who’s expense!? For fuck’s sake listen to yourself man. Do you seriously think that the best way to treat people less fortunate than ourselves is “let someone else deal with it”?

    I didn’t say that. I said that it’s no one’s DUTY to sustain their lives.

    Like I also said, if you cared that much for people less fortunate than you, you’re free to help them out. Are do you only pay lip service to the poor?

    It is YOU who is saying “let someone else deal with it”, because your answer to OTHER people’s problems is that OTHER people MUST pay for them. So Joe Bloggs don’t the road can’t get a job, no worries, Evanescent will pay for him.

    We’re not talking about sacrificing anything here. Nobody asked you to give up half your house for the sick man but from what you say it seems to imply that even a miniscule portion of your wage is too much to help the less fortunate.

    You’re putting words in my mouth. What I am saying is that IF I choose to give up my money to help the needy, it is MY FREE CHOICE to do so. I have NO OBLIGATION to. Anything else, like taxation to sustain others, is an enforced infringement of my rights; it implies that I have a duty to provide for strangers, and I don’t.

    Is this the rationale that Objectivism guides you to? Sorry but what you see as a “violation of individual rights” I see inhumanity.

    Ok, let’s fellow your altruistic “morality” to its logical conclusion.

    You think the notion that “man cannot be sacrificed or man or have men sacrificed to himself” is immoral. You consider “rationally acting in accordance with one’s own values” inhuman. Therefore, the most moral person to you would be someone who sacrifices the things he values most for things he values least; someone who sacrifices his own wants and desires to those of others. Therefore, the man who saves his own daughter instead of a stranger’s daughter is moral to you. The man who gives his weekly wage to charity whilst his family starve is moral to you.

    And before you say I am twisting words and inventing scenarios, the above are PERFECT examples of altruism; the sacrificing of higher values to lower or non-values.

    Do not mistake my values for inhumanity or non-compassion. If I see people suffer my heart is moved just like yours. Anything I choose to give out of my surplus is MY choice. No one on earth has any authority to tell me that I should or shouldn’t help. Most ethical humans beings WOULD help the starving if they could. But they have NO moral obligation to pay for the lives and welfare and state benefits of other people.

    I will say no more on this matter.

    You state that man should act rationally. But who defines what is rational?

    Man has the capacity to reason based on logic, with reality his constant standard.

    By definition of whom? Ayn Rand? How do you (and don’t mean you specifically of course) respect the rights of others if by your sheer inhumanity you ignore the fates of other people by claiming ignorance of their plight?

    I haven’t claimed ignorance of anything.

    There is a difference between having a right to exist, and having a right to be supported at the expense of other humans. The first right exists, the second doesn’t.

    By NOT sustaining the lives of other people at the expense of my own values, I am NOT violating anyone’s rights. No more than the fact I don’t jump a flight to Africa and use my entire bank account to provide food makes me morally culpable for starvation.

    The fact that people are worse off than me is very unfortunate. But I don’t see you selling your computer and car and giving the money to the poor. Why not? How many clothes to you NEED in your wardrobe? How many could you donate to charity? Do you REALLY need the fancy meal in a restaurant or twin-ply toilet roll? Think how much money you could save and give to the poor if you gave these things up! Why aren’t you doing this? Think about it.

    What happens if you work, say, in a factory and some workers are abused while you are one of the lucky few who have cushy positions. Following objectivism, you would be good by just sitting by and watching (or ignoring) what is happening as it is not your business? Is this correct?

    I’m free to resign on moral grounds if I want. These people are free to resign if they want. Companies like this would not keep many staff for long and would work against themselves.

    Since when does Objectivism mean we don’t care about people or take an interest in others?? Perhaps you’ve missed something, or perhaps you’re attacking a strawman?

    That is not rationale. That is emotion. This is exactly the kind of thinking that allows people to abuse each other and then not feel guilty.

    Concept-stealing: rational people don’t abuse others.

    You start thinking in that extreme and shamelessly egoistic mindframe and sooner or later you don’t care (or just don’t care to learn) what effect your actions have on other people as long as you (seemingly) don’t have any effect on their individual rights.

    If I have no effect on another’s individual rights, then I am, by definition, not doing anything wrong!

    You’re trying to have your cake and eat it but you’re contradicting yourself: you’re trying to imply that I’m violating rights whilst at the same time not thinking that I am.

    So what if you making a few million dollars on the market leaves a few thousand people without job? You don’t know them, they should have taken care and your family and pets are worth more than theirs in any case.

    This is an example of one the classic fallacies with altruistic reasoning: to be selfish is ‘to profit at someone else’s expense’. But, Objectivism rejects this. If I am making millions, I am not taking over people’s money! This is ludicrous.

    Objectivism says that everyone can make a living by doing what they’re good at. We can always make more money. It’s not like we can run out of it!

    Being ‘selfish’ to an Objectivist is to act in one’s rational self-interest according to a hierarchy of values that man chooses for himself; they are not chosen for him.

    Again, someone could be an objectivist and his values and rationale wildly different that yours. Unless the “correct rationale” is defined by Ayn Rand. Is it?

    Of course they could. But if he is rational, he chooses his values logically and chooses them himself.

    Perhaps I value my computer over my cat. Perhaps I value my cat over my computer. As long as the principle of choosing values is rational, the principle is objective.

    You have GOT to be kidding me. If you buy from a company that user child labour and – in effect – help keep them in business, you are not morally and ethically guilty?

    Hang on a second: are you saying the people who run that business aren’t guilty of anything??

    Aren’t they the ones exploiting people? Remember, moral guilt is not transferable. If the owners of that company are sent to prison, would you arrest anyone who knowingly bought anything from them?? No? Why not?

    A proper government protects the rights of its citizens to that they can’t be exploited in this way. A citizen is free to boycott products from that company (which I personally WOULD DO) so as to force the company to hire differently.

    The only point I was making is that you cannot hold one person morally accountable for the acts of others.

    So if there were a few thousand people that were buying cheap goods from a company known to abuse children and destroy whole communities to make an easy buck -in a lawful way-, as a good objectivist you would neither tell the shoppers that they are immoral (remember moral guilt is not inherited) and nor would you take action against the company (because you may not take away the company owner’s individual rights). Am I correct?

    I’ve just answered this above.

    That is a non sequitur. I am not proposing or saying anything like that. I do know that people just don’t think about this specific issue (otherwise it would not be an issue) but I see a specific problem that an objectivist society, by default, cannot solve unless you define a very specific “rationality” that people must follow, which should not be much different than having…lets say…10 commandments.

    I’ve already addressed this: acting in accordance with a hierarchy of values IS objective and rational. What those values are should to be decided by each individual.

    True? Of course it is true. Any way of life can be “true”. The problem does not lie in the truthfulness of it but rather in the sheer cold “reasonable” inhumanity of the whole thing.

    Not every way of life can be true! And not every way of life can bring happiness. Objectivism says that living a life of rational self-interest is the best way to be happy. You cannot call objectivism true and also claim that it doesn’t make you happy. You must identify a flaw in the structure of objectivism, not in the imagined consequences you ascribe to it.

    Ah, but what if they CAN support them? It would just mean that some other, “unknown” people would not be capable to support theirs any more. Are we then at the point where only the richer people are allowed to procreate? Hmmm?

    So, because there is a difficult problem, you’d provide a government with the authority to violate individual rights? People are not children.

    What boggles my mind is how can you not feel guilty by being strictly self-serving and ignoring the larger picture.

    You’re putting words in my mouth. Notice how you add extra emotive words into what I say to try and make your case? Words like “strictly” and “ignoring”. You’re attacking a strawman, db0.
    Replace “strictly” for “rationally” and you’d be closer.

    While I may not be able to help everyone, I am happy that society provides a safety net for the more unfortunate of us and I am glad to help with that.

    It’s probably more accurate to say that you’re glad someone makes the difficult choices about providing for the poor or disabled, so that you don’t have to think about it and it eases your conscience. You forget: in an Objectivist society you’d still be free to give money to help these people, so what’s your argument?? Or are you only paying lip service to helping the poor again? In fact, because so much of your wages wouldn’t be taxed to death to build a lifeless statue or give politicians another pay rise that they voted for themselves, you’d have even more money to give to charity, if you chose to that is.

    You on the other hand seem to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Nope. I’m just saying I can’t live other peoples’ lives for them.

    On the other hand, if you do not starve why would you NOT give on charity?

    Maybe I do, db0. Maybe I don’t. Let me ask you: where do you draw the line? Why don’t you live on the breadline and use all the extra money that you don’t REALLY NEED to help the poor? Are you a hypocrite?

    Especially if you know the charity is not there just to perpetuate the bad (by allowing people to be lazy bums for example).

    AH HA!! But I can CHOOSE which charities to give money to. I cannot choose which people in society are given MY money if it is forcibly taken off me and redistributed. You have just proven my point brilliantly.

    It seems to me, that the poeple who are objectivists, more often than not, tend to be middle or higher class citizens. Definitely the people who would not starve in a state which has welfare.

    Funnily enough, the middle and higher classes in the USA are the most generous charity-givers in the world. Go figure.

    Only if I was a fireman. Otherwise I would be foolish. Not because I would not save the man but because I might throw my life away for nothing as I know nothing about burning buildings.

    Exactly. You act in rational self-interest. If you didn’t care for your own life you would enter the burning building no matter the cost. And that is the crux of the matter: COST. VALUE. Your life is of such value to you that to risk it for the very slim hope of saving a stranger is irrational. NOW, imagine that it’s your child in the house. Now, it may or may not be irrational to try and save them, because their value to you is greater or equal than your own life, so they are worth the risk; you would in fact be acting in accordance with your values by risking much to gain EVEN MORE! So even that isn’t a sacrifice! That is rational self-interest. Do you see now?

    On the other hand, If the firemen urgently needed my help and that entailed no danger but rather a loss of time. It would be inhumane not to help.

    I completely and totally agree.

    Lichanos said:

    Evanescent said: “A rational person understands that contraception is sometimes necessary. If they are IRRATIONAL and decide to ignore this and have children that they cannot support, that is their problem.”
    Lichanos asked: “And are the children at fault as well?”

    Let me answer your question with another question, Lichanos: are the children of other people my responsibility? A simple yes or no will do.

  2. lichanos Says:

    A “simple yes or no will do?” – are we in court? Is responsibility uniform, and unvarying? Do you not recognize degrees of responsibility?

    Having made clear that I think that your inquiry is phrased so as to beg the question, I will answer yes. I feel responsible for other people’s children, to some extent. Not like my own, of course, but I feel it. I feel pain when I walk past children living in the street, even though I may be half a world away from where my home is, and I desire a world in which people look at children, anywhere, as their children in some sense.

    I’m not interested in a moral system or a world built on it that says, “It’s perfectly rational for you to not feel responsible for them – they are somebody else’s problem.” On the contrary, it’s perfectly rational to feel responsible for them and to be upset that you cannot help them. (Most children feel this way until they have it educated out of them.)

    I would ask, if it’s not my problem, not in any way at all, isn’t that condemning the innocent to suffer in isolation? I know that life is not fair, cannot always be fair, but do we have to celebrate this fact and pursue a philosophy that tells us that ignoring it is a virtue? I cannot see in what way people are demeaned and lessened by recognizing an obligation, however limited, to their fellow humans, and I can see much evidence of the harm of the reverse.

    I happen to believe that compassion and empathy are the historical, philosophical, and, biological basis of morality. Rational Nazis don’t have it, and they can be intellectually consistent, but it conflicts with my values.

    I’m not arguing that we should all be selfless saints who dedicate ourselves to others. It’s important to have a good portion of amour propre, self-love. Shall I just say, moderation in all things?

  3. evanescent Says:

    Do you not recognize degrees of responsibility?

    Of course. But I don’t recognise that I have any responsibility for the lives of strangers.

    I will answer yes. I feel responsible for other people’s children, to some extent. Not like my own, of course, but I feel it. I feel pain when I walk past children living in the street, even though I may be half a world away from where my home is, and I desire a world in which people look at children, anywhere, as their children in some sense.

    I think what you said here is quite true, but you could have left out the word ‘responsible’; it was misplaced. Wanting to help people and desiring a better world does not mean you are responsible for other peoples’ lives.

    I’m not interested in a moral system or a world built on it that says, “It’s perfectly rational for you to not feel responsible for them – they are somebody else’s problem.”

    Man doesn’t have a duty to sustain the lives of others. I can’t say it any clearer.

    On the contrary, it’s perfectly rational to feel responsible for them and to be upset that you cannot help them.

    You’re misusing words. Replace the word “responsible” in the sentence above for “compassion” and you’d be right.

    I would ask, if it’s not my problem, not in any way at all, isn’t that condemning the innocent to suffer in isolation?

    I think you and db0 are missing a very important point, and perhaps being rather revealing about yourselves in the process. I’ve also addressed this in my comment above but I’ll say it again:

    In an Objectivist society, what is to stop you from helping any other human you want to? Absolutely nothing.

    What is to stop you from giving to any charity of your choice? Absolutely nothing.

    Would you prefer that the government takes your money and gives it to other people without your choice so that you don’t have the mental burden of making this choice yourself? Or in a society where people weren’t FORCED to support other people, are you that cynical to think no one would help? Or are you saying that YOU wouldn’t help?

    You see, your arguments about the consequences of Objectivism do not hold, because:

    1. the consequences you ascribe are by no means certain. What makes you think people wouldn’t give to charity (like they do now) with even more free money of their own?

    2. the politics of Objectivism stem from the individual rights of man. Since you cannot deny the individual rights of man, you cannot deny that a man cannot by sacrificed to another; that is, a man has no duty to sustain the life of another at his expense. Everything flows from that.

    I know that life is not fair, cannot always be fair, but do we have to celebrate this fact and pursue a philosophy that tells us that ignoring it is a virtue?

    You’re attacking a strawman. How can you claim to refute objectivism when you don’t understand it?

    I cannot see in what way people are demeaned and lessened by recognizing an obligation, however limited, to their fellow humans, and I can see much evidence of the harm of the reverse.

    I see something very revealing again. What you’re saying comes down to the following: people wouldn’t help fellow humans, unless they were obligated to do it.

    In other words, you think people wouldn’t sustain the lives of others unless they were forced to.

    Who are you speaking for when you say this?

    I happen to believe that compassion and empathy are the historical, philosophical, and, biological basis of morality.

    I don’t agree. Compassion and empathy are virtues, usually a sign of morality. But they aren’t the basis of morality. Tell me, should we be compassionate to criminals?

    Morality is a code of values that guides mans’ actions.

    To act morally, one must rationally choose to.

    I’m not arguing that we should all be selfless saints who dedicate ourselves to others. It’s important to have a good portion of amour propre, self-love. Shall I just say, moderation in all things?

    At what point did I say we should be self-centered hedonists??

    A rational person has things in moderation, depending on what they are. How does he decide how to best expend his time and efforts? By the hierarchy of things he values. This is why he fixes the hole in the roof before he plays golf. This is why he makes love to his wife instead of reading the paper. This is why he gets up three hours earlier on his day off to drive his kids to school. This is why he spends the extra hour in work to make a good impression with a new boss. He acts in accordance with what things are of value TO HIM. He chooses these values as best as he rationally can, based on logic and conformity with existence.

    An immoral, irrational man is one who is a hypocrite, one who sacrifices his values, one who gives up what is precious to him for something that is not. But, the altruist will tell you that this man is selfish. The altruist is correct. But when he tells you being selfish is a vice, ignore him!

  4. db0 Says:

    Evanescent first a few things:

    While I make examples related to what you’ve said about Objectivism, I do not target you – Evanescent – directly. I am not talking on what *you* would do in those situation but rather what an objectivist would.
    In essense, I am attacking Objectivism not Evanescent, which is why I was taken aback when you started inquiring/challenging about my direct choices.

    Furthermore we seem to have a fundamental problem. You have a different notion about what it means to be rational than me. For example, I would argue that you can be perfectly rational while disregarding the rights of other people. Cold and inhumane but rational as well.

    The second fundamental problem we have is that you consider that all humans are as intelligent, aware and compassionate as you. They are not. There are dumb people, there are ignorant people and there are cruel people. Objectivism will just give a excuse for the two later cases to ignore/allow the exploitation of the first. As I said before, Objectivism like Communism or Anarchism, depends on a radical shift in human conciousness in order to function as intended. Currently, like Anarchist collectives, Objectivist can function as they do only because the rest of the society doesn’t.

    Also, please finally stop putting words in my mouth. I have never said that the goverment should take over. I have never proposed an alternative. I have only attacked Objectivism as inefficient and inhumane.

    Reading more about objectivism I see another flaw about it. It does not make a distinction between positive and negative freedom. In objectivism, freedom is always negative, i.e. you have the right to “do” anything. It is assuming, incorrectly, that all people are born equal. They are not! By saying to a poor person who (say) has to work 16 hours a day just to survive, that he is allowed do anything does not make any change to his life and he cannot do what he wants due to his lack of opportunities. Therefore you are bypassing the problem and throwing the fault at the man. Unless of course you (and not you – Evanescent – but any objectivist) are open to a globalization scenario in which all borders are open. Are you? If you are not, then your philosophy is hypocritical.

    Unless you begin with all humans in a relatively even level, and thus, with the same level of positive freedom, Objectivism is a philosophical failure. It will only guarantee the “individual rights” of the middle-higher class people and nobody else.

    Another flaw is that you consider the world resources to be infinite, which I have gathered with your sentence: “We can always print more money”. By stating that, you are ignoring the very real resource problem are planet currently is facing. That is to say, no matter how much money we produce, the resources of the planet cannot currently sustain the current populace at a level of living that most 1st worls countries enjoy.
    Thus Objectivism fails because the individual rights of every human are not protected, even if all the world was Objectivist.
    If you are countering by saying that I do not know if and how Objectivism can solve this problem, I will say that until you figure it out, you should have no right to consider Objectivism as the right way, or the best way as it is again, hypocritical.
    If you (not you – Evanescent) happen to live in a situation that allows this mindframe and you waste your time preaching how Objectivism is just so great when you do not even know how it can cope with the largest problem it will have to face, then you are a hypocrite or just plain stupid (again, not you:Evanescent)

    Furthermore you see society as a collection of units. I see it as a unit in itself.
    Modern society cannot function if it requires every person to know everything in order to make decisions about everything. We just do not have this mental capability.
    “Men are not children” as you like to say and I agree. Some people are though and you are a fool if you do not see it. People are exploited all the time. The classic proverb “Another fool is born every minute” is not random.
    The parts that people do not care to learn about is what the Goverment is taking over. You want to take the goverment out of the equation because it is corrupt and introduce private functions to take over social problems. And then believe that Joe Sixpacks will give a damn about giving to charity and paying for bridges and whatnot. If experience has shown us anything, it is that he will not.

    FFS, Communism failed because of that. They idealists were counting on people becoming altruistic and living in happy-land after the revolution. Look what has happened until now!

    This for now. I’ve gotta work

  5. Ergo Says:

    “Objectivism will just give a excuse for the two later cases to ignore/allow the exploitation of the first. Objectivism like Communism or Anarchism, depends on a radical shift in human conciousness in order to function as intended.”

    Can you cite your sources that are the bases of your view above? Or, can you point to a particular Objectivist principle that logically supports the view above?

    “Reading more about objectivism I see another flaw about it. It does not make a distinction between positive and negative freedom. In objectivism, freedom is always negative, i.e. you have the right to “do” anything.”

    Two problems with this: first, it is false. Second, it is internally contradictory within two sentences. Freedom is a positive concept in Objectivism. Rights are a negative concept demarcating the range of actions. You have your concepts mixed up. Further, your subsequent discussion of the equality of human beings is also false. You falsely attribute the following to Objectivism:

    “It is assuming, incorrectly, that all people are born equal. They are not!”

    Objectivism–in fact–agrees with you here. People are not born equal. I think you may be critiqueing egalitarianism.

    “Objectivism is a philosophical failure.”

    Is that why there is a redux of Rand scholarship in recent years, with major publications on Objectivism coming out of the Cambridge University Press, NYU Press, top 20 Philosophy Departments in the US, 30 US universities, and of course, the mainstream media like Forbes, NYT, WSJ, etc.?

    And on what academic authority are you claiming that this philosophy is a failure? (no, hubris is not a qualification.)

    “Another flaw is that you consider the world resources to be infinite, which I have gathered with your sentence: “We can always print more money”. By stating that, you are ignoring the very real resource problem are planet currently is facing. That is to say, no matter how much money we produce, the resources of the planet cannot currently sustain the current populace at a level of living that most 1st worls countries enjoy.”

    Malthus made that argument in the early 1900s. Today, our population is beyond the number he imagined, and we are experiencing an unprecedented quality of life (if you doubt this, consider life among wild beasts, diseases you have no names or causes for, modes of transport and communication that take precious years of your life, etc.)

    Wealth is not a static resource on top of a hill that is limited and will run out as more and more people get up that hill. Wealth is *created*. This is a fact, and I am not inclined to debate matters of facts. If wealth is created, the limit of its creation is only set by the limit of productivity we are free to engage in. Freedom of production implies freedom in wealth-creation. This is one of the reasons Objectivism champions the free-market system.

    “Furthermore you see society as a collection of units. I see it as a unit in itself.”

    It’s irrelevant how *you* see it. Let’s talk about facts. It is a matter of ontological and metaphysical priority that a society is not an irreducible unit, only an individual is. The individual is the smallest minority and the irreducible unit. Only an individual can have a consciousness, and therefore only individual humans are moral agents. Therefore, morality only applies to individual human beings, and individual human actions–regardless of context.

    A lone human on a deserted island would still require a code of morality to live by. How, you ask?? Read my post here:

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/09/23/morality-in-the-jungle/

    And this one might be helpful as well if you are tempted to argue for the naturalistic fallacy of human social/societal behavior:

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/moral-evolution/

    Finally, perhaps the worst thing a person can do in a debate of ideas is to talk about things they don’t know or have little knowledge of.
    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing — Emerson.

  6. db0 Says:

    I am sorry Ergo, I did not know that I should have a BA in Objectivism before I discuss it.

    Can you cite your sources that are the bases of your view above? Or, can you point to a particular Objectivist principle that logically supports the view above?

    Cite source? Yes, me.
    This is what I understand from Objectivism. What you are explaining is a philosophy that can only work in an idealistic world. Without this shift, Objectivism is either bound to fail (like Communism) or stay in small circles that exploit the environment created by others who are not Objectivists (like Anarchism).

    Two problems with this: first, it is false. Second, it is internally contradictory within two sentences. Freedom is a positive concept in Objectivism. Rights are a negative concept demarcating the range of actions. You have your concepts mixed up. Further, your subsequent discussion of the equality of human beings is also false. You falsely attribute the following to Objectivism:

    I didn’t understand your sentence. Please clarify and also keep in mind that I have not studied philosophy academically. Generally your way of writing confuses me.

    Objectivism–in fact–agrees with you here. People are not born equal. I think you may be critiqueing egalitarianism.

    What are you talking? I would support egalitarianism. I critique Objectivism because it does not make any statements or provide any solutions about this problem.

    Is that why there is a redux of Rand scholarship in recent years, with major publications on Objectivism coming out of the Cambridge University Press, NYU Press, top 20 Philosophy Departments in the US, 30 US universities, and of course, the mainstream media like Forbes, NYT, WSJ, etc.?

    Argumentum ad populum?
    Sorry perhaps you should not have quote mined me out of context.

    And on what academic authority are you claiming that this philosophy is a failure? (no, hubris is not a qualification.)

    Aahahahahah!
    I honestly am not sure if you’re trying to be offensive purposefully.

    Malthus made that argument in the early 1900s. Today, our population is beyond the number he imagined, and we are experiencing an unprecedented quality of life (if you doubt this, consider life among wild beasts, diseases you have no names or causes for, modes of transport and communication that take precious years of your life, etc.)

    Wealth is not a static resource on top of a hill that is limited and will run out as more and more people get up that hill. Wealth is *created*. This is a fact, and I am not inclined to debate matters of facts. If wealth is created, the limit of its creation is only set by the limit of productivity we are free to engage in. Freedom of production implies freedom in wealth-creation. This is one of the reasons Objectivism champions the free-market system.

    Certainly. And Global Warming is just a misunderstood Earth cycle. And the Holocaust did not happen…
    I honestly do not care to argue this point but I applaud your optimism.

    Btw, I will also not argue every little quote you choose to mine.

  7. lichanos Says:

    dB0 says:

    “I am sorry Ergo, I did not know that I should have a BA in Objectivism before I discuss it.”

    TOUCHE! (Can’t get the accent in, sorry.)

    I’m going to sign off now with the parting shot that I believe the point of view expressed by the Objectivists here, so similar to that of Utilitarians, is a crackpot intellectual system that is firmly rooted in a political point of view that arose with the industrial revolution. It is NOT an intellectual system built up from axiomatic first principles as Ayn Rand liked to claim.

    At the most fundamental level, I disagree with its conception of man, that of a rational, calculating animal at sea in a swarm of unrelated individuals. Evanescent’s question:

    “Tell me, should we be compassionate to criminals?”

    is revealing. I would answer YES. They are human, and most of them have not committed serial mass murder rapes that stagger the imagination. They are complex. In many ways, they are probably not that different from you and me. If we want to limit crime, we had best try to understand it, and that means having empathy and compassion. It doesn’t mean saying, “It’s okay that you burgled my house, I know you came from a difficult family.” But it does mean recognizing a commonality between all humans.

    My view is that the life of man is tragic. There is not always a right answer that can be calculated on the basis of utility or self-interest rationally conceived. Rush into a burning building – save the mother, the grandmother, the baby? It’s an easy choice for a hedonic-utilitarian-calculator. A real person would make a decision, or act impulsively, and probably feel awful afterwards that he couldn’t save all of them. Sometimes there are only bad choices all around. The objectivist-utilitarian mindset denies this. It’s really quite childish and naive.

  8. DaVinci Says:

    Interesting conversation you have here Evanescent, but how it got to be a conversation about objectivist ethics vs. some watered down utilitarianism is beyond me. I used to host debates on Xanga between the two philosophies all the time, however it never gets anywhere.
    I’d like to delicately point out one thing, and that is that the philosophy of objectivism is really a rehash and slight modification of egoism, and most trained philosophers, (by that I mean those whose profession it is to teach philosophy) would argue that while Ayn Rand was a great writer, she was not a philosopher. However it is practically indistinguishable to the laymen in blogs that you are arguing egoism if you don’t drop the name Ayn Rand.
    I have long been rather torn between the two philosophies (egoism and utilitarianism), mainly because I see both of them as wonderful ethical systems that both fall short of implementation. Egoism can be most successfully applied to a personal philosophy, [do for yourself interest first] and help others as you see fit provided you aren’t just dropping that help into a black hole of need, as utilitarianism does. Egoism requires that people be responsible for themselves and act in thoughtful ethical ways, whereas utility requires blind obedience to a set procedural ethical systems closely resembling duty ethics.

  9. lichanos Says:

    Can’t resist this:

    Evanescent says:

    “…you’re asking me to grant that a person could be rational but also immoral.”

    Maybe this is the root of the problem. To me, and to dB0, this possibility seems obvious. The Objectivist advocates here have a very exalted notion of rationality indeed. Not unlike that of Plato’s.

    Starting from “first principles” they claim to have deduced the one and only true way to make proper ethical decisions. Morality is like mathematics.

    I would suggest that K. Popper’s critique of Plato’s Republic and his notion of reason is the best response to all of this. See The Open Society and It’s Enemies, vo. I.

  10. evanescent Says:

    Davinci, as regards how Rand is viewed by her philosophical peers:

    Ergo said:

    Is that why there is a redux of Rand scholarship in recent years, with major publications on Objectivism coming out of the Cambridge University Press, NYU Press, top 20 Philosophy Departments in the US, 30 US universities, and of course, the mainstream media like Forbes, NYT, WSJ, etc.?

    To which db0 said:

    Argumentum ad populum?

    No. The Argument from Popularity is not the fallacy here, in fact there is no fallacy. You questioned the credentials of Rand as a philosopher and her status in philosophical study. Ergo is pointing out that her increasing popularity and status in Philosophy today rejects what you said.

    DaVinci said:

    Egoism requires that people be responsible for themselves and act in thoughtful ethical ways, whereas utility requires blind obedience to a set procedural ethical systems closely resembling duty ethics.

    That’s about right. Objectivism rejects duty ethics.

    For an excellent article on why Objectivist ethics succeed for ALL men in ALL circumstances, and why altruistic ethics fail, see this by Ergo:

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/09/23/morality-in-the-jungle/

    lichanos said:

    “you’re asking me to grant that a person could be rational but also immoral” – Maybe this is the root of the problem. To me, and to dB0, this possibility seems obvious. The Objectivist advocates here have a very exalted notion of rationality indeed.

    You’re divorcing the concept of morality from its antecedents. Morality is a code of values that guides man actions. Man’s values must be rational. So a rational man acts morally, and it is moral to act rationally.

    Just because a man is rational, doesn’t mean he is rational ALL THE TIME, or moral ALL THE TIME. There is nothing physically stopping a rational man from being immoral, because he has free will. But in order to commit a wrong like, for example, violating the rights of others, he must abandon his morality and his rationality. Objectivism doesn’t say man must be a perfect robot or infallible. – I add this last paragraph because I get the impression you’re not clear on this point.

    —-

    I’d like to add that some of my comments on Objectivism have been erroneous, and this has been kindly pointed out to me by another blogger:

    I have repeatedly stated here that Objectivism doesn’t tell you what you value, only that you should have a rational set of values. This isn’t true. Whilst some values are optional, they come lower down the hierarchy. There are values which are fundamental and necessary. The former are a consequence of the latter. Necessary values “are life, reason, self-esteem, sense of productivity, and happiness. Some examples of optional values are your cat, computer, paintings, specific art, etc.” – (Ergosum.wordpress.com)

  11. db0 Says:

    Davinci, as regards how Rand is viewed by her philosophical peers:

    Ergo said:

    Is that why there is a redux of Rand scholarship in recent years, with major publications on Objectivism coming out of the Cambridge University Press, NYU Press, top 20 Philosophy Departments in the US, 30 US universities, and of course, the mainstream media like Forbes, NYT, WSJ, etc.?

    To which db0 said:

    Argumentum ad populum?

    No. The Argument from Popularity is not the fallacy here, in fact there is no fallacy. You questioned the credentials of Rand as a philosopher and her status in philosophical study. Ergo is pointing out that her increasing popularity and status in Philosophy today rejects what you said.

    What kind of Frankensteinian quote is this? I did not question the credentials of Rand as a philosopher. I only stated:

    Unless you begin with all humans in a relatively even level, and thus, with the same level of positive freedom, Objectivism is a philosophical failure. It will only guarantee the “individual rights” of the middle-higher class people and nobody else.

    Which Ergo quoted out of context and then made the fallacy.

    I can’t fail to notice how the rest of my text, which included the gist of my argument, was not countered but rather you guys skimmed around and quote mined parts to argue…

  12. lichanos Says:

    “Morality is a code of values that guides man’s actions.”

    Morality is a code BASED on values.

    “Man’s values must be rational.”

    I’m sure you’d like them to be rational; I’m sure you’d like to believe they are rational; I’m sure you’d like to believe that they MUST be rational…beyond that, I’m stumped. We are back at the foundational dogma-cum-axiom-cum-myth-of-reason on which your view seems to be based.

    Your use of RATIONAL and MORAL seem so self-justifying and circular to me. Always a problem with deductive systems of thought. (Just examine the fundamentals of physics for a while – you’ll find the same problem, but scientists’ claims to truth are more modest than yours.)

    I’d like to hear a bit more from you about what you think reason IS, beyond simply evaluating syllogisms. You seem very much in the LONG western tradition that equates reason with mathematics, and little else. This is why I believe that your Objectivism is a fallacy.

    I don’t doubt that there are lovely people who live, or think they live by your principles – that’s not what db0 and I are arguing about. (I understand that Objectivism doesn’t prevent anyone from living in accord with principles of charity and compassion, etc.) We’re talking about the intellectual consequences and foundations of your view. There are plenty of people who claim to be radical sceptics and philosophical solipsists too, but they all live the lives of people who subscribe to a completely different epistemology. I’d like philosophy/ethics to have some clear and demonstrated relationship to the actual – historical – world.

    “So a rational man acts morally…”
    Yep, sure. I agree. After all, let’s be sensible…

    “…and it is moral to act rationally.”
    Ooops. Yeah, if rationality is the definition of morality, then acting rationally is always moral, right? Of course, if an act is not rational, it’s not moral, and we know immorality when we see it because it’s not rational. And we know it’s not rational because we have Objectivisms first principles as a guide…And since morals MUST be rational because values MUST be rational, then it follows…but why you believe this is beyond me.

  13. db0 Says:

    Btw

    For an excellent article on why Objectivist ethics succeed for ALL men in ALL circumstances, and why altruistic ethics fail, see this by Ergo:

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/09/23/morality-in-the-jungle/

    Replied…

  14. evanescent Says:

    Hi db0 and Lichanos. The trouble I am finding in this discussion is the persistent need to repeat myself, and I think this is because myself and Ergo are having to explain the basics of Objectivism to you from scratch, which I didn’t expect because I assumed you knew about it, but as Ergo as said, it appears neither of you really know anything about the position you’re attacking.

    You keep attacking strawman of objectivism. A perfect example of this is your notion that we should be careless about other people, or greedy at OTHER people’s expense. This is not objectivism and it resembles nothing Ergo or I have said.

    Obviously I’m happy to keep the debate going, but may I suggest some background reading to prevent repeating the same topics and prevent strawman attacks?

    db0 have responded to Ergo’s excellent article here: http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/09/23/morality-in-the-jungle/ so I suggest you read the entire article Lichanos and follow Ergo’s replies.

  15. lichanos Says:

    Speaking for myself, I would say that the reason you repeat yourself is that you reason in circles and refuse to engage with fundamental criticisms of your thinking.

    “…strawmen…[we] should be careless about other people, or greedy at OTHER people’s expense”

    I have not said this, as my last comment should make clear. I think this is a likely consequence of your views, I think it is the real basis of its appeal for many (perhaps not you) but it is not my criticism. I disagree with you more fundamentally.

    Moreover, it is rather cavalier of you to say that I know nothing about Objectivism. Do you think that Ayn Rand was so original? Do you think she was the first to reason in this way? And you seem to take disagreement as misunderstanding.

    Nevermind, I have read the catechism according to Ergo and offer the following comments:

    “…This implies the existence of a volitional consciousness to which a moral existence is an objective value (regardless of whether this is recognized or not)”

    This makes no sense to me. What is a moral existence? You assume its existence before you even define it, and you posit it as fundamental. True, you must have mind if you are to have morals, and you must have free will. I think we have free will, but much less of it than we like to believe.

    “Because there is no such conscious entity as a “group” or “society”, moral codes cannot be premised upon a society or group.”

    It seems to me that a consciousness that values morality could base it on whatever it wishes to base it on. Premised? Wouldn’t that just mean recognizing the existence of? Again, I must also point out that the individual as we know it only comes into being and is sustained by the group, so never one without the other. If you mean that moral codes need not concern themselves with human interactions, contrary to most conceptions of ethics, with what must they concern themselves? There is not much material there, except the religious celebration of mere existence.

    “In other words, a system of morality is applicable primarily and directly only to individual human beings.”

    Primarily? Sounds like you mean exclusively. Do you mean that a moral code applies to the evaluation of actions of individuals only? Okay…we use morals to make our choices. This is news?

    Nobody says something else should do our thinking for us. That is YOUR favorite strawman. We do allow practical choices to be made “for us.” Unless you reject the entire notion of democratic government. Don’t we have majority rule, accepting that it is best to allow decisions to be made for us in this way, i.e. by representation, and abiding by them – most of the time – even if we don’t like them? Or are you a complete libertarian anarchist who rejects the notion of government entirely? Do you NEVER pay taxes, or have you arranged to have a line item veto on your tax bill?

    “Only individuals have consciousness…”

    More strawmen. Nobody is claiming that THE COLLECTIVE exists as a conscious entity. Romantic nationlists and fascist do that, the Volk, the People, etc.

    “… and only humans have a volitional and conceptual consciousness”
    Dubious, but not important here…

    “…therefore, only individual human beings can act as moral agents. This is why a proper moral system should be concerned with how an individual must act in a given situation–regardless of how many other people he is surrounded with. [Utilitarianism and altruism] construct their theories on the premises of “society” or a group of at least two individuals while ignoring the fact that morality is not concerned with how many people exist in any given situation to practice it.”

    Ah yes, the desert island again. Apparently, it is of great moral import whether the lonely man kicks trees, spits on the sea, and curses the heavens. Oh, but there is the greatest moral choice of all, whether to live or die. This “lone individual” of whom you love to speak carries within his conciousness the rules, morals, knowledge, language, etc. of thousands of years of transmitted culture. If he had been dropped there as an infant and survived somehow – raised by wolves? – he would not be much of a moral agent. Even as you chose to describe him or her, the scope of his morality is extremely limited, and even then, it is only present by reflection of the collective. We have here the philosophical equivalent of Tom Sawyer spying on his own funeral – it’s just a game of course.

    “Other-centric moral theories focus upon an individual’s actions in relation to another as the basic framework of a moral situation. A lone individual presumably has no need for a moral system to guide his actions”

    Again, a truly alone individual would not even be able to frame the question and would not have a moral system. A stranded traveller would imagine himself always as an individual cut off from his group, and wishing to return to it.

    “[it is a] false assumption that moral codes have to focus on this social nature of man and be derived from it. A moral code offers a guide to a man’s actions—one man’s actions; each man’s actions.”

    You have not shown that it is a false assumption, only that you disagree with that way of doing things. Furthermore, that “false” assumption can yield a guide to man’s actions, one man’s, each man’s actions as well.

    “More fundamental than man’s nature as a social being is his nature as a rational being”

    This is pure, unsupported assertion. You can argue for this point, but you cannot assume it. Talked with any socio-biologists lately? They sometimes go to the other extreme.

    “A fundamental quality is that which is accounts for or explains the greatest number of that entity’s characteristics.”

    You are getting into deep metaphysical doodoo here! Teetering on the abyss of scholastic and platonic essences and quiddities. A debate on primary and secondary qualities and characteristics would lead us to another endless thread.

    “First, we must answer what is proper and right for a man to do in order to survive on this earth given the nature and identity of his being.”

    You could just as well answer that he should live like a bee in a hive. That would ensure his survival. Ah, but not right and properly ensure it! I agree. Why not? Because he is rational, etc., you say. But I don’t see why his choice to live like an insect is illgoical, just contrary to my ideas about how best to live.

    “Notice that the moral codes of altruism and utilitarianism provide absolutely no moral prescriptions to an individual in the privacy of his own mind, except with regard to his existence among others.”

    I must say, I find this point INTERESTING. It takes us back to that desert island. It’s really quite romantic, and intensely idealistic in a very brutal and misguided way. I, the individual, that is my destiny, to BE! Yes, even in the absence of everything, I will BE. Ah, but no. YOU cannot BE in the absence of others. You are the product of that group. Your languange, your logic, your concepts…as I said, the results of millenia of biological and cultural evolution. Individuality is actually a fragile thing. One good total exchange of thermonuclear weapons and we might find ourselves back at square one – no more individuals as we know them. Just herds trying to survive. Until one of them gets the idea that he has some metaphysical independence…and becomes the first Objectivist.

    “To illustrate, think of a man alone on a deserted island; altruism, …”

    Again, I fail to see how moral dilemmas will arise for such a man, other than the question of suicide, and that only because he is a fully formed adult deposited on this imaginary island.

    “On a deserted island, one must either choose to act to survive for one’s self or choose to do nothing and die. If one chooses to live, he has chosen to be an egoist; this is the first and most basic moral act of choice, ”

    Nobody choses to live – we are born. The possibility of choosing not to live doesn’t arise for most of us until years later. How can it be the “first and foremost moral act of choice?” It only becomes such once you are converted to Objectivism.

    “In other words, egoism is not only a moral system that can be practiced consistently anywhere and without mutual conflict; it is also the only moral system that is useful, sensible, and practicable both in a society full of people as well as on a deserted island by yourself.”

    I fail to see how this is much of a recommendation, that it will resolve all moral dilemmas that arise when you are isolated completely from society. You think that’s great because when you are living IN society, you’d rather ignore that troublesome fact.

    “The moral is also the practical.”

    Good slogan. Does this mean also that the practical is always moral? I hope not. Does this mean that attempting to do something impractical is immoral? I hope not.

  16. db0 Says:

    You keep attacking strawman of objectivism. A perfect example of this is your notion that we should be careless about other people, or greedy at OTHER people’s expense. This is not objectivism and it resembles nothing Ergo or I have said.

    Evanescent, if anyone is attacking a strawman, that is you, right now. In my last -lengthy- comment I made various other arguments that neither you or Ergo bothered to respond to. On the contrary you pretty much ignored anything I said, none of which included the strawman above you say I was attacking.

  17. evanescent Says:

    Hi db0, actually I spent almost an hour composing a reply to your last lengthy comment. Then, by the time I came to post it, I saw that Ergo had responded to the major points of it more eloquently than I did, so I withheld my comment. If you like, I will post it, although I feel Ergo has already addressed the important issues you raised.

    lichanos said:

    Moreover, it is rather cavalier of you to say that I know nothing about Objectivism. Do you think that Ayn Rand was so original? Do you think she was the first to reason in this way? And you seem to take disagreement as misunderstanding.

    Not at all. I would hate to imply or infer that we’re disagreeing because “you don’t know what you’re talking about”. I would never offer that as an argument, only an observation.

    I don’t think you “know nothing” about Objectivism. But there appears to be several fundamental flaws in your comprehension of its root principles.

    For example: Man has no moral DUTY to sustain the life of another man. Man should not be sacrificed to another man.

    Let’s argue about this first. Either you agree with or you don’t. Explain why. Once you accept the veracity of this statement, and accept the necessity of individual rights, everything else follows…

  18. db0 Says:

    Man has no moral DUTY to sustain the life of another man. Man should not be sacrificed to another man.

    Man has a moral DUTY to sustain the society that allowed him to become the man he is and thus a moral duty to help those less fortunate than him. He also has a moral duty to help others make that society better.
    If he chooses not to perticipate or improve this society he should perhaps not reap the wealth that this society provides.

    I agree. Man should not be sacrificed to another man, but lets not take things to extremes in order to evoke emotions shall we?

  19. Ergo Says:

    Db0, I can’t stress to you enough that you need to define clearly what a society is: is it an irreducible entity that acts and thinks and feels or is it merely a concept to refer to a group of its individual constituents, i.e., individual human beings.

    In essence, the question posed to you is this: who is an acting agent (since rights apply only to actions, and rights are a moral concept, therefore, morality specifically pertains to a guide to action)?

    Is a society an acting agent? Or can only individual human beings be acting agents?

    If you accept that only individuals are acting agents (and a society can “act” in the metaphorical sense only so far as its constituent individuals act the same way, that is, we refer to society acting as a way to indicate the behavior of its individuals), then you will irrefutably have to concede that morality applies only to individual human beings.

    Beyond that, your statements that society created or provides wealth, society allowed man to do something, society sustains a man, etc. are meaningless (unless, as I said, you regard society as an irreducible unit, in which case, you are functioning on the premise of collectivism, not individualism.)

    Another question you have to answer is this. You stated:

    “Man has a moral DUTY to sustain the society that allowed him to become the man he is”

    Now, if you start with the collectivist premise that the society is an irreducible unit, then what standard of morality are you using? Should man have the moral DUTY to sustain a society merely because of the fact that he is born into it? So, is it my moral DUTY to sustain a fascist society because I was born into it? Or a communist society? Or an islamic-fundamentalist society? Or a primitive mystical society?

    Basically, what is your standard of measurement by which you justify man’s moral DUTY to sustain his society? And exactly how does a society get its particular character of fascism, communism, mysticism, etc., if not by the actions of its constituent individuals? Then, are the individuals responsible for the society they create, or, as you stated, society is allowed individuals to become who they became?

    Quite simply, think of ontological order: what came first? A herd of men, or man? Molecules or atoms? The building or the ground floor? Collectives or individuals?

  20. lichanos Says:

    I don’t see the point of this thread any longer. I agree with db0: you keep making the arguments with which you feel comfortable, and you ignore the rest. I made a lengthy critique of Ergo’s summary of Objectivism, a text you both recommended as an excellent precis of your point of view. I addressed many of your fundamental axioms and arguments.

    Your response is to reframe the debate in terms that are favorable to you:

    “Man has no moral DUTY to sustain the life of another man. Man should not be sacrificed to another man.
    Let’s argue about this first. Either you agree with or you don’t.”

    What gives you the right to say, argue about this first? That’s the problem with your entire philosophy – you insist on your starting point, and then you deduce from there. You recognize no other approach to the problem. You define it away.

    I am an engineer, and I like to tell people that we do (I’m only half kidding) is take complex problems and pulverize them until they are simple enough to solve, then move on. Your approach is similar, but it is not appropriate to philosophy. Engineers don’t care about abstract truth, just making buildings stand up.

  21. lichanos Says:

    Forgot this comment on Ergo’s response – my last comment was addressed to Evanescent:

    Ergo says:

    “Quite simply, think of ontological order: what came first? A herd of men, or man? Molecules or atoms? The building or the ground floor? Collectives or individuals?”

    First, there is the pretentious use of technical terms like ontological order. I’m not prepared to accept that it is used correctly. Seems like were talking chronological order here, but Ergo doesn’t like to discuss historical reality. I don’t see this examples as equivalent.

    And think of the single one about man or herd of men, whiich is antecedent? Ask an anthropologist and they might very well tell you, the herd of not-quite-men, then the men, but it’s not clear how and when. It’s like the chicken and egg paradox to which the answer is, the egg was not laid by a chicken. Your thinking is so sloppy, but you throw enough analytical terminology around to obscure that.

  22. Ergo Says:

    I agree. “what came first?” is a sloppy way to phrase the point. But my analysis is robust. By ontological order, I’m not referring to chronology (which is why I agree that my phrasing there was sloppy.) By asking “what came first”, I’m asking “what *logically* has to come first. Not chronologically, or even anthropologically. This is philosophy we’re discussing.

  23. evanescent Says:

    What gives you the right to say, argue about this first?

    It’s not a question of my “right” to dictate the course of the argument.

    The conversation is meandering around perceived positive or negative consequences of objectivism, based on your understanding of it, which may or may not be accurate.

    So, we can skip all this and cut to the heart of the argument by the question I asked. Does man have any moral DUTY to sustain another man?

    Further to Ergo, what is the non-reducible unit of action/consciousness? You either answer the collective, or the individual. If you answer collective you have the problems that Ergo just raised which I won’t repeat. If you answer individual, the rest follows.

  24. lichanos Says:

    “Not chronologically, or even anthropologically. This is philosophy we’re discussing.”

    Your notion of philosophy is not the only one, although it was a popular one in the medieval period.

    “The conversation is meandering around perceived positive or negative consequences of objectivism”

    Virtually none of my many criticisms of Ergo’s catechism were based on this.

  25. db0 Says:

    Db0, I can’t stress to you enough that you need to define clearly what a society is: is it an irreducible entity that acts and thinks and feels or is it merely a concept to refer to a group of its individual constituents, i.e., individual human beings.

    Holy shit Ergo! Enough with the loaded questions. It is neither.
    Very very very simply: A Society is a grouping of individuals that follows the same kind of rules,
    More defined: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society#Origin_and_usage

    In essence, the question posed to you is this: who is an acting agent (since rights apply only to actions, and rights are a moral concept, therefore, morality specifically pertains to a guide to action)?

    Rights? what do you mean by “rights”? Furthermore I’ve specifically challenged your position that “Morality is a guide to action” in your own article after Evanescent’s reply.

    Your question about who is the acting agent is irrelevant. It does not matter who is the acting agent because a human cannot be an acting agent in a society unless a society exists to allow him to become an acting agent in the first place.
    Unless the society, with its rules and morality exists to provide training, then the human will not become an acting agent in a society.

    Also, society does not act. It just is. It is necessary to exist in order to give you the canvas on which YOU can act.

    Beyond that, your statements that society created or provides wealth, society allowed man to do something, society sustains a man, etc. are meaningless (unless, as I said, you regard society as an irreducible unit, in which case, you are functioning on the premise of collectivism, not individualism.)

    Think of society as the environment in which you live in. Like, say, a Jungle. Like the trees provide the fruit which you eat, which trees make by doing their own stuff, thus society provides you with food to eat, which it provides by doing it own stuff.
    You attempts to act more egoistically than what the environment/society expects could be treated like a foreign organism being introduced into a jungle which acts mch different than the rest. It can upset a delicate balance for the worse, which is what I see objectivism leading to.

    Should man have the moral DUTY to sustain a society merely because of the fact that he is born into it? So, is it my moral DUTY to sustain a fascist society because I was born into it? Or a communist society? Or an islamic-fundamentalist society? Or a primitive mystical society?

    You obviously missed the part immediately below where I said:

    e also has a moral duty to help others make that society better.

    Because I was expecting you to make this exact argument.

    Basically, what is your standard of measurement by which you justify man’s moral DUTY to sustain his society? And exactly how does a society get its particular character of fascism, communism, mysticism, etc., if not by the actions of its constituent individuals? Then, are the individuals responsible for the society they create, or, as you stated, society is allowed individuals to become who they became?

    I justify this moral duty on the fact that the person would not be who he is without his society around him.
    A Society gets it’s particular character from evolutionary competing and cooperating meme and meme groups.
    It is society that allowed individuals to become who they became.

    Seriously though, I’m starting to get tired. As Lichanos said, each time we respond to your arguments, like an expert apologist, you will fall back on another objectivist argument and try to defend from there, while neither agreeing nor arguing what we said before. If this game keeps up I fear I may get tired as I see lichanos has done before me.


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