Friday, March 14, 2008

Rand's Ethics, Part 11

Randian virtues: integrity. This is another one of Rand’s more questionable virtues. She introduces and explicates the virtue as follows:
Integrity is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake your consciousness, just as honesty is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake existence—that man is an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness, and that he may permit no breach between body and mind, between action and thought, between his life and his convictions—that, like a judge impervious to public opinion, he may not sacrifice his convictions to the wishes of others, be it the whole of mankind shouting pleas or threats against him—that courage and confidence are practical necessities, that courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to truth, and confidence is the practical form of being true to one's own consciousness.

In other words, individuals should have the courage of their convictions. Doesn’t matter what other people think; doesn’t matter how much pressure there may be to conform; the individual’s judgment is paramount. “There can be no compromise on basic principles,” Rand insisted. “There can be no compromise on moral issues. There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, of rational conviction.” Rand’s insistence on this point might carry some weight if knowledge and truth were free of controversy. Where controversy exists, however, Randian integrity quickly turns vicious.

Compromise is a necessary ingredient to any free, democratic society. In an open society, disagreement on moral and social issues is inescapable. Human nature is not homogenous. Individuals fall into several congenital types, such as liberal or conservative. Factions inevitably arise. “The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man,” James Madison warned us in Federalist 10; “and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for preeminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”

Given these factious dispositions of the social order, how does any society manage to cohere well enough make collective decisions? Well, there are several methods that can be used to reach a kind of functional unity. But an open society can resort to only one: namely, democracy. As I put it in my essay “The Democratic Farce”:
The rise of an elective, “democratic” method of settling political conflicts came about largely because of the bloody wars and revolutions that characterized the pre-democratic era in European history. Through a process of trial and error, societies discovered that representative institutions provide a better way of resolving political differences than internecine strife. The representative system allowed nations to make collective political decisions that most societal factions could live with. Compromise is essential to the democratic process. Each person in society accepts an outcome he regards as sub-optimal to avoid the bloodshed that would inevitably result if the political process were determined solely by force.
Democracy, then, is a political method that evolved to avoid sanguinary conflict arising from the fact that human beings can never agree about politics. In lieu of settling these inevitable differences through violence, society plays a game called democracy. We have elections, legislative bodies, presidents or prime ministers, and judges. In the helter-skelter of the political process, an outcome is reached that most of us can live with, even if none of us particularly care for it.

When Rand declares “There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, of rational conviction,” she is ignoring the stark reality of the alternative. If you want to be part of the social order, you may not have any choice. In the real world, Howard Roark would’ve been sent to prison for dynamiting the housing project. Compromise is a necessary component of a democratic society. Integrity, then, as a virtue, must be reserved for truly momentous issues: i.e., issues involving the most fundamental liberties, the honor of one’s women, and the most crucial aspects of one’s personal honor. In other words, one only has integrity over that which one would willingly die for. If it’s not worth dying for, it may not be worth having integrity about. Hence, in a democratic society, we find ourselves compromising on a host of issues, including the amount of government intervention in the economy, tax rates, abortion (pro or con), judicial review, etc. etc. No real person achieves the integrity of Howard Roark because Roark takes integrity way too far. If everyone had that much integrity, we would all find ourselves behind barricades shooting at each other.

Perhaps the least appetizing aspect of integrity is its tendency to glorify martyrdom, particularly over essentially trivial aesthetic or ideological differences. H. L. Mencken was baffled by this sort of self-immolation over mere ideas. “I can't understand the martyr,” he confessed. “Far from going to the stake for a Great Truth, I wouldn't even miss a meal for it.”

45 comments:

Jay said...

Before I challenge this post, I want to note something about Rand's writing that I don't know how I feel about.

It seems like she begins every discussion on a negative note: ie, recognition that you cannot, should not, must not, etc. I realize this is appropriate much of the time, but it seems like she almost relishes in saying "You cannot do this."

Jonathan said...

> "In the real world, Howard Roark would’ve been sent to prison for dynamiting the housing project...No real person achieves the integrity of Howard Roark because Roark takes integrity way too far."


Did Roark have integrity, and did he take it too far, or did he lack integrity because he was willing to try to deceive others in order to work on the dream project that they were planning?

I don't think it's an act of integrity for a person to destroy a project that he has designed after he has intentionally excluded the owners or governors of the project from being a party to his secret contract with their chosen architect. I don't think that he can legitimately claim that the terms and conditions of his contract weren't honored -- that he wasn't "paid" what he was owed, and that he therefore had a right to destroy what he had designed -- when his contract included trying to fool the public and those who were in charge of the project into believing that someone else had designed it.

Roark is an interesting and exciting fictional character, and he's fine as a stylized, symbolic representation of creative independence, but in the real world -- and even in an ideally Objectivist world -- he'd be little more than an art terrorist who placed his personal aesthetics above reason and morality.

J

gregnyquist said...

Jonathan: "Did Roark have integrity, and did he take it too far, or did he lack integrity because he was willing to try to deceive others in order to work on the dream project that they were planning?"

An interesting argument which, however, suggests an even more interesting argument: can integrity conflict itself? Does Roark's artistic integrity conflict with his integrity about being straightforward?

There's also another issue involving what you have integrity about. Integrity, in and of itself, is not a virtue, because there are times when it clearly becomes a vice, such as any kind of integrity in a bad cause. It is the Nazis and communists that have the most integrity that often are the most dangerous.

JayCross said...

It is the Nazis and communists that have the most integrity that often are the most dangerous.

Rand advocated integrity to rational, life-furthering, rights-respecting principles. I think that distinction was pretty clear throughout her writing.

Cavewight said...

Knowing about Rand's youthful adoration of William Edward Hickman, I don't think Greg is too far off with his comparison to Nazi and communist integrity. Hickman had all the qualities that Rand instinctively admired in the human - sociopathic - male: an appearance of self-worshipping "integrity" which is really just narcissism.

It sickens me to think that Rand may have modeled Howard Roark and perhaps other heroes after Hickman. And it appears that Roark's being found not guilty of the dynamiting was Rand's fantasy wish-fulfillment that Hickman should have gotten away with murder.

This is the man that kidnapped and eviscerated a little girl, leaving body parts all over Los Angeles, that Ayn Rand admired -- and then blamed the public outcry against Hickman as an attack against his personality traits (such as integrity) and not against his crime.

Anonymous said...

I've started dropping by here every now and then to read the latest attempt at confusing people, himself included by Greg Nyquist.

Usually it seems Greg either takes something out of context or conjures up an assumption that is false, but conceals that under wording that others might not understand.

In this entry he does the latter. In the second sentence of his argument Greg states that "Individuals fall into several congenital types, such as liberal or conservative." Here he uses the word congenital, meaning "Present from birth" as the premise for someone's politics.

Surely nobody with even an ounce of intelligence believes that political leanings are present from birth. And if that is the case, what a waste of time it is for politicians to lobby the public, who are predestined from birth to vote one way or another.

Another pathetic argument Greg, like all your others. You would make Ellesworth Toohey very proud.

gregnyquist said...

Cavewight: "Knowing about Rand's youthful adoration of William Edward Hickman, I don't think Greg is too far off with his comparison to Nazi and communist integrity."

While I certainly agree that Rand's youthful interest in Hickman is creepy, my point about Nazi and communist integrity were not meant as criticism of Rand. Of course Rand would have disapproved of that sort of integrity. The point is that integrity is often a vice rather than a virtue, and would've been nice if Rand explicitly pointed this out. (I fear she might have simply tried to dodge the whole issue by insisting that communists and nazis are incapable of "real" integrity.)

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "Surely nobody with even an ounce of intelligence believes that political leanings are present from birth. And if that is the case, what a waste of time it is for politicians to lobby the public, who are predestined from birth to vote one way or another."

There are several misconceptions here. First of all, merely because some desire or sentiment is not present from birth does not mean it may not, at the very least, be partially influenced by genetic factors. Generic sexual desire is not present from birth yet it is clearly genetic. Snake phobias are not present from birth, but they too have a genetic source. Incest avoidance also has genetic ground; but it, too, is not present at birth.

A second misconception is that the assertion of "congenital" factors is equivalent to an assertion of predestination. But this is not in the least true. Even the most stringent apologists for genetic determination would never make such a claim. What is congenital (or genetic) is not behavior, but feeling and temperament. And of course people have the ability not to act on a specific feeling or temperament. Indeed, most people, unless they have damage to their frontal cortex, act contrary to feelings all the time. It's called self-control. However, any ideology that expects to act against their emotional systems all or most of the time will almost certainly come to grief.

Is there a genetic component to political allegience? The empirical evidence suggests that there is. "Political attitudes are largely, though far from completely, heritable," writes Steven Pinker. "Liberal and conservative attitudes are heritable not, of course, because attitudes are synthesized directly from DNA but because they come naturally to people with different temperaments." (Blank Slate, 283)

Red Grant said...

____________________________

--he'd be little more than an art terrorist who placed his aesthetics above reason and morality. - Joanathan
____________________________


Whose reason and whose morality?

____________________________

Rand advocated rational, life-furthering, rights-respecting principles. - jay
____________________________


Is that why she opposed granting rights to the Natives of this continent?

Besides who decides what is rational, life-furthering, rights-respecting principles?

and for whom?

____________________________

Surely nobody with even an ounce of intelligence believes that political leanings are present from birth. - anon
____________________________

How do you know political leanings are not present from birth?

____________________________

And if that is the case, what a waste of time it is for politicians to lobby the public who are predestined from birth to vote one way or another. - anon
____________________________


Do conservatives all vote in one way or another regardless of their respective individual interest?

Do the liberals all vote in one way or another regardless of their respective individual interest?

In fact, are they[both liberals and conservatives] even aware of their perceived true political leanings from birth?

Is it possible for one to have [objectively true political leanings] from birth but without being aware of it till discovering it due to external circumstances(one of which would be lobbying due to politician hustling for votes)?

For all those "objectivsts", I recommend getting ahold of one of Mao's biography, "Unknown Mao".

Your jaws will drop, that there's something disturbingly similar about Mao's personal philosophy and Howard Roark's.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1jMD3bFJdI&feature=related

Red Grant said...

Sorry, but your link goes nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Double click on the link. its all there, just not all visible.

Anonymous said...

Nyquist,
You're beginning to confuse even yourself on your "congenital" argument. On the one hand you state in your main entry that compromise is necessary because of congenital differences, on the other, in your reply to my comment you state that it is of course possible to overcome one's congenitally influenced emotions and act with self control.
You therefore are actually fully in agreement with Ayn Rand, with the only difference being that she understood the reasons and you do not.
Specifically, Rand reasoned not to compromise on untruths or violations of rights. Just because someone is of the view (whether by birth or by upbringing) that he is entitled to the life or products of the life of another person, does not mean you should compromise with him and give him part of your life. Both his emotions (desire) and your emotions (fear, sympathy) may suggest that you give in, but this is acting unreasonably because it sanctions any demands by anybody to make a claim on the lives of others.
Rand would have called the position you originally took "pragmatism", and said it to be an "act first, think later" approach, or in my words, "ready, fire, aim". Someone shows up and says they want something you have. You compromise and give it to them. Now you have established the precedent that they can have something from you for nothing. If you genuinely believe this position is true, please wire to me, or to the poor, all of your money (if you have any). I suspect however, it is you who are asking others to make sacrifices and for you to be the collector of those sacrifices, which really explains what is behind your pro-compromise position.

Red Grant said...

To anon:

I've seen the video.

According to that youtube file, Greek elements of the Western Civilization represents pro-reason elements, wheras Christianity represents the mystical element.

Does this mean then you believe that believing in Oracles and praying and sacrifising to the gods of Greek mythology for good fortune represent "reason"?

____________________________

Specifically, Rand reasoned not to compromise on untruth and violation of rights. - anon
____________________________


Who decides what is truth and untruth?

Who decides what is one's rights?

____________________________

Just because someone is of the view (whether by birth or by upbringing) that he's entitled to the life or products of the life of another person, does not mean you should compromise with him and give him part of your life. - anon
____________________________

Does this mean then you believe the Natives of this country did the right thing by fighting against the Manifest Destiny?

____________________________

Someone shows up and says they want something you have. - anon
____________________________

Wasn't that what the Manifest Destiny about?

Do you know Ayn Rand's position on that?

Jonathan said...

Greg wrote,
"An interesting argument which, however, suggests an even more interesting argument: can integrity conflict itself? Does Roark's artistic integrity conflict with his integrity about being straightforward?"

If we were not talking about one of Rand's fictional heroes, or about real-life villains she liked based on her personal view that they had a triumphant and heroically defiant "sense of life," I doubt that Rand would have thought that a person can have actual integrity -- artistic or otherwise -- if he expected to be able to destroy the property of his patrons who hadn't agreed to become his patrons. I guess it would depend on whether Rand was speaking as a philosopher or as a romanticizing novelist.

Personally, I think that someone could have artistic integrity while not having integrity in general.

J

Jonathan said...

I wrote,
"...he'd be little more than an art terrorist who placed his aesthetics above reason and morality."

Red Grant asked,
"Whose reason and whose morality?"


Mine, for one. Objectivist reason and morality, for another.

Do you think that it's an act of reason and morality to destroy property that you don't own because its owners or managers didn't abide by a contract that they didn't have with you?

J

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "You're beginning to confuse even yourself on your 'congenital' argument. On the one hand you state in your main entry that compromise is necessary because of congenital differences, on the other, in your reply to my comment you state that it is of course possible to overcome one's congenitally influenced emotions and act with self control."

You have completely ignored the critical caveat I placed on the notion of self-control: namely, that you can't reasonably expect people to act against all their congenital desires and sentiments, or against any such sentiment that is particularly strong or ingrained. Moreover, just because people can act against their sentiments doesn't mean they will. Indeed, the majority of people probably won't, and so you'll be faced with just the sort of factions in society predicted by Madison in Federalist 10.

Anon: "Just because someone is of the view (whether by birth or by upbringing) that he is entitled to the life or products of the life of another person, does not mean you should compromise with him and give him part of your life."

This misses the whole point at issue, which is: what is the alternative? If a majority of the population believes that individuals with property should share with people who don't have property, what are you going to do about it? There are three main courses of action:

1. Don't compromise at all (which effectually means removing oneself from the politcal process), thus granting carte blanche to the majority.

2. Use the political process to limit the depredations of the majority (which functionally means: compromise with them).

3. Raise an army and use force to put down the majority.

Now which is the best alternative? History has shown that, in most cases, number 2 is the least worst alternative.

Anonymous said...

I must first admit, I'm having fun going back and forth with you Greg,
You write "History has shown that, in most cases, number 2 is the least worst alternative."
You paint only three alternatives and classify the best as "least worst."
Perhaps you ought to consider that there is a fourth alternative or that your characterization of one of the alternatives is misstated.
Of course, the long term problem of pragmatism or compromise, is that things do get worse as more and more people demand that those with property share it with them rather than produce wealth, because in such a system, demand is what gets you property rather than production.
History has not shown that option 2 is the least worst. Sharing the property a country with the majority of the population based on the majority's desire for it is what was behind every communist and socialist revolution - and those lead to the most disastrous totalitarian regimes in history.
The best option is in fact option 3, although there is no reason to characterize it principally as raising an army. The proper characterization is to legislate property rights and use force in retaliation against those who initiate force by attempting to take what is not theirs. At the same time, educate people about a proper philosophy of wealth, which is that wealth is created by productive effort and the harder you work at worthwhile productive things, the more you create, and the more wealth there is, and the more of it you own, which you can trade.
When property rights are protected rather than compromised, people dedicate their effort to producing instead of begging for or demanding that which others have produced.
Remember, no wealth exists until it is produced and it is all produced by the directed activity of human beings.
That is the source of property rights by the way for the other commenter who asks questions like "who decides what are rights?" and "who decides what is true?" And the answer to who decides what is true by the way is nobody. Truth is truth. You can recognize it as true or you can evade it. But, to quote rand "you cannot evade the consequences of evading the truth."

Red Grant said...

____________________________

"...he'd little more than an art terrorist who placed his aesthetics above reason and morality." - Jonathan

"Whose reason and whose morality?" - Red Grant

"Mine for one. Objectivst reason and morality, for another." - Jonathan
____________________________

Does this mean then, by the Objectivst reason and morality(but not your reason and morality), not only Howard Roark (who obviously personified the Objectivst reason and morality) was allowed to do what he did, but he should have done what he did?

Do you believe in living by your reason and morality or the reason and morality set by others?

____________________________

Do you think it's an act of reason and morality to destroy property you don't own because its owners or managers didn't abide by a contract that they didn't have with you? - Jonathan
____________________________


Again, by whose reason and whose morality?

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Sharing the property a country with the majority of the population based on the majority's desire for it is what was behind every communist and socialit revolution - anon
____________________________

Was the Manifest Destiny based on desires for the property belonging to the Natives of this continent by the majority population of the U.S.?

Did the Manifest Destiny have anything to do with communist and socialist revolution?

____________________________

- and those lead to the most disastrous totalitarian regimes in history. - anon
____________________________


Did the Manifest Destiny lead the U.S.into one of the most disastrous totalitarian regimes in history?

____________________________

The proper characterization is to legislate property rights and use force in retaliation against those who initiate force by attempting to take what is not theirs. - anon
____________________________


Did the U.S. initiate force by attempting to take what was not hers during the Manifest Destiny?

Didn't Ayn Rand approve of taking of the land belonging to the Natives of this continent?

Weren't the slaves the properties of their masters?

How could the U.S. have freed the slaves without violating the property rights of their masters?

____________________________

When property rights are protected rather than compromised, people dedicate their effort to producing instead of begging for or demanding that which others have produced. - anon
____________________________

Does this mean then you believe the property rights of the slave owners should have been protected?

Does this mean then you believe the property rights of the Native of this continent should have been protected?

Didn't Ayn Rand say, the Natives of this continent should not have been granted the property rights in the first place?

and that violating their property rights (even once granted) was within the "rights of white men"?


____________________________

Remember no wealth exists until produced - anon
____________________________

So all that crude oil reserve in OPEC countries don't qualify as wealth till they get shipped to and come out of refineries?

If so, then why are oil companies willing to pay big money for the rights to drill and pump the crude?

Why are crude oil futures are traded in commodity exchanges if they are not wealth?

Does this mean then if I own a land that contains 1 billion barrels of crude reserves, those 1 billion barrels of crude reserve doesn't count as wealth?

____________________________

...and it[wealth] is all produced by the directed activity of human beings. - anon
____________________________

Was the crude oil[fossilized fuels] "produced" by the directed activity of human beings?

____________________________

Truth is truth. - anon
____________________________

Is it true that Ayn Rand advocated it was within "the rights of white men" to take by force what had belonged to the Natives to this continent?

Is it true that Ayn Rand didn't believe in property rights for the Natives of this continent for the land they had had before the Manifest Destiny?

____________________________

You can recgonize it as true or you can evade it. - anon
____________________________

Are you recgonizing what Ayn Rand said regarding the property rights of the Natives of this continent as true

or

Are you going to evade it?

____________________________

But, to quote, rand "you cannot evade the consequences of evading the truth." - anon
____________________________

Does this mean you cannot evade the consequences of evading the truth of Ayn Rand's refusal to accept that the Natives of this continent had had no property rights?



____________________________

Red Grant said...

...Ayn Rand's refusal to accept that the Natives of this continent had had no property rights?

____________________________

Edit:

Should have said, "...Ayn Rand's refusal to accept that the Natives of this continent had had property rights?"

Anonymous said...

Red Grant
No
No
No
Yes
No
No
Because people aren't property
No
Yes
No
No
No
Yes
N/A
No
No
No
No
No
No

Try actually forming an argument and connecting two thoughts instead of just asking accusatory questions filled with ambiguity and repeatedly using the phrase "Manifest Destiny".

Jonathan said...

Red asked,
"Does this mean then, by the Objectivst reason and morality (but not your reason and morality), not only Howard Roark (who obviously personified the Objectivst reason and morality) was allowed to do what he did, but he should have done what he did?"

It means that I think that Roark's destruction of the housing project was neither reasonable nor moral according to my own views and according to Objectivist philosophy.

I asked,
"Do you think it's an act of reason and morality to destroy property you don't own because its owners or managers didn't abide by a contract that they didn't have with you?"

Red replied,
"Again, by whose reason and whose morality?"

By yours. I was asking YOU. Do you, Red, according to your notions of reason and morality, think that it would be an act of reason and morality to destroy property that you don't own because its owners or managers didn't abide by a contract that they didn't have with you?

J

Red Grant said...

To Jonathan:

First of all,

Do you believe in living by your reason and morality or by the reason and morality set by others?

____________________________

By yours. I was asking YOU. Do you, Red, according to your notions of reason and morality, think that it would be an act of reason and morality to destroy property that you don't own because its owners or managers didn't abide by a contract they didn't have with you? - Jonathan
____________________________

Thank you for clarifying. As you may know, there are too many philosophically retarded intellectual charlatans running around, throwing words like "morality", "reason" in order to intimidiate others into meekly accepting their version of "morality". (and here at this moment, I'm not talking about you.)


Condition 1)

If they[the owners/managers of the property in question] either have intentionally (as far as I am aware of it) destroyed or planned to destroy (with premeditation, as far as I am aware of it) my property (that I value at least as much as they value theirs as I see it) without what I consider to be a valid reason, and destroying their property would not harm my overall interest(as far as I am aware of) to the extent that I would consider sufficient enough to deter my action[destroying their property] then yes.

Condition 2) If they[the owner(s)/manager(s) in question] either have intentionally (as far as I am aware of) destroyed or planned to destroy with premeditation (as far as I am aware of) the property of others close to me personally(as far as I am aware of) without what I or others would consider to be a valid reason, the property others close to me personally (as far as I am aware of) value(as far as I am aware of) at least as much they[owners/managers in question] value (as far as I am aware of) theirs, and destroying their[the owners/managers in question] property would harm neither my overall interest to the extent sufficient enough (as far as I am aware of) to deter my action[destroying their property] nor the others' overall interest(as far as I am aware of) sufficient enough to cause more suffering than they can bear (as far I am aware of), then yes.

Condition 3) If it is matter of vital interest (as far as I am aware of) to me, and others close to me personally(as far as I am aware of) and I do not have sufficient (as far as I am aware of) information about them[the owners/managers in question] that they would do any different if they[the owners/managers in question] were in my place, then yes.

Condition 4) If it is a matter of major but not vital (as far as I am aware of) interest to me and others close to me personally and destroying their property would do only minor damage (as far as I am aware of) to them, and I can compensate their damage (as far as I am aware of) fully and they would do the same[destroying either my property and/or the property beloning to others close to me personally] to me if they were in my place (as far as I am aware of), then yes.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Because people aren't property. - anon
____________________________


Following is the link you provided to represent your view.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1jMD3bFJdI&feature=related

Doesn't that youtube file you provided claim Greek elements of Western Civilization represent reason?

Did the Greeks believe in slavery?

Did the Greeks believe in oracles, praying and sacrifising to the altar of the gods of Olympus?

Did the Greeks believe in slavery, oracles, and praying and sacrifising to the altar of the gods of Olympus because they believed in reason?



____________________________

Surely nobody with an ounce of intelligence believes that political leanings are present from birth? - anon
____________________________

How do you know political leanings are not present from birth?



Was the Manifest Destiny based on desires for the property belonging to the Natives of this continent by the majority population of the U.S.? - Red Grant


No. - anon
____________________________

Then what was the Manifest Destiny based upon?

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Because people aren't property. - anon

Youtube file[AynRandInstitute] you provided earlier to represent your view earlier

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1jMD3bFJdI&feature=related

That file claims Greek elements (Aristotle, etc) represent pro-reason elements of the Western Civilization.

and here's what Aristotle had to say about slavery from Book I, chapters iii through vii of the Politics, and Book VII of Nicomachean Ethics.

Aristotle: But is there anyone intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?

Aristotle: There is no difficulty in answering this question on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient: from the hour of their birth, Some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/distance_arc/las_casas/Aristotle-slavery.html


____________________________

You can recognize it as true or evade it. - anon

Are you recognizing what Ayn Rand said regarding the property rights of the Natives of this continent?

or

Are you going to evade it? - Red Grant

No. - anon
____________________________

The proper characterization is to legislate property rights and use force in retaliation against those who initiate force by attempting to take what is not theirs. - anon

Did the U.S. intiate force in attempting to take by force what was not hers during the Manifest Destiny? - Red Grant

Yes - anon

Didn't Ayn Rand approve of taking the land belonging to the Natives of this continent? - Red Grant

No. - anon

Ayn Rand at Westpoint 1974: Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.

Does this mean then you believe the property rights of the Natives of this continent should have been protected? - Red Grant

Yes. - anon

Ayn Rand at Westpoint, 1974: They[the Natives] didn't have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights they had not conceived and were not using...

Didn't Ayn Rand say, the Natives of this continent should not have been granted the property rights in the first place? - Red Grant

No. - anon

Ayn Rand at Westpoint, 1974: ...and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they[the Natives] had not conceived and were not using....

...and that violating their property rights (even once granted) was within the "rights of white men"? - Red Grant

No. - anon

Ayn Rand at Westpoint, 1974: Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.

____________________________

Truth is truth. - anon

Is it true that Ayn Rand advocated it was within the "rights of white men" to take by force what had belonged to the Natives of this continent? - Red Grant

No. - anon

Is it true that Ayn Rand didn't believe in property rights for the Natives of this continent for the land they had had before the Manifest Destiny? - Red Grant

No. - anon

Ayn Rand at Westpoint, 1974:
They[the Natives] didn't have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using....

____________________________

But, to quote rand, "you cannot evade the consequence of evading the truth." - anon
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Red Grant said...

____________________________

The proper characterization is to legislate property rights... - anon

Weren't the slaves the properties of their masters?

No. - anon

Then why was the slavery legal till it was abolished?

How could the U.S. have freed the slaves without violating the property rights of their masters? - Red Grant

Because people aren't property. - anon

But they[many people of African descent] were properties beloning to their masters legally till it was abolished.

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Does this mean then you believe the property rights of the slave owners should have been protected? - Red Grant

No. - anon

When the property rights are protected rather than compromised, people dedicate their efforts to producing instead of begging for or demanding that which others have produced. - anon

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Remember no wealth exists untill produced. - anon

So all that crude oil reserves in OPEC countries don't count as wealth till they get shipped to and come out of refineries? - Red Grant

No. - anon

An excerpt:

Crude oil prices behave much as any other commodity with wide, price swings in time of shortage or oversupply.

http://www.wtrg.com/prices.html

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Remember no wealth exists till produced. - anon

Does this mean then if I own a land that contains 1 billion barrels of crude reserves, then those 1 billion barrels of crude reserve doesn't count as wealth? - Red Grant

No. - anon

An excerpt:

Price for a barrel of crude reserve as of 03/14/08:

$110.21

http://www.wtrg.com/daily/crudeoilprice.html

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "History has not shown that option 2 is the least worst. Sharing the property a country with the majority of the population based on the majority's desire for it is what was behind every communist and socialist revolution"

I don't you have fully grasped what option 2 entails. Option 2 only exists under democratic conditions. Therefore, even under the worst case scenarios (i.e., Western Europe), you will not get full "revolutionary" socialism or communism: what you will get is a massive welfare state existing under a democracy. As long the democratic/representative system is not seriously threatened, advocates of a strict property rights system of political economy are in fact better off working within the system (which means compromising with the welfare statists and the zealously progressive taxers). Violence under such conditions is very risky because if you lose, rather than reaching compromise position that's not as bad as otherwise would be the case, your antagonists will get carte blanche.

Anon: "The best option is in fact option 3, although there is no reason to characterize it principally as raising an army. The proper characterization is to legislate property rights and use force in retaliation against those who initiate force by attempting to take what is not theirs. At the same time, educate people about a proper philosophy of wealth..."

But this is just ignoring the basic assumptions of situation. How can you "legislate property rights" if the majority is against you? How can you "use force in retaliation" unless you have force at your disposal? All government is based on a mixture of consensus and force. If you try to achieve your political goals (i.e., pristine protection of property rights) through consensus, compromise will have to be part of your political toolbox, since you'll never reach your consensus entirely through persuasion. If you try to achieve your political goals through force, you will need an army (and good generals).

Cavewight said...

gregnyquist wrote:
"The point is that integrity is often a vice rather than a virtue, and would've been nice if Rand explicitly pointed this out."

Between the lines of my response is an answer which I'll spell out: that Rand would just rationalize at need the presence or absence of integrity, which for her is always a virtue and never a vice, just as she did with Hickman.

But I'm sure she would also criticize your critique for taking the Objectivist virtue of integrity out of its full philosophical context. Here's why:

Integrity "is the policy of acting in accordance with one's values." (VOS, 52-53) But values, for Rand, are always in line with reason (or what she considered reason).

Recall that values, according to Rand, don't exist until the choice to live one's life qua man, qua rational being, has been made.

Nazis were not, in her view, pursuing values, but destroying them, therefore Nazis had no integrity no matter how strictly and efficiently they practiced their life- and reason-hating ideology.

Now you may argue that Rand's idea is absurd or contradictory, but I'm not posting on this blog to defend Rand's ideology, or to add any theory of my own, I just want to clarify some points here and there.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

If you try to achieve your political goals through force, you will need an army (and good generals). - Greg Nyquist to anon
____________________________

I might add also, an efficient secret police force with extensive network of informers to create a fear of omnipotence of the New Objectivst Wave of the Future (Big Brother is Watching You!) and Psychiatric Institution (ala Soviet style) pulling a double duty as a Re-Education Camp for those pesky irrational individuals(You Will Be Assimiliated!)

Anonymous said...

Greg,
The whole essence of your argument is that it's impractical to try to do what's right over doing what's popular because it's difficult (or in your view impossible) to overcome the majority.

That's a quitter's point of view. Reading carefully, you don't actually ever say you're opposed to, for example, property rights, you just don't think they can be legislated or enforced if the majority doesn't share that view.

My view is different. It is to advocate for what is right and, if necessary, fight for it. And I agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy that no man should initiate force against another man, sacrifice another man, nor be sacrificed by another man. That is worth advocating for and worth fighting for even if it's not popular.

The views of the majority though are influenced by a lot of factors, not the least of which is philosophy and philosophers. Rand says to influence people through reason to the view that you should not sacrifice other people or yourself. You say "why bother."

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "That's a quitter's point of view. Reading carefully, you don't actually ever say you're opposed to, for example, property rights, you just don't think they can be legislated or enforced if the majority doesn't share that view. "

No, it's not a quitter's view. As a matter of fact, Rand's view is closer to the quitter's view, because she and her orthodox followers don't want to be part of the political process. They instead want to change the political process by arguing about abstruse points in philosophy hardly anybody understands or cares about (see the Objectivist Philosophy of History). Since Rand's belief that she can use rational argumentation to persuade people to adopt her political ideals is a complete fantasy, adopting her method is, in effect, like quitting. In a representative democracy, you have to work within the system to fight for your political ideals. But this means that you're going to have to compromise, that you're not going to get everything you want. If your political opponents want to pass a 50% tax on capital gains (economically speaking, not a good idea) and you're in the minority, what are you going to do about it? The best thing you can do is to play whatever political cards are at your disposal. Perhaps your opponents are having difficulty passing some fatuous midnight basketball bill. You agree to help them pass the fatuous bill and in return they drop the capital gains rate to 25%. It's not a complete victory, but you are better off than you were before. That's how democratic politics works.

This doesn't mean you give up trying to persuade people of your positions. You just have to be realistic that persuasion isn't going to accomplish that much. The reasons why the enforcement of property rights, as encaspulated in the common law and American constitutional traditions, is a desirable outcome for both society and the individuals making up society are far too complicated for most people to understand. What passes for political opinion is largely the rationalization of sentiments and interests. In such an environment, persuasion through "reason" isn't going to get you very far. You have to play the cards reality deals to you; and in a democratic society that means fighting for your goals within the political system. But that means allying yourself with individuals you don't entirely agree with (i.e., with a viable political party) and being involved in compromises with your political opponents.

Anonymous said...

So Greg,
According to you, giving in is not giving up, and not giving in is giving up. Or to phrase it as Rand would put it, A is not A, and not A is A.

Tell me, you've written a book, that I have not read, which purportedly makes sense. If the publisher said you should compromise on some of the sensible points for popularity and increased sales, would you?

Also, let's say the majority wants me to pay 50% taxes and I refuse, is it not the army you've raised in option 2 that enforces their claim. We're both talking about political participation and we're both talking about enforcing the laws passed. The difference is that you say majority rules, even if the majority seeks the unjust, whereas I say you need protections of individual rights to prevent the majority from ruling.

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "According to you, giving in is not giving up, and not giving in is giving up"

I don't know where you get this from. How does using the democratic process to reach a compromise position with a majority left-wing party constitute giving up? The left-wingers were going to tax us 50%; but by using the democratic process to force a compromise on the majority party, we get it down to 25%. Isn't 25% better than 50%? Keep in mind, when you compromise, it's not just you that have given up something; the other side has given up something as well. Sure, I would prefer 0%; but that's not a viable option. I'm in the minority. My antagonists have the stronger position. I'm lucky to get the 25%. So I take the deal and wait for the day when I my political party gets back into the majority and I can reduce that tax rate further. That's the way politics works in a democracy.

Anon: "If the publisher said you should compromise on some of the sensible points for popularity and increased sales, would you?"

That's not a valid analogy, because I'm in the position to say, "No, I'm not going to publish with you." In the political process, you can't just say, "No, I don't want to be taxed 50%." Your going to get taxed 50% whether you like it or not—unless you can use the political process to force a compromise position.

Anon: "The difference is that you say majority rules, even if the majority seeks the unjust, whereas I say you need protections of individual rights to prevent the majority from ruling."

No, the difference is that my view of politics is realistic and yours is based on wishful thinking. It's all very fine and good to say we need protection of individual rights to prevent depredations from socialistic majorities; but where are these protections going to come from? We have some protections already in place (due process, for example); but that''s not going to stop a leftist majority from slapping a 50% tax rate on capital gains, or a taxing income over a certain figure at a 90% rate (which at one time happened in this country). The Constitution gives the government the right to tax incomes. Where, then, is your protection? The armed forces? The armed forces take an oath to uphold the constitution: no protectiong there, either! In the end, you've got to accept the fact that there are things in the political world that are beyond your control, such as the degree of protection for property. You can only control how you act within the political system, following its rules. And I say that it's just plain stupid to remove ourselves from the political process because we don't want to compromise, or because we have too much integrity to compromise. Wisdom counsels that we seek, not the best position imaginable, but the best position possible. If we let our imaginations run wild, we can come up with all kinds of great solutions to political problems and the protections of rights. But there's this thing out there called reality that has to be reckoned with, whether we like it or not; and the reality is that we live in a social order with people who have different sentiments and interests than we do, and, on the basis of those sentiments and interests, reach different notions of rights. That is the reality we must reckon with!

Red Grant said...

____________________________

The difference is that you say majority rules, even if the majority seeks the unjust, wheras I say you need protections of individual rights to prevent the majority from ruling. - anon
____________________________


Is it possible to have individual rights in a democracy without the consent of the constitutionally (or otherwise) defined majority or the biggest minority if no majority present and/or their[the majority] constitutional (or otherwise) representatives?

Red Grant said...

____________________________

And I agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy that no man should initiate force against another man, sacrifise another man, nor be sacrifised by another man. - anon
____________________________

Did the U.S. initiate force in attempting to take by force what was not hers during the Manifest Destiny? - Red Grant

Yes. - anon

Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent. - Ayn Rand at Westpoint, 1974

____________________________

And I agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy that no man should initiate force against another man, sacrifise another man, nor be sacrifised by another man. - anon
____________________________

Anonymous said...

Greg,
Thanks for the back and forth.
I'm going to sign off of this thread now because we're starting to split hairs on the one hand and go in circles on the other.
I thought you were basing your article on compromise as a critique of Rand's short and excellent essay on compromise from Virtue of Selfishness, in which she attacked compromise between someone offering nothing in exchange for something, rather than two parties mutually agreeing to give something for something.
I still think this is where you're imprecise, because someone saying "give me 50% of your money or I'll take it from you by force" should not be met in the middle, nor does the political process of majority rule guarantee that they will meet you in the middle. However, I don't think we can get much further because I don't know you well enough to know your age, experience and personal circumstance to take this argument further with you and you don't know me well enough to do the same. I'll just summarize that in my experience, the kind of compromise Rand was talking about exists not only in the political sphere, but in every aspect of dealing with others. There are those who want you to compromise by giving them something for nothing, and any dealings on those terms start badly and get worse. Neither Rand herself, nor most objectivists actually do opt out of society, the political process or evade taxes, but instead they lobby against high taxes by making arguments for their position, so characterizing objectivism as opting out of the process of dialog is an overstatement to say the least.
The last word is yours if you wish to take it. It doesn't mean I concede though.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>(Rand) attacked compromise between someone offering nothing in exchange for something, rather than two parties mutually agreeing to give something for something.

This is to me yet another Randian word-game. Since when does a "compromise" only mean someone offers nothing in exchange for something??? That's a very narrow interpretation, suggesting Rand's just inventing a strawman. A compromise usually means when you don't get everything you want, but it's enough to accept the deal anyway. In most deals neither party gets exactly what they want, but they hammer out a middle position that's as good as they can mutually manage.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

I'm going to sign off of this thread now because we're starting to split hairs on one hand and go in circles on the other. - anon
____________________________



That's a quitter's point of view. - anon

____________________________

The last word is yours if you wish to take it. It doesn't mean I concede though. - anon

____________________________

That's a quitter's point of view. - anon

____________________________

I still think this is where you're imprecise because someone saying, "give me 50% of your money or I'll take it from you by force" should not be met in the middle,... - anon
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My view is different. It is to advocate for what is right and,if necessary, fight for it. - anon

____________________________

Neither Rand herself nor the most objectivists actually.... evade taxes... - anon

____________________________

That's quitter's point of view. - anon
____________________________

Indeed.







Dear Greg,

I am still amazed at your patience in dealing with this fella, who repeatedly has demonstrated not only lack of understanding of the most basic economic/political realities, but also repeatedly contradicted himself, and shown ignorance of what Ayn Rand actually had said.

merjet said...

Daniel Barnes: This is to me yet another Randian word-game. Since when does a "compromise" only mean someone offers nothing in exchange for something??? That's a very narrow interpretation, suggesting Rand's just inventing a strawman.

No, this is Anon's word game, not Rand's. Most dictionaries include a meaning of "compromise" like this: to weaken or give up one's principles for reasons of expediency. This is what Rand usually meant when she attacked the idea of compromise.

A problem Daniel has is his selfish view of definitions. He holds that the meanings of words are based on consensus, except when he disagrees with the consensus, like this less common meaning of "compromise." Rather Randian, don't you think? :-)

Daniel Barnes said...

Merjet:
>No, this is Anon's word game, not Rand's

I admit there are so many it gets hard to tell...;-)

>A problem Daniel has is his selfish view of definitions. He holds that the meanings of words are based on consensus, except when he disagrees with the consensus, like this less common meaning of "compromise." Rather Randian, don't you think? :-)

You need to read more carefully, merjet. I didn't disagree with Rand's definition. I just said she attacked one narrow meaning of the word, and then postured as if you should never - and that she would never - compromise in the general sense. This is what is called a straw man, I believe. Or an equivocation. And yes it is rather Randian...;-)

merjet said...

Daniel,

I grant that it may have been helpful for Rand to have addressed the more common meaning of "compromise". However, if you read enough of her remarks on compromise, the less common meaning each time was pretty evident. Her posturing you allude to is your "reading into it", not explicitly given.

You can charge her with ignoring the more common meaning, but that is neither making a straw man nor equivocation.

Daniel Barnes said...

Merjet:
>Her posturing you allude to is your "reading into it", not explicitly given.

Yes, it's not explicitly given because it is designed to create a false impression: that Objectivism doesn't compromise, not-like-other-philosophies, and Rand herself never compromised, not-like-other-philosophers etc. When this posturing is challenged we get the retreat to the it-depends-on-what-you-mean-by-compromise-we-Objectivists-have-a-special-meaning etc etc position.