Friday, July 18, 2008

Objective "Immoralist" of the Week

One of the most unusual teachings of Ayn Rand's confused ethics is that to risk one's life for a stranger is profoundly "immoral" - a symptom of a "lack of self esteem", a "lack of respect for others" and ultimately a product of the corrupting influence of altruistic premises on society as a whole.

In that spirit, the ARCHNblog presents an occasional series of such "immoralists." Today: 


Perhaps worse still by Objectivist lights is the media which, in a symptom of the perverse corruption of their underlying philosophical premises, consistently treat such "immoral" people as heroic.

Now it seems obvious that Objectivists, who are also compelled by their philosophy not to withhold judgement in the face of immorality, should strongly protest against such moral travesties and their media enablers. Where are the press releases, the stern letters to the editor etc?

68 comments:

Damien said...

Daniel Barnes,

One wonders how Rand or Peikoff would have behaved if someone risked their life and rescued one of them from certain death.

Daniel Barnes said...

Good question...;-)

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

One of the most unusual teachings of Ayn Rand's confused ethics is that to risk one's life for a stranger is profoundly "immoral" - Greg
___________________________________





Indeed. I've asked the objectivsts universally objectively valid definition of morality irrespective of time and place.

So far I couldn't get one.

Red Grant said...

Edit: One of the most unusual teachings of Ayn Rand's confused ethics is that to risk one's life for a stranger is profoundly "immoral" - Daniel Barnes

john said...

I need not elaborate on the obvious...that you have not the slightest intention of fairly representing Rand's actual stance on the ethics of emergencies and that therefore your "argument" does not engage her position, but rather a constructed piece of weird garbage for you to get thrills to destroy, that you have nothing to supplant Rands actual position but self-immolation and you expect respect for that position without challenge, that you posit the rarest of all rare outcomes, a successful rescue of someone beyond rescue.

Rand can take it. She and her true believers like me have been brushing off small minds who have been lusting over this point for decades. It's so last century.

You deserve complete excoriation, however, for your rudeness to the remainder of the hypothetical bystanders, whom you insult with horrifying disdain: the honorable disengagement of all who witness tragedy with pathos for the victim and courage to not throw away their own life in futility. Those are the moral heroes of an extreme emergency; their heart, their soul wish to save life, knowing its value, but their higher virtues assure them it is wrong to deny the reality that that person is dying and there is nothing to be done; that the sure value of their own life is of absolute worth.

The successful rescue when reality gives no hope is an extremely rare thing. It is a miracle. It is far far less frequent than the death of those who -- informed by emotion or the religious ethic of selflessness -- evade judgement of hopelessness and do throw away their own life. I'd bet the score is 1000 to 1.

Don't tell me you did not mean the 'absolutely helpless situation', or 'unknown if it is hopeless'. Under those circumstances your characterization of the Objectivist position in those cases is absolutely inaccurate.

I invite anyone curious about Ayn Rand's actual stance on the Ethics of Emergencies to read her essay on it and then picture for themselves what she would say about that 'young boy' situation.

John Donohue

P.S. You are welcome to ignore the crushing of your entire premise and get your jollies on my True Believer comment. Or the miracle zinger. Go ahead, I feed them to you.

Daniel Barnes said...

JD:
>I need not elaborate on the obvious..that you have not the slightest intention of fairly representing Rand's actual stance on the ethics of emergencies...I invite anyone curious about Ayn Rand's actual stance on the Ethics of Emergencies to read her essay...

Hate to break it to you JD, but Rand's stance is verbatim from her "Ethics of Emergencies" essay. While is is ripe with her usual confusions and obfuscations, this point at least clear is enough. You should give it a read sometime and see for yourself. Wait, even better - there's the first two parts here
and here of your ever lovin' ARCHNblog's ongoing paragraph-by-paragraph analysis with full commentary of that very essay. It's a particularly good essay for a detailed examination as it contains many of her standard debating tactics and verbalist jiggery pokery. When we're through - probably about the end of the year at this rate - there'll be not a comma left unturned.

Anonymous said...

Rand's ethics is about achieving happiness in life; it is not about emergencies. In normal life man has to choose his values, project them over time and then act to accomplish them. That is morality. Rand clearly states that this does not mean you do not care for others or that you would refuse to help others in emergencies. It means that you are committed to values and that you don't subordinate your life to the welfare of others in normal life and that the relief of emergencies is not your PRIMARY purpose. Confused ethics? Hardly. You could at least try to deal with issues based upon the actual statements of AR or LP and discuss them accurately. But then this site is about confusing people about AR, isn't it?

Rory said...

A very brief foreword: this is a response to your comments here and elsewhere regarding Ayn Rand's writing on Ethics in Emergencies.

There are two issues compounded together here for a double assault on Ayn Rand and her philosophy: psychology, and the issue of emergencies.

I'll begin with psychology, and a quote from her 'Future Files', a selection of pieces on which she intended to write more. This one is entitled, aptly, 'Psychology':
"Armstrong observed that the spacecraft's overworked computer was directing it toward a crash in a crater filled with rocks. He had ninety seconds in which to take over and to select a better place for landing. He did.
Most people have longer than that to correct their course when their mind observes that the misprogrammed computer of their emotions is directing them toward a crash. But—in consequence of their modern training—most of them choose to crash."

When Ayn Rand talked of psychology, she was not talking about her in-depth research into the field, because it did not exist. She could not find one good psychologist and believed the field was still in its blood-letting, leeches-for-band-aids stage.
What she identified though, as in the previous quote, was that there was some cognitive-emotional mechanism in men, which was his 'psychology' - his automatised system of responding to new data, based on previous response.

From her Journals: "All instincts are reason, essentially, or reason is instincts made conscious. The "unreasonable" instincts are diseased ones. This—for the study of psychology. For the base of the reconciliation of reason and emotions.
As to psychology—learn whether the base of all psychology is really logic, and psychology as a science is really pathology, the science of how these psychological processes depart from reason."

What Ayn Rand talked about, when she talked of psychology, was on the basis of these automatised responses, derived from a man's psycho-epistemology, derived from his philosophy. What she was talking about was, based on her own experience, the patterns by which men responded to certain situations.
I cannot provide the quote, but I remember Dr Schwartz gave a lecture on psycho-epistemology, in which he said that this line in Atlas Shrugged: "Dagny heard a cold, implacable voice saying somewhere within her: Remember it—remember it well—it is not often that one can see pure evil—look at it—remember—and some day you'll find the words to name its essence" represented one the running-orders Ayn Rand set to herself. She would make a mental note of these men and would work backwards, tracing their thought processes, to figure out why they thought this way.
THIS represents the essence of her theories on 'psychology'. Whenever she talks of a man's psychology in one issue or another, she means 'What sort of things does his subconscious automatically send up to him on account of situation 'x'?'.

It is the work of Nathaniel Branden which has best expanded this whole realm of research: he had the time and the resources to sit, to listen, to observe men with 'diseased instincts' all day long, and work out what it was that led them to this state.
I cannot give a full account of anything Ayn Rand might have said in regard to Nathaniel Branden, but his work followed directly on from her philosophical foundation of psychology.

NOW, that said, you're probably tired of reading me speak, but I have a bit more to say. :)

When she spoke of emergencies, she was speaking of events which were not the norm, which required one to act in a lightning-like manner.
What better situation then, to speak of psychology?
Psychology is all involved with how a man automatically responds to a situation, based on how he has 'programmed' his subconscious: when one is in the situation of Neil Armstrong, faced with one's certain death, or in the situation of seeing another about to face their death, how does one react?

However one reacts, what Ayn Rand did not say, was that one can judge a man based on a single act alone - in fact, she eschewed context dropping, and said one had to consider every event and idea in its context. I just want to demolish that idea quickly, that an Objectivist is "compelled by their philosophy not to withhold judgement in the face of immorality", or that it is anything like a religious system, where one sin can send you to hell, or one saintly action can forgive all others.

Now, onto the proper reaction to an emergency situation and the role of psychology. What Ayn Rand noticed, was that men see a dichotomy, fed by the philosophy of altruism: that a man can either unthinkingly sacrifice himself to anyman, or that he must cut himself off from caring about any man. She noted this was interesting psychologically, because this was an automatic response, based off of a man's acceptance of the philosophy of altruism.
What she did, in rejecting altruism and placing her conception of egoism at the centre of ethics, was to say that a rational man may act to save another in an emergency situation, but that his action will be based off of his psychology, which he has programmed thus that he will only care about the things which are a value to him, and will only act within the context of his values.
What this means, and it is vital, is that the psychology of a Roark or a Galt, is such that in an emergency, he would act to save someone, but the choice of who he would save and the extent his actions would go to would depend on their value to him in the context of his entire life and his entire range of values.
Consider, by way of example, one of my favourite quotes from The Fountainhead: "Gail, if this boat were sinking, I'd give my life to save you. Not because it's any kind of duty. Only because I like you, for reasons and standards of my own. I could die for you."
That is the essence of the 'Ethics in Emergencies' - that one acts according to ones standard of values, and that Ethics, in a sense, is just applied valuing, whether it be in the living room or on a sinking ship.

Finally, I would like to reject your claim that Ayn Rand thought ethics went out the window in emergencies. She did not. She thought the events were 'abnormal' but not that they were denatured: that is, men were still men, and the actions they took were still the actions of men, but the actions they take should still be limited to the needs of alleviating whatever destruction of values is occurring in the current emergency.
To put this more concretely, one wouldn't rape one's friend to save her baby from a burning building. But if one valued that friend, and if the action to be taken, such as running up a burning staircase, was not more risky than the friendship was worth, then it would be right to do so.
Could you please cite where Ayn Rand says ethics go out the window?

john said...

The entirety of my denunciation remains untouched, and has now been followed by two others pointing out the errors of Mr. Barnes and by proxy Mr. Nyquist.

I repeat my suggestion: anyone interested in actually absorbing Ayn Rand's thought on the Ethics of Emergencies would do well to read the essay from front to end in toto and without interruption.

John Donohue

Jay said...

John,

She and her true believers like me have been brushing off small minds who have been lusting over this point for decades.

Why would you want to be anyone's "true believer?" Here is what the man who created that term said about it:

"The true-believer syndrome merits study by science. What is it that compels a person, past all reason, to believe the unbelievable. How can an otherwise sane individual become so enamored of a fantasy, an imposture, that even after it's exposed in the bright light of day he still clings to it--indeed, clings to it all the harder?" - M. Lamar Keene

I agree with a lot of Rand's views too, but she wasn't perfect.

For starters, it doesn't take "courage" to let someone get torn apart by dogs. The typical person's fight-or-flight mechanism probably makes it incredible easy to not get involved. Does that make self-sacrifice the hallmark of moral virtue? No, but I think to call someone "immoral" for saving a life is flat out ridiculous.

Michael Prescott said...

She would make a mental note of these men and would work backwards, tracing their thought processes, to figure out why they thought this way.
THIS represents the essence of her theories on 'psychology'.


True. And this is why her theories of psychology are worthless. It is impossible to trace someone else's unstated thought processes, especially if those thoughts are largely unconscious. Perhaps a trained therapist could do it in rare circumstances, after developing an in-depth understanding of his patient, but even then he would have to admit that his analysis was tentative and provisional, and he would need the patient himself to verify it through introspection (if possible).

Rand's approach - psychoanalyzing strangers - is nothing but rationalizing, or psychologizing.

Besides, it's obvious (if you read her journals) that she understood nothing even of her own internal life, let alone the thought processes of others. She appears to have been largely incapable of introspection and completely incapable of empathy - if we can judge by what she wrote in her diary in unguarded moments.

One small example: Nathaniel Branden left her for a younger, sexier woman. Most people understand this all-too-human behavior very well, even if they don't approve of it. Rand found it so baffling that she obsessed on it for years. She never did figure it out.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>You could at least try to deal with issues based upon the actual statements of AR or LP and discuss them accurately.

Actually, Anon, I think you could at least try to deal with issues based upon the actual statements of LP and discuss them accurately.

Did Rand say that to put one's own life at risk for a stranger's was immoral or not?

Yes or no?

Secondly, when Rand said something, did she really mean it?

Yes or no?

Rory, thank you for your lengthy reply. I will leave your sidebar comments on Rand's view of psychology to one side for now, other than to say that they are probably a reasonably accurate thumbnail of her views, but that her views themselves do not have much credibility as she was ignorant of the discipline.

Secondly, your example to support your speculation as to what a Galt or a Roark would do is irrelevant, as Gail is a friend, and not a stranger.

Thirdly, Rand's argument is in fact that when the going gets tough (ie in an emergency) her ethical system needn't apply. This is effectively saying it goes out the window.

Daniel Barnes said...

Errata: my post above should say "...actual statements of AR or LP..."

Rory said...

Could you point out /where/ she states this though? Her ethics, as I probably didn't go into enough (in fact, all I said was that it was 'applied valuing') is vitally important here.
When dealing with a stranger, one has to decide how much value human life is to you, and whether it is worth the risks associated with saving it.

I mean, leaving the psychological evaluation aside for the minute, since I can't seem to convince you of the value of introspection in regards to psychology, does the matter of whether or not the motivation is self-esteem have anything to do with the morality of the situation?
Is it any more moral for me to risk certain death to save someone I don't know, regardless of the psychology involved?

I cannot see a logical contradiction, that someone who didn't value themselves would let themselves be destroyed for some altruistic motive, because it props up a pseudo self-esteem.
The only point I disagree with Rand on is that ONLY someone with little to no self-esteem would do such an action - I think a psychologically healthy person could still act on an altruistic motive, even one as disastrous as this, but that it would be far, far less likely.
I also would not damn such a person - I would judge the action for what it is: immoral; but, I would not cast the person as an 'immoralist' as you seem to assume I think one should. I would consider it tragic and, yes, wrong, but I would not spit on the man, should he survive.

"Did Rand say that to put one's own life at risk for a stranger's was immoral or not?"
The answer is: it depends on the context. One can't have moral absolutes in a vacuum - we don't live each event disconnected from the other. So it depends on whether the risk is greater or lesser than the value of human life to you.

Michael:
"She appears to have been largely incapable of introspection and completely incapable of empathy - if we can judge by what she wrote in her diary in unguarded moments."

How can one be 'incapable' of introspection? Everyone is capable of introspection. It is, essentially, a psycho-epistemological matter: one of figuring out what lead to what thought, and where it fits in relation to other thoughts.
Now, if you wanted to say her introspection is bad, well, you'd have to quote one of these entries in her journal that shows such. I've read them, and seen nothing but a continual process of reduction and premise-questioning, of a strict observance of reality and an unwillingness to accept the unprovable.

"Rand found it so baffling that she obsessed on it for years. She never did figure it out."
Hearsay is not proof; even if we were to accept that she - *gasp* - made a faulty judgement, that doesn't mean her entire faculty of judgement is a failure.
If we assume that Ayn Rand could not understand Branden leaving her for someone younger and sexier, then it is only a matter of her not 'checking her premises'. As I said earlier with the fireman situation: it is tragic, but it does not damn her entire life or thinking. It calls into question how good she was at judging people, but then it is up to you to prove that her judgements about the role of self-esteem are wrong.
I just find it surprising that you think she was inherently wrong in what she said about psychology of men. If there's one really common thread I've heard in regards to her fiction writing, it's that you could actually imagine people acting on those premises, that one actually knows people like Taggart, who will evade the situation and start trying to kick up smoke to distract you, or the Railyway-men before the tunnel-disaster, who continually pass the buck.


What I find hilarious in all this, is you accuse Ayn Rand of being able to assume the psychology of other people... and hear you sit, shooting off your theories of what exactly was going through Ayn Rand's mind whilst she was writing this or that.

Daniel:
"Thirdly, Rand's argument is in fact that when the going gets tough (ie in an emergency) her ethical system needn't apply. This is effectively saying it goes out the window."

Again, WHERE does she say this? Where does she say ethics does not apply? I know she says under normal conditions, one wouldn't consider the value of human life in general as very high up in one's hierarchy (assuming one isn't a cop or a fireman), but again, this isn't a normal situation, and so suddenly, it does become important, because somewhere around you, that value is suddenly right in front of your eyes, being immediately threatened.

Does that make things clearer?

john said...

Well, i think I have to give up all irony or anything remotely close to it. The readers of this blog are just too dense. This is the second incident.

Jay: My "True Believer" comment was made on purpose to skewer this blog. I would try to explain it further, but it is too risky; you might respond literally.

John Donohue

Jay said...

Well, i think I have to give up all irony or anything remotely close to it. The readers of this blog are just too dense.

Isn't that an argument from intimidation?

Rory said...

Not unless you find your own inability to recognise a joke intimidating.

Daniel Barnes said...

I asked:
>Did Rand say that to put one's own life at risk for a stranger's was immoral or not? Yes or no?

Rory replied:
>The answer is: it depends on the context.

Sorry, wrong answer Rory. The answer is yes.

"If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only if the risk to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it; only a lack of self esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger." - Ayn Rand, "The Ethics of Emergencies."

Jay said...

To John,

I missed the joke. My apologies.

john said...

No problem Jay.

--------------------------

Mr. Barnes your own citation shows that what you are 'insisting on' is not what Rand said; she provides her context as Rory noted. So your insistance is to be rejected.

Now, on the contrary that anyone having trouble with this fully contextual position:

"If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only if the risk to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it; only a lack of self esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger."

must answer for the converse:

"I wish there were a minimal risk to me, I'd try to save the person. However, in this case, there is a great danger to my life. I will probably die. This is a stranger, who could be a fine person or could be a worthless parasite or criminal, I do not know. Yet I will renounce these facts because I value (as you can see by what I am about to do) my life less than this unknown and it is a valid moral choice for me to risk almost certain death in a remote chance of saving this person.

Would you, Mr. Barnes, consider it moral to proceed?

John Donohue

gregnyquist said...

John: "You deserve complete excoriation, however, for your rudeness to the remainder of the hypothetical bystanders, whom you insult with horrifying disdain: the honorable disengagement of all who witness tragedy with pathos for the victim and courage to not throw away their own life in futility."

This is not the point at issue. Of course no one has a moral obligation to risk his life for a stranger. If this was all that Rand was asserting, there would be no reason to criticize her. But she couldn't stop there. She has to insist that it is immoral to risk one's life for a stranger. "..when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt [to save a stranger's life,]" Rand declared.

Rand's error on this issue appears to be her tendency to believe that any act that is regarded as morally praiseworthy must be practiced by everyone. If it is morally praiseworthy to endure great risk in saving a stranger's life, then everyone should be running around trying to risk their lives to save strangers. But that's not the case at all. There are a handful of people who are naturally courageous and who don't shrink from risking their lives to save strangers. When they actually carry out one of these heroic acts, why should they not be praised? That doesn't mean people who don't want to risk their hides are morally contemptible. People have different talents and proclivities. Some people have a talent and proclivity for heroic acts. Others don't. Why couldn't Rand simply have accepted this?

I think the real problem is that Rand never thought her position all the way through. Perhaps if she had she would have revised it.

Damien said...

greg,

I still have to wonder what effect it would have had on Rand or Peikoff if some total stranger risked their life and saved them from certain death. Would that make them question their view of the world?

Plus what about people who risk their lives to save total strangers for a living, like firemen or police officers? Are they also acting in an immoral manner? Beyond that, what would society be like without them?

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi John,

I seem to be having trouble getting a straight answer from you on this straightforward, easily verifiable fact of reality.

Did Rand say that to put one's own life at risk - I suppose I should add at serious risk - for a stranger's was immoral or not?

To help you, here's the passage in question again. I will even emphasise the relevant part:

Ayn Rand: "If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only if the risk to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it; only a lack of self esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger."

Yes, or no, John?

Rory said...

There is only a certain amount of times I can keep repeating this until I can only assume you are being dishonest.
Why do you keep asking this question, if you've already made up your mind that that one quote is the answer, and that it doesn't require any context, and furthermore, that it isn't justified?

I've explained tirelessly why this is a part of the Objectivist ethics, specifically the nature of valuing. You guys keep asking questions which I've clearly answered: that it depends on the context of your values, and how great a threat the event is to your values.

And yet, you keep asking, 'Oh well, aren't those people who do risk their lives super swell?'. When they do it randomly? No. For that very reason - it's an arbitrary decision. It relies on the total abdication of Reason, and of one's value for one's life.
'What about firemen/policemen/etc?' The very fact about firemen and policemen is that they are /not/ ordinary people jumping into a sudden situation. They live their lives planning for emergencies, and have the equipment and training to deal with them - it is the very fact that although the risk is great, they are prepared to deal with it. And /even then/, they are told not to go into a situation way over their head, to wait for back up, to not go in if the building really will collapse any second.

I do not call such a person a hero, precisely because being a hero means having a commitment to your values, and being willing to throw your life away for any arbitrary emergency, no matter how great the conditions, is a complete rejection of the meaning of values.

I can't explain this any clearer and cannot help you understand this unless you can understand it within the context of Ayn Rand's conception of valuing; unless of course you do accept it and just go with the conclusion, 'Yeah, but I don't like that. What about the poor, the hungry, etc etc? What a bitch!'

Daniel Barnes said...

Rory:
>There is only a certain amount of times I can keep repeating this until I can only assume you are being dishonest...I've explained tirelessly why this is a part of the Objectivist ethics, specifically the nature of valuing.

Yes, I understand exactly why Ayn Rand called saving the life of a stranger at the risk of your own "immoral." It makes perfect sense in the context of her overall philosophy.

What I don't understand is why you and JD are being so mealy-mouthed about it. Why not just up and say "damn right!" The guy who saves a drowning child in dangerous surf is immoral. It's just due to the lingering effects of intrinsicist/subjectivist epistemology and its concomitant altruism that society doesn't recognise this reprehensible act for what it is. Etc. Don't worry; we here at the ARCHNblog know the drill. Yet for some reason neither of you can bring yourself to say it; further, you can't even bring yourself to admit that Ayn Rand said it, and meant it - even though it's right there in unequivocal black and white.

Perhaps you need to check your premises - perhaps you have not expunged altruism from your psycho-epistemology as thoroughly as you think...

Rory said...

"Why not just up and say "damn right!" The guy who saves a drowning child in dangerous surf is immoral. It's just due to the lingering effects of intrinsicist/subjectivist epistemology and its concomitant altruism that society doesn't recognise this reprehensible act for what it is. Etc. Don't worry; we here at the ARCHNblog know the drill. Yet for some reason neither of you can bring yourself to say it; further, you can't even bring yourself to admit that Ayn Rand said it, and meant it - even though it's right there in unequivocal black and white."

Er, Ok then: damn right. I don't disagree with anything you said there. I never said anything to the contrary.
But you asked why we aren't out publicly decrying things like this.
1) We have better things to do
2) Suprisingly, it isn't an Objectivist tenet that one should run around after every immoral action and scream, 'SINNER!' I don't know about other Objectivists, but I really don't care what some idiot does.

Daniel Barnes said...

Rory:
>Er, Ok then: damn right. I don't disagree with anything you said there.

Jolly good, then. That does leave JD however, who seems to think that with this post the ARCHNblog has "not the slightest intention of fairly representing Rand's actual stance" and that it is a "constructed piece of weird garbage." JD, are you getting your head round this yet?

Rory said...

In hindsight, I don't see what the big whip up is. You claim to understand Objectivist ethics, what Ayn Rand said on this issue, what it all means, etc.
Even if you reject it and obviously imply you don't agree with it, this post isn't as bad as what is usually written here.

I guess the only thing I disagree with in the original post is your suggestion that Objectivists should be issuing press-releases on stuff like this. When it comes to criticising Objectivism, people go to really ridiculous lengths, so I honestly don't know if you're joking. I'll give you the benefit of assuming you were.

Daniel Barnes said...

Rory:
>In hindsight, I don't see what the big whip up is.

Well, non-Objectivists might find such a position remarkable.

>I guess the only thing I disagree with in the original post is your suggestion that Objectivists should be issuing press-releases on stuff like this.

But why? The ARI (among other Objectivist associations) releases press statements all the time asserting the morality or lack thereof of this or that in modern society. Here's a rich vein of cultural criticism they seem to have overlooked.

>...this post isn't as bad as what is usually written here.

Why thanks...;-)

Rory said...

The ARI really only releases press releases concerning something political or maybe something in academia. I don't think they have time to bother with small fry like this.
Plus, an issue like this is so narrow, it might be interesting for someone to write an article on, but it would be a waste of time for the ARI. They're trying to reach people by pointing out the moral and political issues which effect everyone - not just the morality of acts in emergencies, since they make up about 0.0000001% of human life within America.

Damien said...

Rory,

They may make up only about, 0.0000001%, but they are still important. If you are going to support an Egoist ethic and say that one should always put themselves first, and than you come up with a case that you think should be an exception, than you have a problem, no matter how rare that case may be, as long as it happens at all. This maybe why Rand came to such a bizarre and abhorrent conclusion to the questions of weather or not, someone should risk their life to save someone they don't know. If she made any exceptions to her Egoist ethic, she feared it would lead others to do the same. That was the last thing she wanted.

Rory said...

Still important? By what standard? By what essentials? That such a decision as is to be made in an emergency situation is a normal part of human life? Now, if we were speaking to each other as soldiers in the WW2 trenches, that might be true - but even then, actual battle made up a minority of a soldier's life; most time was just spent waiting for something to happen.

It might be important, but you've got to show me that it is an essential part of human existence to prove it is important.
As for being an exception, I've already stated why it isn't an exception. I've stated at least twice now exactly how it flows from Ayn Rand's view of morality. Essentially, morality consist of the values one chooses to pursue and how one chooses to pursue them. Life is the standard of values and therefore, if one is faced with a situation where a value is mortally threatened, then one can only act to the degree that that same mortality won't befall your entire life itself.
Ayn Rand specifically said that in an emergency situation with a stranger, the value is 'human life' - Howard Roark might value it enough to stay on the Titanic for a certain length of time helping people, and helping to the degree that his strength and ability could provide, but he wouldn't stay on it as it sunk just because human life was in danger. It simply isn't that great a value to him.

NOW, as I've said, you might disagree with this, you might disagree with Ayn Rand's ethics, but this issue is perfectly consist with her ethics, not an exception (in many ways, the issue of mortality gives one the chance to point out, in stark contrast, what life is and what living consists of).

Anonymous said...

UK Objectivist here.

I agree with you that we Objectivists cannot give you a straight answer to this one. Sorry, I won't quote Rand verbatim or try to dodge the issue by hiding behind tricksy philospoical terms. After spending nearly $20 000 with the ARI I know better!!!

All I can say is I would be grateful if somebody did that to my child and yes, I would call them a hero and would like to think I'd behave the same way.

Anonymous said...

Uk Objectivist again!!

Look, this may not be the 'official' Objectivist opinion , but when it comes to, say, fireman, yes they are heroes.

They risk their lives day in day out and I'm not going to chit can them on anybodies say so. It's (objectivism) not about being John Galt or Howard Roark you know.

Daniel Barnes said...

Rory:
>[the ARI] are trying to reach people by pointing out the moral and political issues which effect everyone - not just the morality of acts in emergencies, since they make up about 0.0000001% of human life within America.

This is not a very good argument. Firstly, there are entire professions in which risking their lives for strangers is commonplace, from mountain rescue to firemen to policemen. The line that "that's their job" therefore it's not immoral hardly helps. Would you argue a gangster is not immoral because beating people up is his job? Further, are you going to argue that one shouldn't protest about his immorality because he spends only a small portion of his time actually beating people up? I don't think so.

I think the reason Objectivists don't condemn such acts is that - where they even are aware of the position - they're simply embarrassed to admit this is consistent with Rand's ethics.

Daniel Barnes said...

UK Objectivist:
>I agree with you that we Objectivists cannot give you a straight answer to this one.

Hi UKO

Nice to hear from you, and I'm glad you agree.

>After spending nearly $20 000 with the ARI I know better!!!

Wow. Is that on courses or donations or both? Doesn't sound like it was great value for money.

Damien said...

Rory,

"Still important? By what standard? By what essentials? That such a decision as is to be made in an emergency situation is a normal part of human life? Now, if we were speaking to each other as soldiers in the WW2 trenches, that might be true - but even then, actual battle made up a minority of a soldier's life; most time was just spent waiting for something to happen."

Any statement with an absolute modifier is false if you can find one case where it is not true. If I say "all people with blond hair, have blue eye," all I have to do to prove the statement false is to find one person with blond hair who does not have blue eyes. If I claim that "horses are always calm and genital," the only thing you have to do is find one horse who is a widow maker and you have proven me wrong. So if there are any cases in the real world, no matter how rare they may be, when one should put the interests of others above his own interests, that proves that the statement, "one should always look out for themselves first" is false. That is why it is still important. That is way statements with absolute modifiers like "all, always, never, under any circumstances," are usually false. On the other hand, statements with the words, "sometimes, usually, many times, in some instances," are more likely to be true. If you find one instance that contradicts a statement with an absolute modifier, it is a false statement. If use a general modifier in a statement that is much harder to disprove. If I say, "some people have red hair," finding someone who has brown hair doesn't make the statement untrue. But If I were to say "All people have red hair" and you don't, that statement is false.

Now do you see why it is important?

Rory said...

I said earlier there is only so many times one can repeat the same thing, to have ones answers ignored, misrepresented and psychologised. I've repeated my argument again and again, and you keep choosing a different thing to attack, but you never actually attack the argument.

I have stated my position. I have not been claiming this is some exceptional instance in an otherwise integrated system. I have proven that the moral choice a man faces in an emergency is necessitated by his value of human life.

My argument stands up there, repeated again and again, with you ignoring it and claiming something entirely different. I have not said that it is immoral to help someone in an emergency but it's so rare so don't sweat it. That is a gross misrepresentation, and I'm going to have to side with 'john' now: you have no interest in representing us or our argument fairly; however, my argument stands there for anyone else reading this and I leave it up to them to judge.

Good day.

P.S. I am also from the UK, but 'UKO' can only speak for himself and his own intellectual failure to grasp what is actually a very simple 'problem'.

Daniel Barnes said...

Rory:
>That is a gross misrepresentation, and I'm going to have to side with 'john' now: you have no interest in representing us or our argument fairly

Errr...are you talking to me or Damien?

If me, I've never said that the position was inconsistent with Rand's ethics. I've said repeatedly that it is.

I did say that your hypothesis as to the ARI's apparent lack of interest in trying to change attitude to such immoral acts was rather weak, as, contra you, there are entire professions who regularly do perform these acts and also widespread social respect for this immoral attitude.

I suggest that the ARI's (and similar organisations) reluctance to speak out is simply because it is likely to be rejected as bizarre by most people, and would be almost certainly very damaging to the general perception of Rand's ethics (to the small extent that this exists).

Anonymous said...

To add onto the other sound arguments made against this post, this post clearly lacks an understanding of Rand's belief on someone's rational self-interest versus a dangerous situation for a stranger. Rand made it clear her definition of a "sacrifice" and that definition explains what is immoral or moral. If the woman rescued the boy instead of helping her own child, that is a sacrifice, and thus immoral. However, the scenario is not a sacrifice, the woman merely saw the boy being attacked and helped him to safety, thus not sacrificing anything of higher value for something of lower value.

Meg's Marginalia said...

All I can say is LOL.

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "this post clearly lacks an understanding of Rand's belief on someone's rational self-interest versus a dangerous situation for a stranger."

No, this is not correct. The post is not an attack on Rand's notion of rational self-interest. It's a criticism of the bizarre implications of a statement Rand asserting the immorality of risking one's life for a stranger. If we are to take Rand's statement seriously, we would be forced to conclude that the woman in the story linked in the post was immoral.

Rand and her followers are really swimming against the current on this one. Try as they might, they will never convince the majority of people that a person who risks their life to save a stranger is immoral. Such action always has and always will be praised, regardless of whatever kind of rationalizations can be devised against it. Anyone who believes the contrary simply doesn't have a clue about human nature.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon 8.50:
>To add onto the other sound arguments made against this post...

What other "sound arguments" have been made against this post?

Objectivist Rory seems to agree that it reflects Rand's true position. Similarly UK Objectivist, although he differs with Rory as to whether he personally thinks this position of Rand's is praiseworthy or not. JD seems typically outraged, yet when presented with Rand' verbatim quote does not deny that this is what Rand actually meant. In fact it's not clear exactly what JD's point is. Your post seems irrelevant to the actual point, as you make it sound as though the woman in question pulled the boy from a clutch of friendly puppies, rather than killer pitbulls. She was, of course, at risk of sacrificing her life for a stranger.

So, Anon8.50: Was her rescue of the young stranger morally contemptible or not?

Damien said...

Greg,

"Try as they might, they will never convince the majority of people that a person who risks their life to save a stranger is immoral. Such action always has and always will be praised, regardless of whatever kind of rationalizations can be devised against it. Anyone who believes the contrary simply doesn't have a clue about human nature."

That's why I called Rand's notion of the immorality of someone risking their life to save a stranger abhorrent. Truth be told I think if any objectivist started to honestly thinks this through, I think he might have to question his view of ethics. Especially if he started to imagine the stranger saved his life.

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

Rand made it clear her definition of a "sacrifice" and that definition explains what is moral or immoral. - anon
___________________________________





So Rand decides what is moral or immoral for humanity?

Anonymous said...

Like Christ can turn water into wine Rand (may her spirit touch us all) can turn cowardliness into heroism.

"Those are the moral heroes of an extreme emergency; their heart, their soul wish to save life, knowing its value, but their higher virtues assure them it is wrong to deny the reality that that person is dying and there is nothing to be done; that the sure value of their own life is of absolute worth" (john chapter who knows,verse who cares)

No wonder she is such a comfort to her worshipers.

Michael Sutcliffe said...

(There's been a lot of long posts arguing this one out which would take over an hour for me to get my head around, so I'm going to start afresh with my own comments. Please excuse my laziness, I'll try to take a different angle to what everyone else seems to have done.)

Rand's point is quite simple. By 'stranger' she means 'unknown'. Therefore, you shouldn't risk your life, which is your most prized possession, for an unknown value. This is simply rational behaviour. For example, if I were to bet you a billion dollars to have one go at Russian roulette would you do it? I would argue a rational person shouldn't do it as, in this society, their lives are probably more than comfortable already, or even if they aren't comfortable there is a high probability that through the application of reason and their own labour they will become quite comfortable (and if they're an objectivist they'll also enjoy the journey!!!). So if, by my reasoning at least, you shouldn't do it then, are you going to do it if I say to you I'll give you a quantity of money between one hundred dollars and one billion dollars if you have one go at russian roulette. Of course you won't take my offer. You're not going to risk your life for a billion dollars let alone an unknown value, and any rational person knows this is stupid. That's Ayn Rand's point.

Now, would I save a child from a dog? Of course I would. The dog is unlikely to kill me in any instance. I live in a community of rational people and this child will almost certainly grow up to make a valuable contribution of some sort, even if it's just through their profession, to my community, and therefore to me! Furthermore, because my community is primarily moral, and if this child is from my community, then I could reasonably expect reciprocation in that another parent would save my child as they feel the same way about the value of my children.

Now, before I personally attack you people, let's lead in by getting a bit controversial! I've spent a bit of my time around aboriginal communities through growing up in country towns. Aborignals swim in water that a lot of other people wouldn't due to crocodiles. If I saw an aboriginal child being eaten by a crocodile, would I jump in to save him/her? Pretty much, no. If I saw an easy way to save him/her without risk to myself I would do it. But if it involves me getting into the water then I wouldn't do it (I'd still call 000 etc). Why, because what value is it that I'm risking my life for? He/she will be back here tomorrow, and it's probably more value to the community to say you shouldn't swim here because your kids will be eaten and your stupid 'spiritual' ceremony doesn't really protect them from crocodiles. Are you really suggesting that I should immerse myself in deep water with a high probability of crocs in order to save this child?

Now the good bit. In my personal experience it is the pathetic left-wing fairy boy who stands outside the burning building calling 000 on his mobile phone, while right-wing people of morals like myself are the ones running into the building doing the risky work saving people. Yet it is the pathetic left-wing fairy boy who ends up claiming the high moral ground through claiming that other people aren't doing enough for the community, and demanding government action that they be forced to do/give more for others who don't work as hard or take the risks that they do. Why is that?

Michael Sutcliffe said...

Red Grant: So Rand decides what is moral or immoral for humanity?

No, reason does.

Michael Sutcliffe said...

anonymous: No wonder she is such a comfort to her worshipers.

You seem like the sort of person who needs a 'philosophy' that includes an afterlife and requires other people to protect you regardless of how stupid you may be. In other words, religion is probably more your thing!

Don't have the courage to live for yourself, mate?!

Michael Sutcliffe said...

Red Grant: Indeed. I've asked the objectivsts universally objectively valid definition of morality irrespective of time and place.

So far I couldn't get one.


I like it, Red, so let's run with it.

I should say that I consider myself an 'amateur' objectivist in that I'm not the most widely read person on Rand's writings (although it has been some years that I've considered myself an objectivist!), but I think I understand the philosophy to a fairly thorough extent.

So, starting off, I'll take it as given that we exist and that we should use reason to make all our decisions, and that reason is our epistemological basis.

So we're not wasting our time, I'll get your agreement that this is a good starting position?

Daniel Barnes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Barnes said...

MS:
>You're not going to risk your life for a billion dollars let alone an unknown value, and any rational person knows this is stupid. That's Ayn Rand's point.

MS, if you are going to get your head around this thread, you need to start by making a basic intellectual distinction.

That is, "stupid" is not the same as "immoral."
Your implication is that if someone chooses to be say a firefighter, air-sea rescuer, policeman etc they are stupid, as they risk their lives regularly and don't even get paid a billion dollars. But Rand's point is that they are immoral. Got the difference? And my point, following logically from Rand's position, is that Objectivists should therefore roundly denounce such professions, and the media's celebration of such acts. Yet they don't. Why, I wonder?

Michael Sutcliffe said...

daniel barnes: That is, "stupid" is not the same as "immoral."

Sure, 'stupid' might be a different thing to 'moral' but 'stupid' can never be 'moral'. The only entity that can be moral is a an entity that has free will i.e. has the ability to make a choice, and therefore can be assessed to be moral or immoral by this choice using an ethical yardstick. The only way to make a choice with any meaning, or to apply an ethical yardstick with any meaning, is through the application of reason. An entity that is stupid is unable to be moral if we define 'stupid' as being unable to apply reason (which, I'm assuming, is the common-usage definition).

daniel barnes: Your implication is that if someone chooses to be say a firefighter, air-sea rescuer, policeman etc they are stupid, as they risk their lives regularly and don't even get paid a billion dollars. But Rand's point is that they are immoral. Got the difference? And my point, following logically from Rand's position, is that Objectivists should therefore roundly denounce such professions,..........

I think we need to be a bit realistic about the risks firefighters or policemen take in their job. If we were to use Rand's example of 'risking your life for a stranger' we are implying taking a substantial amount of risk, perhaps akin to my example of russian roulette, which we could equate to a 1 in 6 chance of death.

I think we could both agree that 1 in 6 firefighters or policemen don't die on the job. In fact, the figure is probably a couple of orders of magnitude smaller. Furthermore, the firefighter or policeman is being compensated for his level of risk through his pay. If she/he feels this compensation is not satisfactory then they are free to leave their job and seek higher pay or lower risk elsewhere.

We all manage risk in our lives. Every single one of us, when we walk down the street, drive a car, cook with a pressure cooker etc etc. Pretty much all of the faculties of our survival or quality of life have risk involved, but still need to be provided by people interacting if we are going to get them through some form of society, i.e. social cooperation through a market. Which is fine, because some people take money for this risk like miners, or security guards, people who work with dangerous chemicals, pilots, soldiers etc. These people aren't immoral; they're providing those necessary functions for our survival and quality of life for some benefit to themselves in the form of a salary, and perhaps an exciting job that they enjoy.

Having spent my last 13 years in the military (including time on operations), I consider myself in this situation. I could probably earn more money in the private sector, but I enjoy the excitement and variety of my job and the pay is generally acceptable. Furthermore, perhaps like a policeman, there is the fact that I feel my job provides a benefit to my own survivial, quality of life and happiness above my pay and daily experiences. To use the policeman as an example, she/he may feel that taking violent offenders off the streets is good for her/him as a civilised person in the community, and this is an added benefit to her/him on top of her/his pay.

So, as an objectivist, I consider these professions completely moral. There's plenty of 'professions' I think are personal sacrifice by people who don't understand right from wrong. For example, I don't think I'd ever work as an aid-worker for people who I didn't think could ever end up providing for themselves. I'd never be a soldier or mercenary for a cause that supported an uncivilised regime. It'd be an unusual situation in which I'd practice as an engineer for free etc.

As an objectivist, I roundly denounce people who do these activities eg. aid-workers to hopeless communities, eco-terrorists or communist terrorist in some uncivilised land or doctors that sacrifice their professional careers to helping some shit village in Arsecrackistan, and I think the media celebrates them because it is confused and there are a lot of left-wing media people. And it makes for a good story, whereas something that is completely rational is rarely sensational.

Michael Sutcliffe said...

My comment in the post above:

Sure, 'stupid' might be a different thing to 'moral' but 'stupid' can never be 'moral'.

should read

Sure, 'stupid' might be a different thing to 'immoral' but 'stupid' can bever be 'moral'.

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

So Rand decides what is moral or immoral for humanity? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

No, reason does. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________



Reason - def. - the basis or motive for an action or conviction


Does this mean then you believe if one had the basis or motive (whatever they happen to be) for an action or conviction (whatever they happen to be), then:

that action or conviction would be moral?

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

The only entity that can be moral is an entity that has free will, i.e. has the ability to make a choice, and therefore can be

assessed to be.... - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________





To be assessed by whom?



___________________________________


.....can be assessed to be moral or immoral by this choice using an

ethical yardstick. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________





Who decides what is an ethical yardstick?

Michael Sutcliffe said...

red grant: To be assessed by whom?

Everybody who wants to live a moral life.

red grant: Who decides what is an ethical yardstick?

(I assume you are not actually asking what an ethical yardstick is, but rather how you get one.)

You do as an individual. But if you are sensible / moral you will do it according to reason, so it will be the same one that I and all other ethical people will end up deriving.

Michael Sutcliffe said...

red grant: Reason - def. - the basis or motive for an action or conviction.

Wrong definition of reason, Red. Which I suspect you know is actually the case, you slippery devil. Try this one on for size:

Reason: the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgements by a process of logic.

(That definition comes from the dictionary widget that comes with Dashboard in MacOSX).

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

Reason - def. - the basis or motive for an action or conviction - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

Wrong definition of reason,.... - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________



Reason - def. - The basis or motive for an action, decision, or conviction - 1. www.freedictionary.com/reason


___________________________________

The only entity that can be moral is an entity that has free will, i.e. has the ability to make a choice, and therefore can be

assessed to be .... - Michael Sutcliffe

-----------------------------------

To be assessed by whom? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

Everybody who wants to live a moral life. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________




Who decides what is moral?

What is morality?

and who decides who is moral?



___________________________________

...can be assessed to be moral or immoral by this choice using an ethical yardstick. - Michael Sutcliffe

-----------------------------------

Who decides what is an ethical yardstick? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

(I assume you are not actually asking what an ethical yardstick is... - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________





I am. What is an ethical yardstick?

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

Reason: The power of the mind to think, understand and form judgements by

a process of logic - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________






Did you mean, by "a process of logic", Aristotelian logic?

Red Grant said...

Should have been:

www.thefreedictionary.com/reason

Michael Sutcliffe said...

Yes, Red, you found a different definition of 'reason'. Well done. You know what I'm saying - we decide what is moral through the application of reason (as per my definition - which will then come up with a logical foundation for our moral basis as per your definition).

Now lets see if we can go anywhere with this!

red grant: Does this mean then you believe if one had the basis or motive (whatever they happen to be) for an action or conviction (whatever they happen to be), then: that action or conviction would be moral?

Well it's not 'whatever they happen to be' when we're considering morality, is it Red? We're asking what constitutes a good life for a human like you, which tends to end up focussed on how you should interact with other humans.

So lets start with this basis: 1) you are alive, 2) you wish to stay alive, 3) you wish to live your life to the fullest and be happy, and 4) there are other people like you in which you will interact. Let me know what you think about this basis?

red grant: Who decides what is moral?

Every being that makes decisions according to reason derives an understanding of what is moral if they wish to survive and flourish. Ultimately, however, they are not determining what is moral - that is determined by the nature of their existence and reason.

red grant: What is morality

Since this seems to be your preferred source of definitions:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/morality

I have no problems with these definitions.

red grant: and who decides who is moral?

As stated above, what is moral is determined by the nature of your existence and the universe in which you exist. However you understand what is moral through examining the nature of your existence and utilising reason.

red grant: Did you mean, by "a process of logic", Aristotelian logic?

Essentially yes. However, so we don't go down the 'my definition is better than your definition' path like we were beginning to with 'reason', lets just say the same logic that you use every day to survive and make decisions as to your happiness. That's unless you want to argue the nature of logic - but to be honest, I'm not interested in 50 or more posts on this topic. I want to defend objectivist morality on this site, so if you want to push the bounds of that then knock yourself out and I will try to give good answers to everything you ask.

red grant: I am. What is an ethical yardstick?

Are you serious with this? A scale with right on one end and wrong on the other for use in determining complex, nuanced, ethical questions - such that we can determine what is 'right' by which option is closest to the 'right' end of the scale.

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

So Rand decides what is moral or immoral for humanity? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

No, reason does. - Michael Sutcliffe
-----------------------------------
Reason: The power of the mind to think, understand,and form judgements by

a process of logic. - Michael Sutcliffe
-----------------------------------

Did you mean, "by a process of logic", Aristotelian logic? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

Essentially yes. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________




The following is an excerpt from Aristotle on Slavery:

___________________________________

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


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. - Aristotle

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl1302/distance_arc/las_casas/Aristotle-slavery.html
___________________________________





Does this mean then you believe Slavery is

moral

in universally objectively valid way?

Michael Sutcliffe said...

No, Red, it doesn't. You and I both know that when I agreed that Aristotelian logic, or rather traditional logic theory, was a sound basis for an objectivist to make decisions I wasn't endorsing everything else Aristotle may have said in toto. Why waste time playing games like this?

I'm not familiar with Aristotle's views on slavery and the link doesn't work so I can't examine the 'grounds of both reason and of fact'. I'll just talk out my own objectivist perspective on slavery, viz:

Between rational civilised beings there is no logical basis that can justify slavery. By removing the liberty of a rational being you are removing their ability to achieve their full potential, and hence the maximum contribution they can make to a society, and hence to your own existence. To clarify (and my apologies if I'm telling you to suck eggs), this is due to the fact that human kind maximises their utility through the application of creative genius, not through simple robotic labour. So in practical terms, this is one of the main reasons North Korea doesn't have substantial creative output and the USA does. Slavery also creates a state of conflict in which you will constantly need to defend yourself, hence you are reducing yourself to the law of the jungle and not achieving a state of peace whereby you can fully exercise your own creative genius to your own ends i.e. the purpose of establishing civil society. Exactly the same point but from a different angle is that slavery destabilises civil society by making it unclear who has freedom and what sort of enforcement can be used to eliminate freedom i.e. if some rational peaceful people have freedom, why don't all the others, (or violates the 'social contract' if you like but that's often a dirty expression in objectivist circles ;) ). Slavery also has an overhead that must be paid to maintain the slaves in submission and keep them in a useful form eg healthy, housed and fed, enforced social structures so they can collectively deliver productive work etc. This overhead must be delivered from your own productivity and is a 'base' activity or 'brutish' activity rather than 'enlightened' one to which you, as a civilised being, should be applying your intellect. In short, slavery does not sit with rational beings voluntarily cooperating to further their own ends through maximising their creative genius, i.e. civil society.

Can you imagine anything like brain surgery, or space travel, being achieved through a system of slavery? What about harnessing some slaves to write a great symphony? This extends right down the line. A conscripted defence force will not be as capable as a volunteer one. If people are forced into a particular career by social forces beyond their control they will not be as productive as if they chose their preferred career. People who have their freedom reduced will not feel the same allegiance to the values of that society compared to someone who feels their society maximises their freedom of choice and opportunity.

This wasn't something I got in the first instance myself. In the The Fountainhead Ayn Rand wrote 'A leash is only a rope with a noose at both ends'. I didn't get what this fully meant until only a couple of years ago. It applies to all human relationships from marriage to slavery.

Red Grant said...

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl1302/distance_arc/
las_casas/Aristotle-slavery.html



How do you think Aristotle arrived at his view on slavery?

Through the application of reason?

Damien said...

Red Grant,

The web address you gave us, about Aristotle and Slavery doesn't seem to be working.

Michael Sutcliffe said...

I've found your article via Google. Your link can't be copied directly for some reason.

From those few paragraphs I can't really see a consistent logical argument, it's more observations he has made of the world and discussion as he tries to make sense of what he sees. He does make definitive statements but I don't think they are justified. He's talking about 'soul' which I take refers to intellect and consciousness, which I don't think is a particularly developed perspective. Which is hardly surprising as I guess knowledge as we know it was still in its infancy.

I think what he's trying to get at is that even a human being who does not live according to reason can be legitimately kept as a slave, similar to a beast of burden. This would have had some relevance in his day, as plenty of humans were still living a tribal 'pack-animal' existence, and he was in the most enlightened society of it's day. So I guess it would be a natural question to ponder.

So, my take on it is that this is not a rational argument. My views on slavery are what I've articulated above. I also think my argument would have held true in his day as well, just that it would be harder to see that was the case considering the state of human development. Just like it would be harder to see how one day we would walk on the moon or talk to someone thousands of kilometres away.

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

So Rand decides what is moral or immoral for humanity? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

No, reason does. - Michael Sutcliffe

-----------------------------------

Reason: The power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgements by

a process of logic - Michael Sutcliffe

-----------------------------------

Did you mean, "by a process of logic", Aristotelian logic? - Red Grant

-----------------------------------

Essentially yes. - Michael Sutcliffe

-----------------------------------

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

There is no difficulty in answsering 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. - Aristotle
-----------------------------------

He [Aristotle] does make definitive statements [on the righteousness of slavery], but I don't think they are

justified. - Michael Sutcliff
___________________________________




Why do you think his[Aristotle's] arguments are not justified?

How did Aristotle arrive at his view of slavery?

Through the application of reason?


___________________________________

He[Aristotle] does make definitive statements [on the righteousness of slavery] but I don't think they are justified. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________




Because Aristotle didn't use

reason?

___________________________________

I think what he[Aristotle]'s trying to get at [on slavery] is that even a human being who does not live according to reason can be legitimately kept as a slave, similar to a beast of burden.

This would have had some

relevance

in his[Aristotle's] day,... - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________





Relevance in moral sense (as you've defined)?