About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadPage 0Page 1Forward one pageLast Page


Post 0

Tuesday, March 4, 2003 - 8:58amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"Indeed, it is only in substantially free societies that men and women can be morally good"

Kira from We The Living was good.

Post 1

Wednesday, March 5, 2003 - 8:23amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
But what good did it do Kira to be good? The point of WE THE LIVING is that Kira's goodness was strangled in Soviet Russia. She had to sleep with a man she didn't love in order to save the life of the man she did love; the man she loved became a gigolo; she ventured to leave Russia on her own and was killed by a border patroller. I don't think her character or the novel contradicts a word of Tibor Machan's essay. Morality depends on liberty, as he points out, or it is meaningless. This principle is difficult for many people to grasp, however, since so many have grown up under the dictatorship of their parents.

Post 2

Thursday, March 6, 2003 - 9:15amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
It's typical in philosophy discussions for one person to make a bold claim that isn't actually true. If you call them on it, say with a simple counter-example, you are likely to hear in response a long stream of words strung together, none of which alter the fact that the original claim wasn't actually true.

I think we should all stop doing this. When discussing ideas, there are two basic principles that should be followed: 1) Don't say stuff that isn't actually true. 2) Say stuff as simply as you possibly can, using the simplest possible words and the simplest possible sentences.

Regarding these two principles, Ayn Rand was 1000 times better than any other philosopher. But the best example of what I'm talking about is the writing of Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, who wrote a book I highly recommend called Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman.

Pan

Post 3

Thursday, March 6, 2003 - 1:34pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Pan,

Sorry I didn't address your original claim. Please support your statement that Kira was good. I'm really not sure she was.

Post 4

Thursday, March 6, 2003 - 3:47pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Oh, by the way, Kirsten, I hope my last post didn't come across as overly hostile. I didn't mean for it too.

Why do I think Kira was good? Well, I just think she has all the characteristics that Objectivists usually think are virtues. She's very rational, not inclined to sacrifice herself for others, ambitious and hard-working, and honest. Not to mention, passionate.

Pan

Post 5

Saturday, March 8, 2003 - 11:53amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Pan,

Thanks for your reply. I think my posts have been more hostile than yours, but I didn’t mean for them to be either.

I’ve reread Tibor Machan’s essay. The statement that people can be morally good only in substantially free societies is, as you point out, a bold claim that does not hold up under scrutiny. I think it could be cut, though, without changing the point of the essay. People can be morally good only if they are responsible for what they do.

In that sense, I agree with you that Kira is good. She behaves as responsibly and courageously as one can under her circumstances, and her behavior in the climax of the novel is especially admirable and moving. But I’ve never been able to regard her as a moral ideal, because her own ideal is Leo.

I once heard Ayn Rand say that while Andrei may seem “more moral” than Leo, he’s not even as good, because he’s an agent of the Soviet secret police. I didn’t ask her, but I’ve always wondered what’s so great about Leo, whom the Russian Revolution has left without the “whip he was born to carry.” Would he have been “more moral” than Andrei if he’d been able to wield his whip? In any case, his behavior in the novel is increasingly ignoble, and it increasingly appears that Kira’s great passion for Leo is not for him, but for an illusion.

All of which doesn’t mean I don’t like Kira -- I do like her.

Kirsten

Post 6

Saturday, January 3, 2004 - 12:51pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I find the idea that one cannot be good where there is no liberty to be somewhat true in We the Living, but not necessarily true in real life.

I think Kira's attempted escape at the novel's end is too risky and desparate. I think in this context, the lack of a free society and the demise of her relationship with Leo finally strips Kira of her better judgement, and she makes a break for freedom when this attempted escape during Winter may have been better left for a later time.

Also, the fact that the border guard who shot her was an Aryan, may be a literary device to suggest that her behavior by that time had become self-defeating - note: AYn RANd - see the capital letters?

That was just the impression I got from the novel, several years ago.

Post 7

Sunday, January 4, 2004 - 11:57amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Surely a person acting morally good acts according what is good in their moral standard. Surely different morals lead to different moral goods.

Is moral good a fixed thing? For the japanese in World War II, it was morally good to die for your country...

Are you saying they were coerced into it by their society? With such an opinion, you could equally say Objectivists are coerced into serving the self by Objectivism...

To be truly free is to not be coerced in any way. Can anybody be truly free?

Post 8

Sunday, January 4, 2004 - 9:34pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
No, it was not morally good to die for your country in Japan in World War II. It was only culturally accepted. There is a HUGE difference. A moral Jap during WWII would have been hard at work undermining the Japanese government and war effort, or getting the hell out of Japan altogether.

"Are you saying they were coerced into it by their society? With such an opinion, you could equally say Objectivists are coerced into serving the self by Objectivism..."

Either A) you don't know what "Objectivism" means, or B) you don't know what "coerce" means.

To coerce someone is to force them to do something with threats or actual physical force. Objectivists might be influenced by other Objectivists, but nowhere in the world is Objectivism forced upon people. Forcing Objectivism on people would be contrary to Objectivism.

"To be truly free is to not be coerced in any way. Can anybody be truly free?"

Yes, of course. That question answers itself.

Post 9

Monday, January 5, 2004 - 12:06pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
According to the dictionary, coerce means to forcibly constrain or impel person. It specifically implies the use of force. Therefore, we can definitely be free, until such time as somebody forces us to do something.

In a society where governmental use of force is very limited, the individual is definitely free to a large extent. I imagine such a society would have laws against murder and such, and therefore it wouldn't be completely free, in the theoretical sense. Such actions as murder reduce the freedom of other people, and such a society would defend freedom.

I don't understand your notion of morals, I must research this. I had thought a person's morals are what dictates right and wrong, not some absolute standard. I will read up on the general meaning of morals and ethics.

Post 10

Monday, January 5, 2004 - 3:52pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Murderers limit the freedom of the people they kill. It is just to punish them. A free society MUST have laws that preserve freedom, rather than limit freedom. It can be done.

If you use the destruction of freedom as the standard by which you judge a crime, then you can come to the following conclusions:

-A law that prevents an adult from using drugs is anti-freedom. This is because a man owns his body, and the drugs that he buys, and has the right to do with each as he sees fit (however stupid that may seem to us).

-A law that protects your property from being stolen is pro-freedom. This is because you have the right to your property, and the right to live free of force.

Freedom doesn't mean the right to *anything* you want. It means you have the right to do whatever you like with YOUR property. Since everyone has this right, it is immoral to invade other's rights to their property.

Post 11

Tuesday, January 6, 2004 - 4:38amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Morality is based on Reason, not personal opinion or culture. Just like any other proposition. There are no exceptions to the laws of metaphysics.

Post 12

Tuesday, January 6, 2004 - 5:52amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
To expound on my last statement:

There are only two ways that force may be used. It can either be used in self-defense against an attacker in order to protect your rights and freedom (i.e. force used morally), or it can be used in an aggressive manner, denying a victim their rights and freedom (i.e. force used immorally). Government's only means of action is by force. Therefore it is the proper role of government to protect your life and property against aggressors (with institutions such as police, military, courts, and prisons), rather than become the aggressor themselves by putting a gun to your head and saying "Share."

Post 13

Monday, February 16, 2004 - 4:01pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I agree that true morality cannot be constructed by force. But, having said that, in some cases force is needed to PROTECT individual freedom.

Post 14

Monday, February 16, 2004 - 4:22pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Of course. That's why self-defense is a right.

Post 15

Tuesday, January 3 - 4:06amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Prof. Machan missed an important point.  (This came up as a random past article. I found the comments mostly useless. I am sorry that Prof. Machan is not here to discuss this, but I am confident that others will find it interesting in its own right.) The point that Prof. Machan missed is the value of catechism: as you speak, so you think; as you think, so you do. Moreover, even if your inner soul does not improve, your better outward actions make life better for everyone else.  Both of those are defeasible. I am sure that Prof. Machan would agree with me on that if he were here now. I just point out that he did not address them in his essay.  And they are cogent because his arguments for the right to be wrong are insufficient in themselves.

 

We also have a logical problem.  If P then Q, means that if Q exists, then P exists.  Starkly put: If all men are mortal then I must die; hence, I must die because all men are mortal.  My point is that logically, morality is antecedant to liberty. Immoral people do need to be constrained from violating the rights of others. 

 

I admit that not all immoral actions violate the rights of others. You can engage in many self-destructive behaviors that do not harm others. That is why we argue for the legalization of all so-called "drugs."  Let people do what they want to themselves.  (Independent of that, an open market in recreational or supplemental pharmeceuticals would result in better, safer, cheaper, healthier inventions.)  It goes far beyond drugs, of course. Rock climbing is dangerous. Jogging degrades your knees. Never go scuba diving alone. (You can't even get your tanks filled without a certification, an example of a free market protection not mandated by the government.) Scuba is dangerous, even with a buddy.  You can rent time on a speed track and drive as fast as your car will go.  "If it doesn't require a waiver, it can't be any fun." But it is the libertarian hedonists who argue along such lines.  Objectivists have higher, consistent standards. We still would allow other people to do stupid things to themselves.

 

But the collectivists have a strong argument. Take helmet laws. In a pure libertarian society, what would you do with someone who has a brain injury from a motorcycle accident?  Look at the address on their license and dump them on the doorstep?  You will not win any arguments with that line. You have to come up with a pro-life, pro-man-qua-man solution. Helmet laws are an example of that.  No matter who owns the roads, the owners say that you cannot use them on a motorcycle without a helmet.  In that context, you have no liberty to be immoral.

 

I have a range of arguments in support of Prof. Machan's thesis.  We were all (most of us) raised with the Pledge of Allegiance. In my elementary school days, we the class got pick the patriotic song of the day, typically, "America the Beautiful" or "My Country 'tis of Thee" (seldom "The Star Spangled Banner").  Yet, here we are today, none of us jingoists.  If you goto the ARI website and find the lists of Essay Contest winners, you will see bunches of them from Catholic schools. The schools are not handing out Ayn Rand books. nine or ten years of catechism just did not take hold on those individualists.  So, my point in this paragraph is that forcing people does little good for them. "Bad" people get around "good" rules. 

 

But it is argued to be better for everyone else if you are not drinking, gambling, taking the Lord's Name in vain, and missing church. Constraining your bad behavior makes life livable for others.  Prof. Machan did not address that.

 

I could say that you must take the good with the bad. That is Harry Lime's argument in The Third Man. The Medicis engaged in bribery, corruption, murder, and assassination and they gave us the Italian Renaissance. In 500 years of peace and democracy all that Switzerland gave us was the cuckoo clock.  I think that, too, is false, but it does strike to a core argument about the benefits and costs to an open society.



Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 16

Tuesday, January 3 - 12:45pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Marotta wrote:

 

But the collectivists have a strong argument. Take helmet laws. In a pure libertarian society, what would you do with someone who has a brain injury from a motorcycle accident?  Look at the address on their license and dump them on the doorstep?  You will not win any arguments with that line. You have to come up with a pro-life, pro-man-qua-man solution. Helmet laws are an example of that.  No matter who owns the roads, the owners say that you cannot use them on a motorcycle without a helmet.  In that context, you have no liberty to be immoral.

 

The implications there are that

1.) We, each and every one of us, as individuals, are somehow responsible for doing something with the person that has the brain injury. 

2.) That based upon this altruistic premise that his need compels our sacrifice, therefore we have to create a solution to prevent this injury problem. 

3.) That we become free of this posited moral duty once we agree to compel people to wear helmets. 

4.) That a pure libertarian society would not evolve private, charitable structures to provide support.

 

This is the elitist position of forcing people to do things for their own good that Professor Machan argued against in this article.
------------------

 

But it is argued to be better for everyone else if you are not drinking, gambling, taking the Lord's Name in vain, and missing church. Constraining your bad behavior makes life livable for others.  Prof. Machan did not address that.

 

That is a confusing paragraph.  Some religious arguments are mentioned (not drinking, gambling, taking the Lord's name in vain, missing church) and in an implied context of a kind of earthly collective salvation (if everyone abides by these society will benefit).  Then comes the statement that constraining bad behavior makes life livable for others.  Well, that is totally true if, and it is a very big IF, we are talking about an objective morality -  i.e., "bad behaviors" that actually cause harm.  I'm not at all clear about what Professor Machan did not address.  Was he supposed to say that if people adopt a rational morality, and if they practice it, and if the government doesn't prohibit those practices, that it will be better for all?  And what does that have to do with religious strictures?
---------------------

 

I could say that you must take the good with the bad. That is Harry Lime's argument in The Third Man. The Medicis engaged in bribery, corruption, murder, and assassination and they gave us the Italian Renaissance. In 500 years of peace and democracy all that Switzerland gave us was the cuckoo clock.  I think that, too, is false, but it does strike to a core argument about the benefits and costs to an open society.

 

"I could say..." - is that a literary device designed to permit the saying of something that you don't want to be seen as actually having said... which is what you did? 

 

I remember Rand writing about morally declaiming things as shades of grey instead of seeing the black and white.  She pointed out that grey is made by mixing black and white.  And she discussed the moral nature of mixing poison and nutritious food.  I refer to those in the context of the last sentence where Marotta says, "...it does strike to a core argument about the benefits and costs to an open society."   Well, the benefits to be had from morality and from Liberty are to measured by the standards of the man's life - not society's benefit.  Collectivism has long made its arguments based upon their allegations of a better society (at the expense of individual liberty).  Notice the difference applying this standard makes when looking at the corruption, murder and assassination in 15th century Italy compared to the 500 years of political freedom in Switzerland.  Which one best served the purpose of providing the kind of government that protected the individual's rights?  When one picks out the black and white, there is no need to pretend a need to take the good with the bad as a moral prescription (unless one can successfully argue that the corruption, murder and assassinations are necessary components of creativity or that the purpose of a limited government is to force some kinds of creativity).



Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 17

Tuesday, January 3 - 12:57pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

...it is only in substantially free societies that men and women can be morally good.

 

That statement from the article is wrong in one sense.  It carries an implication that one can't be morally good unless there is a politically clear path towards successful actions arising from morality.

 

Here is a quick example:  A highly moral man is wrongly jailed.  He has almost no liberty at all.  But he will still attempt, within the extremely limited range of actions inside of jail, to live by his ethical standards.  Morality is first a set of beliefs that are chosen, and then against which external circumstances are evalutated - actions are then chosen after evaluations and their success or failure is yet another aspect.

 

It is very true that it requires a substantially free country to protect a substantial range of actions for its citizens.  Governments, by their nature, prohibit and consfiscate - those are their two primary functions.  If they prohibit a great many actions that are morally good, that is, of course a problem.  But morality is more fundamental than liberty.

 

The title to Professor Machan's article, if taken literally, mis-states the relationship between Liberty and Morality.  It could have been "Liberty is Necessary for MAXIMIZING Moral Actions" - or, "Liberty is Necessary for PROTECTION of Moral Actions" - or, "Liberty is Necessary for Many Moral Actions to Succeed".  (all very boring)

 

But this article, which might not have the best title, does an excellent job of examining the relation between morality and coercive governments in other ways.

 

Professor Machan made the point that being 'good' because you were forced to, is a radically different thing from being good because you chose to.  That's a valid point with important ramifications. 

 

And it is a particularly important point to make in our society where progressives are trying to use the government to force us to be good in almost every single area of our lives.  They tell us that to be good requires this kind of light bulb, that kind of toilet, this kind of tax, that kind of license, helmets for our heads, only politically correct thoughts for our minds, labels on our clothes and food, safety stickers on ladders, no trigger words from our mouths, and it goes on and on and on.

 

He also shoots down the weak argument of the moral skeptics who attempt to support liberty by saying liberty is required since no one can know what is really good or bad or right or wrong. (And, I'd add, that the arguments of the relativists are similarly flawed.) 

 

He made an argument against those who would choose elites to command us... as if these elites had an inside knowledge of what is good, bad, right and wrong that the rest of us don't. 

 

There is currently a cartoon being published where the passengers in a plane are protesting the "insider" status of the pilots and demanding that an outsider, "one of us" fly the plane.  That is the progressive elite's view of Trump's election where they see Trump as an outsider who is unqualified which illustrates the progressive's belief that they, as elites, hold special knowledge and should be in power.  And then they can command into existence the morally good state of things.  And it serves to comfort themselves by refusing to acknowledge that more and more people are rejecting the very idea of elitism in government.

 

Going back to the main issue.  Morality comes to the individual far before they are even old enough to conceptualize it explicitly.  They can choose to act in ways that are deemed good.  This might include choosing not to cut in line, not to hit their siblings, and this applies even where it's not against the law, or even if they can 'get away with it'. 

 

As children we were instructed, and even commanded, to do the right thing.  We were taught.  As adults we engage in that mental process to establish the moral weight (by whatever standard and whatever psychological quirks unique to the individual) a given choice will have.  There could never be a regime so totalitarian as to encroach on this process totally - it would bring about coma-like results in all people, all the time.

 

Professor Machan made other excellent points: Coersion will have the effect of undermining personal responsibility.  That virtue will not arise out of forced charity.  That paternalistic governments are really not concerned with helping and protecting but rather they are power-seeking with morality as their excuse.

 

So, I disagree with the article's title - as worded - for the reasons stated, but I applaud the many excellent points that were made along the way.  For me, the heart of the article was that the relationship between morality and politics favors those who seek liberty and that the exercise of morality is bettered when liberty exists and that those who claim moral grounds for reducing liberty are wrong and that many are simple power-seekers hiding behind false claims of promoting moral values.



Post 18

Friday, January 6 - 3:43amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Reality is real. Each and every truth supports and is supported by each and every other truth.  (Where we find lacunae, the fault is not in the stars, but in our understanding. So-called "imaginary" numbers are an example of that. Only with the invention of alternating current electricity and radio did they achieve physical reality in the context of our understanding.)  My point here is that Prof. Machan did not defeat the altruist claims about the importance and value of forced behavior. We all know that morality is antecedant to liberty. The study of politics rests on the study of ethics.  

 

Steve Wolfer seems to have misunderstood my rhetorical challenges. The altruist-collectivist case is not my personal choice. I only stated it as best I could to make it clear what needs to be addressed.  I agree that Prof. Machan's essay was nicely said. It just failed to make the more important point: why morality precedes liberty. He therefore could not properly address the problem of what to do with people who are immoral.  I believe that Steve Wolfer did speak to that in the discussion of "X-Ray Glasses and Public (ahem) Exposure." That also highlights a different but related assertion of mine: Ethics is distinct from Morality. 

 

Ethics and morality cannot be in contradiction, but they are as different and related, as algebra and geometry or chemistry and biology. This speaks to a fundamental flaw in the Libertarian Party. As hedonists, they argue for the political rights of everyone to be idiots as long as no one else gets hurt. On the other hand, being concerned primarily with you and me as individuals, Objectivism seeks to discover the best life for one person. A better society is the wider consequence of everyone (or many of us) living eudaimonically.  

 

The problem here is: What to do with those who do not live well?  

 

The solution, as shown by Wolfer in the X-Ray Discussion is the concept of property.  Collectivists deny the social application of property rights because altruists deny the reality of self-ownership. (It is a redundant term. Maybe the appropriate concept is self with all which that implies.)  The relevent concept in a court of law is standing.  Wherein lies the origin of your right to complain about the behavior of another person: How are you harmed?

 

Reading Prof. Machan's essay, as much as I agree with its general tone, it fails in the same way as Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies.  As a strong positivist, Popper believed that science is never complete or correct, that "Truth" is something we approach as some kind of infinite series, an asymtote, but never reach. Therefore, said Popper, the totalitarians fail immediately by claiming absolute truth. Consequently, said Popper, we must all be free to seek and find whatever approximation of truth we can for the moment.  Of course, that is unsatisfying on many levels.  But Popper did do a good job of exposing the failures of the enemies of the free society. The ultimate defeats of all the totalitarian rulers of his time speaks to that.  But Popper nonethess failed to make the objective argument.  So, too, did Prof. Machan's essay fail.



Post 19

Friday, January 6 - 4:01amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

How to Cut in Line and When to Hit Your Sibling

 

SW:  Morality comes to the individual far before they are even old enough to conceptualize it explicitly.  They can choose to act in ways that are deemed good.  This might include choosing not to cut in line, not to hit their siblings, and this applies even where it's not against the law, or even if they can 'get away with it'. 

 

As children we were instructed, and even commanded, to do the right thing.  

(1) How to Cut in Line

Usually, most people in our society will let you cut in line if you give a reason. It does not necessary need to be a good reason, but by offering it, you excuse your own bad behavior by pointing to an outside circumstance. In the grocery lane, you can point to your fewer (very fewer) items. You can say that your spouse is waiting, or that the kids are waiting. Almost any excuse will work.

 

In elementary school, you can get a teacher's permission to let you cut in line by the same ploy. Getting untended peers to make way might be harder, as children are by definition unacculturated.  You might need to ask several, but each time, move closer to the front.  Saying that you were called to the principal's office but do need to get lunch now is an example; or your mother is waiting, or something else.

 

(2) When to Hit Your Sibling

Sibships are so strongly hierarchical that a mere word of warning might not be enough. If your big brother or older sister does not know how to use a knife and is drawing the cut toward them, and ignoring you, you are morally justified in getting their attention by hitting them no harder than necessary to get them to pay attention to your wise  counsel. That applies to jay-walking, balancing on the guardrail of a highway overpass, holding a firecracker, or even going on a date with a loser. 



Post to this threadPage 0Page 1Forward one pageLast Page
User ID Password reminder or create a free account.