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Post 20

Monday, October 11, 2004 - 7:55pmSanction this postReply
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You're right of course, Brendan I really should have used the past tense shouldn't I. :-) "described  as a cold-hearted etc."

"But shame on his object of affection. As one wag put it: she enters a market where she attracts the bids of two potential investors; but instead of making a rational choice among the options on offer, she appeals to a regulator to intervene and protect her position."

That was so good I just thought I'd repeat it, and smile to myself. :-)

Mathew, you asked: "Just out of interest, what would you have done if you and your friend hadn't known "what [you] were likely to hear at the talk"? ;-)"

I don't know;  I guess there's a number of possible responses based on a continuum of contexts that you might dream up - including whether or not I could shame one or more of the snarling altruists to offer a hand. :-)

I'll let Joe or Scott answer the other queries.


Post 21

Monday, October 11, 2004 - 9:10pmSanction this postReply
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Albert asked:
OK - so what if the drowning man is your rival at work and your rival in love.
If you let him drown - you get the promotion and you get the girl.
You would still save him (I hope) - why?
First of all, we presume that he is an honorable man, as you are. Being the honorable man that you are, you are a person that is benevolent and that you value your self esteem. If you let your rival drown and you get the promotion and the girl, you will know that you haven't gained these prizes by merit — you have cheated, and you will not be able to celebrate these achievements. You will know that you are a phony and you will spend the rest of your life trying to prevent others from finding out that fact.

It will be a hollow victory.

Thus the act of saving him is for your benefit.

Sam


Post 22

Monday, October 11, 2004 - 9:33pmSanction this postReply
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Martin Shultz says:

>>(Joe)But what about an altruist.  "I want to help people."  Why?  Uh...because it's >>the right thing to do.  Why?  Uh...because helping people is good.  That's >>circular.

(MS)But what about an objectivist. "I want to help myself." Why? Uh...because it's the right thing to do. Why? Uh...because helping myself is good. That's circular.
Martin, Objectivism says that all actions which support and enhance one's life are moral, as the moral purpose of an individual's life is his own happiness.  This is the fundamental reason why helping one's self (while not violating the rights of others, of course) is the right thing to do.


Post 23

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 4:53amSanction this postReply
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A couple of thoughts struck me while reading the progress of this thread:


1. As Rand stated, there is a tight relationship between the Kantian's denial of the validity of the senses and the Kantian's insistence that altruism and benevolence are equivalent: both are variants of the same kind of sophism. If I walk out of the door and 'see' a rolled-up newspaper out of the corner of my eye which is, in fact, a small pile of leaves, this is held to be proof that my sense of eyesight is unreliable - regardless of the fact that a closer look at the location of the mysterious 'paper' - by my own supposedly unreliable eyes - is precisely what shows that my earlier corner-of-the-eye glance was inaccurate.

The same thing applies to the sophistical link between rational selfishness and asociality. "Once upon a time, when I bumped into a Kantian, he and I began talking over the Iraqi war and things went pleasantly enough, even though he was somewhat uncomfortable when I kidded him about the duty of the United States to spread democracy. He got rid of his discomfort by kidding me that Kant, being a four-letter word, was not spelled H-E-G-E-L, and that I should remember that twice two still means four.

"The conversation proceeded smoothly enough until we came at somewhat of a loggerhead when the Kantian assured me that I was asocial at heart because of my commitment to ethical egoism. No matter how I framed my refuation, he didn't understand at all, so we decided to put the issue aside.

"The next time we met, things hit off even more quickly. He had spread around that I was his new 'asocial friend'; I laughed and we began discussing the Presidential campaign in the United States. This conversation went for an even longer time - because the earlier mention of Hegel had reminded me of Francis Fukuyama which I had vowed to bring up the next time we met - and once again I had to break off, dissatisfied, though this time it was because of the clock...."

If you look closely at this imaginary vignette, you'll see the same refutation-through-actions of a principle which seems to fit one's experience, but only fits that part of experience which sticks in the mind rather than that part of one's actions which one takes for granted. This is precisely why arguments with the "fallacy of the stolen concept" imbedded in them are so plausible: they provide a plausible explanation for our mistakes, which we are more prone to remember than the normalcy of everyday correct actions.

When the above is seen, you can almost imagine the cheeky-student brigade getting their hands on both of them:

Whelp #1: "Sir? I read this passage yesterday about why my sense were unreliable and it stuck right in my head."

Whelp #2: "Sir? I agree that it is my duty to study hard at my desk rather than waste my time in the usual way."

[Getting back to talking "at" each other....]


2. The Kantian's seemingly common-sensical impression that we supposedly 'hate' helping others is a result of our over-preparedness, or over-resourcefulness, relative to the norm. Since the Kantian assumes that altruism = mutual dependency, they interpret a dislike of being helped as instant proof that the independent man dislikes helping, too. When we disprove this through our actions, wee immediately move from "cold-hearted monster" to...

...a maipulable sap. "You want to get your way with one of those fellows? Just call 'em 'cold-hearted monsters' and see what you get out of 'em...."


Post 24

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 5:39pmSanction this postReply
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Ummm...Peter...

You just repeated what I said in different words!

You say:

The fundamental reason why helping one's self is the right thing to do (is that) Objectivism says that all actions which support and enhance one's life are moral.

Not a very useful statement really!

Post 25

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 7:19pmSanction this postReply
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But, Sam, ~you~ have not initiated force against the drowning fellow. And it would require an expenditure of your time, effort and a risk to your safety, to help your rival. So how can it be moral to grant him the unearned? And wouldn't he, being an honorable man, ~prefer~ to drown than make a moral claim to the unearned?

Claiming that a person has a moral duty to erase a mistake of chance which inures to one's favor and against a rival is what altruism is all about. Just substitute 'drowning in a lake' for 'born to poor uneducated parents' and you can make the same argument. Why should it be any of my concern as a rational egoist whether life has thrown my rival a curveball and I will profit? Accomplishments are accomplishments--no one ever got a great job by default, but rather, because they showed exceptional aptitude. The same goes for great love--no one is torn between two great loves because they are both so darned mediocre.

Here's another spin: let's say you DIDN'T see him drown. Does that now mean you shouldn't get the girl or the job, because you know you didn't achieve it, but got it because your rival checked in his chips?

Should we postpone athleic events if, for example, one of the runners has a stomach ache or got less than a perfectly-restful night's sleep? On this road lies concern with artificially creating equality, not freedom.

Show me how I am wrong.

Post 26

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 7:23pmSanction this postReply
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If subjective happiness is the measure of value, then we are hedonists, not Objectivists. A mentally ill person might find ecstasy in burning himself with cigarettes--but that doesn't make it moral and proper. Understanding the law of identity helps Objectivists understand what happiness qua man is all about, and how to find uncontradictory, consistent, continuous joy in every part of our lives.

Post 27

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 8:42pmSanction this postReply
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Scott:
But, Sam, ~you~ have not initiated force against the drowning fellow. And it would require an expenditure of your time, effort and a risk to your safety, to help your rival. So how can it be moral to grant him the unearned? And wouldn't he, being an honorable man, ~prefer~ to drown than make a moral claim to the unearned?
Nothing was said about risking anything to save the drowning rival. Of course, if there was any significant risk or sacrifice involved that would change the situation entirely. How would a simple act of kindness grant him anything unearned? If he got himself in the drowning predicament because of some nefarious act that would also change the morality, but if he just slipped and fell into the lake there's no moral lapse in that.

Substituting  'born to poor uneducated parents' for 'drowning in a lake' does change the paradigm. It assumes that to rescue  someone from being poor or uneducated requires a huge sacrifice, not merely reaching out your hand and pulling a drowning man to safety.  

I think that is the spirit of what Albert was asking.

Sam


Post 28

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 1:09amSanction this postReply
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Scott, Sam,

Rand's basic position on emergencies (see "Ethics of Emergencies" in The Virtue of Selfishness) is that helping someone out of an emergency situation i.e. accident or natural disaster etc at little or no risk to yourself, is entirely benevolent and moral and has to be differentiated from altruistically improving the normal material condition of strangers. That's pretty much the position Sam has taken above.

I'm not sure what Rand's position was on those who spend their careers helping others get out of emergencies (i.e. lifeguards or firemen) but given their specialised training I guess bigger risks would then be acceptable.

MH


Post 29

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 8:10pmSanction this postReply
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Scott,

This is a test.

If subjective happiness is the measure of value, then we are hedonists, not Objectivists. A mentally ill person might find ecstasy in burning himself with cigarettes--but that doesn't make it moral and proper. Understanding the law of identity helps Objectivists understand what happiness qua man is all about, and how to find uncontradictory, consistent, continuous joy in every part of our lives.
 
Excellent, Scott. That has always been my only argument. So be careful. It got me banned (oh, excuse me, put under moderation).

Regi


Post 30

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 9:58amSanction this postReply
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Regi, I'm glad to see you back. Now will you please help me make "direct perception" clear to Brendan (on the other thread)? I realize that this may be interpreted as an altruistic solicitation of your abilities!

Ed

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Post 31

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 11:43amSanction this postReply
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Interesting article. My own two cents on the matter, aside from a knee jerk reaction against anything suggestive of self sacrifice, is the necessity of talking about context. There is an obvious difference between *helping* and self sacrifice. But further: whom am I helping, why am I helping, and to what end? Values, and virtues, cannot in my mind be divorced from context.

John



Post 32

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 6:29pmSanction this postReply
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Just as an addition to John's comment:

You will often find (at least I find this in my life) that the act of helping others is also the thing which will most help me AND that helping myself is also the thing which will most help others.

People get this false idea that selfish actions and actions which aid others are always opposed. I think in reality they are almost always alligned. BUT only if the actions are really beneficial - bot just on a simplistic surface level.

To give a very simple example. If I go to University - get a MSc with first class honours, and then use my degree to get a high salary and also help to improve the economy as a whole... who am I helping - myself or others? It is both.

But, one may argue, it is the intention which is important. Was I intending to help myself - or was I doing it for 'altruistic' reasons? Both? Neither?

I have seen an article on this site about 'false dichotomies'. I think the 'selfish' VS 'altruistic' divide is the biggest of them all.

Post 33

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 10:18amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Sam, Matthew!

How do you get a drowing man out of a lake with no risk? You cannot physically help him do so without some costs, whether risk to self or getting your clothes wet, or taking up your time. Even calling the authorities to get him out of the lake costs a quarter for the call. Is it a moral obligation to assist, or is it permissive, with no moral implications either way? If it is a moral imperative that you help, then it is a contradiction in Objectivist ethics. The drowning man has a moral right to something of yours, whether you want to or not, it is just a line drawn individually as to the magnitude of what of yours the drowning man is entitled to. If it is an issue of it being permissive, then there is still a contradiction, because morality has to be a clear guide to action if it is to mean anything at all.

Why should a stranger's emergency (having nothing at all to do with me) change ~my~ moral code or priorities? It is shifting the focus away from the individual and on the 'other' outside the individual. We let another's NEED define my moral DUTY. Once this is done, then public schools, and a host of other horrors (even rap music), with a relatively minor cost to each indivdual, becomes easy to justify. Instead of saying "it is my moral responsibility to help the drowing man because it only takes 5 minutes of my time and a dry-cleaing bill for my suit and a shine for my shoes and I have saved a life"--you can say " for only $500.00 in taxes and NONE of my time, I am helping hundreds of kids in my school district reach their potential." Same thing--their need defines your duty. If you don't like the public school example, what about a 9/11 compulsory aid tax to assist the families who lost a breadwinner? That was an Emergency Situation. But just like government taxation, once you give the keys of moral duty away to someone else, your duty will grow with their need and their 'need will burgeon, as all claims to the unearned always do.


Post 34

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 10:21amSanction this postReply
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Yo, Regi, I didn't agree with your being moderated. But I disagree that your quotation of my position on this thread was your only position, or the reason you got placed under moderated status. I like you and really enjoy your posts.

Post 35

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 10:51amSanction this postReply
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Regi was placed under moderation because he "misunderstood" what Linz said about not debating homosexuality further with Dr. Sciabarra.  I guess Regi's sense of humor is not the belly-laughing KASS kind appreciated by the Nems here.  I strongly disagree with that decision.  Regi was one of the more prolific writers here, so I cannot claim to have read everything he wrote on the subject, but I think the essence of his argument was that a desire, even if an individual was born with them, should not necessarily be a reason for doing something.

By the way, glad to see you back Mr. Firehammer.  I make no secret of the fact hat you are one of my favorite contributors here.


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Post 36

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 5:32amSanction this postReply
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Martin, the divide between altruism and selfishness/self interest is not a "false dichotomy". Altruism is an *unselfish* concern for the welfare of others. As an ism it is a pervasive pattern of thinking and acting. Not something I would wish to cultivate in myself :) I tend rather to cultivate benevolence and helpfulness (in the context of my values). But this is different than being altruistic.

John

Post 37

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 12:50pmSanction this postReply
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Scott, I don't think anyone would want to see a life goto waste by not saving him. That is a potential customer!

Post 38

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 3:23pmSanction this postReply
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Scott,

I have to say I'm a little taken aback by your comments. How any Objectivist could place a quarter or a few minutes of their time or avoiding the inconvenience of getting wet above a human life is just beyond me. If I was out enjoying myself on a beach for the day, and saw a swimmer in difficulty, of course I would owe him nothing, he would have no rights over me. But, assuming it was calm weather, there were no lifeguards in the immediate vicinity, and I was aware of any rip tides and other potential hazards, I can't even conceive of not wading in and trying to assist.

MH


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Post 39

Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 6:37pmSanction this postReply
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John - I find this statement interesting;

" I tend rather to cultivate benevolence and helpfulness (in the context of my values)."

Why would you try to cultivate these attributes in yourself?

Because they are benificial to you? - as an ''objectivist" this MUST be the case!
But then you find that what you are culltivating to be useful for you, also ends up to be useful to other people as well (which was my point - you don't NEED to be 'altruistic' - by helping yourself you also help others)

- But please explain a little more what benifit YOU gain from cultivating benevolence and helpfulness. What logical reason would you have for doing so - or is it an emotional reason?

The other interesting thing you say is ;

"Altruism is an *unselfish* concern for the welfare of others"

Is there such thing as a *selfish* concern for others? What would this be like?

Perhaps if we can work this out, you may help out all of those people around the world standing on the edges of pools trying to decide whether to save drowning men. (this seems to be the number one ethical concern these days)

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