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


Sanction: 7, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 7, No Sanction: 0
Post 0

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 4:48amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
There you go again, indeed. :)

There is nothing in what you say that contradicts my central thesis, that Bush could not have won without the support that he received from a rock-solid evangelical vote, and a growing socially conservative Catholic "swing" vote (shored up by support among Hispanics, many of whom are devout Catholics, and even a few evangelical blacks).  Every one of the votes from Bush's religious constituency was necessary (though not sufficient) in this close election.

And what does it matter to say that the percentages were stable?  As I suggested:  The Rove strategy was to shore up the base and aim for an increase, however slight, which it achieved.  In fact, Rove's aim was to provide the President with 4 million more evangelical voters, and with a total of 12 million more votes cast nationally (compared to Election 2000), I think Rove was probably pretty close to his target.  Estimates suggest an increase of 3.5 million evangelical Christians at the polls in 2004.  Rove's strategy was to rally this vote by tying Bush support in some key battleground states to support for socially conservative ballot initiatives.  Presidents are elected on the margin, on a state-by-state basis, and that's why a focus on those key battleground states, like Ohio, is so important to our analysis. That's not nit-picky; it's simply a focus on a very well organized strategy.  Bush may have won a majority of the votes cast, but he still won by the smallest margin of victory for any sitting President both in terms of the popular vote and, except for 2000, in terms of the Electoral College---since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson crafted his winning strategy.  (Ironic, no, that the neo-Wilsonian Bush stands in the Wilson shadow?)  Given the closeness of the election, therefore, it was imperative to "get the vote out."

BTW, my statistics on voters who rated "moral values" first among key issues show that it preoccupied 22%, not 17%, of voters.  Either way, I've not suggested anywhere that "moral values" was the issue to clinch the election. I've said repeatedly that it takes a constellation of issues, and first among the ones on which I focused were war, terrorism, and Kerry's credibility problems. 

Now, let's turn to the other issue.  You state:  "Consider this possibility: That the American electorate responded not to any 'evangelical fervor' or to the exhortation of Jerry Farwell, but perhaps, just maybe, they responded to their reason."

Nowhere have I suggested that people voted as if in a trance.  Nowhere have I suggested that the majority of Americans are fundamentalists.  Nowhere have I suggested that fundamentalism is the dominant cultural or political trend.  Plenty of people of good will went to the polls and voted for Bush because they looked at the alternative and said (correctly, I might add):  "Huh?"  And sometimes people can vote for a candidate or an issue for all the wrong reasons, and still get the vote "right" (and this is coming from a voter who voted for neither candidate).  And let's not forget that I stated in my predictive article that the forces of history were with Bush; it is extremely rare for a sitting President to be ousted in the middle of a war---only LBJ, in recent memory, didn't serve a second term, but that was because the war had gone bad, and he chose not to run.  Nor is there any suggestion in my essay that there weren't good reasons to vote for Bush, given the alternative. 

But none of this indicts the central thrust of my essay:  in a close election, without his base, Bush loses.  Rove aimed to get that base out and to grab just enough swing voters with the allure of socially conservative ballot initiatives in key battleground states.  That strategy worked.  Bush himself praised Rove as "The Architect" because he knew that that strategy worked. 

Finally, you'll forgive me a little confession here.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but something bothers me about this resistance to admitting that Bush was the candidate for an important religious voting bloc that is, demonstrably, no friend of liberty.

What is this resistance here toward recognizing that some people who supported Bush also support policies that stink?   I would have said the same thing about Kerry.  And both candidates themselves supported policies that stink.  I've been told periodically by some voicers here that it's a shame I've become so identified with the "antiwar" position, not because my position is necessarily incorrect, but because so many on the "antiwar" side are part of the "hate America" crowd.  The thing is:  I know that.  When you are politically libertarian, you will sometimes find yourself promoting viewpoints associated with the left, and sometimes promoting viewpoints associated with the right.  So:  If I'm willing to accept the fact that some of the "hate America" crowd exists within the "antiwar" movement, then surely some of you Bush supporters who are of a more secular bent can accept the fact that there is an equally venomous crowd that has supported the GOP.  In both instances, we can argue that our core viewpoint is correct, even if we don't like the fact that some others who are identified with our viewpoint are not correct in the ways in which they support it.  I've not accused a single Bush supporter on this site of being an evangelical Christian, even though Bush was the candidate of evangelical Christians and, in greater percentages, of socially conservative Catholic voters as well.  I've not accused a single Bush supporter on this site of being a fundamentalist, even though Bush himself sees his Christian religion as a tool for the remaking of the modern world.

So lighten up, Doubting Thomas!  Your secular credentials are good with me.  :)  (I was just struck by the fact that the phrase "Doubting Thomas" is itself derived from one of Jesus's apostles... but at least that apostle is identified with demanding proof of the risen Lord.)



Sanction: 2, No Sanction: 0
Post 1

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 6:31amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

There you go again, indeed. :)

 

J

 

There is nothing in what you say that contradicts my central thesis that Bush could not have won without the support that he received from a rock-solid evangelical vote

 

Yes there is, it’s the fact that that solid as a rock evangelical vote was there exactly as it was in 2000 where he did not even get the popular vote. This means that that solid as a rock base was not the deciding factor, nor even a primary one.

 

What I cannot understand is the unwillingness for anyone to state what I consider the obvious reason for his victory: the War on Terror.  That 5% swing by the same white females that voted against Bush in 2000 was not caused because they had a religious epiphany since 2000.

 

But none of this indicts the central thrust of my essay:  in a close election, without his base, Bush loses.

 

That that base is Christian, no one can argue, that it is fundamentalist Christians, I would argue. They represent a slice in a greater whole. That he would lose without that base is a given, the same given in that no Democrat could possible win without their east/west coast base of liberal voters. But this election was not won by galvanizing the base of either party; both bases were galvanized. In both cases the base was supremely loyal. My problem with your central thrust is that it over emphasizes the base (and especially the most radical elements within that base). The Republican base cannot win an election by high turnout, it must have a substantial non-base turnout. And women and hispanics, filled that role in this election.

 

I will restate it again, remember that the term 'moral values' is enormously vague. For many Americans issues such as the War on Terror, taxation, affirmative action, school vouchers, welfare, gun rights and many others, fall under the umbrella of this term. It is an over-simplification to suggest that those that cited moral values as a primary concern were overwhelmingly responding to 1 or 2 issues. I will even go a step further, Kerry was such a horrendous candidate that for many the act of voting against him was itself a 'moral' act.

What is this resistance here toward recognizing that some people who supported Bush also support policies that stink? 

 

None whatsoever. Your above quote is accurate. The problem lies in being unwilling to recognize an electorate that measured that ‘stink’ factor, and found that Bush hadn’t taken a bath in over a week, but Kerry has needed a bath since 1972.

 

I've not accused a single Bush supporter on this site of being….. X, Y, Z

 

You don’t have too. By focusing on the factor that you do, it works as a guilt by association. 

 

This goes back to our original disagreement, which in reality is not a disagreement on essentials, but on a question of ‘degree’. I see a Christian base that within the last 20 years alone is far more tolerant, benevolent and rational; you don’t. I see a fundamentalist slice of that base that is much smaller and less relevant; you don’t. In fact I see that the very term 'Christian Fundementalist', no longer implies within that slice itself, the same level of dogmatic thinking as it once did. The vocal minority of both parties (fundmentlaist and hedonist socialist) are given far too much credit. I suggest to you, that perhaps you have given them too much credit as well.

 

So lighten up, Doubting Thomas!  Your secular credentials are good with me.  :) 

 

Okay, I do have some lightening up to do (my wife would agree with you!). But in the spirit of my original article – consider the possibility: that you do as well! LOL

 

(I was just struck by the fact that the phrase "Doubting Thomas" is itself derived from one of Jesus's apostles...

 

You Judas! Et tu Brute?

 

George

 

 

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 11/23, 7:20am)




Post 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 7:17amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Chris,

I sent you a PM.

George




Sanction: 7, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 7, No Sanction: 0
Post 3

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 7:26amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ah, well, I see we've already reached the "agree to disagree" phase... :)  But I think we need to keep in mind a few things about intellectual battles and why they are so important.  This does speak to the "guilt by association" factor in one very limited sense:  When we associate with certain candidates or causes, for our very own (good) reasons, we need to be prepared for the fact that other people who associate with those candidates or causes might have relatively more control over the means of decision-making.  Hence, it pays to focus on what they believe.

I agree with Ayn Rand fundamentally when she said that ideas are a causal primary in history.  But politics, which is, in many ways, the "art of compromise," influences much historical development.  So it makes sense to focus on the ideas that motivate political decision-makers.  Rand understood this, which is why she emphasized "The Anatomy of Compromise."  In that so entitled essay, Rand makes the following point:

1.  In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent who wins.
2.  In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational who wins.
3.  When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.


Since ideas have causal primacy in history, I therefore think it is important to focus on the central ideas that motivate those who are in positions of political power.  Ideas have consequences.  And  when we lend our support to, or collaborate with, such people who hold views that are diametrically opposed to our own, it is the more irrational viewpoint that tends to prevail.

As I pointed out in my essay, "Caught Up in The Rapture," the primary ideas that motivate the current administration are pietistic (fundamentalist) and neoconservative, not libertarian, and most definitely not Objectivist:

The Bush administration has thus become a focal point for the constellation of two crucial impulses in American politics that seek to remake the world: pietism and neoconservatism. The neocons, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds, trace their intellectual lineage to social democrats and Trotskyites, those who adopted the "God-builder" belief, prevalent in Russian Marxist and Silver Age millennial thought, that a perfect (socialist) society could be constructed as if from an Archimedean standpoint. The neocons may have repudiated Trotsky’s socialism, but they have simply adopted his constructivism to the project of building democratic nation-states among other groups of warring fundamentalists—in the Middle East.


Thus, the whole point of my own obsessive focus on neoconservative and fundamentalist ideas is that I believe these ideologies are, in many crucial ways, shaping the course of political policy at home and abroad.  If Bush were a secular hedonist, I'd be focusing on that ideology instead.  But he isn't.  Either way, neoconservative and fundamentalist ideologies are neither libertarian nor Objectivist, and when libertarians and Objectivists lend their voices of support to the very administration that promotes such ideologies, I think one must take pause.   As an opponent of the Iraq war, I was routinely derided as a "useful idiot" of the Hussein regime.  But as I wrote in my essay, "A Question of Loyalty":

Now, Perigo and other Objectivists may oppose Wilsonian democratic nation-building. But they are not in power. The powers-that-be that run the U.S. government stated their Wilsonian designs up-front. That was their goal and they have the reins of power. Not Perigo. Not any other Objectivists. So much for being a "useful idiot" for established power elites.


All I'm saying is:  Ideas have consequences.  Clearly articulating and openly defining the ideas of those who exercise political power, placing a greater emphasis on those cultural movements that inspire our political leaders (and that help to elect them), will give us an important insight into the nature and implications of their decisions.

(Edited by sciabarra on 11/23, 7:44am)




Post 4

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 7:42amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ah, well, I see we've already reached the "agree to disagree" phase... :) 

The above quote is true, and furthermore, I owe you the last word on this. Two 'Open Letters" and an article titled 'why I hate CMS' is enough already.

Thanks for the exchange.

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 11/23, 7:49am)




Post 5

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 11:56pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Am I the only reader who finds the notion of "hedonist/socialist left" incoherent? How could anyone sober enough to vote, fail to notice that Socialism maximizes poverty, which pretty much precludes pleasure? Even sex is hardly a fulfillment of hedonism in societies plagued by shortages of condoms and soap. In Socialist societies the first thing the Capitalist will be accused of is "Hedonism." In most cases that is false, but far less incoherent than the association of hedonism with Socialism.

Hedonism is not, as far as I know, a political doctrine. But if a hedonist seeks a political order that would maximize his opportunities for the achievement of pleasure, he will find it in the same one that maximizes my opportunities for the achievement of happiness: Capitalism. Hedonists are our natural allies in politics, regardless of disagreement on ethics. Why try so very hard to imagine Hedonists as enemies?



Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 6

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 4:13amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Hey, Adam, point well taken.  Though I do suspect that when people think "secular hedonist left," they are imagining not socialist poverty, but free-wheeling "subjectivist" polyamorous, promiscuous sexuality and "decadence," which, I suppose, has become identified with more "anarchic" elements of the "New Left" since the 1960s. 

In any event... everybody here (at least those Americans who celebrate it):  have a hedonistic and happy Thanksgiving.  :)




Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 7

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 9:36amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Msr. Reed-
Am I the only reader who finds the notion of "hedonist/socialist left" incoherent?
Hedonists are our natural allies in politics, regardless of disagreement on ethics. Why try so very hard to imagine Hedonists as enemies?
No, you're not the only one.  Of course, as a Cynic, I am hedonist, and Objectivism has such an ally right here, if it wishes one.

In my opinion, Rand had a very peculiar conception if "hedonism".  According to Rand, hedonism is the doctrine that pleasure is both the purpose and standard of ethics, which she interprets to mean "do what you feel", with no investigation into the nature and causes of happiness.

Yet this is a travesty of a description of most classical doctrines of hedonism, such as Epicureanism, and Cynicism, and it is almost as unfair to even the altruist-tainted Mill.  Hedonism is simply the doctrine that the purpose of life is pleasure, and as such neither forbids nor demands a eudaimonistic conception of the virtues as constitutive of that pleasure.  Epicurus, for instance, advocated the cultivation of the intellectual faculties above all else, while Mill famously said "it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied"- hardly Rand's cariacature of hedonism.

None of these match Rand's usage of the word "hedonism".  To a certain extent, she was simply picking up a term to label an irrational pursuit of happiness so that she could clearly dissociate herself from the position, which in bad scholarship but nothing worse.  But I must unhappily say that Rand did more than this, using the term "hedonism" sloppily to condemn without argument any claim to happiness she unexaminedly disapproved of.  And her followers have often followed suit.  The result is that Objectivists, qua Objectivists, consistently focus on the rational justification of a given activity to the detriment of questioning whether they actually enjoy it.

I personally find the notion that pleasure is justifiable only in the context of a "reward" or "celebration" of achievement, and suspected in its own sake, to be a monstrosity.  No one, takes it literally.  People, including Objectivists, due lots of large and small things for their own pleasure all the time which do not "celebrate" a rational achievement.  Practically, it leads to insane double standards: any pleasure not approved of by Rand (such as marijuana or non-romantic sex) is required to jump through metaphysical hoops of justification, while those Rand approved of (cigarettes, lipstick, fur coats) are treated as innocent until proven guilty.  The truth is that *all* of the above pleasure can be shown to reflect purpose in one sense, in the context of a valuer, while *all* of them are, if we are honest about it, pursued because we enjoy them.  Rand's theories have led to an enormous amount of guilt and repression.

And, I might add, a lot of hushing up and hypocrisy.  I have a great deal of reason to suspect that some very interesting things would happen if everyone who indulged in one or another condemned form of "hedonism" or "whim worship" came forward and stood up.  I also cannot help but notice that there are an enormous number of libertarians who are Objectivists in all but name, but could not stomach the need to justify each and every personal pleasure and divest themselves of it if they couldn't embody "reason" into it.  Such people (to various degrees) are likely a plurality in the libertarian movement; if one counts those who reacted against Rand's rationalism to the point of walking away from more essential aspects of her theories, likely a majority.

In my own life, I can't help but notice that when I have followed Rand, first concerning myself with virtue, and expecting happiness to result, that I've been miserable.  Yet when I have "broken down" and just concerned myself with my own pleasure, I've not only been happier but have been more productive as a result of a more benevolent attitude towards life.  My eventual conclusion has been that an intelligent, reflective hedonism, with virtues and both instrumental means and constitutive processes of achieving pleasure, is a better way of living than Randian (or Aristotelian) eudaimonism.  And ultimately, I think that if nothing evil is itself pleasurable, the direct pursuit of one's desires contains an implicit rationality in the development and exploration of pleasures that it is a necessary co-component to the philosophical investigation of the nature of those principles with constitute happiness ("virtues")

Such is why I consider myself a philosophical Cynic- or neo-Cynic, as contra most classical Cynics I agree with Epicurus as to the value of the liberal arts, and Rand as to the value of the technical arts, in the pursuit of happiness.  But in principle, I have broken into far more new worlds of rationality by the unpremeditated pursuit of pleasure than I have experienced pleasure by the Randian disregard for pleasure in favor of reason as a standard.

I stopped considering myself a Randian the day I realised that in everything that has really brought me happiness- whether that was fantasy role-playing, my writing, living in this gender, becoming an escort, exploring my submissive sexuality, my spiritual practices, my desires for friendship or company or exhibitionism or leisure, Rand had never helped me... she had just made be carry an immense load of justification before embarking on any new adventure.  I just put it down, and am far the better for it.

And although my case in very extreme is that my emotional 'disposition' is as far as one can get from 'respectable' while remaining egoistic and philosophical, many Randians I am aware of evidence the same clash on some level; most Objectivists happen to find the visible elements of their happiness in less exotic places, but nevertheless I see over an over again people inspired by Rand disown their pleasures.  Part of this is because among Objectivists, it can be dangerous to confess one's pleasures in life, because a few Objectivists take advantage of Rand's philosophy and gang up on pleasures not on the "philosophically OK" list, and will gleefully subject all one's precious loves to the bar of "reason" with the implicit or explicit demand that one divest oneself of one's happiness.  (I confess, ashamed, that I once did something much the same myself)

I personally wish Randians would spend more time showing why Randian egoism is capable of giving right, freedom, and exploration to the heights of human desire, rather than spending so much time denouncing the "wrong" desire as "irrational".  For if Objectivism is truely a philosophy for living on Earth, it should not denounce any pleasure, and enjoyment, any happiness without the promise of a greater happiness proven and possible.  It seems far more true to life to speak of the pursuit of pleasures and the pursuit of the heights of ecstasy and the rational integration of the pleasures via a certain kind life than does an injunction to live a certain kind of life, with "productivity" and "man qua man" as lodestones, with pleasure as a "reward" that should follow "if you live rightly" or a necessity justified by contribution to this moral process.

Objectivism scorns hedonism, but while it is easy to show that reason and reflection lead to more happiness than unreason and unreflection, I see no evidence that Objectivism's teleological conception of happiness leads to a better life than the pursuit of pleasure, rationally reflexive, for its own sake.  For myself, I take the title of 'hedonist' proudly- it is an eponym that cost me a great struggle which was repaid a hundred times.

my regards,

Pyrophora Cypriana$  ))(*)((

stand forth!

$I note irksomely that my name here is eudaimonistic by identity, hedonistic by accidents.  Oops, oh well.  It seems once you get involved with Objectivism, it just keeps haunting you forever.




Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 8

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 11:26amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In fairness to Rand, everyone takes some of the ethical teachings of one's culture for granted; Alyssa Rozenbaum, unlike someone growing up among Christians, certainly did not consider pleasure as something antithetical to virtue, or even needing to be justified in relation to virtue. In the traditional Jewish view, taking pleasure in the exercise of one's faculties and senses is one of the virtues of which happiness consists.

Re Thanksgiving: The Pilgrims modeled their Thanksgiving on the scriptural account of the feast of Tabernacles, the Jewish Succot. One requirement of Succot is that the Jew build his own Succah in which to celebrate the holiday, so that he might properly appreciate the work of Creation for which he is giving thanks. This requirement brings to mind a parable, which is traditionally used to teach Jewish children that creative work is not just a matter of using one's muscles, but rather a matter of mindful engagement with reality:

A Jew comes to his Rabbi and says: I read the instructions for building a Succah from the Talmud. I built the succah exactly according to those instructions. And the succah that I built immediately fell down.

The Rabbi answers: You did not read far enough. The next paragraph says that if you build the succah exactly according to instructions, the succah will immediately fall down.

To our Selves, and to all the Men who changed the blueprint of the world to create human happiness on Earth, let us be truly grateful on this Thanksgiving Day.


(Edited by Adam Reed on 11/24, 11:39am)




Post 9

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 6:46amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Adam wrote:
Hedonism is not, as far as I know, a political doctrine. But if a hedonist seeks a political order that would maximize his opportunities for the achievement of pleasure, he will find it in the same one that maximizes my opportunities for the achievement of happiness: Capitalism. Hedonists are our natural allies in politics, regardless of disagreement on ethics. Why try so very hard to imagine Hedonists as enemies?
Hedonism indeed is not a political doctrine, but a Hedonist needs to pick up a political doctrine that will maximize his ability to exercise his pleasure. Since long-term planning and the attainment of other values beside pleasure are an anathema to a consistent Hedonist, he is likely to select a political regime that plunders the population for the benefit of a hedonistic elite. Note that most dictatorial regimes on the left and the right have this hedonistic elite.  

-- Michelle




Post 10

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 7:49amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Hedonism cannot pick up a doctrine, or a system of ethics. That would make it something other than hedonism. Hedonism is concerned with pleasure as an end, and pleasure as THE standard of good.

John



Post 11

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 7:54amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Adam wrote: "To our Selves, and to all the Men who changed the blueprint of the world to create human happiness on Earth, let us be truly grateful on this Thanksgiving Day."

This is beautiful Adam. Thank you. It is beautiful because it is true. There are many who have identified, and championed the blueprint to create human happiness.

John



Sanction: 2, No Sanction: 0
Post 12

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 9:49amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Hedonism cannot pick up a doctrine, or a system of ethics. That would make it something other than hedonism. Hedonism is concerned with pleasure as an end, and pleasure as THE standard of good.
Msr, Newnham-

You here use Rand's definition of hedonism, but Rand's definition simply does not square with the doctrines of the classical hedonists.  Epicurus and Lucretius certainly did advocate a system of ethics, if by that you mean a code of values, on the simple grounds that some kinds of lives are more pleasurable than others, this can be known, and that we may guide our lives accordingly.  As I have stated, Rand's definition of hedonism is effectively a stipulative term in her own system, and it accords with the sloppy common usage of the term hedonism to mean emotionalism or sensualism,  But this is not what classical hedonism stood for, nor what I believe as a hedonist- I simply claim that pleasure is the sole proper end of human life, and that I live for highest degree of it.

my regards,

Jeanine Ring    ))(*)((

Hedonism indeed is not a political doctrine, but a Hedonist needs to pick up a political doctrine that will maximize his ability to exercise his pleasure. Since long-term planning and the attainment of other values beside pleasure are an anathema to a consistent Hedonist, he is likely to select a political regime that plunders the population for the benefit of a hedonistic elite. Note that most dictatorial regimes on the left and the right have this hedonistic elite.
Mme. Cohen-

I think you misunderstand the nature of hedonism.  First of all, there is no reason a hedonist should not plan long term; a hedonist is a person who lives for the maximization of pleasure, not a person who chosen her actions by only immediate pleasure.  Second of all, pleasure, to a philosophical hedonist, comes in many varieties; there is intellectual pleasure, sexual pleasure, the pleasure of friendship, etc.  Nothing prevents a hedonist from realizing that long-term investments of time and energy, consistent, rational, and intelligent living, or the integrating of experiences of life into purpose cannot vastly extend one's capabilities for a pleasurable existence.  The observations are in fact common among hedonist philosophers: I cite Epicurus and Mill as two undeniable examples.

Hedonism is merely the view that pleasure is the end of life, and the ultimate standard by which life is judged; hedonism does not imply that pleasure is the direct standard as to the means of happiness.

Where hedonism differs from the Objectivist ethics is that it rejects the teleological orientation of the latter.  A teleological is characterized by postulating an end or purpose for human beings and a given human nature whose actualization is the sole road to happiness.  Here is where I disagree; I do not accept that human beings have any natural end, and I accept the concept human nature only to delineate the human physical and ontological conditions which should intelligently influence our pursuit of happiness; I do not believe that human nature makes certain kinds of goals naturally productive of happiness, beyond the sensory level.  As such, I do not advocate using human nature, 'man qua man', or natural ends as a signpost to a life lived well.

Objectivism will argue that an activity, known to be pleasurable, rationally planned in one's life, but still not embodying any ideal, should not be pursued.  An Objectivist feels a need, in every pursuit, to justify it by reference of the ideal or value it embodies.  Pleasure can be justified if it is pleasure is the pursuit of a teleological end, or it may be justified- as Rand did- as a psychological necessity for the continued pursuit of such ideals.  But according to Objectivism, a pleasure as such has no moral claim, and a person who does something just because they enjoy it is amoral at best.

Now, I do not think most Objectivists live this way entirely, as they temper teleology with some hedonistic "common sense".  Rand's writings, especially her earlier writings, glorify luxury, elegance, grand experience for their own sake.  In her later writings she sought to philosophically understand the nature of happiness- and this I fully support- but what I feel very uncomfortable with is that she increasingly let the means devour the ends, and Rand's mature system and following demands that one be able to justify enjoyment as embodying a higher value- generally 'productivity' or discard them.  Logically followed, this condemns many of the pleasures people do pursue in existence, and Objectivists do often condemn accordingly.

The code of life I live in contrast- ironically, specified by the teleologist Aristotle, is that of the leisured life of the liberal arts.  Such a view recognizes that pleasures of all kinds are greatly enhanced by the cultivation of the faculties and virtues as extremely conducive to happiness, and recognizes that knowledge of one's abilities, experienced in creative activity, is extremely conducive to a pleasurable existence.  But what a hedonist does not ask as does the teleologist, is whether a particular pleasure is merited, deserves, justified, etc.  In other words, no independent value is placed upon the embodied end of a pleasure.  A hedonist will pursue many pleasures in life, and may well (I think there is good reason to) integrate them, and creative and productive purposes are a valuable part of that.  But a hedonist will also spend an hour in enjoyable conversation, or ten minutes smoking a pipe, or a few weeks in a sexual affair, without demanding the inherent ideality of the action, though an intelligent hedonist would make sure these values do not destroy more important values in their life.

For example, when I write, I don't first consider whether my art epitomizes a 'proper sense of life.'  I have, in fact, developed sensitivity and skill in what Rand would call a 'Byronic' perspective- benevolence with regards to consciousness but not existence.  Now, I could no doubt- with years of effort- bring my artistic sense of life in line with Rand's ideal, but I find the most intense passion in writing as I can with the most flourish.  As a hedonist, I do so.  The same applies to other elements of my life- my sexual psychology, my choice of friends, my philosophical  and literary interests.  In every one of these case, I pursue my values in complexity and intelligence, but I do not seek the embodiment of 'man qua man'.  Realizing the pleasurable possibilities of an integrated life, where each aspect resonates in harmony (or creative but precise discord), I do live my life towards integrated purpose and via an integrated code of values.  But that end is not in accordance with any prevalidated ideal- in fact, it is the contrary, I more discover ideals in the practice of exploring pleasures.

The difference is largely this: as a hedonist, I seek pleasure first, and seek increasingly complex and productive projects as the complexification and heightening of pleasures.  A teleologist, by contrast, will seek to be productive first, expecting happiness to follow, and will allow low-level pleasures only in the image of or as a contributing means to that production.  The first brings the enticement of greater lives if one achieves a creative height, but does not bring shame for living on a lesser level.  The second begins in a disquiet with oneself in demands for the highest ideal, and considers joy primarily a reward for virtues actualized.  I personally prefer the former, as the clocking of my self my rewards and demands has not brought me happiness. or,for that matter, greatness.  I now pursue my pleasure where I find it, which actually involves successful greatness more than my previous life.  But that greatness is not a moral requirement or prior ideal, merely fascinating territory available for exploration.

Now, turning to politics.  I think it is just as much a cariacature of hedonism as it is of egoism to argue that hedonists should embrace dictatorship.  Epicurus was a near libertarian thousands of years before the concept was invented, while Mill's classical liberalism was corrupted by altruism, but not by hedonism.  As a hedonist, I am just as capable as any libertarian- including Objectivist- as seeing the manifold benefits of a free society.  I cannot fathom why dictatorship should be attractive to me- Rand, and for that matter Plato (in the myth of Gyges), has shown well that power brings with it a miserable life.  I hold 'rights' to be a valuable concept- a description of the minimal negative interpersonal conditions for human flourishing, and respect others' rights in the context that it is in my interest to see them able to pursue their happiness, as happier people are more pleasurable company, and are more productive and creative and thus make the world more pleasurable for me.  In short, it is an irrational or foolish egoistic hedonist who advocates coercion, for all of the reasons that a rational egoist does not advocate coercion.  It is no more necessary to fear the pleasures than it is to fear self-interest.

my regards,

Jeanine Ring    ))(*)((




Post 13

Friday, November 26, 2004 - 11:38amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Jeanine says:

As I have stated, Rand's definition of hedonism is effectively a stipulative term in her own system, and it accords with the sloppy common usage of the term hedonism to mean emotionalism or sensualism, But this is not what classical hedonism stood for, nor what I believe as a hedonist.

 

Rand’s definition is not stipulative, and it doesn’t just accord “with the sloppy common usage of the term”; it is consistent with the common definition.  My Webster’s defines hedonism as “The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life”.  The OED defines hedonism as “The doctrine or theory of ethics in which pleasure is regarded as the chief good, or the proper end of action.  The earliest citation of the use of the word is given as 1856 SEELYE tr. Schwegler's Hist. Philos. (1864) 71 Hedonism, the philosophical doctrine of the Cyreneans that pleasure is the chief good.  In the Objectivist Ethics, Rand defined hedonists as those who declare that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure”.

 

You are using the term hedonism in the classical sense, but that means that you are the one who is stipulating a definition.  When people today refer to liberals, they don’t mean “classical liberals”.  So, when someone says that “liberals are idiots”, it is not fair to argue that they’re wrong because they’re using the term incorrectly.

 

The quote in VOS is: “’Happiness’ can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. … To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that ‘the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure’ is to declare that ‘the proper value is whatever you happen to value’.”

 

Do you believe, as a hedonist, that there are any irrational pleasures?

 

Thanks,

Glenn




Post 14

Friday, November 26, 2004 - 1:34pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

The quote in VOS is: “’Happiness’ can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. … To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that ‘the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure’ is to declare that ‘the proper value is whatever you happen to value’.”


See, this doesn't make sense to me at all. If we admit that happiness is the purpose of ethics, then how are we supposed to evaluate a particular ethical system, except by how well it fulfills that purpose—i.e., how much happiness it offers?

Rand says also that “man's life” is the standard of ethics, and I think she makes it clear that she means by this not just the animal preservation of his life, but the quality of his life, and it's very difficult to imagine how to evaluate quality except in terms of happiness.

Now, what I believe she is trying to do in this quote is distance herself from the “feels good, do it” crowd who focus exclusively on short-term pleasure, or who believe that there is no standard of happiness except for “whatever feels good.” So I don't think this or any of her writings are indicative of opposition to the idea of living for happiness, so long as the specific happiness sought is consistent with man's identity qua man and not an evasion of it.



Sanction: 2, No Sanction: 0
Post 15

Sunday, November 28, 2004 - 11:20amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Rand’s definition is not stipulative, and it doesn’t just accord “with the sloppy common usage of the term”; it is consistent with the common definition.  My Webster’s defines hedonism as “The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life”.  The OED defines hedonism as “The doctrine or theory of ethics in which pleasure is regarded as the chief good, or the proper end of action.  The earliest citation of the use of the word is given as 1856 SEELYE tr. Schwegler's Hist. Philos. (1864) 71 Hedonism, the philosophical doctrine of the Cyreneans that pleasure is the chief good.  In the Objectivist Ethics, Rand defined hedonists as those who declare that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure”.
But you here illustrate my point precisely. All three of your definitions of hedonism agree precisely with mine, the "doctrine that the purpose of life is pleasure".  This precisely invalidates Rand's definition, because Rand tacks on to this notion the concept that anyone who values pleasure qua pleasure must value their current experiences uncritically.  Yet this quietly sweeps under the carpet the possibility of someone whose purpose is pleasure but does not judge pleasure by "whatever".

For instance, as a hedonist, one thing I hold as very important is the experience of the breadth of human possibilities, and an attempt to understand through participation the value of many different types of life.  This is clearly defensible on hedonistic grounds, yet it is incompatible with the pursuit of "whatever gives you pleasure", which implies a contentment with one's current experience.  I am after the greatest possible experience of pleasure, not after the greatest pleasure I currently experience.  The first does not imply the second; in fact ultimately I think it conflicts with it.

The quote in VOS is: “’Happiness’ can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. … To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that ‘the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure’ is to declare that ‘the proper value is whatever you happen to value’.”
 
Valuing whatever one happens to value is irrational, but precisely on hedonistic grounds.  A person who does not use reason to understand the nature of pleasure; as a tool to understand what life will be most pleasurable; who does not make use of all their powers in the investigation of experiences, is not much of hedonist.  Such a person is simply a fool.

 
The egoist who tramples others' rights is foolish because an intelligent estimation of one's interest emphasizes friendship and trade, not coercion.  Similarly, an intelligent hedonist emphasizes reason, forethought, and curiosity, because contentment with whatever one feels is precisely not trying for the most pleasure in life.  A lover of wealth is innovative and reflective in regards to commerce; a lover of pleasure is similarly innovative and reflective in regards to pleasure.
 
As a hedonist, I am open to criticisms of my life or course of action that indicate I could live a more pleasurable life by pursuing a different path.  What I am not open to- and could care less about- is whether my life embodies some external ideal of 'man qua man'.  I am interested in how my factual existence as a homo sapiens may influence my intelligent pursuit of pleasure, but I do not look for a source of ethics in teleology.  Such, in my experience, is an invitation to guilt and unhappiness, restraint and self-doubt.  Greatness to me lies in stunning achievements that take one to new worlds yet unsighted, not in regular oak-in-acorns waiting to become yet one more adult in thew sturdiness of the species.  And that greatness itself is not a demand of 'man's nature', but a knowledge of immense pleasure possible for me to experience directly and indirectly- and that is the only reason to pursue it.
You are using the term hedonism in the classical sense, but that means that you are the one who is stipulating a definition.  When people today refer to liberals, they don’t mean “classical liberals”.  So, when someone says that “liberals are idiots”, it is not fair to argue that they’re wrong because they’re using the term incorrectly.  

[paragraph resequenced for criticism] 

 

I don't see why using "hedonism", within a philosophical context, according to the term's meaning in ethical philosophy, is stipulative.  As all of your definitions state repeatedly, hedonism is simply the ethical position that pleasure is the goal of life.  This is my position too, but I refuse the package deal which indicates that those who live for pleasure must do so irrationally or unthinkingly.  This is just as irrational as the similar package deal that egoism, "concern for one's own interests", involves a particular characterization of the nature of one's interests.

 

And in both cases precisely the same purpose is served.  Associating egoism with callousness and brutality paves the way for altruism; Associating hedonism with mindlessness and short-sightedness paves the way for the Protestant Ethic.

 

The problem with Rand's use of the term hedonism is that while she defines hedonism as a certain irrational approach to value, Objectivism following her then proceeds to condemn all sorts of particular sensualities associated with the term 'hedonism' as irrational by the same brush, even through there is exactly zero logical correlation between, say, 'casual' sex and the use of illegal drugs and subjectivist motives for their use.

 

And far worse, Objectivism continually sets up a false alternative- among those who pursue happiness, one is either a mindless whim-worshipper, or one regards pleasure as an instrumental or celebratory value to something else- productive work- to be pursued as the centerpiece of one's life.  I personally find it insane that a supposedly egoistic philosophy graces the often unimaginative, toiling, conformist American middle class with the halo of virtue, yet sneers down its nose at the young, the countercultural, and the artistic who pursue happiness shamelessly for its own sake.  The reason for this atrocity is Objectivism's teleology- specifically the view that pleasure is justifiable as a reward to or a fuel for productive work, but pursued in itself is simply without purpose.

 

Yet this kind of purpose is nothing but a phantom.  True creative work may indeed be the wondrous pleasure Objectivism claims it is, yet I see no evidence whatsoever that every happiness, from a snowball fight to an evening discussing philosophy, to all the subtle touches of color and passion and brilliance in life belong to this essential theme or nature.  I think honestly clearly shows that happiness can be pursued in a broad plurality of experiences, of which purpose and productive work is but a part. 

 

And I repeatedly notice, in Objectivist circles, that having a 'productive purpose' in one's life is morally scrutinized.  The result is that the student out of college spending a few years bumming around Europe for the sake of pleasure in frowned upon, while the the office-drone insurance salesman is considered moral.  There is nothing in a morality of happiness to sustain this, which leads me to conclude that in Objectivism the end has been devoured by the means to happiness.  Or worse, that a lot of people attracted to Objectivism always had more loyalty to the Protestant Ethic than to passionate individual happiness.

 

To dedicate life to productive work, instead of productive work to life, is a monstrosity, a grotesque living of life for a triumphant 'success', 'control, 'effiency', 'achievement' that is a means devouring an end.  There certainly exist in life such persons whose dispositions suggest they specialize their route to happiness in an instrumental life oriented towards achievement, and I have no need for anger with them.  But such life-sustenance and life-maintenance is not in the end the best picture of life itself, which in each consciousness and passion exists for no other end.  I know no abstract 'human nature' to idolize and idealize other than the capacity for ecstasy on Earth.  The intelligent and efficient use of reason is necessary for that life; it is necessary in the intelligent pursuit of pleasure; its use is itself one of the greatest pleasure; the practical use of reason in instrumental production is one plausible orientation and form a pleasurable life can take.  But it is secondary and dependent.  One begins and ends with the song sung in its own joy.  'What for' asked as the first question it an infinite regress of purpose for purpose's sake.

 

Such is teleology; the ethic of life-sustaining and -expanding action posessed as primary, instead of life itself.

 

I choose hedonism.

Do you believe, as a hedonist, that there are any irrational pleasures? 

As such, no.  There are pleasures irrational to pursue in context because they preclude greater pleasures; there are undeveloped pleasures; there are pleasures 'package-dealed' with elements destructive, directly or indirectly, of one's pleasure; there are pleasures in which the pleasurable element is inarticulate and the object of pursuit is itself neither pleasurable nor rational.  There are experiences whose pleasure, once understood, can be found better elsewhere.  But no pleasure qua pleasure is irrational to pursue, no.

Thanks,

Glenn

very well;

my regards.

 

Jeanine Ring   )(*)(   - "not all those who wander are lost"

 

What the mythologies never tell aloud is that Sisyphus was never chained to his rock.  That was uneccesary.  Rather, the gods whispered into his ear and constructed him that he could experience himself only in the object he could push to the heights.  The rest- the eternal labors, the pain, the sweating and stress, the spectacle of naked futility- simply followed naturally.  We who read know he is in the Underworld; but Sisyphus looks up from his tortured brow and expects up the slope of Tartarus the pathway to heaven....

 

(Edited by Jeanine Ring on 11/28, 11:22am)




Post 16

Sunday, November 28, 2004 - 11:53amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In fairness to Rand, everyone takes some of the ethical teachings of one's culture for granted; Alyssa Rozenbaum, unlike someone growing up among Christians, certainly did not consider pleasure as something antithetical to virtue, or even needing to be justified in relation to virtue. In the traditional Jewish view, taking pleasure in the exercise of one's faculties and senses is one of the virtues of which happiness consists.

Msr. Reed-

Thank you greatly for providing this insight; your sense of organic culture is most admirable, and your knowledge here is something I hope to acquire.  And indeed, in such sense and context this hedonist warms to Rand's ethics greatly.  'Tis not the educated life, nor the creative life nor the productive, that I deny- only the need to justify happiness by virtue as the ethical rule.  I do not oppose codes of values; indeed, this Life I have chosen is no place for those who cannot live by a certain professional code that comprises its own society.  Living within this sort of framework can require a bit of artfulness at times, but I am the last to deny that such a code can give a tower in storm winds a skeleton of steel.

Yet I say sadly: 'tis a shame that most of the culture Objectivism has become takes for granted rather the Christian framing of things.  Virtue to most Objectivists is the careful herding of easily wandering passions along the straight and narrow- supposedly this time for an Earthly happiness.  That was not the Rand I followed.  The early Rand, where fiction written as fiction shows a flowering of life beyond the formalities of her later system, shows the beauty for which I still worship at Ayn Rand's Temple of the Human Spirit.

Yet I fear some of the beams are disjointed, and above my head the structure is shattered..

regards,

Jeanie   )(*)(,

stronger under the open sky.




Post 17

Sunday, November 28, 2004 - 8:12pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

True creative work may indeed be the wondrous pleasure Objectivism claims it is, yet I see no evidence whatsoever that every happiness, from a snowball fight to an evening discussing philosophy, to all the subtle touches of color and passion and brilliance in life belong to this essential theme or nature. I think honestly clearly shows that happiness can be pursued in a broad plurality of experiences, of which purpose and productive work is but a part.


Well, here's the thing. Objectivist ethics are based on the idea that by his nature, man has to eat—which means that he has to get food somehow—which means that, because his mind is his means of survival, he must apply his capacity for reason to the problems of productive work. So, apart from any consideration of happiness or pleasure, it is a fact of man's nature that he must perform some sort of productive work to survive.

Now, happiness in addition to simple survival is pretty obviously a value in human life as well. A lot of traditional models of economics and praxeology address the dual needs of survival and happiness by the “work/reward” model, which holds that agents in an economy perform a certain amount of (undesirable) work, for which they receive a certain amount of reward, which they use to purchase both sustenance and luxuries. This view of productive work leads to what we might term the sustenance/pleasure dichotomy. Under this view, people might be tempted to run off to Europe for no reason save pleasure, but they still need to eat. And so life becomes a balancing act of sustenance versus pleasure—how much money do they have to spend to keep themselves fed this month, and how much can they hold on to for “luxuries”?

So I believe that the reason that Objectivism idealizes the pleasure of creative achievement above others is that creative work (done in a field enjoyable to the individual involved) avoids the sustenance/pleasure dichotomy entirely. The work produces money which the person can use to keep himself fed, and it also provides the person with pleasure. A person who is able to find work fulfilling in this manner never has to do “undesirable” work, meaning that his time is spent more efficiently in creative work than under a “work for reward” lifestyle. So for an individual who wants to achieve the most pleasure and the least tedium, the most moral course of action is to devote his energies to looking for a job in which he can find this sort of pleasure.

Now, of course, there are many pleasures apart from creative work, even for a person who has found fulfilling work of this sort, and it is perfectly reasonable for a creative genius to want to supplement his creative pleasure with other sort of pleasure. But as long as a primary source of his pleasure is his creative work, he never has to worry about financing his other pleasures or balancing them with his need for sustenance; he can simply finance them with excess earnings from his creative work.

What makes Objectivists uncomfortable with things like pleasure trips to Europe, I suspect, is that the people typically associated with such pursuits are the people who resent the fact that our “materialistic” world expects them to submit to the “indignity” of labor before they will be “allowed” to pursue pleasure. They don't want to work, and expect someone like their parents, the taxpayers, or society in general to foot the bill for their pleasures. I believe that Objectivism would be incorrect in in calling a trip to Europe for pleasure alone immoral, if it is taken by someone financing it with his own wealth; and I believe that there are very few Objectivists who would deny such a trip is a valid “reward” for this individual's productive work. (Now, other pleasures, like casual sex and narcotics, Objectivists consider to be immoral not because they are done for pleasure alone but because they are destructive of life and therefore of pleasure. But whether or not they really are is a whole 'nother debate.)


The result is that the student out of college spending a few years bumming around Europe for the sake of pleasure in frowned upon, while the the office-drone insurance salesman is considered moral.


It is worth pointing out that Atlas Shrugged is the story of Dagny the Railroad Visionary and Hank the Amazing Metallurgist, and not Joe the Cubicle Drone. Joe's life may be a moral one in that he lives by his own work and doesn't steal anyone else's effort, but it is still Dagny's life, and not Joe's, that is idealized (by Ayn Rand, at least). It's also interesting to note that the closest thing to a drone in the Sacred Texts™ is Eddie the Unassuming Office Boy, who works in Dagny's employ, is pretty content with where he is, has a sad and lonely home life, and is one of the tragic characters of Atlas Shrugged.



Post 18

Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 1:15amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Rand was fundamentally a killjoy. Or at least she was in the post-1959 period. No fun-filled pleasure-seeking for her, thank you! She spent way too much time condemning society, and not nearly enough making herself happy. The former is easy, the latter quite hard. After 'Atlas Shrugged' she mainly occupied herself by saying "I told you so," rather than writing good novels -- or even good philosophy.
 
Rand got a great deal of evil pleasure out of verbally lashing her loyalists and acolytes -- out of condemning and exploiting people who genuinely-but-foolishly viewed her as a true liberator. Her argument and persona was strong enough - and her charisma strong and seductive enough -- to successfully pose as their friend and ally.
 
Rand could inappropriately, wantonly, viciously psychologize and moralize all day long. And she often did. As an evil cult leader, she relished abusing her weak and naive followers.
 
In the discussion above, Jeanine is essentially right. Rand's caricature of, and disinformation about, hedonism constitutes a massive philosophical fraud. Her cowardice and dishonesty here is considerable. So too her intellectual and moral bankruptcy.
 
Ultimately, no-one can understand Rand's philosophical position here without looking at it from a psychological perspective. Hedonists make for very poor cult followers and Rand knew it -- consciously or unconsciously. Eudaemonists, Hedonists, Epicureans, Cyrenaics, etc. are simply too high-minded, open-minded, free-thinking, high-spirited, dynamic, and heroic. And Rand wasn't having any of that. Neither was her Collective.




Post 19

Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 10:37amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
double post deleted

(Edited by Joe Maurone on 11/30, 10:43am)




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