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Post 140

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 6:48amSanction this postReply
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Robert,

I don't sanction posts very often, but I had no choice but to register my most emphatic approval of what you wrote.  I honestly believe that there will be Objectivists who read your posts who will (hopefully) then reconcile the application of their philosophy more with reality - I know I am one. 

I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to SOLO and TOC at a relatively early point in my discovery of Rand's ideas.  Thank you for sharing wisdom that will help me avoid the potential pitfalls of personal development that a misapplication of Rand's ideas can bring on. 

Pete Linn  


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Post 141

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 6:48amSanction this postReply
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I rest my case.

Post 142

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 6:50amSanction this postReply
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Pete, I'm grateful for your words. And very encouraged that you have found some of mine personally useful.

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Post 143

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 9:07amSanction this postReply
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Robert,

ouch...

I want to defend you, but I just got slapped down.

In addition to accusations of fathomless inanities, I have been called Mister. Dayamm!

Sorry Linz - I didn't realize you were bitching for real.

I was so excited by the ideas on applying Objectivism Robert was discussing (and his recent hot streak) that the TOC thing greatly paled in my mind by comparison. He thinks like I do on these issues.

Besides, I never had anything much to do with TOC anyway - its outreach impact on Brazil is zero.

I guess people take this thing very seriously around here, though. Live and learn...

Michael


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Post 144

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 10:16amSanction this postReply
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I'm not going to morally repudiate Robert. But on Solo, I have learned that disagreement on some of these issues will bring exactly that onto me. And if I call you "hypocrites" or "touchy" for it, then that only increases the ferver of your condemnation. So my choice is to blend in with the Solo collective, or state what I think. Not a hard choice.

Robert is profoundly confused about the meaning of virtue. And so are all of you along with him.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Here Aristotle has the proper comprehension of the term "virtue": He says that excellence (and by my reading of this, moral excellence, that is, virtue) is a *habit*. That is different from calling it a *choice*.

Robert claims that no one is morally perfect, since we all make "mistakes." But he fails to distinguish two critically different causes of these "mistakes": a failure to act properly from bad habits, and a failure to act properly from a willful desire to get away with something wrong, or from apathy toward morality.

A good child, who is necessarily poorly trained in virtues because of his young age, will on occasion and under duress, lie. His emotion of self-preservation comes into play before his judgement was ever brought to bear, and he lies to protect himself. However, if the child is good, then upon thoughtful consideration of what happened, he will confess the lie. Such is the action of a *morally perfect* person, but one lacking a full development of the virtue - the trained habit or skill - of honesty.

A bad child on the other hand, may like the good child, lie on accident. However, he also lies consciously, and - from what is central to the development of a truly evil individual - cares not to correct himself. The good child will feel remorse of some sort, and then act to correct his error. The bad child might at some point, feel remorse, but through years of habituation of the idea of "get on with life", even the remorse goes away and the child is corrupted.

The key difference between the good child and the bad child is that the good one implicitly believed in what Aristotle called "the crown of all virtues", the virtue of pride: the habit of constant self-correction and improvement. And I don't think I need to say what the consequence of consciously, purposefully blurring the distinction between these two, very different types of behavior, would be.

(Edited by Shayne Wissler on 4/16, 1:00pm)


Post 145

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 12:24pmSanction this postReply
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Shayne,

Thank you again for an excellent clarification, in this case of the "moral perfection" issue. I was trying to understand exactly what I found so wrong in Robert's characterization of one's own error as "inexcusable," as though one's virtue, pride and moral perfection were irretrievably lost as a result of an occasional (and not avoidable without prior moral omniscience) moral error. You provide an indispensable insight into what is wrong, in context, with the idea of "inexcusability."

I find a parallel here with knowledge, omniscience, and the experimental process in science. Neither knowledge nor contextual certainty require prior infallibility. All knowledge starts with induction, which is fallible, and the achievement of contextual certainty requires an ongoing effort to test one's suppositions against existential reality. It is only by being tested against observation that suppositions are transformed into knowledge. It is not by omniscience or by aprioristic deduction, but only by making certain that every step in one's logical chain is either inevitable or objectively tested by experiment or by unbiased observation, that one attains certainty.

Just as knowledge and contextual certainty do not require prior infallibility or omniscience, virtue and moral perfection do not require a history of infallibly perfect conduct. They do, however, require an ongoing moral process analogous to the experimental process of science. Just as the scientist deliberately and continuously tests his suppositions against reality, the man of genuine moral pride practices deliberate, continuous awareness of the existential consequences of his actions. Just as the scientist attains knowledge by identifying the errors that led to every disconfirmed hypothesis, the virtuous man attains moral perfection and pride by (1) fearlessly identifying his own wrongs, (2) doing his utmost to undo their existential consequences, (3) identifying the errors and bad habits that led to the wrong, (4) using this identification to bring his knowledge and habits into correspondence with the facts of reality, and thus (5) incorporate the resulting improvement of his knowledge and habit into his future conduct. The result of this process is virtue, justified pride, and true (that is, contextual) moral perfection.

Robert has made a major contribution by identifying the disastrous results of assuming that one's own "moral intuition," and therefore one's conduct, are perfect a priori, rather than perfectible by experience. The remaining analogies with rationalism and apriorism are left as exercises for the reader.
(Edited by Adam Reed
on 4/16, 12:38pm)


Post 146

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 1:00pmSanction this postReply
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Alec (post 133):

 So by inexcusable, what should be meant, and what Robert means, is: "I was wrong because of my own folly -- there's no other excuse for it."

Of course, Alec. You get it.

But there's nothing so intellectually satisfying as cherry-picking one colloquialism out of a long post like mine, in order to divert attention from its central topic and its implications. A rereading of my post #123 may reveal a plausible explanation of why we're now discussing the contextual meaning of the word "inexcusable," instead of the apparently intractable problem of platonic perfectionism and rationalization in the Objectivist movement.


Post 147

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply
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"Robert claims that no one is morally perfect, since we all make "mistakes." But he fails to distinguish two critically different causes of these "mistakes": a failure to act properly from bad habits, and a failure to act properly from a willful desire to get away with something wrong, or from simply apathy toward morality."

Shayne, without going back to find Robert's wording, I don't know exactly how he worded his bleak no-one-is-morally-perfect (or at least I've never met them) error, but this paragraph of yours is very important and an excellent distinction to make on its own merits regardless of any debate with Robert.

Your analysis of stages of development in life is also valuable and makes distinctions Objectivists usually slide over. I get from this that you don't think it normally right to immediately condemn people morally without weighing the application of these issues. I'm very happy to hear this because I was on the verge of no longer reading your posts because of too frequent accusing people of moral failings such as evasion or hypocrisy rather than allowing the possibility of honest error.

But this post was brilliant...one of the best philosophical - psychological ones I've seen on Solo recently.

Thank you.

Post 148

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 1:53pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

You may have posted 146 before reading 145.

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Post 149

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 2:33pmSanction this postReply
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I remember when Rand was on the Phil Donahue show - the first one, in this case - and one of the audience asked if Rand considered herself to be a 'perfect being'.... and she answered that she never judeged herself in that way, but that she saw things from a rational awareness, and acted to the contextual extent of the knowledge then available - 'an error of knowledge is not a breach of morality' [my paraphrasing here of her answering].... in other words, a mistake is not an act of imperfection, and a 'perfect being' does not see self as such but as simply one who acts properly according to his/her nature as a human being.....

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Post 150

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 9:08pmSanction this postReply
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I have to applaud Barbara for this one!

--Brant


Post 151

Monday, December 15, 2008 - 10:08pmSanction this postReply
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This thread bears a second read.

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Post 152

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 1:07pmSanction this postReply
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In Post 20, Robert wrote,
Woe be unto any sailor whose standard of "perfect helmsmanship" consists of keeping his boat utterly unmoved by shifting winds and currents. He'll become a self-conscious, nervous wreck, looking not at the ocean around him and making adjustments, but obsessed with staring at his compass. And looking inwardly rather than outwardly, he'll be blind to the course ahead. He'll drift away from his destination, or pile up on rocks, forgetting that the whole point of the journey is not to follow a compass: it's to get somewhere.

So it is with a life. Rather than focusing on and fretting about one's own moral stature (or that of others), or what "moral perfection" consists of, or whether one is "living up" to some standard, it is much more fruitful -- morally -- to focus on one's own productive purposes.
In other words, according to Robert, one ought to focus on one's own productive purposes instead of focusing and fretting about one's own moral stature. But isn't his admonition a kind of moral advice, which he believes we ought to follow? And if we don't, wouldn't we, in his judgment, be guilty of a kind of moral imperfection? Is he not saying, in so many words, that focusing and fretting obsessively about one's moral perfection is an inappropriate way to live one's life and is therefore itself a kind of moral imperfection? I don't think one can escape the desirability of 'moral perfection' without self-contradiction -- without, that is, committing what Objectivism calls "the fallacy of the stolen concept."

- Bill

Post 153

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 1:15pmSanction this postReply
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My goodness - the nits in this place getting mighty ferocious - why not just run the vacuum a few times, clear the carpet... ;-)

Post 154

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 6:40pmSanction this postReply
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Robert (Malcom),

Of course, worrying obsessively about one's moral perfection isn't desirable, but that's not because moral perfection itself isn't desirable. Why is it nitpicking to point this out? If Robert Bidinotto would agree, it wasn't obvious from his post. In the paragraph immediately preceding the quoted passage, he writes, "If one views ethics as a life compass, as I do, then what does it mean to guide one's life 'perfectly'? Is the goal of a sailor to 'perfectly' follow a compass heading in a perfectly straight line -- or is it to get to his destination, learning and adjusting as he goes, using his knowledge and skills to the best of his ability?"

The goal of a sailor is to 'perfectly' follow a compass where following it enables him to stay on course; otherwise, there's no point in having it as a guide. There is no conflict between following a compass and getting to one's destination. One is means to the other. Nor is there any conflict between following one's code of morality and "learning and adjusting as one goes, using one's knowledge and skills to the best of one's ability." They are two sides of the same coin. It is one's highest moral purpose that enables one to evaluate one's direction in life and to adjust it as one goes. Without a rational code of morality that is adhered to faithfully, there is no way to ensure that result. This is one of the most salient points in the Objectivist ethics.

- Bill



Post 155

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 7:32pmSanction this postReply
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am not disagreeing with ye - as keep saying over in many threads, context, context, context - is the name of the game... with that in mind, the guide works well in alluding to this 'perfection'...

Post 156

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 9:58pmSanction this postReply
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Some Objectivists say moral perfection consists of nothing more daunting than doing oneís best always. This is the ďsoftĒ interpretation.

Others say it means what it sounds like it means: No moral breaches.

(Errors of knowledge are not moral breaches, as both interpretations acknowledge. Forget about those for now.)

Letís talk about a real moral breach that anyone from either side would recognize and agree about: Whether small or big, a situation where one acts against oneís moral code. (Perhaps you instinctively jumped into moving water in rescue of a strangerís dog, without assessing the danger or even thinking about it first.)

Are you still morally perfect? Or did you have a good run that ended with that stupid move?

Actuaries consider a smoker a non-smoker after two years of not smoking. Something similar?



Post 157

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 6:05amSanction this postReply
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Jon Letendre wrote:
Actuaries consider a smoker a non-smoker after two years of not smoking. Something similar?
I don't think it's as simple as it sounds. If the person is young and did not smoke that long, the extra mortality risk is negligible and the lungs will return to normal in a few years. If the person has smoked for decades, chances are he/she will pay a higher premium for another factor like heart disease, high blood pressure or emphysema risk. Jon refers to a question on an application. It is not a hard and fast rule. I'm not certain about this, but believe the smoker/nonsmoker rate differential is only for standard risks. There is no such differential for substandard risks.


Post 158

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 10:55amSanction this postReply
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(Errors of knowledge are not moral breaches, as both interpretations acknowledge. Forget about those for now.)

Letís talk about a real moral breach that anyone from either side would recognize and agree about: Whether small or big, a situation where one acts against oneís moral code. (Perhaps you instinctively jumped into moving water in rescue of a strangerís dog, without assessing the danger or even thinking about it first.)

Are you still morally perfect? Or did you have a good run that ended with that stupid move?
Well, if you "instinctively" jumped into the water, then it was not a conscious choice, but a spontaneous reaction, in which case, it would not qualify as immoral.

A similar example is a shopper who absentmindedly puts a toothbrush in his pocket and walks out of the store without paying for it, not consciously intended to steal it. Is he guilty of a moral breach? No, but if having realized it once he's out of the store, he continues on his way without returning and paying for it, then he is guilty of a moral breach, because in that case his action is a conscious choice.

- Bill

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Post 159

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 11:03amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

I agree with your last post, but would add a proviso. If that person who "instinctively" jumped has a habit of acting without thinking then it would the result of their chosen mode of acting and morality would apply. The same would be true for the absent-minded shopper; if it were true that the person has chosen not to attend to an ongoing pattern of absent-mindedness that they could tell would result in behaving badly if not attended to, then they are morally culpable. Hah... another nit successfully picked!

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