|Neil, I agree with you post #8 with the caveat that it's true only if altruism is accepted in the first place. It fits quite nicely into my point that altruism leads to government use of force. It's one more reason altruism needs to be rejected.|
MSK, you spent most of your post proving the obvious, that Objectivists say politics is a branch of philosophy, as if that were controversial. The problem is, you haven't made a single argument for it. If you're going to argue that it is a distinct branch of philosophy, you need to say what it means to be a branch of philosophy and how that's incompatible with it being a subset of ethics. It's not enough to point to others. That's argument from authority. You don't say why they think this division is necessary, or what the division really means (is it exhaustive, mutually exclusive, hierarchical, etc?). You just say that someone else said it.
Here's my take on it. The branches of philosophy are partitioned by historical divisions (politics has often been viewed as its own branch), and based on a level of important coupled with a large enough difference. So concept-formation is viewed as just another part of epistemology, but politics has a wide enough scope to view it, not as a separate problem, but as an area deserving special attention. Of course, there's also the possibility that Rand viewed politics as somehow distinct from ethics, as if politics were a disembodied mechanism that protects rights but doesn't require individual actors. I'll leave that for others to worry about.
But you don't talk about anything like this. You show you're able to rote memorize a philosophy, but you haven't shown you can digest it or think for yourself. The most appalling part of your post is how you try to connect esthetics to politics. Pure rationalization, with the obvious intent of trying to somehow arrive at a conclusion you think was made by certain authorities. That is not the right way to approach philosophy. It's just terrible. Unfortunately, that was the closest you came to arguing ideas.
Actually, it reminds me of an encounter I had with an ARI type. He was complaining about David Kelley, and how he had asked him to give a rigorous definition of "force" on the spot, and Kelley didn't give a sufficiently good answer. He then proceeded to say that Kelley obviously cannot have a clue about benevolence, and so his book must be flawed. The reasoning? Because you can't have benevolence when people are using force, and without a rigorous definition, obviously the book must be flawed. Obviously. I suppose a book on romance must always start with an detailed analysis of force and government too?
So I maintain that politics is no different from ethics, and can't be divorced. It doesn't just rest on ethics, it answers the same question. In some philosophical thought, there's a distinction made between individual morality and social ethics (what you do in a group setting). Objectivism rejects that distinction because ultimately when deciding how to act, a single standard of value is used to make either decision. The same goes for politics. Some of the political ideas can be talked about in abstract terms, such as a government protecting rights, but ultimately it has to be tied into individual choices and actions.
John, glad you liked the article. I also agree that while many people preach altruism and even accept it explicitly, they rarely practice it. But the fact that they have to justify their actions by referring to altruism is a huge problem. It means they are admitting that their own lives and values mean nothing and can't be used as justification or even defense. All someone needs to do is say it'll help others, and your life is thrown away. Worse, because they accept altruism even though they don't preach it, they'll join the chorus crying out for their own sacrifice.
So I agree that there are those who seek power and hide behind altruism to get it, they are not the only enemies of freedom. There are plenty of people who want to do the right thing, and so also are enemies of freedom. That's the problem with having "the right thing" be so wrong.
MSK again. Be careful with that kind of argument. When one accepts a moral standard, even a self-sacrificial one like altruism, the value-judgments and thus a person's emotions, tend to align themselves with that ethics. When you come along and tell the good altruist that he has to accept his emotions and should act on them or he'll become neurotic, you just give him the excuse he needs to not realign his values and emotions. He'll be able to keep his altruism while pretending that it's in his self interest. You can't just say there's nothing wrong with helping others if you wish. Objectivist ethics evaluates beyond whether you happen to feel like doing something. And of course it has the powerful insight that what you think is right strongly affects what you feel is right.
Yes, there are problems with people being real jerks and hiding behind "selfishness". But an equally common (and probably more frequent) problem is the person who wants to maintain all of his pre-Objectivist baggage, but try to find good rationalizations for it.