You say in your post #35 that you restrict free choices to moral choices. Is the domain of moral choice the same in your view as in Rand’s view? She takes moral choices to be those choices of an individual “that determine the purpose and the course of his life”(first page of OE). Humans have other free choices, in Rand’s view, but it is only (and all of) the preceding proper subset of them that she regards as the domain of moral choices.
Other thinkers delimit the domain of moral choice differently. Nozick restricts moral choices to choices in one’s responsiveness to persons as persons. He does not disconnect persons from their lives—he sees persons as situated at the center of lives—but the distinctly moral domain is limited to the treatment of persons, in Nozick’s view.
What is the domain of choices you mean when you speak of moral choices?
In your earlier post #20, you indicated that animal choices, such as choices within their hunting behaviors, are not moral choices. Rather, these are amoral choices. Rand agrees with you on that, as we see in the quotation in post #18 from her 1961 essay “The Objectivist Ethics.”
You go on to say that humans have that same amoral animal mind, “plus an additional moral component of the mind. This explains why humans eventually doubt between courses of action involving different ‘levels’ of moral correctness. . . . The human mind, with its two components—the amoral and the moral—makes ethical conflict and personal growth possible.”
I think William Dwyer is correct in saying, as he does in post #21, that Rand would object to our speaking of animal mind because she would reserve mind for the conceptual level of cognition. I am fine with the contemporary talk of animal minds, but there is another difference you have with Rand concerning what you are calling the animal, amoral part of the human mind. I’ll come to that in a moment.
I first want to ask if you think that the “additional moral component” of the human mind is due to humans having a conceptual faculty. Also, do you think, as Merlin Jetton expressed in post #16, that a major part of the step up from animal to human mind is that humans can represent the past and future and “represent the self—past and future self as well”? If your answers to these two questions are Yes, then, this far, you and Rand are in accord. She remarked informally, around 1970, in an epistemology seminar:
The whole difference between a human type of consciousness and an animal is exactly this. The ability to be self-conscious and to identify the fact of one’s own consciousness, one’s I. (IOE 255–56)
Animals, who do perceive reality or existence, have absolutely no concept of their own consciousness. The enormous distinction between man and animals here is self consciousness. An animal does not have the capacity to isolate critically the fact that there is something and he is conscious of it. (IOE 246)
The fairly definite difference I read between you and Rand concerning what you call the animal, amoral part of the human mind is as follows. Behaviors that are instinctive in one species may not be instinctive in another. Some bird species have to learn (operant conditioning or trial-and-error) what materials are suitable for building a nest; others seem to have an inborn tendency to select the right materials. Rand made the grand contention—as had Schopenhauer—that in humans instinct has been altogether supplanted by intelligence. So in Rand’s view, the “animal mind” in man is not the same as in animals, because they have (not only conditioning-learning, but) instinct to assist them. And we have, as they do not have, conceptual intelligence. (On this last distinction, I can recommend Terrence Deacon’s book The Symbolic Species.)
When you write that “the human being has this same ‘animal mind’,” you are referring to the ability of a lion to select which gnu is better to chase. But when you then go on to speak of the animal, amoral part of the human mind, do you mean to include there our feelings and desires? Do you mean to add feelings and desires to the powers of conditioning-learning (and instincts?) that we share with other animals?
Lastly, for you post #20, what do you mean by levels when you say that “humans eventually doubt between courses of action involving different ‘levels’ of moral correctness”? Are all of these levels within the domain of moral choices?
More on contingency anon.