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Post 20

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 2:45pmSanction this postReply
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It may help, Christopher, to recall that life is conditional. This fact is Rand's basis for identifying man's life as the standard of value.  
Because it is conditional, life requires action. Morality is the principles we formulate to guide our actions. "Man's life," as the abstract pattern men in general must follow to survive, is naturally and necessarily the standard in morality.
Notice that in adopting any other standard of value, just because it doesn't hold man's life as the highest goal, actively being moral might lead to one's death. 

As for the mixing in of rationality with morality, I'm not sure why you do this, but it might help to organize the concepts hierarchically. Are we rational in order to be moral, or are we moral as one part of being rational? Here a distinction is required.
"Rationality" as man's intellectual nature is not the same concept as "rationality" as a method, or set of standards men apply to their thinking. (If we were precise in our language, we would use a phrase in each case...) The "rational" that we mean above, and in your discussion, is the latter one, the idea of following a certain method or a set of rules in forming opinions, making decisions, etc. That "rationality" is a means to an end, and so it is subordinate to the project of morality, which is what sets those ends.

"Gain" and "loss" are either defined simply as acquisition and its opposite, or they are defined in relation to the standard of value. For example: catching a virus is a "gain" in the first sense, but it is a "loss" in relation to the standard of value. The same goes for "good" and "bad." I suggest you won't get anywhere by relying on them in preference to talking about morality itself, and morality's standard of value.

As Rand emphasized, morality only makes sense when put into context. The context is that life is vulnerable, and requires action to sustain it. Objectivist ethics is merely the recognition of this. For religious people, Objectivism would seem to lack an ethics entirely. For Kant, it certainly would. The genius of Rand's ethics is her scientific naturalism. Man's own nature demands and supplies guidance for his choices. Man is good. No other ethical system has this benevolent point of view.




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Post 21

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 2:55pmSanction this postReply
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What do you use to choose between alternative goals, Dean? And when experience teaches you that what seems best in the short term sometimes turns out to have been very bad in the long term, what do you fall back on to guide further choices?
Ethics, in Objectivism, is entirely a science of what is best for man, for individual men. It only states broad principles because it is only in such abstract ways that what is universally in men's best interests can be identified.
The source of such universal determinations is just what is universal to man, i.e., "man's life."




Post 22

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 5:52pmSanction this postReply
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According to Rand, one's own happiness is one's highest moral purpose, which is not inconsistent with holding one's life as one's highest moral purpose. Conditions that are pro-life are simultaneously pro-happiness. By "life" in this context, she means a viable healthy life, not a terminally ill or dying one. Obviously, if one is dying of incurable cancer and is racked with excruciating pain, suicide is appropriate, but that's because one's life is no longer worth living. In other words, by "life" in this context, Rand means a normal healthy life, one which she calls "the life proper to man."

Obviously, certain objective conditions are required for such a life. Not just any goals a person chooses to adopt are conducive to it or will lead to that end. It is here that the seven Objectivist virtues come into play: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride. Just as a value is that which one acts to gain or keep, a virtue is the means by which one gains or keeps it. The seven Objectivist virtues are the means of achieving and maintaining one's highest value, one's own life and happiness.

That's the argument. Disagree with it if you must, but understand it.

- Bill



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Post 23

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 6:00pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,
Of the seven virtues, one, pride, is not an action, or a quality of actions, but is a consequence of success at other things.
I know people sometimes say, "Take pride in such and such." In that sort of statement, pride seems to be active, but I think that is merely a superficial resemblance. Does it not seem odd to have a "virtue" which can't be practiced? 




Post 24

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 7:51pmSanction this postReply
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Mindy,

To the degree one openly owns their accomplishments and abilities, they are being proud. The Christian ideal of humility is the opposite. I see pride as having an active component that CAN be practiced. Rand called it "moral ambitiousness" and spoke of it as an active recognition of one's own value.



Post 25

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 8:31pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,
Moral ambitiousness will lead one to achievements that will support feelings of pride, but is that the same thing?




Post 26

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 10:28pmSanction this postReply
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Mindy, it wouldn't be the first case of reciprocal causality. Actively recognizing ones worth makes the successes more likely as well as opening the mind to being able to feel the pride that results. I don't know if we need more words (like the old saw about Eskimos and snow) or the same word just has a richer meaning than our culture's Christian disdain has allowed.



Post 27

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 6:17amSanction this postReply
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Mindy,

I don't see virtue that way; and pride in particular.

I see it as striving for the spiritual best for yourself. It's a recognition and an aspiration, expressed in generic actions. Other virtues are expressed in other actions in exactly the same way. For example, it's prideful to read a self-help book -- as long as you don't get "victimy" about it. It shows you value yourself and are aiming at removing some of your moral imperfections, or at building character by learning more correct responses to everything, if you will.

The instances where we do prideful things don't have a banner (or neon lights) on them saying: "This would be prideful, that wouldn't" -- but that is true of all the virtues. It's only upon analysis of action in accord with a rational value hierarchy that we can determine whether these otherwise-generic actions were virtuous. Does this make sense?

Ed




Post 28

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 1:54pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,
Given your evasion of the meat of the matter on the epistemology thread, and your insults to me, I'm surprised you write as if nothing has taken place.

You are an intellectual coward, and you lack honesty, and respect for others, in service of your own weakness. In my opinion, you should admit your wrongs, apologize, and promise to change your ways. I am surprised you didn't get more flack from others here, despite your long association with RoR and with many individuals.

Your evasions, and your turning an attack on the source of the facts that you found inconvenient is exactly the sort of thing our schools are chock full of, which destroys a young person's intellectual confidence, and which is responsible for all the ills of modern life. What you did, pretending to "let others answer" and your attacks on me, laughable though they were, are as serious a rejection of reason as there can be.

I can't understand how the administration here keeps you on in a staff position, however nominal it might be. Doesn't anybody take things seriously?

Mindy




Post 29

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 2:55pmSanction this postReply
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Mindy,

You are an intellectual coward, and you lack honesty, and respect for others, in service of your own weakness. ... What you did, pretending to "let others answer" and your attacks on me, laughable though they were, are as serious a rejection of reason as there can be.
I don't agree with your characterizations of me or my actions. I actually think that they are unjust and very rude. However, I don't see us resolving this anytime soon, so I'll plan to refrain from addressing you directly anymore. I'm open to further interaction with you -- I'm just not planning on it.

Ed

Note: If you want to mutually go through that epistemology thread -- line by line -- and morally evaluate each other's responses, then I would be comfortable doing that with you. Just let me know about that. However, if you just want to keep throwing out terrible insults like you did above, then I think we shouldn't even attempt a resolution (because then I would rather not interact with you at all).

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/17, 2:56pm)




Post 30

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 2:59pmSanction this postReply
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The teddy bear is in the room on the right, down the hall...



Post 31

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 3:35pmSanction this postReply
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Mindy,

I'm available to be insulted, even if Ed begs off. 

Note that I have a somewhat twisted sense of humor, which could be a problem for you.

Of course, how much you value your time - or not - could be factored into your decision on this as well.

;->




Post 32

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 6:41pmSanction this postReply
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I see that things have taken their own direction on this thread, so I doubt that anyone will feel like reading the following.  However...just in case:
I just realized that I was attributing the wrong type of statement to Rand.  What she literally said was that the right to life was the source of all rights (italics mine).  She said before that (in the same essay, "Man's Rights") that the most fundamental right (italics mine, again) was man's right to his own life.  Since saying that a right is the source of all rights and saying that it is the most fundamental right are the same thing, I think we have a contradiction here in Rand's statements.  She seems to be saying, on one hand, that man's most fundamental right is his right to his own life, and on the other that his most fundamental right is his right to life (again, she defines the right to life as the right to engage in self-sustaining action).  Although a debater might argue by saying that this ammounts to different ways of describing the same right, I think that contention would be wrong.  For anyone in their right mind would take "the right to his own life" to mean "the right to choose one's actions freely", or some equivalent thereof.  However, the "right to life" (both according to Rand's very definition of that right, and according to the fact that we are talking about the right to a process there (i.e. to the process of life), means the right to engage in self-sustaining behavior.  Clearly these are two different things entirely.  That still leaves the issue of what man's most fundamental right is unsettled, but it at least tells us that (at least in the statements I've alluded to already) Rand herself never settled that issue.

(Edited by Christopher Parker on 1/17, 6:44pm)




Post 33

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 7:38pmSanction this postReply
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A man's right to his life encompasses more than sustaining himself. It implies his ownership of all the fruits of his labor, for example, not just what is necessary to stay healthy.



Post 34

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 10:02pmSanction this postReply
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Christopher,

Differentiating between rights as to which is the most fundamental shouldn't be a confusing issue - mostly that is just seeing which has to exist to make possible all others. (Her words were, "...all others are consequences or corollaries...")

You said, "Since saying that a right is the source of all rights and saying that it is the most fundamental right are the same thing..." Not really, although close in this case. "Fundamental can be taken as more closely aligned with importance, and "source" is from whence it came. I came from my mother, I came from Wyoming (depending upon our context), yet while those may address my source, they don't discuss the fundamental aspect of my nature.

And, "...anyone in their right mind would take "the right to his own life" to mean "the right to choose one's actions freely", or some equivalent thereof. However, the "right to life" (both according to Rand's very definition of that right, and according to the fact that we are talking about the right to a process there (i.e. to the process of life), means the right to engage in self-sustaining behavior. Clearly these are two different things entirely."

At this point, I'm not entirely clear on the distinction you are making. But I'll go on as if I did :-)

p.s., As soon as someones says, "anyone in his right mind..." it is like highlighting the following phrases as "here is an argument I don't feel confident to stand alone without trying to scare people away from challenging it by saying they would be crazy to disagree" :-)
----------

"the right to his own life" is more than right to choose one's actions freely. It is all of the actions implied with ownership - including right to dispose of. It is sovereignty. It is a the bedrock of declaring that man is an end in himself and not a means to the ends of others, hence the translation from what man needs to live to what he has the rights to.

The naked, biological process of life - metabolic processes, breathing, moving food from hand to mouth were not what Rand meant as man's life. She talked about life proper to man. That derives from man's nature. Our nature isn't that of a plant or of someone in a heart-lung machine or as someone part of a mindless hive-like community engaged in group-think. And she was clear that right meant freedom to act and not a positive right (a right to receive something for someone else).

Think of two stages in the derivation of rights. First what are the conditions of existence that man's survival requires (given his nature) - a metaphysical exercise detailing facts. Second what are the moral principles that we derive from those conditions and our nature - the building upon metaphysics to establish ethics. Ethics cannot pre-exist life, and ethics should not be conjured into being as a floating abstraction. In the end, we are looking at the same entity, but from two perspectives. (some of this is my take after reading Nicholas Dykes' paper)

Rand always stayed cognizant of context, and she also always stayed cognizant of the layers, the hierarchy of knowledge. I have the sense that you are staying very linear and analytic at a word level at a time when a better start is to see that bigger picture of the hierarchy, then start picking at the words in the that context. But I may just be missing what you are saying.

Did your point get addressed? Or, missed?






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Post 35

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 11:20pmSanction this postReply
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MIndy wrote,
Of the seven virtues, one, pride, is not an action, or a quality of actions, but is a consequence of success at other things.
I know people sometimes say, "Take pride in such and such." In that sort of statement, pride seems to be active, but I think that is merely a superficial resemblance. Does it not seem odd to have a "virtue" which can't be practiced?
Yes. Good point.

- Bill



Post 36

Sunday, January 18, 2009 - 12:45amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

As a psychologist, I see pride as both an action and as an emotional result of success.

Rand says, "Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value." I would say it differently, I'd say it is a on-going commitment to valuing yourself, a special form of assertion, that it is actively choosing to be on your side. It isn't just a decided position that one could see listed on a piece of paper. It is as ongoing as the need for food and water. It is a demanding as the act of willing one's self to do something that is sometimes difficult. Humility is often the choice, and the act, of not asserting your value. Think of standing proud. Think of the act of taking pride in something as opposed hiding ones light. Think of what category of action one puts a refusal to accept unearned guilt. I see it as a major virtue - it is both the reward and motive power and the act of asserting, our greatest value - our self. Integrity is the virtue of living up to our principles. Pride is the virtue living up to our highest value.

I guess you saw the posts I made on this (#24 and 26) - I still think we have a problem that is more about the word and common usage (like selfishness) rather than the absence of an action.



Post 37

Sunday, January 18, 2009 - 10:58amSanction this postReply
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I'm not trying to diminish the importance of pride, Steve. It is just the activity aspect I question.
I find it necessary, sometimes, to stand up for myself, as it were, and that is an action expressing pride. It is a good thing, so it also creates pride. Perhaps that is the key to "practicing" pride.
The abstract value of my life doesn't fall into the category of pride, for me. It seems silly to be proud of existing. I may, personally, be weak as to my pride. I had two older siblings who were dedicated to the "put-down." However, my family would certainly say I had way too much pride...
All-in-all, I thank you for helping me recognize the stand-up-for-yourself activity of pride, that will be a real addition to my knowledge!!




Post 38

Sunday, January 18, 2009 - 1:13pmSanction this postReply
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Your family said you have 'too much pride' because to them, there is a virtue in 'humility'...



Post 39

Sunday, January 18, 2009 - 6:55pmSanction this postReply
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An innocent interpretation, Robert.



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