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Post 0

Tuesday, August 4 - 9:51amSanction this postReply
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University of Colorado professor Michael Huemer argues that there is a glaring conflict between Rand’s ethical egoism and her case for individual rights: “I cannot hold my own well-being as the only end in itself, and simultaneously say that I recognize other persons as ends in themselves too.” Huemer recommends discarding Rand’s egoism and setting her ban of the initiation of force and fraud on a more plausible foundation. Is he correct? I don't think so.

 

Huemer misunderstands Rand's recognition of other people as ends in themselves. By recognizing others as "ends in themselves," Rand does not mean that other people's ends should take precedence over one's own. That's a Kantian view of "man as an end in himself"; it is not Rand's. For Rand, to say that everyone is an end in himself is to say simply that everyone should regard his own life and happiness as the ultimate end of his action.

 

How does this relate to individual rights? Well, if I want others to respect my rights, which is in my self-interest, then logically I must respect theirs. Otherwise, I am practicing a double standard. Respect for the rights of others is the means by which each individual is left free to pursue his own life as an end in itself. Individual rights are eminently selfish!

 

Contrary to Professor Huemer, there is no conflict between ethical egoism and individual rights.



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Post 1

Tuesday, August 4 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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Rand advocated egoism, not narcissism.

 

EGOIST: My life is my ultimate value.

NARCISSIST: My life is my only value.



Post 2

Tuesday, August 4 - 10:34amSanction this postReply
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I don't know which source you allude to, but Huemer argued that in Volume 3, No. 2 - Spring 2002 of JARS.

 

Robert H. Bass was even more critical about egoism and rights being compatible in Volume 7, No. 2 - Spring 2006 - of JARS. Part of my article Egoism and/or Altruism in Volume 13, No. 2 - December 2013 responded to Bass.

 

The first two can even be read on JSTOR with a free subscription. The 3rd will be free later (2018?).

 

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 8/04, 10:43am)



Post 3

Sunday, August 9 - 7:19pmSanction this postReply
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A distinction should be made between hedonism and egoism.

 

It may superficially be in one's immediate self-interest to say rob a bank, one cannot sustainably live a life of crime. A man who sacrifices others for his own perceived gain, subjects himself to being sacrificed in the same manner. Only if one values the life of others can he or she gain the maximum value from them.

 

And if rights do not come from an egoist ethic, how do they come from an altruist ethic? If is is one's moral duty to sacrifice himself to others, how can he have rights? If one's own life is not his highest value and the source of all his other values, why should he or she defend his or her right to, say, a trial by jury or other legal rights, rather than plead guilty to every illegal act and expect others to return the sacrifice?



Post 4

Monday, August 10 - 12:03pmSanction this postReply
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Huemer would argue that we should treat other people as ends in themselves in the Kantian sense, which means that we shouldn't initiate force or fraud against them even when it serves our objective self-interest. 

 

In other words, if the choice is between advancing our own objective self-interest at the expense of other people's rights or respecting their rights at the expense of our own objective self-interest, we should choose the latter.  Individual rights are primary; self-interest (while generally compatible with the rights of others) is secondary. 

 

According to Objectivism, egoism is primary; individual rights are simply the means by which one achieves one's self-interest in a social context.



Post 5

Tuesday, August 11 - 3:21amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Dwyer wrote: In other words [paraphrasing Huemer], if the choice is between advancing our own objective self-interest at the expense of other people's rights or respecting their rights at the expense of our own objective self-interest, we should choose the latter. Individual rights are primary; self-interest (while generally compatible with the rights of others) is secondary. 

According to Objectivism, egoism is primary; individual rights are simply the means by which one achieves one's self-interest in a social context.

 

Suppose P1 could advance his/her self-interest (1) in form F1 along with violating P2's rights, or (2) in form F2 along without violating P2's rights. P1 values F1 more than F2 but not a lot. Which should P1 choose?

 

Same question two more times. You are P1. You are P2.

 

Edit: Rather than Huemer's JARS article (post 2), this seems more like what Mr. Dwyer's source was. 

 

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 8/11, 5:02am)



Post 6

Tuesday, August 11 - 9:26amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

According to Objectivism, egoism is primary; individual rights are simply the means by which one achieves one's self-interest in a social context.

I don't think that is correct in the way it is being used. 

 

I don't believe that you can separate objective self-interest and individual rights in the fashion suggested.  "Self-interest" is the expression of the standard to be used in determining value in some personal context.  E.g., "What is in my self-interest in this situation?" whichis the same as asking, "What is of the most value to me in this situation (given that I value things that benefit my life)?"

 

If one takes the concept of "value" out of those questions there is nothing left.... they don't make sense.  They depend upon the meaning of value.

Now, imagine "this situation" is one in a social context.  Value has to have meaning in a social context as well as a non-social context.  When we go to buy a car, it has the same functional utility whether it is purchased properly or we were buying a stolen car.  But it doesn't have the same value.  And when someone steals a car they not only don't get as much value, but they step outside of the realm of value.  Value makes no sense outside of the realm or morality.  Throw out a moral principle, and the aspects of our life that are covered by that moral principle are now, in a sense, valuless.

 

Properly understood, Galt's oath to not live for the sake of others nor to have them live for his sake is not an old-fashioned kind of oath where a person in effect becomes the subject and a slave to some abstraction.  It is a recognition that we can't have for ourselves the moral right to live unless we accept that it applies to others.  We can't live a contradiction since they don't exist in reality, and that is what we would be doing if we said that there could be such a thing as an objective self-interest that included violating the rights of others.  Too many people don't recognize that we must view rights as coming from human nature (all humans, every human).  If we don't we can't have the power of acting strongly in our own interests 'by right'.

 

It is our ability to choose (combined with the conditional nature of life) that gives rise to the concept of value.  That's true for all humans.  It is also true for all humans that we cannot claim a "right to life" for ourselves without granting it to others.  That is simply recognizing that it exists at the universal to all humans level - that is the way these concepts have been formed.  We are each free to define our personal self-interest as being outside of an action that violates the rights to others, but we can't do so without giving up our own rights.  Of course, anyone can push words out of their mouths that don't form logical thoughts, but that isn't what we are talking about - we are talking about self-interest and individual rights being accepted as valid. 

 

When we act in a non-social context we are interacting with some aspect of reality and it provides us with the feedback of success or failure.  That feedback is a part of what we need to live.  Within in us we build a barometer of our capacity to live - our self-esteem at the general level and our confidence in more specific areas.  We are emotionally fueled.  The cycle of 'think-choose-act-succeed-see our success-feel successful-have the emotional fuel to act more' is what we are talking about.  It is how we are.  Our self-interest demands that we think and act in ways that preserve our ability in ALL of the steps of that cycle. 

The only way that "primary" and "secondary" apply in this discussion is that we must notice that value, self-interest, and rights are all formulated as general principles that arise out of our nature as human beings, and that they therefore apply to all humans - that will be primary to many other items.  The application of these principles to specific point in time and place would be the secondary - it is the concrete.  If I could imagine that I magically became a bird at some specific point of time and place then I would no longer be working under all of those principles that apply to all humans.  I could ignore that self-interest applies to entities who can choose and that choice must be free of initiated force and that value as a concept for a living human will always be tied to reason.  I could just fly away.



Post 7

Friday, August 14 - 12:20amSanction this postReply
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Steve quoted me as follows, "According to Objectivism, egoism is primary; individual rights are simply the means by which one achieves one's self-interest in a social context."

 

And replied, "I don't think that is correct in the way it is being used." . . . "Properly understood, Galt's oath to not live for the sake of others nor to have them live for his sake is not an old-fashioned kind of oath where a person in effect becomes the subject and a slave to some abstraction.  It is a recognition that we can't have for ourselves the moral right to live unless we accept that it applies to others.  We can't live a contradiction since they don't exist in reality, and that is what we would be doing if we said that there could be such a thing as an objective self-interest that included violating the rights of others.  Too many people don't recognize that we must view rights as coming from human nature (all humans, every human).  If we don't we can't have the power of acting strongly in our own interests 'by right'."

 

Steve, didn't I say essentially this in my initial post?  Because you can't demand that others respect your rights if you're not willing to respect theirs, the principle of individual rights is the means by which one achieves one's self-interest in a social context.  What's not to understand?  If you assume the prerogative of initiating force against others in order to gain a value, then (unless you believe in a double standard) you're simultaneously granting to others that self-same prerogative, which is certainly not in your self-interest.  It is not in your self-interest to live in a society in which people prey on each other whenever they think they can get away with it.   



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Post 8

Friday, August 14 - 12:56amSanction this postReply
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Sorry, Bill.  My mistake.  When I read "primary" and "just the means" I misunderstood where you were coming from and started imagining meanings that weren't there.  I got caught up in some of the ways that the concept "value" is an intellectual antecedent to both individual rights and self-interest and didn't look back.



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Post 9

Friday, August 14 - 11:20amSanction this postReply
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Steve, thanks for your sincere acknowledgement and your intellectual honesty, which is not often seen in debates of this kind.  Nice to see that we are on the same page. :-)



Post 10

Friday, August 14 - 11:24amSanction this postReply
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Nice to see that we are on the same page.

We nearly always are, and that's a source of joy to me :-)



Post 11

Friday, August 14 - 1:05pmSanction this postReply
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Hello all.

 

I'm new here.

 

I happen to be involved in similar discussions ... elsewhere.

 

 

I really like how the subject of rights is being addressed here. 

I think much of the difficulty speaking about rights in general comes from its original conception as mystical/intrinsic, which informs the language and how we speak of such things.  Whereas I find most Objectivists speak of the morality of self-interest in non-intrinsic or mystical ways, when the conversation flips to rights there is a little slide.. back into reification of concepts.

 

Again I like what I hear here.

 

 

Question:

 

Would it be safe to say that from the view of P1, and his contextual morality M1, that facts of reality regarding P2 and the potential relationships which are obtainable therewith (e.g. that P2 is a volitional being and that there are certain facts of reality necessary as regards other people for him to pursue his contextual morality M2, which dictate how he will interact with them, and that in general general those facts inform what is required for the right society in which voluntary trade to mutual benefit is possible etc.), are the set of facts of reality which must be taken into account within morality M1 and which serve to inform principles which guide P1 toward acting in his long term rational self interest specifically in the social context of interacting with P2 (and more generally PX)? 

 

Is it safe to say it is those facts of reality regarding P2 and possible interaction between P1 and P2, which form a bundle of facts of reality that shape the bundle of moral principles in P1's morality are what we generally identify as P2s rights?

 

 

It is safe to say that a mans rights, are not a mystical claim on any other man, but are a set of moral principles (in a social context - regarding social interaction) actually possessed in other men's moralities of rational self-interest, which guide those other men's action for thier own benefit?

 

 

Is saying "It's my right" to a rational egoist like saying, "I will not accept this, you know it will destroy our relationship, and undermine the existence of the right society and is therefore not in your self interst, is bad policy and goes against your morality"  

 

Still trying to formulate this.



Post 12

Saturday, August 15 - 4:03amSanction this postReply
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Colin B. Gallant, welcome to RoR.

Q1. Your question isn't clear to me. Your using "facts of reality" puzzles me when many of those don't raise moral issues.

Q2. Ditto.

Q3. Yes.

Q4. Maybe sometimes, but not all. I can imagine "this" being many different things.



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Post 13

Saturday, August 15 - 7:35pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Colin,

 

You wrote, "Would it be safe to say that from the view of P1, and his contextual morality M1, that facts of reality regarding P2 and the potential relationships which are obtainable therewith (e.g. that P2 is a volitional being and that there are certain facts of reality necessary as regards other people for him to pursue his contextual morality M2, which dictate how he will interact with them, and that in general general those facts inform what is required for the right society in which voluntary trade to mutual benefit is possible etc.), are the set of facts of reality which must be taken into account within morality M1 and which serve to inform principles which guide P1 toward acting in his long term rational self interest specifically in the social context of interacting with P2 (and more generally PX)?"

 

Colin, I had to read this passage several times just to figure out what it is that you're asking, and I'm still not sure, as I eventually gave up.  Your sentence is simply too long with too many subordinate clauses.  You need to break it up into smaller sentences, because a sentence expresses a complete thought and there is a limit on how much the average reader can absorb from a single sentence. 

 

Are you familiar with what Objectivism calls "the crow epistemology"?  Here is how Rand describes it in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology:

 

"Since consciousness is a specific faculty, it has a specific nature or identity and, therefore, its range is limited: it cannot perceive everything at once; since awareness, on all its levels, requires an active process, it cannot do everything at once.  Whether the units with which one deals are percepts or concepts, the range of what man can hold in the focus of his conscious awareness at any given moment, is limited.  The essence, therefore, of man's incomparable cognitive power is the ability to reduce a vast amount of information to a minimal number of units - which is the task performed by his conceptual faculty.  And the principle of unit-economy is one of that faculty's essential guiding principles." (Page 83)

 

Also, I don't see value in using abbreviations like P1, M1, P2 and M2.  It doesn't facilitate understanding, but tends to obscure it.  These abbreviations are not words in the English language but are intended only as substitutes for them, so each time I see them, I have to to recall what they stand for.  Why not simply use the word itself instead of inventing another symbol for it?  It's easier on the reader.  I'm not saying never to use abbreviations, but they should be used rarely and judiciously.  The tendency today, especially in academic and scientific literature, is to overuse them, which often requires the reader to waste time looking up their meaning.

 

Let me recommend a little book by philosopher Brand Blanshard entitled On Philosophical Style, in which he discusses the importance of writing philosophy clearly and intelligibly.  It's well written, as you might expect, and very entertaining.  Rand was a master at writing philosophy well enough so that the average educated layman could understand and appreciate it.



Post 14

Sunday, August 16 - 5:24pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you very much for responding to my post William:

 

I had posted it with some haste and will try to present it better, but I am not a philosopher attempting to improve a philosophy any other than my personal philosophy, which is for my self-interest.  I posted this on the premise that others here could assist me with ideas while I chew on this particular one which I find a little bit chewy.  My ideas and my expression of them in words both likely need much work.

 

Motivation:  I wish to concretize what rights are in the context of a first person's morality and in particular interpret the concept "possess" as it is used in connection with rights in common parlance.  In essence what it means to a "possess" rights in the first person, and what it means to a second person to "recognize" rights "possessed" by a second person. 

 

Premises:  Rights are not intrinsic or mystical duties nor primary properties of existents of reality as such.

Although rights are formulated from facts rights are not simply facts but are moral principles and like all moral principles they are guides to action having at their base reality, life as the standard, and the individual as its proper beneficiary. In essence they are reality based and consequential.

Second attempt:

 

What I am trying to do is formulate objective language (language with no baggage tinged with intrinsicism, mysticism, or subjectivism) which characterizes rights to myself in a clear and rational manner.

My rights: are a bundle of moral principles pertaining to my requirements as a man to live with other men. These are based on facts of reality. I recognize them in my own morality, sum them up and stand by certain actions of mine and deal with others actions in accordance with them.

 

Your rights, are a bundle of moral principles pertaining to your requirements, i.e. that fact that you have summed up certain requirements and will live by them when dealing with me.

 

Your rights in my morality: I must take your bundle of principles into account when considering my course of action vis-a-vis you and what is in my long term self interest. These are in essence "you come with your rights" bundle of principles in "my morality".

 

Adopting these moral principles is referred to commonly as "recognizing your rights".  As with the adoption of any moral principle, it is  a recognition of reality and my self interests nothing intrinsic, mystical, or subjective.

 

Still working through this.



Post 15

Sunday, August 16 - 8:53pmSanction this postReply
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Colin,

 

Well done!  Your last post is so much clearer - like night and day from your previous post.  I haven't the time right now to write much, but I'll say that you and the other person (whose morality you walk into) have identical moral rights (in general terms).  There are basic moral rights, like a person's right to his life.   They are universal. Then we could discuss the application of one of those rights in the context of specific events.  And then there are legal rights that are derived, hopefully, from proper moral rights. 

 

Take a look at this set of quotes by Rand on Individual Rights:

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/individual_rights.html

 

 

And here for quotes on Morality:

 

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/morality.html

 

 

Maybe you'll find some language that helps in your quest.



Post 16

Sunday, August 16 - 8:58pmSanction this postReply
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Colin,

 

People even in the Objectivist community disagree on whether rights are something "intrinsic" or whether they are context specific due to say the situation we are living in and the way most humans succeed in life.

 

I'm the former group, I think rights are established only via the benefits of harmony of interest through all of the beneifts that come with trade.  Trade improves productivity quantity and efficiency through specialization.

 

Initiation of force steals/destroys the capital of fellow productive trade partners, and we prefer that our trade partners maintain the full use of the products of their labor so that they can further increase their productivity via increasing capital goods used for their chosen specialization.

 

Hence we craft a government that upholds that no one initiate force and only it use retaliatory force.  And then for me (as a non-intrincisist) this is where "rights" come in.  We want the government to uphold that no one initiate force nor retaliate, which are "negative rights".  Or in other words, people should be able to do what they want with their own property (including their own body) without interference from others so long as they are not using/harming other poeple's property without the other's permission (positive right).

 

When a person is in a situation where the benefits of trade, the harms of potential conflict and retaliation, and the benefits of initiation of force are weighed in such a way that net one is expecting to gain, then that is when people choose to initiate force.  If there is a powerful and caring government there to intervene or police in the aftermath, then there the "rights" are enforced.

 

In my opinion when a person claims that rights are intrinsic, they are creating an abstract definition that is divorced from real world actor ethics.  One could make such an "intrinsic" definition, but it has no bearing on actual actor decision making strategies (ethics).

 

Cheers,

Dean

 

(Edited by Dean Michael Gores on 8/16, 9:01pm)



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