Well, it seems that after heavily commenting on the subject of Morality in the Jungle and trying to explain how morality is an irrelevant issue when living alone, the discussion eventually reached the point where the owner of the blog, Ergo – apparently an Objectivism supporter and capable apologist – just had to blog about the comments in a new post.
Therein I am immediately described as:
“an atheist, moral subjectivist, collectivist, and is obviously influenced by evolutionary empiricism a la Dawkins, Hitchen, et al. to a great extent”
Which I do not find really unflattering (Although I would argue the “collectivist” part). However, it is immediatey followed by:
“The fact that a person is an atheist does not say anything about his commitment to rationality. “
Perhaps Ergo meant to say that it does not say anything about his commitment to Objectivism and he would be correct. I consider myself a quite rational person and the fact that what I consider reason differs from what Ergo or an objectivist believes only means that there is a difference of opinion which could then be resolved through discussion.
Nevertheless Ergo appears to believe that the evolution of morals and (thus) moral subjectivism is immediately incorrect. Nevermind the fact that evidence (i.e. history) backs up my position while the only basis he has is Ayn Rand’s “axioms”. Failing to argue against my position, a strawman is set up to be attacked:
“Db0 commits the naturalistic fallacy of arguing from the view that what is given by nature is the way it should be. Notice the dismissal of the volitional faculty of man’s mind to make choices autonomously”
Needless to say that this is not my position. This of course will not deter an objectivist, who like an expert christian apologist will begin arguing on the basis that his philosophy is correct and any fact that disagrees with this must thus be incorrect. What follows of course is a rant about how Richard Dawkins’ positions on memes and “evolutionaty empiricism” is flawed (as well as secular humanism apparently)
I especially liked the part where I am lumped in a random camp of “people” (apparently a bad bunch):
“They are creating a vacuum in morality, which permits people like Db0 to conclude that morality is ultimately a fabrication of society, the fad of the day, the need of a pack, subjectivist, relativistic, etc. In essence, while throwing out the dogmatic morality of religion, they throw out the notion of objective morality itself. “
Of course “we” (I honestly don’t know who the rest of my “posse” is, but I digress) throw the notion of objective morality out. It is a fake idea which is currently supported by theists and Objectivists. The theists because they must accept that goddidit and Objectivists because without this pillar, their philosophy starts to show serious stress. Since they cannot explain how and by whom this “Objective morality” is defined, they engage in mental masturbations and circular logic. As lichanos amusingly said it:
“Ooops. Yeah, if rationality is the definition of morality, then acting rationally is always moral, right? Of course, if an act is not rational, it’s not moral, and we know immorality when we see it because it’s not rational. And we know it’s not rational because we have Objectivism’s first principles as a guide…And since morals MUST be rational because values MUST be rational, then it follows…but why you believe this is beyond me. “
This whole discussion which amusingly enough started by an innocent comment I made in Evanescent’s journal where I simply said “Communism is not irrational” has apparently grown into a clusterblog. Objectivism was thrown in as a response, links were given, Objectivist apologist allies were drawn into the battle, comments upon comments, where unfortunately most of my arguments are ignored altogether, and finally as a culmination, my own blogpost.
To tell the truth, I am getting tired of this debate as we seem to be having fundamental differences in the way we argue and perceive various issues. Most telling was Evanescent’s reply to the comments where I was told that unless I agree that Morality is objective we cannot discuss what it is or where it comes from. At least we can agree on one thing, Libertarians are not a benign bunch of people.
Nevertheless, with each of Ergo’s replies I am once again drawn into the mayem as my stubborness just does not allow me to accept positions (especially about me) which are blatantly incorrect.
And there I go again…
3 May, 2008 at 6:45 pm
I gave you an ultimate goal. This means that there is nothing following it and the purpose of this goal ends when it is realized. It is not, as you state, to make my life better. It just is.
I can explain why I consider this an ultimate goal, but this will not reveal life as an ultimate goal.
…The avoidance of pain
You see that this is a circular argument? My goal is not to have no pain, not to live. Life is my means, a tool that I use in order to have no pain.
I have no choice on using life or not. My choices only affect my life in the future and for that, I have the goal of avoiding pain.
4 May, 2008 at 6:41 am “Desire Utilitarianism has a very good explanation of what rights are, does Objectivism have anything along similar lines?”
Actually, DU has a very poor description of rights and Objectivism certainly does not have anything along similar lines. DU is capable of only pointing at a *general* phenomena and ascribing to it the term “rights”–which is not only incorrect but also circular. The argument is circular because it merely uses different forms of the same argument to support the idea that rights exists.
For example, rights exists because generally people have many and strong reasons to encourage aversions to action X. Without all the unnecessary jargonistics, this is the same thing as saying rights exist because people want rights to exist. Well, but why do people want this to be the case? How did most people get those many and strong reasons? How did those reasons originate? What is their basis and is it univeral or cultural or subjective? And what about the few people who do not have those many and strong reasons? What about those who don’t simply care about this either way?
DU is perhaps the silliest thing I have encountered that purports to be a philosophy; at its root, it is deeply confused about whether or not it is a philosophy based on determinism or free will. It insists on the objectivity of ethics but has no epistemological foundation or theory of concepts that demonstrates this objectivity; indeed, it appears that DU is epistemologically relativistic at best and subjectivistic at worst.
WRT Objectivism, it is simply not proper and not feasible to try to convince you of the Objectivist theory of rights on an internet forum. Rarely do people engage in online debates to be persuaded wholly about an opposing view; mostly, it is to bum-troll around looking to get into someone’s hair like a stubborn piece of gum or win debating brownie points on cyberspace.
Primarily, personal and self-motivated study is the way to changing your views and exploring something new. So, if you’re truly interested in learning about the Objectivist theory of rights (and Objectivism in general)–and not simply engaging in fruitless online debates–then read the relevant books.
4 May, 2008 at 6:51 am “name another ultimate value other than life”
“Absence of pain. Physical and emotional.”
Absence of all pain would in fact destroy all meaning in valuation. It would be detrimental to our lives–we would not know what has survival value in relation to us and what is a threat. Pain serves many different, important, and often life-sustaining functions. Pain can be an indicator of the nature of our actions–whether they are good or bad for us.
In an other sense, imagine your loved one is brutally mutilated by a thug right before your eyes. And then you don’t feel pain; perhaps, you don’t feel joy, but you neither feel pain–just indifference. Then, in what meaningful sense do we talk about valuation and emotional responses to values? How do know what is of value to us and what is not? Given our human nature, we experience our valuations through our emotions (emotional pain or emotional pleasure). With the absence of pain, one of the most important indicators of a healthy life will disappear.
So, no. Absence of pain cannot be an ultimate value. It is in fact important in the service of a truly ultimate value, which is life.
4 May, 2008 at 8:53 am Why would one avoid pain?
Why is pain undesirable?
Because it makes life unpleasant.
And it is better to have as pleasant a life as possible.
Because it make life enjoyable to live. Pleasure is the physical/emotional reward for achieving one’s goals. But to what are these goals directed?
I’ll give you clue: L__E
There are two different types of responses to a “why” question: one about the conscious intentions of an agent, and one about mechanisms.
Objectivism defines “value” as something along these lines: some thing or condition that an agent acts to gain and/or keep. Now, let’s analyze this definition with respect to both types of answers to “why” questions.
Under the intentional answer, eating for pleasure, eating to rid oneself of hunger, and eating to give oneself energy for doing known or suspected future tasks are values. Picking up sand on the bottom of my shoe when I walk on the beach is not a value (nor is the sand).
Under the mechanistic answer, anything I gain and/or keep, as well as anything I could gain and/or keep by doing whatever action I’m doing at any point in time, are values. Under this answer, that sand I mentioned is a value. Yet this is absurd and trivializes the notion of value, making it next to useless.
From this analysis, it can be seen that the Objectivist definition of value must reasonably answer the intentional “why” question, not the one I have labeled as “mechanistic”. So, why is pain undesirable? The answer could be “because it just is undesirable” or “because I don’t want to feel bad”. But with the intentional reading of the “why” question, the answer can not be, or at least almost never is, “because it is detrimental to my life”. An intentional answer can not be reduced beyond the issue of consciously known desire, as far as I am aware.
Your answer was pretty good up until you answered the question “but to what are these goals directed?”. It is there that the equivocation on “value” pops up, where you switch to the non-intentional reading of the “why” question.
So life can not be an ultimate value if it is not first a value, and no one, as far as I am aware, consciously holds just being alive, even if unable to do anything, as a value. Clearly, then, it is not the case that every person’s own status as being alive is of paramount value to them. A person’s own life is, at the very least, an instrumental value–it is valuable because it allows one to pursue other values. So one’s own life is a value by the Objectivist definition, but it is only, in general, a means to achieve other ends. Staying alive, then, is almost always, if not always, instrumental. But we can not say that it is an ultimate value. We can, however, say that it (the status of being alive) is a necessary prerequisite for valuing anything. This does not make it an ultimate value under the intentional notion of “value”.
4 May, 2008 at 8:55 am I didn’t separate the quotation from the rest of my post there. The quotation should be from the first line through the one ending in “L__E”.
4 May, 2008 at 11:29 am “Staying alive, then, is almost always, if not always, instrumental.”
This is not only false, it is impossible. Metaphysically, life is a given. Metaphysically, life is always self-directed, self-generating action (in plants and animals, including humans). To be an instrumental value, one must be able to act in such a way as to acquire, gain, and keep the value in order to achieve higher, more important values. But this is impossible because life is already given–it is already acquired, it already exists. Your actions prove that you are alive. Hence, it is impossible to acquire the value of life for instrumental purposes.
Life as an ultimate value recognizes a very specific set of requirements: that one must act to acquire, gain, and keep all values that serve the purpose of our life qua human being. Since life qua man is the goal, Objectivism provides the unifying framework for all of man’s actions by defining life as “self-generated action” and man’s life as “goal-directed action.” (Man’s life is “goal-directed” in the conscious sense of the term, because we volitional beings could even choose to commit suicide. Animals exhibit goal-directed action as well, albeit to a limited degree, with the goal being survival.)
Metaphysically, man has one goal, one end–-to live as proper to his nature. Ethically, man has to choose his ultimate goal. Objectivism recommends that man choose his own rational happiness as the moral goal of his life. This recommendation is premised upon a long chain of metaphysical and epistemological analyses.
Objectivism regards happiness as not only possible but also the *proper* state of man’s existence on this earth. To that ethical end–which is justified on a metaphysical end, Objectivism builds a framework of moral rights that safeguard the conditions possible (the means) for the achievement of that end and ennumerates a series of values and virtues that are necessary means to achieving that end.
In both cases, the end is the individual–the man; metaphysically, his life; ethically, his happiness.
4 May, 2008 at 11:48 am
This is not what I mean when I say “absence of pain”. The goal is not to reach a status where I’m incapable of feeling pain but rather to achieve a situation where I feel no pain at the current moment. Pain might very well return at a point in time but that only means that my ultimate goal reappears and I have to strive to achieve it once more.
The absence of pain is, pretty much, a goal that you achieve and lose many times during your life and always strive to achieve again, right until the point your life ends.
Once again, I am not going into the specifics of “Why” I consider this goal the ultimate. Only, as Evanescent requested, providing an ultimate goal other than life.
4 May, 2008 at 11:54 am
How do you assert this? There is no such need as far as I can see. A value is instrumental because it is used as an instrument for another value. There is no necessity that it be “acquired” or “act in order to keep it” (although you do need to act in order to retain life).
Any such characteristics that you assign to “instrumental values” are of your devising and you need to provide empirical evidence to support them.