Purpose of Ethics

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D Lind

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Jun 19, 2010, 7:14:00 PM6/19/10
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Anyone care to answer in a single sentence, What's the purpose of
ethics?

Rand said the following.

WHAT is ethics...
"What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man's
choices and actions--the choices and actions that determine the purpose
and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with
discovering and defining such a code."
"The Objectivist Ethics" in _The Virture of Selfishness_

Close approximation to an answer to, What's the purpose of ethics?
"Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that
which is proper to man--in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and
enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life."
"The Objectivist Ethics" in _The Virture of Selfishness_

I'm curious about something else, however. What would you say in
answer to the question, "What's the PURPOSE of ethics?", or put
another way, "Why IS ethics?".

Here's a clue to my answer. When my child was growing up and either
1) I was sick and tired of answering endless demands to justfiy my
edicts or 2) there just wasn't time to debate an issue, I gave her a
standard answer that children detest hearing. That standard answer
contains my answer to the question. (The standard answer I'm
referring to is NOT, "Because I said so." "Because I said so"
reflects the OPPOSITE of my view; it reflects both that of religious
mysticism and that of social relativism.)

Dan Lind

Phil Roberts, Jr.

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Jun 19, 2010, 7:48:43 PM6/19/10
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D Lind wrote:

> Anyone care to answer in a single sentence, What's the purpose of
> ethics?
>

I'll bite. Morality (e.g., loving others as one's self) is a
part of price we humans have had to pay for having become a
little too rational for our own good.

For one of the first half way decent dialogues on practical
reason (in the Kantian sense) I've seen on the net in
quite some time you might want to check out:

http://forums.philosophyforums.com/threads/why-evolution-cant-account-for-mo
rality-41454.html

The first post sets the stage of the thread, 'Why Evolution
Can't Account for Morality'. I enter the fray at post #29
under the screen handle 'philrob'.

D Lind

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Jun 19, 2010, 8:02:25 PM6/19/10
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On Jun 19, 7:48 pm, "Phil Roberts, Jr." <phil...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> D Lind wrote:
> > Anyone care to answer in a single sentence, What's the purpose of
> > ethics?
>
> I'll bite.  Morality (e.g., loving others as one's self) is a
> part of price we humans have had to pay for having become a
> little too rational for our own good.

If I were to say that your answer reflects the principle behind a
parent's, "Because I said so," would I make sense to you?

Dan Lind

Charles Bell

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Jun 19, 2010, 8:20:02 PM6/19/10
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On Jun 19, 7:14 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Anyone care to answer in a single sentence, What's the purpose of
> ethics?
>

To provide a means for dyslexic defenders of thesic to obtain academic
positions and research grants.

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 8:29:08 AM6/20/10
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On Jun 19, 7:14 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Anyone care to answer in a single sentence, What's the purpose of
> ethics?

A simple act of introspection yields the following facts.

We constantly, in every waking minute of every hour of every day,
perform judgments about what we want, what's possible to achieve or
acquire, what needs to be done in order to achieve or acquire it. In
tandem with these judgments is a continuous, running set of
calculations. We continuously calculate what is the BEST way of
achieving or acquiring an end, what will give us the greatest
satisfaction for the least cost. We prioritize our ends based on
relative cost of an end and of its value to us. We continuously,
instantaneously, reprioritize our ends as we acquire new information.

We do this when we choose which towel to use after a shower, whether
to put on a seat belt, whether to buy fake crab for $4.99 a pound or
real crab for $10.99 a pound, whether to set the alarm for 5AM or
5:30AM.

We perform continuous choices and calculations not only with respect
to physical action but also with respect to mental action. We choose
what to think about, what to consider, what to evaluate, about what to
calculate.

We do this when we choose to focus on an idea we're writing or on
recalling last night's romantic episode, on the safety of a child or
the medical problem of a parent.

What I've just briefly described is parallel with some of the work of
Austrian economics, in particular von Mises' _Human Action_.

The facts I've described reside at the core of what it means to be
human. They describe a characteristic, a set of facts. that
identifies a key element of the nature of man -- and if we can develop
a concept that identifies this key element we have then articulated a
concept that we could call axiomatic, because it cannot be otherwise --
it is what it is because we humans are what we are.

What can we say about ourselves, about human beings, given the facts
I've just described? And more, what is the principle underlying these
facts?

Among the things we can say is the following.

The answer to the original question of this thread, "What's the
purpose of ethics," is "What's best for you."

When confronted with a child's endless questions, endless challenges,
endless arguments, a parent can become frustrated and refuse to engage
the child in further discussion. At some point discussion has to end
and action has to be taken.

Parents use one of two ways of to cut off further conversation.

Either they'll say, Do it BECAUSE I SAID SO, or they'll say, Do it
BECAUSE IT'S BEST FOR YOU.

These two phrases are ETHICAL statements and capture the essence of
competing moralities, as well as, if we think more about them, the
essence of competing epistemologies, competing metaphysics, and
competing political systems.

My answer to the question, "What's the purpose of ethics." or "Why IS
ethics," is then this.

The purpose of ethics, why ethics IS, is to do what's best for you.

My apologies for the "slapping it up against the wall," non-rigorous
character of this post.

Dan Lind

Charles Bell

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Jun 20, 2010, 9:39:59 AM6/20/10
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On Jun 20, 8:29�am, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> We constantly, in every waking minute of every hour of every day,
> perform judgments about what we want,

Utiliarian cost-v-benefit that is not ethics; it is actually a kind of
anti-ethics that sociopathic criminals employ or possibly people in
dire emergencies will do.

Arnold Broese

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Jun 20, 2010, 9:40:25 AM6/20/10
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"D Lind" <danl...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:b577eef2-40d8-4e01...@w12g2000yqj.googlegroups.com...

> The answer to the original question of this thread, "What's the
> purpose of ethics," is "What's best for you."

I would say "what's best for you" is the *standard* on which ethics is
based. The purpose of ethics is happiness. Anyway, Rand covered this well
enough, so I am not sure what you are looking for.
--
Arnold

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 11:23:42 AM6/20/10
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On Jun 20, 9:40�am, Arnold Broese <arnold_broeseREM...@hotmail.com>
wrote:
> "D Lind" <danli...@gmail.com> wrote in message

Thanks, Arnold. I'm not sure what I'm looking for.

I was thinking about damning Wall Street execs for being greedy.

It occured to me that every single person who so damns them has
precisely the same motivation -- they do what they think is best for
themselves.

We, by our nature, continuously calculate the most profitable actions
open to us.

We know this by simply introspecting.

There is something so self-evidently simple about what we are as human
beings, what we in fact do, why it is that we do what we do. We can
directly grasp these things. And these things directly and
immediately speak to the root of what is occuring in the political and
moral arenas in the US and rest of the world today.

I'm sorry for being so ethereal and non-specific; I'm simply trying to
organize some thoughts.

In regard to your other comment, sure, "What's best for you" is the
standard by which we evaluate alternative actions, and in this sense
is the standard on which ethics is based.

You might also say that ethics IS "the science of what's best for
you," and so it is the immediate purpose of ethics. And ultimately,
or "finally" in the sense of a final end, the purpose of ethics is
happiness.

Dan Lind

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 11:31:18 AM6/20/10
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I understand your point.

However "utilitarian cost-v-benefit" calculation as you call it is
perfomed within a narrow context, or, said another way, is not
integrated with all the facts.

Dan Lind

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 12:27:22 PM6/20/10
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I meant to add to this that, off the top of my head, I'd say that
"utilitarian cost-benefit" as ethics is an epistemological error.

Dan Lind

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Charles Bell

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Jun 20, 2010, 2:19:26 PM6/20/10
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Yes, however, that is how I would describe your description of ethics-
in-action in the post to which I was responding -- as an
epistemological error. First of all, I cannot imagine a normal human
being in any circumstance except, as I said, in an emergency, going
through life "hour after hour" making benefit analysis as you
describe. There will be some consciousness of what the next activity
one will engage in and whether one will be happy or annoyed or
whatever in doing that and only from time to time would that ever
involve ethical choices -- like: should I feed the baby or should go
play a round of golf? but even then it takes an odd human being to
throw up for benefit analysis of feeding baby versus golf at one
moment of time and right at the time action must be taken. I think
what is missing from your description is the fact that even if a
particular ethical choice has consequences, those consequences would
not be immediately evident after making that choice, and ethics is
something which is thought out and thought of far in advance of any
decision, and the consequences are not immediate and may never be
directly evident to one.

What Rand rejects besides utilitarianism for morality is any range-of-
the-moment thinking that not only rejects utilitariansim for that
reason but also hedonism. Morality sets up a standard of conduct in
advance as a universal standard across all human beings and not with
respect to a particular individual decision for every particular
individual action. In contrast, hedonism (whatever pleasures one at
the moment) and utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest
number) does require a kind of moment-to-moment decision to a standard
which you describe of each and every action of the individual as an
individual based on his feelings (or crudely cognitively processed
impressions of several kinds) AT THE MOMENT rather than on a rational
standard of the individual as human being whose nature is of a living
organism in that is human.


<< "Happiness" can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the
standard. The task of ethics is to define man's proper code of values
and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as
the ethical hedonists do, that "the proper value is whatever gives you
pleasure" is to declare that "the proper value is whatever you happen
to value"--which is an act of intellectual and philosophical
abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and
invites all men to play it deuces wild.>> VOS 1.


You said:

When my child was growing up and either
1) I was sick and tired of answering endless demands to justfiy my
edicts or 2) there just wasn't time to debate an issue, I gave her a
standard answer that children detest hearing. That standard answer
contains my answer to the question.


The child should have already known that you know something which she
does not know but in time she will also know. I would think a child
accepts this as a fact already. My Dad sometimes would point to an
old war wound and say: See? not always logically connected to the
question at hand, but I *could* see that he had gone through things I
had not and in a painful way I would rather not. Moreover, obeying a
parent because a parent is a parent is the first moral lesson in any
case. It is nonsense that a child and parent are intellectual and
experiential equals even as the child goes into adulthood, but there
have been two or three generations of modern Western-culture children
who have been taught otherwise.

Charles Bell

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Jun 20, 2010, 2:33:10 PM6/20/10
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On Jun 20, 11:23 am, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I was thinking about damning Wall Street execs for being greedy.
>

If you find money on the ground and decide to pick it up and keep it,
are you being "greedy"? But what if you know that the money is money
that has fallen out of an old window's purse who then, without the
money, will have to skip a couple of meals? Does it not then make a
difference? If Wall Street execs somehow did not know what was going
on and their role in it, that would be one thing, but the sort of
thing that Goldman Sachs is accused of -- passing along MBS's they
KNEW were not properly rated as to the quality, is that not then
"greedy"? I suspect in the end there will be a similar story behind
BP (a crony-capitalist corporation if there ever was one). We
(Objectivists, libertarians, free-market conservatives) KNOW that the
ulitmate source of these problems lie with government meddling in the
free market (let's say: like the manufacturer of the old widow's
defective purse), but those in the free market who then pile in to
take advantage of what they KNOW (or ought to know) is a corrpution of
the free market, does that then not make a difference?

Jim Klein

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Jun 20, 2010, 3:08:12 PM6/20/10
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On Jun 20, 2:19 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:

> > I meant to add to this that, off the top of my head, I'd say that
> > "utilitarian cost-benefit" as ethics is an epistemological error.
>
> Yes, however, that is how I would describe your description of ethics-
> in-action in the post to which I was responding -- as an
> epistemological error.

And you're wrong. A person means what he intends to
reference and from what I see, Dan is referencing
all facts. That you can put it all under a classification
of "utilitarian cost-benefit" doesn't mean that it was.

You could use that catch-phrase to include both Dan's
POV and, say, David Friedman's POV. But they are wildly
different POVs, your classification of them as similar
notwithstanding. David believes that it's /literally/
cost-benefit analysis, detail by detail, whether fully
consciously or not. Dan, at least as I read him, is
saying that it's a cost-benefit analysis on the
judgemental level, inherently comparing and
contrasting various values in a hierarchy, in order
to judge what one ought to do.

If that's what he's saying, then he's right. This is
rather opposed to David's flaming and all-encompassing
"cost-benefit analysis," which practically associates
numerical ratings with each option and then just looks
at the numbers. IOW, as we both agree, David has lost
the underlying foundation of hierarchical principle. By
my reading, Dan has not.

Meanwhile you, just like Prescott, rest everything on how
/you/ define something. If /you/ can associate "cost-benefit
analysis" with two things, then they must be the same.

Seems to be a recurring theme with you lately!


jk

M Purcell

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Jun 20, 2010, 3:43:23 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 8:23 am, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I was thinking about damning Wall Street execs for being greedy.
>
> It occured to me that every single person who so damns them has
> precisely the same motivation -- they do what they think is best for
> themselves.
>
> We, by our nature, continuously calculate the most profitable actions
> open to us.
>
> We know this by simply introspecting.
>
> There is something so self-evidently simple about what we are as human
> beings, what we in fact do, why it is that we do what we do.  We can
> directly grasp these things.  And these things directly and
> immediately speak to the root of what is occuring in the political and
> moral arenas in the US and rest of the world today.
>
> I'm sorry for being so ethereal and non-specific; I'm simply trying to
> organize some thoughts.
>
> In regard to your other comment, sure, "What's best for you" is the
> standard by which we evaluate alternative actions, and in this sense
> is the standard on which ethics is based.
>
> You might also say that ethics IS "the science of what's best for
> you," and so it is the immediate purpose of ethics.  And ultimately,
> or "finally" in the sense of a final end, the purpose of ethics is
> happiness.

I suppose the unspoken question is who it's best for, generally
understood to be the individual. But Greenspan was surprised the Wall
Street execs did not do what was best for the companies and there are
social obligations since what is best for society is generally best
for it's members. Anyone who promotes their happiness over that of
other people is generally denigerated and this is exacerbated by the
ignorance and irrationality of many egotists and would be dictators.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Charles Bell

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Jun 20, 2010, 3:57:55 PM6/20/10
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On Jun 20, 3:08 pm, Jim Klein <rum...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 2:19 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
>
> > > I meant to add to this that, off the top of my head, I'd say that
> > > "utilitarian cost-benefit" as ethics is an epistemological error.
>
> > Yes, however, that is how I would describe your description of ethics-
> > in-action in the post to which I was responding -- as an
> > epistemological error.
>
> And you're wrong.  A person means what he intends to
> reference and from what I see, Dan is referencing
> all facts.  That you can put it all under a classification
> of "utilitarian cost-benefit" doesn't mean that it was.
>

So you are saying that Lind is claiming omniscience? {Morality = Cost-
v-benefit} requires knowledge of all facts in all time under all
circumstances.

> You could use that catch-phrase to include both Dan's
> POV and, say, David Friedman's POV.  But they are wildly
> different POVs, your classification of them as similar
> notwithstanding.  David believes that it's /literally/
> cost-benefit analysis, detail by detail, whether fully
> consciously or not.  Dan, at least as I read him, is
> saying that it's a cost-benefit analysis on the
> judgemental level, inherently comparing and
> contrasting various values in a hierarchy, in order
> to judge what one ought to do.
>

Funny how he managed not to mention the word "value" or "standard"
once except as "value" means "cost" -- just like Friedman. The word
"judgement" does not help one bit, except to disabuse him of total
omniscience.

David Friedman or Dan Lind :

<< We continuously calculate what is the BEST way of achieving or
acquiring an end, what will give us the greatest satisfaction for the
least cost. We prioritize our ends based on relative cost of an end
and of its value to us. We continuously, instantaneously,

reprioritize our ends as we acquire new information . . . >> ?
[value = cost & end = benefit]


D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 4:28:21 PM6/20/10
to

Charles, when you go through your normal day I doubt you do things
haphazardly, at random, without some sort of logic to what you choose
to do, what you choose to think about, in what order you do what you
do.

Humor me for a minute and allow me to suggest that an organizing
principle of ALL of your actions, whether mental or physical actions,
is "what's best for Charles."

The point I was making is that simple..

This is in fact what men do, and we know it from introspection. We do
what's best for ourselves. We do this automatically, without self-
conscious analysis. We just DO it.

And this is a simple, in-your-face fact.

> What Rand rejects besides utilitarianism for morality is any range-of-
> the-moment thinking that not only rejects utilitariansim for that

> reason but also hedonism. �

You assume that by "what's best for you" I meant within a limited, non-
integrated context, "in the immediate moment" as you say further on in
your post. "What's best for you" as I am using the phrase includes,
takes into consideration, everything that you know. For example, for
a Christian (a poor slob who resides in the Stone Age, unadvanced
beyond Ethics by Edict) it includes the knowledge that if he does
certain things he then has sinned and jeoparized a temperature-
friendly afterlife.

> Morality sets up a standard of conduct in
> advance as a universal standard across all human beings and not with
> respect to a particular individual decision for every particular
> individual action. In contrast, hedonism (whatever pleasures one at
> the moment) and utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest
> number) does require a kind of moment-to-moment decision to a standard
> which you describe of each and every action of the individual as an
> individual based on his feelings (or crudely cognitively processed
> impressions of several kinds) AT THE MOMENT rather than on a rational
> standard of the individual as human being whose nature is of a living
> organism in that is human.
>
> << "Happiness" can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the
> standard. The task of ethics is to define man's proper code of values
> and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as
> the ethical hedonists do, that "the proper value is whatever gives you
> pleasure" is to declare that "the proper value is whatever you happen
> to value"--which is an act of intellectual and philosophical
> abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and
> invites all men to play it deuces wild.>> �VOS 1.

In other words, the purpose of ethics is to identify what's best for
you.

An implication of what I said in the post to which you responded is
that the validity of the ethics of egoism is self-evident.

Put another way, if ethics is normative SCIENCE and is what it is
because human beings are what we are as opposed to normative EDICT,
then ethics as egoism is a redundancy.

> You said:
>
> When my child was growing up and either
> 1) I was sick and tired of answering endless demands to justfiy my
> edicts or 2) there just wasn't time to debate an issue, I gave her a
> standard answer that children detest hearing. �That standard answer
> contains my answer to the question.
>
> The child should have already known that you know something which she
> does not know but in time she will also know. �I would think a child
> accepts this as a fact already. �My Dad sometimes would point to an
> old war wound and say: See? �not always logically connected to the
> question at hand, but I *could* see that he had gone through things I
> had not and in a painful way I would rather not. Moreover, obeying a
> parent because a parent is a parent is the first moral lesson in any
> case. �It is nonsense that a child and parent are intellectual and
> experiential equals even as the child goes into adulthood, but there
> have been two or three generations of modern Western-culture children
> who have been taught otherwise.

I'm sorry you missed my point; it's my fault because I didn't delimit
properly what I was referring to. The thing of importance to my point
was not that parents often have to be dictatorial. What was important
was something I hinted at, namely the two fundamentally different ways
in which parents ARE dictatorial. The one way, which I did identify,
is equivalent to ethics by edict. The second, which I did not
identify, is equivalent to ethics by nature.

Dan Lind

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 4:55:45 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 3:08 pm, Jim Klein <rum...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 2:19 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
>
> > > I meant to add to this that, off the top of my head, I'd say that
> > > "utilitarian cost-benefit" as ethics is an epistemological error.
>
> > Yes, however, that is how I would describe your description of ethics-
> > in-action in the post to which I was responding -- as an
> > epistemological error.
>
> And you're wrong.  A person means what he intends to
> reference and from what I see, Dan is referencing
> all facts.  

That's correct. I'm simply identifying that every single waking
action we take, whether mental or physical, we do because "it's best
for us." We do this automatically and we're not self-conscious about
doing so.

>  Dan, at least as I read him, is
> saying that it's a cost-benefit analysis on the
> judgemental level, inherently comparing and
> contrasting various values in a hierarchy, in order
> to judge what one ought to do.

That's correct. Amazing, Jim! It appears you understand what I
meant!

Dan Lind

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 5:03:33 PM6/20/10
to

This is a good topic for discussion but it's not relevant to my post.

What I'm identifying is very simple, perhaps even simplistic, perhaps
so simplistic and juvenile that it doesn't belong in a forum what once
in a while discusses philosophy. (grin!)

I said this in the post to which you responded --

"We, by our nature, continuously calculate the most profitable
actions
open to us.

We know this by simply introspecting."

Dan Lind

D Lind

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Jun 20, 2010, 5:25:18 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 3:57 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 3:08 pm, Jim Klein <rum...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>
> > And you're wrong.  A person means what he intends to
> > reference and from what I see, Dan is referencing
> > all facts.  That you can put it all under a classification
> > of "utilitarian cost-benefit" doesn't mean that it was.
>
> So you are saying that Lind is claiming omniscience?  {Morality = Cost-
> v-benefit} requires knowledge of all facts in all time under all
> circumstances.

This is hilariously reminiscent of the "What is Truth" arguments.

> << We continuously calculate what is the BEST way of achieving or
> acquiring an end, what will give us the greatest satisfaction for the
> least cost. We prioritize our ends based on relative cost of an end
> and of its value to us. We continuously, instantaneously,
> reprioritize our ends as we acquire new information .

What I describe IS WHAT WE DO.

It is a fact about human beings.

That this is what we do is neither "good" nor "bad," it simply IS.

I'll repeat part of my response to an earlier post of yours.

The fact that we do what I describe implies that...

"... the validity of the ethics of egoism is self-evident.

Put another way, if ethics is normative SCIENCE and is what it is
because human beings are what we are as opposed to normative EDICT,
then ethics as egoism is a redundancy."

Dan Lind

M Purcell

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Jun 20, 2010, 5:34:51 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 2:03 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> "We, by our nature, continuously calculate the most profitable
> actions
> open to us.
>
> We know this by simply introspecting."

Certainly, the question remains; what is the most profitable action?


Charles Bell

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Jun 20, 2010, 5:42:39 PM6/20/10
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On Jun 20, 4:28 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Charles, when you go through your normal day I doubt you do things
> haphazardly, at random, without some sort of logic to what you choose
> to do, what you choose to think about, in what order you do what you
> do.
>

Still, all in all, I do not think I am abnormal in having a fairly
integrated psyche where each cognitive step is not discretely
identifiable and isolated, unless I really trying very hard to do so
in some sort of therapy or scientific discovery. IOW I see an
abnormal thinking process in: shall I eat the ice-cream cone? and all
the pros and cons are evaluated at the moment. Rather I think the
evaluations of pros and cons are already integrated long before the
decision is made and anything after that is *purely* pragmatic, not
ethical (cost-v-benefit in $1.25 versus $2.50, etc.) These last
pragmatic details are not moral decisions. The moral decisions might
include: I am diabetic and this ice-cream will cause me harm; or do I
just steal the ice-cream instead of paying for it? These decisions are
not and OUGHT NOT TO BE made at the moment.

> Humor me for a minute and allow me to suggest that an organizing
> principle of ALL of your actions, whether mental or physical actions,
> is "what's best for Charles."
>
> The point I was making is that simple..


But I do not think you are sufficiently separating the pragmatic-
utilitarian choices from the ethical-moral ones. You are just lumping
them altogether.

>
> This is in fact what men do, and we know it from introspection. We do
> what's best for ourselves. We do this automatically, without self-
> conscious analysis. We just DO it.

Then I detect some source of unearned guilt. If you decided to steal
the ice-cream on the spur of the moment, that would earn guilt, but,
as I have said, your moral values that would lead you to make that
ethical decision was made long ago. However, paying $2.50 instead of
$1.25, though in not your best interest if and only if you have
perfect knowledge that purchasing the exact same ice-cream some place
else just as convenient may be done for $1.50, is not a valid source
of guilt because those are the facts of life that you cannot have
everything you want, when you want it, how you want it.

No, you have reduced the meaning to too few words. Objectivist ethics
cannot be stated: do the selfish thing. For one thing, a clear
meaning of "selfish" must be established, and that takes more than a
few words, but not many. But I have always maintained that there can
be no comprehensive understanding of Objectivist ethics, including the
definition of "selfishness", without an understanding of Objectivist
(Contextual) Epistemology, and that takes many words.

> An implication of what I said in the post to which you responded is
> that the validity of the ethics of egoism is self-evident.
>

No, sorry, it is not self-evident. It may *seem* self-evident to some
people because of they way they have already integrated moral precepts
into their psyches, but philosophically it is not self-evident.

> Put another way, if ethics is normative SCIENCE and is what it is
> because human beings are what we are as opposed to normative EDICT,
> then ethics as egoism is a redundancy.
>

Yes, I see. This part of your topic is beyond what I want to discuss:
how morality comes to an individual's consciousness. It is taught; it
is not from intuition. However. I believe it is *dictated* to children
who then may or may not alter their ethical codes according to a
revised sense of morality later. I am not one who is optimistic that
(1) ethics can be taught to children (and it *must* be taught to
children) without supreme, autocratic authority and (2) that a sense
of morality thus learnt can be altered very easily (which, frankly, I
see more of a good thing than a bad thing).

> The thing of importance to my point
> was not that parents often have to be dictatorial. What was important
> was something I hinted at, namely the two fundamentally different ways
> in which parents ARE dictatorial. The one way, which I did identify,
> is equivalent to ethics by edict. The second, which I did not
> identify, is equivalent to ethics by nature.
>


I suppose this is not something I want to talk about, except to say
that I think it is a fact of human nature that children must be taught
hard and fast a kind of provisional ethics that are arbitrary in
deeper analysis.

D Lind

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 5:50:42 PM6/20/10
to

Once we've established WHAT ethics is, WHAT it's derived from, WHY we
have it, then THAT (how to identify what's best for us, which is
similar to saying how to determine the most profitable action) is what
we should expect ethics to tell us.

Dan Lind

M Purcell

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 5:56:48 PM6/20/10
to

I believe ethics is distinguishing right from wrong, based on self-
interest, for our self-interest, and increases our survival.

D Lind

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 7:12:15 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 5:42 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 4:28 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Charles, when you go through your normal day I doubt you do things
> > haphazardly, at random, without some sort of logic to what you choose
> > to do, what you choose to think about, in what order you do what you
> > do.
>
> Still, all in all, I do not think I am abnormal in having a fairly
> integrated psyche where each cognitive step is not discretely
> identifiable and isolated, unless I really trying very hard to do so
> in some sort of therapy or scientific discovery.  IOW I see an
> abnormal thinking process in: shall I eat the ice-cream cone? and all
> the pros and cons are evaluated at the moment.  Rather I think the
> evaluations of pros and cons are already integrated long before the
> decision is made and anything after that is *purely* pragmatic, not
> ethical (cost-v-benefit in $1.25 versus $2.50, etc.)  These last
> pragmatic details are not moral decisions.  The moral decisions might
> include: I am diabetic and this ice-cream will cause me harm; or do I
> just steal the ice-cream instead of paying for it? These decisions are
> not and OUGHT NOT TO BE made at the moment.

I don't want to make assumptions. Would you identify what you
consider to be the difference between a pragmatic and ethical
decision?

> > Humor me for a minute and allow me to suggest that an organizing
> > principle of ALL of your actions, whether mental or physical actions,
> > is "what's best for Charles."
>
> > The point I was making is that simple..
>
> But I do not think you are sufficiently separating the pragmatic-
> utilitarian choices from the ethical-moral ones.  You are just lumping
> them altogether.

That's right. I'm referring to any action, mental or physical.

I'm hoping you'll answer my question above -- what do you consider to
be the difference between the pragmatic-utilitarian and the ethical-
moral?

> > This is in fact what men do, and we know it from introspection.  We do
> > what's best for ourselves.  We do this automatically, without self-
> > conscious analysis.  We just DO it.
>
> Then I detect some source of unearned guilt. If you decided to steal
> the ice-cream on the spur of the moment, that would earn guilt, but,
> as I have said, your moral values that would lead you to make that
> ethical decision was made long ago. However, paying $2.50 instead of
> $1.25, though in not your best interest if and only if you have
> perfect knowledge that purchasing the exact same ice-cream some place
> else just as convenient may be done for $1.50, is not a valid source
> of guilt because those are the facts of life that you cannot have
> everything you want, when you want it, how you want it.

Sorry, you lost me. Sure, I may in retrospect regret an action I
took.

> > > << "Happiness" can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the
> > > standard. The task of ethics is to define man's proper code of values
> > > and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as
> > > the ethical hedonists do, that "the proper value is whatever gives you
> > > pleasure" is to declare that "the proper value is whatever you happen
> > > to value"--which is an act of intellectual and philosophical
> > > abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and
> > > invites all men to play it deuces wild.>> VOS 1.
>
> > In other words, the purpose of ethics is to identify what's best for
> > you.
>
> No, you have reduced the meaning to too few words.  Objectivist ethics
> cannot be stated: do the selfish thing.  For one thing, a clear
> meaning of "selfish" must be established, and that takes more than a
> few words, but not many.  But I have always maintained that there can
> be no comprehensive understanding of Objectivist ethics, including the
> definition of "selfishness", without an understanding of Objectivist
> (Contextual) Epistemology, and that takes many words.

I'm simply pointing to and identifying a fact about human beings.

I haven't said that Objectivist ethics states "do the selfish thing."
And I certainly agree that a full understanding of ethics entails many
things, among which are both metaphysics and epistemology.

> > An implication of what I said in the post to which you responded is
> > that the validity of the ethics of egoism is self-evident.
>
> No, sorry, it is not self-evident.  It may *seem* self-evident to some
> people because of they way they have already integrated moral precepts
> into their psyches, but philosophically it is not self-evident.

I think I understand your point. Perhaps I should have said that the
validity of egoism in ethics is as self-evident and axiomatic as are
the Law of Identity in metaphysics and the Law of Non-Contradiction in
epistemology.

I'll make a further, totally off-topic claim and without offering any
support for it. If I may use von Mises's term "praxeology" to subsume
all human action, I claim that, properly forumlated, what Rand meant
by "the moral is the practical" is in praxeology as self-evident and
axiomatic as are egoism in ethics, non-contradiction in epistemology
and identity in metaphysics.

> > Put another way, if ethics is normative SCIENCE and is what it is
> > because human beings are what we are as opposed to normative EDICT,
> > then ethics as egoism is a redundancy.
>
> Yes, I see. This part of your topic is beyond what I want to discuss:
> how morality comes to an individual's consciousness.  It is taught; it
> is not from intuition. However. I believe it is *dictated* to children
> who then may or may not alter their ethical codes according to a
> revised sense of morality later. I am not one who is optimistic that
> (1) ethics can be taught to children (and it *must* be taught to
> children) without supreme, autocratic authority and (2) that a sense
> of morality thus learnt can be altered very easily (which, frankly, I
> see more of a good thing than a bad thing).

I agree that teaching children is beyond the scope of the topic.

Dan Lind

Charles Bell

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 8:07:31 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 7:12 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I don't want to make assumptions.  Would you identify what you
> consider to be the difference between a pragmatic and ethical
> decision?
>

Consider what I said later:

> > Then I detect some source of unearned guilt. If you decided to steal
> > the ice-cream on the spur of the moment, that would earn guilt, but,
> > as I have said, your moral values that would lead you to make that
> > ethical decision was made long ago. However, paying $2.50 instead of
> > $1.25, though in not your best interest if and only if you have
> > perfect knowledge that purchasing the exact same ice-cream some place
> > else just as convenient may be done for $1.50, is not a valid source
> > of guilt because those are the facts of life that you cannot have
> > everything you want, when you want it, how you want it.

. . . and I say:

> > But I do not think you are sufficiently separating the pragmatic-
> > utilitarian choices from the ethical-moral ones.  You are just lumping
> > them altogether.
>

You say: That's right.  I'm referring to any action, mental or
physical.

Why should you be referring to *any* action. Are there not different
kinds of action? Clearly you are not willing to differentiate the
moral and the pragmatic. Let me turn this around. Do you see no
difference between the moral and the pragmatic and why? [Hint: Rand
never said: "The moral is the practical."]

In the above example: do you see no difference between paying $2.50
for ice-cream rather than assuming you must have perfect knoweldge of
the same ice-cream somewhere else for $1.50 (but you did not have that
knoweldge) and deciding to steal the ice-cream? Do you really think
that you should feel some guit of conscience in spending $1.00 more as
the the very same as to have stolen it. If so, then when need to talk
about "coercion".

I already gave you the Objectivist answer in general terms the
difference between the pragmatic, utilitarian, and hedonist range-of-
the-moment decision making and morality. It is a long argument to have
to make here in its entirety. You need to be more willing to tell just
why you cannot see the difference between the moral and the practical,
or that any and all human action is just the same in every
particular.


> I think I understand your point.  Perhaps I should have said that the
> validity of egoism in ethics is as self-evident and axiomatic as are
> the Law of Identity in metaphysics and the Law of Non-Contradiction in
> epistemology.
>

No, egoism in ethics is not as self-evident as axioms. Only axioms
are self-evident and nothing in ethics is self-evident except those
axioms (Existence, Identity, Consciousness) integrated into it.

> I'll make a further, totally off-topic claim and without offering any
> support for it.  If I may use von Mises's term "praxeology" to subsume
> all human action, I claim that, properly forumlated, what Rand meant
> by "the moral is the practical" is in praxeology as self-evident and
> axiomatic as are egoism in ethics, non-contradiction in epistemology
> and identity in metaphysics.
>

I see the problem in here, but I cannot untangle it except to say: do
not ever use economics or what any economist has to say as moral
teaching. And Rand never said; "The moral is the practical." She
said (out of context of the entirety of what she said there in Galt's
Speech) that "the moral and the practical are not opposites."
Morality is not something which contradicts causality and that there
is no moral imperative which demands suffering, sacrifice or death.
She never implied that one can do anything so long as it suits
practical purposes and one can get away with it in the range of the
moment . . . but . . . "Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be
found in immorality, your interests would best be served by evil . . .
" She is not saying the moral is the practical but that the immoral
is in not in one's self-interest as we have been taught.

acar

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 9:53:12 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 4:28 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 2:19 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
>
> In other words, the purpose of ethics is to identify what's best for
> you.
>
Despite its over-all unity, there are local conflicts in Nature. It
follows that there will be local conflicts among its creatures. IMO
the purpose of ethics is to acknowledge the fundamental balance of
Nature that by virtue of representing reality defines the good. When
the good, be it personal or collective, is defined in terms of
conflict, that definition is local and not in harmony with reality as
a whole. Therefore IMO the purpose of ethics is to bring entities that
are capable of making choices into harmony with the default state of
reality, which is equilibrium. I seriously doubt that promoting
imbalance is the natural purpose of ethics.

Arnold Broese

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 10:53:40 PM6/20/10
to
"D Lind" <danl...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:5fb15ce2-64bd-4647...@h13g2000yqm.googlegroups.com...

>
> I was thinking about damning Wall Street execs for being greedy.
>
> It occured to me that every single person who so damns them has
> precisely the same motivation -- they do what they think is best for
> themselves.

Someone made a good point by distinguishing between Greed and self interest.

Greed: A seeking and accumulation of the unearned; accumulated wealth.
Self Interest: Earning what you accumulate; earned wealth.

Now it is easy to classify the Wall Street heavies as moral or not. Ask if
they created, or if they accumulated wealth.

--
Arnold

D Lind

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 11:18:16 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 8:07 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 7:12 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > I don't want to make assumptions. Would you identify what you
> > consider to be the difference between a pragmatic and ethical
> > decision?
>
> Consider what I said later:
>
> > > Then I detect some source of unearned guilt. If you decided to steal
> > > the ice-cream on the spur of the moment, that would earn guilt, but,
> > > as I have said, your moral values that would lead you to make that
> > > ethical decision was made long ago. However, paying $2.50 instead of
> > > $1.25, though in not your best interest if and only if you have
> > > perfect knowledge that purchasing the exact same ice-cream some place
> > > else just as convenient may be done for $1.50, is not a valid source
> > > of guilt because those are the facts of life that you cannot have
> > > everything you want, when you want it, how you want it.
>
> . . . and I say:
>
> > > But I do not think you are sufficiently separating the pragmatic-
> > > utilitarian choices from the ethical-moral ones. You are just lumping
> > > them altogether.

I read these things and am unclear about what you mean by the terms.
Would you give me something resembling a definition that would clearly
differentiate what you mean by a pragmatic as opposed to an ethical
decision, or a pragmatic-utilitarian choice as opposed to an ethical-
moral choice?

> You say: That's right. I'm referring to any action, mental or
> physical.
>
> Why should you be referring to *any* action. Are there not different
> kinds of action? Clearly you are not willing to differentiate the
> moral and the pragmatic. Let me turn this around. Do you see no
> difference between the moral and the pragmatic and why? [Hint: Rand
> never said: "The moral is the practical."]

I can't speak to this because I'm not sure what you're talking about.

I said that I was referring to any human action, physical or mental.

Instead of claiming that I'm not willing to differentiate you might
have explained why you think I should have, and then asked for a
response to your explanation.

So, if you think that a differentiation between moral and practical
action (whatever that might be) or a differentiation between mental
and physcial action or any other difference or factor at all is
relevant to my point, or suggests that I ought to consider them,
please explain it to me. Show me.

> I already gave you the Objectivist answer in general terms the
> difference between the pragmatic, utilitarian, and hedonist range-of-
> the-moment decision making and morality.

None of this is relevant to my point.

> It is a long argument to have
> to make here in its entirety. You need to be more willing to tell just
> why you cannot see the difference between the moral and the practical,
> or that any and all human action is just the same in every
> particular.

Please don't make claims or assumptions that aren't founded. For
example, Charles, I did NOT say that "all human action is just the
same in every particular.."

> > I think I understand your point.  Perhaps I should have said that the
> > validity of egoism in ethics is as self-evident and axiomatic as are
> > the Law of Identity in metaphysics and the Law of Non-Contradiction in
> > epistemology.
>
> No, egoism in ethics is not as self-evident as axioms.  Only axioms
> are self-evident and nothing in ethics is self-evident except those
> axioms (Existence, Identity, Consciousness) integrated into it.

I'm afraid you missed my point. Very simply it is this.

Simple introspection yields the fact that every waking action taken by
a human being, whether physical or mental action, is governed by
"what's best for me."

Think about it for a minute.

It's not a terribly deep proposition; it's not rocket science. As I
said to M. Purcell in another post,

"What I'm identifying is very simple, perhaps even simplistic,
perhaps
so simplistic and juvenile that it doesn't belong in a forum what
once
in a while discusses philosophy. (grin!)"

Now I'll grant you that to claim this simple introspection yields
egoism as self-evident and axiomatic isn't "not rocket science."
Nevertheless I make the claim.

Again, just think about it for a minute.

> > I'll make a further, totally off-topic claim and without offering any
> > support for it.  If I may use von Mises's term "praxeology" to subsume
> > all human action, I claim that, properly forumlated, what Rand meant
> > by "the moral is the practical" is in praxeology as self-evident and
> > axiomatic as are egoism in ethics, non-contradiction in epistemology
> > and identity in metaphysics.
>
> I see the problem in here, but I cannot untangle it except to  say: do
> not ever use economics or what any economist has to say as moral
> teaching.  

Charles, this is becoming frustrating. I said NOTHING about
economics. I specifically referred to "all human action."

Nor did I say anything resembling a claim that the science of human
action informs ethics.

> And Rand never said; "The moral is the practical."  She
> said (out of context of the entirety of what she said there in Galt's
> Speech) that "the moral and the practical are not opposites."
> Morality is not something which contradicts causality and that there
> is no moral imperative which demands suffering, sacrifice or death.
> She never implied that one can do anything so long as it suits
> practical purposes and one can get away with it in the range of the
> moment . . . but . . .  "Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be
> found in immorality, your interests would best be served by evil . . .
> "  She is not saying the moral is the practical but that the immoral
> is in not in one's self-interest as we have been taught.

Sorry, I should not have randomly and completely out-of-context
brought in an off-topic idea I've been thinking about.

Dan Lind

D Lind

unread,
Jun 20, 2010, 11:59:04 PM6/20/10
to
On Jun 20, 10:53 pm, Arnold Broese <arnold_broeseREM...@hotmail.com>
wrote:
> "D Lind" <danli...@gmail.com> wrote in message

Well, arbitrage is certainly both earning and accumulating, and
arbitrage is a very good, useful, risky, rewarding thing to do.
Creating? Perhaps.

I don't have first hand knowledge about the much-maligned Wall Street
heavies. My knee-jerk reaction is in principle to defend the hell out
of them, certainly the more mid-level types who made no deals with the
the gangsters in DC.

Arnold, more along the lines of this thread I started yesterday, I've
been toying with something that's related to it.

Let's say you're defending or advocating the ethics of egoism in a
venue that's somewhat antagonistic and either you don't have much time
or your audience has a short attention span. It could be a debate
before a college audience or an appearance on some talking head show.

You want to drive home the point that egoism is the only damn ethics
that makes any sense and you want to drive it home hard and in a way
that will stick. You want to do it fast and hard, and thoughtfully.

Arguing for egoism in a measured, logical way, defining your terms and
building your case solidly aint gonna do it.

You want to present in such a way that the response is at least,
"Maybe this asshole has a point" if not "Wow, that makes sense, why
didn't I think of that."

Now, every single member of that audience is a human being, has the
same identity that entails egoism. There should be a way to get them
individually to introspect for a second and grasp the truth of your
proposition. Yes? Any suggestions?

Dan Lind

Arnold Broese

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Jun 21, 2010, 12:45:06 AM6/21/10
to
"D Lind" <danl...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:e6d497a5-3643-4754...@d8g2000yqf.googlegroups.com...

> Arguing for egoism in a measured, logical way, defining your terms and
> building your case solidly aint gonna do it.
>
> You want to present in such a way that the response is at least,
> "Maybe this asshole has a point" if not "Wow, that makes sense, why
> didn't I think of that."
>
> Now, every single member of that audience is a human being, has the
> same identity that entails egoism. There should be a way to get them
> individually to introspect for a second and grasp the truth of your
> proposition. Yes? Any suggestions?


I once debated a preacher on whether love is selfless. When he postulated
that JC had died for us, and that this was an unselfish love, I put it to
him that would mean that JC was indifferent to to the result. That whether
his selfless sacrifice had any particular result, could not, by definition,
mean anything to him.
OTOH, if we meant anything to JC, if JC really cared, then that meaning,
could not be severed from the 'self'.

I also pointed out that any normal man whose wife told him she stayed with
him out of selfless duty, not self interest, would not be happy. He would
much prefer his wife actually got some pleasure from his company.

The next week his newspaper column tried to paint JC as selfish, but without
the underlying explanation, he was taken to task. His column did not last
long after that.

Love is selfish, and the ego is very much a part of that.

--
Arnold

D Lind

unread,
Jun 21, 2010, 1:16:07 AM6/21/10
to
On Jun 21, 12:45 am, Arnold Broese <arnold_broeseREM...@hotmail.com>
wrote:
> "D Lind" <danli...@gmail.com> wrote in message

That's a great story!

Arguing with serious Christians can be great entertainment if you're
in the mood for it. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. They are
such a wealth of contradictions you wonder how in the hell they can
hold their sorry-assed brains together day after day. They do it with
faith, the art of ad hoc evasion.

Dan Lind

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Charles Bell

unread,
Jun 21, 2010, 6:29:49 AM6/21/10
to
On Jun 20, 11:18 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Jun 20, 8:07 pm, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
>
>
>
>
>
> > On Jun 20, 7:12 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > I don't want to make assumptions.  Would you identify what you
> > > consider to be the difference between a pragmatic and ethical
> > > decision?
>
> > Consider what I said later:
>
> > > > Then I detect some source of unearned guilt. If you decided to steal
> > > > the ice-cream on the spur of the moment, that would earn guilt, but,
> > > > as I have said, your moral values that would lead you to make that
> > > > ethical decision was made long ago. However, paying $2.50 instead of
> > > > $1.25, though in not your best interest if and only if you have
> > > > perfect knowledge that purchasing the exact same ice-cream some place
> > > > else just as convenient may be done for $1.50, is not a valid source
> > > > of guilt because those are the facts of life that you cannot have
> > > > everything you want, when you want it, how you want it.
>
> > . . . and I say:
>
> > > > But I do not think you are sufficiently separating the pragmatic-
> > > > utilitarian choices from the ethical-moral ones.  You are just lumping
> > > > them altogether.
>
> I read these things and am unclear about what you mean by the terms.

This, I find puzzling. You have taken yourself this far into the
discussion and yet you claim to have *no* conception-definition of
these terms. Please look them up -- even if you yourself do not fully
accept them as your own -- and get back to me.


> Would you give me something resembling a definition that would clearly
> differentiate what you mean by a pragmatic as opposed to an ethical
> decision, or a pragmatic-utilitarian choice as opposed to an ethical-
> moral choice?

Again, why do *I* have to give you a definition since I am the one
clear on this topic? Moreover, I could spend the time laying out
defintions only to have you simply ignore them and continue on without
providing any definitions of your own. You started this thread, and
yet you claim to have no vocabulary tools in order to discuss the
topic.

>
> > You say: That's right.  I'm referring to any action, mental or
> > physical.
>
> > Why should you be referring to *any* action. Are there not different
> > kinds of action?  Clearly you are not willing to differentiate  the
> > moral and the pragmatic.  Let me turn this around. Do you see no
> > difference between the moral and the pragmatic and why? [Hint: Rand
> > never said: "The moral is the practical."]
>
> I can't speak to this because I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Let me say it again: do you really think *any* action is just the same
as *all* action. In the example already given: is paying money
(whatever it might be) for the ice-cream just the same as stealing the
ice-cream?

>
> I said that I was referring to any human action, physical or mental.
>
> Instead of claiming that I'm not willing to differentiate you might
> have explained why you think I should have, and then asked for a
> response to your explanation.
>

I assumed that because you said: "referring to any human action" you
meant that you were referring to any human action without
differentiating among the kinds of human action inasmuch as you did
not differentiate among the kinds of human action. This is just
another statement on the validity of never distinguishing trading for
a product and stealing that product. In your mind, is there no
difference in those two actions?


> > I already gave you the Objectivist answer in general terms the
> > difference between the pragmatic, utilitarian, and hedonist range-of-
> > the-moment decision making and morality.
>
> None of this is relevant to my point.

But it is. Perhaps you need to review the previous remarks I made.

>
> > It is a long argument to have
> > to make here in its entirety. You need to be more willing to tell just
> > why you cannot see the difference between the moral and the practical,
> > or that any and all human action is just the same in every
> > particular.
>
> Please don't make claims or assumptions that aren't founded.

They are only not "founded" should you refuse, for example, to say
whether or not you see no difference between buying a product and
stealing that product.

>  For
> example, Charles, I did NOT say that "all human action is just the
> same in every particular.."

You did not say much of anything other than in this discussion you are
talking about all human action without any distinction among the
actions humans may take.

>
> > > I think I understand your point. �Perhaps I should have said that the


> > > validity of egoism in ethics is as self-evident and axiomatic as are
> > > the Law of Identity in metaphysics and the Law of Non-Contradiction in
> > > epistemology.
>

> > No, egoism in ethics is not as self-evident as axioms. �Only axioms


> > are self-evident and nothing in ethics is self-evident except those
> > axioms (Existence, Identity, Consciousness) integrated into it.
>
> I'm afraid you missed my point.  Very simply it is this.
>
> Simple introspection yields the fact that every waking action taken by
> a human being, whether physical or mental action, is governed by
> "what's best for me."
>


What does "simple introspection" mean then? Intuition, instinct,
memories of what mom and dad told you? It sounds like Platonic
nonsense. If you mean "think upon the moral ramifications of one's
intended action", that's a start, but "introspection" does not have to
mean that. It could mean: "How can I do this thing and get away with
it." Perhaps I need to ask you if believe there is any such thing as
"morality"? If you ask "what is the purpose of ethics" one must
establish the existence of morality first. If you are asking me or
anyone to reproduce VOS and ITOE and Aristotle and other rudimentary
phiolosophical references here to establish the existence of morality
then you are asking too much.


> Now I'll grant you that to claim this simple introspection yields
> egoism as self-evident and axiomatic isn't "not rocket science."
> Nevertheless I make the claim.
>

By "rocket science" you mean clear thinking in a focused, rational
way, yes, you are right, egoism by "simple introspection" can be
anything -- axiomatic, whimsical, born of faery dust -- is not "rocket
science." It is abritrary and without Reason behind it.

> Again, just think about it for a minute.
>
> > > I'll make a further, totally off-topic claim and without offering any

> > > support for it. �If I may use von Mises's term "praxeology" to subsume


> > > all human action, I claim that, properly forumlated, what Rand meant
> > > by "the moral is the practical" is in praxeology as self-evident and
> > > axiomatic as are egoism in ethics, non-contradiction in epistemology
> > > and identity in metaphysics.
>

> > I see the problem in here, but I cannot untangle it except to �say: do


> > not ever use economics or what any economist has to say as moral

> > teaching. �


>
> Charles, this is becoming frustrating.  I said NOTHING about
> economics.  I specifically referred to "all human action."

. . . While referring to Mises', an economist, "praxeology" from his
book on economics. I am suggesting you cannot get *any* insight into
ethics from Mises or any economist -- if, for one thing, no economist
ever makes such a claim. Do you want to find the "purpose of ethics"
or not? Furthermore, everything you stated after "Rand" in the above
is factually wrong or gibberish.

>
> Nor did I say anything resembling a claim that the science of human
> action informs ethics.

Then what could possibly be the motivation behind the above in this
discussion?

>
> > And Rand never said; "The moral is the practical." �She


> > said (out of context of the entirety of what she said there in Galt's
> > Speech) that "the moral and the practical are not opposites."
> > Morality is not something which contradicts causality and that there
> > is no moral imperative which demands suffering, sacrifice or death.
> > She never implied that one can do anything so long as it suits
> > practical purposes and one can get away with it in the range of the

> > moment . . . but . . . �"Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be


> > found in immorality, your interests would best be served by evil . . .

> > " �She is not saying the moral is the practical but that the immoral


> > is in not in one's self-interest as we have been taught.
>
> Sorry, I should not have randomly and completely out-of-context
> brought in an off-topic idea I've been thinking about.

Well, no, not exactly, You have made that claim about Rand ("The
moral is the practical") here several times and in previous posts, and
when you pointed out to you by me here and in other threads that you
are factually wrong, why then do you ignore the facts and push ahead
with that bogus claim?

D Lind

unread,
Jun 21, 2010, 9:56:50 AM6/21/10
to
On Jun 21, 6:29 am, Charles Bell <cbel...@bellsouth.net> wrote:

Productive discourse requires an honest attempt to genuinely
understand what the other means when he says things.

This discourse is no longer productive, Charles.

Dan Lind

Charles Bell

unread,
Jun 21, 2010, 6:28:03 PM6/21/10
to
On Jun 21, 9:56 am, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> This discourse is no longer productive, Charles.

Yes, that is what I was getting at when I referred to your evasion of
defining anything necessarily deriving from what you allegedly wanted
to talk about, or for you to pin down an answer as to there being a
difference between buying something and stealing something so long as
both *human actions* get what you want. However, I could only guess at
your intention to impugn Objectivism with libertarian amoralism. The
only answer to your question of what is the purpose of ethics that is
acceptable to you is the one you had in mind all along: none at all.

Looking to out-slime David Friedman?

Evans Winner

unread,
Jun 23, 2010, 1:04:08 AM6/23/10
to
,------ D Lind wrote ------

| Simple introspection yields the fact that every waking
| action taken by a human being, whether physical or
| mental action, is governed by "what's best for me."

This does not seem quite self-evident to me. I have run
into the idea many times that everybody is at least a kind
of crypto-egoist, because even an apparently
self-sacrificing action really must be motivated selfishly
-- that even the compulsive altruist, the Mother Theresa
type, must secretly be getting some kind of gratification
from what she does, or that implicit in saying "I should
sacrifice myself because that will make me good" one also is
saying "*I* want to be good, and it is *I* who am
independently motivated to be so."

I am not sure that this does not confuse motivation (real or
imagined) with results or even just with the actual
principle behind an action. When you sacrifice your last
dollar or your means of livelihood to a stranger, you may
experience some misguided Christian satisfaction for doing
so, but the principle behind the action remains your
eventual death, and it may even lead to that actual result.

In such as case, you can say that the person was motivated
selfishly in a very limited way, but it is questionable for
just that reason whether the real subject matter of ethics
is the agent's motivation per se. An outside observer can
point to that action and say that objectively, it is a
non-egoistic action, because it is A) based on a principle
which leads to the destruction of the agent, whether he
knows it or not, though in most cases he does know it, B)
actually does in some cases lead to the destruction of the
agent, and C) is in fact intended to be so by the agent.
Mother Theresa does in fact explicitly believe in
self-sacrifice, and actually practices what she preaches.
The fact that she thinks this is the right thing to do of
her own will does not change the actually self-destructive
nature of the actions.

So the mere fact that an agent has to independently decide
to take an action and presumably has some concept of the
good on which he bases it on, does not seem to suggest to me
that the egoistic premise in ethics is self-evident; quite
the opposite, I think, actually.

Jim Klein

unread,
Jun 23, 2010, 12:38:00 PM6/23/10
to
On Jun 23, 1:04 am, Evans Winner <tho...@unm.edu> wrote:

> So the mere fact that an agent has to independently decide
> to take an action and presumably has some concept of the
> good on which he bases it on, does not seem to suggest to me
> that the egoistic premise in ethics is self-evident; quite
> the opposite, I think, actually.

Wow...that was some analysis! Ethically speaking, I
think it was spot-on. For ethically speaking, a person
can indeed take a choice against his own interests.

My best response would be that ontologically speaking,
we are indeed egoists in that sense. As I just wrote
yesterday (rationalegoism.com), every person is an
egoist when they lift a forkful to food to their lips.

For myself, the reason I defend egoism is that I believe
it's the only ethical approach that's consistent with the
nature of beast. IOW I take altruism as a form of treating
that which is, as that which it is not.

That, plus the disgusting mess it creates!


jk

Potroast

unread,
Jun 24, 2010, 4:52:36 AM6/24/10
to
On Jun 19, 7:14�pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Anyone care to answer in a single sentence, What's the purpose of
> ethics?
> Rand said the following.
>
> WHAT is ethics...
> "What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man's
> choices and actions--the choices and actions that determine the purpose
> and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with
> discovering and defining such a code."
> "The Objectivist Ethics" in _The Virture of Selfishness_
>
> Close approximation to an answer to, What's the purpose of ethics?
> "Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that
> which is proper to man--in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and
> enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life."
> "The Objectivist Ethics" in _The Virture of Selfishness_
>
> I'm curious about something else, however. �What would you say in
> answer to the question, "What's the PURPOSE of ethics?", or put
> another way, "Why IS ethics?".

Ethics is a code of conduct for effective living within a given social
group (unlike morals that deals with behavior less related to group
interaction). Thus ethics that are effective for living amongst one
group are not necessarily as effective with living another. (e.g. a
vocal atheist in places like Kabul would have a dramatically shorter
shorter lifespan... or even in a different era in say Europe)

A man living alone on a deserted island doesn't need ethics. He just
needs behavior useful for his survival and comfort. He can romance a
herd of sea lions and no one will be there to judge him. The exact
same act within a social group is typically intolerable since a
significant portion of the social group fear he might satisfy himself
with their defenseless pet chihuahua or kids next.

Ethics is not always purely rationalized as some philosophers through
history have claimed (and there is finally MRI evidence to prove that
argument wrong in a tangible physical fashion). While reason is used,
it sometimes comes subsequent to an initial burst of emotion on an
issue (i.e. the emotional centers of our brains are triggered before
our rational parts). We decide which choice makes us happier. (not
necessarily only over the short term). Therefore... since most
people watching sea lions on beach getting mounted by their neighbor
would be disturbed... our "nature lover" gets carted off to jail.

Where ethics IS rational is where ethical "principles" kick in. With
principles we don't always have to wait for some horrible experience
as an individual to determine that something is "wrong". It's often
already been established in some fashion (usually by people that lived
before us and learned through experience). We can also attempt to
combine our principles with logic to further analyze situations that
the original principle didn't actually cover. (how I determined
courting sea lions is probably not the best way to live despite never
actually witnessing the act)

However there is a danger on relying solely on a mathematical approach
to morals. Human beings should never be confused with unfeeling
infallible calculators. When we attempt to do ethical "calculations"
as to the validity of an established principle in one area by applying
it to an x-factor of another situation... our calculation might be
logically valid.... but still unsound due to the introduction of a
faulty premise. What we've rationalized as ethically acceptable... in
practice may not be. Or the opposite of what we rationalized as not
ethnically acceptable...is.

For instance, the Spartans are greatly romanced today but in a modern
context they were worse than Nazis. They practiced brutal eugenics
(leaving some of their own deformed babies to die a slow horrible
death of abandonment... or be eaten by a wild animal if they were
lucky). They had no qualms with ruthlessly slaughtering their enemies
(no rights for the enslaved). They were ruled by kings (unlike
Athens). They enslaved the vast majority of their population (the
Helots, who sometimes were even their own children they didn't think
good enough to be useful soldiers). And kept it all together only by
turning citizens into fighting machines for the state. Their system
was stable for hundreds of years. The Athenians pretty much put
themselves into decline by going head to head with Sparta and even
Alexander (who conquered a fair chunk of Asia) had the sense not to
deplete his army by messing with the Laconians)

Some Nazi ideology was modelled after the Spartans several thousand
years later (eugenics which was popular and socially acceptable at the
time). Some Nazi intellectuals "rationally" concluded that given some
principles worked for the Spartans in antiquity it would work for them
under their own circumstances... that is right up until the soldiers
of all the alleged inferior races truncated their reign.

The lesson here is a thousand proposed ethical systems are trumped by
a single test.

James E. Prescott

unread,
Jun 24, 2010, 5:28:42 AM6/24/10
to
On Jun 24, 4:52�am, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> On Jun 19, 7:14 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:

> > [quoting Ayn Rand and asking why]

> Ethics is a code of conduct for effective living within a given social
> group (unlike morals that deals with behavior less related to group

> interaction). [...]

No, Ayn Rand was correct. Ethics is the branch of philosophy
dealing with moral codes, their purpose and content. The "why"
of ethics is to understand the proper content and proper aim
of a moral code.

Morality is not about groups. Morality is a code of values
and principles to which an individual can refer for guidance
in attaining a long-range purpose, which is properly the
individual's own happiness. Yes, this is about "effective
living"." But effective, itself, is a normative term, and
the ethical question is, effective, to what end?

> [...]

> A man living alone on a deserted island doesn't need ethics.
> He just needs behavior useful for his survival and comfort.

A man living in Manhattan needs behavior useful to his
survival and comfort, no less than a man alone of a deserted
island.

Both need to be guided by values and principles. Life
in Manhattan is more complicated, but easier in many ways,
especially since a lazy man there can look to others for
guidance. Alone on a deserted island such a lazy,
dependent man might well perish, where a man who
thinks for himself and is guided by his own values and
principles stands a better chance of surviving, getting off
the island, growing rich and finding happiness.

> [snip of Spartans and Nazis]

Collectivism and altruism are evils in every form, with
countless historical examples. At the base is a regarding
of ethics as primarily social, as some mystic or biological
debt owed by an individual to a group. Used in this way,
ethics is a tool for manipulating lazy, dependent people.

In proper ethics, as Ayn Rand explained, the only purpose
is a man's selfish attainment of his own happiness. Others
should be valued as a means to this end and treated according
to principles conducive to this end. Nothing else matters.
Achieving happiness is the only moral purpose that can
rationally justify anything. All else is a con game.

Best Wishes,
Jim P.

Jim Klein

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Jun 24, 2010, 11:10:56 AM6/24/10
to
On Jun 24, 4:52 am, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> Ethics is a code of conduct for effective living within a given social
> group

[everything else snipped]

Here, let me quote an expert on this...

-----------------------------------
These are the sorts of questions in which "should" is used, involving
our social nature and creating an trans-person basis by which we
measure. This is the First Mistake, for any "should" must, by
necessity, be measured by the standard of the organism choosing the
action. What you shouldn't do, is begin with an assumption that such a
standard could possibly be created outside of yourself, for yourself.
-----------------------------------

Good luck, Pot. You can try to define away the reality
of the situation, as if that'll relieve you of responsibility.

But owing to the nature of both you as a human, and
responsibility as what it is, you can't.


jk

Potroast

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Jun 24, 2010, 1:19:29 PM6/24/10
to
On Jun 24, 5:28 am, "James E. Prescott" <jepr...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Jun 24, 4:52 am, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> > On Jun 19, 7:14 pm, D Lind <danli...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > [quoting Ayn Rand and asking why]
> > Ethics is a code of conduct for effective living within a given social
> > group (unlike morals that deals with behavior less related to group
> > interaction). [...]
>
> No, Ayn Rand was correct. Ethics is the branch of philosophy
> dealing with moral codes, their purpose and content.

I'm pretty sure he knew ethics is a branch of philosophy so I don't
think that's what he was puttying for. I've always found the
definitions of ethnics/morals as a tad too open to interpretation for
a subject material so well established (not that mine are complete
either but I threw in my two drachmas). For example, while some
philosophers use the terms morals and ethics as essentially
interchangeable synonyms in modern usage others make distinctions
(which various dictionaries do allow for).
e.g,
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-ethics-and-morals.htm
https://www.google.com/search?q=difference+between+ethics+and+morals&hl=en&start=10&sa=N
https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3A+morals&aq=0&aqi=l1g10&aql=&oq=morals+de&gs_rfai
To further compound the issue "morals" has a latin etymology not
Greek. Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, et al never used the term
"moralitas" even once... yet are still widely known as philosophers to
have discussed ta ethika. So linguistic ambiguity seems to be fairly
common despite some claim ownership. I hate this sort of soft
definitions but who'd the arbitrator that decides?

Ok... you obviously think Rand but Rand should. The field "philosophy"
needs to be a little broader to encompass all sorts of material
though.

> The "why"
> of ethics is to understand the proper content and proper aim
> of a moral code.
>
> Morality is not about groups.  

For the definition I provided I suggested the term "ethics" as being a
term more specifically focused on group interaction. For instance, in
modern usage there are ethical codes of conduct for doctors,
stockbrokers, CIOs, and other trained professionals that don't
necessarily apply to someone outside their job position or even
company.
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Ethical_code

> Morality is a code of values
> and principles to which an individual can refer for guidance
> in attaining a long-range purpose, which is properly the
> individual's own happiness.

You've injected all sorts of additional meaning into the term morality
that I have never encountered in a dictionary. I offer that your
tweaked definition is further evidence there is substance to my claim
of linguistic ambiguity on the matter.

> Yes, this is about "effective
> living"." But effective, itself, is a normative term, and
> the ethical question is, effective, to what end?
>
> > [...]
> > A man living alone on a deserted island doesn't need ethics.
> > He just needs behavior useful for his survival and comfort.
>
> A man living in Manhattan needs behavior useful to his
> survival and comfort, no less than a man alone of a deserted
> island.

True too but the man on the desert island doesn't need to contend with
the reactions of other human beings. We doesn't need to romance a sea
lion but if he behaved exactly the same it would be irrational (e.g he
should probably worry less about presentable cloths for his client
monkeys and more on other more useful tasks for his situation). This
is why I believe there should be a distinction between ethics and
morals. (or at minimum their should be terms that isolate the
importance of behavior in a group versus behavior alone versus a
blanket term for all kinds of behavior)

> Both need to be guided by values and principles. Life
> in Manhattan is more complicated, but easier in many ways,
> especially since a lazy man there can look to others for
> guidance. Alone on a deserted island such a lazy,
> dependent man might well perish, where a man who
> thinks for himself and is guided by his own values and
> principles stands a better chance of surviving, getting off
> the island, growing rich and finding happiness.

Happiness is a chemical reaction that is also dependent on our body
chemistry. If that body chemistry is off and there is no technology to
treat the condition-no philosophy or good choices will make an
individual happy. A "lazy man" still thinks and is guided by his
values and principles (albeit they are not particularly effective). A
poor person living can be just as happy or even happier than someone
rich (e.g. I've been to both Jamaica and Cuba and there seemed to be
plenty of happy people albeit poor). The truth is aside from basic
living essentials and health matters there is no definite scientific
evidence available that past a certain point additional money buys
extra happiness. What I do find plausible is having more (or less)
money than one's peers can be a thrill or downer for some. It's sort
like winning a race. A personal validation that gives them self-esteem
or takes it away. However the factor isn't really money. It's relative
success. Put the same guy who opened up a chain of 10 car washes and
was thrilled to be the most successful person at his high school
reunion.... in a room with even a low tier billionaire... they start
to get unhappy with their status. (although that can be motivator as
you say too)

But aside from my nitpicking minor qualifications I generally agree
with your theme.

> > [snip of Spartans and Nazis]
>
> Collectivism and altruism are evils in every form, with
> countless historical examples.

I'm not sure how you jumped from Spartans and Nazis to collectivism
and altruism but I'll try and deal with each term as I see them.

Altruism: I heard a great succinct line in the last Star Trek film
that was used slightly differently that I'd like to co-opt for my
needs. "Morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory"

Not a single evil in history has been committed by altruism. The great
horrors in history are caused by human ignorance. For example, if I
expend my own money to feed the local pigeons to be "nice"... and I
and they have a pleasant experience from it... there is no problem (I
say altruism as they are unlikely to make any sort of effort to pay
back my deed and I do not consider a fuzzy feeling inside as goods or
services in returned by my feathered acquaintances). However, if I do
the exact same act next to my shiny new sports car... then they crap
all over it...."altruism" wasn't to blame. My own stupidity was to
blame. In a similar fashion, if I attempt to shoot the pigeons because
a purpose in my life is to be happy and stopping them crapping on my
car will make me happy.... but I shoot my wife in the head instead....
Ayn Rand's values weren't to blame. My own stupidity was once again
the culprit.

Collectivist: A great slur for "commie" (since they are pretty much
how the term entered widescale usage).

The term is used far more broadly I suppose. Wikipedia writes
"describe any moral, political, or social outlook, that emphasizes the
interdependence of every human in some collective group and the
priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists focus on
community and society, and seek to give priority to group rights over
individual rights. The philosophical underpinnings of collectivism are
for some related to holism or organicism, the view that the whole is
greater than the sum of its parts/pieces."

The pieces are by definition ALWAYS a subset of the whole in every
system. Individuals cannot openly behave a certain way without the
rest of his society allowing them to function. Can't say Wikipedia's
definition appeals to me but I don't have a better one that "commie".

> At the base is a regarding
> of ethics as primarily social, as some mystic or biological
> debt owed by an individual to a group. Used in this way,
> ethics is a tool for manipulating lazy, dependent people.
>
> In proper ethics, as Ayn Rand explained, the only purpose
> is a man's selfish attainment of his own happiness.

I agree our own happiness matters too. For normal usage I don't like
use of the the terms "selfish" and "greed" to describe average human
behavior though. I prefer terms like greed and selfish for excesses
beyond the norm (e.g. criminals). Another term I'm not crazy about is
"self-interest". A person's interests might be feeding his family. Or
building a giant pyramid for his funeral. Or even giving 90%+ of his
fortune away (like Buffet and Gates-our generations most successful
capitalists) "self-interest" seems more limited to "build the giant
pyramid".

> Others should be valued as a means to this end and treated according
> to principles conducive to this end.  Nothing else matters.

If nothing else matters what ends did you find communicating on this
forum?

> Achieving happiness is the only moral purpose that can
> rationally justify anything. All else is a con game.

If one's system is alleged good at achieving happiness shouldn't that
mean that it eventually makes a large portion of their lives happy? So
what the heck do they do once they already spend most of their time in
Pleasantville?

acar

unread,
Jun 24, 2010, 3:25:25 PM6/24/10
to
On Jun 24, 1:19 pm, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> If nothing else matters what ends did you find communicating on this
> forum?
>
Indeed! Man is a social animal and depends ENTIRELY on the welfare of
others for achieving his maximum potential, which is: thriving.

Achieve happiness! Achieving happiness can be logically defended as a
goal by pointing out that happiness is a state of emotional harmony,
which implies stability, as contrasted to unhappiness, which implies
stress and instability. Since natural law tells us that harmony is the
natural physical state of reality, we are justified in assuming that
the natural is the good. Therefore seeking to achieve happiness should
impress us a "good" endeavor.

But we are chosers, which means that if individuality is going to
express, different individuals will make different choices in their
pursuit of happiness. We have Charles Manson, Bill Gates, and Mother
Theresa making choices compelled by an inner sense of what will bring
them the greatest satisfaction.

Since the resulting actions are in conflict with one another it should
be obvious that something is missing from that analysis of the purpose
of ethics. Achieving individual happiness as the purpose of ethics
would be correct is man were to live for himself in an otherwise
deserted island. But man is a social animal. What is missing is
respect for rights.

Respect for rights is the paradoxical convergence of sacrifice and
selfishness. It epitomizes the principle that in a social setting the
way to selfishness is through the valley of self-discipline. We must
say no to the desire to kill. We must say no to the desire to rob. We
must say no to the desire to rape. The art of finding happiness as a
human is to sacrifice the rights violating instincts of the animal ,
and then do our thing, whether it is after the model of Bill Gates or
after the model of Mother Theresa. Those who claim that Mother Theresa
was not as happy as they are, are not only disconnected from reality
but are stuck like Ayn Rand in the deserted island model. They are
willing to respect other people's rights in a deserted island! Indeed
they want to eat their cake and have it too.

acar

unread,
Jun 24, 2010, 5:41:43 PM6/24/10
to
On Jun 24, 3:25 pm, acar <acarm...@mail.com> wrote:
> On Jun 24, 1:19 pm, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> ... Achieving individual happiness as the purpose of ethics

> would be correct is man were to live for himself in an otherwise
> deserted island.

Of course, ethics on a deserted island is an interesting concept. You
need to be ethical to coconuts, mangoes and wild pigs! :-))

Potroast

unread,
Jun 24, 2010, 11:31:57 PM6/24/10
to

While there are tolerance levels of differences allowed, I would
suggest advisable behaviors within groups.... and advisable behaviors
unrestricted by peer forces.... can be different things. But if you
think that behaving in ways utterly insensitive to any given group
situation is rationally advisable you can certainly put your theory to
a try. Visit some isolated North Korea town with your megaphone and
start saying loudly... the Great leader is evil. Or take a flight to
Kabul, put a red-white and blue t-shirt, and start knocking door-to-
door spreading the good word Allah doesn't exist. Or if that's too
far.... go find some party at a local crack house in some poor black
neighborhood in middle of the night, start calling everyone a nigger
while explaining to them how you are strongly for the "right" to
segregate.

Let me know how it works out for you.

M Purcell

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 10:43:32 AM6/26/10
to

I would agree that ethics are specific with morality as a more general
basis.

> A man living alone on a deserted island doesn't need ethics. He just
> needs behavior useful for his survival and comfort. He can romance a
> herd of sea lions and no one will be there to judge him. The exact
> same act within a social group is typically intolerable since a
> significant portion of the social group fear he might satisfy himself
> with their defenseless pet chihuahua or kids next.

I suspect the sea lions will judge him and such a morality will have
adverse affects on his survival.

> Ethics is not always purely rationalized as some philosophers through
> history have claimed (and there is finally MRI evidence to prove that
> argument wrong in a tangible physical fashion). While reason is used,
> it sometimes comes subsequent to an initial burst of emotion on an
> issue (i.e. the emotional centers of our brains are triggered before
> our rational parts). We decide which choice makes us happier. (not
> necessarily only over the short term).   Therefore... since most
> people watching sea lions on beach getting mounted by their neighbor
> would be disturbed... our "nature lover" gets carted off to jail.

People are generally emotional but I would also agree ethics and
morality apply to long term satisfaction rather than an immediate
sensory pleasure.

> Where ethics IS rational is where ethical "principles" kick in. With
> principles we don't always have to wait for some horrible experience
> as an individual to determine that something is "wrong". It's often
> already been established in some fashion (usually by people that lived
> before us and learned through experience). We can also attempt to
> combine our principles with logic to further analyze situations that
> the original principle didn't actually cover. (how I determined
> courting sea lions is probably not the best way to live despite never
> actually witnessing the act)

I believe the "principles" of ethical standards are morality and any
morality is moot if you do not exist.

> However there is a danger on relying solely on a mathematical approach
> to morals. Human beings should never be confused with unfeeling
> infallible calculators. When we attempt to do ethical "calculations"
> as to the validity of an established principle in one area by applying
> it to an x-factor of another situation... our calculation might be
> logically valid.... but still unsound due to the introduction of a
> faulty premise. What we've rationalized as ethically acceptable... in
> practice may not be. Or the opposite of what we rationalized as not
> ethnically acceptable...is.

Rationality attempts to remove faulty premises.

> For instance, the Spartans are greatly romanced today but in a modern
> context they were worse than Nazis. They practiced brutal eugenics
> (leaving some of their own deformed babies to die a slow horrible
> death of abandonment... or be eaten by a wild animal if they were
> lucky). They had no qualms with ruthlessly slaughtering their enemies
> (no rights for the enslaved). They were ruled by kings (unlike
> Athens). They enslaved the vast majority of their population (the
> Helots, who sometimes were even their own children they didn't think
> good enough to be useful soldiers). And kept it all together only by
> turning citizens into fighting machines for the state.  Their system
> was stable for hundreds of years. The Athenians pretty much put
> themselves into decline by going head to head with Sparta and even
> Alexander (who conquered a fair chunk of Asia) had the sense not to
> deplete his army by messing with the Laconians)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil because I'm the badest mofo there.

> Some Nazi ideology was modelled after the Spartans several thousand
> years later (eugenics which was popular and socially acceptable at the
> time). Some Nazi intellectuals "rationally" concluded that given some
> principles worked for the Spartans in antiquity it would work for them
> under their own circumstances... that is right up until the soldiers
> of all the alleged inferior races truncated their reign.

Intresting that some people want to manage other's evolution and
breeding, an extension of plant and animal domestication I suppose.

> The lesson here is a thousand proposed ethical systems are trumped by
> a single test.

Survival is a pass.
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James E. Prescott

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 10:55:24 AM6/26/10
to
On Jun 24, 1:19 pm, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> On Jun 24, 5:28 am, "James E. Prescott" <jepr...@gmail.com> wrote:

> [...]

> > Morality is a code of values and principles to which an
> > individual can refer for guidance in attaining a long-
> > range purpose, which is properly the individual's own
> > happiness.
>
> You've injected all sorts of additional meaning into the term

> morality that I have never encountered in a dictionary. [...]

Really? Which part do you find to be an additional, unfamiliar
meaning? Dictionary definitions are important, but their focus
is on usage and they are not in all cases identical to phil-
osophical definitions. Philosophy is a particular purposive
employment of concepts that needs a certain rigor.

Here are a couple philosophical definitions to help with
the context of my own remarks. (For man, read man or woman,
of course.)

Philosophy is the study and explanation of the
facts and principles that all men and women,
regardless of their particular professions, must
know and apply in order to live a good life.

Happiness is the pleasurable emotion that a man
may experience when he contemplates upon the
whole of his life, reflecting on all the other
values and pleasures (work, spouse, children,
friends, sex, dining, recreation, sports, art,
etc., etc. etc.) that make his a life worth
living, and when he *realizes* that these values
and pleasures are his to enjoy into a long fore-
seeable future.

That second definition is rather long. Sorry. I've
toyed with shortening it, but each element (particularly
the emphasized word) is important to why happiness
is the proper moral purpose of a man's life. Happiness
*subsumes* all *other* values and pleasures, as it is
the pleasure derived from reflecting upon them.

> [...]

> Happiness is a chemical reaction that is also dependent on
> our body chemistry.

Happiness is an emotion, true, if that's what you mean here
by "chemical reaction."

> If that body chemistry is off and there is no technology to
> treat the condition-no philosophy or good choices will make an

> individual happy. [...]

True again, but off the point.

Happiness is an achievable goal in normal circumstances, and
this stands unaffected by abnormal body chemistry. In other
words, if a given man fails to achieve happiness because for
some reason he is physiologically incapable of experiencing it,
that would be just a regrettable abnormality -- regrettable
*because* happiness, as defined above, is the ultimate good.

> [...T]here is no definite scientific evidence available


> that past a certain point additional money buys extra

> happiness. [...]

True again!

Wealth is only a part of happiness, a small if foundational
(to a "certain point," yes) part in many cases. Other found-
ations are health and security. But these are just the basic
prerequisites. Happiness depends on a great deal more than
merely having enough money to live, enough health to enjoy
living, and enough security to expect keeping one's values.

Without a certain *degree* of health, wealth and security,
a man cannot be happy, but this does not imply he *is* happy
just because he happens to have attained that necessary degree.

> [...A]side from my nitpicking minor qualifications I


> generally agree with your theme.

Good enough.

> [...]

> Not a single evil in history has been committed by altruism.

Well, they were committed by altruists.

> The great horrors in history are caused by human ignorance.

> [...]

Yes, indeed, and altruism, collectivism and mysticism are simply
the three greatest examples of ignorance, responsible for the
moral horrors of human history.

> [...I]f I shoot my wife in the head [...] Ayn Rand's values


> weren't to blame. My own stupidity was once again the culprit.

Shooting one's spouse is not a way to attain happiness. Countless
human beings have been shot in the head over the sad course of
human history, and it wasn't egoists pulling the trigger. Ayn
Rand's values are reason, productive work and pride followed
by a long list of other values, many of which are social and
all of which are consistent with love, respect, and cooperation,
and all of which are opposed to theft, oppression and hate.

> [...] Wikipedia writes [of the word collectivism, that it
> can] "describe any moral, political, or social outlook, that


> emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some
> collective group and the priority of group goals over

> individual goals. [...]"

Wikipedia is a very good source in most cases, and very, very
good in this particular case.

> [...] I prefer terms like greed and selfish for excesses


> beyond the norm (e.g. criminals).

That's fine. So do I, in most cases. But Ayn Rand had a valid
philosophical purpose in mind whenever she used these words,
which was not merely to shock but to illuminate the crucial
philosophical point that the "extreme" of genuinely self-
serving behavior is the righteous, reason-guided pursuit of
one's own happiness as the proper moral purpose of one's life.

> [...]

> > Others should be valued as a means to this end and
> > treated according to principles conducive to this end.
> > Nothing else matters.
>
> If nothing else matters what ends did you find communicating
> on this forum?

Communicating in this forum is one of a number of pleasures
that contribute to my own happiness. If I didn't enjoy it
and find it personally rewarding (I learn a lot, BTW), I
wouldn't bother with it.

> > Achieving happiness is the only moral purpose that can
> > rationally justify anything. All else is a con game.
>
> If one's system is alleged good at achieving happiness
> shouldn't that mean that it eventually makes a large
> portion of their lives happy? So what the heck do they

> do once they already spend most of their time in Pleasant-
> ville?

I don't understand this question. Who is they, and what is
it you think you see, out there beyond Pleasantville?

Best Wishes,
Jim P.

acar

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 3:19:53 PM6/26/10
to
On Jun 26, 10:55 am, "James E. Prescott" <jepr...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>    Happiness is the pleasurable emotion that a man
>    may experience when he contemplates upon the
>    whole of his life, reflecting on all the other
>    values and pleasures (work, spouse, children,
>    friends, sex, dining, recreation, sports, art,
>    etc., etc. etc.) that make his a life worth
>    living, and when he *realizes* that these values
>    and pleasures are his to enjoy into a long fore-
>    seeable future.
>
Unnecessarily long. Happiness is, in part, a stress-less state of
equilibrium. But it is necessary to add an active sense of
satisfaction that comes from the contemplation of that state

Happiness starts with the absence of stress. That is Adam and Eve
before the fall, or to far eastern philosophers -- Nirvana. But
happiness is more than a mindless state of equilibrium. Happiness is a
conscious state; and consciousness requires the comparison of
opposites. Therefore happiness is the contemplation of the good in our
lives, which implies a rejection of the corresponding evil. Thus
happiness is the result of our correct choices. Money, health and
recognition have nothing to do with it.

Happiness may be associated with projections for the future but it is
always experienced here and now. The future will tell us if our
present choices were correct by visiting upon us happiness or
unhappiness. If you don't believe me, ask Ayn Rand.

M Purcell

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 6:06:11 PM6/26/10
to
On Jun 26, 12:19 pm, acar <acarm...@mail.com> wrote:
.
.

.
> Happiness may be associated with projections for the future but it is
> always experienced here and now. The future will tell us if our
> present choices were correct by visiting upon us happiness or
> unhappiness. If you don't believe me, ask Ayn Rand.

She can't come to the phone right now but I doubt she would say it's
related to children.

acar

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 9:14:55 PM6/26/10
to

I know that she is indisposed but please explain the reference to
children.

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M Purcell

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 11:12:01 PM6/26/10
to

The future visiting upon on us happiness or unhappiness.

acar

unread,
Jun 26, 2010, 11:50:49 PM6/26/10
to
On Jun 26, 11:12 pm, M Purcell <sacsca...@aol.com> wrote:
>
> > I know that she is indisposed but please explain the reference to
> > children.
>
> The future visiting upon on us happiness or unhappiness.
> .
I assume that your children are giving you more unhappiness than
happiness?

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M Purcell

unread,
Jun 27, 2010, 8:40:56 AM6/27/10
to
On Jun 26, 8:50 pm, acar <acarm...@mail.com> wrote:

> I assume that your children are giving you more unhappiness than
> happiness?

Naw, they rarely visit.

acar

unread,
Jun 27, 2010, 12:46:08 PM6/27/10
to

In that case you are lucky that your children have reached the ideal
summit of morality: no sense of duty but a benevolent visit once in a
while. Am I crazy? Probably not, but some people actually believe that
s***t.

M Purcell

unread,
Jun 27, 2010, 3:07:01 PM6/27/10
to

A sense of duty to parents? What would you do with them when they
become too old to care for thierselves? Granted a person should
provide for their retirement and many parents would not want to be a
burden, but beyond those who are independently wealthy or provided for
by social programs the elderly have few options. Are you expecting
senility by asking if you are crazy?

acar

unread,
Jun 27, 2010, 6:05:43 PM6/27/10
to
On Jun 27, 3:07 pm, M Purcell <sacsca...@aol.com> wrote:
>
> A sense of duty to parents? What would you do with them when they
> become too old to care for thierselves? Granted a person should
> provide for their retirement and many parents would not want to be a
> burden, but beyond those who are independently wealthy or provided for
> by social programs the elderly have few options. Are you expecting
> senility by asking if you are crazy?

By Objectivist morality I am crazy or at least irrational. If you
bring a child to the world, according to conventional culture you have
a parental duty. According to Objectivists indulge your appetites and
desires first, then be benevolent to your children -- take care of your
needs and if anything is left, out of a sense of benevolence, buy
clothes and food, and maybe even toys! for your children. Of course
they wouldn't put it that way. Reality demands rationalization.
Children are a value, they explain. What you do to achieve and nurture
a value is not a sacrifice! But you must not do anything like that for
a stranger. That would be evil. Let the stranger be naked and starve.
Unless you feel benevolent, that is. And mind you, you don't have to,
but of course you wouldn't let the stranger starve. You may even give
him a little less than half of your Milky Way. Benevolence is nice!
What a bundle of rationalized, made-up crap!

Charles Bell

unread,
Jun 27, 2010, 6:26:37 PM6/27/10
to
On Jun 27, 6:05 pm, acar <acarm...@mail.com> wrote:
> On Jun 27, 3:07 pm, M Purcell <sacsca...@aol.com> wrote:
>
>By Objectivist morality I am crazy or at least irrational.


Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum discussing Objectivist morality.


> According to Objectivists indulge your appetites and
> desires first, then be benevolent to your children

Any guesses as to who is Mr. Dum?

M Purcell

unread,
Jun 27, 2010, 7:39:41 PM6/27/10
to
On Jun 27, 3:05 pm, acar <acarm...@mail.com> wrote:

> By Objectivist morality I am crazy or at least irrational. If you
> bring a child to the world, according to conventional culture you have
> a parental duty. According to Objectivists indulge your appetites and
> desires first, then be benevolent to your children -- take care of your
> needs and if anything is left, out of a sense of benevolence, buy
> clothes and food, and maybe even toys! for your children. Of course
> they wouldn't put it that way. Reality demands rationalization.
> Children are a value, they explain. What you do to achieve and nurture
> a value is not a sacrifice! But you must not do anything like that for
> a stranger. That would be evil. Let the stranger be naked and starve.
> Unless you feel benevolent, that is. And mind you, you don't have to,
> but of course you wouldn't let the stranger starve. You may even give
> him a little less than half of your Milky Way. Benevolence is nice!
> What a bundle of rationalized, made-up crap!

Not really, there is evidence of clan selection but Rand excluded
everyone beyond the individual and that's considered egotistical (no
such thing as an egoist).


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Potroast

unread,
Jun 28, 2010, 2:57:22 AM6/28/10
to
On Jun 26, 10:55 am, "James E. Prescott" <jepr...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Jun 24, 1:19 pm, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com>  wrote:

> > If one's system is alleged good at achieving happiness


> > shouldn't that mean that it eventually makes a large
> > portion of their lives happy? So what the heck do they
> > do once they already spend most of their time in Pleasant-
> > ville?
>
> I don't understand this question. Who is they, and what is
> it you think you see, out there beyond Pleasantville?

By "they"... I mean the followers of any philosophy that proposes
one's happiness to be their "only" goal. If the goal of the system is
only to achieve one's own happiness... and it does what it says... are
their any goals beyond one's own happiness? (since the primary goal
has been achieved by the proposed philosophy right?

Or here's another one. What if one's happiness requires some level of
altruism?

James E. Prescott

unread,
Jun 28, 2010, 5:43:46 AM6/28/10
to
On Jun 28, 2:57 am, Potroast <ilou...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> On Jun 26, 10:55 am, "James E. Prescott" <jepr...@gmail.com> wrote:

> > [...] Who is they, and what is it you think you see, out


> > there beyond Pleasantville?
>
> By "they"... I mean the followers of any philosophy that
> proposes one's happiness to be their "only" goal. If the goal
> of the system is only to achieve one's own happiness... and it
> does what it says... are their any goals beyond one's own
> happiness?

No. None Whatsoever. There are intermediate goals, of course...
things a rational man pursues as a means to an end...but all
such goals serve his own happiness, so there is no such thing
as a proper moral goal "beyond" happiness. That wouldn't make
any sense.

> (since the primary goal has been achieved by the proposed
> philosophy right?

The primary goal, in this context, is the ultimate moral purpose
of one's actions, toward which all acts should ultimately be aimed.
Secondary goals in this context are better termed "subordinate" goals,
or intermediate steps.

Primary and secondary goals do exist, of course, *among* sub-
ordinate goals in a proper moral system. When I go to a restaurant
with friends and family, for example, I have in mind a couple primary
goals, socializing for fun while enjoying a good meal, and a few
secondary goals, nutrition among them. But all of these serve my
own personal happiness, or it wouldn't make any sense to do any
of them.

> Or here's another one. What if one's happiness requires some
> level of altruism?

What if being-A required being not-A? Your question makes no sense.
Serving my own personal happiness is egoism, not altruism.

But perhaps you mean, doesn't happiness depend to some degree on
the well being of others? Of course it does. And that's the only
reason (and the only proper reason at all) that I am interested
in the well being of others. I have a few children myself, and I
give them things to make them happy, but I do so because, and
only because, their happiness is a component of mine. Their
happiness is, to me, a subordinate goal, the ultimate aim of
which is my own.

I don't give things to strangers, as a general rule. Would I let
a stranger starve? Sure! I *do* let strangers starve. So do you.

Many people are starving in this world, and some of them could be
saved by you giving them your money instead of treating yourself
and your family to an expensive meal in a restaurant. But you don't
do that, do you? Good. It would be wrong.

Giving something for nothing is morally wrong. It deprives you of
something enjoyable by you, which can contribute to your happiness,
and ends up doing nothing for yourself.

Heck, it doesn't even get rid of poverty. The only cure for poverty
is the production of wealth, and the production of wealth is not
advanced by giving the wealth produced to those who produce nothing.

Enjoying an expensive meal in a restaurant is far, far better,
morally, than giving handouts to starving strangers. As a primary
goal, it's a lot of fun and a very pleasant, very satisfying meal.
As a secondary goal, it rewards the restaurant owner and his workers
for being productive citizens rather than leeches, and it contributes
thereby to the generation of ever-increasing wealth in society.

Altruism, by contrast, is not a logical ethical system. It's a
mere religious con game, a deceptive tool of leeches and other
purveyors of mysticism. It's a desire to have something for nothing,
expressed as some mystical, unexplainable "duty o