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#30665 - 10/21/09 10:29 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: CJB]
Doomsage680 Offline
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Registered: 10/01/09
Posts: 111
Loc: NJ, USA
I have also suffered the inconvenience of deleting my posts after typing them. I understand your point, and in addition, i would agree, that social as well as legal factors (different forms of power) act on individuals to encourage or discourage certain behaviors.
I suppose that my recent philosophical upheaval has left me unsure of how I think laws should be determined, though I think that WHEN laws are determined, the most effective way is likely in considering the IS as well as people's GOALS (as you are proposing). This method considers the cost/benefit aspect of enforcing laws that people want enforced, to the effect of keeping them happy, thereby allowing the government in power to be more likely to remain in power. Of course, some governments have enough power to disregard their people's desires, but if there is enough motivation to revolt, well, "where there's a will, there's a way". Even if it takes a lot of time, or foreign intervention, etc.

I believe that my disagreement, however slight, is in your arguing that one cannot look only at the IS to decide the Ought. In the sense of making effective laws, I think I agree with you, but in the personal sense, I believe that any form of "Ought" is irrelevant, simply because there are a number of different forms of power that limit behavior (and if there's no limits, then any self-conceived ideas of "ought" will not be respected by others). I have argued this with friends who claim, in opposition, that all the social norms come from rights everyone has, rights that preceed the human race's rise to intellectual self-awareness, though his beliefs stem from the idea that humanity will reach a peaceful global harmony where capitalism has spread the wealth to all countries. I am a capitalist but have no such belief.
I believe that individual rights would be a great place to start, kind of Ayn Rand based, though I do not believe there are any inherent rights individuals have (kind of important to Objectivism, though not irredeemably)

As a nice aside, if we were stuck together on an island, I'd at least try to get us to agree to attempt fishing for a day, but if nothing turned up, I would try and find the biggest stick first. No need for apologies, it's one or the other. However, have you seen the twilight zone where these astronauts think theyre trapped on Mars, kill each other to survive, then realize they were just in the Grand Canyon? I haven't seen it but heard of it.
Here's to not having to eat each other. Peace.
_________________________
"I who have nothing but the comfort of my sins"
- Vinny Paz

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#30666 - 10/21/09 10:34 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: CJB]
ballbreaker Offline
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Registered: 09/04/07
Posts: 134
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Originally Posted By: CJB
"Individuals hold themselves as their own property" itself isn't an original Is statement, but is an "ought." While it's true that I can't control your thoughts (a better Is statement would be that individuals own their own minds), I can enslave you or murder you, both of which take away your self-ownership.


Mmm...governments extract income from individuals through coercion (taxation), but these individuals still possess their self-ownership. Consider the idea that "Government does not give you your rights" to understand the "is" aspect of self-ownership; you are self-owning, whether others infringe on your 'self' or not. If we grant that self-ownership is an axiom (Which I think we can) that's all well and good. But now I'm asking how you derive any moral imperatives like "You ought not harm me" or "you ought not steal from me" from the fact that you are a self-owning individual.

To put it briefly: You own yourself. So what?

 Quote:
Why ought you value your life? I value my life because I like it.


Yes, you value your life because you want to live, which is quite apart from the ethical imperative that you ought to live.

Your statement isn't invalid, it just became consequentialist. So yes, any consequentialist (or anyone OK with instrumental reasoning) will certainly accept your statement, while at the same time rejecting the objectivity of it.

I want to be rich. What ought I to do? By your logic, why ought I not steal if I am not concerned with being caught? If you believe I ought never to steal, all well good...but why ought I never steal?

And, if I ought never steal, even though it may fulfill my wants, then you need to explain why the implicit principle "Thou shalt not steal" (in this context) has any objective validity.

 Quote:
The chair is brown, it's raining outside, my head hurts...


Right, it doesn't necessarily follow that we ought to do anything with regards to any of these. Of course, if your head hurts and you wish for relief, you ought to get some aspirin.

 Quote:
As far as the libertarian convention for the non-agression principle, "Individuals own themselves" (IS) + "(most) Individuals want to live long and happy lives" (GOAL) = "Individuals ought not initiate harm against each other"


Hm.

p1. Individuals own themselves.
p2. individuals want to live long and happy lives.

Well, we can stop here. There is nothing universal about the second premise, which is typically why it doesn't figure into more prominent self-ownership theories. What does a "happy" life mean? But OK, let's grant that individuals want to live "long and happy lives". Here's what we have now:

p1. individuals own themselves.
p2. individuals want to live long and happy lives.
-
c1. individuals ought not initiate harm against one another.

However, there is a hidden premise here. This hidden premise is "Individuals ought to live long and happy lives. Because, if we don't include this premise, then it means those individuals who reject your notion of a "happy" life have no moral imperative not to initiate harm against one another.

In any case, there's nothing totally wrong with your formula in and of itself...it's a great example of consequentialist ethics. My only point is that consequentialists generally don't need to deal with the is-ought problem because they aren't prescribing any universal, immutable ethics.

Follow me?

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#30674 - 10/21/09 05:03 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: ballbreaker]
CJB Offline
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Registered: 10/12/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
Doomsage-
A long long time ago, I was a Conservative, and that does shade some of my beliefs to this day. The typical conservative argument usually has some sort of natural rights or god-given rights argument, which I somewhat agree with, somewhat object to. Where I may differ from other capitalist and Objectivists and what-have-you, is that while I think everyone SHOULD have these inalienable rights due to its effect, it doesn't necessarily follow that everyone DOES have these rights. Rights can be given and taken away depending on who has the bigger stick.
If I'm not misreading, that looks about like what you're saying (at least the bit of refuting "natural rights").

Ballbreaker-
I do see self-ownership as axiomatic, but sadly enough, I've not really studied consequentialism before...so before I reply to you, I'm going to do some studying on it. What I do recall of it, though, is the saying "The ends justify the means," which is a philosophy I don't prescribe to. Perhaps I have some weird sort of philosophical amalgam going on through my head?
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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#30677 - 10/21/09 06:43 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: ballbreaker]
CJB Offline
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Registered: 10/12/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

Mmm...governments extract income from individuals through coercion (taxation), but these individuals still possess their self-ownership. Consider the idea that "Government does not give you your rights" to understand the "is" aspect of self-ownership; you are self-owning, whether others infringe on your 'self' or not. If we grant that self-ownership is an axiom (Which I think we can) that's all well and good. But now I'm asking how you derive any moral imperatives like "You ought not harm me" or "you ought not steal from me" from the fact that you are a self-owning individual.

To put it briefly: You own yourself. So what?


Just saying "I own myself" doesn't mean anything other than "I own myself." Depending on what it is I want to do, what my goals are, plus other determinations that I've made...those determine what I ought to do.

 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

Yes, you value your life because you want to live, which is quite apart from the ethical imperative that you ought to live.

Your statement isn't invalid, it just became consequentialist. So yes, any consequentialist (or anyone OK with instrumental reasoning) will certainly accept your statement, while at the same time rejecting the objectivity of it.


I suppose in a sense it is consequentialist. I want to live, therefore I should whatever. If there is no desire, there is no action. If there is no goal, nothing happens. If you require that to be completely objective, than you have nothing. There is no morality, there are no oughts, there is nothing.
However, the goals themselves can be objective. A rational human being has needs and wants. There are things that everyone objectively needs. And there are things that every (rational, at least) person wants. There will be differences in specifics in what people want, but people want to be happy. At the very least, they don't want to be unhappy, which explains how a rational person can choose to commit suicide. People that don't want to be happy are acting irrationally.
Now, if you're not rational, if you're not objective, in your goals, than you will no longer have very good "oughts". Your morals will suffer. If you irrationally want to kill everyone (which, even though it may make you temporarily quite happy to do that, in the long run you most likely won't be happy), than your morals will then be objectively bad.

 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

I want to be rich. What ought I to do? By your logic, why ought I not steal if I am not concerned with being caught? If you believe I ought never to steal, all well good...but why ought I never steal?

And, if I ought never steal, even though it may fulfill my wants, then you need to explain why the implicit principle "Thou shalt not steal" (in this context) has any objective validity.


This one is hurting my head. Why would it be in your rational self-interest to not steal?
First- You might get caught, and getting caught will ensure unhappiness. However, if you don't care (or know 100% somehow) that you're not going to get caught, this would be invalid.

Second- You might feel guilty for it. As humans, we are social animals, and although we should act in our own rational self-interest, part of that includes the genetic imperative to improve the state of the human race. This imperative manifests itself in our desire to have children, in why we help our friends and/or family. The guilt we may feel from stealing from a friend/family member would be greater than the guilt we feel from (example) robbing a 7-11 down the street filled with acquaintances, and that would probably be greater than guilt over stealing some cash from someone you've never seen...which would be greater than stealing from a faceless entity like an ATM machine or something. By that point the guilt might be miniscule enough to be practically non-existant.

Finally...and this is something I guess I really just realized...there are times when it's not objectively wrong to steal.

 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

Right, it doesn't necessarily follow that we ought to do anything with regards to any of these. Of course, if your head hurts and you wish for relief, you ought to get some aspirin.


Exactly.

 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

p1. Individuals own themselves.
p2. individuals want to live long and happy lives.

Well, we can stop here. There is nothing universal about the second premise, which is typically why it doesn't figure into more prominent self-ownership theories. What does a "happy" life mean? But OK, let's grant that individuals want to live "long and happy lives". Here's what we have now:

p1. individuals own themselves.
p2. individuals want to live long and happy lives.
-
c1. individuals ought not initiate harm against one another.

However, there is a hidden premise here. This hidden premise is "Individuals ought to live long and happy lives. Because, if we don't include this premise, then it means those individuals who reject your notion of a "happy" life have no moral imperative not to initiate harm against one another.

In any case, there's nothing totally wrong with your formula in and of itself...it's a great example of consequentialist ethics. My only point is that consequentialists generally don't need to deal with the is-ought problem because they aren't prescribing any universal, immutable ethics.

Follow me?


Hmm, indeed.
I am curious as to what kind of individual wouldn't want a long and happy life. Or at least a happy life.
Barring that, what universal moral code does face the is-ought problem?

If you were a Christian, and someone said you shouldn't kill, you'd ask why. Because God said so. So what? If you don't, you'll go to Hell. That sounds pretty consequentialist.

Objectivism...according to Rand, "The fact that a living entity is determines what it ought to do." A living entity is, and part of the definition of that living entity is its motivations for living, ergo there can be seen an implied motivation/need/want/goal in the definition of a living being. A wolf, not being a rational animal but rather an instinctual animal, derives its "morals" from its instincts, which is a definition of what it is. A human, being a rational animal, has to think about what its motivations/etc. are, and therefore doesn't have an automatic sense of morality outside of what is instinctual for a human. Part of a humans instincts are the propogation and betterment of the species, but that only occupies a small part of our brains, and therefore we need to come up with a larger set of morality than other animals. Instinct is where our feelings of guilt and remorse come from (at least initially), and therefore anything that causes us to feel guilt and remorse and other "negative" feelings should be avoided.
I think (and I'm sure there are plenty who would disagree with me) that Objectivism isn't consequentialist, not because our morals aren't consequentialist but are objective (because I don't think they're not consequentialist), but because our goals aren't (or shouldn't be) consequentialist, and are objective.

This brings up the question of how we determine objective goals vice subjective (or other) goals, but right now all I want is a beer, and I figure this is already long enough for one sitting.
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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#30679 - 10/21/09 07:43 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: CJB]
Morgan Offline
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Registered: 08/29/07
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I'm sorry to jump in the middle of your discussion, but could you please explain the following quote in regards to instinct:

"Instinct is where our feelings of guilt and remorse come from (at least initially), and therefore anything that causes us to feel guilt and remorse and other "negative" feelings should be avoided."


thank you,
Morgan
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#30680 - 10/21/09 08:37 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: Morgan]
CJB Offline
member


Registered: 10/12/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
 Originally Posted By: Morgan
I'm sorry to jump in the middle of your discussion, but could you please explain the following quote in regards to instinct:

"Instinct is where our feelings of guilt and remorse come from (at least initially), and therefore anything that causes us to feel guilt and remorse and other "negative" feelings should be avoided."


thank you,
Morgan


No problem, the more the merrier.
(As a side note, if I appear to be talking down to anyone, it's not necessarily because I think you're too stupid or ignorant to comprehend what I'm saying, but rather because that's just how I organize my own ideas and put them down.)
Instinct isn't learned behavior. They're things that we automatically know because of the way our brains are wired up. Ducks aren't taught at a young age to fly in a V pattern, wolves aren't taught by their parents how to kill a rabbit (although it does take practice for a wolf to be the best rabbit-slayer, the initial know-how is wired in there. Instinct is passed genetically, which in evolutionary terms means that the parents with the best instincts pass on their instinctiness (OK, sometimes I make words up) to their children, ensuring survival of not just the species, but the absolute best of the species.

Humans are social animals. A long time ago, we gathered in groups for mutual protection against the other animals that would kill a single human in an instant. Therefore, people genetically disposed to gathering in groups would outlive all the loners. That basically gave us a tribal mentality that was best suited for our survival. The groups that took care of their kin (and other tribesmen) would live longer than the groups that just let them die when they couldn't temporarily take care of themselves. Taking care of them meant, among other things, not killing them, not making them unhappy enough to leave or kill each other, etc.
If we were all instinctual loners, who survived best by acting as small nations of one, we wouldn't have guilt. Any lonerhuman who had feelings of guilt from robbing or killing some other lonerhuman wouldn't last long in the lonerhuman world. However, if we feel guilty from stealing/killing/befrauding (again with the make-believe words) our kith and kin, that would be beneficial to the survival of the tribe as a whole, even if not beneficial to ourselves.

Our tribal structure itself has evolved to the point of huge nations and worldwide communications and such, through baby steps (can't think of any good ones...maybe a good example would be making blue-ray DVDs vice normal DVDs?) and breakthroughs (relativity; electricity; hell, making fire), and our "tribe" can now be seen as larger than our immediate surroundings.

But, for better or for worse, the same instincts from older, darker times are still with us. They still serve a purpose in that they keep law and order in good supply, and law and order (that doesn't cross over into tyranny) are good for mankind's continued expansion, propogation, and evolution.

As a side note, this doesn't discount individuality at all. Most of the greatest inventions and discoveries of mankind were made not by the collective, tribal whole, but rather of individuals within the tribe. Therefore, the tribe that created the best of both worlds (the tribe and the individual) would be the best suited for survival. The community with an emotional attachment to each other (love their children, feel guilty over stealing/killing, etc) combined with an individualistic streak (rewarding the best, respecting privacy, etc.) would make the greatest advancements, and be the best tribe/community/nation. At the same time, such a t/c/n would also be the best for the greatest number of people types, where all sorts of different people would be able to coexist.

Perhaps what I'm referring to isn't actual "instinct," more of a type of social Darwinism? I'm not entirely sure what the correct term here would be.


Edited by CJB (10/21/09 08:41 PM)
Edit Reason: Stupid typos.
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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#30688 - 10/22/09 03:26 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: CJB]
ballbreaker Offline
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Registered: 09/04/07
Posts: 134
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Hm. I think that some of the words you are using, in their contexts, are mystifying what you are actually saying. At your core I don't believe you're really expounding objective ethics at all. This isn't a strike against you or anything.

I don't mean to classify or categorize you but what you're professing is a kind of instrumentalist reasoning, whereby if we desire certain things we ought to perform some kind of action. Let me use an example to show why we might perhaps be talking with reference to different things.

When you say that if you want to eliminate your headache, you ought to get aspirin, you're not really making a value-judgment. That is, there is no moral value attached to whether I choose to eliminate my headache or not. If you said, "If you have a headache, you OUGHT to take aspirin" that might be different...but you're saying that to take aspirin in this context I must not only have a headache but, also, want to get rid of it with aspirin. There is no objective ethical statement being made, really; in fact, what you're really doing is just giving advice...but advice that is no less or no more valid than my advice that, say, he who has a headache should take a nap instead.

 Originally Posted By: CJB
Just saying "I own myself" doesn't mean anything other than "I own myself." Depending on what it is I want to do, what my goals are, plus other determinations that I've made...those determine what I ought to do.


But you said that the fact that living things 'are' determines what they 'ought' to do....so what 'are' living things? Rather what 'are' living things that by definition makes, say, a public corporation objectively wrong?

The example in my opening post of proponents of self-ownership may differ slightly (though not significantly) from the Objectivist position, so bear that in mind. The point is that what both libertarians and Objectivists are doing is deriving (or trying to derive) 'oughts' from an 'is'. Your quote exemplifies that.

 Quote:
However, the goals themselves can be objective. A rational human being has needs and wants. There are things that everyone objectively needs.


Right. Now how do we derive from this an ethical framework? To stay specific to Rand, how do we derive from these 'objective needs' the notion of objective rights, or whatever?

It's as if you're saying: "Everyone wants to be happy" (which to some degree is making a universal statement about the nature of 'everyone', i.e. an 'is' statement...that is, our desire to be happy is tied in to who/what we 'are') therefore we ought to....what? Why should I not harm you because you want to be happy and I want to be happy?

Sure, non-violence would be a great social ethic. In general, it is the ethic most societies try to enforce and promote to some degree. Fine, it works. I'm merely asking why it follows that your wanting to be happy necessitates some moral claim on me not to kill you if I feel like it. Yes, there are consequences that I 'may' suffer should I kill you....yes, it 'may' weigh on my conscience, but these are just actual incentives on me not to do the deed. Aside from the possible physical or mental consequences I may suffer should I kill you (often enough to prevent people, of course), where is the moral claim that I OUGHT not kill you founded?

Our discussion may stop here if it turns out that, in fact, you are not making a moral claim on me not to kill you, i.e. you are not saying "killing is wrong", but are really saying "IF you don't want to risk going to jail, you really shouldn't kill me".

 Quote:
There will be differences in specifics in what people want, but people want to be happy. At the very least, they don't want to be unhappy,


I hate rehashing this....but what about masochists, or pedophiles? What precisely makes them happy you might not find to be very universal...on the other hand, even those (like masochists) who at least mentally are deriving pleasure from a sound thrashing prove, indeed, that people act in order to gain some material or psychic pleasure. Although if this is the case, your definition of "people want to be happy" may be so broad as to be meaningless when it comes to deriving some ethical theory from it.

 Quote:
Now, if you're not rational


What does this mean?

 Quote:
Finally...and this is something I guess I really just realized...there are times when it's not objectively wrong to steal


This is generally the death knell of objective ethics. When is theft objective wrong or not? How do you judge when it is so?

 Quote:
I think (and I'm sure there are plenty who would disagree with me) that Objectivism isn't consequentialist, not because our morals aren't consequentialist but are objective


Don't worry, Objectivism is not consequentialist...at least not explicitly so. Generally those natural rights theories that come down to rational/irrational smart/stupid are consequentialist in disguise, since ultimately they fail (like all objective ethical frameworks) to ground their morals in actual objectivity but rather formulate them in the following way, "Rational/smart/xtian beings ought to do x. Therefore do x"

This is a good discussion that may be able to better clarify some of the things I've said: http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/9870.aspx

Before we continue, I think you should know that I'm not some weird postmodernist with a weirder left wing agenda. Generally, I'd prefer it if we lived in a libertarian society and so follow libertarian ethics. These preferences are purely subjective, a projection of my emotional feelings towards certain actions.


Edited by ballbreaker (10/22/09 03:27 PM)

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#30689 - 10/22/09 06:35 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: ballbreaker]
CJB Offline
member


Registered: 10/12/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
Hmm, maybe I'm not as Objectivist as I thought? Just a bit twisted perhaps...
And, by the way, this conversation is taking my mind places I've never taken it before, so it will probably be a bit confusing. Sorry about that. And it's all going in a train of thought order...that's for both of us, so we both can know where I'm going to get somewhere.

 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

But you said that the fact that living things 'are' determines what they 'ought' to do....so what 'are' living things? Rather what 'are' living things that by definition makes, say, a public corporation objectively wrong?


Part of the definition of living things is that living things want to propogate/to pass on their genes. Not all living things really care much beyond giving birth, but most 'higher' animals also take care of their young. Not all animals that take care of their young have the ability to provide them with something permanent (like a home of some sort), but can only provide them with other things (milk, food, knowledge). Humans are animals that feel these imperatives, but unlike most (if not all) living things, we make choices. We have to use our minds in order to survive. This makes us unique in the animal kingdom.

A wolf (why do I use wolves so much?) ought to hunt to get its food. A wolf ought not randomly murder one of his packmates (key word here: randomly). The difference between a wolf and a man is that a wolf doesn't really have the choice to act contrary to its nature, i.e. to not hunt or randomly kill another wolf in its pack. Which is why wolves don't need morals.

An animal that can make choices contrary to its nature (hmm, humans are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head) would need a moral code to guide it to make choices that are in its nature.


With the masochists, they derive their happiness from pain. While I would hesitate to call it a mental illness (which seems to me a cop-out on so many things), I would say that it is deviant behavior. Same with pedophiles. There's something not right, not natural with things like masochism and pedophilia (...and let the flaming begin on that statement).
Would a wolf that gained pleasure from killing his own puppies fulfill his purpose of propogation/advancement of the species? No. And the fact that the wolf would fail in his purpose would guarantee that his deviance (if genetic) wouldn't be passed on. If it was the result of a blow to the head or some non-genetic defect, than he would still fail, and if wolves had need of morals, he would be put to death by other wolves (I doubt they would opt for rehabilitation.)
Now, if it's a harmless enough deviation (masochism for humans, or a wolf that like to gnaw on its own tail), it would serve no purpose to be morally wrong. Such a deviation wouldn't affect a creature's nature. Such a deviation would be comparable to a subjective preference.

Summarizing that bit - objective ethics are ethics that advance human nature, which is part of the definition of being a human. When you say a human is, you're including in the definition human everything that a human is, and saying such a being exists. A human is, therefore a human ought to what would satisfy the definition of what a human is. All those needs and desires that I would say all humans have are what I would call objective, because they aren't (necessarily) being held from the point of view of one specific human, but from all humans.

I would still say that saying "I am a human, therefore I ought not initiate force against other humans" still leaves out a bunch of steps, although I would say that the statement is true. (Now I'm going to force myself to work out all the steps in-between). Perhaps one fault of mine was attempting to start the is-ought with "I own myself..." when that would be part of the overall definition of a human?

When would it be objectively right to steal something? If you stole something of mine, or destroyed something of mine, I would be well within my rights to take something of yours. Granted we have courts and such to determine how much of what I can steal. I suppose rather than "steal" a better word there would be "forced trade."

And again, perhaps this isn't how Objectivists think, in which case I guess I'm not an Objectivist. No biggie. I still like most (if not all) Objectivist philosophy.

And I gotta thank you, as well. I usually don't get as much stimulating argument from anybody else I know, and definitely not about philosophy.
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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#30710 - 10/23/09 11:30 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: CJB]
ballbreaker Offline
member


Registered: 09/04/07
Posts: 134
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Originally Posted By: CJB
Part of the definition of living things is that living things want to propogate/to pass on their genes. Not all living things really care much beyond giving birth, but most 'higher' animals also take care of their young. Not all animals that take care of their young have the ability to provide them with something permanent (like a home of some sort), but can only provide them with other things (milk, food, knowledge). Humans are animals that feel these imperatives, but unlike most (if not all) living things, we make choices. We have to use our minds in order to survive. This makes us unique in the animal kingdom.


Hm. I like the sociobiological approach, but you might be defining human beings too narrowly when you write that they want to propagate their genes. At least, the statement requires some clarification...your wanting to propagate your genes is the underlying factor behind all the sex you want to have. Whether you're actually spreading your seed in a meaningful manner is a different question.

Your distinction between animals providing their young with 'some things' (like milk) but not 'other things' is superficial in my opinion...that a crocodile does not do much for its young after birth seems to be a correlative of its own genetic imperatives, which aren't necessarily any 'better' or 'worse' than our own.

We should remember that while 'evolution' often takes on a kind of 'linear' aspect denoting 'progress' this is far from the case. We should be cautious of drawing on our biology to make hierarchical claims about living things.

 Quote:
A wolf (why do I use wolves so much?) ought to hunt to get its food. A wolf ought not randomly murder one of his packmates (key word here: randomly). The difference between a wolf and a man is that a wolf doesn't really have the choice to act contrary to its nature, i.e. to not hunt or randomly kill another wolf in its pack. Which is why wolves don't need morals.


Well in the context of sociobiology the wolf is doing what most complex living beings do in these situations, cost-benefit analysis. Ultimately human cost-benefit analysis comes in more complicated and nuanced forms (like morality) but doesn't really differ in kind. I hope this doesn't sound too essentialist, but it seems odd that the wolf cannot act contrary to its 'nature' (Whatever this means) yet is capable of a relatively wide range of behavior in certain contexts.

Just food for thought now: perhaps complex human cost-benefit analysis (like morality, i.e. weighing and judging actions and consequences) is simply a part of human nature, and so biology determines us as much as it does the wolf? (I don't subscribe to this particular view myself really)

Basically, the question is whether humans are really acting contrary to their 'nature' (which requires some definition).


 Quote:
There's something not right, not natural with things like masochism and pedophilia (...and let the flaming begin on that statement). Would a wolf that gained pleasure from killing his own puppies fulfill his purpose of propogation/advancement of the species?


This is very interesting. If you haven't read any E.O. Wilson I would highly recommend it, probably along with Steven (sp.) Pinker too.

Your statement is strange because it implies that every activity we do literally should translate to spreading our seed. But this is clearly not the case!

Remember: it may, perhaps, be your 'purpose' to make tons of children, but do you? Do most people? Of course not (not in the West anyways). But they're definitely having sex (with all kinds of birth control)...which I'll grant may be a biological imperative as you describe.

So what does this show? It shows that while biology explains ultimate causes of our behavior, it cannot fully (or at least very usefully) explain some proximate causes.

"Deviance wouldn't be passed on" presupposes that such deviance is inheritable.

Uh oh.

Against our wills we've been dragged into the nature-nurture (false dichotomy?) debate!

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Summarizing that bit - objective ethics are ethics that advance human nature, which is part of the definition of being a human.


Doesn't history show us that free market liberal democracies are very poor at fulfilling our 'purpose' as humans? Wouldn't we be better off in some neo-tribal super-eugenicist society?

Marhawkin (sp. sorry man lol) mentioned Evolutionarily Stable Strategies...the idea is very interesting, especially in connection with liberal democracy and other Western memes...

Of course, we might suggest that our current system is an ESS, but this seems somewhat detached from whether it ought to be the ESS in existence...as communists, anarchists, fascists, etc. are ultimately arguing (even though they aren't consciously aware of this). So why should an Objectivism-based society be the dominant ESS? Why does Objectivism necessarily meet the needs of 'human nature' better than other frameworks? Seems arbitrary to me.

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#30716 - 10/23/09 02:32 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: ballbreaker]
CJB Offline
member


Registered: 10/12/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

Hm. I like the sociobiological approach, but you might be defining human beings too narrowly when you write that they want to propagate their genes. At least, the statement requires some clarification...your wanting to propagate your genes is the underlying factor behind all the sex you want to have. Whether you're actually spreading your seed in a meaningful manner is a different question.

Your distinction between animals providing their young with 'some things' (like milk) but not 'other things' is superficial in my opinion...that a crocodile does not do much for its young after birth seems to be a correlative of its own genetic imperatives, which aren't necessarily any 'better' or 'worse' than our own.

We should remember that while 'evolution' often takes on a kind of 'linear' aspect denoting 'progress' this is far from the case. We should be cautious of drawing on our biology to make hierarchical claims about living things.


For that clarification - and this is borrowing heavily from Ayn Rand's theory of epistemology and concept-formation, as I understand it - Defining "humans" fully as a concept would be a project of epic proportions. Included in the definition would be everything about humans, i.e. Humans are living creatures, of the animal kingdon, of the mammalian whatever (so sue me, I don't have all that crap memorized) etc. Inherent in the definition of "human" would be the definition of "primate," "hominid," etc. etc. all the way down to "living creature" and even beyond that, to matter, etc. Every fact that is true of every other living creature is also true of a human. Part of that definition is desire to propogate. When you move up the tree, you see cases of more care being taken care of for the young and other phenomena particular to a group of animals. Some lower* forms of animals don't do much more than give birth (or lay eggs) and then leave. This isn't speakly badly of their genetic imperatives, because their genetic imperatives work for that group of animals.

*When I say lower, I don't mean to say so much that we're superior to them because we're more evolved than them, because for some animals, they hit the mark where evolving more isn't necessary. Sure, a shark with a frikkin' laser on its head would probably be better at killing its prey, but it does perfectly fine on its own. By "lower" I mean that they diverged on the tree of life a longer time ago than other, more closely related animals.


 Originally Posted By: ballbreaker

Well in the context of sociobiology the wolf is doing what most complex living beings do in these situations, cost-benefit analysis. Ultimately human cost-benefit analysis comes in more complicated and nuanced forms (like morality) but doesn't really differ in kind. I hope this doesn't sound too essentialist, but it seems odd that the wolf cannot act contrary to its 'nature' (Whatever this means) yet is capable of a relatively wide range of behavior in certain contexts.

Just food for thought now: perhaps complex human cost-benefit analysis (like morality, i.e. weighing and judging actions and consequences) is simply a part of human nature, and so biology determines us as much as it does the wolf? (I don't subscribe to this particular view myself really)

Basically, the question is whether humans are really acting contrary to their 'nature' (which requires some definition).


I guess I do sort of kind of go for the view that morality, etc., are part of human nature, at least a little bit. Our intelligence, rationality, etc., are our means for survival, and are more advanced than other animals. Through evolution, we've gone from being primates who use their physique (strength, agility, stamina, any other physical D&D stat you can think of) for survival in addition to their intelligence and reasoning; to a primate who uses our intelligence and reasoning first, and our physique second. That means that our minds are the result of thousands of years of biological evolution.
A side effect of using our minds would be that now we need something other than instinct to guide our actions. That's where our morals come, our need to make decisions. If we had no morals, but still had the ability to make decisions outside of our instincts, I doubt we would have made it very far. That would, however, be an interesting hypothetical to ponder over...

 Quote:

This is very interesting. If you haven't read any E.O. Wilson I would highly recommend it, probably along with Steven (sp.) Pinker too.

Your statement is strange because it implies that every activity we do literally should translate to spreading our seed. But this is clearly not the case!

Remember: it may, perhaps, be your 'purpose' to make tons of children, but do you? Do most people? Of course not (not in the West anyways). But they're definitely having sex (with all kinds of birth control)...which I'll grant may be a biological imperative as you describe.

So what does this show? It shows that while biology explains ultimate causes of our behavior, it cannot fully (or at least very usefully) explain some proximate causes.

"Deviance wouldn't be passed on" presupposes that such deviance is inheritable.

Uh oh.

Against our wills we've been dragged into the nature-nurture (false dichotomy?) debate!



I'll put them on my reading list.

I thought I said something along the following lines, but it doesn't look like I did.

Spreading our seed is one of our imperatives, but it's not the only imperative and could be overridden by other imperatives. There are other biological imperatives that factor in as well.

As a side note, humans are one of the few species that has sex for fun. One reason that it is so pleasurable, I believe, is because that whole childbirth thing is so uncomfortable that if we didn't have a mechanism for enjoying sex, and a woman didn't want to go through all that pain, we might have died out as a species long ago.

Back on track...yeah. This part kind of makes some of my argument fall apart...but I'll go with it anyway to see where it will lead me.
Another...perhaps not biological imperative...more like a mechanism of evolution, is to advance the species. From this point is where it gets less into individual biology and more into sociology or some other science, unless there's some kind of gene that tells an animal to (for lack of any better way of putting this) make the world a better place for his children (and relatives' children, and friends' children, etc.). I doubt that there is anything like that, but going from genes to memes, and idea that gets passed on to advance your group will mean that after every group, technology increases, ergo you're more able to defende against (or attack and take over) a group that wasn't infected with this particular meme.

I guess, going back to the is-ought problem...what makes this particular meme objectively morally better than any other meme? On one side, I could argue that the higher technology increases longevity. It doesn't really lead to a higher population, but it does lead to a higher quality of life...which begs the question "Why is quality of life morally superior?"...hmmm...
Plus, with all our technology, we now have the ability to pretty much wipe out all life, so that kinda defeats the purpose of propogation.

Well. Fuck. Just...fuck.

 Quote:

Doesn't history show us that free market liberal democracies are very poor at fulfilling our 'purpose' as humans? Wouldn't we be better off in some neo-tribal super-eugenicist society?


Dabbling into politics a bit, but that's OK

This would be true only if breeding was our only imperative. If increasing quality of life would also be an imperative (which I'm dubious on whether that's a biological imperative or otherwise), than such a society would not be better. For one thing, in such a purist society, you'd run on the problems of interbreeding. Additionally (and I mean this as factual, not racist), different races and ethnicities have different strengths (beyond cultural strengths, which is where diversity advocates stop) and weaknesses compared to other ethnicities. A nation of pure Aryan people would have a terribly high melanoma rate, whereas a nation of pure black people would eventually turn into a nation of sickle-cell anemia.
Note that I'm not advocating breeding different races of people, either.

Furthermore, killing off anyone not like you would also destroy any ideas they may have. Brilliant ideas that advance humanity are not held by any single group of people. All sorts of different races have had ideas or inventions that advanced humanity as a whole.

In a free market republic (which protects minorities, as opposed to a democracy, which can override the will of a minority of 49% of the people), the best ideas are brought forth that advance humanity. Typically, the more free a nation, the better ideas that come out of it. Also, the more an individual works for his own sake, the better quality of product he will create. I'm gonna stop here before I rant too much more on that subject.

This is where I may differ from other Objectivists here. They see that an individual working for his own sake is the highest moral purpose, which I agree with only if that work accomplishes something. If a guy "works" down at the corner, doing what he wants more than anything else...and that anything else is a completely useless exercise...than I wouldn't see that as fulfilling a moral purpose. Also, most other Objectivists see the fact that working for yourself increases the value of society as a whole as a secondary thing; like an "oh yeah, by the way, him doing what he loves also helps other people out by doing whatever, but that's not the point. The point is, he's doing what he loves."

 Quote:

Marhawkin (sp. sorry man lol) mentioned Evolutionarily Stable Strategies...the idea is very interesting, especially in connection with liberal democracy and other Western memes...

Of course, we might suggest that our current system is an ESS, but this seems somewhat detached from whether it ought to be the ESS in existence...as communists, anarchists, fascists, etc. are ultimately arguing (even though they aren't consciously aware of this). So why should an Objectivism-based society be the dominant ESS? Why does Objectivism necessarily meet the needs of 'human nature' better than other frameworks? Seems arbitrary to me.


Perhaps...more train of thought here...the current ESS is the current ESS because it works best? Best here meaning that the people under such a government don't openly revolt against it. As social animals, the form of socializing that will work best is the one that doesn't lead to armed revolt (as an example, I'm sure there could be other standards). If something better comes along that leads people to not want to revolt as much, than it would replace the older system...which is why you can see an "evolution" of social structures (feudalism -> mercantilism -> liberalism).
Problem with that argument...kinda kills morals.


So when I first got into this discussion, I was pretty sure I had some decent answers...now I find that it leading to more and more questions. I'm not sure whether I should be sad because I don't know as much as I thought, or happy because now I get to learn more stuff.
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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#30761 - 10/25/09 03:14 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
CJB Offline
member


Registered: 10/12/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
Well, I've thoroughtly confounded myself throughout this entire discussion...so as a parting shot, and I guess the root of the problem...
You ought not do anything at all if you don't make the choice to survive. If you don't make that choice (and there's no real moral reason to make that choice), than everything else is irrelevant. Morality, philosophy, religion, pleasure...none of that would matter if you're dead. Whether or not there is any kind of morality that would be based on objective facts of the universe would be irrelevant.
I guess as long as we've made the choice to live, and can debate about what the hell we should be doing with our lives after that choice...well, even if we never reach an agreement, at least we're still alive enough to deal with it.
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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