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#30480 - 10/13/09 05:02 PM Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem
ballbreaker Offline
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Loc: Toronto, Canada
Hey all. As many of you know, the principle of "Self-Ownership" is the idea that all individuals have a 'property in themselves'. From this it is supposed to follow that we stand in relation to one another as sovereign individuals and that, therefore, the non-aggression principle (i.e. to not harm others physically except in self-defense) ought to be the supreme moral law. This is the basis to most theories of libertarianism including Objectivism (no matter how upset Objectivists become when they're lumped in w/other libertarians).

I'd like to believe in the theory myself, but I'm wondering if there are others who may feel that it suffers from Hume's "Is-Ought Problem". That is, from the descriptive statement that ;individuals hold a property in themselves/are self-owning/whatever' we cannot necessarily make normative statements/derive moral laws; i.e. there is no connection between a thing's nature or fact of 'being' (I'm using this loosely) and how it should act.

Obviously this is a broader problem associated with natural rights but I thought I'd pose it anyways and see where the discussion goes.

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#30485 - 10/14/09 02:54 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
Doomsage680 Offline
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I do not see the direct connection between the idea of self-ownership and "how it should act". When it comes to Objectivism, my understanding is that one's individual liberties stem from existence in the sense that, I exist, so I must have the right to pursue survival, so I must be able to provide myself food, clothing, shelter, so I must have possession of myself in mind and body. And because others might not respect my right to survival, or my right to property of self and the earnings of my labor, I must have the right to self defense and the means to self defense.
I'm not sure if that is addressing what you brought up, but that is my understanding of the non-aggression principle's roots.
Now of course warfare and diplomacy often accompany each other, but it is my position that if one is forced to do something not in their self-interest, it is immoral and even harmful in the long term. US foreign policy is a long list of interventionist failures, because when we force policies on others not only is it undesirable to them but often leads to resentment. Short term gains are lost as conflicts are fueled by government interference, and even the temporary economic boosts provided by war are lost to foreign debt and increased monetary inflation, as well as the high cost of maintaining troops around the world. Nation's that avoid armed conflicts and favor diplomatic and non-interventionist solutions benefit with greater economic stability and less political resentment. I am open to all criticism, but this generally sums up my political stance.
I believe that the best policies are those that are in all participants best self-interests, because they will both have more motivation to pursue progress and fulfill promises.
I remember the quote, "When goods cross borders, soldiers don't".
_________________________
"I who have nothing but the comfort of my sins"
- Vinny Paz

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#30488 - 10/14/09 01:25 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: Doomsage680]
ballbreaker Offline
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Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Originally Posted By: Doomsage680
I do not see the direct connection between the idea of self-ownership and "how it should act". When it comes to Objectivism, my understanding is that one's individual liberties stem from existence in the sense that, I exist, so I must have the right to pursue survival, so I must be able to provide myself food, clothing, shelter, so I must have possession of myself in mind and body.


You're on the right track. The "Principle of Self-Ownership" is a more succinct way of putting all these ideas together. What I'm suggesting, however, is that the fact that you have possession of your mind and body (which is a descriptive fact which presupposes what you require to survive/provide an upkeep for this body and mind) does not necessitate any actual moral claims on others that 1) you should not be harmed/coerced, 2) you should be able to acquire private property and have this property respected as an extension of yourself.

So, in a nutshell, I'm saying there is no connection. You own yourself...great, seems axiomatic/self-evident, so I don't see how I could disprove it if I wanted to. But this fact of 'self-ownership' doesn't entail any moral duties on my part or any other, not necessarily anyways. Follow me?

 Quote:
US foreign policy is a long list of interventionist failures, because when we force policies on others not only is it undesirable to them but often leads to resentment. Short term gains are lost as conflicts are fueled by government interference, and even the temporary economic boosts provided by war are lost to foreign debt and increased monetary inflation, as well as the high cost of maintaining troops around the world.


It's interesting that you mention this. It wasn't clear to me whether or not you were an Objectivist or just had Objectivist leanings, but it would not be a great stretch to effectively but Rand in the neoconservative camp as far as foreign policy is concerned. This isn't a criticism necessarily, but just something to think about.

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#30489 - 10/14/09 02:04 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
Doomsage680 Offline
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That was a very good response, made me think about whether or not there is a sound base for Objectivism. It is this point I would like to pursue, as to address whether there is "some final, objective truth to the notion of good and evil." Now I have not been in favor of using "good and evil" because they usually mean "altruism or selfishness" which to me is a useless dichotomy. First, I would agree that Objectivism does not describe a way that everyone does live but rather a way people "should" live, while people actually live by some sort of mixed and matched ideas involving self-interest, altruism, or whatever they happen to think. I believe reality can be looked at objectively because I believe the individual, by virtue of living, has certain rights, which lead to morality.
Would you agree, or do you believe this is invalid? Or rather, would you believe that the concept of rights is also invalid, because people will act according to their choosing regardless?
If all rights are decided by who has the ability to do something, as well as the cost-benefit ratio for the actions, ...ahh shit as I was typing this I started thinking about it a lot and if I am correct, descriptive ethics, or at least morality people actually live by, is whatever they think is right, with those impressions given to them by society. But if one doesn't place too much value in society, as I don't, then one can basically live by what they can do in that society, of course considering that the society does hold some amount of power, and they should probably not piss off too many people unless they know they can get away with it.
I await your response as I think I suddenly just got it, at least to a certain extent. My beloved Ayn Rand...I might not be Objectivist anymore...I suddenly see the logic that my old mentor and theatre director told me about all that time back in high school.
Thanks for the great response, my mind is certainly very open at the moment.
_________________________
"I who have nothing but the comfort of my sins"
- Vinny Paz

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#30492 - 10/14/09 03:16 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
ballbreaker Offline
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Registered: 09/04/07
Posts: 134
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Originally Posted By: MawhrinSkel
Ethics. Worn-out dogma that she felt she needed and wanted to pass on to everyone else.


I'm not sure how you mean this statement, since dismissing 'objective' ethics seems apart from dismissing ethics as such.

 Originally Posted By: MawhrinSkel
I act nice to my surroundings so they'll be nice to me. If I feel I can get more out of being 'bad', I will. And I won't feel bad about it, unless I get caught. There is a simple cost/benefit ratio to everything you do. Playing by the sheep's rules gets you brownie points. Sometimes you can bend them, other times break them, without suffering ill effects for it.

Therein lies my own personal solution to self-ownership. I take pride in being free from those wretched rules, and didn't get there by substituting one set of 'oughts' for another.


This isn't so much a 'solution' to self-ownership as it is a dismissal of it; which is perfectly OK. After all, all 'reason' based arguments depend on acceptance or rejection of certain axioms as their starting points, so why can't we reject the axiom of self-ownership for a different axiom, like 'I act to benefit myself'.

However, Rand's ethical theory, despite its failings and shaky foundations, had a universality to it; what is right and wrong for X applies just as well to Y. Maybe we're getting too far into political or social ethics (or however we want to call it) but I can't see you advocating your 'personal' ethic as a universal ethic for others; by this I mean the ethic "do what benefits you most".

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#30494 - 10/14/09 04:55 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
Jake999 Offline
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Posts: 2230
 Originally Posted By: MawhrinSkel
As for Rand's universality, I completely agree. There is a streamlined feel to her philosophy, which makes up much of its appeal. Which is also partly the reason I don't trust it. Reality is everything but streamlined, as are people. I favor my own view, and will keep doing so until I find one I like better.


And THIS is precisely why ANY philosophy, ethic, religion, cooking recipe or any other facet of life is should be considered suspect and, in and of itself, fatally flawed. Universality is not applicable to humanity, excepting in the areas to which man has no current choice for opposition, such as man's need to eat, drink, or die.

I've found that absolutes demand exception, and popular dogmas (even if disguised as anarchistic change) change. LaVey once told me something that is relevant concerning universality. "If everyone is doing it, it's a sure sign that I SHOULDN'T."
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#30495 - 10/14/09 05:57 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: Jake999]
Jake999 Offline
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Registered: 11/02/08
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Should read and UNIVERSAL philosophy, ethic, relion... my typing with out coffee can be hazardous to the comprehension levels of the reader. Sorry.
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#30504 - 10/15/09 12:08 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
ballbreaker Offline
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 Quote:
I don't see her ethics as objective


Ok, let me clarify my position, since we're not actually at odds here.

You don't see her ethics as objective because you reject their objectivity (as do I). Fine. I'm only saying that Rand is claiming implicitly that her ethics are objective. Any natural rights theorist, for example, or a human rights proponent (most, anyways), would say so about their own ethics. Which is why Rand (any theorist of this kind would do I suppose) helps us to see the problem systemic in attempts to ground ethics in universal truth/objectivity/God/etc.

My point in the original statement that you had done away with "objective ethics" but not "ethics as such" was exactly what it sounded like...even though we grant that we can't, as above, ground our ethics in truth-claims it doesn't mean to say we don't still possess ethical theories that are implicit in our actions (or how we theorise we would act). Similarly, we might have broader ethical prescriptions we'd like everyone in society to follow; a (hopefully) non-controversial one might be "don't kill" (yes, we might add an 'except in self-defense' clause or whatever).

How do we work broader ethical theories out now, since without 'Reason' we're mostly practicing emotivism? This question is not a criticism of our common position, but it's a question worth asking I believe.

 Quote:
Reality is everything but streamlined, as are people. I favor my own view, and will keep doing so until I find one I like better.


Hm. What do you mean by 'reality'? Physical reality in general or what?

I don't know how I feel about your statement that people are everything but streamlined...I don't know how this squares with the assertion that we're just clever, complex animals. Sociobiologists would have us believe we're much more streamlined than we'd like to believe.

Just food for thought.

 Quote:
For the time being, I just think operating in absolutes and certain perceived axiomatic truths begs the question of "What if it ain't so?" Some things are close enough to truth to treat them as such, but too often 'ethical' questions stray into a gray area I wouldn't feel comfortable with if I adhered to a rigid view of 'good' or 'evil'.


Hm. Axioms are, by definition, true. I guess we can question whether any proposition is self-evident, which seems to be where you're going.

But you're right...even if we did have a set of axioms, we wouldn't necessarily have any solid way of ordering them so as to give primacy to one over another. So even if we did accept that there can be self-evident truths, this doesn't tell us anything deeper about..well...anything.

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#30505 - 10/15/09 02:06 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: ballbreaker]
Doomsage680 Offline
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Registered: 10/01/09
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Loc: NJ, USA
I have come to the conclusion that in addition to there being no God, no absolute right or wrong, there is also no such thing as rights. They are simply concepts that may or may not be respected by others, so one only has the "rights" that they can enforce, as long as they can enforce them. The only self-evident truth is that people will do what they want, if they can.
_________________________
"I who have nothing but the comfort of my sins"
- Vinny Paz

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#30517 - 10/15/09 02:09 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: Jake999]
Zorg Offline
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Registered: 08/30/09
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Loc: A Galaxy Far, Far Away
 Originally Posted By: Jake999
[quote=MawhrinSkel]

And THIS is precisely why ANY philosophy, ethic, religion, cooking recipe or any other facet of life is should be considered suspect and, in and of itself, fatally flawed.


Context.
Any philosophy devoid of context is bullshit.
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"The average person thinks he isn’t" Father Lorenzoni

"Plato was a bore."
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#30542 - 10/16/09 09:03 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
6Satan6Archist6 Offline
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As stupid as it is, you probably would be fired if you were a teacher at an American school and gave that same assignment. Ever since school shootings have been popular to report, schools have adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for things like. It has gotten to the point where even bringing a toy gun to school or jokingly telling your friend you are going to "kill them" because they piss you off is enough to get one suspended and possibly expelled.

You could argue all you want that it was an attempt to get the students to take a good look at their value judgements etc. but I doubt if it would help much.

If I had been given such an assignment by a teacher I would probably have said something along the lines of: While it isn't exactly wrong or right for you to try to kill me, it would be rather stupid of you. Try and kill me and see how well that works out for you. Unless you intend on shooting me in my sleep be prepared for one hell of a fight. And even if you were able to kill me it would not end there as I have any army of friends who would track you down and repay the favor.

Speaking of killing; I am about to go hunting with my sister's boyfriend in about 20 minutes. I have never been hunting before but I figure it is a skill I should probably learn.
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#30545 - 10/16/09 09:24 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: 6Satan6Archist6]
Jake999 Offline
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Posts: 2230
TODAY you would get fired, but I remember assignments during my high school classes where we were asked to justify the killing of the Vietnamese in their own country and contest that against what we would feel if a "marauding army" crossed our borders to kill Americans. Of course, I graduated high school in 1969, and to say it was almost a schizophrenic state of affairs in education as well as society as a whole would be oversimplifying the time.

The "peace between the wars" that happened after Vietnam was a turning point in America where classroom assignments weren't quite so controversial. The last troops left Vietnam in 1973 (the last combat troops in 1972), and "the left" was feeling the high moral ground in America. We began to think in terms of "there are no winners and there are no losers..." I don't think even the kids really bought that one... and we tended to stress pacification rather than confrontation in education.


In a lot of ways, I think that's still pretty much the way it is, and while we might be more "pro troop" on the surface these days, and look at them much like Neil Young's "kinder, gentler, machine gun hand," there's still an uneasiness within the academic community to confront the past in which we had to make those decisions as kids in the field, often fresh out of classes. The parents (the old left) and the kids (coddled by decades of "peace",) just aren't anxious to look that deeply inward.

It's kind of refreshing to see that someone is taking hypothetical back into school and asking this generation to at least think about it, even if it's now from a place of comfort and relative safety that those of us in the 60's and early 70's never would have had. For us it was a reality of the times, and I think our answers would be worded differently than those you'd get today... IF we were allowed to answer.


_________________________
Bury your dead, pick up your weapon and soldier on.


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#30586 - 10/17/09 11:35 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: ballbreaker]
CJB Offline
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Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
I've never really had a problem for the is-ought problem, mostly because I've never seen a situation where it actually applies to anything. When a person ought to do something, it's not because of any is, but because they have a goal in mind as well as the is.

"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.

During your period of enslavement or before I kill you, you can fight me if you choose, which is a choice made on the goal that you want to live. You want to live itself is another ought statement, based on how much you value your life. Why ought you value your life? I value my life because I like it. Why ought you like your life?
The spiral goes down like this, ad infinitum, with no "ought" being coming from an "is" statement on its own (not that I can see anyway, excpept for maybe "We're genetically programmed to...").

Another spiralling example: I'm fat, I ought to lose weight. Why? So I can be attractive. Why? So I can get laid. Why? Because it feels good. Why? Because our bodies are programmed that way so we want to have sex to have babies and continue to species. Why?
Now, once you get to this point, you can get a lot of weird and interesting questions and answers, and some (like this one, for me, at least) which we may not even know the answers to. Hell, maybe "Because we're biologically programmed that way" is the "is" statement in the first place.

Now coming from an Is statement forward with no defined goal...let's look at "Individuals own their own mind." With not goal in mind, there is no "ought." Any factual "is" statement doesn't have an ought without something else determining what the ought should be. The chair is brown, it's raining outside, my head hurts...these statements in and of themselves without a goal in mind lead to nothing that ought to happen (although they may have a "therefore" in there..."it's raining, therefore the ground is wet," which is not an ought statement.)

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" (OUGHT)

In a nutshell, I guess I see the "is-ought" problem as something of a fallacy. The fallacy is based on Hume's looking at other fallacy's. If you see "oughts" as deriving from a fact ("is") and a goal (I want to), than you see no is-ought problem. I suppose the real problem would be deciding where your goals come from, but aside from cases where genetic programming comes into play, I don't see an answer.

Sorry if that seemed a bit long-winded, by the way, but that's just the way I am.
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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#30647 - 10/20/09 01:53 AM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: CJB]
Doomsage680 Offline
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CJB, you bring up an interesting idea, though I'm pretty sure I disagree, if I understand you correctly. You say, ""Individuals own themselves" (IS) + "(most) Individuals want to live long and happy lives" (GOAL) = "Individuals ought not initiate harm against each other" (OUGHT)"

Even if we accept that "Individuals own themselves", there is the goal aspect- "(most) individuals want to live long and happy lives.
It is likely true that most individuals WANT to live, but this does not directly translate into my recognition of that desire. If it benefits me that some individuals do not live long lives, or happy lives, than I Will do what I can to interfere or disregard their desire. Therefore, the Ought becomes irrelevant.
The Is-Ought problem only becomes irrelevant if all involved parties share the same Goal, otherwise, force Will be initiated in some way.


"If you see "oughts" as deriving from a fact ("is") and a goal (I want to), than you see no is-ought problem. I suppose the real problem would be deciding where your goals come from, but aside from cases where genetic programming comes into play, I don't see an answer."

I don't understand what you mean by Oughts being derived from Is. From what I understand of your logic, "Individuals want to eat(IS) + Individuals want to live long and happy lives (Goal) = Individuals ought not to eat each other (Ought)"
What if by some circumstances a group of individuals finds a need to eat another? The Is and the Ought are in contradiction. Though these circumstances may be rare, they show the Is-Ought Problem by its principles.

If I have misinterpreted your argument, please correct me.
_________________________
"I who have nothing but the comfort of my sins"
- Vinny Paz

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#30655 - 10/20/09 05:06 PM Re: Self-Ownership and the Is-Ought Problem [Re: Doomsage680]
CJB Offline
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Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
You know what sucks? When you type out a reply for fifteen minutes, and then hit "alt-back" instead of "ctrl-back", and then have to start over again.

 Originally Posted By: Doomsage680
CJB, you bring up an interesting idea, though I'm pretty sure I disagree, if I understand you correctly. You say, ""Individuals own themselves" (IS) + "(most) Individuals want to live long and happy lives" (GOAL) = "Individuals ought not initiate harm against each other" (OUGHT)"

Even if we accept that "Individuals own themselves", there is the goal aspect- "(most) individuals want to live long and happy lives.
It is likely true that most individuals WANT to live, but this does not directly translate into my recognition of that desire. If it benefits me that some individuals do not live long lives, or happy lives, than I Will do what I can to interfere or disregard their desire. Therefore, the Ought becomes irrelevant.
The Is-Ought problem only becomes irrelevant if all involved parties share the same Goal, otherwise, force Will be initiated in some way.

"If you see "oughts" as deriving from a fact ("is") and a goal (I want to), than you see no is-ought problem. I suppose the real problem would be deciding where your goals come from, but aside from cases where genetic programming comes into play, I don't see an answer."

I don't understand what you mean by Oughts being derived from Is. From what I understand of your logic, "Individuals want to eat(IS) + Individuals want to live long and happy lives (Goal) = Individuals ought not to eat each other (Ought)"
What if by some circumstances a group of individuals finds a need to eat another? The Is and the Ought are in contradiction. Though these circumstances may be rare, they show the Is-Ought Problem by its principles.

If I have misinterpreted your argument, please correct me.


Oughts being derived from Is is the whole point of the Is-Ought problem. Hume said that he noticed people would say stuff about how things are, and then determine how things SHOULD be, and that would be where they got their moral premises from. These other people that he's criticizing are basically calling for a universal moral system to guide people in their daily lives. Hume says that we can't look at how things are and decide how things should be. I think that there are (at least some) objective morals that people should abide by. I don't get there by looking at how everything IS and deciding from that how it OUGHT to be, but I look at what IS, what most people want, need, or desire, and from that point determine what the OUGHT should be.

A person's own is+goal=oughts may not be universal, but there are certain almost universal is's, goals, and therefore oughts. That's what laws should be made from. Most people (presumably) own themselves, and most people want to live long and happy lives, therefore people shouldn't initiate force against each other. If you want to add more to the formula for either your own subjective or an overall objective set of morals, you can put in cost-benefit analyses, what you're willing to do to get the goal, etc.

One of the things you have to think of...if YOU own yourself, and YOU want a long and happy life, but you don't care about other people's long and happy lives...those other people DO care about their lives, and may take exception to your trying to kill them or make them miserable. This will make them liable to try to kill you or make you miserable. As long as everybody follows the Ought (Do not initiate force), than everybody wins. If you initiate force against someone who you know won't retaliate, and you won't get in trouble for it, and it actually accomplishes some goal you have (I am assuming you're not just some bully who gets his kicks off on hurting other people), than as long as it's not against me or someone I care about, go for it (apparently I wouldn't make a very good cop). The universal Ought here, though, is probably assuming that most people do give a damn and won't put up with your shit. I'm not going to preach anything dumb like mystical karma here, but practically, if you're mean to someone, they're likely to be mean back. That would decrease your own happiness, therefore negating your goal of being happy.

Now, if you and I become deserted on an island with no food source, than our IS changes, and our means and analyses and so forth changes. Now, we don't have the ability to get food without eating each other. In such a case, assuming both of us want to live and are willing to live with ourselves after eating another person, than there will be an epic battle (...or a sneaky rock smashed over one of our heads). In such a case, unless both of us are willing to die by the "don't eat your neighbor" principle, force would become obvious. (and just so you know, if we're trapped on a desert island and you tell me you're not going to eat me because of your morals, than don't expect to wake up in the morning).

That might be where I got a bit derailed, in the "universal" vs. "personal" moral system. A good (in my opinion) universal moral system, translated into law, will leave more than enough elbow room for a person to develop their own moral code, which might be in stark contrast to another person's moral code. I wouldn't cheat on a girlfriend, whereas you may see nothing wrong with it. As long as you're not in a contract with a person to not cheat on your significant other (i.e. marriage), than I wouldn't really care what you do. Honoring contracts seem to be a good place for a universal law to be put in place, otherwise contracts would become meaningless and EVERYONE would suffer for it.

I hope that cleared up what I was trying to say. Feel free to disagree. Best way to learn stuff is like this (and that applies to the both of us).
_________________________
~~CJ
"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
-Ayn Rand

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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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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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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
member


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
member


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
Posts: 2956
Loc: New York City
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
_________________________
Courage Conquering Fear
Fuck em if they can't take a joke
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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!

 Quote:
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...

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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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