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Posts posted by Charles

  1. I worked in a large supermarket chain once. They have a policy that states - whatever price is stated on the product is what you must sell it for - sometimes staff mislabel, or mis-reduce products and they go for much less. On the basis that you genuinely thought you were paying the correct price, I don't see a moral dilema on your part, though I would say it was thoroughly decent of you to tell the manager. In the event he then asked for the money I would not have paid the difference having bought several packets over a period of time - that would hurt my wallet and I have no responsibility to do so, though had I just done it once and realized straight away I would consider the managers request reasonable.

  2. Well, other than news coverage the two things I would have thought they were going for are casualty numbers and transport infrastructure disruptment. However relatively the numbers are low, and with the exception of the stations (which are mostly on one line (the circle line) all tubes are more or less back to running normally. From this It might be inferred these are inexperienced terrorists without direct mujhadeen training - possibly, and this is what I fear, homegrown.

  3. In the EXACT same situation, two men could both be acting rationally, justly, honestly, with integrity, and be rightfully proud of their actions etc - and still act completely differently from one another.  Yet both of them could still be acting properly - morally - due to their differing contexts. 

    I can appreciate that, and I have not tried to argue otherwise - I am simply saying that for something as basic as human empathy you can expect an pretty similar array of responses that could probably be encompassed by the the intention 'help the child somehow'.

    Betsy Speicher: This is similar to a view, popular today among many ethical theorists, called Moral Intuitionism. Would this be where you are coming from?

    I will have to research the theory, but having had a preliminary glance at some articles on it I found this:

    Nagel's referral to consistency has a long tradition; it was accepted by such prominent philosophers as Kant and Mill. However, another trend, objectivist intuitionism, seems to prevail in contemporary moral philosophy. There are two main components of objectivist moral intuitionism: the objectivist and the intuitionist component.

    The objectivist component is a claim that there are objective moral truths such as the fact that it is wrong to eat human flesh or to burn cats alive for fun. The intuitionist component says that the best (or the only way) to grasp those moral facts is by moral conscience or intuition. Usually Christian philosophers refer to moral conscience understood as a way to recognize the truth in ethics given to us by God -- Newman is a prominent representative of this group.

    Now obviously there using the term objectivist in opposition to subjectivist and are not talking about Objectivism. Their objectivism is basically intrinsicism. What I am arguing is that there are if there are ethical constucts and principles which a man lives his life by and they are to be judged Objectively, i.e. by reality in so much as they reflect reality, it can help to take some intuitive common ground into account - such as the fact we are all human, when making rational decisions. I mean, its the intuition that probably guides most actions of emergency aid. Im not rating compassion a primary virtue, it should always be harnessed by reason, but I think it has a place.

    Im going to take time out from this debate for a while, whilst I do some reading around the points that have been raised.

  4. Sorry to double post - these are two other Brian Smith quotes.

    What determines that value and that difference in valuation is one's context. There is nothing that is a value, regardless of context. That is intrinsicism.
    By seeking to create an 'obligation' for a man, you are seeking to standardize and set in stone all men's hierarchy of values. You are seeking to say that a man must place this particular value above his other values. That he has no choice in the matter. That context does not matter. And you are saying if he refuses to do so, he is necessarily acting immorally.

    You know what, your right - I am saying there are some values that are common to the majority of men - but not because they are intrinsic - because a basic human empathy is part of what it means to be human. As an Objectivist you can be well informed, and develop your analytic skills for assessing the situations, and these may tell you at times not to act in spite of your empathy. But when your empathy is true, is it not an aspiration common to any normal man, to take steps in aid? But if you evade rationally analysing the situation, habitualized to assuming you are in no position to help, could you not be missing some really serious things going on around you that you could be stopping? The obligation comes in that you are obliged to yourself to rationally consider things to the extent you can, and not be ignorant, evasive or whimsical. So then are there things you aren't doing because you've evaded rational consideration that? In which case have you not wronged yourself? Have you not acted unethically? The values shared so happen to pretty universally contextual because we are all human.

    Thankyou for the Ayn Rand quote Betsy, Its helping me express whats bugging me at the moment.

  5. The following quotes are all from Brian Smith's two replies, which I shall address.

    You say you understand why charity is not a duty. But then you present an example and ask if a charity case is not an 'obligation' to another man in such instances.

    I am not contradicting myself - I am saying charity is not an end in and of itself. It is a rationally appropriate course of action in given situations, no?

    such situations as you have described, acting to help another man could be considered a good - a value. Does that mean one is required to achieve that value? No.

    Required by......? I am not saying you are required by God, or society or even the child, to achieve this value - I am saying you are required in so much as it is your moral perogative to act reasonably. My argument is that rational self-interest extends so far as to encompass a basic human empathy for innocent sufferers whom, if you can help without detriment to your self or livelyhood, you are obliged to help, to the extent that you are obliged to act rationally in your own self interest as a matter of ethics. Ethics = duty. The duty of yourself to make decisions that reflect reality. Here what I'm trying to boil down to is a Golden Rule, which I would hope and assume has an emotional bearing on most of us, 'to do for others, in so much as they are innocent, as much as you would have them do for you, as you are innocent'. Its not unconditional compassion, its rational compassion - empathy for minds that could reflect your own and have not been marred by their own wrong decisions. To consciously ignore actions and decisions you could make is evasion I guess.

  6. Thanks for that Tom. Ayn Rand would no doubt have placed concepts such as self-esteem and individuality as major virtues within the grand scheme of her philosophical system. Her comments regarding 'proper' compassion I fully support. But I do want to return to the idea of charity being a moral duty. I can see and understand why charity, in and of itself is not a duty - this goes back to what Rayk said about compassion:

    "I do not hold compassion as a virtue, because it requires people to be suffering so that one can be compassionate."

    However, if we take a man who has mastered his major virtues and is living a decent productive life, who then becomes aware of certain actions his government is making that he can see are encouraging the fate of innocent sufferers (say, concentration camp victims), does he not a rational perogative to do something, not throw away his riches or sacrifice himself, but to let his voice be heard? Wouldn't it be unreasonable if he chose not to voice his mind and put his observations on the table? If rational self-interest is the standard of ethics in Objectivism, then does not this situation, for this man (rather than in terms of primary values in Ms Rands philosophical system) offer morally right and wrong choices? Is he not obliged to act reasonably, to act ethically?

  7. I do not choose to make negatives in life the important but that is what I think most compassion seekers are trying to do.  So I do not hold compassion as a virtue, because it requires people to be suffering so that one can be compassionate.

    Yes, I'd agree that there are a large number of people that place compassion, as a virtue, centre piece in their lives. A lot of Christians make it their sole purpose to try and not sin to prevent suffering, which they themselves declare to be a futile quest (!?).

    By the definition of compassion that you used, I think one could have compassion with or for someone.  I think that person would probably have to have a connection some how, either consciously or physically. 

    Yes, there can be no compassion without sufficient empathy. Bah unusual circumstances (say, you have suffered trauma yourself) one could expect a level of empathic response to certain serious actions the norm. I.e. there are some things for which a lack of such response might reflect such problems as trauma on your behalf.

    But I would not have compassion for someone that is responsible for their pain or suffering directly.  So I would not have compassion for a drunk that gets thrown out of their house and loses all their possessions.

    Yes, would this not be the difference between an undistinguishing Christian compassion and a circumstantial rational compassion?

  8. If by "seriously abused" you mean the sort of abuse that justifies the state removing the child from parental custody, then the proper act to take is to report the situation to the authorities. Much as would be done for any crime. If, on the other hand, the abuse you witness is not of a criminal nature, then how you act depends upon your own personal context and the context of the abuse.

    Well, presuming a decent legal system, yes, by 'seriously abused' I am describing an event that would justify state intervention. A single violent display of volatile behaviour that would indicate such a lack of presence of mind in the parent so as to place the child in a position of substantial risk.

    By the context of the abuse I mean the circumstances under which it happens. If the man is six feet eight inches tall, carries a knife on his belt, and has a large tattoo across his open chest that says "I'd rather kill than read," then you might want to take that context to mind.  B)

    hehe! :) Yes, after thinking of similar examples, I decided to go for the simpler 'Police being more effective than you' argument!

  9. Burgess Laughlin:

    (I am assuming a normal, not an emergency context, which might alter my response -- but even then circumstances and therefore context are determinants.)

    I did in fact have an emergency in mind. Emergencies can be on a small or large scale in terms of people involved. An example of the small being you noticing a young child being seriously abused by a parent, is not the rational decision to take some form of action for the child? I realize the operative word I used was 'obliged' in my opening post, Ill explain what I mean: the decision must be yours, but you are still accountable to reason, you can still make a good decision or a bad decision; a right decision or a wrong decision. So I mean 'Obligated by reason; by reality' NOT by other people. The child's need has no demand over you - you can walk away and in an ideal Objectivist state, perhaps not even be legally accountable for not choosing to help. But morally, you still made an unethical judgement, no*?

    *in terms of specifics - i.e. what action taken, your suddenly in a continuum - it might be wiser to call law enforcement that to get directly involved and put your life at risk - your presence could in fact raise the stakes, where as the presence of the law might have a different effect on the father etc etc. For the purposes of this ethical argument I'm talking about intentions and the raw decision to help or not to help.

    Now, I did have a larger emergency in mind. Though I'll wait for the go ahead in case you want to take issue with anything I've said here. Thankyou for your response.

    (Burgess, I hope you don't mind me giving you the same answer on and here - this question is fairly important to me and I wanted a wide audience.)

  10. I assume most if not all people here have heard of the terms 'rational self-interest' and 'enlightened self-interest'. I am asking the members of this forum to explain to what extent they believe compassion is encompassed by these terms. Ayn Rand often spoke of altruism as the great evil, and with this I agree - putting others existence before your own negates the entire point of existing. Compassion is defined as "suffering with another; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another" (from, or "a sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce such suffering." (from Wikipedia).

    Now there is a great deal of suffering in this world for which the sufferers are responsible in some way, shape or form. Then there are those for whom there is no clear cut cause of suffering - born into an abyss of suffering, which is both futile and pointless. Now if there were things each of us could do, out of our own volition, to alleviate these peoples suffering so as to make their fate their own, without any mortal threat to ourselves and the stability of our government (assuming, idealistically, it's only acting in its true role as protector of rights), would an individual not be rationally obliged to offer that help?

    The distinction between those responsible for their suffering and those who are not would therefore equate to the difference between irrational and rational compassion.

  11. Facts are objective and unchanging from person to person.

    Truesay, but many facts are contextual and require you to understand other facts before you can understand them. Also, there are new facts and new concepts being created all the time. I like this knowledge tree idea though - integrated for completeness, as informative as it is interactive. I do not think there would be a single tree though - such a programme would have parameters, or lines of development which you could see down - different perspectives on the links between facts which you interchange. In fact the freedom to do that would probably allow you to see a lot more intuitive links and get a better feel for a subject.

    Something that might appeal to you, regarding the nature of a concept:

    Here in the department of neurobiology of vision at UCL there are plenty of concepts being put to the test. Research projects might test for certain types of memory or attention under certain conditions and as a result of their experiments have to redefine a word or restructure the language. Curious phenomenon crop up - some research suggests we can attend to things without being consciously aware of them, even though we are searching for them. Im getting at the idea that language and concepts can be reformulated to suit the data, a new theory can demand new language.

  12. Since Objectivism is not your philosophy, it would help me understand where you are "coming from" if you would describe your philosophy. Based on your comments here, it appears to be some form of pragmatism. Is that correct? If so, what is the basic tenet of your philosophy in each branch -- in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics? Your answer will help me understand your specific recommendations in foreign affairs.

    Metaphysics: Objective Reality

    Epistemology: Reason

    Ethics: Self interest

    Politics: Capitalism

    Aesthetics: Romantic Realism

    And these define the philosophy of Objectivism. However I do not describe myself as an Objectivist. Rather I understand what each of these things means, I understand the political and ethical ideals and I make it my purpose to live in accordance with them. In my experience to say you are an Objectivist has additional connotations and demands orthodoxy to specific applications of it.

    Here we are dealing with politics. The difference is I understand that in moving from A, the world as it is, to B, the world as it might be [capitalist], you cannot afford to be too obstinate. My 'recommendations' are what I'd realistically prefer to see - I know the WTO, the IMF, aren't going to be disbanded any time soon, that taxpayers money will continue to be spent on education, food (and freedom, however contradictory that may seen). I will try to influence policy away from that, but one step at a time - and the first step is not just giving money left, right and centre with no guarantees on how its spent.