Henrik Unné

The moral status of the typical average man

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This essay presents my moral evaluation of the typical average man. By “average man” I mean the man-in-the-street, the man (or woman) in an ordinary walk of life. In other words, the workers, the housewives, the bank clerks, the small businessmen and so forth. The “Joe Sixpacks” in other words. I mean the men and women who do not distinguish themselves in any obvious way. By *typical* average man, I mean the *most common* man-in-the-street, the one who belongs to the vast majority of the average men. I am aware that even “average men” do differ in their moral character, just as individual politicians, millionaires, college professors, scientists etc. do. Some average men are better than others, some are worse. I am here presenting my view of the majority of average men, of the typical average man.

That being said, what is my view of the moral status of the typical average man? My view is, in short, that he is a moral monster. That is a drastic assertion. It is very counterintuitive. After all, is not the term “moral monster”, a term that by definition only applies to a few men, to the exceptions among them? Well, the term cannot be defined in a statistical manner. It is arbitrary to assume a priori that moral monsters *have* to be the exceptions among men. And I am 55 years old, and I have interacted with a great many average men over the course of my life. I have been forced to the conclusion that the majority of average men are moral monsters by my observations of them. I have gone by the principle of following the facts *wherever* they lead. When I was young I viewed people in general as being innocent. I have been disillusioned.

I still regard every individual as “innocent until proven guilty”. When I pass an average man (or woman) on the street, I do not think to myself – “I despise that man”. Rather, if I give the subject any thought at all, I think to myself – “If I got to know that man, then going by the statistics, it is *likely* that it would turn out that he is the kind of man that I despise”.

What kind of empirical evidence can have led me to such an idea? Here are some concrete pieces of evidence. They will give you a taste of the experiences that I have had in my life.

1) A few months ago I was eating lunch with a few workmates. They were, like me, factory workers. One of them, R., was active in the labor union, and he was an outspoken Social Democrat. When we were talking, R. suddenly tossed out the remark that the Swedish government should send more illegal immigrants back to their home countries. Now, the vast majority of immigrants in Sweden are not parasites, they wish to work hard to achieve a better future for themselves and their loved ones. So they do no harm. And if they were sent back to their home countries, they would likely wind up in poverty or worse. And my workmate *must* in reason have been aware of that. R. was not an ignoramus. So he evidently thought nothing of advocating a political measure that he must have known would cause a great deal of human suffering. R. was *indifferent* to human suffering.

I spoke up and began arguing for free immigration. R. thought that that was amusing. He asked – “What do we do if the immigrants take all our jobs?”. I tried to explain to him that the supply of jobs is not fixed. If the wage demands are lowered, the employers´ money will suffice to employ more workers. And if the immigrants all worked, then the total production would increase, and prices would fall, so the lower nominal wages would not be lower *real* wages. And, of course, I made the point that the government has no *moral* right to restrict immigration. But my arguments just washed off of him. R. was oblivious. And he showed no signs of being ashamed of having advocated human suffering. For that reason, I decided right then and there that he was morally depraved. I regard few qualities of character as being more vicious than indifference to innocent others´ suffering.

2) On another occasion I tried to interest another workmate in the philosophy of Objectivism. I told her that I published a magazine on the web. I told her that it was about politics and philosophy. On hearing that she exclaimed – “Oh! Politics. Philosophy. Ideas. I am not interested!” and stopped the discussion. So this woman was *militantly* uninterested in ideas. That, I think, is depraved. Because she is militantly uninterested in things that affect her life, but which require an effort on her part to think. She sacrifices her own interests in order to be spared the trouble of thinking.

3) Over the years I have noticed a clear sign that there are a great many nihilists here in the suburb of Skarpnack, that I live in. The streets, sidewalks, parks etc. are namely overflowing with litter. There are ice cream wrappers, soda cans, banana peels, empty cigarette packs and the like all over the place. Now, this littering is *not* due to mere laziness. It is not the case that my neighbors here in Skarpnack are just too lazy to carry their trash to the nearest waste paper basket. Because most of the time, there is litter lying right underneath and beside each waste paper basket, even when it is not at all full. So evidently, many people throw their trash outside of the waste paper baskets *on purpose*. Their motive can only be to destroy the living environment in Skarpnack. Of course, when they do that they destroy the living environment for themselves as well. But, apparently, they value the destruction of their neighbors´ living environment so highly, that they are willing to pay that price. So they evidently are sheer nihilists.

4) I have been working my a-s off for years, trying to spread the philosophy of Objectivism in Sweden. Very few individuals have responded to my efforts. They are the exceptions. The *typical* response when I try to interest a person from an average walk of life in Objectivism is – amusement. When I argue for controversial ideas – such as free immigration, market wages, laissez-faire-capitalism, egoism etc. most of them do not become intrigued by these radical ideas, they do not prick up their ears – as a decent person would do. Instead they just shrug and dismiss me with an air of amusement. They are apparently thinking to themselves – “That guy is interested in philosophy. He´s really peculiar. What a weirdo!”

From experiences like these, and I have had *many* of them over the years, I have been forced to the conclusion that most average men are *indifferent* and mentally slothful. They are unwilling to think about abstract issues, because that takes effort. They want to go through life in a sort of daze. They are content to remain ignorant about such subjects as politics, economics and philosophy. The majority of men are slackers, when it comes to thinking about abstract issues.

Does that make them moral monsters? I think it does. Now, the majority of average men are not active perpetrators of evil, like for example Kant and Hitler. But they *are* the kind of men who by their passivity give the Kants and Hitlers of the world a chance. If only the average men of the world would bother to think, about abstract issues, then the Kants and Hitlers would not be able to do any harm to speak of. But the majority of the average men of the world are the kind who - “watch television while Rome burns”. The average men read the papers, and they *complain* about the evil in the world, but they cannot be bothered to get off their a-s and do something about it. Typically, the average man will not even bother to read a book about politics, economics or philosophy. He will not bother to write a letter to a newspaper or to his Congressman. Typically, he will just sit at home drinking beer, watching television and complaining.

Now, I think that indifference is just about the worst vice imaginable. I regard the passive enabling of evil as being in a sense even worse than the active perpetration of evil. Being content to – “watch television while Rome burns” is vicious. In order make this clear, let me use an analogy.

When I was a child in the USA back in the 1960s there was on one occasion a scandal, that I read about in the papers. One night, a woman was brutally raped and murdered, as I recall it. This happened just outside a large apartment building in New York City. According to the police, there were several dozen residents in the apartment building, who heard the woman scream for several minutes, as she was being raped and murdered. But not one individual did anything to help her. Nobody even called the police.

Now, would you say that *only* the rapist/murderer was evil? Or would you say that the dozens of residents in the apartment building, who did absolutely nothing while the woman was being raped and murdered, were evil as well? I would definitely say the latter. I could understand it if none of the residents had the courage to venture outside, in order to personally fight the woman´s assailant, since that would have been dangerous. But the residents *could* at least have picked up the phone and called the police, at no risk to themselves.

Now I say that the typical average man, who – “watches television while Rome burns” is in the same moral category as the residents of that apartment building. They read the papers. So they know about the wars, the famines, the dictatorships etc. They can in other words – “hear the woman´s screams”. Yet most of them do nothing. That is monstrous.

Now, according to the philosophy of Objectivism, nobody has a *duty* to “save the world”. But the choice to think about abstract issues is not altruistic. The choice *not* to think about abstract issues is tantamount to suicide. And I think that everyone knows it. Every man, on whatever level of intelligence he is located, knows in some terms that he needs knowledge to live. And in a modern society, he knows that such matters as politics and economics play a vital role for his own personal well-being. And he must in reason know that abstract knowledge is necessary to deal with political and economic matters. So if he really cared about his own welfare, then he would put forth the effort to obtain a knowledge of such subjects as politics and economics. Norwithstanding the fact that such knowledge is abstract. And if it was not easy to acquire that knowledge, the person would not just give up. He would persevere until he finally gained the knowledge.

Having such knowledge would serve his own interests. For example, would not every American be better off, if he had bothered to study the subject of economics *before* the current economic crisis erupted? Every American would be better off if he had found out, before the crisis, such things as that the stock market was obviously in a bubble, that it would be wise not to go deeply into debt, that housing was getting overpriced, that owning some gold bullion would protect him in the long run against the ravages of inflation, and so forth. So the men who stubbornly refuse to put forth effort to acquire abstract knowledge are betraying their own selfish interests.

Now, it is true that the average man may not know where to look, initially, if he decides to acquire some abstract knowledge. But if he sets out to look, and subsequently perseveres long enough, he will eventually find rational knowledge of such subjects as politics, economics and philosophy *no matter where* he starts. Say that he begins by reading the political, cultural and/or economic commentary in some mainstream newspaper or magazine. He is bound to read about some mainstream political theorists and economists. If he then goes to a library or a bookstore and obtains a few of their books, and reads them, then he will in those books see the names of such well-known political thinkers and economists as, perhaps Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, George Orwell and so forth mentioned. And if he then reads some of *their* books, he will find out about such less well-known thinkers, such as Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek etc. And if he keeps on reading, eventually this ambitious individual will “hit the jackpot”, and discover Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

Of course very few individuals put forth the intellectual effort necessary to do the above. But that is *their own fault*. Ultimately it comes down to free will. The choice to think or not is a primary cause. Nobody is *determined* to be mentally slothful. The choice not to pursue abstract knowledge *is* a choice. And anyone who makes that choice is morally culpable. Not because he fails to save the world, but because he fails to save himself.

My own personal experience shows me that it does pay off immensely to put forth prodigious effort, if necessary, to acquire abstract knowledge. I was just beginning to recover from schizophrenia, a form of psychosis, when I was 20 years old. I was living in Sweden in the middle of the 1970s, when socialism and egalitarianism were the rage. I decided that I was a supporter of political freedom, but that I did not really know why. I decided that I had to find out what the intellectual basis for freedom was. So I began asking people around me if they could recommend some books. My father recommended The Road to Serfdom by Hayek, so I borrowed that book from a library and read it. It took me something like half a year to read the book, because my schizophrenia had the effect that I could only concentrate on reading for a couple of minutes or so at a time, then my mind would wander off into fantasies. So I could only read 1 paragraph or 2 at a time, then I would waste 5 or 10 minutes lost in my thoughts, then read another 1 or 2 paragraphs, and so forth. I spent several hours each week for about half a year reading, just to get through that one book.

The next book that I read was Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. I read that book because everybody was talking about Milton Friedman, after he won the Nobel Prize in, if I recall correctly, 1976. But I was not satisfied by the writings of Hayek and Friedman, so I kept on looking, and reading various books. About 5 years after I made my conscious decision to acquire knowledge about politics and economics, I hit the jackpot. In the fall of 1979 I read a newspaper article about the intellectuals behind the so-called “swing to the right” that was sweeping the world at that time. The newspaper article mentioned a couple of dozen intellectuals. One of them was Ayn Rand. The article stated that Ayn Rand had made a *philosophical* case for freedom. I was intrigued, and I went to a large bookstore and bought a couple of Ayn Rand´s books. That saved my life, or at least my happiness.

I had to put forth a lot of effort in order to discover Objectivism. But I did discover Objectivism because I was looking for it. I did not just stumble on Objectivism. And I know for a fact now that it was worth it. It was definitely in my own selfish interest to pursue abstract knowledge. My life has become enormously more happy and successful than it otherwise would have become, had I not made that conscious decision to find out what the intellectual basis of freedom was.

Of course, one could argue that it is “too hard” for a typical average man to pursue abstract knowledge on his own. But I did it. And the majority of average men are not, as I was, handicapped by being a high school dropout and a recovering psychotic, living in a society that worshiped egalitarianism and socialism. So if I did it, why can´t the majority of average men do it as well? It is because they do not care to try. They are largely indifferent to abstract knowledge. And that means that they are largely indifferent to their own interests. Evidentally they do not think that promoting their own interests is as important as the “pleasure” of avoiding mental effort.

And furthermore, most men do not just refrain from trying to discover important abstract knowledge on their own. They decline to pursue abstract knowledge even when it is placed right in front of them by intellectual activists. Here I can only speak about Sweden, my own country. Nowadays there are quite a few Objectivists in Sweden, who are engaging in intellectual activism. It is not like back in the 1970s, when I discovered Objectivism. But my experience is that even when I try to help average men to acquire the abstract knowledge that they need to survive – they are not interested. They typically dismiss me with an air of amusement. They stick to their tired old ideas, such as socialism and the welfare state, in the face of massive evidence that these ideas are dead wrong. And the evidence is so massive that they *must* be evading that evidence. At any rate, plenty of Swedes that I have discussed politics and philosophy with, have begun to evade when presented with strong arguments. I have had to come to the conclusion that most average men choose to become dishonest, when their cherished premises are challenged.

Dr. Leonard Peikoff said once (I am quoting from memory, this is not an exact quote) something like – “To save the world is the simplest thing in the world. All one has to do is think.” I agree with that quote 100%. The world is perishing from an orgy of mental sloth. If only the average men in the world would deign to think about abstract issues, the world would not go to hell.

And every average man, at least any man with a normal brain, must be aware that if the world goes to hell, then his own personal life will be ruined as well. So if a man does not care to do anything to improve the state of the world at large, he is betraying his own selfish interests. Idealism, the ambition to change the world for the better, is *selfish*. I would go so far as to say that no man who is *not* an idealist, is genuinely selfish.

I would also say that *indifference*, one of the most common of vices, is also the very *worst*of the vices. In order to demonstrate that, let me relate a lecture from 1989 by the Objectivist philosopher John Ridpath, called Religion vs. Man. In that lecture Dr. Ridpath asked the question whether the “Western” religions, such as Christianity and Islam , or the “Eastern” religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, were worse. He pointed out that the Western religions were much bloodier, since over the centuries they had waged brutal wars to win converts. The “Eastern” religions had not done that. They were much more “passive”, in a sense. But Dr. Ridpath´s verdict was that the “Eastern” religions were nevertheless worse, and more anti-life. Because they urged their faithful to “empty their minds” and reach “Nirvana”, which means literally “nothingness”. As Dr. Ridpath put it, the “Western” religions tried to kill people, but the “Eastern” religions tried to lobotomize people, and put them into a state of living death. My own way of putting it would be to say that the “Western” religions are anti-reason, whereas the “Eastern” religions are anti-consciousness, which obviously is still worse.

Now, people who are indifferent to things in general, do not care about life. They do not *value* values. And that is vicious. When they choose not to think, they give up the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, and that are potentially theirs for the taking, for the sake of “nothingness”, for the “pleasure” of mental inertness, of non-effort, of unconsciousness. Indifference is worse than active evil. An actively evil man, the perpetrator of evil, has *some* kind of ambition. He typically engages in evasion, in order to get some kind of “pseudo-value”, such as power, unearned wealth, prestige or whatever, for himself. But the person who is indifferent, the passive enabler of evil, chooses not to think *gratuitously*. He gives up everything for nothing.

The actively evil person is like the Christian or the Muslim in Dr. Ridpath´s example. He is irrational. The indifferent person is like the Buddhist or the Hindu. He isn´t just irrational, he attempts to become unconscious. He in effect pursues unconsciousness, death, for its own sake. He resents the effort, thinking, that life requires. Death requires less effort, death is easier than life. And the indifferent man feels that life is not *worth* the effort. I say that such men *deserve* to die (which is not to say that I advocate murdering them, I just think that we should not cry any tears for them whenever they commit suicide by dint of not thinking). Let them get that which they in a sense desire.

The actively evil men do, of course, also pursue death for death´s own sake. But at least they *do* something, even if they only destroy. Just sitting down to die, or to be killed, is still worse. Voluntarily putting one´s own head on the block is still worse than swinging the axe. Ayn Rand once used the expression – “the enormity of the smallness”. I like to use a similar expression – “the *evil* of the smallness”. I think that any man who permits himself to be small is ipso facto vicious. After all, humility is a major vice.

Let me tie this all together. Most average men choose not to think. And most of the average men who make this choice do not become actively evil. They do not actively attempt to destroy values. They do not become perpetrators of evil. Instead they become the enablers of evil. They – “watch television while Rome burns”. The majority of average men are indifferent and mentally slothful. And in my book, that means that they are vicious. They give up everything for nothing. They give up the world, and all the wonderful values that it contains, gratuitously, for the sake of unconsciousness. They do not think that life is important enough to be worth much effort. Some Objectivists, I believe, hold that one cannot reasonably expect average men to be more than Eddie Willers. That may be. But the vast majority of average men are not even the equals of Eddie Willers. They are more like Catherine Halsey or Lillian Rearden in regard to mental sloth.

So I have at long last come to despise the majority of average men. It is not that I have a low evaluation of the typical average man´s *metaphysical* status. It is the exact opposite. Many Objectivists seem to think that the typical average man is a pathetic dolt who “can´t help it”. But I think that the typical average man *can* help it. So he is morally culpable. Therefore, because I have *higher* evaluation of the typical average man´s metaphysical status than, perhaps, most Objectivists, I have a *lower* evaluation of the typical average man´s *moral* status. That is why I despise the majority of average men.

Is there any value in feeling contempt for the majority of the members of mankind? I think that there is. First of all, it is always a value to acknowledge the facts of reality, no matter what they are. And second of all, I have discovered that there is a profound psychological advantage entailed in feeling a profound contempt for the majority of average men. I explain what that advantage is in my companion essay – “The Psychological Value of Contempt”.

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I did not have the interest level to finish your essay, but the problem I have with this approach to moral judgment is the imprecise definitions and sloppy inferences. On the latter: In some of the examples you were very quick to conclude that indifference was a sign of evasion, where there is a simple alternative. Many people do not see the value of philosophy, or ideas, because philosophers have been advocates of unreason for a very long time. I also don't blame the "average man" for his disinterest in politics, if he understands politics to be a battleground between camps of looters. Also, pragmatism has been eroding man's ability to think for nearly as long, with the result that even an honest man has trouble understanding, let alone integrating, abstractions. To automatically assume that his failure is due to a moral breach is unfair. Many, many people have turned their attention to Objectivism for answers during this crisis of socialism, as evidenced by the rise in sales of Atlas Shrugged, and mentions of Ayn Rand on television and radio are at an all-time high. I think you are confusing indifference about philosophy with moral indifference. If people were indifferent about morality, how do you explain the Tea Parties? This phenomenon was not started by Objectivists, it was started by your "average man".

As to the average man's alleged indifference to violence in society, I think you have to do much better than anecdotal evidence, which omits context and ignores evidence of the opposite phenomenon: do you remember, "let's roll"?

Of my first comment, on imprecise definitions. You use the word "moral monsters", stressing that not only is the average man immoral but monstrously so. But because you set the level of monstrous at the "slacker" who does not think abstractly, it subsumes every kind of immorality. What immoral behavior is not "monstrous" when you set the bar that low? The term loses any ability to differentiate degrees of immorality. If the slacker is monstrously immoral, what do you call the serial killer or dictator? You differentiate the average man from those who are "active perpetrators of evil", but is not "active" and "evil" redundant? Evil does not merely mean immoral, it means willfully destructive. You say that the people in the building where the woman was raped and murdered were evil for not calling the police, but by putting them on the same level as the murderer you imply that they sought the death of the woman. Now I would say that I need more evidence to make conclusions about why they did not call for help, but let's say that they did in fact act immorally, that they recognized the danger to this woman and that they could make a call without risking harm to themselves, but chose to keep watching TV instead. At this point all one would be able to accuse them of is cowardice, because they saw the threat to a potential value and chose to ignore it rather than face it. Maybe they rationalized that someone else was probably calling it in, and so they didn't need to. I think it's possible to make the step to "evil", but only if you can demonstrate that they did not merely decide not to pick up the phone, but were thinking "serves her right". Then they become not merely cowards but accomplices in the act.

In short, I think you should give some thought about the terms you use in moral evaluation, and also the kind of evidence needed to qualify those terms. There are bad people out there, but you seem to be "loading" your methods, giving evil far too much credit.

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I did not have the interest level to finish your essay, but the problem I have with this approach to moral judgment is the imprecise definitions and sloppy inferences. On the latter: In some of the examples you were very quick to conclude that indifference was a sign of evasion, where there is a simple alternative. Many people do not see the value of philosophy, or ideas, because philosophers have been advocates of unreason for a very long time. I also don't blame the "average man" for his disinterest in politics, if he understands politics to be a battleground between camps of looters. Also, pragmatism has been eroding man's ability to think for nearly as long, with the result that even an honest man has trouble understanding, let alone integrating, abstractions. To automatically assume that his failure is due to a moral breach is unfair. Many, many people have turned their attention to Objectivism for answers during this crisis of socialism, as evidenced by the rise in sales of Atlas Shrugged, and mentions of Ayn Rand on television and radio are at an all-time high. I think you are confusing indifference about philosophy with moral indifference. If people were indifferent about morality, how do you explain the Tea Parties? This phenomenon was not started by Objectivists, it was started by your "average man".

As to the average man's alleged indifference to violence in society, I think you have to do much better than anecdotal evidence, which omits context and ignores evidence of the opposite phenomenon: do you remember, "let's roll"?

Of my first comment, on imprecise definitions. You use the word "moral monsters", stressing that not only is the average man immoral but monstrously so. But because you set the level of monstrous at the "slacker" who does not think abstractly, it subsumes every kind of immorality. What immoral behavior is not "monstrous" when you set the bar that low? The term loses any ability to differentiate degrees of immorality. If the slacker is monstrously immoral, what do you call the serial killer or dictator? You differentiate the average man from those who are "active perpetrators of evil", but is not "active" and "evil" redundant? Evil does not merely mean immoral, it means willfully destructive. You say that the people in the building where the woman was raped and murdered were evil for not calling the police, but by putting them on the same level as the murderer you imply that they sought the death of the woman. Now I would say that I need more evidence to make conclusions about why they did not call for help, but let's say that they did in fact act immorally, that they recognized the danger to this woman and that they could make a call without risking harm to themselves, but chose to keep watching TV instead. At this point all one would be able to accuse them of is cowardice, because they saw the threat to a potential value and chose to ignore it rather than face it. Maybe they rationalized that someone else was probably calling it in, and so they didn't need to. I think it's possible to make the step to "evil", but only if you can demonstrate that they did not merely decide not to pick up the phone, but were thinking "serves her right". Then they become not merely cowards but accomplices in the act.

In short, I think you should give some thought about the terms you use in moral evaluation, and also the kind of evidence needed to qualify those terms. There are bad people out there, but you seem to be "loading" your methods, giving evil far too much credit.

I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

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I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

This does not respond to any of my comments.

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I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

You state: the choice not to think is NEVER innocent, and then you state: they USUALLY show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality. What about those who don't show signs of guilt, and are not aware of the importance of the issue?

I think you may be confusing the choice to think as a primary choice of focusing one's awareness with the choice to think about specific subjects. People may not choose to think about economics or politics or philosophy because it doesn't interest them. They may have other priorities in life. Of course, I'm not denying that people evade, but you cannot conclude from the observation that they don't think about a particular issue that they are evading.

And I agree with bborg's analysis. If you're going to classify every level of immorality as "monstrous" then no immorality is monsterous because there is nothing to distinguish it from.

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I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

You state: the choice not to think is NEVER innocent, and then you state: they USUALLY show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality. What about those who don't show signs of guilt, and are not aware of the importance of the issue?

I think you may be confusing the choice to think as a primary choice of focusing one's awareness with the choice to think about specific subjects. People may not choose to think about economics or politics or philosophy because it doesn't interest them. They may have other priorities in life. Of course, I'm not denying that people evade, but you cannot conclude from the observation that they don't think about a particular issue that they are evading.

And I agree with bborg's analysis. If you're going to classify every level of immorality as "monstrous" then no immorality is monsterous because there is nothing to distinguish it from.

Right. Then "monstrous" becomes a meaningless term, as well as its opposite---heroic.

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I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

You state: the choice not to think is NEVER innocent, and then you state: they USUALLY show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality. What about those who don't show signs of guilt, and are not aware of the importance of the issue?

I think you may be confusing the choice to think as a primary choice of focusing one's awareness with the choice to think about specific subjects. People may not choose to think about economics or politics or philosophy because it doesn't interest them. They may have other priorities in life. Of course, I'm not denying that people evade, but you cannot conclude from the observation that they don't think about a particular issue that they are evading.

And I agree with bborg's analysis. If you're going to classify every level of immorality as "monstrous" then no immorality is monsterous because there is nothing to distinguish it from.

What about those who don´t show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality? I would say that they are inexcusably slothful and indifferent. I would say that they are guilty of something analagous to criminal irresponsibility.

Why do I feel so strongly about the evil of the choice not to think? Ayn Rand once remarked regarding the conservatives who did not understand why she felt so strongly about irrational abstract philosophical ideas such as skepticism and altruism, ideas which the conservatives regarded as innocuous (this is not an exact quote but a paraphrase) - "I [feel so strongly about those ideas because] see so clearly the consequences they have". I feel the same way about the choice not to think because I see so clearly the disastrous consequences of the default on thinking about abstract issues that the vast majority of average men commit. The world is perishing from an orgy of mental lethargy. The majority of mankind is - "watching television while Rome burns".

Do I render the term "moral monster" meaningless by describing the majority of average men as moral monsters? I don´t think so. There are degrees within this term, just as there are degrees within the term "hero". Some heroes, for example Ayn Rand, are more heroic than other heroes, say Bill Gates. And by the same token, some moral monsters, for example Adolf Hitler, are more evil than others, say the typical Joe Sixpack. (I however regard the passive types as more *disgusting*, albeit less evil, than the Adolf Hitlers, as I have said before, voluntarily putting your own head on the block is in a sense still worse than swinging the axe).

And I do not think that there is any excuse, in the context of today´s world, for a person to be unconcerned about such subjects as politics, economics and philosophy. Because, in reason, you have to care about those things that critically affect your own interests. No man who is not an idealist, is truly an egoist.

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I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

You state: the choice not to think is NEVER innocent, and then you state: they USUALLY show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality. What about those who don't show signs of guilt, and are not aware of the importance of the issue?

I think you may be confusing the choice to think as a primary choice of focusing one's awareness with the choice to think about specific subjects. People may not choose to think about economics or politics or philosophy because it doesn't interest them. They may have other priorities in life. Of course, I'm not denying that people evade, but you cannot conclude from the observation that they don't think about a particular issue that they are evading.

And I agree with bborg's analysis. If you're going to classify every level of immorality as "monstrous" then no immorality is monsterous because there is nothing to distinguish it from.

What about those who don´t show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality? I would say that they are inexcusably slothful and indifferent. I would say that they are guilty of something analagous to criminal irresponsibility.

Why do I feel so strongly about the evil of the choice not to think? Ayn Rand once remarked regarding the conservatives who did not understand why she felt so strongly about irrational abstract philosophical ideas such as skepticism and altruism, ideas which the conservatives regarded as innocuous (this is not an exact quote but a paraphrase) - "I [feel so strongly about those ideas because] see so clearly the consequences they have". I feel the same way about the choice not to think because I see so clearly the disastrous consequences of the default on thinking about abstract issues that the vast majority of average men commit. The world is perishing from an orgy of mental lethargy. The majority of mankind is - "watching television while Rome burns".

Do I render the term "moral monster" meaningless by describing the majority of average men as moral monsters? I don´t think so. There are degrees within this term, just as there are degrees within the term "hero". Some heroes, for example Ayn Rand, are more heroic than other heroes, say Bill Gates. And by the same token, some moral monsters, for example Adolf Hitler, are more evil than others, say the typical Joe Sixpack. (I however regard the passive types as more *disgusting*, albeit less evil, than the Adolf Hitlers, as I have said before, voluntarily putting your own head on the block is in a sense still worse than swinging the axe).

And I do not think that there is any excuse, in the context of today´s world, for a person to be unconcerned about such subjects as politics, economics and philosophy. Because, in reason, you have to care about those things that critically affect your own interests. No man who is not an idealist, is truly an egoist.

Your "moral monster' is still just a blurr. To aver it of both Adolf Hitler and Joe Sixpack is to lessen your judgment against Hitler. It is to say that there is no difference between working hard, then enjoying a beer while watching a football game, and murdering millions of people. An enraged dog may be difficult to deal with, an insane, bucking horse maybe very dangerous, but only a Godzilla, breathing fire, is a monster. Monster is the concept which must first be conceptualized.

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I do not agree with you. The essence of morality is the choice to think or not. The choice *not* to think, is never an innocent error. As evidence of that, I have seen countless times over the course of my life, that when people default on the responsibility of thinking, they usually show signs of feeling *guilt*. And that is a clear sign that they know that they are doing something morally wrong.

And I think that it is even *monstrously* wrong not to think, because when you do that, you sacrifice the world, with all the wonderful values that it contains, for the "pleasure" of non-effort, of mental inertness, of unconsciousness, of death.

You state: the choice not to think is NEVER innocent, and then you state: they USUALLY show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality. What about those who don't show signs of guilt, and are not aware of the importance of the issue?

I think you may be confusing the choice to think as a primary choice of focusing one's awareness with the choice to think about specific subjects. People may not choose to think about economics or politics or philosophy because it doesn't interest them. They may have other priorities in life. Of course, I'm not denying that people evade, but you cannot conclude from the observation that they don't think about a particular issue that they are evading.

And I agree with bborg's analysis. If you're going to classify every level of immorality as "monstrous" then no immorality is monsterous because there is nothing to distinguish it from.

What about those who don´t show signs of guilt which indicates awareness of immorality? I would say that they are inexcusably slothful and indifferent. I would say that they are guilty of something analagous to criminal irresponsibility.

Why do I feel so strongly about the evil of the choice not to think? Ayn Rand once remarked regarding the conservatives who did not understand why she felt so strongly about irrational abstract philosophical ideas such as skepticism and altruism, ideas which the conservatives regarded as innocuous (this is not an exact quote but a paraphrase) - "I [feel so strongly about those ideas because] see so clearly the consequences they have". I feel the same way about the choice not to think because I see so clearly the disastrous consequences of the default on thinking about abstract issues that the vast majority of average men commit. The world is perishing from an orgy of mental lethargy. The majority of mankind is - "watching television while Rome burns".

Do I render the term "moral monster" meaningless by describing the majority of average men as moral monsters? I don´t think so. There are degrees within this term, just as there are degrees within the term "hero". Some heroes, for example Ayn Rand, are more heroic than other heroes, say Bill Gates. And by the same token, some moral monsters, for example Adolf Hitler, are more evil than others, say the typical Joe Sixpack. (I however regard the passive types as more *disgusting*, albeit less evil, than the Adolf Hitlers, as I have said before, voluntarily putting your own head on the block is in a sense still worse than swinging the axe).

And I do not think that there is any excuse, in the context of today´s world, for a person to be unconcerned about such subjects as politics, economics and philosophy. Because, in reason, you have to care about those things that critically affect your own interests. No man who is not an idealist, is truly an egoist.

Your "moral monster' is still just a blurr. To aver it of both Adolf Hitler and Joe Sixpack is to lessen your judgment against Hitler. It is to say that there is no difference between working hard, then enjoying a beer while watching a football game, and murdering millions of people. An enraged dog may be difficult to deal with, an insane, bucking horse maybe very dangerous, but only a Godzilla, breathing fire, is a monster. Monster is the concept which must first be conceptualized.

Let me put it this way. The Joe Sixpack is *not* a moral monster existentially, like Hitler is. Because, of course, the Joe Sixpack does not do things like murder people. But *psychologically*, the typical Joe Sixpack is a moral monster. Because he, at least in my experience, defaults on the repsonsibility of thinking to an appalling degree. And remember that the Adolf Hitlers of the world would not be able to take power and commit mass murder, if it were not for the mental passivity of the majority of average men. Hitler would never have been able to take over in Germany, if it had not been for the majority of the Joe Sixpacks of Germany. Of course, Hitler *was* much more evil than the majority of the Joe Sixpacks of Germany, but just as there are degrees within the category of hero, so there are degrees within the category of moral monster.

So I think that much of the disagreement expressed in this debate, is due to other Objectivists here taking the concept of moral monster to refer to something existential, while I take it to refer to a *psychological* phenomenom, namely mental sloth.

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Let me put it this way. The Joe Sixpack is *not* a moral monster existentially, like Hitler is. Because, of course, the Joe Sixpack does not do things like murder people. But *psychologically*, the typical Joe Sixpack is a moral monster. Because he, at least in my experience, defaults on the repsonsibility of thinking to an appalling degree. And remember that the Adolf Hitlers of the world would not be able to take power and commit mass murder, if it were not for the mental passivity of the majority of average men. Hitler would never have been able to take over in Germany, if it had not been for the majority of the Joe Sixpacks of Germany. Of course, Hitler *was* much more evil than the majority of the Joe Sixpacks of Germany, but just as there are degrees within the category of hero, so there are degrees within the category of moral monster.

So I think that much of the disagreement expressed in this debate, is due to other Objectivists here taking the concept of moral monster to refer to something existential, while I take it to refer to a *psychological* phenomenom, namely mental sloth.

See my post here for additional comments on the above point. I would just like to point out that you have not cited any FACTS to support your claim that "Joe Sixpack" is a moral monster. On what facts do you base your ethical judgment? You cannot assert that someone's lack of thinking makes it so without showing what consequences it led to. Rand has often said that evil in society is made possible by the sanction of the victim: individuals who are otherwise moral but refuse or are unable to know that they are moral and act accordingly against immorality. But to call everyone a "moral monster" is to make the term indistinguishable from any specific evaluation. There are not degrees of being a moral monster. There are degrees of immorality and evil. But facts must be provided to make an evaluation. A moral judgment is a statement of the facts within the context of volitional choices. It is not a pronouncement of denouncing everyone who fits into a category that makes not sense.

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Let me put it this way. The Joe Sixpack is *not* a moral monster existentially, like Hitler is. Because, of course, the Joe Sixpack does not do things like murder people. But *psychologically*, the typical Joe Sixpack is a moral monster. Because he, at least in my experience, defaults on the repsonsibility of thinking to an appalling degree. And remember that the Adolf Hitlers of the world would not be able to take power and commit mass murder, if it were not for the mental passivity of the majority of average men. Hitler would never have been able to take over in Germany, if it had not been for the majority of the Joe Sixpacks of Germany. Of course, Hitler *was* much more evil than the majority of the Joe Sixpacks of Germany, but just as there are degrees within the category of hero, so there are degrees within the category of moral monster.

So I think that much of the disagreement expressed in this debate, is due to other Objectivists here taking the concept of moral monster to refer to something existential, while I take it to refer to a *psychological* phenomenom, namely mental sloth.

See my post here for additional comments on the above point. I would just like to point out that you have not cited any FACTS to support your claim that "Joe Sixpack" is a moral monster. On what facts do you base your ethical judgment? You cannot assert that someone's lack of thinking makes it so without showing what consequences it led to. Rand has often said that evil in society is made possible by the sanction of the victim: individuals who are otherwise moral but refuse or are unable to know that they are moral and act accordingly against immorality. But to call everyone a "moral monster" is to make the term indistinguishable from any specific evaluation. There are not degrees of being a moral monster. There are degrees of immorality and evil. But facts must be provided to make an evaluation. A moral judgment is a statement of the facts within the context of volitional choices. It is not a pronouncement of denouncing everyone who fits into a category that makes not sense.

I think that it is clear that if you think in principles you can see that the passivity of the "Joe Sixpacks" of the world is a major reason for the fact that the world is collapsing back into barbarism. I do not have to show the exact concrete results of each instance of mental sloth (but I have seen such concrete results up close, over the course of my life, I have induced from those concretes).

And as to there "not being degrees of moral monster", I simply disagree with you there. If there can be degrees within the category of "hero" (for example Ayn Rand was presumably a much greater hero than you and I are), then why can´t there also be degrees within the category of "moral monster" (for example Immanuel Kant was a much greater moral monster than, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt)?

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I think that it is clear that if you think in principles you can see that the passivity of the "Joe Sixpacks" of the world is a major reason for the fact that the world is collapsing back into barbarism. I do not have to show the exact concrete results of each instance of mental sloth (but I have seen such concrete results up close, over the course of my life, I have induced from those concretes).

Nowhere in any argument that I have made would lead you to believe that I don't think that mental passivity or evasion are not entitled to be morally condemned. (I hope that's not too many negatives.) My objection has been to your moral evaluation of such actions, specifically claiming that EVERYONE (or the majority) who is guilty of such actions are moral monsters. You do not have to show "concrete results of every instance of mental sloth." You have to show concrete results that every instance of evasion represents being a moral monster. That is what you have claimed.

And as to there "not being degrees of moral monster", I simply disagree with you there. If there can be degrees within the category of "hero" (for example Ayn Rand was presumably a much greater hero than you and I are), then why can´t there also be degrees within the category of "moral monster" (for example Immanuel Kant was a much greater moral monster than, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt)?

A hero is a person "admired for his achievements and noble qualities." There are no degrees of "hero"; there are degrees and range of achievements and qualities. Your "moral monster" is a category within the concepts of moral judgment. Notice that when you apply your comparison to specifics, you come up with clear examples: Kant vs Roosevelt for which there is ample historical facts to make such a judgment and agree with it (provided one is aware of the evidence). You assert that all "Joe Sixpacks" are moral monsters, yet you provide no such evidence by which anyone can evaluate your statement. You equate everyone who exhibits any and all evasion or passivity with being a moral monster. Where's your evidence?

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I think that it is clear that if you think in principles you can see that the passivity of the "Joe Sixpacks" of the world is a major reason for the fact that the world is collapsing back into barbarism. I do not have to show the exact concrete results of each instance of mental sloth (but I have seen such concrete results up close, over the course of my life, I have induced from those concretes).

Nowhere in any argument that I have made would lead you to believe that I don't think that mental passivity or evasion are not entitled to be morally condemned. (I hope that's not too many negatives.) My objection has been to your moral evaluation of such actions, specifically claiming that EVERYONE (or the majority) who is guilty of such actions are moral monsters. You do not have to show "concrete results of every instance of mental sloth." You have to show concrete results that every instance of evasion represents being a moral monster. That is what you have claimed.

And as to there "not being degrees of moral monster", I simply disagree with you there. If there can be degrees within the category of "hero" (for example Ayn Rand was presumably a much greater hero than you and I are), then why can´t there also be degrees within the category of "moral monster" (for example Immanuel Kant was a much greater moral monster than, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt)?

A hero is a person "admired for his achievements and noble qualities." There are no degrees of "hero"; there are degrees and range of achievements and qualities. Your "moral monster" is a category within the concepts of moral judgment. Notice that when you apply your comparison to specifics, you come up with clear examples: Kant vs Roosevelt for which there is ample historical facts to make such a judgment and agree with it (provided one is aware of the evidence). You assert that all "Joe Sixpacks" are moral monsters, yet you provide no such evidence by which anyone can evaluate your statement. You equate everyone who exhibits any and all evasion or passivity with being a moral monster. Where's your evidence?

The evidence is this: the world is collapsing back into barbarism. And most of the members of mankind are, as far as I can tell, *not* bothering to pursue abstract knowledge, in order to find out what the cause is of what is wrong with the world, so that they can save themselves. So most of the members of mankind, are throwing their own future away, unnecessarily (at least it is unnecessary in the Western countries, where we enjoy the wonderful, but largely unappreciated, gift of political freedom). I think that it is morally depraved to throw one´s own future on the trash dump, so to speak, just because one does not care to go to the trouble of thinking about abstract issues.

In case you are wondering why I feel so strongly on this issue, it has to do with my own personal experiences. I know firsthand what disasters ican befall innocent people, because some people choose to default on the responsibility of thinking. My own parents were the kind of individuals who did not bother to think about abstract issues. As a result of that, they accepted all of the fallacious philosophic ideas that were extant in the culture, and taught those ideas to me. With the result that I became deeply depressed at the age of 15, made a couple of sucide attempts and went insane (I became schizophrenic). My problems were partly due to the fact that I was not enough of an independent thinker at the time, to reject the ideas that my parents taught me. So it was partly my own fault. But I nevertheless curse my parents, when I think of all the suffering and wasted years that they could have spared me, if only they had bothered to think about abstract issues.

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So I have at long last come to despise the majority of average men. It is not that I have a low evaluation of the typical average man´s *metaphysical* status. It is the exact opposite. Many Objectivists seem to think that the typical average man is a pathetic dolt who “can´t help it”. But I think that the typical average man *can* help it. So he is morally culpable. Therefore, because I have *higher* evaluation of the typical average man´s metaphysical status than, perhaps, most Objectivists, I have a *lower* evaluation of the typical average man´s *moral* status. That is why I despise the majority of average men.

Is there any value in feeling contempt for the majority of the members of mankind? I think that there is. First of all, it is always a value to acknowledge the facts of reality, no matter what they are. And second of all, I have discovered that there is a profound psychological advantage entailed in feeling a profound contempt for the majority of average men. I explain what that advantage is in my companion essay – “The Psychological Value of Contempt”.

If I may express an opinion: You are investing a lot of negative energy for little or no return. Your burden is to make as much of your lot as you can, given your talents and inclinations. It is better to light a candle for yourself than to curse the darkness. What will your reservoir of contempt and low regard get you?

In another post, you express the opinion that your parents have let you down. There is precious little that will change that. The way is open to you to do a better job with your children than your parents did with you, assuming that you either have children or plan to have children. Choose your mate well and work out a good rearing strategy. With good health you should be able to do well. What is past is past and what is done is done. Learn what lessons you can and apply the knowledge. The way is open to you.

Resentment is a bitter drink. Don't imbibe on it too much.

Bob Kolker

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In case you are wondering why I feel so strongly on this issue, it has to do with my own personal experiences. I know firsthand what disasters ican befall innocent people, because some people choose to default on the responsibility of thinking. My own parents were the kind of individuals who did not bother to think about abstract issues. As a result of that, they accepted all of the fallacious philosophic ideas that were extant in the culture, and taught those ideas to me. With the result that I became deeply depressed at the age of 15, made a couple of sucide attempts and went insane (I became schizophrenic). My problems were partly due to the fact that I was not enough of an independent thinker at the time, to reject the ideas that my parents taught me. So it was partly my own fault.

Were you a "moral monster" or was this the result of errors of knowledge? Did things change for the better when you learned about Objectivism?

Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul. Make every allowance for errors of knowledge; do not forgive or accept any breach of morality. Give the benefit of the doubt to those who seek to know
But I nevertheless curse my parents, when I think of all the suffering and wasted years that they could have spared me, if only they had bothered to think about abstract issues.

Isn't it possible to condemn them without over-generalizing to the whole of humanity including all the people you don't know?

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Your "moral monster' is still just a blurr. To aver it of both Adolf Hitler and Joe Sixpack is to lessen your judgment against Hitler. It is to say that there is no difference between working hard, then enjoying a beer while watching a football game, and murdering millions of people. An enraged dog may be difficult to deal with, an insane, bucking horse maybe very dangerous, but only a Godzilla, breathing fire, is a monster. Monster is the concept which must first be conceptualized.

If I say that I myself am a hero (assuming that is true) does that mean that I am *lessening* my judgment of Ayn Rand, who obviously achieved almost infinitely more, and who benefitted all of us almost infinitely more, than I have done? Just as some heroes do much more good than others, so, I maintain, some moral monsters do much more harm than others. And I maintain that the Adolf Hitlers would not be possible without the moral depravity of the Joe Sixpacks (or his equivalent in Weimar Germany). But of course the Hitlers and Kants are *much* worse than even the worst of the ordinary men.

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In case you are wondering why I feel so strongly on this issue, it has to do with my own personal experiences. I know firsthand what disasters ican befall innocent people, because some people choose to default on the responsibility of thinking. My own parents were the kind of individuals who did not bother to think about abstract issues. As a result of that, they accepted all of the fallacious philosophic ideas that were extant in the culture, and taught those ideas to me. With the result that I became deeply depressed at the age of 15, made a couple of sucide attempts and went insane (I became schizophrenic). My problems were partly due to the fact that I was not enough of an independent thinker at the time, to reject the ideas that my parents taught me. So it was partly my own fault.

Were you a "moral monster" or was this the result of errors of knowledge? Did things change for the better when you learned about Objectivism?

Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul. Make every allowance for errors of knowledge; do not forgive or accept any breach of morality. Give the benefit of the doubt to those who seek to know
But I nevertheless curse my parents, when I think of all the suffering and wasted years that they could have spared me, if only they had bothered to think about abstract issues.

Isn't it possible to condemn them without over-generalizing to the whole of humanity including all the people you don't know?

My moral rage is "inspired" so to speak, or my moral fire was "lit" so to speak by what my parents did to me. But my generalization about the *majority* (not the "whole of humanity") is based on my observations of a great many men and women over the course of my life. Of course there is a problem with judging people that I do not know (most of the rest of humanity). But striclty speaking, I do not judge them. I do not condemn any specific individual. I merely make the inductive generalization - "The majority of the members of mankind are *probably* such persons that if I got to know them, in most cases they would turn out to be the kind of person that I despise".

And as for the idea that errors of knowledge are innocent. I think that often they aren´t. Because oftentimes, an person´s ignorance of the facts *is his own fault*, because he did not bother to think enough. And I think that the essence of immorality is the choice not to think. Which most people make most of the time, in regard to abstract issues.

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Several persons have said that I am arguing in a vacuum, and not being concrete, about the issue of the alleged immorality of the majority of ordinary men. Well, I will try to be concrete here.

Take the current economic crisis. Millions of Americans are suffering from the crisis. The active perpetrators of the crisis are primarlilly many of America´s politicians, and the intellectuals who taught them. But are the majority of the victims, among the general population, *innocent* victims? I think not.

If only the ordinary citizens had bothered to put forth the effort to pursue knowledge about such abstract subjects as economics and political science 5 or 10 or 20 years ago, they would have gained for themselves ample opportunities to "defend" themselves. They could have avoided going deeply into debt, they could have accumulated savings, they could have bought gold, and above all, they could have advocated the right political and economic policies, and the right philosophy. But how many ordinary Americans have bothered to look into such abstract subjects as economics, political science and philosophy? Very few, I believe. And that is their own fault. It is their own depraved choice. Intellecually most of them are slackers. That is one of the main reasons that America is in such bad shape today.

Now I am not saying that the ordinary Americans should sacrifice themselves for the sake of their country. I am saying that each individual Joe Sixpack would be in a much better state today, with much better means to solve his own personal problems, if he had gotten off his a-s some years ago and looked into such abstract subjects as economics, political science and philosophy.

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Your "moral monster' is still just a blurr. To aver it of both Adolf Hitler and Joe Sixpack is to lessen your judgment against Hitler. It is to say that there is no difference between working hard, then enjoying a beer while watching a football game, and murdering millions of people. An enraged dog may be difficult to deal with, an insane, bucking horse maybe very dangerous, but only a Godzilla, breathing fire, is a monster. Monster is the concept which must first be conceptualized.

If I say that I myself am a hero (assuming that is true) does that mean that I am *lessening* my judgment of Ayn Rand, who obviously achieved almost infinitely more, and who benefitted all of us almost infinitely more, than I have done? Just as some heroes do much more good than others, so, I maintain, some moral monsters do much more harm than others. And I maintain that the Adolf Hitlers would not be possible without the moral depravity of the Joe Sixpacks (or his equivalent in Weimar Germany). But of course the Hitlers and Kants are *much* worse than even the worst of the ordinary men.

If part of being a hero means (to you) the benefitting of others, I disagree.

The fact that a Hitler and a Kant "are *much* worse than even the worst of ordinary men" is what makes Hitler and Kant monsters. Thus, your own words contradict your application of "monster" to ordinary men.

You have stated that regarding the majority of men as "moral monsters" provides you with a feeling of relief. Your feelings are not the proper standard for the application of terms. That is subjectivism.

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If part of being a hero means (to you) the benefitting of others, I disagree.

The fact that a Hitler and a Kant "are *much* worse than even the worst of ordinary men" is what makes Hitler and Kant monsters. Thus, your own words contradict your application of "monster" to ordinary men.

You have stated that regarding the majority of men as "moral monsters" provides you with a feeling of relief. Your feelings are not the proper standard for the application of terms. That is subjectivism.

I do not think that being a hero is coextensive with the benefitting of others. But heroes often do benefit others. And I think that if someone benefits others by dint of enormous virtue, the benefitting of the others, one of the consequences of that virtue, can be taken as one sign of the existence of the virtue.

I think that Hitler and Kant are much worse than even the worst of ordinary men, in the sense that Hitler and Kant perpetrated much more *active* evil. But I think that the majority of average mens´ indifference is just about equally morally depraved as Kant´s and Hitler´s evasions. Mental sloth is suicide, and therefore depraved, on a morality of egoism.

My evaluation of the majority of ordinary men as being moral monsters *does* provide me with a feeling of relief. But that is not the *reason* that I make that evaluation. I make that evaluation because I honestly think that it is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from my myriad interactions with ordinary men over the course of my life. I have seen so much. I have been disillusioned.

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Henrik, what's your opinion of Mike in The Fountainhead or Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged? Are they monsters, too?

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If part of being a hero means (to you) the benefitting of others, I disagree.

The fact that a Hitler and a Kant "are *much* worse than even the worst of ordinary men" is what makes Hitler and Kant monsters. Thus, your own words contradict your application of "monster" to ordinary men.

You have stated that regarding the majority of men as "moral monsters" provides you with a feeling of relief. Your feelings are not the proper standard for the application of terms. That is subjectivism.

I do not think that being a hero is coextensive with the benefitting of others. But heroes often do benefit others. And I think that if someone benefits others by dint of enormous virtue, the benefitting of the others, one of the consequences of that virtue, can be taken as one sign of the existence of the virtue.

I think that Hitler and Kant are much worse than even the worst of ordinary men, in the sense that Hitler and Kant perpetrated much more *active* evil. But I think that the majority of average mens´ indifference is just about equally morally depraved as Kant´s and Hitler´s evasions. Mental sloth is suicide, and therefore depraved, on a morality of egoism.

My evaluation of the majority of ordinary men as being moral monsters *does* provide me with a feeling of relief. But that is not the *reason* that I make that evaluation. I make that evaluation because I honestly think that it is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from my myriad interactions with ordinary men over the course of my life. I have seen so much. I have been disillusioned.

In your second paragraph you first say that "...Hitler and Kant are much worse...". In the next sentence you say "...indifference is just about as morally depraved..." as those two. So, you are really making no distinction. Is not that mental sloth on your part, thus making you, by your own standard, a moral monster?

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Henrik, what's your opinion of Mike in The Fountainhead or Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged? Are they monsters, too?

No, I think that they are decent human beings. I think that they are better than the majority of average men. You could say that I put men into four categories, morally.

1) The heroes - they bother to think a lot about abstract issues. These constitute a tiny minority of humanity. These are the Howard Roarks and John Galts.

2) The decent ordinary men - they bother to think to a moderat degree about abstract issues. There are more of them than the heroes. but they are still a minority of the masses of ordinary (in the sense of "men from ordinary walks of life) men. These are the Mikes and Eddie Willers.

3) The depraved moral monsters - they rarely, if ever, think about abstract issues. They are indifferent. Which means that they evade the knowledge that they need to think. So they do evade. These men constitute the majority of mankind (in my view). These are the Catherine Halseys, the Peter Keatings and the woman who threw a vegetable in the face of Gail Wynand.

4) The evil moral monsters - they actively evade on a massive scale, and as they attempt to destroy values. These men constitute a tiny minority of humanity. These are the Ellsworth Tooheys.

As you can see, I grade men on a scale of how much thinking/evading they do. And I do not think that the distribution of the choice to think falls on a bell curve that peaks "in the middle" between good and bad. I think that if you start with the most evil men on the left, it rises abruptly as you move to the right, then peaks far left of the "middle" (that is the mass of depraved majority of ordinary men, then it falls steeply as you continue to move to the right until you get to the very small number of heroes, who think a great deal about abstract issues, and who the world depends on.

In other words the graph of the distribution between good and bad, peaks far left of "the middle" between good and bad. That may seem to be counterintuitive, but I have come to that conclusion because of the empirical evidence that I have seen in my own life. I think that it is rationalistic to assume, "a priori", that the number of morally depraved members of humanity *has to be* a small fraction of it. I think that you have to observe a lot of men, and then form an inductive generalization (keeping in mind that it is only a "tentative" generalization, since it is metaphysically possible that more men will choose to think in the future, than have done so in the past). I honestly do not think that I am being rationalistic, or that I am ignoring any facts. The facts, the observations of real people that I have made during my life, have led me to the position I take now. I think that Ayn Rand was on to something when she wrote that story "The Little Street" back in the 1920s. That story "echoes" with me.

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If part of being a hero means (to you) the benefitting of others, I disagree.

The fact that a Hitler and a Kant "are *much* worse than even the worst of ordinary men" is what makes Hitler and Kant monsters. Thus, your own words contradict your application of "monster" to ordinary men.

You have stated that regarding the majority of men as "moral monsters" provides you with a feeling of relief. Your feelings are not the proper standard for the application of terms. That is subjectivism.

I do not think that being a hero is coextensive with the benefitting of others. But heroes often do benefit others. And I think that if someone benefits others by dint of enormous virtue, the benefitting of the others, one of the consequences of that virtue, can be taken as one sign of the existence of the virtue.

I think that Hitler and Kant are much worse than even the worst of ordinary men, in the sense that Hitler and Kant perpetrated much more *active* evil. But I think that the majority of average mens´ indifference is just about equally morally depraved as Kant´s and Hitler´s evasions. Mental sloth is suicide, and therefore depraved, on a morality of egoism.

My evaluation of the majority of ordinary men as being moral monsters *does* provide me with a feeling of relief. But that is not the *reason* that I make that evaluation. I make that evaluation because I honestly think that it is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from my myriad interactions with ordinary men over the course of my life. I have seen so much. I have been disillusioned.

Perhaps this quote will provide some guidance with the issues here.

PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged, one of your leading characters is asked, "What's the most depraved type of human being?" His reply is surprising: He doesn't say a sadist or a murderer or a sex maniac or a dictator; he says, "The man without a purpose." Yet most people seem to go through their lives without a clearly defined purpose. Do you regard them as depraved?

RAND: Yes, to a certain extent.

PLAYBOY: Why?

RAND: Because that aspect of their character lies at the root of and causes all the evils which you mentioned in your question. Sadism, dictatorship, any form of evil, is the consequence of a man's evasion of reality. A consequence of his failure to think. The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose—a productive purpose.

PLAYBOY: Weren't Hitler and Stalin, to name two tyrants, in control of their own lives, and didn't they have a clear purpose?

RAND: Certainly not. Observe that both of them ended as literal psychotics. They were men who lacked self-esteem and, therefore, hated all of existence. Their psychology, in effect, is summarized in Atlas Shrugged by the character of James Taggart. The man who has no purpose, but has to act, acts to destroy others. That is not the same thing as a productive or creative purpose.

Rand's Playboy Interview

What type of individual are you grouping into your view of "average men" and those that you call are "moral monsters"? Does not the average man, as you call them, think about being productive and earning a living? Is that not worthy of praise? Wouldn't it be more proper to simply state that average men are immoral to the extent that they do not think about fundamental issues in life rather than label them as moral monsters?

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