Henrik Unné

The moral status of the typical average man

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What counts for the average man is how well he does his job. Does he do his best?

Many ordinary men do their best when it comes to doing their jobs. But they do not do theri best when it comes to safeguarding their interests in general. Because they do not bother to pursue abstract knowledge, and therefore they fall prey to all sort of effects of irrational philosophy. The majority of ordinary men do not do their best in regard to thinking. They could think much more than they do. The fact that they don´t is one (but not *the*) most important reasons that the world is going to hell. And I regard them as morally culpable for that. What reasonable excuse is there for the *choice* to remain ignorant (and it is a choice).

As Dr Robert Stadler said, ' He could teach people to live so much better, but they would not listen.'

Causality is the law of identity applied to action. The same cause produces the same consequence.

Claiming that people don't think is a moral sanction of the initiation of force, for their own good. Just because you are unable to appeal to their reason does not mean that they do not think.

Sure, everybody thinks to *some* extent. They are not literally like robots or animals. I do not assert that they do not think *at all*. But I assert that the majority of ordinary men, do not think about *abstract* issues, which is the kind of thinking that takes a lot of effort. And most men do not bother to pursue abstract knowledge nearly enough.

And believe me, I feel no temptation whatsoever to force other men for their own good. Ever since I was subjected to psychiatric treatment against my will when I was young (I was committed to institutions several times), I have been *fanatically* opposed to paternalism. I loathe the idea of forcing others for their own good. I even believe that sane adults have a right to commit suicide if they so choose. I do take the ideas of liberty and individual rights seriously.

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What does the contempt that I feel for the majority of men "do" for me. I explained that in my post "The Psychological Value of Contempt". Basically, feeling contempt for the majority of the members of mankind, enables me to have a more benevlolent sense-of-life. When I was young, I was often depressed by the thought of all the innocent (I thought then that they were innocent) men that were suffering such things as political oppression, poverty, starvation, who were dying from treatable diseases etc. I thought that the world was so full of injustice and unnecessary suffering.

I haven't read through this whole thread, so please forgive me if this has already been addressed. I find it bizarre that your contempt for most of mankind has lead you to a benevolent view of life. If anything, it should make you more pessimistic about life, since the more irrational and immoral men are, the harder life tends to be for everyone (to the degree to which a given man is social). It sounds closer to an affirmation in your mind of the efficacy of justice -- that there is justice in the world. But even then, I would say that your view ignores the injustice done to good men by these majority, immoral men. That would ruin my heretofore benevolent view. I'd be asking, even though the bad come to ill, what about the good? How does the world reward their virtue? Justice must be efficacious for them, too.

To put an additional fine point on it, I think there are two important concepts at issue here: a view of the world as it exists and a view of life as it can be. I think the world gives you an abundance of material to feel lousy about the state of things; that would lead to a negative world view. But the potential to lead a happy life and to deal with other rational, moral people remains, and, in my view, remains in sufficient quantity to hold a positive view of your life and the lives of those like you.

My realization that the majority of mankind were getting what they deserved gave me a *more* benevolent sense-of-life than I had before, since a world that was less full of injustice than I previously had thought, naturally seemed less malevolent. But knowing that the depraved majority of mankind was getting what they, in a sense, deserved (I say "in a sense", because they were merely enablers, not perpetrators,. If they had had the good luck to live in a world where the perpetrators did not exist, then they, the majority of men, would have *deserved* happy lives, because then the need to fight the perpetrators would not have existed. But since they *do* live in a world with perpetrators, they do *need* to fight, and since they have´t they have not earned happiness fully), was not enough to give me a benevolent sense-of-life. That came more from realizing that those of us who choose to think enough, *can* achieve happiness, barring accidents, and moreover we *deserve* it. And also, my benevolent sense-of-life got a lift from one of the points that Ayn Rand made in We the Living, namely that even if a good person fails, he will at least have a sense of serenity that the depraved person lacks.

Knowing that the majority of men are depraved does not "ruin my heretofore benevolent view", since I know that evil (and depravity) is impotent. The fact that I feel relieved by the realization that the majority of men are depraved in no way leads me to believe that they are metaphysically potent, so why should that realization ruin my benevolent view? The fact that most men are depraved makes it a little more difficult for the rest of us (the Moral Minority) to achieve happiness, but it does not make it impossible.

And I *do* have a benevolent sense-of-life. I see no contradiction between spending my time pursuing my own happiness, and every now and then, when I contemplate the men around me, feeling a shudder of contempt for them. You could ask - "Why think about the depraved men around me *at all*?". Well, I suppose that my life would be a little bit better if I could not think about them *at all*, but I go to work five days a week and spend nine hours every day with such people, and I find it psychologically impossible to not think about them *at all*. But I do not really *care* about their depravity. Feeling contempt for them does not "get me down". This may seem strange to you, but I have gotten used to feeling contempt for the majority of mankind. And why should I feel bad about the fact that the majority of mankind is depraved, when it is not my fault? It does not seem such a big deal to me, in a negative way, that most men are bad. But it is a big deal to me, in a positive way, that the world for that very reason is not full of injustice.

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I think that the disagreement between me and many others on this thread is due to the fact that I believe that ordinary men *can* escape the effects of irrational philosophy "on their own", the same way that I myself did it, by purposefully seeking out abstract knowledge and therefore discovering Objectivism.
Perhaps the problem is that they are not aware of the importance of abstract knowledge?

If a sick man has never been taught that medicine can cure his ailments, can he be blamed for not seeking medicine?

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I think that the disagreement between me and many others on this thread is due to the fact that I believe that ordinary men *can* escape the effects of irrational philosophy "on their own", the same way that I myself did it, by purposefully seeking out abstract knowledge and therefore discovering Objectivism.
Perhaps the problem is that they are not aware of the importance of abstract knowledge?

If a sick man has never been taught that medicine can cure his ailments, can he be blamed for not seeking medicine?

I find it inconceivable that any man, even a "Joe Sixpack", could be competely unaware that he needs abstract knowledge in order to live successfully in a modern society. Certainly, he can be unaware, at first, that he needs a knowledge of *philosophy*, but he must in reason know that he needs abstract knowledge of political science and economics in order to know, for example, how to vote and how to manage his economic affairs. Just as it is obvious that one needs knowledge of theory (traffic rules and so forth) in order to drive a car safely, it is obvious that one needs knowledge of political ideology in order to be able to vote "safely".

And if a "Joe Sixpack" bothers to read some good books about political ideologies or economics, he will stumble on the importance of philosophy, and if he does not give up too easily, he will eventually "hit the jackpot" and discover Objectivism.

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And if a "Joe Sixpack" bothers to read some good books about political ideologies or economics, he will stumble on the importance of philosophy, and if he does not give up too easily, he will eventually "hit the jackpot" and discover Objectivism.

Believe it or not, Joe Sixpack likely has a demanding job and a family to feed. He may not have the time or the inclination after a hard day at work to reflect on the importance of philosophy; and if he does, he may not have the intellectual capacity to grasp its importance in the limited time he does have.

Ask the average person on the street to define "abstract knowledge". Do you think he could give you a good answer, or any answer at all?

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And if a "Joe Sixpack" bothers to read some good books about political ideologies or economics, he will stumble on the importance of philosophy, and if he does not give up too easily, he will eventually "hit the jackpot" and discover Objectivism.

Believe it or not, Joe Sixpack likely has a demanding job and a family to feed. He may not have the time or the inclination after a hard day at work to reflect on the importance of philosophy; and if he does, he may not have the intellectual capacity to grasp its importance in the limited time he does have.

Ask the average person on the street to define "abstract knowledge". Do you think he could give you a good answer, or any answer at all?

Ask an ordinary man to define "automobile". He probably could not explicitly formulate a good definition. But he *is* aware that you need knowledge to drive an automobile. And in reason, even a "Joe Sixpack" must know that you need knowledge to "do" politics. So if he cares about how the politicians are destroying his life, then he is morally obligated, by self-interest, to seek some knowledge about the subject of political science, so that he can do something about it. And if he reads some good books about political science, then he is bound to stumble upon the knowledge that philosophy is important, and he will likely discover Objectivism. That is, in essence, what I did.

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And if a "Joe Sixpack" bothers to read some good books about political ideologies or economics, he will stumble on the importance of philosophy, and if he does not give up too easily, he will eventually "hit the jackpot" and discover Objectivism.

Believe it or not, Joe Sixpack likely has a demanding job and a family to feed. He may not have the time or the inclination after a hard day at work to reflect on the importance of philosophy; and if he does, he may not have the intellectual capacity to grasp its importance in the limited time he does have.

Ask the average person on the street to define "abstract knowledge". Do you think he could give you a good answer, or any answer at all?

Ask an ordinary man to define "automobile". He probably could not explicitly formulate a good definition. But he *is* aware that you need knowledge to drive an automobile. And in reason, even a "Joe Sixpack" must know that you need knowledge to "do" politics. So if he cares about how the politicians are destroying his life, then he is morally obligated, by self-interest, to seek some knowledge about the subject of political science, so that he can do something about it. And if he reads some good books about political science, then he is bound to stumble upon the knowledge that philosophy is important, and he will likely discover Objectivism. That is, in essence, what I did.

But most people do aquire some knowledge of politics and philosophy and do recognize that it's of some importance. However studying the subject does not always lead in the right direction - thinking does not always lead to the right answers. People can make all sorts of mistakes and fall into all sorts of traps along the way(the cultural climate is not exactly making things easier here), and many people are unaware of their ignorance.

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I find it inconceivable that any man, even a "Joe Sixpack", could be competely unaware that he needs abstract knowledge in order to live successfully in a modern society. Certainly, he can be unaware, at first, that he needs a knowledge of *philosophy*, but he must in reason know that he needs abstract knowledge of political science and economics in order to know, for example, how to vote and how to manage his economic affairs. Just as it is obvious that one needs knowledge of theory (traffic rules and so forth) in order to drive a car safely, it is obvious that one needs knowledge of political ideology in order to be able to vote "safely".

You are assuming that he votes, which is not true for "the vast majority" of people.

And you are saying in effect that it should be obvious to everyone that ideas matter. But philosophers have been debating for millennia over whether ideas matter, and in what way exactly they matter, and whether they matter on Earth or only in some other realm, etc. And much of the implicit philosophy that people are brought up with these days is adamant that ideas do not matter. So no, I don't think it's a trivial fact, and I don't think you can reasonably expect everyone to recognize it as something obvious.

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I find it inconceivable that any man, even a "Joe Sixpack", could be competely unaware that he needs abstract knowledge in order to live successfully in a modern society. Certainly, he can be unaware, at first, that he needs a knowledge of *philosophy*, but he must in reason know that he needs abstract knowledge of political science and economics in order to know, for example, how to vote and how to manage his economic affairs. Just as it is obvious that one needs knowledge of theory (traffic rules and so forth) in order to drive a car safely, it is obvious that one needs knowledge of political ideology in order to be able to vote "safely".

You are assuming that he votes, which is not true for "the vast majority" of people.

And you are saying in effect that it should be obvious to everyone that ideas matter. But philosophers have been debating for millennia over whether ideas matter, and in what way exactly they matter, and whether they matter on Earth or only in some other realm, etc. And much of the implicit philosophy that people are brought up with these days is adamant that ideas do not matter. So no, I don't think it's a trivial fact, and I don't think you can reasonably expect everyone to recognize it as something obvious.

Maybe I am not making enough of an effort to think outside of the box of my own context of knowledge, or maybe I am just unable to, but I find it inconceivable that any adult living in a modern society can be ignorant of the fact that he needs knowledge in order to deal with all the various issues that he faces in life, from the "small" things, like driving a car, to the "large" things, like dealing with politics. It may not be obvious at the outset of adult life, but if a person is alert he should be able to notice when his knowledge is insufficient. After all, when his knowledge of an issue is insufficient he will fail in his dealings in that issue. I suspect that you are being too forebearing towards mental sloth.

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But most people do aquire some knowledge of politics and philosophy and do recognize that it's of some importance. However studying the subject does not always lead in the right direction - thinking does not always lead to the right answers. People can make all sorts of mistakes and fall into all sorts of traps along the way(the cultural climate is not exactly making things easier here), and many people are unaware of their ignorance.

But if a person does not shut off his mind (which is a choice) he will be able to discover that he is in error, or is ignorant, and then he should do something about it.

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Maybe I am not making enough of an effort to think outside of the box of my own context of knowledge, or maybe I am just unable to, but I find it inconceivable that any adult living in a modern society can be ignorant of the fact that he needs knowledge in order to deal with all the various issues that he faces in life, from the "small" things, like driving a car, to the "large" things, like dealing with politics.

They do recognize that they would need political knowledge if they wanted to deal with politics (which most of them don't), but they do not know that they need philosophical knowledge. From what they heard about philosophy in school and on TV etc., they can't help but conclude that philosophy is just meaningless talk that has no relationship to actual life. That is certainly the conclusion I drew after I had my first philosophy class in high school, and if I hadn't had the boring job that I did in 2003, I might never have had the occasion to read enough about Objectivism to eventually understand the importance of philosophy.

Now, it is true that, being much more of an independent thinker than the "vast majority," I have always been likelier to make this identification. Which brings us to:

I suspect that you are being too forebearing towards mental sloth.
LOL, Moi? Most people who know me personally think the opposite--that I am often too hard on the "little guys." It is a fact that I have no esteem for people who lack the personal traits I find desirable. But that does not necessarily mean I hold them in contempt. I have a scale that has both positive and negative sides, and a zero between them; if the most virtuous man is a +10 and the most evil one a -10, then your typical ordinary person would be somewhere right around 0.

BTW, I wouldn't put the majority of Americans at 0. America was founded as, and to a diminished extent still remains, "the land of the free and the home of the brave," and more generally, a nation of virtue. Which illustrates my earlier point, that evaluating a global average is pointless and idle anyway: If someone lives in America and is surrounded in his day-to-day activities by people who have at least some merit, why should he care about the moral status of people who live thousands of miles away from him and whom he is never going to meet, see, or even hear of in his life?

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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”.

There are about 6.1 billion (spelled with a "b") members of mankind currently alive on this planet. How many of them do you know personally or about (by reading and other information sources)? Probably not that many. If you met a new person each minute of the day that would be 1440 a day. In fifty years that would amount to 2.62 x 10^7 people out of 6.1 x 10^9 which is a little over 4.2x10^-3 of the entire population. So my question to you is, how do you reach your conclusion based on such scanty knowledge and acquaintance?

I have no doubt you have read about, heard about or even met people whom you hold in disdain. I am sure most of us have, but is a long way from negative judgment on, to use your own words, "the majority of the members of mankind".

Bob Kolker

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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”.

There are about 6.1 billion (spelled with a "b") members of mankind currently alive on this planet. How many of them do you know personally or about (by reading and other information sources)? Probably not that many. If you met a new person each minute of the day that would be 1440 a day. In fifty years that would amount to 2.62 x 10^7 people out of 6.1 x 10^9 which is a little over 4.2x10^-3 of the entire population. So my question to you is, how do you reach your conclusion based on such scanty knowledge and acquaintance?

I have no doubt you have read about, heard about or even met people whom you hold in disdain. I am sure most of us have, but is a long way from negative judgment on, to use your own words, "the majority of the members of mankind".

Bob Kolker

There is also this: If Henrik's feeling of relief is a value ("that which one acts to gain and/or keep") to him, then to gain it he must seek out the means of it, which is his feeling of contempt for average men, (whom he must spend time thinking about and evaluating in order to start up the machinery of his emotions). To spend much time in order to feel a negative emotion in order to feel a sense of relief(which is a dissipation of all feeling) is a waste of much time.

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There are about 6.1 billion (spelled with a "b") members of mankind currently alive on this planet. How many of them do you know personally or about (by reading and other information sources)? Probably not that many. If you met a new person each minute of the day that would be 1440 a day. In fifty years that would amount to 2.62 x 10^7 people out of 6.1 x 10^9 which is a little over 4.2x10^-3 of the entire population. So my question to you is, how do you reach your conclusion based on such scanty knowledge and acquaintance?

I have no doubt you have read about, heard about or even met people whom you hold in disdain. I am sure most of us have, but is a long way from negative judgment on, to use your own words, "the majority of the members of mankind".

Bob Kolker

I have made an inductive generalization from my observations of, and contemplation of, the many hundreds of persons that I have interacted with in my life, and I have complemented my observations with reading about such subjects as history and current events.

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BTW, I wouldn't put the majority of Americans at 0. America was founded as, and to a diminished extent still remains, "the land of the free and the home of the brave," and more generally, a nation of virtue. Which illustrates my earlier point, that evaluating a global average is pointless and idle anyway: If someone lives in America and is surrounded in his day-to-day activities by people who have at least some merit, why should he care about the moral status of people who live thousands of miles away from him and whom he is never going to meet, see, or even hear of in his life?

I would certainly prefer to have a few typical Americans as neighbors or friends than a few Swedes or (even more so) persons from non-Western societies. But the fact that most Americans are "nice" people is largely a matter of luck. They just happen to have been born into a relatively rational and benevolent society. Since the majority of Americans are members of the "ballast", they are essentially out of control of their own fate. They just accept whatever ideas happen to be floating about in the culture around them. Most of them do not bother to examine the ideas they accept critically.

In my view, a person´s moral status is primarilly a function of how much effort he makes to perceive reality, on the conceptual level. It is not primarilly a function of what premises he holds, since that is largely a matter of chance, if he does not do more thinking than most people do.

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I would certainly prefer to have a few typical Americans as neighbors or friends than a few Swedes or (even more so) persons from non-Western societies. But the fact that most Americans are "nice" people is largely a matter of luck. They just happen to have been born into a relatively rational and benevolent society. Since the majority of Americans are members of the "ballast", they are essentially out of control of their own fate. They just accept whatever ideas happen to be floating about in the culture around them. Most of them do not bother to examine the ideas they accept critically.
You may mean "luck" and "chance" metaphorically, but even at that, that choice of words is not helpful, but rather confusing. Whether most Americans are nice or not is not, and cannot be, a matter of luck. There is no such metaphysical entity "luck/chance", and so you have to look elsewhere to attribute the cause of a person's niceness. I would suggest that Americans are nice because they incorporate that sense of life from the everyday world around them, of life in America amongst Americans. People (specifically, the average, uncritical person) don't accept "whatever ideas happen to be floating about", but rather pick up on those ideas which suit them, which are consonant with how they've consciously chosen, or subconsciously deferred, to live. There are many ideas that they consciously, reflexively reject, because they get a sense that it's inconsistent with their subjective view of things. You're right, though, that they are uncritical; the average person is driven by whim (not chance).
In my view, a person´s moral status is primarilly a function of how much effort he makes to perceive reality, on the conceptual level. It is not primarilly a function of what premises he holds, since that is largely a matter of chance, if he does not do more thinking than most people do.
Why is effort your standard? Why not measure a person's morality by their rationality, by the degree to which they live life the way a person should?

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Sorry for backtracking, but I wanted to address this.

The argument is this: All men need a moral code; if they don't formulate one explictly, they will act on one implicitly; if they don't learn a rational moral code, they will act on the irrational moral codes that circulate in the culture.
Agreed.
Now, even the most irrational moral codes need to maintain some semblance of benevolence in order to gain acceptance. A system of ethics that commanded everyone to submit to the dictator's sadist whims because they were sadist whims would be rejected out of hand by the majority. There is always some nice-sounding, "greater" "ideal" that is invoked to justify the slaughter. This means that the majority of people does have some idea of the good, and does take it seriously, in the sense that he allows it to override his pain-pleasure mechanism to some extent, i.e. he is willing to forgo some pleasures, incur some pains, and even make some efforts for the sake of what he's been led to think of as the ideal.
I agree that most (civilized) people have some idea of the good and act on it most of the time. But the fact that a mass of people are willing to support an ideal does not indicate that they have a sense of the good. That is entirely subjective. The good is that which benefits a man, by his nature as a man. The good is objective. When people support the ideal peddled by a dictator, it is not the good that they have a sense of but a completely arbitrary, out-of-context value. Typically, if it takes a dictator to rally people around, it is a highly collectivist, anti-life value, like bringing down "exploiters of the workers" or evening the score with some enemy nation in the name of restoring racial "honor".

People must make their nature as human beings their standard of morality; there's no way around it. Championing any old ideal that has the culturally-accepted illusion of being the good just won't cut it. Personally, I'll be damned before I let my sense of morality disintegrate into what most people think is right.

If this weren't the case, a dictator could control his subjects in much the same way an animal trainer controls his animals, relying purely on reflexes reinforced by pain and pleasure. This has been done to a minority of people in the Nazi concentration camps, but those people had to be subdued by force first, with the support of the majority of a nation that had been made to believe, by means of an ideology, that this was the right course of action.
Yes, an ideal that was subjectively "right", not objectively so. A dictator counts on his subjects being irrational, so much so that they will follow anyone who can string together the words that reflect their blindly accepted values, as long as they can see some payoff of those values. The mob is looking for emotional fuel; that is what a dictator provides them.
Very, very few people will fight unwaveringly for what they think is right.
That is definitely true. But it is not necessary for a majority of people to fight unwaveringly in order to prevent a dictatorship; all they need to do is not help the dictator come to power. A single man is not capable of subduing an entire nation by physical force; he can only become a dictator if the majority supports him.
I don't know what principled fraction of a population it takes to keep a dictatorship at bay, but I know that they must be a greater cultural force than the dictatorship's supporters. If the majority of the population is even slightly tolerant of dictatorship, and if in that society one gains power by majority approval, then, maybe gradually or maybe rapidly, a dictatorship is absolutely inevitable. Political movements are necessary consequences of the philosophical movements of a given culture. If the culture values collectivism over individualism, and whim over reason, then sooner or later you'll have dictatorship.

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I have made an inductive generalization from my observations of, and contemplation of, the many hundreds of persons that I have interacted with in my life, and I have complemented my observations with reading about such subjects as history and current events.

In order for your very small sampling to generalize to the entire population it has to be unbiased in the statistic sense. In short, a random sample. Is that the case? Where would you set your confidence level for your sampling?

Bob Kolker

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I would certainly prefer to have a few typical Americans as neighbors or friends than a few Swedes
So would I, probably--although I don't really know what a typical Swede is like, since all the Swedish people I know are Objectivists. :lol: Which brings us back to: Why not simply surround yourself with the most virtuous people you know, and forget about "the typical average man" ? I think you are too concerned with "world justice" ; I prefer to focus on my own life and let the rest of mankind take care of the lives of the rest of mankind.

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A dictator counts on his subjects being irrational
I don't think anyone meant to suggest that he doesn't; in fact, the very first sentence of the paragraph that triggered this discussion says that the average man is not morally innocent:
Ayn Rand directly addressed the question of the moral status of the average man, in her article "Altruism as Appeasement":

[...]

No, the average man is not morally innocent. But the best proof of his non-brutality, of his helpless, confused, inarticulate longing for truth, for an intelligible, rational world—and of his response to it, when given a chance he cannot create on his own—is the fact that no dictatorship has ever lasted without establishing censorship.

Neither Miss Rand, nor Mr. Bucko, nor Betsy, nor I have claimed that the average man has an objective sense of the good. The claim is simply that, even in the messed-up, emotionalist state that he is in, he is still above a brute, since he cares about ideas and morality.

Perhaps an analogy will help. Consider the following three types of person:

1. A jaded employee of a mass canteen in a Communist country who could care less about the quality of the food she produces.

2. A person who knows there is a difference between good cooking and bad cooking, would like to get hired to cook for a quality restaurant, and knows that he needs to be a good cook in order to qualify, but rarely makes a serious effort to improve his skills and has all the wrong ideas about what good food is.

3. The chef of one of the best restaurants in town.

The claim being made is that most people are like #2, not like #1.

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But most people do aquire some knowledge of politics and philosophy and do recognize that it's of some importance. However studying the subject does not always lead in the right direction - thinking does not always lead to the right answers. People can make all sorts of mistakes and fall into all sorts of traps along the way(the cultural climate is not exactly making things easier here), and many people are unaware of their ignorance.

But if a person does not shut off his mind (which is a choice) he will be able to discover that he is in error, or is ignorant, and then he should do something about it.

Sure, and some people do and others dont. It can be a long and difficult process for people to change though. My point however is that finding the right answers does not happen automatically if one decides to just think.

So would I, probably--although I don't really know what a typical Swede is like, since all the Swedish people I know are Objectivists. :lol: Which brings us back to: Why not simply surround yourself with the most virtuous people you know, and forget about "the typical average man" ? I think you are too concerned with "world justice" ; I prefer to focus on my own life and let the rest of mankind take care of the lives of the rest of mankind.

I've lived in sweden all my life and have never met a typical person. :lol: I'd say it's a mix of both good and bad.

One thing I like to do is try and deal with peoples virtues. I look at it as pursuing the things that I value, and as long as their vices don't destroy that we can get along well.

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One thing I like to do is try and deal with peoples virtues. I look at it as pursuing the things that I value, and as long as their vices don't destroy that we can get along well.

I can certainly get along with the ordinary people around me, but I still have to evaluate them as I in fact see them. And I sometimes shudder when I think about how small and suicidal they resign themselves to being, when they choose not to make the effort to think much, and not to bother to pursue abstract knowledge.

I do not spend much time contemplating the small people around me, I spend most of my time pursuing my own happiness.

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I have made an inductive generalization from my observations of, and contemplation of, the many hundreds of persons that I have interacted with in my life, and I have complemented my observations with reading about such subjects as history and current events.

In order for your very small sampling to generalize to the entire population it has to be unbiased in the statistic sense. In short, a random sample. Is that the case? Where would you set your confidence level for your sampling?

Bob Kolker

Let me put it this way. If I was a jury member in a trial, and I had the same level of confidence in the evidence that the accused was guilty, as I have in my sample being representative, then I would definitely *not* concemn the accused. That would be reckless. But nobody´s physical freedom is riding on whether my moral evaluation of the majority of typical men is true. If I am wrong, nobody will be harmed, except perhaps for some second-handers, because nobody but a second-hander would care too much what I think of them.

Then why did I bother to write my post, if nobody should care too much about my personal evaluation of the majority of ordinary men? I suppose that I was just "letting off steam". I am disgusted by the mental passivity, the lack of ambition and the smallness that I believe characterizes the majority of ordinary men.

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Then why did I bother to write my post, if nobody should care too much about my personal evaluation of the majority of ordinary men? I suppose that I was just "letting off steam". I am disgusted by the mental passivity, the lack of ambition and the smallness that I believe characterizes the majority of ordinary men.

I am befuddled by this entire thread. First of all, I would like to know why you attempt to evaluate people by putting them into an abstract bucket of 'ordinary men'? When I evaluate people - and I do every day and all the time - I evaluate them as individuals. I don't ever average them out and put them all under a single heading. I think to myself: 'My boss Steve really believes in treating me fairly and values my hard work. I disagree with some of his views, but he is overall a really good guy.' Or even: 'My new friend Mikey is a sharp guy with some keen insights. He lacks some knowledge on various topics, but appears interested in learning more.'

What I'm saying here is I evaluate specific men in specific ways. I don't ever take the characteristics of one man and combine them with another to establish the moral strengths or weaknesses of all men. I can draw conclusions about all the people I know, but one cannot take shortcuts when it comes to observation. It takes a LOT of observation to grasp what makes a particular man tick and even then interpretations can be erroneous. Lord knows I have misjudged people over the years and have had to re-evaluate positively or negatively when I found out new things about the people I falsely evaluated.

I think it's a losing proposition to try to engage in evaluation of the sort the Henrik has discussed. In the pursuit of values, I think it makes a lot more sense to evaluate the people you know and decide to what degree you want to deal with them. Some will be close friends, some acquaintances, and others you'll deem nasty and avoid entirely.

I think it's a bit like dating. You go on a first date in a public place with no serious commitment required. Perhaps you meet the woman or man for coffee. You spend 30 minutes or an hour determining if that man or woman is someone with whom you enjoy spending time. If so, the second date can progress to a night out for dinner and drinks. If not, you thank the man or woman for their time and move on.

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Then why did I bother to write my post, if nobody should care too much about my personal evaluation of the majority of ordinary men? I suppose that I was just "letting off steam". I am disgusted by the mental passivity, the lack of ambition and the smallness that I believe characterizes the majority of ordinary men.

I am befuddled by this entire thread. First of all, I would like to know why you attempt to evaluate people by putting them into an abstract bucket of 'ordinary men'? When I evaluate people - and I do every day and all the time - I evaluate them as individuals. I don't ever average them out and put them all under a single heading. I think to myself: 'My boss Steve really believes in treating me fairly and values my hard work. I disagree with some of his views, but he is overall a really good guy.' Or even: 'My new friend Mikey is a sharp guy with some keen insights. He lacks some knowledge on various topics, but appears interested in learning more.'

What I'm saying here is I evaluate specific men in specific ways. I don't ever take the characteristics of one man and combine them with another to establish the moral strengths or weaknesses of all men. I can draw conclusions about all the people I know, but one cannot take shortcuts when it comes to observation. It takes a LOT of observation to grasp what makes a particular man tick and even then interpretations can be erroneous. Lord knows I have misjudged people over the years and have had to re-evaluate positively or negatively when I found out new things about the people I falsely evaluated.

I think it's a losing proposition to try to engage in evaluation of the sort the Henrik has discussed. In the pursuit of values, I think it makes a lot more sense to evaluate the people you know and decide to what degree you want to deal with them. Some will be close friends, some acquaintances, and others you'll deem nasty and avoid entirely.

I started out by evaluating specific, individual men. *Much* later I induced, and made the generalization that not only many of the individuals whom I unfortunately have had to deal with in my own life were morally depraved, but the majority of ordinary men are too. It took me many years from the time that I first made moral evaluations of individuals, based on my knowledge of Objectivist philosophy, until the time that I began hypothesising that *most* people are small and depraved. I spent that time accumulating observations of concrete people, and thinking about those observations.

I do not see why I cannot *both* judge the individual men around me, *and* also make inductive generalizations about the majority of men. What is the problem? I do have time to do both.

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