SteepedInReality

Source of passage?

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I've heard that there is a passage in one of Rand's writings where she discusses the following scenario: You're walking in the woods and you come across a well. A man has fallen down into the well and is calling for help. You have a rope with you, and you have to decide whether to throw the rope down to pull the man out.

The story goes that Rand concludes that you would not be doing anything wrong if you decided not to throw the rope down the well to help the man. Does anyone know whether there is such a passage in Rand's writings, and if so, where it appears?

Thanks.

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I've heard that there is a passage in one of Rand's writings where she discusses the following scenario: You're walking in the woods and you come across a well. A man has fallen down into the well and is calling for help. You have a rope with you, and you have to decide whether to throw the rope down to pull the man out.

The story goes that Rand concludes that you would not be doing anything wrong if you decided not to throw the rope down the well to help the man. Does anyone know whether there is such a passage in Rand's writings, and if so, where it appears?

There is no such a passage because that is the exact opposite of Ayn Rand's actual views. Ayn Rand valued human life and had a general benevolent attitude toward people. She had no objection to helping others as long as it was non-sacrificial and throwing a rope down isn't a sacrifice.

This sounds like something made up by those who want to caricature and misrepresent Ayn Rand's real ideas and rather than ask US to find a non-existent passage, ask THEM.

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I've heard that there is a passage in one of Rand's writings where she discusses the following scenario: You're walking in the woods and you come across a well. A man has fallen down into the well and is calling for help. You have a rope with you, and you have to decide whether to throw the rope down to pull the man out.

The story goes that Rand concludes that you would not be doing anything wrong if you decided not to throw the rope down the well to help the man. Does anyone know whether there is such a passage in Rand's writings, and if so, where it appears?

Thanks.

Where did you hear this?

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I've heard that there is a passage in one of Rand's writings where she discusses the following scenario: You're walking in the woods and you come across a well. A man has fallen down into the well and is calling for help. You have a rope with you, and you have to decide whether to throw the rope down to pull the man out.

The story goes that Rand concludes that you would not be doing anything wrong if you decided not to throw the rope down the well to help the man. Does anyone know whether there is such a passage in Rand's writings, and if so, where it appears?

There is no such a passage because that is the exact opposite of Ayn Rand's actual views. Ayn Rand valued human life and had a general benevolent attitude toward people. She had no objection to helping others as long as it was non-sacrificial and throwing a rope down isn't a sacrifice.

This sounds like something made up by those who want to caricature and misrepresent Ayn Rand's real ideas and rather than ask US to find a non-existent passage, ask THEM.

Well, I heard this once said by a caller to a radio show and saw it once in a comment on a blog post, so in neither case did I have the opportunity to ask them exactly what they were talking about.

Reagarding the relationship of this apocryphal story to Ayn Rand's actual views, it seems to me there's a clear distinction you're overlooking. That's the distinction between what it would be wrong to do and what it would be wrong not to do. I was inquiring whether, according to Rand's moral framework, it would be wrong not to help, and your response was that she does not think it would be wrong to help, which is a different question.

Think of it this way: perhaps I am a generally benevolent fellow who loves human life, so presented with the story about the man in the well I might say that I would be quick to throw the rope down the well. That's perfectly consistent with my holding that another person--one who was not malicious but simply didn't have the same depth of concern for human life--would be perfectly within her moral rights to choose not to help. Whether to help is a decision for her to make based on her own values and concerns, and if she decides that helping the man is not that important to her, it's not for me to criticize her choice (though I might chose to find a way of helping the man myself).

My impression was that the story (which I now understand to be misattributed) was meant to evince this latter sentiment, which is a far cry from saying it would be wrong to help the man if one found oneself with a desire to do so (and which I never understood to be Rand's view). I hope I've clearly articulated the distinction I have in mind.

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Where did you hear this?

John--

See above: I've heard it a couple times, once on a radio show and once on a blog post, so never got a chance to follow up with those who mentioned it, unfortunately. I'm only familiar with some of Rand's work so I thought it might have appeared in one of the works I haven't read, and thought folks here might know more about this.

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I've heard that there is a passage in one of Rand's writings where she discusses the following scenario: You're walking in the woods and you come across a well. A man has fallen down into the well and is calling for help. You have a rope with you, and you have to decide whether to throw the rope down to pull the man out.

The story goes that Rand concludes that you would not be doing anything wrong if you decided not to throw the rope down the well to help the man. Does anyone know whether there is such a passage in Rand's writings, and if so, where it appears?

There is no such a passage because that is the exact opposite of Ayn Rand's actual views. Ayn Rand valued human life and had a general benevolent attitude toward people. She had no objection to helping others as long as it was non-sacrificial and throwing a rope down isn't a sacrifice.

This sounds like something made up by those who want to caricature and misrepresent Ayn Rand's real ideas and rather than ask US to find a non-existent passage, ask THEM.

Well, I heard this once said by a caller to a radio show and saw it once in a comment on a blog post, so in neither case did I have the opportunity to ask them exactly what they were talking about.

Reagarding the relationship of this apocryphal story to Ayn Rand's actual views, it seems to me there's a clear distinction you're overlooking. That's the distinction between what it would be wrong to do and what it would be wrong not to do. I was inquiring whether, according to Rand's moral framework, it would be wrong not to help, and your response was that she does not think it would be wrong to help, which is a different question.

Think of it this way: perhaps I am a generally benevolent fellow who loves human life, so presented with the story about the man in the well I might say that I would be quick to throw the rope down the well. That's perfectly consistent with my holding that another person--one who was not malicious but simply didn't have the same depth of concern for human life--would be perfectly within her moral rights to choose not to help. Whether to help is a decision for her to make based on her own values and concerns, and if she decides that helping the man is not that important to her, it's not for me to criticize her choice (though I might chose to find a way of helping the man myself).

My impression was that the story (which I now understand to be misattributed) was meant to evince this latter sentiment, which is a far cry from saying it would be wrong to help the man if one found oneself with a desire to do so (and which I never understood to be Rand's view). I hope I've clearly articulated the distinction I have in mind.

As with most "ethics of emergencies" situations, any realistic context is missing. One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is some kind of system that is uncaring about people. This is a common ad hominem method of attack. Let's see if one can put some context to this example.

First of all, why I am carrying a rope? What is my goal? Where am I going? Why did the person in the well fall in? Who is the stranger? Bin Laden? After one answers such questions, then an answer to your question might be appropriate. What alternatives are there? If I need the rope and just got it nearby, can I call someone over to get another rope to help the person in the well? Did my wife fall down another well and I need the rope to save her? Then, yes, it would be wrong not to help her and help the stranger. Yes, it be morally proper not to help the stranger when one's wife was in trouble. If there were no extenuating circumstances, then it would not be morally proper not to help the stranger.

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I've heard that there is a passage in one of Rand's writings where she discusses the following scenario: You're walking in the woods and you come across a well. A man has fallen down into the well and is calling for help. You have a rope with you, and you have to decide whether to throw the rope down to pull the man out.

The story goes that Rand concludes that you would not be doing anything wrong if you decided not to throw the rope down the well to help the man. Does anyone know whether there is such a passage in Rand's writings, and if so, where it appears?

There is no such a passage because that is the exact opposite of Ayn Rand's actual views. Ayn Rand valued human life and had a general benevolent attitude toward people. She had no objection to helping others as long as it was non-sacrificial and throwing a rope down isn't a sacrifice.

This sounds like something made up by those who want to caricature and misrepresent Ayn Rand's real ideas and rather than ask US to find a non-existent passage, ask THEM.

Well, I heard this once said by a caller to a radio show and saw it once in a comment on a blog post, so in neither case did I have the opportunity to ask them exactly what they were talking about.

Reagarding the relationship of this apocryphal story to Ayn Rand's actual views, it seems to me there's a clear distinction you're overlooking. That's the distinction between what it would be wrong to do and what it would be wrong not to do. I was inquiring whether, according to Rand's moral framework, it would be wrong not to help, and your response was that she does not think it would be wrong to help, which is a different question.

Think of it this way: perhaps I am a generally benevolent fellow who loves human life, so presented with the story about the man in the well I might say that I would be quick to throw the rope down the well. That's perfectly consistent with my holding that another person--one who was not malicious but simply didn't have the same depth of concern for human life--would be perfectly within her moral rights to choose not to help. Whether to help is a decision for her to make based on her own values and concerns, and if she decides that helping the man is not that important to her, it's not for me to criticize her choice (though I might chose to find a way of helping the man myself).

My impression was that the story (which I now understand to be misattributed) was meant to evince this latter sentiment, which is a far cry from saying it would be wrong to help the man if one found oneself with a desire to do so (and which I never understood to be Rand's view). I hope I've clearly articulated the distinction I have in mind.

As with most "ethics of emergencies" situations, any realistic context is missing. One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is some kind of system that is uncaring about people. This is a common ad hominem method of attack. Let's see if one can put some context to this example.

First of all, why I am carrying a rope? What is my goal? Where am I going? Why did the person in the well fall in? Who is the stranger? Bin Laden? After one answers such questions, then an answer to your question might be appropriate. What alternatives are there? If I need the rope and just got it nearby, can I call someone over to get another rope to help the person in the well? Did my wife fall down another well and I need the rope to save her? Then, yes, it would be wrong not to help her and help the stranger. Yes, it be morally proper not to help the stranger when one's wife was in trouble. If there were no extenuating circumstances, then it would not be morally proper not to help the stranger.

Not sure what happened to this sentence: "One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is some kind of system that is uncaring about people."

Should be "One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is uncaring about people."

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As with most "ethics of emergencies" situations, any realistic context is missing. One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is some kind of system that is uncaring about people. This is a common ad hominem method of attack. Let's see if one can put some context to this example.

First of all, why I am carrying a rope? What is my goal? Where am I going? Why did the person in the well fall in? Who is the stranger? Bin Laden? After one answers such questions, then an answer to your question might be appropriate. What alternatives are there? If I need the rope and just got it nearby, can I call someone over to get another rope to help the person in the well? Did my wife fall down another well and I need the rope to save her? Then, yes, it would be wrong not to help her and help the stranger. Yes, it be morally proper not to help the stranger when one's wife was in trouble. If there were no extenuating circumstances, then it would not be morally proper not to help the stranger.

Not sure what happened to this sentence: "One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is some kind of system that is uncaring about people."

Should be "One is simply supposed to make an emotional reaction to someone who would agree with such a choice, and then attempt to show that Objectivism (or the person in the situation) is uncaring about people."

I want to be clear that I don't have any ulterior ad hominem strategy here, I'm simply trying to get clear on the moral framework of Objectivism. If some people think Objectivism is an "uncaring" moral framework (whatever that means), that's their business. For my own part, I have a certain degree of sympathy for the "it's your choice" view, and I'm trying to figure out whether that's consistent or inconsistent with Objectivism (as the folks here understand it). (For the record, in one instance where I heard this story described, the "there's nothing wrong with not helping" sentiment was presented approvingly, and in the other it was criticized. So some people use this story for exactly the purpose you describe, but apparently some people think that it wouldn't be wrong not to help, and are under the impression that this is Rand's view as well.)

But, to provide the context that, as you rightly point out, is relevant but missing from the story as I've described it (these details weren't supplied when I heard the story, so I'm supplying them according to what I think think the original intent was and what I think makes for an interesting question): You're on your way to a nearby lake to take your boat out; you're trying to get out on the water before it gets dark (for whatever reason) and if you stop to help you'll most likely be late. You're carrying the rope to use for the sorts of things sailors typically use rope for. If you throw the rope down the well, it'll likely get wet and dirty, meaning you'll have to clean it before you can use it (to prevent the grit from scratching up part of your boat, let's say). You don't know who the person is (and let's stipulate that they don't look like a terrorist) or why he fell in; the acoustics of the well and the man's rather panicked state are interfering with communication, so your requests for information about how he ended up in the well are unfruitful. Your seamanship is a solitary pursuit so there isn't anyone with you and there isn't likely to be anyone nearby who can provide assistance. So far as you know, your wife and assorted other family members, friends, and acquaintances are all safe and sound.

What would people say? Would it be wrong (or morally improper, if you prefer) not to throw the rope down the well?

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Ayn Rand wrote, and said, no such thing. It's nothing more than ignorant slander against her and Objectivism.

Look up the passage in Atlas Shrugged where Francisco immediately rushes to assist with a disaster in Hank Rearden's steel making factory, and nearly loses his balance near the molten steel. *That* will give you a much clearer idea of her view of values and valuing.

Any decent person, including any actual Objectivist, would not only throw a rope down the well, they'd do as much more than that to save the person, assuming that there was no evidence that it was some evil individual, and that it wasn't a sacrifice to save them.

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Ayn Rand wrote, and said, no such thing. It's nothing more than ignorant slander against her and Objectivism.

Look up the passage in Atlas Shrugged where Francisco immediately rushes to assist with a disaster in Hank Rearden's steel making factory, and nearly loses his balance near the molten steel. *That* will give you a much clearer idea of her view of values and valuing.

Any decent person, including any actual Objectivist, would not only throw a rope down the well, they'd do as much more than that to save the person, assuming that there was no evidence that it was some evil individual, and that it wasn't a sacrifice to save them.

Again, I'm not sure I see where the slander comes in. Regardless of what any particular person--including any particular Objectivist--would do, there remains the question of what someone is morally obliged to do. For one thing, note that as I fleshed out the story, throwing the rope down does involve sacrifice (not getting out on the water as early as you wanted, having to clean your rope). Some would describe this as "minor" sacrifice, but it is sacrifice nonetheless, and I, for one, don't see why any person should have to make such a sacrifice (even if I, and you, and everyone else here would in fact do so).

But even if there was no sacrifice involved, I still don't see why there would be anything wrong, in an objective sense, with choosing not to throw the rope down the well. To think otherwise is to think that there's some general moral imperative for each person to bear some responsibility for the lives of other people. Certainly people can acquire such responsibilities (if the person in the well was a friend or family member, or if I was the park ranger whose job it was to see to the wellbeing of people in that area, then I would be obliged to assist), but in the absence of such circumstances I don't see where this responsibility could possibly come from.

So while some people might wish to use this story in a slanderous manner, especially if they imply that Rand's philosophy implies that one ought not assist, I see it exactly the opposite way. I see it as a straghtforward demonstration of the absence of any general moral responsibility for the lives of strangers. Even if it would be extremely rare to find a human being who would not feel inclined to throw the rope down the well, I don't see what grounds there are for criticizing someone who chose not to do so--sacrifice or no.

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There are no unchosen duties or categorical imperatives, but neither is it a subjective matter of what you feel like. The value of human life and benevolence towards the innocent is generally more important to rational individuals than minor delays or inconveniences. If you don't want to help someone in such an emergency then don't, but be prepared to be judged in accordance with what you and your values are.

If you want to understand the "moral framework" and the status of such questions in the importance of and need for ethics, read what she had to say in her essays on ethics, the ethics of "emergencies", and "causality versus duty".

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If you don't want to help someone in such an emergency then don't, but be prepared to be judged in accordance with what you and your values are.

But exactly what I'm saying is that there's a difference between what people do and what they should do. This applies to those who judge as much as it applies to those who act. So I accept that someone who chooses not to throw the rope down the well must be prepared to be judged and criticized, but my point is that those who would criticize such a choice are wrong--if they think that the person who chooses not to help has done somehting wrong, then they are wrong about what morality requires.

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You left out the rest of what I wrote. Morality is objective, not intrinsic or subjective. The judgement is made in a specific context, not in accordance with either what people subjectively decide to do or with an intrinsic, non-contextual duty. If you don't understand that about Ayn Rand's ethics you will not understand this example either.

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You left out the rest of what I wrote. Morality is objective, not intrinsic or subjective. The judgement is made in a specific context, not in accordance with either what people subjectively decide to do or with an intrinsic, non-contextual duty. If you don't understand that about Ayn Rand's ethics you will not understand this example either.

My apologies; I left out the rest of your comment because I wanted to highlight exactly that portion of what you wrote that I disagreed with. All I'm saying is that people's judgments notwithstanding, there is a fact of the matter about whether someone who chooses not to throw the rope down the well does something wrong. I say that person does nothing wrong, from an objective moral standpoint (especially if they must make a sacrifice in order to do so, but the point holds even if not). I haven't encountered anything in any of Rand's writings that would me to believe that this is false, hence my interest in finding out if this story originated with her.

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The part you left out and continue to ignore is necessary to understand what you disagree with. You have been told several times now that the "story" did not come from her and you have been told where to look to understand her position so you can understand the basis on which such principles are established and applied. Ayn Rand's ethical theory does not provide a list of rules like commandments on what to do in prespecified situations while leaving you with no guidance in everything else. That approach contradicts her conception of the nature and purpose of ethics.

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The part you left out and continue to ignore is necessary to understand what you disagree with. You have been told several times now that the "story" did not come from her and you have been told where to look to understand her position so you can understand the basis on which such principles are established and applied. Ayn Rand's ethical theory does not provide a list of rules like commandments on what to do in prespecified situations while leaving you with no guidance in everything else. That approach contradicts her conception of the nature and purpose of ethics.

Right, I acknowledge that the story did not originate with her--my apologies for not making that clearer in my most recent comment. Now I'm just curious as to whether I've truly misunderstood how the principles of Objectivism ought to be applied in the situation, as people here are alleging. I've read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (and just re-read the passage regarding the steel factory mentioned by PhilO above), and as I understand the principles laid out therein, there would be no grounds for criticizing someone who chose not to throw the rope down the well, especially if it involved the sacrifices I mentioned. I don't have the other writings people have mentioned handy, so I'll try to get to the library over the weekend. I do appreciate the pointers, but I'd also be interested in hearing how exactly people think you can get from passages in, say, The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged to the idea that it would be wrong not to assist the man in the well.

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Steeped: Say you'd accidentally fallen into the water and you needed a life preserver to stay afloat. With minimal effort somebody could throw it to you. Let's say they don't know you. And decide that continuing on their casual exercise walk is more important. Is your last dying gasps do you really think "there would be no grounds for criticizing someone who chose not to throw the rope down the well [throw in the preserver]" ?

Helping a presumed decent person with such an emergency with minimal, rare effort is not a sacrifice and not altruism, and it would be pretty monstrous to not at least go to that minimal effort to help.

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I was inquiring whether, according to Rand's moral framework, it would be wrong not to help ...

The short answer is "no". The long answer can be found in "The Virtue of Selfishness", a collection of Ayn Rand's essays on this subject.

But it's interesting to look at the consequences if the answer to this question is "yes". Let's do this from the viewpoint of John, a fictional character we'll invent.

John is a citizen of an economically developed country. His job provides a good salary. John lives in an apartment, has cable TV, and he owns a car. He occasionally takes his lady out to dinner or a movie. John gives a substantial amount of his income to charities.

When John hears the man shouting in the well, he stops to help him. He believes that it would be morally wrong, in fact evil, to do otherwise. John would stop and help, even if it meant great inconvenience. If you ask John why he is helping, he says that the man's need is acute and any cost to himself is insignificant in comparison.

The problem for John is that there are people in much worse situations than the man in the well. For example, there are children in Africa who are suffering dreadfully and will die for lack of food or medical care. These children could be helped if there was sufficient money to buy the food and medicines. There are organizations, such as Oxfam, that could scale up their operations if they had extra funds.

So if John truly believes that it is evil to pass by people who are in acute need, why is he turning his back on the innocent victims of famine, pestilence and war? If you ask John this question, he might talk about his charitable giving. But you can point out that he is dining out with his lady, enjoying a nice bottle of wine. If the cost of the meal had been donated to Oxfam, it would have fed a child for a month.

Similarly with many of his other expenditures. He can survive without cable TV. He could sell his car and live in a rented room near his work. And how about his leisure time in the evenings and on weekends? He could take a second job. Even if he takes all these steps, and donates the money to Oxfam, he will still be vastly better off than Oxfam's clients - and there is room for him to do more.

I'm interested in what you think about John's situation. To be moral, must John live at a subsistence level so that he can devote all his income to helping those in need? Or, if he wants to live a pleasant life, must he accept that he is evil, a callous greedhead who looks on with indifference as children suffer and die? Or can you suggest some third alternative?

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BrianB--

Thanks for the detailed response. This is one of my chief concerns when it comes to the issue of selfishness, altruism, and morality. The position you outline is advocated, as I'm sure you're aware, by "philosopher" Peter Singer (the name is difficult for me to speak or write without gagging). There are so many obvious flaws with Singer's position we could spend all day going through them and still not make it halfway, but I think one of the biggest mistakes he makes is precisely to assume--without argument, of course--that one is obliged to take responsibility for the lives of strangers, even if there's some "small" sacrifice involved.

In short, I'm not convinced an affirmative answer to the "is it wrong not to help the man in the well?" question has the consequences you describe, but the mere possibility of such an argument going through is enough, I would think, to demonstrate that the answer should be a resounding "NO" (and thinking about things this way is what has led me to interpret Rand in the same way you do--thanks for the pointer on "The Virtue of Selfishness," I think that's exactly what I've been looking for).

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I Googled this convenient misrepresentation. Other than finding the OP, word for word, on Yahoo Answers, I found no other major reference to this convenient hypotheitical.

http://answers.yahoo...08181842AA0vbdX

I wanted to note, in case anyone's curious, that I did also make this post on Yahoo. It seemed a reasonable place to ask the question but I realized shortly after I might have better luck on a forum like this one, so just copied and pasted the question here.

I've also finally managed to track down one of the places I saw this before (took me a while to find the right search terms): http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/09/02/sociopathic/ (WARNING: NOT recommended if you have blood pressure issues! The sheer idiocy of many of the arguments--in the article and the comments--is enough to induce a heart attack.) Just search the page for "rope" and you'll find the attribution of the "man in the well" story to Ayn Rand.

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I Googled this convenient misrepresentation. Other than finding the OP, word for word, on Yahoo Answers, I found no other major reference to this convenient hypotheitical.

http://answers.yahoo...08181842AA0vbdX

I wanted to note, in case anyone's curious, that I did also make this post on Yahoo. It seemed a reasonable place to ask the question but I realized shortly after I might have better luck on a forum like this one, so just copied and pasted the question here.

I've also finally managed to track down one of the places I saw this before (took me a while to find the right search terms): http://www.addicting...02/sociopathic/ (WARNING: NOT recommended if you have blood pressure issues! The sheer idiocy of many of the arguments--in the article and the comments--is enough to induce a heart attack.) Just search the page for "rope" and you'll find the attribution of the "man in the well" story to Ayn Rand.

Addendum: Turns out it's "man in a lake" in this version, but I'm pretty sure the first time I heard it (again, on a radio show, trying to remember what and when) it was a well. I take it the difference is insignificant.

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Steeped: why do you hold that helping someone is a moral issue that is of major concern for you to form an opinion about the "issue of selfishness, altruism, and morality"? If you've read anything by Rand, as you say you have, then one thing you need to understand is the helping others is one of the least important issues in ethics, at least for a rational ethics. Objectivist ethics teaches you how to live your life rationally and how to achieve your values. Living rationally and achieving values is a lifelong process. Helping others is a short term consideration. Help is not the goal or a value to be sought within one's value system.

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I've also finally managed to track down one of the places I saw this before (took me a while to find the right search terms): http://www.addicting...02/sociopathic/ (WARNING: NOT recommended if you have blood pressure issues! The sheer idiocy of many of the arguments--in the article and the comments--is enough to induce a heart attack.) Just search the page for "rope" and you'll find the attribution of the "man in the well" story to Ayn Rand.

As you seem to recognize now, that is a reprehensible misrepresentation of Ayn Rand's position by a religious leftist creating a false alternative to his own insane position. Ayn Rand is too clear a writer for such misrepresentations to be innocent. When people see the reasonableness of Ayn Rand's explanations in her own words, such opposing notions do not survive except within the minds of the goons perpetrating them.

You should not feel like you're getting high blood pressure from sites like that. They are a dime a dozen all over the internet. They have no credibility. They are not a source for raising questions about anything. The world is full of nonsense, which is why it is in such bad shape. Concentrate on what is important to you and what is important to do about it. You can waste a lot of time with google searches for Ayn Rand on the internet instead of focusing on learning what you need and on your efforts on behalf of your own values.

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I was inquiring whether, according to Rand's moral framework, it would be wrong not to help ...

The short answer is "no". The long answer can be found in "The Virtue of Selfishness", a collection of Ayn Rand's essays on this subject.

But it's interesting to look at the consequences if the answer to this question is "yes". Let's do this from the viewpoint of John, a fictional character we'll invent...

If we happen to be hiking around Mt. Washington and notice you screaming in agony having fallen off a cliff we'll be sure to stoically keep going rather than show any benevolence towards you in your plight and stop to call for help. We had no idea that such actions are a gateway drug into poverty while saving the continent of Africa. Whew, it was a close call but you saved us. Odd that we all missed that in Ayn Rand's writing.

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