Betsy Speicher

Moral Dilemma #4

16 posts in this topic

You know Willis from your dealings with him on the internet and from meeting him a few times at Objectivist conferences and he seems to be a nice and decent person. You also have met Willis's friend Brad who seems intelligent, witty, and much more extroverted than the quiet, all-business, Willis.

Your new job brings you to the city where Willis and Brad live so you intend to call them both up. Brad is his usual exuberant self, eager to get together for dinner and and movie and introduce you to the Objectivists in town (he knows everybody) -- until you ask him for Willis's phone number.

"Are you sure to want to have anything to do with Willis?" Brad asks. "He's involved with some rather shady characters these days -- religious people, liberals -- really disgusting! If you're smart, you'll stay away from him."

This comes as quite a shock and seems completely at odds with your own limited experience with Willis, so what should you do? Should you call Willis? Should you tell Willis what Brad told you? Should you mind your own business? Or??

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If I thought that from my perspective of Willis he could be a value, I would search out the truth. I would also want to know why Brad would make these statements and if he is worth me valuing him. The first question that I would ask though, would be weather or not I deem them a high enough value to cause searching out the truth? If the answer is no, I would just keep my mouth shut.

Ray K

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Should you call Willis?  Should you tell Willis what Brad told you?  Should you mind your own business?  Or??

I'd call Willis. I much prefer first-hand knowledge, so I'd drawn my own conclusions about Willis by dealing directly with Willis.

As for telling Willis what Brad said, I'd leave them to do just what I did with Willis - form their own conclusions and make their own choices. I'd only get involved if it would have a pretty serious effect on my interests. I have always had a real aversion to getting in the middle of other people's problems.

And when it comes to others' individual choices, I let people go their own way without comment (again barring direct impact on my affairs). Frustrates the busybodies I know to no end when I respond with "Whatever" and a shrug.

(The sole exception is with my kids, because it's my responsibility to teach them how to deal with life's problems. With them I'll step in even if they don't ask. But the better they get at it over time, the less I get involved.)

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This comes as quite a shock and seems completely at odds with your own limited experience with Willis, so what should you do?  Should you call Willis?  Should you tell Willis what Brad told you?  Should you mind your own business?  Or??

I would call Willis.

When Brad says "Are you sure...", he likely knows very well that you don't know Willis enough to know who he is associating with. Brad doesn't want to be around Willis for some reason. I would not forget what he said either. But with this much information it's hard to assume much about either person without getting to know them better.

I would not tell Willis what Brad said.

I would mind my own business and meet them separately.

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I would get Willis's number and then throw out Brad's (metaphorically speaking)

What Brad does and says in this example reveals more about himself than Willis. I would wonder if Brad is trying to indirectly punish Willis rather than protect me from him. Unless Willis is a suspected serial killer (purse snatcher, crack dealer, etc...), Brad's first response to my request should be "Sure, no problem.".

This example also establishes that Willis and Brad are friends (or were friends). Brad doesn't hesitate to trash his former friend for a relative stranger. That speaks volumes about Brads character.

Let consider what Brad is accusing Willis of doing. Brad's accusations are sufficiently vauge that Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff could be accused of the same. Either Brad has a very rigid/intolerant standard for who people should associate with (unlikely considering he is outgoing and social), or Brad is subconsciously trying to punish Willis for something (there may be other possibilities). Both of these speak poorly for Brad, not nessasarily for Willis.

Finally, Brad doesn't appear to have any problem telling me what to do (don't call him, if you are smart). This is a very presumptious attitude, and I personally don't like to be dealt with this way.

What to do? Insist on the number, call Willis, and wait for more information about Brad's character.

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This example also establishes that Willis and Brad are friends (or were friends). Brad doesn't hesitate to trash his former friend for a relative stranger. That speaks volumes about Brads character.

Are you criticizing Brad's character for generally expressing something negative about his former friend, or solely for the particular things that he said? If Brad had said: Willis is no longer my friend, but I will give you his phone number with the understanding that I do not recommend associating with him," would that have been acceptable?

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Religious people and liberals are not usually "disgusting". They are wrong, sure, but I'd need much more to go on to judge their character.

Also, since you have had some meetings with Willis, and they were positive, you have direct feedback which tells you Brad is making a bad assessment.

To me this is a very simple case. I need more information. Without more facts I can't make a good assessment of Willis' character, so I would go the first hander route and learn more about him.

After dealing with Willis, then I can make a fuller assessment of both he and Brad.

In truth, it takes a long time to learn another person's character. It's not something that can be done in a snap.

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Are you criticizing Brad's character for generally expressing something negative about his former friend, or solely for the particular things that he said?

The latter.

If Brad had said: Willis is no longer my friend, but I will give you his phone number with the understanding that I do not recommend associating with him," would that have been acceptable?

The reworded quote is much better.

In that case: I wouldn't pry further (unless Brad wants to get more specific). I would continue my plan to call Willis. I wouldn't say anything to him (unless he says something about his former friendship with Brad).

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I like to be my own judge of character and of the acquintances I keep. I have all to often seem otherwise decent people not get along simply because of personality issues.

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I like to be my own judge of character and of the acquintances I keep.

Well, sure, but you can always cuff them! :P (just kidding)

I have all to often seem otherwise decent people not get along simply because of personality issues.

If by "personality issues" you mean optional differences in style, I have come to believe that that is the exception rather than the rule. I think that when "otherwise decent people" do not get along, most of the time it is because at least one of them is not really quite that decent.

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This comes as quite a shock and seems completely at odds with your own limited experience with Willis, so what should you do?  Should you call Willis?  Should you tell Willis what Brad told you?  Should you mind your own business?  Or??

I would tell Brad I wanted to verify his claims first-hand, so would he please give me the number.

If he refused that (and expressed offense about how I didn't trust him etc.), I would know what to think of Brad. I would look up Willis in the phone book and tell him about what had just happened.

If Brad complied, I would call Willis and find out if Brad's claims about him were true (without telling him about Brad's claims). If they turned out true, I would thank Brad for warning me; if they turned out false, I would tell Willis about what Brad had said.

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I would verify Brad's claims, call Willis, and I would probably bring up what Brad had said.

The means of how I bring this up would depend on what I got from Willis. Either I would express it as concern (if I felt I had reason for concern) and ask if he and Brad had been having problems because *Brad said some really strange things to me* or I would laugh it off as if I must have misunderstood. I like to have things out in the open, and it would bug me to not understand Brad and or Willis. I might even decide they are both strange and not want to associate with them if Willis himself seemed vague or unable to answer the accusation.

Mind you I'm not saying Willis is wrong for who he hangs out with-if I value him and his judgement, who he hangs out with does not bug me-WHY he does might though. This would be more a matter of who Willis turned out to be than who he hung out with.

Likewise with Brad-maybe he just said something dumb, or maybe Willis will tell me they are fighting, but it has been established I think from your set up that I trust Willis more, and so I would go to him for the answers.

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Are the only options call Willis/not call Willis? My initial response would be to request an explicit explanation from Brad, and then think about what he said. Perhaps this is just because I'm lazy and if this new info requires me to re-evaluate people I met I don't want to have to call both of them mulitiple times to get information.

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Well, sure, but you can always cuff them!  :P  (just kidding)

Never leave home without 'em.... okay, actually I do sometimes. ;)

If by "personality issues" you mean optional differences in style, I have come to believe that that is the exception rather than the rule. I think that when "otherwise decent people" do not get along, most of the time it is because at least one of them is not really quite that decent.

This would suggest our experiences differ, which is not surprising.

I think there are varying degrees of decency. My experience has shown me that many times some folks I know place to much emphasis on first impressions. Once a bad first impression is made, some folks look no further and give up on an "otherwise decent person". While that can be a character flaw as well, they themselves are also "otherwise decent people".

That said, I am friends or acquianted with people of varying degrees of decency, all of whom meet my "standard" of decency, but who sometimes don't meet each others. But amongst those friends or acquaintances, each of them represents a different value to me. I may listen to their experiences with another person, but I temper with my own experiences with that person, or at least give the new guy an opportunity first before blindly accepting the evaluation of another.

I have very, very few close friends though. My standards or expectations for a close friend are pretty high.

A fair amount of my adult observations on this topic comes from the police sub-culture, which is known to have its share of "type A" personalities (and no other Objectivists that I know of at this point). If you put enough type A's together, you tend to have conflicts.

I have only met one person who (to the best of my knowledge) is an Objectivist with whom I do not get along well with; no need for names.

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I don't think that casting out Willis because of philosophic/religious differences is a legitmate reason. As for the shady characters, what is the nature of their shadiness? Are they drug dealers, gangsters, liberal politicians or ministers? Is the shadiness based on their character, or of Brad's opionion of how they chose to live their lives?

I don't think that philosophic/religious difference should constitute in the denial of companionship. Maybe Willis shoots a great game of golf and has a similar sense of humour, while Brad spends all of his spare time reading, and conversing. Both of which you enjoy doing.

Brad's choice to no longer be friends with Willis is his choice and is based on facts that don't concern you. Your impressions of Willis were clearly good enough to want to see him again, so you should see him.

If these shady characters are in fact, SHADY characters, in that they steal, do drugs, are involved with organized crime, are insulting to everyone, or maybe just arrogant stubburn people (very bad combination), then maybe your hanging out with Willis will form a great bond and these people will slowly fall out of the picture. And if they don't, and they are affecting you, and your opinion of Willis then you decide based on your experiences on whether or not to stop associating with him.

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