September 18, 2007

A Digression in the Extreme

I'm not sure how much longer McGinn will allow me to continue to post on his site and I have to say that I'm getting a little tired of the discussion. But one commentor on the chain is obsessed with this egoistic hermit named Al who lets babies drown.

Al lives in a cabin in the woods, surviving off the land and the fruits of his own labor. He has no desire for solidarity with others, and his existence is not dependent on any interaction with society. He loves his life, works hard for his own survival, and has never been the least bit of a burden to anyone. And he's a marvelous dancer. But he doesn't much care for people, or babies, and in his only encounter with one (our unfortunate hypothetical baby from above), he opts to let it drown.

Here's my question: can you think of a situation in which a rational person would opt to be a hermit given a pluralistic society such as the one we have in the United States and barring some psychological/emotional injury?

Maybe I lack imagination, but I can't think why a psychologically normal person in our society would impose exile upon himself in the way described.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 18, 2007 09:35 PM | TrackBack

Important (I dare say vital) inventions, just off the top of my head:
The Screen Door (c.f. the history of the construction of the Panama Canal)

three words for McGinn:

Posted by: Rachel at September 18, 2007 10:25 PM

P.S. Where does he get the salt he needs in order to preserve meat?

Posted by: Rachel at September 18, 2007 10:29 PM

Actually, I've often wanted to do become a hermit. In response to these types of people existing.

The real question is not whether hermits exist, but how hermits could possibly come in contact with a drowning baby and why any of us should care.

Have you ever noticed that they have to go into these ridiculous mental contortions creating ridiculous hypotheticals that in all likelihood will never actually exist to try to prove a point that they can't prove? Man, you have more fortitude than I do. I can't go back there.

Posted by: Monica at September 18, 2007 11:41 PM

Al's actions are not those of someone who, to paraphrase, loves life but not other's company; they are those of someone who holds humans as such in contempt. Since Al is himself human... you say he values life?

And they insist that, for egoism to be true, the conclusions to this hypothetical must appeal to common notions of morality, and that complete acceptance of the premises is required.

I was directly challenged to respond to that crap, which I shan't be doing.

I did like that one commenter bringing up the fact that emergency situations have no baring on ethics, since ethics should give us answers to how to live a happy life in the context of normalcy.

Posted by: Justin at September 19, 2007 12:04 PM

Oh, and they keep bringing up James Rachels. That man is such a sloppy philosopher... His textbook on Ethical Theory concludes with a chapter on what the perfect theory would look like. It makes it obvious that Rachels' approach to ethics is one giant session in question-begging. He simply says, we as a people find this, this and this immoral; therefore, the perfect theory would rationalize this conclusion. Alas, we haven't found one yet! But I'm sure it's some form of utilitarianism.

Posted by: Justin at September 19, 2007 12:07 PM

That was my point back to them as well: I simply do not see how a person can claim to love life but hate people so much that he would wish to eschew human company so much.

Most all of the examples they give they imagine floating out in space somewhere apart from all reality or any experience.

So weird.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 19, 2007 12:46 PM

Maybe I should lodge a complaint with the names bureau about how Jimmy is hurting my good name. Maybe I could get it taken away from him?

(To McGinn's ilk: At least *my* fantasy has some grounding in reality, c.f. Venezuela.)

Posted by: Rachel at September 19, 2007 04:44 PM

Not all the people are the same. May be one don't need all that things that need others. And that is his choice.

Posted by: Paul at September 20, 2007 01:16 AM

That's kind of the question that I'd like to debate here, Paul.

Is human company entirely optional?

I mean, if EVERYONE in the world were completely and irredeemably irrational, I could understand just being a hermit and not putting up with it -- although one does wonder how long they'd leave you alone.

But not everyone is like that. In fact, I am rather pleased that there is such a high percentage of rational people out there. And even among non-Objectivists, there are people who are very intelligent, rational, and genuinely committed to truth. And there are people who don't even go that far who are interesting, generally pleasant people. And so it's possible to maintain friendships in our society that are well-grounded in rational values.

So, I'm wondering what the justification for self-exile would be, if there is one.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 20, 2007 09:15 AM
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