October 23, 2004
Ayn Rand: Objectivism
Author Ayn Rand's philosophical system, known as Objectivism, holds that the ultimate value upon which all other values depend is the individual's life, and that ethics ultimately consists of self-interest, each individual doing whatever benefits his or her life the most. Objectivist moral philosophy rejects altruism, instead arguing that each person should do only what is best for that person.
However, as should be obvious, the glaring problem with Objectivism is that it fails to accommodate Prisoner's Dilemma-like situations. If two or more Objectivists were placed in such a situation, each would immediately pick the option that was best for him individually, and the result would be a poor outcome for all. If all the individuals in this situation are rational (and rationality is a key tenet of Objectivism), they would all soon realize that the only realistic way for any of them to attain a good outcome is for each of them to cooperate and pick the less selfish course of action, i.e., to be altruistic. But this is a contradiction with the basic Objectivist tenet of selfish behavior. The fact that the selfish interests of rational individuals very often conflict, and the fact that doing what is best for us individually sometimes requires acting in altruistic ways, cause the entire system of Objectivism to collapse. To find a workable universal moral code, we must look elsewhere.
The first paragraph is, by my estimation, essentially correct. The Objectivist hierachy of values begins with one's own life.
The Prisoner's Dilemma is loads of fun. It is an illustration of the underlying principles of microeconomics even. Basically, without being able to communicate, two parties are ostensibly given the option to act in their own interest or in the in interest of the other party. Cooperation by both results in the best outcome for the pair. If one betrays the other, the cooperating party loses big time while the betrayer wins big. If they betray one another, the two share the pain, so to speak.
Objectivist ethics does not actually address prisoner's dilemma situations unequivocably because the dilemma lacks context.
How well do the prinsoner's know one another?
Did they not plan for this contingency?
What are the stakes exactly?
What are their chances after the outcome of the game?
At first blush, it's easy to say, "Objectivist ethics requires that each individual act in his own self-interest." But is it not clear that it would be in his best self-interest to cooperate with his partner?
That's the other thing. Objectivist ethics does not permit each individual to completely ignore the contextual information that IS available - namely the benefits of cooperation.
It is not un-selfish, for lack of a better term, to work for your own greatest profit by helping others work to theirs and in the Prisoner's Dilemma it is actually required in order to succeed. Being selfish does not mean that you're bent on the destruction of others; if it did THAT would be a contradiction because one's own success is not defined by the success of others. Putting it more simply, just because someone else succeeds does not mean that all others fail. Just because one helps another does not mean one is being altruistic.
This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions regarding Objectivist ethics. It's probably honestly earned, but it has been addressed many times over in Objectivist literature.
October 21, 2004
It's a fact of reality that some people are better than others and anyone who goes through the effort of saying they aren't better than someone else must be aiming to be the lowest of the low in some way or another.
Did you catch that? Not all men are created equal.
As human beings, we all have a rational capacity that allows us to deal with reality. Broadly speaking, most all human beings share this same capacity; it's what makes us human! But 'the force' just isn't as strong with everyone.
Did you catch THAT? Some men are more able than others.
That's right! The most critical aspect in which people differ is in ability, and most importantly in their mental ability.
If you're a person of superior mental ability and you're preoccupied with not appearing to be better than anyone else, how likely do you think you will be to apply your superior ability?
The important lesson to get from all this, though, is that there is very little value in trying to compare yourself to everyone else. Surely you have something better to do with your time and energy. Your ability, however great or small, is not established by comparison, but by demonstration.
So, get off of your butt and stop talking about how better or worse you are has a human being and show us.
October 07, 2004
I find myself unable to answer the question.
I wouldn't want to see that. I also wouldn't want to run such a tourist attraction even though I'm sure that there is a certain segment who would pay good money to see it.
On the other hand, I see no reason why it can't be a tourist attraction. If someone wants to do that, go for it. What do I care?
But the question is "SHOULD" it be that way?
How do I know? I'm neither a person who wants to own a tourist attraction nor a tourist who is attracted by things like that.
Suddenly readers of CNN are encouraged to make proclamations about what someone else might do with their property for whatever reason.
This irritates me because though I might think it's a bad idea, there isn't any reason why some other people might think it's a good idea and proceed. Frankly, it's not my business.
But we live in a day and age when folks think they have a right to tell other people what to do with their bodies, property, and even minds. CNN isn't the cause it's a symptom of that sort of thinking.
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