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Sam Harris vs Ayn Rand

Brain_crazy
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10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.
vbaculum
Posts: 1,274
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10/17/2012 3:59:27 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Harris equates morality with acts that lead to greater human and animal flourishing. Rand equates morality with self-interest. Both conceptions are interesting but neither Harris or Rand prove that statements about morality are objective or that moral assertions are binding.
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phantom
Posts: 6,774
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10/17/2012 5:58:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Harris's theory seems awfully similar to utilitarianism.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
Brain_crazy
Posts: 242
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10/17/2012 6:35:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/17/2012 3:59:27 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Harris equates morality with acts that lead to greater human and animal flourishing. Rand equates morality with self-interest. Both conceptions are interesting but neither Harris or Rand prove that statements about morality are objective or that moral assertions are binding.

Alright my thoughts too, but I was more so asking about those 'interesting' parts.
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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10/18/2012 3:06:56 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/17/2012 3:59:27 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Harris equates morality with acts that lead to greater human and animal flourishing. Rand equates morality with self-interest. Both conceptions are interesting but neither Harris or Rand prove that statements about morality are objective or that moral assertions are binding.

It is objectively true that a given act either promotes self interest (meets the criteria for "moral) or opposes self-interest (does not).

It is not objectively true that something leads to "greater human or animal flourishing" though-- as humans have different values and nonhuman animals have no values at all, whereas the self can actually have consistent values.

What do you mean by binding?
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
mattrodstrom
Posts: 12,028
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10/18/2012 12:28:11 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 3:06:56 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:59:27 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Harris equates morality with acts that lead to greater human and animal flourishing. Rand equates morality with self-interest. Both conceptions are interesting but neither Harris or Rand prove that statements about morality are objective or that moral assertions are binding.

It is objectively true that a given act either promotes self interest (meets the criteria for "moral) or opposes self-interest (does not).

It is not objectively true that something leads to "greater human or animal flourishing" though-- as humans have different values and nonhuman animals have no values at all, whereas the self can actually have consistent values.

What do you mean by binding?

I would've said that neither show that their particular moral assertions are universally of weight... They're not objectively important b/c the importance it's based in the particular nature of the subject... natures which may differ in significant enough ways that the Relative importance of any given moral assertion that they make can differ from person to person.

Now, Given that "self interest" is (as would be proper) Broadly defined, I would agree that Simply saying that seeking their "self interest" is of Paramount importance to every intelligent subject...

However, From what I know, if she can truly be said to speak to a Universal morality at all, it can only be in defining/generalizing what constitutes 'self interest' too much, coming up with a definition which can, at best, be said to be based upon overextended assumptions... and, if not that, based upon nothing at all.
"He who does not know how to put his will into things at least puts a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already."

Metaphysics:
"The science.. which deals with the fundamental errors of mankind - but as if they were the fundamental truths."
mattrodstrom
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10/18/2012 12:46:02 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 3:06:56 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
It is not objectively true that something leads to "greater human or animal flourishing" though-- as humans have different values

Exactly.

whereas the self can actually have consistent values.

sure. But that's why:
if she can truly be said to speak to a Universal morality at all, it can only be in defining/generalizing what constitutes 'self interest' too much, coming up with a definition which can, at best, be said to be based upon overextended assumptions... and, if not that, based upon nothing at all.

If she's not generalizing the values that selves have.. she's not going to be landing with a 'universal/objective' morality.

Sure, she can suggest that the smart way of deciding upon action is to take solemn consideration of what you care about/value.. considering them as best as you're able, and act thoughtfully to attain what you value... But that's not what people mean when they say "objective morality".. they mean a universally applicable/weighty system of Ought statements..
and because
humans have different values
such a system cannot exist.
"He who does not know how to put his will into things at least puts a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already."

Metaphysics:
"The science.. which deals with the fundamental errors of mankind - but as if they were the fundamental truths."
OMGJustinBieber
Posts: 3,484
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10/18/2012 1:05:29 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Sam Harris, if only for the reason that he doesn't equate psychopathy and narcissism with goodness.
socialpinko
Posts: 10,458
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10/18/2012 1:13:54 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'd put Rand as better but only because it's not too hard to beat out a non-philosopher like Harris.
: At 9/29/2014 10:55:59 AM, imabench wrote:
: : At 9/29/2014 9:43:46 AM, kbub wrote:
: :
: : DDO should discredit support of sexual violence at any time and in every way.
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socialpinko
Posts: 10,458
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10/18/2012 1:14:40 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 1:05:29 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Sam Harris, if only for the reason that he doesn't equate psychopathy and narcissism with goodness.

Are you cereal right now? From what aspect of Rand's advocation of rational self interest do you extrapolate "psychopathy" and "narcissism"?
: At 9/29/2014 10:55:59 AM, imabench wrote:
: : At 9/29/2014 9:43:46 AM, kbub wrote:
: :
: : DDO should discredit support of sexual violence at any time and in every way.
:
: I disagree.
jat93
Posts: 1,440
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10/18/2012 2:55:49 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 1:14:40 PM, socialpinko wrote:
At 10/18/2012 1:05:29 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Sam Harris, if only for the reason that he doesn't equate psychopathy and narcissism with goodness.

Are you cereal right now? From what aspect of Rand's advocation of rational self interest do you extrapolate "psychopathy" and "narcissism"?

Even as a hardcore individualist I agree with Bieber on this one. I agree with Rand on the coercion and violence of the state, that there is no such thing as society and public interest but for a group of interacting individuals and therefore no collective rights... But then she starts talking about how altruism is inherently bad, and I think given the importance of empathy in human morality/social interaction (Einstein wisely said it is THE foundation of morality), that's a really sh!tty, miserly, and probably miserable way to live one's life. She has never been able to convince me about the inherent wrongness of altruism, and the inherent benefits of radical greed and selfishness. Greed and selfishness are great and necessary, but not to such an extreme extent that they lead you to feel no empathy for others, not to the extent where they not only don't advocate but actually discourage altruism as the root of all evil. The evil is not altruism, the evil is when some powerful institution in society forces all those living under its jurisdiction to be "altruistic" by looting and plundering. Again, all this coming from an anarchist who finds much of Rand's thoughts on individuality, government, capitalism, etc to be very compelling and worthwhile.
OMGJustinBieber
Posts: 3,484
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10/18/2012 3:07:50 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 2:55:49 PM, jat93 wrote:
At 10/18/2012 1:14:40 PM, socialpinko wrote:
At 10/18/2012 1:05:29 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Sam Harris, if only for the reason that he doesn't equate psychopathy and narcissism with goodness.

Are you cereal right now? From what aspect of Rand's advocation of rational self interest do you extrapolate "psychopathy" and "narcissism"?

Even as a hardcore individualist I agree with Bieber on this one. I agree with Rand on the coercion and violence of the state, that there is no such thing as society and public interest but for a group of interacting individuals and therefore no collective rights... But then she starts talking about how altruism is inherently bad, and I think given the importance of empathy in human morality/social interaction (Einstein wisely said it is THE foundation of morality), that's a really sh!tty, miserly, and probably miserable way to live one's life. She has never been able to convince me about the inherent wrongness of altruism, and the inherent benefits of radical greed and selfishness. Greed and selfishness are great and necessary, but not to such an extreme extent that they lead you to feel no empathy for others, not to the extent where they not only don't advocate but actually discourage altruism as the root of all evil. The evil is not altruism, the evil is when some powerful institution in society forces all those living under its jurisdiction to be "altruistic" by looting and plundering. Again, all this coming from an anarchist who finds much of Rand's thoughts on individuality, government, capitalism, etc to be very compelling and worthwhile.

Thanks for reading my mind (except for the last part.)
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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10/18/2012 3:39:40 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 2:55:49 PM, jat93 wrote:
At 10/18/2012 1:14:40 PM, socialpinko wrote:
At 10/18/2012 1:05:29 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
At 10/17/2012 3:35:49 PM, Brain_crazy wrote:
Who do you guys think made a better attempt at creating an objective morality, Sam Harris or Ayn Rand? I don't think either truly accomplishes the task, but I'm still interested in hearing some opinions.

Sam Harris, if only for the reason that he doesn't equate psychopathy and narcissism with goodness.

Are you cereal right now? From what aspect of Rand's advocation of rational self interest do you extrapolate "psychopathy" and "narcissism"?

Even as a hardcore individualist I agree with Bieber on this one. I agree with Rand on the coercion and violence of the state, that there is no such thing as society and public interest but for a group of interacting individuals and therefore no collective rights...

K.

But then she starts talking about how altruism is inherently bad, and I think given the importance of empathy in human morality/social interaction (Einstein wisely said it is THE foundation of morality), that's a really sh!tty, miserly, and probably miserable way to live one's life.:

http://aynrandlexicon.com...

This is what she means by altruism--a moral code according to which sacrifice and self-abnegation are not only praiseworthy, but ethically obligatory. Rand construes ethics as a kind of guide to practical living, and she sees this as antithetical to the altruist project, whose fundamental contention, by making sacrifice to others obligatory, is that the moral criterion of altruism is how much you can deny yourself for the benefit of others. Nobody can live that way, Rand argues, which leads her to reject that kind of ethics. Many of her critics argue that this is a one-dimensional representation, but of note is that Rand does not eschew benevolence; rather, she argues, good will is enabled only by a climate of voluntary interaction between free individuals. Making compassion obligatory perverts our natural inclination toward beneficence. She says:

"It is altruism that has corrupted and perverted human benevolence by regarding the giver as an object of immolation, and the receiver as a helplessly miserable object of pity who holds a mortgage on the lives of others"a doctrine which is extremely offensive to both parties, leaving men no choice but the roles of sacrificial victim or moral cannibal...

To view the question in its proper perspective, one must begin by rejecting altruism"s terms and all of its ugly emotional aftertaste"then take a fresh look at human relationships. It is morally proper to accept help, when it is offered, not as a moral duty, but as an act of good will and generosity, when the giver can afford it (i.e., when it does not involve self-sacrifice on his part), and when it is offered in response to the receiver"s virtues, not in response to his flaws, weaknesses or moral failures, and not on the ground of his need as such."

As such, most of her critics begin to seem uncharitable to the point of deliberate, reactionary disingenuousness.

She has never been able to convince me about the inherent wrongness of altruism, and the inherent benefits of radical greed and selfishness.

She does not claim benefits to "radical greed and selfishness". Says Rand again:

"In popular usage, the word "selfishness" is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word "selfishness" is: concern with one"s own interests.

This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one"s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man"s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions...

Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man"s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims, but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles. This is why the Objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest"or of rational selfishness."

Greed and selfishness are great and necessary, but not to such an extreme extent that they lead you to feel no empathy for others, not to the extent where they not only don't advocate but actually discourage altruism as the root of all evil. The evil is not altruism, the evil is when some powerful institution in society forces all those living under its jurisdiction to be "altruistic" by looting and plundering.

This, for Rand, is the political manifestation of the ethical doctrine that self-sacrifice is morally obligatory. In other words, altruism in practice. She has no problem with beneficence or empathy as such, and conjecture to the contrary is deliberate misrepresentation.

Again, all this coming from an anarchist who finds much of Rand's thoughts on individuality, government, capitalism, etc to be very compelling and worthwhile.

I am skeptical about whether you are thoroughly informed about what her thoughts are. Rand is nuanced, but that means that close and meticulous reading is required to avoid attributing to her something she never claimed (e.g., that generosity is a moral evil, that "selfishness" is moral as long as the action stems from the ego). I am not an Objectivist, but I think she gets a lot less credit than she deserves as a political and ethical thinker. She's not a very good epistemologist or metaphysician, but...
Brain_crazy
Posts: 242
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10/18/2012 6:47:53 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 12:46:02 PM, mattrodstrom wrote:
At 10/18/2012 3:06:56 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
It is not objectively true that something leads to "greater human or animal flourishing" though-- as humans have different values

Exactly.

whereas the self can actually have consistent values.

sure. But that's why:
if she can truly be said to speak to a Universal morality at all, it can only be in defining/generalizing what constitutes 'self interest' too much, coming up with a definition which can, at best, be said to be based upon overextended assumptions... and, if not that, based upon nothing at all.

If she's not generalizing the values that selves have.. she's not going to be landing with a 'universal/objective' morality.

Sure, she can suggest that the smart way of deciding upon action is to take solemn consideration of what you care about/value.. considering them as best as you're able, and act thoughtfully to attain what you value... But that's not what people mean when they say "objective morality".. they mean a universally applicable/weighty system of Ought statements..
and because
humans have different values
such a system cannot exist.

I'd have to disagree with you here. Just because humans have different values doesn't mean that there isn't an objective morality. That's accustom to saying Johnny came up with the answer of 4, for the math problem 2 + 2, while Fred came up with the answer of 5, therefore there's no objective truth to be known about the math problem 2 + 2. However, I do agree that in terms of morality there seems to be no logical way of decrying one value as better than another without referring to other values. (Is/ought gap) There's always some sort of subjectivity involved.
OMGJustinBieber
Posts: 3,484
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10/18/2012 7:31:38 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
As such, most of her critics begin to seem uncharitable to the point of deliberate, reactionary disingenuousness.

You must realize that even her way of framing it, as mild as it puts things, is still radical.

This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one"s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man"s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions...

It's interesting and I guess this is where my understanding of her tapers off, but I remember her saying in an interview something along the lines of 'any man who believes he can prescribe the happiness for others is a monster.' I know she's inspired by Aristotle here, and I can see the Aristotle, but what in what sense does she really mean "rational interest?" It obviously ties into her objectivist ethics, but objectivist (objective) implies that a man could theoretically be perfectly justified in prescribing other men's happiness. Or does she mean just preference satisfaction?

I am not an Objectivist, but I think she gets a lot less credit than she deserves as a political and ethical thinker.

You like her as an ethical thinker? Who else do you like? "Nihilism" in meta-ethics courses and at least in textbooks is frequently identified with error theory. Refresh my memory on your position - if I say "Stealing is bad" what does that mean to you?
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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10/19/2012 11:59:31 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 10/18/2012 12:28:11 PM, mattrodstrom wrote:
I would've said that neither show that their particular moral assertions are universally of weight...
Of course not, no morality weighs on the dead. Yet the same set of moral assertions applies to those who choose to live.

They're not objectively important
My cock is not universal, but it is objective reality.

they mean a universally applicable/weighty system of Ought statements..
So like "everyone ought eat salmon every Tuesday?"

But then she starts talking about how altruism is inherently bad, and I think given the importance of empathy in human morality/social interaction (Einstein wisely said it is THE foundation of morality), that's a really sh!tty, miserly, and probably miserable way to live one's life.
That's not actually an argument.

You haven't given us any reason to believe Einstein's statement was wise.

It obviously ties into her objectivist ethics, but objectivist (objective) implies that a man could theoretically be perfectly justified in prescribing other men's happiness.
It implies that a man could be perfectly justified in prescribing a particular means to a particular value (nonforcibly of course), but not what value precisely will lead to that other man's happiness. E.g. "If you want music, you should do something productive and trade for it," but not "Listening to opera is what will make you happy, I know this with no input from you" ( which leads to: therefore, I'll tax you and subsidize the opera).
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.