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Ed Hudgins
New Member

USA
6 Posts

Posted - 06/23/2008 :  21:32:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ed Hudgins a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave W - Thanks for the reply. I do not believe utopias are possible, in some imagined "heaven" or in this, the real world. Since humans have free will--it's another long discussion what that means--we will never see a world with unanimous thinking; I don't think anyone will ever be omniscient either and thus unanimity in thought is not possible.

And yes, the world is full of thoughtless, brutal and irrational individuals. Thus the practical extent individuals in a society will be able to govern our own lives will always bump into limits.

But this is not to say that we should not seek the freest society possible. Our personal relationship--a friendship, romance or marriage--will likely never be perfect either; half of marriages end in divorce. But the likihood of imperfections shouldn't keep us from pursuing personal fulfillment in deep relations with others and should not keep us from seeking freedom in society.

By the way, one point on which Objectivists disagree with some libertarians concerns the need for a rational culture as the foundation of a free society. The sort of free, benevolent society envisioned by America's Founders would not be possible in the irrational culture of dark age Europe, We see today the struggles in cultures dominated by Muslim superstitions.

That is why I'll be doing a future book--after the one I'm working on now that shows what Objectivism can add to the recent discussions on morality by Shermer, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and others--on the need for a new Paideia, education of the whole person, Such an education would include critical thinking and an understanding of our nature as creatures who have evolved capacities that we can control and channel for our own happiness and fulfillment. But that, too, is another long discussion.

I do hope some folks check out the Objectivist Secular Reader. It contains some interesting material.

Cheers!
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  00:05:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Darn, I just came back from the CFI IIG awards and it's really too late for me to respond to this in full.

But briefly, my concern isn't that some skeptics find enough value in Objectivism or Libertarianism to identify with and promote those views. But I think as a skeptical community we need to be careful not to align ourselves with any political or economic system in general. The problem, as I see it, is the danger of being marginalized by critics of our promotion of logic and critical thinking, based on a group politic that makes us an easier target, when the fact is, we are not all of one mind where it comes to politics, nor are we likely to ever be as Dave has pointed out. The promotion of skepticism and critical thinking should not be encumbered with extra baggage.

That said, it's okay with me what politic we choose as individuals. (Well, it's usually okay with me as long as I am free to disagree and free to do something about it if I can.) I hope that made sense. I am very tired right now...

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  00:12:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ed Hudgins said:
I would suggest that a logical extention—you call it a default position—of these understandings is that all of our dealings with others, including our economic dealing, should be based on mutual consent rather than the initiation of force.

The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff.

While I agree with many of the libertarian principles, the "free market" is not one of them. People will never act fairly or honestly unless you force them. A fully free market can only end in violence as well. People will not go along with deepening class divides forever. Eventually some form of redistribution of wealth will occur.

So, to me, the rational default position is to control that process in a way that is as fair as possible. Some regulation of trade and some method of redistribution (that do no rely on the good intentions of other people) has to be in place. Without it you have a clock counting down the life of your society/government.

I'll give you the current energy scam/"crisis" as an example. Oil, for a couple of years now, has been traded as a commodity (like crops have been). You can buy and sell "oil futures". This would be fine if there were some random and unpredictable element to the "oil harvest". But the oil companies know, to the barrel, how much can be pumped out of the ground every day, and nothing is likely to change. So there is no gamble, no risk, in buying an "oil future"! The legal loophole that allows this trading is even called the "Enron Loophole". So for the last few years the price of oil has been going up and up, because you can't lose by trading oil futures, and we end up with $4.10/gallon average gas price this week, with $6/gallon predicted by the end of the year.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  06:38:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Conservatives on the political right who are often religious and who understand that a god-like government is not necessary for order in the market should also understand that a god-creator is not necessary for order in nature. Similarly, secularists on the political left who reject religion and understand that no god-creator is necessary for order in nature should also understand how order in the market does not require a god-like government.



I partly disagree with you on that because life is not moralistic.

Sure, nature functions in the absence of a Great Regulator; but it does so in an extremely gruesome way.

The strong and fast kill and eat off the weak. Parasite wasps devour their host from the inside and so on.


I don't think that such a system can be applied to a human society and social darwinism is a misnamed scam.
Some amount of government is required to inject some morality into the system.

How much government is required is very variable, depending of which you enjoy most: Justice of Freedom.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26015 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  06:49:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Ed Hudgins

And yes, the world is full of thoughtless, brutal and irrational individuals. Thus the practical extent individuals in a society will be able to govern our own lives will always bump into limits.

But this is not to say that we should not seek the freest society possible. Our personal relationship--a friendship, romance or marriage--will likely never be perfect either; half of marriages end in divorce. But the likihood of imperfections shouldn't keep us from pursuing personal fulfillment in deep relations with others and should not keep us from seeking freedom in society.
The question then becomes: does Libertarianism (and/or Objectivism) offer the most practical and effective route to whatever freedoms are possible?
That is why I'll be doing a future book--after the one I'm working on now that shows what Objectivism can add to the recent discussions on morality by Shermer, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and others--on the need for a new Paideia, education of the whole person, Such an education would include critical thinking and an understanding of our nature as creatures who have evolved capacities that we can control and channel for our own happiness and fulfillment. But that, too, is another long discussion.
You're not falling into the "all they need is more education, then they'll see the light" trap, are you?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Ed Hudgins
New Member

USA
6 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  11:02:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ed Hudgins a Private Message  Reply with Quote

Evolution has endowed us all with a variety of capacities: a taste for sweet and fatty foods; a sex drive; a desire to cooperate with members of our tribe; a fear of those not in our tribe. But we as individuals have an ability to control these drives, to condition our moral habits. The question is: to what end and by what standard should we do so?

No doubt a taste for sweet and fatty foods gave us a survival advantage in a food-scarce environment hundreds of thousands of years ago. If physical survival as individuals is our goal, we know that with food abundant today, it is in our self-interest to moderate our intake of tasty treats that will balloon our waistlines and destroy our health.

But what should be the ultimate goal of anyone's life? That is a question for ethics that evolution as such does not answer. I maintain that personal happiness, fulfillment, flourishing should be that goal. Since we are humans with certain capacities there will be principles that will best guide us all. But those principles must be applied to each of our lives as unique individuals. The individual is the basic moral unit.

It is the goal of ethics to determine how we as individuals ought to handle the urges that arise from these varying and often conflicting capacities and desires if we are to live the happiest lives possible. And it is concerning these ethical and moral questions that I think Objectivism can add sometime that will be of use to all secularists and all human beings.

To say that the free market does not produce fair outcomes begs the question of what is "fair." Evolution as such does not tell us that. I, of course, maintain that the default position should be that we deal with one another based on mutual consent, not the initiation of force.

I also realize that too many human do not act rationally, do not restrain their appetites, for food, sex, violence. Therefore in a social situation we should, as best we can, establish governments with the goal of protecting individual rights and opposing the use of force by the irrational. I'm not an anarchist. And, like our Founders, I realize that governments too often are run by just such irrational human beings and therefore political power must be limited, balanced with different branches of government and the like.

To Dave W's point I hope I'm not falling into the "all they need is more education, then they'll see the light" trap. (Aristotle disagreed with Socrates on this matter and I take Aristotole's side.) I realize the limits as well as the value of education. But that is why I used the word Paideia, which means not only education of the mind but also a disciplining of moral habits. I would add that culture is crucial to fostering critical thinking and moral discipline as well. Most individuals do not get their ideas and view of life simply from reading philosophy books and living by rational principles. Interaction with others is crucial.

And as to Dave W's question about whether I believe Objectivism offers a better practical and effective route to whatever freedoms are possible, the answer is "Yes." And I also believe that Objectivists and libertarians need to attend to the facts about our biological nature and look especially at the new research into the human mind and psychology.

Take a look at the intro to my Objectivist Secular Reader for more on this. And thanks all for your comments!
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  11:34:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ed Hudgins said:
To say that the free market does not produce fair outcomes begs the question of what is "fair." Evolution as such does not tell us that. I, of course, maintain that the default position should be that we deal with one another based on mutual consent, not the initiation of force.

Obviously "fair" is a subjective term. But I think we all agree that if I punch you in the face and take your stuff, it isn't fair. Especially if you have no chance of stopping me.

Government exists to exert force on its citizens, even if that force is nothing more than codifying a set of rules we all agree to live by. Because if everyone, or even a good majority for that matter, would agree to live by "mutual consent" then government would be unnecessary. That aside... you'll never find two people who could exist entirely by "mutual consent". When you increase the number of people you have then the chances of this working out decrease with every new person.

So the default position, for me, is whatever form of government exerts the least amount of force on its citizens in order to carry out the basic functions of government (laws, law enforcement, civic services, defense, international relations/diplomacy, etc). Mutual consent, while a nice idea, doesn't seem like it will work.

Just look at our recent market history and the number of scams/fraud that have been carried out on massive scales. Enron, Worldcom, the fake CA energy crisis/rolling blackouts, Bear-Sterns, the current mortgage crisis (a direct result of "predatory" lending)... people will screw other people over, as a general rule, if given the chance.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Ed Hudgins
New Member

USA
6 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  21:22:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ed Hudgins a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude – Support for “whatever form of government exerts the least amount of force on its citizens in order to carry out the basic functions,” which I maintain are protection of life, liberty and property, is a basic statement of the libertarian/classical liberal principle. And I certainly agree that punching someone in the face and taking his/her stuff isn't fair; it would be a case of the initiation of the use of force and contrary to dealing with individuals based on mutual consent.

But I would argue that what skeptics and humanists are still struggling with is the question of, how can we have some firm, objective foundation to ethics? Why, for example, is punching someone in the face to take their stuff not fair? Our evolved nature gives us capacities for love and hate. WHen are each appropriate? That is the discussion I want to have with fellow secularists because I maintain that a sound, objective understanding of morality is what we most need if we are to offer an alternative to religion.

By the way, if you picked up a copy of the May issue of The New Individualist at TAM-6, the cover story on “Two Faces of American Capitalism” is by a guy who worked for 15 years with Ken Lay at Enron. We also did an interview with him two years ago in the magazine. Here's the link: http://www.atlassociety.org/ct-1771-ken_lay.aspx

Energy expert Rob Bradley observes that Enron received revenues through government favors and manipulation, not part of any free market system. But on an even deeper level, he maintains that Enron was a “post-modern” corporation. Lay and others there saw appearance as more important than reality and actually ran the company that way, a remarkable exmaple of the results of a fundamental philosophcal error as well as a moral failing. Bradley takes an explicitly Objectivist perspective in explaining, from the inside, what happened at Enron.

For the record, in a libertarian/classical liberal regime, outright stealing or breach of contract is illegal whether committed by Enron executives or anyone else. But the greatest problems with businesses usually come from their using of government to favor them again their competitors or consumers. I'm pro-free market, not pro-business as such. If a business can't survive without government handouts, trade restrictions or the like, I shouldn't be forced to bail them out.

Cheers!

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/24/2008 :  22:08:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ed said:
Why, for example, is punching someone in the face to take their stuff not fair?

It is a purely arbitrary and subjective position. There is no objective basis for ethical or moral judgements.

The reason most people say such a thing isn't fair is they have been taught that by others.

As mammals we have evolved to cooperate, and the survival advantage for a cooperative species is obvious. If we actually have some innate altruism or sense of right/wrong, I think it stems from this.

Dude – Support for “whatever form of government exerts the least amount of force on its citizens in order to carry out the basic functions,” which I maintain are protection of life, liberty and property, is a basic statement of the libertarian/classical liberal principle.

Where I part ways with most libertarians is on the amount of force a government must exert and what functions a government must carry out.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26015 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2008 :  09:27:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

As mammals we have evolved to cooperate, and the survival advantage for a cooperative species is obvious.
Doesn't that observation itself provide an empirical, objective basis for morality? At least one set of morals?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2008 :  10:25:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I would say that it suggests that cooperation was useful for hominids during their evolution.

But, it does not necessarily mean that it is useful now (our society being very different from the environment our specie evolved in).
Also, it justifies cooperation for self-serving purposes; not moral reasons.


Of course; one could argue that morals were just a coating put on to justify and force the individuals into a behaviour beneficial for society.
But, it could make for a long debate.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26015 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2008 :  10:55:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Simon

Also, it justifies cooperation for self-serving purposes; not moral reasons.
Any basis for morality is going to have to be something "not moral," or else morals become circular (they'd be morals because they're based on morals).

Anyway... given our ability to make causal inferences and abstractions, we can take the observation that other people appear to behave just likes ourselves, combine it with the observations that when we're nice other people tend to be nicer to us, and when we're mean other people tend to be meaner to us, and out pops "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2008 :  11:29:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave_W asked:
Doesn't that observation itself provide an empirical, objective basis for morality? At least one set of morals?

Not beyond a very limited context. Let me modify my original statement to say "no universal objective basis for ethical or moral judgements". As the context shifts so does the basis for moral/ethical judgements.

Does that make sense? We've had some major arguments here in the past about this particular, and related, topics. Wouldn't mind avoiding the ugly this time around.

So, within a narrowly defined set of premises you could have an objective basis for moral decisions. You'll always find someone who disagrees with at least one of your premises though.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2008 :  11:46:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

But briefly, my concern isn't that some skeptics find enough value in Objectivism or Libertarianism to identify with and promote those views. But I think as a skeptical community we need to be careful not to align ourselves with any political or economic system in general. The problem, as I see it, is the danger of being marginalized by critics of our promotion of logic and critical thinking, based on a group politic that makes us an easier target, when the fact is, we are not all of one mind where it comes to politics, nor are we likely to ever be as Dave has pointed out. The promotion of skepticism and critical thinking should not be encumbered with extra baggage.


Amen! We MUST not be so encumbered.
--
I still have not gotten over the (Cough)"Cristian Science" and "Global Warming Skeptic" insults, I bet of you, please do not go on a quest to equate Objectivism to Skepticism. Skepticism does not give a rat's ass about personal beliefs of freedom. The quasi-worship of Rynd has permanently* labeled Objectivism antithetical to Skepticism.(Puts fingers in ears) "LA LA LA LA LA LA.."

That said, (you hit a nerve) Your posts are quite well thought out and reasonable, it's quite refreshing to get lucid newcomers. Welcome to SFN Ed.

*This matter may be reveiwed upon my death.
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26015 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2008 :  13:57:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Dave_W asked:
Doesn't that observation itself provide an empirical, objective basis for morality? At least one set of morals?

Not beyond a very limited context. Let me modify my original statement to say "no universal objective basis for ethical or moral judgements". As the context shifts so does the basis for moral/ethical judgements.

Does that make sense? We've had some major arguments here in the past about this particular, and related, topics. Wouldn't mind avoiding the ugly this time around.

So, within a narrowly defined set of premises you could have an objective basis for moral decisions. You'll always find someone who disagrees with at least one of your premises though.
Or at least the various values one places on different things. For example, one who values infants much more highly than adults might be horrified at hearing about an airplane crash where the only death was a single baby, while another person might be relieved that the other 247 passengers lived. Of course, those values might themselves be considered premises, so we're generally in agreement here.

However, it's been my experience that no matter what one says, it's possible to find somebody who will disagree with it, no matter how basic the statement. I'm not sure that we should discount the possibility of universality based upon the disagreement of lunatics and contrarians. 'Cause ya know, some people think that stars are big hollow iron spheres...

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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