• ZzzoneiroCosm
    36
    Two quotes (trimmed of emotional fat) from Ayn Rand's essay, The Monument Builders: Essay #11 (1962) of The Virtue of Selfishness.

    "The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit. (By spirit I mean: man's consciousness.)...The desire for the unearned in spirit...is a desire for unearned greatness...It is expressed by the...term 'prestige.'

    The seekers of unearned material benefits are merely financial parasites, moochers, looters or criminals, who are too limited in number and in mind to be a threat to civilization, until and unless they are released and legalized by the seekers of unearned greatness."

    "There are two ways of claiming that 'The public, c'est moi': one is practiced by the crude material parasite who clamors for government handouts in the name of a "public" need and pockets what he has not earned; the other is practiced by his leader, the spiritual parasite, who derives his illusion of "greatness"...from the power to dispose of that which he has not earned and from the mystic view of himself as the embodied voice of the 'public.'"



    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?

    If the notion of the earned is a epiphenomenon of a complex social structure including chaotic and (at times) unanalyzable market forces, by what calculation can one claim to have earned X?
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?ZzzoneiroCosm

    I'll take a first cut: the question devolves to one of definitions, not just as to words, but as to cultural and social understandings and goals. Absent these, no reasonable discussion is possible.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?ZzzoneiroCosm

    In a very loose sense you've earned x when you fully appreciate the value of x. This doesn't in any sense imply that you have to possess what you earned. If I reference the wisdom of the crowds possession devalues whatever x is and that is something someone who truly earned x will never want. Crazy logic. Mind the multiple fallacies.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    36
    If you pay someone $7.00 an hour for their labor, have you earned the product of their labor or have you, to some degree, stolen from them?
  • Banno
    6k
    Posting an Ayn Rand question should lead to immediate banning.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    36
    I agree.

    Ridiculous as she is, she's extremely influential in Right-minded circles. It's fun and useful to develop a catalog of zinging anti-Randian finishers.

    Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • boethius
    297
    Ridiculous as she isZzzoneiroCosm

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to complete my next post explaining why Ayn Rand is no a rehash of enlightenment philosophy, on "Why Ayn Rand isn't taken seriously by academic philosophers.

    It's fun and useful to develop a catalog of zinging anti-Randian finishers.

    Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner.
    ZzzoneiroCosm

    However, the general reason why there's a general tend to avoid Ayn Rand is that there are a lot of Europeans on the forum, and Rand get's hardly mentioned here in Europe. But I'm from the America's and so understand your motivation in terms of the broader social relevance.

    For this particular subject, and "virtue of selfishness" in general, the zinger you're looking for is corporate welfare, leading to either a demonstration that your interlocutor has no idea what their talking about or then a more general discussion of corruption in politics. If selfishness is really a virtue, then no one would hold it against the judge for selling justice to the highest bidder, that's just the rational thing to do, allowing for dollars to vote on laws and by extension the application of laws. All Randian type fantasies are just praise for those that excel in the status quo by whatever means available while denying such ideas, if they become the new norm, would change the status quo in any meaningful way: that the police, soldiers, judges, politicians, voters would all still somehow magically act like Kantians all while spitting on the name of Kant.

    If at this point your dinner guests haven't changed the subject (which I can essentially guarantee) you can go onto explain that while the governing capital owning elite generally do believe in selfishness, increasing their power by whatever means (that's usually how they got powerful, mixed in with good starting conditions), they generally don't actually believe Randian type "selfishness is a virtue" in any serious way. They bring out this ideology only when it suits them to whip up libertarians into a frenzy when required but will trot out other contradicting ideologies whenever doing so creates more gains; for instance, if taxes are at issue, there will be a lot of praise of the "selfish motive" and "wealth creators" and that people want to "keep their money" and tax is theft and an immoral punishment of getting ahead (i.e. in recent years, it's been discovered that flipping the message is more effective; maybe arguing 'selfishness is a virtue' today rings hollow today but arguing that 'trying take the gains is a sin' is still quite effective, in the US at least), maybe Rand isn't mentioned by name, because too much ridiculous baggage, but it's basically this idea; however, the same elites (and their Randian supporters) will praise the bravery and selfless sacrifice of soldiers when required for whenever public relations necessitates to honor the fallen or then insight in the population selfless (but irrational) feelings of militaristic patriotism to support military budget and imperial expansion in a general sense whenever these issues are questioned. Randians will accuse you of dishonoring the selfless sacrifice of soldiers while simultaneously holding the position that no soldier, police, firefighter, or non-profit volunteer really does act selflessly but are all really actually motivated by the "good feeling" of, at least believing, to do a good dutiful thing. Of course, Kant was aware of and obliterated any potential defense of this point of view by pointing out that one cannot be pleased to have performed a duty without having independent reasons to believe it's a duty in the first place, as otherwise one would not come to believe it is a duty and one could not conclude that one had actually performed a duty; only perhaps through social pressure would one have believed it anyway, a social pressure which would dissipate with time if there are no actual reasons for doing such a duty other than one will feel good about satisfying social pressure for having done it; if one is free from social pressure, as Rand suggests, there would be no way to create duties for the public good and no reason for a judge or a soldier to carry out such duties, which is the obvious and logical and rational conclusion of believing selfishness is a virtue: which is why Ayn Rand and all similar beliefs are so ridiculous.
  • 3017amen
    704


    Two quick thoughts:

    1. If humans were not selfish, would we still procreate?

    2. The law of contracts, promise for a promise, assumes two parties benefit.

    Since we are self-directed individuals by nature, why not embrace that; not hedonism.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    36


    Thanks for your thoughts, should come in handy.

    Here's another fun quote:

    "Remember that rights are moral principles which define and protect a man's freedom of action, but impose no obligations on other men."

    The opposite, of course, is true: Rights, by their very nature, create an obligation. Without positioning someone as obligated to safeguard a particular right, we find it precariously situated. For example, the right to the pursuit of happiness obligates some agency (some person or group of people) to police those who would obstruct the pursuit of happiness.
  • frank
    3.4k
    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?ZzzoneiroCosm

    It's for others to perceive whether you've earned your fortune, respect, trust, etc.

    Ties into white advantage: the white person reasons: "I worked hard for this!" She doesn't see the part that was unearned.

    For example, the right to the pursuit of happiness obligates some agency (some person or group of people) to police those who would obstruct the pursuit of happiness.ZzzoneiroCosm

    I think they meant it's a natural right, so it's stoic morality where nature guarantees it. Violating that right will lead to a sickly society (of the sort some moralists would prefer).
  • frank
    3.4k
    Posting an Ayn Rand question should lead to immediate banning.Banno

    Have you read any if it?
  • ZhouBoTong
    507
    Posting an Ayn Rand question should lead to immediate banning.Banno

    Well, only if they agree with her, haha. I get that even if one disagrees, Ayn Rand is inferior philosophy, but she spews some crazy shit that could spark philosophical interest...especially when one does a quick google search and it seems like much of the world agrees with her. I think Ayn Rand might actually do a good job of sparking people's interest in philosophy...then they happily learn she was doing philosophy rather poorly.
  • boethius
    297
    Well, only if they agree with her, haha. I get that even if one disagrees, Ayn Rand is inferior philosophy, but she spews some crazy shit that could spark philosophical interestZhouBoTong

    Though we agree on what's wrong with Ayn Rand's arguments, I disagree here that Ayn Rand is "useful to get interested in philosophy". Ayn Rand is simply propaganda and Randians form what is in essence a religious cult. Saying Rand is a segue for "serious" philosophy is like saying Scientology is a segue to serious history or Mormonism a segue to serious theology. Now ontologically we can accept "Randianism maybe true" or "Scientology maybe true" or "Mormonism maybe true" but if they are, separately or together, the true-true would then be completely incompatible with "serious" philosophy, history or theology; to entertain these religions is to entertain the idea that serious philosophy, history and theology are totally wrong (otherwise academics, or whatever your standard for serious is, would be devoting a lot of time to the analysis of Rand, Scientology and Mormonism as a serious way to approach philosophy, history and theology).

    All three groups operate as a cult, protecting members from outside criticism and the main reasons for joining the cult are either being born into it or nebulous notions of "benefit and community" apart from the content of what the cult professes to believe. When the Randian SCOTUS judge makes Ran prerequisite reading to be a clerk, it's an invitation to join the cult and not an invitation to disagree and seriously debate what Rand preaches and go over the criticism found on forums like this; if you come back a "Rand fan" then you maybe of some use to the Randians, as your behaviour can be controlled insofar as it leads to the most money compared to the alternatives (no principled objection would oppose bribes or blackmail) which the rich and powerful are in a position to engineer, and if you are already a Rand fanatic you maybe very useful indeed willing to do anything for money without any other ethical ideas that might muddle you up.
  • simeonz
    78
    The question is about the definition (or arbitration) of merit or entitlement. But for a less ambitious treatment of the subject, I have to agree with the author that when people appreciate that they haven't earned something, especially a finite shared resource with recognized value, but extend grasp to acquire it, they are acting out of selfishness. Whether selfishness can be considered beneficial to society sometimes, like other forms of self-interest, is a separate pragmatic treatment of the subject matter. But as a personal quality, in peer interactions or self-assessment, I wouldn't commend selfishness (in the above sense), or aspire to it, if I can help it.

    (People can be selfish out of their wits, instinctively. For example, in romantic affairs. I doubt that all selfishness can be repressed.)
  • ZhouBoTong
    507
    I disagree here that Ayn Rand is "useful to get interested in philosophy"boethius

    I don't disagree with much of what you have said, and yet I was certainly inspired to learn more about philosophy after arguing with Randians. If something seems obviously wrong, but is embraced by many, one can be compelled to research. I would say that Rand has inspired many to learn more about philosophy in the same way that religion inspires those disinclined to agree with it to study more philosophy. And I am talking EARLY stages of inspiration (like zero formal philosophy education). Someone earning a PHD in philosophy will NOT be inspired by Rand.

    And by the way, haha, have you had a few bad experiences with the mormons? Why are their ideas more ludicrous than the rest of the christians? Jesus showing up in america and planting some golden tablets doesn't seem any crazier than much of the bible? I guess the whole baptizing dead people thing is a bit nuts, but no more so than many prescriptions in the book of Leviticus.
  • Maw
    1.6k
    Sorry...Ayn Rand? Who is that?
  • boethius
    297
    I don't disagree with much of what you have said, and yet I was certainly inspired to learn more about philosophy after arguing with Randians. If something seems obviously wrong, but is embraced by many, one can be compelled to research.ZhouBoTong

    Sure, but we can say the same about smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction, obesity, Trump's various statements (whatever you want to call the collection of them), activities leading to ecological collapse, slavery, organized crime, the KKK etc. whatever seems wrong I very much hope inspires research about why exactly it's wrong and what can be done about it. Doesn't make any social ill somehow 'kind of good' or a segue to philosophy that we should appreciate.

    If there were no social ills and because of this people didn't philosophize much, just enjoyed life. I would take that bargain.

    And by the way, haha, have you had a few bad experiences with the mormons? Why are their ideas more ludicrous than the rest of the christians?ZhouBoTong

    I didn't mention other Christians, though please, post why "Bible + Jesus showing up in america and planting some golden tablets (and cursing the native Americans etc.)" is just as consistent as just "Bible" in the religion sub-forum. If you bother to actually backup such an argument, I'll bother to respond to it.

    If not, I did mention theology (philosophical theology) compared to how a cult operates: enticing people to join not with reason but claiming to satisfy what modern society does not provide (mostly a sense of community, but also networking for jobs etc.) and coercing members to stay (hassling and excommunication) compared to critical thinking about theology topics and what are serious arguments and approaches.

    Please, join a course or group or internet forum that can be argued to be welcoming critical thought on religious and theological matters for a year ... then become a Mormon for a year ... then report back on the appreciation of critical thinking and exposure to challenges to beliefs and assumption in each group.

    My point is, maybe Mormonism is right (Jesus flew to the Americas to spread the word to the lost tribe and then cursed the natives with red skin and gave permission to a latter group of preachers to marry (rape) as many minors (children) as they want and have as many wives as they want, even taking other men's wives, as it's gods will ... until it became gods will to bend to political expediency, while not actually, in principle, abandoning the previous position that's the real gods will; sure, it's in the realm of ontological possibility), but, if so, what we understand as serious critical thinking is entirely wrong: the approach, the methods, the content. If mormonism is right it is not the case it was a serious approach to theology that turned out to be correct, but rather that "serious theology is entirely wrong, that critical thinking is not a path to the truth".
  • ZhouBoTong
    507
    Doesn't make any social ill somehow 'kind of good' or a segue to philosophy that we should appreciate.boethius

    Fair enough. I would be happy to live in an ideal world where moral philosophy is unnecessary because all is good (whatever that even means). Until then, Yes, all of those negatives you mentioned will act as inspiration for those who disagree. I don't think that means I am defending them as "good"? Just finding a silver lining?

    If there were no social ills and because of this people didn't philosophize much, just enjoyed life. I would take that bargain.boethius

    Haha. Well you beat me to it. Yes, as I said above, I am happy to take that deal as well.

    Please, join a course or group or internet forum that can be argued to be welcoming critical thought on religious and theological matters for a year ... then become a Mormon for a year ... then report back on the appreciation of critical thinking and exposure to challenges to beliefs and assumption in each group.boethius

    I don't think I have said anything that suggests I disagree with what you are getting at here.

    If mormonism is right it is not the case it was a serious approach to theology that turned out to be correct, but rather that "serious theology is entirely wrong, that critical thinking is not a path to the truth".boethius

    Here is where I am getting confused. Can you point me to the best example of "serious theology" using critical thinking to find the truth? You mean like Thomas Aquinas? Are his ideas examples of better critical thinking? I have never seen serious theology using critical thinking as a path to the truth? Doesn't theology typically (always?) start with the "truth" then use critical thinking in an attempt to justify or prove the already known "truth"?
  • boethius
    297
    I don't think I have said anything that suggests I disagree with what you are getting at here.ZhouBoTong

    Yes, my point was simply to make the starkest possible contrast, precisely because you are here, on a forum right now arguably welcoming of critical thinking -- and discussing theological and other matters. Serious philosophical theists will argue they are not "starting with the 'truth' then using critical thinking in an attempt to justify or prove the already known 'truth?", but rather starting with first principles, whether that passes critical scrutiny will be what's up for debate.

    Here is where I am getting confused. Can you point me to the best example of "serious theology" using critical thinking to find the truth?ZhouBoTong

    By "serious theology" I am not assuming here theists are correct. A theology course or group or forum will also deal with arguments that all theist arguments are wrong (either as a category or then one-by-one theist arguments turn out to be wrong) and likewise arguments that we cannot possibly know.

    Nor am I assuming that that any position with respect to serious theology, taken seriously by critical thinkers, is correct. For instance, I could claim on the theology sub-forum right now that this lampshade is god (to the exclusion of other lampshades and material configurations); I wouldn't be taken seriously, but not because I "am for sure wrong" -- maybe god did decide to be contained in this lamp-shade -- I wouldn't be taken seriously because my argument does not pass critical scrutiny.

    My whole point here is that critical thinking cannot out right own the truth. It is a faith based assumption to assume the law of non-contradiction is true as well as other argumentative methods (that we generally try to either derive from non-contradiction or at least pass credibility by showing consistency with it).

    In other words, the critical thinking community is a faith-based community, labeling arguments as "serious" and "not-serious" and "maybe serious with significant amount more work or evidence (i.e. if my god as lampshade tells me the future of sporting and political events without fail and intimate details of your life and thoughts, and I'm able to demonstrate this, maybe you'll take my argument more seriously ... but I can't demonstrate this, which is the point you'll be making meanwhile)", in relation to what passes critical scrutiny, or then, at least, very difficult to show does not pass critical scrutiny.

    This faith maybe wrong, things that don't pas critical scrutiny (my lampshade is god and you should believe it even without any supporting evidence) maybe the truth. If so, however, the entire critical thinking community is on the wrong track, critical thinking is a barrier, potentially a permanent barrier, to knowing the truth.

    If I want to develop my lampshade religion I will need to address myself to people that do not have such a barrier to belief; but perhaps I will have luck with those enticed by confident assertions, material benefits and longing for a sense of community -- perhaps their innocent eyes can see the light.

    The novice critical thinker will say "but without critical thinking there is no way to identify as special one absurd theory from the next; why is your lampshade god but not my spoon" but this may simply be the case, that critical thinking isn't helpful and the best that can be done is to roll the dice between lampshade and spoon and everything else: that those people who I find and manipulate to believe in the lampshade will be saved, and the critical thinkers who scoffed will be doomed.

    Otherwise, your argument is fatal, we must assume to possess the truth from the outset before critically reviewing anything we consider a candidate for the truth in our bag of tricks; which is a position that does not pass critical scrutiny. It may very well be that the truth is behind none of the doors we are trying to open nor might ever try to open, but rather behind us, through what we have come to believe is a solid impermeable wall that presents no visible pathway nor any special identifying features compared to all the other solid impermeable walls, that we stroll by obliviously. It is only in throwing oneself without hesitation or doubt at one particular wall that one can take the train to Hogwarts, and those that do not are forever lost in the labyrinth and are eaten by the snake.

    Those that have a different faith, to critical thinking, will hear such things and say "yes, yes, the critical thinkers are no better; their faith leads them astray, their own words condemn them; they have been deceived by the prince of deception, do not listen!"; which is not what I'm saying here, but they will not bother to think things through any further, that is what I am saying.
  • uncanni
    235
    Please, join a course or group or internet forum that can be argued to be welcoming critical thought on religious and theological matters for a year ... then become a Mormon for a year ... then report back on the appreciation of critical thinking and exposure to challenges to beliefs and assumption in each group.boethius

    Another possibility is to do serious research of your own online, at serious websites only, about who and what these people and organizations are, how they operate, a thorough appraisal of what their most important ideas consist of, and why critical thinkers may tend to be highly skeptical about bringing a discussion "down" to that level. It's not censorship; it's just a complete waste of time.

    Mein Kamph became legal to read in Germany again in 2016.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/13/books/a-german-finally-picks-up-mein-kampf.html

    Critical thinking is nothing if not the consistent attempt to identify and analyze ideologial discourse and to de-mystify it. A critical thinker makes every attempt not to be hoodwinked by ideas, and I am extremely careful to identify little bits of fascism, totalitarianism, promotion of psychopathic ideas or practices (like by Pharma companies) or white supremacist belief/practices hidden in whatever I read or speak about with others. It's a daily confrontation.

    The author of the above article is a critical thinker, an "intellectual"; most of the neo-nazis buyint and reading the book over the past three years are not.
  • boethius
    297


    I don't understand your point, can you expand on it?
  • uncanni
    235
    I don't understand your point, can you expand on it?boethius

    The point is to acquire a context within which one can study various texts. I'm not going to insist that one have a world view in place before reading philosophy or political science or whatever: in fact, it's impossible to forge a broad world view without using reading as the vehicle through which it's forged.

    I assume that most everyone on this forum is concerned about any philosophical discourse that smacks of fascism, which is why they ban a series of subjects--Baden writes, "Racists, homophobes, sexists, Nazi sympathisers, etc.: We don't consider your views worthy of debate, and you'll be banned for espousing them."

    So it seemed to me that one of the issues that arose concerned how do we acquire philosophical knowledge? One member suggested that Ayn Rand should be banned, and then the Mormons became part of the discussion;

    My point was, by all means, read what you want if you want to find out what it's about for yourself, but it's important for a critical thinker to be self conscious and self reflexive about the world view from which each of us reads. My world view is constantly adjusting itself according to the information/knowledge I acquire, and I don't think much of the idea of a rigid, unchanging, unshifting world view. It will crack and break.
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