1277: "Ayn Random"

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speising
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby speising » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:45 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:
endolith wrote:
Kit. wrote:
endolith wrote:or because you're showing off to potential mates that you have a surplus of fitness and natural resources at your disposal

Which is not necessarily in your best interests as of a rationally-minded person.

huh?

I believe he was sayin', and I apologize for quoting a terrible show, "bitches be crazy".

mating and producing (or rather, caring for) offspring aren't terribly rational things, either.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Thesh » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:48 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Gedatsu wrote:I think people have empathy because it serves their self-interest. I think that when people act in ways that are beneficial to others, it is because they are also acting in ways that are beneficial to themselves. I don't think people would act in ways beneficial to others, if it did not provide any benefit to themselves whatsoever, or if they did not at least subconsciously expect that it would.

Keep in mind that personal benefit includes intangible and/or indirect things such as favors owed or future reciprocation, as well as status or goodwill earned.
What about the simple pleasure of acting in another's interest?

This is something that's often missed by the perspective you're discussing: That there's a certain pleasure people find in the very act of doing a good deed; that no further reciporcation -- expected or otherwise -- is necessary for the good deed to have value to them. Sometimes, I like to give money anonymously; sometimes, I do a good deed and don't tell anyone I did it.

How does this benefit my status? How does this add to any good will?


And sometimes people give money anonymously and don't tell anyone, even when there is something else they could have spent the money on that would have outweighed the good feeling they received from the act of charity. Humans are not perfectly rational, nor do they act entirely out of self interest.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Gedatsu » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:52 pm UTC

obfpen wrote:
Gedatsu wrote:What I am asking is why, instead of maximizing my own benefit, I should maximize the total benefit, if that implies my own will be somewhat less as a result.

There are plenty of answers—and you've had a few—but I get the feeling you want something rational rather than the emotional/morality-driven if-you-don't-care-about-others,-you're-an-asshole, society-driven response. So:—

Insurance typically involves reducing your own benefit somewhat now in return for a guarantee against a significant loss that may occur in the future. Helping out society as a whole can be seen as equivalent to taking out an insurance policy, albeit one without a formal contract.

There's something else to be said for the if-you-don't-care-about-others-then-you're-an-asshole option, though. Most people place a value on how others view them. The exchange rate varies between individuals, however.

Yes, I mentioned in a later post that status and goodwill are possible benefits.

Gedatsu wrote:I don't think people would act in ways beneficial to others, if it did not provide any benefit to themselves whatsoever

Then you are wrong. I'm a regular blood donor. I'm interested in what you think the benefit to me is, because blood loss is generally considered not to be beneficial.[/quote]
I'm a regular blood donor too. Blood donations provide a benefit to you in two ways. First, they are a form of insurance as you've described them above. Granted, you would probably still be able to enjoy that insurance even if you stopped paying the price, but at the same time you know that if everyone acted on that kind of reasoning, the system would collapse. It is therefore in everyone's interest that as many people as possible donate. Now let me ask you, if everyone else stopped donating blood, would you still continue?

Secondly, it may be in your interest that other people survive. You depend on a lot of comforts that society, which is to say those other people, provides.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:55 pm UTC

obfpen wrote:Then you are wrong. I'm a regular blood donor. I'm interested in what you think the benefit to me is, because blood loss is generally considered not to be beneficial.
Just to qualify, Ayn Rand would likely have argued (based on what I have read of her!) that we do these good deeds to feel better about ourselves; that if we felt positive about ourselves, we would feel no need to do anonymous good deeds.

This is, of course, a load of hooey; I'm an exceptionally awesome person (and I know it!). I don't need to perform anonymous good deeds to validate my sense of self worth; I do, however, find a simple pleasure in doing nice things -- and I don't like the attention I get from doing nice things. So my anonymity is a way of avoiding conversations I don't want to have while doing things I want to do.

This is one of the humps I don't think Ayn Rand could ever work her way past -- the idea that intelligent, mentally healthy people would want to do nice things not out of a desire for reciprocation, but simply because doing nice things feels nice. That, and the notion that the morally right path is also the path to mental health (that morally repugnant people are also psychologically broken people) -- this whole nonsense idea that morality has some objective measure in regard to the mental healthiness of an individual.

(I find it's actually the reverse; morally strong people tend to have a host of mental problems, because we live in a society that neurotically punishes virtue!)
Gedatsu wrote:I'm a regular blood donor too. Blood donations provide a benefit to you in two ways. First, they are a form of insurance as you've described them above. Granted, you would probably still be able to enjoy that insurance even if you stopped paying the price, but at the same time you know that if everyone acted on that kind of reasoning, the system would collapse. It is therefore in everyone's interest that as many people as possible donate. Now let me ask you, if everyone else stopped donating blood, would you still continue?
I'm sorry, this is just nonsense. If I stopped donating blood tomorrow, would you also stop donating blood? If I started donating blood tomorrow, would you start? On an individual scale, my actions have little to no impact on the collective whole.

You're trying to work a morally rational path through the Tragedy of the Commons problem. It's called the Tragedy of the Commons problem because there is no morally rational path through it.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Klear » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:59 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
Klear wrote:Couldn't the same be said of any ideology, say, Marxism? (hah! dodged a Godwin there) I mean, Communism as such is was a pretty neat idea before it was kinda... tested experimentally. Nowadays we have enough empirical evidence to safely proclaim today's followers of such doctrines as lunatics.


The only place communism was ever tested was in tribal societies, which were quite successful.


I didn't want to go into the difference between communism and socialism and the fact that communism is an idea which haven't been achieved in practice (tribal societies had, in the Marxist terminology, primitive communism, that's a different thing)... I used "communism" as shorthand for "attempt to reach communism".

Mikeski wrote: People who don't feel good when being altruistic (have no empathy, are "psychopaths") aren't likely to be altruistic. (Though a bad Hollywood mastermind type might think "no one would suspect the guy whose name is on all the orphanages of being the serial killer"...)


Actually, sociopaths, who tend to be quite intelligent, often lead quite altruistic lives, not because of empathy, but simply because that is a successful strategy in life. I don't have any numbers or stats so I don't know if that is the case of "most of", "lot of", or "some of" sociopaths, but I've stumbled upon this fact several times now and I believe it is quite widespread.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:01 pm UTC

ziltoid wrote:Suppose we could rank numbers by some well defined "interestingness".
Well, we sort all numbers by this rank: now since there is an ordering, there must be a 'least' least
interesting number.
But that's actually quite interesting! So that number's interesting... and thus our set is empty.

Ta-da!


This proof can be adapted to show that there are no positive numbers:

Suppose we can rank positive numbers by some well-defined "value" (hey, look that's exactly what a number is - a value - that's handy)
Sort all positive numbers by their value: since there is an ordering, there must be a lowest value positive number
But half that number is even lower, so there are no positive numbers...

Or else you can have an ordered set with no "lowest" member provided it's not finite - which is just as well since I quite like having positive numbers around...

Also, while being the least interesting number would be an interesting property, it's less interesting than, for example, being the reciprocal of one less than yourself, so the least interesting number being at least a little bit interesting doesn't prove that there's no comparative interestingness - it could be that every number is at least a little bit interesting, which sounds like a much more interesting world than one in which all numbers are equally dull...

***

ghanburighan wrote:
Belial wrote:You're not super clear on what ad hominem means. It's rather specific.


Well, I've always understood argumentum ad hominem to be an attack against the person espousing ideas one disagrees with, rather than actually arguing against the ideas themselves. Ie. using personal epithets, character attacks, presumptions of intention, etc., instead of arguments. Not that it is intellectually unacceptable to assign a personal descriptor to someone. A 'fool' or 'lunatic' or 'horrible person', for example. But is has to be the logical conclusion to an argument, and not the argument itself.


"If you agree with Rand, you are a terrible person." does have "you are a terrible person" as the conclusion.

If it was "You are a terrible person, so you must agree with Rand" then it would be an ad hominem.

Whether or not "People who agree with Rand are terrible people." is true could be argued further, but that just makes the conclusion potentially false rather than fallacious.

***

capefeather wrote:
Gedatsu wrote:Why should I, as an individual actor, care more about the global minimum than my own rational self interest?

Because you're not a psychopath? At least I'm presuming you're not a psychopath.

lgw's response is trying to say that altruism is good for one's self-interest, but I think that that's a self-defeating argument. Is it that hard to believe that people have empathy and therefore act in ways that are beneficial to others rather than themselves?


Atruism and/or compassion meaning that you get direct value from helping others even at your own "expense" just means that your value function is wrong - if you enjoy making other people happy, then your rational self-interest should account for that.

One of the key elements of the Prisoner's Dilemma is that, while you can improve your own payout by defecting, it's your partner's decision to co-operate or to defect that does most to determine your outcome. Your goal, therefore, should be to maximise the probability that your partner co-operates - in the iterated prisoner's dilemma, co-operating with co-operative people and defecting against defectors is pretty much the optimal strategy, with the catch that you don't know which your current partner is until you've begun interacting with them - yes, you can gain briefly by defecting against someone who co-operates with you, but in the long run that's generally going to cost you more when they stop co-operating...

***

I've never read anything by Ayn Rand, so my opinion of her is mostly based on people telling me that her books are a lot like Terry Goodkind's (right down to the philosophy involved) but worse written...

As far as Goodkind goes, I've read Sword of Truth up to and including Confessor, and have no desire to read the more recent books nor to reread the earlier ones. After a while, it becomes clear that Richard is always right, and things always work out for him because he's magical and when he decides something is right, the universe agrees and then rewards him for being right - and because his powers are "impossible to define" he always happens to be able to manifest just the right ability to be able to solve the book's problems...

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Klear » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:05 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
obfpen wrote:Then you are wrong. I'm a regular blood donor. I'm interested in what you think the benefit to me is, because blood loss is generally considered not to be beneficial.
Just to qualify, Ayn Rand would likely have argued (based on what I have read of her!) that we do these good deeds to feel better about ourselves; that if we felt positive about ourselves, we would feel no need to do anonymous good deeds.

This is, of course, a load of hooey; I'm an exceptionally awesome person (and I know it!). I don't need to perform anonymous good deeds to validate my sense of self worth; I do, however, find a simple pleasure in doing nice things -- and I don't like the attention I get from doing nice things. So my anonymity is a way of avoiding conversations I don't want to have while doing things I want to do.


Interesting. So she's in direct opposition to Kant's good in itself. Good to know, makes her a bit easier to categorize in my head.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby speising » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:07 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:I'm sorry, this is just nonsense. If I stopped donating blood tomorrow, would you also stop donating blood? If I started donating blood tomorrow, would you start? On an individual scale, my actions have little to no impact on the collective whole.

there is no individual scale. unless you are literally a one in seven billion exception, everything you do, a lot of other people do, too.
the movement of masses of people through tight spaces can be modelled as a viscous liquid. as senseless particles. even though everyone thinks themselves a thinking, independent individual.

ed: noticed some embarrassing spelling errors
Last edited by speising on Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:11 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:08 pm UTC

speising wrote:there is no individual scale. unless you are literally a one in seven billion exception, everything you do, a lot of other people do, too.
the movement of masses of people throu tight spaces can be modelled as a viscouls liquid. as senseless particles. even though everyone thinks themselves a thinking, independend individual.
So, what you're saying is that you think if you started donating blood tomorrow, you'd see a significant uptick in the number of people who donate blood?

Or to put it another way: So, what you're saying is that you're bad at statistics?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Kit. » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:11 pm UTC

speising wrote:
Mikeski wrote:
endolith wrote:
Kit. wrote:
endolith wrote:or because you're showing off to potential mates that you have a surplus of fitness and natural resources at your disposal

Which is not necessarily in your best interests as of a rationally-minded person.

huh?

I believe he was sayin', and I apologize for quoting a terrible show, "bitches be crazy".

mating and producing (or rather, caring for) offspring aren't terribly rational things, either.

I did consider these two examples. However, my main one was:

Look at a peacock. Check the size of its tail - and then the size of its brain. Are you still thinking that a rational motivation of a show off is necessary for the one performing it?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:12 pm UTC

speising wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:I'm sorry, this is just nonsense. If I stopped donating blood tomorrow, would you also stop donating blood? If I started donating blood tomorrow, would you start? On an individual scale, my actions have little to no impact on the collective whole.

there is no individual scale. unless you are literally a one in seven billion exception, everything you do, a lot of other people do, too.
the movement of masses of people throu tight spaces can be modelled as a viscouls liquid. as senseless particles. even though everyone thinks themselves a thinking, independend individual.


This sounds like it's dancing around the edges of Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality" - the idea that, in your reasoning, you should assume that you're sufficiently typical that other people will make the same decisions you do, and take account of that in choosing which decision to make - so for the one-round Prisoner's Dilemma, you say that whatever the right strategy is, both of you will adopt it. It would be better for both of you if the right strategy would be to cooperate, so that's what you should do.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:15 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:This sounds like it's dancing around the edges of Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality" - the idea that, in your reasoning, you should assume that you're sufficiently typical that other people will make the same decisions you do, and take account of that in choosing which decision to make - so for the one-round Prisoner's Dilemma, you say that whatever the right strategy is, both of you will adopt it. It would be better for both of you if the right strategy would be to cooperate, so that's what you should do.
Yeah, except in practice this is pretty much never what happens.

(not that you were claiming otherwise!)

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby obfpen » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:19 pm UTC

Gedatsu wrote:I'm a regular blood donor too. Blood donations provide a benefit to you in two ways. First, they are a form of insurance as you've described them above. Granted, you would probably still be able to enjoy that insurance even if you stopped paying the price, but at the same time you know that if everyone acted on that kind of reasoning, the system would collapse. It is therefore in everyone's interest that as many people as possible donate. Now let me ask you, if everyone else stopped donating blood, would you still continue?

Yes, assuming it was possible despite being the only one, and the need for donors continued.

Gedatsu wrote:Secondly, it may be in your interest that other people survive. You depend on a lot of comforts that society, which is to say those other people, provides.

That's certainly true, but that's not why I do it either. It's a matter of belief, not benefit. I know that there are people in need and I can help some of them, so I choose to. It does not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. It does not please me to know that I've helped someone. I do not enjoy bragging rights or gain status in the eyes of potential sexual partners. I live in a country that rightly does not pay donors. You can argue that I receive benefits from my actions but they do not affect my decisions. I simply don't think in terms of pure rational self-interest, and I know that I am hardly alone in this regard. I'd go so far as to say that it was actually a typical human trait.

I have noticed, however, (and I'm not the only one here either) that many people who do lean towards selfishness seem to have difficulty imagining that anyone would think any differently from themselves.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Kit. » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:29 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:This sounds like it's dancing around the edges of Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality" - the idea that, in your reasoning, you should assume that you're sufficiently typical that other people will make the same decisions you do, and take account of that in choosing which decision to make - so for the one-round Prisoner's Dilemma, you say that whatever the right strategy is, both of you will adopt it. It would be better for both of you if the right strategy would be to cooperate, so that's what you should do.
Yeah, except in practice this is pretty much never what happens.

(not that you were claiming otherwise!)

But that just suggests that the society generally keeps the right people behind bars.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:02 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:This sounds like it's dancing around the edges of Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality" - the idea that, in your reasoning, you should assume that you're sufficiently typical that other people will make the same decisions you do, and take account of that in choosing which decision to make - so for the one-round Prisoner's Dilemma, you say that whatever the right strategy is, both of you will adopt it. It would be better for both of you if the right strategy would be to cooperate, so that's what you should do.
Yeah, except in practice this is pretty much never what happens.

(not that you were claiming otherwise!)

But that just suggests that the society generally keeps the right people behind bars.
Do you mean that this suggests a society that should keep the right people behind bars, or does keep the right people behind bars? Because I can see the former, but not so much the latter.

(For reference, in general, I find prisons to be a highly ineffective and terrible solution; I don't know what would be a better solution, but I'd like to think one exists)

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Kit. » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:18 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Kit. wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:This sounds like it's dancing around the edges of Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality" - the idea that, in your reasoning, you should assume that you're sufficiently typical that other people will make the same decisions you do, and take account of that in choosing which decision to make - so for the one-round Prisoner's Dilemma, you say that whatever the right strategy is, both of you will adopt it. It would be better for both of you if the right strategy would be to cooperate, so that's what you should do.
Yeah, except in practice this is pretty much never what happens.

(not that you were claiming otherwise!)

But that just suggests that the society generally keeps the right people behind bars.
Do you mean that this suggests a society that should keep the right people behind bars, or does keep the right people behind bars? Because I can see the former, but not so much the latter.

You don't see a lot of altruists behind bars, don't you?

If you did, that would be quite a bad sign.

The Great Hippo wrote:(For reference, in general, I find prisons to be a highly ineffective and terrible solution; I don't know what would be a better solution, but I'd like to think one exists)

A solution to which problem?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby arjan » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:35 pm UTC

Besides the "error" Randall made, which must have been an extra joke, he also must have known this thread will probably be longer then the 1190 one.

(Being libertarian myself, I had a lot of endless discussions, been there, done that, and I'm skipping this one. I would like the discussion to be about the comic.)

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ThemePark » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:54 pm UTC

arjan wrote:Besides the "error" Randall made, which must have been an extra joke, he also must have known this thread will probably be longer then the 1190 one.

(Being libertarian myself, I had a lot of endless discussions, been there, done that, and I'm skipping this one. I would like the discussion to be about the comic.)

Are you saying this thread will surpass Time itself?
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby BlitzGirl » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:56 pm UTC

ThemePark wrote:
arjan wrote:Besides the "error" Randall made, which must have been an extra joke, he also must have known this thread will probably be longer then the 1190 one.

(Being libertarian myself, I had a lot of endless discussions, been there, done that, and I'm skipping this one. I would like the discussion to be about the comic.)

Are you saying this thread will surpass Time itself?

Impossible. There aren't any molpies here!
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:03 am UTC

Kit. wrote:You don't see a lot of altruists behind bars, don't you?
I don't see a lot of altruists outside of prisons, either.
Kit. wrote:A solution to which problem?
Tragedy of the Commons -- convincing people to act in a way that leaves prosperity possible for others -- in a way that's sustainable. Instead of acting like a Captain Planet villain re: resources.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby speising » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:08 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
speising wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:I'm sorry, this is just nonsense. If I stopped donating blood tomorrow, would you also stop donating blood? If I started donating blood tomorrow, would you start? On an individual scale, my actions have little to no impact on the collective whole.

there is no individual scale. unless you are literally a one in seven billion exception, everything you do, a lot of other people do, too.
the movement of masses of people throu tight spaces can be modelled as a viscouls liquid. as senseless particles. even though everyone thinks themselves a thinking, independend individual.


This sounds like it's dancing around the edges of Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality" - the idea that, in your reasoning, you should assume that you're sufficiently typical that other people will make the same decisions you do, and take account of that in choosing which decision to make - so for the one-round Prisoner's Dilemma, you say that whatever the right strategy is, both of you will adopt it. It would be better for both of you if the right strategy would be to cooperate, so that's what you should do.


well, that seems to me to be the reasoning for donating blood. i do it because i expect others to do it too. my individual donation is certainly too insignificant to matter.
also, altruism aside, why does anyone vote? only because we believe we are part of a larger group.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:11 am UTC

speising wrote:well, that seems to me to be the reasoning for donating blood. i do it because i expect others to do it too. my individual donation is certainly too insignificant to matter.
I do it because I like doing it. Not because it matters (I know it scarcely does); not because I think it inspires others to donate (I know it probably doesn't) -- but because it's a nice thing to do, and I want to contribute to something larger than myself.
speising wrote:also, altruism aside, why does anyone vote? only because we believe we are part of a larger group.
Because we want to contribute to something larger than ourselves, however small that contribution might be.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Stormtalons » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:14 am UTC

Well, I had to look up Ayn Rand to understand this one. It's a shame that a particular fungus exists that undermines the core of her entire worldview. How can one presume the absolute perfection of the senses when one can't interpret them with 100% certainty? Or, hang the fungus... did she never stare at a red piece of paper for a long time?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:27 am UTC

BlitzGirl wrote:
Belial wrote:The presumption that everyone is always making an argument might be your issue here.

That's a terrible argument.
I see what you did just there. imagine that!

To the issue of ad hominum, as I understand it, it is an attack on the person, but used instead of a rational argument about the topic being presented by that person. Because it is instead of, it is still meant to accomplish the same thing - that is, to convince the reader (or listener) that the person being attacked is wrong (thus his or her argument is wrong). Thus, it still counts as an "argument".

A: I think x
B: Well, you're an idiot.
--> ad hominum

A: I think x
B: Well, x is not true because y. Also, you're an idiot.
--> ad nausium but not ad hominum.

A: I think x
B: You only think that because you're an idiot.
--> ad hominum ((idiot=>think x) => !x)

A: I think x
B: ni ni ni chihuaua ping pong ball
--> rational response.

lgw wrote:
Gedatsu wrote:Why should I, as an individual actor, care more about the global minimum than my own rational self interest?
...The answer is, you should care because the global minimum happens to affect your personal self interest...
But that then becomes part of one's own rational self interest, doens't it?

Gedatsu wrote:None of the society-improving technological progress made so far would ever have happened if it didn't explicitly benefit the inventor.
[citation needed]
Did Linus Torvalds do his work to benefit himself? I suppose... in the sense that it gave him personal satisfaction, and perhaps helped solve some of his own problems. But he didn't do it to make money off of it... not that I'm aware. Many others have benefited from his work, and it would not be unreasonable to suppose that he has not "collected" most of the value of the benefit that was "due" him due to his work. So depending on what you really mean by "benefit the inventor", the statement could be essentially tautological, and deceptive.

The Great Hippo wrote:What about the simple pleasure of acting in another's interest?
Pleasure is a kind of self-interest.

Thesh wrote:And sometimes people give money anonymously and don't tell anyone, even when there is something else they could have spent the money on that would have outweighed the good feeling they received from the act of charity.
Who are you to judge? Really. One person has no idea of how much value another places on "good feeling". Each person has their own exchange rate.

At this point I'm sounding like I agree with Ayn. I do not, and reading my comments this way is an error. Rather, I am saying that "self interest" is a vague and broad concept, and there are many kinds of self interest, some of which we know, and others of which are hovering below our awareness. Because of this, the phrase "we do it for our self interest" is kind of meaningless. It begs the question (in the original sense).

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Thesh » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:41 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Thesh wrote:And sometimes people give money anonymously and don't tell anyone, even when there is something else they could have spent the money on that would have outweighed the good feeling they received from the act of charity.
Who are you to judge? Really. One person has no idea of how much value another places on "good feeling". Each person has their own exchange rate.


I'm not judging, I'm just saying that if you believe that people do everything out of what's best for themselves, you either have no actual experience with people, or you are willfully ignorant.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:46 am UTC

ucim wrote:Pleasure is a kind of self-interest.
Right, but the general trend I see is that pleasure only matters when it's linked to some sort of specific measurable gain; IE, financial reward, an increase in status, being owed a favor -- so on.

My point is only that there are types of rewards that defy our attempts to quantify them as a material or social gain; altruism can be motivated by nothing more complex than the desire to do something altruistic.

I am kind because I desire to be kind. It is not the perception of being kind I seek -- nor the rewards associated with being seen as kind. But rather the act of being kind itself.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:08 am UTC

Thesh wrote:
ucim wrote:
Thesh wrote:And sometimes people give money anonymously and don't tell anyone, even when there is something else they could have spent the money on that would have outweighed the good feeling they received from the act of charity.
Who are you to judge? Really. One person has no idea of how much value another places on "good feeling". Each person has their own exchange rate.

I'm not judging, I'm just saying that if you believe that people do everything out of what's best for themselves, you either have no actual experience with people, or you are willfully ignorant.
You are judging that something (the thing under consideration) is or is not "in somebody's best interests". That is to say, you are presuming to know what their interests are. That is a bold and unwarranted assumption.

I get pleasure out of some things. These things cost me (in time, money, opportunity, social standing, whatever). Is it in my best interests to do these things? You can't answer unless you know what my exchange rate is - that is, how much I value (this particular) pleasure.

You are presuming to know, in order to judge whether or not I advance my self interest by doing this thing in question.

The Great Hippo wrote:... the general trend I see is that pleasure only matters when it's linked to some sort of specific measurable gain; IE, financial reward, an increase in status, being owed a favor -- so on...
... and that is the error in the reasoning, which you go on to elucidate (but fall short of calling an error). To take this a step further, spending money on myself for pleasure is not in my "measurable self interest". But this leads us quickly down the rabbit hole of meaninglessness.

You could separate pleasure away from self interest if you like, but there is no good way to do this, since people tend to like pleasure, but to varying degrees for varying reasons (and sometimes for no reason at all except that they like it - it's pleasurable). In one sense, it is the very reason for self-interest to exist.

So, either Ayn anyone who claims we do things for our self interest is trivially correct (and ultimately saying nothing at all), or she is drawing distinctions that make no sense.

I side with the latter view.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Thesh » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:20 am UTC

ucim wrote:You are judging that something (the thing under consideration) is or is not "in somebody's best interests". That is to say, you are presuming to know what their interests are. That is a bold and unwarranted assumption.

I'm making no such assumption whatsoever with that regard, I'm just saying people will consciously choose to do things that they know are not in their own best interest and will make them less happy.

ucim wrote:I get pleasure out of some things. These things cost me (in time, money, opportunity, social standing, whatever). Is it in my best interests to do these things? You can't answer unless you know what my exchange rate is - that is, how much I value (this particular) pleasure.


Exchange rate? What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you actually a human being, or a machine? Because with most humans, they don't rationalize everything, they just choose, often with the deciding factor being the words "Fuck it."
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:38 am UTC

I just want to throw this thought out there into the general ethical conversation about egoism and altruism. I'm kinda busy right now, don't have a lot of time to engage properly.

I hope the generally rational and science-minded people around here can all agree that it's important, when considering what beliefs are correct to hold, to separate that question from the question of which beliefs you do hold. That is, when wondering about what is the truth, one has to set aside or at least bracket one's own intuitions about the matter, and consider a wide range of possible beliefs one could hold, and which of those is best in an objective (which is to say unbiased) assessment. "What is true" then being equivalent to "what should be believed", one should then make every effort to adjust one's own beliefs to match those selected in that unbiased assessment of the truth. Because that's the very definition of what one should believe, what beliefs are correct or true.

I want to throw out the idea that it's equally important, when considering what intentions to hold, to separate that question from the question of what intentions you do hold. That is, when wondering about what is the good, one has to set aside or at least bracket one's own emotions about the matter, and consider a wide range of possible intentions one could hold, and which of those is best in an objective (which is to say unbiased) assessment. "What is good" then being equivalent to "what should be intended", one should then make every effort to adjust one's own intentions to match those selected in that unbiased assessment of the good. Because that's the very definition of what one should intent, what intentions are correct or good.

The details of how to make unbiased assessments in either case is a more intricate question to be answered, but if that question in the latter case can be answered at all, then the answer to the question of what one should do is going to be inherently altruistic (because the process for determining it is unbiased), and if the question of how to make unbiased moral assessments cannot be answered at all, then neither can the question of what one should do. The choices left are altruism or moral nihilism: either what should be intended will not be biased toward oneself (or anyone else), or there is no "should" about it at all and everyone just intends whatever they do and there's no point arguing about them being right or wrong in doing so. In either case, ethical egoism is indefensible. You can argue that people are egoists, but you can't coherently argue that they (or you) should be.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:58 am UTC

Thesh wrote:I'm just saying people will consciously choose to do things that they know are not in their own best interest and will make them less happy.
... and they are probably doing it because it gives them pleasure, in one way or another. Often it's a short-term long-term thing: Happy now, less happy tomorrow. Smoking is a classic example, as is going on a bender.

Thesh wrote:
ucim wrote:I get pleasure out of some things. These things cost me (in time, money, opportunity, social standing, whatever). Is it in my best interests to do these things? You can't answer unless you know what my exchange rate is - that is, how much I value (this particular) pleasure.


Exchange rate? What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you actually a human being, or a machine?...
That is an ad hominum attack, and unworthy of you. Besides, the very next phrase explains what I mean by "exchange rate".

My point is simply that the phrase "acting in self interest" is not useful in the context of coming up with models of human behavior, whether actual or ideal. To decide whether someone is "acting in self interest" when they go on a bender, or go to bed with a bozo, or ride their motorcycle at 100mph without a helmet, or vote Republican... you'd have to know how much that person values the pleasures (or the escape from pain) that these activities bring them. This is a value judgment that none of us is qualified to make for another.

We like to think that we are. But we are not. We might want to change that person's behavior because we see it as self-destructive, but in order to do that successfully, we'd need to change what I am calling the "value equation". (I have to call it something.) This can involve finding another way that (for example) that person's pain can be dealt with, so that they don't feel the need to escape it through {fill-in} behavior. Or it can involve showing them that they should consider future consequences of their action more. Or it can involve giving them the inner strength to resist immediate pleasures that cause pain later. But in all these cases, we would be changing that person's valuation of self-interest vis a vis that particular activity.

In doing so, we are imposing our values on that person, at least for a while, so they can try them on. Our values might not fit the shoes they have walked in all their lives, but ultimately they will make that determination. For their own reasons. Which, itself, is a form of self interest.

So, in short, the statement "everyone acts in their own self interest" doesn't say anything, while it pretends to be profound. However, the statement "everyone should act in their own self interest" is an imposition of values, based on a statement that doesn't mean anything (and can therefore mean anything), which (as far as I can fathom) Ayn uses to justify her own behavior. Alas, it can be used equally well to justify any behavior.

Pfhorrest wrote:You can argue that people are egoists, but you can't coherently argue that they (or you) should be.
Well, you can... the answer is "because {fill in} leads to this (optimal) condition". But what this "optimal condition" is is one that we will not agree upon, because we are all different, with different backgrounds, needs, desires, and abilities. It is for this reason that simple answers (such as Ayn's) are not only less than satisfying, they are (to me anyway) juvenile.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Themanbehindtheman » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:16 am UTC

People do what they want or are forced to. It's not difficult.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby azule » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:04 am UTC

It doesn't look like it's been pointed out that, while the regex code has been fixed, the "togther" typo persists. It should be "together", btw.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:12 am UTC

ucim wrote:So, in short, the statement "everyone acts in their own self interest" doesn't say anything, while it pretends to be profound. However, the statement "everyone should act in their own self interest" is an imposition of values, based on a statement that doesn't mean anything (and can therefore mean anything), which (as far as I can fathom) Ayn uses to justify her own behavior. Alas, it can be used equally well to justify any behavior.

Pfhorrest wrote:You can argue that people are egoists, but you can't coherently argue that they (or you) should be.
Well, you can... the answer is "because {fill in} leads to this (optimal) condition". But what this "optimal condition" is is one that we will not agree upon, because we are all different, with different backgrounds, needs, desires, and abilities. It is for this reason that simple answers (such as Ayn's) are not only less than satisfying, they are (to me anyway) juvenile.

I think we may be talking about different senses of "act in one's self interest". You make a very good trivial-or-false type of argument against the claim that people do act exclusively in their own self-interest: people clearly do act out of an interest in the wellbeing of others as an end in itself, so saying people are egoists in the sense that they don't do that is clearly false; while the sense in which people who do that are nevertheless going it "for their own interest", because they decided that end was worthwhile in itself, is a completely trivial sense with no substantive import, though that claim is (trivially) true.

You then say that saying people should be egoists in that trivial sense is a trivial imperative, which I'll agree is also trivially true. But I'm saying that saying people should be egoists in the sense in which it would be non-trivial but false to say they are egoists -- that is, to say in effect that people shouldn't want to help others, or at least that they should curb themselves from acting on such desires -- is logically incoherent, because "should" assessments are necessarily made from an unbiased standpoint.

Still, combine our two arguments together and we get an even stronger one: for one sense of the claim "you should be an egoist", that's an empty imperative, not telling anyone to do anything in particular: for another sense of that claim, it's a self-defeating logical contradiction akin to claiming relativism to be a universal truth. In either case, ethical egoism is indefensible.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:54 am UTC

Another general comment here (sorry for the double-post).

I'm admittedly not as familiar with Rand's work as I am with real philosophers, so Rand fans feel free to correct me on her claims if I get them wrong, but my understanding is that while Rand ostensibly argues for individualism (and against collectivism) on the grounds that that logically follows from egoism (or the negation of altruism) -- that is, the egoism is logically prior to the individualism -- I get the impression that the individualism is really what she's driving for, and the egoism is adopted as a means of proving the correctness of individualism.

I think that's an unnecessary step to take, and belies a conflation of several different things. It seems to be an argument along the lines of "why do you care what's good or bad for other people? who are you to judge? mind your own business!", with the "mind your own business" being the point of it, and caring about others and thinking you're fit to judge being the supposed reason why you don't mind your own business. However it's perfectly possible to mind your own business and also care about what's good or bad for other people, with or without thinking you have the grounds to judge what that is. You can say "I'm concerned about you and want what's best about you, and I have opinions about what that is if you want to discuss them, but I'm not going to force you to do what I think is best for you; it's ultimately your call and your choice". That gets you individualism without egoism. You can have a population of people who care about each other for unselfish reasons, and care enough to let each other make their own choices.

Another important distinction to make is between altruism as a normative imperative, and altruism as a feeling. I personally don't really feel much for other people. The world is full of pain and suffering and that's sad on a detached intellectual level but I get much more emotionally worked up about being hungry because I missed lunch than I do about the hundred thousand people who died in the current disaster du jour. But ask me to skip lunch to prevent that disaster and fuck yeah I'll do it in a heartbeat. I am of the intellectual opinion that altruism is morally imperative, and to the extent my reason can stay in control of my actions I'll gladly a sacrifice little on my part to save a lot for others, since that does more good than the alternative. Even though on an emotional level I don't really care about them, it's the right thing to do, and therefore the thing that should be done, because that's what "right thing to do" means.

Honestly I think that's a much more important kind of altruism than the "I feel good about helping other people" kind.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:59 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote: because "should" assessments are necessarily made from an unbiased standpoint.
ucim wrote:But what this "optimal condition" is is one that we will not agree upon, because we are all different, with different backgrounds, needs, desires, and abilities.


Pretty much the same thing, from a different perspective. I agree with the rest of your (above) post too, up to the point where you conclude "for another sense of that claim, it's a self-defeating logical contradiction akin to claiming relativism to be a universal truth. In either case, ethical egoism is indefensible."

I don't disagree, I just don't see the steps leading there. (I am taking "ethical egoism" to mean "the philosophy that one should do what is in one's best interests", FSNTVO "best interests") Backing up to your previous post, I will take it that when you discuss "what beliefs are correct to hold" you are talking about objective reality about the world around you... the kinds of questions science attempts to answer. You seem to be saying that well done science is the best way to answer those questions, and I agree.

When you are talking about intentions however, the realm of the "should" rather than the "is", the muddy part is the "unbiased assessment of the good". I don't think this is possible.

"Good" raises the question "good for whom?", and simple adages like "The good of the many outweigh the good of the few" are nice when taken in general, but break down when examined or pushed to limits. And even "good for me" depends on what I actually want, and how much I want it, and how much I am willing to sacrifice for it (and in some important cases it depends on whether I can actually get it, the answer to which is inherently unknowable!)

How much health am I willing to sacrifice for wealth? How much wealth am I willing to sacrifice for health? (The two questions look like inverses, but because life is complex, they aren't.) Examining these questions for ourselves can give us insight into how we think, and thus how we value one over the other, and when, and why. But I don't think they can lead to "the one ideal goal". And certainly a "sum over all people" of things like this is only useful in broad strokes.

That's the main problem. The rest follows from this.

eta:
Pfhorrest wrote:...I am of the intellectual opinion that altruism is morally imperative...
To what degree? You'll give up a ham sandwich to prevent somebody else's disaster, but would you give up eating for the whole day? The whole week? There comes a limit (or not), and that is built into the "moral imperative"... yet there seems (to me) to be no rational basis for choosing one limit over another.

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Last edited by ucim on Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:03 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:01 am UTC

ghanburighan wrote:
Belial wrote:You're not super clear on what ad hominem means. It's rather specific.


Well, I've always understood argumentum ad hominem to be an attack against the person espousing ideas one disagrees with, rather than actually arguing against the ideas themselves. Ie. using personal epithets, character attacks, presumptions of intention, etc., instead of arguments. Not that it is intellectually unacceptable to assign a personal descriptor to someone. A 'fool' or 'lunatic' or 'horrible person', for example. But is has to be the logical conclusion to an argument, and not the argument itself.

I could explain why the lunatic's arguments are flawed, but why should I waste time on somebody who has already demonstrated that they don't care about logic?
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby wiserd911 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:38 am UTC

speising wrote:
Mikeski wrote:
endolith wrote:
Kit. wrote:
endolith wrote:or because you're showing off to potential mates that you have a surplus of fitness and natural resources at your disposal

Which is not necessarily in your best interests as of a rationally-minded person.

huh?

I believe he was sayin', and I apologize for quoting a terrible show, "bitches be crazy".

mating and producing (or rather, caring for) offspring aren't terribly rational things, either.


"Rationality" is just a way to match means with ends.

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Re: Molpy Molpy Molpy Molpy Molpy Molpy Molpy Molpy Molpy Gr

Postby ruurdjan » Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:17 am UTC

Eternal Density wrote:The views of humans are pretty much insane.

The views of the insane are pretty human.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Darekun » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:37 am UTC

ucim wrote:My point is simply that the phrase "acting in self interest" is not useful in the context of coming up with models of human behavior, whether actual or ideal. To decide whether someone is "acting in self interest" when they go on a bender, or go to bed with a bozo, or ride their motorcycle at 100mph without a helmet, or vote Republican... you'd have to know how much that person values the pleasures (or the escape from pain) that these activities bring them. This is a value judgment that none of us is qualified to make for another.

If the goal is to decide whether someone else is acting in self interest, even assuming the goal can be achieved, that's a terrible methodology. Instead, look at regret. How common is it for people who go on benders to regret not only their last bender, but their next one, and their general propensity for benders? That kind of regret about going to bed with bozos is not only common, it's a stereotype. Etc.

(There are also factual issues, like people who eat antioxidants in order to live longer actually turning out to live shorter, but that ties into the "hindsight is 20/20" thing and is often difficult to link to ethics.)

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby da Doctah » Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:51 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:there's a certain pleasure people find in the very act of doing a good deed; that no further reciporcation -- expected or otherwise -- is necessary for the good deed to have value to them. Sometimes, I like to give money anonymously; sometimes, I do a good deed and don't tell anyone I did it.

How does this benefit my status? How does this add to any good will?
So you do it because it makes you feel good?

How selfish of you, pursuing that good feeling for yourself without considering the feelings of others!


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