Tuesday, May 04, 2010

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: On Belief

    _Quote Why should one be ‘considerate’ to a another’s deeply held beliefs, when one knows them to be irrational and rife with fallacies?  Consideration implies respect for the irrational, which sabotages one’s respect for the rational. It puts them on the same footing. The rational earns one’s respect; the irrational invites disrespect and mockery.”
                                                            - Edward Cline, in ‘Our Poster Boys for Censorship

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43 Comments:

Anonymous Richard McGrath said...

From a libertarian point of view, PC, I accept that people have a right to be irrational as long as they don't hurt others.

However, those wearing an Objectivist hat see irrationality as anti-life and warranting serious discouragement. There is a moral imperative for Objectivists to actively oppose irrationality, is there not?

Libertarians, depending on their moral viewpoint, may lack such an imperative. Thus comes the notion of 'tolerance'.

I have long advocated libertarianism as a model of political tolerance and non-interference in people's lives. Am I being morally evasive in choosing to ignore irrational behaviour in others? Or am I justified in making a distinction between tolerance by the state, but moral opposition by individuals? I think I can make that distinction, and will continue to do so, when wearing my libertarian hat.

5/04/2010 01:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Richard said...

Objectivism invites disrespect and mockery. It's irrational and rife with fallacies. The irony is that Ayn Rand's followers think it's everyone else who's deluded.

5/04/2010 01:43:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Richard said: "Am I being morally evasive in choosing to ignore irrational behaviour in others?"

Depends on the context. If the irrational behaviour is not a threat to you (most cases), then ignoring it is the most rational response.

Only if you consider it a threat to yourself, either directly or indirectly, are you sometimes obliged to try and counter it.

Even then, you have to pick your battles. If you spend all your time countering potential threats, you won't have time for much else. You're here to live and enjoy your life, not act as a moral policeman for any form of irrationality.

In the end it's only really *force* that translates the irrational into a threat to your life and property. That's why barring force is the crucial thing.

That said, it's true there is sometimes an Objectivist tendency (especially when you're young) to try and counter all types of irrationality. Trouble is, you can't control what others do. So it only sets you up for disappointemnt, and the resulting negativivty can distract you from acheiving more positive goals.

5/04/2010 02:07:00 pm  
Anonymous MichelleR said...

I agree with Richard McGrath here when he quoted that people have a right to be irrational as long as they don't hurt others.

It means that my christian belief doesn't need to be lectured or mocked by objectivists if I am irrational or not, as long that I don't hurt others. This is why I like Liberatianism but not the extreme objectivists.

5/04/2010 02:25:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Well, I think we can see from the discussions on the immigration thread alone that irrational ideas do have consequences for all of us.

Not to mention the notion that the 'religion of peace' be immune to criticism.

If liberty is underpinned by anything, and it is, it is the idea that freedom makes the world safe for reason.

And of course, recognising the freedom to be reasonable also means (as a corollary) recognising the freedom to be unreasonable, or just batshit stupid, but doesn't make one immune to the consequences of one's foolishness, nor immune to criticism for it.

And given that rationality includes, for example, offering reasons for your arguments, we can see from the reponse of "Richard" above just another example of another foolishness that it's appropriate just to laugh off.

5/04/2010 02:57:00 pm  
Anonymous James said...

"I agree with Richard McGrath here when he quoted that people have a right to be irrational as long as they don't hurt others."

And like Richard you would be wrong.People have the right to be irrational as long as they don't violate the individual rights of others...but "hurt" is subjective.An action that violates rights always hurts others but a hurtful action need not violate individual rights...

Eg:Starting up a business that through offering better service to customers ends up putting your competitor out of business.That sure hurts him but isn't a violation of his rights.

5/04/2010 03:31:00 pm  
Anonymous Richard McGrath said...

@James - allow me to clarify: by "hurt" someone I actually meant violate someone's rights. I agree with you 100% on that point.

Your example of competition is arguable though - if I am less successful than my competitor, he hasn't hurt me - I have failed to succeed. In fact my competitor may have done me a favour by making me at least consider redirecting my energies more productively.

@Richard: Please elaborate on the fallacies and irrationality inherent in the philosophy of Objectivism. I'd love to read about them.

5/04/2010 05:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Richard said...

Please elaborate on the fallacies and irrationality inherent in the philosophy of Objectivism. I'd love to read about them.

The best argument against Objectivism is the lack of arguments for it. For example, Objectivists put forth the proposition that life is the standard of moral value. But there is no evidence or rational justification for this proposition. So it's not rational to base one's moral thinking on it.

Do a search on the case for Objectivist ethics and you'll find plenty to read (but no actual case for Objectivist ethics).

5/04/2010 07:37:00 pm  
Anonymous Mike said...

The best argument against Objectivism is the lack of arguments for it. For example, Objectivists put forth the proposition that life is the standard of moral value. But there is no evidence or rational justification for this proposition. So it's not rational to base one's moral thinking on it.

Your the sort of person that looks at axioms / the methaphysically given and claims that there is no reason to believe them as they have no rational justification because you cannot prove that they are the case using more fundamental principles / arguments and then proceed to attack anything you choose that depends on said principles.

irrational and insane

5/04/2010 07:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Richard said...

Mike, it's not "methaphysically [sic] given" that life is the standard of moral value. Life isn't the standard of moral value, and there's no reason to think that it is.

5/04/2010 09:56:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Richard, your intellectual shell game is patently transparent.

First life--your individidual life--is the only viable standard of moral value. The standard is certainly not (and could not be) other lives, and it's definitely not some sort of supernatural command.

You say, for example, that "life isn't the standard of moral value, and there's no reason to think that it is." But this is patently absurd. Without life, no morality is either possible, or necessary.

And no, you won't find a thorough case for Objectivist ethics online (although some of us have tried). The "internet Objectivism" you read online can only ever be an introduction. For the thoroiugh case you claim you're looking for, you actually have to read books.

If you're genuine (which I doubt) the place to find that thorough case are:

by Ayn Rand,

“Introduction” in her book 'The Virtue of Selfishness.'
"The Objectivist Ethics" in 'The Virtue of Selfishness.'
“The Soul of an Individualist” in 'For the New Intellectual.'
“Who is the Final Authority in Ethics” in 'The Voice of Reason.'
“Causality Versus Duty” in 'Philosophy: Who Needs It.'
“How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?” in 'The Virtue of Selfishness.'

by Leonard Peikoff:

Chapters 4-9 in his book 'Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand':
4. Objectivity
5. Reason
6. Man
7. The Good
8. Virtue
9. Happiness

by Tara Smith:

'Viable Values:A Study of Life as the Root & Reward of Morality'

'Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist.'

by Tibor Machan:

'A Primer in Ethics'

I commend them to your attention.

5/05/2010 08:44:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

NB: When I say "some of us have tried," my last effort was back in January when I re-posted my own contribution to making the case.

To test out how well I did, head here to the 'Summer Six-Pack,' and scroll down to 'If God is Dead, Rejoice.'

5/05/2010 09:02:00 am  
Blogger Jeff Perren said...

The solution to the conundrum posed by the post is straightforward in principle, but difficult in real-life application.

What is your goal in writing or communicating? Do you simply want to wave your lance or do you want to persuade others? (Those aren't necessarily exclusive, of course).

I'm about as far from advocating subjectivism as it's possible for someone to get. And I'm not particularly gentle or easy-going by nature. And, some things are so starkly obvious that no honest adult could fail to know the truth.

But I recognize that different individuals process data and arguments individually. Their level of knowledge of philosophy, economics, etc, varies enormously.

So long as there is reason to believe a person is making honest errors, rather than evading or refusing to engage in an honest search for truth, justice requires treating them with respect.

Knowing which is the case can be difficult, of course, especially online.

Also, perhaps equally importantly, something Objectivists too often fail to weight properly is that immorality - like everything else - comes in degrees. In far too much of online discussion of politics, etc. there seem to be two and only two positions: "You are 100% on our side" or "You are - or at least your ideas are - 100% evil." That may seem like a caricature, but there are many, far too many, online examples in reality.

It's true that A is A and that the Law of Non-Contradiction has no exceptions. But it is a fact of reality that degrees exist in every concrete, and that there are degrees of clarity in understanding.

Above some basics, the truth is often complex and difficult to know, even more difficult to convey to others.

Skewer the truly bad guys, by all means. Tolerance, in word and deed, for those in the middle is, I believe, prudent and ultimately the route to long-term success for the right ideas.

5/05/2010 10:05:00 am  
Blogger Jeff Perren said...

How ironic. Right after posting, I started reading NRO and came across this discussion of a recent Supreme Court case:

"'It is a fundamental principle of criminal law that, before criminal punishment can be imposed, the government must prove both a guilty act and a guilty mind,' the groups said in the report.

Even when Congress includes a 'guilty mind' provision in a law, 'it is often so weak that it does not protect defendants from punishment for making honest mistakes,' or committing minor transgressions, the report said."

5/05/2010 10:15:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Jeff

"It is a fundamental principle of criminal law that, before criminal punishment can be imposed, the government must prove both a guilty act and a guilty mind".

That assumes the mind in question is sane!

Putting that aside for the moment, it is also a fundamental principle of criminal law that the government prove its case to a jury and that the jury not only judge the facts but also the law, its morality and its applicability.

Cheers

LGM

5/05/2010 11:11:00 am  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

What exactly is the danger of irrationalism? Something may only seem irrational to another's point of view.

What's the danger of rationalism? Deciding that the unborn life has no intrinsic right to life might be a rational decision. Deciding cripples cost too much to allow them to live might also be a rational decision.

The discussion has to be more on values than on what certain people deem "irrational".

That being said, I agree largely with the article you linked to. Especially the comment that silence provides implicit consent, either through fear or agreement.

5/05/2010 05:23:00 pm  
Blogger libertyscott said...

Reason is an absolute, it is about reflecting reality, and applying values to reality.

The logical corollary of irrationalism is making decisions on a whim, which will lead to wholly unpredictable and possibly destructive results. Who knows, because there is no reason behind it.

Reason provides the best basis for reflecting reality in order to pursue a value, such as life.

An objectivist values human life above everything else.

The argument about abortion is about defining life and when it starts. At conception there is a potential human life, at birth there is one. At some point in between the potential life is actual, and therein lies the heart of a rational debate about when human life begins.

Is a collection of dividing cells human life? Is a foetus in the last trimester, capable of living outside the womb, NOT human life?

I'm open to debate, but my view is that it is somewhere in between those, bearing in mind that there is a real human life carrying the entity being debated.

5/05/2010 09:15:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Liberty, you are using the term "reason" where we started with "rational". On those terms, I agree that the irrational becomes the whimsical and unpredictable.

However, my experience is that the term "irrational" is often used simply as a device to disagree with another point of view.

which will lead to wholly unpredictable and possibly destructive results [and possibly not]. Who knows, because there is no reason behind it.

Or perhaps there is no apparent reason?

We cannot fear a decision by some-one else simply because at the time, we couldn't see the reason behind it, and so call it irrational.

Not that I necessarily disagree with your line of argument, I'm just saying we can too quickly deem something irrational because of our own world view.

Most points are view are built on a process of reason.

Abortion is a good example, purely because we see the application of reason and of the rational becoming devices to justify a basic belief.

An objectivist values human life above everything else.

Well, that's a good start.

5/05/2010 11:21:00 pm  
Anonymous Zachariah said...

LGM think on what Zentiger said. Ownership can be a body with individuals or a collection of individuals, be it government, Microsoft (shareholders), Google (sharholders), etc,... Your argument is exactly the same as PC. A collection of individuals (be it Microsoft, Google) can & should own properties, but not government (taxpayers). WHY, WHY, WHY... ?

Well, I don't mind government owning something as long as they don't tread on me and that's pretty much the libertarian's on me.

5/06/2010 05:01:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Zachariah

You need to be on the right thread, "Why a resource tax is a resource theft".

I've responded to ZenTiger there. Your query is covered.

LGM

5/06/2010 07:50:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

ZenTiger said: "Most points are view are built on a process of reason"

I think you're confusing 'a reason' with 'reason'. Perhaps most views are based on 'a reason' - i.e. some process of thought that got them to that point. But to follow 'reason' means the thought process needs to meet other criteria, being:

1) logical, and
2) have it's conclusions tested against reality.

For example, over on the the discussion about childs rights, Brian Schurfield has claimed that children should never be forced to do anything, and that "this moral obligation means that you should not force your child to enact one idea while a different idea is active in their mind"

That belief is undoubtedly based on a process of thought, as his lengthy defence indicates. It's probably internally consistent too - i.e. on the surface, apparently logical. But is it based on reason?

Well I gave him a simple real-life example of how impossible that standard was to apply - being the need to forcibly stop my 1 year old son from drowning as he lunges towards the bath. Has he modified his views to reflect that reality? No. On that basis, is he following a process of reason? No.

Or to give some examples of other recent discussions on this blog:

1. "Libertarians" who are fundamentally opposed to anything the US military does outside it's own borders. Their beliefs if enacted, would see the western world overun by dictatorship.

2. "Pro-life" advocates who are against abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Their beliefs, if enancted would see actual human lives made slaves of bits of tissue.

3. Supposed "crusaders for liberty", who would like to forcibly stop (or shoot) immigrants trying to achieve their own liberty.

In all these examples, the fault is the same. Beliefs based on axioms, often internally consistent, but misapplied and departed from reality. The result is they end up acheving the opposite of their alleged goals.

5/06/2010 08:34:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Well said, Mark.

5/06/2010 08:46:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

Mark,

I haven't modified my view because I refuted your criticism and if you look on the thread you will see my response. Please point out where my refutation is wrong and we can continue the discussion.

5/06/2010 09:49:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

@Brian: If that was a refutation, then my name is Karl Marx.

5/06/2010 10:20:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

PC,

How about pointing out where I am wrong, then, instead of making some silly comment?

5/06/2010 10:48:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Mark

It is not correct to pretend that all "Libertarians" are fundamentally opposed to anything the US military does outside it's own borders. Some are supportive of specific US military actions undertaken for certain reasons.

That some Libertarians are opposed to some of the US military activies presently in progress in over 100 countries around the world does not support your contention that their opinions are founded upon belief in misapplied axiom.

That some Libertarians are opposed to all of the US military actions presently in progress in over 100 countries around the world does not support your contention that their opinions are founded upon belief in misapplied axiom either.

You need to be careful with broad generalisations, especially when they are wrong.

As for this, "Their beliefs if enacted, would see the western world overun by dictatorship."

Oh really? For that contestable statement to hold it would require that US military defense action undertaken within the borders of the US would necessarily fail to prevent a descent into totalitarian dictatorship. Further, it would also require that every other country throughout the West would necessarily become a totalitarian dictatorship unless the US military were present within that country.

Right.

Sure.

If you are serious about discussing the pros and cons of the various strands of Objectivism, the various schools of Libertarianism and even the social and political situations of Western states, you'll need to do much better than what you have provided on this occasion. Same goes for examining logic and reason. The example you presented was not very good. It undermined the position you wanted to present.


LGM

5/06/2010 11:01:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

Brian, you're wrong because you assume I can reason with a 1 year old the same way I can with an adult. Really, what planet are you on?

My 1 year old has no concept of death or the danger that water presents. He simply wants to climb into something he finds interesting - that's the idea that's "active in his mind". Either I let him drown, or I forcibly stop him.

If you agree I need to forcibly stop him, then it contradicts the absurd statement of yours which started this dicussion, which was "this moral obligation means that you should not force your child to enact one idea while a different idea is active in their mind".

Apropos my comments to ZenTiger, you can't hold both positions simultaneously, and still call this "reason".

5/06/2010 11:03:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

@LGM: I was not referring to all libertarians, just some who call themselves "liberterians" and hold those views. Hence my use of the quotation marks!

In the same way I referred to Mr Rabbit and his cohorts as "crusaders for liberty"

5/06/2010 11:16:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

Mark,

Helping your child avoid unintentional death while also exploring water is not coercion. You know your child does not want to die because if your child did in fact get into trouble their immediate desire is to be rescued and not to continue to play. Also, if you know there is a substantial risk of drowning and your child does not, then why have you put the child in that situation in the first place rather than arranging a safer way to play in water? Doing the latter means that you don't have to forcibly prevent your child doing what he wants. None of this requires elaborate reasoning.

BTW, to be more precise, my definition should read "coercion
is when you force your child to enact one idea while a *conflicting* idea is active in their mind"

5/06/2010 11:40:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

Mark,

The topic of this thread is irrationality. I take it you agree that it is the height of irrationality to force your ideas on another person and make them enact ideas they don't agree with? No matter how wrong or ignorant or stupid that person seems to be?

Yet you mock me for applying that idea to children?

What I find astonishing about many libertarians is their blithness when it comes to children. Look at PC's recent post complaining about the state of our education system where there is barely an acknowledgement that coercion against children is a massive problem in our education system and that it may, in no small way, be contributing to adult failure.

Coercion is fundamentally an epistemological issue, so, as a parent and a professed lover of reason, are you not interested in thinking about more about coercion and knowledge growth and children rather than just trying to dismiss me with some off-the-cuff criticism that has already been refuted ad nauseam around the internet?

5/06/2010 01:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Mobile said...

Bryan you said that Mark knows his child does not want to die.

Mark just explained to you that the child doesn't grasp the concept of death.

I know a child who told his father recently that he wanted to die when his father explained to him that his mommy (suffering terminal cancer) may be going away for a very long long time. The child said that if mom is going away for that long then he wants to go with her. His father explained that mommy isn't going to any place but dying and that prompted the child to say that he wants to be with mommy when that happens, if she dies, he wants to die too. The child has no idea what death mean. In his mind, it is a place somewhere that you go to.

5/06/2010 01:46:00 pm  
Blogger twr said...

"I take it you agree that it is the height of irrationality to force your ideas on another person and make them enact ideas they don't agree with?"

Shows you don't know what irrational means. Hint: It's nothing like that.

5/06/2010 02:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@Mobile - In your example, it sounds to me that the child just needs a better explanation and is actually capable of understanding. I agree that babies don't understand death. But, as I said, if the child actually got into trouble you would find that there is a strong desire to be rescued. The point I am making is that rather than forcibly preventing your child playing in water it is possible to find safe ways for them to do so and that helping them if they get into trouble does not constitute coercion because they actually want help when that happens. The problem with Mark's example is that he is not actively looking for safe ways to explore water. He is setting up a dangerous situation and then saying, look, I need to employ force here. In my way of parenting you don't deliberately set up dangerous situations that the child has no knowledge of.

@TWR - So making a person enact ideas they don't agree with is what? Rational?

5/06/2010 07:38:00 pm  
Blogger twr said...

It may or may not be - it really has nothing to do with rationality, as I said.

5/06/2010 08:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@twr: So you just saying that it has nothing to do with irrationality is meant to convince me? I maintain that rationality is not about the content of your ideas but about how you hold them. A rational person holds their ideas open to criticism and revises them if necessary. A rational person recognises their fallibility and realizes that mistakes are common. By these lights, authoritarian attitudes are the antithesis of rational.

5/07/2010 07:42:00 am  
Blogger twr said...

How on earth do you make the logical leap to your last sentence? If you were dangling from a cliff and the only way to save yourself was to force someone else to do something they didn't want to, the only rational thing to do would be to force them to do it. You need to separate morals from what you think is rational, and if you want to make an point, don't state something, and then state something completely different and hope people don't notice they have nothing to do with each other. Me saying it isn't meant to convince you, but I was hoping you'd at least think about it rather than just flicking the switch again on the blender inside your head.

5/07/2010 07:52:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

BS said: "The problem with Mark's example is that he is not actively looking for safe ways to explore water. He is setting up a dangerous situation and then saying, look, I need to employ force here"

Yeah Brian, you caught me out. I am deliberately setting up a dangerous situation, just so I can employ force against my children. It makes me feel good.

However your reasoned comments have made be see the light. I will immediately set about trying to change, and will start by re-reconstruting our house so that there's no danger. Hope the landlord won't mind!

I will also need to take on a nanny I think, so that when I'm bathing one child, and my attention is on them, the other child can be placed in this other purposely-constructed environment you advocate; you know, the one that allows safe water play.

So much for spending any time with my children, because I think I'll need to take on another job to afford it.

My wife and I will also have to give up watching the news I think. My 1 year old currently has a think for crawling over to the TV and turning it off. But I don't want to stop him now, do I? That would clearly be immoral.

On the other hand Brian.... how about get the fuck out of your ivory tower!

5/07/2010 10:43:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@twr: if you were dangling from a cliff you would be hardly in a position to force anybody to do anything. Your point, I think, is that there are situations when force is required. If this is what you are saying, I agree, but these are situations where you have to defend yourself against aggression. By defending yourself, you are not taking an authoritarian attitude: it is the aggressor that has given up on reason, not you. So I see no exception here to the claim that authoritarian attitudes are the antithesis of rationality. Nor do I see that there is disconnect between this claim and my prior assertion that rationality is to do with how you hold your ideas. As for rationality and morality, you think there is no connection between the two? This is a libertarian blog. Seems to me you have to explain yourself.

@Mark: People can always change their environment, don't make excuses. Yes, children shouldn't be shielded from the world, but that doesn't mean you don't help them out. BTW, I was taking your example as a hypothetical situation and responding to the hypothetical (and didn't make that clear enough). I don't live in an ivory tower, I practice what I preach and I am far from the only parent that subscribes to the idea that coercion against children is massively harmful.

5/08/2010 05:11:00 am  
Blogger twr said...

Brian, you clearly still don't understand, and don't want to, since you raise pointless and irrelevant objections in order to try and obfuscate what I'm trying to say.

My point has nothing to do with whether force is required in some situations, otherwise I would have raised this in one of my previous posts, all of which have fallen on deaf ears.

Since what I say seems to go through some sort of randomiser between your eyes and your brain, I have no intention of wasting any more of my time on it.

5/08/2010 07:54:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@twr: So far you have explained nothing nor elucidated anything. Apparently I am supposed to just make stabs in the dark to understand your meaning. For example:

"It may or may not be - it really has nothing to do with rationality, as I said."

But all you said was:

"Shows you don't know what irrational means. Hint: It's nothing like that."

If that is supposed to help anybody understand anything, then PC really is Karl Marx.

And your other comment is making some point about force *in the situation* of having to save your life.

If you really want to make progress in discussions you need to recognise that communication is difficult, that misunderstandings are common, and that common civility and courtesy helps.

5/08/2010 08:46:00 am  
Blogger twr said...

Well, no, it doesn't help at all, and I've discovered it's impossible to have a rational argument with someone who can't or doesn't want to understand what logic or rationality is. Rather than me wasting my time trying to educate someone who doesn't want to learn, why don't you do some reading, although if you haven't learnt yet, I doubt you ever will.

5/08/2010 12:30:00 pm  
Blogger twr said...

And incidentally, I haven't explained or elucidated because the point I'm making is so basic and fundamental that if you can't understand it on it's face then extra word aren't going to help.

5/08/2010 05:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@twr: Why don't you just make your point and explain it rather than spend time indulging in meta-discussion? Disagreement and not understanding what you are trying to say is not a sign I am unwilling to learn.

My take on rationality, morality, knowledge etc has been heavily influenced by the following authors:

David Deutsch, Karl Popper, & Ayn Rand

5/08/2010 09:44:00 pm  

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