Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Brief Encounter With Mr. Buencamino

So after a little commotion at this article of mine, I felt obliged to settle what remains of the slight misunderstanding between Mr. Joe America and me, and proceeded to explain the situation. As I was about to leave, though, what should stop me in my tracks, but Mr. Manuel Buencamino himself?

For those who do not know, Mr. Manuel Buencamino is one of the most notable apologists of the Aquino administration in the cyberspace. He also has some issues with Get Real Philippines (GRP), a blog I write for. Well, as far as this article is concerned, these are the only things you should know. Feel free to search some stuff about him, though. For the time being, let's move on. 

He then came up with a very lengthy, erm, critique of my statements. Of course, I felt tempted to retaliate, but I am on treading on someone else’s property, so I bit my lip and respectfully bid my thanks and goodbyes. 

Still, I feel responsible for my actions, so here is my little rebuttal to Mr. Buencamino. If you want to check the actual incident, visit this article of Joe America’s. 

(The slanted paragraphs are words from Mr. Buencamino.)

Arche wrote: "Did people love or adore the political dynasties you mentioned in your posts in the course of their terms? Yes, these dynasties incurred the wrath of the people in their conquest for power. Meanwhile, the Aquino-Cojuangco clan… how long did it take for people to start realizing their wrongs? Not to mention not everyone knows of it yet. This is my major point. What sets Noynoy and his lot apart from other dynasties is that they more or less won the hearts of the people for so long. Even now, Ninoy and Cory remain untouchable, because they are paragons of democracy… supposedly. Was this answer sufficient? ^^"

1. Shouldn't Arche have prefaced the answer to his question - "Did people love or adore the political dynasties you mentioned in your posts in the course of their terms?" - with a "Yes in the beginning of their terms they were adored and loved but then they incurred ....etc. etc." ? 

I don’t quite understand why he had to do this; whether this will help his case is, frankly, beyond me. But I am willing to tag along. 

2. Arche wrote further: "Meanwhile, the Aquino-Cojuangco clan… how long did it take for people to start realizing their wrongs? Not to mention not everyone knows of it yet."
i. Isn't it a bit premature to use "DID" when the question is actually "how long WILL it take..." because "Ninoy and Cory remain untouchable" ?

Sigh, semantics, semantics. Ninoy and Cory remain untouchable, not in a sense that criticisms are forcefully being silenced for the sake of their reputation, but in virtue of the technical and widely recognized definition of the word:

“Being beyond the reach of criticism, impeachment, or attack.” – TheFreeDictionary

The technical definition of “untouchable” does not necessitate the nonexistence of criticism. Criticisms may exist, but they are not enough to deal a lasting blow to one’s reputation or image. This holds true to Ninoy and Cory; critics do exist, but given the faith invested in them by the Filipino people, their images remain quasi-impervious to the growing skepticism from the rational community.

ii. And what is the "IT" in "not everyone knows of it yet"? Fer crissakes are critics being gagged, has there not been enough criticism in tri-media, social networks, and blogs for everyone to have heard of "IT"? Is arche frustrated that all those people who have been barraged with reports of "IT" have not reacted in the way that he hoped they would? 

The above explanation addresses the majority of this part of his, um… critique. Anyway, by “it,” I meant the wrongs perpetrated by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. Be it intentional or not, a wrong is a wrong if it concerns the welfare and rights of other people. And yes, I am most certainly referring to the incidents at Hacienda Luisita.

And no, I am not in the least frustrated. I was not even expecting a specific reaction whatsoever. Of course, he is entitled to what he wants to believe, although I have but one question; why did he have to bring this up in the first place? What does this have to do with the issue he intends to raise?

3. As to arche's major point: "This is my major point. What sets Noynoy and his lot apart from other dynasties is that they more or less won the hearts of the people for so long. " 

Well yes, to their credit Noynoy and his lot have done just that. And what's wrong with achieving that, isn't democracy about winning and keeping the hearts of the people for as long as possible? Besides you don't win hearts by being undemocratic. You can win grudging obedience through tyranny but you cannot win hearts. Is arche faulting Noynoy or the people or both for the romance? Is he also criticizing democracy?

By the way, this is my answer to Joe America’s question regarding what sets the Aquino-Cojuangco clan apart from the other political dynasties. 

Am I faulting Noynoy and his lot for his romanticist approach? Perhaps I am; I don’t buy it. And I have a perfectly logical reason to be so, since democracy has nothing to do with romance.

“a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” – Merriam Webster

I don’t see any allusion to “winning hearts” in the technical definition. Criticizing Noynoy’s propaganda is certainly not equal to criticizing democracy. By the way, I am more interested in winning “minds” than “hearts.” Heh heh.

4. "Even now, Ninoy and Cory remain untouchable, because they are paragons of democracy… supposedly" 

To many Filipinos, Ninoy and Cory ARE the paragons of democracy, that's why they remain untouchable. "SUPPOSEDLY" is arche's conclusion, one that is shared by an underwhelming minority who believe in the "IT" being peddled by Aquino bashers.

Yes, Ninoy and Cory do serve as democratic paragons to many Filipinos; in this respect only. However, the issue I want to raise is… are they really, in an objective perspective? This demands a separate debate, but I do not intend to press further, for the sake of brevity. 


II. Arche added: 

"The same answer was repeated by GRP visitor "dude," albeit more concise: 'That is easy. The Aquinos pretend to be good and saintly whereas the others do not pretend to be anything they are not. This makes them better than the Aquinos.'"

1. The first part of dude's sentence -"The Aquinos pretend to be good and saintly..." - is an interesting proposition because he has not offered any facts to support his contention that the Aquino's are pretending to be what they are not. Thus, dude is simply expressing his perception/opinion.

If we consider things strictly in the semantic context of dude’s statement, then you can say that it’s not substantiated. However, if we are to expand our domains and take into account the entirety of the context upon which dude formulates his arguments, the same assertion cannot be said. After all, our website has published proof after proof; establishing links regarding the Hacienda Luisita case, the lousy prosecution in Corona’s impeachment trial, etc. I am not here to debate the legitimacy of those; I am here to disprove this particular claim of Mr. Buencamino.

To simply take dude’s argument at face value betrays one’s lack of foresight. After all, it is an “excerpt.” To make a viable case, you have to consider the background of this statement; how he exactly came up with this statement, which is generously given, if you know where to look. 

Since we are dealing with mere perception and not facts then the perception of the overwhelming majority becomes the reality that arche and dude have to live with. And, as far as the majority of Filipinos are concerned, the reality is the Aquino's are not pretending to be good and saintly, they ARE good and saintly. That's why they remain untouchable!

My previous statement disproves the first sentence of this paragraph. Meanwhile… I don’t see any proof that the Aquino-Cojuangco clan folks are good and saintly as he claims. Oh my, what does this mean? 

2. The second part of dude's sentence - "whereas the others do not pretend to be anything they are not. This makes them better than the Aquinos" - brings up the question: Did "the others" admit to the allegations against them or did they protest their innocence? 

While it may very well raise that question, what dude says does not necessitate that question. Perhaps the other parties are not exerting any effort to flatter themselves in front of the searching eyes of the media. Perhaps they are mum about the issue. That is not the same as admitting their guilt, but they certainly aren’t pretending what they are not… because they are hardly doing anything.  It will not hurt to consider other possibilities.

a. If they admitted that they were a bunch of power hungry politicians as arche characterized them -"Yes, these dynasties incurred the wrath of the people in their conquest for power" - then how does that qualify them to be included in the "good-better-best" spectrum? Shouldn't they belong to the "bad-worse-worst" spectrum?

Since when have I established such moral spectrum? This is nothing but a straw-man argument. What I only did was to answer Joe Am’s question; what sets Noynoy’s clan apart?

b. If they protested their innocence despite what arche wrote regarding why they incurred the people's wrath then aren't they guilty of pretending to be what they are not? 

Dude and arche can't have it both ways. 

Okay, first, for the sake of formality; where is your proof? You could at least type it here; again, for the sake of formality. Second, you have not considered the third option… the third possibility; other dynasties remaining silent about the issue, which conveys an air of neutrality. Oh, and I am not obliged to substantiate the third option, as it is, as I’ve said, a possibility. You substantiate statements offered as facts

3. Finally, to admit, for example, that one is an asshole does not make one better or less of an asshole. As a matter of fact it reveals that one is not only resigned to being an asshole but he is also telling you to get used to it. And that makes him an even bigger asshole.

If this is an all-encompassing explanation, then honesty is indeed not the best policy. This explanation encourages assholes to hide their asshole-ness. Hm, not bad, Mr. Buencamino. 

On the other hand, an asshole who pretends not to be an asshole can be called a hypocritical asshole which is high up there in the spectrum of assholes because of the added quality of hypocrisy. 

However there is a redeeming value to hypocrisy. One who pretends not to be an asshole shows not only an ability to discern good from bad but also a desire to turn one's life around, to be among the good as opposed to being one of the assholes.

Heh heh, but what if the asshole in question is only interested in preserving his public image while is still into illegal business and political transactions? This argument is too presumptuous. 

Furthermore, on the other hand, you say that hypocritical assholes are more asshole-ish, but you also say that there is a redeeming value to hypocrisy. Where are they, really, in your moral spectrum, Mr. Buencamino? It is you who is obliged to answer this, since I did not even allude to a “moral spectrum” to begin with. 

Lastly, with this kind of viewpoint, aren’t you inadvertently encouraging crooks to keep their true identities hidden, because, as you said so yourself, there is a redeeming value to hypocrisy? 

So I don't get dude's point and why arche endorses it.

This is an easy one. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because Mr. Buencamino over-inflated the significance of my statements, when I simply intended to settle an account with Mr. Joe America. 

Basically, the GRP crowd has never gotten over the fact that the people did not vote for their candidate in 2010 and now they want Aquino to fail so they can be proven right, so they can crow "I told you so".

Before I departed from Mr. Joe America’s website, I left a few words.

“Mr. manuelbuencamino, I do not know what beef you have with GRP, but this has nothing to do with that. After all, I am but a new contributor.”

Still, despite being new, I can certainly detect a tinge of bitterness in these words—but who am I to talk? I’m just a newbie, after all. Anyway, to “dude,” please forgive me for causing your name to be involved in this debate. I’m truly sorry.

All in all, I am thankful for visiting Joe America’s website. I got the chance to meet one of the staunchest defenders of Noynoy and his family’s legacy. I had the golden opportunity to gauge his argumentative skill. What I think of it is, well, I prefer to keep it a secret. 

(EDIT: Alright, I'll spill it. It's at the comments section.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rights: Ayn Rand Got It Wrong

For those who feel nauseated by my articles criticizing the dubious Objectivist philosophy, you have my sincerest apologies. It's just that I feel compelled to expose the blatant fallacies that somehow made their way to Ayn Rand's psyche and constituted a substantial portion of her philosophy. Such fallacies manifest themselves most obviously on Ayn Rand's argument about the concept of human rights. 

“The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.” 

This is an excerpt, and the heart of Ayn Rand's argument regarding rights. You can find the entirety of her take here. As soon as my eyes read this paragraph, I knew I got another philosophical critique article in my hands, albeit it might be a little short, given the shortness of the excerpt in question. But it doesn't matter.

Let's now begin inspecting Ayn Rand's argument. Of course, for those who have read my extensive critique of Ayn Rand's philosophical structure, they will know that Ayn Rand's claim that rights (which are moral concepts) are derived from the law of identity (a tautology that has no meaning) is fallacious, just like how fallacious it is to recklessly derive an ought from an is. To know more about how I disproved Rand's "solution" to the is-ought problem, feel free to read this article.

Rights did not come from the observable universe, or from man's nature, or from any fact. It is the consequence of human cognition; the mind alone conceived the notion of rights. Since the assertion that reality is related to rights is invalid, this seems to be the only plausible conclusion. The concept of rights was born with the creation of the Declaration of Independence. The concept of rights was born alongside the early stages of the Constitution and the State. It is the government (specifically the individuals that constitute it) that created the concept of rights. I do not claim to know what was running in the minds of the Founding Fathers when they laid down the foundations of the early government, but as far as logic is concerned, it seems that the only possible sources of the notion of rights, is the sophisticated mental acuity of man, as well as his emotions; the Fathers' compassion for man and the desire for equality not under a monarch or dictator but the law. Yes, Objectivists can hate on the fact that rights, a moral concept, a topic covered by ethics, may be determined by human emotions, but no amount of is-ought fallacies can override that fact. 

Objectivists can hate on the fact that the government is the one that creates and validates rights (as shown by how countries have differing Bill of Rights in terms of number and precision), but no amount of is-ought fallacies can deny this one. In the case of rights, Ayn Rand herself is denying reality. 

Perhaps Objectivists can loosen up a bit, provide a viable case for the brand of ethics--rights by extension--by considering that there are actually two major branches of ethics; descriptive and prescriptive.

A typical philosophy student would know what these two branches mean. Descriptive ethics simply describe how people viewed ethics through out time. This branch of ethics merely chronicle how the human perception of morality evolved through the ages; simply put, descriptive ethics is a study of how people think morality is.

Meanwhile, prescriptive ethics, as the name suggests, is the study of how morality should be. It is the more spontaneous branch of ethics, since it aims to answer the important ethical question; how should people act? Descriptive ethics merely narrate how people act; prescriptive ethics study how people should act. Perhaps this is where Objectivists should invest their energies, to stand a chance at being taken seriously by the academic world. Perhaps Objectivists should stop insisting their flawed causal argument that the universe gave birth to rights, and accept the fact that:

1. In terms of descriptive ethics, their concept of rights is merely how they think of rights.
2. In terms of prescriptive ethics, their concept of rights is merely how they think rights should be. 

The first one would be quite disadvantageous to the Objectivist movement, since their ethical grounds are flawed to begin with. Now, if they can just cut off the "rights are the results of reality" part and argue solely based on how they think rights should be (which means incorporating their moral view in prescriptive ethics), they might have the opportunity of officially being in the fray of the philosophical realm. Maybe, just maybe, they should accept that their morality is at the same level as any morality conceived by man's mind throughout the eons. Maybe, just maybe, instead of arguing that Objectivism is the proper moral code, they should argue that Objectivism is the best moral code. This will make things more logical somehow.

The rest of the paragraph need not much scrutiny.

Ayn Rand's definition of rights is sloppy and vague, not to mention that it is founded on severely fallacious grounds. The following sentences hardly help at all, since they scream "equivocation" all over the place. First, Ayn Rand used "right" to mean "correct," and then proceeded to mean the same word as the "right" we discussed earlier. If Ayn Rand's intention was not to equivocate, why in the dazes did she spout all those stuff about the right (correct) things man does as far as his life is concerned?

Also, I do not quite understand the "nature forbids him the irrational" part. Does this mean man is not allowed to be irrational? Then all of us might be rational, but of course this notion is extremely disputable. Perhaps Ayn Rand meant that being irrational is against nature, and that irrational people will die. Well, so far, I have not come across any statistical research that has established an irrefutable correlation between mortality and stupidity. What did Ayn Rand mean by that?

Oh, and just to add; why can't animals have rights too? There is no logical barrier that separates animals and the concept of rights. After all, rights are the creation of man's mind. Perhaps Objectivists would counter; because they're non-sentient beings. This goes against substantial scientific research findings, but they can choose to assert this idea all the same, and admit that the concept of "rights" is indeed a product of man's mind, not of the observable reality.

To be fair, I can agree with how Ayn Rand views the nature of rights (not their origins). I believe that rights should be aimed at an action, not at the goal or the object. Rights should allow man to pursue goals, not to readily have the goals. I agree that rights should not violate other rights, which means no one can enslave another for his personal goals. More importantly, while the concept of rights came with the concept of the law and state, I believe that the government should not just arbitrarily revoke rights, but seek to protect them through the rule of law. And finally, I can agree that the idea of animal rights is absurd and impractical. To this extent, I can agree with the Objectivists. If only they will heed my advice about the prescriptive ethics thing, I would have supported them... somewhat.

I remember John Galt saying that some philosophies of old brought chaos to this world. Some philosophies brought out the worst in man, threatening to plunge civilization into darkness. Perhaps it is true; just ask the Maoists who starved China until Deng Xiaoping came along. But it is not through logical fallacies that we can override the destructive effects of some philosophies. It is not through falsely bridging the is-ought gap, claiming that reality can give us morality, that we can solve the moral issues of our world. As Isaac Asimov once stated:

"If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Argentina, a Classic

Argentina continues its nose-dive towards economic distress as its president, Cristina Fernandez, stretched its hand on the YPF, which was sold to Spanish firm Repsol in the past.

Argentines have wondered for years which kitty Cristina Fernández, the president, would grab next in order to satisfy her government’s voracious appetite for cash. On April 16th they got their answer, when she announced that Argentina would expropriate and nationalise 51% of YPF, the former state oil company, which had been sold to Repsol, a Spanish firm, in 1999.

(Source: Link)

Furthermore, Fernandez resorted to what seems like demagoguery to justify her actions.

“We are the only country in America, and basically in the whole world, that doesn’t control its own natural resources,” she declared—a puzzling assertion, since foreign companies own resource assets in every oil-producing country in the Americas save Mexico.

Meanwhile, economy minister Hernan Lorenzino alluded to autarkic notions that would make communists very proud; no offense intended.

Hernán Lorenzino, the economy minister, claims Argentina’s only goal is “energy self-sufficiency”.

Furthermore, the Argentine government and the YPF clash as to the reasons behind the partial nationalization of the said company, although the YPF seems to gain the upper hand.

The government says it has been forced to import because Repsol has failed to invest in domestic production. In recent months, six provinces confiscated oil concessions from YPF on that basis. But YPF counters that it has invested $11 billion in its Argentine operations over the past five years, and only distributed $3.5 billion in dividends—many of which have gone to pay the loans that Petersen, an Argentine company, took out to buy a share of the company with the support of Néstor Kirchner, Ms Fernández’s husband and predecessor as president. Moreover, Repsol says that the real cause of Argentina’s declining energy trade balance is its maze of price controls and subsidies, which makes investment unprofitable and encourages excess consumption. Most independent energy analysts agree with this analysis.

Repsol pretty much dropped the bomb on the government by pointing out the classic problems caused by irrational government intervention; subsidies which stagnate growth and drive away other producers and would-be investors, as well as price controls which grotesquely distort market signals. Energy analysts seem to be on the right track with this.

The article then proceeded to discuss the benefits of nationalizing a substantial fraction of YPF for the government, and the government alone, possibly at the expense of the people and the business cycle.

Taking over YPF offers Ms Fernández both financial and political benefits. She can now use it to conduct the government’s money-losing energy imports and have its minority shareholders suffer 49% of the losses. At a time of high oil prices, she could also use the company’s profits to finance public spending, since Argentina cannot borrow money because it faces punitively high interest rates and legal threats from holders of its defaulted debt. Politically, after failing to convince the rest of the countries at the Summit of the Americas last weekend to support Argentina’s claim to the British-controlled Falkland Islands, the decision provides her a new foreign scapegoat to distract attention from a slowing economy. On the day of the announcement, posters went up around Buenos Aires reading “True sovereignty means taking back what is ours” above the YPF logo.

The article has divulged on the effects of this action of the state, and it pretty much nailed it. Nationalizing YPF will inevitably drive away investors, as the government imposes itself on the company, which will just aggravate the fact that Fernandez made things a whole lot worse for Argentina from the very beginning. 

As of now, Argentina has managed to keep itself afloat, and that is certainly not thanks to the government.

And the economy has remained buoyant for nearly a decade in spite of such policies, because of ever-rising soyabean prices and economic growth in neighboring Brazil.

To make things worse for Argentina, the Spanish government through its foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, has stated that it will defend Repsol's shareholders, and that it will cut diplomatic ties with Argentina should something really nasty happen.

The article ended with the critical move that must be done if Argentina is to remain in relatively good terms with the Spanish; by paying a big sum for 51% of YPF. In effect, Fernandez's foolishly selfish decision of taking YPF for herself put her entire country in jeopardy, both economic and political. 

What the world has witnessed is but a classic example of the ills of excessive government intervention, as discussed by several Austrian economists like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek. Too much meddling from the state, specifically nationalization, is harmful because;

1. It undermines trade and private investment. In nationalizing a company, fully or partially, it renders that fraction immune from local and foreign investors who through their collective effort have much to offer than government bureaucracy. Too much nationalization narrows down the spots where investors can, well, invest, which stagnates economic activity. 

2. It usually leads to more taxes. The government inherently has no money. A money-generating mechanism innate to businesses is not possessed by the government. And then the government announces that it will own more than half of a crucial oil company in Argentina. Where will the government get its money? From the people via taxation. People are forced to give up a large part of their income to satiate the state's hunger for nationalizing. 

3. Nationalization is supposed to be an emergency safety net, and a temporary one. In times of deep economic crises that threaten key economic institutions (the loss of which can deal a lasting blow to national economy), it is a justified action to have the government soften the blow through its accumulated tax revenue and contain the shock until things settle down and investors start pouring again. By that time, the government is obliged to let go of the company and let the private sector finish the job. Nationalization is a social safety net in extreme situations, and is not meant to be perpetuated, as far as economic progress is concerned.

Argentina is in a lot of trouble should this horrible governance persist. After all, Greece was involved in the euro crisis due to astounding sovereign debt, and Argentina is well headed that way, too. Perhaps the people can demand a re-election and legally oust Fernandez for good. Or they can start a revolution or something; although I don't really fancy bloody uprisings. But if economic progress is the topic, Fernandez's administration is, in all likelihood, not part of the equation. 

Link: An in-depth scrutiny of the German economy

I've come across a very interesting article about the economic history of Germany, which is slowly becoming the main powerhouse of Europe. Visit this link to know more.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Need for Sensitivity

North Korea recently became the laughing stock of the world after its failed rocket launch. I must admit, I even giggled a bit about the news. Despite this, I know that we should remain serious about this old international feud.

North Korea purposefully sensationalized its plan of launching a rocket in order to have their satellite orbit in space, eliciting suspicion from the rest of the world. People accused North Korea of conducting a ballistics test under the guise of releasing a harmless satellite. North Korea staunchly denied this, and gained some support from some leftist activists in the process. In effect, this controversial nation managed to stir the world's curiosity on its capabilities.

However, the widespread poverty North Korea desperately tries to hide is taking its toll on them. North Korea failed in almost every respect, as far as the rocket is concerned; they failed to launch a satellite into space, assuming that that's their original plan. If it's a power play, then they also failed, since they instead turned into some sort of a joke the world could laugh at. But what if this is a blind? What if North Korea has something up its sleeve that one could consider the real deal? Call me paranoid if you want, but as far as national security is concerned, we must by no means allow humor get the better of us. A dose of political humor is perfectly fine, but we must not dwell on such superficial comedy and remain focused on more pressing issues; the persistent tensions between the communists and the rest of humanity.

I'd like to share something to think about from the 48 Laws of Power, one of the books in my possession. I intend to discuss a specific law written on the said book; the 47th.

"Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop."

The world was prepared for whatever might happen should North Korea's plan about the rocket succeeds. Several countries even prepared anti-missiles should anything unpleasant happen. But then, the world succeeded, without even lifting a finger; the rocket failed, and the world rejoiced and laughed at the same time. Given the dynamism of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before North Korea's image devolved into nothing more but pastime jokes. 

However, this is beginning to be a sign of insensitivity. We gradually become too complacent with the recent events. Fear is slowly being diluted to become comedy. And this is a big no-no. Someday, the humor should fade, to be replaced with seriousness and vigilance. Do not forget that the country we laugh at today caused all sorts of trouble to our world. North Korea constantly unsettled many countries, and that's no laughing matter. While we join in the humor bandwagon, let's not forget that North Korea won't just fade into the shadows, not showing its face ever again.

It is in these times of light-hearted humor that the world should practice more vigilance as to what North Korea will do next. As a reminder, I'd like to share the entirety of the 47th law for my esteemed readers (if there are any). Check this link, if you please. 

It is logical to say, given North Korea's apparent negligence of citizen welfare and its internal economy, preferring to immerse itself in weapons testing, that this country is becoming more and more suicidal. It is only a matter of time before North Korea collapses on itself, unless it changes its ways. However, our utmost concern at the moment is not to get caught up in North Korea's suicide.

For another commentary regarding the aftermath of the failed rocket launch, you can check this link, too. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Look

So finally, after a few tweaks and mess-ups, my blog finally donned a new, minimalist look. For those who unluckily witnessed the pandemonium in this blog as I attempted to renovate it, you have my sincerest apologies. I'm an amateur coder; please cut yours truly some slack. Have a good day.

Examining Ayn Rand's Paper: Part 4


As Ayn Rand started to explain the three virtues of her philosophy, I realized that they can be now taken into isolation; while it can be argued that the virtue of rationality is connected to Ayn Rand's espousal of reason, this particular virtue can hold up without having to invoke Ayn Rand's faulty analysis of the is-ought gap, her dubious assessment of animal psychology, among other things. In other words, these virtues can be said to be independent ideas; even if Objectivism doesn't exist, it is still possible for these ideas to make sense. Now, I will worry less about the logical coherence of the upcoming paragraphs, and instead focus on the desirability of these ideas; after all, ethics are intended to cater to the nature of man. 

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours. It means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one’s power and to the constant, active expansion of one’s perception, i.e., of one’s knowledge. It means a commitment to the reality of one’s own existence, i.e., to the principle that all of one’s goals, values and actions take place in reality and, therefore, that one must never place any value or consideration whatsoever above one’s perception of reality. It means a commitment to the principle that all of one’s convictions, values, goals, desires and actions must be based on, derived from, chosen and validated by a process of thought—as precise and scrupulous a process of thought, directed by as ruthlessly strict an application of logic, as one’s fullest capacity permits. It means one’s acceptance of the responsibility of forming one’s own judgments and of living by the work of one’s own mind (which is the virtue of Independence). It means that one must never sacrifice one’s convictions to the opinions or wishes of others (which is the virtue of Integrity)-that one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner (which is the virtue of Honesty)-that one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice). It means that one must never desire effects without causes, and that one must never enact a cause without assuming full responsibility for its effects—that one must never act like a zombie, i.e., without knowing one’s own purposes and motives—that one must never make any decisions, form any convictions or seek any values out of context, i.e., apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge—and, above all, that one must never seek to get away with contradictions. It means the rejection of any form of mysticism, i.e., any claim to some nonsensory, nonrational, nondefinable, supernatural source of knowledge. It means a commitment to reason, not in sporadic fits or on selected issues or in special emergencies, but as a permanent way of life.

You might look very awesome if you manage to pull this off, although won't it be quite exhausting if you force yourself to focus every waking hour? Won't it be tiring to consciously adhere to the provisions of the rational virtue? Most of all, won't this compromise your relationships with friends and loved ones if you remain preoccupied with adhering to this virtue? Do the benefits, if there are any, outweigh the costs? I do not intend to demean Ayn Rand's virtues; I'm merely considering whether such virtues are practical, not to mention doable, especially when Ayn Rand implies that Objectivist ethics is in accordance with human nature.

The virtue of Productiveness is the recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man’s mind sustains his life, the process that sets man free of the necessity to adjust himself to his background, as all animals do, and gives him the power to adjust his background to himself. Productive work is the road of man’s unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values. “Productive work” does not mean the unfocused performance of the motions of some job. It means the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest and most purposeful use of his mind.

I can agree to this virtue Ayn Rand espouses. However, I must clarify this part.

Productive work is the road of man’s unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values, provided that such values will not interfere with other people's lives, and will not compromise nature itself.

The virtue of Pride is the recognition of the fact “that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining—that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul.” (Atlas Shrugged.) The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term: “moral ambitiousness.” It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value by achieving one’s own moral perfection—which one achieves by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected—by never resigning oneself passively to any flaws in one’s character—by never placing any concern, wish, fear or mood of the moment above the reality of one’s own self-esteem. And, above all, it means one’s rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue or duty.

The more proper term to be used for this virtue is "assertiveness," but whatever; who am I to talk? Although I must point out how amusing this part is: "by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice" when adhering to the Virtue of Rationality alone can be a herculean task.

The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.

While Ayn Rand never proved the notion of life as an end in itself, it is a pretty good foundation to establish one's ethics; life as an end in itself as your axiom ensures that your ethics is life-oriented. However, this part does not logically follow: that man must live for his own sake.

One can remain alive but dedicate his life to charitable work without killing himself, out of his own volition, setting this course of action as his happiness. No life is lost, and the doer of the action is happy. How can Ayn Rand explain this phenomenon?

In psychological terms, the issue of man’s survival does not confront his consciousness as an issue of “life or death,” but as an issue of “happiness or suffering.” Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the warning signal of failure, of death. Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering. Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

I see that Ayn Rand still recognizes the philosophy of hedonism. Anyway, the truth of this paragraph is contingent. What if a man is a psychopath and enjoys killing people? He feels happy, so he must be furthering his values. But not the Randian values, unless Ayn Rand means just the values of the man in question. However, in this scenario, emotions fail to calculate the psychopath's net profit/loss. He feels happy, so in his perspective, he had a moral profit. But in reality, he suffered a heavy moral loss; the law is on his tail and people hate him and want him dead. He actually put his own life in danger.

This is a counter-instance to the effectiveness of emotions as a moral barometer, making the truth of the hedonist philosophy contingent at best. Perhaps this is why Ayn Rand specified that emotions are estimates of whether you're on the right track. Precision is sacrificed, but at least she's safe from scrutiny. Nice save.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.

I have not extensively studied the concept of tabula rasa, but, given its basic definition, I guess I can agree with Rand on this one. Know that tabula rasa won't be derived from her earlier arguments. Tabula rasa is an isolated concept.

But since the work of man’s mind is not automatic, his values, like all his premises, are the product either of his thinking or of his evasions: man chooses his values by a conscious process of thought—or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone’s authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.

I agree with what this paragraph has to say.

Man has no choice about his capacity to feel that something is good for him or evil, but what he will consider good or evil, what will give him joy or pain, what he will love or hate, desire or fear, depends on his standard of value. If he chooses irrational values, he switches his emotional mechanism from the role of his guardian to the role of his destroyer. The irrational is the impossible; it is that which contradicts the facts of reality; facts cannot be altered by a wish, but they can destroy the wisher. If a man desires and pursues contradictions—if he wants to have his cake and eat it, too—he disintegrates his consciousness; he turns his inner life into a civil war of blind forces engaged in dark, incoherent, pointless, meaningless conflicts (which, incidentally, is the inner state of most people today).

I can agree that being irrational can hurt you as a human being, but how is being irrational "impossible"? Does Ayn Rand mean one cannot actually be irrational, because that would result to a contradiction? If that's the case, then all of us are actually rational beings! Perhaps this is vague word usage, but in philosophy, words matter largely.

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. If a man values productive work, his happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his life. But if a man values destruction, like a sadist—or self-torture, like a masochist—or life beyond the grave, like a mystic—or mindless “kicks,” like the driver of a hotrod car—his alleged happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his own destruction. It must be added that the emotional state of all those irrationalists cannot be properly designated as happiness or even as pleasure: it is merely a moment’s relief from their chronic state of terror.

How can you say that happiness follows from a man who values productive work? It would help if you could provide an explanation; it isn't my job to do so. Moreover, note that a man who values productive work, one who values hard work can also be a sadist or masochist. Also, how can you say that irrationalists can't feel happiness or pleasure? What basis do you have?

I quote from Galt’s speech: “Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction. . . . Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.”

If you put it that way, then John Galt is right. However, know that that is not the official definition of happiness.

The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. To hold one’s own life as one’s ultimate value, and one’s own happiness as one’s highest purpose are two aspects of the same achievement. Existentially, the activity of pursuing rational goals is the activity of maintaining one’s life; psychologically, its result, reward and concomitant is an emotional state of happiness. It is by experiencing happiness that one lives one’s life, in any hour, year or the whole of it. And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: “This is worth living for”—what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.

The first sentence is false. You breathe to maintain your life, but breathing is hardly a source of happiness. One can maintain his life without being happy, and one can be happy even in the verge of death (note that we use "happy" in the standard sense, not on Ayn Rand's perspective). The rest of the paragraph is up to psychologists; I don't claim to be one.

But the relationship of cause to effect cannot be reversed. It is only by accepting “man’s life” as one’s primary and by pursuing the rational values it requires that one can achieve happiness—not by taking “happiness” as some undefined, irreducible primary and then attempting to live by its guidance. If you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy; but that which makes you happy, by some undefined emotional standard, is not necessarily the good. To take “whatever makes one happy” as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one’s emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition; to be guided by whims—by desires whose source, nature and meaning one does not know—is to turn oneself into a blind robot, operated by unknowable demons (by one’s stale evasions), a robot knocking its stagnant brains out against the walls of reality which it refuses to see.

So let me get this straight. One should treat his life as his primary and be rational if he is to be truly happy. The other instance cited in this paragraph is someone who set happiness as his primary then pursues an arbitrary goal. By Rand's argument, the second instance does not necessarily end up to a "good," which is a sound argument, but it also disproves her former statement, since a person (her own example) was able to become happy without setting his life as his primary and without being rational. Perhaps a clarification in word usage is in order. I do have to agree with her in saying that emotions are unreliable tools of cognition.

This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism—in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. “Happiness” can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is whatever you happen to value”—which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.

Huh? But haven't you been using hedonistic philosophy to explain your own? Whatever happened to the pleasure-pain mechanism as a gauge of good and evil? This is what hedonism is all about; pleasure is a standard of good, while pain is a standard of evil. One can argue that Ayn Rand stressed that such mechanism can only know good and evil in their simplest forms; if that's the case, hedonist philosophy is still not fallacious, but incomplete. Ethical hedonists declare that you should value whatever gives you pleasure, yes, but isn't that what Ayn Rand is also saying a while back?

Ayn Rand argued that a value should be something that further's one's life. By her pleasure-pain mechanism argument, pleasure indicates what is good in its simple form; something that is good for our bodies.

The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the wrong course of action, that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it.

Since pleasure tells us what's good for our bodies and hence our lives, isn't it good to value what gives us pleasure? This is the consequence of her argument, and this is what ethical hedonists tell us. Ayn Rand, could you have contradicted yourself once again?

The philosophers who attempted to devise an allegedly rational code of ethics gave mankind nothing but a choice of whims: the “selfish” pursuit of one’s own whims (such as the ethics of Nietzsche)—or “selfless” service to the whims of others (such as the ethics of Bentham, Mill, Comte and of all social hedonists, whether they allowed man to include his own whims among the millions of others or advised him to turn himself into a totally selfless “shmoo” that seeks to be eaten by others).

Ayn Rand can trash-talk all she wants, but she's just the same as everybody else; offering her subjective brand of ethics. This is because so far, it is shown that ethics can't be bound to facts of reality and can therefore never be objective. I find her usage of "allegedly rational code of ethics" in her rant, when philosophers already said that ethics is beyond reason, which is by itself an open admission that their ethics is not rational.

When a “desire,” regardless of its nature or cause, is taken as an ethical primary, and the gratification of any and all desires is taken as an ethical goal (such as “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”)—men have no choice but to hate, fear and fight one another, because their desires and their interests will necessarily clash. If “desire” is the ethical standard, then one man’s desire to produce and another man’s desire to rob him have equal ethical validity; one man’s desire to be free and another man’s desire to enslave him have equal ethical validity; one man’s desire to be loved and admired for his virtues and another man’s desire for undeserved love and unearned admiration have equal ethical validity. And if the frustration of any desire constitutes a sacrifice, then a man who owns an automobile and is robbed of it, is being sacrificed, but so is the man who wants or “aspires to” an automobile which the owner refuses to give him—and these two “sacrifices” have equal ethical status. If so, then man’s only choice is to rob or be robbed, to destroy or be destroyed, to sacrifice others to any desire of his own or to sacrifice himself to any desire of others; then man’s only ethical alternative is to be a sadist or a masochist.

This paragraph is agreeable, except for the part where Ayn Rand cited the tenet of utilitarianism (the greatest happiness for the greatest number) as an example of setting a desire as a primary. Nowhere in that concept says something about putting happiness as a primary; in fact, that concept is about setting happiness as a goal. I thought happiness is a sound goal?

The moral cannibalism of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another.

Not necessarily.

Today, most people hold this premise as an absolute not to be questioned. And when one speaks of man’s right to exist for his own sake, for his own rational self-interest, most people assume automatically that this means his right to sacrifice others. Such an assumption is a confession of their own belief that to injure, enslave, rob or murder others is in man’s self-interest—which he must selflessly renounce. The idea that man’s self-interest can be served only by a non-sacrificial relationship with others has never occurred to those humanitarian apostles of unselfishness, who proclaim their desire to achieve the brotherhood of men. And it will not occur to them, or to anyone, so long as the concept “rational” is omitted from the context of “values,” “desires,” “self-interest” and ethics.

Well, I can't verify nor falsify this bold claim; that people are beset with a crappy morality. I am not at liberty to confirm or reject this assertion. However, I stand by my conclusion; the formulation of an ethical code cannot have a rational basis. You can choose your ethics to have a rational nature, but the fact that you chose it cannot be supported by any rational means.

The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.

I'm quite irked by the way Ayn Rand uses "selfishness." Such a word has a negative ring to it, something supported by the English syntax. She could have just used the word "self-interest" and be more precise, rather than use a dubious word that will just elicit irritation and suspicion.

The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.

The second sentence is ridiculously false. Simply consider two rational men selling the same product. They both desire having their products sold, which is rational, considering their profession. Since they sell the same product, people only need to buy from one of them; the customer which one seller desires can be taken away by the other seller. This example alone demonstrates that there can be conflict between the interests of rational men.

The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.

A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. He does not treat men as masters or slaves, but as independent equals. He deals with men by means of a free, voluntary, unforced, uncoerced exchange—an exchange which benefits both parties by their own independent judgment. A trader does not expect to be paid for his defaults, only for his achievements. He does not switch to others the burden of his failures, and he does not mortgage his life into bondage to the failures of others.

Hm, looks pretty good. As an economics enthusiast, I like how Ayn Rand used the trader analogy to promote equality in society, while the soundness is not sacrificed. However, Ayn Rand must know that economics is not just about trading things of equal value. Sometimes, a rational trader will temporarily give more than the immediate expected returns. This is because sometimes, the mood of the market is good, and the returns from your investment will get better in the years to come.

In spiritual issues—(by “spiritual” I mean: “pertaining to man’s consciousness”)—the currency or medium of exchange is different, but the principle is the same. Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man’s character. Only a brute or an altruist would claim that the appreciation of another person’s virtues is an act of selflessness, that as far as one’s own selfish interest and pleasure are concerned, it makes no difference whether one deals with a genius or a fool, whether one meets a hero or a thug, whether one marries an ideal woman or a slut. In spiritual issues, a trader is a man who does not seek to be loved for his weaknesses or flaws, only for his virtues, and who does not grant his love to the weaknesses or the flaws of others, only to their virtues.

One can put it that way; I will just ignore how Ayn Rand makes her assertions look bad to read and cut to what she wants to say; we love people because we see the good in them; however, it also involves accepting their weaknesses and flaws. It doesn't mean we'll love them for their flaws; we're merely accepting them for who they are. I'm also starting to get irritated by how Ayn Rand uses the word "altruist."

To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.

It is only on the basis of rational selfishness—on the basis of justice—that men can be fit to live together in a free, peaceful, prosperous, benevolent, rational society.

Let's recall the definition of rational selfishness.

"The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment."

"Value" here is taken to mean "something or someone to be treasured." Earlier examinations will attest to this; after all, Ayn Rand was not able to prove any moral values from the facts of reality-- wait, if that is so... if "value" in this definition of rational selfishness is only "something or someone to be treasured," how can Ayn Rand insist that only a rationally selfish man can hold good moral values? You can tell that Rand is talking about "values" as "manners" there because of the words "firm," "consistent," "uncompromising," and "unbetrayed." How can Ayn Rand insist such a thing without a firm basis?

The same goes with the second part; how can Ayn Rand insist that only in a rationally selfish society can have good moral values (you can tell that by the adjectives used), when Ayn Rand has no firm basis?

The latter part of Ayn Rand's paper is mainly about the politics of Objectivism, which is capitalism; something I advocate. To this extent, I can agree with most of Ayn Rand's views. However, I support capitalism not because of Ayn Rand (whose faulty reasoning I shall explain later), but because of economists like Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Frédéric Bastiat, Milton Friedman, among others.

Can man derive any personal benefit from living in a human society? Yes—if it is a human society. The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade. Man is the only species that can transmit and expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation; the knowledge potentially available to man is greater than any one man could begin to acquire in his own lifespan; every man gains an incalculable benefit from the knowledge discovered by others. The second great benefit is the division of labor: it enables a man to devote his effort to a particular field of work and to trade with others who specialize in other fields. This form of cooperation allows all men who take part in it to achieve a greater knowledge, skill and productive return on their effort than they could achieve if each had to produce everything he needs, on a desert island or on a self-sustaining farm.

But these very benefits indicate, delimit and define what kind of men can be of value to one another and in what kind of society: only rational, productive, independent men in a rational, productive, free society. Parasites, moochers, looters, brutes and thugs can be of no value to a human being—nor can he gain any benefit from living in a society geared to their needs, demands and protection, a society that treats him as a sacrificial animal and penalizes him for his virtues in order to reward them for their vices, which means: a society based on the ethics of altruism. No society can be of value to man’s life if the price is the surrender of his right to his life.

The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.

I agree with most of what these paragraphs has to say. However, I must clarify two important things.

1. Ayn Rand used the concept of altruism to initiate a false dichotomy. I shall explain this later.
2. One must recognize the necessity of government taxation to a certain extent in the maintenance of crucial but unprofitable components of society (public roads, traffic lights, prisons, courts, space exploration, etc.) This is a basic economic principle. This must be clarified because Ayn Rand makes it look like absolutely everything must be done according to choice; in specific cases, it is more practical and cost-efficient to implement taxation at just the right degree.

The only proper, moral purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence—to protect his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to his own property and to the pursuit of his own happiness. Without property rights, no other rights are possible.

Refer to number 2 above.

I will not attempt, in a brief lecture, to discuss the political theory of Objectivism. Those who are interested will find it presented in full detail in Atlas Shrugged. I will say only that every political system is based on and derived from a theory of ethics—and that the Objectivist ethics is the moral base needed by that politico-economic system which, today, is being destroyed all over the world, destroyed precisely for lack of a moral, philosophical defense and validation: the original American system, Capitalism. If it perishes, it will perish by default, undiscovered and unidentified: no other subject has ever been hidden by so many distortions, misconceptions and misrepresentations. Today, few people know what capitalism is, how it works and what was its actual history.

It is quite pompous of Ayn Rand to claim that Objectivism is the moral base needed by an ideal political system, when its principles aren't exactly original; several economists have already thought of the concept of free markets and minimal government. That is my only issue here.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. A pure system of capitalism has never yet existed, not even in America; various degrees of government control had been undercutting and distorting it from the start. Capitalism is not the system of the past; it is the system of the future—if mankind is to have a future.

Refer to my comment before this, as well as number 2 from a while back.

Ayn Rand then made a little advertisement for her book, For the New Intellectual, before proceeding to her ending statements. Not that I find any issues with it.

The present discussion has to be confined to the subject of ethics. I have presented the barest essentials of my system, but they are sufficient to indicate in what manner the Objectivist ethics is the morality of life—as against the three major schools of ethical theory, the mystic, the social, the subjective, which have brought the world to its present state and which represent the morality of death.

These three schools differ only in their method of approach, not in their content. In content, they are merely variants of altruism, the ethical theory which regards man as a sacrificial animal, which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value. The differences occur only over the question of who is to be sacrificed to whom. Altruism holds death as its ultimate goal and standard of value—and it is logical that renunciation, resignation, self-denial, and every other form of suffering, including self-destruction, are the virtues it advocates. And, logically, these are the only things that the practitioners of altruism have achieved and are achieving now.

Observe that these three schools of ethical theory are anti-life, not merely in content, but also in their method of approach.

Here comes the gist of Ayn Rand's clever use of the false dichotomy fallacy. Hold your horses, Objectivists (if you're reading this). I'm getting to it. 

The mystic theory of ethics is explicitly based on the premise that the standard of value of man’s ethics is set beyond the grave, by the laws or requirements of another, supernatural dimension, that ethics is impossible for man to practice, that it is unsuited for and opposed to man’s life on earth, and that man must take the blame for it and suffer through the whole of his earthly existence, to atone for the guilt of being unable to practice the impracticable. The Dark Ages and the Middle Ages are the existential monument to this theory of ethics.

I'm not an expert in theology or the doctrine of Christianity, but the majority of Christian teachings reject the necessity of man to suffer, but only to confess his sins and try to live a happy but godly life. I do not intend to defend the merits of Christianity here; I just want to show that Ayn Rand needlessly put this kind of ethics in an unreasonably negative light by the usage of heavy words.

The social theory of ethics substitutes “society” for God—and although it claims that its chief concern is life on earth, it is not the life of man, not the life of an individual, but the life of a disembodied entity, the collective, which, in relation to every individual, consists of everybody except himself. As far as the individual is concerned, his ethical duty is to be the selfless, voiceless, rightless slave of any need, claim or demand asserted by others. The motto “dog eat dog”—which is not applicable to capitalism nor to dogs—is applicable to the social theory of ethics. The existential monuments to this theory are Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

Ayn Rand is wrong about "dog eat dog;" this adage means everyone is forced to fight one another for survival; meanwhile, her definition of social theory of ethics involves people willingly sacrificing themselves for the greater good; there's a stark difference between the two. Although I guess I can agree with her here; after all, I reject communism.

The subjectivist theory of ethics is, strictly speaking, not a theory, but a negation of ethics. And more: it is a negation of reality, a negation not merely of man’s existence, but of all existence. Only the concept of a fluid, plastic, indeterminate, Heraclitean universe could permit anyone to think or to preach that man needs no objective principles of action—that reality gives him a blank check on values—that anything he cares to pick as the good or the evil, will do—that a man’s whim is a valid moral standard, and that the only question is how to get away with it. The existential monument to this theory is the present state of our culture.

Ayn Rand, as was shown earlier, did nothing to prove that adopting a subjective perspective of morality is logically fallacious, that it rejects reality, that it rejects man's existence and stuff like that. In fact, she herself became subjective in the course of her discussion of her philosophy. She can call it bad all she wants (and become somewhat of a hypocrite), but that's it.

It is not men’s immorality that is responsible for the collapse now threatening to destroy the civilized world, but the kind of moralities men have been asked to practice. The responsibility belongs to the philosophers of altruism. They have no cause to be shocked by the spectacle of their own success, and no right to damn human nature: men have obeyed them and have brought their moral ideals into full reality.

It is philosophy that sets men’s goals and determines their course; it is only philosophy that can save them now. Today, the world is facing a choice: if civilization is to survive, it is the altruist morality that men have to reject.

I will close with the words of John Galt, which I address, as he did, to all the moralists of altruism, past or present: “You have been using fear as your weapon and have been bringing death to man as his punishment for rejecting your morality. We offer him life as his reward for accepting ours.”

Many Objectivists claim that Ayn Rand is the best champion of capitalism because she allegedly defended it on moral grounds. I dissent; yes, she praised capitalism by linking it to her philosophy (note that capitalism does not need Objectivism to be legitimate), calling the most just system, which is true, but what really substantiates her defense of capitalism is not how good capitalism is, but how bad the philosophy of altruism is, whatever she meant by "altruism." Altruism looks so bad, it makes capitalism look better by comparison. But what does altruism really mean?

Oxford dictionary defines altruism as follows:

1. disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others:

2. (Zoology) behaviour of an animal that benefits another at its own expense:
reciprocal altruism

(Source: Link)

It's a no-brainer that the second definition smacks of Objectivism. Ayn Rand says that altruism is a moral code where you sacrifice yourself for the good of others. But the second definition is in the context of zoology; does Ayn Rand consider us animals? But Objectivists can't assert that; Ayn Rand clearly distinguished man apart from animals in the earlier part of her paper.

Now, let's consider the first definition. Does the first definition logically imply that the altruist will sacrifice himself for the good of others? Perhaps... or perhaps not. It depends on the degree of selflessness. The only remaining thing that can settle remaining contentions is to inspect whether the philosophers Ayn Rand accuses of causing the gradual decay of our civilization do support altruism as Ayn Rand defined.

Auguste Comte who coined the term "altruism" did seem pretty extreme with his "selfless" morality.

[The] social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service.... This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

So Ayn Rand was right about the altruism part? Not really. Yes, Comte was the one who coined the term "altruism," but the following must be considered:

1. Comte is not just the only proponent of altruism. Besides, Ayn Rand said "philosophers of altruism," so she must have known about this. However, the known philosophers who advocate altruism at a certain extent does not even adhere to Ayn Rand's version of altruism.

The central point of Kantian ethics is duty, not altruism. According to Immanuel Kant, morality is present when you do things out of duty (e.g., a mother takes care of children because it's her job to do so), which clearly does not imply the necessity of self-sacrifice. Furthermore, he argues that man should be considered an end, not merely a means to the ends of others. (Third Formulation, Categorical Imperative)

Meanwhile, utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill merely promote the good for the greatest number; nothing more. Such a concept does not necessitate self-sacrifice. The fact that Ayn Rand associated her version of altruism with all the philosophers who advocate altruism to a certain degree is a crime against logic; this is hasty generalization, a strong misinterpretation of facts. But the chain of fallacies do not stop here.

Ayn Rand committed the fallacy of false dichotomy. Implying that man has to choose between the philosophy of altruism and her own philosophy, Objectivism, when a good number of in-between philosophies exist, is a vivid example of such a fallacy. Not only this misinforms the people, Ayn Rand also betrays the virtue of Honesty (which she herself advocates), and slanders the reputation of other philosophers as well. Ayn Rand has committed a grave mistake as a philosopher.


So I guess this is where my little philosophical scrutiny ends, since Ayn Rand's paper ends here. As you can see, I don't consider Ayn Rand as entirely bad; I agree with some of her points, I mostly agree with her politics, but what irks me is the way she derides other philosophers of being evil and irrational without logical proof. What irks me is her arrogant display of "objectivity," when she is as subjective as the philosophers she accuses of being so; at least the other philosophers acknowledge the limits of their reasoning.

If Ayn Rand did one good thing, perhaps it's that she helped renew humanity's interest in philosophy, which is usually dismissed as a boring subject. However, as far as her actual philosophy is concerned, well, it has a substantial amount of ambiguities, inconsistencies, incoherence, and even actual fallacies. Ayn Rand did help develop the realm of philosophy in her own way, but to deify her and treat her as if she is the best philosopher in the world, that she is the philosophical messiah or something, that is something I simply cannot accept. As an enthusiast of philosophy, I will do my best to expose injustices being perpetrated in the subject that I love.