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Monday, May 5, 2008

RE: [LPplatform-discuss] Rand solved the Is-Ought Problem?

Kevin Bjornson wrote:

KB) if morality exists, it must come from something. (KB

This begs the question of whether "morality" exists. 

By "morality" I assume we're talking about the holy grail: completely non-subjective universal morality -- a value or set of values that every moral agent would agree is the yardstick by which to measure what ought to be done, i.e. what is comendable rather than reprehensible.

I suspect that what Rand means by "morality" is merely some utility function that tends to make an agent's decisions not be self-defeating in terms of the goals wired into the goal-directed behaviors with which he was endowed by the (mindless) forces that created him or his kind.

If so, then bad news.  First, that utility function will inevitably be woefully underdetermined for the kinds of questions that we want "morality" to answer.  Second, we are increasingly able to change our wiring and thus the goals wired into us, and so Rand's approach does not answer the most important question we ask of it -- what if anything should we rewire our goals to be?  It seems like she can't tell us much more than: don't wire yourself to destroy either self or kind, and whatever you do, keep preservation of self and kind somewhere high on your priority list.  Well, we already knew that.

Unless I'm missing something, Rand's morality seems to be basically this: "keep doing what your kind has been doing so far, and don't let anybody make you feel guilty about it".

I just am completely missing what ethical innovation Rand is supposed to be responsible for.

KB) Since there always must be motion, there was no one point at which time began. (KB

If Rand's ethics really does depend on that sort of non sequitur, then tell me now, so I can cut my losses in terms of time invested here. :-)

Peikoff wrote:

LP) Reality, we hold—along with the decision to remain in it, i.e., to stay alive—dictates and demands an entire code of values. (LP

There are myriad ways to merely stay alive.  I expect a little more from my moral code than that.

Maybe the way to short-circuit this discussion is to ask you: what is the single biggest mistake or incompleteness you see in Rand's worldview?