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  • Posted by $ puzzlelady 3 weeks, 5 days ago
    That would be "premises". Start with individual sovereignty. That includes respect for the same rights of others. Her explicitly defined version of the Golden Rule is "Galt's Oath": Neither sacrificing oneself for the sake of others, nor asking others to sacrifice themselves for one's own sake. Also called "rational selfishness", which concept is sadly misunderstood and universally twisted to mean exploitation of others. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [that includes the right to one's honestly acquired property" is closest to her ideal. Today's political notions of "social justice" (collectivist favoritism) and "equality" (financial redistribution) are the very antithesis of Rand's fundamental premises. Any questions?
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  • Posted by $ Commander 4 weeks, 1 day ago
    Best answer is to read The Objectivist's Ethics. Presented in 1961 at UW Madison. It is the simplicity beyond the complexity of Atlas Shrugged.
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    • Posted by lrshultis 3 weeks, 5 days ago
      I remember the incident when I was studying across from the Rathskeller and large numbers of students were headed to the Fredric March theater, so I went down there and found the hallway full of listeners to loud speakers to a woman with a thick accent. I had never heard of Ayn Rand and was, at the time only interested in Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics. A guy in a computer science class in 1965 introduced me to Atlas Shrugged. He wasn't to happy due to his subscription to The Objectivist being canceled due to asking a question wrongly. Most of it was a fear because he had just received his induction notice.
      I am not sure what would have happen if I had read the book while in high school when I was reading novels that my dad had stashed under the counter of his grocery store while I was clerking after school and in the summer. Atlas Shrugged is how I started a life where an explicit philosophy was important.
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      • Posted by $ Commander 3 weeks, 5 days ago
        You were there....fantastic. About 1-1/2 years ago I procured an original copy of this lecture. UW has become the antithesis of that lecture over the years.
        Tao te'Ching was my first exposure to philosophy...13 y/o. Same year Morris Massey lecture on values development, Anthem, Foundation series by Asimov...everything I could find from Edgar Rice Burroughs. The following year was Fountainhead and AS. All were formative in their own way.
        Not until a decade ago did I come upon Objectivist's Ethics. I found validation in my perceptions as early as my 7th year of life. I found reason in my conflicts with others....much had to do with my lack of being able to express myself in understandable context. As reason-abled expression has developed over this past decade, and understanding that every other human IS what they learn, I have found a profound compassion for humanity. That, compassion, is missing from everything I have processed from Rand. I begin to wonder if she, by nature / nurture, has a fundamental diminished capacity of empathy.
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        • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 5 days ago
          Ayn Rand had a fundamental capacity for justice. She she did not and could not have empathy or compassion for a James Taggert or a Lillean Rearden. She had a lot of sympathy for Eddie Willers, who she said was one of her favorite characters.
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          • Posted by lrshultis 3 weeks, 4 days ago
            I seem to have different concept of 'empathy'. When I have empathy, I see my self in the other self and try to see what is going on that self's mind. Rand could not have written James Taggert or Lillean Rearden without some form of empathy. Then she would be able to see how evil it would be to be such selves. She could then see that they were more to be pitied for not knowing how their lives without taking and envy for that which is unearned. Empathy has nothing to do with compassion or feelings for helping someone. One may feel that the person is good or evil or just confused and just living his life to the best of his abilities. If that apparent knowledge of that self is good or bad or just indifferent, one will possibly have a emotion of compassion, hate, sympathy, or other emotions about what one might feel or think as that other self.
            Pity seems like the emotion that fits James and Lillian because they both lived as parasites with no actual individualism.
            While reading Fountainhead, I wondered how some of the characters could be spending their lives trying to destroy others. The same for a number of those in Atlas Shugged as well as many persons whom I have known in my 80 years.
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            • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 4 days ago
              Empathy from my dictionary is "identification with and understanding of the thoughts or feelings of another".

              In the case of a Lillian Rearden and a James Tagggert, at the scope we are talking about it means identifying with and understanding first hand as an inner 'perceptual' experience their thoughts and feelings at a psychologically 'metaphysical level' -- the whole inner pervasive sense of life, thought processes, and automatic emotional reactions consuming a creature like that.

              I emphatically cannot empathize with that. I cannot even begin to see myself in that kind of self. Their pervasive inner ugliness is completely foreign.

              I can understand those characters because Ayn Rand created and projected them in romantic fiction as archetypes of various people I have observed

              I can't empathize with them (and don't want to) but I can understand them through observation and abstraction, noting essential similarities that make the characters seem 'real'.

              So did Ayn Rand. Knowing Ayn Rand's own character and sense of life she could not have possibly empathized with such ugliness as a permanent inner state of those villains that she created. But she understood what made them tick, and given their psychology and premises she could predict and describe how they would react as characters in her novel.

              She knew the philosophical ideas driving them and their emotional reactions, and she knew from observation how such people behave. Her characterization was through action and dialogue, not description of inner state. She did not have to imagine experiencing such a level of depravity to "see how evil it would be to be such selves".

              Likewise for the "pity". We can pity someone, with revulsion, which is a very negative assessment, without having to be able to imagine being like something so alien.

              But for me the pity towards them is much deeper than their social parasitism "taking and having envy for that which is unearned". It includes their inner state of parasitism as the perpetual ultimate psychological second hander, and their whole irrational, nihilistic mindset.

              Assessing other people through one's own projections of meaning of emotions is very dangerous. Other's emotions can provide important clues, but a rational assessment of character requires knowledge of a person's convictions and actions summed up in his characteristic behavior.

              I think that understanding through abstraction is what you are doing, too, which is why you still find it so incomprehensible that such people as Ayn Rand's villains and others you have known can really be so internally consumed with destruction.

              You wonder how people could be like that but you know it's true because you have observed it.

              To literally empathize with them beyond a very limited degree would be like Star Trek's Spock looking into the Medusa and going crazy.
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          • Posted by $ Commander 3 weeks, 5 days ago
            Her position and capacitance for expressing justice I've never questioned. What I do question is her understanding of how humans learn to be what they develop into emotionally and intellectually. To have empathy or compassion for likenesses of James Taggart or Lillian Rearden does not in any way allow for capitulation to inequitable behavior, only an understanding of how this behavior may have originated. Perhaps it is in the difference of treatment of children versus adults. Rand never had much occasion to mention kids and may never had occasion to see the undeveloped child in adults.
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            • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 5 days ago
              It is not possible to identify with and sympathsize with characters like Dagny Taggert and Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged while feeling "compassion" and "empathy" for their tormentors. Justice is incompatible with compassion and empathy for people regardless of what they are.

              Ayn Rand knew very well what kind of choices people make as they develop. Understanding that is not "empathy" and "compassion" for the evil.

              In Atlas Shrugged she illustrated early developmental stages in the contrast between the young Dagny and James Taggert in the same household, which was about children growing up, stylized in romantic fiction. The Fountainhead contrasted the independence of college age Howard Roark with second hander Peter Keating.

              She had great respect for human potential, basing her ethics on the standards for living to achieve individual happiness, and was optimistic about the capability of people to live up to their potential.

              She evaluated adults in accordance with their character and actions, which is not explained as "undeveloped child in adults", as if it all reduces to pop psychology.

              She understood how Americans in particular held to the American sense of life in spite of the dominant assault by the intellectuals who follow bad philosophy -- “Don't Let It Go,” in the anthology Philosophy: Who Needs It (but emphasized that this sense of life cannot last under the withering drumbeat from the dominant intellectuals).

              She wrote important articles on formation of a philosophical outlook. "Philosophy and Sense Life" is reprinted in her anthology The Romantic Manifesto

              “The Comprachicos” is in her anthology The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, later reissued as The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. This article provides a moving analysis of how children are damaged by the influence of bad education promoted under bad standards.

              She also wrote about the importance of freedom of choice in education in "Tax Credits for Education” in
              The Ayn Rand Letter

              Leonard Peikoff gave lectures on education of children, reissued in book form as Teaching Johny to Think: A Philosophy of Education Based on the Principles of Ayn Rand's Objectivism.
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              • Posted by $ Commander 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                To the matter: "It is not possible to identify and sympathize..."
                First, two questions. Have you ever owned your own business/s? Have you ever had aggression toward yourself that torment / compromise your ability to sustain your mortality?
                I say it is possible to have empathy and compassion for, and not sympathize with one's tormentors. I know this first hand regarding the above questions. These poor souls never had reasonable exposure to, or the developed abilities to process objective, equitable interaction with others. Their lives were filled with assumption. I know this due to a decade of interaction prior to their aggression. (pop psychology)
                My outrage was based upon the "assumption" that their respective expression of their value structure was similar enough to mine that I would be "secure" in mutual pursuits.
                I have spent 50 years in a family structure of education dealing with human relations, values development, psychology, sociology and history. The environment has always been one of discord with the status quo of compulsory schooling; the methodologies, content and context of one size fits all. The environment has always been one of seeking solution to make reasonable the complexity of human development.
                "We" are what we learn. To learn to learn to reason is the difference between a human animal and a human being. To disregard or refute empathy and compassion as insightful tools into another's reality, for me, based upon my experiences and present learning, would be narcissistic.
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                • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                  Everyone has business relations of some kind whether or not they own a business. It is part of life. It does not mean "empathizing", "sympathizing", or "compassion" for the irrational and the evil.

                  The scope here covers the level of an entire sense of life and moral character. That is much broader than "empathizing" with some particular concern some rational person has in his own particular circumstances, such as a customer in a store who may be agonizing over some particular choice or be emotionally distracted because of some other particular circumstance in his life.

                  The major villains in the novel, such as James Taggert or Lillian Rearden, are the opposite of the heroes. They all evoke different responses in the reader depending on his own values.

                  What one can or does "empathize", "sympathize" or feel "compassion" for depends on one's own sense of life. To the extent these responses are involuntary they are automatic emotional responses based on one's own values. That is very different than conceptual understanding.

                  One cannot force oneself to have an emotional response, or "identify" with another person by experiencing his contradictory emotions stemming from values that contradict one's own.

                  A person of good character can understand and have great insight into the villains abstractly, i.e., conceptually, but cannot literally "identify" with them, as described elsewhere on this same page A person of good character will not emotionally identify with them.

                  Those "poor souls" did have the human opportunity to learn better. The characters James and Dagny Taggert in particular were described growing up in the same household with the same parents and opposite results.

                  Ayn Rand described them that way to illustrate that they made different fundamental choices. They had the same free will as everyone else in accordance with their nature as human beings. They were not determined by outside forces.

                  The entire field of morality arises because people do have free will and must make personal choices in order to live. Individuals are what they make themselves. They determine their own character, which is the sum of countless personal decisions of all kinds over time.

                  Moral character is much deeper than developing "abilities to process objective, equitable interaction with others". As you saw in "The Objective Ethics", morality is primarily personal, not social. The proper way of interacting with others is a consequence of the human standards and requirements for choices in the life of the individual.

                  You wrote, "I have found a profound compassion for humanity. That, compassion, is missing from everything I have processed from Rand. I begin to wonder if she, by nature / nurture, has a fundamental diminished capacity of empathy."

                  Ayn Rand did not have "diminished capacity". Rejecting the unjust and the irrational, and not identifying with it, is not "diminished capacity". She empathized, sympathized, and had compassion towards the good, i.e., the proper normal state of humanity and those who exemplify it.

                  That was her "profound compassion for humanity", which we see in everything she wrote; it was not and could not be for everyone no matter what they are. That is not a defect and not "narcissistic".

                  As for your second question, no I do not have aggression towards myself and am not internally tormented. I understand conceptually what it means for someone who does, but do not psychologically identify with it. That is not a defect or narcissistic either.
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            • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 5 days ago
              Over the 55 years of my association with Objectivism, many have sensed your concerns. I have recently read David Kelly's brief book, "Truth and Toleration in Objectivism." His perspective may resolve some of your questions, especially around error and evil, as well as toleration, justice, and benevolence. All Objectivists would serve themselves well to read this, assuming they can get past the dispassionate take on Kelly,
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              • Posted by $ Commander 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                Truth and Toleration ordered. There is more to learn in dissent than agreement.
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                • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                  The 17th century philosopher Pascal loosely said, “When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and he only failed to see all sides.” While I’m not promoting skepticism or his other beliefs, this is an effective tool to keep communication open and is an aspect of tolerance.
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                  • Posted by $ Commander 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                    More contemporarily I've heard expressed as Rogerian "education" tool, Carl Rogers.
                    I'm finding more difficulty in dismissing past philosophical attempts as "wrong". Whether from an individual or group, at the very least, attempts with much thought and reflection have been made to try to express the condition of consciousness.
                    This is from Witter Bynner, 1944, The Way of Life: Laotzu knew that organization and institution interfere with a man's responsibility to himself and therefore with his proper use of life, that the more any outside authority interferes with a man's use of life and the less the man uses it according to his own instinct and conscience, the worse for the man and the worse for society. The only authority is "the way of life" itself; a man's sense of it the only priest or prophet.
                    And then, how do we learn to learn to make reason of what we experience? Quest-I-on or Quest-shun? A choice.
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              • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 5 days ago
                No one who understands and agrees with the essence of Ayn Rand's philosophy has "concern" for a lack of "empathy" and "compassion" for everyone regardless of character. That is thoroughly anti-Ayn Rand, and is a broader scope than even David Kelly's claim that "toleration" is a "virtue in the cognitive realm".

                Even David Kelly said that "toleration is not a virtue where evil is concerned", let alone granting "compassion" and "empathy" towards anyone regardless of what they are. But he tried to split that from advocacy of evil ideas at the root of the evil.

                Leonard Peikoff's "Fact and Value" philosophically addresses "toleration" of promotion of evil ideas as if that were a virtue. It is not.

                One can behave in a civilized manner without adopting "toleration" of the promotion of false and evil ideas as if such "toleration" were a virtue.
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                • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                  As usual, I agree with all you say. And I do not promote adopting toleration of the false and evil. It's more of a measured response with context and perspective, within the hierarchy of the interaction. Nor should empathy or compassion be given indiscriminately. That was not my intent to convey. While the Gulch is a platform for Objectivism, many are not as well versed as you, and we need to encourage them (as you often do) to explore further. We may need a softer (not compromising) approach to unlock that key to one’s inquisitiveness, striking a common chord and find that button that will encourage the needed individual intellectual investment. For these same “concerns” to continually recur, may reflect our failure in communication, especially since Rand has passed.
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                  • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                    Promoting a "a profound compassion for humanity", including James Taggert and Lillian Rearden, is not "only an understanding of how this behavior may have originated". There is no "softer" way to say that. Those who are truly attracted to Ayn Rand's novels and ideas will pursue the further explanation. Advocating David Kelley's "toleration" does not help with that. My own posts above did observe "context and perspective".
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                    • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                      I was referring to the broader view and not specifically to James or Lillian, and if I misunderstood or was unclear, I apologize. Unfortunately, not everyone who senses something positive from a passing read or discussion “will pursue the further explanation.” When I discovered Rand in the mid-'60s, I would have bet dollars to doughnuts that her ideas would explode and be obvious to any thinking person. Two generations later that has not happened, and imploded at times. As Peikoff once said, “Reality has to count for something.” In my past restaurant business, I personally encountered several thousand people weekly, and knowing my audience I would gear my discussions accordingly, never losing sight of my end game. I found Biddle’s “Loving Life” a wonderful non-threatening way of introducing Rand to the uninformed, and have given away several hundred copies. The substance of Objectivism is impeccable, but the delivery lacks style and fails at basic marketing to the true thinking individual. That’s just my observation.
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                      • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                        He not only objected to Ayn Rand not having "compassion" and "empathy" for everyone regardless of character, he specifically including James Taggert and Lillian Rearden, two of the worst villains in Atlas Shrugged and who deserve dismissive contempt. My initial responses distinguished between "compassion"/"empathy" versus a true benevolence and understanding how people become what they are, and provided sources of Ayn Rand's own explanations on the whole topic, showing that she did not neglect it. That is the subject you responded to. You seem to have a cause of your own that is something else.

                        Ayn Rand did not lack "style" and did not "fail at basic marketing to the true thinking individual". She was a very successful, clear, engaging and entertaining writer who attracted millions of readers and listeners at her lectures and interviews. A half century later her books are still selling and her personal appearances are widely available in videos. "True thinking individuals" everywhere have gained enormously.

                        Those discovering Ayn Rand for the first time and who liked what they saw used to be hungry for more explanation. Some belligerently tried to co-opt her popularity for some antagonistic goal, usually political like the defiant anarchists and anti-philosophical libertarians. There was no reaching them and they spread a lot of confusion undermining Ayn Rand.

                        Those who hysterically misrepresent Ayn Rand's clearly presented ideas are not innocent. Obsequious "non threatening" dodging of controversy to emotionally manipulate people is not honest, not an answer, and not a means to convey any understanding. However you had to superficially deal with customers at a restaurant, you were selling food, not "selling" understanding of radically different ideas.

                        The few today who go out of their way to come to this forum trying to learn more should be and deserve to be communicated with rationally and straightforwardly, not psychologically manipulated. This is not about a sales pitch.
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                        • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                          Ewv, I have tremendous respect for your knowledge and articulation of Objectivism and have followed many of your posts. At times responses may be based on false assumptions (whether misunderstood or misexplained) with faulty conclusions drawn. It’s not about a tit-for-tat, but for us, mutually, to support the rational dissemination of her ideas, and that is the “cause” of my own, as I’m sure is yours. I would like to clarify some of what was stated.

                          As previously mentioned, I agreed with your explanation of James and Lillian, but that was not the subject I initially responded to. It was the following; “That, compassion, is missing from everything I have processed from Rand. I begin to wonder if she, by nature / nurture, has a fundamental diminished capacity of empathy.” That is what I’ve consistently heard over the years and is what I wanted to address, and again, if that was not clear I apologize.

                          My reference to style was not towards Rand, her writings or ideas, but to many of the personalities, schisms, and “lack of tolerance” the formal platforms have exhibited. Whatever one may think of Branden, he successfully marketed (yes marketed as in a sale), Objectivism in a way that Rand was unable and brought her body of work to a much larger audience, including me when I worked at NBI. There have been many splinter groups over the years, some credible and others not, that have moved away from the “inner circle.” My observation is that the conferences and “style” have attracted either the knowledgeable Objectivist or ones looking for someone to give them a short-cut with rote answers. The truly inquisitive (aside from the Gulch population) is the ordinary individual who senses “something is wrong” but doesn’t know why or is fearful of the “ivory tower” implications of philosophy. These are the people I’ve tried to reach at my establishment. Not the superficial many patrons, but the regulars who knew my sense of values over the politically charged last two decades. I was a restaurant and nightclub, with world-class entertainment, that has hosted many book signings and seminars, including Yaron and Biddle. My regular personal discussions range from the intimate to a 12-year weekly meeting of 8-15, which is varied, intelligent, thoughtful, and have a thirst to understand the world. I’ve brought many into the folds of Rand on different levels, so please do not misunderstand who I am, or my “cause.”

                          To imply I dishonestly emotionally manipulate, or psychologically sell like a used car salesman, is beneath everything that I’ve known you to convey on any of your posts. I consistently voice and try to apply the abstract, to the numerous existential events the common man questions, to open his mind, and grasp more than his predetermined biases. I hope this gives you some context.
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                          • Posted by Lucky 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                            On points raised, Rand's work has a fine sense of empathy as shown by the creation of quite believable characters, bad and good. They are believable and understandable as the reader has good personality pictures created by the writer.
                            Rand's work also displays compassion, for our heroes as they meet setbacks, and for victims of the villains. Is compassion for the villains shown? A case can be made, we see the background of Jim Taggert and what he became, the reader can feel dismay even from Jim's viewpoint at what he has become.
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                            • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                              Feeling dismay that, up to a certain point, Jim Taggert continued to blow it is not compassion for him. His foul motives were presented even when was very young, making him a non-admirable character right from the beginning. Ayn Rand did not empathize with him, she created the character without identifying with it.

                              The rest of the description of her compassion and empathy for the good is right, emphasizing how much her detractors are omitting in declaring her to be "deficient".
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            • Posted by Lucky 3 weeks, 5 days ago
              Agree, there is a difference between compassion and responsibility.
              It is natural to want to help, Rand's ideas are sparse on this, but I surmise, voluntary and with rational priorities. There are many who are down, first help those with potential, then the sick and the elderly. Those who dug their own graves, 'Go to the back of the line'.

              An idea I get from Rand, Your own creativity and productivity benefit others even without you actually giving anything.
              Ah from Walter William~
              Before capitalism wealth came from looting, capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by providing services.
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              • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 5 days ago
                It is not "natural to want to help" anyone and everyone regardless of their character. That becomes "natural" only for those with false ethical principles, particularly altruism, which regards human sacrifice as such an ethical end in itself as the standard of morality.

                Ayn Rand was not "sparse" on this. In particular she summarized her position on "charity":

                "My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue."

                The same goes for "empathy" and "compassion" without regard to moral character.
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                • Posted by Lucky 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                  Compassion and empathy are not granted. Those qualities are innate.

                  Your child or your old Dad trips. You do not engage in a cost/benefit study, you help, A stranger gets stuck pushing a shopping trolley up a curb, same.

                  A drunk is flat out in the gutter, it is not my responsibility, still, it is legit to hope that the body is moved not just out of the way of traffic but where some level of care is provided.
                  Green protestors glues their hands to a truck, this is different as there is an element of aggression there, not the same as carelessness or silliness. The protestors want to manipulate you to help them against your own interests (emotional blackmail), do not give that help, (the state should put them in jail), you could ignore them, you may have some legit compassion for the truck driver at the remaining body parts glued to his vehicle.

                  If Ayn Rand or Objectivism do not recognize this, ok, but if denied, some re-interpretation is in order. (Facts may be denied but ..)

                  What were John Galt's motivations when he was tortured, the machine stopped, he showed the tech how to fix it? His (innate) sense of empathy enabled him to understand the tech, he guessed correctly what the tech would do when he (Galt) fixed the fault. He helped the tech. Jim Taggert of course was beyond help.

                  How does this help wuntuntumaytuh?
                  (reminds me of a song?)
                  ewv presents the premises as asked for.
                  I am making life difficult by trying to match the premises to life.
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                  • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 4 days ago
                    Compassion and empathy, insofar as they are involuntary, are emotions in response to one's values, not "innate". People react differently in accordance with their premises and sense of life. Helping one's own child or aged parent, or benevolently providing minor assistance to a stranger stuck on a curb, but not responding with "compassion" and "empathy" for a James Taggert or Lillian Rearden, are a matter of basic values, not a range of the moment Pragmatist "cost/benefit study" and not "innate".

                    Ayn Rand was a benevolent person, which is only possible with justice. There is no "re-interpretation" required by Objectivism. She explained how altruism is incompatible with benevolence and benevolence is the opposite of a duty for charity as if it were a fundamental virtue.

                    John Galt did not tell a torturer how to fix his machine out of empathy for the torturer.

                    None of this subthread is any kind of difficulty for Ayn Rand's premises applied to life.
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                    • Posted by Lucky 3 weeks, 3 days ago

                      Empathy- to have empathy means having some understanding of another person. It does not mean complete understanding. It does not mean sympathy. The word empathy is used normally relating to a particular situation.

                      Compassion- means having sorrow for suffering. Concerning Jim Taggert, compassion could be felt when thinking how bad it is that he turned out like that, bad for him as well as what he inflicts on others.
                      Compassion can be felt for a murderer in pain from a death sentence, neither the pain nor the justice of the punishment is denied. This compassion can be felt at the same time as satisfaction.

                      Work, effort, creativity, production- there are people who get satisfaction from work which helps others. While I personally am poorly endowed with such qualities this is not to be denied. To the extent this is voluntary, does not rely on taxation, does not force attention on an un-willing subject, surely in Objectivism it is allowed as other efforts like creativity or hobby.
                      If it is from a sense of duty, so what, carpentry, or circuit design can have that motivation.
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                      • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                        -- Empathy does not mean "some understanding of another person". It includes "identifying with". Understanding is conceptual.

                        The "particular situation" of the admonitions to have "empathy" identifying with James Taggert is the entire scope of his sense of life.

                        -- "Compassion" is active concern for the suffering of someone else; or "mercy". It is specifically directed on behalf of another person and does not mean only "having sorrow" oneself.

                        One can legitimately "feel sorrow" -- briefly -- at the suffering of a convicted murderer because it is the final result and waste of the murderer's own human life that once had so much potential and which he destroyed himself by his own choices -- he didn't just destroy his external victim -- but not compassion for his suffering dropping that context.

                        James Taggert did not just "turn out like that". He made himself what he was through his own choices. To have "compassion" for him drops the context of and contradicts the whole novel, which showed great compassion for the good -- as dependent on the role of the mind in human life and how it is unjustly sacrificed. Compassion for James Taggert negates that and is inappropriate. He deserves no concern.

                        One can "feel sorrow" towards the abysimal state of so much of humanity, which reaction is more than appropriate. So much is possible and so much is destroyed or never achieved that could be. But that feeling should not overwhelm gratitude for how much has been accomplished, and should not elevate 'compassion for James Taggert' in contrast to Ayn Rand's benevolent compassion of the good and those who achieve it.

                        The novel was about achieving human value, not depravity. James Taggert was one contemptible case illustrating one form of evil depicted. He is not worth singling out for any kind of "compassion" dwelling on his human failure. A major point of the novel was that evil is not metaphysically important; it is to be identified and contemptuously rejected, not labored over -- beyond beating it back when required -- and not to be dwelled on at the expense of pursuit of and focus on values.

                        That was summed up by Galt after he was rescued from the torturers after their collapse: "We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" It echoed Dagny Taggert's same statement when she was rescued by Galt from her plane crash in the Valley.

                        -- Objectivism "allows" for, as a matter of freedom of choice and rights, productive work pursued out of a mistaken duty ethics of serving others, but it does not morally condone it.

                        Morality is not politics. Objectivism rejects as immoral "voluntarily" working as a duty to serve others. It rejects altruistic sacrifice of values and it rejects the notion of any "duty" ethics, each as two distinct concepts.

                        All moral choices are voluntary. The morality one chooses is voluntary, not a matter of political force. Choosing altruistic service to others "voluntarily" is altruism. Choosing to submit to any "duty" in the name of morality is duty ethics. (See Ayn Rand's "Causality versus Duty" in Philosophy: Who Needs It).
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                        • Posted by Lucky 3 weeks, 2 days ago
                          When words differ in meaning from one to person to another discussion is difficult. More could be said, but elsewhere.

                          More relevant to this thread is the character of Jim Taggert, how viewed by Rand in the context of her premises.
                          JT was an obnoxious brat "even when very young, making him a non-admirable character right from the beginning". We met him first as a teen, does this young age absolve him of responsibility?
                          If so the reader can have a little sympathy/compassion. He must have had bad influences.

                          Why did Rand tell us he was like that from the start rather than evolving? To get an answer I use a few ideas that may not be in Rand, self-awareness, introspection. JT should have looked at himself, realized he was not even a caretaker but was destroying the company, he should have been building. He bought favors, and was bought, not benefiting the company, not for his own wealth, mainly for moral posturing. He should have been aware of all that, he was not, so he did not change but continued to decline. He had responsibility to improve, did not, did not get out of the way. So, deserves no sympathy. Yes he would have had bad influences but there is no excuse for him not to wake up, (perhaps a sense of detached compassion be felt). Rand would have met a few of that type well enough to create the character, she knew how they behave in certain situations (I call that empathy). I think Rand is saying, disadvantage conveys no merit without effort to overcome, and anyway, Dagny would have had the same.
                          We expect people to improve and not to degenerate, those who overcome obstacles are heroes. Now Eddie Williers, an important character, is not the great intellect or achiever but struggled, worked, able to do his job and not go under, he would have been a fine administrator/caretaker, is among Rand's favorite characters (and mine).
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                        • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                          Simple question. Do you think man in a natural state (uninfluenced by any perverted altruist morality) is a benevolent creature, or as we hear so often in a "natural" state of aggression. Realizing the universe is neutral and man will adapt, is benevolence a natural precursor to form proper values?
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                          • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                            It depends on what philosophy and sense of life he does have and what you mean by "natural state". No one is born with a philosophy. Morality must be discovered and conceptualized, and there are a lot of possibilities to go wrong, not just altruism. There is no automatic "natural state" of morality, thwarted only by altruism.

                            Ayn Rand's rational egoism was a major achievement that took millennia before someone finally put it together based on fragments that had evolved along with the bad principles. (And pure altruism did not appear until Auguste Comte).

                            It took almost as long for enough of an Enlightenment philosophy of reason to be developed to have a concept of individual rights against aggression. Without at least some form of implicit egoism and without consistency there is no basis for concepts of rights and individualist civilization. (The right to life, liberty, property and the individual's pursuit of the own happiness is egoistic, but only made Enlightenment morality implicitly egoistic because they did not have an explicitly egoistic moral philosophy.)

                            If by "natural state" you mean a world devoid of philosophic ideas at all, only an intellectual void with no one knowing any better, there would inevitably be no concept of morality, let alone rights, and there would be a lot of survival of the fittest "aggression" -- even mixed with some benevolence towards others -- necessarily unrecognized philosophically as such. The aggression would simply be a brute fact of life, along with 'me like' or 'me no like', with no morality available to assess it.

                            The routine aggression would dampen benevolent views towards fellow men until a decent civilized philosophy could be developed and accepted. In an intellectual vacuum there is no automatic knowledge of moral rights and no reason to believe that they would be automatically observed.

                            Very young children, at their very beginning, are naturally benevolently egoistic within the very limited scope of choices and actions available to them, but have no such conceptual understanding, and what happens after that depends on the influences around them and what they learn as they grow, i.e., it depends on what the adults are thinking and doing.

                            Ayn Rand's "benevolent universe premise" isn't a moral principle (and not an attribute of the universe), it's a view of reality as normally fit for human survival and flourishing. But as long as men think some kind of survival is possible, they have sought to live in their harsh environment and done what it takes because survival is not automatic. Survival, not benevolence towards others, is the basis of morality as a standard of choices for what values to pursue. A proper view of one's fellow man and how to interact in a social context presupposes a moral view of man the individual.
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                            • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 3 days ago
                              As usual, your detailed explanation is clear, eloquent, and articulate, and I agree with all. By natural state, I meant his nature, prior to any formation of a morality, devoid of external influences. I believe you touch on that by your reference to young children, and I was viewing more in a nature/nurture context. And I understand that benevolence “is not an attribute of the universe,” but as Peikoff has indicated, “reality is ‘benevolent’ in the sense that if you do adapt to it…….then you can achieve your values.” My belief has been that man is a benevolent creature, in the pre-conceptual awareness stage, as in the child you mention. The common argument I continually hear (on mistaken premises) is that man is naturally aggressive, as your example indicated, “me like, me no like,” leading to the necessary brute of me take, because it’s in his evolutionary DNA of survival. And we all know the evils that follow if that’s the accepted premise.
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                              • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 2 days ago
                                The natural innocence of very young children only goes so far. After a period of very limited choices and actions, experience and choices begin to accumulate. What becomes "natural" at that stage depends on what choices are made that establish an evolving sense of life, not "DNA", i.e., biological determinism.

                                All we can say without speculation is that prior to more advanced philosophical concepts of morality and rights within a society, one can expect even within an individual some mixture of a benevolent outlook towards other people and aggression for survival: No one at that pre-philosophic stage has developed the capacity to philosophically conceptualize proper standards of choices for living along with social conduct in accordance with rights.

                                "Innocent" aggression assumed at that pre-philosophical stage as required to live can be just as "natural" as benevolence stemming from shared values and good experiences with other people.

                                Variations between individuals' sense of life also depend on their own choices, spanning a range from the general sense of life of a "Dagny Taggert" to "Jim Taggert". Even in an environment preceding the conceptual level in the environment (in the novel) of those characters while growing up, some individuals will choose more to be productive and individualistic and others will choose to be simply nasty, with combinations in between.

                                A regularly occurring aggression deemed necessary for survival in a state of ignorance is not the same as someone who develops a nasty sense of life motivating him. Neither is inherent aggression stemming from "DNA".

                                Whatever sense of life they evolve based on the sum of their own choices, it seems "natural" to them, and we can't predict what it will be in speculating about a supposed "natural" state of humanity.

                                We can predict that a primitive pre-philosophical society will have a lot of problems due to the general state of ignorance, and the trends in a more intellectually advanced society are based on its dominant philosophical influence.
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  • Posted by ewv 3 weeks, 5 days ago
    It's best to read what Ayn Rand said herself. Her ideas covered all the main topics of philosophy in a systematic, hierarchical way; they did not start and end with politics or even ethics. Her own "Introducing Objectivism" was presented in answer to a request for the "essence of her philosophy while standing on one foot", which she did under the headings:

    1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
    2. Epistemology: Reason
    3. Ethics: Self-interest
    4. Politics: Capitalism

    That provides her basic principles. If you meant something else by "premises" you should specify what it is. She began by looking at reality, not with arbitrary assumptions.
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  • Posted by Tavolino 3 weeks, 5 days ago
    I would also suggest "Pocket Guide to Objectivism" by The Atlas Society. Simple and comprehensive. Readable versions can be easily found on the internet.
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