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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
    Ayn Rand understood altruism in its original meaning from Auguste Comte, who coined the word. Comte advocated for a secular priesthood to rule humanity. Everyone would live for everyone else. Altruism does not mean being nice to other people. It means _living for other people_.

    "Postivism alone holds at once both a noble and true language when it urges us to _live for others_. This, the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and of duty. Implicitly and indirectly it sanctions our personal instincts, as the necessary conditions of our existence, with the proviso that they must be subordinate to those of altruism. With this limitation, we are even ordered to gratify our personal instincts, with the view of fitting ourselves to be better servants of Humanity, whose we are entirely." -- Catechism of Positive Religion (Congreve translation, 1858.)

    The word "altruism" did not exist before Comte invented his "Religion of Humanity." I have a facsimile edition of Noah Webster's 1828 _American Dictionary of the English Language_. The word "altruism" is not listed
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  • Posted by  $  Bobhummel 5 years ago
    "Appeal to authority" is the most abused 'failure' in the debate of an argument. When it is used to support a scheme in the name of the public good, you automatically know that it cannot stand on its own merit, doing greater harm to the very people it is intended to 'help'. Personal destruction to economic ruin to decimation through war.
    Cheers
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  • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
    As much as I like AR, there were major horrors of history that were committed for non-altruistic reasons. There were some that would be under the category of natural disasters, and certainly some that were committed to accumulate or demonstrate the power of certain tyrants. However, she is right in that many horrors did have an altruistic motive.
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    • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
      Accumulating or demonstrating the power of tyrants is a perfect example of altruism. I challenge you to cite a major horror of any proportion that was committed for non-altruistic reasons. Natural disasters do not count because they are metaphysical, not man-made.
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
        Please explain how using weapons of mass destruction can be considered altruistic. I see nothing altruistic about the use of mustard gas in WW1, for example. The same would apply to rape or plundering of enemies.
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        • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
          Suppose I said that communism is the sharing of resources whereas capitalism is the hoarding of resources. You have enough experience to take that apart in many different ways, to expose many errors, not just the surface glosses. Why should we share? The USSR brought about an oligarchy, a nomenklatura of privilege, not sharing at all. And so on. Capitalism is not about hoarding but about trade. And you have a right to hoard if you want. And so on. So, too here many errors can be addressed and I will take just a few.

          Altruism is the opposite of egoism. Those atrocities were and are committed on other people. Absent the other, what could you do? War is altruistic because "we the people" and "we of our nation" and "we of our religion" etc. all demand of you that you fight (or otherwise support the fighting). Meanwhile the enemy is not us, _not to be considered human_: japs, krauts, reds. commies, towelheads, camel jockeys, kikes, micks, spics, dagos, red coats, blue bellies ... So anything like benevolence in altruism even if it were real would not apply.

          Also you have to ask where is the self-interest in being in a war? Granted that you could find a reason to for an egoist to be in the military, why would a soldier motivated by self-interest commit an atrocity against innocents?

          On the other hand, productive work is selfish and self-motivated. You do not need other people to do it. When you can benefit from them - the chemical engineer buys a batch of chemicals from a supply house - the trade is voluntary. You count on their self-interest and failing to achieve that, you leave them alone and move on. That is egoism.

          Gassing people and raping them is clearly not of their choosing. You make others objects who must live (and die) for you. That is altruistic in the true sense of being other-directed.

          Altruism as defined by Comte and even scaled down in our vernacular always requires the existence of other people as not just the primary consideration, but the _only_ consideration.


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          • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
            What you say is completely reasonable, Mike, and eloquently stated. What I don't get is how any of this is altruistic for the tyrant. For everyone else, your point is valid. The tyrant's ego has an unsatiable appetite and requires sacrifice on the parts of others to sustain it.
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            • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
              Does the demand of sacrifice on the part of tyrants constitute altruism?
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              • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
                Yes, the demand of tyrants for sacrifice is altruism. Have you read _The Fountainhead_? Rand's portrait of Elsworth Toohey is the definitive altruist. His final engagement with Peter Keating was reprinted in _For the New Intellectual_ as "The Soul of a Collectivist." Gail Wynand is tragic in the classical Greek sense because he was not meant to be a second-hander. His single flaw was the assumption that the only choice is to rule or be ruled. He says near the end that he held the public by a leash, but a leash is only a rope with a noose at both ends. Again, it is the concern for others, making others your reality.
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                • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
                  If that is part of your definition of altruism, then you have won this argument. I have read all the non-fiction books. I agree with your analysis of Wynand. Toohey does call for altruism. I haven't read The Fountainehead in a long enough time to remember if Toohey selflessly did something for someone else. Often Tooheys and Obamas will do something that appears to be done selflessly for the behalf of others, but they definitely get value. They own the people they interact with.
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                • Posted by khalling 5 years ago
                  yes.
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                  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
                    No. You nodded to jbrenner's assertion that collectivist leaders "get something" in return when they "do something" for other people and so they are selfish, not selfless. I pointed him to Branden's essay on "Counterfeit Individualism." All the bad guys in _Atlas Shrugged_ and Washington DC jockey for power, trading favors, trading friendships, making deals, but it is not selfish behavior because their essential motives are not self-generated but other-directed.

                    In _The Fountainhead_ Keating says to Toohey, "I don't follow you..." Toohey quips, "I have so many followers I have to brush them out of my hair." He is calling his followers lice. He holds them in contempt.

                    Awards that come from your peers are valued as acknowledgments of the achievements you know you attained. Those accolades come from people whom you respect. That is selfishness. Garnering adulation from people whom you despise is a consequence of altruism, both on their part and more saliently on yours.

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            • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
              An ego that needs sacrifice to sustain it is a contradiction in terms. You are using the word "ego" in some Freudian or other kind of colloquial sense, not any objective way. An ego is self-sufficient. Someone who needs the sacrifices of others is not an egoist.

              To answer your other question: Yes, the need for sacrifices is altruism. It depends on others without whom it could not happen.

              That is why Galt's oath has two parts: "I swear by my life, and by my love of it, never to live for the sake of another man, or ask another man to live for mine."
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              • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
                Yes, I am using "ego" in the Freudian sense. As I remember, he invented the term.

                From dictionary.com
                noun
                1. a self-centered or selfish person (opposed to altruist ).
                2. an arrogantly conceited person; egotist.
                3. an adherent of the metaphysical principle of the ego, or self; solipsist.

                Certainly a tyrant fits the first two definitions of egoist. I believe you are using the third definition. Am I correct?

                A tyrant is not an objectivist because a tyrant asks other men to live for his. On that, we can agree.
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                • Posted by  $  Solver 5 years ago
                  Plop down the next next four Google dictionary definitions for "Egoist" and get many subjectively contradicting answers. The word has been made into yet another anti-concept. The word seems mean what ever the person feels it means:

                  a believer in egoism
                  an egocentric or egotistic person

                  a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action
                  a doctrine that individual self-interest is the valid end of all actions
                  excessive concern for oneself with or without exaggerated feelings of self-importance

                  One devoted to one's own interests and advancement; an egocentric person.
                  An egotist.
                  An adherent of egoism.

                  a self-centered or selfish person.
                  an arrogantly conceited person; egotist.
                  an adherent of egoism.

                  --------------

                  "...you ought to discover some day that words have an exact meaning."
                  - Atlas Shrugged
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                • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
                  No, objective eogism is not solipsism. Like "capitalism" and "selfishness" and "logic" and many other words, the common or vernacular meaning found in the dictionary is _not_ an authoritative or technically correct meaning. You know that we conflate "mass" and "weight" in common speech. Look at any package in a grocery store. "weight" is given in kilograms, not newtons. And that's OK... except for engineering and anything else consequential. So, too, here.

                  When Rand wrote _The Fountainhead_ egoist and egoTist were synonymous. Objectivist psychology points out that the egoTist needs other people and is not an egoist.

                  "Arrogant" and "conceited" are labels ascribed to you by others.Typically, they say that when you do not notice them. That does not apply to a politician of any stripe: they do notice other people. Arrogant, conceited people often actually appear socially humble and withdrawn: they do not socialize well. One diagnosis that I do not like but find useful is "Asperger Syndrome." Someone like that never becomes a leader. But in our common culture today, arrogant and conceited certainly describe Dr. Sheldon Cooper of "The Big Bang Theory." Common folk reject the arrogant and conceited. Those common folk are the very people whom the leader needs to be a leader.
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
        Regarding the natural disasters, would you include cases like Hurricane Katrina where it was painfully obvious that people should just get out of the way, and then many didn't? Some horrors could probably be classified as abject stupidity.
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        • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
          Right. Objectivism teaches that natural events are metaphysically absolute and therefore morally neutral. A hurricane simply _is_. What you do about it is a matter of morality, of choice based on values. I agree 100% that the true disaster in Katrina was not the storm but the responses to it. Those failed responses were altruistic.

          Many people did evacuate on their own, but those who did not _waited to be told_. They looked to others. Any parish president could have ordered a local evacuation, and declared a local emergency. None did. They looked to Mayor Ray Nagin. He waited for the National Weather Service to declare landfall.

          After the obvious was known to all, President Bush, FEMA director Michael D. Brown, and many others all failed to assume responsibility and instead considered their relationship to other people, rather than to the event itself. The Danziger Bridge Shootings were another example of altruism at work. It was an immediate decision to sacrifice a few for the good of all. It was the wrong decision, tactically, but nothing in the motivation was contrary to emergency protocols.

          Of course the looting by the police was the height of altruism. Someone else had to provide the goods for the police to take. They took those things not because they needed them - no officer was without a TV at home - but to add to their prestige in the amount of physical things that other people would see them hold. They acted on a deep and old paradigm that property is social status. You need other people for that.

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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
        By MikeMarotta's definition, those living to support the tyrants are altruists, albeit unwilling ones for the most part. I would call such people subjects, serfs, or slaves, depending on the degree of oppression. I agree that altruism does not mean being nice to other people, but doesn't it have to be given willingly?

        The tyrants, however, are living for themselves. While AR correctly pointed out selfishness' virtue, I see nothing virtuous or altruistic about the tyrant's actions themselves. Unlike some issues, on this issue, I am willing to be corrected, but I think it would a reach to call a tyrant's actions either virtuous or altruistic.
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        • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
          If you read the words of any demagogue they always speak of their service to the people, the nation, the Ideal, the proletarian revolution, even among us to the Constitution or the Republic. It is never about them.

          When they do live in ostentatiously it is always far beyond what one person can enjoy: they want others to ogle, gape, and admire. Whatever their achievements the robber barons of previous century often were trapped by "other people" for whom they built their ostentatious palaces. Here and now, it is more common for millionaires to be modest. I believe that our generation which was the first influenced by Ayn Rand and which was called the Me Generation really did generally learn to find inner values, as opposed to the need for social approval. Warren Buffett "still lives in the same house in the same Happy Hollow neighborhood where he bought the home in 1958 for $31,500. It has 5 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and is 6234 square feet, the house was built in 1921. In 2005 it had a taxable value of $ 690,000." - http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/kwze6btvQ...
          Whatever else his sins may be, Warren Buffett does not need your approval.

          Consider the massive parades, the displays of military hardware, the ranks of commoners cheering or saluting the reviewing stand. That is the perfect display of altruism. The egoist needs none of that.

          Finally, please note your language: "I see nothing virtuous or altruistic about the tyrant's actions themselves." You equate altruism with virtue. You _allow_ the virtue of selfishness, but you _assume_ that it must meet the standard of altruism as concern for others.
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          • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
            The demagogue speaks of their service, but they serve only themselves and those who pay for them to get elected. They do not altruistically give things away; ironically they trade value of food stamps, welfare, etc. in exchange for the value of a vote. For the tyrant or demagogue, everything has a selfish purpose.
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            • Posted by  $  Solver 5 years ago
              A common theme of these demagogue types seems to be a very excessive use of "We" and "Us" and "Our" when making those big long winded speeches.
              You would expect an actual Egoist to use "me", "myself" and "I" most of the time.
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              • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
                The demagogue means me, myself, and I, but says we, us, and our to accomplish his objective. I never said that demagogues had healthy egos. Just like someone who is obese, you can have too much of an otherwise good thing.
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          • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
            I agree with much of what you said, Mike, but I don't equate altruism and virtue. Should I have used the word "nor" instead of "or"?

            Do you not see tyrants as having massive egos? Tyrants sacrifice nothing of their own and have no concern for others, other than to demand their sacrifice. It is the demand of others' sacrifice that I see as the opposite of virtue. The "sacrificing nothing of their own" can be virtuous for Objectivists, but no Objectivist would demand the sacrifices of others.
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            • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years ago
              Massive or deficient? I think the behavior is actually a manifestation of a deficient perspective of one's ego. Since they think so little of themselves, they need to build themselves up by degrading others.

              That's my theory as a novice psychologist and full-time engineer.
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          • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years ago
            Yeah, a 5 bedroom 6234 sq ft house isn't ostentatious at all, especially in 1958.
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            • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
              His home is in a neighborhood. If you take the $31,000 price and move it to today's market, it is like $3 million. We have housing tracts like that here in Austin, whole neighborhoods. The people who live there make $250,000 to $500,000 per year: successful sales people, video game designers,... not robber barons by any standard. Buffett earned his home then and has been happy in it ever since. Maybe you don't like him for political reasons. He made his money in the open market. He once said that he loves people who short Berkshire Hathaway because they are telling him where the floor price is.
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          • Posted by khalling 5 years ago
            no, but he would like you to support his secretary which he does not
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            • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
              Sorry K, but you stepped on your shoelaces. She earned about $200,000 per year. The "scandal" is that she is in the 35% tax bracket and he pays less. See "The Atlantic" here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/arch...
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              • Posted by khalling 5 years ago
                he could easily set up his secretary to avoid being a traditional income earner. In fact, I would not be surprised if she already is. I am well aware of this story. His argument is disingenuous. and you really thought I would look at an article in the Atlantic as being unbiased?
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              • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years ago
                What's scandalous about that? They are paying taxes on different types of income - one wages, the other capital gains. There should be no taxes on capital gains. That would support innovation and investment in growth. (There shouldn't be any taxation on income either for that matter, but that's a different issue).
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                • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
                  I agree with you 100%, Robbie. That is why the word was in quotes. K was referring to these mainstream media reports about the disparity in taxation between Buffett and his secretary. Again, for me, there is no scandal. I do note that in reply to my pointing out that flat taxes are regressive on the poor one Objectivist friend of mine suggest that that provides an incentive to get out of poverty. Sort of Heinleinesque, and I decline to agree, but I appreciate the thought.
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        • Posted by  $  Solver 5 years ago
          Major horrors are not just committed by a typically short lived tyrant who lives in fear of being poisoned or betrayed daily, but by many men who follow orders. Now why would all these men who have all the real power single-mindedly choose to commit these horrors?
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          • Posted by khalling 5 years ago
            systematically their freedoms were removed, often with their useful idiot compliance. One day they awoke to find a gun trained at their head when just recently they dutifully supported gun control...or they wanted a vibrant economy but they were against patents as aggression. suddenly, they found themselves without a job...
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            • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
              K you do not have any facts; and facts contradict your claims. In the first place, you make a sweeping generalization without any citation of time and place. Britain had strict gun control laws, but strong patent laws. And the guns trained at their heads were aimed from across the Channel. You did not mean Britain, did you? A simple search on Nazi Patent Law and Nazi Gun Control popped up two Wikipedia articles that totally disprove any claim against them. German gun control is strict _today_. It was strict as a result of the Versailles Treaty which disarmed the state; so the state disarmed the citizens, being otherwise unable to maintain any order. However, just before they lost all power, the conservatives _loosened_ gun control law; and when the Nazis came in, they relaxed them even further - except for Jews. "...except for Jews..." also defined Nazi patent law. Of course, they turned the rules to their benefit. (Read about the bicycle reflectors that enriched the SS.) However, those industrialists, Krupp, IG Farben, Junkers, even Zeiss (which was not in the gang), never would have tolerated the loss of their patents. German patent law has always been strong, if different from US in significant ways. So, which examples are you actually trying to refer to?
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              • Posted by khalling 5 years ago
                nothing you say here makes sense or is accurate. Germany does not have strong patent laws. Germany is reeling under the EU arrangement it made on currency and patent laws. bla on the rest of your statements they are not germane to the conversation. stick to our own country and gun control advocates. You, Mike? are you for stricter gun control? I dare you-make a post and lay out your position...I'm looking forward to it, actually
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          • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
            First of all, these men don't have the real power, because the tyrant will tell those who are obedient to kill those who think independently or are disobedient. I know you are going to tell me that these men willingly followed orders. Sort of. They decided it was easier to follow orders than to be executed. Such people could be called subjects. Such submission is hard to call volitional. Submit or die. That is not altruism. That is the aggressive use of force.
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            • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
              You may be so nice that you cannot conceive of another way to be. I am serious. Some Germans in the 1930s were oppressed against their will. Trapped, they shut up and rode out Nazism and the war to whatever extent they could. Mostly, most Germans went along with what they believed in, which was the things that the Nazi Party promised them. The communists were the second largest party They also were crushed and forced, but you really cannot say that they were helpless victims, because they were simply nazis of a different kind. Were the SA oppressed by the assassination of Ernst Roehm, their disbanding, and absorption into the regular army, subordinate to the SS? You cannot say that because it drops the context. They were participants in a gang war which they lost. They were altruists of different variants but not directly opposed to collectivism per se.
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              • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
                Those people of whom you speak were bullied into caving on their values in the same way that Rearden was, and that is the point of your entire disagreement with me over the last week or so. Your point is solid.

                The only disagreement we have is over the tyrant himself.
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            • Posted by  $  Solver 5 years ago
              "Conventional advocates of altruism and advocates of self-interest can agree that people like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are evil. But the point altruists miss is that it is they, the altruists, who empower creatures such as Hitler and Stalin. Every genocidal dictator in history has risen to power calling for sacrifice. Their followers supported them whole-heartedly and their enemies were speechless. Why? Because..."
              http://shaneatwellblog.blogspot.com/2011...
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              • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years ago
                But not all who have called for sacrifice have been genocidal dictators. Besides the most common classical example, I cite the Dali Lama, Ghandi, and Mother Theresa. One does not equal the other.
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                • Posted by Lucky 5 years ago
                  The Dalai Lama- an amusing and usually sensible chap who out of egotistical do-goodism joined the celebrities promoting environmentalism -the movement that steals tax money to pay for diverting food crops to fuel, thus causing starvation.
                  Mahatma Gandhi- Supported every claim of the propagandist Jinnah during the separation of Pakistan from India, by giving in to Muslim threats and actual violence cost the lives of many Hindus. 14 million people were displaced, there were half a million fatalities most of them Hindu at the hands of Muslim terrorists.
                  Mother Teresa- One of the great frauds of modern times who was part of the gang that gave us the slaughters of the middle ages, the inquisition, and recently massive child abuse.
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                • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 5 years ago
                  See Lucky's comments in reply above. We heard Tenzin Gyatso ("The Dalai Lama") speak in Ann Arbor some years ago. Nice guy. That said, in _God is Not Great_ Christopher Hitchens wrote at length about the horrors perpetrated by Buddhists. Even in Lhasa before the communists, while slaughters were unknown, floggings were common - not very "one with everything".

                  Hitchens also has similar charges to lay against Mahatma Gandhi. His peasant utopia meant death and suffering.

                  As for Mother Theresa, if you still believe that she was virtuous in any way - even by so called "altruistic" standards, then you are in for a rude awakening. For over a thousand years Catholic orders actually did and do care for the sick. Mercy Systems, St. Joseph,... they operate real hospitals in the USA - and not without criticism, granted. However, Mother Theresa was all about suffering, letting them suffer, allowing them to suffer, nurturing their suffering while _refusing gifts of medicine_. She was the perfect embodiment of altruist evil, a soul sister to Stalin.
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                • Posted by  $  Solver 5 years ago
                  "But not all who have called for sacrifice have been genocidal dictators...One does not equal the other."

                  Who said they did?

                  The article says, "Every genocidal dictator in history has risen to power calling for sacrifice."
                  The sentence does not have an equal sign.
                  The article does NOT say, everyone who have called for sacrifice have been genocidal dictators.
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        • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years ago
          Regarding the willingness of the one doing the altruism, I would analogize it to being similar to the difference between socialism and Communism. Socialism asks for the sanction of the victim. Communism dispenses with such pleasantries and uses brute force.
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  • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years ago
    Perhaps it would have been better had she said something like - "Every tyrant in history has claimed altruism as a basis for their actions." ?
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