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Objectivism Digest, Vol 10, Issue 1

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      Today's Topics:

      1. MAN, CIVILIZATION, DEFINITIONS, AND RIGHTS (allen)


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

      Message: 1
      Date: Thu, 01 Jan 2004 00:04:15 -0500
      From: allen <allen23@...>
      Subject: OWL: MAN, CIVILIZATION, DEFINITIONS, AND RIGHTS
      To: Objectivism@...
      Message-ID: <F22A8367-3C17-11D8-8580-000393BCF68C@...>
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      MAN, CIVILIZATION, DEFINITIONS, AND RIGHTS

      The issue of �rights� depends upon the definition of �man�, which I
      claim is dependent on civilization, and on how definitions are formed.
      So I shall address 1. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF MAN, 2. THE
      CENTRALITY OF CIVILIZATION, and 3. OBJECTIVE DEFINITIONS, before
      commenting on 4. RIGHTS.


      1. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF MAN

      The discussion of man�s rights and his proper values can be impeded by
      ambiguity about the definition of man. I submit that there are two
      fundamentally different perspectives, and that conflating them creates
      difficulties. Consider that homo-sapiens has existed for a million
      years, and is defined biologically, physiologically, or by his
      (collectivist) societies. Civilized-man has existed for 10,000 years,
      and is defined by his values or cultures. AR�s definition of �man� as a
      rational animal appears to define him as homo-sapiens, who uses his
      mind to secure his survival. On the other hand, she addresses
      characteristics which presuppose civilization. Thus she speaks of man
      discovering his values, that �for an animal the question of survival is
      primarily physical; for man, primarily epistemological�reason is man�s
      means of survival�nothing is given to man except a potential�what is
      right or wrong, what is good for him or evil, he needs that knowledge
      in order to live�man is the only living species that can transmit and
      expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation�the
      accumulated knowledge of centuries�a man�s choice of values�a being of
      self-made soul�who existed without values...was not a man�man has had
      to manufacture things�man�s dedication to a moral ideal�men seek a
      noble vision of man�s nature and of life�s potential.� These presuppose
      civilization, which orients man by ideals and values, since prior to
      this, man�s mind is subordinated to his inherent passions.

      Now one might say that homo-sapiens includes civilized-man as its
      natural continuation, since both employ reason. Yet there are basic
      differentiations. Consider the disparity between being regulated by
      reason, and guided by values (or ideals, aspirations). This subtlety
      occurs because there is an ambiguity in whether reason is technical or
      includes values. O�ists use the term �reason� or �rational� as
      employing the mind. Yet when you say that Hitler was reasonable or
      rational, they catch themselves and say that although he was
      intelligent, it is neither reasonable nor rational to dominate and
      persecute. That is, they now include the values of decency in their
      definition. If reason is defined to include the dimension of moral
      motivation, guidance by concepts and by reason mean the same thing. If
      reason is defined as what homo-sapiens did prior to the moral concepts
      of civilization, then guidance by concepts and by reason mean different
      things. Nor is this difference resolved by the term �volitional
      consciousness� since the ambiguity remains in whether the volition is
      governed by the passions or guided by ideals. The critical point is
      that attributing qualities to man, which could only derive from
      civilization, and then defining man as prior to civilization, employs a
      stolen concept.

      Let us consider that pre-civilized man (or aboriginal or primitive-man)
      is governed by his passions, and has no moral code. When he says
      �Ungah, ungah, melon good, thorn bad� it is a statement regarding
      gratification, and not the advancement of a moral dissertation on
      individual rights. He is not self-defined, nor even has the identity of
      an individual, but responds by his role within a collective. When he
      comes in contact with a competitor within the pecking order, he hates
      him, because this is helpful for advancing his status. Such passions
      are not irrational, but are what furthers life.

      Although his knowledge increases, the criteria by which he makes
      decisions is a finished product. He acts for wealth, status, and power,
      independent of any noble vision. AR provides a vision of the glory of
      man, yet this requires a different kind of man, one guided by ideals.
      It is true that the biology of homo-sapiens is a prerequisite for the
      man that AR has in mind, but *their development depends on opposite
      principles*.
      As a final illustration of pre-civilized man, I turn to the missionary
      who spent years in darkest Africa to educate a tribe. One day, the
      tribe�s Chief came to him.

      Chief: Something is puzzling me. You are the only white man who has
      ever been here. I have some women in my tribe who have given birth to
      white babies. How do you explain it?
      Missionary (sweating bullets): It is an act of God!
      Chief: What you mean, act of God?
      Missionary: You see those sheep? (The Chief nods.) Well they are white,
      but every once in a while they give birth to a black sheep. Why does it
      happen? Who can tell? It is an act of God!
      Chief (after reflecting): Yes, you are right. Who can tell? It is an
      act of God!
      I no tell on you; you no tell on me.

      Now how do we know that the aforementioned is correct, namely that
      pre-civilized man is driven by his passions? There are anthropologists
      who study aboriginals such as the Aborigines in Australia, or the
      Indians in the forests of Brazil. More directly, we observe the
      behavior of children. Yet the greatest insight is from self-knowledge.
      Is there one among us, who has not acted out of vengeance, ambition,
      lust, domination, or envy? If so, let him refute my thesis. This
      recalls the event in ancient Jerusalem, where a crowd gathered around a
      prostitute, shouting and clawing at her. Yet Jesus interceded and said
      �Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.� Silence overtook the
      crowd. But during this calm, a sharp rock whizzed through the air,
      hitting the prostitute in the head and killing her. Then Jesus said �Oh
      Ma, why do you always have to go and spoil everything?�

      Now before providing the specific definition of man, we must consider
      how to arrive at the correct objective definition, to capture the
      source or referent of reality. We must consider when two stages of
      existence are to be viewed in common or as opposed. I shall return to
      this in 3. Objective Definitions, and argue that what relates to the
      human condition reverses the essence of pre-civilized man. But to do
      so, we must first address �civilization�.


      2. THE CENTRALITY OF CIVILIZATION

      My starting point for worldly matters is the moral challenge, which I
      interpret today as the threat to civilization. That statement requires
      considerable elucidation. The first question has to be what is
      �civilization�. AR writes �Civilization is the progress of a society
      toward privacy�the process of setting men free from men�force must be
      used only in retaliation.� These few words speak volumes about the
      purpose and operation of civilization. However, much remains to be
      covered, including its mechanism, structure, and nature. Any treatment
      of so vast a topic is bound to be incomplete and contentious.
      Nonetheless, I shall posit some critical elements. I define
      �civilization� as �the organization of society around an ideal to
      uplift man while restraining barbarism�; here �culture� is the means
      for uplifting man, while �government� is the mechanism for restraining
      aggression. The organization around an ideal, directly contrasts with
      pre-civilized (collectivist) societies, wherein although man uses his
      mind, it operates to gratify his passions. For illustration, I
      recommend the film �One Million BC� which describes life between
      warring tribes of primitive man in the stone age. The motives for
      wealth, status, power, are not ideals, but inherent passions.

      I leave it to others to define �rational� but in any event I interpret
      �uplifting� (or enhancement) in terms of civilized man, even if
      pre-civilized man is deemed rational. I do so because the issues on the
      world scene are civilizational. That which pertains to what pre-dated
      civilization has little relevance. The essence of civilized man differs
      from that of homo-sapiens. It is not only that he operates in terms of
      values, but that he is transitional, in a state of becoming (in
      contrast to the biological condition which is a state of being). (To
      clarify, a student of chemistry knows something about the field, but is
      not a chemist before graduation.) So civilized man and civilization
      itself are transitional, for life revolves around what is new and
      developing, and is responded to in light of aspirations.

      At this point, it is helpful to define certain terms, to avoid
      ambiguity. Homo-sapiens is an animal, but there is a fundamental
      dissimilarity, namely: the animal survives by �animal drives�, while
      homo-sapiens survives by a mind subordinate to �passions�. Thus,
      although homo-sapiens is biologically an animal, it is the difference
      between them, and not what they have in common, that explains why
      homo-sapiens dominates the world.

      By analogy, civilized man is homo-sapiens, but there is a fundamental
      dissimilarity, namely: civilized man survives by his ideals (or
      values), in contrast to homo-sapiens who survives by his (mind aided)
      passions. Thus, although civilized man is biologically homo-sapiens, it
      is the difference between them, and not what they have in common, that
      explains why civilized man dominates the world. So I shall use
      �homo-sapiens� to denote pre-civilized man, and �man� to denote
      civilized man. Here it is understood that �homo-sapiens� relates to a
      completed desideratum, whereas �man� and �civilization� are
      transitional terms. Yet man, is at war with his pre-civilized nature,
      so the quintessential moral issue is between the ideals and the
      passions (which some O�ists may interpret as whether man is governed by
      reason or emotions).

      We note that homo-sapiens survived by his intelligence, subordinated to
      his passions. The mechanism that man uses to survive I call
      �intellect�. Here, I depart from common usage (which often defines
      �intellect� as intelligence) and follow Jacques Barzun in �The House of
      Intellect�. He writes �by intellect I most emphatically do not mean
      intelligence�Intellect is the capitalized and communal form of live
      intelligence�it is mankind�s intelligence, caught and compounded.� In
      other words, practices and rules have unfolded, where experience is
      transmitted over generations, not by biological evolution, but by
      conceptual structures.

      The aforementioned was intended to clarify why man is to be viewed in
      transition (or teleologically) in contrast to homo-sapiens who is best
      viewed as a finished product. Note that the greatest thing that
      pre-civilized man can want are the rewards, within his collective, of
      status, power, and wealth. That which civilized man wants are open
      ended, remaining to be improved. I repeat that the issues throughout
      history, have been about values, and not about technical intelligence.
      We may also note that the civilized individual is defined by his
      aspirations, rather than by any completed structure. When one asks
      himself who he is, he addresses what is most important to him, that for
      which he will man the barricades. He will not live and die for
      technical rationality, but for what he values, so he is consequently
      self-defined. (The glory of man is not in his being, but in his
      becoming.) Moreover, the values and aspirations of an individuals are
      inextricably related to the values of civilization. A man�s mission may
      be philosophical, scientific, or artistic, yet these are dependent on
      concepts and practices that have unfolded across the generations.

      I have characterized man and civilization by ideals, values, and
      aspirations, which fall in the category of �morality�. Yet how is this
      term to be defined? AR says �it is a code of values to guide man�s
      choices�. Yet what is the aim of that code of values? It is �that which
      is required for man�s survival qua man.� Now survival aims at
      happiness, which proceeds from the achievement of one�s values, which
      depends on the concept of man�s life. Yet when one reads what she says
      of �life�, what must be achieved, is survival. Consequently, there is
      no final clarification as to what determines morality. There are
      considerations, such as happiness, achievement of values, furthering
      man�s life, but none of these is given a final characterization. This
      is unavoidable, because what is needed by man is not finalized, but is
      an evolving aim to what ought to be.

      I define �morality� as the means to obtain justice, where �justice� is
      what ought to be (such as people receiving what they have earned). Such
      aspirations cannot be finalized, for they evolve with our visions and
      understanding. So man is not only transitioning, but headed for a goal
      he is continually redefining. This is surely not what pre-civilized man
      or homo-sapiens is all about.

      It may be helpful to posit the apt ideal for civilization. I claim it
      is �justice�, whereas the ideal for culture is �the enhanced
      individual�, and the ideal for government is �the protected
      individual�. It is these ideals that are the source of rights, and the
      orientation for protecting them.


      3. OBJECTIVE DEFINITIONS

      Suppose one were asked �What is an orange?� He might respond: clearly
      it is a nutritious piece of fruit. Yet an economist says it is a
      commodity worth one dollar; the artist says it is an expression of
      life, by its color and shape; the physicist says .5 kilograms of mass
      with momentum; the mathematician says a spheroid with diameter 3
      inches. Yet an orange can be viewed as any of these, or characterized
      in many other ways. The initial question is misleading because until
      one clarifies the framework within which the subject is discussed,
      there can be no clear answer.

      A �model� is a representation of an entity (or process) solely in terms
      of those features which pertain to one�s aim. Thus, the model (or
      characterization or definition) depends on whether the point of view is
      that of a biologist, economist, etc.

      The previous section defined man, civilization, etc., from a moral
      perspective, not a biological or economic outlook. So the issue that
      arises is *What is the proper perspective to apply to such matters?*
      Let us note how differences in perspective influence outcomes.

      Consider the relation amongst nations. From a biological
      (anthropological or homo-sapiens perspective) nations are essentially
      the same, whether they be republics or tyrannies. One often hears the
      universalist position that people are the same, since they all love
      their children, and want the good life. By that approach they emphasize
      the commonality of all homo-sapiens, rather than apply a moral
      perspective, where the difference between a republic and a tyranny is
      essential. As a consequence, they think in terms of the UN, and
      disregard the need for sovereignty for America.

      Another example of perspective is where people consider capitalism in
      terms of the goods and services provided, while disregarding its moral
      foundation of freedom. Here, they de-emphasize what is critical from a
      moral point of view.

      Another difference in outlook is where something is judged in terms of
      quantity, such as the number of hours worked, or spent playing a
      violin, rather than the quality of the performance. This can
      de-emphasize what is most important.

      The first thing to establish is what is the perspective to be taken,
      which I claim is the moral one. From this vantage point, what is
      essential about man is not his biology, but whether ideals govern his
      passions. To this end (although from a biological perspective, man is a
      rational animal) from a moral perspective *man is a moral being*. This
      focuses on what is critical, and differentiates between what is right
      and what is wrong.

      There is an underlying consideration regarding definitions, namely when
      are stages to be treated in common (such as adult and middle-aged) and
      when are they to be treated in contrast (such as body and mind). This
      depends (given one�s perspective) on whether their essence is a
      difference of degree or a reversal. We view as reversals, the
      difference between: non-living and living entities, plants and animals,
      animals and homo-sapiens. I submit that this differentiation applies to
      homo-sapiens and man, because there is a reversal of the desideratum of
      fixed biological (mind-aided) passions to dynamic (ideational) values.
      To rephrase, homo-sapiens is governed by what inheres from the past,
      while man chooses what will guide him by aspirations toward the future.
      Defining man as homo-sapiens subordinates him to his (mind-aided)
      passions, which is the very thing to reverse, in order to enhance him.

      To clarify the application of a moral perspective, it is helpful to
      define certain terms. An �ideal� guides civilization toward what it
      deems most important; it is a standard of perfection. An �aspiration�
      guides an individual toward what he aims to become. �Values� reflect
      ideals or aspirations, and are operational. Consequently, although
      animals and plants aim to gain and keep, �values� only apply to
      (civilized) man. Finally, although I have simplified the presentation
      as though a group were either 0% or 100% civilized, nations have graded
      degrees of civilization. For example, my scientific estimate is that
      Bulgaria is - 90% civilized.

      4. RIGHTS

      Having posited the definitions of man and civilization, let us consider
      how this bears on �rights�. AR says �Individual rights are the means of
      subordinating society to moral law.� From my perspective, the very
      concepts of �rights� and �law� derive from the requirements of a
      civilized order. It is only here that there exists the principle to
      place obligatory restrictions upon human interaction. Pre-civilized
      societies have restrictions, but lack any principles, for principles
      require future goals. Moreover, pre-civilized societies operate to
      maintain the rules of the collective, whereas �Man holds these
      rights�against the collective.� To state the reversal: homo-sapiens
      subordinates the individual to the collective, while man subordinates
      the collective to the individual.

      AR writes �It is only by means of principles that one can set one�s
      long-range goals and evaluate the concrete alternatives of any given
      moment. It is only principles that enable a man to plan his future and
      to achieve it.� Note that this makes complete sense for a (civilized)
      man, for he lives in terms of long-range goals, but it does not make
      sense for homo-sapiens, who lives by his immediate passions. Since a
      �right� is a moral principle, it stems from (civilized) man, rather
      than from (biological) homo-sapiens. It invests every individual with
      inalienable rights, by a civilizational orientation toward an ideal,
      and operates to enforce these rights by civilizational mechanisms.
      "Rights" do not inhere in the individual person, independent of the
      existence of civilization. (That belief is akin to the intrinsicist
      view that the value of an ounce of gold inheres in that ounce,
      independent of the value system of the buyer.)

      How do �rights� emerge? Within the objective reality of civilization,
      ideals are posited as to how man ought to be. Visions are generated
      (such as justice, and the dignity of the individual). These orient
      culture and government, giving operational meaning to �rights�.

      I have written a lot (perhaps too much) in order to touch upon the
      interdependent foundational issues that clarify the nature of rights.
      Since the treatment is extensive and contentious, I shall provide a
      brief summary, to make refutation easier:

      1. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF MAN

      Man can be defined biologically as homo-sapiens, or morally as
      civilized man.
      Defining man biologically, as a rational animal, precludes moral values.
      When pre-civilized man is defined as possessing moral values, it is a
      stolen concept, for it presupposes civilization.
      Pre-civilized man is governed by his passions.


      2. THE CENTRALITY OF CIVILIZATION

      Defining man as civilized, incorporates morality, where man and
      civilization are characterized as transitional, oriented by ideals and
      values.
      The glory of man is not in his being, but in his becoming.
      The biological and civilizational characterizations are fundamentally
      opposed (or reversed), where the key moral difference is the
      desideratum of passions versus values.
      Civilization�s ideals are the source of rights, and the orientation
      for protecting them, whereupon the mechanisms of civilization give it
      operational meaning.

      3. OBJECTIVE DEFINITIONS

      Models and definitions are dependent upon one�s aim or perspective.
      The justification for objectively defining an entity or process, is
      where the action is, and the primary action pertains to the defense of
      civilization.
      The definitions of ideals and aspirations are teleological, remaining
      to be developed.
      The proper perspective is morality, for that is what we must aim at.

      4. RIGHTS

      �Rights� derive from the ideal�s of civilization, which are justice,
      the enhanced individual, and his protection.
      It is these ideals that are the fount of rights, and provide the
      orientation for protecting them.


      Allen Weingarten




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