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Comment: "Ought" from an "Is"

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"Ought" from an "Is"

Ayn Rand's primary focus in the realm of Ethics is the idea that one can get an "ought" from an "is."

IOW: Man IS a rational being and, therefore, man OUGHT to act such and such.

I do not think Rand proved this. It was her contention. But I don't know we can really get to an ought (what someone should do) based on an is (that man is a rational being).

I think a better approach is Stephan Molyneux' idea of "Universal Preferable Behavior." The idea here is that everyone DOES agree to a few, limited ideals in the realm of morality. Even people who CLAIM they do not agree, actually do.

For example, the idea that "no person should steal property from another person" is a universal view of morality.

But you will protest that there actually ARE thieves amongst us! Yes, and WHY do they steal? Because they want to HAVE that property. But once they possess the property, they do NOT want ANYONE ELSE to steal it from them.

So, a person who does not steal believes in property rights, and his actions are consistent with his morality.

But, a person who does steal actually claims to both believe in property rights (when he has possession) and simultaneously claims he does not believe in property rights (when he is stealing). So, his morality is self-contradictory.

How would we determine if a concept such as "Thou shall not steal" is a valid moral principle? We must look at what would happen in a society where everyone agreed with it, as well as a society where everyone disagreed with it.

If everyone agrees (and does not steal), then we have a peaceful society, which is the goal of morality.

If everyone disagrees (meaning, if everyone believes theft is moral), then everyone would be (or should be, if they are consistent) be stealing ALL THE TIME. Everyone would be stealing from everyone else, and society would be in chaos -- something we are starting to see in the real world today.

So, I'm not convinced that Rand's "ought from is" was proven by her. I think Molyneux' "Universal Preferable Behavior" is more consistent with truth.

Having said that, however ...

That does not change the fact that Ayn Rand's great contribution to philosophy is the idea that our thinking PROCESS (Epistemology) must be an objective one in order to understand reality (Metaphysics).

So, I do not defend everything Ayn Rand wrote or said, but I acknowledge her huge contribution to mankind.

Regarding your other points:

(1) The fact that two people do not agree on what is moral does not prove that morality is subjective. It means they have different opinions about what IS moral. Surely, you cannot be claming that both the Jihadist Muslim who wants to kill non-Muslims is moral while the pacifist who wants to harm no one is also moral. We have to have a PROCESS of thinking to determine what ideas ARE moral and what ideas are NOT moral. This is the debate Rand addressed: HOW do we determine who is right and wrong?

(2) The fact that we all act irrationally at times does not change the fact that man is, by nature, a rational being (as opposed to other animals). Rand argues that we cannot live a happy life if we act irrationally. We must think longer-term to our rational self-interest. This is what she was saying. Far from denying that people act irrationally, she acknowledged it. You are wrong in your implication that some people are rational and some are irrational. We are ALL rational beings who often act irrationally. Rand said this was a problem if one wants to be happy (and being moral is part of being happy).

(3) I think you do not understand what libertarianism is. Libertarians accept the non-initiation principle. The idea that libertarians would accept the Marxist idea of stealing property from one person to give to another is completely opposite of reality. Libertarians oppose using force to take from one to give to another, regardless of whatever attempt to rationalize might be.