Re: Randian paradigm challenged

From: Ian Goddard (
Date: Tue Aug 01 2000 - 16:02:15 MDT

At 04:59 PM 08/01/2000 -0400, wrote:

On Tue, 1 Aug 2000, Ian Goddard wrote:

> [snip]
> If no human action is selfless, how is Savant right?
> If self-satisfaction is not the goal toward which all
> humans aim, then what is the goal of all human action?
> It seems to me that what Savant claims to be a logical
> fallacy is in fact an inherent truism of human action.
> If it isn't a truism, then please identify an action
> and/or goal of a self that is truly 100% selfless.
> Seems to me that identifying such is impossible.

        i'm not very familiar with rand's philosophy, but this post
seems self-contained. it appears to me that savant's very point is
that the notion of telic self-gratification is unfalsifiable -- a

   IAN: If she's saying (let's call it)
   the "selfish rule" is a truism, why
   does she say "I can't agree with it"?

        that is, could i not say the same about ... water? i could say
that whatever water does, it maximizes water's happiness, and there
would be no way to prove me wrong. however, this conjecture would be
useless (we would not be able to predict water's behavior any better)
even if it were true because the happiness of water can not be
measured; the idea is an empty self-reference.

   IAN: But we can predict human action
   based on the self-interest principle,
   just as we can predict water action
   based on the "flows down" principle.

        what is the difference from human beings? perhaps the belief that
human beings have a choice, that we can measure our happiness and
even potential happiness by introspection, and act on it. however,
isn't that a contradiction? how can we have free will and yet be
unable to choose in a manner contrary to self-gratification?

   IAN: An interesting question I'd say
   resolved by the fact that one has a
   choice between a range of actions,
   even if any action chosen is selfish.
   If it is a fact that all self-actions
   are selfish, this no more negates free
   will than the fact that all actions are
   invariably actions would negate free will.
   The fact that one attribute of human action
   is constant doesn't, as I see it, effect the
   free-will hypothesis one way or the other.

afterall, once we perceive the relative happiness payoffs of
various potential actions (the perception lying forever beyond our
will), we can not help choosing the one that maximizes our
happiness. when we see a monotonic choice, occam's razor tells us
that there is a causative link.

        another thought experiment -- what if i said that the goal of all
human actions is to maximize human _sorrow_? this too is unfalsifiable
in the sense that savant pointed out, but somehow it sounds less true.
this seems to indicate that the notion of happiness is not completely
empty, that finally there's is some difference from sorrow. oops
... let me back away from the minefield.

        at the end, i think the notion that people act in order to maximize
happiness is a bit like saying that switches toggle in order to turn on
lights. give up the causa sui, and all the strange loops dissolve.

   IAN: To me, Savant's column appears to dismiss the
   "selfish rule," not say that it's an inherent truth.
Asking the "wrong questions," challenging the Official Story


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