Randian paradigm challenged

From: Ian Goddard (igoddard@erols.com)
Date: Tue Aug 01 2000 - 13:30:03 MDT

  The person with the highest IQ, Marilyn Vos Savant,
  has a column in the Washington Post magazine Parade
  called "Ask Marilyn." A recent question was if she
  agreed that "the purpose of life is to undertake
  a selfish endeavor to make oneself happy." She
  concludes that the only argument supporting
  that (Randian) view is based on a fallacy:

  Washington Post PARADE, 7/30/00, page 11


  By Marilyn Vos Savant

  QUESTION: Humans have long questioned the purpose
  of their existence. However, I believe the answer
  to this supposed eternal dilemma is relatively
  simplistic: The purpose of life is to undertake
  a selfish endeavor to make oneself happy. Anything
  and everything an individual does--in the long
  term--is solely for this purpose. Would you agree?

  MARILYN: ... you seem to be answering the question,
  "Toward what goal do all humans aim?" In defense
  of your answer, you could argue that even apparently
  altruistic behavior is still undertaken to give
  oneself pleasure. As an example, consider the case
  of Mother Teresa: You could suggest that relieving
  the suffering of India's poorest people made Mother
  Teresa happy herself, and that's why she undertook
  to do so. In short, you could argue that any chosen
  behavior, just by the fact that it is chosen,
  indicates a selfish endeavor. But this is based on
  a logical fallacy called petitio principii (better
  known as "begging the question"), a circular argument
  in which the conclusion also appears as an assumption.

  I can't find any other defense of your answer, so I
  can't agree with it.

  IAN: It seems to follow from Savant's answer that
  the goal toward which all humans aim is NOT selfish
  endeavor to make oneself happy. Where's the evidence?
  What people act with intent not to satisfy themselves?
  Even someone marching along at gunpoint follows orders
  because it satisfies them not to be shot for resistance.
  Even someone killing themselves has concluded that death
  would be more satisfactory of them than life, it's even
  said by some that suicide is selfish. People engage in
  charitable behavior because it satisfies them and they
  earn social rewards for noble action. Even a masochist
  who acts to hurt himself finds satisfaction in such.
  If I and three others are starving to death in the
  arctic and I kill myself so the others can eat me,
  I did so because it satisfied me to help them.

  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.

GODDARD'S JOURNAL: http://www.erols.com/igoddard/journal.htm
Asking the "wrong questions," challenging the Official Story


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