What sort of ethics and moral code do you follow in your life?

Do you follow the Humanism principles? As a Humanist I try to follow these.
The Affirmations of Humanism:
A Statement of Principles

We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings

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Some good questions to consider Jedi.

You assume that being selfish is bad, why? If it's because that is how you where raised that way, note that I was raised Christian, but no one on this forum will disagree with me questioning that, so what makes being selfless so special?

An objectivist cares about other peope only in that an objectivist pays for what is recieved from them, no one gets robbed, everyone is just responsible for themselves. Why is any  person's welfare the concern of any other's?

Why is it immoral to use resources? No matter how you do it, non-renewable resources will run out (I study geology, I'm very aware of this) and when it is feasable an alternative will be found or the way we live will change.

I did not ask you if you thought it was "immoral to use resources". I asked you if you thought it was immoral to use resources in such an unsustainable way that it robbed everyone else of them in the process.


And in point of fact, I make no assumptions that being selfish is always bad. Sometimes it is very good to be selfish, but sometimes it is also very bad. The Objectivist only sees being selfish as bad when in the long run, acting on behalf of another's interests turns out to be in one's own interests, and they really were acting selfishly. But the Objectivist has no motivation or method for handling problems which go beyond one's own selfish interests. I will put the argument to you in as strong a way as I can. How can the Objectivist claim that it is immoral to utterly destroy any chance anyone else will ever have of being happy if he just doesn't see how it concerns him? So take a very selfish person, someone who doesn't care about anyone or anything else other than his own self interest, and give him all the power you can imagine, and tell me why it is immoral for him to take everything he can for his own private use and leave nothing for anyone else.  When you can tell me why you think an Objectivist can consider unsustainable use of resources for selfish desires a bad thing, then you defeat your own argument, or else you reveal yourself to hold a decidedly immoral philosophy.

That is a good response Jedi. Sometimes it's good to be selfish, and then sometimes it's not.
I also learned more about the Objectivist viewpoint. Thanks!
Really good responses here and I appreciate them.

First up, your "even more comdensed version" is incorrect, the most condensed version would be "value for value".

An all powerful objectivist would consider it immoral to just take anything from anyone, like any objectivist this person would be morally obliged to return equal value for everything recieved, so everyone who contributes will benefit from this person's power and self interest.

With regard to unsustainable use of resources, you don't need any moral system to call it bad, because it is short minded and stupid, and not really in anyone's self interest, objectivists value reason above all else and would therefore consider it undesireable.

Value for value? But who decides what values to assign? To say that an objectivist would not abuse his power if he can is naive. People prey on other people's need and stupidity and powerlessness of all sorts all the time, and the objectivist says "good!" If the objectivist owns all the water in the area, he can charge whatever he wants for it, or those who are unwilling to pay through the nose will have to leave. No help available if objectivists own all the water everywhere.


In any case, you are running yourself in circles. According to the objectivist (who "values reason above all else"), what is reasonable to do is to act in one's self-interest. So if he can use up the resources, according to his own reasoning, it doesn't matter whether he uses it unsustainably, so long as he leaves just enough for himself to last until he dies, and then too bad for everyone else, right?

The value recieved and given should be equal, as agreed by two mutually consenting traders. Also I would like to repeat that the above is a VERY CONDENSED version, if you would like any more details, please read the books by Rand.

An objectivist who sells water (or anything for that matter) for more than it is worth will be doing something immoral, i.e. not giving value equivalent to what is being recieved. If multiple objectivists control a resource they will not act for the greater good of objectivists by keeping prices high, they will compete, giving thier product a competitive price.

People who may act in a immoral manner are not restricted to objectivism or any other moral system, therefore such people are not an argument against any specific moral system.

If you truly believe that the unsustainable use of resources is reasonable and in your interest, then what is your problem with it (other than that I disagree with you)?

Oh I just love it when people make gigantic assumptions. I have read Rand extensively. The problem with her ethical theory, and with the people who subscribe to it, is that it is myopic and one-sided. Yes, I agree with you, being selfish can be good. Often it can be very good. But when you take it to its logical conclusion, it leads to some very bad misunderstandings. So please, read more ethical theorists besides Rand, and perhaps then you will see what she is missing.


What you and most people who think they subscribe to objectivism are doing is cherry-picking. You've got this "enlightened objectivism", which is just regular morality the way everyone else thinks about it, and which is just fine with acting for the greater good because it has an enlightened understanding of what is actually in our self-interests. In other words, acting for the greater good is "in our interests" because such behavior has positive consequences for how we feel about ourselves as people - how we keep our moral integrity by listening to our consciences and all that. "It just feels good to help other people" is a perfectly valid ethical justification for acting on behalf of another, if you take our sense of self as the ultimate end to which all ethical action is directed. So, we can agree that things like "unsustainable use of resources is bad", or "taking advantage of other people by taking more from a mutually-agreed-upon trade than what you have to offer is really worth is bad" because they go against our better natures, but not because we are selfish - quite the contrary. On the other hand, if I justify my moral behavior out of self-interest alone, with no regard for how my behavior affects others, or whether I couldn't do something to help someone else just out of the goodness of my own heart, then I can justify the worst kinds of things, like the examples I've given already, or walking past a drowning child because I don't want to spend the time and energy or risk my own life for someone else, or insider trading for congressmen (hey, if I can get away with it, and it works out good for me, then isn't this the "moral" thing for me to do?), or otherwise being as self-centered and underhanded and mischievous and scheming and manipulative and everything else that comes along with a purely selfish worldview. And from this perspective, you couldn't tell the sociopath apart from the morally-upright man, because he's the best example of the person who's only in it for himself (until he does something which actually breaks a law that is, and what does it say about an ethical system that only thinks something is wrong when you break the law?). So if you think that acting for the greater good is in any way morally justified (because it leads to a better, more creative, more prosperous and enjoyable world for everyone), then you are not really an objectivist - you just see the bright side of the coin of selfishness, but deny the existence of the dark side. And really, the entire history of man stands in evidence of what ruin can come from people "just acting out of self-interest".

Thank you Jedi for your insights. I don't have a philosophy background so I enjoy reading your replies. I've really learned from you. Thanks.
Hey Jedi I was thinking that having a balance is the best way to go. Be kind, help the helpless but also have some selfishness too.

You are very welcome Steph! :-D


Yes, I think a balanced approach is certainly warranted. Ethics, like most other things (though I think ethics and politics are perhaps the most complex things there are), is not reducible to simplistic one-liners to explain the entire field. Whenever someone proclaims they've got the Answer, watch out! Objectivism is a classic example of seeing things completely idealistically and taking things to a very wrong-headed extreme. As Aristotle wrote, virtue is the mean between two vices. I.e., find the balance between two extremes, and you will find what is right and good. In this respect, objectivism is just like communism, laissez-faire capitalism, anarchism, and most other -isms - it takes one side of the coin and runs with it as if that side of the coin is pure good and the other side is pure bad. Geez, if it were that easy, someone would have figured out a way to put it into practice and we'd all be trying to catch up. Of course, things are never that simple. Doesn't it occur to them that we all see the positive side of their high ideals? Anyway, yes Steph, balance in all things!

Darkblack thanks for your objectivism condensed version.




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