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A dictionary definition of gluttony is "habitual greed or excess in eating." Given the defense of "greed" among many self-declared Objectivists, does this mean "gluttony is good" (c.f. "greed is good", e.g. in the Peikoff reference below), or is the dictionary definition just lacking (or, I suppose, is it wrong/incomplete to say that "greed is good"; perhaps "greed is sometimes good" or "some forms of greed are good")?


asked Nov 20 '14 at 09:16

anthony's gravatar image


edited Nov 20 '14 at 09:56

Gluttony can be viewed as "greedy" in simple terms. It couldn't be viewed as rational self-interest because eating even after you're full is not entirely healthy or rational. Gluttony has more to do with exercising some self-control when you eat.

(Nov 20 '14 at 18:21) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

A dictionary definition of gluttony is "habitual greed or excess in eating."

I checked several dictionaries and Wikipedia articles and found none that mention "habitual" and almost none that include "greed" (or "greedily," etc.) in the definition of "gluttony." The main focus of the definitions I have found is on eating and/or drinking (in excess). Any similarity to greed is secondary and non-essential to the meaning of gluttony.

I suppose one could view gluttony as a type of greed in the sense of avidly devouring one's food and/or drink, and consuming too much of it. The question seems most concerned about the implications of defending greed if greed includes gluttony and gluttony is harmful to one's life. But the Objectivist defenses of greed refer to spirited, enthusiastic pursuit of rational self-interest, which is a more precisely limited view of greed than casual conventional views and surely would not include eating and/or drinking in excess of what rationally serves one's life and happiness. As one of the cited formulations expresses it:

If greed means pursuing one's own interests hungrily, passionately, for no one else's happiness but one's own (except incidentally through trade) -- and strives to do so through production and trade guided by reason -- then Objectivism enthusiastically advocates it.

Incidentally, gluttony highlights the fact that some values can, indeed, be beneficial in moderation but harmful in excess, with the dividing line between moderation and excess being determined by objective factors, such as the nutritional requirements of the human body. "Eating and/or drinking in excess" is not, however, a major ethical issue in Objectivism. It seems to be an issue in Christian ethics mainly in the context of gluttons in the midst of others who are starving, i.e., as a form of attacking "have's" for the benefit of "have not's." A true glutton can certainly harm himself by overeating, but that is of no proper concern to anyone but himself (although close family members and friends would prefer to see him remain healthy and live long, and trading partners in general might be similarly concerned).

The issue of rational moderation versus self-impairing excess can be even more pronounced in regard to the use of medicines and nutritional supplements, including ordinary vitamin supplements. But this issue isn't applicable to the primary virtue of rationality and its six most important corollary virtues; one cannot be said to be "excessively" rational, to the detriment of the other virtues, if one correctly understands what rationality does and does not encompass. Even if one considers one of the corollaries of rationality, I don't see how one could adhere to it "excessively," to the detriment of one or more other corollaries of rationality, if one is doing it rationally in the first place. Rationality's corollary virtues are not in conflict with each other; they are all aspects of rationality.

answered Nov 21 '14 at 01:54

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

I like your answer overall. One point where perhaps some clarification may be in order... you say that "gluttony highlights the fact that some values can, indeed, be beneficial in moderation but harmful in excess." I think that this statement may be true for the normative-free sense of "value" (i.e., that which one acts to gain and/or keep), but that it would not be true for the normative sense of "value" (aka "objective value") (i.e., those things that when gained/kept are in fact life-enhancing).

(Nov 21 '14 at 13:56) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

So while your statement is correct, I would probably say that "some things that people pursue can, indeed, be beneficial in moderation but harmful in excess--i.e., they are objectively valuable in moderation but cease to be an objective value in excess."

(Nov 21 '14 at 13:59) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

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Asked: Nov 20 '14 at 09:16

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Last updated: Nov 21 '14 at 13:59