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What is the objectivist viewpoint on Karma ? According to karma, performing positive actions results in a good condition in one's experience, whereas a negative action results in a bad effect. The effects may be seen immediately or delayed.

asked Sep 22 '10 at 17:19

Michael's gravatar image


retagged Jan 09 '11 at 03:13

JJMcVey's gravatar image

JJMcVey ♦

Karma, in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, involves deeds from this life and past lives having some sort of effect on the quality of a person's current and future lives. Objectivism rejects the concept of past lives and future lives as mysticism and arbitrary, so also rejects this variant of Karma for the same reason.

I take it you are asking about the more broad concept of Karma, where good deeds result in good luck and bad deeds result in bad luck. I think people believe in this variant of Karma for two reasons.

1) Causality. Put simply, bad things are bad for a reason. They can and often do lead to negative things happening in your life. This isn't some supernatural force but rather a chain of events that can be traced back to your own actions. For example, if you treat everyone at your work poorly, don't be surprised if you get fired. In some cases people might mistake this Karma, especially if they hold an even more loosely defined version.

2) Confirmation bias. Some people take Karma much further than this and will say something along the lines of: "I found this $20 bill on the ground because I helped that old lady across the street." This is much more likely the result of a confirmation bias than it is any causal link, but people will attribute it to Karma because it confirms what they already believe.

answered Sep 22 '10 at 20:03

Justin%20O's gravatar image

Justin O ♦

edited Sep 22 '10 at 20:40


As to causality, a person may not be aware of the causes he sets in motion, or he may try to evade them. This is one of the reasons why a ruthless commitment to self knowledge and self honesty is so important. It might be tempting for someone to assign blame or credit to a nebulous, possibly supernatural force when one doesn't want to, or doesn't have the cognitive tools to, take responsibility or credit for his own actions; or when he wants to attribute them to some inappropriate cause, such as an altruistic gesture.

(Sep 23 '10 at 19:55) kelleyn ♦ kelleyn's gravatar image

Existentially, Objectivism rejects the Karma idea. Objectivism upholds the Benevolent Universe Premise: the universe is a fully causal place, operating according to laws that are completely comprehensible by those who employ the right methods and enough effort to achieving that comprehension. As part of that, we recognise that the universe does not take - and is incapable of taking - any interest in your well-being, neither positively or negatively. It is not and cannot be concerned with meting out either justice or malice. This view is benevolent because it means we are free to make of life what we will, even in the face of occasional undesirable events, because none of it beyond the man-made is received by or inflicted upon you by some being's unaccountable whims. It is lawful and understandable, and from events one observes one can learn and grow.

Psychologically and ethically, Objectivism also notes that to achieve the above man must act according to principle, that evil consists of evasion and which must include rejection of principle, and that there are such things as character and psychoepistemology. The integration of those to the topic at hand is that to the extent a given man knowingly does evil he also damages his own mind and hence his ability to deal successfully with the world. Thus, sooner or later, the habitually evil man will get his comeuppance, not because the universe is seeking to punish him, but because his own rejection of what life in the universe requires will do his head in and, in time, his body too. It is in light of this you will come across references from Objectivists, plus eventually also see for yourself if you look broadly enough, to people getting their just-deserts (both positively and negatively) in a manner that superficially appears to be a karma-like phenomenon.


answered Jan 09 '11 at 03:10

JJMcVey's gravatar image

JJMcVey ♦

edited Jan 09 '11 at 03:12

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Asked: Sep 22 '10 at 17:19

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Last updated: Jan 09 '11 at 03:13