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Another Question of Right and Wrong

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theestevearnold,

 

 

Thank you for your response.

 

 

In post #27 you wrote, "It is best for man to live in a way that best suits his nature". What does this mean? Can you provide an objective definition of "best"? In the scenario, I choose my actions, values and goals in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy the ultimate value, that is my life. Does this not best suit my nature and is it not the best way for me to live? Just because you do not value the same things that I value, and do not agree that my values would be "best" for you, does not mean that those things that I value are not the "best" for me.

 

 

You also wrote, "...reduce the amount of [life]time spent on the more mundane aspects of existence, giving him more [life}time to spend on better pursuits."

 

 

What is the objective definition of "mundane" and "better" as you use them here? If I spend my time, even all of my time, pursing and obtaining the basic necessities of life, e.g. water, food, and shelter, how is this "mundane"? Perhaps I enjoy the challenge of achieving this value and I do not find it "mundane". Further, since pursing and obtaining the basic necessities of life is a requirement, due to the nature of human beings, of furthering and fulfilling the ultimate value which is my life, how is it not the "best" or "better" pursuit? Just because you may find something "mundane", or difficult, or any other adjective that you may choose to use to describe it, does not mean that I, or anyone else, agrees with you and, more importantly, has to agree with you.

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Leonid,

 

 

In post #17 you wrote, " In your particular case the premise that solitude is an ultimate value is wrong."

 

 

It appears that you did either did not read or did not thoroughly read the original post. In the original post I clearly state that the ultimate value is my life. I state this many times. Solitude is a value I pursue because solitude contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, the ultimate value.

 

 

You also wrote, "You alone cannot occupy and use the whole island, unless it's a very small one." This seems to be a statement of fact however, in the scenario I do occupy and use the whole island so either it is a very small island or your statement is not statement of fact. If you meant this statement as some kind of universal or fundamental law that 'one person cannot occupy and use a whole island' then please explain, in objective terms, how this statement is derived and why it is correct.

If your life is an ultimate value then you'd protect it by recognition of right to live. By committing murder you forfeit this right. As for ownership question, you should explain how you use and dispose on the whole island single handed?

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Leonid,

 

 

In post #29 you wrote, "If your life is an ultimate value then you'd protect it by recognition of right to live. By committing murder you forfeit this right."

 

 

I recognize that my life is my ultimate value and that I have to act to protect, further, and fulfill my ultimate value. Committing an act that allows me to fulfill my ultimate value is good. I do not forfeit my ultimate value by acting to fulfill it.

 

 

You also wrote, " As for ownership question, you should explain how you use and dispose on the whole island single handed?"

 

 

Since this seems to be a sticking point for you, I will add a line to the next version of the scenario that states something to the affect that the island is small.

 

 

But I will also address the ownership issue now. Based on your previous comments, it seems that you think that it was wrong to kill the man on the beach because the man and I could have worked out an agreement to share the island, or come to some other arrangement. If this is not correct, please let me know.

 

 

I will state that the ownership question is an irrelevant one when determining whether killing the man on the beach was right or wrong. When the man came upon the island it was not possible for me to fulfill my value of solitude and therefore my ultimate value. I acted to preserve and achieve my ultimate value. Because my action furthered my life, my ultimate value, it was good. The availability of alternative actions does not mean that the action I took was wrong, rather, it just means that there were alternatives. Maybe the man on the beach could have moved to the other side of the island, or built a raft and left, or done something else that would have allowed me to achieve my goal. Just because these alternatives may have been available, and even if one or more of these alternatives allowed me to achieve my goal, it still does not mean that the action I choose to take was wrong.

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Murder is the unprovoked killing of another human.

You seem to want to suggest that another's existence is a provocation.

In the scenario 'solitude' is supposed to be understood as a rational value. Values are ultimately subjective , every value held by every individual is in reality a unique instance. While one may place value on 'solitude' , the objective reality of attaining it has yet to be demonstrated. What constitutes solitude? Physical separartion only? A state of mind that can only exist if one is physically separated from all other individuals? When is solitude achieved ? Can it begin and end? Or is the attainment predicated on an unbroken continuous state? Is provocation merely the presence of another that would disturb this state of mind, what of memory of past associations? or overflights of aircraft? Wouldn't that remind one of others and be seen as intrusion , perhaps the scenario should include surface to air missile capabilities to morally discourage future intrusions.

Inventing an imaginary scenario detached from objective reality to consider or test a principle based on objectivity is futile. I will say with refinements you may be getting close, but there really is no 'there' to get to.

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I suspect that you have posed your question with a false premise (solitude is value) and which ignores the reality of the value a rational individual can have for another rational individual, in order to elicit an answer which you want to hear: killing someone is OK.

 

What you fail to realize is that according to Objectivism, killing someone is not the correct course of action to take in a vast majority of contexts and situations.  An Objectivist cannot justify any action on a false premise nor on the complete misunderstanding of value, and this includes the contrived context you have spun with erroneous assumptions and misidentification/ignorance of values.  Objectivism holds man as a rational animal is of incredible value to other men though mutual respect (non-interference) and trade.

 

I suggest you ask direct questions, open ended ones, rather than proffering bizzare scenarios, ... that is if you actually want to learn anything about Objectivism. 

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Leonid,

 

 

In post #29 you wrote, "If your life is an ultimate value then you'd protect it by recognition of right to live. By committing murder you forfeit this right."

 

 

I recognize that my life is my ultimate value and that I have to act to protect, further, and fulfill my ultimate value. Committing an act that allows me to fulfill my ultimate value is good. I do not forfeit my ultimate value by acting to fulfill it.

 

 

You also wrote, " As for ownership question, you should explain how you use and dispose on the whole island single handed?"

 

 

Since this seems to be a sticking point for you, I will add a line to the next version of the scenario that states something to the affect that the island is small.

 

 

But I will also address the ownership issue now. Based on your previous comments, it seems that you think that it was wrong to kill the man on the beach because the man and I could have worked out an agreement to share the island, or come to some other arrangement. If this is not correct, please let me know.

 

 

I will state that the ownership question is an irrelevant one when determining whether killing the man on the beach was right or wrong. When the man came upon the island it was not possible for me to fulfill my value of solitude and therefore my ultimate value. I acted to preserve and achieve my ultimate value. Because my action furthered my life, my ultimate value, it was good. The availability of alternative actions does not mean that the action I took was wrong, rather, it just means that there were alternatives. Maybe the man on the beach could have moved to the other side of the island, or built a raft and left, or done something else that would have allowed me to achieve my goal. Just because these alternatives may have been available, and even if one or more of these alternatives allowed me to achieve my goal, it still does not mean that the action I choose to take was wrong.

By using your argument I can claim that physical beauty is my ultimate value and on this ground I can  kill the neighbor next door because he is ugly. Your fallacy is that you substitute objective value-live with your subjective value-solitude. This is a philosophy of subjective irrational egoist. For him the ultimate value is anything which he  wish to be. Even if you claim that your very life depends on your solitude, it won't give you a moral right to kill since such a claim has nothing to do with objective reality. Feelings are subjective and wishes are not fishes. As for question of ownership-you can own the whole island if you legally acquired it-bought, inhered etc...But as I understood this is not a case. If there were a case, you wouldn't need to invoke any other reasons except ownership. You would have a right to remove an intruder from your property by all legal means available, although in such a case killing is not an option as long as your life is not in danger. 

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tadmjones,

 

In post #31, you wrote, "You seem to want to suggest that another's existence is a provocation."

 

I am not suggesting this at all. As stated in the original post, the presence of the man on the island means that I cannot continue to achieve my value of solitude and since achieving my value of solitude is good because it contributes to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life, not achieving my value of solitude is evil because it does not contribute to the fulfillment and enjoyment of my life; rather it negates, opposes or destroys my life.

 

The fact that the man exists is not an issue. Neither are any of the personality characteristics of the man, or any other aspects concerning the man. What is important for the scenario is the man's presence on the island at the particular moment. It is his presence on the island that is the evil. The man himself is not evil or good, he just is. To obtain my ultimate value I get rid of the evil that is preventing me from obtaining it, in this case the man's presence on the island at this time.

 

As for your questions concerning solitude, I think that they are all very good questions. I think that these types of questions could be applied to just about everything in the realm of morals and ethics. For example, what constitutes 'unprovoked killing'? Is it a state that exists only if one intends to kill another? What about an accidental killing, is that not also unprovoked?

 

Just because questions like these can be asked, and maybe in some cases need to be asked, does not mean that the scenario is flawed or the issues and questions raised by the scenario cannot be addressed. However, if you believe that the issues and questions raised by the scenario cannot be addressed due to presence of terms for which the definition is uncertain, you can provide your definitions of the terms in question and then address the issues raised by the scenario.

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StrictlyLogical,

 

In post #32, you wrote, " I suspect that you have posed your question with a false premise (solitude is value) and which ignores the reality of the value a rational individual can have for another rational individual, in order to elicit an answer which you want to hear: killing someone is OK."

 

I did not make the original post in order to hear any particular answer. I want to hear your answer and the answers of others.

 

I would like to know why you state that 'solitude is value' is a false premise. Ayn Rand's definition of value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. If I act to gain and/or keep solitude, then by definition, it is a value. How is this a false premise?

 

You also stated, "What you fail to realize is that according to Objectivism, killing someone is not the correct course of action to take in a vast majority of contexts and situations" and suggested that I ask direct open ended questions. So I will.

 

Objectivists (at least some of them) claim that morality is objective because it is derived from the facts of reality. StrictlyLogical, is morality objective and derived from the facts of reality, and, if so, how?

 

I posed a moral question, via the scenario, is it wrong to kill someone. An Objectivist who believes that morality is objective because it is derived from the facts of reality should be able to give an objective answer to that question and show how the answer is derived from the facts of reality.  

 

Your statement, "killing someone is not the correct course of action to take in a vast majority of contexts and situations" implies that Objectivist morality is not objective but it is subjective. If killing someone can be both moral and immoral, both right and wrong, how can it be objective? If killing someone is immoral in a vast majority of contexts and situations but it is moral in a minority of contexts and situations, does this not mean that it is subjective?

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Leonid,

 

As I stated before, it appears that you did not fully read the original post. In the original post, the second paragraph of the scenario reads:

 

"I think that a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep and that the ultimate value, that which is the final goal, or end, to which all lesser goals are the means and by which lesser goals are evaluated, is my life. Because my ultimate value is my life, that which furthers my life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil."

 

I have not substituted, as you claim in post #33, a subjective value for an objective value. In the scenario I laid out what I value starting with my life as the ultimate value, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of the basic necessities that allow me to live, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of solitude, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of luxuries and means of entertainment. This is my hierarchy of values. While these may be just some of my values, I have determined that they are the most important to me.  

 

You claim that my values are subjective but you do not explain why they are subjective. Please provide an explanation.

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Tj fields: You are clearly too intelligent to not grasp the answer yet, and I won't help you waste your own intellect.

I will, however, mention that you are doing exactly that and that it's tragic to see.

And if you don't take your own ideas seriously then neither will I.

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Tj fields: You are clearly too intelligent to not grasp the answer yet, and I won't help you waste your own intellect.

I will, however, mention that you are doing exactly that and that it's tragic to see.

And if you don't take your own ideas seriously then neither will I.

 

Logical fallacy and not helpful.

Edited by thenelli01

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Harrison Danneskjold,

 

In post #37 you wrote, "Tj fields: You are clearly too intelligent to not grasp the answer yet, and I won't help you waste your own intellect."

 

Will you please clarify that which you are referring? The answer to what? To what post are you referring?

 

You then wrote, "I will, however, mention that you are doing exactly that and that it's tragic to see."

 

What am I exactly doing? Not grasping the answer (to something) or wasting my intellect? How does one waste his or her intellect?

You then wrote, "And if you don't take your own ideas seriously then neither will I."

 

How did you arrive at the conclusion that I do not take my own ideas seriously?

 

How does this post relate to the questions and issues raised in the original post?

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The answer to the OP, which has already been explained.

You waste your own intellect by allowing yourself to fail to see the truth (of the OP).

I realized you aren't taking yourself seriously when you flatly refused to make even passing reference to the principles behind my original answer.

You didn't consider how other people relate to the ultimate value; not even to dispute it. You simply asked a bunch of pointless questions about trivialities and threw in Rand's statement on the individual mind (which was accurate, but still a deflection).

You've done all of this in one massive attempt to spare your values themselves from having to be scrutinized.

Well, here's an alternate hypothetical:

What if someone desired to create and then release a super virus in order to wipe out the entire human species, all at once? Would it be good for them to do so?

If so then our dispute is merely semantic; you don't want to know the meaning of "good" or "evil".

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"...You are clearly too intelligent to not grasp the answer yet,..."

The answer to what?

The answer that a some people have given to your question above: i.e. that your actions would be wrong/evil according to Objectivism.

 

I paraphrase the answers above as follows:

1. In your hypothetical, you postulated an "ultimate value" and showed why you need to kill someone to gain/keep that value.

2. You asked if it was right or wrong to kill this person, if doing so would serve your ultimate value

3. People answered that -- per Objectivism -- your ultimate value was wrong/evil

4. It therefore follows that you should not kill the person, since doing so serves your (evil) ultimate value

Edited by softwareNerd

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For consideration of validating a right to life as property:

--

"Sec. 27. Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others. " - Locke, Chap 5, 2nd Treatise of Civil Government

--

 

Is Locke correct?

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Leonid,

 

As I stated before, it appears that you did not fully read the original post. In the original post, the second paragraph of the scenario reads:

 

"I think that a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep and that the ultimate value, that which is the final goal, or end, to which all lesser goals are the means and by which lesser goals are evaluated, is my life. Because my ultimate value is my life, that which furthers my life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil."

 

I have not substituted, as you claim in post #33, a subjective value for an objective value. In the scenario I laid out what I value starting with my life as the ultimate value, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of the basic necessities that allow me to live, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of solitude, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of luxuries and means of entertainment. This is my hierarchy of values. While these may be just some of my values, I have determined that they are the most important to me.  

 

You claim that my values are subjective but you do not explain why they are subjective. Please provide an explanation.

Objectively the lack of solitude is not a threat to your life and solitude is not a necessarily requirement of your life. Your hierarchy of values is arbitrary and subjective. This is the source of contradiction.

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theestevearnold,

Thank you for your response.

What is the objective definition of "mundane" and "better" as you use them here?

I said mundane to refer to all those things you say you would rather be doing; the basic requirements of survival.

I said better to refer to all the time spent on pursuits which involve men reaching their highest potential.

You may enjoy spending your life on the mere struggle to stay alive, but the rational man prefers a division of labor society in which he doesn't waste his life on simply staying alive and, instead, stays alive while he invents a machine, writes a symphony, goes out dancing, reads a book, etc.

The premise for what is best for man to live as a man is that we're talking about rational men. If you're a hermit on a desert island who murders visitors, you're living on a subhuman level.

Edited by theestevearnold

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I have not substituted, as you claim in post #33, a subjective value for an objective value. In the scenario I laid out what I value starting with my life as the ultimate value, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of the basic necessities that allow me to live, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of solitude, followed by the pursuit and obtainment of luxuries and means of entertainment. This is my hierarchy of values. While these may be just some of my values, I have determined that they are the most important to me.  

 

You claim that my values are subjective but you do not explain why they are subjective. Please provide an explanation.

 

I'm not Leonid, but the basic idea, at least in Objectivism, of values is that they are inherently subjective. The hierarchy of values that you establish is a personal matter - I may very well not value solitude, just as much as you may value it.

 

The essential issue is not whether solitude as a value is good or not. The essential issue is whether or not you can take the action that you have based on a value. You initiated force - but is it ever right to initiate force in pursuit of a personal value? I would say no.

 

You said in your original post:

 

"Because my ultimate value is my life, that which furthers my life is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys my life is the evil."

 

Now, you described building up a moral and value system based on this idea, in the context of being alone on an island. The issue is that, by introducing a new person to this island, your context has changed, and so, therefore, must this moral system that you've built up from scratch. You are no longer alone - you are part of a society. A society of two, but a society no less. Conventionally, this is where rights come into play: if we are to affirm our own lives, if we are to be capable of pursuing our own values and pursuing the ends of maintaining and improving our own lives, by means of reason and in the context of a society, it is absolutely necessary to have "rights", the first of which being the right to life. The standard establishment of this idea is that, in order for reason to operate in the context of human interactions, certain ground rules must exist, those being the rights to life and protection of property, because without those ground rules, reason cannot operate. Ayn Rand puts it as such:

 

"To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight."

 

You may not have desired to enter into this society, but you hardly have a choice: only in the context of human interactions does this right to property exist [after all, to whom would you assert your right to property if not another human being?], so if you are not already a part of a rights respecting society, on what could you stake a claim to the island? Now that you are dealing with another human being, if you are both to act in a manner that affirms your lives and your values, you must assume that you both have rights.

 

You could just kill the guy and be done with it and not have to deal with this whole business of rights, but then you've set the precedent: you do not want to be part of society, you do not want rights and do not respect the rights of others. So you can stake no claim to the island and to your own rights - so what you did to the man, may very well come back and happen to you when someone comes to investigate the man's whereabouts.

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Answer: NO.

 

 

Source: 

Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff

Chapter 10: Government

Individual Rights as Absolutes

 

Fourth Paragraph"

 

"If a man lived on a desert island, there would be no question of defining his proper relationship to others.  Even if men interacted on some island but did so at random, without establishing a social system, the issue of rights would be premature.  There would not yet be any context for the concept or, therefore, any means of implementing it; there would be no agency to interpret, apply, enforce it.  When men do decide to form (or reform) an organized society, however, when they decide to pursue systematically the advantages of living together, then they need the guidance of principle.  That is the context in which the principle of rights arises."[Emphasis Added]

 

Why DO you persist in this? Your behaviour tends to suggest malintent.

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Why DO you persist in this? Your behaviour tends to suggest malintent.

 

 

Off-topic, but Is it really necessary to question his behavior or intent at this point? He hasn't acted particularly out of turn, so much as pursued a counter line of thinking. If anything, it is an interesting question that gave rise to discussion. 

 

As I pointed out in my reply, the core of the issue is what you just supplied from OPAR: the context for rights had not arisen as yet, because the questioner hypothetically lived alone on this island. Now that it -has- arisen, rights come into play, and there's a specific line of reasoning that explains why. Humans survive by means of reason, and in order to live in the context of other human beings, rights are a necessity in order to facilitate the use of reason in order to achieve our values and the affirmation of our lives.

 

If the questioner does not wish to live in a society, and does not wish to respect rights, than he has ceded his own rights - if he kills the man who intrudes upon his island, he no longer has his own rights, and is just as liable to be killed by a rights-respecting human being as the man whom he himself killed. 

 

The issue of morality and ethics arises only in the context that a human being chooses to affirm his own life, achieve his own values, by the human being means of accomplishing such: reason, and in the context of ethically-charged interactions with other human beings [as all interactions with human beings are a matter of ethics in their handling].

Edited by Iudicious

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Off-topic, but Is it really necessary to question his behavior or intent at this point? He hasn't acted particularly out of turn, so much as pursued a counter line of thinking. If anything, it is an interesting question that gave rise to discussion. 

 

As I pointed out in my reply, the core of the issue is what you just supplied from OPAR: the context for rights had not arisen as yet, because the questioner hypothetically lived alone on this island. Now that it -has- arisen, rights come into play, and there's a specific line of reasoning that explains why. Humans survive by means of reason, and in order to live in the context of other human beings, rights are a necessity in order to facilitate the use of reason in order to achieve our values and the affirmation of our lives.

 

If the questioner does not wish to live in a society, and does not wish to respect rights, than he has ceded his own rights - if he kills the man who intrudes upon his island, he no longer has his own rights, and is just as liable to be killed by a rights-respecting human being as the man whom he himself killed. 

 

The issue of morality and ethics arises only in the context that a human being chooses to affirm his own life, achieve his own values, by the human being means of accomplishing such: reason, and in the context of ethically-charged interactions with other human beings [as all interactions with human beings are a matter of ethics in their handling].

Actually IMO he has acted out of turn. This thread is a reposting of one of his previous OPs with insignificant changes. I do not see in his posts a good faith effort to discuss issues pertinent to this forum. I see an immature intellect playing games. Please show me "a counter line of thinking" that has some, any coherence, I'm not even asking for merit. The previous material is 13 (or more if someone adds to it after this post) pages, and endlessly circular. 

If I am out of turn someone say so, and I will keep quiet.

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To All,

 

I think, based on the comments received, that I should clarify my intention for starting this thread. I am not necessarily asking about one moral issue, but rather, I am seeking an explanation of the general claim put forth by some Objectivists that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality and is therefore not subjective.  

 

With the scenario cited in the original post, I put forth a fundamental moral question: the morality of killing a man. My hope was that Objectivists would be able to 1) provide an objective answer to the question and, 2) show how that answer was objectively derived from the facts of reality.

 

I used the scenario to limit the scope of the discussion to one issue, rather than asking a broad question, with the idea that if this one issue could be successfully addressed it would then be possible to address other issues in the same manner. 

 

While I have received answers and comments, I have not received, in my opinion, explanations of how the answers are objectively derived from the facts of reality. I now realize that since my intention was not made clear, my expectations may have been unrealistic. I have, however, learned a lot from the answers and comments that have been provided, and I am thankful to those of you who provided them. Indeed, my question and the best means to ask it were not entirely clear to me until I posted the scenario and received comments.

 

Now that my intentions are clear and I have a better understanding of the issue I wish to discuss, I will dispense with the scenario and start another thread with a new post here: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=27074.

 

I look forward to your comments on the new post.

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