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Gary Brenner

The Prudent Predator argument

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Gary,

David has made the point I was going to.

But you didn't reply to it directly:

Is it your position that a man living by initiating force does not ever need to abandon reason, at any time?

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GaryBrenner, your arguments appear to boil down to the idea that some looters seem to enjoy what they do and can get away with it. So, why not do it?

My answer, which is similar to some of the other posts on this thread, is that productive work is an objective requirement of man's life, for all men, both the producers and the looters. For something to be enjoyed, or stolen, it first has to be produced. Objectively, for men to be able to prosper in a society (i.e., for values to be created and prosperity to result), individual rights must be protected so that those who choose to work productively, can work productively without interference from their fellow men. For this reason, governments are instituted to enforce rights. This means that governments exist to put looters in jail, so that the productive are free to rationally pursue their values.

I’ve already addressed this argument. The looter need not call for a total slave society. Indeed, he may recognize the benefit of allowing most people to keep most of the benefits of their labor. The intelligent looter is interested in maximizing his opportunities, i.e. taking what he can get away with. If that means a semi-free society where the looter as government official or government beneficiary or independent pirate seizes just a little of this, a little of that that and a little of the other for his own gain, that may be his best option. Indeed, the looter, especially one in the “public sector,” may call for strict enforcement of the law so that the milk cows are not drained too much before the looter himself gets his hands on them.

One can choose to be a looter, but the productive are free to set up a government that will put the looters in jail.

Of course. If I were a looter, I’d have every reason to discourage competition in my field.

As to whether one should be productive, that is the only way to create values. It is only through the achievement of values, not stealing, that one can truly be happy. I gave some examples of that in my post (the scientist, the businessman, the barber, etc.). Those are valid examples.

Feel free to cite all the merry businessmen, scientists and barbers as you want. The happiness of certain productive individuals does not prove the non-existence of happy looters. History is full of unsavory predators who not only felt no remorse for their crimes but who engaged in rape, pillaging and mayhem with relish.

I also gave examples of the psychological terror that has to underlie a typical looter's psychology. A looter lives in perpetual fear of being put in jail or worse. Those are also valid examples.

Again, I have dealt with this point. I’ve repeatedly acknowledged the risks that looters take, especially in a free society where their predatory behaviors may be punished. But anti-looting measures do not provide sufficient disincentive to every looter, especially one who happens upon the rare opportunity for theft/rape/murder with little chance of being caught. In such cases, what do we say to the looter? If he is unlikely to be caught and punished, what is the moral argument against his aggression?

Ultimately, you and everyone else are free to choose the life you want to lead. You can choose to be a looter, if you are willing to face the consequences. However, objectively, it is only through productive achievement that enduring values and their consequence, happiness, can be achieved.

This is an unproven assertion. I’d be grateful for any evidence showing that “only . . . productive achievement [produces] happiness.” Without an objective instrument for measuring happiness, such a claim is utterly spurious.

Gang members, thieves, murderers, con artists, and dictators generally lead miserable lives. The exceptions (the rare thief or dictator who seems to get away with his crimes) do not prove the rule. They are simply exceptions.

First of all, we can demolish the idea that successful predators are rare in our society. Millions of Americans actively participate in and benefit from the legalized forced transfer of wealth that we politely call “taxation.” Secondly, the claim that predators “generally lead miserable lives,” even if scientifically proven, does not constitute an argument for a particular individual nor to engage in predatory behavior. If Objectivism condemns behavior because it MAY lead to death or misery, then race-car driving, bullfighting and serving in the armed forces would have to be ruled out as rational professions.

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Feel free to cite all the merry businessmen, scientists and barbers as you want. The happiness of certain productive individuals does not prove the non-existence of happy looters.

It appears to me that the crux of the argument is that you do not understand or do not agree that pride and self-esteem is the result of following virtues, productivity in particular. It is not necessary to cite examples as it is something which can be understood introspectively. Which is helpful since it is also not possible to ascertain someone elses happiness from an external perspective.

Self-esteem can be faked and people who hate themselves can still laugh. This issue can only be understood relative to yourself. Does looting make you like yourself more? Or does acting according to virtue work more towards that end? Why or why not?

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That is not true in the least. If one knows the cause of self esteem, then one can certainly know that someone lacking that cause will not experience the effect of self-esteem. It is not necessary that we approach the situation empirically.

I'd like to see the proof that only productive men can have self-esteem. How do we know that Genghis Khan was deficient in self-esteem? Like "happiness," "self-esteem" is not subject to any scientific means of measurement currently available.

Gary,

David has made the point I was going to.

But you didn't reply to it directly:

Is it your position that a man living by initiating force does not ever need to abandon reason, at any time?

Why should a predator abandon reason? By ignoring data, placing trust in unreliable sources, and jumping to wishful conclusions, the predator risks failure, imprisonment or even death. (Although in "free" Western societies like our own, high-ranking political predators are generally unlikely to face the second and third consequences.)

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It appears to me that the crux of the argument is that you do not understand or do not agree that pride and self-esteem is the result of following virtues, productivity in particular. It is not necessary to cite examples as it is something which can be understood introspectively. Which is helpful since it is also not possible to ascertain someone elses happiness from an external perspective.

Self-esteem can be faked and people who hate themselves can still laugh. This issue can only be understood relative to yourself. Does looting make you like yourself more? Or does acting according to virtue work more towards that end? Why or why not?

If the argument for respecting the person and property of another is that rights-respecters have genuine self-esteem and rights-violators do not, that may be the weakest case for a free society ever proposed. Even God-ordained rights makes more sense than the idea that Hitler and Stalin just didn’t have the right kind of self-esteem.

First of all, the proposition lacks any means of verification. How does one objectively measure the self-esteem (or pride) in other individuals? When the mechanism for doing so is invented, then and only then will we be able to take this line or argument seriously.

Secondly, suppose it were proven scientifically that looters have low self-esteem. So what? Self-esteem may not figure very high in the looter’s hierarchy of values. He may prefer wealth, status and power over others to what some may call “legitimate” self-esteem. And are those preferences less selfish than “proper” self-esteem? By what objective standard?

I suspect that at this juncture the argument against the looter will become a question of whether his hierarchy of values is “proper,” “correct,” “rational” “qua man,” etc. But that’s when we go right back to where this discussion started: what is the case for not looting one’s neighbors – other than the mere assertion than production is “good” and looting is “evil,” or production makes one “feel good about myself ” and looting doesn’t?

So what has happened to our case for not coercing others? I want to find one, but I’ve seen nothing here that won’t stand up to a rigorous assault – by opponents far more antagonistic to individualism and capitalism than I. We have some serious work to do before we’ve crafted a solid case for individual rights based on selfish interest.

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I'd like to see the proof that only productive men can have self-esteem. How do we know that Genghis Khan was deficient in self-esteem? Like "happiness," "self-esteem" is not subject to any scientific means of measurement currently available.

You're jumping ahead. I said: "If one knows the cause of self esteem, then one can certainly know that someone lacking that cause will not experience the effect of self-esteem. It is not necessary that we approach the situation empirically."

I did not ask if you agreed with the idea that self-esteem relied on productivity. I simply stated that you do not need to approach the situation empirically if you know the cause of self-esteem. Is that true or false?

Why should a predator abandon reason? By ignoring data, placing trust in unreliable sources, and jumping to wishful conclusions, the predator risks failure, imprisonment or even death. (Although in "free" Western societies like our own, high-ranking political predators are generally unlikely to face the second and third consequences.)

I asked a much more simple question, and again you are reading ahead of it. I say again: do you believe that it is possible to initiate force without ever abandoning reason even for a second? That one can start with: "I want to live" and "I will use reason completely and consistently, never acting against it even a little" and end up with "I will initiate force?"

We have some serious work to do before we’ve crafted a solid case for individual rights based on selfish interest.

Gary, this kind of comment is uncalled for. Maybe you have some serious work to do, but don't speak for others - speak for yourself. Learn to have a little patience with this kind of discussion. Leave some room in your mind for the possibility that you simply don't understand us yet.

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You didn't answer. Weigh them HOW? Risks or gains as determined by WHAT?

By the preferences of the looter.

I'm confused. So now you are disputing life as the standard in favor of total subjectivism?

Answer: it depends on how the answer will benefit his cause.

What is this cause? Whatever he feels like, as you seem to have suggested above?

Do you agree, at least, that the use of force always entails SOME negatives?

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I do not understand what you mean when you say, “it is in man's nature to survive by reason and not by force.”
This goes back to the earlier principle, that existence is identity. So we have a statement about man's identify, his properties, in a particular domain. I'm not asking about man's nature with respect to locomotion (bipedal gait, rather than quadrapedal crawling or brachiating from branch to branch). Either you agree that man's nature is such that he survives by reason, or you reject that conclusion and have a competing conclusion. I think this is the identification that you reject. I don't know what it would mean to try to "convince" you that you are mistaken, since convincing presupposes reason.
If it is not in man’s nature to survive by force, then we have literally millions who are going against their nature by taking advantage of force-financed public schools, roads, housing, stadiums, arenas, television, etc.
Yes: because man is volitional, he can act against his nature, swinging from branch to branch or grazing on hay.

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The other point that troubles me, a point central to her argument for rights-respecting egoism, is the idea that the price of looting is “the destruction of their victims and their own.
Start with the simplest part. You can question whether victimizer is destroyed if you want, but the victim certainly is destroyed.

I would be the first to grant that enslaving and killing people is the surest way to make a society less productive. But a general decline in productivity does not necessarily bring about the destruction of the slave-owner or the dictator.
You're making a distinction between destruction and less-than-destruction that Rand isn't making. When Rand says destruction here, I'm (fairly) sure she doesn't mean you will 100% cease to exist as a result of a given act of looting, but rather that there is no point here in distinguishing between annihilating a person, crippling a person, and slightly wounding a person - they are all acts of destruction. Don't give DavidOdden a reason to tell you about "morgue-avoidance" :thumbsup:

You're also stating this in a collective sense ("general decline in productivity") rather than an individual one?

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The part that insists that the defining attribute of a man is producing. The successful looter could argue with equal authority that the great man, as distinguished from the common man, is by nature a warrior, a conqueror, a caesar. To [David Odden's] assertion that the victorious looter is “not living as a man . . . existing as less than a man,” he may just smile and say, “If that is the price I must pay for living in this palace, so be it. Let my slaves take satisfaction in ‘flourishing’ when my whip decorates their backs.”

So, your looter in this scenario knowingly chooses to live as less than a man rather than to live as a man. Living as less than a man is an objectively lesser value than living fully as a man. Do you agree?

If not, then you must hold, at least in some instances, that one should live as less of what one is. By what standard(s) would man then choose his actions? When should he live as a man, and when should he decide to live as a goat or a protoplasm?

Secondly, suppose it were proven scientifically that looters have low self-esteem. So what? Self-esteem may not figure very high in the looter’s hierarchy of values. He may prefer wealth, status and power over others to what some may call “legitimate” self-esteem. And are those preferences less selfish than “proper” self-esteem? By what objective standard?

Why does the looter seek wealth, status, and power? Is there some other, more fundamental goal? Or does he seek them as his ultimate purpose in life?

Perhaps you will answer, "No, he does not seek them as his ultimate purpose in life. He seeks them because they make him happy." But if that is so, then self-esteem is high in his heirarchy of values. And then we can say that by choosing a lesser value (low self-esteem) over a greater value (high self-esteem), the looter is acting irrationally. If you do not see the problem with acting irrationally, then you must reconsider your earlier statement that you

agree on the necessity of reason for human survival.

Or perhaps you will answer, "No, he seeks them because ____." In that case, I will await your filling in the blank, because I do not see a sensible alternative.

Or perhaps you will answer, "Yes, he seeks them as his ultimate purpose." To that I would respond by borrowing a previous question of yours: So what? What's the point? Why is the looter's fundamental goal the acquisition of particular objects?

There are many actions one can take. One can acquire things, as your looter has chosen to do. One can also run, stab things, jump, roll one's eyes, wave one's arms in a haphazard fashion, repeat the word "astronaut" to onself, and so forth. By what standard has your looter chosen, over all possible actions, the acquisition of things as his ultimate purpose?

After he settles on the action of acquiring, your looter had to decide what to acquire. There are many things one can acquire. Will he acquire whatever happens to be in his immediate vicinity, or does he have a specific thing or things he seeks to acquire? If he has a specific thing in mind, such as money, how did he come to choose it over all other things, such as grapefruits, ptarmigans, Lilliputians, the remains of 17th-century neurosurgeons, or videos of every John Tesh song being performed in interpretive dance by his neighbor's brother-in-law?

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Why does the looter seek wealth, status, and power? Is there some other, more fundamental goal? Or does he seek them as his ultimate purpose in life?

Perhaps you will answer, "No, he does not seek them as his ultimate purpose in life. He seeks them because they make him happy." But if that is so, then self-esteem is high in his heirarchy of values. And then we can say that by choosing a lesser value (low self-esteem) over a greater value (high self-esteem), the looter is acting irrationally. If you do not see the problem with acting irrationally, then you must reconsider your earlier statement that you

Or perhaps you will answer, "No, he seeks them because ____." In that case, I will await your filling in the blank, because I do not see a sensible alternative.

Or perhaps you will answer, "Yes, he seeks them as his ultimate purpose." To that I would respond by borrowing a previous question of yours: So what? What's the point? Why is the looter's fundamental goal the acquisition of particular objects?

There are many actions one can take. One can acquire things, as your looter has chosen to do. One can also run, stab things, jump, roll one's eyes, wave one's arms in a haphazard fashion, repeat the word "astronaut" to onself, and so forth. By what standard has your looter chosen, over all possible actions, the acquisition of things as his ultimate purpose?

After he settles on the action of acquiring, your looter had to decide what to acquire. There are many things one can acquire. Will he acquire whatever happens to be in his immediate vicinity, or does he have a specific thing or things he seeks to acquire? If he has a specific thing in mind, such as money, how did he come to choose it over all other things, such as grapefruits, ptarmigans, Lilliputians, the remains of 17th-century neurosurgeons, or videos of every John Tesh song being performed in interpretive dance by his neighbor's brother-in-law?

This is precisely what I was alluding to earlier, when I said Gary was "jumping ahead;" All of the above questions need first be answered before one gets, in the hierarchy of this decision, to the point of deciding whether or not to loot.

Gary, your problem is that you are not properly maintaining an unbroken hierarchical chain in your mind between one's goal of life and means of reason on the one hand, and this decision - looting - on the other.

(by the way - hilarious on the last paragraph there, Groovenstein)

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You're jumping ahead. I said: "If one knows the cause of self esteem, then one can certainly know that someone lacking that cause will not experience the effect of self-esteem. It is not necessary that we approach the situation empirically."

I did not ask if you agreed with the idea that self-esteem relied on productivity. I simply stated that you do not need to approach the situation empirically if you know the cause of self-esteem. Is that true or false?

I cannot expect to know the cause of someone's self-esteem unless he chooses to reveal it to me. And even then, my knowledge would have to rely entirely on the speaker’s willingness to be truthful. If a fat man tells me the cause of his self-esteem is his appearance, he may or may not be lying.

I asked a much more simple question, and again you are reading ahead of it. I say again: do you believe that it is possible to initiate force without ever abandoning reason even for a second?

Yes. Predators who abandon reason typically don’t live very long.

That one can start with: "I want to live" and "I will use reason completely and consistently, never acting against it even a little" and end up with "I will initiate force?"

Show me why the initiation of force requires the abandonment of reason. If X values Y’s gold coins more than X values Y’s right to them, and if X has an opportunity to take the coins without being caught, how does such theft constitute a departure from reason?

Gary, this kind of comment is uncalled for. Maybe you have some serious work to do, but don't speak for others - speak for yourself. Learn to have a little patience with this kind of discussion. Leave some room in your mind for the possibility that you simply don't understand us yet.

Fair enough. I look forward to the presentation of your case.

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Why should a predator abandon reason? By ignoring data, placing trust in unreliable sources, and jumping to wishful conclusions, the predator risks failure, imprisonment or even death. (Although in "free" Western societies like our own, high-ranking political predators are generally unlikely to face the second and third consequences.)

Yes[, I believe that it is possible to initiate force without ever abandoning reason even for a second]. Predators who abandon reason typically don’t live very long. . . .

Show me why the initiation of force requires the abandonment of reason. If X values Y’s gold coins more than X values Y’s right to them, and if X has an opportunity to take the coins without being caught, how does such theft constitute a departure from reason?

You take the values of your predator in these examples as a given, and then evaluate his ability to reason in the process of achieving those values. Have you considered that your predator's defect in reason may be occurring in his selection of the values?

At this juncture I will point you back to the questions in my previous post about why the looter has chosen to loot.

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I'm confused. So now you are disputing life as the standard in favor of total subjectivism?

Not at all. The fact that one person prefers fame to fortune and another fortune to fame, does not mean that only one of them holds life as the standard of his values.

What is this cause? Whatever he feels like, as you seem to have suggested above?

I wrote: " . . .how does a spy decide when to lie or tell the truth? Answer: it depends on how the answer will benefit his cause." This seems entirely reasonable to me. If the spy is working with a person he can trust, it may be helpful to reveal the nature of his mission. If the spy is talking to an enemy, concealing his identity may save his life.

Do you agree, at least, that the use of force always entails SOME negatives?

Look at my first post in this thread. I wrote, "predators face great risks." But many productive men face risks too. Would anyone on this forum argue against race car driving as a career?

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This goes back to the earlier principle, that existence is identity. So we have a statement about man's identify, his properties, in a particular domain. I'm not asking about man's nature with respect to locomotion (bipedal gait, rather than quadrapedal crawling or brachiating from branch to branch). Either you agree that man's nature is such that he survives by reason, or you reject that conclusion and have a competing conclusion. I think this is the identification that you reject. I don't know what it would mean to try to "convince" you that you are mistaken, since convincing presupposes reason.

I do not dispute the idea that reason is necessary for one’s survival. What has yet to be proven is the argument that the producer is reasonable and the predator is unreasonable.

Yes: because man is volitional, he can act against his nature, swinging from branch to branch or grazing on hay.

One could argue with as much validity that man by nature is a vegetarian (or a theist, or a pet owner, or a heterosexual) and the only reason why some people are meat eaters (or atheists, or non-pet owners, or homosexuals) is “because man is volitional, he can act against his nature.”

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I do not dispute the idea that reason is necessary for one’s survival. What has yet to be proven is the argument that the producer is reasonable and the predator is unreasonable.
I don't recall having made that argument. Since you accept that man must survive by reason, then I still don't understand where in my chain of reasons you disagree.

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Start with the simplest part. You can question whether victimizer is destroyed if you want, but the victim certainly is destroyed.

That part of Rand’s statement was never in dispute. The issue being debated is expressed in the title of this thread.

You're making a distinction between destruction and less-than-destruction that Rand isn't making. When Rand says destruction here, I'm (fairly) sure she doesn't mean you will 100% cease to exist as a result of a given act of looting, but rather that there is no point here in distinguishing between annihilating a person, crippling a person, and slightly wounding a person - they are all acts of destruction. Don't give DavidOdden a reason to tell you about "morgue-avoidance" :thumbsup:

I’m willing to take “destruction” in any sense of the word. Where is the proof that the looter is destroyed, wholly or partially, physically or psychologically?

You're also stating this in a collective sense ("general decline in productivity") rather than an individual one?

The point is that a government looter could lay a heavy tax on a population without killing the golden goose, so to speak. The starvation of millions in China’s "Great Leap Forward" did not put a dent in Chairman Mao’s lifestyle.

Edited by Gary Brenner

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So, your looter in this scenario knowingly chooses to live as less than a man rather than to live as a man. Living as less than a man is an objectively lesser value than living fully as a man. Do you agree?

I did say that looter might declare that if “living fully as a man” means he must give up his plantation and his slaves, he might not want to make that trade. In such a case the looter would value his life as a slave-holder above what someone else calls “living fully as a man.” That would not be a sacrifice on the looter’s part. He clearly places the rewards of slave-holding above living a moral life, as defined by someone else. Please note that I am not conceding that the looter is less a man than the producer. I do not concede that producing is a necessary attribute of being a man.

If not, then you must hold, at least in some instances, that one should live as less of what one is. By what standard(s) would man then choose his actions? When should he live as a man, and when should he decide to live as a goat or a protoplasm?

I am not in disagreement with Rand’s idea that one’s life is the standard of his values. My challenge is directed at the argument that one can derive a respect for rights from egoism. There are just too many exceptions for that to be a valid rule.

Why does the looter seek wealth, status, and power? Is there some other, more fundamental goal? Or does he seek them as his ultimate purpose in life?

There could be a variety of motives. Perhaps he has a deep-seated need to prove himself better than his father. Maybe he wants to impress his girlfriend. Maybe he’s just sick of living in his run-down cold-water flat.

Perhaps you will answer, "No, he does not seek them as his ultimate purpose in life. He seeks them because they make him happy." But if that is so, then self-esteem is high in his heirarchy of values. And then we can say that by choosing a lesser value (low self-esteem) over a greater value (high self-esteem), the looter is acting irrationally. If you do not see the problem with acting irrationally, then you must reconsider your earlier statement that you

The proposition that a looter must have a low-esteem is unproven.

Or perhaps you will answer, "No, he seeks them because ____." In that case, I will await your filling in the blank, because I do not see a sensible alternative.

I have said there may be a variety of motives for looting.

Or perhaps you will answer, "Yes, he seeks them as his ultimate purpose." To that I would respond by borrowing a previous question of yours: So what? What's the point? Why is the looter's fundamental goal the acquisition of particular objects?

See answer above.

There are many actions one can take. One can acquire things, as your looter has chosen to do. One can also run, stab things, jump, roll one's eyes, wave one's arms in a haphazard fashion, repeat the word "astronaut" to onself, and so forth. By what standard has your looter chosen, over all possible actions, the acquisition of things as his ultimate purpose?

Since I do not have access to the mental processes of a looter who seeks the acquisition of things as his ultimate purpose, I am not qualified to offer an answer.

After he settles on the action of acquiring, your looter had to decide what to acquire. There are many things one can acquire. Will he acquire whatever happens to be in his immediate vicinity, or does he have a specific thing or things he seeks to acquire?

Personal preferences and risk-avoidance may favor the former in some cases, the latter in others.

If he has a specific thing in mind, such as money, how did he come to choose it over all other things, such as grapefruits, ptarmigans, Lilliputians, the remains of 17th-century neurosurgeons, or videos of every John Tesh song being performed in interpretive dance by his neighbor's brother-in-law?

Perhaps because his local Ferrari dealer does not accept grapefruit as an instrument of payment.

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You take the values of your predator in these examples as a given, and then evaluate his ability to reason in the process of achieving those values. Have you considered that your predator's defect in reason may be occurring in his selection of the values?

Very well, please provide proof that X's placing a higher value on Y’s gold coins than on honoring Y’s right to them is the wrong selection of values.

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I don't recall having made that argument. Since you accept that man must survive by reason, then I still don't understand where in my chain of reasons you disagree.

In the interest of not putting words into anyone's mouth, I will directly quote the passage that appears to make a leap in logic:

This is not to deny that a man can manage to exist physically for many years, predating on other men. But then the being is not living as a man, he is existing as less than a man, incapable of fully exercising his nature as a man. That is, he will not be dead yet, but he will not be flourishing.

I have not yet seen the proof that a predator is "not living as a man." Why must the class of beings we call "men" exclude predators? Why not exclude homosexuals, albinos and microencephalics while we're at it?

Would my assertion that the individual who makes others do his producing for him is the superior man be any more arbitrary than the assertion that a predator is "less than a man"?

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Secondly, suppose it were proven scientifically that looters have low self-esteem. So what?

The proposition that a looter must have a low-esteem is unproven.

You are suggesting that I should prove something to you when it does not matter to you whether I prove it. Why say that a point doesn't affect your answer to a particular question, but then suggest that I prove it anyway? Do you have an explanation for this other than that you're hoping I will waste my time?

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I have not yet seen the proof that a predator is "not living as a man." Why must the class of beings we call "men" exclude predators?
So that I can understand your logic better, is it your position that is a being is metaphysically capable of acting in a particular way, then it is in their nature to act that way?

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You are suggesting that I should prove something to you when it does not matter to you whether I prove it. Why say that a point doesn't affect your answer to a particular question, but then suggest that I prove it anyway? Do you have an explanation for this other than that you're hoping I will waste my time?

This is a fair criticism. I really have no desire to waste your time or make your task more difficult. I'm an advocate of capitalism and I'm genuinely looking for a sound ethical system to justify it.

To simplify matters, I think what we need at this point is proof that the looter is ultimately doing himself harm. Ayn Rand used the word "destruction," but I'd settle for long-term harm. Specifically, I'd like to see some evidence that the looter necessarily incurs costs that cancel out the rewards of preying on others. And in order to arrive at the stricture that one should not loot, the proof would have to apply to all looters, from the bicycle thief to Chairman Mao.

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Don't give DavidOdden a reason to tell you about "morgue-avoidance."

Alright, I'll bite. Are you talking about something beyond the simple distinction he already made?

Groovenstein, that was hilarious.

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To simplify matters, I think what we need at this point is proof that the looter is ultimately doing himself harm. Ayn Rand used the word "destruction," but I'd settle for long-term harm. Specifically, I'd like to see some evidence that the looter necessarily incurs costs that cancel out the rewards of preying on others. And in order to arrive at the stricture that one should not loot, the proof would have to apply to all looters, from the bicycle thief to Chairman Mao.

This is asking for a pragmatic derivation to what Objectivism views as a principled stand? It reduces virtue to a cost-benefit analysis, which is incorrect, epistemologically and ethically speaking. Virtue is not a cost-benefit analysis, nor does Objectivism recognize a cost-benefit analysis as the determining factor in ethics.

Why do you want a proof that is based upon wrong-headed epitemology and meta-ethics?

Everyone is speaking to you in terms of Objectivist meta-ethics, and you are in return speaking in pragmatist terms. Neither the twain shall meet, which is everyone might feel like they are wasting a lot of breath.

Virtue to you seems to be "what works", and vice is what "doesn't work". And in order to prove vice, you have to prove that it "doesn't work" for everyone, if I read your bold above correctly.

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