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First, morality is not exhausted -- not even remotely -- by considerations of rights. It would be immoral for me to lie to my mother, cheat on my husband, and tell nasty stories about my best friend beind her back -- even though I violate no rights in doing so and deserve no state punishment. (If you disagree with that point, please say so explicitly, as it's presumed context on an Objectivist discussion board.)

Can you elaborate on what you're saying here? Particularly the part about morality as it relates to rights. I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.

Sure, given that the state's only real purpose is to ensure people do not use force on one another, sure, lying should not generally be punished by the state. Now, if this is a morality issue, then yes, deception is immoral (per your examples). How does that relate to dog fighting exactly?

Second, no principle -- certainly no principle of Objectivism -- states that an object must have rights in order for a person to be justly declared immoral for treating it in some way. A person who delights in the burning of great works of literature and philosophy should be condemned, for example, even if those books are entirely his property. He's acting in a way that's contrary to the requirements of life -- just as is the person who takes pleasure in the sadistic torture of dogs for sport.

Can you tell me how destruction of your own property results in a contradiction to the requirement of life?

And a second point I want to make is that I do not consider dog fights necessarily a sadistic torture of animals, although in the case of Vick certainly certain many dogs were tortured outside of the fight itself. In other words, drowning, burning, beating, hanging, cutting a dog is torture. A dog fighting a dog is not -- even if it results in death. I have already posted this in this thread so I won't relink it, but look up dog fight in Wikipedia under Japanese Dog Fights for an example of dog fights with rules and regulations, and where the fight does not have to end up in death. I just want to separate these two before more people begin equating dog fights with torture.

Now, what makes torturing an animal in and of itself immoral? Well, the only thing I can think of is that torturing an animal infers that you have a certain character, and you might feel the same way about humans the way you feel about animals (not an unreasonable one, but not exactly infallible proof either). Do I think Vick has some issues? Sure. Do I think Vick will randomly go out and drown or hang people? I doubt it. Again, the point is the act of torturing an animal is not, in and of itself immoral.

Third, all judgments of character are based on inferences from action. If I infer something bad about your character from some action, then that action must be bad as well. It would be wrong (and bizarre) to infer that you're a bad person due to a disposition to act in a perfectly moral way. However, if you're not sure of the morality of some action, but you notice that it results in the cultivation of dangerous, anti-life dispositions like sadism, then those actions are themselves immoral and worthy of condemnation. (By way of contrast, no such dispositions need be cultivated via medical experimentation on animals.)

Yes you're right, judgment of character is based on inferences from actions. I already discussed this else where in this thread. What I am wondering is how dog fighting is immoral given the Objectivist premises. There has yet to be a complete and coherent response that discusses this in accordance with principles, but I think you might be on the right track.

Now the issue here is two folds -- first, why dog fight (in and of itself -- as I've said Vick most definitely tortured his dogs outside of the fights) is the same as sadism. The most I think you could say is that he enjoys violence to some degrees. Second, and more importantly -- if a man knows that he enjoys violence (not something that I consider inherently immoral or irrational), but is also a rational man and in full control of himself, and knows that he would never, ever willfully harm a human unless threatened -- would it still be immoral for him to enjoy dog fights?

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Why would Vick lose his RIGHT to a career for dog fighting?

Assuming for the moment that you now realize a person does not have a right to a career (only to pursue one), any "right" a person would have to a specific career in a specific context would be a legal right, and it would be dictated by a contract with the employer. In this particular case, Michael Vick has allegedly violated the terms of the contract he signed with the NFL, which voids his contract (his legal right) to a career in the NFL. Regardless of whether you agree that those are appropriate terms for a contract, the NFL did and had a right to dictate those terms, and presumably Michael Vick agreed when he signed the contract so I really don't see how you can have any argument to support that he even has a legal right to an NFL career at this point (unless you can show that he did not in fact violate the terms of his contract).

Edited by RationalBiker
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Again, the point is the act of torturing an animal is not, in and of itself immoral.

No, it is not - contextlessly and in and of itself - immoral. Medical researchers do some rather painful things to animals, for instance. Animals do not have rights and inflicting pain on them, as such, is not - not the mere act. Not by itself.

But sadism is immoral. He could be torturing stuffed animals and it would be immoral if it were motivated by sadism.

And from where I'm sitting, Vick is clearly a sadistic bastard (especially given his past criminal record) and if I were his boss I would fire him in an instant. I understand that you're of a different opinion on that one, but that's mine.

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Assuming for the moment that you now realize a person does not have a right to a career (only to pursue one), any "right" a person would have to a specific career in a specific context would be a legal right, and it would be dictated by a contract with the employer. In this particular case, Michael Vick has allegedly violated the terms of the contract he signed with the NFL, which voids his contract (his legal right) to a career in the NFL. Regardless of whether you agree that those are appropriate terms for a contract, the NFL did and had a right to dictate those terms, and presumably Michael Vick agreed when he signed the contract so I really don't see how you can have any argument to support that he even has a legal right to an NFL career at this point (unless you can show that he did not in fact violate the terms of his contract).

I understand that a career is not just handed to a person. This is in response to Dinah's words that Vick has "absolute NO RIGHTS to a career" as well as corporate sponsorship (presumably due to the dog fighting) -- as in, he should not be allowed a career (with the NFL? In general?). What I am saying is that sure, he can have a career, provided that the NFL or his sponsors are willing to sign him.

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No, it is not - contextlessly and in and of itself - immoral. Medical researchers do some rather painful things to animals, for instance. Animals do not have rights and inflicting pain on them, as such, is not - not the mere act. Not by itself.

But sadism is immoral. He could be torturing stuffed animals and it would be immoral if it were motivated by sadism.

Hence why I emphasized context, as in, how each individual personally view the dog fight, as opposed to deeming the act of dog fighting as inherently immoral because it is cruel to the animals. The question here is whether there are positive values to be found in watching two dogs fight. And I think that there can be, and you can't simply assuming that all people that watch dog fights are sadists that enjoy blood and death.

Two examples that I have already posted and linked to earlier in the thread may support my case (I am interested to see what you guys think). Roy Jones Jr., arguably the best pound for pound fighter over the past decade, said that he used to be involved in cock fighting. He claims to have learned some of his techniques and some lessons on fighting from watching cock fights -- and it certainly could be true, if you ever actually watched the way he boxes. Another is the Wikipedia link to Japanese dog fighting, which began as a way for samurai to maintain an aggressive edge during peace time. Now, why would dog fighting maintain an aggressive edge? The only answer I could see is that it depicts scenes of violence.

Violence, again, is not inherently immoral and is entirely context dependent. Now, I don't think it is a stretch to say that many people (men in particular) enjoy watching violence -- boxing, ultimate fighting, epic films, slasher films, whatever. Now, treading carefully here: while I believe that a human being's rational mind is born tabula rasa, I think the urge for violence and aggression certainly have deep biological roots (and logically so from an evolutionary perspective) -- for instance the effects of testosterone on the body. It's just that ultimately you are not controlled by your hormones, but rather your rational mind.

Now, assuming that I know that one some levels I am attracted to violence, yet my rational mind is perfectly able to distinguish moral actions from non-moral ones and acts accordingly, what is immoral about being able to enjoy two animals fight each other? Let's say that I see value in maintaining a capacity for violence, yet I use it rationally and if and only if threatened, why does it matter how I hone that edge (assuming of course I'm not violating anyone's rights)? I mean, sure, there are many ways of doing this (sports, hunting, martial arts, whatever), why couldn't dog fighting be one of them?

By the way, this is also the reason why I think that there is a major difference between two dogs fighting, and someone tying up a dog and simply torturing it until death -- and also why I said that the point of a dog fight is the fight, not the death of the dogs themselves.

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This is in response to Dinah's words that Vick has "absolute NO RIGHTS to a career" as well as corporate sponsorship (presumably due to the dog fighting) -- as in, he should not be allowed a career (with the NFL? In general?). What I am saying is that sure, he can have a career, provided that the NFL or his sponsors are willing to sign him.

This is what you quoted when you responded to her;

Michael Vick shouldn't be imprisoned for what he did, but he has ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT to a career. He has no right to play in the NFL. He has no right to endorsements from corporations. He has no right to associate with -- let alone demand money from -- people disgusted by his acts of sadistic cruelty to Man's Best Friend. He ruined his own career. He has no one to blame but himself for that.

Everything she says in the section you quoted from her is exactly 100% correct. He has no right (whether you add absolutely is immaterial when you already say 'no right') to a career. He only has the right to pursue one. He has no right to play in the NFL, period. He only has a right to pursue the opportunity to play in the NFL if they will hire him. He has no right to endorsements from corporations; he only has the right to offer his name to corporations who would allow him to endorse their product. All of this goes under what she says about he has no right to have people associate with him in any fashion, and no right to force them to or to demand money from them. Never once does she even remotely imply that he doesn't have a right to pursue these things, only that he doesn't have a right to have them. She never implies that he "shouldn't have a career", only that he doesn't now because of his own actions.

When you say "he can have a career if...", it is not the same thing as saying "he has a right to a career". The two phrases have entirely different meanings. When you recognize that he does not have a "right" to have a career handed to him, you are acknowledging exactly the point that Dianah was making; he does not have a right to a career.

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When you say "he can have a career if...", it is not the same thing as saying "he has a right to a career". The two phrases have entirely different meanings. When you recognize that he does not have a "right" to have a career handed to him, you are acknowledging exactly the point that Dianah was making; he does not have a right to a career.

The only career any of us have -right to- is being a hermit. If we wish to prosper in society we need the co-operation and collaboration of others. At the very least, those of us who maintain our lives selling goods or services, require customers. This is the way it is in a society based on voluntary interaction among people.

Bob Kolker

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Everything she says in the section you quoted from her is exactly 100% correct. He has no right (whether you add absolutely is immaterial when you already say 'no right') to a career. He only has the right to pursue one. He has no right to play in the NFL, period. He only has a right to pursue the opportunity to play in the NFL if they will hire him. He has no right to endorsements from corporations; he only has the right to offer his name to corporations who would allow him to endorse their product. All of this goes under what she says about he has no right to have people associate with him in any fashion, and no right to force them to or to demand money from them. Never once does she even remotely imply that he doesn't have a right to pursue these things, only that he doesn't have a right to have them. She never implies that he "shouldn't have a career", only that he doesn't now because of his own actions.
I agree that people aren't required to give him a job or hand him money. I never meant to suggest otherwise.Now, this is what I took her statement in this context to mean (and this may be where the confusion lies): Michael Vick should not be allowed to play in the NFL or receive corporate sponsorship because he was involved in dog fighting. As in, something along the lines of dog fighting = immoral, and by committing an immoral act he gave up his rights to accept employment or sponsorship. That's why I directed the conversation towards the moral status of dog fighting. If I misunderstood her, then I apologize. But then, if she indeed meant it in the way that you described, then dog fighting is really irrelevant since no one would have the right to demand employment or to be handed money, regardless of the circumstances. It did not seem to make sense to me that she would make an obvious and redundant statement so emphatically in this context.
When you say "he can have a career if...", it is not the same thing as saying "he has a right to a career". The two phrases have entirely different meanings. When you recognize that he does not have a "right" to have a career handed to him, you are acknowledging exactly the point that Dianah was making; he does not have a right to a career.
Again, I agree absolutely that he does not have a right to a career -- as in, to demand employment. But like I said, such a statement is true regardless of whether or not dog fighting was involved. Since here we're talking about Vick and dog fights, I naturally assumed that she meant "he cannot have a career because..." he was involved in dog fighting.
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Finally we agree on something. This is precisely my point. Your personal opinions and feelings are not what substantiate your argument any more than anyone else's personal opinions and feelings. Since their feelings and opinions are diametrically opposed to yours, and we assume that for the sake of contradiction they both can't be right, you need something more, and that something more is what I, and I assume Moebius, have been and are still waiting for. Hence the charge, you have failed to substantiate your argument. Now that you appear to recognize that feelings and opinions are not substantive in and of themselves, what more do you have to offer to support your argument?

My own personal observations of some people who gamble do not fit the way you charactize gambling or gamblers, so in order for me to discard my own observations and opinions in favor of yours, you have to demonstrate objectively why I should and why your observations are correct and mine are not. It should be noted that I'm less interested in trying to persuade you to change your mind as I am to see if you can pony up the evidence that I should change mine.

It seems that you are impervious to evidence. I have offered a plethora of it. The ubiquity of the lotto despite the fact that playing it offers none of the secondary, valid benefits of gambling in any other manner do. The fact that people drop out of prestigious universities in order to gamble professionally was discussed. I offered an in-depth analysis of my father as an extreme case of gambling confirming one's low self-esteem. Then there's the most extreme evidence of them all: the Michael Vick case. This is a man who has the entire world in the palm of his hands, millions of dollars in the bank, and millions of adoring fans. Yet despite all of this he chooses to spend his leisure time trying to collect money from the incorrect guesses of others about the outcome of animal torture. As if "dominating" his friends merely by being ridiculously wealthier were not enough, he had to try to take whatever money they had by holding a contest that not coincidentally suggests to them just how inhumanely dominant he can be.

Psychological profiles are not self-evident. You have pointed out repeatedly that many people you encounter who gamble for the sake of making money resemble happy, confident people and who report believing nothing to be wrong with doing so. I do not dispute the facts you give but rather your estimation of them. What I have been asking you to do is to contrast the desire to merely relieve others of their wealth with the desire to create one's own within the wider context of your philosophical knowledge. Man is not omnicient. He cannot automatically know that weath has to be created before it can be gambled. Of course, it is completely possible that a person of high self-esteem can mistakenly believe that gambling is a legitimate means of earning a living, but once it becomes known to him that he is making himself dependent upon the intellectual or emotional inferiority of superiority of others, in order to maintain a self-image of inferiority or superiority, he would want no part of it. A man of high self-esteem does not think in such terms. He would certainly not try to rationalize what he is doing by prolaiming over and over that he enjoys it. Of course he enjoys it - but he knows that this is not an indication of the action's validity, only of his psyche. Someone with high self-esteem does not view psychological domination or submission as a proper basis for economic relations between men. Rather, he wishes to trade whatever value the best of his ability can create with that of others. He values what he has actually created and does not wish to risk it on the chance that someone else does adequately value his own creations.

Outwardly, it would be very easy to conclude that Howard Roark in The Fountainhead suffered from extremely low self-esteem when he chose to work in a granite quarry or sit in an empty office for a year instead of going out and making himself rich some other way. Did he not believe that he was intelligent enough to be a succesful gambler or that he did not deserve to be rich? Of course not. Rather, he believed that his buildings were good, not just because they were better than other buildings or just because he liked doing them, but so objectively good that eventually people would come to him who recognized their value. By book's end, he was allowed to build solely on his own terms and because of it, he became a great benefactor of mankind as well as handsomly rewarded because of it. This would have never been the case had he not spent years refusing to work with anyone except those who came to him as a result of their own best judgement.

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It seems that you are impervious to evidence.

I've already explained why your "evidence" aren't in actuality evidence.

Psychological profiles are not self-evident.

And yet you were the one that used psychological profiling first to categorize gamblers. We were merely offering counter examples.

Of course, it is completely possible that a person of high self-esteem can mistakenly believe that gambling is a legitimate means of earning a living, but once it becomes known to him that he is making himself dependent upon the intellectual or emotional inferiority of superiority of others, in order to maintain a self-image of inferiority or superiority, he would want no part of it.

Actually a man of high self-esteem would simply believe in his own superior skill because he has spent a lot of time continuously honing himself into the best he can be at a particular skill, and tested it against the field. His self-image of superiority is not dependent on others, but is rather dependent on his objective evaluation of himself against reality. If in reality you are a superior player than most, then you are. It is not based on self-delusion.

Someone with high self-esteem does not view psychological domination or submission as a proper basis for economic relations between men. Rather, he wishes to trade whatever value the best of his ability can create with that of others.

A competition is not an economic transaction. The relationship between you and the other competitors isn't one of trade. A high self-esteem does not necessitate business as the only way to make a living.

Outwardly, it would be very easy to conclude that Howard Roark in The Fountainhead suffered from extremely low self-esteem when he chose to work in a granite quarry or sit in an empty office for a year instead of going out and making himself rich some other way.

So you think that Howard Roarke looked like he had a low self-esteem because he wasn't making money? Since when does your income have to do with your self-esteem? And how is this relevant exactly?

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You didn't need to clarify that. It was evident that this was your position.

On the contrary, it was entirely necessary because your statement insinuates that I am being unreasonable and that I would not consider any evidence contrary to my position. Impervious is a strong word.

I understand based on what you have said why you have developed the opinion you have and I don't begrudge you for having your own opinions this matter or others. However, I simply don't see anything about your argument that compels me to abandon my observations and conclusions on gambling, etc.

Simply stated, my view is that gambling, serious or otherwise, is not inherently without value nor inherently indicative of a person of low self esteem. I do not see that it necessarily involves "preying" on anyone else (or being dependent on anyone else) to be successful any more than any other competitive venture, though it certainly can include that "preying" behavior. I recognize that some people who gamble, seriously or otherwise, do have a gambling problem and probably do have self-esteem issues and that some people who gamble, seriously or otherwise, do not have a problem.

Frankly, at this point I don't see that I have anything further to gain from this examination of gambling and among the many different issues that I like to discuss on here, gambling is not high on my list of priorities.

I've spoken my piece and others can evaluate it however they like.

Take care.

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Did anyone happen to see Vick's press conference yesterday? As we've come to demand in this culture, he appologized for hurting children and fury animals. He also said: "I found Jesus and turned my life over to God. I think that's the right thing to do as of right now."

I'm sure his sorry ass is going to be saved now. :rolleyes:

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And he's short-circuiting the process.... he's not supposed to find Jesus until he gets to jail.

That was my first thought when I heard it yesterday. Now what's he going to do while he's in jail? I guess he can always watch cable TV or get a degree. :rolleyes:

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Moebius asked:

Now, assuming that I know that one some levels I am attracted to violence, yet my rational mind is perfectly able to distinguish moral actions from non-moral ones and acts accordingly, what is immoral about being able to enjoy two animals fight each other?

This question is easier to answer if you put it in terms that concretize exactly what we are talking about here: Is it moral to value -- to take pleasure in -- a staged struggle in which two animals try to tear each other to pieces with their teeth and claws until one is either incapacitated or dead, purely as an end in itself, not because it accomplishes anything else, not because it tests human skill or advances human interests in some fashion, but purely for the sake of seing the destruction of life or the attempted destruction of life?

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This question is easier to answer if you put it in terms that concretize exactly what we are talking about here: Is it moral to value -- to take pleasure in -- a staged struggle in which two animals try to tear each other to pieces with their teeth and claws until one is either incapacitated or dead, purely as an end in itself, not because it accomplishes anything else, not because it tests human skill or advances human interests in some fashion, but purely for the sake of seing the destruction of life or the attempted destruction of life?

The answer to this question is "no, it's not moral." The more interesting question is: Why is it immoral? Why does engaging in this behavior threaten your ability to live and to pursue your goals?

Since watching this activity certainly shouldn't be illegal, it's invalid to say that it threatens your liberty. What threatens your liberty is intrusive government. It's also invalid to say that it threatens your physical safety or something else along those lines because, conceivably, there is a way to stage a dog fight in a way that is completely safe and hygenic for the people involved. It's also wrong to say that it's a waste of money. This is true, but it isn't deep enough. It's a waste as opposed to what? As opposed to using that money to fund other, more rewarding values? More rewarding to what?

The only possible answer then, the only proper way to denounce dog fighting as immoral, must lie in the field of psychology. The question of the immorality or morality of dog fighting has to be phrased in terms of what does it do to the spectator's mind. What does this activity reinforce or introduce into his fundamental, automatized beliefs about reality and himself?

Edited by stephenmallory
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