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Predation: Virtue Or Vice?

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hernan
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I hope the motive behind asking this question is to probe Don's reasoning behind calling bank robbers irrational, and not for actually wondering why bank robbers are irrational.  If the latter, questions like that border on contempt of forum.

What do you mean by "questions like that"? What other, similar, questions did you have in mind?

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Some examples:

-Why is it irrational to pay a prostitute for sex?

-Why is it irrational to do coccain?

-Why is it irrational to murder a complete stranger without cause?

-Why is it irrational to eat all the Big Macs you desire?

In other words, questions who's answers are, given the context of this forum, as near to obvious as one can get. Asking them seems a bit odd, to say the least, and raises my suspicion of the asker. Further, given recent complaints of posters having suspicious motives for posting here I thought I would just make it clear that posters wishing to propound on their twisted rationalizations will not be welcome here.

So, rather than assume your motive, I ask, were you just wondering about Don's reasoning or did you actually think it could be rational to rob a bank?

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Why is it irrational to eat all the Big Macs you desire?

I think an Objectivist would tell you that it can be quite rational to eat all the Big Macs you desire since there does not have to be a conflict of reason and emotion. While this answer might be obvious to an Objectivist it might not be obvious to every legitimate member of this forum.

In other words, questions who's answers are, given the context of this forum, as near to obvious as one can get. Asking them seems a bit odd, to say the least, and asking them raises my suspicion of the asker. Further, given recent complaints of posters having suspicious motives for posting here I thought I would just make it clear that posters wishing to propound on their twisted rationalizations will not be welcome here.
When I signed up as a patron I didn't exactly intend to support enabling people to propound twisted rationalizations.

So, rather than assume your motive, I ask, were you just wondering about Don's reasoning or did you actually think it could be rational to rob a bank?

Quite frankly, I find it strange that a moderator clarifies the non-acceptance of propounding rationalizations to a patron member who asks a difficult moral question.

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So you actually think it might be, that there's a chance it could be, rational to rob a bank?

Perhaps it is just my opinion that these questions are so trivial that it more often than not is indicative of suspicious motives. I never accused you of anything, by the way, I only asked for a clarification.

Thank you for being a patron. If you like what you see in this forum, then I'm sure you can appreciate an effort to improve it by rooting out bad weeds around here, whether or not the weeds are patrons.

Since at present the question seems non-trivial, perhaps you could answer the following:

-Why does man need a moral code.

-If he does, what is the standard by which to establish this moral code.

-Knowing the standard, can you determine if the act of robbing a bank is immoral or not.

-If it is immoral, would you say it is irrational?

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Au contraire, if you bring a civil suit against someone there may be no rights violation of any kind whatsoever.  MOST civil suits come about because two parties are unable to settle what amounts to a confusion or difference of opinion between them and they require the assistance of an objective third party with enforcement powers to handle things.

Many, but not all, civil suits are, as you say, a form of legal arbitration. Whether most are, I don't know. In such cases there are two possibilities: either both parties came to the court willingly to have their differences settled, or one party alleged some form of breach against the other. The former case, while not unheard of, I would imagine to be exceedingly rare, due to the expense involved in litigation. (This is only a reasoned guess on my part, and I'm open to being corrected if you know differently.) The latter case, in which one party brings suit against another, must necessarily allege some form of rights violation, some form of breach of contract. Breach of contract is a violation of property rights.

Other civil suits, those not involving some pre-existing contract, must, as I said, prove some form of rights violation to be valid. Suits alleging property damage fall into this category.

If you puke on someone's carpet you haven't violated their rights: they let you come over, they let you get drunk, they can very well deal with the consequences.  Much in the same way that, if someone climbs over my rickety fence and scratches themselves coming into my yard, it's their problem.  I didn't force them to climb over the fence; I didn't even ASK them to.

So, a social invitation is equivalent to an invitation to abuse the host's property? Is a person freed from responsibilty for their actions when they are, by invitation, on someone else's property? If what you say is true, if "they can very well deal with the consequences," why does it matter who threw up on the carpet? Without some acceptence of fault on the part of the person who soiled the carpet, the question of "owning up" is entirely moot. There's nothing, in that case, to own up to.

The reason "owning up" is a good idea and in your self-interest in this example is that, if you don't do so you have made reality your enemy, and no one can survive in defiance of reality.

I'm well aware of the reasons why "honesty is the best policy," so to speak. I've tried to explain them to Moose before. Apparently unsuccessfully. I never tried to argue that this wasn't a question of honesty, merely that it was also a question of rights.

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Why does man need a moral code.

Because man is mortal and has free will.

If he does, what is the standard by which to establish this moral code.
His life if he chooses to live.

Knowing the standard, can you determine if the act of robbing a bank is immoral or not.

Under the conditions mentioned earlier, i.e. not facing punishment and regardless of the size of the loot, my answer is no.

Currently, I have a pragmatic position on this but I believe there could be a better, principled approach. I haven't heared a convincing case on principle, yet, though.

DPW mentioned that a bank robber would sacrifice his mind, moral character and self-esteem. He wrote that one could sacrifice one's mind by being irrational but that leaves the question open why a robbery must be irrational under all conditions. The answer to this question might be obvious to others but it's not to me. Regarding a sacrifice of moral character and self-esteem: These reasons depend on already evaluating robberies as immoral.

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So, supposing that you definitely CAN get away with robbing this bank, and there is zero chance of ever getting caught in the act, would it be irrational?

Is that the question?

Whether you can or cannot get away with it, living a lie, attempting to cheat reality, is immoral because such a thing is contrary to your mind's nature. The mind operates best when it is consistent with reality, when it understands it, abides by it, etc. To pretend that the loot you stole is rightfully yours is a lie -- you stole it through in through.

The lie doesn't stop at the bank, it continues to everything you spend with that money, to everything that comes out of that money. Don't fool yourself into thinking that lies remain isolated. They permeate into your subconscious and pretty soon you start lying without thinking about it. The first lie, if left uncorrected, is a crack in your mind's edifice.

Soon the crack spreads, whether you realize it or not, and soon reality becomes your enemy. You become a slave to your lies.

Regardless of the scenario, attempting to live a lie is destructive to your mind.

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I've been involved in discussions on here before about why it is wrong to violate others' rights.  The gist I've gotten from other people on here is not that we have a duty to refrain from violating others rights, but it is wrong because it is not in our self-interest.  So, I pose this situation:

Let's say you're at a party at the house of someone you don't know.  You get wasted and puke on their carpet, after which your friends drive you home.  Prudence would dictate that you should either clean up or tell the person who owns the home and promise to make it up to him.  But you don't...you leave and no one will ever know that it was you who puked on the carpet.  Is it still wrong not to own up to it?  Why or why not?

In the specific case, the host of the party expects his drunken guests to cause minor accidental damage and, in inviting them, forgives them in advance for it.

However, I'm not quite sure how this case helps illustrate the distinction between duty ethics and value ethics.

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Why is it irrational to rob a bank?

Very simply: because it is irrational to violate the principles of justice and honesty, as they are in fact applications of the virtue of rationality.

Now, you didn't answer the question I posed to you: according to what moral principle is it in your interest to violate the rights of others?

Don Watkins

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Some examples:

-Why is it irrational to pay a prostitute for sex?

-Why is it irrational to do coccain?

-Why is it irrational to murder a complete stranger without cause?

-Why is it irrational to eat all the Big Macs you desire?

In other words, questions who's answers are, given the context of this forum, as near to obvious as one can get.

These sort of questions: why is it irrational to...(rob a bank, kill an innocent person, etc.)...if you can (get away with it undetected, live with it, etc.), often contain an underlying presupposition (as one out of several disastrous errors in approaching ethics in this manner) that makes them "tick." That presupposition is an implicit rewriting of reality. To bring this hidden element to the surface (which is also to simultaneously refute it), consider this: why is it irrational to shoot yourself in the brain if it won't kill you?

Well, sure it's not irrational if in your hypothetical you remove the effects of said action. In that manner we can refute every proposition in Objectivism. Let's see:

-Why should we be productive if we invented little self-replicating, self-repairing nano-robots that produced every single tangible item we desired without limit?

-Why is the alternative of life or death the basis of ethics since if a living person became magically immortal, wouldn't he still desire things like an ice cream sunday?

-Why is it irrational to be dishonest if we possessed the ring of Gyges (i.e., if we could escape from every conceivable ill effect from our devilish and dishonest actions)?

Etc.,etc.

You can multiply this endlessly. There isn't literally a single proposition in Objectivism that can't be "refuted" by this sort of hypothetical counter-factual "reasoning."

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Just a quick question: what, if anything, does puking on a carpet have to do with rights?  Is there a right to carpet?  A right to no vomit? What you're really looking at here is the principle of honesty, not rights.

My first thought in answer to you question is that it is a property rights concern. I have a right to own property and not have it damaged without compensation.

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However, situations arise in everyone's lives where they can do something which will give them material benefit at the expense of others, and then they can get away with it scot-free.

This is a factual error. You cannot "get away with" such actions.

The confusion that most of you seem to be expressing is the result of accepting this factual error as a truth when it is not true.

Actions like this do not occur in a vacuum. They are the result of a person's character, i.e. an enduring pattern of choices.

1. The effect of such harmful actions on others around you will reduce their ability to provide a desirable environment in which you can live. For example, vandalizing or robbing a business may cause it to close or to reduce its selection of goods or services (and raise its prices). "Don't shit in your post toasties."-Sue Grafton.

2. Although your victim may not connect his injury to you at first, your repeated association with such injuries will eventually lead him to suspect (if only subconsciously) that you are responsible. This will lead to ostracism or stronger forms of retaliation.

Summing up: Hurting others => Hurting yourself => Self-destruction.

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As I've said elsewhere, breach of contract is NOT necessarily a violation of property rights.

Elsewhere on this thread? Or another thread? Could you provide a link? I'd be interested in seeing your reasons for that.

Since a contract is an exercise of property rights, I fail to see how a breach of contract could not be a breach of property rights.

This discussion has wandered rather far afield from the original topic, no? Just an observation.

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As I've said elsewhere, breach of contract is NOT necessarily a violation of property rights.

But isn't a contract an agreement between two people that transfer goods to each other? If one party does not deliver the goods and recieved his part of the deal, wouldn't this be a violation of the second party's right to the first party's goods? What circumstance would there not be a violation of property rights?

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Whether you can or cannot get away with it, living a lie, attempting to cheat reality, is immoral because such a thing is contrary to your mind's nature.  The mind operates best when it is consistent with reality, when it understands it, abides by it, etc.  To pretend that the loot you stole is rightfully yours is a lie -- you stole it through in through. 

The lie doesn't stop at the bank, it continues to everything you spend with that money, to everything that comes out of that money.  Don't fool yourself into thinking that lies remain isolated.  They permeate into your subconscious and pretty soon you start lying without thinking about it.  The first lie, if left uncorrected, is a crack in your mind's edifice.

Soon the crack spreads, whether you realize it or not, and soon reality becomes your enemy.  You become a slave to your lies. 

Regardless of the scenario, attempting to live a lie is destructive to your mind.

Does writing a novel have the same effect on one's mind and if not: what's the difference?

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Very simply: because it is irrational to violate the principles of justice and honesty, as they are in fact applications of the virtue of rationality.

Interesting. I think I'll have to study those principles in more detail. Thanks for the answer.

Now, you didn't answer the question I posed to you: according to what moral principle is it in your interest to violate the rights of others? 

You've never asked me that question.

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Does writing a novel have the same effect on one's mind and if not: what's the difference?

Writing a novel? Is writing a novel "living a lie?" Of course not. Writing a novel does not ential attempting to act in contradiction to identity, like lying does. Living a lie attempts to contract identity, writing a novel, if it is to be a good one, attempts to recreate reality based on one's view of how life should be (which, for it to be good art, would require applying the law of identity consistently). A recreation of reality on paper is quite different than trying to act in negation of one's identity in reality.

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Writing a novel?  Is writing a novel "living a lie?"  Of course not.  Writing a novel does not ential attempting to act in contradiction to identity, like lying does.

Lying means to mislead others to believe a falsehood. The liar knows the truth. What does it mean to attempt "to act in contradiction to identity" and why is that entailed in lying?

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Lying means to mislead others to believe a falsehood. The liar knows the truth. What does it mean to attempt "to act in contradiction to identity" and why is that entailed in lying?

So you can only lie to others and not yourself? You can't consciously act on a falsehood and attempt to make it real? What is identity?

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So you can only lie to others and not yourself?  You can't consciously act on a falsehood and attempt to make it real? What is identity?

In the current context I think we were talking about lying in order to prevent other people from knowing that one has committed a crime. Suppose after robbing a bank you buy an expensive car and your neighbor asks you how you could afford it. Then you tell him that you've won the lottery. What's the big deal? How is that destroying your mind?

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