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Should you use force to protect your own life?

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JacobGalt
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I'll create an extreme example so you get what I'm trying to say:

Suppose that you're on a ship on the middle of the Pacific. It sinks, and you're able to swim to some island which is privately owned. When you get there, the owner says: get out or I'll kill you. Should you respect property rights and try to swim someplace else or should you try to kill him back?

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I'll create an extreme example so you get what I'm trying to say:

Suppose that you're on a ship on the middle of the Pacific. It sinks, and you're able to swim to some island which is privately owned. When you get there, the owner says: get out or I'll kill you. Should you respect property rights and try to swim someplace else or should you try to kill him back?

Peikoff answered this very question on one of his podcasts. Anyways, the gist is yes, you should use force to preserve your life if the situation calls for it.

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To initiate it by your own side? Way not!

I assume that English is not your first language, and it is not immediately clear what you are trying to say here; there is perhaps a simple word mixup. Would you please clarify?
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Yes, sure: all I'm saying is that you simply must never initiate any force.

OK, thanks.

What about the emergency type of situation presented in the original post? If your choice is to respect property rights or to face probable death, what would you do?

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Never initiating force for any reason would make one a pacifist. Non-initiation of force is an ethical/moral choice we make to not take what is not rightfully ours through violence, or the threat of violence. We do own our own life, and it is in our rational self interest, not to mention our biological imperative, to preserve our life.

Edited by Maximus
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What about the emergency type of situation presented in the original post? If your choice is to respect property rights or to face probable death, what would you do?

I don't think I'm adult enough to get along rationally in states about life or death. There also may be reason to justify that a certain force in not initiated: for example, if you've been lost out in see only because of the ship's captain's fault, or even if you couldn't have sent an extrication only because a country had forced you to pay income taxation.

Though, as now I am not controlled by gloomy emotions and inclinations, I may currently tell you that: every initiated force is never moral.

Never initiating force for any reason would make one a pacifist. Non-initiation of force is an ethical/moral choice we make to not take what is not rightfully ours through violence, or the threat of violence. We do own our own life, and it is in our rational self interest, not to mention our biological imperative, to preserve our life.

That isn't true.

Pacifism is that which thinks that no force (e.g., not necessarily an initiated one) is allowed -- not about human rights.

It is a double standard because it assumes that no force is allowed, but still ignores the fact that human are physically able to initiate force. E.g., that you can and cannot use force.

I'm not telling that you must not use force. On the contrary: that if you are trying to steal my bread I have the right to shoot you or call the police. Pacifist think you have every right and no right.

You are the whole only pacifist here -- you think you can rob me while I have no right to do anything about it.

Since rights are determined from the fact man can logically identify them, refusing to rights is refusing to logics and to the fact you may have rights -- therefore, you don't have a right to live and I have the right to shoot you in the street. End of the story.

Edit: about the self-interest part: No. Self interest doesn't mean political subjectivism. Ayn Rand is not Nietzsche as many have failed to think. She taught of a rational self interest. While hurting others' rights, you are hurting others' self-interest. This is not self interest in any way.

T.R.

Edited by Tomer Ravid
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I don't think I'm adult enough to get along rationally in states about life or death. There also may be reason to justify that a certain force in not initiated: for example, if you've been lost out in see only because of the ship's captain's fault, or even if you couldn't have sent an extrication only because a country had forced you to pay income taxation.

Though, as now I am not controlled by gloomy emotions and inclinations, I may currently tell you that: every initiated force is never moral.

That isn't true.

Pacifism is that which thinks that no force (e.g., not necessarily an initiated one) is allowed -- not about human rights.

It is a double standard because it assumes that no force is allowed, but still ignores the fact that human are physically able to initiate force. E.g., that you can and cannot use force.

I'm not telling that you must not use force. On the contrary: that if you are trying to steal my bread I have the right to shoot you or call the police. Pacifist think you have every right and no right.

You are the whole only pacifist here -- you think you can rob me while I have no right to do anything about it.

Since rights are determined from the fact man can logically identify them, refusing to rights is refusing to logics and to the fact you may have rights -- therefore, you don't have a right to live and I have the right to shoot you in the street. End of the story.

Edit: about the self-interest part: No. Self interest doesn't mean political subjectivism. Ayn Rand is not Nietzsche as many have failed to think. She taught of a rational self interest. While hurting others' rights, you are hurting others' self-interest. This is not self interest in any way.

T.R.

Then what would you say to the suggestion that the force is initiated by the island-owner - by refusing to let you land, and threatening to kill you?

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Yes, sure: all I'm saying is that you simply must never initiate any force.

Then what would you say to the suggestion that the force is initiated by the island-owner - by refusing to let you land, and threatening to kill you?

The concept of initiation of force, in this case, depends on the concept of rights. The only reason why Tomer is saying the shipwrecked swimmer is "initiating force" by landing on some guy's property is because he believes the guy has the right to prevent him from landing there, even though he is in an emergency situation. And WhyNot is saying he does not, so he is the one initiating the force.

Either way, it is the more fundamental issue that needs to be addressed, talk of "initiation of force" is a giant dropping of context. So we should discuss rights, in the context of Ethics in emergency situations ("An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible" - Ayn Rand).

According to Ayn Rand, it is moral to help a man who's life is in danger, in an emergency situation. In such a situation, the basic principles of Objectivist Ethics still apply, but they apply differently than in normal situations. Indeed, none of the arguments Ayn Rand presents for her Politics (based on individual rights, and a government there to enforce them), apply to emergency situations. In an emergency situation, the moral actions are those which end the emergency.

The bottom line is this: there is nothing in Objectivism to suggest that the island owner has the right to prevent the drowning man from landing, or to throw him back into the sea, nor is there anything to suggest that the drowning man has to respect the will of the island's owner during the emergency. So, according to Objectivism, the initiation of force is being done by the owner, not the shipwreck victim.

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The bottom line is this: there is nothing in Objectivism to suggest that the island owner has the right to prevent the drowning man from landing, or to throw him back into the sea, nor is there anything to suggest that the drowning man has to respect the will of the island's owner during the emergency. So, according to Objectivism, the initiation of force is being done by the owner, not the shipwreck victim.

On the contrary, simple respect for property suggests, as everyone else in the thread realizes, that the cast-away would be trespassing. It is interesting to imagine the cast-away standing in a few inches of water, chagrined by a rifle-holding Robinson Curusoe.

Me, I'd start piling up sand and rocks and create my own island in his shallows, to start with. If I built my island parallel to his favorite beach, he wouldn't be able to go fishing without paying me a toll...hmmm enterprise already taking off.

Mindy

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A bit of a lifeboat scenario, but maybe the setting is worthy of some discussion.

You're standing in the water, and a very scruffy man is aiming a weapon at you. Threatening to kill you. Who is initiating force here? The man holding the weapon is. Killing him in self defense is not initiating force against him. Did you land on his island intending to steal from him or harm him? Valuing his property over your life is altruism at its most basic. But to worry about this is to drop the context as Jake has pointed out. After all, what are your choices in this scenario? Death by drowning or death by gunfire is not a choice. You're in an emergency situation regardless.

Now if we dial back the immediate threat of deadly violence from the island inhabitant a bit, it stops being a lifeboat scenario. Maybe he can be reasoned with. Maybe you can make a deal to trade labor for shelter, or offer to help him build a raft to leave the island. Or maybe you simply say you will live on the far side of the island and leave him in peace.

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To clarify it, I'll just to set no doubt: definition of initiated force: an act consists a contradiction in the right it assumes.

With a little sorry for my English, I think I was quite clear by what I mean in initiated force. Please don't confuse my things with yours: it's me who said that no one is allowed to use force after someone else does, it's been what you said: that nobody can defend his own property after you will to have it for yourself, and as a justification saying that you should use force after somebody initiating it.

By saying that, you may philosophically induct at least either of these two:

a ) Nobody has rights, but I do. I have the right to take something only by the fact I want it. My arguments are right only by the fact they exist.

b ) Universe is evil, man cannot deal with it and has no free will, only the see and island which control we animals do, and it's not my, or any man's, fault that I've \ he's been lost in see. Though, it is the fault of the island's owner since he does face it and give me what I want to deal with that force!

Decide if you want to live in reality by these contradictionary and mystical ideas, but don't be surprised while discovering ideas holding there's no reality valid to man's rational faculty and that he has no rights do not work in reality to men! Nor any other animal by man is, by definition, a rational animal!

T.R.

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I'll create an extreme example so you get what I'm trying to say:

Suppose that you're on a ship on the middle of the Pacific. It sinks, and you're able to swim to some island which is privately owned. When you get there, the owner says: get out or I'll kill you. Should you respect property rights and try to swim someplace else or should you try to kill him back?

How do you know that it is a)privately owned and b)that the person confronting you is the owner?

Any rational person would listen to you explain your situation unless you appeared dangerous in some way (acting crazy, signs of disease). A person who would force you to commit suicide (which just drifting back into the ocean would seem to be) for no good reason would seem to be irrational to the point that perhaps they have given up the claim to certain rights.

..just thinking out loud at this point... I haven't made a decision either way....

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How do you know that it is a)privately owned and b)that the person confronting you is the owner?

Those are the scenario the OP set. That's how you know. When a person sets an hypothetical, he gets to define the situation.

If you want to discuss a different situation, you might set your own scenario, but you can't, logically, question the defined structure of the one you are engaged in discussing.

Mindy

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If you want to discuss a different situation, you might set your own scenario, but you can't, logically, question the defined structure of the one you are engaged in discussing.

...Unless the situation almost never corresponds to reality. Then you may acknowledge the scenario for what it is, and then offer up a more likely version. We are talking about Objectivist ethics here, which has to apply to a "normal" human life and not an impossible, hypothetical one.
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This scenario on an island opens up another absorbing thought:

There is not - I infer - a single O'ist who would refuse entry to his island of a helpless castaway.

Why is that?

After all, we are not altruists, and we staunchly defend property rights.

With the shoe on the other foot, so to speak, I could only imagine that the person refusing entry to the castaway would be a collectivist/egalitarian/religionist (pick one), but never an egoist.

Interesting, but maybe obvious.

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Anyhow, I would fight to survive - to death, if necessary. I don't believe it would be Objectively immoral to do so - not when one's highest value is confronted by irrational force.

"Do as you would be done by"- though not Objectivist, is a fairly useful default position, in general, dealing with others.

Its corollary is "Insist on being done by, as you would do." IMO

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Those are the scenario the OP set. That's how you know. When a person sets an hypothetical, he gets to define the situation.

If you want to discuss a different situation, you might set your own scenario, but you can't, logically, question the defined structure of the one you are engaged in discussing.

Mindy

The reply JASKN gave while I was away is pretty much exactly as I would have responded, so you can accept his response as my own to avoid redundancy.

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It's the altruists who point to emergency situations in order to demonstrate that morality doesn't pertain to real life and that there is no such thing as a win-win situation, that men must be at each other's throats. But real life is not like this, emergency situations have nothing to do with normal, everyday, real life. Morality applies and therefore Rights apply in normal real life situations when life is possible. If life is impossible, then morality and Rights are out.

I'm not sure why some don't see this as an emergency situation, is it because the man can swim? This may be true but he can't survive in the ocean.

Let me propose another situation: You climb a mountain and are looking over a cliff when the owner comes-up behind you and says "this is my private property, you are trespassing and I want you to leave". You say "OK, I'll go back the way I came" and he says "no, I want you off my property now, you can jump off the cliff". You are not obligated to jump.

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Might it be the case that both parties are initiating force? In a lifeboat or emergency scenario, survival for both or multiple parties is impossible, there is no win-win available for any course of action. As Rand explained, morality is only for living life, surviving and flourishing. When survival is not possible because of the situation, then logically, there is no moral answer. Man, because of the situation, cannot use reason as his survival instrument any longer, and is reduced to the same mode of survival as the animals. Thus must simply be the law of the jungle, you both must initiate force if you want to live.

But in the situation provided by the OP, it is not exactly like that. In a different situation, for example, there is only one wooden plank in the ocean, and only large enough for one person and only weighs enough that it will support one person (such that one guy can't hold onto the plank, and the other hold onto the guy's shoulders or something). Two people must swim towards it to survive. In this case, it is literally the law of the jungle. Morality ends in this situation because there is no other logical answer if they both choose to live.

But here, the island isn't like a small wooden plank, it can support both people. The man on the island is initiating force and the shipwrecked swimmer is not exactly initiating force in the same manner (I am not sure if he is even initiating force at all, but perhaps so.) One man is threatening the other's body, while the other is in an emergency and needs enough space simply for standing (or resting) room. I would think we can deem the islander to be immoral for preventing a potential trading partner from surviving for irrational reasons. Of course, we must also point out that the swimmer has no right to come aboard the island and then threaten the islander, who must then kill the swimmer in self-defense.

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...Unless the situation almost never corresponds to reality. Then you may acknowledge the scenario for what it is, and then offer up a more likely version. We are talking about Objectivist ethics here, which has to apply to a "normal" human life and not an impossible, hypothetical one.

Absolutely! Nobody is making others enter into the discussion of the OP's hypothetical. If it doesn't interest you, do not waste time and space on the thread at all. If you do choose to join, you are obliged to respect the dimensions of the problem set by the OP. Keeping that in mind, each may contribute or keep silent.

Mindy

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... who must then kill the swimmer in self-defense.

"I swear by my life and my love of it..." but if I have to strip a child of his life preserver in order to survive, you can bet your life I will do so?

I don't think so.

Where Rand discusses emergencies and their exigencies in the Lexicon, her exceptions are aimed at helping others. This subject has been debated endlessly, and I find the best counter-example for those inclined to say they would kill another to save their own life is that of organ-harvesting. Would you, had you the chance, kidnap someone and remove his kidney if it were necessary to survive?

Again, I don't think so.

When you value life, it is automatic to value all life. It isn't that you have no reason to value a stranger's life, but what sort of vile behavior would cancel out its automatic value in your eyes.

Mindy

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If it doesn't interest you, do not waste time and space on the thread at all. If you do choose to join, you are obliged to respect the dimensions of the problem set by the OP. Keeping that in mind, each may contribute or keep silent.

I'm not sure why you think it inappropriate to reject an OP's faulty scenario given the nature of his question as it pertains to Objectivist ethics. It's one thing to say, "No!" and another to say, "No, because..." The latter is what has been offered in response to the OP.
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