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The word psychosis always means exactly that. If you are taking it to mean something else than you are adopting a definition other than the DSM one.

In common usage detachment from reality is not the only indicator of poor mental health. You're using the Objectivist definition, not the dictionary one. But whatever, it's irrelevant for now.

Dictators or liberal presidents can do plenty besides controlling others- they play golf, hang out with family, vacation at Disney World. It's not all-consuming for most, nor is the average person free from dependence on others for their well-being. We all depend on police and the military to keep us safe. Yeah, dictators and Obama have more reason to worry but it's not like it keeps them up at night.

Money is mostly a means to social standing. Many artists and corporate executives get their motivation to succeed from social prestige. Objectivists like acquiring money and status, right? It sucks to lose either but it's not as bad as you make it sound.

It seems like both of us are making claims without empirical evidence. It's been a nice discussion but at this point I'll have to agree to disagree with you.

There is no “Objectivist definition” for anything. That is a psychological meaning for mental health, but I agree that we're getting off point. The idea is just to show social climbing and "material stuff accumulation" does not equal mental health and well-being, which means living in accordance with the requirements of man's nature, not with the nature of a flea or a hyena. Living a life of exploitation will not achieve the ends you think they will, and to the extent others in society are virtuous and do not enable you, you will be impotent.

As far as “don't Objectivists like acquiring money and status,” I may suggest reading The Fountainhead, which features the character Peter Keating, who seeks prestige and status, doing whatever it takes to attain this end including flattery, ass-kissing, deceit, murder, exploiting anyone that he can. His foil is the hero, Howard Roark, who lives according to rational egoism, which allows one to make the contrast between what you're advocating and Rand's ethics. You can buy the book for cheap as hell (there's one for $1.11), so it's well worth it.

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Okay, but we need to add a bit more context to this question to have an intelligible answer. First of all, in a truly emergency situation, one can be justified in violating property rights. For inst

Well yeah. Absolute does not mean without limit, for nothing in reality is limitless. And it doesn't mean "property rights are intrinsically good," for that would mean "good apart from human life." Ab

It is indeed not a literal contradiction to sacrifice others while refusing to sacrifice yourself, and that is not the correct reasoning to support the notion that we should not sacrifice others. The

Because you need food to survive, perhaps?

The question asked was "Why would you be starving?" - and you gave the flip answer.

The question, however, is serious - the question "why would you be starving" takes you out of the immediate moment of "I'm hungry" and asks you "How did you get to a point in your life where you have no food and no proper means to acquire it?"

It asks, in other words, "Is it JUST that you are starving?"

It puts your life in the context of the whole of your actions and choices. It makes the point that at no moment in your adult life are you separated from the consequences of your prior choices. In a society such as ours, there are opportunities aplenty - EVEN in these rather dismal economic times - for a person to earn their own bread.

A person does not simply go from being well fed to being starving - there is a time period involved during which the long term thinker SHOULD think, "I will need food. I need to find a way to earn my food." and go hustle and find work - ANY work if needed - that provides the moral means to acquire food in the short term. From there one should start thinking even longer term - like securing food for tomorrow, and the next day, and so forth.

If a person fails to do this, well - there is a consequence - you end up starving - and it's your own fault. You've already FAILED in a moral sense - you've failed to think and act long term.

This is why we ask - "Why would you be starving?"

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The question asked was "Why would you be starving?" - and you gave the flip answer.

Sorry. That was impolite of me. I understand that the best option is to avoid starving in the first place but my question was just a hypothetical example.

I think I've learned a bit more about Objectivism from this thread and I've been glad to meet some intelligent, well-spoken posters here. What Eiuol said- more or less that Objectivism works well if you can reach it's ideal- is my main takeaway.

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O'Ism does indeed rely on people to be at their best - to act in their own rational long term self interest.

But O'ism doesn't expect that everyone will do so - thus we recognize the need for protection from those who would choose the short term solution. That is why O'ists are PRO Government when it comes to the three basic functions for which Government is needed - police, courts and the military.

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Sorry. That was impolite of me. I understand that the best option is to avoid starving in the first place but my question was just a hypothetical example.

I think I've learned a bit more about Objectivism from this thread and I've been glad to meet some intelligent, well-spoken posters here. What Eiuol said- more or less that Objectivism works well if you can reach it's ideal- is my main takeaway.

As more often suggested in Rand's fiction, there isn't some sort of struggle to works towards an ideal state of being. What is sought after is the best life possible for oneself, which is dependent upon what all people *are*. Thinking is good because it is needed to exist long term. To think well, a certain process is required, and a certain way of understanding reality. There are also certain actions - always within a context - that one must take to live the best possible life; there's a lot of room for variation here depending on what makes you unique. Perhaps a dictator really can attain a decent life (most pretty much go off the deep end as far as I've seen, but there may be a few exceptions), but a dictator does it by controlling and manipulating the lives of others. The reason Objectivism advocates capitalism specifically is because voluntary trade is the best way to get any sort of benefit from others. Even if a dictator is able to get more "stuff," their absolute control is a denial of the long-term benefits of trade within a society.

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Sorry. That was impolite of me. I understand that the best option is to avoid starving in the first place but my question was just a hypothetical example.

I think I've learned a bit more about Objectivism from this thread and I've been glad to meet some intelligent, well-spoken posters here. What Eiuol said- more or less that Objectivism works well if you can reach it's ideal- is my main takeaway.

I don't understand, are you saying an egoistic ethics can only work if everyone or most people follow it, or are you saying you are skeptical about human nature?

I don't know how a society of people who think they should all be the dictator and that the standard of well living means achieving a life of non-effort on the backs of others will achieve anything but self-destruction. But that's why taking individual rights seriously is so important to individual flourishing, don't you think?

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I don't understand, are you saying an egoistic ethics can only work if everyone or most people follow it, or are you saying you are skeptical about human nature?

I'm saying that being a dictator is nice but if you manage to be the Randian superman that might be just as good a deal.

I don't know how a society of people who think they should all be the dictator and that the standard of well living means achieving a life of non-effort on the backs of others will achieve anything but self-destruction. But that's why taking individual rights seriously is so important to individual flourishing, don't you think?

I'm not thinking in terms of society, just the individual. What's best for the individual isn't always best for society.

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I'm saying that being a dictator is nice but if you manage to be the Randian superman that might be just as good a deal.

I'm not thinking in terms of society, just the individual. What's best for the individual isn't always best for society.

Well now, there's a lot packed in there. From Eiuol's post above, it's important to gather that Rand does not, like Nietzsche, hold that any “new man” or further evolution of human nature is required to practice an egoist morality. For her, egoism is the same thing as and flows directly from a rational ethics, and as a prerequisite must be practicable here and now, and from the beginning of time on, by anyone. So her hero isn't a Superman or “perfect man” or anything that requires an impracticable standard (although you will certainly have philosophers who think living by reason is impracticable.)

At first I thought you agreed that insofar as the standard of value in a rational ethics is that which is beneficial to the life of the organism, it was just that you thought initiating physical force (we can just call this exploiting others) is a principle of action that can benefit you, and is thus a way to achieve this.

But now perhaps the real disagreement is over the standard of value itself, insofar as “man qua man” was taken to mean as “getting as high in the social pecking order” and “maximal physical stuff and wealth accumulation” and not “that which is proper to the survival and flourishing life of a rational being as required by its nature,” and so you conclude that exploiting others can lead to the attainment of the ultimate end of man's life being the accumulation of social status and stuff.

Does that best sum up the situation? Obviously, whether or not exploiting others is morally licit will have an affect on whether or not there are any conflicts of interests. If it is not, as Rand holds, then there is a harmony of the rightly-understood interests of men in interpersonal relations, since the good is never achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. If that is the case, then what is good for the individual is good for the society, for the society or “polis” is nothing more than the sum of its parts, the individual men that make it up. What is bad for it (force, exploitation, dictatorship, disintegration of social cooperation) will be bad for its individual members.

I might just try reading Rand at this point, because all of this is covered in detail, e.g. the evil of the initiation of force, the non-self-interest of exploiting others, the harmony of interests, what it is “man qua man” means, etc. in her ethical book The Virtue of Selfishness. It's a lot easier to learn about something that way than just by debating.

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Can you switch the title of the thread for the subtitle? That way I may be able to find this thread in the future when I search for "self-interest versus rights" using the search function, instead of trying to remember you decided to call it "I don't get it."

Sorry, I can't find a button to edit my post. A moderator can go ahead and make the switch.

What's a Randian superman?

Someone who successfully lives as Rand proposed man should live. Although I admit that was probably the wrong word to use.

But now perhaps the real disagreement is over the standard of value itself, insofar as “man qua man” was taken to mean as “getting as high in the social pecking order” and “maximal physical stuff and wealth accumulation” and not “that which is proper to the survival and flourishing life of a rational being as required by its nature,” and so you conclude that exploiting others can lead to the attainment of the ultimate end of man's life being the accumulation of social status and stuff.

I didn't make any value judgements in this thread; I just asked questions. I was originally under the understanding that Objectivism is meant as a way to maximize your chance of survival. I now see this is an oversimplification of the philosophy.

Does that best sum up the situation? Obviously, whether or not exploiting others is morally licit will have an affect on whether or not there are any conflicts of interests. If it is not, as Rand holds, then there is a harmony of the rightly-understood interests of men in interpersonal relations, since the good is never achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. If that is the case, then what is good for the individual is good for the society, for the society or “polis” is nothing more than the sum of its parts, the individual men that make it up. What is bad for it (force, exploitation, dictatorship, disintegration of social cooperation) will be bad for its individual members.

Then we're in the territory of difficult to prove empirical arguments about whether no one ever benefits from exploitation and anyone who exploits another person will instantly suffer psychosis and panic attacks. In that case I'll let the issue rest.

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"I was originally under the understanding that Objectivism is meant as a way to maximize your chance of survival. I now see this is an oversimplification of the philosophy."

That is indeed an oversimplification. In the earlier parts of Objectivism, before the ethics are developed, in the sections which the ethics will eventually build off of, one thing established in short is that everything that exists must exist as something specific, you can't exist as some nebulous nothing in particular. What you are determines how you can act in any given situation. People can make choices in how they will respond, unlike, say, a rock, but trying to do things which go against our nature is a surefire way to get smote by reality basically. Doing things that go against who and what you are, depending on how badly contrary to your nature what you've done is, gets you anywhere from held back to killed. We don't advise you try to just muddle through and scrape by however you can mange to, which would be very vague and unclear and tell you basically to settle for a lesser existence for no point at all. What we advocate instead is to follow your nature which will result in thriving as the best life you could have. You don't have to be a "superman" to do that, anybody can, as all it asks of anybody is to think rationally and act on it ultimately. There is more to living a maximal human life than just getting the most stuff and the most seconds. You may be the richest and oldest person in the world, but if for the last seventy of those years you're living in an agonized stupor due to all kinds of unhealthy things you did to try to get all that cash, you're not winning here, so to speak. We aim instead to get a maximal total value out of our lives from quantity of time alive and quality of the time. Quality for a human life is not identical to dollar total value of material stuff. This should be obvious as the majority of the world DOES value other things which they would give up some of their material values for gladly, yet somehow, when it comes to egoists, people lose sight of this.

For the record, nobody is saying you instantly break down mentally. In fact, it's generally a gradual process due to people trying to "compartmentalize" irrational acts in their mind, to not connect some areas of knowledge to its implications to others. Often, sadly, people do things that are irrational and end up holding themselves back from what they could have had and don't realize the loss because it was a potential never achieved rather than something they already had being taken away.

Now, if you'd like to know how and why we regard things other than simply gathering up as much existing stuff as you can as adding to the quality of an individual human's life, there are other places, more threads and writings on this, as by this point it starts to branch off into another whole topic unto itself.

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@ Mustang19:

1. Have you read "Atlas Shrugged"?

2. Do you understand how a dictatorship works in reality?

3. How would you generate wealth to sustain your rule?

4. What makes you think that the threat of harm provides greater incentive than the profit motive?

You seem like a thoughtful person -- why not trace the entire plan and just look at how it does or doesn't work in reality?

Doesn't it collapse when someone brings a bigger gun, or when people refuse to live in fear?

You certainly don't have to answer these questions if you don't want to, but if you do, then I am also curious about what inspired you to pursue these lines of thought -- was it a book, a movie, something in the news, what exactly?

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Sorry, I can't find a button to edit my post. A moderator can go ahead and make the switch.

Someone who successfully lives as Rand proposed man should live. Although I admit that was probably the wrong word to use.

I didn't make any value judgements in this thread; I just asked questions. I was originally under the understanding that Objectivism is meant as a way to maximize your chance of survival. I now see this is an oversimplification of the philosophy.

Then we're in the territory of difficult to prove empirical arguments about whether no one ever benefits from exploitation and anyone who exploits another person will instantly suffer psychosis and panic attacks. In that case I'll let the issue rest.

The question wasn't about value-judgments that you've made, it was about what you “don't get” with regard to self-interest and respecting the rights of others in Rand's ethics. I assume you just wanted to figure out what her reasoning was, we can leave the judgments of value to you.

Now obviously, it is a straw man to say someone suffers instant panic attacks and psychosis from exploitation. Criminals often get adrenaline rushes, even getting addicted to the high of acts of crime and depredation. The point is here, only that there is more than just “I prefer having more over less stuff” and that well-being or eudaimonia is more than just seeing yourself as great through the eyes of other people via the social pecking order. Psychology is an actual science, not just a jumble of hard-to-prove empirical statements or subjective value-judgments. You don't automatically go insame upon exploiting others, but you set up conditions which will hamper your long-term well-being.

To claim it benefits one to exploit others is to drop all context of what “well-being” means, and to use a narrow meaning of “benefit.” Rand's egoism is grounded in man's objective need for certain kinds of values, for which we must abide by rational principles, as these offer the only effective means of advancing his interest, long range. A mistake would be just looking at range-of-the-moment consequences (“whim-worshiping” as Rand calls it) such as “I can get more money today if I steal” or “I can be seen as cool in the eyes of this person if I lie.” Rational egoism is about making one's life as self-rewarding as possible, not about having everyone around you think you're awesome by deceit or submission. The egoists' end of self-actualization or flourishing or “eudaimonia” is not a “thing” or a state one reaches after getting a certain amount of money or a position in society. It is a process, a manner of living that emanates from one's own relationship to one's self and reality, and thus not something that can be seized from others second-hand. It requires a “first-hander” kind of existence.

It shouldn't be too hard to see then, that such a goal can't be obtained by exploitation. Take a value like friendship. Can friendship be obtained by being a dictator over the lives of others? By forcing them to submit or die? By having people run to you in the hopes of getting favors from you? By lying to them or by deceit and flattery? Is this going to gain you long-term genuine close relationships? Obviously not. And if you tried to live your life in such a way, you would find yourself surrounded by the kinds of people you deserve.

Now take the value of money or wealth. A person who resorts to theft or robbery faces the constant threat of apprehension, has to avoid authority, has to hide, be on the run in some cases, and cannot even enjoy the money or the wealth out in the open for risk of raising suspicion as to where he got it when those around him know he is a parasite that couldn't have obtained it on his own merits. He makes an enemy of honest men, who produce and trade openly, and he will also surround himself by other parasites who he cannot be sure will steal from him any second he turns his back. Is this the way to long-term rational self-interest, or is honest production and trade, where one can “stand naked in the sunlight” so to speak?

Now what about the psychological effects? There is the thief who is a parasite in matter, but a social climber also becomes a “parasite in consciousnesses,” meaning he seeks the live through the effects of other consciousnesses than his own. Alone, he is at the mercy of his own mind and reality, he needs others to help him choose and reinforce him because he lacks self-esteem. A healthy psychology requires independence and efficacy at dealing with reality, but this is a man of dependence. He lives not in a universe of facts, but in a universe of other people, whom he must cater to, manipulate, placate, and deceive. Approval of others is his assurance that he is worthy of living, since he has no self-esteem. This is not mental health, which is a necessary component of well-being, but a neurosis, a defense mechanism. This comes with varying forms of anxiety depending on the degree one experiences this.

A truly selfish person, by contrast, is independent. He knows he is worthy of living, and worthy of the values he achieves by his own effort. He feels no guilt because he knows he is not a parasite, and thus surrounds himself with others who are of mutual esteem.

So you can see some of the reasoning that leads Rand to conclude that not only is exploitation of others a logical contradiction (if one grants one's right to life, one has to grant it to everyone else on the same grounds, or one revokes one's own grounds to claim a moral right to live), but it is not a practical way to life selfishly and achieve objective life-affirming values that lead to flourishing human life.

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Unlike the tiger with it's claws or shark with it's teeth, the human being has a conceptual consciousness and dexterous hands as it's survival mechanism.

This is what nature has given you, so it's rational to try and use that to survive with. By thinking and not by violence.

The fact that some people are able to survive by violence (dictators and the like) is just mind-blowing to me. I don't know how you can contradict the facts, so blatantly presented to you by nature, and still come out on top!

But then, I think that most people who do attempt this contradiction do fail, they end up dead or in prison. The dictators are almost the exception that proves the rule, since they are so few.

I think a rational person, who wants to do the best they can, on balance of the evidence, has to go with a life of work and thought.

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Also, with regard to stealing food in an emergency being ok -- this is because moral principles (like all knowledge) need to be arrived at rationally, through observation and induction.

So of course, Objectivist morality applies to normal life, because that's where all the examples are.

Some bizarre emergency where you're lost in the woods or whatever, how could there possibly be enough instances, varying in enough ways, to make a proper induction from that?

The only moral rule in an emergency is to try to return things to normality as quickly as you can, so that your rational principles/guidance become available to you again.

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@ Mustang19:

1. Have you read "Atlas Shrugged"?

Nope, and I have a lot on my plate now.

2. Do you understand how a dictatorship works in reality?

Given the example I mentioned (Francisco Franco), I see someone who died a natural death and lived comfortably all his life. In the absence of anything really terrible happening to him I don't see conclusive evidence of his life being worse for it.

Look at it this way. Rand would consider liberal politicians evil as well. However many of them, say Obama, seem to feel like they're doing a good thing and are no less hated than a conservative politician.

3. How would you generate wealth to sustain your rule?

How the government normally generates wealth- taxes.

4. What makes you think that the threat of harm provides greater incentive than the profit motive?

It depends on the situation. Dictators did employ primarily the profit motive to hold their bureaucracy together. However they had to use force to acquire control of the state in the first place in order to take in tax revenue.

You seem like a thoughtful person -- why not trace the entire plan and just look at how it does or doesn't work in reality?

Doesn't it collapse when someone brings a bigger gun, or when people refuse to live in fear?

You certainly don't have to answer these questions if you don't want to, but if you do, then I am also curious about what inspired you to pursue these lines of thought -- was it a book, a movie, something in the news, what exactly?

Nothing in particular. I just don't see solid proof that disrespecting rights always makes you worse off. Do you think Obama stay awake at night regretting the bailouts or seizure of AIG? I don't think so. Rather he's probably pretty happy with himself right now, being a communist politician or not.

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Francisco Franco life was worse off as a dictator than had he not chosen to send Spain into a costly and destructive civil war. This fact alone argues successfully that he was indeed materially worse off than he could have been. But the material aspect is not the only way he suffered from his own actions. He was the target of numerous assassination attempts, imagine not knowing if a bomb is going to go off on your way to work, or your food is going to be poisoned. I could go on but these two facts alone and great many things more about being a dictator would destroy any possibility of true happiness.

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How the government normally generates wealth- taxes.

This is really the heart of the matter. For one, taxes are not any kind of *generating* of wealth, it is closer to stealing wealth that has already been produced and then redistrubuting what was collected in some manner. Doing this does not produce any wealth. Part of the reason capitalism is advocated is because that is the best way for wealth to be produced, because it is the one system that allows people to pursue their values, by explicitly respecting the (individual) rights of others. Any dictator is acting against the principle of respecting rights and therefore not promoting a society where wealth is actively being produced. Respecting rights isn't a matter of being "nice," it's a matter of acknowledging what is the best way to pursue one's own values. When other people are creating and inventing things, I benefit more so than if I *forced* people to create and invent things. This is why it's been emphasized that humans have a certain kind of nature, since that nature implies there are certain requirements to produce any kind of wealth. I advocate capitalism and respecting rights since those are the best ways to further my values and generate wealth that I benefit from.

So, do you see better what is meant by pursuing the best life possible? Really, all you don't get is why capitalism is necessarily any better than a mixed economy, fascist state, etc, for an individual person.

Edited by Eiuol
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So, do you see better what is meant by pursuing the best life possible? Really, all you don't get is why capitalism is necessarily any better than a mixed economy, fascist state, etc, for an individual person.

That's a nice theory but in practice liberal politicians live quite comfortably.

So to the 20,000 people who died in industrial accidents in the US every year before the introduction of workplace safety regulation, you'd say that the system was working in their self interest?

Edited by mustang19
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So to the 20,000 people who died in industrial accidents in the US every year before the introduction of workplace safety regulation, you'd say that the system was working in their self interest?

Whoever said "the system" was supposed to work in anyone's SELF interest? Reexamine the word "self" in your question above.

More adequately phrased, were people taking jobs that exposed themselves to risks that were not in their self-interest? Why release the individual of accounting responsibly for his or her own accord and blame such responsibility on "the system"? It is not a proper government function to protect people from their own bad decisions or choices or whatever level of risk they wish to take with their lives.

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That's a nice theory but in practice liberal politicians live quite comfortably.

So to the 20,000 people who died in industrial accidents in the US every year before the introduction of workplace safety regulation, you'd say that the system was working in their self interest?

Of course there is no such thing as an agricultural accident to establish a comparison, farms are always perfectly safe.

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You are all evading the question by pretending to not know what I meant. Is advocating workplace safety regulation not in the self-interest of workers? Are they better off dying in industrial accidents?

No it isn't in their self-interest, for the same reason that preying on others in not in your self-interest. Preying on others is an act of violence and so is forcing another human being (in this case a businessman) to do this or that against his will.

The idea that violence never works out is an extremely tried and tested principle, worked out over centuries of human existence. You can't outsmart it, just this once.

If we were a different kind of animal, one that knew the future through perception, just as we currently know the present, we could regulate to our heart's content. Since we would know exactly what will happen in any given scenario, we would know if there would be any bad consequences to a particular regulation.

But we are not that animal, our perception is only of the present and the only way we know the future is through concepts, which are abstract and general. Meaning: the only way we can guide our actions is with something general: principles.

So the answer to why not regulate this particular machine, or this particular workplace is: "My consciousness does not allow me to see the future exactly, therefore I must make this decision on principle. And on principle I will not use force against another human being."

Well, maybe you can outsmart it on occasion, just as the occasional dictator is successful. Because principles are just the best known/most general case, not all cases, and they are learned, not holy writ. But if you want to act rationally, they are still all you have to go on. Actually in a deep sense… in order decide "Stuff the principles, I am the exception. I will be a successful dictator, and all my regulations will work out great!" you first have to abandon concepts as your future guidance, which means making yourself an animal on the mental level before you commit violence on the physical level, which is kind of interesting.

Edited by philosopher
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