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A question about violence and the initiation of force.

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At first Ayn Rand may seem to give a good reason for saying that the initiation of violence is immoral: it forces people to against their own reason:

"To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man’s capacity to live.

...

To force a man to drop his own mind and to accept your will as a substitute, with a gun in place of a syllogism, with terror in place of proof, and death as the final argument—is to attempt to exist in defiance of reality. Reality demands of man that he act for his own rational interest; your gun demands of him that he act against it. Reality threatens man with death if he does not act on his rational judgment; you threaten him with death if he does."

However, this reasoning does not make sense, especially considering what Rand says about the nature of reason:

"Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. ... Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform."

Just because your life is threatened does not mean you don't stop thinking or that you don't stop acting in your self interest. If your life is threatened by starvation, you must use your rational mind to find out how to survive. Indeed, Rand herself points out that reason is the faculty by which man chooses a course of action that ensure's his survival, and that, unlike plants which act automatically, men must choose to act and can't act automatically.

So, if a highwayman were to point a gun at me and say "Your money or your life!", I would have to use my ability to reason to choose between possible courses of action: I could give the robber my money, true, but I could also attempt to run away, or to take the gun away from the robber, or to fight and incapacitate the robber. The fact that a robber points a gun at me does not make me act automatically, like a plant: I still must choose to take a course of action that is in my own self interest.

Thus, a threat of survival from the initiation of force is any different from the threat of survival from something natural like hunger: In both cases, man must use his reason to choose to act in his own self interest, to ensure his own survival. This being the case, Ayn Rand contradicts herself: threats of violence do not prevent man from acting in his own self interest, so she does not prove that violence is immoral.

Taking all that into consideration, why should the initiation of violence be considered immoral in objectivist ethics?

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This is a ridiculous reading of the position you're attempting to argue against that doesn't belong in an honest debate.

Does the mugger want you to present an argument? No! He wants you to give him the money. If you start presenting an argument, you are acting against his desires. If you feel that you are "compelled" t

Next time you get robbed, ignore them and keep walking to the bank to make the deposit as you had reasoned and previously acted upon.

... ,why should the initiation of violence be considered immoral in objectivist ethics?
Suppose everyone decided to deal with most others (or even just with folks outside their own village) with force and violence: do you think that would be the most practical and consistent way to achieve wealth and value?
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Suppose everyone decided to deal with most others (or even just with folks outside their own village) with force and violence: do you think that would be the most practical and consistent way to achieve wealth and value?

For the human race as a whole? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that using force and violence wouldn't be in the self-interest of some individuals. An act of theft might not increase the total wealth of the world but it certainly increases the wealth of the thief.

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For the human race as a whole? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that using force and violence wouldn't be in the self-interest of some individuals. An act of theft might not increase the total wealth of the world but it certainly increases the wealth of the thief.
The question to ask is this: is thievery a practical route to long-term success?
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The question to ask is this: is thievery a practical route to long-term success?

I suppose that depends on how skilled you are at thievery, how likely you are to get caught,etc. And even if repeated thievery isn't a good long-term strategy, that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be in one's self interest to steal if you are almost certain to get away with it.

For example, when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, some people took advantage of the situation to break into and loot stores. This was arguably in the looters' own self interest, as they were unlikely to be caught at the time. But, that doesn't mean that the looters started stealing as a long-term strategy.

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I suppose that depends on how skilled you are at thievery, how likely you are to get caught,etc. And even if repeated thievery isn't a good long-term strategy, that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be in one's self interest to steal if you are almost certain to get away with it.
Is this your personal philosophy in life? Do you steal whenever you think the odds are way in your favor?

BTW: Search for "prudent predator" and you'll find one or more thread on this topic.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Is this your personal philosophy in life? Do you steal whenever you think the odds are way in your favor?

No, but it seems to me that it's what would result if one accepted self-interest as the only value in life.

BTW: Search for "prudent predator" and you'll find one or more thread on this topic.

This doesn't address my original point. Ayn Rand opposed the initiation of violence because (according to her) it forces the victim to act against against his own reason and self interest, not because it is against the interest of whoever is committing the violence. As I have shown, the initiation of violence does not force the victim to act against his or her own self interest -he or she still has to make a choice- so Ayn Rand's argument is invalid.

That being said, I haven't finished reading the prudent predator threads yet, but from what I've read so far the responses don't really address the problem. It's not enough to prove that thievery is against one's self interest most of the time, or against the interest of man qua man- you have to prove that thievery is against one's self interest every. single. time. No exceptions. Because if there is even one exception where thievery worked in someone's self interest, it proves that it is possible to steal without acting against your self interest.

Edited by rasconia
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The problem with this is that Rand doesn't ever say that you can no longer think and choose when you are being subjected under the initiation of force, or that you turn into a plant or something that no longer has human faculties. She is pointing out that the link between independent thought and independent action is broken, a link necessary for rational self-interest to work in her schema.

What she's saying in that quote and the section in Galt's speech it's taken from is basically this: There are two kinds of interpersonal relationships: a contractual (trader principle) or hegemonic (initiation of force.) Certainly, even in a hegemonic relationship, the subordinate can still generally think, use reason, and choose between alternatives as you point out. But he is prevented from acting in his rational self-interest because the nature of his choosing, and the alternatives he faces, are crucially different; namely that he simply chooses between subjection and rebellion.

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Ayn Rand opposed the initiation of violence because (according to her) it forces the victim to act against against his own reason and self interest, not because it is against the interest of whoever is committing the violence.

Actually, she maintained that both were true. In an egoistic ethical framework like hers, every ethical principle is fundamentally based on the self-interest of the actor, and the principle of non-initiation of force is no different. Consider the spirit of her quote, "To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion." Other people have values to offer us only to the extent that they independently apply reason to their own lives, and nullifying their ability to do that is not good for either party.

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That being said, I haven't finished reading the prudent predator threads yet, but from what I've read so far the responses don't really address the problem. It's not enough to prove that thievery is against one's self interest most of the time, or against the interest of man qua man- you have to prove that thievery is against one's self interest every. single. time. No exceptions. Because if there is even one exception where thievery worked in someone's self interest, it proves that it is possible to steal without acting against your self interest.

Why is that? There are times when committing petty theft probably wouldn't make a difference, if contained to that single instance. But that's not relevant. The reason an individual needs the virtue of rationality is because their survival is not given to them automatically. Likewise, the best course of action is not known automatically by a person. That is why an individual has to act by virtue and principle, since he cannot automatically know whether or not a certain action will be the best for sustaining his life and happiness.

Once you accept the principle that it is okay to steal when it seems to be in your self-interest, you're basically accepting the principle of every thief. I doubt any thief believes that he should always steal in every situation he finds himself in. I'm pretty sure a thief will only commit theft when he thinks it is in his best interest. Now, inductively speaking, have you found that this is a practical principle to live by?

If a person automatically knew what course of action would be the most beneficial, principles, virtue, and rationality would be just about useless. Just as how reason would be useless if knowledge was given to us automatically.

Edited by ObjectivistMathematician
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This doesn't address my original point. Ayn Rand opposed the initiation of violence because...the victim... , not ... whoever is committing the violence.
I see that Dante addressed this, but it bears repeating. Rand is laying down an ethical system. She is saying: these are the principles to live by. In that context, one must assume that one can be the victim just as much as one can be the predator. The alternative is to lay out a system where something about oneself makes one particularly suited to being a predator.
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So, if a highwayman were to point a gun at me and say "Your money or your life!", I would have to use my ability to reason to choose between possible courses of action: I could give the robber my money, true, but I could also attempt to run away, or to take the gun away from the robber, or to fight and incapacitate the robber. The fact that a robber points a gun at me does not make me act automatically, like a plant: I still must choose to take a course of action that is in my own self interest.

This is true to the extent that you are not incapacitated of making a decision when a highwayman says "Your money or your life!" In general, all we care about here is what a necessary condition in order to pursue life, which in this case is freedom of action. The only way to prevent an action is SOME kind of physical and forceful means; by saying an offensive word, I don't literally cause anything to change in your mind. Similarly, the only way to manipulate a non-volitional, non-living entity is with force. To move furniture, you have to physically interact with your body by pushing or some mechanical device. The crucial point is that humans are a totally different nature than furniture in how to get it to act. Since the idea here involves how to get people to act in forceful ways, you can't discuss people in the same way you discuss furniture.

Because there are more ways than pure physical manipulation to get humans to act (persuasion, threats, insults, provocation, compliments, flattery), we cannot end our analysis just at "is your mind totally incapacitated or not". Are there ways to use words that are an equivalent to physical force in getting you to do something? It can't be flattery, as you have to make the choice to act on being flattered; there is nothing about flattery that is physical or causing you to *necessarily* alter your choice or future plans. Insults are similar, just in the negative sense. None of these actions alter your decision making process that prevents *you* from doing what *you* would do had the action not occurred. Acknowledging this much so far suggests agreement that, yes, getting a person to act doesn't only involve direct and immediate physical actions.

Threats are quite different than the other mentioned methods of convincing a person. It comes with the implication that there is a physical action which will destroy or harm your life or your ability to strive for life if you disobey. While you have the option to disobey, your actions are being controlled to the extent that your future plans are rendered irrelevant. Your life is in the highwayman's hands. There is no freedom to act in this case; freedom applies to the ability to lead your life in a manner that you choose. "Partial" freedom isn't any kind of freedom at all, since there is someone telling you how you may or may not use your mind. By saying your mind can't be used in a certain way, with physical force promised if you disobey, there is control over how you make decisions in the wider context of your entire life. Self-interest is prevented because it self-interest is about the long-term, entire-life context. If there was no promise of physical force if you disobey, then there would be nothing about that act which will *require* you to ignore the wider-context of your life, a context that rationality and life-furtherance depends upon.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=22170 is a thread by me that should prove useful for why being the force initiator in cases like the Katrina example you gave is improper and against self-interest. Merely attaining something desired will not then make the theft in one's self-interest. (You can go the prudent predator route in that discussion, as sNerd suggested. I think in this case the argument or idea against positive rights will be insightful.)

Edited by Eiuol
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What she's saying in that quote and the section in Galt's speech it's taken from is basically this: There are two kinds of interpersonal relationships: a contractual (trader principle) or hegemonic (initiation of force.) Certainly, even in a hegemonic relationship, the subordinate can still generally think, use reason, and choose between alternatives as you point out. But he is prevented from acting in his rational self-interest because the nature of his choosing, and the alternatives he faces, are crucially different; namely that he simply chooses between subjection and rebellion.

Yes, but what's so special about that? There are many cases in which people have to choose between options which will all have negative consequences- when none of the available choices are good, people will go for the "least bad" choice. Most of these situations don't even involve violence.

So, is it in one's rational self interest to give money to a robber? Yes, if he's pointing a gun at you and telling you to give him your money. In that situation refusing is likely to get you killed - so that choice is irrational (unless, perhaps, you've had the martial arts training on how to deal with these situations and can disarm a man with a gun). Submitting would usually result in your survival, so it is usually the rational choice.

As long as at least one of the choices allows you survive, there is at least one choice which is your rational self interest.

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Why is that? There are times when committing petty theft probably wouldn't make a difference, if contained to that single instance. But that's not relevant. The reason an individual needs the virtue of rationality is because their survival is not given to them automatically. Likewise, the best course of action is not known automatically by a person. That is why an individual has to act by virtue and principle, since he cannot automatically know whether or not a certain action will be the best for sustaining his life and happiness.

Once you accept the principle that it is okay to steal when it seems to be in your self-interest, you're basically accepting the principle of every thief. I doubt any thief believes that he should always steal in every situation he finds himself in. I'm pretty sure a thief will only commit theft when he thinks it is in his best interest. Now, inductively speaking, have you found that this is a practical principle to live by?

Here's the problem: Lets say there's a thief who makes a theft but never gets caught. He gets to enjoy the spoils of his crime without punishment- so obviously, committing the theft was a benefit to him. Therefore, the rational, self-interested choice in this case was to steal. After all, if he had chosen to not commit the crime he would have ended up with less money than he otherwise would have had, which definitely would not be in his self-interest. If you act unvirtuously and benefit anyways, then it proves that you didn't need virtue after all.

And once it is established that theft can be in one's self interest, the decision to steal or not basically comes down to a rational cost-benefit analysis, rather than principles or virtues (other than the virtue of selfishness, of course).

P.S. To anyone in doubt, I am not advocating theft or the use of violence - I'm merely pointing flaws I see in Objectivism

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Here's the problem: Lets say there's a thief who makes a theft but never gets caught. He gets to enjoy the spoils of his crime without punishment- so obviously, committing the theft was a benefit to him....

But that's not obvious at all. Try to think about it from a character-centric perspective. The most important resource to sustaining and furthering your own life is your own character. Over the long term, and over the vast majority of situations, production is by far the superior road to success and accomplishment, not dependence. In short, if you're the type of person who instinctively takes responsibility for achieving your own values, you're going to have a much better and more fulfilling life. When you're faced with a desire, it is much better for you for your first thought and inclination to be "What do I need to do to earn that?" rather than "How could I get that without working for it?" If every time you try to engage in productive work, you have to fight through your own laziness and desire to get something for nothing, your own capacity to achieve success and values is greatly diminished. So how does one get a productive, independent character which inclines one towards taking responsibility for achieving desired values? Quite simply, by consistently being productive and independent, and taking responsibility for achieving one's own desires. Any actions which break this trend are also instilling bad habits into the actor. In short, the means by which ill-begotten gains (like a big score) are attained make it so that those 'gains' are actually bad for the actor in the long term. The bigger the score, the bigger the dent in your most valuable resource. This is why principled living is required, rather than just guiding one's life from moment to moment.

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Threats are quite different than the other mentioned methods of convincing a person. It comes with the implication that there is a physical action which will destroy or harm your life or your ability to strive for life if you disobey. While you have the option to disobey, your actions are being controlled to the extent that your future plans are rendered irrelevant. Your life is in the highwayman's hands. There is no freedom to act in this case; freedom applies to the ability to lead your life in a manner that you choose.

Yesterday my wife said that if I didn't wash the dishes, she'd divorce me. Obviously my actions are controlled, as my future plans were rendered irrelevant and I wouldn't be able to lead my life in a manner that I choose. Therefore, her threat was an act of violence according to your criteria.

(Note: This event did not actually happen)

"Partial" freedom isn't any kind of freedom at all, since there is someone telling you how you may or may not use your mind. By saying your mind can't be used in a certain way, with physical force promised if you disobey, there is control over how you make decisions in the wider context of your entire life. Self-interest is prevented because it self-interest is about the long-term, entire-life context. If there was no promise of physical force if you disobey, then there would be nothing about that act which will *require* you to ignore the wider-context of your life, a context that rationality and life-furtherance depends upon.

But what if I've had special martial arts training that taught me how to deal with these situations? It is not inevitable that the mugger will kill you; even a quick google search can find news reports of would-be victims who successfully fight back against muggers. If you are skilled at martial arts and can disarm people, then choosing to obey the mugger would be irrational, since you might be able escape with both your life and your money if you disobey.

And just because your life is threatened doesn't mean you shouldn't act rationally anymore. On the contrary, rational self-interest is of vital importance when your life is at stake. Likewise, you are no less free just because you're being threatened, since you still have to make a choice and you can quite easily choose self destruction if you want.

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But that's not obvious at all. Try to think about it from a character-centric perspective. The most important resource to sustaining and furthering your own life is your own character. Over the long term, and over the vast majority of situations, production is by far the superior road to success and accomplishment, not dependence. In short, if you're the type of person who instinctively takes responsibility for achieving your own values, you're going to have a much better and more fulfilling life. When you're faced with a desire, it is much better for you for your first thought and inclination to be "What do I need to do to earn that?" rather than "How could I get that without working for it?" If every time you try to engage in productive work, you have to fight through your own laziness and desire to get something for nothing, your own capacity to achieve success and values is greatly diminished. So how does one get a productive, independent character which inclines one towards taking responsibility for achieving desired values? Quite simply, by consistently being productive and independent, and taking responsibility for achieving one's own desires. Any actions which break this trend are also instilling bad habits into the actor. In short, the means by which ill-begotten gains (like a big score) are attained make it so that those 'gains' are actually bad for the actor in the long term. The bigger the score, the bigger the dent in your most valuable resource. This is why principled living is required, rather than just guiding one's life from moment to moment.

But why would you need character if you're able to steal without getting caught? If you steal something that you desire, and you're never caught, that proves that you did not need to be productive in order to achieve your own desire (because you successfully attained it through theft rather than hard work).

So, if a thief has a score so big that he can retire from the stolen money, and he's never caught- how exactly was it bad for the thief in the long term?

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Yes, but what's so special about that? [...] As long as at least one of the choices allows you survive, there is at least one choice which is your rational self interest.

What's so special about it? The whole facing destruction a the hands of someone if you don't do what you otherwise wouldn't have done, or not do what you otherwise would have done part. If you understand Rand's derivation of the moral principle of rationality and the role it plays in life, then having to decide if subjection is preferable to rebellion and the possibility of destruction is negating the person's ability to translating his judgment, his means of survival and evaluation, into reality. If it blocks or hampers the ability of the moral agent to achieve values, then his would be objectively life-negating and thus immoral in the Objectivist ethics.

If we imagine a value scale that looks like this:

1. I would choose to do X (i.e. I judge it to be good for me.) I dis-value Y and Z (i.e. I judge them to be bad for me.)

2. I will do Y rather than be shot by the mugger.

3. I will try to resist and kill the mugger rather than do Z.

Within the context of the hegemonic relationship, I can still choose to act towards 2, and it may be true that doing Y rather than being shot might be the best decision given the circumstances, but I am still being prevented from pursuing my rational self-interest by being denied choice 1. Resistance to invasion may be placed higher or lower, but we can set that aside for now. The whole point of utilizing violence or the threat of violence to force others to submit is to bring about a state of affairs in which subjection to the force is considered by the victim more desirable than rebellion. You seem to be only looking at what happens within the hegemonic relationship (number 2) and ignoring away the ex ante lost value which was the goal of the superior party in the relationship to prevent in the first place (number 1.) In tracing the effects of violent aggression to value-achievement, we must take care to analyze all its consequences. We certainly can't just gloss over what has been changed by its direct impact on the victim.

Some helpful threads:

Why is force the negation of the mind?

Induction of “the Initiation of Physical Force is Evil”

Reduction of “the Initiation of Physical Force is Evil”

Here's the problem: Lets say there's a thief who makes a theft but never gets caught. He gets to enjoy the spoils of his crime without punishment- so obviously, committing the theft was a benefit to him. Therefore, the rational, self-interested choice in this case was to steal. After all, if he had chosen to not commit the crime he would have ended up with less money than he otherwise would have had, which definitely would not be in his self-interest. If you act unvirtuously and benefit anyways, then it proves that you didn't need virtue after all.

And once it is established that theft can be in one's self interest, the decision to steal or not basically comes down to a rational cost-benefit analysis, rather than principles or virtues (other than the virtue of selfishness, of course).

Rand’s egoism isn’t consequentialist BTW. Rather, she is an Aristotelian virtue theorist who bases her understanding of egoism upon her understanding of virtue and eudaimonia. It is quite contrary to Rand’s method to define such things as interests, self-interest, or selfishness midstream, (such as "hey look! I have more money than I did before! Yay, I'm self-interested! High five!")(or such as equating desire with self-interest, Cf. the "Introduction" and first chapter of The Virtue of Selfishness) without some background context conditioning her understanding of such.

See the scholarly paper in Objectivity by Irfan Khawaja A Perfectionist-Egoist Theory of the Good especially section 2 "The Concept of Self-Interest" (p. 105) and section 4 "Exploitation and Reciprocity" (p. 114.)

In addition to the "Prudent Predator" thread already linked to in the FAQ thread, see Khaight's explanation clarifying this point about character in this thread: Use of Force and Rational Self-Interest

Edited by 2046
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Yesterday my wife said that if I didn't wash the dishes, she'd divorce me. Obviously my actions are controlled, as my future plans were rendered irrelevant and I wouldn't be able to lead my life in a manner that I choose. Therefore, her threat was an act of violence according to your criteria.

There is no physical, forceful threat in this example.

But what if I've had special martial arts training that taught me how to deal with these situations? It is not inevitable that the mugger will kill you; even a quick google search can find news reports of would-be victims who successfully fight back against muggers. If you are skilled at martial arts and can disarm people, then choosing to obey the mugger would be irrational, since you might be able escape with both your life and your money if you disobey.

The mugger is still getting you to act how you would not otherwise want. That you choose to use martial arts doesn't change the fact that the mugger is forcing you to not act in the wider context of your life. Just because a slave can revolt does not mean a slave has freedom of action. A kidnapped person bound and gagged does not have freedom, even if they can make an attempt to escape. And with the mugger, you are not free, even if you can use martial arts to break free. The mugger is trying to get you to do something by forcibly removing options from you that you never agreed to. And the means of removing options is a physical action that's promised. For a standard of long-term living, someone forcing you to fight back is controlling you to some extent. The means of force are functionally equivalent to grabbing a person and dragging them. Maybe they can resist, but they are not acting autonomously. By disobeying, you are forced to make a decision to use martial arts; while yes, it's good that in this example you will survive, the decision making process is fundamentally different than if the request was simply "Can you give me some money, please?" By obeying, you're also being forced to act according to the mugger's wishes. Of course, in either case you are probably making the best choice available to you. At the same time, these decisions are made totally in accordance with what the mugger will do rather than in accordance to your rational self-interest. (That might be the problem; you're thinking of self-interest in terms of single events as opposed to rational self-interest).

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If you understand Rand's derivation of the moral principle of rationality and the role it plays in life, then having to decide if subjection is preferable to rebellion and the possibility of destruction is negating the person's ability to translating his judgment, his means of survival and evaluation, into reality. If it blocks or hampers the ability of the moral agent to achieve values, then his would be objectively life-negating and thus immoral in the Objectivist ethics.

If we imagine a value scale that looks like this:

1. I would choose to do X (i.e. I judge it to be good for me.) I dis-value Y and Z (i.e. I judge them to be bad for me.)

2. I will do Y rather than be shot by the mugger.

3. I will try to resist and kill the mugger rather than do Z.

Within the context of the hegemonic relationship, I can still choose to act towards 2, and it may be true that doing Y rather than being shot might be the best decision given the circumstances, but I am still being prevented from pursuing my rational self-interest by being denied choice 1. Resistance to invasion may be placed higher or lower, but we can set that aside for now. The whole point of utilizing violence or the threat of violence to force others to submit is to bring about a state of affairs in which subjection to the force is considered by the victim more desirable than rebellion.

The problem is that this criterion is overly broad. There are many non-violent ways of manipulating people into doing things that are against their self interest by constraining their choices between undesirable alternatives. Almost any non-violent threat would fall into this category- bosses can threaten to fire their employees, wives can threaten their husbands with divorce, other people can threaten you with lawsuits etc.

For example, lets say my wife tells me to stop reading Ayn Rand novels and to wash the dishes instead, or else she'll divorce me.

1. I would choose to do read Ayn Rand novels (i.e. I judge it to be good for me.) I dis-value washing the dishes and getting divorced (i.e. I judge them to be bad for me.)

2. I will wash the dishes rather than getting divorced.

3. I will argue my wife rather than getting divorced.

Within the context of the hegemonic relationship, I can still choose to act towards 2, and it may be true that doing Y rather than being divorced might be the best decision given the circumstances, but I am still being prevented from pursuing my rational self-interest by being denied choice 1. The whole point of utilizing a non-violent threat to force others to submit is to bring about a state of affairs in which subjection to the terms of the threat is considered by the victim more desirable than rebellion. So if Rand is right, this would also have to be equivalent to a violent threat- but that's absurd.

Edited by rasconia
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There is no physical, forceful threat in this example.

That's exactly my point! If my wife threatens me with divorce, she is still getting me to act how I would not otherwise want by constraining my choices (just like a mugger)- it's just she's using the threat of ending the relationship rather than the threat of physical force. She is removing options from me that you never agreed to -just like a mugger.

If highway robbery is immoral since it forces people to choose between options that the victim did not accept- then it follows that *any* action that forces people to choose between options that the victim did not accept is also immoral- even if its just my wife threatening me with divorce. But this is absurd, so it is obvious that this critera is overly broad.

Maybe they can resist, but they are not acting autonomously.
Of course they are! It's not like their mind is being controlled by someone else, or like they're acting automatically.

By disobeying, you are forced to make a decision to use martial arts; while yes, it's good that in this example you will survive, the decision making process is fundamentally different than if the request was simply "Can you give me some money, please?" By obeying, you're also being forced to act according to the mugger's wishes.

No you aren't; there are other choices: you could simply stand still and do nothing, or you could try to argue with the robber, or you could try running away, or you could try to call for help and so on. The robber can't make you choose- you still have free will and have to make a choice!

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That's exactly my point! If my wife threatens me with divorce, she is still getting me to act how I would not otherwise want by constraining my choices (just like a mugger)- it's just she's using the threat of ending the relationship rather than the threat of physical force. She is removing options from me that you never agreed to -just like a mugger.

I disagree. Presumably you love and therefore value your wife and your larger relationship together. You were not coerced (via force or fraud) into your marriage with her. You voluntarily executed your "marriage contract" with her. Your wife, by making her threat, is expressing her value hierarchy (assuming it was a legitimate threat of course) by indicating that your value to her would be diminished should you be unwilling to share in the domestic duties necessary to clean living. She has not compelled you to act, nor has she "removed options" available to you. You protest that you have been restricted because you value your wife more than your distaste for doing dishes. However, the reality is, that your wife has not held a gun to your head, nor fraudulently coerced you to act: you simply act and do the dishes as a reflection of your value selection.

If you disagree - please help me to understand how you value your wife less than you value not having to do dishes. If you can't - then we've established that your supposed "forced action" is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it is the most rational action possible given a man who values his marriage above his desire to be lazy and unclean.

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No you aren't; there are other choices: you could simply stand still and do nothing, or you could try to argue with the robber, or you could try running away, or you could try to call for help and so on. The robber can't make you choose- you still have free will and have to make a choice!

Right, but the important point is that you can't choose to politely decline (and a variety of other choices). You are compelled to make decisions in this case of only what the mugger desires, thereby rendering your self-interest irrelevant. You can make a choice like presenting an argument, but then you get shot. The idea isn't that a threat suddenly makes you unable to think, but you are forced to think in only the immediate present, which is against what is needed as at least one condition to acting in your self-interest. The example of a divorce threat does not work in the same way as a mugger. I was mentioning before the differences between different ways to convince a person to do things. Only threats with a physical promise behind them have any quality to them that is forceful and not merely persuasion.

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The problem is that this criterion is overly broad. There are many non-violent ways of manipulating people into doing things that are against their self interest by constraining their choices between undesirable alternatives. Almost any non-violent threat would fall into this category-

Right, that's why "having to choose between options you don't accept" is not the criterion for a rights-violation. The initiation of physical force by human beings is. The effects of this category of action are the negation of one's right to choose to act in his rational self-interest. It's only overly broad if you make a false equivocation between the effects of aggression by human beings and the criterion of a rights violation.

That's exactly my point!

That's exactly Rand's point as well in that a rights-violation only includes the aggressive use of physical violence. It would be overly broad if you equivocate between freedom of action to do X and power or ability to do X, or the willingness of others to provide you with X. If your wife threatens you with divorce there is no initiation of force because the criterion of a rights violation is not "not getting my every whim." Your relationship with her is contractual, not hegemonic. In the contractual relationship, the logical relationship between the two people is symmetrical. John has the same relation to Tom as Tom has to John. This is why Rand takes pains to describe the fact that rights involve physical violence by other men, because reality is a limitation on everybody and everything, so this amounts to saying, in the voice of the character of James Taggart in Atlas Shrugged, "Reality is enslaving me by not giving me my whims!"

There is no force being used in your examples, you simply have someone refusing to make a proffered exchange. The freedom to make an exchange necessarily implies the equivalent freedom not to make an exchange. There is no logical middle ground here. Everyone has the right to refuse to make an exchange with what is theirs, otherwise they would be the ones being forced then. Your wife agrees to marry you because she judges it to be good for her (the proverbial choice number 1.) If she now judges a divorce to be good for her, then violently coercing her to stay would be back to our previous example where the coerced party always loses and is denied the crucial element of moral autonomy Rand holds at the basis of her conception of freedom.

We can't decide what amounts to force until we know who owns what, since any assignment of rights will be a limitation on somebody. The person who accepts that the refusal to get your whims whenever you want them, including someone else's refusal to make an exchange, collapses into impossible contradictions like "The rapist is enslaved by the rape victim because the victim refused the rapist the use of her body." Any assignment of rights will restrict choice. If you prevent me from stealing your car, you have restricted my freedom of choice. And if I am free to take your car, your freedom of choice over that object is restricted. Rand's point here in conceptually separating "freedom" from "whim-worship" is that we cannot assess what choices people should have available to them without knowing what rights people have.

Of course they are! It's not like their mind is being controlled by someone else, or like they're acting automatically.

No you aren't; there are other choices: you could simply stand still and do nothing, or you could try to argue with the robber, or you could try running away, or you could try to call for help and so on. The robber can't make you choose- you still have free will and have to make a choice!

Your false equivocation extends here as well, and leads to a straw man. Again, no one is saying free will is metaphysically lost when under subordination. They are saying the choices and alternatives are crucially different: between subjection and rebellion. When Eioul says you are no longer autonomous, he doesn't mean metaphysically autonomous, he means morally autonomous. What this means is that when you are enslaved, you have been denied a crucial element of moral self-directedness, i.e. being denied the ability to act independently.

We are discussing "freedom" in the social or interpersonal sense, rather than in the sense of freedom of will. If a man’s free will to adopt ideas and values is inalienable, his freedom of action, that is, his freedom to put these ideas into effect in the world, is not in such a fortunate condition. Again, we are not talking about the limitations on man’s power inherent in the laws of his own nature and of the natures of other entities. What we are talking about now in terms of individual rights is what constitutes illegitimate interference with his sphere of action by other people, and Rand isolates the initiation of physical force or violent aggression by human beings as the necessary criterion to preserve the compossibility of rights.

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I disagree. Presumably you love and therefore value your wife and your larger relationship together. You were not coerced (via force or fraud) into your marriage with her. You voluntarily executed your "marriage contract" with her. Your wife, by making her threat, is expressing her value hierarchy (assuming it was a legitimate threat of course) by indicating that your value to her would be diminished should you be unwilling to share in the domestic duties necessary to clean living. She has not compelled you to act, nor has she "removed options" available to you. You protest that you have been restricted because you value your wife more than your distaste for doing dishes. However, the reality is, that your wife has not held a gun to your head, nor fraudulently coerced you to act: you simply act and do the dishes as a reflection of your value selection.

If you disagree - please help me to understand how you value your wife less than you value not having to do dishes. If you can't - then we've established that your supposed "forced action" is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it is the most rational action possible given a man who values his marriage above his desire to be lazy and unclean.

Ok, I'll agree- my wife isn't forcing me. But that just proves that a man who points a gun at my head isn't forcing me either.

Let's say a mugger points a gun at you and says "your money or your life!" and in response you give him the money. You protest that you have been restricted because you value your life above all else. However, the reality is that you still have free will: you simply act and give him the money as a reflection of your value selection.

If you disagree - please help me to understand how you value anything less than your own survival, according to objectivism. If you can't - then we've established that your supposed "forced action" is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it is the most rational action possible given a man who values his life above all else. Thus, there is no reason within objectivism to say that mugging is immoral, since the victim is still able to take rational actions.

Edited by rasconia
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