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A question about violence and the initiation of force.

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And here I thought Objectivism relied on logic and reason instead of emotional appeals....

That's not an emotional appeal. Physical agony is a fact.

That you can only see extreme physical pain as an abstract- and therefore an emotional appeal only helps prove my point.

and for the record although you probably thought my response was meant in sarcasm it was not- I really do think it remarkable that you've managed to protect yourself from harm to the point that you can't see the difference in having an unreasonable harpy withdraw her affections and having your kneecaps blown off with a shotgun.

Edited by SapereAude
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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.

I didn't say that there was no difference. Obviously there is a difference; the onus is still on you to show why that difference matters.

Oh no, I don't think I need to show anything to you. I'll be much more entertained by life teaching you this lesson.

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But it's still a choice - not even the mugger can force you to not resist- he can only react to your decisions.

The gun gives him the opportunity to not only react, but to proactively take all of your decisions away from you except maybe how fast you are going to bleed to death.

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That's not an emotional appeal. Physical agony is a fact.

That you can only see extreme physical pain as an abstract- and therefore an emotional appeal only helps prove my point.

and for the record although you probably thought my response was meant in sarcasm it was not- I really do think it remarkable that you've managed to protect yourself from harm to the point that you can't see the difference in having an unreasonable harpy withdraw her affections and having your kneecaps blown off with a shotgun.

Now you're putting words in my mouth. Obviously there is a difference- its just not a difference that is relevant to the point at hand. As I understand Objectivist ethics, violence is immoral for a reason- and that reason has nothing to do with the physical pain or harm a person might experience. Obviously having your kneecaps broken is much more painful (physically, at least) than going through a divorce- but the morality of the action does not depend on how much physical or emotional pain the victim experiences- the morality of the action depends on how it affects the other person's ability to reason and act.

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Now you're putting words in my mouth. Obviously there is a difference- its just not a difference that is relevant to the point at hand. As I understand Objectivist ethics, violence is immoral for a reason- and that reason has nothing to do with the physical pain or harm a person might experience. Obviously having your kneecaps broken is much more painful (physically, at least) than going through a divorce- but the morality of the action does not depend on how much physical or emotional pain the victim experiences- the morality of the action depends on how it affects the other person's ability to reason and act.

I don't know if you know this but you are proving the Objectivist position more and more with every post you make.

Hint:

"but the morality of the action does not depend on how much physical or emotional pain the victim experiences- the morality of the action depends on how it affects the other person's ability to reason and act"

Imma gon get all socratic up in here and let you figure this out :whistle:

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The gun gives him the opportunity to not only react, but to proactively take all of your decisions away from you except maybe how fast you are going to bleed to death.

In terms of making decisions and reasoning, getting shot to death is not the same as being threatened. You can still think, reason, and act while you are alive; you can't while dead.

Edited by rasconia
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Well I had high hopes for you, but this thread fails to live up to the ethics of discourse.

Then why is the initiation of physical force the criterion for a rights violation? Why aren't non-violent threats also a criterion for rights violation? The answers I've seen so far seem to rely on circular logic or tautologies(e.g. "violence is immoral because it's a rights violation, and rights violations are immoral since they involve violence")

Who are you quoting there in the bold? Are you paraphrasing someone? No one in this thread said that or anything like it.

Wait...so a divorce threat is not the initiation of force because the criterion of a rights violation is...initation of force? see above statement about tautologies

Again, where did I say this? I said being denied your every whim isn't a rights-violation because that (whims) isn't the criterion, since you seemed confused about what Rand considered the criterion to be. I don't see the circularity of your straw man versions of my post in that.

I may have gone too far there, but I'm sticking to my point: The victim still has free will- even if threatened with a gun.

Again, no one is denying a victim of coercion has free will. This is a straw man.

We are not talking about the metaphysical capacity for choice being diminished by the initiation of physical force, only particular choices being diminished by the initiation of physical force, which results in the loss of one's right to make a choice (also sometimes just called "choice.")

choice (chois)

n.

1. The act of choosing; selection.

2. The power, right, or liberty to choose;

3. One that is chosen

You are equivocating on entirely separate concepts (differentiated here by color) "freedom" (of will) and (social) "freedom," "choice" (free will) and "this particular choice" (ex ante lost value due to coercive intervention) which denies someone their (moral sanction on the freedom to make a) "choice." Equivocation is classified as both a formal and informal logical fallacy. It is the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).

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Because they estimate that violent threats are more likely to get the victim to do what they want.

I don't like doing one line responses, but that's what being socratic involves. Why is it any more likely that a violent threat will get the victim to act as you want?

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I don't know if you know this but you are proving the Objectivist position more and more with every post you make.

Hint:

"but the morality of the action does not depend on how much physical or emotional pain the victim experiences- the morality of the action depends on how it affects the other person's ability to reason and act"

Yes- I was citing the objectivist position. But I don't agree with the objectivist position.

A violent threat is not a form of mind control. A violent threat does not prevent you from thinking, reasoning, evaluating the available options, making a decision, disobeying the mugger, or taking action (e.g. fighting back). So in what sense can you be said to be forced to act against your own reason?

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In terms of making decisions and reasoning, getting shot to death is not the same as being threatened. You can still think, reason, and act while you are alive; you can't while dead.

Oh, I have no problem making that distinction. I can even make the connection between the threat of being shot to death and being shot to death. I can see how closely related they are whereas I don't think you can. I can even make the connection that I am no longer free to go deposit the money I was on the way to the bank with. I am no longer free to go pick up my son who will be getting out of school shortly. My choices and ability to act have been significantly diminished in a way that I cannot ignore if I value my existence, unlike the divorce-threatening wife. I can make the connection that whether or not my wife wants to divorce me over dishes is of very little consequence at the moment. Now, I only have a very limited number of options being FORCED upon my by the men seeking to deprive me of property, life or both. My very existence is threatened, unlike the situation in which the nagging wife is threatening to walk out. I can make the connection as to how one much more SIGNIFICANTLY impacts my ability to reason, think and act. Additionally, I can make the connection that in robberies such as that typically a person's ability to think, reason and act are additionally impaired by the mental, emotional, and physiological reaction going on in their body caused by the traumatic stress that is occurring.

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A violent threat is not a form of mind control. A violent threat does not prevent you from thinking, reasoning, evaluating the available options, making a decision, disobeying the mugger, or taking action (e.g. fighting back). So in what sense can you be said to be forced to act against your own reason?

Have you ever actually had a loaded gun pointed at your head by someone who has every intention of harming you?

I assure you, as someone who has had that experience that it my case at least, your statement is incorrect.

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Again, where did I say this? I said being denied your every whim isn't a rights-violation because that (whims) isn't the criterion, since you seemed confused about what Rand considered the criterion to be. I don't see the circularity of your straw man versions of my post in that.

Actually, I was hoping for a clarification. I'll try to explain my train of thought though:

First you said:

"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."

Later you said:

"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.""

But if you take these two statements together, you end up with the conclusion, that "If your wife threatens you with divorce there is no initiation of force because the criterion of a rights violation is the initiation of physical force by human beings.""

...anyways..

We are not talking about the metaphysical capacity for choice being diminished by the initiation of physical force, only particular choices being diminished by the initiation of physical force, which results in the loss of one's right to make a choice (also sometimes just called "choice.")

Why, exactly, does that cause the loss of one's "right" to make a choice? Where do these rights come from? Are they socially constructed, or objective? And how can you tell?

Also, I think you are making an implicit assumption: you seem to be assuming that if someone lacks the right to do something, then that means that they are forced to not do it. But there's no reason why this should be the case- the fact that some people rebel and retaliate against muggers proves that people are not prevented from acting by the lack of a right to do so. In fact, it seems to me that this would be the rational choice- shouldn't one's choices be guided by one's own self interest, rather than the desire to adhere to ideals like "rights"?

You are equivocating on entirely separate concepts (differentiated here by color) "freedom" (of will) and (social) "freedom,"

On the contrary, I was not equivocating because I was only referring to freedom of will (objective freedom). Once you start talking about social freedoms, you're talking about social constructions, rather than objective reality.

Consider this: It is possible for a person to have the freedom(of will) to reason and to act in his or her own self interest, yet simultaneously lack the (social)freedom to reason and act in his or her own self interest. Right?

If I am being mugged and I choose not to retaliate or otherwise act in my rational self interst because I don't have the (social)freedom to act, then how can we say that the mugger is what prevented me from acting? No, the thing that prevented me from acting was my own sense of rights and social freedom, not the mugger himself

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My very existence is threatened, unlike the situation in which the nagging wife is threatening to walk out. I can make the connection as to how one much more SIGNIFICANTLY impacts my ability to reason, think and act.
The issue was never about whether your ability to reason, think and act were ever impacted; it was about whether you were forced or not.

Additionally, I can make the connection that in robberies such as that typically a person's ability to think, reason and act are additionally impaired by the mental, emotional, and physiological reaction going on in their body caused by the traumatic stress that is occurring.
Once again, the same is true of divorce threats.

I think it's time for a re-cap:

Lets say a mugger confronts you with a gun, and gives you a choice: "your money or you life!" The mugger has not drugged you. He does not have mind control powers. Since he cannot control your mind:

you still have the ability to think and reason

You still have the ability to imagine possible courses of action that weren't suggested by the mugger (e.g. physically retaliating or running away)

You still have the ability to evaluate which possible choice of action is the best, according to your rational self interest

You still have the ability to decide on a course of action, even if you'd be disobeying the mugger when doing so (e.g. physically retaliating or running away)

You still have the ability to act on your decision, rather than submit to the options provided by the mugger.

Given that you retain all these abilities, in what sense can you said to be forced by a threat?

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Your original argument is flawed in that you take two separate contexts and attempt to combine them into one argument.

It is immoral to hold a slave. A slave owner would have complete control over the life and death of his slave. The slave would be morally right to live his life for the lone purpose of obtaining freedom.

It is immoral to rob someone. Robbery is theft through the use or threat of force. It is different from stealing, or thievery.

In no context would a robber, or your highwayman, ever be moral. Nor would a slave owner.

One would use his powers of reason to survive being enslaved or being robbed, but that would never justify the event. The robber or the slave owner would not be a moral person.

This is because there is no value being traded, the mugger or slaver is only taking, or looting, by force, because they have no ability to produce, no desire to give something they have earned for something they need or want, and no moral value, in any sense.

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Given that you retain all these abilities, in what sense can you said to be forced by a threat?

You are right about the fact that force is not mind control. The idea is NOT that force makes you unable to decide. The idea is NOT that free-will is lost. The idea is how your freedom is affected and diminished, thereby making you unfree. Free in this context is NOT "free to think", but free to act in your self-interest. Self-interest is not about a single event in time, but a sum of actions (this part here is still an issue; you brought up the whole prudent predator topic earlier). People operate on intention, and because of the mugger's promise to literally destroy or ruin my property or my body, my means of intentional action are also destroyed or ruined. (I'm giving you bigger hints about what the objective is of a physical threat as opposed to a non-physical threat. Since people have free-will, why would dictators even manage to get anything done? I'm literally asking.) You are being made to make decisions based upon the will of the mugger, his will being putting forth the choice "your money or your life".

You did not yet establish why a violent threat actually IS done in the first place. To discuss this topic, it's important to mention all relevant details about the referrent.

Keep in mind this is different than "force is immoral?" We're just establishing what force refers to and what it does.

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The issue was never about whether your ability to reason, think and act were ever impacted; it was about whether you were forced or not.

Here's the part you left out of your quoting;

Now, I only have a very limited number of options being FORCED upon my by the men seeking to deprive me of property, life or both.

Once again, the same is true of divorce threats.

No, it is not, not even close. You can still ignore her and go to the bank, go pick up your son, go to MacDonalds, etc. etc. Your existence is not threatened at all in this situation.

I think it's time for a re-cap:

If you need one, I'm good.

Like I said, next time you get robbed, just ignore them and keep walking to your bank to make that deposit. They aren't forcing you do to anything.

This is like telling a child not to touch the hot burner... I think you just need some real life experience because I'm doubting any amount of theoretical discussion is going to convince you. Life doesn't happen like it does on an internet forum.

Edited by RationalBiker
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Strictly speaking, those are the choices he wants me to consider. I still have other options- I could try running away, or retaliating, or simply refusing. I could even try calling his bluff- just because he makes a threat doesn't mean he actually intends to follow through.

True, but none of those choices would be at play if he were not there holding a gun to your head.

The divorce, by comparison, is one party who is part of a mutually entered contract indicating that they wish to terminate that contract.

Robber, gun to head, creating choices for you that wouldn't exist otherwise, at all, and which you had no hand in creating. Spouse, divorce lawyer on retainer, creating choices for you that wouldn't exist had you not first CHOSEN to get married.

Edited by Greebo
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You are right about the fact that force is not mind control. The idea is NOT that force makes you unable to decide. The idea is NOT that free-will is lost. The idea is how your freedom is affected and diminished, thereby making you unfree. Free in this context is NOT "free to think", but free to act in your self-interest.

Here's the problem, folks: Ayn Rand said violence could be justified - but only if it was taken in one's self-defense.

"The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative." -Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness

So here are the options:

1. "Self defense is impossible, since the victims of violence are forced to act against their rational self interest." -If this is the case, then Ayn Rand is contradicting herself, since she said that self defense was a moral imperative, which presupposes that it is possible.

2. "Self defense is possible, and is in one's rational self interest" - If this is the case, then Ayn Rand is also contradicting herself, because she said the victim of violence is forced to act against one's rational self interest.

3. "Self defense is possible, but is not in one's rational self interest" - If this is the case, then Ayn Rand is also contradicting herself, since she says that self defense is a moral imperative.

Having the right (and the moral imperative!) to act in one's own self-defense presupposes and depends on the fact that the victim of violence is not forced to act as the attacker wishes. As long as I can act in my self-defense, I am not being forced to think or act against my self interest. Thus Ayn Rand contradicts herself.

You did not yet establish why a violent threat actually IS done in the first place. To discuss this topic, it's important to mention all relevant details about the referrent.

In objectivism, what makes violent actions wrong is not their intention, but the (supposed) inability of the victim to be rationally self interested.

Edited by rasconia
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In objectivism, what makes violent actions wrong is not their intention, but the (supposed) inability of the victim to be rationally self interested.

The inability which is created by the aggressor by demanding that the victim act in the aggressor's interests.

2. "Self defense is possible, and is in one's rational self interest" - If this is the case, then Ayn Rand is also contradicting herself, because she said the victim of violence is forced to act against one's rational self interest.

The moral/rational option has already been removed - by the aggressor. Man is only required to act morally rationally in situations where rational/moral behavior is possible.

When the aggressor initiates force, he creates a situation where moral action is no longer possible. The victim may choose to fight, or flee, or comply, or refuse and die - and all choices are equally valid and, WITHIN the narrow context of the compulsion, but those choices have been instigated by the aggressor and responsibility for the outcome lies with the aggressor, not the victim.

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The inability which is created by the aggressor by demanding that the victim act in the aggressor's interests.

The moral/rational option has already been removed - by the aggressor. Man is only required to act morally rationally in situations where rational/moral behavior is possible.

When the aggressor initiates force, he creates a situation where moral action is no longer possible.

Then why did Rand say that self defense was a moral imperative? It sounds to me like she did think there was a rational/moral option.

The victim may choose to fight, or flee, or comply, or refuse and die - and all choices are equally valid and, WITHIN the narrow context of the compulsion, but those choices have been instigated by the aggressor and responsibility for the outcome lies with the aggressor, not the victim.

The question wasn't about who has responsibility for the outcome- it was about the reason why violence is immoral in Objectivism. Ayn Rand doesn't seem to think that all the victim's options are equally valid: she claims self defense is a moral imperative. Thus, the victim is still able to act morally, in his own rational self interest.

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Then why did Rand say that self defense was a moral imperative? It sounds to me like she did think there was a rational/moral option.

What is the good?

All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.

Life is our ultimate value. As rational beings, acting in a consistently rational manner is the ultimate virtue.

However, when rationality is no longer possible, such as under the threat of force, exercising that virtue is not possible.

The value of our life, however, remains, and so morally, when rational action is no longer possible, then doing whatever we can to survive and to get us BACK to being able to live as rational beings is what remains.

Edited by Greebo
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The value of our life, however, remains, and so morally, when rational action is no longer possible, then doing whatever we can to survive and to get us BACK to being able to live as rational beings is what remains.

No, "doing whatever we can to survive" is not the only option that remains: You could instead choose to not do whatever you can to survive. People occasionally do choose to kill themselves, after all.

Trying to survive (rather than trying to get yourself killed) obviously would be the rational choice, since you value your life. However, this means that rational action is still possible.

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