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Why is it immoral to limit an individuals freedom?

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Whoa, easy. I'm on your side! Don't shoot! And stop sharpening that axe, you're making me nervous.

The source of man's rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A-and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man's rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.

I understand this and I agree with this.

What I'm looking for is a short, concise and easy to understand (possibly based on appeal to emotion) way to explain this to a collectivist(-leaning) person, who would argue that "some reasonable limitations on individual liberty" do not negate an individuals ability to live, as evidenced by basically everyone in Western society. No one is completely free to do as he pleases, we all live with taxes and many, many laws that say what we must not do, even when we want to; and what we must do, even when we don't. I'd have to agree that it is quite possible to live under these conditions, and, at least in Western nations, even quite comfortably.

In extreme cases, one might even argue that "life" is quite possible even for slaves. I know that life is more than morgue avoidance, but I'm looking for a way to explain this in a few sentences to someone for whom things like "life qua man" and "self-esteem" (in the Objectivist sense) mean very little.

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In extreme cases, one might even argue that "life" is quite possible even for slaves. I know that life is more than morgue avoidance, but I'm looking for a way to explain this in a few sentences to someone for whom things like "life qua man" and "self-esteem" (in the Objectivist sense) mean very little.
If you asked this person whether slavery was okay, they'd say it was not. Why not? Is it because it is not a reasonable restriction...far from it, it is extremely unreasonable. So, the question becomes: what makes a restriction on rights reasonable?
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If you asked this person whether slavery was okay, they'd say it was not. Why not? Is it because it is not a reasonable restriction...far from it, it is extremely unreasonable. So, the question becomes: what makes a restriction on rights reasonable?

I agree with what I think is the sentiment of this; that it is necessary to shift the burden to the person who wishes to abridge the rights of others. Depending on the person I have encountered, they usually, when pressed, break their views down into either the "Rawlsian" minimizing harm for the worst among us or they advocate some kind of Utilitarianism.

If they are utilitarians they stand on pretty unsupportable grounds with regard to the difficulty of measurement.

The Rawlsians seem to be most vulnerable in a similar sense. How can we really determine who is the worst off in any spiritual sense of the phrase? If they have marxist tendencies then they stick with those who are materially worst of("the poor"), in which case you're probably not going to convince them of much because they are using a specifically delimited standard of evaluation that inoculates them against arguments from reality. All you really have left then is to show that the worst off are better have under liberty. Rising tide lifts all boats. If they are not materialists you might gain some ground by showing how material wealth is not synonymous with general well being past a certain point.

With all of this though, in arguing with irrationality, in my experience, little ever does as well as the Socratic approach. If someone makes the claim that you would be better off without a liberty, make them prove it and don't let them wiggle out of the massive issue of opportunity cost.

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With all of this though, in arguing with irrationality, in my experience, little ever does as well as the Socratic approach.
It also has the advantage of not offering a "canned answer" and the advantage of being a conversation, rather than lecture. If the other person is a friend, then I would want to understand where exactly they're coming from. Understanding the other person's context is the only way to give them an answer that clicks for them.
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It also has the advantage of not offering a "canned answer" and the advantage of being a conversation, rather than lecture. If the other person is a friend, then I would want to understand where exactly they're coming from. Understanding the other person's context is the only way to give them an answer that clicks for them.

Well said. This is probably the best method for influencing change in society.

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"If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational."

The problem is that I don't see nature forbidding any such thing. For example, the vast majority of people who ever lived on this planet have beeen theists of one kind or another (and the vast majority still are today). This, according to Objectivism, is highly irrational, yet man has survived. If nature really did forbid the irrational, then the human race would have died out long ago. It might be considered irrational to hold that "might makes right", but history shows that quite a few brutal despots have died peaceful deaths. Now, it would be "collectively" irrational if everyone subscribed to the idea that "might makes right", as it would be hard for anyone to survive in such an environment, but clearly it works for some individuals. Likewise with theft and other criminal behaviors: this might be a rational method of survival for some individuals, though destructive if practiced collectively. So no -- nature doesn't "forbid" irrationality at all.

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Man is not prevented from being irrational but he does pay a price in doing so. To what extent is dependant upon context and the irrational act. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a guilt pleasure of mine but I no longer eat it since hitting my 40’s as it sits heavy on my stomach. If I decide to stop and get someone on my way home I’d pay the price for an hour but after that there would be no real issue (unless I started eating it full time obviously). On the other hand, the Dark Ages demonstrated the tax on humanity that resulted from institutionalized mysticism and state control. The knowledge lost and cost in human life of knowledge (and thus humanity) stagnating for centuries is so high it’s practically unimaginable to consider where we would be as a civilization if it did not happen. You can say the same thing today when considering the wealth, knowledge, and advancement lost due to the irrational constraints placed on people’s ability to thrive (not to mention the drive to expropriate it from the producers to the looters).

So no, you are not restricted from being irrational nor will some force eradicate man as a species for doing so, but he does pay a price for it.

Edited by Spiral Architect
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Nice analogy - irrationality gathers on your mind, like eating KFC every day would gather

on your midriff. To paraphrase some writer, the only thing that will fit an evasion, is another

evasion.

Why is it immoral to limit an individual's freedom? Most critically, I think, you are taking

from them their direct correspondence to reality - interfering with their due successes, as well

as their inevitable mistakes and failures.

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"Man is not prevented from being irrational but he does pay a price in doing so."

Which is a long way away from the quote I was disputing: "nature forbids him the irrational". I think you and I would agree, then, that nature does no such thing.

Nor do I think it is absolutely true that man will always and everywhere pay a price: as I mentioned, history has examples of people who lied, cheated, and stole their way to success, or who brutalized others to gain power, who died quiet, peaceful deaths in their old age. Of course many others ended up deposed, imprisoned, or dead, but my point is that "paying a price" is not an absolute. Individuals can act irrationally and some will get away with it. It is somwhat harder on a large scale -- look at Japan in the second World War: It was not rational to think that they could prevail over the United States (a larger nation with vast resources), though they had succeeded (using extraordinary brutality and cruelty) in the region. They did indeed pay a price...

"On the other hand, the Dark Ages demonstrated the tax on humanity that resulted from institutionalized mysticism and state control."

I'm always skeptical of the use of the term "Dark Ages", as it is usually used incorrectly (usually as a pejorative as opposed to an actual historical period). So you might want to brush up on it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Ages_(historiography) Wikipedia's entry is the simple, easy way, but there are quite a number of scholarly works on the subject. Here's one: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7606757-the-modern-scholar

I point this out because your use of the term suggests that you are using the term "Dark Ages" inaccurately.

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Nice analogy - irrationality gathers on your mind, like eating KFC every day would gather

on your midriff. To paraphrase some writer, the only thing that will fit an evasion, is another

evasion.

Why is it immoral to limit an individual's freedom? Most critically, I think, you are taking

from them their direct correspondence to reality - interfering with their due successes, as well

as their inevitable mistakes and failures.

That is a great point. Taking man's successes and protecting him from is failures really is an act of denying him his ability to live since you are severing his actions from reality. Putting it that way really shows the immorality of the practice!

Edited by Spiral Architect
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"So, you are arguing that irrationality can be efficacious in some small degree?"

No. I am disputing the claim made here that nature forbids man the irrational.

So, how do you read that quote?

Firstly, do you think that Rand meant that being irrational is literally impossible?

If she implied irrationality is possible, do you think she meant it could not exist in the same person who was also rational sometimes?

I'm specfically interested in the answers to these two questions.

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"So, how do you read that quote?"

Just so we're on the same page -- which quote do you have in mind? I had quoted a previous poster, who wrote: "If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational." However, when I went to look for the poster's name, I see that the post is no longer there or at least that part has been edited out of it, so I can no longer tell you who provided that statement.

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Just so we're on the same page -- which quote do you have in mind? I had quoted a previous poster, who wrote: "If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational."
Yes, this quote that you put in italics. it is from Galt's speech. Hardly matters who quoted it originally here. The point of the quote is that irrationality does not work.
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"The point of the quote is that irrationality does not work."

Which is not the same thing as saying that nature forbids irrationality. The implication of the latter is that a man does something irrational, and -- boom! -- he dies because nature will not let him survive the irrational act. But that's not reality -- reality demonstrates that individuals can act irrationally and survive. There are people who commit criminal, irrational acts -- and they get away with it. For some, theft is a means of survival.

You and I would agree that acting rationally is in an individual's best interest. There's no need to pretend, though, that nature is going to "forbid" irrationality by its leading to automatic death (which is the only way nature could forbid irrationality).

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But that's not reality -- reality demonstrates that individuals can act irrationally and survive. There are people who commit criminal, irrational acts -- and they get away with it. For some, theft is a means of survival.

It is possible to survive by theft because their are productive men who make things that can be stolen. Let him survive by theft when he's alone on a desert island. He'll die pretty quickly.

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Which is not the same thing as saying that nature forbids irrationality. The implication of the latter is that a man does something irrational, and -- boom! -- he dies...
So this is what you think the person meant when they wrote those words? So, by implication, you assume that the person saying that is saying that all men have always been rational in everything they have ever done? After all, if they had done anything ever so little that was irrational, they would go "boom".

Is that your most intelligent interpretation of the author?

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Maybe replace the word "dies" with "suffers in some way", since he later referenced jail as something that irrational people sometimes avoid--and jail is not death. I agree that there is an inconsistency.

[edit] I think the "boom, he dies" bit was a bit of an emotional exaggeration. Let me be corrected if I'm wrong!

Edited by musenji
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"It is possible to survive by theft because their are productive men who make things that can be stolen. Let him survive by theft when he's alone on a desert island. He'll die pretty quickly."

You and I don't disagree. However, I'm interested in reality, not in fictional desert-island scenarios. My point is that, whether we approve of it or not, individuals sometimes can and do survive despite acting irrationally. Nature does not forbid them by striking them down when they act so.

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To say that something is forbidden is not to say it is impossible.

It is to say that it will have consequences if ignored.

Yeah, its metaphorical language.

Forbidden implies a personality, in this case "reality" attributed human characteristic by "forbidding" somethign.

That metaphor doesn't really mention that things like degree and frequency also matter when it comes to irrationality, but it shouldn't have to.

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