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 thenelli01
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Can derogatory words rationally be considered a challenge to a fight? Meaning words that have no rationale behind it, just insults to express your dislike for someone.

If someone calls you a bitch and starts cursing you out, should he be prepared to back up his words with his fists?

Edited by Matt Giannelli
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Between rational, civilized people who understand the meaning of communication, no, insults and swearing are not usually understood to be a call to action.

If you're in the ghetto and you mean to insult, you should probably be prepared to run or fight. Standards of civility are lower, understanding and intelligence at a minimum.

Edited by JASKN
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I would put it this way:

When you deliberately go out of your way to provoke and insult someone it would be in your best interest to be prepared for whatever consequences may follow.

That does not make it ok to attacks someone over a verbal insult.

That is to say, in most instances (certainly there are exceptions) it is irrational to start randomly hurling insults at someone. And when you are being irrational you best be prepared to be met with irrationality.

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Can derogatory words rationally be considered a challenge to a fight?

Does a snarling dog represent a rational threat?

If someone ... starts cursing you out, should he be prepared to back up his words with his fists?

Yes, and it's likely that he is prepared and willing to fight.

I think a more interesting question is, do rational threats initiated verbally, or by posture, justify responding with physical force? I'd say no, at least in terms of throwing the first blow, and I'd say that's true whether the confrontation is between individuals or nations. Verbal aggression is "force lite" so to speak, and defensive physical force ought to be limited to responding to initiations of physical force; not initiations of verbal threats.

"Sticks and stones... "

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You believe wrong.

The claim isn't that "humans are like dogs", but "acting irrationally is acting like an animal". By resorting to insults and cursing you out, the other person is in practice failing to use reason, the very thing that you need to get value from another person. If anything, the other person is worse than a dog, because at least a snarling dog is only trying to defend itself in the only way it knows how. Words that are derogatory or intended to get a reaction/provoke violence are abandoning reason in relationships in favor of might makes right, the way animals interact. Verbal aggression may anger you, butt it has no causal power, and isn't always a real threat. If you have the option to leave the situation, that's the right choice.

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You believe wrong.

Then I am in good company...

"The arbitrary (in this case, "derogatory words"), however, has no relation to evidence, facts, or context. It is the human equivalent of [noises produced by] a parrot . . . sounds without any tie to reality, without content or significance." ~ Leonard Peikoff

Do a man and a parrot function in the same way, Nicky?

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Then I am in good company...

"The arbitrary (in this case, "derogatory words"), however, has no relation to evidence, facts, or context. It is the human equivalent of [noises produced by] a parrot . . . sounds without any tie to reality, without content or significance." ~ Leonard Peikoff

Do a man and a parrot function in the same way, Nicky?

Some out of context quote doesn't prove that Leonard Peikoff thinks comparing the behavior of men to that of animals is a valid argument.

The claim isn't that "humans are like dogs", but "acting irrationally is acting like an animal".

That's not true either.

Edited by Nicky
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Some out of context quote doesn't prove that Leonard Peikoff thinks comparing the behavior of men to that of animals is a valid argument.

I have clarified the context for my initial question; dismiss it if you will. Nevertheless, Leonard Peikoff does compare the language of men to that of parrots when there is "no rationale behind it" (as initially presented by Matt). Here I'm pointing to an obvious similarity between arbitrary claims and "derogatory words", e.g. "you're an arrogant prick", or "your mother wears army boots", as equivalent to the noises produced by a snarling dog. Perhaps you can clarify your objection to my comparison of irrational language to sounds made by an animal, by distinguishing it from a similar observation made by Peikoff... or perhaps you're just being objectionable?

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Is your disagreement with the metaphor, or with the idea that words without rationale are irrational and mindless?

My disagreement is with the notion that animal behavior has anything whatsoever to do with the topic of the thread. When a dog snarls, it does so instinctually, as a precursor to agression. Men do nothing of the sort. Not if they're rational, not if they're irrational.

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My disagreement is with the notion that animal behavior has anything whatsoever to do with the topic of the thread.

You have yet to state any position on the topic of this thread... Given that humans are animals, I disagree with your claim that animal behavior hasn't anything whatsoever to do with a topic about responding to verbal aggression. But rather than continuing an argument about whether comparing the behavior of men to that of animals makes for a valid argument, I'll wait to see if you can produce a dog for this fight.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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I think this is actually quite an interesting question. I don't think it's as simple as the person who swings first is in the wrong. Take the obvious case of someone explicitly asking you to punch them. With their explicit permission, you're not violating their rights if you hit them, whether or not it would actually be rational to do so. The question is, whether such a desire to get hit or to get into a fight can be conveyed implicitly, such as through baseless insults. The phrase, "he was asking for it" comes to mind. Obviously, this idea can be misapplied by someone just looking for an excuse to punch another person, but the question is whether it can ever be correctly applied. Can someone be implicitly "asking for it" through baseless insults or other means?

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My disagreement is with the notion that animal behavior has anything whatsoever to do with the topic of the thread. When a dog snarls, it does so instinctually, as a precursor to agression. Men do nothing of the sort. Not if they're rational, not if they're irrational.

When a person is acting irrationally, they are abandoning reason in favor of animal-like consciousness of operating on the perceptual level. The words involved in throwing around baseless insults are arbitrary and automatic, and often go with the intent of physical aggression if you give into their provocations. While a person has the power to come out of such an animal-like frame of mind or not enter such a frame of mind in the first place, if one is in such a state, that's blind emotionalism as much as a dog.

I like Dante's thinking going on, and I agree with some of it. Depending on the words stated and context of where they are stated, it's possible to "ask for it" in the sense your abuser has stated they're looking for a fight, and gave you permission. But the moral course of action is to not engage if at all possible.

Edited by Eiuol
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The phrase, "he was asking for it" comes to mind. Obviously, this idea can be misapplied by someone just looking for an excuse to punch another person, but the question is whether it can ever be correctly applied. Can someone be implicitly "asking for it" through baseless insults or other means?

The appearance of someone asking to be beaten, ought to give pause to responding with violence. I recall being confronted by such a person while walking to work; a total stranger crossed my path and directed a derogatory comment at me. I was totally caught off-guard and my first reaction was to stop and face my aggressor. The moment passed and I chose to walk away from it. Because I hadn't been physically accosted, I couldn't justify giving my verbal aggressor the blow he appeared to be asking for, and I wanted to deliver.

After reflecting on it, I'm convinced I did the right thing even though I felt violated. I can empathize with those who might accept an implicit invitation to throw the first punch, but I can't rationally approve it. Physical responses to verbal aggression are an escalation of force, and reason must be given the opportunity to prevail prior to throwing blows.

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Beats stating the wrong position, and then sticking with it to the point where your big argument is "humans are also animals".

Really? I'd have thought entering an argument with something to defend is better, but then I'm not the Objectivist you are. Nice taunt though... kinda relates to topic... LOL

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Can someone be implicitly "asking for it" through baseless insults or other means?

They could, sure. But that doesn't mean everyone who insults you means to do that. It's usually pretty clear if someone is looking to get into a fight, or posturing to bolster his own ego or make himself look tough for an audience, or looking to scare you, or has some other plan.

And if it's not clear, you can always ask for clarifications. But, whatever you do, don't act as if the other guy is just an animal. Odds are he's not. He isn't a dog, he isn't like a dog, he isn't in an animal-like frame of mind, and his actions definitely aren't automatic. He has intentions, he has a plan, and his insults are a part of his plan, not an automatic "sign" of his frame of mind.

More than that: his behavior is the means by which he is intentionally communicating a frame of mind to you. "a" is the key word there: it's not necessarily his frame of mind. He might be intentionally misleading you about his frame of mind (to scare you, for instance, into thinking that he's like a mad dog).

Determining someone's true intentions, instead of just acting on what he wants you to think his frame of mind is, is crucial before deciding how to properly engage them. (i.e. You don't want to come across as a wuss when someone is clearly just faking his anger with the sole purpose of making you look like a wuss -but then again, you also don't want to hit them over the head with a crowbar - you want to stand up to him verbally, while keeping your cool; and you don't want to engage some asshole who's looking to send someone to the hospital - that's when you do want to stand down, not talk back)

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If there was ever a man to deserve a good beat down, it was Ellsworth Toohey. But we did see a fight between him and Roark.. an intellectual fight. And the result of that was much more satisfying than any physical encounter that could have gone down.

Edited by mdegges
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And if it's not clear, you can always ask for clarifications. But, whatever you do, don't act as if the other guy is just an animal. Odds are he's not. He isn't a dog, he isn't like a dog, he isn't in an animal-like frame of mind, and his actions definitely aren't automatic. He has intentions, he has a plan, and his insults are a part of his plan, not an automatic "sign" of his frame of mind.

I found a quote by Rand which happens to articulate better my thought: "Irrationality is a state of default, the state of an unachieved human stature. When men do not choose to reach the conceptual level, their consciousness has no recourse but to its automatic, perceptual, semi-animal functions." I consider baseless insults irrational by nature, disconnected from reality, pure emotionalism. Emotion is an automatic function, and to let it run wild is irrationality at its finest. You cannot engage this type of thinking on rational grounds, so you abandon the situation. It's possible the other person is scheming, but if the context were a bar fight, that's not a reasonable hypothesis. (I can't think of good contexts to discuss, but I think of comparing bar fights, to playground insults, to insults from a calm person trying to make you angry).

Edited by Eiuol
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I found a quote by Rand which happens to articulate better my thought

She isn't writing about this subject. In the essay you are quoting from, she is referring to two types of men who's character is defined by irrationality: the Attila and the Witch Doctor, and their followers.

If you wish to communicate what she said in that passage, outside the context of the essay, your best approach would be to name the subject of her sentence. Then, your quote would read: " The irrationality [Attilla and the Witch Doctor profit from] is a state of default, ...."

Taking that quote and applying it to someone who is insulting you in a bar is context dropping. One irrational action does not make one either of the archetypes Ayn Rand is talking about in the quote.

Edited by Nicky
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