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Is Stealing to live Justified According to Objectivists

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5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

If morality is meant to serve your life, your flourishing, how does this make sense? It's one thing to die in the process of your life, it's another to die as a direct result of your principle. Yes, morality is about flourishing, but at the least, morality is never a cause of death. There's a major Christian vibe in all that, equating life to a disembodied soul such that being dead isn't really "dead", you're just waiting on revival. Don't ruin your soul now, it might ruin your resurrection! To be clear, that's describing a logical end. I want to know how a moral principle, if it really is one, can ever cause death. You seem to be saying "your body may die today in the Andes because you didn't murder someone to eat them as food, but who cares, spiritual values matter more". 

Metaphysics does not change depending on what situation you are in. Just because you're not in a metaphysically normal situation doesn't mean metaphysics itself is any different, only the situation itself is abnormal. Your moral principles ultimately grounded in metaphysics do not change, they simply are applied to this particular situation.

Look, life and death are at stake. If you have a will to live, what ought you to do in order, causally, to maximize your life and to defeat death, over the long term? If some action leads to your death in the short term (doesn't "cause" it), is it ultimately for or against your life, in the long term? If death can be overcome by the creative work and productivity of men, that is an important long-term consideration when it comes to choosing your actions such that they maximize your life. If the non-aggression principle is an important principle of maximizing the creative work and productivity of man, then that is going to be an important principle for maximizing your life. You can't look at it as superficially as only seeing the immediate, short-term effects. You need to know what it means over the long-term.

Moral principles are the best possible way to pursue life over the long run. The invention of immortality and resurrection are the only long-term solutions to staying alive. The best way to pursue those is living and acting on principle, respecting the rights of others' life and creative work and property. Even if it kills you in the short term.

If you assume death can be overcome, then my argument is not some support of "disemboded" identity or values. My take on that is this:

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"By virtue of man's will to live, and the intelligibility and controllability of the nature of the universe, and given the lack of any complete proof of its impossibility and a benevolent universe premise, we should expect the progress of science and technology to, ultimately, reach the capability of immortal life and the resurrection of the dead."

I'm not sure about the metaphysics involved, but you can imagine purely scientific answers to this kind of thing, that are not completely disproven by our current level of understanding. Why make the assumption that it's impossible? Given the uncertainty of the laws of physics and how they will ultimately come down on this point, shouldn't a benevolent universe premise lead you to the opposite assumption? I'm not saying it's a guarantee, I'm saying it's an assumption in the face of uncertainty based on the benevolent universe premise - that there is no inherent contradiction to identity or the conditions of existence.

What I said about spiritual values is this: "The spiritual values one pursues are far more important and consequential than anything physical that one can accomplish". This is not meant to be a vacuous, "disembodied" idea. An individual physical, material value is particular and limited whereas spiritual values are broader, they encompass a vast multitude beyond any particular material thing. For example, a virtue makes a lifetime of difference, an added value in many instances throughout one's entire life. It's a fundamental that is a means to many other values, whereas any particular physical thing is only a value in and of itself. The physical consequences are not being lost just because your body dies in the short term. It's specifically the power of one's spiritual values and one's principles which best serve one's practical, physical ends over the long run. So this is not losing the physical part - it's actually the best possible pursuit of the practical, physical part. The moral is the practical.

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13 hours ago, epistemologue said:

Metaphysics does not change depending on what situation you are in. Just because you're not in a metaphysically normal situation doesn't mean metaphysics itself is any different, only the situation itself is abnormal. Your moral principles ultimately grounded in metaphysics do not change, they simply are applied to this particular situation.

...

This is a very good point and provides the basis for a proper discussion of morality.  I think another way of expressing the metaphysical normality of emergency situations is to consider them as outliers, such that they are different in appearance but not something that contradicts reality.  Lifeboat scenarios are governed by physical reality and morality remains the best tool for dealing with them.

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31 minutes ago, Devil's Advocate said:

Lifeboat scenarios are governed by physical reality and morality remains the best tool for dealing with them.

Then apply your answer to a real scenario. You crash into the Andes. There's no food. You can't walk. There are, however other people. The only way to get food is to murder and cannibalize another person. How is morality a tool in this situation? If morality applies, then you live because you were immoral, or you die because you were moral. Except, morality by egoist standards is supposed to be that you live because you were moral, or you die because you were immoral...

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We needn't go to the Andes.  My family migrated to California with the Donner Party, but the group divided at the Sierras with our family traveling South into the LA Basin and ultimately a less dramatic destination.  In the case of the group that became entrapped to the North, the instance of cannibalism that led to the survival of some didn't require murder, so unless cannibalism is immoral their actions were moral.  At the least, their actions didn't escalate to aggression.

Follow the element of aggression, that is your moral compass.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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DA, you did not answer Eiuol - and you can't because you are ignoring the principle here. Applying morality to an amoral situation simply creates a conflict noted by him. You just have to accept that there are some potential situations - generally never occurring in our lifetime - where there is no rational choice to be made if you are to live after such a situation occurs.

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I think that the most compelling case has been presented thus far by the other DA, StrictlyLogical and epistemologue. Whether in an "emergency" or not, man must act; he must make choices. So what, if anything, is to guide him in his choices? Aesthetics (as Eiuol suggested here)? Habit (as Eiuol suggested here)? Whim (which forms the ultimate foundation of all of these sorts of suggestions)? Or reason?

If man yet has values to pursue -- or, arguably, disvalues to avoid -- and if he is yet capable of reason, then I would suggest that he apply his reason to the pursuit of those values and the avoidance of those disvalues, which is to say, ethical reasoning.

In "The Ethics of Emergencies," Rand said:

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In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.).

In speaking of "men's primary goal," I believe that Rand is making a moral claim. Woe betide the man who, in an emergency, surrenders himself to whim.

On the scenario of "lifeboats," I believe that the central ethical question resolves thusly: are we in pursuit of physical "survival at all costs" or a particular kind of life which is appropriate to man? If it is "survival at all costs," then certainly one should be willing to murder his fellow lifeboat passengers (including any loved ones) for a leg up... and then there are other potential applications (some of which, perhaps, being more congruent with our mundane realities), such as when a needed medicine might be priced beyond our reach in the market. Surely the Objectivist Ethics wouldn't demand that we behave as traders in such a situation, and risk being unable to persuade another to aid us! Not when our very lives are in peril! And yet...

I can answer, for myself, that I do not accept life as a brute. I would not pursue my survival if the cost of that pursuit was murdering my loved ones, which is to say a sacrifice of the very things which make life dear to me. I would not prolong a technical "survival," devoid of the capacity for happiness (and happiness is a thing, it has identity, and it is not infinitely malleable; it cannot survive all), just as I would not prolong a technical "survival" at the cost of unremitting pain in the case of a crippling, degenerative disease.

Though this may seem contrary on its face, I believe that the choice to die (or to risk/suffer death in the pursuit of other values), under certain circumstances, may yet be moral -- as discussed in part here.

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40 minutes ago, TLD said:

Your example demonstrated my point. And your last statement does the same. "Cause death" is out of context. The main point seems lost to you.

So when you said earlier:

"No choice" meaning reasonable choice - i.e. excluding dying. You know what I am saying. Would I steal or kick another (not a loved one) out of a boat if I had to in order to live - in the context we have been discussing, yes. Would I be morally wrong? No."

... who is causing the stealing and kicking?  Did any of these individuals actually do anything to you prior to your assaulting them??

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32 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I think that the most compelling case has been presented thus far by the other DA, StrictlyLogical and epistemologue. Whether in an "emergency" or not, man must act; he must make choices. So what, if anything, is to guide him in his choices? Aesthetics (as Eiuol suggested here)? Habit (as Eiuol suggested here)? Whim (which forms the ultimate foundation of all of these sorts of suggestions)? Or reason?

If man yet has values to pursue -- or, arguably, disvalues to avoid -- and if he is yet capable of reason, then I would suggest that he apply his reason to the pursuit of those values and the avoidance of those disvalues, which is to say, ethical reasoning.

In "The Ethics of Emergencies," Rand said:

In speaking of "men's primary goal," I believe that Rand is making a moral claim. Woe betide the man who, in an emergency, surrenders himself to whim.

On the scenario of "lifeboats," I believe that the central ethical question resolves thusly: are we in pursuit of physical "survival at all costs" or a particular kind of life which is appropriate to man? If it is "survival at all costs," then certainly one should be willing to murder his fellow lifeboat passengers (including any loved ones) for a leg up... and then there are other potential applications (some of which, perhaps, being more congruent with our mundane realities), such as when a needed medicine might be priced beyond our reach in the market. Surely the Objectivist Ethics wouldn't demand that we behave as traders in such a situation, and risk being unable to persuade another to aid us! Not when our very lives are in peril! And yet...

I can answer, for myself, that I do not accept life as a brute. I would not pursue my survival if the cost of that pursuit was murdering my loved ones, which is to say a sacrifice of the very things which make life dear to me. I would not prolong a technical "survival," devoid of the capacity for happiness (and happiness is a thing, it has identity, and it is not infinitely malleable; it cannot survive all), just as I would not prolong a technical "survival" at the cost of unremitting pain in the case of a crippling, degenerative disease.

Though this may seem contrary on its face, I believe that the choice to die (or to risk/suffer death in the pursuit of other values), under certain circumstances, may yet be moral -- as discussed in part here.

DonAthos has reiterated something which cannot be ignored: no matter how much a choice might prolong lifespan, it might not be a choice one can live with.

 

IF you cannot live the remaining years of your normal lifespan with a choice A, you may need to choose B, even if you only get to live with that choice for seconds.  As odd as it sounds "long term" MEANS the rest of your life... whatever that potentially might be.

Something which some posters are evading here is that in actuality some choices are "livable" with (e.g. trespass, stealing) while others (murder or letting a beloved child die) are not.  To ignore this is to imply all values in a value hierarchy are exactly equal, and such simply is not the case.  Certainly not for complex, rational, people of self esteem.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Something which some posters are evading here is that in actuality some choices are "livable" with (e.g. trespass, stealing) while others (murder or letting a beloved child die) are not.  To ignore this is to imply all values in a value hierarchy are exactly equal, and such simply is not the case.  Certainly not for complex, rational, people of self esteem.

I wasn't talking about whether there are choices you'd prefer. My whole point is that it's not possible to answer what would lead to your flourishing. If supposed moral action would at all -cause- your death, something is seriously going weird. No one argued that murdering someone is the right or wrong answer - only that there is no right or wrong answer to find. If you know a rational answer, please explain your answer in the Andes example. It really happened, so I didn't make it up. Or use Devil's hiking example.

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16 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I wasn't talking about whether there are choices you'd prefer. My whole point is that it's not possible to answer what would lead to your flourishing. If supposed moral action would at all -cause- your death, something is seriously going weird. No one argued that murdering someone is the right or wrong answer - only that there is no right or wrong answer to find. If you know a rational answer, please explain your answer in the Andes example. It really happened, so I didn't make it up. Or use Devil's hiking example.

Others have sufficiently discussed this.  Your claim, your bald assertion, that there is "no right or wrong" is arbitrary.

What evidence do you have for your claim?

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You are ignoring the context in which his statement was made. Look back through this blog: your last question has been answered multiple times. I think it is time to stop this discussion - not to cut you off, but because it is going nowhere...full circle multiple times.

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Others have sufficiently discussed this.  Your claim, your bald assertion, that there is "no right or wrong" is arbitrary.

What evidence do you have for your claim?

All my earlier posts. At least, assuming we're still talking about lifeboat scenarios. I don't want to take the time to rehash, but I'll be glad to discuss in detail the scenario I gave, and how you'd decide what to do such that the decision causes your flourishing, or enhances your flourishing (i.e. the morally correct answer).

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As preface to this exercise.... if we proceed... can you tell me whether you believe on general principles you believe that moral choices include making choices which improve happiness when you are incredibly happy already as well as making choices which reduce sorrow when you are suffering greatly? 

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44 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

...can you tell me whether [you believe on general principles] you believe that moral choices include making choices which improve happiness when you are incredibly happy already as well as making choices which reduce sorrow when you are suffering greatly? 

All moral choices will always lead to flourishing, so yes, moral choices will also always reduce suffering. As for feeling sorrow, well, no, sorrow is not always the same as suffering. Sometimes feeling sad is good and important.

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I was going for well being, which only happened to be psychological.  Emotion is not the focus in any case.

 

Let's deal with a specific moral choice I will introduce slowly:

I.  Do psychological well being and physical well being causally contribute to one's ability to live, act, achieve, survive?

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I.  Do psychological well being and physical well being causally contribute to one's ability to live, act, achieve, survive?

Of course. We're not disagreeing about what is moral, we only disagree about where it applies. Sort of like there's a way to be a good architect, but you can't apply principles of architecture to being a good cardiologist. You can apply moral principles to the living, not to the dying. Better to just ask your questions all at once. (e.g. if yes, then...)

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II.  If different actions available to a person can rationally be determined to likely lead (if enacted) to different levels of well being (no matter how small the difference) does the choice between the different actions become a moral one (given your answer to I above)?

 

I prefer keeping focus... 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

... we only disagree about where it applies...

Where , or how??

I ask because I haven't yet come across anything in Objectivist literature that suggests morality doesn't apply at all so long as the individual is capable of making choices.  It seems at this point we ought to at least be able to agree that morality does apply to emergency situations; that we're only haggling over how it applies.

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10 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

II.  If different actions available to a person can rationally be determined to likely lead (if enacted) to different levels of well being (no matter how small the difference) does the choice between the different actions become a moral one (given your answer to I above)?

I said I don't want to rehash what I wrote already and explain how I'm not questioning what morality is (its content). I already said we're not disagreeing about -what- morality is, so we're losing focus on the topic. All I asked is you to demonstrate a rational answer to a specific, real lifeboat scenario. Rational here as in answers the questions posed by morality, not just a logical answer.

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33 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I said I don't want to rehash what I wrote already and explain how I'm not questioning what morality is (its content). I already said we're not disagreeing about -what- morality is, so we're losing focus on the topic. All I asked is you to demonstrate a rational answer to a specific, real lifeboat scenario. Rational here as in answers the questions posed by morality, not just a logical answer.

Your already refusing to answer a simple question (II)?  Why?

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13 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You're already refusing to answer a simple question (II).  Why?

The answer is yes, but I don't see how you couldn't figure out what my answer would be. I won't respond more though if you only ask me yes/no questions.

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