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m0zart
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Since it was asked for...

http://www.pet-abuse.com/pages/abuse_connection.php

http://vivisection-absurd.org.uk/abs02.html

Animal Abuse and juveniles

http://www.rcpets.org/partnersincrime.htm

http://www.critcrim.org/redfeather/journal...m/001Myers.html

http://aacantiques.com/animalabuse.htm

I realize that some of these are somewhat biased in their other goals, but the information remains the same.

Edited by Styles2112
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Any attempt to force other men to use their property only morally would be destroying a requirement of life.

Are you totally ignorant of Objectivist politics?

Forgive my ignorance, I must have missed your indubitably insightful answer. How does man's nature require he be free to set cats on fire?
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How does man's nature require he be free to set cats on fire?
In more general terms, you're asking "why does man's nature require that he be free to act in ways that are objectively irrational"? The answer is that a man has to be free to use his reason, and free to make mistakes. However, we draw the line and say: man cannot use his reason to force others to act in ways contrary to their (the latter's) reason. [Cats are nowhere to be found, in the referents.]

From a particular perspective, we the call for separation of church and the state, and the separation of commerce and the state is, more broadly, a call for a separation of rationality and the state, in this sense: as long as a man does not infringe on the rights of other men, he should not be subject to state-imposed rationality.

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Okay, perhaps I should approach this a different way. What do you mean by "the profound value of human life"? How do you differentiate this "profound value" from intrinsic value?

I value human life "in general" to some degree for specific reasons. I do not see this to be the same thing as life having some "profound value" in and of itself. However, I would distinquish having no general value for life from deriving value from the destruction of life (solely for the sake of destruction or pleasure from misery).

I most definitely do not intend to equate "profound value" with "intrinsic value."

Intrinsic value would regard every human life as a value because it is a human life and would regard it as a value in all circumstances no matter what the context.

In reality, some people are criminals and dictators and are, therefore, disvalues. If one is fighting in a war, the continued existence of people across enemy lines is a disvalue (even if some of them are perfectly moral individuals and are there only because they were drafted at gun point upon threat to themselves or families). And there are extreme instances when a person might conclude that his own life is no longer a value.

Pacifists, of course, hold an intrinsicist view of human life with regard to how one should deal with criminals, dictators and hostile armies. Also, there are lots of people on the religious right who hold an intrinsicist view on human life when it comes to situations such as when a terminally ill patient decides that remaining alive is no longer a value.

By "profound value" I mean a very high value and, further, I am recognizing that this particular value is unique in kind. What makes it unique is the fact that human life is the value by which we ultimately judge all other values - or, as Ayn Rand put it, life is the standard of value.

Even when we judge the life of a particular human being to be a disvalue, we do so on the premise that human life is a value. A criminal or a dictator is a disvalue precisely because of the threat that he poses to human lives. A person with a horrible terminal illness might no longer regard being alive as a value because it has become impossible to experience the things which make life as a human being so glorious and wonderful.

Objectivist ethics hold that every human life is an end in itself - which is the very basis for its ethics of egoism and for its theory of individual rights. Isn't saying that a life is an end in itself essentially the same as saying that it is a profound value? If it weren't - well, what would be the basis for concluding that it is an end in itself?

This is still contextual for me. In some cases I may be affected, and in some cases not. I have seen many brutal murders up close and personal
Yikes! :lol:

and articles about "innocent" people are frequently inaccurate. I have to admit to some degree of skepticism about what I read in the papers or see on the news. While no one deserves to be murdered, some people live lives that habitually place themselves in situations that are conducive to being murdered (and even that is contextual to any sympathy I may have).

How one goes about applying the notion "human life is a profound value" towards any given human life is going to be highly contextual. Obviously, there are likely to be individual human lives that you encounter which you very much will regard as a disvalue.

Beyond that is the issue of perspective - you have to differentiate between things which are of value to you personally from those things which have no impact on your specific life but which you recognize as being of value in a more abstract sense.

For example, I think sushi is disgusting (yuck). But I recognize that a great many people derive lots of enjoyment from it - a similar sort of enjoyment that I derive from Indian food (yum). So, in an abstract sort of way, I can recognize sushi as a value in that it brings enjoyment to people's lives. But you will sure not see me eating any. If Fort Worth had no sushi restaurants, it wouldn't bother me at all as I have zero plans to patronize any. However, if I hear about one opening up, I regard it in a very mild way as a positive in that it means people have additional dining options which is certainly a good thing.

When it comes to the billions of human lives in this world - well, obviously it is not possible to value each and every stranger in a personal sort of way. But that does not mean that a rational person does not regard them as a value in an abstract sort of way.

If you are quickly glancing through the headlines and see that 100 people in some far off country where you don't know anybody were killed when a boat capsized in a freak accident and that 100 people rented Gone With The Wind from Blockbuster in the last week, you might skip over both stories and completely forget within mere moments that you even saw them. Or, if you are a big fan of Gone With The Wind, you might decide to read that story while entirely overlooking the one about the boat tragedy. Nevertheless, if you stopped for a moment and gave the boat story some thought, I suspect you would undoubtedly evaluate it as a very tragic event and, if you took a moment to actually read the story, you would probably regard it as being very sad.

Does a lack of interest in such a story mean that you do not regard the lives of the people on that boat as being of value? Of course not. The simple fact is, in this great big world, accidents and tragedies occur all the time. At some point, crow epistemology sets in and, unless one happens to know people who are involved or has some sort of connection to the place where such events occur, one's grasp of the entire event tends to be rather abstract. On the other hand, a rational person would, nevertheless,still regard it as a tragedy. One would recognize that among the lives lost on that boat it is possible there were people, had one known them, one might have enjoyed very much, perhaps even loved. Perhaps some future Thomas Edison or Ayn Rand happened to be on that boat. On the other hand, it is, of course, possible that some future Benedict Arnold or John Kerry was also on the boat.

This really boils down to the value that one attaches to strangers. The correct approach is to recognize that, as human beings, the lives of strangers are an end in themselves (assuming they do not become criminals). From a personal perspective, absent evidence to the contrary, the correct attitude is that strangers represent potential values. By that, I don't mean that one should regard all strangers as having the potential to become close friends or anything like that. Instead, by "potential values" I mean that, absent any evidence to the contrary, one should regard strangers as having the potential to, in fact, be people one would regard as morally innocent and decent. Of course, at the same time, one recognizes there is also the potential for strangers to, in fact, be evil so one also has to exercise a certain amount of caution when dealing with them.

Does one have any moral obligations towards strangers? Only one: justice. By that, I mean that one has a moral obligation to treat people how they deserve to be treated based on their actions and the evidence available. It means that one is not indifferent to the good and the evil that one sees in other people and that one is not indifferent to the suffering of the innocent.

This does not mean that one has an obligation to spend one's life crusading against particular injustices. But it does mean that a person should have an appropriate level of outrage in the face of injustice and regard the suffering of the innocent as a disvalue.

Why should one regard something such as the holocaust with outrage and horror? After all, few here are old enough to have known anyone who perished as a result. How many million people was it? Heck, just try to concretize one million people - even that is very difficult to do. Why should one care about a bunch of strangers who lived a 3 generations ago? Because it involved rights violations on a massive scale? That's part of it. But why should we care about the rights of people who lived along time ago in a foreign country? Why should one care about the rights of strangers if one is completely indifferent to the very lives which those rights protect and from which they are derived?

One of the things I go by when judging the people I deal with is their reaction to very obvious examples of injustice. I don't necessarily expect them to do something about the injustice as that is often not possible or would require some form of self-sacrifice. But if a person has a sincerely agnostic approach towards clear and obvious examples of injustice - well, I know that I am seeing a person who would not hesitate to sell me out the very moment it suits their purposes. This is especially useful to keep in mind in one's business dealings.

This also ties in with the issue of the treatment of animals. Deliberately causing an any living creature to endure unnecessary suffering is a profound injustice - and a person who is indifferent to it is likely to be indifferent to justice, as such. Those who are indifferent to justice are, as a result, likely to be evil in all sorts of ways and are best avoided.

However, as I said, generally the feeling I would get would be "man, what if that were me?" In the cases of children suffering horrible deaths, instead I would probably think "what if that were my son?"

That is usually the way that I look at such things as well. It is a completely rational and normal way for a person to concretize and give personal meaning to the more abstract forms of valuing that I mentioned above.

Edited by Dismuke
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Forgive my ignorance, I must have missed your indubitably insightful answer. How does man's nature require he be free to set cats on fire?

This statement only confirms that you are in fact totally ignorant of Objectivist politics. SoftwareNerd answers the question nicely so I would like to focus on what is wrong with the asking of it:

I don't know that I should be forgiving your ignorance. You've been here how long and you still haven't read any significant amount of Objectivism? You make all sorts of posts on this, an Objectivist board, giving advice to others or attempting to answer major philosophical questions, and yet you appear to have made no attempts (or very little) to actually read and learn the philosophy of Objectivism. What makes you think anyone here is interested in your ignorant opinions?

Do you think, perhaps, that you can learn Objectivism here, on a message board, by mooching off of the more knowledgeable folks in endless debate and question-and-answer instead of just reading the books?

Or are you simply uninterested in learning the philosophy (i.e. you are simply a troll)?

If you think that any of the above is too harsh, then prove me wrong by getting off your lazy butt and reading the books and stop polluting this board with your ignorance.

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I most definitely do not intend to equate "profound value" with "intrinsic value."

Okay, good.

By "profound value" I mean a very high value and, further, I am recognizing that this particular value is unique in kind.
Okay, this clarifies to me that you place a high value on human life in general because you recognize it to be a unique value. That's really all the explanation I was seeking, but I do appreciate clarification that follows.

What makes it unique is the fact that human life is the value by which we ultimately judge all other values - or, as Ayn Rand put it, life is the standard of value.

My understanding of the way Ayn Rand put it is that MY life is MY standard of value, not life in general is my standard of value. Have I misunderstood something? Without my life, I have no ability to appreciate or experience any other value.

Isn't saying that a life is an end in itself essentially the same as saying that it is a profound value?
No, I don't think that is the same. The value of my life to me as an end in itself is not dependent on the value of any other lives beyond what relationship. The value of my life to anyone else relies simply on what purpose I serve in their life.

How one goes about applying the notion "human life is a profound value" towards any given human life is going to be highly contextual.

Because I did not know how you defined "profound value" with regards to life.

Beyond that is the issue of perspective - you have to differentiate between things which are of value to you personally from those things which have no impact on your specific life but which you recognize as being of value in a more abstract sense.
I can recognize the difference. But all I have to recognize is that value is not detached in any way from these two requirements: 1) to whom, and 2) for what purpose. You provided a pretty clear explanation to me above, but this "being of value in a more abstract sense" begins to muddy the waters again. If by that you mean that one has to recognize that some things they don't personally value may represent a value to some other people in some other specific contexts, or that something may represent a value to me in the future, then yes I agree. However, this does not necessarily make this thing a value to me. I can certainly distinguish between things which I value, and things which may be value to other people and because I can distinguish them, I recognize that they are two different beasts.

This really boils down to the value that one attaches to strangers.

Yes, this is exactly what we are talking about.

From a personal perspective, absent evidence to the contrary, the correct attitude is that strangers represent potential values.
Yes, as long as you recoqnize this is a personally correct attitude, we have no issues. You are distinquishing why strangers represents a certain type of value to you. As it happens, I share this value to some degree as well, for the same reason, but maybe from a more (or less) gaurded position.

In as much as possible, any given stranger I meet starts at a 0 on my relationship meter. Even 0's generally get courteous behavior from me because I value courtesy as one way of trying to maintain a civilized society. Any value that person acquires from that point on is dependent upon his/her interaction with me and with other people because his/her behavior establishes a potential impact on my life.

Does one have any moral obligations towards strangers? Only one: justice.

I believe Objectivism holds that no one has any unchosen obligation other than not to initiate physical force against others. As it happens, I value justice because it serves a particular purpose in my life. My acting in a just manner is a moral obligation to me for my benefit.

One of the things I go by when judging the people I deal with is their reaction to very obvious examples of injustice. ...- well, I know that I am seeing a person who would not hesitate to sell me out the very moment it suits their purposes. This is especially useful to keep in mind in one's business dealings.

You couldn't have said it any clearer; 1) to whom = you, and 2) for what purpose = avoid being sold out.

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Yes, as long as you recoqnize this is a personally correct attitude, we have no issues. You are distinquishing why strangers represents a certain type of value to you. As it happens, I share this value to some degree as well, for the same reason, but maybe from a more (or less) gaurded position.

In as much as possible, any given stranger I meet starts at a 0 on my relationship meter. Even 0's generally get courteous behavior from me because I value courtesy as one way of trying to maintain a civilized society. Any value that person acquires from that point on is dependent upon his/her interaction with me and with other people because his/her behavior establishes a potential impact on my life.

I strongly agree with this approach. While Dismuke's general benevolence is admirable for what it is, I tend to lean to the side of RationalCop's cold, hard realism: in the context of the society we live in, the best policy toward one's fellow man is polite caution. While the ratio of humans-to-psychopathic-monsters is still favorable enough to call what we live in "civilization," that doesn't mean it's smart to assume that any given person is a value.

(Now, when people do show themselves to be good, it is highly in your interest to praise and support this goodness.)

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My understanding of the way Ayn Rand put it is that MY life is MY standard of value, not life in general is my standard of value. Have I misunderstood something? Without my life, I have no ability to appreciate or experience any other value.

Yes, you have indeed indeed misunderstood - and Ayn Rand is very explicit about this particular issue. Here is what she had to say in her article "The Objectivist Ethics" reprinted in The Virtue of Selfishness:

"The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value - and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.

The difference between "standard" and "purpose" in this context is as follows: a "standard" is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man's choices in the achievement of a concrete specific purpose. "That which is required for the survival of man qua man" is an abstract principle that applys to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose - the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being - belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own." [All emphasis Ayn Rand's]

Your error is that, in order to escape an intrinsic theory of value, you have fled over to a subjective theory of value. The quote above from Ayn Rand describes an objective theory of value.

No, I don't think that is the same. The value of my life to me as an end in itself is not dependent on the value of any other lives beyond what relationship. The value of my life to anyone else relies simply on what purpose I serve in their life.

I understand what you are trying to say - but the way you are expressing it suggests a great deal of subjectivism.

It is true that the character and fate of some man-on-the-street stranger on the other side of the country you will never meet will have zero value significance in terms of how you live your life. But that does not mean that this person's life is not a value. Value is objective - it is not something which is entirely dependent upon some sort of process of your consciousness.

Perhaps the point I was trying to make in my previous postings would be easier to grasp if, instead of saying that "one should value human life in an abstract sense," I reword it to say that a moral person values and respects the good, which Ayn Rand defines as "that which is proper to the life of a rational being."

For example, let's suppose you are reading a newspaper story about some black teenage boy who lives in one of the worst housing projects in one of the worst inner city ghettos in the country, whose mother is on welfare and is high on drugs half the time. This young man recognizes his mother and the people in his neighborhood for what they are and has the goal of escaping his neighborhood and going to college so that he can make something of himself. He learns what he can at the horrible public school he attends and spends most of his free time in the library reading books and exploring interesting websites on the Internet. You will never meet this kid and his fate and what he does with his life one way or another will have zero impact on your life.

Does this kid's life have value?

I suspect Ayn Rand's answer would be - absolutely. She would regard such a kid as heroic. She would regard his life as having a very high value - even if she learned that he lived decades ago and has since died making it impossible for him to have an impact on her life. She would, without a doubt, regard him as good.

By the standard you mentioned, one's response to reading about such a kid would have to be "So what? Why should I care? I will never know him so it means nothing to me."

Furthermore, if you continued reading the article and learned that the kid was once beaten within an inch of his life for being too intelligent and, therefore, an "Uncle Tom" by the thugs in his neighborhood and, later on, was turned down on a job for which which he was by far the most qualified applicant on account of the fact that the employer was a white racist bigot who hated black people, by the standard that you give, the appropriate response would be to yawn because that sort of stuff goes on all the time in horrible neighborhoods and has zero impact on your specific goals and objectives.

Ayn Rand, by contrast, if she read about such a thing, would be outraged and disgusted. She would recognize the kid as a good person and the thugs and the bigot as evil - and she would regard each as values and disvalues accordingly.

In as much as possible, any given stranger I meet starts at a 0 on my relationship meter. Even 0's generally get courteous behavior from me because I value courtesy as one way of trying to maintain a civilized society.
I don't have a problem with treating strangers as a 0 on one's "relationship meter." I guess the key here is how one properly treats the zero people.

Speaking to your broader point with regard to courtesy - I would say that my approach is not as pragmatic as yours.

If I am in really grumpy mood and end up spewing out a mouthful of hurtful emotionalistic venom at some bystander who has never harmed me in any way, I don't feel guilty about it afterwards because I have, to a very small degree, undermined the maintenance of a "civilized society." I feel guilty because the person did not deserve to be subjected to such treatment. Such behavior is not inappropriate because it undermines civilization but rather because it is unjust.

I believe Objectivism holds that no one has any unchosen obligation other than not to initiate physical force against others.

From a political or legal standpoint, the above is absolutely true.

From a ethical standpoint, there are occasions when one does have certain moral obligations towards other people. These obligations are not "duties" but rather behavior on your part that the other person has somehow earned or become entitled to.

If I come to a realization that I have been unjust to someone or have inadvertently caused them some sort of harm, I have a moral obligation to take responsibility and, at the very least, apologize appropriately to the person. Because of my behavior, morally, I owe them such an apology. If I refuse to give the apology which is due, there is absolutely nothing the person I mistreated can or should be able to do about it. But those who are familiar with the situation can and should judge my character accordingly.

Likewise, if someone does something nice for you from which you benefit, you have a moral obligation to show the an appropriate amount of gratitude and give the proper thanks that the person has earned. If you fail to do so, there is nothing anyone can do about it other than judge your character accordingly.

If you happen to find yourself in a face-to-face encounter with a Howard Roark or an Ayn Rand, you have a moral obligation to show them the level of respect that people of such stature are morally entitled to. It would be profoundly immoral to treat a person of such stature in the same manner which would be appropriate for a Peter Keating or a John Kerry.

As to random strangers that one has no previous knowledge of, I would say that one's only moral (as opposed to legal and political) obligation towards them is to refrain from treating them immorally or unjustly. Absence evidence to the contrary, one should show them the minimal level of respect to which any civilized adult is entitled - anything more than that is entirely optional on your part. As more knowledge becomes available to you about such people, it may be entirely appropriate to withdraw even that minimal level of respect - or you may discover that they are entitled to a somewhat higher level of respect.

Personally, I do pass judgment on people's characters based on how they treat and respect strangers - especially strangers over whom they have a very small amount of temporary power such as waiters and store clerks. Almost everyone, myself included, has a bad day now and then and may act in an out-of-context manner and be rude or disrespectful towards someone. But when I observe that somebody I know is habitually abusive, rude or condescending towards people such as service personnel, I regard it as a black mark against their overall character. At the very least, such people are indifferent to justice - and very often such behavior is a symptom of much uglier things such as power lust.

Edited by Dismuke
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(Now, when people do show themselves to be good, it is highly in your interest to praise and support this goodness.)

If you had been old enough to have met Ayn Rand (I am merely assuming that you are too young and did not meet her) and somehow you stumbled into a situation where you found yourself in a face-to-face meeting, would you not agree that she would have, by virtue of her accomplishments, been morally entitled to a high level of respectful behavior on your part? Or would you consider any level of respect above what you would accord to a random stranger on a bus to be merely optional? If someone you know who claimed to be an Objectivist was with you at such a meeting and treated her coldly and spoke to her bruskly, would you regard that as merely optional behavior on his part - or would you regard it as a reflection on his character?

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If you had been old enough to have met Ayn Rand (I am merely assuming that you are too young and did not meet her) and somehow you stumbled into a situation where you found yourself in a face-to-face meeting, would you not agree that she would have, by virtue of her accomplishments, been morally entitled to a high level of respectful behavior on your part?

Of course I would. Why do you ask?

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Of course I would. Why do you ask?

Merely to underscore a point: that polite and respectful behavior is sometimes something which certain people are entitled to by virtue of the fact that they have earned it and that, in such cases, it is not merely a benevolent gift that may happen to be in your self interest to hand out.

There are, of course, times when any sort of courtesy or benevolence towards strangers above the minimal standard of respect that civilized adults are due is indeed such a gift Sometimes when I am in public I really don't feel like talking to anyone - and when that happens, I am deliberately distant, unsocial and standoffish, though not in a rude way.

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Yes, you have indeed indeed misunderstood -...Your error is that, in order to escape an intrinsic theory of value, you have fled over to a subjective theory of value.

Well actually it's more a matter of a shortcut. I live my life according to a standard of value based on that which is required of a man's life. When I say, "my life", I'm talking about the life of a man, not the life a squirrel or a tiger. So it's more a matter of confusion in the terms of "standard" and "purpose", not a retreat into subjectivism or subjective theory.

My whole point was to clarify that you do not mean "intrinsic value" when you say "profound value". You have clarified that and I thank you.

Does this kid's life have value?
To whom, and for what purpose?

Me:

You are distinquishing why strangers represents a certain type of value to you. As it happens, I share this value to some degree as well, for the same reason, but maybe from a more (or less) gaurded position.

If I KNOW these things to be true about this kid, I would say yes because I generally value honesty, integrity, productivity, success, etc. because those qualities are rationally good for my life as a man. (to whom and for what purpose)

I think you may be misunderstanding me in some sense so I will say again; I take news accounts and articles with some degree of skepticism. I told a "success story" in another thread about a man named Mike Schwartz who started the Mike's Famous Harley Davidson dealership. If I assume that what I read about him is true, I think what he accomplished was admirable (it was valuable to me for specific reasons, and I can understand why it would also be of value to some other people as well). However, I hold that slight bit of reservation because of my faith in modern day journalism is lacking.

My main problem at this point, and I may be wrong, is that you seem to be trying to separate "profound value" from "to whom and for what purpose". If you are not doing that, then I don't think that we disagree.

However, because of my occupation I do not invest alot of emotion into things that I'm not sure about, and even then I'm gaurded to some degree. Nor do I base my actions in life on "What would Ayn Rand do?" I don't think it's your intention (nor am I accusing you) to argue from authority or intimidation, but when you say "Ayn Rand would think or say this", it sounds like you are. Yes, in as much as I have knowledge and understand it, I accept the philosophy that she spelled out, but that's not necessarily the same as acting in the same manner that she would. If I find a difference between what I think is right, and what Ayn Rand or Objectivism says is right, I go with me unless I have reasoned out why I'm wrong. I have changed my mind on a number of things since being introduced to Objectivism. Some things I thought of before I was exposed to Objectivism were already consistent with the philosophy.

I deal with a lot of traumatic situations almost daily. These traumatic situations escalate sometimes at a moments notice, and sometimes they de-escalate just as quickly. I can't tell you how many times someone has told me, "I couldn't do your job. I'd lose it and go medival on that guy." For a good many people, if they cannot detach themselves from this continual emotional "roller coaster", they would end up as basket cases. I've known guys whose emotional investment in the job embittered them so that when they had 25 years on the job they hated it, quit, and died 2 years after they retired. My life CANNOT afford to be outraged by every injustice I see. What my life requires is that I recognize it objectively, learn to harness my emotions, and do what I can to combat that injustice when it's within my ability to influence. This is a significant context that makes your life and values different from mine.

By the standard you mentioned, one's response to reading about such a kid would have to be "So what? Why should I care? I will never know him so it means nothing to me."
(my bold emphasis)

That is absolutely incorrect. I think the difference here between you and I is how much each of us are willing to assume absent more direct knowledge. You may (or may not) take an article in the newspaper at face value. If you do, that's fine with me. You seem to be a man of integrity so I think you would probably accept the consequences if you staked part of your life (even if it's only emotional investment) on a news article that turned out to be wrong. In turn, I will also accept the consequences of my actions and those things on which I stake my life. As I said, IF I KNOW these things, then my reaction is different accordingly. I don't necessarily take a news article to be "KNOWING" something. I have seen people portrayed on TV and in the newspaper a particular way because it served a particular agenda, and I either knew facts that were inconsistent with how the person was portrayed, or had strong reason to think the story misrepresented the person in a favorable light. Ironically, these frequently involve the "poor kid" scenario similar to yours.

With respect to the section I placed in bold, if there is a rational reason based on the facts of reality as to why I should care, then I will. Unlike your example, I would not ask that question of myself flippantly.

A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. 'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps it. 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? 'Value' presupposes a standard, a purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative. Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible.
- Atlas Shrugged, This is John Galt Speaking.

I don't read anything in that passage that exempts the standard of value (which I take to mean one's ultimate value) from 1) to whom, and 2) for what purpose. The only thing the standard of value is exempt from is another standard (naturally).

Speaking to your broader point with regard to courtesy - I would say that my approach is not as pragmatic as yours.

If I am in really grumpy mood ...

Okay, I understand why you would feel guilty. Should you decide to be courteous to the next stranger, you can avoid such guilt and injustice. But alas, that's the problem with allowing our emotions to guide our actions isn't it? I can't say that I have never slipped, but it is extremely rare these days.

To me, a stranger implies that I know nothing about what the man deserves or does not deserve. With no presumption as to what he deserves or does not deserve, it costs me nothing to be courteous initially, and I can always adjust my further responses accordingly if my courtesy is not well-received. In more instances than not, I'm likely to benefit in the end by having started off on the right foot. I will, by default, avoid any injustice to this person. You admit that if you are grumpy, you may lose objectivity with this person, react emotionally and do something you would regret. I can't really think of any regret or any loss I have suffered from extending simple courtesy to a stranger. I've been surprised by their poor reactions on occasion, but never regretful. I acted on my values until such a time as the context dictated a different course of action. I can sleep at night with that. (well day actually since I work nights :) )

That said, the more I observe about the stranger, the more I know about them, and the less of a "stranger" he is to me. If I see him walking towards me at a fast pace, looking me in the eye with his fists clinched, courtesy is taking a back seat. There are a million and one subtle behaviors that will make a person less of a stranger to me, and will give me information to guide me actions accordingly.

If you happen to find yourself in a face-to-face encounter with a Howard Roark or an Ayn Rand, you have a moral obligation to show them the level of respect that people of such stature are morally entitled to.
Assuming of course I have knowledge of their stature and accomplishment.

Personally, I do pass judgment on people's characters based on how they treat and respect strangers - especially strangers over whom they have a very small amount of temporary power such as waiters and store clerks.

As well you should. There are very good selfish reasons for such judgment. I don't think I have indicated that I would dissuade you from using your judgement to guide your life. Depending on their conduct, I go one further and put people like that in jail.

PS: From a logistical standpoint, perhaps it would be good to essentialize any further disagreement that remains between us, if any. These long posts are consuming too much of my time, but I'm still enjoying the discussion.

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Merely to underscore a point: that polite and respectful behavior is sometimes something which certain people are entitled to by virtue of the fact that they have earned it and that, in such cases, it is not merely a benevolent gift that may happen to be in your self interest to hand out.

Just because I was tying it into one's self-interest does not mean that I consider it an optional gift or an act of benevolence in the way you have characterized my position. I think you misunderstand me...

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In more general terms, you're asking "why does man's nature require that he be free to act in ways that are objectively irrational"?
That sounds right, but I would append "...and uselessly harmful to animals?" I don't mind a person who wishes to harm himself and himself alone, but I suppose I take issue with him destroying/maiming animals (needlessly) in the process.
The answer is that a man has to be free to use his reason, and free to make mistakes. However, we draw the line and say: man cannot use his reason to force others to act in ways contrary to their (the latter's) reason.
Ah, I was in fact going to mention that non-initiation of force against men is a limit on a man's freedom to use reason and make mistakes. I don't mean to sound stupid (to Inspector, anyway) or conniving, but what is the differentiating basis for limiting his freedom in one way (vs. other men) and not in another (vs. animals?) If we accept that limiting a man's actions against other men does not prevent him from living or his capacity to survive, is an argument for banning animal torture within the bounds of feasibility?

SoftwareNerd answers the question nicely...
He does indeed, and I thank him for his courteousness and objectivity in giving an answer.

*hunterrose idly raises eyebrow at Inspector's rant*

It would not be wise of me to attempt to defend myself against unsubstantiated innuendos and insults. Besides, are you implying that "the books" are so clear that not understanding it proves something about me, besides "ignorance?"

C'mon, Inspector, let's bury the hatchet :)

*Gives bodybuilding buddy a hug and dissipates Inspector's ire with love*

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C'mon, Inspector, let's bury the hatchet :)

*Gives bodybuilding buddy a hug and dissipates Inspector's ire with love*

Alright, fine.

But what exactly have you read since you have been on this board? Are you claiming to have read “Man’s Rights” or “The Objectivist Ethics?” I am highly doubtful, based on your questions in this thread, that you have.

Do you intend to learn any of this stuff for yourself or are we to be your unpaid professors? Seriously, man.

I don't mean to sound stupid (to Inspector, anyway) or conniving, but what is the differentiating basis for limiting his freedom in one way (vs. other men) and not in another (vs. animals?)
You may as well ask: “What is the differentiating basis for limiting his freedom in one way (vs. other men) and not in another (vs. rocks?) Why is man not banned from initiating force against rocks?”

The answer is simple: animals do not have rights. Man’s nature does not require that the other men around him in his society refrain from harming animals, even needlessly. It does require that they refrain from initiating force against him.

If we accept that limiting a man's actions against other men does not prevent him from living or his capacity to survive, is an argument for banning animal torture within the bounds of feasibility?

No, because there is no reason for such a ban.

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Besides, are you implying that "the books" are so clear that not understanding it proves something about me, besides "ignorance?"
Hey, I have a great idea! The next time some question comes up, find out something specific that Rand or Peikoff which is relevant to the topic, and then introduce that statement into the discussion. For example, suppose a question arose regarding rights and morality; then you might find some of the relevant quotes from, oh, I dunno, VOS, and frame your question with reference to what Rand said about property rights. I'm not shilling for the guy, but I'm telling you that if you buy Phil's CD, it's really easy to look this stuff up. It'll tell you that there's a whole chapter "Man's Rights", and by jove the first two paragraphs give you the essence. Keep searching on the word "rights".
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Great idea.

The climax (to date) of the campaign against "rights" is the detachment of the concept of the concept from the human species altogether, i.e,. the claim that animals have rights.

Rights are moral rules enjoining persuasion as against coercion, and there is no way of applying morality to the amoral or persuasion to the nonconceptual.

A man must respect the freedom of human beings for a selfish reason: he stands to benefit enormously from their rational actions.

But these differences wouldn't differentiate a brain-dead person from an animal: neither can be persuaded, and man gains no more in respecting the rights of the brain-dead than in respecting a theoretical animal right. And yet the brain-dead person (presumably?) has rights. Have I misunderstood something in the quote, or is there some other basis for rights that I didn't see in OPAR or VOS?
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I've had a slight change of heart on this matter, as further readings have shown me a new way to think about it. I have to say, after completely reading this thread (whoo boy...) I completely agree with Dismuke and admire the way he (she?) put forth his thoughts. I suppose I see it as this- Men can kill an animal for food, because man is an animal, by nature, and that is ONE way we survive is by eating other animals. I do not feel badly for an animal that is hunted and turned into food. I do feel a certain waste for animals that are hunted for sport, and those who enjoy the killing, rather than the value of the product. I, obviously, have no respect for those willing to torture an animal because, as a sentient creature, it is quite easy to liken them to a human life. At the same time, I do not think any wrong doing of an animal that attacks a human in either self-defense or in desire for food. It is in their nature.

I remember reading, in either this or a previous thread, about animals initiating force against humans, being a violation of rights. But, can one violate rights if one has (two things);#1 no rights to begin with and #2, supposedly, no concept of rights? Or do we simply acknowledge the nature of the individual creatures themselves or the nature of man's relationship with the other creatures of Earth?

Is it also being said, that if we felt like it, it would be morally okay to eradicate all non-human life on this planet? (regardless of the manner)

I think I have an idea of what the answers entail, but I would like to read them anyways. Thanks for any responses.

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But these differences wouldn't differentiate a brain-dead person from an animal: neither can be persuaded, and man gains no more in respecting the rights of the brain-dead than in respecting a theoretical animal right. And yet the brain-dead person (presumably?) has rights.
I wouldn't automatically presume that. I don't know anywhere that Rand addressed the question of the brain-dead, so we have to either find that statement, or apply the general principles that she articulated. A brain-dead person not only does not use the faculty of reason, he has no potential to use reason, just as cats and chickens have no potential to reason. Children and sleeping or merely comatose people are different -- they potentially can make choices, even if that's not an actualized at the moment.

I should add that discussions of brain-dead people can be really messy, when it involves the epistemological problem of knowing whether a person is actually brain-dead.

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I completely agree with Dismuke and admire the way he (she?) put forth his thoughts.

I’ll start by saying that I do disagree with Dismuke’s statements, on one point: (which is not material about the immorality of senseless torture)

His position gives me the overall impression of a fundamental camaraderie with every other form of life on the planet, qua being forms of life. He seems to imply that, as they are alive, and we are alive, we share a common bond.

I, on the other hand, think that since every other form of life on the planet survives by force, and not by reason, that there is a fundamental hostility between myself and every other form of life on the planet. My interests and theirs can never be common; there can be no friendship, only force. Every other creature is fundamentally my enemy, and not my friend, even the most seemingly harmless bird can defecate on my car and erode the paint.

(Obviously, we have enslaved/de-programmed some creatures, such as cats and dogs, which places them into a different category than wild creatures. I still don’t trust those things, though; while they are fun to pet at other peoples houses, I wouldn’t want one in mine)

I do feel a certain waste for animals that are hunted for sport, and those who enjoy the killing, rather than the value of the product.
I do not feel any such waste; killing animals is a human survival skill; it is an exercise of his mind and body. It has all the elements that make any other sport a value. I don’t feel any more sense of waste than when wood is used to make baseball bats instead of homes. (I’m not really a baseball fan, you see)

I have already made quite clear my position on the threatening and disgusting nature of those who take pleasure from torturing animals qua torture, so I shan’t repeat it.

At the same time, I do not think any wrong doing of an animal that attacks a human in either self-defense or in desire for food. It is in their nature.

In one sense, you may be right: it is in their nature and it’s not the same as a person who chooses to do such a thing.

However, when something is a threat to my life and values, I take it personally. If a bear were to damage my property or hurt anyone I love, I don’t care that it was in that bear’s nature to do so: I want that bear dead. I want that bear’s entire family dead. I want any bear who ever met that bear dead. I might just want every bear on the continent; every bear that could ever conceivably do the same thing… dead. I do not suffer lightly a threat to my values.

I remember reading, in either this or a previous thread, about animals initiating force against humans, being a violation of rights. But, can one violate rights if one has (two things);#1 no rights to begin with and #2, supposedly, no concept of rights? Or do we simply acknowledge the nature of the individual creatures themselves or the nature of man's relationship with the other creatures of Earth?
No, I don’t think there can be a talk of rights, either man’s or the creature’s, when one is dealing with a creature that cannot have any concept of rights. There is only force. We simply acknowledge man’s relationship with the others creatures of earth. (i.e., the one I illustrated above: that of mortal enemies.)

Is it also being said, that if we felt like it, it would be morally okay to eradicate all non-human life on this planet? (regardless of the manner)

You should know by now that you can’t take a single, a-contextual, action and ask of its universal moral status. Non-human life on this planet is often delicious and simply wiping it all out would be hurting the values of many humans. That’s only one example of what’s wrong with your question.

But if you mean, “do animals have any right to exist, such that we would be immoral in wiping them all out,” then the answer is NO: they do not, and no: wiping them all out isn’t immoral as such. (it is only immoral inasmuch as we would be wiping things out that have value as food or slaves *ahem* pets or entertainment (zoos) or objects of scientific study or as a source of heart valve transplants, etc, etc.)

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I wouldn't automatically presume [that brain-dead people have rights.]
Really? But in order for all of that to be consistent, would kidnapping and torturing a brain-dead person be (legally) legit, and a stranger have every right to appropriate his "property" (assuming there was no will?)

Obviously, my presumption here was/is that if you allow one group (brain-dead) to have rights that, by definition shouldn't(?), then there is little basis for saying another group (animals) to have rights that shouldn't by definition.

While I haven't entirely digested all of this, I do appreciate that you are sticking to your principles :)

If a bear were to damage my property or hurt anyone I love, I don’t care that it was in that bear’s nature to do so: I want that bear dead. I want that bear’s entire family dead. I want any bear who ever met that bear dead. I might just want every bear on the continent; every bear that could ever conceivably do the same thing… dead. I do not suffer lightly a threat to my values.
Now that's gangsta B):) Edited by hunterrose
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(Obviously, we have enslaved/de-programmed some creatures, such as cats and dogs, which places them into a different category than wild creatures. I still don’t trust those things, though; while they are fun to pet at other peoples houses, I wouldn’t want one in mine)

I think that's rather sad. It's been proven that petting animals releases endorphins that help one to relax. It is well known that animals and much of our relationships with them are quite therapuetic. Likewise, our relationship through animals isn't by force. We do not "force" our dogs to be pets. They choose to be our pets. Many times they choose US to be their guardian/owner. I cannot "force" my horse to do something he does not want to do. Same with my dog. When do an action, it's because they WANT to, not by any FORCE. Now, is there a certain amount of Intelligence needed to convince said animal that a certain action is what they want to do? Possibly. But, I find most animals have US trained as much as we have them trained. Wild animals on the other hand, operate under more of a stranger principle. I don't tend to trust anyone or anything until I've been around them a bit. I'm not willing to go up and shake the hand of a guy weilding a Tommy gun, just as I'm not likely to go up to a bear and pet it. A deer or other such herbivor will likely just run away should I approach it.

I do not feel any such waste; killing animals is a human survival skill; it is an exercise of his mind and body. It has all the elements that make any other sport a value. I don’t feel any more sense of waste than when wood is used to make baseball bats instead of homes. (I’m not really a baseball fan, you see)

Wood/plants are not sentient. Animals are. I see no reason why, when we differentiate reason from non-reason, we shouldn't differentiate pain-feeling from non-pain feeling. Especially since most animals can form concepts around the level of a 4 yr old. That is really not an appropriate analogy.

However, when something is a threat to my life and values, I take it personally. If a bear were to damage my property or hurt anyone I love, I don’t care that it was in that bear’s nature to do so: I want that bear dead. I want that bear’s entire family dead. I want any bear who ever met that bear dead. I might just want every bear on the continent; every bear that could ever conceivably do the same thing… dead. I do not suffer lightly a threat to my values.

I can understand that, and would probably want that bear dead if he/she destroyed my home (unless that bear had cubs that needed her). Possibly, growing up with animals has made me much more aware of their nature and thoughts/feelings. However, if I damaged your property or hurt someone you love, would you just kill me? Or would you kill me, my entire family and everyone that's ever met me? I don't see much of a difference. Those other bears did nothing to you, yet you would want them dead? For what purpose? Revenge? Only one bear was a threat to your values, yet you would kill them all? That doesn't add up.

Quick anecdote- I used to raise chickens (a fascinating creature after further study, but I digress) called silkies. An interesting bird (fluffy fur-like feathers and five toes). It's not really good for anything but showmanship (since I was in 4-H at the time, that was what we did). I kept them in the barn, but one week, I was finding my prize chickens were being picked off one by one by an unknown source. Well, later in the week, I went down to the barn late and saw my culprit. A female raccoon and about 5 little coonlings (I have no idea what baby raccoons are called, but that seems good enough). Of course, I called for my father to bring my rifle down to me, but when he came down he wouldn't let me shoot the coon and the babies. He, of course, didn't see much point. It was simply a mother feeding her children. I was pretty angry about it for days to come but I realized that he was right. Killing the coon would've served no purpose other than simple revenge, and I'm not sure I'd have had the heart to put bullets into cute little baby raccoon heads (and they are cute). Thus I couldn't leave them without their mother. I never saw them again. and my chickens were fine after that. My point is, there is nothing in killing them that would have furthered my life, made me feel better (for if I had shot them, I think I would've felt worse), or any such point. Now, for argument's sake if my dog bites my kid, the first thing I'm going to do is figure out why. If my kid kicked the dog, then I would simply punish BOTH the child and the dog (the child for abusing a dog, and the dog for biting, even though I understand why it was done). As far as I'm concerned, an animal has RIGHT to defend itself from humans. Now, if the dog bit the child out of malice with no cause, then we would need to either get rid of the dog, or (depending on the severity of the bite) put it down. For the most part, just like children, I don't believe a well raised dog would attack someone if it was not; responding to abuse or protecting it's family.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that the application matters anyway, as I would just as soon kill a human who tries to harm my family as I would an animal. So there is no difference there.

You should know by now that you can’t take a single, a-contextual, action and ask of its universal moral status. Non-human life on this planet is often delicious and simply wiping it all out would be hurting the values of many humans. That’s only one example of what’s wrong with your question.

You're right, and I apologize. I've stated before I'm not very good at stating questions appropriately.

But if you mean, “do animals have any right to exist, such that we would be immoral in wiping them all out,” then the answer is NO: they do not, and no: wiping them all out isn’t immoral as such. (it is only immoral inasmuch as we would be wiping things out that have value as food or slaves *ahem* pets or entertainment (zoos) or objects of scientific study or as a source of heart valve transplants, etc, etc.)

Which was the answer I was suspecting. Much like your bear situation. According to your values, it would not be immoral to kill every bear that exists because one of them destroyed some property.

Edited by Styles2112
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I, on the other hand, think that since every other form of life on the planet survives by force and not by reason,...

You seem to be implying here that if a lifeform does not survive by reason then it must survive by force. Would you consider a herbivore to be one such lifeform that survives by force? If so, how does this differ from a man who eats fruits and vegatables - is he not likewise surviving "by force"? If not, how do you reconcile that with your assertion?

...that there is a fundamental hostility between myself and every other form of life on the planet.

Based on your posts, I would agree that there is a fundemental hostility between you and every other form of life on the planet. I just don't think that the source of this hostility is necessarily the other life forms.

My interests and theirs can never be common; there can be no friendship, only force. Every other creature is fundamentally my enemy, and not my friend,...

I am disheartened by the fact that someone who calls himself an Objectivist would make a statement such as this. I'm assuming that you've obviously never had an affectionate pet. Man and animals are compatible in many (obviously not all) ways and can gain value from mutually affectionate relationships.

...even the most seemingly harmless bird can defecate on my car and erode the paint.

Have you watched Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" too many times? Do you really consider this an initiation of force?

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Really? But in order for all of that to be consistent, would kidnapping and torturing a brain-dead person be (legally) legit, and a stranger have every right to appropriate his "property" (assuming there was no will?)
Well, my shoes don't have any rights, but it is not legally legit to take and burn my shoes and I will bring the full force of the law down on your head if you try that. I don't see how this stranger got the right to kidnap the brain-dead person, any more than he has the right to kidnap an actually-dead person. I don't even know what it means to torture a brain-dead person -- kind of by definition, it's not possible. If, as the next of kin who inherits the virtual corpse I decide that I want to sell the body for spare parts, that would be my right (though in the US you have to give the parts away rather than sell them). If I want to burn it up or stick it in the ground, or feed it to the vultures, that's my right.
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