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Using others as a mean to your end

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mb121
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The concept of individual rights Rand posits prevents others from using force to force people to become means for their own ends. This is because Rand thought that every man's life was an end in itself.

My question is .... why? Why NOT have a system where some men are exploited (let's say by a 10% tax rate) for the benifit of those "least well off" in society?

I'm reading the despicable John Rawls for a class here and have to refute the above argument that he presents. I understand that individually speaking rights make moral sense for man, but doesn't exploitation make moral sense for those least well off in society? Who are we to prioritize our own moral necessities over the physical necessities of those who least advantaged?

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The less well off are more morally violated losing their independance and dinity

So you face the choice between death and life without "dignity" (which is a psychological response depending on the values poor people have. They could have glamourized in their head dependence as a virtue).

If, in reality, they are ABLE to be dependent and feel HAPPY doing it and will live their ENTIRE LIFE doing it...how could you possibly claim that it isn't in their "moral self interest"?

In other words we are back at the same question: why...WHY not sacrifice others to yourself if you feel no repurcussions and can get away with it?

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So you face the choice between death and life without "dignity" (which is a psychological response depending on the values poor people have. They could have glamourized in their head dependence as a virtue).

If, in reality, they are ABLE to be dependent and feel HAPPY doing it and will live their ENTIRE LIFE doing it...how could you possibly claim that it isn't in their "moral self interest"?

In other words we are back at the same question: why...WHY not sacrifice others to yourself if you feel no repurcussions and can get away with it?

We aren't talking about what they think is in their best interest or about what they think "man qua man" means but about reality.

Have you ever read The Virtue of Selfishness?

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We aren't talking about what they think is in their best interest or about what they think "man qua man" means but about reality.

Have you ever read The Virtue of Selfishness?

Yes, I have, and it didn't answer this question. Please explain what you mean by "reality". I understand how this argument works viewing man in a vacuum alone, but this doesn't get to the heart of what most people think when they hear her argument: "well, so what! If I'm poor and I don't care, I'm just going to suck your money from you and nothing will come of harm to me!"

Just saying "well, that's not reality!" doesn't help me or my professor understand the Randian argument.

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The concept of individual rights Rand posits prevents others from using force to force people to become means for their own ends. This is because Rand thought that every man's life was an end in itself.

My question is .... why? Why NOT have a system where some men are exploited (let's say by a 10% tax rate) for the benifit of those "least well off" in society?

I'm reading the despicable John Rawls for a class here and have to refute the above argument that he presents. I understand that individually speaking rights make moral sense for man, but doesn't exploitation make moral sense for those least well off in society? Who are we to prioritize our own moral necessities over the physical necessities of those who least advantaged?

A need is not a claim that invalidate the rights of any man. If one man needs food, he has no right to demand that any other man provide him food (unless perhaps there is some sort of contractual agreement or something). A man has the right to choose IF he wishes to help those less "fortunate" then himself. But those that cannot meet their own needs are not his problem. if he does not wish to support him, then nothing gives any other the right to force that man to support others against his willl.

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A need is not a claim that invalidate the rights of any man. If one man needs food, he has no right to demand that any other man provide him food (unless perhaps there is some sort of contractual agreement or something). A man has the right to choose IF he wishes to help those less "fortunate" then himself. But those that cannot meet their own needs are not his problem. if he does not wish to support him, then nothing gives any other the right to force that man to support others against his willl.

Well, said Prometheus98876. To say otherwise is to knowingly or unknowingly say slavery is moral.

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My question is .... why? Why NOT have a system where some men are exploited (let's say by a 10% tax rate) for the benifit of those "least well off" in society?

It boils down to "but it's only an ounce of cyanide". If the principle is breached 10% it is no longer a principle. So if we agree to use force just some of the time, it is short order before we use force all of the time. The implication of the breach of the principle is that it is justifiable to initiate force if I have a good reason. Lots of people can invent lots of "good" reasons. So an ounce of poison mixed with 10 ounces of water is still quite deadly.

The principle of rights are absolute or they do not exist. If they only apply to some people or only apply to some times, the real concept is replaced by privledge and slavery. So why should a government not exploit some men(destroy their rights and use force) to grant privledge to others? Because it leads inevitably to deaths by the tens of millions, mass starvation, stalled technological process, economic depression and dark ages.

This is distinct from the prudent predator discussion in that it is a political question and not a personal ethical one.

As a sidenote, the colonists in the US were upset about taxes which amounted to just a few % of their incomes, because they realized what slippery slope acquiesence is. Americans did not realize that in 1913 when the voted to allow an amendment to the constitution which was initially only 1% on any income up and above $5000/year, which affected only 5% of the population. Look where we are today.

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Why refuse to answer the question?

*Why is slavery immoral*? Why is it WRONG to use another man as a means to your end if you don't care and you are in the least-advantaged category?

Just spouting some rights rhetoric isn't going to cut it because you are not saying WHY my anyone (esp. my socialist professor) should believe it.

EDIT: I just saw aequalsa's post and it's starting to approach the answer to the question. However, he doesn't prove rights. He just says if we dont acknowledge them 100% we will have a slippery slope to the perversion of rights. Yet, this is a fallacy. If I can still survive (which is what morality is for) by exploiting my neighbor and getting away with it psychologically and physically, who not still do it?

Edited by mb121
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Why refuse to answer the question?

*Why is slavery immoral*? Why is it WRONG to use another man as a means to your end if you don't care and you are in the least-advantaged category?

Just spouting some rights rhetoric isn't going to cut it because you are not saying WHY my anyone (esp. my socialist professor) should believe it.

Morality rests on a number of underlying observations and premises. If you are asking why objectivism believes it to be immoral then the answer will not satisfy a socialist whose basic consept of man might be, say, a being well suited to slavery who operates deterministically and automatically shifts his behavior as easily as a rat in a Skinner box.

edit...took out rebuke of not answering the question statement after realizing it was not directed at me.

Edited by aequalsa
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If you want to know why read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It will tell you why and what the inevitable result is if the process is taken to its conclusion. And for anyone that doubts the stuff in Atlas Shrugged I have this to say: look around you. Atlas is beginning to buckle under the weight of the Earth. He needs to shrug soon or things will get a lot worse. The exact occurence of Atlas Shrugged may not occur but the general idea will if Atlas does not shrug. That is why we should not initiate force.

As a sidenote, the colonists in the US were upset about taxes which amounted to just a few % of their incomes, because they realized what slippery slope acquiesence is. Americans did not realize that in 1913 when the voted to allow an amendment to the constitution which was initially only 1% on any income up and above $5000/year, which affected only 5% of the population. Look where we are today.

It was similar here in New Zealand. No one saw that out low and flat tax rate of about 9% would lead to a high and progressive tax rate that had ridiciously low rates of switching to higher tax rates.

Why refuse to answer the question?

EDIT: I just saw aequalsa's post and it's starting to approach the answer to the question.

Prometheus98876 answered before aequalsa did. Also, aequalsa and Prometheus98876 more than "approached" answering the question. They fully answered it. As did I, though my answer requires reading or having read Atlas Shrugged.

Just spouting some rights rhetoric isn't going to cut it because you are not saying WHY my anyone (esp. my socialist professor) should believe it.

Because man cannot survive as slaves. Not as humans anyway. They will only have a subhuman survival. Read The Virtue of Selfishness and Atlas Shrugged for an explanation of this.

He just says if we dont acknowledge them 100% we will have a slippery slope to the perversion of rights. Yet, this is a fallacy.

Wrong. A small breach of rights will esculate into a full breach if left unchecked. Read Atlas Shrugged to find out about it.

If I can still survive (which is what morality is for) by exploiting my neighbor and getting away with it psychologically and physically, who not still do it?

Because your slave has rights and to breach them, which is what you are proposing, is evil. If you do it you will forfeit all right to your life and all other rights you have.

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Why refuse to answer the question?

*Why is slavery immoral*? Why is it WRONG to use another man as a means to your end if you don't care and you are in the least-advantaged category?

Just spouting some rights rhetoric isn't going to cut it because you are not saying WHY my anyone (esp. my socialist professor) should believe it.

EDIT: I just saw aequalsa's post and it's starting to approach the answer to the question. However, he doesn't prove rights. He just says if we dont acknowledge them 100% we will have a slippery slope to the perversion of rights. Yet, this is a fallacy. If I can still survive (which is what morality is for) by exploiting my neighbor and getting away with it psychologically and physically, who not still do it?

Shortly, my main point is that when the principle is breached, it is no longer a principle. If we are alone on a desert island and I steal your coconuts after we had agreed not to steal each others fruit, you will see little reason to not use force on me at your leisure. Our social contract would become null. Rights are a political issue so the rights rhetoric is really the correct answer. For individual prudent predator talks I suggest that you look over that big ongoing thread on the subject.

edit:looting and the destruction of the looter" is the thread

Edited by aequalsa
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Ultimately you are harming yourself by enslaving others. In other words, if you are rational, a free man is of more value to you than a slave.

This is because a free man can think of things that you wouldn't or couldn't have thought of, whereas a slave will only do what you tell him.

Also, a free man can give you real information, whereas a slave will only say what he thinks you want to hear.

A productive man can make more productive use of his own property than unproductive men, so if unproductive men take a productive man's property through taxation, they prevent the creation of whatever wealth the original owner could have created with it.

Also, if you live by taking unearned loot rather than working for it, your own brain will atrophy from lack of use.

[Note (added later): the "you" in this post is a rhetorical device; I do not mean to imply that I am addressing anyone personally.]

Edited by necrovore
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Objectivists value life, and freedom. They appreciate that every man has the right to live their life as they choose, free from the coercion of those parasites that wish to steal the unearnt. Socialists etc do not accept this, nothing an Objectivist says will persuade them that slavery is morally valid until they come to value life and freedom.

If those that cannot earn whath they want have power over their betters ,the power to take whatever they wish, regardless of the fact there is on OBJECTIVE reason for their demand to be met, then what pursues is a river of blood, as any excuse, any one that might claim need , turns into an excuse to for slavery. The able have no obligation to provide the needy anything, Objectivists accept that, others dont..yet another of those things that must be accepted...

Look at history, look at all the innocents sacrificed under the knife of need, and you have all the proof you need if you should need it, that forcing the able to give the unable the unearnt can only result in blood.

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A free man can produce more and can trade his value for value. This results in mutual benefit. This is better for both you and him. Trade and production requires thought. You can order a man to act, but never to think. Thought requires free will not slavery. Therefore slaves are neither productive nor traders. This is why taxation and other forms of theft are not only wrong but also not in the best interests of the thief.

Also, if you live by taking unearned loot rather than working for it, your own brain will atrophy from lack of use.

Indeed. And how does the brain atrophing work in your best interest? It does not.

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Forgive me if it's too late to resond to your original question, but...

It’s been over a decade since I’ve read ToJ, but here are a few thoughts:

1. Rawls doesn’t think of his position as advocating using others as a means to an end. After all, a prohibition on using others as a means to an end is one of the ways Kant defines the categorical imperative in his “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals.” And Rawls, of course, is writing in a Kantian vein… his major claim to philosophical fame is a reintroduction of Kant to Anglophone political philosophy. If you do think that he is advocating using others as a means to an end, then this might suggest a contradiction in his philosophy. You should be aware, however, that he would deny this charge because he thinks of “justice” in a much different fashion than Rand does.

2. Read how Rawls defines justice. Look how Objectivism defines it. In Rawlsian terms, Objectivism would be characterized as a “deserts” theory of justice (i.e., it’s just for people to get what they deserve). Look at the sections where Rawls talks about a “deserts” theory. What are the problems in his arguments? How is the Objectivist definition better than Rawls’s?

3. You should keep in mind that Rawls is not a “utilitarian” theorist. Although he talks about libertarians like Nozick, his primary target of attack is the utilitarianism that predominated in Anglophone political theory. Thus, you should be careful how you characterize his arguments.

Edited by Korthor
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A free man can produce more and can trade his value for value. This results in mutual benefit. This is better for both you and him. Trade and production requires thought. You can order a man to act, but never to think. Thought requires free will not slavery. Therefore slaves are neither productive nor traders. This is why taxation and other forms of theft are not only wrong but also not in the best interests of the thief.

Indeed. And how does the brain atrophing work in your best interest? It does not.

I will second that. Not only are you enslaving the best among us, for the sake of the worst, you are dragging everyone down with you. Look at AS, look at how every time soem law was passed to force the best to cater for t he worst. Why do you t hink that everytime, it only got worse for everyone? Would that be because production cannot continue to operate at a knifes edge for long?

Production requires great effort, fuelled by thought. A man needs to take certain actions for optimaal production to continue, he if he is any good at what ht does, knows what those actions are. Government burecruats taht are acting based on what others claim to need, but in reality chocking off production will soon find that the premise of death they are embracing will poison the plants they are trying to make beat fruit.

Slavery is poison, if you try to feed the tree of production with it you kill it, and it will bear no fruit to feed your desperate masses..

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I will second that. Not only are you enslaving the best among us, for the sake of the worst, you are dragging everyone down with you. Look at AS, look at how every time soem law was passed to force the best to cater for t he worst. Why do you t hink that everytime, it only got worse for everyone? Would that be because production cannot continue to operate at a knifes edge for long?

Production requires great effort, fuelled by thought. A man needs to take certain actions for optimaal production to continue, he if he is any good at what ht does, knows what those actions are. Government burecruats taht are acting based on what others claim to need, but in reality chocking off production will soon find that the premise of death they are embracing will poison the plants they are trying to make beat fruit.

Slavery is poison, if you try to feed the tree of production with it you kill it, and it will bear no fruit to feed your desperate masses..

That was very much my point. I studied horticulture so I know what happens to poisoned plants in more detail than "they die or get sick". It is very similar to what happens to humans that are poisoned with slavery. Prometheus98876's analogy is a very good one that holds very true.

Edited by DragonMaci
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Philosophically speaking yes. You can make up all of these bullshit arguments about how a thief needs men of effort to exist. Practically speaking, however, don't you think there are smart, intelligent CHEATERS out there that steal and make millions of dollars and will live until they die of natural causes happy lives? If so, it is moral for them to do that if morality is a guage of what is best to sustain a happy life of purpose (their purpose is theft, and they are dang good at it). This might not be sustainable if EVERYONE lived by this philosophy;however, if a few people live by it they will LIVE happily and thus aren't they "moral" under Rand's definition?

Korthor, thanks for the post but it doesn't really answer the problems I'm having with Rand's philosphy. See the above complaint.

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Philosophically speaking yes. You can make up all of these bullshit arguments about how a thief needs men of effort to exist. Practically speaking, however, don't you think there are smart, intelligent CHEATERS out there that steal and make millions of dollars and will live until they die of natural causes happy lives?

It is not bullshit. It is fact. Futhermore, it is practical. To be practical one must deal with reality. What we have been telling is reality. Therefore it is practical.

If so, it is moral for them to do that if morality is a guage of what is best to sustain a happy life of purpose (their purpose is theft, and they are dang good at it).

No it is not moral. Morality is based on reality. To defy reality is not moral, it is immoral. Reality is not subjective, it is objective. The facts of reality, such as human rights, hold always. To be moral one must adhear to reality, one must respect human rights.

This might not be sustainable if EVERYONE lived by this philosophy;however, if a few people live by it they will LIVE happily and thus aren't they "moral" under Rand's definition?

They will not live happily. They will only have a delusion of happiness, not real happiness. And, no it is not moral under Rand's definition as it breaches human rights and defies reality.

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Firstly, dont resort to pointless attacks just because you have no good point to make. It is a cowards tactic to try to replace an argument with an unsupported attack on the arguments given by ones opponent. If you have no good argument, go away and think until you do or shut the hell up and go away.

If you think anything that enables you to stay alive (for a short time only in the causes you describe), justifies slavery, nothing I or any other here on this forum can persuade you. Its NOT in ones self interest to live by fraud, they will suffer the consquences eventually and boy will they be bad! You cannot defy reality, and if keep t rying then your in for a world of hurt.

Also the people you describe are not truly happy. happiness is the proper response to living life morally, quo man. But you reject that, so you might think such men can be happy, but I challlenge you to find one of them that is.

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If you think anything that enables you to stay alive (for a short time only in the causes you describe), justifies slavery, nothing I or any other here on this forum can persuade you. Its NOT in ones self interest to live by fraud, they will suffer the consquences eventually and boy will they be bad! You cannot defy reality, and if keep t rying then your in for a world of hurt.

Indeed. If you try to fake reality by breaching people's right you will not get away with it. Even if people don't punish you for it, reality will. And believe me, reality will be harsher than any human.

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I wrote earlier that you should be careful not to frame questions concerning Rawlsian ethics in utilitarian terms. I would make the same caution concerning Objectivism, since neither of them are “consequentialist”* philosophies. Thus, your continual pressing of the question “Will immoral acts necessarily lead to bad consequences?” is somewhat beside the point.

1. Objectivist ethics is a theory of the moral life, not a theory of “immoral acts.” Objectivism is not a series of “Thou shalts” like one would find in most religion and traditional moral systems. Immoral acts are not immoral because they violate some moral code (e.g., Kantian deontology) or because they lead to bad consequences (utilitarianism), but instead because they are not compatible with the moral life. You ask the question of whether there’s a guarantee that the immoral person will get what’s coming to them in the end. The answer is no and yes. You’re right that it is entirely possible that someone who kills, rapes, and tortures puppies will live a long and prosperous life, dying surrounded by his grandchildren. In fact, history is full of tens of millions of people who have lived off plundering others and seemed to suffer no obvious negative consequences.** On the other hand, they would have not have lived a moral life, what Rand would call a life of man qua man. Objectivism ethics is a theory of how to live as man qua man, or as I like to put it, how to live “the good life” It’s true that acting morally doesn’t guarantee happiness, and acting immorally doesn’t guarantee unhappiness, but those are consequentialist problems.

2. Objectivist ethics is teleological (oriented towards a goal). That means it is concerned with describing habits and codes of conduct that will put one on a trajectory towards “the good life.”*** The key insight to understanding “the good life” is that pleasures (obtained morally or immorally) last a moment, while happiness is a matter of a lifetime. Happiness requires a sense of self-esteem only possible when one is acting properly towards oneself and others. Thus, Objectivism doesn’t command one to be just because injustice is immoral (deontology) or because injustice had bad consequences for oneself or others (consequentialism), but because acts of injustice are incompatible with the goal of leading a just life, which is in turn important to being happy.

3. One could of course claim that people who commit unjust acts go on to be happy. I could dispute those claims, and we could perhaps do psychological studies that would lead us around in circles. In the end, one has to ask how someone not on the road to happiness (only pleasure) even know if they’re happy? How many happy immoral people do you know?

I will close with the question, “Why is Tony Soprano depressed?” If one can answer that question, then one begins to understand the importance of teleological morality beyond mere consequences.

*I’ll use “consequentialism” and “utilitarianism” interchangeably, although there are subtle differences between the two.

** “Life isn’t fair, your Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.” The Princess Bride.

*** Here’s an analogy to distinguish between consequentialism and teleology. Think of archery. Consequentialism is concerned with how many times you hit the target. Teleology is concerned with developing the techniques that will allow you to properly aim at the target. Sure there are ways to cheat, but will you find the archery satisfying if you do?

Edited by Korthor
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I didn't mean to offend anyone. I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this.

1) Telling me that me that what I'm saying isn't "reality" repeatedly might be true, but I'm not understanding why.

2) By saying that people's immoral (cheating and stealing) lives will catch up with them is begging the question of "why will it catch up with them if they don't care?" Sure, someone with an objectivist "sense of life" would eventually be a depressed maniac if he cheated and stole repeatedly, but we're talking about a Tony Soprano here who has a completely different sense of life.

3) I, of course, think slavery is wrong. But my socialist professors sure don't. So using the "well, if you don't respect rights you get slavery!" argument is just going to get me a C here.

3) Yes, Rand said that happiness is the psychological state of achieving one's values. If one chooses the right values, happiness becomes the state of "non-contradictory joy" However, remember that this is a good cheater and there are plenty Howard Roarks for him to steal from until he dies. He engages in his mind to think of the most complex and interesting ways to rip people off. He lives a purposeful life with self-esteem AND can sustain himself until he dies. Furthermore, society is never going to figure out his practices and his rights are even respected (even though he's really forfeited them..)! I do not understand how I could look a professor in the face and tell him this isn't "non-contradictory" joy. He is living objectively in reality, using his mind, with purpose, self-esteem, and happiness. Now, what I REALLY couldn’t do is say that a poor person who is on the verge of dying shouldn't steal money from others for his welfare check so he can live in "non-contradictory joy". How would THAT be in his "rational' self-interest.

I appreciate the posts here and didn't mean to offend anyone. People here may be saying to themselves that "why is this idiot asking the same questions over and over again?" The reason why is because I think everyone is begging the question the with the answers they are giving me (elaborated above).

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