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Using others as a mean to your end

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You're really talking about two examples.

1. The person steals and plunders because he wants to...

You never answered my questoin about how many happy immoral people you know? You keep saying that there could be this hypothetical evil-doer who escapes the consequences of his actions (which is possible), and is such a blithe spirit that he lives a life of joy, other people be damned.

Do such people exist? Possibly. To continue with my archery example, it's also possible that someone who's shooting at random might hit the target more than a skilled archer. The point of Objectivist ethics isn't to cover for every unlikely scenario, but to describe the way to live a good life. It's also possible that betting all your money on roulette will be the key to wealth, but you're more likely to get there with a good job.

2. The poor person faced with the choice between starvation and stealing a loaf of bread...

Historically, any society that ever presented its members with that dilemma usually enforced draconian penalties against theft (amputation or even death). Thus, if you are really presented with this dilemma, then your life is likely to be quite short anyway (unless you become a really good thief, which will likely put you in option 1). In an advanced industrial society, the chances that anyone would face involuntary starvation is extremely small--can you think of a single example since WWII?

The bottom line is that you can always think of perverse hypotheticals that would never happen that prove that acting morally might had adverse consequences. But once again, Objectivism is teleological (concerned with developing techniques to aim at the goal) rather than consequentialist. Learning the right way to shoot is the best way to hit the goal, but you can of course imagine weird scenarios where this wouldn't be true.

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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.

A problem I see is that you wish to accept your professors' premises and get to the conclusion that objectivism arrives at. Which cannot be done.

Objectivism doesn't say live a life of virtue so as to get more cookies because cookies will make you happy.

It says living virtuously will allow your thoughts, emotions and body to be integrated and this internal state of non-contradiction will more likely lead to success in striving after your purpose in life, the accomplishing of which will yield self-esteem and pride if, and only if, that accomplishment is a direct result of your virtuous behavior and efforts.

What you are asking is that we take it as a given that cookies cause happiness and then proove that if someone steals cookies, they won't be happy. See the problem?

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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?

Again, read the thread "Does looting really mean the destruction of the looter?" because it's discussing the exact same problem you're talking about. It really comes down to how Objectivism define the nature of man, and the it's implications on ethics (which so far has been unexplained on that thread other than "well read OPAR and you'll understand").

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Ok, it dosen't seem like anyone has actually adressed the question that mb121 is asking, and I haven't had alot of time to read other threads to see if there is a place to read up on this.

As I understand it, you're asking "Why is it bad/immoral/evil for a man to steal, cheat, or otherwise mooch off of anyone at anytime if he can get away with it and will not be wrought with guilt?"

Bad/immoral/evil is a judgement of morality, which is the measure of an actions fulfillment or detriment to life qua man. Objective morality and judging it is something that requires the highest consciousness of philosophy one might hope to attain in order have any foundation to stand on.

There are actually two issues to adress in answering your question. One, you're actually asking two questions. You're asking why is it "immoral [...]" ect. which I'm assuming, because you're on an Objectivist forum, that you're asking about morailty in terms of an objective moral ethic. In which case it is clear that in a social human environment, it is never in one's self interest to cheat/steal/mooch in any sense of the word and in any interval of time.

Now, I didn't support the last statement becuase that issue is covered extensively in this forum and is again being rehased above, but that's not the crux of your question as I understand it.

The second question you're actaually asking, and the issue I seem to think you want adressed, is why is it bad for the moocher to steal/cheat/mooch. Well in short, It's not. Again bad/immoral/evil is a value judgement. And again you need a standard by which to judge something. In terms of the moocher you're asking, "Is 'mooching' immoral for the moocher and the answer is no, because one would have to judge those actions fulfillment or detriment of life qua mocher. Which if you're a moocher to begin with, it's a good thing to mooch, that's a moocher's philosophy and is the basis of his life qua moocher.

wow I suddenly don't like the word "mooch" lol

Everyone's actions are a very clear window to their philosophy, becuase it is philosophy that guides action albeit sometimes not as a conscious effort.

I think the main problem you're having is asking the right question.

It's not immoral for the moocher to mooch if you're talking about a moocher's philosophy.

If you want to as why it is immoral to cheat/steal/mooch in a general sense then ask it, and read up in multiple threads here.

I feel this post could be alot less wordy but I haven't the time to rehash it. I hope I can help.

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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?

Being a thief is not something you can advertise openly, because it causes people not to trust you. How can you explain that you choose to steal from strangers but not your friends? What really determines the difference? Your friends would wonder if they are friends enough that you would not steal from them. And also if they know about your thievery, they have the ability to turn you in and be rewarded by the authorities. How can you trust them? Maybe you want to protect them from having the burden of knowing you are a thief, having to choose between protecting you and protecting themselves.

So you will have to keep your thievery secret. And yet if you choose to keep your thievery a secret, the facts will be out there, always threatening to expose the secret. This will be a constant source of tension and will make it more difficult to lead a happy life. You can be happy by ignoring the problem, of course, but if you ignore that problem it increases the risk that you will ignore the very thing that leads the cops to you (and you will get caught). Or you can worry about it. Worrying about it will cause you to be more careful about concealing the evidence, thereby increasing your chance of success in thievery, but on the other hand you will always worry, and so you will never be able to be truly happy.

In OPAR Leonard Peikoff compares this sort of lie to playing with a lighted fuse. The bomb, he says, may never go off. That's how it is that some people die without ever having been caught. The thing is, you can never be sure.

1. Objectivist ethics is a theory of the moral life, not a theory of “immoral acts.”

Actually this is a half-truth.

Man is a being with a specific nature. He can live or he can die, and in order to live, he has to perform certain actions and refrain from performing certain other actions. This much is also true of plants and animals.

Every living being has a means of survival. A lion survives by hunting; a bird by flying. Man's means of survival is his mind. He uses his mind to think about what to do. And therefore he makes better choices than a mere animal can. The proper use of his mind is therefore key to his survival. Anything that threatens his mind, or its proper use, therefore threatens his life.

This is what leads to the idea of the moral life. The moral life is not just some idea that Ayn Rand cooked up out of thin air. It is a logical conclusion drawn from the facts of man's very nature.

It is natural that a man should benefit from the minds of other men. That is why a proper civilization is a value to him. But when a man chooses to use the minds of other men as his means of survival -- rather than using his own mind -- he is making a choice that threatens his survival. It would be like choosing to walk with the legs of other men even though you have perfectly good legs of your own. It is not improper merely because of what would happen if everyone did it (although that is one way to expose the trouble with the idea). It is improper because the logic of it flies in the face of your nature as a man.

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?"

If they don't care about their lives, why not shoot themselves and have done with it?

If all they care about is experiencing pleasure, why not shoot themselves up with drugs and have done with it?

The whole point of being a thief instead of doing these is that you want to pretend you are living an honest life, but without actually doing so.

And that is the key to the psychology of a thief: pretense! By bothering to pretend, he is conceding that an honest life is a value to him!

But if an honest life is so valuable, why isn't it worth going to the trouble to actually live one?

A thief is trying to live a contradiction.

I hope this gives you something to chew on for a while...

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