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The Prudent Predator argument

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And the argument that the looter is somehow less well off simply does not make sense. Suppose I find a way to embezzle $1 million from a large corporation with a very low probability of detection. How have I eaten the golden goose? I had no product or service to offer the corporation in trade for a million dollars.

How do you know what your risk of being detected is?

How do you know what your lifetime indirect losses are from the loss of productive activity that the corporation cannot now undertake because you stole its $1 million?

I won't accept "somehow" as an answer. Nor will I accept that we know that the predator is prudent because that's a hypothetical given. I want to know how the predator knows what he claims to know, in justifying the assertion that his decision to loot is rational.

If you are omniscient enough to answer those questions, then why wouldn't it be a more optimal path for you to apply that power to consistently achieve a much greater life as a producer rather than a parasite?

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For the love of Peikoff, not this argument again. Existence/non-existence is indeed the fundamental alternative, but to what does it pertain? Existence qua man means more than just physical existence

In this example, you have the cleverness of one mind - yours - on your side, while your enemies have the minds of an entire civilization on theirs to stop you. You're not the only one who's prudent; s

This is false. The qua man standard, which is to say, reason, is precisely what guarantees that conflict will not exist between individuals. Conflict is the result of the initiation of force, which is

"One should deny (prohibit to) oneself acts that are unlikely to help one attain one’s goals (or, further, that . . . are deleterious to such goals).”
If one still realized those goals without paying attention to reason and probability, we could call him foolish, but not immoral.
:confused: What's your difference between "immoral" and "ethically prohibited"?

I have repeatedly pointed out -- and you have repeatedly failed to acknowledge -- the fact that looters have a much higher survival rate than those who shoot themselves in the head.
Oh, I acknowledge that; I just don't see what your point is. Your premise is that no action is necessarily self-destructive, including looting and firing guns at one's head. Why would it matter which of your "not necessarily self-destructive" behaviors I use to disprove your premise?

No one has made a logical case for the prohibition of initiating force
I'm suspecting that if you define "prohibition", no one would make the case that initiating force is prohibited (in your sense of the word, anyway)

I can make a logical case that some behaviors are necessarily detrimental to the attaining of one's goal. As a segue to that, I have made the argument that if there is no behavior that is necessarily beneficial or necessarily detrimental to the attaining of one's goal, then there are no right or wrong choices, and thus no ethics. And you have repeatedly failed to acknowledge that.

You wrote: “E.g. I can get struck by lightning while tending a farm, but this is not something that must (or ought) be considered in determining whether farming is a beneficial/destructive behavior.”
Ah, so you say that my argument is that not every fact of reality must be considered in determining whether X is necessarily beneficial/necessarily destructive. Sure, okay, let's go with that. Since you ask me to support that argument, I assume you disagree with it?

U.S. tax collectors are a prime example of why Ayn Rand is clearly wrong when she says the price of looting is “the destruction of their victims and their own.” Tax looters are not destroyed. They live safe, comfortable lives with generous fringe benefits.
Marty thinks every day. One day, a meteor hits his home and annihilates Marty. Therefore, thinking isn't necessarily beneficial, and Rand is clearly wrong when she says otherwise.

...do you see **ANYTHING** wrong with that conclusion? Anything at all?? Please don't tell me you agree with it...

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Morality is based on an objective criteria. The idea that something could be "moral for me as an individual" but not for others is a bald contradiction.

That is certainly a problem for Objectivism, since Objectivism starts at the individual level. The fundamental alternative pertains to individuals, not the collective. If your life is your ultimate value than you would contradict yourself if you sacrificed your existence in order to adhere to a universal code of values. This thread explores this tension between the universal and the individual.

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The prudent predator would argue that he is not destroying a value but transferring it from another person (or persons) to himself.

To be fair, he couldn't say that, since taxation is always a negative-sum game (it creates deadweight loss), not a zero-sum game, with 1 extremely rare exception.

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Let me play devil's advocate to show you what the answers of the pro-looters are, so that we could get quickly to the conclusion of this discussion that's going round and round and round in circles:

How do you know what your risk of being detected is?

I can know because i am the one who created their security system, for example (before they fired me)? Or i have bribed their chief of security to help me get through the system. It's all part of my prudent planning.

How do you know what your lifetime indirect losses are from the loss of productive activity that the corporation cannot now undertake because you stole its $1 million?

Companies close down every day and make losses all the time; we are all affected whether we are looters or not. So, stealing 1 million dollars might affect this company negatively, but some other company (its competitor) might be affected positively, etc. Besides, there is no loss FOR me. i have gained in the same way another company (A competitor) would gain from this company in the market, gaining money while it loses.

I won't accept "somehow" as an answer. Nor will I accept that we know that the predator is prudent because that's a hypothetical given. I want to know how the predator knows what he claims to know, in justifying the assertion that his decision to loot is rational.

His decision is rational because it extends his life, by your own standard. He can use the million dollars to pay for any medical attention he needs, and to eat better, more healthy food, etc.

If you are omniscient enough to answer those questions, then why wouldn't it be a more optimal path for you to apply that power to consistently achieve a much greater life as a producer rather than a parasite?

But you haven't proved to me that life as a producer is "greater" or "more optimal" than life as a looter.

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That is certainly a problem for Objectivism, since Objectivism starts at the individual level. The fundamental alternative pertains to individuals, not the collective. If your life is your ultimate value than you would contradict yourself if you sacrificed your existence in order to adhere to a universal code of values. This thread explores this tension between the universal and the individual.

You misinterpret the argument. The qua man standard operates at a level of abstraction as it pertains to each individual member of its class. It does not pertain to a collection of individuals as such. The generalizations it offers apply to all individuals, as individuals, because they all share the essential characteristic that defines the abstraction. Since the generalizations here apply to individuals, there cannot be "tension" (which is to say, contradiction) between them and the facts of each individual's nature.

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Marty thinks every day. One day, a meteor hits his home and annihilates Marty. Therefore, thinking isn't necessarily beneficial, and Rand is clearly wrong when she says otherwise.

Ayn Rand may be right that thinking is beneficial. But this philosophy supports the PRUDENT looter as well, because he is a thinker. My point is that your philosophy does not logically make the prudent looter immoral, except by asserting it.

[Am still playing devil's advocate; see my previous post].

Edited by blackdiamond
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What is destroyed is the principle of property rights; the very principle that makes wealth and prosperity possible.

Well, the fact is that they do continue making wealth even after i steal my one million dollars. i will be prudent enough to make sure that these companies don't get destroyed to the point where i can no longer steal my money.

How am i doing so far, Garry and Freddy?

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How am i doing so far, Garry and Freddy?

I think you are doing great! Keep up the good work! :confused:

You misinterpret the argument. The qua man standard operates at a level of abstraction as it pertains to each individual member of its class. It does not pertain to a collection of individuals as such. The generalizations it offers apply to all individuals, as individuals, because they all share the essential characteristic that defines the abstraction. Since the generalizations here apply to individuals, there cannot be "tension" (which is to say, contradiction) between them and the facts of each individual's nature.

Whether there can be a confilct between indiviual men's continued existence is a fact totally independent of the qua man standard. If this conflict exist, and it might very well do as shown by examples in this thread, the qua man standard won't help you. You cannot explain why anyone ought to adhere to this standard if it means that he has to sacrifice some of his life span, since the standard is designed for the very purpose of keeping you in existence.

Edited by Freddy
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I can know because i am the one who created their security system, for example (before they fired me)? Or i have bribed their chief of security to help me get through the system. It's all part of my prudent planning.

In this example, you have the cleverness of one mind - yours - on your side, while your enemies have the minds of an entire civilization on theirs to stop you. You're not the only one who's prudent; suppose they put in place measures to detect you of which you were unaware. Waging a war of one against all is not prudent. And it is a war. By choosing a path of destruction, you have taken a risk you did not need to take - particularly considering that your cleverness could have applied productively, i.e. in a manner that does not result in conflict among men. Prudent predation is an oxymoron.

Companies close down every day and make losses all the time; we are all affected whether we are looters or not. So, stealing 1

million dollars might affect this company negatively, but some other company (its competitor) might be affected positively, etc. Besides, there is no loss FOR me. i have gained in the same way another company (A competitor) would gain from this company in the market, gaining money while it loses.

This does not answer the question at all. The question was how do you know what your lifetime indirect losses are from the loss of productive activity that the corporation cannot now undertake because you stole its $1 million? Not only can't you answer that question (i.e. your destruction was indiscriminant, the long-range effects of which are unpredictable), but your answer shows that you do not understand the way in which a free society benefits all men. Productivity and trade is not a zero sum proposition. There is no such thing as a benign confiscation of wealth, because it separates the wealth from the mind capable of making use of it in the most productive way, the results of which spread incalcuable benefits throughout the whole society. The loss for you is incalcuable, your risk unquantified, and your decision to steal irrational. The comparison with productive companies engaged in competition is improper, because productive competition entails the creation of wealth, not its destruction. More competition in the form of increased productivity can never be dangerous to anyone. The same is not true of looting.

His decision is rational because it extends his life, by your own standard. He can use the million dollars to pay for any medical attention he needs, and to eat better, more healthy food, etc.

His decision is irrational because he was unable to calculate its long-term costs. He will have a million dollars, but he might not have access to the medical treatment that wasn't invented because the $1 million for its development was stolen by him, or a longer chain of causes and effects from his decision resulted in the same. Nor do the effects end there; the nature of human knowledge means that no one else will receive the lifesaving treatment, which costs the lives of other creative men that would have made discoveries and contributed to his life in other ways, and so on.

But you haven't proved to me that life as a producer is "greater" or "more optimal" than life as a looter.

If two people exist by trade, they each benefit from the value of each others' productive work. If only one produces and the other loots, neither will obtain the benefits of the looter's productive potential. This is why Gary has to argue that some are simply better at looting while others are better at producing. But this defies the facts of man's rational mind. There is no evidence that a mind capable of the complex calculus necessary to justify looting as a rational decision is any better at looting than at production, and certainly not sufficiently so to justify the incalculable losses the looter suffers.

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In this example, you have the cleverness of one mind - yours - on your side, while your enemies have the minds of an entire civilization on theirs to stop you. You're not the only one who's prudent; suppose they put in place measures to detect you of which you were unaware. Waging a war of one against all is not prudent. And it is a war. By choosing a path of destruction, you have taken a risk you did not need to take - particularly considering that your cleverness could have applied productively, i.e. in a manner that does not result in conflict among men. Prudent predation is an oxymoron.

The fact that they have the entire civilization against my mind does not mean that I am immoral. If I was trying to run away from the dictator in Cuba, they have the entire “civilization” system to catch me. If I want to avoid taxes in USA, they have the entire civilization on their side to catch me. The fact that my action – avoiding taxes --- is risky does not make it morally wrong (and that of my enemies’ “many minds” right), or does it?

Edited by blackdiamond
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The fact that they have the entire civilization against my mind does not mean that I am immoral. If I was trying to run away from the dictator in Cuba, they have the entire “civilization” system to catch me. If I want to avoid taxes in USA, they have the entire civilization on their side to catch me. The fact that my action – avoiding taxes --- is risky does not make it morally wrong (and that of my enemies’ “many minds” right), or does it?

The comparison is inapposite because in those instances, you are not the one choosing to generate the conflict, whereas in the predator scenario, you are. The initiator of force is responsible for the conflict his actions generate. In the Cuba and USA tax examples, you did not initiate the use of force and had no choice as to whether conflict would exist. As a predator, the choice to begin a conflict was yours, and was irrational for a number of reasons I gave.

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Whether there can be a confilct between indiviual men's continued existence is a fact totally independent of the qua man standard. If this conflict exist, and it might very well do as shown by examples in this thread, the qua man standard won't help you. You cannot explain why anyone ought to adhere to this standard if it means that he has to sacrifice some of his life span, since the standard is designed for the very purpose of keeping you in existence.

This is false. The qua man standard, which is to say, reason, is precisely what guarantees that conflict will not exist between individuals. Conflict is the result of the initiation of force, which is irrational (see above regarding the impossibility of prudent predation); with reason, force is not initiated, so no conflict can exist. Rationality and initiating force are mutually exclusive.

Edited by Seeker
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His decision is rational because it extends his life, by your own standard. He can use the million dollars to pay for any medical attention he needs, and to eat better, more healthy food, etc.

I know this has been said in myriad different ways in this thread, but you need to ask yourself, what is the point of extending your life if your life if that life is completely without principle? The point of life is not to have a heartbeat, this is the whole point of saying life qua man, not qua animal, qua parasite, or qua zombie. If you don't agree that man is by nature an independent being that must use his mind, we can argue that, but your (and other dissenters') argument seems to be saying that you are using to mind to negate my right to use my mind. So are you advocating hypocrisy? Whatever it is, it cannot be called a principled philosophy. If everyone went out and did what you seem to have no ethical problem with, the results would be disastrous.

Do not open your mouth to tell me that your mind has convinced you of your right to force my mind. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins. When you declare that men are irrational animals and propose to treat them as such, you define thereby your own character and can no longer claim the sanction of reason—as no advocate of contradictions can claim it. There can be no 'right' to destroy the source of rights, the only means of judging right and wrong: the mind.
(Galt speech)

The point of life is happiness, and happiness requires a consistent pursuit of values and achievement of goals. The "value" that a looter seizes by force is in fact a floating abstraction, it is a value completely divorced from cause and effect, and thus rendered meaningless.

I'm confident that everyone here can point to hundreds of acquaintances and thousands of contemporary historical figures who have achieved their own goals independently (without resorting to parasitism) and demonstrated the lasting happiness that has resulted from this type of fulfillment. The US is a perfect example of this principle writ large. Soviet Russia and Communist Cuba are perfect examples of the application of the principle of looting as a practical approach to furthering life. Tell me you don't think the citizens of these countries, and even the vast majority of their rulers do not feel the pain of their immorality.

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Disclaimer: I'M ONLY PLAYING DEVIL'S ADVOCATE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE SEE THE ESSENTIALS OF THIS DISCUSSION SO THAT IT CAN STOP GOING ROUND AND ROUND IN CIRCLES ... AND JUST STOP.

I know this has been said in myriad different ways in this thread, but you need to ask yourself, what is the point of extending your life if your life if that life is completely without principle?

It does have principle. The principle is for me to survive even if it is at other people's expense. How do you say this is unprincipled if it fits the standard of life?

The point of life is not to have a heartbeat, this is the whole point of saying life qua man, not qua animal, qua parasite, or qua zombie. If you don't agree that man is by nature an independent being that must use his mind, we can argue that, but your (and other dissenters') argument seems to be saying that you are using to mind to negate my right to use my mind. So are you advocating hypocrisy? Whatever it is, it cannot be called a principled philosophy. If everyone went out and did what you seem to have no ethical problem with, the results would be disastrous.

I do not think that everyone should become a looter, just as a swimmer should not think that everyone should become a swimmer. The result would be "disastrous" in either case if everyone went out and did what we seem to have no ethical problem with.

I'm confident that everyone here can point to hundreds of acquaintances and thousands of contemporary historical figures who have achieved their own goals independently (without resorting to parasitism) and demonstrated the lasting happiness that has resulted from this type of fulfillment.

Yeah, like the slave traders who got slaves from Africa and became rich agriculturalists.

The US is a perfect example of this principle writ large. Soviet Russia and Communist Cuba are perfect examples of the application of the principle of looting as a practical approach to furthering life. Tell me you don't think the citizens of these countries, and even the vast majority of their rulers do not feel the pain of their immorality.

You have no way of knowing that their rulers do feel this pain. in fact, you say "the vast majority" of their rulers. How about the small minority? Doesn't that prove that it is not always the case that you will feel this pain? And how did you even know it is the vast majority anyway? Did you do some research on this? Did they fill in a questionnaire that revealed this to you?

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The prudent predator would argue that he is not destroying a value but transferring it from another person (or persons) to himself.

And the argument that the looter is somehow less well off simply does not make sense. Suppose I find a way to embezzle $1 million from a large corporation with a very low probability of detection. How have I eaten the golden goose? I had no product or service to offer the corporation in trade for a million dollars. So why should I think that I could have obtained the money by another, more legitimate means? Furthermore, why should I place my “continued existence qua man and happiness” above the million bucks? First of all, who are you to say that I’m not happy living with the stolen million? And where is the proof that I’m obliged to follow the man qua producer lifestyle instead of the man qua looter lifestyle?

I am a rational human being who knows what it takes to create wealth. Wealth has value in societies where individuals recognize this cause and effect relationship. Happiness is an emotional state that stems from the consistent and independent achievement of values, from exalting in one's own effectiveness. While we don't have an objective criteria for measuring happiness, we can deductively bring to bear the general causes of happiness to make the case that ignoring those causes completely is likely to lead to misery.

Perhaps the standard of happiness vs. life vs. life qua man is confusing. I find this quote from an Amazon review helpful in sorting all this out:

In the relevant sense, happiness is the state achieved by living according to true principles, a state of "non-contradictory joy," the state of a life well lived along with its concomitant emotions. So the concept of happiness rests on the concept of man's life.

There is, in fact, a range of possibility with respect to the quality of a man's life, with bare survival at one end of the range and true happiness at the other. Bare survival proceeds from a minimal success at life, while happiness (in the relevant sense) proceeds from a more or less complete success at life. Survival and happiness refer to different degrees of the same thing. Each is the state resulting from some degree of successful action toward supporting one's life.

May not we then assert that happiness is the real goal, the state we really want to attain, and therefore the proper basis for human values? No. Miss Rand designated happiness as man's moral purpose, but emphatically not as his standard of value. Happiness simply cannot be a standard of value. It is the state associated with having obtained one's values, but it cannot direct us to what those values ought to be.

If we try to choose our values based on happiness, we cannot use the term in the sense in which it is taken as man's moral purpose. Happiness as the result of successful living has nothing to say about what constitutes successful living. In order to make happiness a standard of value, we would have to switch to happiness in the sense of emotional enjoyment. That would obviously lead to hedonism. It would eliminate the objectivity of values and leave us to pursue whatever "feels good" at any moment. If we want true happiness, we must instead choose to value whatever leads to true happiness, which means to seek the values of life itself. That is why man's life is his standard of value. We achieve happiness by obtaining, in abundance, the values necessary for life. Each of those values is validated by its objective relationship to the value of man's life.

Miss Rand did not stop at bare survival. She spoke of man's survival qua man, which is to say his survival by the means and in the fashion appropriate to his nature. The happy man is not one who must always worry about his precarious existence, but one who has control of his life, who takes care of himself, who knows where he is going, who is skilled and feels up to any challenge. In short, the happy man has attained his basic values in abundance. He has maximized his reason, purpose, and self-esteem.

The question that needs to be addressed is this: is there an objective basis for happiness, or is it a completely causeless, subjective emotional state? Is the "prudent predator" happy or unhappy for some reason? I think ultimately if you're asking whether Objectivism can prove that there are no consistently "happy looters" out there, it can't, no more than it can prove that there are no flying pigs. It's just that all evidence would lead one to believe that in the general case being a fraudulent parasite does not lead to self-esteem or happiness.

In short, a looter pits himself against reality and the truth. He makes his goal not the pursuit of real values and success, but the subversion of these. His success depends on not being found out, on the reality of his situation not being brought to light. While the producer is in harmony with reality and the nature of human life (ie, he must use his rational mind to produce his own values), the looter is in constant rebellion against them.

The producer is surrounded by the constant benefits and proof of his efficaciousness and worthiness of life, hence his self-esteem. The looter cannot enjoy any meaningful level of self-esteem without constantly deluding himself as to his worthiness of life.

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Ayn Rand may be right that thinking is beneficial. But this philosophy supports the PRUDENT looter as well, because he is a thinker. My point is that your philosophy does not logically make the prudent looter immoral, except by asserting it.
Well, if you're going to devilishly advocate Gary Brenner's argument, you might as well do it justice. First, Gary Brenner feels that thinking is not necessarily beneficial, nor any other behavior for that matter. Leading IMO to the argument that no behavior is necessarily moral or immoral, and there is no standard for acting ethically.

Second, he "proves" that no behavior is necessarily beneficial/necessarily detrimental with examples along the lines of

Marty thinks every day. One day, a meteor hits his home and annihilates Marty. Therefore, thinking isn't necessarily beneficial, and Rand is clearly wrong when she says otherwise.

To him, being blindsided by space debris proves that thinking isn't a beneficial behavior.

Third, in order to satisfy his standard of proof, he asks that I, in order to prove a behavior (like thinking) necessarily beneficial, show that every instance of thinking results in a beneficial state. In other words, an accident "proves" that thinking isn't beneficial, getting fired from one's job proves that last night's sex wasn't beneficial, ad naseum.

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Disclaimer: I'M ONLY PLAYING DEVIL'S ADVOCATE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE SEE THE ESSENTIALS OF THIS DISCUSSION SO THAT IT CAN STOP GOING ROUND AND ROUND IN CIRCLES ... AND JUST STOP.

I've never understood the Devil's Advocate stance. If you know better, why don't you argue better?

It does have principle. The principle is for me to survive even if it is at other people's expense. How do you say this is unprincipled if it fits the standard of life?

WRONG. A principle that applies to only you is a contradiction. The whole point of having a the concept is to denote something that applies generally, across the board, to everyone:

Main Entry: prin·ci·ple

Pronunciation: 'prin(t)-s(&-)p&l, -s&-b&l

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French principe, principle, from Old French, from Latin principium beginning, from princip-, princeps initiator -- more at PRINCE

1 a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (1) : a rule or code of conduct (2) : habitual devotion to right principles <a man of principle> c : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device

I do not think that everyone should become a looter, just as a swimmer should not think that everyone should become a swimmer. The result would be "disastrous" in either case if everyone went out and did what we seem to have no ethical problem with.

What would be the disastrous result of everyone becoming a swimmer? Do you mean as an occupation, ie, if everyone were a bootblack who would make the boots? The problem with this argument is that being a looter is not an occupation, it is not about trading, it is a moral choice to not produce anything, but to leech off of others against their will. Those who have chosen an occupation have done so because they have chosen to respect the rights of others, presumably because it serves their self-interest, and to find a productive effort for which they can trade to satisfy their needs. That is the principle that they are choosing, not the specific occupation they are pursuing (anymore than all looters would choose to be jewel thieves).

Yeah, like the slave traders who got slaves from Africa and became rich agriculturalists.

I think those who understood the nature of what they were doing would have necessarily felt bad about it. But most did not understand that they were violating the rights of fellow human beings. The vast majority of people back then sincerely believed that the African race was subhuman because this theory was overwhelmingly supported by intellectuals (including some of the founding fathers), clergy and scientists. But I would argue that they would have struggled, even with such assumptions, to feel good about causing the suffering of others to produce wealth on their behalf.

It raises the question of whether one can be "blissfully ignorant". I would argue that that kind of "bliss" is neither desirable nor sustainable. It means you must depend of going against your nature (that of rational animal) to maintain your "blissful" state. I would rather be aware of my unhappiness and have the possibility to change it, than be a smiling, drooling idiot who has no chance of real human happiness.

One more thing: be careful what you imply, the slave trader comment above seems to indicate that you believe being rich is a cause of happiness. I don't think that bears out inductively or deductively and I would be happy to tell you why if need be.

You have no way of knowing that their rulers do feel this pain. in fact, you say "the vast majority" of their rulers. How about the small minority? Doesn't that prove that it is not always the case that you will feel this pain? And how did you even know it is the vast majority anyway? Did you do some research on this? Did they fill in a questionnaire that revealed this to you?

I shouldn't have said they "feel the pain", or at least I should have qualified this by saying I don't mean they directly "feel" the effects. But the effects are there. Just because Kim Jong Il doesn't realize that he could live a much more fulfilling life if he pursued his own independent interests, as opposed to causing the suffering and death of his people so he could throw lavish karaoke parties, doesn't mean that he isn't missing out. Will he ever feel the full weight of the suffering he has caused? No, unfortunately he never will. (to be continued.. )

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Living doesn't just mean morgue avoidance, as Tara Smith makes brilliantly clear.

Quite true, but I posit that a 'system of production' must also be in place before a robust, flourishing life can be lived as well. A concrete example is the buring of the Library at Alexandria in about 415 AD or so had the effect of shutting down the system of production in place. This marked the end of productive civilization known in the world then, (especially the end of grain grown in Egypt) and the whole world literally rotted for the next 1000 years. It is difficult to imagine a robust, flourishing life lived in that thousand year period.

My take on Rand's condemnation of looters quoted elsewhere in this thread is that it 1) destroys themselves in terms of living a robust, flourishing life and 2) in the long range they destroy the production system.

Cecil R. Williams

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If you know better, why don't you argue better?

One uses different argument techniques or teaching techniques when the previously used techniques are ineffective. Some people may understand better when the argument is presented in a different way. The argument has already been relayed in a "straight up" manner and it has not been working so perhaps the DA technique will garner more effective results.

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How do you know what your risk of being detected is?

How do you know what your lifetime indirect losses are from the loss of productive activity that the corporation cannot now undertake because you stole its $1 million?

I won't accept "somehow" as an answer. Nor will I accept that we know that the predator is prudent because that's a hypothetical given. I want to know how the predator knows what he claims to know, in justifying the assertion that his decision to loot is rational.

If you are omniscient enough to answer those questions, then why wouldn't it be a more optimal path for you to apply that power to consistently achieve a much greater life as a producer rather than a parasite?

This is the best argument for living on principle that I have seen in this thread, and it has yet to be refuted. Does anyone else want to try?

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I've never understood the Devil's Advocate stance. If you know better, why don't you argue better?

See Rational Biker's commenet above.

WRONG. A principle that applies to only you is a contradiction. The whole point of having a the concept is to denote something that applies generally, across the board, to everyone:

And what makes you think the principle i gave does not apply to everyone, accross the board? I am making that statement as a looter (that i should survive, even at the expense of others) because i believe everyone should do that. So, it is a principle, even by your definition.

The problem with this argument is that being a looter is not an occupation, it is not about trading, it is a moral choice to not produce anything...

That, is what you need to prove. You call it a moral choice because of your ethics, but this argument is about proving that it is in fact unethical to be unproductive, given the goal of your ethics (to survive). If you say to survive is to survive "qua man", and then say qua man is to be productive, you haven't said anything because someone could also say "qua man" is to be altruistic.

I think those [slave traders] who understood the nature of what they were doing would have necessarily felt bad about it. But most did not understand that they were violating the rights of fellow human beings.

So, what if the looter believes that violating the rights of fellow human beings is not wrong as long as it prolongs his own life? The question is whether you can prove from your philosophy that such violation is in fact wrong, without just asserting it.

It raises the question of whether one can be "blissfully ignorant"...I would rather be aware of my unhappiness and have the possibility to change it, than be a smiling, drooling idiot who has no chance of real human happiness.

But how would you know you are an idiot if you don't even know that you are "blissfully ignorant"???

One more thing: be careful what you imply, the slave trader comment above seems to indicate that you believe being rich is a cause of happiness. I don't think that bears out inductively or deductively and I would be happy to tell you why if need be.

Well. Being poor is not a desirable state, is it? Therefore being rich is a desirable state. I'll speak only for myself here (and not even as Devil's advocate): no matter what your proof is, I would rather be rich than poor, just as I would rather be healthy than sick. To quote a certain Christian evangelist, "I've been poor and I've been rich. Um... rich is better!"

Just because Kim Jong Il doesn't realize that he could live a much more fulfilling life if he pursued his own independent interests, as opposed to causing the suffering and death of his people so he could throw lavish karaoke parties, doesn't mean that he isn't missing out. Will he ever feel the full weight of the suffering he has caused? No, unfortunately he never will. (to be continued.. )

If you read through this thread from the beginning (I bet you haven't since you don't even know that i actually took the opposite, anti-looter position only a few pages ago), you will see that the points you are making have already been answered by the pro-looters. Your last sentence "no, unfortunately he never will [feel the full weight of the suffering he has caused]" is what the pro-looters are using to show that your philosophy does not prove that such a life is necessarily self-destructive, which means it does not prove that it is necessarily immoral.

My point is simply that, for as long as you keep going in this direction, you will keep getting the same responses, so I do not understand why you are still going in this direction.

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I know this has been said in myriad different ways in this thread, but you need to ask yourself, what is the point of extending your life if your life if that life is completely without principle? The point of life is not to have a heartbeat, this is the whole point of saying life qua man, not qua animal, qua parasite, or qua zombie. If you don't agree that man is by nature an independent being that must use his mind, we can argue that, but your (and other dissenters') argument seems to be saying that you are using to mind to negate my right to use my mind. So are you advocating hypocrisy? Whatever it is, it cannot be called a principled philosophy. If everyone went out and did what you seem to have no ethical problem with, the results would be disastrous.

This is a Kantian argument, but is doesn't resolve the problems of egoism. For the sake of the argument, assume that longevity is the standard for selfinterest (because it's a clear standard). Your reasoning above does nothing to show that an individual man cannot extend his survival at someon elses expense, that is your argument dosn't show that a man cannot embezzle a million dollars from collusion on on- line poker, then wisely invest this amount and later benefit from this investement in terms of survival value. Thus, if you start your argument with asserting that for every man his survival is his ultimate value, then you cannot later morally require a person not to extend his survival pointing to the Categorical Imperative. If you do that then you have asserted that survival isn't the ultimate value and this contradicts your initial assertion. It is a fact of reality that there can be a tension between what's optimal for the individual and what's optimal on the avarage (universal level), and if you have commited yourself to egoism that certainly is a problem. And that problem isn't solved by arbitrarily add the categorical imperative to your notion of self interest.

On a related note, it's far from obvious that a system of negative rights only would result from a system derived from self interest. If you imagine a bunch of self-interested persons making a social contract behind a "veil of ignorance" (that is, they don't know there initial social positions) it wouldn't nessecerrily be irrational to insure yourself with some entitlements like education, or to opt for taxes to cover defence and law enforcement. The alternative is that in a system of negative rights only, the universal rational conduct includes promotion of other peoples wellbeing to a degree where they wouldn't benefit from a system of positive rights.

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