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Gary Brenner

The Prudent Predator argument

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grr ... accidentally deleted

C doesn\'t follow from B

b.) Maintaining X’s life requires the expenditure of labor (among other things).

c.) Reducing X’s labor and increasing X’s leisure is another good.

No, I said it (<_< was another good. I did not derive it from a). Would you suggest that reducing labor is not a good?

\"Reducing X’s labor increasing X’s leisure is another good\" where does this come from? good intrinsically?

Place it in context. I do not propose it is the prefect Objectivist ethic, Only that it may be a rational objective. But only a rational objective if you are not opposed to the increase of leisure.

Postscript:

The fact that the days in one\'s life are limited and that the enjoyment of the products of one\'s work may be more enjoyable than the work itself. This preference may not be the case with Objectivists in general, it may not be intrinsic to all, but it is certainly the case with many individuals and, in particular, those I\'m familiar with.

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If I have presented hypothetical arguments to the contrary, it is only to elicit a stronger case for individual rights.

Have you presented a hypothetical case? What are your true views on the subject?

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In fact, I accept the tenets of Ayn Rand’s epistemology. This is a discussion about ethics.

The facts for one man are not the facts for another. I remain skeptical of most claims about the “universal nature of man,” particularly those regarding his behavior in the company of other men.

I don't see how those two statements are compatible. Could you explain?

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I have already mentioned that I have a slight fear of heights with an unknown cause (but not necessarily “unknowable” cause). Therefore I avoid patios on high rises, small airplanes, and trips across bridges like the Golden Gate. Considering that the phobia has been with me since very early childhood, I do not attribute it to tumors or any other “abnormal” medical condition. Nor am I willing to consign it either to category “1) reasoning” or “2) irrationality.” My emotion is, for lack of a better word, “arational.”

No, it isn't. It is either based on a rational reason or an irrational one. That you haven't or haven't been able to examine it so far does not make it "arational." Again, you are well off track of Objectivist epistemology. If you cannot accept this point, that emotions are either rational or irrational, then there is no proceeding. You will continue to advocate subjectivism in emotions and therefore in ethics.

Arguing from subjectivism, of course you will not see a problem with the predator premise. But subjectivism is not compatible with a philosophy of unbreached reason.

The fact that the days in one\'s life are limited and that the enjoyment of the products of one\'s work may be more enjoyable than the work itself. This preference may not be the case with Objectivists in general, it may not be intrinsic to all, but it is certainly the case with many individuals and, in particular, those I\'m familiar with.

Again, subjectivism. And, I will note, a statement that seems to imply that if something is not intrinsic, it must be subjective.

Edited by softwareNerd
Fixed quote citation

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The act of accepting an irrational process is self-destructive regardless of its results in one case or another.
Let’s stipulate all of the above.
Whaddyamean "let stipulate"? Do you agree or don't ya?

The lottery is not practical.
Wouldn't a single exception to the impracticality prove that it's practical?
No. The odds for the winner are the same as for the loser. The fact that A won and Z lost does not prove that A had better odds than Z.
:confused: sN makes a good point. What definition of "practical" are you using?

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b.) Maintaining X’s life requires the expenditure of labor (among other things).

c.) Reducing X’s labor and increasing X’s leisure is another good.

No, I said it (:confused: was another good. I did not derive it from a). Would you suggest that reducing labor is not a good?

Place it in context. I do not propose it is the prefect Objectivist ethic, Only that it may be a rational objective. But only a rational objective if you are not opposed to the increase of leisure.

Postscript:

The fact that the days in one\'s life are limited and that the enjoyment of the products of one\'s work may be more enjoyable than the work itself. This preference may not be the case with Objectivists in general, it may not be intrinsic to all, but it is certainly the case with many individuals and, in particular, those I\'m familiar with.

I don't see what your balance sheet should have to do with the number of hours you spend engaged in productive work.

The only possible exception for me would be: if I was in a situation in which, in order to survive or escape a short-term crisis, I had to work a number of hours which, if I continued, would have longterm consequences ... and then I was able to remove myself from that situation.

I would not say "oh, I have a million dollars now, I quit, no more."

I suppose this goes back to what it means to live long-range.

According to your standard, reducing your 'labor' to zero and your 'leisure' to all the time would be ideal. Is this your proposed goal then?

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Let’s stipulate all of the above. Now how does it apply to the topic of this thread? I don’t doubt that some looters (or would-be looters) act with absolute disregard for the risks involved. Consider the would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley, Jr. Only pure chance kept him from being killed on the spot by Secret Service agents. We can agree that Hinckley’s degree of cunning and common sense was on par with that of a Russian roulette player. If Hinckley could serve as an example of all looters, then the case against looting would be open and shut.

Alright, Brenner. Let's see how you would handle the taste of your own medicine.

1. You said that if Hickley would serve as an example of all looters, then the case against looting would be "open and shut". Why exactly? Why should the looters (if they were all like Hickley) necessarily accept that "acting with absolute disregard for the risks involved" is wrong?

After all, there could be one looter who did act this way and still survived?

Unfortunately, not everyone who makes a living by preying on others is so stupid/irrational/suicidal. Some looters “prepare,” “get in physical shape,” “watch how (and how fast)” their enemies move, and “learn the contours” of the territory where they prey. In short, some looters are successful because they use their brains. Look at Bill Clinton.

2. So, why can't the looter (if they were all "stupid/irrational/suicidal') just say that he gets his thrill from the fact that he is not planning or calculating anything, thus making his adventure even more risky and exciting? Why is this irrational? because he is not using reason? No, but he is using reason to come to the conclusion that not planning for anything is more exciting. Who are you to tell him that this is not reasoning?

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KendallJ wrote:

Not just that, but also if your epistemology even allows you to determine if valid responses are valid, which is what I’m trying to figure out. Assigning you such a label would certianly be adequate if any truly adequate response is to be dismissed out of hand by you.

I do not dismiss anything out of hand. If I can find something in objective reality that contradicts a theory, only then do I question the validity of that theory.

And you see this was my point. If you have no ability to recognize that “All men are mortal” is a fact, then how can you expect me to provide you a generalization of all men in any other capacity without an exhaustive sample.

Where does one derive a 100% metaphysical certainty that no human alive today will attain immortality? My certainty is extremely high, perhaps 99%, but it is not absolute in the same way 2 + 2 = 4 is.

The problem is not that Objectivism describe a universal from particulars of any sort, but that you don’t recognize universal statements to be proven unless they take an exhaustive inventory. Any proof I offer you is true of 1). Why don’t you just argue that universals are impossible to prove instead of leading us on with this goose chase of a debate?

I do not regard universals as impossible to prove. Here is an example of a valid one: “All common nouns in the English language consist of letters from the English alphabet.” The definition of “universal” is “including, relating to, or affecting all members of the class or group under consideration.” Now if a philosopher proposes a universal description of a group, and it is shown that not all members of that group fit that description, then it is logical to call the description false.

Oh good grief. Perhaps you missed my answer to that issue in post #55. As SN said, “and so on and so forth.” Cost benefit has a place in Objectivism, but it is not in determining values or virtues. Which is how you continue to use it, over and over and over and over... and yet you’re uncomfortable being labeled a pragmatist?

Let’s put Rand’s quote in a larger context:

“An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.

“Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means: a series of means going off into an infinite progression toward a nonexistent end is a metaphysical and epistemological impossibility.” VOS, p. 17

Let’s be clear. Rand is talking about ultimate value here. And that standard of value is the organism’s life. So how can we arrive at a set of virtues without referring back to that ultimate value? How can we place “virtue” in the looter’s way of furthering his life if his life is the standard of “all lesser values,” including virtue?

If you accept the Russel statement above, then you may explicitly say you accept Rand\\\'s epistemology, but you most certainly are not practicing it. Without it, you\\\'ll continue to receive valid arguments from Objectivists that you will call invalid, and you\\\'ll just be wrong.

So does Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology state that the generalization “All men are mortal” has 100% certitude, the same degree of certitude as 2 + 2 = 4?

Edited by Gary Brenner

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softwareNerd wrote:

Gary, Sorry to ask this so late in the thread (maybe you\'ve already indicated it), but have you read “Virtue of Selfishness”

Several times.

and “OPAR”?

Once.

If you have, then I\'d strongly suggest the \"Understanding Objectivism\" lectures, because they mainly deal with the issue of epistemological approaches. They are expensive, compared to a book, but if you think philosophy is a means of finding broad principles that will actually help in everyday life, the cost is insignificant.

From what I can tell, the place at which you differ from Objectivism is not merely in Ethics, nor even in an explicit theory of concepts (as one might find in ITOE), but in the basic epistemological approach. With that in mind, the UO lectures could make things clear to you in a way that casual forum posts never will.

Thanks for the recommendation. To be honest, my mind is more fully engaged when I read something rather than listen to it. I can do novels, biographies and even some history on tape, but not works of philosophy.

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Thanks Gary, that helps.

I think I have enough of a sense of your arguments here to craft a decent attempt at a response. But it will have to be later tonight.

Note however here that your certainties presented so far are all deductive or definitional statements, and you are asking for proof of an inductive generalization. Do you have any inductive generalizations that you consider certain, since that is what you seem to be asking of us.

Objectivist epistemology allows for certainty in context, which is different than 99.9999% probabilities. I believe ITOE has a whole discussion on certainty does it not (I could be mistaken here, but will have to find the reference at home). I have not seen a definitive set of rules of induction set forth even by Objectivisism.

You'll have to check back to my reponse to you in post 55 to see my discussion of Rand's statement.

Just to be clear, do I understand you to

a. accept Objectivist epistemology?

b. accept the premise that reason is man's ultimate means to survival?

These would be what I would expect from anyone trying to argue the prudent predator problem. THat is that it is in one's interest to be rational, but that sometimes it may be in one's interest to either violate that rationality to loot, or that rationality consists of the cost benefit analysis that says its ok to loot. Do you have a preference as to interpretation?

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softwareNerd

It\'s an analogy to winning the lottery.

I think I made it clear that predators who undertake missions with little or no chance of success and extremely negative consequences are not acting rationally -- that is, if they value their life and freedom. See the Hinckley example.

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My recommendation for your specific issues with this problem (in addition to SN's recommendation) would be a small course called The Unity of Virtue by Andrew Lewis.

This contains the assertion that all of the Objectivist virtues are really integrated facets of each other, and that they are all just reexpressions of the concept of rationality. This is what you seem to be struggling with.

Your issue seems to be one of integration. That is, your epistemological method (I'm speculating here) is stopping you from the broader integrations of the concept of virtue.

Just to preview you, my basic thesis is that as I stated in post "whatever it was". Violating one virtue necessarily puts one on a path of commiting further violations of other virtues. This is true for anyone who accepts the virtue of rationality (i.e. someone arguing the prudent predator problem).

So if I understand your need for proof, you need something that is true regardless of the fact that there are people in the world who don't appear to suffer from looting. Something that is true of anyone who accepts the rationality argument (not necessarily all men). Would you agree that I don't have to address someone who claims ethics from some other source than rationality? or not? And I assume that you are not holding anyone to the standard of proving why failure of rationality doesn't result in desctruction of the looter for someone who cannot function rationally (say a sociopath)?

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So if I understand your need for proof, you need something that is true regardless of the fact that there are people in the world who don't appear to suffer from looting. Something that is true of anyone who accepts the rationality argument (not necessarily all men). Would you agree that I don't have to address someone who claims ethics from some other source than rationality? or not? And I assume that you are not holding anyone to the standard of proving why failure of rationality doesn't result in desctruction of the looter for someone who cannot function rationally (say a sociopath)?

...that's where I was going, by the way. I'll be tuning in with much interest...

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Galileo Blogs wrote:

Have you presented a hypothetical case?

See my Post #101, top of page 6 in this thread.

What are your true views on the subject?

I am an advocate of individualism, private property and capitalism. I favor that system because it provides for general prosperity, a flourishing of civilization, and on the whole treats people decently. I know this is a utilitarian argument, and I am aware of the great defects in a utilitarian approach to individual rights.

I would prefer a stricter, more deontological approach. But I haven’t found one yet.

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Inspector wrote:

I don’t see how those two statements are compatible. Could you explain?

I hope they are compatible. At least I am not aware that Rand’s epistemology allows for universals wherein not all members of the class or group under consideration fit the definition of the universal.

(See my discussion with KendallJ above.)

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At least I am not aware that Rand’s epistemology allows for universals wherein not all members of the class or group under consideration fit the definition of the universal.

Actually, this is the part I meant to focus on:

The facts for one man are not the facts for another

Could you clarify what you meant by that?

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Inspector wrote:

No, it isn’t. It is either based on a rational reason or an irrational one. That you haven’t or haven’t been able to examine it so far does not make it “arational.”

I admit that I do not know the cause of my slight fear. But I am fairly certain that it has nothing to do with the employment of my capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought – or my failure to do so.

Again, you are well off track of Objectivist epistemology. If you cannot accept this point, that emotions are either rational or irrational, then there is no proceeding. You will continue to advocate subjectivism in emotions and therefore in ethics.

How does the fact that I suspect that my slight fear of heights is neither an attribute of my reasoning or non-reasoning make me an advocate of subjectivism in emotion and ethics? My fear may in fact have a physiological origin. The fact that I have one emotion I cannot account for in no way implies that I hold the cause to be non-objective, i.e. not part of the real world. I’m quite curious about the cause, but I simply do not have the time, money or confidence in psychotherapy to investigate it. I certainly would not presume my phobia to be the proper basis for an ethical decision – although admittedly I would be reluctant to form a relationship with a woman who lived in a lighthouse.

Arguing from subjectivism, of course you will not see a problem with the predator premise. But subjectivism is not compatible with a philosophy of unbreached reason.

Since that is not my position, I need enter no response here.

Again, subjectivism. And, I will note, a statement that seems to imply that if something is not intrinsic, it must be subjective.

I wrote, “The fact [is] that the days in one’s life are limited and that the enjoyment of the products of one’s work may be more enjoyable than the work itself. This preference may not be the case with Objectivists in general, it may not be intrinsic to all, but it is certainly the case with many individuals and, in particular, those I’m familiar with.”

“Intrinsic” was a poor word choice. Please substitute “specific.” The more important point is whether preference for leisure over work is subjectivism. I have a pathologist friend who retired at 50 so he could pursue his interests in reading, art and travel. What makes this a subjective decision as opposed to an objective evaluation of his interests within the context of his finite time in the world? And would a preference for work over leisure necessarily be “objective”?

Edited by Gary Brenner

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KendallJ wrote:

Thanks Gary, that helps.

I think I have enough of a sense of your arguments here to craft a decent attempt at a response. But it will have to be later tonight.

Note however here that your certainties presented so far are all deductive or definitional statements, and you are asking for proof of an inductive generalization. Do you have any inductive generalizations that you consider certain, since that is what you seem to be asking of us.

“The initiation of force is a persistent occurrence in all societies of more than a few hundred people.” My certitude on this is about 98%, but not absolute.

Objectivist epistemology allows for certainty in context, which is different than 99.9999% probabilities. I believe ITOE has a whole discussion on certainty does it not (I could be mistaken here, but will have to find the reference at home). I have not seen a definitive set of rules of induction set forth even by Objectivisism.

You\'ll have to check back to my reponse to you in post 55 to see my discussion of Rand\'s statement.

Just to be clear, do I understand you to

a. accept Objectivist epistemology?

b. accept the premise that reason is man\'s ultimate means to survival?

I read ITOE some years ago and found nothing in it objectionable. I have repeatedly said that reason is essential for man’s survival. Is it the ultimate means? Of course. A chimpanzee would not know how to load an automatic.

These would be what I would expect from anyone trying to argue the prudent predator problem. THat is that it is in one\'s interest to be rational, but that sometimes it may be in one\'s interest to either violate that rationality to loot, or that rationality consists of the cost benefit analysis that says its ok to loot. Do you have a preference as to interpretation?

I would not employ the expression “violate that rationality to loot,” as the world presents a good many examples where looting provides safe and steady benefits. The IRS is always looking for new personnel. My point all along has been that if one’s life is the standard of one’s values then looting may in certain cases be rational behavior.

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I admit that I do not know the cause of my slight fear. But I am fairly certain that it has nothing to do with the employment of my capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought – or my failure to do so.

Tumor, then? It matters not, really. Since we are discussing a rational man, you may not argue from any non-rational emotion, do you agree?

How does the fact that I suspect that my slight fear of heights is neither an attribute of my reasoning or non-reasoning make me an advocate of subjectivism in emotion and ethics?

It doesn't, until you throw around statements like this:

My list of things causing the emotion of pleasure includes slender blonde women, Duke Ellington’s music, and dry martinis. On the other hand, my cousin Steve’s list includes muscular men with curly hair, Bartok, and Sauvignon Blanc. So definitively, a Bartok concerto cannot cause me pleasure, but it can in Steve’s case.

and this:

As for Mao’s imposed impairment, what if the Chairman simply enjoyed mass murder more than designing buildings, running a steel factory or managing a railroad?

My point is that we can't proceed if you insist on treating peoples' emotional mechanisms as primaries - that if so-and-so just so happens to like such-and-such that this is an acceptable moral goal for him to pursue. That, since we agreed to discuss a man of reason, we would not bring non-rational emotions into the discussion. But when I attempted to discuss self-esteem, you brought non-rational emotions into the picture. Do you see what my objection is?

“Intrinsic” was a poor word choice. Please substitute “specific.”

Fair enough.

Edited by Inspector

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hunterrose wrote:

Whaddyamean “let stipulate”? Do you agree or don’t ya?

I agreed with enough of it to grant the point. Its relevance to this debate is another matter.

:lol: sN makes a good point. What definition of “practical” are you using?

Useful.

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KendallJ wrote:

My recommendation for your specific issues with this problem (in addition to SN’s recommendation) would be a small course called The Unity of Virtue by Andrew Lewis.

This contains the assertion that all of the Objectivist virtues are really integrated facets of each other, and that they are all just reexpressions of the concept of rationality. This is what you seem to be struggling with.

Your issue seems to be one of integration. That is, your epistemological method (I\'m speculating here) is stopping you from the broader integrations of the concept of virtue.

Just to preview you, my basic thesis is that as I stated in post “whatever it was”. Violating one virtue necessarily puts one on a path of commiting further violations of other virtues. This is true for anyone who accepts the virtue of rationality (i.e. someone arguing the prudent predator problem).

But we have not yet had a presentation of why the virtue of respect for the property of others proceeds from holding one’s own life as the ultimate value, “that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means” (Rand). That is what I’m waiting for.

So if I understand your need for proof, you need something that is true regardless of the fact that there are people in the world who don’t appear to suffer from looting. Something that is true of anyone who accepts the rationality argument (not necessarily all men). Would you agree that I don’t have to address someone who claims ethics from some other source than rationality? or not?

I do agree and have agreed to that from way back near the beginning of the thread. We can exclude, for example, people who presume to hear the voice of God.

And I assume that you are not holding anyone to the standard of proving why failure of rationality doesn\'t result in desctruction of the looter for someone who cannot function rationally (say a sociopath)?

I am willing to put aside instances of looters like Hinckley who act without hope of reward or fear of the tremendous odds against them.

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Nate wrote:

I don’t see what your balance sheet should have to do with the number of hours you spend engaged in productive work.

The only possible exception for me would be: if I was in a situation in which, in order to survive or escape a short-term crisis, I had to work a number of hours which, if I continued, would have longterm consequences ... and then I was able to remove myself from that situation.

I would not say “oh, I have a million dollars now, I quit, no more.”

I suppose this goes back to what it means to live long-range.

According to your standard, reducing your ‘labor’ to zero and your ‘leisure’ to all the time would be ideal. Is this your proposed goal then?

Not necessarily. I thought Objectivists believed in the importance of context. If so, please consider this example. X and Y are both skilled, dedicated, successful doctors in their early fifties. X is fascinated by medicine and little else. When he and his wife take a vacation, he brings along a stack of professional journals to read. On the other hand, Y has a number of interests besides medicine. He plays piano, loves the theater, and enjoys contributing to internet forums.

I hold that it is just as rational for Y to retire now in order to pursue other interests as it is for X to continue his career in medicine.

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But we have not yet had a presentation of why the virtue of respect for the property of others proceeds from holding one’s own life as the ultimate value, “that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means” (Rand). That is what I’m waiting for.

Would suggest that you check my now twice referenced response to you. It is not a proof but clarification of what Rand meant by the statement. Also suggest you check out that thread that I pointed you too as it references both the very specific Rand quote you are furiously depending on, as well as other clarifying passages. I don't intend to repeat them all here or prove the specific general case from your specfic interpretation. I'll start from reason as necessary in life of man qua man, NOT as the particular cost-benefit analysis you want to make that quote into.

By the way, we are really into politics here, not ethics. In the same way that life as the standard of value is the basis upon which Objectivist ethics are developed, so respecting rights is the basis upon which Objectivist politics. Dealing with other men is a political issue. To that end, the ethics are self contained, and you would not use life as the standard to derive this political issue directly, but it should be consistent with, i.e. integrated with the ethics.

Edited by KendallJ

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blackdiamond wrote:

Alright, Brenner. Let’s see how you would handle the taste of your own medicine.

1. You said that if Hickley would serve as an example of all looters, then the case against looting would be “open and shut”. Why exactly? Why should the looters (if they were all like Hickley) necessarily accept that “acting with absolute disregard for the risks involved” is wrong?

After all, there could be one looter who did act this way and still survived?

If you will go back to the first part of this thread, you will see that the debate has largely focused on whether there can be a prudent predator, that is, a person who rationally serves his own interests at the coerced expense of others. In other words, we have been trying to discover where exactly in the Virtue of Selfishness the idea of self-serving looting goes wrong. Rand has argued that looting leads to the destruction of the looter. I have challenged that claim by submitting examples of looting that did not lead to self-destruction. But that is not the same as saying the success of one looter in a particular endeavor makes it rationally selfish for others to do the same thing. Yes, it is possible to shoot at the President and still survive. Hinckley did. But that is irrelevant to my point that the destruction of the looter is not a certainty. Indeed, some forms of looting (tax collection, for example) carry little or no negative consequence for the looter.

2. So, why can’t the looter (if they were all “stupid/irrational/suicidal”) just say that he gets his thrill from the fact that he is not planning or calculating anything, thus making his adventure even more risky and exciting? Why is this irrational? because he is not using reason? No, but he is using reason to come to the conclusion that not planning for anything is more exciting. Who are you to tell him that this is not reasoning?

What does Objectivism say to the non-looter who acts in this fashion? What does it say to the weapons manufacturer who puts explosives together and “gets his thrill from the fact that he is not planning or calculating anything, thus making his adventure even more risky and exciting”?

Whatever the answer is can also be delivered to the reckless looter

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