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Post 120

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 12:39pmSanction this postReply
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John Howard responds to the Rand interview (presented in Post 116) as follows:
That interview is news to me and obviously I have been mistaken to think that my views on the question correctly reflected those of Ayn Rand. Thanks to Bill for the enlightenment.
You're welcome, John.
For the reasons that I have already detailed, however, I continue to think that the sacrifice of others is not morally justified, and that it is a misnomer to refer to my position as "self-sacrifice". Even Rand does not do so, merely claiming that morality no longer applies.
Actually, that's not true. Recall her answer to Norman Fox's question -- "Isn't Man B then shifting the initiation of force, made against him, to Man C"

Ayn Rand: "No. Because he isn't initiating the force himself; Man A is. What a man does in a position where, through no fault of his own, his own life is endangered, is not his responsibility, it is the responsibility of the man who introduced the evil, the initiation of force, the threat. You cannot ask of a man that he sacrifice his life for the sake of the third man, when it's not his fault that he's been put in that position."
Bill's view that the Objectivist moral code logically requires the sacrifice of others in such cases is also not supported by this interview with Rand. It appears to me as if she is neither supporting nor condemning either choice, but rather dismissing the entire question as no longer judicable by moral standards.
I wouldn't say that it logically requires it if the victim of coercion (Man B) doesn't want to live on those terms, but I would say that it requires it if he does, for observe that Rand considers it an act of self-sacrifice for Man B to allow himself to be killed, assuming, of course, that he wants to continue living and would be willing to kill Man C in order to do so. For, again, she says, "You cannot ask of a man that he sacrifice his life for the sake of the third man, when it's not his fault that he's been put in that position." This implies that he would be sacrificing his life if he wanted to live by killing Man C, but allowed himself to be killed by Man A instead.
Bill and I seem to disagree with her, both thinking that it can be judged by moral standards.
Well, according to Rand, morality depends on the choice to live. If one doesn't choose to live, then morality no longer applies. So, what she is saying here is that if the victim of coercion (Man B) wants to continue living even if doing so requires killing Man C, then his own self-interest dictates that he kill man C in order to avoid sacrificing his own life. However, it is important to bear in mind that the murderer of Man C in this case is not Man B but Man A. Since Man B was forced to pull the trigger under threat of losing his own life, he is not responsible for the murder.

Perhaps another example will help to illustrate this point. Suppose that a bank robber grabs you and says that unless you rob a bank for him, he will kill you. So you do as he says to avoid being killed. Do you think for one minute that a jury would hold you responsible, if they knew that you were forced to commit the robbery? I don't. You didn't do it willingly. So how can you be held responsible for it?!

Or suppose that the Mafia threatens you with death unless you pay it protection money. Are you morally responsible for supporting organized crime if you pay them the money? No, of course not. You were compelled to give them your money. As Rand says, morality ends where a gun begins.
Rand does not explain why it is that circumstances brought about by fate are somehow morally different than circumstances brought about by a villain. Why does a villain aiming a gun at me vs. a natural calamity make my moral responsibilities disappear?
I'm just speculating, but I think she would say that a natural calamity cannot be held morally responsible for sacrificing another human being, whereas a villain can. In other words, the responsibility for a crime that a villain forces you to commit devolves upon the villain, whereas the responsibility for a crime that a calamity forces you to commit devolves upon you.
Rand edges across that line with her example of breaking into a house. No villain with a gun there.
Right. It seems that she is invoking two different principles here: One says that being a victim of coercion absolves one of moral responsibility for the act that one is forced to commit; the other says that one is morally justified to initiate force in a life threatening emergency, regardless of whether the emergency is due to a villain or to a natural calamity.
Her soft-ball example of breaking into an empty home suggests that she would not like to consider breaking into an occupied home and forcing the occupants to feed her - even if facing death by starvation. But she clearly would if facing death by a villain's bullet. I doubt she could draw a principled line there.
I doubt that she would draw such a line. It's difficult to see how forcing the occupant to feed her is different in principle from stealing the food when the occupant isn't there. In both cases, of course, she would require that one pay back what is stolen.
That is the problem with sacrificing others. There is no principled line where you stop, and there is a very slippery slope. "I had no choice" quickly becomes a euphemism for "I had no choice I liked".
Not true. The line is a life-threatening emergency. If that doesn't exist, there is no justification for initiating force.
In the interview, Rand opens a philosophical door, puts her toe in for a moment (to shoot just one innocent victim or rob just one unoccupied home) and goes no further. But why not go on through that door and start robbing and killing lots of people whenever "necessary". What principle stops you?
I thought the principle was clear. If one's life is on the line, the virtue of selfishness gives one a moral justification for initiating force in order to save one's life, but one should, to whatever extent possible, repay the debt. However, in normal, non-life threatening conditions, it is not in our self-interest to attempt to gain values by force or fraud. We have more to gain by voluntary trade.

- Bill



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Post 121

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 1:39pmSanction this postReply
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Ayn Rand: "No. Because he isn't initiating the force himself; Man A is. What a man does in a position where, through no fault of his own, his own life is endangered, is not his responsibility, it is the responsibility of the man who introduced the evil, the initiation of force, the threat. You cannot ask of a man that he sacrifice his life for the sake of the third man, when it's not his fault that he's been put in that position."

This point is the essence of Rand's political theory of crime and war. It is quite particular to her. And if you don't understand it, you don't understand her theory of politics. I think the failure to understand that the aggressor bears the full weight of his actions leads people to pacifism and anarchism, in fear that actions in pursuit of justice are somehow an initiation of force. She is not talking about the initiation of motion, but of the initiation of morally causal human acts. You can't just look at the actions of, say the police, who you see going from sitting still to arresting a criminal. Their mere initiation of motion is not the moral initiation of force in a criminal context. The same with war - for instance, Bush's response to Saddam's violation of the terms of armistice. Bush did not start a war with saddam. He ended it. It takes a conceptually focused mind to grasp the distinction.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 9/17, 2:25pm)


Post 122

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 2:05pmSanction this postReply
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Ted:
Bush's response to Saddam's violation of the terms of armistice. Bush did not start a war with saddam. He ended it. It takes a conceptually focused mind to grasp the distinction.
Exactly.

Sam


Post 123

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 3:13pmSanction this postReply
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Ted,

I agree with the statement of the principles and particularly appreciate your detailing of "the initiation of morally causal human acts." But in regards to Bush and Saddam, my conceptually focused mind still differs on the application of the principle to these facts.

GWB's decisions regarding Saddam do not fit the paradigm being discussed here. "...What a man does in a position where, through no fault of his own, his own life is endangered, is not his responsibility, it is the responsibility of the man who introduced the evil, the initiation of force... It is true that there had already been more than enough initiation of violence on the part of Saddam to relieve anyone of moral culpability for removing him. But a full out war, which predictably results in the deaths of innocent third parties can not be justified unless our country were facing a much more serious threat than it was. If you were making the case for Iran in the near future, that would be different.

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Post 124

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 3:59pmSanction this postReply
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Bill writes:
    Well, according to Rand, morality depends on the choice to live. If one doesn't choose to live, then morality no longer applies.

But in the example of A forcing B to kill C to stop A from killing B, you seem to be implying with your response that B's decision to not kill C is somehow tantamount to choosing not to live. I believe that this is an improper inference and is what leads to what I see as the morally wrong conclusion in these situations. One may see the possibility of death without embracing death. People risk their lives all the time in service of all sorts of things like, for example, the simple pleasure of free-falling from an airplane, or as part of one's job - say a fireman running into a burning building to rescue someone - and I hear no argument that activities such as these are done as a death wish. So why is it that if an individual (B) decides that it is important to stand up to a bad person (A) and stop the chain of evil he is perpetrating, and refuses to participate in the taking of another innocent person's life, this somehow rises to the level of an embrace of death? This entire line of reasoning has never made any sense to me.

    I'm just speculating, but I think she would say that a natural calamity cannot be held morally responsible for sacrificing another human being, whereas a villain can. In other words, the responsibility for a crime that a villain forces you to commit devolves upon the villain, whereas the responsibility for a crime that a calamity forces you to commit devolves upon you.

I do not agree with this. Even in the case of A/B/C above, A cannot compel B to do his bidding. B is still a free agent and can choose to either kill C and possibly be spared by A or not kill C and maybe then be killed by A. B decides how to act based upon his value hierarchy. Yes, one's life is the root of all other values, but that doesn't mean that should one's life be threatened, all other values somehow no longer matter. I agree that legally, all responsibility for any action that a person takes while under the threat of death transfers back to the person or people making the threats. But I do not agree that morally there is any such transfer. A moral code instructs us how to act in service of our values. Whatever choice B makes, it stems from his own moral code and not that of A. Now, in and of itself, this is not an argument that B shouldn't kill C in the situation described. It is simply a recognition that the concept of a moral transfer from one person to another makes no sense. Legal responsibility, yes. Moral responsibility, no.

    I thought the principle was clear. If one's life is on the line, the virtue of selfishness gives one a moral justification for initiating force in order to save one's life, but one should, to whatever extent possible, repay the debt.

And here you have identified the bright line that morally separates the cases into two classes. In the case of initiating force to steel another's property, etc., there is the possibility of recompense. In the case of A/B/C above, the act of taking of another's life cannot be compensated in any manner. This is what makes this type of choice morally wrong. Regardless of whatever circumstances one may face, there can be no moral justification for the killing of another innocent person, depriving them of the very thing you say is your own ultimate value and which you say you are seeking to preserve.

Regards,
--
Jeff


Post 125

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 7:45pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, Iraq was perceived to be a serious threat. I don't understand the empirical analysis that one was a serious threat, and the other was not, since both are/were based on similar empirical data (actually more evidence for Iraq considering its known history of using and maintaining WMD). Since you're not talking just philosophical principles but concretes now, if you are willing, I'd like to hear your empirical analysis on how you compare and contrast Iraq and Iran's threat levels.

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Post 126

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 8:06pmSanction this postReply
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John,

I'm not going to get into it again. I'll just say that lots of people did NOT believe the WMDs were there, or that Saddam was targeting us, or that Saddam's connection to terrorists was anything but minor and not to Al Queda. Iraq did not appear to be a threat to our country. If you go back and look at what was being said back then, you'll see lots of people saying that the WMD's were not there and that it was being used as an excuse by Bush who had an agenda he was following.

If you believe that Iraq was a threat to the existence of our country, fine. I don't want to argue it with you. We've been down that road.

The difference between Iraq and Iran is like night and day - Saddam was a thug, Iran is a terrorist theocracy. Time has proved that Saddam did NOT have the WMDs while we see Iran building their nuclear capabilities in front of our faces. Iraq gave only minor support to terrorism - mostly just money to families of suicide bombers. Iran is THE support for Hezbolla and Hamas.

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Post 127

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 8:08pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote,: "Well, according to Rand, morality depends on the choice to live. If one doesn't choose to live, then morality no longer applies."

Jeff replied,
But in the example of A forcing B to kill C to stop A from killing B, you seem to be implying with your response that B's decision to not kill C is somehow tantamount to choosing not to live.
No, no, no! I am saying that if B chooses to continue living, then he is morally required to do what is necessary to preserve his life, which in this case means killing C in order to avoid being killed by A. But he is not morally culpable for the murder of C, because he didn't choose to kill C voluntarily; A forced him to do it. The murderer (i.e., the person who is morally culpable) is A, not B.
One may see the possibility of death without embracing death. People risk their lives all the time in service of all sorts of things like, for example, the simple pleasure of free-falling from an airplane, or as part of one's job - say a fireman running into a burning building to rescue someone - and I hear no argument that activities such as these are done as a death wish. So why is it that if an individual (B) decides that it is important to stand up to a bad person (A) and stop the chain of evil he is perpetrating, and refuses to participate in the taking of another innocent person's life, this somehow rises to the level of an embrace of death? This entire line of reasoning has never made any sense to me.
As I understand the example, it's clear to B that A will kill him, if he refuses to cooperate. There's no reason why B should assume otherwise, simply on the remote chance that A will not follow through. B has every right to take him at his word.

I wrote, "I'm just speculating, but I think she would say that a natural calamity cannot be held morally responsible for sacrificing another human being, whereas a villain can. In other words, the responsibility for a crime that a villain forces you to commit devolves upon the villain, whereas the responsibility for a crime that a calamity forces you to commit devolves upon you."
I do not agree with this. Even in the case of A/B/C above, A cannot compel B to do his bidding. B is still a free agent and can choose to either kill C and possibly be spared by A or not kill C and maybe then be killed by A. B decides how to act based upon his value hierarchy.
Are you seriously suggesting that there is no compulsion involved in a threat of force -- that, for example, one is not compelled by the government to pay taxes, or by a mugger to surrender one's wallet, simply because one can refuse and suffer the consequences? If so, then you're saying that taxes and armed robbery do not constitute the initiation of force. Do you really want to say that?
Yes, one's life is the root of all other values, but that doesn't mean that should one's life be threatened, all other values somehow no longer matter. I agree that legally, all responsibility for any action that a person takes while under the threat of death transfers back to the person or people making the threats. But I do not agree that morally there is any such transfer. A moral code instructs us how to act in service of our values.
Right, and if one's life is one's ultimate value, then an egoistic, pro-life moral code would instruct one to take those actions that promote one's own survival. What's not to understand?
Whatever choice B makes, it stems from his own moral code and not that of A. Now, in and of itself, this is not an argument that B shouldn't kill C in the situation described. It is simply a recognition that the concept of a moral transfer from one person to another makes no sense. Legal responsibility, yes. Moral responsibility, no.
The point is that B is not morally responsible for murdering C (i.e., for killing him unjustly); A is the murderer, not B.

I wrote, "I thought the principle was clear. If one's life is on the line, the virtue of selfishness gives one a moral justification for initiating force in order to save one's life, but one should, to whatever extent possible, repay the debt."
And here you have identified the bright line that morally separates the cases into two classes. In the case of initiating force to steel another's property, etc., there is the possibility of recompense. In the case of A/B/C above, the act of taking of another's life cannot be compensated in any manner. This is what makes this type of choice morally wrong.
Recall that I said "to whatever extent possible." It's not possible if the person is dead.
Regardless of whatever circumstances one may face, there can be no moral justification for the killing of another innocent person, depriving them of the very thing you say is your own ultimate value and which you say you are seeking to preserve.
Why not? If there is a conflict of interest, as there is in this case, then your own life takes moral precedence.

- Bill



Post 128

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 8:32pmSanction this postReply
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Bill wrote:
    But he is not morally culpable for the murder of C, because he didn't choose to kill C voluntarily; A forced him to do it. The murderer (i.e., the person who is morally culpable) is A, not B.

Bill:

We are using the same words but coming to opposite conclusions. In all honesty, I believe that this has to do with our differences on determinism vs. free-will. From what I understand of your position, when you use the word "forced" above, I think you, like me, only mean coerced or threatened. Nevertheless, I think you have a different metaphysical understanding of this type of "force" than I do. Since I believe in free-will, I recognize that no man can "force" another to think. And since our actions are willed into being as a by-product of our thinking, then the ultimate moral responsibility remains with the person doing the thinking and consequently initiates the action. But I do agree that it is A who holds 100% of the legal responsibility for all consequences that transpire, as B would never have found himself in this untenable position if it were not for A's actions. So I have to disagree with you and reiterate that I do find B morally culpable for the murder since it was his his decision to initiate the actions that resulted in C's death. Now, whether you judge B's actions as morally negative, neutral or positive is another matter altogether. Do you see the distinction I am making here?

Regards,
--
Jeff


Post 129

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 8:39pmSanction this postReply
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Bill writes:
    Are you seriously suggesting that there is no compulsion involved in a threat of force [...] then you're saying that taxes and armed robbery do not constitute the initiation of force. Do you really want to say that?

Bill:

No, of course I agree that A's actions, taxes and armed robbery are all forms of force and I agree that threats constitute a form of force. What I am saying is that despite the presence of force, the manner in which we choose to respond to the force - the actions that we consequently take - are still within our control. As I said previously, what we specifically choose to do will depend upon our value hierarchy, but the choice remains with us nevertheless. And since it is our choice, the actions we take are our moral responsibility.

Regards,
--
Jeff


Post 130

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 8:40pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, you obviously chose to get into it, so I'm starting a new thread.

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Post 131

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 10:59pmSanction this postReply
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Bill wrote:
    Right, and if one's life is one's ultimate value, then an egoistic, pro-life moral code would instruct one to take those actions that promote one's own survival. What's not to understand?
Bill:

Apparently, what's not to understand is what I discussed in great detail the last time we had this debate. When you say "one's life is one's ultimate value", I'm not sure exactly in what sense you are using the term "ultimate". From my perspective, I agree with Rand that one's life is the source of all other values. In other words, without life there is no "you" to do the valuing and so there can be no other values. So, in this sense, I can agree that life is the root value upon which all other values rest.

But we are not amoebas. We are highly evolved, self-aware, conceptual beings capable of complex mental abstractions. We construct detailed hierarchies of values that range across a broad spectrum and we engage in an extensive set of activities and form intricate relationships with the external world. We formulate our existence in service of many interrelated values which result in having many interrelated goals, often including goals for development of our character. We also have the ability to empathize, allowing us to consider and take into account the perspective and values held by others. Because of this, our concept of "self" goes far beyond the idea of mere survival. For humans, "my life" is not defined as a matter of simple existence - it is a flourishing which takes account of all of the above. And our nature and self-understanding do not change on a dime due to finding oneself in an emergency context.

As I have previously stated, the "life" and "self" I wish to preserve have a definite nature, and there are actions which I would find to be so objectionable - so undermining of the "self" as I define it - that in extreme circumstances, I would rather risk death than commit these unspeakable acts. Your view of "life" being the "ultimate" value leads you to apparently be willing to do anything in its service. My view of "self" as a complex hierarchy of intertwined values which includes survival, but is so much more, places limits upon what I am willing to consider. This view has been described as a form of altruism. I disagree. It is rational egoism, that holds the context of "self" in full focus while making decisions in these difficult circumstances.

Regards,
--
Jeff


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Post 132

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 11:08pmSanction this postReply
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Bill writes:
    I thought the principle was clear. If one's life is on the line, the virtue of selfishness gives one a moral justification for initiating force in order to save one's life, but one should, to whatever extent possible, repay the debt.

    Recall that I said "to whatever extent possible." It's not possible if the person is dead.

I find this a most interesting moral formulation. If we find ourselves in an "emergency" situation that "forces" us to commit a lesser act, such as stealing food from someone, then we are morally obligated to make reparations. But if we can just get to a situation that escalates the stakes to the point where we are "forced" to murder another innocent human being, then we are off the hook because restitution is not possible. We have now literally found that elusive moral blank check!

I suggest that this situation should cause people to pause and consider whether something is not quite right here.

Regards,
--
Jeff


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Post 133

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 11:44pmSanction this postReply
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Here is another scenario for discussion to try to get to the heart of the matter of "life" as the "ultimate" value.

It is 1912 and you are Titus Oates, a member of Robert Scott's expedition to the South Pole. On the way back from the Pole, suffering under extraordinarily harsh conditions, you find that you are significantly slowing down the team. While you cannot know the future with certainty, there is a small chance that, with assistance from the others, you can make it back alive. On the other hand, by slowing down the team, there is a significant and ever increasing likelihood that the entire team will perish. You tell the others to leave you behind and push on, but they all refuse to do so. So, after long consideration, you say you are going to go outside for a while and then you walk off into the blizzard to die, thus freeing the other people to move forward without you.

I think this certainly qualifies as an emergency situation. My questions:

  1. Based upon Objectivist ethics, is Oates' choice one of a moral coward who chose death over life through his action?

  2. Based upon Objectivist ethics, should Oates have murdered the other team members and used the remaining supplies to maximize his chances for surviving the trip back to base camp?

  3. Was Oates' choice an altruistic one, sacrificing himself for the good of the team?

  4. If Oates' beloved wife had been one of the other team members, and he wanted to act to maximize her chance of survival, would that change the response regarding altruism in the third question?

  5. If the answers are different between questions 3 and 4, why can one's wife be an "ultimate" value that supersedes one's own life, but other people (or other values) cannot?


Regards,
--
Jeff


Post 134

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 11:43amSanction this postReply
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I am in agreement with Jeff when he writes: ďsomething is not quite right here.Ē

Bill has some backup for his claim that his position on this issue mirrors Randís, at least in the men A, B and C hypothetical. But that claim falls apart for the more extreme end of Billís position.

Note she said: "You cannot ask of a man that he sacrifice his life for the sake of the third man, when it's not his fault that he's been put in that position."

ď[W]hen it's not his fault that he's been put in that position."

Yet Bill has argued before that a would-be rapist is morally justified and cannot be said to be violating the womanís rights when he kills her in response to her unexpected possession of a gun.

I argued it with Bill. He said it is irrelevant that he put himself in that possession. Rand didnít seem to agree.



Post 135

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 6:05pmSanction this postReply
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Jon wrote,
Yet Bill has argued before that a would-be rapist is morally justified and cannot be said to be violating the womanís rights when he kills her in response to her unexpected possession of a gun.
Just to be clear, since this sounds like I'm letting the rapist off scott free, I would certainly say that he deserves to be prosecuted and punished for the attempted rape and murder, because it's in our interest not to tolerate this kind of behavior. I would also say that he ought not to attempt the rape, to begin with -- that it is morally wrong for him to do so.

Nevertheless, I don't think it's in his interest to allow the victim to shoot him in self defense, even if killing her is the only way to prevent it. And since to say that the victim has a right against his killing her is to say that he ought not to kill her, it follows that if he ought to kill her in order to save his own life, then she has no right against his killing her.

By modus tollens, (R --> ~K) --> (K --> ~R).

Of course, Jeff would argue that it's in the rapist's self-interest to allow himself to be killed rather than to kill his victim. I don't agree. If I were the rapist, I sure wouldn't want to die at the hands of my victim. I can't see how that would be in my self-interest.
I argued it with Bill. He said it is irrelevant that he put himself in that possession. Rand didnít seem to agree.
True. It would seem that she didn't, but I don't see why? Despite his earlier transgression, what has the rapist got to gain by allowing himself to killed? Of course, it wasn't in the rapist's interest to put himself in that position, to begin with. That is where he made his mistake.

- Bill



Post 136

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 6:24pmSanction this postReply
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Bill writes:
    Of course, Jeff would argue that it's in the rapist's self-interest to allow himself to be killed rather than to kill his victim.

Bill:

By saying this, it seems to me that you have not understood my point. I cannot say what is in the best interest if the rapist, because I don't know his value hierarchy. But the fact that he rapes already indicates that his values do not accord with what Objectivists would say are proper.

What I am saying is that there are certain kinds of people who hold a value hierarchy where they are able to decide that it is not in their best interest to kill other innocent people, even when their own life may be threatened.

I am interested in seeing how you respond to my other points that I made in my previous series of posts.

Regards,
--
Jeff

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Post 137

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 6:31pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

In this last example, you are missing the fact that the rapist lost his rights when he attempts the rape. He no longer has a right and it is quite moral for the intended rape victim to kill him - in self-defense. He can't have a right to violate a right. He initiated violence, she is defending herself.

You say that it is not in his interests to allow her to shoot him. Well, he has no more moral interests in this issue and, yes, it isn't in his practical interests to die, but that is his problem and of no concern to anyone looking at the ethical issues.

There is also the problem of speaking of the rapist of even having "rational" interests, since initiating violence towards an irrational end - one that flies in the face of reason which is part of the social system that only adheres in voluntary associations - makes it late in the day for him to try to justify his action with rational self-interest.

I'd say Mr. Rapist was in the same category as a rabid dog. Not behaving in a way that could be tolerated in civil society, attacking and forcing the use of self-defense, not within the context of a moral or a rational agent and better off shot than successful in his attack.

Post 138

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 11:03pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, you wrote:
Bill, In this last example, you are missing the fact that the rapist lost his rights when he attempts the rape. He no longer has a right and it is quite moral for the intended rape victim to kill him - in self-defense. He can't have a right to violate a right. He initiated violence, she is defending herself.
I agree with everything you say here, Steve, but it doesn't contradict what I am saying. Do you see why? I am saying that in this very circumscribed context, there is a conflict of interest between the two parties. Obviously, it is quite moral for the intended rape victim to try to kill him, in which case, he has no right against her doing so. By the same token, it is also quite moral for the rapist to protect himself against being killed by her, in which case, she has no right against his doing so.
You say that it is not in his interests to allow her to shoot him. Well, he has no more moral interests in this issue and, yes, it isn't in his practical interests to die, but that is his problem and of no concern to anyone looking at the ethical issues.
I quite agree. I'm not saying that others have a moral obligation to respect his life; quite the contrary.
There is also the problem of speaking of the rapist of even having "rational" interests, since initiating violence towards an irrational end - one that flies in the face of reason which is part of the social system that only adheres in voluntary associations - makes it late in the day for him to try to justify his action with rational self-interest.
Why? It's still in his rational self-interest to stay alive, if he values his life.
I'd say Mr. Rapist was in the same category as a rabid dog. Not behaving in a way that could be tolerated in civil society, attacking and forcing the use of self-defense, not within the context of a moral or a rational agent and better off shot than successful in his attack.
I agree, if your point is that we are better off if he is shot and killed. My point is only that he is not. He is better off alive.

- Bill

Post 139

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 11:57pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff, regarding your scenario in Post 133, you write:
I think this certainly qualifies as an emergency situation. My questions:

Based upon Objectivist ethics, is Oates' choice one of a moral coward who chose death over life through his action?
I wouldn't say that it's moral cowardice, but I would say that it's a mistake in moral judgment. Why should he be the one to leave the group, rather than someone else? Is his life worth less to him than theirs are to them? If not, then why should he sacrifice his life for their sake? If he values his life as much as they value theirs, then there's no reason why he should die in order that they might live, especially if there's a chance that they can all make it back alive.
Based upon Objectivist ethics, should Oates have murdered the other team members and used the remaining supplies to maximize his chances for surviving the trip back to base camp?
Well, there's no real certainty that he will die if he doesn't kill them or live if he does. So, I don't think such an action would be justified under these circumstances. Also, since these are people he's bonded closely with on the trip, I doubt that he could bring himself to do it. Moreover, it wouldn't be a simple matter to try to kill them; he could very well place his own life in greater jeopardy by incurring their retaliation, than he would if he simply tried to make it back to camp with their cooperation and assistance.
Was Oates' choice an altruistic one, sacrificing himself for the good of the team?
I would say, yes.
If Oates' beloved wife had been one of the other team members, and he wanted to act to maximize her chance of survival, would that change the response regarding altruism in the third question?
No, I don't think so. In fact, it would cause his wife tremendous consternation, sorrow and bereavement at her husband's loss. He wouldn't be doing her any favors by killing himself in order to enhance her chances of survival. She would almost certainly want him to stay with the group and try to make it back alive.
If the answers are different between questions 3 and 4, why can one's wife be an "ultimate" value that supersedes one's own life, but other people (or other values) cannot?
The only time in which it might be rational to choose death in order that one's spouse or significant other might remain alive is if his or her loss would be so devastating that one's life would lose all meaning. But, this is probably a lot rarer than one might think, for I would be surprised if a person could not in due time adjust to the loss of a loved one.

- Bill

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