Is Killing a Viable Objectivist's Tool?

Posted by dansail 6 years, 4 months ago to Philosophy
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As quoted in Wikipedia regarding Nathaniel Taggart: "When a Senator attempted to block one of his initiatives with a law that Taggart saw as serving no higher purpose than to obstruct him, Taggart had the man murdered. The offending bill died with that politician. This is important because his descendant Dagny Taggart would threaten to do something similar if any politicians tried to stop one of her own initiatives."

My question is this: Does Ayn Rand support murder in the case of political obstructionism? Or was it just good fiction to lay a precedent in Atlas Shrugged? What is permitted to shut down threats when someone proposes to obstruct?


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  • Posted by khalling 6 years, 4 months ago
    we would have to agree on what the "use of force" entails. in Rand's time, I think she would have said it is not complete tyranny if we have free press. the tipping point is, looking at police and government over-reach, have we reached it? I still accept the rule of law
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    • Posted by ewv 6 years, 3 months ago
      A tyranny in which there is no freedom of speech is much more than "political obstructionism". The question in the opening post is based on an invalid premise. The quote, which is from a conservative website, not Wikipedia, is a misrepresentation of Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand did not advocate "murder in the case of political obstructionism" and the novel does not portray that.

      There are a lot of topics that could be discussed here, including the fictional history of the Taggart Transcontinental railroad and the legends of its founder Nat Taggart, but not based on second-hand sources that misrepresent the novel like that website does.
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  • Posted by brucejc04 6 years, 4 months ago
    It is ""always"" wrong to initiate physical violence!!
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    • Posted by $ jdg 6 years, 3 months ago
      How explain Ragnar Danneskjold, then, other than to admit that once force is initiated by theft (including unjust taxation), the person who fights back is not "initiating" force. Certainly Danneskjold's crew would have to kill people regularly to conduct their operations.
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  • Posted by $ Temlakos 6 years, 4 months ago
    Dagny said only that she knew how Nathaniel Taggart felt about it, if he did the deed, and not to test her on that. She also knew jellyfish James would not question her.

    On the other hand, when Howard Roark destroyed the Cortlandt project, he took care that he should kill no one. Hence asking Dominique to decoy the night guard away.
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  • Posted by mminnick 6 years, 4 months ago
    I don't think so. Too many looters already have the idea that if someone stops them from getting what they want it is OK to kill them. If a creator (Objectivist) does the same thing, it becomes impossible to tell the looter from the creator.
    A creator will find a way to do what needs to be done inspite of the looters and will succeed.
    If you haven't read it, read The Fountainhead.
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    • Posted by term2 6 years, 4 months ago
      I think that it depends on what is done to you. If they stop you from marketing a product, that does not rise to the level of needing to kill them. However, if they threaten to kill me, then I have no issue getting rid of the threat. If that isnt PC, then so be it.

      On the other hand, would I defend someone like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Obama if someone else attempted to kill them- HELL NO.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 6 years, 4 months ago
    While Atlas' underpinning is Ayn Rand's philosophy, it is still a work of fiction and like any Good fiction it contains multi-faceted flawed characters. My greatest criticism of The Fountainhead, for example, is that Howard Roark comes off a bit too god-like. This might also be said of John Galt, but we really don't know him as well as we do other characters in Atlas. To me, that underpinning is what makes the novels so uplifting and illuminating. It makes you want to say - If Only.....
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  • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 4 months ago
    That is clearly false. In the story, NT was strongly disliked for his values - the very values an Obj.ist would hold. So his haters spread the rumor that he murdered someone.

    If you know anything of Rand, you know that no crime - let alone murder - is moral unless committed in self-defense.
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  • Posted by mia767ca 6 years, 4 months ago
    when muslim pirates in the 19th century intercepted our shipping to europe and killed those aboard, President Thomas Jefferson created the Marines and sent them to Tripoli, where the pirates were operating out of to "kill every man, woman, and child" who supported the muslim pirates...the muslim pirates sued for peace...based on what the muslim religious terrorists we doing today, the same practice needs to be instituted against muslims terrorists and their families today...it will be the end of our civilization if they do not get the message loud and fatal...there are over 1.2 billion muslims in the world and over 30% think the muslim terrorists are justified and in their actions...that is over 300,000 millions individuals that need their minds changed...it will not be easy...and those who volunteer to go where necessary to deliver the message must be free to prosecute the message to minimize their risk of death...but anything short of eliminating the terrorists, the women who birthed them, and future terrorists will only allow the problem to exist at peril to our peaceful existence...
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    • Posted by LibertyBelle 6 years, 3 months ago
      "every man, woman, and child"? No, I cannot go
      along with that. Children are innocent.
      However, if they are _physically_obstructing justice, it might be permissible. I am still not quite assured about the rights about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If one drops a bomb on an enemy armaments factory, even if it is crammed with civilians, I think it is all right, because, in making the weapons to be used against us, they might as well be military. And if innocent people are in the way outside the plant, sorry, they shouldn't be obstructing justice. And if it's not their fault, it's not our fault, either. But I'm not sure that
      those bombs were dropped on armament factor-
      ies, or other such places.
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      • Posted by mia767ca 6 years, 3 months ago
        they are committed to killing every non-muslim man, woman, and child...every one of their children will be trained to be monsters or birthers of monsters unless you will guarantee to raise every child they birth...if you do not, then you guarantee a forever war...it is why we have been in Afghanistan over 15 years and will be there forever unless we show them our determination to eliminate the problem and any future problems...they are religious fanatics and will not stop until they are eliminated...i would hope that someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali could be 100% successful in her campaign to stop Islam, but it will take more time than we have...Iran will have the nuclear bomb within 4 years or less...they will smuggle it into the U.S. and detonate it on our soil...millions of our children will die...you must stop them now by the quickest method possible...you are out of time...how will you stop them....your lack of action will guarantee our demise...
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        • Posted by LibertyBelle 6 years, 3 months ago
          I cannot agree that it is right to just assume that a
          child born in certain nation will necessarily grow up
          to be a murderer. That assumption ignores man's
          free will.

          I am aware that in Vietnam, children were sent
          with grenades to kill our men, and then of course
          it was necessary to shoot them first.
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          • Posted by mia767ca 6 years, 3 months ago
            it is a very difficult subject...
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            • Posted by ewv 6 years, 3 months ago
              You have a right to defend yourself regardless of the maturity of the attacker, his motives don't matter. You don't have the right to kill all muslim children. Is that what you meant? These are not difficult questions.
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              • Posted by mia767ca 6 years, 3 months ago
                ok...here is the reality of the situation that i discussed with Ayn Rand in a post-NBI q & a...

                in WWII Truman faced a decision....use the A bomb on Japan knowing that women and children would die horrible deaths, but 10s of thousands of American G. I.s would live rather than die invading and taking Japan one inch at a time....he made the decision of which i am grateful as my father-to-be was a marine fighting in the Pacific and might have been killed in the fight to take Japan and would have never been born and tens of thousands of the baby-boomer generation would never have been born...he saved 10s of thousands and gave birth to millions of other Americans....Rand agreed that Truman made the right decision...

                In Vietnam, LBJ and his cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff made a decision not to A bomb Hanoi or Haiphong in order to spare women and children living there....they choose instead to sacrifice 10s of thousands of American G.Is and the children they would have fathered (i had the opportunity years later as a pilot for American Airlines to sit next to Henry Kissinger and know this as a fact as i had a discussion with him about it...)

                now today, you face a decision to stop a terrorist country (Iran) by bombing them out existence (which will cost the lives of women and children living there) or wait for them to develop the A bomb and set it off here in the U.S. (as an instructor pilot for the Air Force, i had the opportunity to train foreign military pilot candidates from every continent in the world, including those from Iran (when the Shah was in control), Iraq, and Kuwait)...i got quite an education into the middle eastern mind...it is hard for a western civilization mind to comprehend their mind-set...they are Eric Hoffer's True Believers...they would not hesitate to kill our women and children as we are infidels to them and will wait on them for all eternity in nirvana...this life is but a mere blip in time...
                so do you spare the women and children of Iran or do you condemn future western women and children who will die horribly...
                Leonard Peikoff agrees with Truman's decision...save western civilization...send a message to the middle east that where they are heading will not be tolerated and that we will not sacrifice our military men and women in a hopeless attempt to contain them...
                make a choice...it is difficult and it isn't...
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    • Posted by dbhalling 6 years, 4 months ago
      I think any country or people within a country attack the US (let's say 9-11) then we should do the same thing that Madison did, instead of sending in ground troops. That is bomb let's say the capital of the country (perhaps with Napalm) until they promise to never do (allow) that again.
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  • Posted by chad 6 years, 3 months ago
    The use of violence can only be moral if it is used in self defense. All taxation is unjust because it cannot be resisted without the state claiming that it is immoral for the resistor to do so and using violence to enforce it. Taxation is extortion, pay or violence to the level required will be used to collect. The only vote that really has meaning is the ability to vote by not participating at any time you deem it appropriate. For most people this ability raises the fearful specter of chaos and the belief that the results would be worse than obeying a dictator who is going to rob you, kill you, demand that you kill others with whom there is no threat, take your property and your ability to support yourself. People seem to be comfortable with tyranny in knowing that at least there would be 'rules' and we would know what was going to happen.
    Free speech is the least important freedom. If every other freedom is gone; i.e. the right to own and control your property, then the right to complain about the confiscation of your property while it is removed means very little. If you become a declared enemy combatant by the state and hanged the fact that you have the right to whine about it before the sentence is carried out is meaningless. It amounts to nothing more than the state being able to identify you by listening for the complainers.
    If you believe you do not have the right to resist the state until the state gives you that right the state has succeeded in becoming a tyranny and you have no rights. You are asking permission from the slave owner to be free, it is unlikely your request will ever be granted.
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    • Posted by ewv 6 years, 3 months ago
      Are you advocating violence against the government in the name of self defense over taxes? The course of the country can only be changed for the better by spreading better ideas, not by making an anarchist martyr out of yourself.
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      • Posted by chad 6 years, 3 months ago
        No. I am not advocating violence to change the government. Not sure where you got the idea. However if they are willing to initiate violence to take your property or your life you are justified in using violence to resist the loss. That being said knowing that you are vastly outnumbered may temper your judgement in deciding what to do. You are correct in stating that changing others can only be accomplished with convincing them of better ideas. Liberty and freedom cannot be enforced, it must be chosen. Sometimes the best course is avoidance.
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 6 years, 3 months ago
    Ayn Rand does not say, definitely, that Nat Tag-
    gart had the man killed. She merely insinuates it.
    But she does have Dagny threaten to do it if a sim-
    ilar situation occurs.
    Hard to say whether Ayn Rand would actually
    condone such a thing. She did say things that
    indicate a respect for the rule of law, and against
    taking the law into one's own hands.

    If the State (government) has set up a situa-
    tion where it is impossible to get a fair hearing,
    I suppose that it is permissible in such a case
    to use such a retaliatory act of force.

    But morally, I think one is obligated to be very careful in thinking about whether the situ-
    ation has reached that point yet.
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  • Posted by IndianaGary 6 years, 4 months ago
    If it is the only possible form of self-defense against someone who has initiated force against you, then it is fully justified. Physical force has multiple forms. Passing a law that declares you a criminal for living morally results in you being punished for your virtues. I could envision a situation in the world of Atlas Shrugged where killing would be justified, but the world of Atlas Shrugged is fiction; a metaphor for a possible world future, and a warning. While there are similarities and unfortunate parallels with our world, we aren't there yet.
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  • Posted by $ Susanne 6 years, 4 months ago
    No. In fact - by asking this seminal question, you expose the flaw in Ayn's philosophy.

    Bit of history - Remember Ayn and her family escaped pre-revolutionary Russia (likely a good thing) - escaped a group of thugs and looters who believed so strongly in the "Make them submit to our will or destroy them" philosophy that it carried from before Ekaterinberg all the way through Dzhugashvili to Gorby (and possibly beyond)...

    So killing those who stand in your way - and having Dagny revere this trait in her grandfather - is (in a VERY strange paradox) having the objectivist heroine of the book embracing perhaps the most of anti-objectivist's traits - to become a destroyer in the manner of her grandfather. TO me - that is about as un-objectivist as one can get - Destroying rather than creating.

    Thus, it is sometimes better to remember that, while Atlas IS a life-changing book (it certainly changed mine!), and within are the gems to lead a successful prosperous and objectivist life, it is above all a work of fiction... And while Objectivism in its purest form is great philosophically, you should base your life on logic and rationality, rather than hook line and sinker out of a book by a fiction author.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 4 months ago
      Regarding the OP's original question, I don't see how one can answer "no" without giving up the right to self-defense or abandoning military protection in wartime. Which particular assaults on one's rights justify killing the aggressor is open for debate, but not the fact that under certain circumstances it can be justified.
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    • Posted by LibertyBelle 6 years, 3 months ago
      What do you mean "escaped pre-revolutionary
      Russia? She had to escape post-revolutionary
      Russia.--However, your last sentence does make
      quite a lot of sense.
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      • Posted by ewv 6 years, 3 months ago
        Ayn Rand was not just a "fiction writer", she developed an entire philosophy. Of course you should use reason, but that doesn't mean rediscovering yourself all the principles you need.
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      • Posted by $ Susanne 6 years, 3 months ago
        Their family (IIRC) left Russia in 1912... which was well before 1917, the demarcation date of the Russian Revolution according to most historical sources. Correct me if I'm wrong with the date of their departure, but I'm pretty sure they left when the winds of war were fanining, not after the Soviets had declared victory.
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        • Posted by LibertyBelle 6 years, 3 months ago
          Ayn Rand arrived in America in 1926. Many years
          later, she had a visit from her sister and brother-in-
          law; the sister (and, I assume, the brother-in-law)
          elected to return to Russia. She tried and tried to
          get her parents into the United States; I read in a
          compilation of the letters of Ayn Rand that the
          last communication she got from her parents was a telegram in 1939 saying "Cannot get per-
          mission". I think I read in Who is Ayn Rand?
          about a vacation out of Russia that her family
          went on when she was a child.
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    • Posted by ewv 6 years, 3 months ago
      Nat Taggart was not a "destroyer", he created the railroad. The novel describes him as: "no penny of his wealth had been obtained by force or fraud; he was guilty of nothing, except that he earned his own fortune and never forgot that it was his."

      Atlas Shrugged did not advocate "killing those who stand in your way" and the question does not "expose the flaw in Ayn's philosophy". The original question is a false alternative based on a misrepresentation of the novel as a false premise, not a "seminal question". https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post...

      Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical novel, not just a "work of fiction". She wrote it to portray her view of the ideal man and developed her philosophy in support of that. In the novel her philosophy was illustrated, and explicitly summarized in "Galt's speech", and is described in detail in non-fiction https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post.... She was not just "a fiction author" and no one has advocated "basing your life on hook line and sinker out of a book by a fiction author".
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 6 years, 4 months ago
    Tricky question...I suppose it is just as valid to protect the life of one's self as it is to protect the lives of many...but I wonder, at what point does one's actions or intentions become a threat likened to the loss of life objectively.

    I also wonder if Rand just exercised her own secret wishes into print.
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  • Posted by EdGoldstein 6 years, 4 months ago
    Killing is definitely part of Ayn Rand's philosophy. She made Dagny killing the guard who refused to take responsibility a critical part of the climax.
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    • Posted by ewv 6 years, 3 months ago
      The guard was physically obstructing the rescue of a kidnapped victim from torture. That does not make killing a "part of Ayn Rand's philosophy". She advocated creative productive work, not running around killing people for "refusing to take responsibility".
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