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  1. 2 points

    Neuromarketing and choice

    Be careful using the word "force". The government frequently forces me to do things that I don't want to do. Arguments of this type often weasel in the word "force" when they mean "get", like "I forced him to see that his argument was silly, by reducing it to an absurdity" – meaning, I got him to do so, though he was reluctant. Advertising most certainly can influence our choices, and many people are indeed suckered in by the implications of slick advertising – they focus on the pretty face and hip music, ignoring all of the important technical questions that they ought to ask about the product. I presume that you do not believe that all people are swayed only by rational product-info facts. So then what exactly are you trying to argue against? Next time, I would concentrate on where the word "force" is first used. Stop the conversation when someone says "They don't have any choice" – where exactly is the science that shows that people are incapable of making a choice when... under what conditions? Scrutinize the science critically. The best response to the "go look it up" challenge is "give me a citation". I always demand a legitimate vetted scientific publication. Not a blog post, a propaganda website, but a real scientific journal. This is mildly risky, because often the claim proffered in a publication can't be evaluated without knowing the jargon of the field (especially in the behavioral sciences), and it does mean yo need to be able to access journals typically behind a paywall. "Give me a citation", i.e. "put your money where your mouth is", often generates an outraged response like "Everybody knows this", so at least you will know whether you're dealing with ideologues or scientists with bad ideology.
  2. 2 points
    Where is this debate and news? When I turn on the TV, channels are reporting that a Trump staffer was a wife beater. But, not just that: that is only background. The bulk of the discussion is about whether the White House knew and how they acted on the knowledge. But, even there, a lot is about what they knew and how they spun the story in public. Switch from the Democratic channel to the Republican channel and it is more of the same. Occasionally, you have things like taxes or immigration make it back to TV news. The thing to remember on these topics is that rhetoric is not the same as action. Trump says he'll build a border wall, but it is in his political advantage to come up for re-election saying the Democrats obstructed him, and if you elect him one more time -- along with a few more Republicans (or "better" Republicans) -- he will build it the next time around. You can really rest comfortably in the knowledge that after both sides have staked out this position or that, the actual ship will move in one direction or the other, but not too much. Paying close attention does not have any utility: it's just a modern day genre of soap-opera. (The exception is when something targets you directly: e.g. if you are an immigrant and have to make decisions, and need to figure out the precise details of what is playing out.) When it comes to news watching and debate following, my advice would be to do less of it. Give yourself some objective rule: like no news and debate of certain days of the week, or whatever works. Instead, pick up an actual long-form book and read it. Even if you choose a book about crises (lol), odds are it will still pay off more than paying attention to things you will not remember happened a few years from now, and won't impact your life too much more than the average impacts you can expect anyhow.
  3. 2 points
    Thank you for this post. Perhaps others tempted to rush in to chastise someone as unpatriotic or overly pessimistic before understanding where they are coming from will learn to think twice before passing judgment. Your case is one with which I wholeheartedly sympathize. I simply do not have the right to patronize you, pity you, or presume to advise you and I will not because I am not in your unfortunate and serious position and although I can try to imagine it I cannot fully understand your experiences. I can promise you I won't belittle your experience or insult the reality you face by treating this as some philosophy undergrad snide fest. Your life and your health are yours. No one has any moral right to deprive you of your freedom to pursue either of them as punishment for merely being alive in the wrong society. I hear you.
  4. 2 points
    Your moral indignation is understandable from a rational and moral perspective. Your dilemma is that you have discovered morality and yet you live in a culture where evil and immorality abounds. The egalitarians who see equality as such as the basis of morality do not care what happens to you or anyone as long as equality of result and the machine or system in place working toward that end is not disturbed. They will trade your LIFE rather than face the possible "expense" of "weakening the FDA’s critical role" in making sure that all Americans "can have confidence" in the safety and effectiveness of our medical products. They are willing to trade your life for ensuring the "strength" of some system and for the implied need for the "people" to have confidence in that system. Is this a direct call for your sacrifice? Absolutely. Should you be enraged at those espousing this view? Absolutely. Should you try to live in a culture or society such as this? If it is in your self-interest overall, of course. The key is not to spend more of your time than is necessary to contemplate the evil if everything considered you are going to remain. You've noted the evil, it is not in your self-interest but it is not an imminent threat to your immediate health or safety. File it away, understand it, perhaps think about how one day you could deal with it if necessary, and put it out of your mind. Your life is yours and no one else's to morally regulate. If this means someday you need to leave the US to get the treatment, perhaps fly the US doctor to a country where you and the doctor could work on saving your life.. then certainly you need to look at how you could fund and arrange for that to happen, if and when that day comes. Understandably, you are mad others think they own your life... just remember to mentally tell them to F-off, but then you have to put it behind you and live, taking all the necessary actions to pursue your life.
  5. 1 point

    Neuromarketing and choice

    To be fair, it takes a very active mind to be always on guard against various advertising persuasion techniques and to deliberately disregard them after identifying them. Some are hard to resist even after identifying them. As most people aren't that mentally active and no one is on guard at all times then advertising can have some dependable level of success with a large number of exposures. My point is that it is possible for people to have free will and choose to not exercise it at all times.
  6. 1 point

    Neuromarketing and choice

    The fundamental problem these people have is that they have rejected philosophy, so they really have no idea of what free will is. They are as ignorant of the nature of free will as you are (supposedly) ignorant of neuromarketing research. Free will, as applied to mental action, is an axiomatic concept; the capacity to choose is a precondition of and is entailed by the capacity to reason. The proposition that neuromarketing (or anything else) destroys free will entails the proposition that it also destroys the capacity to reason. Experiments that merely show a probabilistic effect on behavior simply miss the point -- they demonstrate no more than the obvious proposition that peoples' choices are influenced by their environment. Aside from the supposed utility of quantifying that influence, such experiments deserve no more than a "duh, and now you'll prove that the sun will rise tomorrow?" in response. Similarly, even if there are observed physical effects on a person's brain from advertising, it's irrelevant to the question of free will, unless those effects are shown to prevent a person from reasoning. Now, if the neuromarketing advocates proved that advertising prevents people from reasoning about what is being advertised, that would be a different matter entirely. But that is not what they have proved, nor is it what they are trying to prove. And, unless things have changed radically since I paid attention, it is something their experiments can't prove -- those experiments are designed to eliminate the role of reason in choice. So, next time they give you this nonsense and you want to confront it, tell them that the science does not prove that advertising destroys a person's capacity to reason and, so long as they have that capacity, they have free will. If they try to argue against you, tell them that they haven't studied enough philosophy to have an opinion worth paying attention to. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, after all. But if they want references, you can direct them to Rand, rather than just blowing them off.
  7. 1 point

    Neuromarketing and choice

    Three terms here need to be closely scrutinized. The most egregious is “impose”. It retreats from the clearly false claim of “force”, while retaining the negative connotations of “force”. Here is a usage that gets to the core of imposing: “I don’t want to impose, but would you be able to drive me to the airport?”. The requester has a goal, the requestee probably does not share that goal, and the requester’s plan of action is to get the other to accept his goal. Imposing and persuading differ in the extent to which the requestee opposes accepting that goal. If he is neutral or only mildly opposed, we say that you persuade him to accept the goal. When force is not involved, imposing is just a way of negatively characterizing persuasion (the self-deprecating use of “impose” in the example manipulates the other party into denying that he opposes the goal, a denial manifested as a ride to the airport). In the context of the advertising discussion, it is redundant rhetoric, conveying nothing not already contained in “what people want”. “Want” is a basic emotional relation to a thing. The ideology that you are arguing against has an implicit premise that people’s actions should be caused by their emotions, so you should engage in trade only if you have a particular emotional connection to the thing in question. And furthermore, since advertising is stipulated to be bad, that emotional state must exist before exposure to the advertising (since advertising is held to improperly influence one’s emotional state). So, does exposure to advertising create the requisite emotional state (directly or indirectly)? It certainly can. My initial emotional state was that I wanted (indeed, needed) a new cell phone. By exposure to advertising, my emotional state was changed, indirectly, to the point that I wanted a specific cell phone so much that I bought it. That emotional state was the byproduct of a rational change of state: I became aware of the properties of that phone, in comparison to others, and I concluded that it was the proper choice, given my requirements. The important thing is that initially, I did not want that phone. There was a lack of emotion: no attraction or repulsion, because I was unaware that the phone existed. Advertising expanded my knowledge, and secondarily created a desire. I didn’t want it initially, I came to want it. “Advertising” is a tricky concept. Obviously, when a company provides information about its goods and services, that is advertising. The same goes for information provided by third parties; and it need not just be goods and services – political advertising abounds. Not just electoral advertising, but ideological advertising (you will see full page ideological ads in the New York Times every so often: you see ideological advertising on people’s front laws, car bumpers, lapels, and email signatures). When a person takes out an ad in the paper, intending to influence people’s beliefs, that is a kind of advertising. Giving a speech in public can have the same effect: is that really different from advertising? The essence of advertising is “communicating something, in the hopes of achieving an end”. I surmise from they way you present your opponents, that there are claiming that “neuromarketing” methods have been scientifically proven to override rational decision-making (and this is evil, though maybe they are claiming that this is good). I would respond by challenging the premise that “neuromarketing” has a scientific foundation. My reading of Fisher, Chin & Klitzman “Defining Neuromarketing: Practices and Professional Challenges” is that the practice verges on junk science (it is a popular medium phenomenon, not a systematic body of peer-reviewed experimental results). They surely must be familiar with this article, if they know the literature. (That's "if" number 1). In a few cases where there is some supposed support for some vaguely related idea, for example McClure, Li, Tomlin, Cypert, Montague & Montague “Neural Correlates of Behavioral Preference for Culturally Familiar Drinks”, the results are pretty simple and unsurprising. Subjects may prefer Coke, or they may prefer Pepsi, and that preference can be observed in the brain using fMRI. Subjects are also able to visually identify Coke vs. Pepsi cans; and you might be able to trick people into thinking that they got Coke if they get Pepsi but see a picture of a Coke can. These results can reasonably be interpreted to mean that existing “wishes” may have physical correlates in the brain. Correlation is distinct from causation: the fact that an existing mental state can be physically quantified does not mean that we can directly manipulate the brain to bring about that mental state. I haven't touched the glaring statistical problem. You will notice in the Coke paper that there is zero discussion of subject demographics. This is not surprising for medical research, but it is fairly shocking for behavioral research like this (with a thin veneer of medical slapped over it). What is the "population" that these subjects were drawn from? Assuredly, not "humans" – it's a very restricted subset of humans. I've seen these ads, where an experimenter recruits subjects for e.g. a taste test that takes an hour (or whatever) and there is some reward. People who respond to these ads are not a random sample of humans – they live in Houston, have free time and an inclination, and do not self-filter, thinking "What kind of craziness is this?". Whatever those 67 people did, there isn't a lot of reason to infer anything about humans in general from that study. Arming yourself with this kind of background is useful in case you plan to interact with these people again on this topic. Unfortunately, the world is full of cranks who will randomly assert falsehoods, pretending that there is underlying science. The response "I'm not your teacher; look it up yourself" is a clear give-away that they don't control the technical literature.
  8. 1 point
    Thanks for the recommendations StrictlyLogical and Repairman. It has been recommended to me a few times now to go through Peikoff's History of Philosophy. I've heard nothing, but good things. Repairman, that books sounds like a really good one for me. A good overview of all that is out there. I don't need (or expect) to be an expert in everything, but I think it's valuable for me to have a decent understanding of what is out there. I also hear you with regards to physical books, especially when I was moving (they're heavy), it's one of the reasons I purchased a Kindle. I'll add the book to my on going list. 'For the New Intellectual' and 'The Voice of Reason' are both on the list still. Plus I want to go through Peikoff's OPAR. This is the problem with only 24 hours in a day, I can't consume them all. Thanks again.
  9. 1 point

    Neuromarketing and choice

    If you start with the philosophical premise of determinism, you will interpret each scientific result in which stimulus seems to affect behavior as proof of determinism. If someone points out that no experiment gets a 100% response, you reply with the assertion that if only you could account for all the circumstances, you would get a 100% response. Conversely, if you start with the philosophical premise of free will, you will interpret each scientific result as merely quantifying the obvious fact that people are influenced by their environment. You will see no need -- or possibility -- of getting a 100% response; free will means that there's always the possibility of people doing something other than the expected. Can science prove determinism or free will? No. Because the interpretation of the results of scientific experiments depends on which premise you start with. To reach either position based on science would amount to question begging. The only field of knowledge that can speak to this issue is philosophy, and those who reject philosophy do not thereby escape philosophy. They merely take some particular (generally incoherent) philosophy for granted, as an article of faith, as essentially a religion. This, BTW, explains what those people were doing. In their minds, you weren't challenging the science, you were challenging their religion's dogma. Of course they responded with arrogance and condemnation -- just like any other religious fanatic.
  10. 1 point
    "It isn't about this at all"? All right, let's review then: The OP (along with the thread title) is not about "comparing governments," but dealing with the difficulties of living in a system where "the majority of people" support policies that -- in some cases -- make actual human life impossible. The first response that happiness received -- that "there is nowhere better than here" -- is not necessarily true. It may be true that there is nowhere better than here for DavidOdden, just as it may be true for me that "there is nothing better to eat than a peanut butter sandwich," but neither of these are universally true, and to say that they are (in the name of "objectivity") is to forget the role that context plays in objective thought. For instance, if happiness could secure the treatments he needs in some other country then it may well be better for him to move to that country to receive those treatments. Is "nowhere better than here"? Not necessarily for happiness, not necessarily in that case. (Note that I am here employing happiness in a completely hypothetical capacity; I've no idea about whether this is likely, or possible, and do not mean to comment on his actual situation.) Then JASKN wondered whether the US is truly evil (or "over-the-top evil") and he concluded that it is not, because he is still somewhat free (he "can still get on the internet and badmouth any branch of the government," and etc.). These comprise the two main responses. (Well... there is also Nicky's "response" of "most board members disagree" and "all the rational people I know can handle reading the news," which, in a better forum, would have been called out well before now; but I have already given him enough attention.) So if the response is, "but it is better here than elsewhere," that may be true (or it may not -- more in a second), but it doesn't actually speak to the matter at hand. If the response is, "things aren't so bad for me; therefore, things aren't so bad for you," then it is an utter failure. Yes, it is possible to evaluate two governments -- or to reason that X is better than Y -- but not without a context. Value requires a valuer, and Singapore (or the United States) may be the best option for some yet not for others. For the sake of further precision (albeit risking a touch of clarity), let me amend that slightly to say that it may be possible to evaluate two governments without a personal context, but not in any meaningful fashion. Evaluation is not some activity disconnected from life -- we evaluate things for a purpose, and that purpose guides and shapes our process of evaluation. If a person "evaluates" two countries from a standpoint outside of his own context, then he may well conclude that "this is the best/better country to live in" and be correct in all cases except for himself. This is pointless at best, and at worst lands the drug smuggler in a Singapore prison for life, and -- as I've imagined it -- spending his time singing the praises of the "relatively free" government there. Besides which, some "comparative" approach does not render the evil actions of any given government, Singapore or the US, less evil; and if we mean to speak to the OP or even simply the title of this thread, it does not necessarily help us to understand how to live in a country where such evil is tolerated or promulgated by our fellow citizens. What value is this comparative approach, then? It appears to be meant as a palliative, because "there is no such place as Galt’s Gulch." But some people are working towards the creation of Galt's Gulch, or something like it, because they do find the present situation intolerable. Those who are content with the status quo have no real reason to struggle against it -- and I mean that as no criticism. But let's not tell others that they must be content, as well, especially when their situation/context is potentially different from our own. For I maintain that those who say that the US is "not so bad" are able to do so, in part, because they have been fortunate in their experiences; there are other people for whom the US is so bad. (They are the people in "The Lottery" whose number has not been drawn... yet.) In point of fact, I do not expect that someone rotting in a Singapore prison for life, for "crimes" which ought not be crimes, will be constructing odes to the supposed relative merits of their system. He will be too intimately familiar with its failures -- and the personal consequences of those failures -- for that. And if you think that's what "objectivity" requires -- for the chained-and-whipped slave in the Antebellum US, say, to praise the US government because of the relative degree of freedom it allows for the people in the North -- then I fear that your approach to both "objectivity" and judgement are mistaken. It is not about assessing things according to some average, or some generic "everyman," or (ahem) "EVERYONE. Equally.", it is about assessing things according to whether they further your personal, individual life and happiness -- and then acting accordingly.
  11. 1 point
    Statutorily, a preparation of cells qualifies as “drug” subject to FDA regulation if the cells are “more than minimally manipulated.” The specific treatment I need calls for a patient's stem cells to be isolated from his bone marrow and culture-expanded to grow them to multiplicity. The expanded cells are then implanted into an arthritic joint, where, if the process is performed by skilled hands, they are well-documented to be capable of exerting reparative effects. In 2010, the FDA sued the company that pioneered this procedure on the grounds that the expanded cells are "more than minimally manipulated" (see ARI's commentary). The FDA prevailed, and it is now illegal for any doctor to administer culture-expanded stem cells in the US without obtaining a biologics license, the cost of which is so burdensome that it renders the procedure economically unviable in today’s regulatory environment. The cause also seems obstructed by parties with serious conflicts of interest. The former FDA commissioner said this: “When I was commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2005 to 2009, I saw firsthand how regenerative medicine offered a cure for kidney and heart failure and other chronic conditions like diabetes. Researchers used stem cells to grow cells and tissues to replace failing organs, eliminating the need for expensive supportive treatments like dialysis and organ transplants… For example, in August 2010, the FDA filed suit against a company called Regenerative Sciences. Three years earlier, the company had begun marketing a process it called Regenexx to repair damaged joints by injecting them with a patient’s own stem cells. The FDA alleged that the cells the firm used had been manipulated to the point that they should be regulated as drugs. A resulting court injunction halting use of the technique has cast a pall over the future of regenerative medicine.“ I don’t think it’s unreasonable to project that, by the end of the ensuing decade, the FDA vs. Regenerative Sciences decision will probably have resulted in millions of preventable deaths.
  12. 1 point
    Come on now. A few house slaves aside, most were denied use of their masters' internet. This has been a sticking point for me, in these kinds of conversations, for a while now. Of course the poster has a personal context relevant to this question. There doesn't exist a person without a personal context, and anyone's answer to this sort of question will necessarily reflect that context. The idea that a question like this can be meaningfully answered (or "interpreted") in some abstract "general 'average person' context" is suspect, at least, and in several discussions I've put to you that assessing the morality of the US legal system, or etc., depends greatly on who you happen to be. If you -- or a loved one -- is rotting in jail due to unjust drug laws, for instance, then it's probably not going to look like such a great system. An "average person" (by which we mean -- what, exactly? white? male? middle-aged?) needs to be able to take this sort of thing into account. It's as though saying that the society in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" wasn't so bad... so long as your number doesn't come up. And perhaps it's equally true that the person who feels the scourge of society should remember that things aren't so bad for many others in the community, but I guess it's sensible that we will all be biased towards our own experiences, for better or worse. The slave in a Roman mine won't be greatly heartened to know, I don't expect, that his forced labor furnishes someone else's villa. So if we're insisting on someone like happiness providing "personal context," then maybe the folks who constantly come in with "this country and its laws aren't so bad" also need to provide their personal reminder of "for me, in my situation." When we recognize that there yet remains institutionalized injustice, in our system or any other, that means that real evil is being visited upon some actual person. If you can live well enough with the tax laws, or whatever, then you can and more power to you, but let's not neglect the fact that not everyone emerges unscathed.
  13. 1 point
    Two points here: If all you have is a theory of why something ought to work out a certain way, it's very weak. You need to have historical evidence of how there have been repeated episodes where the theory was shown to be true. This still does not prove the theory, but it is a basic requirement for taking it seriously 10 years is not enough. You have a lifetime to live, so you should look at a few lifetimes worth of historical evidence. Visualize yourself during the Great depression: Roosevelt is confiscating gold, enacting social-security, imposing all sorts of ridiculous rules on businesses. Finally, you are making decisions within the context of your lifetime. Imagine you see some causal factor that created some end result reliably, from the Roman empire down to today. But, imagine it took 400 years to play our from cause to effect, and in your judgement you are in year 90 of such an episode. How much does it really impact the decisions you should be making in the context of your lifetime? Gold should not be considered an "investment" in a core sense. Of course, if market values of productive assets are too high (in your judgement), then it makes sense to "park" your assets in a "store of value'. Doomsday scenarios sell, but your best bet is that they will not take place. Of course spending beyond one's means is bound to cause a problem some day in the future, but that's abstract enough to be useless as a decision-making tool. You have to flesh it out with concretes. Someone spending a small percent more than they take in is in a different position that someone more profligate. Both will eventually hit rock bottom, but time-horizons vary. Also, possible solutions vary. In a mixed-economy, when shit hits the fan, the democracy will typically take assets from those who did not get too hard, and redistribute it to those who were screwed. Consider what the Saudi king just did. He needed money, so he arrested a bunch of the richest guys in the kingdom, and told them they have to give the government money. probably raised about $100 billion in a few months. Democracies do these things with politeness and a softer glove. To be clear, history would say we should expect booms and busts, with occasional panics at a rate of (say) a couple in each investor's lifetime. But, that's different from doomsday scenarios.
  14. 1 point
    I don't think I understand this. I translate this to mean that Epistemology is to show how one "should" know, not how one "does" know. But I don't think you mean that so an elaboration would be great. I mean exactly that. Epistemology teaches how one "should" know, not how one "does" know. "Knowing" here being an active process, and everyone having near complete, total mental freedom, it is therefore a choice to know. First comes the choice to know, then logically afterward comes the attempt to know and the testing against reality. Choosing to know is the essence of volition.
  15. 1 point
    With the Govt spying, there are many reasons you can’t be assured it’s safe to do this. I’m not sure that America comparing favorably to other counties means much, as the rest of the world sets the bar pretty low. Status quo FDA policy is morally equivalent to the mass murder of sick people. Regardless of how it’s rationalized, cutting off a person’s access to a needed medicine is no different than slaughtering him by any other means. I don’t know what percentage of voters have any awareness of this issue, but the overwhelmingly negative response to the Right to Try bill I’ve observed shows that the majority of people who understand what the FDA does are clearly apologists for mass murder. That’s pretty evil. I’m not terminally ill, so this bill doesn’t affect me, but I’m in the same boat with a chronic disease which is highly treatable with an advanced therapy that the FDA will probably never let happen in US, so the issue is deeply personal to me. I’ve tried to deal with the issue constructively by presenting the pro-freedom side wherever I could, but found that pretty much every time I’ve either been downvoted into oblivion or treated to the most banal displays of irrationality one could ever hope to come across. The other side’s arguments always follow same pattern: they focus solely on the possibility of harm caused by unregulated medicines, cherry-pick the negative as evidence, treat the priestly bureaucrats as omniscient and incorruptible without any justification and against all evidence to the contrary, and use inane buzzwords like “snake oil” as substitutes for facts. I have argued with MDs who ardently support the FDA and never seen anyone muster anything more intelligent than “BUT BUT BUT THALIDOMIDE!!!” Trying go educate others on this is simply a gigantic waste of time. So what are my options? Try to find a more effective way to communicate the issue even though the prospect of positive change anytime soon seems impossible. Avoid debate and try to block out current events. Focus on my life and generating enough funds for more offshore treatments. Say the Hell with it all, it’s been fun. Most of the time I’m in mode #2, but sometimes read an article like the one I posted, and my blood just boils over.
  16. 1 point
    It is not a problem if you say that the referent of “dog” is “those existents that are dogs”. A “referent” is “a thing referred to”, and as long as you understand what it means to “refer”, there should be no problem. The question is, what things refer? A proper name, concept, or phrase can refer (the name “Rand” refers to a specific individual; the concept labeled “dog” in English refers to a class of animals; the phrase “the author of Atlas Shrugged” or “my dog” refers to a specific invidual, the latter being more dependent on context). In Classical Greek γνω- (gnō-) is only part of a word (or of many words), and it refers to “knowing”; the mathematical symbol ∂ is not a word, and it refers to “partial differential”. Confusion may come from the fact that Rand says that concepts refer, but other things do refer, many of which cannot be concepts. ITOE focuses on concepts and not on language, so we do not know what her theory of “reference” would have been. She says (with bold added) Language is a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psycho-epistemological function of convening concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes. Language is the exclusive domain and tool of concepts. Every word we use (with the exception of proper names) is a symbol that denotes a concept, i.e., that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind. … A concept substitutes one symbol (one word) for the enormity of the perceptual aggregate of the concretes it subsumes. Symbols include special letters, concepts and the other things I mentioned, but it is not clear what to do with phrases since calling a combination of words like “the author of Atlas Shrugged” a symbol stretches the notion of symbol. My account of “referring” is that a symbol or sequence of symbols refers. The question of whether “horses” is a concept is a very good one, in my opinion. There should be no doubt that “white reindeer” (in English) is not a concept, it is a phrase, similarly “my book” or “the house” are not concepts, they are combinations of concepts forming phrases. “Horses” is a combination of two concepts (and a combination of symbols): one pertaining to the animal, which is a word in its own right, and another, the symbol referring to plural, namely -s, which itself is nota word. Because of how English grammar works, that combination is itself a word, which encodes constituent concepts in the same way that “the house” combines two constituent concepts (and symbols, and words). There are no automatic concepts, but there are natural concepts, ones that easily arise from the nature of reality and the mind. Rather than saying that it is automatic, I would say that it is inescapable.
  17. 1 point
    Here’s What’s Wrong with Ayn Rand’s Philosophy By Craig Biddle. Posted at The Objective Standard Many articles have been written about what’s wrong with Ayn Rand’s philosophy. But, to my knowledge, none of them presents her ideas accurately. So I thought it would be helpful to write one that does. Here’s what’s wrong with Rand’s ideas: A nice, brief1, satirical article. 1. Less than 3000 words.
  18. 1 point
    Pro tip: you should leave the alligators out of the sales pitch.
  19. 1 point
    You've asked questions loaded with this same premise before, and it became apparent, from the answers you received, that most board members disagree that western countries like the US are evil. So why post a question that assumes the same premise again, while ignoring an (overwhelmingly held) opposing view you've been made aware of? How is that any more rational behavior than the one you describe? Please try and consider the validity of this opposing position, rationally. Instead of this fatalistic emotional reaction, you should explore ways to deal with the problems caused by irrational government policies. With a sense of proportion and with serenity. P.S. All the rational people I know can handle reading the news (perhaps not on the brutality of ISIS or North Korea, but news of internal, western policies) with that serenity I mentioned. Even these days, when a certain over the top populist politician doesn't make it easy. If the news makes you angry, you should consider looking for part of the problem within yourself. You might not be able to solve the problems of American politics, but you definitely have the power to solve these other ones.
  20. 1 point
    Is America really over-the-top evil? Think about the people you interact with on a daily basis. Would you classify the majority as evil? What line needs to be crossed for a person to be "evil"? Humans are complicated and are always changing. In a reality where most around you truly are evil, such as an ISIS camp, or in prison, I can see a realistic desire to stop dealing with it all, for good. No prospects, little to look forward to now or ever. Is that daily living in America? NO, it isn't. America is essentially a free country, still, with all its regulations and government intrusions. I can still get on the internet and badmouth any branch of the government. The American judicial system still offers the best recourse against humans who don't respect my rights. The American people are still work harder than the rest of the world. American business es are still world-class innovators. America's freedom-focused intellectuals still outnumber the rest of the world. Here's a phrase that comes in handy when pondering life: "What's the alternative?" In a world of mixed humans (which will always be the world, as David noted) where Atlas Shrugged exists only as an illustrative construct, you can choose to focus on evil and live a mad or sad life, or you can choose to focus on every positive thing you can find or create, and live the best possible life before you're dead. There's no point in focusing on negativity past identifying it as something to move beyond.
  21. 1 point
    Then I think you face a serious problem: existence is intolerable for you. I am not suggesting that you should kill yourself, I am suggesting that you should re-consider how intolerable America is for you. Remember that Atlas Shrugged is fiction, and there is no such place as Galt’s Gulch. Existence qua man implies existence somewhere: and there is nowhere better than here. Suppose for instance that you find that Iran imposes no FDA-like restrictions on experimental drugs, and that Iranians do not generally advocate imposing such restrictions on people: would that they justify moving to Iran? I can give you a few thousand reasons why you should not. Or maybe move to Canada. One problem (of many) with moving to Canada is that their system of law does not have the free speech protections that we have, and you can be silenced there in a way that you can’t be silenced here. One of the downsides of free speech is that it means people can advocate statism. The way to combat statism is not to pack up and move to a more statist regime, it is to use that power of free speech to combat statist rhetoric. You can do that in two ways. One is to narrowly argue the science, but a better approach is to argue the moral principle – it’s not the business of the government! The federal bill itself is less than ideal, since it only recognizes a basic human right in case you have been diagnosed to be terminally ill and the treatment complies with whatever arbitrary restrictions the state imposes (Congress passed up the opportunity to use the Supremacy Clause to more fully guarantee individual rights).
  22. 1 point
    For a more detailed presentation of "unit", read the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on unit. Objectivism does not generally use or rely on the term "referent", which is used in other approaches, and which is not well defined. As long as you don't import anything philosophically sketchy from the term "referent" besides "that which a thing refers to", then it's okay to talk about a "referent". "Unit" does not imply any act of referring, but concepts do refer, to units (which are existents). The label (word) attached to a concept refers to those existents. To give a concrete example, dog #1 is an existent, and it is a unit, but the dog does not refer to itself – it is itself. The dog's name, such as "Poika", refers to the specific existent, and the word "dog" refers to that existent, as well as many others.
  23. 1 point
    A proper noun such as "Joe the Horse" is not an invalid concept. This is because it is not even a concept. Also, the alternative of valid or invalid does not apply to names. "Presidency in Saudi Arabia" - "Presidency" is an abstract high level concept in the area of politics. As a concept of method it would be a valid concept even if there were no presidents because there were presidents in the past and could be presidents in the future. "Presidency in Saudi Arabia" can be used validly when advocating a change in the method of governance of Saudi Arabia, even though it is true that there are no current or past presidents in Saudi Arabia. "The President of Saudi Arabia" could be used validly in a conditional or future tense, but would be nonsensical in the context of current events or the history of S.A. Context matters. We have more concepts than we have words for them. A single word can refer to several concepts and the ambiguity is usually resolved by the context and careful writing or speaking. Actual concretes can be the referents of many different valid concepts. Concepts of concepts can divided up in several alternative yet valid ways as well. There is no one-to-one correspondence between words and concepts or between concepts and referents. An invalid concept is still referred to as a concept, because if it wasn't a concept at all no rules would apply and there would be no justification to judge it as valid or invalid. So in the sense of badly formed and thus invalid concepts there can be a concept with zero referents.
  24. 1 point


    Last question first, I don't know well enough to try to answer. I'm not a philosopher nor have I read closely Aristotle's Organon, and it has been a long time since I've read it at all. University was decades ago for me and what familiarity I have with Aristotle since then mostly comes from secondary sources writing about what he meant. Aristotle was a student of Plato so unless he could solve the problem of universals while also inventing logic and mastering every other contemporary field of knowledge he would carry over that basic approach from Plato, that essences are intrinsic to things or 'metaphysical' as described in this thread. 'Epistemic universal' is redundant for people that accept and use Rand's epistemological theories but in contexts (such as this thread) where there are people seriously contending the case for other kinds of universals it is good to spell out in full what kind of universal is being referred to. A classic example comes to me by way of Kelley: So, children, blackberry bush, colors, thats 3 examples. "Preconceptual awareness of qualitative recurrence", use that phrase a few times when speaking or writing and people will think you must be pretty smart.
  25. 1 point
    Easy Truth


    Agreed, there are fictitious concepts, imaginary concepts, ones that don't correspond to reality. Your statement could also be interpreted another way, as a universal that could be instantiated but has not been until now which is different than what I am talking about. I am bringing up an eternally uninstantiable universal/concept, basically, one that cannot be instantiated. (I am talking about something that I think does not exist i.e. there is no such thing). A contradiction can't be instantiated. Yet the concept exists. You will say that contradiction (similar to "nothing") is not a universal and yet I would argue that we identify contradictions all the time. A contradiction exists only in fact as a concept/universal, there is no metaphysical version of it. But if contradictions are metaphysical, then they have to exist. I am going along because you argue universals/concepts do exist metaphysically, independent of consciousness. In that paradigm, since uninstantiated universals exist independently of consciousness, they exist even if consciousness has never observed their instance. So numbers could have existed without "things" to be counted. Such a universe does not exist and for me is unimaginable. I am also arguing that the abstraction (number) would not exist if the act of counting has never been done (ever). (I will respond to the rest of the post)
  26. 1 point

    When to take time off

    Why can't you do both? Software can't be taking up all of your time. Why not do other things after you're finished with the regular job? Why not keep your full time job, and do the other interests part time, at least for now? You may find out you're not really all that interested in writing symphonies with the majority of your time. You may find out a solid stream of income is worth more to you than you'd thought. Setting company goals is someone's full time job somewhere, and you might discover you don't really like having that responsibility, even while still appreciating the goals/purpose being set. You'll wind up discovering loads of facets to your other interests you didn't even know existed, along with how you like those facets, and the interests will inevitably become different things to you entirely than how you think about them now - maybe better, maybe worse. Fidgeting with those interests part time can show you those facets without you needing to devote time (and possible heartache) to worrying about a livelihood. In my opinion, a life "plunge" is only good when you have some realistic idea of a good outcome, whatever that means to you. But, that's from a guy who has never done a plunge and never intends to. I like the try-before-you-buy method. But definitely try. What's the point of living if you don't do the living? If you think a plunge is for you, do it. There's truth to "if it don't kill you..."
  27. 1 point


    If your question is how anyone can say that an entity/attribute belongs to a specific category if the criteria for belonging doesn't exist "out there", I'd say your question is wrong. The implicit assumption in your question is that similarity doesn't exist "out there" but only in your perception (and hence if classification is on the basis of similarity, not something identical which exists in objects, that is meaningless). This is wrong. Similarity has both a metaphysical and epistemological meaning. If you ask what makes things similar, in reality, that has a scientific meaning that is enough to justify your ability to state facts about them. For example, consider the universal attribute of length. What criteria exists "out there" that qualifies objects with different lengths to be said to possess the same attribute (length)? The capacity to be measured against a metre scale (or its equivalent). What makes objects possess the universal, length? The capacity to be measured against a metre scale (or its equivalent). This is what makes the objects similar. Similarity is a metaphysical fact. However, at the end of the day, the identities of these objects are only similar, not necessarily identical. You can say that objects are similar (as a metaphysical fact) without them possessing a single identical characteristic. In the realm of identifying colors of an object, the yardstick that you use is your perception. An object is measured by your perception and you check whether the colours are similar in the scale of your perception. Just because the yardstick that you use is your perception does not make it primarily epistemological (as you seem to think). It is as valid as a metre scale and just as scientific and metaphysical. This is the metaphysical validity of similarity: the capacity to be measured against a standard. It doesn't matter if the yardstick is a metre scale or your perception. Your perception exists "out there" as much as a metre scale and isn't any less valid as a yardstick for linear measurements (and surely not just epistemological). The key is to reduce an attribute so that you can speak of it in degrees (linear measurements). The yardsticks may not be mixed. There is no dichotomy between the validity of yardsticks of perception and the ones used for scientific measurements (the latter maybe more precise). The capacity to be measured against a standard is an invariant fact. It is the metaphysical fact used to judge similarity. Color perception and metre scales are two different standards that may be used. Your criticism that one cannot state facts about universals if they do not exist out there qua universals is invalid. There are so many other considerations about the validity of Universals as Rand defined it, but would take too long to post. The only important bits are: if identical abstract universals did exist out there, that makes the problem of universals trivial. In my opinion, a good statement of the problem of universals is: "if things in reality aren't identical, how can they be considered to belong to the same category" (for eg, people may be considered to belong to the same race even if they do not possess a single identical gene that other races do not have). Also it is an absurd claim to suggest that things in reality are pre-classified for the sake of humans (which is what universals existing inside objects would amount to). Humans can classify objects without that classification already existing out there in nature. The classification would still be valid and still capture a metaphysical fact about the object. Universals qua universals don't exist. Universals exist as instances (but not inside objects). Similarity is a metaphysical fact (which is just as valid metaphysically (as a fact "out there" about the object) even if you simply use perception).
  28. 1 point
  29. 1 point

    Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    Then please make a contribution. SK literally asked and your response is to troll. Your response is trivial, "if you knew what we knew, you'd know". Well, that's the point of a forum, and you know that. To see what others know. Don't discourage questions.
  30. 1 point
    The Soviets, and now the Russians, have been trying to influence U.S. politics for decades, primarily by influencing public opinion. And, not just U.S., they did the same all over the world. The most blatant way was to helping professors and intellectuals who were favorable to socialism. They would invite them to see how well their revolution was going, they would provide them with "data" about how well their economy was doing. It seems unbelievable now that Samuelson's widely used Economic text book kept projecting that the U.SS.S.r would surpass the U.S. in a decade a two... and continued to predict this through years of revisions. Another thrust was the aiding of anti-war and anti-nuke movements all over the world. Along with that, they always had an eye out for disaffected groups in the west, and would help fringe groups if they were railing against the political system of the west. It did not matter if the ideology of such groups was counter to their own. In the eyes of a Russian KGB/FSB officer, a fringe group with a religious agenda or even with a radically free-market agenda is a potential asset. There's potential for such groups to spread dissent while never actually succeeding too much; but there are all sorts of related advantages in using local groups for cover and to lend an domestic legitimacy to other activities that may otherwise appear suspiciously Russian. In the post Soviet era, semi-private organizations like RT work with this as their dual agenda. Social media opens another avenue. From their premises, the Russian FSB would be stupid not to use this new media, when it is available, and becoming the primary source of news for so many U.S. voters. It's also a place they have a slight advantage, because they are quicker to censor things they do not like. SO, they set up organizations to publish on social media, for a U.S. audience. Of course, "publish" means something different from traditional media. On FB, you have to create sock-puppet accounts, build networks of friends, build cred, and then start to send out the propaganda. In the last election, the Russians seemed to have preferred Trump over Hillary, but that is in keeping with their usual playbook of disrupting the establishment. I doubt the potential policies of the two candidates was a big deal. And, apart from social media, they also influenced people in Trump's campaign, promising them dirt on Hillary, and possibly delivering. U.S. Politics: None of this implies that Trump won because of Russian influence. Is it possible that he did? Yes, of course. Given the razor thin margin by which Trump won the election (only certain states matter in this calculus), and given how big a role Hillary's negatives played, it is possible that a small percentage in swing states might have voted differently. Even those voters themselves would not be able to tell you; so, it is an impossible question to answer either way. The only thing that makes it "possible" and plausible is the thin margins and the nature of the positives/negatives. It is really bad strategy -- from the Democratic perspective -- to think that Trump won because of the Russians. If they truly think this, they won't address their actual weaknesses: the things that explain the bulk of the difference in votes. In my judgement, influential mainstream Democrats do not believe this. They understand that people wanted to chuck them out, and that they had a candidate whose core message was "more of the same". However, most Democrats are willing to spread this narrative because it is the only explanation that many party faithful will buy. This is short-sighted, because their best long-term solution is to re-position themselves a bit, for which they need to explain the real reason they failed. Instead, they seem to be hoping that the country will tire of the buffoon in the White house in 4 years. it's a gamble; but they've been in this game for a long time, and understand how difficult it is to change their members' ideology. Back to the Russian menace: At heart, the problem with the country is the ignorant and confused American voter, who has mostly bought in to statism as a theory of politics. With such voters being the vast majority, they'll keep voting for statist politicians and cheering statist laws. Whether it's Trump or Hillary, ... that's not going to make any fundamental changes to the country.
  31. 1 point
    I don’t believe that your definition of “reference” is correct: perhaps you could persuade me. “Reference” in the relevant sense is “the act of referring”. We should dig deeper into what things “refer”, but as a start, expressions refer. Not all expressions are concepts. “The new occupants of the White House” refers to real people, and those people are the referents of the expression, but “The new occupants of the White House” is not a concept. If you want a set-theoretic definition of “reference”, it should be the set of all expressions of any type, paired with their referents (plural or singular). You might coin a word “word-reference” which specifically refers to just concepts and the things they refer to. In that case, r is a set, not an individual (it’s not a singular referent, it’s all of the referents). We can mostly set aside the concept of “reference” (though not the matter of what refers), because it is irrelevant to cooking up and evaluating the invalid concept “anti-reference” (it’s relevant to the proof of contradiction). “Anti-reference” could almost qualify as a label, although again it should be “word-anti-reference” if the goal is to only look at a kind of referring relation of concepts, and not those of everything that refers (briefly: denial of a proposition is not invalid). Because we need to evaluate the potential legitimacy of the putative concept qua concept, the label needs to be replaced so that there is no surreptitious smuggling in of ideas from other, valid concepts. For the sake of clarity, we should call this concept “glank”. A glank is the complement of the referents of a concept – everything that a concept does not refer to. An example of a glank would be a relationship between “dog” and the universe (not just things, but also abstractions, and any other fact such as the fact that adding baking soda to vinegar causes the mix to foam up) – it refers to everything except for dogs. It is cognitively valid to assert the proposition “this is a dog”, and it is equally valid to deny that proposition. The denial of a proposition is not automatically a concept. We do have valid method-concepts that pertain to denial – “denial, exclusion, contradiction, complement”. We can easily construct an expression which identifies the glank of a concept, using ordinary language expressions such as “everything that is not a dog”. The question is whether the word “glank” does something that makes it superior to the compositional expression “everything that is not”. In order for this monster glank to be elevated to the status of a concept, it needs cognitive validity, some purpose. There may be a narrow professional context (anti-cognitivist logicians) where it is useful to be able to quickly say “the complement of the concept C with respect to all existence”, so that instead of constantly saying “the cardinality of the complement of the concept ‘dog’ with respect to all existence is identical to the cardinality of the complement of the concept ‘run’ with respect to all existence”. Instead, philosophers could more efficiently say “the cardinality of the glank of dog is identical to the cardinality of the glank of run”. This would not suffice. “Glank” was cobbled together to relate concepts and things that they don’t refer to, but the complement relationship is broader, so we need to create “florn”, which is the complement of the facts that any expression identifies. Thus the florn of “everything that is not a dog with blue eyes and grey fur” is, simply, the universe, minus those dogs that have both blue eyes and grey fur. A glank is a florn where the expression is a word. The florn of “a dog with blue eyes and grey fur” includes all expressions (sentences, clauses and words are not actual dogs of that type), all actions (running is not a dog), all cats, rocks etc., and all dogs which don’t have blue eyes or don’t have grey fur. The florn of a dog (an actual dog) is undefined, because an actual dog is not a linguistic expression, and “florn” takes an expression as its argument. Similarly, “reciprocal of blue” is undefined. Since the florn of “dog” is not an expression, the florn of the florn of “dog” is likewise undefined. In your proof of contradiction, you don’t distinguish between A and “A”, which is a problem. Since we can identify what a concept refers to, we can evaluate the proposition “the concept A does not refer to X”. But we are not directly aware of all existents that a concept refers to, nor are we directly aware of all existents that are not instances of that concept. Regarding your final conclusion, is your point that we are not aware of all referents (are not omniscient)? If not, I don’t see wherein lies the problem with evaluating the denial of a proposition.
  32. 1 point
    (Definion 2)The concept of "anti-reference" refers to all pairs <C,r'> such that C is a concept with at least one non-referent, and r' is not a referent of C. The anti-referent(s) of the concept "anti-reference" are all concepts C with their referents r. Anti-reference applied to itself is a double negative, so non-non r is simply r. The anti-referent of the concept "anti-reference" is the concept "reference" by definition 1. "Reference" refers to itself without contradiction.
  33. 1 point
    . Audio recordings of Ayn Rand's Ford Hall Lectures, nearly all, are available for free listening at the ARI website: https://ari.aynrand.org/issues/government-and-business/more#filter-bar
  34. 1 point
    I would concur, a principle(s) precede ethics. I would not consider a principle a concept, rather I would consider a principle a proposition. I would apply 'valid' or 'invalid' to concepts. I would apply 'true' or 'false' to principles. The three Objectivist primary axioms are tautologies, converting them essentially into axiomatic principles. All truths depend on the validity/invalidity of the concepts involved which invoke said principle. As to fundamental, primary or general truths: I tend to hold that to the propositions as asserted; i.e.; are the propositions true based on the validity of the concepts invoked to assert them.
  35. 1 point

    Objective Reality

    He is attacking a strawman. An Objectivist would not answer "yes" to the second set of questions. It's not that it is "impossible" to prove an objective reality - it is that it is *nonsensical* to even consider such a feat, let alone to believe it to be a necessary requirement for truth and certainty. The idea of "proof" assumes an objective reality that can be known and understood. His argument against objective reality consists of words. Those words refer to concepts, which have as their ultimate referents objects in reality. Any statement claiming to refute objective reality must necessarily utilize and assume objective reality. The moment he opens his mouth and utters a word, or types a word on a keyboard, in order to communicate a meaningful statement to you, he assumes an objective reality that can be known and understood.
  36. 1 point
    Well the argument for freely available food, shelter, medical care etc. is that it furthers wellbeing. At some point you realize that nothing is freely available.
  37. 1 point

    Japanese Internment

    Ayn Rand's essay, "The Ethics of Emergencies" in The Virtue of Selfishness, is particularly good concerning situations such as this.
  38. 0 points
    Yes...now it's in the news...so lawmakers are going to actually pay attention to what's in it, before voting on it.
  39. 0 points
    For those who might read the thread later, I'm posting this thread shortly after the Vegas mass shooting in October, 2017. Every media analyst in the western world is searching for the shooter's "motives", and looking for them everywhere, except on their own news channels, and the front page of their own news sites or papers. That's your motive: the world's attention is focused on this dull, unimportant idiot who could've never commanded attention any other way except through the most unimaginative, copycat act of murder in the history of crime. Sorry to the victims, it's a tragedy for them and their friends and families, but, as far as everyone else is concerned, nothing notable happened in Vegas. Some people were killed by some moron. No special achievement, no special misfortune in the overall scheme of things. Just some personal tragedies. They happen. To everybody, eventually. And covering it as if it's the most important event in the world, for the next week, will benefit no one. Especially not the victims, or the victims of future copycats. If it was at least interesting, like Ted Bundy going on a seduction/torture/murder/necrophilia spree, or Charlie Manson and his exploits, then there would be some reason for the coverage. It would still be despicably exploitative, but it would be a reason: it would be telling the audience something they've never heard of before. There's no reason for covering these mass shootings to this extent. They're not interesting, they're not even frightening (at least not to anyone with an ability to evaluate the danger rationally), it's just the same coverage, every single time some loser does the same exact thing (knowing that that's what it takes to get into the headlines).
  40. 0 points

    "Emergence" succinctly

    Louie, do you honestly think that anything in that quote supports the ridiculous notion that entities are epistemological? Everything I'm saying is about the claim that boundaries would disappear if all consciousness was gone being a failure to grasp what she meant by "objective rules and facts."