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epistemologue

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  1. I was curious if anyone else has read this book by Scott Ryan. I am still only on Chapter 1, but I think the author has a lot of clear insights that I haven't read anywhere else. The argument in Chapter 1 is that she missed the "problem of universals" entirely - which is properly a *metaphysical* question, not an epistemological one. Personally I've always thought it was odd that she began the book stating that it was all about the problem of universals, but the word "universal" is not defined, nor is it ever actually substantively used again at all throughout the rest of the book. Instead she talks about epistemological "abstractions". She seems to dismiss and avoid the metaphysical issue entirely. The only thing she mentions is that Plato and Aristotle (and intrinsicists in general) are wrong, that universals do not exist on the metaphysical level. But her only argument is that such universals could not be "perceived" directly, by no means - which is not a necessary feature of intrinsicist metaphysics. And her entire epistemology seems to be aimed at the idea of creating abstract concepts which themselves have both universality and correspondence with reality. If there are no such metaphysically real universals, then to what would these correspond, what meaning or use could they possibly have? The typical nominalist who denies intrinisicist metaphysics doesn't try to steal a notion of universal "concepts" like this, they will openly admit that concepts refer to a collection of concretes and have strictly pragmatic value (and are not any kind of universal abstractions which correspond with reality). Available on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Objectivism-Corruption-Rationality-Critique-Epistemology/dp/0595267335 Available in pdf here: http://www.scholardarity.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Objectivism-and-the-Corruption-of-Rationality-Scott-Ryan.pdf
  2. The normal, dictionary definition of "taxation" is "the practice of a government collecting money from its citizens to pay for public services." "compulsory" is not in the definition. There's absolutely no necessity for it to be compulsory, in fact it should not be, as that contradicts the entire concept of a government based on the consent of the governed. Taxation is, properly, a contractual payment due. A proper government should have an explicit contract with its citizens, and allow them to leave the contract at any time. In the case of a rights-respecting government, the payment that is "demanded" by the government is demanded contractually. The contract between citizens and government is special for a lot of reasons, that's why we have a special word for the collecting of funds. The term only applies to the funds collected by the government from its citizens, and can only take a certain form. Donations or lotteries are not a tax, and it's not just a generic "fee" of any kind. Taxation is legally defined policy of government funding that you agree to pay on an ongoing basis. Of course a voluntary contract can be revoked at any time, when the citizen terminates their agreement with the government that's called renouncing one's citizenship, and no further taxes are due. "citizenship" is a term indicating the special relationship between the citizen and the government, which properly should be a voluntary one, based on contract. It is not an arbitrary designation. In the US you are opted-in automatically by birth, and there are fees and restrictions associated with renouncing one's citizenship. I disagree with these policies, I think they are improper, and to some extent definitely unjust. Citizenship should be a written contract that every individual has to qualify for and agree to in writing, and someone should be able to leave at any time without onerous fees or restrictions. But that doesn't change the fact that the US is essentially a government based on the consent of the governed, despite its flaws. One can condemn the individual instances of injustice and work to resolve any ongoing issues within the system without having to "surmise that America is currently in a state of anarchy", or "dedicate one's life to abolishing our wicked 'government' and to exposing those Satanic politicians". In summary, compulsion is not essential to the definition of taxation; there can be such a thing as a government based on the consent of the governed, where citizens are citizens of the government by voluntary, contractual agreement, and the taxes that the government levies (and the penalties applied for not paying them), are agreed to in advance by the citizen, who can terminate the contract at any time. Taxation is not theft, it is consensual. If Netflix is charging your credit card every month and you want them to stop, you can't just declare "I don't consent!", you have to actually go in and unsubscribe. Netflix will stop charging your credit card, and you will no longer be a member who has access to their services. The same principle applies here. If you don't want to pay taxes then renounce your citizenship, and you will no longer be protected by the government. Nobody is forcing you to be a citizen.
  3. Man's life is the standard of moral value, and his own life is his moral purpose. So morally speaking, choosing to live is the most basic moral choice, that is the most basic thing that you should do. Anyone who chooses not to is abdicating their moral values, and contradicting their moral purpose.
  4. Same goes for Kevin. There are things that objectively are meaningful to him, regardless of whether he has happened to find that meaning yet or not.
  5. Whether or not it's a value to him is not ultimately hypothetical. Either it is or it isn't, regardless of whether he has yet to actually taste it or not. The facts of reality are one way or the other to begin with. John's nature and the nature of reality and the nature of chocolate are what they are, regardless of John's state of knowledge on any of these issues.
  6. "Kantianism follows the ethics of rational yet subjective altruism to the point of forcing others (even violently) to heed one’s ‘social’ will (especially of those in power) as if it were universal law." "Kant seems to know minds better than people, thus allowing people who, he thinks, don't know their minds as well or well enough be forced to follow minds in power who know what the minds subservient to duty need to practice." I also think these are odd claims, especially given what you yourself just quoted him saying about dignity and being subject only to the law one writes one's self: "the idea of the dignity of a rational being, who obeys no law other than that which he himself at the same time gives" How can he be accused of advocating forcing others when he describes morality originating from the dignity of a person, meaning their freedom to choose based on reason? How can he be accused of replacing "social will" with universal law, when he describes how one ought to obey no law other than that which he *himself* gives?
  7. I'm not sure I agree on the point about general vs. specific. If Kant's position on metaphysics is that it's unknowable / pure subjectivism, then that's a really strong position, whereas Rand leaves metaphysical questions open. Her philosophy is more of a "method" than a metaphysically grounded philosophical system.
  8. Just because someone professes that they do not find meaning in life doesn't mean that there *isn't any*. They might not even implicitly believe that or act on that premise, even if they profess it. Whatever theories someone has or doesn't have about the meaning of life doesn't change the objective facts about whether such a thing exists or not. Just because for life to have meaning it has to have meaning FOR YOU - doesn't mean it's existence *depends* on you. Just because only people hold things as having meaning doesn't mean that there isn't an objective fact, discoverable in reality, about what does or does not really have meaning. You could simply be mistaken about the issue, thinking it's one way when it's really the other. People can argue that life has no meaning, they can argue it's rational to believe life has no meaning, they can argue that the entire concept is irrational. But their arguments can just be *wrong*. Meaning does *not* presuppose that some person just happens to be holding that something has meaning to or for them. Just because nobody happens to be holding that something is meaningful, doesn't mean that it's just *not* meaningful, it's objective meaning could just not be known.
  9. Or maybe run this theory by his parents, I bet they would have some input
  10. This is a good point (though perhaps not applicable to the OP)... it's really pathological to question whether something is rational *just because you are interested in it*. If you like something, that is positive evidence that it *is* rational, all other things being equal. Pleasure is not the result of sin, it is a result of virtue. It's not a cost, it's an end in itself. If you like something, that is not a signal that you should stop and carefully think about it. The natural inclinations and innate desires in human nature are not rigged against your rational self-interest. There is no original sin in Objectivism. If you have some reason to question whether something is rational or right, then by all means stop and be careful. But *just being interested in something*, just *liking* something, is *not* a reason to question whether it's rational or right.
  11. So do you hold that there is no objective meaning that we can aim for or measure ourselves against? Isn't that pure subjectivism?
  12. You don't seem to be able to say categorically that life does have meaning. Is that stepping too far out on a limb for you? Do you think you might be in error? This is just an odd sort of "neutrality" to me, what would the risk be if you were wrong? Being "wrong" about life having meaning, means that there is no meaning - including in that conclusion. It's a self-contradictory thing. If you can start from the premise that life *does* have meaning, then if you don't know what it is, or find yourself being led to the opposite conclusion, then you know something is wrong, that there is a contradiction. So yes, it is rational to find meaning in life. And some things *are* necessarily a value to anyone who cares about rationality and meaning in life because of who we are, because of what human nature is, man qua man.
  13. Someone asked: "is determinism (or causation, I may be mixing the two up if they're different) not the way all logic and science works when talking about anything? ... studies that seem to indicate that free will may be more of an illusion" The reductionist materialism of the "scientific worldview", does embrace determinism and the idea that free will is an illusion. Logic does not dictate this, though, actually the reductionist worldview is incoherent. Without free will, morality or ethics would be a meaningless science, people will act strictly according to prior causes, and can't change their behavior based on a morality. So there would be no "good" or "bad", no right or wrong, no justice, nothing. These terms would be essentially meaningless. If behavior is determined, then what people do, just *is* what they do, there's no alternative to compare it against, it wasn't right or wrong, or better or worse, it just *happened*. Worse than that, if reductionism is true, then all that exists in a metaphysically basic sense are millions of identical particles, behaving according to simple mathematical rules, a la Conway's game of life. There is no real line you can draw around one group of particles and think of it as a person, that would be a purely subjective choice that doesn't actually mean anything in reality. The things that you think you see around you aren't real. There are no men or women, there isn't even a self. Furthermore, statements or propositions you make don't have any meaning in the sense of true or false either since the concepts that make them up don't mean anything, and therefore neither does logic hold. So in this materialist worldview there is no justice, no morality, no truth or reason or logic, or even self. These concepts are all contradicted by the nature of reality. They are essentially meaningless and impossible. Yet despite all of this, they will still continue to speak as if these were true. They will talk about what you ought to do for your well-being, how you should be rational, use reason, seek truth, be logical, and speak as if people are real, that things around them are real, that they matter, and that there is meaning in life. All of this is contradicted by their own philosophy, and so they are being incoherent, and engaging wholesale in the fallacy of the stolen concept.
  14. @StrictlyLogical - is your argument that this is necessarily a value to anyone who cares about rationality and meaning in life, or is your point merely that it's a justifiable optional value?
  15. If I understand correctly, you're saying that in order for the standard of morality to apply to us, we must have reached a certain level of conceptual knowledge and conceptual thought. It's only from there are our choices either morally right or wrong. So we must have already have made certain choices (e.g. to live) prior to any moral context. Right? I don't agree with your premises, but even granting this, is it not the case that, once you've entered the moral context, when confronted with the alternative to live or not, the moral thing to do is to choose to live? Even supposing the choice were necessarily made at a prior time in a pre-moral context in order to even enter the realm of morality, once you're in the moral realm, isn't that all the more reason why the choice is morally obligatory?
  16. This accusation of intrinsicism does not make sense. Life is a value *to me*.
  17. It is a moral choice. See my section above on how "positive values are possible despite suffering". It's a mistake to think that the negative values can "outweigh" the positives, as I explained above. If you make that mistake of thinking that the negative can outweigh the positive then you could lose the desire to live. But that is an error in your reasoning, an irrational mistake. If you choose on the basis of this kind of error, you are choosing wrong - morally wrong, as much as any other immoral sacrifice or compromise that people make because of mistaken beliefs. The reality is that pleasure and pain are independent variables, and just because there is suffering, that does not take away from the positive values that are still possible. This is not a hypothetical "if" they happen to have any positive values - they *do* have positive values, and therefore they *should* pursue them.
  18. How is taxation a violation of rights? You can renounce your citizenship if you don't want to pay taxes anymore. Nobody is forcing you and "violating your rights" in order to make you pay taxes.
  19. Given this ethical foundation, there are a couple of important issues to derive: not only is the choice to live the most basic moral choice that one should make, but the choice to die (suicide), is the most immoral choice that one can make. And further, everyone should strive to live forever, through the pursuit of the scientific advancement of life extension, this should be one's central purpose in life. On suicide: Suicide is immoral Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand": "...reality is the starting point, and one cannot engage in debates about why one should prefer it—to nothing. Nor can one ask for some more basic value the pursuit of which validates the decision to remain in reality. The commitment to remain in the realm of that which *is*, is precisely what cannot be debated; because all debate (and all validation) takes place within that realm and rests on that commitment. About every concrete within the universe and about every human evaluation of these, one can in some context ask questions or demand proofs. In regard to the sum of reality as such, however, there is nothing to do but grasp: it is—and then, if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay."" Peikoff's argument is a proof by contradiction: since you are already pre-committed to remaining in reality in the very act of debating the issue, any conclusion which denies that premise is self-contradictory. Since choosing to die implies a contradiction, it cannot be rationally justified, and therefore cannot be morally justified. No one can exit the realm of morality guiltlessly. Suicide cannot be an "affirmation of life" You cannot affirm your life by destroying it. Choosing to die is not a "pro-life choice", that is absurd. To act on the assumption that happiness is impossible, to act purely for the sake of escaping pain - so far from being an affirmation of what life ought to be, it would be a declaration that suffering *is* important and that it *does* matter. You are *rejecting* the belief that suffering is unimportant, and is only to be fought and thrown aside, and not accepted as a meaningful part of one's view of existence. It would not be an affirmation of a happy life - that would be in fact be the most damning *denial* that you could make. In such a tragic situation where happiness seems impossible, the way to affirm your life is to continue to seek your happiness *despite* the tragedy and hopelessness of the situation. To affirm life, even amidst the worst possible torture, is to bow one's head in a silent "amen" to life, amounting to the words: "This is where I shall stay to fight. Suffering does not matter. I exist for the sake of achieving values, and suicide is not going to serve that quest." Reducing suffering is a means to an end There is always room for rational risk-taking as a means to pursue one's values, even significant risks. Risking one's life in a military context, for example, is the *defense* of one's life, it is the *pursuit* of life and the *pursuit* of happiness. It's exactly the opposite of making a deliberate choice to die. An *irrational* risk is a tradeoff in which the reward, in terms of one's life and happiness, is less than what one is risking. In the case of suicide, one is *sacrificing* one's life and happiness entirely - there is no tradeoff at all there! A soldier is risking his life for the sake of his quest to pursue life and happiness. Suicide does not serve such a quest. And this is not to say that pain is a good thing, either; pain is a miserable evil that ought to be fought. Pain and suffering are a terrible affliction, and if someone you loved were suffering, you would want to do everything you can to help them find relief. People should be given as much pain medication as they want; it's not the government's job to prescribe how much pain medication a person gets to have. Even if they want to risk their life with a dangerously high dosage, it can be worth it to them. Pain interferes with our thinking, our values, and our actions. A person in tremendous pain can and sometimes should take a dangerous risk with pain medications in order to bring themselves to a more functional level, and it would be right to help them. There is always room for rational risk-taking, even significant risks like in military contexts, or in this case taking high doses of pain medication. There's a risk there, but it's for the sake of a reward, it's ultimately for the sake of life and happiness. The only issue with eliminating suffering is when it goes past the point of absurdity: where you're sacrificing your ultimate value - your life - for a lesser value, the relief of suffering. This is not a moral choice. Reducing suffering is only a means to a higher end: your life and your happiness. The ultimate standard: pursuing happiness vs. escaping pain The *ultimate* value and the *ultimate* purpose in ethics - the ultimate one, to which all others are means - is one's life and happiness. Reducing suffering is a means to life and happiness, reducing suffering is not an end in itself. It's a matter of choice whether we want to give more importance to the positives that are available to us at any time, or to the negatives that we are suffering. When a person commits suicide, they are choosing to value the importance of avoiding the negatives as higher than the pursuit of the positives. To reify pain, to make pain your ultimate standard, and to choose to die to avoid pain, rather than to choose to live and to pursue happiness, directly contradicts the ultimate standard of moral values. We ought to live for the sake of pursuing the positives, not for the sake of avoiding the negatives. Suffering ought not matter, down to a certain point yes, but not ultimately. You should never sacrifice your life and your pursuit of happiness for any reason, any suffering is worth enduring compared to that. Suicide is a bad trade. It's a sacrifice of your highest value, your life, for nothing in return but the mere relief of suffering. It's not worth it. It's not moral, and it's not rational. Suicide is not an expression of "love of life", it's an expression of a hatred of suffering. It's okay to hate suffering, but that is not the ultimate value. Hatred of suffering is trumped by something even more basic: a love of living. Positive values are possible despite suffering The purpose of enduring pain is for the sake of *joy* - it's not for "no end whatever", it's not the "mere continuation in hopeless agony". In psychology there is a concept known as "resilience". Resilience is the ability to adjust your expectations and your goals according to your circumstances - even in the face of a dramatic change of your circumstances, as in the case of devastating loss or extreme suffering. It's the ability to stay optimistic and look on the positive side - to seek and to find good things that are within your range. Consider the findings of a recent study: "Locked-in patients trapped inside their paralysed bodies have told doctors they are ‘happy’ using an astonishing new brain computer interface which deciphers their thoughts... On seven out of 10 occasions the patients said they were happy despite their utterly debilitating condition". Or consider the case of Christopher Reeves as Louie describes: "If you give up life because you were once a famous actor and are now a quadripalegic is plainly cowardly and foolish. Christopher Reeves still led a worthwhile life. To give up as soon as life is a bit tough or needing to alter what -usually- makes you happiest. Changing course isn't the end." If Reeves committed suicide he would have achieved less than he was capable of - it would have been self-sacrificial. And yet if Reeves held himself to the same standard of being an able-bodied Superman actor, something more than what he was capable of, he would have achieved nothing but failure - and still would not have achieved the things he could, which would be equally self-destructive and self-sacrificial. So the fault you would find with a former athlete or actor, for example, who decides to commit suicide because they can no longer pursue their previous career, is that they lack *resilience* (incidentally, watch the movie Me Before You for a dramatization of exactly this issue). Even in pain and suffering you can love life, and realize that it is priceless opportunity that you should get the most out of that you can before it's gone. A quote from Marie Bashkirtseff: "In this depression and dreadful uninterrupted suffering, I don't condemn life. On the contrary, I like it and find it good. Can you believe it? I find everything good and pleasant, even my tears, my grief. I enjoy weeping, I enjoy my despair. I enjoy being exasperated and sad. I feel as if these were so many diversions, and I love life in spite of them all. I want to live on. It would be cruel to have me die when I am so accommodating. I cry, I grieve, and at the same time I am pleased - no, not exactly that - I know not how to express it. But everything in life pleases me. I find everything agreeable, and in the very midst of my prayers for happiness, I find myself happy at being miserable. It is not I who undergo all this - my body weeps and cries; but something inside of me which is above me is glad of it all." Note that she said "I love life in spite of them all" - she loves the *positives* in life *in spite* of the suffering. To quote from Louie: "Other experiences are present despite that pain, and those are valuable to some degree. Better yet, with a proper mindset, that pain diminishes to entirely bearable. As a minor example, my knee hurts a bit if I focus on pain from a minor injury, but it goes to the back of my mind as other experiences matter more and are present as a degree of pleasure. The proper attitude would reduce it to manageable levels; only a real nihilist may say existing at all is an excruciating horror. I'm not saying pain is unreal, or only the fault of bad thinking. The point is that with a good attitude, the pain will be there, but it isn't going to be so bad that life is impossible. Difficult, yes, but people can cope. Attaining and reaching for value is always possible. This may appear awful, terrible, a "clawing for life" perhaps. Here is where I agree with the word "reification", that is, making pain into something more than it is. In fact, the pursuit of life is there, the values are there - life didn't stop. Nothing about her nature as a person ceased." What these people are reporting, and others can personally corroborate, is that pain and pleasure are not mutually exclusive values on a single continuum. One can be in pain, and yet feel pleasure. One can be suffering, but happy. They are independent variables. *Every* positive thing you can experience, from the simplest joy of opening your eyes and enjoying the view, *is* still a positive, despite any level of suffering that's happening at the time. The pain cannot take that positive away. Joy is not "the absence of pain". Such positives do exist for anyone who is conscious at all. As I quoted from Louie, "only a real nihilist may say existing at all is an excruciating horror." You exist for the sake of enjoying those values, and every action you take should be for the sake of that end. There should be no law against it No law should prohibit someone from choosing to commit suicide. Nobody should be "forced to live" against their will. Everyone's individual rights, to be free from compulsion, should be respected by law to the fullest extent in a proper government. On moral condemnation Choosing to commit suicide could be based on an error of knowledge or reasoning, rather than a purely moral failing per se. Someone who committed suicide should not necessarily be condemned as an immoral person.But suicide is a morally wrong choice in principle. There is a fault in the choice to commit suicide, it is a sacrifice of your values. There is a better choice, one that we are free to make, though it may be difficult. We can choose to live. Even if that choice is so much harder, that is the one we ought to take.
  20. bluecherry, I just showed how Peikoff's argument *is* a proof. Since you are already pre-committed to reality in the very act of debating the issue, any conclusion which goes against that is self-contradictory, and therefore cannot be morally or rationally justified. So choosing not to live is immoral, and choosing to live, and all of the moral commitments that come with that choice, is moral. Here's my answer to the "is-ought" problem more generally: moral claims of "you ought to do X" must be claims that you ought to act according to your nature. A claim that you ought to act in contradiction to your nature is self-contradictory: the action contradicts the identity of the subject. For this reason, moral necessity derives not from the alternative of *physical* life or death, as Objectivists try to argue, but from the alternative of *identity or non-identity*. Any action you take has to be consistent with what you are. A human being is a living organism. Life is one of the most fundamental characteristics of human identity, and so the choice to live is one of the most fundamental moral choices.
  21. There's no law against non-citizens owning property.
  22. Louie, since life is the ultimate value, to which all others are means, the choice to commit one's self to that ultimate value is the most basic decision, from which all other moral decisions should follow. Choosing to live is the most fundamental good choice that you can make, choosing not to live is the most fundamental bad choice that you can make. Peikoff's argument *is* a proof. It's a proof by contradiction. Any moral argument you make carries certain presuppositions, that existence exists, that you are alive, that you are capable of making a choice, etc. So you are already pre-committed to reality in the very act of debating the issue, and any conclusion which goes against that is self-contradictory. Where did this commitment originate? Well you were born as a living thing. So for us, it's just metaphysically given, that's what we are.
  23. What are you referring to? People can and do renounce their citizenship peacefully and without trouble all the time. I don't understand why you guys are suggesting that this is impossible or crazy, it's legal and it does happen. The state department even has a website on it: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/renunciation-of-citizenship.html
  24. I'm curious, why do you say this?
  25. ???