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About Mushroom

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  • Birthday 05/10/1990

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    Just graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry and Philosophy. Am in the process of applying to Med School and Grad School. Working on 2 novels, hopefully both will be finished by next summer.
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    I'd consider myself a longtime admirer of Objectivism, and I know quite a lot about the subject and philosophy in general. I am hesitant to call myself an Objectivist, as I hold possibly contrary views in some areas of philosophy, specifically philosophy of science. I'll need to find out more - but until then I wouldn't feel quite comfortable in labeling myself an Objectivist.
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    University of Utah
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    Lots of working around a wastewater company.

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  1. I agree. Possibly a narrative could be devised that would explain history in terms of both economic environment and ideas - although, I admit, I see no real reason for such a narrative.
  2. Sorry, I'm not very good at keeping up - I was at a mine for three months and didn't have reliable internet access. I like Plasmatic's answer / rephrasing of the question to its essentials. The first aspect of the debate isn't quite as interesting to me - while it's certainly important, most scientists are able to communicate effectively enough to get work done.
  3. Hi there, On a practical level, I think that a form of Marxism, or almost any other political ideology, could coexist within an Objectivist society. Communes or pockets of individuals could voluntarily put into practice any miniature form of government they would wish. The only caveat would be that they wouldn't have the power to initiate force to compel those within the commune to comply. I've actually used this in an argument where someone explains that they would be happy to pay into a system that does what the U.S. government does. I suggested that, if they so chose, a company could take it upon itself to issue licences, build roads, collect voluntary taxes, provide insurance, etc. It's even possible that communist-like governmental entity is more efficient than the free market (though I doubt it) if this were the case, as long as no rights are violated, most people might even sign up and join their communes. As Penn Jillette says, "Freedom is the freedom to be stupid." If someone wished to practice Marxist ideals while living in a free society, then they should be free to do so. I'd call this a kind of integration, though not a very philosophically interesting one. Another kind of integration/compromise is simply socialism. A third way would be to attempt to use dialectical analysis (or Marx's methods) to explain events using an Objectivist bias. I have no idea how this could be done, but since Marxism is, in part, a method of economic/historical analysis, I guess an Objectivist might be able to explain something with it. I'll admit that I haven't read the entire 8 pages of this discussion, so my response might have already been covered. If so, I apologize.
  4. Hi Strictly Logical, I've read OPAR and quite a few peices of Objectivist literature (although I haven't listened to LP's History of Philosophy.) I'm not sure if there's a problem of rationality or skepticism sneaking into the dialogue. I don't call myself a skeptic, nor do I think the term applies much to my views. Absolutely! However, both realists and anti-realists agree with this statement. The difference of opinion is what this 'knowledge' encompasses. A realist would say that theories are either true or false, while an anti-realist would say that they are useful or not. Both would claim that Newton offered a theory/ explanation of observations aimed at the knowledge of the nature of reality. The realist would say that Newton's theory was false, that Einstein's theories are less false, and that a final "theory of everything" (if one is possible) would be the least false of all. The anti-realist would say that truth and falsity doesn't really apply to Newton's theory (or any theory which can predict something accuratly). All that counts is context and Newtonian mechanics' usefulness. Newton's theories are very useful at describing a ball in flight near the earth's surface. Einstein's theories would give you the same numbers, but would require more work. Since Einstein's theories are more complex, they are less useful to simple thrown ball calculations. Neither theory is more "true," but Einsteins allows a greater number of accurate predictions near large gravitational feilds or at high speeds, so there it is more useful. Eh, I am remembering the joke about the engineer, physicist, and mathematician onboard a train travelling through Scotland. The engineer looks out the window, sees a solitary black sheep, and says, "Ah, I see the sheep in Scotland are black!" The physicist looks out and says, "No, you cannot make that inference. We can only see one sheep, so all we can deduce is that that one sheep is black." The mathematician turns, looks, and says, "Wrong, we can only see half a sheep, so all we can deduce is that there is half a sheep in Scotland and that that half a sheep is black." Sometimes what the "minimal" explanation is is a tricky thing to decide. In broad stroaks, I agree we shouldn't overstate what we know. I guess I don't really understand what you mean by "distinctions based on rationality." Are you saying that if science confined itself to specific contextual statements, the distinction between realist and anti-realist would disappear? I completely agree with this, but I'm not exactly sure whether it answers the realist/anti-realist question. Imagine one has two maps. The first is something like the cliche'd Muppet Treasure Island treasure map. A few poorly sketched landmarks, a compass rose, and a big red "X." The other is a Google style map, with high enough resolution to read bubblegum wrappers littered on the ground. Someone tells you to find the "X." In this case, the Muppet Treasure Island treasure map would be WAY more useful (since the other map doesn't show the big "X") however, in almost every other way, the Google style map would be more useful. Both contain truth, but one is far, far more limited. Both contain approximations/limited data (the Google map couldn't tell you how many bacteria lived on those gum wrappers.) And a more in-depth map might be able to do better than either put together. What a realist would say, as I understand it, is that the Google-style map would be more "true" than the Muppet Treasure Island map, as it is a better representation of reality. But, an anti-realist would say that the Muppet Island map is more useful for finding the "X," but less useful in every other way, though it is just as "truthful" as the Google style one. The maps both gain status as "Knowledge" for finding a landmark, but it would seem that the Google-style map would be garbage in finding the "X" and the Muppet Island map would be garbage in finding any non-marked object/landmark. Maybe a good way of summarizing the debate is: Should a model be classified as "True or False" or should it be classified as "Useful or Not Useful." - The third option, a pragmatist one, is that saying "True or False" is the same as "Useful or Not Useful."
  5. I do think that this is a pretty nutty desire of monsanto. Let's say that I made a company working with humans, where I could cure huntington's disease by inserting a new gene of my own invention. It sure seems like that would be a great thing, and that I should profit from selling this gene to prospective parents, even those who don't have huntingtons. Should I be able to place breeding restrictions on the people who I help by introducing this gene? Obviously not. As the plants themselves are not the property of monsanto, I see no reason to claim that a natural function of the plants (breeding) should be restricted by monsanto. Note: I believe monsanto is actually rendering plants sterile using these genes. While I find this behavior irksome, it should not be illegal. If Monsanto doesn't want the plants reproducing, it's on their shoulders to make sure they can't breed, not the farmers.
  6. I understand where they're coming from, but they're close to false alternatives and might put people on the defensive. Maybe it's just the wording, but "valued as good, or despised as evil" is much less appealing than, "left to his own devises, is man mostly evil or good?" That said, I have a few that I really enjoy (they're also slightly more open ended): What, in a few words, is art? / What is the definition of a work of art? What is the purpose of government? Would you really enjoy eternal life? (If there were a heaven, would you actually enjoy it?) Hmm, I'll need to think of some more. Cool list!
  7. First, I'd say that simply telling someone that they'll change their mind if they're older or more educated is a poor, emotionally based attack. It's a form of ad hominem and I (speaking for myself here, not telling you what to do) would hesitate to call whoever said that to me a friend. That said, I can see that what she said wasn't exactly "you will change your mind" but "you could change your mind" - which is an entirely useless statement because of course everyone could change his or her minds. I get uncomfortable when I haven't changed my mind in a few years about some political, ethical, metaphysical, etc. point. If I'm constantly learning about things, and if new facts are constantly being discovered and learned, then my views should and will change. My most recent changes of viewpoint were on the death penalty which, while moral, I fear is in real danger of killing someone innocent, and the practice of circumcision, which I learned had no real benefits here in the U.S. I've been recommended the book "Human Smoke" which, I'm told, may change my view that WWII was necessary on the U.S.'s part. I'm not sure if it will change my opinion, but it might. I agree pretty much with Crow Epistemologist below. I think that the bottom floor should almost never move. I came from Christianity and it certainly moved my bottom floor to become an atheist. If some sort of god appeared and brought people back from the dead... well I'd have my head checked out, but if I weren't crazy and this had been verified as accurate by reputable atheists, then I'd at least accept the possibility of my bottom floor moving again.
  8. I think it really depends on your motivations for writing. I'm actually working on a novel at the moment, and I have another one shelved. I write because it's ridiculously fun, and since I'm out of school I need something a bit more 'productive' to do in my off hours (taking the place of homework). If you're going for productivity, then I'd recommend number 1 or 2 simply because they'll probably make more of an impact and might be more fun. The 'new atheists' (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) all have similar takes on God/religion. None of them really discuss why supernatural events go against reality - existence is ontologically prior to consciousness (Dawkins comes kind of close, but Sam Harris, in particular, is, I believe, a believer in mysticism.) Well written novels are always fun, so I'd pick whichever one you think you'll enjoy writing more. Guidebooks on grammar and sex are all over the place and most of them have covered the basics. (If you have something really new to say, then ignore my misgivings, but most play on the cliche and obvious, or even spread misinformation.) A defense of Objectivism isn't super necessary, in my opinion. You can, certainly, write one and it might be useful, but Objectivism's greatest detractors are: 1) Objectivists who squabble (open-closed system debate, who can call themselves an 'Objectivist,' whether academic Marxists are 'evil,' etc.) or 2) People who ridicule Rand's ideas without understanding them. While I know they exist, I've never met a person who's read, seriously, Objectivist literature and then proceeds to attack it while fully understanding it. To that end, I think the best 'guidebook' against attack is to understand Objectivism and recommend that people read it/ correct their misunderstandings. What I've learned when discussing Objectivism is to say what you believe, don't try to 'win' the debate. Because of this, I don't really think a 'guidebook' is something I'd use. Maybe you were meaning something closer to a list of concise arguments for a certain position, like the validation of freewill or the senses (instead of a guidebook of "What to do when someone says Ayn Rand believed "X" insane thing"). This I could see, but I'm not sure how it would depart from being a condensed version of OPAR (meaning you could just make a list of the arguments in OPAR/The O'ist Lexicon, list their page numbers to easily reference them, and have your book be less than a page of reference numbers). That said, depending on how it's approached, this one could be really good and interesting. On a side note: Ebooks should be pretty synonymous with books. I know you can self-publish print on demand books through amazon and other places, so I'd do that with your ebook. Likewise, if you go for a novel or some other nonfiction book that you'd like to publish mainstream, then a ebook rights will be in your contract. Did you have something else in mind?
  9. I've been wondering if the 'ethics of emergencies' that Rand outlined apply to governments. Specifically, I'd like to know what everyone thinks of an argument for conscription and statist-style government intervention (rations, embargos, quarantines, etc.) for short duration in times of extreme war or hardship. I know that Rand discusses how morality doesn't apply to these extreme kinds of situations for individuals - you're shipwrecked and need to eat someone to survive, you are in a cave and a fat man's blocking the entrance and the tide is coming in, a runaway trolley is going to hit five innocent people, etc. As I understand it, she believes that morality is in some manner 'suspended' because life isn't livable as a human in emergencies. Can this line of reasoning be extended to include governments? If a war or disease were to break out that was so terrible that the U.S. (or the whole world) was in a 'state of emergency' would government intervention/conscription be taken out of the realm of the moral/political in an analogous manner as individual morality in lifeboat scenarios? That said, I understand that this situation would be very rare. I doubt that the U.S. has faced a war, famine, economic hardship, or disease that would merit conscription or limits on the market, but something like the German invasion of Poland or the Irish potato famine might have been an 'emergency' for the Polish or Irish governments. (These are probably bad example cases, as I know little of the German invasion or potato famine.) I know this has been somewhat addressed in at least these two threads, http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=21926&hl=draft, http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=19362&hl=draft, but I think my question is sufficiently different to have a new thread. Thanks for your thoughts.
  10. Exactly. I might have preferred Rand substitute slightly longer phrasings, like "rational self interest" for selfishness, but yes, she did add clarity at the expense of a few misunderstandings by less careful readers.
  11. Yeah, Ayn Rand does this. She takes common words and uses them to mean something a little different than their common definition. "Selfish" to her means something more like "having a self" or "rational self interest" than the common "stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others" (Source http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Selfishness) Similarly, you'll find that "evil," "sacrifice," "virtue," "value," and other words are very specifically defined in Miss Rand's books. Most of the time, her use of words is close to the common use - virtue and value are pretty close to what the dictionary says. Selfishness and sacrifice are two that almost mean opposite of what most people would assume. I, for one, find altered definitions to be a bit distracting, but it's not uncommon for philosophers or their translators to do it. The best way, I've found, to understand how a philosopher uses words is to try to keep in mind his or her formal definitions when you read a very dense argument. Try mentally substituting their definition for a particular word (Rand is helpful by usually providing a clear definition of any words she is taking in a more rigorous philosophical sense). Usually this makes the arguments a bit clearer.
  12. Like others have mentioned, it depends on why you're donating. If it's because you value society, that you feel it enriches your life and that you think donating to asteroid detection could help prevent its destruction, then it's very moral to donate. In fact, if you felt that your society were threatened (even if you, yourself, were not physically at risk) and you believed that a donation could help alleviate or reduce the threat with a donation, and you felt that society was a value worth pursuing, then it would be less moral to keep your money than to donate it. (I hesitate to say immoral here, although it may well be the case that it'd be immoral.) For example, if we'd been living in a fully capitalist society when 9/11 happened and the President had come on national television and asked for donations to help fund an expanded 'anti-terrorism' branch of the military - one that would aim at the destruction of those responsible and the protection of our rights and lives, I think most (if not all) moral individuals capable of donations would donate. That said, moral individuals would cease donations once they felt that the government had stepped over its bounds or wasted their money. Dependence and backlash from donations can be a negative consequence, but it's not the reason you should or should not donate. Future negative consequences should be given weight to your donations, but they shouldn't stop you if you decide that your values are best upheld by donations now. I, personally, believe that Ayn Rand understated the importance of charity. I agree with her in principle, but I'd argue that charity serves a great deal of moral (selfish) ends. One reason to donate to charity is that it makes a strong statement. When you donate, you show how inefficient government welfare is. Put another way, I think that the argument for state welfare would be stronger if no one ever donated to charity or helped out others willingly. If we removed government handouts and even a small number of American citizens began dying of starvation, I'd imagine almost anyone would begin to think a 'safety net' was a good idea. However, people do donate to charity, so even the potential argument of the necessity of forced charity is diffused. (Although that doesn't stop many people from making it.)
  13. Well, that's good. I'm not a big fan of biological essentialism. I think when I do a bit more research I'll start a thread on it. While I agree that Objectivism probably won't support biological essentialism, I have some questions about how we should Identify species concepts. (The one that Rand uses for "Man" and "Dog" is near usless to modern biology, so I'd like to know what the 'concepts' of biology relating to how we classify organisms are. No, I haven't read that book. I'll need to check it out. Sounds like something that'd answer a lot of my questions! Huh. I'm not exactly sure what you mean that you believe in evolutionary psychology. I mean, I know what the field is and I've read some stuff from Pinker, Dawkins, etc. But I'm with a lot of people who think that it's a neat subject... but it's not really science or philosophy, it's mostly a collection of "just-so" stories that people make up to justify behavior/findings. (I.e. "I jump when dark irregular spots move on the ground next to me because I think it is a spider" -> "My ancestors would have had a survival advantage if they jumped when dark spots moved on the ground next to them." As I understand it, most arguments for Evolutionary Psychology as a predictive/explanatory philosophy/science rely on some form of mind modularity. I'm not sure if Rand supported a modular mind. Certainly it is consistent with Objectivism to say that humans evolved, so their minds must have evolved, but EP goes a bit beyond that. It might have, although I'm not super concerned with EP at the moment. I view it as more of an interesting thought experiment that might provide some neat insight, but mostly provides 'feel good' answers that seem to be true, but have no evidence. Oh. I'm actually kind of interested in the Objectivists that misunderstand her solution. What you said was in line with my understanding (I think). I've always thought of it as it making all moral imperatives (if I can borrow from Kant's lingo) "Hypothetical" rather than "Categorical" - "IF I want to live, THEN I must do X, Y, Z, and everything they entail." While I understand this isn't QUITE what Rand said, it's a kind of shorthand I go to. I understand that Rand ties it to man's "nature" and maybe that's a bit of a thing I'm having trouble with and something I need to sort out. Hopefully, the biological essentialism discussion will help. And I think this might be part of my confusion. I believe that she showed it was grounded in 'man qua man' - which means 'man qua rational animal' (not that I'm trying to substitute the definition for the existent). That's the part that trips me up a bit. I accept that man has a rational faculty and that it is his basic method of survival. A hangup (that occurred to me while reading your post) is that Rand / Peikoff say something along the lines of: Man can't survive by acting like an animal, eating raw meat, grazing, etc. therefore he must use reason. Since 'Man' has no essence, then my worry is about the possibility of a rational animal that has ONE OF its methods of survival as reason, but not the only one. What if, say, we found an 'alien' species that was equipped with claws and fangs and thick gut linings to digest unprocessed food, but also with large prefrontal cortexes that allowed them to travel. Or what if we genetically engineered a human to have said other survival mechanisms. What if we put enough chlorophyll in a membranous tissue that man could survive by simply sitting and letting the sun hit him. So I need to reread some stuff. Thanks. To be perfectly honest, I have little love for Miss Rand as a person. I agree with her philosophy (excluding, as you say, a few smaller areas that I haven't finished investigating) - but I think she presented it in a very unflattering light, and went about spreading her message in the wrong way. (I personally see the evidence that she's been assimilated by the Republicans as evidence of this.) She was unabashedly hostile to philosophers who she didn't take enough time to understand. I've heard TONS of arguments against her. Almost none of them deal with her philosophy as such, but take personal shots. I'm, frankly, irritated to keep hearing people say that Rand's work reads like a sophomoric paper. My irritation is partly because I agree with them and wish that she'd written her nonfiction like philosophical nonfiction, and not like a speech that Galt or Roark might make.
  14. Yes, thank you. Objectivists (and myself) don't believe in metaphysical essences as essences are chosen contextually. I was simply using the 'essence' thing to denote a theory some hold. Although, I think that most Objectivists would regard the boiling point of water as a nonessential feature of water. (Actually, now that I'm thinking about it.. there probably isn't anyone who'd regard 212 F boiling point as the essence of water, since most metaphysical essentialists would regard its chemical formula/structure as its essence.) This and our ability to count a woman's teeth.
  15. Thanks Grames! That book looks pretty interesting. I recently read "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss. Is this book similar, or is it of a more technical variety? Ever since the Krauss book I've been wanting to get my hands on more layman explanation level physics books.
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