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William O

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  1. You think Nietzsche was more Aristotelian than not? That needs defending, I think. I agree that Stoicism is useful, although of course you have to approach it critically.
  2. I haven't studied On Certainty that carefully, but this was not the impression I got from it at all. From what I understood, Wittgenstein was basically advocating a form of skepticism where you have a "world picture" that you arrive at uncritically and do not have evidence for, but which is so fundamental that you cannot coherently doubt it. That might sound vaguely like the Objectivist concept of contextual certainty, but it is actually a completely different approach.
  3. I note that this fits well with Rand's view that a philosophy is a record of the philosopher's psycho-epistemology. Can you give some examples of Campbell's insights?
  4. I've been interested in Hume for a long time. He writes clearly, and he has a knack for finding strong, clear arguments for his positions, whether you agree with him or not. His system is also remarkably well integrated, and on many specific points he is correct (for example, his work on the epistemology of testimony).
  5. There is a non sequitur in the second part of this that no one has pointed out. Your argument goes like this: Man's life is the central purpose of a moral person's life. Pursuing life extension is the best way for everyone to achieve man's life. Therefore, everyone should pursue life extension. The non sequitur comes in in the second premise. The best way for most people to pursue man's life is to focus on being productive and earning money in some legitimate fashion to keep themselves alive, as well as pursuing appropriate relationships with other people. Life extension research that may or may not even pan out is a distant second to paying bills and other concrete, practical concerns. I don't disagree that life extension research is a good thing and might be something useful to come around to once everything else has been taken care of, but it is simply wrong to say that it should be the central purpose of everyone's life.
  6. What is a computer program? If you look inside a computer all you will see is a bunch of charged and uncharged circuits. Where is this "program" you are talking about? A computer program is usually defined as a set of instructions. Since a set is a mental collection of things, this implies that a conscious mind has grouped the instructions together. Without a conscious observer that is capable of reasoning (i.e., free will), there is no computer program, just bits. For that matter, I've noticed that a general picture of the program usually exists in my mind before I even begin programming. The process of creating the program usually consists of breaking this picture down into parts, and then breaking each part down into the syntax of the language I am using.
  7. I've said this before, but it didn't really get addressed. When someone is subjected to the kind of prolonged, severe pain we are discussing in this thread, their mind gradually turns into a kind of funhouse mirror. This isn't speculation, you can study any number of examples of people who have been brutally tortured, raped, assaulted, etc. Severe stress is inconsistent with rationality, because it directly undermines a person's capacity to think rationally on the physical level.
  8. It makes sense to do this when one wants a post to get more attention than it would if it was buried deep in another thread.
  9. There is a passage in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables about the battle of Waterloo that might be relevant here. Hugo describes the end of the battle, when the French forces are fleeing in panic, and only a few columns of elite, well disciplined soldiers remain in order to cover their retreat. They are constantly getting whittled down by enemy fire, but they keep fighting until there are only a handful of them left and they are all out of ammunition. The English cannons are loaded and ready to wipe them out, but the English soldiers are impressed by their bravery and offer them an opportunity to surrender; their leader just yells back "Merde!" Hugo argues that these are real winners of the Battle of Waterloo.
  10. Sometimes belief in God is dishonest, but not always. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Rand's favorite philosophers, both believed in God. Ayn Rand herself believed in God when she was young, as did Leonard Peikoff, who is the most prominent Objectivist philosopher alive today. When we reject belief in God, I think we are the beneficiaries of advancements in science and philosophy from over the past few hundred years that not everyone has fully grasped the ramifications of yet. It's not necessarily immoral if you can't see the flaw in the cosmological argument without help from the great philosophers of the past, any more than it's immoral to miss an error in a fallacious mathematical proof. Basically, your position amounts to the claim that every invalid concept is an inherently dishonest idea (to use Leonard Peikoff's term). That's just not true. But you are equating a logical mistake, forming an invalid concept, with deliberate dishonesty. They are not the same. They are irrational in the sense that they are using an invalid concept, and that there is a breach between their reasoning and the facts. That doesn't mean they are irrational in the sense of being immoral or dishonest - although, in some cases, they are.
  11. I don't agree with this account of the Objectivist ethics. It is a good piece of advice, epistemologically, but I don't think it is the basis for the distinction between morality and immorality, because you can unintentionally form invalid concepts. For example, many people who believe in God are basically honest, even though God is an invalid concept. I continue to find invalid and unexamined assumptions in my thinking on occasion, even years after learning of Objectivism. I'm not saying this is irrelevant to morality, it's just a really demanding standard to set. Almost everyone has some invalid concepts at work in their thinking.
  12. I think it's easier to say that suicide is always wrong when you are not in terrible pain. This is one of my issues with Stoicism - the Stoic implicitly argues "I can practice virtue now, so I could practice virtue under any circumstances, even in terrible pain." In practice, this is not the case, because there is no mind body dichotomy. When the body is subjected to terrible pain over a long period of time, the mind is unable to continue to function rationally and gradually becomes more and more detached from reality.
  13. What is your evidence for this?
  14. That has been my experience as well. Probably it would do a lot of good to simply clear up all of the major misconceptions about Objectivism, even before getting to the substantial philosophical arguments.
  15. Which Republicans are you referring to? I doubt that the typical Republican has any real interest in politics or understanding of Obama's worldview. Most people are registered to some political party or other, but that doesn't mean they have a coherent ideology that is consistent with their party's platform. I doubt that most people know what Objectivism says, although they may have heard of it or Ayn Rand at some point. The way to settle this would be to do a study on people's knowledge of Objectivism - I wonder if anything like that has been attempted. At any rate, we do have studies showing that mass communication has a significant influence on public opinion. For example, a politician who starts advertising more loudly will start doing better in the polls. Another issue is that media coverage has a very strong influence on what people will think about. It doesn't force people to draw one conclusion rather than another, but it does cause them to think about one issue rather than another. If Objectivism started getting more coverage in the media, then people would certainly be talking about it more.