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William O

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Everything posted by William O

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. What is your evidence for this?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. I think the main thing is just getting the word out about Objectivism to a wider audience. I understand wanting some means other than persuasion to deal with an irrational opponent, but if we are talking about having an impact on the culture, we are talking about mass communication, not about individual rational or irrational people. People have a variety of beliefs and values, so any communication that is heard by a large enough number of people will get some people interested. For illustration, suppose you had a pro-Objectivist message that was heard by ten million people. Even if only one in a hundred people got interested in Objectivism due to the message, that's 100,000 people, which is equal to the entire current population of Objectivists by Yaron Brook's estimate. That would definitely have an impact on the culture. So, I don't think we need "radical action," we just need to keep stating our case clearly to the widest possible audience.
  12. You can't really "live" off of theft, because it's a fairly unprofitable activity - most thieves only steal during a passing phase in adolescence. It is also a misdemeanor, so law enforcement has little incentive to spend significant resources investigating it. If you commit a more serious crime like murder, rape, or burglary, it will be harder to avoid detection. There is a principle in forensics called Locard's Principle, which says that there is physical evidence of every crime. The criminal will always leave something at the crime scene, like a footprint or bit of hair, and they will always take something from the crime scene. Every criminal thinks they won't get caught, but it only takes one fingerprint to put you away for life.
  13. In my experience, pick up artists are usually determinists who think you can get any woman to sleep with you by making the right noises at them. (I'm exaggerating, but only barely.)
  14. This part of your post, at least, is concerned with the problem of borderline cases, which Rand solved by arguing that essences are epistemological. You may be interested in the relevant section in OPAR, if you haven't read it already.
  15. This is accurate, although it is odd to say that tabula rasa "fits well enough" since it is literally her position, as she repeated countless times. This is a very dangerous way of explaining Objectivism. Aristotle and Aquinas held that essences were intrinsic in things, metaphysically, whereas Rand held that they were epistemological. This is a critical difference between Objectivism and Aristotelianism and absolutely has to be included in any comparison of the two philosophies. Also, you say "it is a strange way of thinking to us nowadays," implying that you disagree. Can you explain why? I've never seen an Objectivist point and laugh at someone for not understanding the Objectivist view on essences. I have also never seen an Objectivist make quite this claim about grasping essences and natures - do you have a source? This isn't a particularly accurate presentation of the Objectivist argument for egoism, which is not directly connected to the Objectivist view on essences. Where did you get this idea? To my knowledge, Rand never claimed that intellectually lazy people lose their free will.
  16. The purpose of this thread is to discuss methods of presenting or arguing for Objectivism that posters have found effective. I don't know if I've ever converted anyone to Objectivism, but one thing that I've found effective in online discussions is posting relevant Ayn Rand quotes. Rand was very good at compressing her ideas into easily digestible snippets, so quotes from her work can be a powerful way of getting people interested in her philosophy. The only Objectivist book focusing on rhetoric that I know of is Peikoff's Objective Communication, and I think Mrs. Speicher's book spends some time discussing the "ask and listen" method where you try to find out the other person's concerns before presenting your own position. If anyone knows of other Objectivist work on rhetoric then I would be interested in hearing about it.
  17. Sorry, I was thinking of Marco Rubio. That is not the video.
  18. I'm surprised a campaigning presidential candidate would say that. Do you have a source? I've seen a video where Cruz responded to a similar question, and he didn't say outright that an atheist shouldn't vote for him in that particular video. However, he did dodge the question and use it as an opportunity to pander to his Christian voter base about how atheists should hope their president has Christian values. Is that what you're referring to?
  19. The objection you gave to determinism is a reductio starting from the assumption that determinism is true ("if determinism is true, then you don't know that determinism is true"). However, since all knowledge comes from observation, a reductio by itself cannot establish that free will exists in the absence of observations supporting free will's existence. It only establishes that you have to start with free will, not that we have free will. I would argue that this is a bit of a moot point since there are so many observations supporting the existence of free will, as Rand pointed out in the quote I gave in my previous post. However, it is important to keep the proper hierarchy in mind so that you avoid rationalism.
  20. That proves that free will is an axiom, not that we have free will. The proof that we have free will is introspection and observation of other people: "Free will is self evident through observation. Further, it can be demonstrated by as many arguments as you care to muster. Everything you observe about human consciousness tells you that it operates by choice: not only your introspection, but also your observation of other people." (from Ayn Rand Answers, p. 152)
  21. I suppose the answer to that would have to be "no" by the nature of the accusation.
  22. What was the "super-integration" view that he abandoned? (For accuracy, please stay as close to his actual statement as possible in your explanation.)
  23. Okay, that sounds fair. I would like to see those other criticisms at some point, though.
  24. Right, I don't regard Rand's claims about the history of philosophy as proof, nor Peikoff's, etc. I don't think other people should do so either, unless they have verified the claims themselves. The claim was not that Rand's claims about the history of philosophy do not amount to proof, the claim was that a specific, detailed interpretation of Kant's ethics is correct. My background knowledge about Kant doesn't indicate that Smith's interpretation is correct, so I'm skeptical of his interpretation. The standard I accept, which is the same one I use everywhere, is the author's credentials and reputation among relevant scholars in the academic community. If they don't have those credentials, then I don't regard their work as proof, although it can be the starting point for research that may lead to my acquiring proof of their claims. I do not claim be able to disprove his interpretation, so I have no reason to debate him.
  25. Jonathan, would you mind listing your main points of disagreement with Objectivism? Your position is that Objectivism contains a number of errors, so the conversation would probably be clearer if we had a list of at least, say, your top five or ten disagreements.