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William O

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Everything posted by William O

  1. William O

    About Those 'Floating Abstractions'

    Interesting exchange, thanks.
  2. I find "A is A" helpful as a way of reminding myself to always accept reality, even if it's unpleasant. It helps me get past the feeling of "I wish things weren't this way" and focus on dealing with whatever problem I'm currently having. Good thread, it should be interesting to see people's responses.
  3. I'm not a Kant scholar, but I don't think Kant is making the same argument as Branden in that passage. He's just saying that a rational being has to regard itself as free (i.e., that it's a kind of "category"), not that determinism commits the fallacy of self exclusion. Here's the footnote he uses to explain the point: "I follow this route - that of assuming freedom, sufficiently for our purpose, only as laid down by rational beings merely in idea as a ground for their actions - so that I need not be bound to prove freedom in its theoretical respect as well. For even if the latter is left unsettled, still the same laws hold for a being that cannot act otherwise than under the idea of its own freedom as would bind a being that was actually free." I agree that it's an interesting similarity, though.
  4. Science can't establish that we don't have free will, because determinism is self refuting. If our conclusions were determined by the laws of physics, then we could never say whether or not any of our beliefs were true, only that these were the beliefs that had been forced on us by the relevant physical laws (just as the opposite beliefs had been forced on those who disagree with us by the same laws). But this would also apply to the belief in determinism, rendering it self refuting. I recommend reading Dr. Binswanger's senior thesis, which is available for free online, for an elaboration of this argument. https://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/45195/26114938-MIT.pdf?sequence=2
  5. This is a pretty simple question - did Rand actually say that you should create your own philosophy? If so, where? I've seen Objectivists make the claim, but Google does not turn up a source.
  6. Thanks for the responses.
  7. William O

    Why follow reason?

    To my metaethical ear, this is pretty depraved. It gives moral license to all kinds of wicked behavior, so long as it's what someone really "wants." Your metaethical ear is conditioned by Christianity and Kant. This is just another way of saying "without God, everything is permissible."
  8. William O

    Determinism and free will

    Moral blame has an effect on how we view and treat other people, and it presupposes the existence of free will. If I view a thief as a moral agent who is responsible for his actions, then I will take a harsher view of him than I would if I were a determinist (in which case I would explain his actions based on his genetics and upbringing).
  9. Objectivism affirms the existence of libertarian free will - that is, it affirms that we have free will and that free will is incompatible with determinism. I am curious whether any attempt has been made in the literature to reconcile free will with the laws of physics, particularly the second law of thermodynamics. The only attempt I am aware of is Edwin Locke's very recent book The Illusion of Determinism, which spends one paragraph on the issue. You can assume that I am already familiar with Rand's work, as well as the discussions of free will in OPAR and Binswanger's book How We Know.
  10. My understanding is that the New Humeans read him as a naturalist rather than a skeptic. That is, they think that Hume held that causality is real, and that we know that it is real, but that this knowledge is not based on reason but on another source ("instinct, habit, or custom"). If you're coming at this from an Objectivist point of view then it does sound as though he was a skeptic, because the Objectivist account of knowledge is dependent on reason. It's been a while since I studied Hume, so I could be wrong.
  11. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    You are simply incorrect here. The definitions of determinism and compatibilism are nowhere near as controversial as you suggest. I have given authoritative definitions for these terms previously. Nobody, or almost nobody, takes determinism or compatibilism to include agent causality. A philosopher might distinguish between different types of determinism, but if so he would use appropriate labels, like "logical determinism" or "physical determinism." Determinism simpliciter is not used in a whole bunch of mutually exclusive ways like you're claiming. First of all, Rand was very clear about the fact that she was redefining those terms. From what I've seen, you are content to describe the Objectivist position as "determinist" and "compatibilist" with no further explanation, which is not an objective way of communicating. Someone who reads your posts will come away with the wrong idea about what Objectivism says about free will - that's not really debatable. Second, Rand's goal in redefining those concepts was to clarify their meanings and separate out the respective package deals that they were involved in. The concept of determinism is clear, and there is no package deal involved. I cannot see that your redefinition clarifies Rand's position on free will - as StrictlyLogical points out, I still don't know what your position on free will is, really.
  12. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    The problem is that the terms you and 2046 are using - primarily "determinism" and "compatibilism" - already have perfectly clear meanings in academic philosophy (and even in the Objectivist literature, which to my knowledge always uses them the same way academics do). As they are traditionally defined, neither of those terms are consistent with Objectivism. If you continue to describe Objectivism as a deterministic / compatibilist philosophy, you will mislead and confuse people about what Objectivism says. You claim that there isn't anything else to say and that Objectivism is neither determinist nor non-determinist, but this is simply incorrect. There is something more to say - that Objectivism accepts agent causal free will - and Objectivism is a non-determinist philosophy. If you deny this, I refer you to my previous posts in this thread. "Weak determinism" isn't a term that is used in academia or in the Objectivist literature, to my knowledge.
  13. Thanks, this might be useful. But does he discuss the connection to free will, or is his discussion confined to the science alone? I'm glad someone else has that reaction too. This is basically why I started this thread - to try to find answers to some of those questions.
  14. Here's the paragraph that got me thinking about this: Source: The Illusion of Determinism by Edwin A. Locke, p. 107
  15. I should probably make it clear at this point that I accept the Objectivist account of free will, and that I do not take the laws of physics to refute it. My phrasing might not have been ideal. I might elaborate more on my question tomorrow, when I am not tired.
  16. I'm just asking whether there is literature (books or articles) on a particular topic. I do not claim that physics contradicts the Objectivist view of free will. If there is no such literature then that is fine.
  17. William O

    Avoiding the pitfalls in learning philosophy

    The main piece of advice I would give you is that you need to take notes on anything you want to understand and remember. This opinion is widely shared among people who have studied philosophy formally. If you're just reading for fun then it's fine to not take notes and just enjoy the prose and the ideas, but if you want to remember what you're reading then taking notes is necessary. It's a good idea to start out by reading a book that covers the entire history of Western philosophy. Peikoff's course is enjoyable, but he has a polemical goal in presenting these ideas, so you might not get a sense for why people would accept the ideas that he covers. A couple of more orthodox presentations of the history of philosophy are A History of Western Philosophy by W. T. Jones (Objectivists tend to like this one) and A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny. By contrast, Bertrand Russell's history of philosophy is probably not a great starting point, since he has a reputation for being inaccurate and biased.
  18. From the Guidelines: What kind of post falls under these rules? I've seen fairly rude posts here that weren't moderated.
  19. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    2046 didn't throw out the term determinism, he explicitly said that Rand was a physical determinist and a compatibilist, without explanation. That is not an objective way of communicating, because any reader who is even slightly familiar with the academic debate will take that to mean that Rand does not think we could have chosen to do otherwise than we did in any situation. Heck, I've been reading Objectivist literature on and off for years, and even I took it that way. The position I mentioned wasn't hard determinism, it was just determinism. Hard determinism is determinism plus the assertion that there is no free will, as opposed to compatibilism, which asserts that determinism is true but we have free will anyway.
  20. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    Determinism is precisely the idea that all events are determined in advance (by the past and the laws of nature), as the academic definition I quoted shows.
  21. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    No, Rand is not a compatibilist, because she is not a determinist. If determinism is true, it was in principle completely predictable that you and I would have this exact conversation 1,000,000 years ago, before either of us were born. That is what the proposition "the past and the laws of nature entail what states of affairs will obtain in the future" means in standard academic parlance. The quotes I provided above show that Objectivism denies determinism, and therefore compatibilism.
  22. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    Libertarianism is the thesis that "the actual world is not deterministic and that at least some of the agents in the actual world have free will." Determinism is the thesis that "the past and the laws of nature entail what states of affairs will obtain in the future, and that only those states of affairs entailed by the past and the laws will in fact obtain." Finally, compatibilism is the thesis that "the existence of free will in a possible world is compatible with that world being deterministic." My source for these definitions is the IEP, an academic encyclopedia: http://www.iep.utm.edu/freewill/ What you said was that Rand was a physical determinist, a compatibilist like Hobbes, and rejected libertarian free will. That is incorrect on the standard academic definitions of those three terms, as the quotes I provided in my previous post show.
  23. William O

    Questions about Free Will and Morality

    Here is Rand's key passage on determinism, from Galt's speech: "The key to what you so recklessly call 'human nature,' the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs, or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival - so that for you, who are a human being, the question 'to be or not to be' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" This is a statement of libertarian free will. Rand explicitly states that thinking is not a mechanical (i.e., deterministic) process and contrasts it with biological processes that are deterministic, like those of the stomach, lungs, or heart. Similarly, from Peikoff's article on the analytic - synthetic dichotomy, which Rand approved: "Because man has free will, no human choice—and no phenomenon which is a product of human choice—is metaphysically necessary. In regard to any man-made fact, it is valid to claim that man has chosen thus, but it was not inherent in the nature of existence for him to have done so: he could have chosen otherwise." This is an even more explicit assertion of libertarianism. Peikoff makes a metaphysical distinction between human choice and other forms of causality. There are many similar passages collected here: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/free_will.html Where is the evidence that Rand thought "that physical determinism is true and libertarian free will is false?"
  24. William O

    Nietzsche Was Evil; Right?

    How did you get access to Peikoff's dissertation? I would willing to buy it, but I've never seen a reasonably priced edition for sale online.