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William O

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Everything posted by William O

  1. I don't have any comments on this particular situation, but I'd like to note how much the advice and evaluations being given altered once more details were provided. I've seen this happen before on this forum - someone provides an initial description of what they think is going on in their personal life, advice is given, and then the advice changes once more context is provided. In the future, I would suggest a "fact-gathering" period prior to the giving of advice on personal situations, in order to make sure that the advice being offered is accurate and helpful. This would consist of asking plenty of questions and clarifying any unclear aspects of the situation.
  2. William O


    Do you have a source? I am skeptical of this. Which of these poll results are you claiming are favorable to Objectivism? A priori knowledge and the analytic / synthetic distinction are rejected by Objectivism, for example.
  3. First of all, do you agree that my interpretation of Binswanger is likely to be correct? It's useful to separate the stages of interpretation and evaluation when reading philosophy. (After all, if I'm wrong about what he is saying then we're wasting our time discussing my interpretation.) Secondly, regarding your concern about the alleged absurdity of inductive reduction, I'd ask you to read page 264 of HWK, where Binswanger gives two examples of inductive proof or reduction. Here's the first: Binswanger also gives a second, longer example involving the Law of Demand in economics, which I will not quote here. I assume you have the book with you, so you can read that on your own. I would describe the process of reasoning in these reductive proofs as inductive rather than deductive. Do you disagree?
  4. Binswanger is a property dualist, which as far as I know is consistent with Objectivism.
  5. Patrick, I have a hypothesis about how Dr. Binswanger might answer your question. In HWK (p. 262), he writes: He then gives an example of a deductive derivation, a deductive proof, an inductive derivation, and an inductive proof. (This happens on p. 262-264.) Now, let's try to answer your question: As the above passage makes clear, reduction can be inductive. Reduction is nothing more than walking backwards through the derivation that originally led to the idea. If the derivation was inductive, the reduction or proof will be inductive as well.
  6. Respectfully, I think this is the wrong methodology. When two authors disagree, the right reaction isn't to decide ahead of time that one of them is right and the other is wrong just because of who they are. Instead, I think we ought to study each author carefully until we have a solid grasp of what each respectively is saying, then compare the two positions to determine which has better evidence and arguments in its favor.
  7. William O

    What is 'reason'?

    Wouldn't that just be any idea? The Objectivist epistemology is intended as a fully general account of how knowledge is arrived at.
  8. By skeptics, I mean people like Michael Shermer and James Randi who go around disproving unscientific ideas like homeopathy. I'm not talking about philosophical skepticism as in "you might be a brain in a vat." Here are two recently released books that are viewed favorably in the skeptic community (the former has a lot of upvotes in the "skeptic" subreddit, and the latter is by Michael Shermer): Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths I haven't read either of these books, but they both basically seem to argue some variant of "everyone is irrational" based on the reviews I've seen. Now, an Objectivist will immediately see that this is a contradiction. If you advocate rationality, you can't tell people that everyone is irrational, because then there is no obligation to be rational. Everyone is on a par in that case. You can deduce that Albert Einstein is indistinguishable from Deepak Chopra in terms of rationality from that premise. So, I have two questions for discussion: 1. Why does this contradiction persist in the skeptic community? What makes this plausible or attractive to them, given their premises? 2. We have to assume that the leaders of the movement, like Shermer, know that what they are saying is nonsense, because any intelligent person can see that their position refutes itself. So my second question is, what's the motive? Thanks for your responses.
  9. It seems like you're pointing to an apparent conflict between the following claims: Full validation only requires reduction and integration. Full validation requires induction. Induction is distinct from both reduction and integration. The solution will require rejecting or modifying one of these three claims somehow (probably the third).
  10. William O

    Good Books on Western Philosophy?

    A new book on the history of philosophy has been published since this thread started: Anthony Kenny's A New History of Western Philosophy. I've read it, and I consider it very readable and informative.
  11. You could consider sitting in on a class instead of taking one for credit. Most philosophy professors will let you do this, although I've heard that it's hard for people to stick with a class without the incentive of the grade. Some universities also have a philosophy club that you can join. When you're deciding which class to take (or sit in on), the primary consideration should be the quality of the professor teaching the course, not the subject matter of the course.
  12. This is going to be an uphill battle, because the person you're debating with is not being honest. I can tell that just from your description of him above: He claimed that he didn't understand the axioms of existence and identity, but the axioms of existence and identity are self evident, so he is not being honest. You might try mockery. His claiming not to know anything provides plenty of material for that - he has to assume he has knowledge just to type out his posts on his keyboard. You will also need to point out all of the stolen concepts and fallacies of self exclusion that he is doubtlessly committing with every post. He has free will, so if he doesn't want to look at reality then he won't.
  13. Is there any particular reason why you need to change this person's mind? I do debate with non-Objectivists, but I tend to bow out pretty quickly if they say something silly. Hume got a lot wrong, but I like this passage from the second Enquiry: "Disputes with men, pertinaciously obstinate in their principles, are, of all others, the most irksome; except, perhaps, those with persons, entirely disingenuous, who really do not believe the opinions they defend, but engage in the controversy, from affectation, from a spirit of opposition, or from a desire of showing wit and ingenuity, superior to the rest of mankind. The same blind adherence to their own arguments is to be expected in both; the same contempt of their antagonists; and the same passionate vehemence, in inforcing sophistry and falsehood. And as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives his tenets; it is in vain to expect, that any logic, which speaks not to the affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder principles."
  14. You have to assume the axioms to show that it is impossible to refute the axioms, so it isn't a proof. "p, therefore p" is never a proof of p, even if p is known to be true on other grounds.
  15. William O

    Salmieri's CV

    Dr. Salmieri's CV, which is available online, has links to PDFs of a lot of papers he's written, including his dissertation. http://www.salmieri.org/cv I didn't know this until just now, so I'm posting it in case anyone else finds it helpful. I haven't read most of the papers linked here.
  16. William O

    Salmieri's CV

    This is a good article from the CV: How We Choose Our Beliefs.pdf
  17. I like to tell people this story about the origin of taxation. Originally, the ruler of a given area could not trust people to remain loyal to him when he was not around, so he had to travel from city to city with his entire army. There wasn't "taxation" back then - the king's men would just show up at your house and take stuff from you. Later, people developed a more reliable system of communication that could work across an entire empire, and that's when taxation started. Instead of walking up to your house and taking your stuff, people would send off the amount of money required to the king. In a way I wish they still just showed up and took stuff, because then it might be easier for people to see why the practice is morally wrong. Sending off X% of your income makes the issue kind of abstract. If a guy in a uniform broke into your house and stole your TV at a certain time every year, that would make the issue clearer.
  18. Egoism doesn't lead to socialism because socialism isn't in anyone's self interest. An example would be Stalin's Russia: The people who joined the Communist party to become officers probably thought that they were "getting theirs," but in fact those people were among the most likely to die in the purges. It's in everyone's self interest to preserve the principle of individual rights.
  19. The abstract says: "How We Know is intended as a summary (and a modest extension) of Objectivist epistemology. Binswanger's treatment of a wide range of epistemological issues is examined. Because his theory of propositions is inadequate and his philosophy of mind is an extreme form of dualism, Binswanger has added little to previous efforts by "official" Objectivists. As a work of epistemology in the broad sense, Binswanger's effort is fatally impaired. It is undone by his bifurcation between consciousness and the physics of the brain, which, if accepted, would largely deprive psychology and even computer science of their subject matter." I definitely need to read this review. Thanks.
  20. I would be inclined to distinguish between an arbitrarily formed concept and a floating abstraction, because a floating abstraction can be a perfectly valid concept in some cases. For example, the concept "justice" is a floating abstraction in most people's minds, but it is valid in fact. Almost any concept can be a floating abstraction - the term floating abstraction just means it hasn't been grounded in facts in a particular person's mind, not that it's formed out of thin air.
  21. William O

    About Those 'Floating Abstractions'

    Interesting exchange, thanks.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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