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William O

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Everything posted by William O

  1. 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.
  2. From the Guidelines: What kind of post falls under these rules? I've seen fairly rude posts here that weren't moderated.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?"
  8. 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.
  9. Nietzsche Was Evil; Right?

    From what I recall, Nietzsche accepts Kant's doctrine of "the categories," but thinks that this doctrine is more consistent with skepticism than with Kant's qualified defense of science. So, when he says that the falsest judgments are the most indispensable, he means that we can't think without employing categories like causality and substance that are derived from our own mental constitution rather than from reality. Eioul is the resident Nietzsche expert, so he will likely have a better explanation. Regardless, dismissing a major philosopher before you understand him properly is a bad idea.
  10. Neuromarketing and choice

    Honestly, it just sounds like you were arguing with a jerk. I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
  11. Regarding definition 2: Wouldn't it be easier on the crow epistemology to name this concept "non-reference?" After all, you are using it to collect together all of the non-referents of the concept C.
  12. Here is the first paragraph of The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy entry on tautologies: Does Objectivism accept the concept of a tautology (that is, consider tautologies an objectively distinct category of proposition)? If so, what is the difference between the concept of a tautology and the concept of an analytic proposition?
  13. What proportion of Objectivists do you suppose were "persuaded" to join the philosophy? In other words, it doesn't seem like people usually become Objectivists because an Objectivist missionary with clever arguments "persuaded" them to join. The story I usually hear from Objectivists is that they picked up a book by Rand or one of her novels and immediately found the ideas compelling.
  14. Aristotle and the science

    I don't see either Plato or Aristotle as particularly dogmatic. All of Plato's works were in dialogue form, which seems intended to get people to think for themselves. It's also worth noting that although Bacon did a great job of advocating experimental research, his view of the scientific method was a complete dead end.
  15. Aristotle and the science

    I'm reading Francis Bacon's Novum Organum at the moment, which is very relevant to this. According to Bacon, all of the fundamental concepts of Aristotle's philosophy (like "substance," "quality," and "essence") are unclear, and all of his scientific claims are invalid. The reason for this lack of clarity and invalidity is allegedly that Aristotle did not build his philosophy up from the ground, based on experiments. Instead, Bacon claims that he jumped from a few observations to the widest generalizations, then deduced intermediate conclusions from those widest generalizations. The correct way is to start with very concrete generalizations based on plenty of experiments, then slowly build up from there, until finally you arrive at the widest generalizations. There is a lot of truth in what Bacon says in the book, but as you can see, there's also some anti-philosophy scientism in his reasoning. I don't think Rand built up Objectivism using experiments, so it's not clear how Bacon would view her work.
  16. A Complex Standard of Value

    This is an interesting thread. I think the problem here is that the triple standard asserted in the OP is subjective. No justification is given for why these are the ultimate standards, they are just sort of grabbed out of the air. It would not be possible to apply such a standard objectively, since it's asserted in a void, without context. When do you pursue pleasure over health and vice versa, for example? In principle, there can be no answer if both pleasure and health are ultimate standards. I don't think any reasonable person would deny that pleasure, knowledge, and health are valuable, but you have to start doing ethics from a demonstrable standard, which is the purpose of Rand's derivation of life as the root of value.
  17. The Law of Identity

    Technically everyone relies on both the law of identity and the senses at all times, since both are axioms that stand at the foundation of all knowledge. You can't make a claim that doesn't presuppose both of those axioms.
  18. Stolen concept fallacies show up frequently in philosophy, but they are less common elsewhere for some reason. I'd like to use this thread to collect examples of stolen concept fallacies that don't involve philosophy. I think that doing this might help to illuminate the concept more. I have seen one example of the stolen concept fallacy that didn't involve philosophy. Two people on Reddit were discussing the concept of a superorganism, which is an interacting community of smaller organisms like a termite mound. One of posters in the discussion reasoned that every organism is really a superorganism, because every organism is composed of cells. This steals the concept of a superorganism, which was originally intended to distinguish communities of organisms from individual organisms composed of cells. When the term is used this way, the concept of a superorganism loses its original context and meaning. What are some examples of stolen concept fallacies that you've come across outside of philosophy?
  19. Isn't that just a contradiction? It doesn't sound like they're stealing the concept of understanding, it sounds more like they are implying that they both can and cannot understand the ASI's motivations.
  20. Why Objectivism is so unpopular

    I agree with this, as I've said previously. I think another tactic that would help is persuading people who have an influence on society to take Objectivism seriously. The credibility of the speaker is a big influence on whether an audience will agree with them. Within our own movement, when Peikoff makes an argument for something, I'm sure you've noticed that that has an influence on what Objectivists think. So, for example, when a politician mentions Ayn Rand in a positive light, I would imagine that that's helpful for Objectivism's image with people who like that politician. A variant of this is the influence that parents or older siblings often have on their children or younger siblings, respectively. This is why it could be worth mentioning Objectivism to your family members.
  21. I appreciate both of your responses. It sounds like Peikoff would probably say that "tautology" is a valid category, but that it's a somewhat subjective distinction because ultimately all knowledge is tautological. He would also insist that tautologies say something substantial about reality. The latter is what distinguishes them from so called "analytic" propositions, which Kantians describe as empty. Objectivism would say that no true proposition is analytic in this sense, although every true proposition is ultimately tautological. I think I am reading a bit into Peikoff here, since he doesn't explicitly call the distinction subjective or distinguish them from analytic propositions in this way. I don't think Peikoff ever commented on this issue in his article on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy.
  22. We Should Be Fun People. We Aren't. Let's Change!

    Personally, when it comes to philosophy, I prefer a clear, concise presentation of the argument over a "fun" presentation with cartoon characters or video game references. There may be other people like me. I still think this "fun" approach is worth trying, because it's likely that different approaches will work better or worse with different people, depending on their interests and personality traits.
  23. Wikipedia defines and describes the social sciences as follows: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_science A while ago, I read The Psychology of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, a work on psychology that Objectivists often approve of. The methodology used to establish claims in this book struck me as different from that of academic psychology, which aims to be experimental. I also know that Objectivists often approve of Mises' Austrian economics, which is more deductive and depends less on empirical studies than mainstream economics. With that in mind, I have two questions: 1. What is the Objectivist position on how claims in the social sciences should be justified? 2. What criticisms, if any, do Objectivists have of the way the social sciences are currently conducted in academia? Ideally, responses will refer to the Objectivist canon, secondary literature, or intellectuals like Peikoff who accept Objectivism.
  24. The way contemporary academic philosophers usually think about self evident truths, as opposed to Objectivists, is: They are a priori and independent of experience. They are abstract "truths of reason," not on the perceptual level. Often they are regarded as defeasible in principle. Their truth is not necessarily immediately obvious to everyone. For example, an academic philosopher would say that it is self evident that first cousins have a pair of grandparents in common. I'm taking these claims from Audi's introduction to epistemology (p. 94-96). It seems like Objectivists don't regard anything as self evident in the sense most academic philosophers use that term. There are axioms in Objectivism, but they are grasped by perception, not by seeing intrinsic connections between concepts. However, that is how Audi seems to characterize the academic concept of self evidence. Am I correct in drawing this conclusion?