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softwareNerd last won the day on December 22 2017

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  1. Objective Black and White Ideals

    This moves out of the philosophy and into biology. In fact, obliquely, this illustrates the point I made in my post: that one does not starts with some abstract principle and reason one's way to concretes.
  2. Donald Trump

    Now Trump is setting up a special department to police employer's against whom Christians make civil rights complaints. The GOP somehow has this image of being against the government imposing itself on people's decisions, but I think that's mostly because the Democrats use that image as a way to critique the GOP. So, the GOP gets away with wanting the government to be big and intrusive, just because the Democrats want it to go further. Who'd have thought that a basically secular centrist like Trump would end up being the champion of the religious right. Not surprising, ofcourse, because he is pragmatist first and everything else way, way later. For more info on the types of laws this new department will police, with their threats of jail, and guns and violence: https://www.hhs.gov/conscience/conscience-protections/index.html What's next? Trump going gang-busters appointing judges. Probably picking a few idiots like this, if if gets him some votes: http://www.statesman.com/news/crime--law/texas-judge-interrupts-jury-says-god-told-him-defendant-not-guilty/ZRdGbT7xPu7lc6kMMPeWKL/
  3. Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    The counter to that definition is the argument that there is no objective way to draw the boundaries. So, the definition above speaks to outcomes, but a good definition would be something like: drawing the boundaries in violation of this principle ... . But, then, what is that principle against which we can measure, to know if we have gerry mandering? One principle could be that the distribution of legislators in a state (or whatever other larger geographical unit) should reflect the distribution of their support in the overall population. If that's the principle, some European countries have that already, in the form of proportional representation. There are countries where voters specify their first, second and third choices -- again based on some principle about the outcomes of a good voting system. One has to start with some principle about the good system before " gerrymandering" becomes a useful concept. If you start with the principle of geographic representation: i.e. where voters are grouped together by geography and where that combined geographical group makes some decisions as a group, then you would need to add on some second principle to distinguish between better and worse geographic slicing. Just looking at flat space, none of these three divisions of an area into flat space is better than the other, unless we can add some other principle to determine that.
  4. Objective Black and White Ideals

    Good question. Most people are cool with Reason/Rationality: it seems too obvious -- it is even implicit in asking for reasons in the first place. (Self-esteem/Pride is usually the tricky one to grasp.) Context - life and the pursuit of happiness: Before addressing purpose/productiveness, one has to remind oneself of the larger context: why are we asking about Ethics in the first place? We would start with a non-mystical assumption: in other words, we throw God and other superstitious causes out of the window as a starting point, and think of it as a naturalistic/biological issue. That starting point eventually leads us to conclude that our rules of what we should pursue should be based on asking what makes our lives good, fulfilling and happy. This would also include considering the social context: the value and happiness we get from friends, family, etc. This too is part of the basic biological context in which we live and can flourish or not. Thinking about values: If these are good things, they should further our life. Not just make us live a few more years, but should make the years we do live into better, happier years. One can go about figuring this out in two ways. The obvious way seems to be by asking : "what are the things that can improve my life?" A second possible approach is to ask: "What makes me happy?" The objection to the second approach is: just because something makes you happy, it does not necessarily mean it is good. For all you know, it could be killing you on the inside! Reason/rationality are the tools we ought to use. Rand says "emotions are not tools of cognition", but this is a poor formulation. Yes, of course, emotions won't tell you if something is really good or bad for you, but they're typically the catalyst to the question. We might try something and either love it or hate it. If we love it, we still do need to think about whether it is good for us in the long term. Maybe it is great now, but will reduce the quality of our lives for decades, when its ill-effects kick in. Or, we might hate something, but we recognize that if we go through with it, it will improve our lives for years. We are animals, and being animals, we have to resist the "more animalistic" follow-through. Or, more accurately, we should use our brains -- the "rational" part of being "rational animals" -- and not be driven purely by emotion. Still, without the emotion, we would never be asking the questions and looking for answers. An analogy to astronomy: We can do the math, and realize that a planet (Uranus) must exist at a certain place in the solar-system. Or we can scan the skies looking for planets. Indeed, the math of the first approach would not be possible if we did not have a lot of data in the first place. So, the same with asking what will make us happy in the long term: start by asking what makes you happy. Then, ask what makes other people happy -- just as a biologist's opening presumption is that what sustains one amoeba would sustain another. That's a super-long intro But, it is really necessary if you want to grasp the idea with both body and soul. Purpose/Productiveness: Put on your scientist's lab-coat and looking for observations look all around you, and across the world for examples of people getting happiness from some purpose and from productiveness. If you know actual people to think about -- dead or alive -- that's ideal. Maybe you know someone who was very driven and purposeful in his work, and seemed to enjoy it. And, another person who worked a lot, but the work depressed him. Why?What was different? Were either of them pursuing purpose and productiveness? Or, think of simpler examples: a kids and his parents are at the bottom of a hill, and there's a long stairway leading to the top. Tourists climb up and and get a great view. Taking the child's hand, one parent says: "let's count the steps", and up they go. All that effort for a view the kid does not even care about, and is just a few minutes for the parents. Yet, if they come back in a few years, they might happily do it again! Why? What triggers the emotion? As a scientist from Mars, can you see a link between this and their flourishing as a species? Or, even consider something that seems to be completely unproductive: a kid sitting in his room all day, playing video games. One can ask if that';s the choice that will make him most happy in the long term. But, just as interesting is to ask: why does this make him happy, in the first place? And, more specifically, what is it about this video game, compared to others that makes him happy? Even within the same genre, what is it about this good game and this other boring one? Even if the purpose and output from a game is "not real", it can give one clues to the link between purpose and productiveness (in this virtual world, that would be the achievement of the goals of the game) on the one hand, and happiness on the other. Also, look at what other philosophers and self-help folk say about happiness: Pastor Rick Warren uses "purpose-driven life" as his catch-phrase, and it clicks with a lot of people. Are they, and Dale Carnegie fans on to something? Regardless of what you think of their overall message, have they identified some truth about human life? Those are some places to start, but as you ask these questions, try noticing the pairings of purposefulness and happiness all around you. Maybe a cousin is telling you that he is so happy that he quit his corporate job and joined the peace corp two years ago. If you take that at face value, how would an alien scientist reason about that? One can only really understand the value of this via induction: by starting with a lot of data and reasoning from there. Otherwise, any little chapter on why -- in abstract -- having a purpose and being productive will make you happy is not going to be convincing.
  5. Objective Black and White Ideals

    Objectivism doesn't name anything so concrete. If you want a broad list of Objectivist principles, there are four points listed on this page (scroll down a bit): https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1962/01/01/introducing-objectivism If you limit the question just to "what we should value", then here's a quote from Rand: See a little more here: http://wiki.objectivismonline.net/Virtues
  6. What is an Adult

    Philosophy -- as such -- won't give you an answer in terms of specific age.That would be a task for Biology.. Legal philosophy can recognize the fact that there are relevant differences in children and adults. Legal philosophy can say that these differences are relevant in law. But, once we lay down what it is we are looking for, in terms of abilities, it is still Biology that can tell us what age we're talking about. Also, any age you name will suffer from the "borderline problem".People do not wake up on their 18th or 21st birthdays, completely changed from the night before. And, further, different people hit biological milestones at different times. So, any age named in law is a ball park, that starts by looking at the average age, and then goes up or down from there. Personally, I think the legal drinking age is way too high at 21. Unsupervised, it should probably be closer to 16. To have it above 18 is gross stupidity. And, supervised , there really should not be any age at all. I think the voting age should be raised to 21, and maybe higher -- though I don't think there's much impact one way or the other. What's the age of consent for sex? Is it under 16 that it becomes statutory rape? That's probably too old. And, I think the laws that take into account age-differences in deciding whether consensual sex is statutory rape are fine (though I know there are some on the forum who vehemently disagree) Work: I don't see why there should be any age limit there in general, if the parents etc. are acting as legal guardians, checking the terms of employment.
  7. walling people into their own property

    Yup, people tend to see "property rights" as meaning nearly 100% rights to do whatever on, and control all that happens on, a physical piece of land (and in some amount of space above it). That's how the question about walling people in arises.
  8. Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    Why don't you clarify why you think it is bad? Maybe that will be a start. I'm really curious why we should stop this. Or, better yet, define what it is: objectively. That would be a huge step forward in this "conversation".
  9. Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    To me it is so marginal an issue that I don't care one way or the other. Is there a reason to change it?
  10. Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    A little bit of geometry would work well, to limit the crazier cases. Proportional representation is another way to tackle the same issue. I guess the bigger question is: does one want to stop gerrymandering?
  11. So, what's the key to your definition of "act of war": intent to harm the state? If Nordic invaders conduct pillaging raids on the villages of England, are those not acts of war?
  12. What is Subjectivity?

    Yes, one encounters a lot of people who speak about decision-making as if it were subjective and also others who consider some things to be intrinsic. Objectivism refutes both ideas. There's really two different things going on here: how people decide on their values, and more broadly how they decide on the truth. And, secondly, how they say they decide these things. (I remember having a discussion with a guy who was saying we did not know that this couch actually existed or that this fridge really existed or that the wall existed. Yet, he could get up, go to the fridge, get a beer and flop down on the couch...seemingly with no exhibited doubt about his ability to do so.) Meanwhile, I'd be happy to challenge you on this: Not that I disagree, but I'm willing to argue against this proposition, and say that we have no use for these terms... if you want to prove to me that we do, and that the terms are really useful. I mean, if nobody's decision-making is subjective or intrinsic, why even have terms for this? Are they terms like "heaven": something fictional?
  13. What is Subjectivity?

    Could I ask a meta-question: why do you want to use the concepts "subjective" and "objective" at all? or, is that what you're suggesting: i.e. that the distinction is not useful?
  14. The Soviets, and now the Russians, have been trying to influence U.S. politics for decades, primarily by influencing public opinion. And, not just U.S., they did the same all over the world. The most blatant way was to helping professors and intellectuals who were favorable to socialism. They would invite them to see how well their revolution was going, they would provide them with "data" about how well their economy was doing. It seems unbelievable now that Samuelson's widely used Economic text book kept projecting that the U.SS.S.r would surpass the U.S. in a decade a two... and continued to predict this through years of revisions. Another thrust was the aiding of anti-war and anti-nuke movements all over the world. Along with that, they always had an eye out for disaffected groups in the west, and would help fringe groups if they were railing against the political system of the west. It did not matter if the ideology of such groups was counter to their own. In the eyes of a Russian KGB/FSB officer, a fringe group with a religious agenda or even with a radically free-market agenda is a potential asset. There's potential for such groups to spread dissent while never actually succeeding too much; but there are all sorts of related advantages in using local groups for cover and to lend an domestic legitimacy to other activities that may otherwise appear suspiciously Russian. In the post Soviet era, semi-private organizations like RT work with this as their dual agenda. Social media opens another avenue. From their premises, the Russian FSB would be stupid not to use this new media, when it is available, and becoming the primary source of news for so many U.S. voters. It's also a place they have a slight advantage, because they are quicker to censor things they do not like. SO, they set up organizations to publish on social media, for a U.S. audience. Of course, "publish" means something different from traditional media. On FB, you have to create sock-puppet accounts, build networks of friends, build cred, and then start to send out the propaganda. In the last election, the Russians seemed to have preferred Trump over Hillary, but that is in keeping with their usual playbook of disrupting the establishment. I doubt the potential policies of the two candidates was a big deal. And, apart from social media, they also influenced people in Trump's campaign, promising them dirt on Hillary, and possibly delivering. U.S. Politics: None of this implies that Trump won because of Russian influence. Is it possible that he did? Yes, of course. Given the razor thin margin by which Trump won the election (only certain states matter in this calculus), and given how big a role Hillary's negatives played, it is possible that a small percentage in swing states might have voted differently. Even those voters themselves would not be able to tell you; so, it is an impossible question to answer either way. The only thing that makes it "possible" and plausible is the thin margins and the nature of the positives/negatives. It is really bad strategy -- from the Democratic perspective -- to think that Trump won because of the Russians. If they truly think this, they won't address their actual weaknesses: the things that explain the bulk of the difference in votes. In my judgement, influential mainstream Democrats do not believe this. They understand that people wanted to chuck them out, and that they had a candidate whose core message was "more of the same". However, most Democrats are willing to spread this narrative because it is the only explanation that many party faithful will buy. This is short-sighted, because their best long-term solution is to re-position themselves a bit, for which they need to explain the real reason they failed. Instead, they seem to be hoping that the country will tire of the buffoon in the White house in 4 years. it's a gamble; but they've been in this game for a long time, and understand how difficult it is to change their members' ideology. Back to the Russian menace: At heart, the problem with the country is the ignorant and confused American voter, who has mostly bought in to statism as a theory of politics. With such voters being the vast majority, they'll keep voting for statist politicians and cheering statist laws. Whether it's Trump or Hillary, ... that's not going to make any fundamental changes to the country.
  15. Asterix is shrugging. The Venezuela story is so old... we've seen the same thing in so many countries over so many decades.