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  1. Their main influence is transitive -- because they influenced your parents. For example, a person may be a Muslim because his great-great-granddad converted to Islam. For most people, the religion they practice goes back to a choice or a forced change made many generations back. There are more subtle impacts too. For instance, a person living in Cedar Rapids may be influenced mostly by his community; but his great granddad might have been the one who decided to move from Ukraine to America. The person's current existence in America (indeed his existence itself) is a product of that old choice.
  2. It depends on what one is interested in. Personally, my interest is more about the parents who brought me up, and the parents who brought them up. The biology of it is way less important. If I were to find out I was adopted, I might be curious about the circumstances of my biological parents, but I wouldn't bother investigating or even proactively seeking information.
  3. Most people are Christian or Muslim etc. because that's what their parents were. Obviously that's not universal or we wouldn't see change, let alone see something like Objectivism. Religion is just one thing people learn from their parents. How people construe who they are, and thus what they aim for, and thus what they achieve is heavily influenced by their parents -- in the typical case. So, I wouldn't say it is minimal, if one is looking at broad impact, across society. Of course, peers and the general culture have a big impact too. Indeed, what people call "American exceptionalism" is not so much a chosen quality in Americans, but more a set of values that is mostly absorbed by cultural osmosis. Immigrants actually are a special case, and are atypical. Immigrants are displaced, and this makes them question who they are, and forces them to choose. They're confronted with the values of their native place and the values of their adopted place. Since they have this new cultural force working on them, it isn't surprising that they choose mix. (Some do the opposite and go looking for their "roots" in a way that their parents do not, but tat's a different topic.) In general, parents and larger society impact most people. Not taking the time -- or not knowing how -- to figure out a philosophy of their own, they end up with a mix of influences from those around them.. with parents and close family being important contributors.
  4. I assume you are not questioning the string impact that parents have on their kids, at least in a majority of cases? Rather, you're pointing out that such "inherited" traits are not a reason for pride because they're just there. So, for example, a person could be proud that he adopted some positive trait even though his parents taught him the opposite; but, if he got some trait from his parents, without making a decision himself, there's less reason to be proud. Is that your view?
  5. My own curiosity on this did not start with my own ancestry, but about the ancestry of humans in general, and curiosity about race and impacts of nature vs. nurture. Reading about Haplogroups got me curious about my own personal genetic profile. This goes centuries beyond what the OP was probably thinking about: where were my ancestors 10,000 years ago? Were they part of the second human migration out of Africa, and which sub-migration? Just curiosity, though do like the fact that everyone is African in some sense, and that the myth of Adam and Eve has an element of truth. When it came to my more immediate ancestors, I was uninterested most of my life, and have never been close to extended family either. Only recently did curiosity got the better of me. and I found out the little I could from living relatives. To me, it is mildly interesting to know a snippet or two: the profession of my Great Grandfather, something about the way he grew up, and similar facts about other family members. There;s really no story to be told, though one can always weave whole cloth from a few facts. I could spin a fact-based family mythology: I come from a family where an ancestor found himself as the eldest son in an orphaned family at 14 and he went to work and figured out how to take care of a large brood of siblings. It would be mythology, because it appears to assert "this is who he was...and thus this is who we were", when both are pretty shaky, based off the few facts that are remembered and passed on. An Indian with a lastname that signifies a long line of village chiefs can tell you that he gets his confidence from his long line of warrior leaders; but, another, with the lastname from an "untouchable" class can spin his own myth: how his dad was a professor of agriculture who refused to be held by by societies expectations and has bred children who will defy expectations again. Even a child of a jailed criminal can spin a family myth: "I get my balls and my devil-can-care attitude from my dad, even if I chose to be an honest person." I don't grudge anyone their mythology, as long as the tail does not wag the dog: as long as you do what you ought to be doing, and spin a mythology to motivate you on occasion, I see no harm in it. The positive approach boils down to this: select certain good things from what you know of your ancestors; then, ask yourself "if they had those virtues, what excuse do I have not to?" The choice here is your own: you choose what is a virtue and what you want to follow. Needless to say on this forum, there can be irrational approaches too.
  6. Integration -- if there's one word to point the direction, it is "integration". There's a certain amount of knowledge in your head and organized in some manner. When learning new things, you need to plug the new stuff into the old stuff... integrating it. Something you may need to reorganize the way you think about a topic, to better integrate the new stuff. That's pretty abstract, but I find it helps to keep that thought in mind. Meanwhile, the concrete things I do: If a topic is important, highlight or make notes. This could be a couple of sentences you write down about each chapter. I like Kindle books because they make it simple to highlight text and share the highlights across all my access points. After reading a book I often go back over the highlights I have made. Often, I'll come back when I'm reading a similar book. I don't always do this. Sometimes, I'll pick up a book out of curiosity about a topic, knowing I don't to pursue it more than that open book. In that case, I'll simply read and make notes only if I find them relevant to other topics of closer interest. On the other hand, I sometimes go beyond highlights and simple notes. I might diagram something -- or I might draw a time-line -- if I want to get a better grasp on the material. You need to make things concrete and you also need to abstract. Authors vary in their styles. Some present a high diet of concretes and one needs to spend time drawing out the abstractions. Others write abstractly and one needs to visualize concretes. Something you can try asking (a trick I learnt from Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" lecture) is to ask: what other writer make a very similar point to this person? Once you have a similar author identified, ask: what is special and different about what this person is saying, compared to that other writer. Those are just a few top-of-mind things. Will post more if I remember.
  7. Or, they could bring some other sun nearer. But, why live on these poorly designed planets. They could make nice planets with just the right mix of terrain that humans and other aliens like. And, medicine would have ensured that humans and aliens can live in the same ecosystem: even if we're breathing carbon dioxide. And, since orbiting a single sun gets to be a bore, they could make an alternative, and have these new "Earths" roam all over the galaxy. In a billion years, anything is on the table: except a free-market in healthcare
  8. Yeah, let's just ignore the bleeding obvious that is being said to you multiple times and play these games instead. If you have no clue what people are referring to, you clearly are incapable of carrying on a sensible conversation.
  9. Someone had to say it, I guess, breaking the social rule that you resist giving harsh advice unless the person s paying you for the wake up call Anyone who speaks of making 10 million dollars by following some fairly guaranteed business model is deluded. Worse still, you may be a patsy in a scheme being spun by your "friends". It sounds almost like an Amway opening pitch.
  10. There've been a few pekple who tried to secede here and there. They usually figure on the news when the cops surround their homes with military style vehicles and persuade them to come back into their voluntary, consensual citizenship,
  11. Maybe you're thinking of it this way: Premise: citizenship is a consensual contract Conclusion: consent to the laws flows directly from that premise In that case, your premise (as now restated is false). You explicitly said that one should pay taxes. Now, if you come back saying that one is free to leave, and think that you're demonstrating your premise then you've got to think about what freedom really means. People are often "free to leave" as in "your money or your life".
  12. Yes, that's what I said in my last post, with one exception: you aren't arguing, that is simply your premise.
  13. I doubt you expected that, eh? But, at least for me, Epistemologue's position is clearer: he says that he not arguing about the morality of the law, just about whether one should follow it. He says the same would be true of an immoral law on slavery. He's not arguing that one should follow the law because it is practical not to go to jail (as an Objectivist might), but basing it on his fictional concept of an agreement to be a citizen, and also a fictional agreement between countries (e.g. Canada and US) when it comes to foreigners. The argument is the same as saying: "God says you should follow laws, so you should" The formal structure is: "Fictional thing is true" --> therefore --> "False conclusion follows" There's really no way to argue once this structure is revealed, unless someone wants to attempt the impossible task of showing that the fictional premise is fictional.
  14. On the topic of activism and advocacy, I think this is an issue that our grandkids can address. If we can make some headway toward a much lesser end -- reduce government to some core functions -- it would be huge. The rest is gravy anyway.
  15. Let me restate my point this way: Epistem is praising/advocating tax on a certain premise. He supports that premise. That premise can be used -- with very similar arguments -- to support any populist law that violates individual rights. Espistem is rejecting the fundamental building block of Objectivist political theory, but he is going much further too. He is rejecting the entire "natural rights" concept that predates Objectivism and informs the flawed, but better-than-most, US constitution. Not the first time he's rejected natural rights and individual rights in favor of a fuzzy notion of "voluntary agreement"... Which always boils down to populist democracy in practice. Of course he would reject this characterization since he hasn't yet sorted out the contradiction for himself, He seems to ignore it and move on to the next thread, to restate it like it'll become true by repetition!