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Invictus2017

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Everything posted by Invictus2017

  1. Knowledge, in the philosophical sense, is always personal. I have knowledge, you have knowledge, but the stuff you or I put on paper to represent what we know is not knowledge. It is merely a representation of our knowledge. A statement, put on paper, is not, for the purposes of this discussion, true or false. It's not even a statement; it's just marks on paper. So, when I say that such and such a statement is arbitrary, I am engaging in a short-hand. What I mean is that, that statement, as held by some particular person, is arbitrary -- is held, not as a rational conclusion from percepts, but as a mere concatenation of symbols. But in another person's mind, the exact same sequence of symbols might be a truth, a falsity, a possibility. For that matter, a statement might start out in your mind as an arbitrary assertion and then, as you investigate, become a statement about which you can ask truth questions. For that matter, a statement could start out as not arbitrary, arrived at by an undetected error and, once the error has been detected, be demoted to the arbitrary. Arbitrariness is not, strictly speaking, a property of statements. It is a property of statements within some person's context of knowledge. It is a relationship, or rather the lack of a one, between the statement and the context. This does not mean that you should always ignore an arbitrary statement. But what it does mean is that, before you do any reasoning with an arbitrary statement, you must relate it to your context. So if you find some particularly intriguing statement, "We are in the matrix", say, you may, if you choose, look for some evidence that would allow you to consider the statement's truth. If you find it, the statement is no longer arbitrary and you may reason with it. If you don't, it remains arbitrary, and any sort of reasoning, even asking about possibility, is an error. Where you draw the line is largely up to you. There's no point in investigating statements about unicorns and other such absurdities, but checking out other arbitrary statements might prove of value, even if only as intellectual exercise. One thing to keep in mind. When someone makes a statement that you can't relate to your context and is thus arbitrary and which requires you to reach a contradiction should you use the methods of reason with the statement, it's a good idea to require of the statement's proponent that he provide some evidence to support the statement. Otherwise you're likely to waste a lot of time on drivel.
  2. This is incorrect. "Arbitrary" has nothing to do with truth or falsity, possibility or impossibility. Like floating abstractions (see the recent discussion), arbitrary propositions have no connection to reality; they're mere concatenations of words that follow the syntactic rules of propositions. Assertions about truth and possibility (or their absence) are about knowledge. If a statement is not knowledge, it is a category mistake to even ask if the statement is true or possible; it is the same sort of error as asking if a concept has polkadots. So, before wondering if a statement is possible, you must first know that the statement is some kind of knowledge. Knowledge is the product of integrations of percepts. A statement that does not derive from percepts is not knowledge. Now, we have the notion of "the matrix" from science fiction (and earlier), but no percepts from which one might derive the possibility that such a thing is more than fiction. Without that, it is simply an error to ask if "the matrix" is possible. "But that's not satisfying!" Awww. Poor baby.
  3. I was working on an essay about immigration, and realized that I had to first deal with an error in Objectivism. So here is what I ran into. (All quotes are from Rand.) "The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others." ("The Objectivist Ethics".) And, "In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use." ("The Nature of Government".) These statements are false. To explain why, I need to go back to first (political) principles. A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action — means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. ("Man's Rights".) So, the determination of what constitutes a right requires an analysis of what actions the nature of a rational being require in a social context. From "The Nature of Government" (all further quotes are from there): Man's rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment. This is not true. Fraud, for example, violates rights, but no physical force is used. Rand gets around this by asserting that fraud involves "indirect force", but this is silly — if there is any physical force involved in fraud, it is in the retrieval of that which was taken by the fraud, not in the fraud itself. Moreover, Rand nowhere explains how one determines what constitutes indirect force. What force, fraud, and certain other categories of action have in common is that, by their nature, they are incompatible with their object's actions to further his own life. Force necessarily deprives a person of the ability to act on his own will. Fraud necessarily deprives a person of the information needed to engage in voluntary trade. Rand observed that, "The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships — thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement." Rand's error here is not in her conclusion, but only in how she arrived at it. Fraud, e.g., must be banned, not because it is a species of "indirect force", but because it is inconsistent with "voluntary, uncoerced agreement" which, in turn, makes it inconsistent with a person's acting to further his own life in a social context. Why is my way better? Because it allows one to solve other problems that would otherwise have to be dealt with ad hoc, by asserting that they involve some species of "indirect force". So, for example, if I invite you into my property and then forbid you to use its exits, I may not be using any sort of physical force, but I am preventing you from furthering your own life. Such an action would therefore violate your rights. So what to make of the "nonaggression principle" I started out with? It must be taken as a mere approximation, to be clarified later. (It's not really germane here, but I should note that Rand's critique of libertarianism — that it takes the nonaggression principle as an axiom when it is anything but — misses the real problem, which is that the nonaggression principle is simply false.) So what is it an approximation to? The essential point Rand makes is that society is a value because it enables one to obtain knowledge from and to trade with others in the service of one's life. What must be banned is not force, or even the initiation of force, but whatever, by its nature, is inconsistent with those values (which includes the initiation of force). Such things necessarily violate rights and it is proper to use force (or fraud or any other species of otherwise rights-violating action) to protect against them or to vindicate rights violated by their use. There is no short phrase for these things, so I am going to use the phrase "violative force" — with scare quotes — from hereon to refer to these things. (If you will, my "violative force" comprises physical force plus what Rand called "indirect force", except that my definition allows one to use reason to determine what constitutes "violative force".) The proper formulation of the nonaggression principle is that no person may use "violative force" against another. But this principle is not sufficient to for the needs of society. There are situations where it is proper to take actions that would otherwise constitute "violative force" to defend or vindicate one's rights. Such actions, "defensive force" and "retaliatory "force" (again, I'll keep the scare quotes), are not only permissible, they are necessary to a proper society. As necessary as they may be, society cannot function if their use is left to the judgment of each person. There must be an organization, the government, that constrains the use of all three sorts of "force". This constraint operates in two ways. The use of "defensive force" in exigent situations cannot, by its nature, be delegated to the government. If you have a burglar in your home, it's too late to call the police — your rights are being violated and only you (or others right there) can put an end to the violation. The government's function is, first, to define such situations and what constitutes "defensive force" in those situations and, second, to review each use of "force" to see whether it is "defensive" or "violative". You get to shoot the burglar, if that is your chosen method of self-defense, but you will be required to show that his actions were "violative force", thereby permitting you the use of "defensive force". Non-exigent uses of "defensive force" and all uses of "retaliatory force" must be left to the government, but the government must be utterly rule-bound, constrained to act objectively, as Rand noted: The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed and to prove who committed it, as well as objective rules to define punishments and enforcement procedures. Consider, however, what would happen if people could arbitrarily deprive the government of facts it needs to make proper use of "force". Its procedures would then necessarily lack the objectivity that a government must have, and would therefore be inconsistent with the rights of the governed. It follows then that no person may arbitrarily deprive the government of the information it needs to properly employ "force", that doing so is in itself a violation of the rights of the governed. Note here that, under Rand's formulation, a refusal to respond to a subpoena would have to be classified as indirect force, but it is anything but obvious that such a refusal is any kind of force, or even that it violates anyone's rights. It was this conclusion that led me to rethink the formulation of the nature of force. Under my formulation, such a refusal is clearly "violative force" because it is demonstrably inconsistent with the requirements of life in society, just as much as non-defensive physical force, fraud, etc., is. But, to return to the point with which I began this essay, it is simply not true that, "In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use." Only by twisting the word force into a hyperpretzel is it possible to consider, for example, a refusal to answer a subpoena as an initiation of force justifying retaliatory force. This proposition needs to simply be excised from Objectivism, replaced with a more accurate description of what sort of actions are forbidden and when an action that would ordinarily violate rights is legitimate.
  4. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    "The moral is the practical" and, conversely, what is not practical is not moral. What cannot be done in practice cannot be required in principle.
  5. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    Not necessarily. Responsibility depends on a mental state, not on physical accident. If the car rolled because you were negligent or deliberately set it in motion, you are responsible. But not if, say, the brakes failed due to a manufacturing defect (in a new car) or because someone else disengaged the brakes. Note also that "mixing labor with land" is not what makes ownership of or responsibility for land, but that's not a discussion I want to spend time on right now.
  6. I'm not going to debate America's military; I'm too busy. I will note, however, that rational people can disagree over whether a particular entity is a threat.
  7. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    "Justice" is not a floating abstraction, any more than "should" is. Among other things, there is no moral requirement (and thus no political requirement) that every injustice be fixed. But the treatment of "justice" as a floating abstraction does allow the absurdity of imagining that justice can be done by stealing from one person that which he has earned to give to another person that which he has not earned on the ground that the second person's parents were deprived of what was rightfully theirs by someone who is long dead.
  8. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    More or less. Note that precisely the same harm could have happened from an undetected sinkhole. When you claim unowned land, it's on you to check it out before putting it to use.
  9. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    I forgot to add: civil forfeiture, wherein the government steals your property on the ground that it might have been involved in a crime -- prior to any proof that the crime even happened.
  10. Your right to self defense kicks in at the instant someone forms the intention to use force against you. However, you may only act in self-defense once you have sufficient evidence that the intention exists. You might make your inference from a persons actions, from his words, or even his body language. But it must be a rational inference, not "I hate his words and I take them as a threat" or some such excuse.
  11. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    Can you elaborate? No need to; I had already said everything relevant to your example.
  12. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    "one-party rule" There are two parties in name, but they're differentiable only by exactly which rights they want to violate wholesale. The "one party" is the political class, which rules for its own benefit. "executions without trial or with a mock trial, for political offenses" Drone strikes, done to American citizens, without any attempt at arrest or trial. Murder done by cops for such "crimes" as "driving while Black". Executions done "to uphold the law" when there is real evidence of the prisoner's innocence. (Read Herrera v. Collins and be chilled.) "the nationalization or expropriation of private property" Kelo, anyone? Pretty much the entire medical profession, under Obamacare? "and censorship" That thing sometimes called FOSTA, sometimes called SESTA. Campaign finance laws. "A country guilty of these outrages forfeits any moral prerogatives, any claim to national rights or sovereignty, and becomes an outlaw." America is not a conventional dictatorship, but only because its ruling class realizes that it can gain more power and treasure by allowing a measure of "freedom". But it is not real freedom -- it can be abrogated almost at will by the government -- and its presence does not save America from the charge of tyranny.
  13. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    What rights of the descendants were violated? What force was used against them? Answer that, and you can answer your own question. But it is an error to start with an ungrounded "should" question.
  14. Invictus2017

    Ethics and Nature

    Read some of Branden's work before discussing self-esteem. It'll save much wasted effort.
  15. Only a physical action can be force. Thus, no matter how strongly I may express my negative views of a person, or what that person feels about my expression, there is no force unless I have initiated (engaged my volition to cause) a physical action that constitutes force. And yet, isn't any ethics based on that? No. In fact, most ethics are not based on that. Even in Christianity where, for example, it is assumed that what people deserve is everlasting Hell.
  16. Invictus2017

    A Short Discussion On Ethics

    I read it a looong time ago and forgot about it, but I just reread it. I agree with essentially all of it. Anyway, there she discusses a third "official" context, that of living in a welfare state. But today, we really need to talk about living under tyranny, because that's what we now have.
  17. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    No.
  18. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    I suspect that there's a whole thread on pretty much any subject that might come up.
  19. Invictus2017

    A Short Discussion On Ethics

    Where can I find the definition? I don't think this is explicitly defined, but see "contextually absolute". Probably the best way to describe it is to consider physics. In physics, you have (simplifying a lot) the realm of the small, where you apply Quantum Mechanics, the realm of the large, where you apply General Relativity, and the everyday realm, where you apply Newtonian mechanics. Each is a separate context, and propositions that are true in one are generally not true in another. A given proposition of physics is "contextual" because it applies in a particular context, and "universal", because it is always true within that context. In the Objectivist Ethics, there are only two "official" contexts, the ideal ethical context, and the emergency context. Others are possible. For example, there are situations where it is impracticable to live independently (like the present situation), which is inconsistent with some of the facts Rand relies on. In such a situation, it is necessary to rethink certain parts of the ethics, and the result would be a different context, with different (contextually) universal propositions. (E.g., in the Objectivist Ethics, the answer to, "should you accept government-provided services such as roads", is an unqualified "no". But in the real world, where you can't practicably choose to avoid improper government services, there is no simple answer. There needs to be, but unfortunately isn't, an Objectivist Ethics context for dealing with the real world.) "Poking your eyes out with a toothbrush is immoral" is not a proposition derivable from the Objectivist Ethics; there are outlandish situations where you might have to do so in order to save your life. But you could say, properly, "in the ordinary course of living, poking your eyes out with a toothbrush is immoral". This would follow from the Objectivist Ethics, but would not be a part of it. (Why not? Ethics must generally limit itself to principles of broad applicability, and this is not such a principle.)
  20. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    The person who claims an entitlement to government education is claiming an entitlement to other people's money. He is or wants to be a thief. And the question of which thief should successfully steal a college education is not one of any moral significance. Only if you start with the premise that the college applicant is not entitled to a placement can you have a real discussion -- but it ends right there, with the acknowledgement that there is no entitlement. No person "deserves" a place in a public college. Period. And so no person can be improperly denied a place in a public college. Also period. Remember: Emotions are not tools of cognition. No matter how much one feels some person deserves an education, that does not entitle him to an education on the public dime. The wrong, to repeat myself, has nothing to do with affirmative action, no matter how long or loudly progressives and government agents scream that affirmative action is the reason for what they do. Remember: Ideas do not act. People do. Ask not what excuse people use for their evil, ask what their evil is. The evil here is denying a deserving person (I'm going back to my cop example) a job for an improper reason, and bringing up affirmative action is, at best, a red herring.
  21. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    I should have said that not-yet-existing people do not have property rights, so you can't steal from them. The theft, if any, is from the present owners of the property.
  22. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    DeToqueville's "Democracy in America", Chapter VI, " What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear":
  23. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    If affirmative action is done for some private reason by some private entity, there is no morally cognizable harm -- the immigrant does not have a right to that which is not offered willingly, whether or not the refusal to offer is rational. Affirmative action in, for example, acceptance to a public university, also involves no morally cognizable harm, since no one has a right to government provided education. But we can talk about the harm done by affirmative action in, for example, the hiring of police, because police are a necessary part of government. I will assume this example for the rest of this message. So, if an immigrant who would otherwise be hired as a cop is refused the job merely because of affirmative action, is he harmed? Yes indeed. But he is not being harmed by affirmative action, nor is he paying any alleged debt to former slaves or their descendants. Instead, he is being harmed by the irrationality of government agents who are using affirmative action as an excuse for their criminal behavior. The harm to the immigrant is precisely the harm that would have arisen had the government agents instead engaged in nepotism or, especially, racism (since affirmative action is a species of racism) or any other irrational means of making hiring decisions. The appropriate word is whatever you'd use when someone refuses to give you something you are entitled to.
  24. Invictus2017

    A Short Discussion On Ethics

    The Objectivist Ethics will not tell you how to brush your teeth, as it deals with contextual universals. But when you specialize those principles to the particular of your own life, they will direct even the most minute aspects of it. So, you will find no ethical principle telling you how to brush your teeth. But you will find one that tells you to discover what the purpose is of brushing your teeth, another to tell you to discover which method of tooth brushing will best serve that purpose, and yet another to tell you to use that method, among other relevant ethical propositions.. So, yes, morality does apply to how you brush your teeth.
  25. Invictus2017

    Heirs to dictatorships

    It is impossible to quantify the restitution owed by those who merely benefit from a dictatorship, so there is nothing to be done about such people. Instead, one must look to specific rights violations, with identifiable victims, by particular people. When such can be identified, one acts as one would with any other criminal. Not-yet-existing people do not have rights; they cannot be stolen from. The evil of our national debt is that it is predicated on the premise that it will be repaid through taxation. Of course, living grandchildren are victims of that evil, but so is everyone else who is subject to taxation. One violates rights only when one has the intention to use force. Something you have no meaningful choice about, e.g., using the roads, does not involve intention to use force, and so does not violate rights. Using government services that would exist regardless, assuming that the service is not in itself evil, does not violate rights. The restitution theory of accepting government services (including medicare checks) suffers from the unquantifiability of much of the harm done by government. But, for sure, accepting money of less value than what you've lost in taxation and other determinate forms of government theft cannot be evil. But, for example, what about the person who is forbidden by law from his preferred career and must choose a possibly less satisfying or less lucrative career? Could such a person justify not choosing the alternate career and accept welfare? That might be self-harming (which would make it evil), but would it violate others' rights? I doubt it. In a system such as ours, where almost everyone is simultaneously criminal and victim, I suspect that the very idea of trying to make decisions based on rights theory is flawed. I think, in the final analysis, so long as you do not choose an action that demonstrably requires additional rights violations, rights are not a relevant consideration when deciding what to do. So, by all means, take that welfare check, if it allows you to live the best life you can, and don't worry about whose rights are violated by the government's acquisition of the money. One way or another, you'll end up paying for welfare, whether or not you benefit from it.
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