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DonAthos last won the day on December 29 2017

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  1. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    At present, this is my position. I understood your humor, and I appreciate it. Humor is a good thing. But also... you know, as I continue to try to peel back the layers of things like evasion, and proper discussion, and so forth, I've become aware of some of the various ways we sometimes go wrong, or prevent ourselves from drawing some pertinent conclusion, or etc. One of the things we can hear, I am convinced, in an argument that "what you are saying is wrong (or here: 'statist')" is instead "there is something deficient about you (here: 'you are a statist' or even 'you are evil')." Sometimes that's no mistake in understanding; sometimes that's truly what's intended, and sometimes it is even stated explicitly. But in my continued opinion, this has the effect of setting up obstacles to understanding. If we hear our "opponent" saying "you are a statist," and we know that this is not true of ourselves, it may disincline us to give the nuance of their arguments much consideration. (Let alone "you are evil," which I frankly believe is a sentiment that no fundamentally rational person is going to take seriously. Consequently, I think that sort of rhetoric tends to shortcircuit debate altogether.) This is why I endeavor to be clear in what I'm contending -- and to either clarify or correct earlier statements, where necessary, in the process. Given the thrust of your humor, especially, I thought it necessary to state outright that I do not think that you are a statist, but the arguments that you've made with respect to rights throughout this thread -- yes, I believe that amounts to statism. I think that the arguments you've made, at least at times, leave individual rights to be a meaningless concept, and I have endeavored to demonstrate why (whether or not I have yet done so to your satisfaction). With respect, I'd earlier decided to try to step back from this conversation for a while. You'd then asked some questions about whether one has the right to respond to theft, outside of some established government, and I responded in some fashion (though not yet so fully or directly as I would otherwise like), and then, too, regarding some pertinent quotes by Rand and Peikoff... but I still don't know whether I wish to revisit, let alone recapitulate, the several arguments already made. At the moment -- whether this makes me a "purist" in any sense (though I doubt it) -- I do contend that force may only be used in response to the initiation of force; if that is inconsistent with your position, then we remain at issue, but I can be content with this impasse for the time being. Perhaps I will sometime be motivated to return to the breach. You always have the right to change your mind; it need not be reserved. And for the sake of further clarity, you should know that I do not consider myself as contending with you, so much, as with the arguments you've presented. When I take note of some change or inconsistency in your argument (as I see it), it is not for the sake of personal impeachment, but to highlight the discrepancy for the sake of further examination or elaboration. If you were to abandon your current arguments tomorrow and agree unreservedly with me, it would not satisfy me any more or less than my current ability to establish my point of view to my own satisfaction (or not much more, at least; I'm no saint). At that point, I would only hope that we were both now correct, and that you had not abandoned your case too quickly...
  2. Dealing with the Hostile Reader

    Everything exists within some context. These posts, too. Presumably we compose them and post them for some purpose -- to achieve some effect in the world. And so I wonder, what do the people behind these posts intend to achieve, here and now? I'm gratified to have been raised as a positive example in the OP. I'm certain I don't always deserve praise, but I do honestly try my best to be a productive member of this community. I believe strongly in ideas, in truth, in reason -- and also in the potential value of debate, discussion, argument. I think that this community has the potential to foster such argument that leads the individuals who participate in it (and perhaps others, too) closer to truth, to right ideas, to a philosophy of reason. But to do this -- if it is our end -- we must take care to structure the community to that end. We must treat the community as a machine, designed according to the function we intend it to serve, and we must tailor our own contributions accordingly. "Judge, and prepare to be judged," yes. But the expression of such judgement (whether a particular judgement is expressed at all, and then its particular manner) is a separate question. If we mean to make this community the best it can be (according to the standard of fostering the sort of discussion that may lead individuals to truth), then we must give attention as well to how and when we express our judgements of one another, and we must continue to ask the question -- does this particular communication further the goals we've set for this community? Personally, when I look at a thread like this, I see something of a mistake... or perhaps it is better seen as an opportunity for further reflection and improvement. Discussing the manner by which we communicate with one another is important. I don't mean to dissuade such discussions, at all, and I have started more than one thread myself in an attempt to raise them (as, for example, here and here). Yet they are fraught and potentially explosive, especially (as is only natural/fitting) when drawing upon the examples of experiences with others on this very board. None of this is easy, and I don't mean to claim that I have it figured out. I still struggle with it, I'm still learning, and I make mistakes in this regard -- all the time. But I would like to try to aim us more towards trying to understand one another, than the kinds of insulting, shunning, blocking, banning, and so forth, that has characterized the still-young Objectivist community, and, imo, made it mostly impotent.
  3. A Complex Standard of Value

    Ill-health is not the "introduction of a mind/body dichotomy." It could be evasion, which is not recommended. It could also be a choice -- to shorten one's lifespan (or to risk such a shortening, at the very least) for the gain of values along the way. I'm not going to argue the morality of such a choice here and now, but I've argued it elsewhere, many times, including the thread I'd already linked in an earlier post. Suffice it to say that some people are willing to experience a shorter life, if, in their opinion, it is a richer/better life. Whatever sort of choice that is, and whether you agree or disagree with it, it is not evasion.
  4. A Complex Standard of Value

    Yes -- fat people can be happy, productive and rational. (For that matter, a happy, productive life is not often stumbled into by whim, or on accident...) And the larger point is that, in prioritizing values according to individual interests and context (including time spent exercising, for instance), we should not expect rational people to value the same things, or even where commonalities exist, not necessarily to the same degree.
  5. The Law of Identity

    I don't believe that the law of identity, as such, has much to say about anything particular. It says that a thing is what it is (and that it is not what it is not), but it makes no further demands as to what a thing is or ought to be. With that said, does my identity include how I was made? I think so. I think my identity sensibly includes everything that is true about me: I am everything that I am, and my history is a part of that. Insofar as one's DNA is fundamental to all of one's physical being, I'd say that there is no "differentiation" between DNA and the self... except that the self (including "impulses" as normally understood) is experienced on a "higher level," in terms of thoughts and emotions and sensations and etc. Objectivism as a philosophy addresses itself to those thoughts and emotions and sensations and the stuff of living as a human. If your contention is that DNA makes some other demand on us through other means, then I guess that's the matter that needs to be investigated, though I would consider myself skeptical... just as I would be skeptical if, say, someone made a claim that, because we are composed of atoms, we should all be buzzing around like electrons. If you're saying that the core Objectivist literature doesn't fully address itself to everything that people routinely desire or need, I heartily agree. There's much, much more to be said and written and investigated (and I think Rand said as much, as well) -- and then any given individual must discover all of this for himself, regardless of what's been written by others. Are people "social/political animals"? Is there a need for intimacy? I'd say so. There's much value in family, too, or potentially so. (For context, I'm married and I have a child.) But it's still another kind of claim to make that people owe something to their DNA, or their family line, or to future generations, or etc. The pleasures I take in both intimacy and family are selfish; I pursue them fundamentally for the sake of enjoying my own singular experience of life on earth, not because I believe myself to be beholden to humanity's past -- or future. Yes, there's a lot of nonsense on the topic... which is only to be expected, I suppose, given how close the topic of procreation strikes at the heart of humanity. It's bound to draw out people's most highly charged responses, for better and worse. What is the "current Objectivist stance on procreation"? I'm asking honestly; as far as I'm concerned, Objectivism has no stance on procreation, as such, neither encouraging nor discouraging, but arguing that people should be free to pursue their own interests. If you find value in fighting for the world of 12017 CE, and think that your procreative decisions today speak to that far future, then I'm not going to try to talk you out of it... But in my experience, fighting for the next hundred years or so (or hell, the next few years, the next month, or with a five year old, a single night's rest) is plenty to keep me occupied.
  6. A Complex Standard of Value

    If I were to take Peikoff literally in "Fact and Value," I'd say that everything is an objective factor to your enjoyment of life. Even if we consider that to be an overreach (or even a misinterpretation on my part), I think there's some sense to it. Everything is at least potentially an objective factor to your enjoyment of life, even those things you choose to take no notice of (and equally I mean you, personally; Nerian). Even those things of which you are utterly unaware. Yet people are limited in many ways. We are limited in our time and money and energy, our awareness and capacity to focus, etc. The resource that Howard Roark spends on architecture is resource he does not have to spend on other things, including things that are also objective factors to his enjoyment of life, and possibly including things that have "important and inescapable effects" on his quality of life. People make choices in this regard, prioritizing one thing over another, and the calculus involved (to the chagrin of many Objectivists, for some reason) is deeply personal. (Sometimes Objectivists aggrieved by this notion will describe the result as "subjective," but I prefer "individual.") The object of your criticism, in my opinion, are those who prioritize in different ways than you do (as against those who act out of ignorance, or knowingly against their own interests, e.g. altruistically). For after all, I'd guess that these Objectivists do not pay zero attention to health or fashion -- if that were literally true, they couldn't survive for long at all, given that human health requires constant maintenance... and then you would probably know them when they stepped out of the house, if they were naked, or wearing blankets, or what-not. Some thought is given to health, insofar some choices are being made for the purpose of longevity, or to avoid sickness, etc., and some thought is given to fashion, insofar some choices are being made as to dress, though perhaps not to the degree you would select for yourself in either area. The stereotypical image for fashion in this regard, perhaps, is the "absent-minded professor" who cannot be bothered to match his socks, but there we can see the very thing I'm talking about: he is so focused, so absorbed in his pursuits and passions that he has nothing left for caring about what he has on his feet. (Or not quite "nothing," again, given that he has managed to put something on his feet, after all, and presumably for some purpose.) You may believe that he's making a bad choice, caring insufficiently about how he "presents himself in society" -- and maybe, if you could make the case to him, he'd even agree -- but I think it's just as likely, at the least, that he would dismiss you as not caring sufficiently for his work, or for wasting your own time on how you're dressed versus other, more important pursuits. ("More important" from his perspective, you understand.) As for "eating oneself into obesity," it seems my destiny on this board to go to bat for the value of eating ice cream, and associated pleasures, time and again. (You and I have been involved in threads where I've already expressed some of this, I know, but here is a recent discussion touching on some of these issues.) While I wouldn't recommend "obesity," as such, it cannot be denied that there is some potential cost to a life of eating ice cream, or cheesecake, or etc. Are there people we would describe as "fat" or "obese" (which, I may be mistaken, but I believe is a medical term with objective criteria) who can lead happy, productive lives? As much as you may not be able to fathom such a thing, I think so. At the same time, are there some results so dire and inimical to what we'd otherwise describe as "the good life" that, without knowing anything else, we may condemn them as evidence of immorality? Perhaps. The people who wind up the focus of documentaries about being 900 pounds, and unable to get out of bed, come to mind. But short of that kind of extremity, I think it's unjust and dangerous to judge the choices of others sans their personal context, especially along the sorts of lines you've suggested: those insufficiently fashion-minded, etc. That isn't judgment so much as it is judgmentalism.
  7. A Complex Standard of Value

    I don't mean to address, let alone take issue with, your entire thesis, but I wanted to comment on this part... I think it's a mistake to expect that Objectivists will share the same sorts of interests. While I believe that there are some mistakes habitually made with respect to "enjoying oneself" (based on a widespread misreading/misunderstanding of "life as the standard of value"), which can potentially result in some of what you're talking about, even if we all shared the same understanding of the same fundamental standard, there would still be Objectivists who would be more or less into fitness, more or less into fashion, more or less into intellectual pursuits, etc. There would still be Objectivists that wouldn't "make sense" to you in that way (just as you would not make sense to others). It's like: take architecture. Not really a big deal for me. Howard Roark and I may have some awkward moments at a cocktail party, searching for a topic of conversation. But that's okay: I respect his passion for that pursuit, even though I do not share it.
  8. The Law of Identity

    You bring a fascinating perspective to this discussion, and I am thankful for it. That said, I'd like to highlight this (quoted portion), because I believe it says something with which I disagree strongly. I have found associated with discussions of transgenderism and gender -- and things regarding man's "nature" more generally -- that several people finally wind up coming to the conclusion that people (or women more specifically) have some sort of moral duty to bear children. I think this is both wrong in itself, and it points to some earlier error with respect to conceptualizing morality. An individual's only moral duty is to himself (or herself) and to his own happiness. He owes nothing to evolution, nor to his family line, nor to future generations. That a person has some physical architecture to have children -- or do anything else -- does not make it some moral imperative to have children, and it does not make it immoral to choose not to have children.
  9. Universals

    Well, that's half the battle. I apologize, but I'm not certain I understand your rephrasings of my question -- or whether you're suggesting an answer. Do you mean to say that you believe "a concrete" refers to something which may be considered as a separate thing (whether or not it is "metaphysically separable," such as length)? Goodness, I hope not. I'll be frank -- I often find conversations like these to be rather dense, as my response here will serve to demonstrate. (Or maybe I find myself to be dense; I don't know that I could tell the difference.) But can I probe your position, to attempt to clarify things for myself? Are you saying that Rand's position is that we may only form concepts (or abstract) according to what we've encountered ("the particular, delimited set of observations which we've accumulated thus far") and that you disagree? If our statements of reality are not based strictly upon the observations we've made (and also bound to those same observations), to what other source could we appeal? I frankly don't know what any of this is addressing; are we discussing whether minds are similar to each other, or the difficulties in inferring the consciousness of others? That seems like a separate conversation, though I wasn't aware that any of that was in contention. But maybe it relates; I don't understand your meaning. How does it help to answer the question of mine you've quoted -- "what exactly do we mean by 'a concrete'?" So it looks like you're saying that a concrete is a "particular thing qua particular thing"? All right, again, what does that mean? How do I recognize when something is a "concrete" versus when it is not (if anything can exist without also being "concrete")? Because the claim has been made that some things are not concrete, yes? Eiuol seems to have made that claim directly. So to assess his claim, it would help me to understand what constitutes a "concrete." Or is "concreteness" an... epistemological stance, as I had inferred from dream_weaver's reply? (I hate to use terminology like this -- it almost always seems to muddle more than clarify -- but please bear with me.) Some given concept or emotion, for instance, is a "concrete," not because it has "physical extension" -- not because it may somehow be separated from the mind which holds it metaphysically/in actuality -- but because we can regard it as something distinct. Is "concreteness" (like, perhaps, "particularity") simply a way of considering a thing? Is that your meaning for the term?
  10. Are contradictions meaningful

    There's a lot in this thread, and what I have to say is not really meant to comment on anyone else's meaning -- I don't know exactly how it fits, to be honest -- but... If my five-year-old tells me that there's a monster in her closet, it is certainly false. But I'm not as certain that her statement is rightly described as "meaningless." Perhaps some sort of analysis of the terms alone is devoid of meaning? I take this to be the substance of some other opinions, at least. But actual human communication takes place in a context, and there may (or arguably must) be meaning in my daughter making the statement. Perhaps she means to communicate that she is afraid, or is bothered by something else in her life (e.g. something she saw on a tv show), or has mistaken some shadow, or that she craves attention, or wants to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed, or so forth. (Or hell, maybe there isn't a monster, per se, but an actual intruder.) This recognition is the difference between responding to her with interest and empathy, versus deciding "her statement is meaningless, therefore, no action is warranted," or even "no action is morally permissible," which, I would argue, would be poor parenting. This is also true (and perhaps more readily seen) in earlier life: a baby's gibberish has no content, analyzed literally, but I would not be comfortable saying that the baby's gibberish is meaningless; it does not arise out of nowhere, for no reason, and that context represents the very things that a parent is pressed to determine -- the meaning of the baby's cry (which is made famously hard because there is no particular relationship between the meaning of the cry, and its literal content). And then, I think this is true of later life, as well (though, perhaps ironically, harder to diagnose). Even people who are not babies and not five-year-olds sometimes (or regularly) express things without intending to express them, or even without understanding their own expression, and our false statements thereby reveal us -- our thoughts, emotions, interests, misunderstandings, etc. -- and in those ways are meaningful. Now as I said initially, my thoughts on this subject may run oblique to those expressed by others', or even tangential. I don't intend to argue with anything, exactly, but when I consider "contradictions" in the widest possible context I can (which, in this case, is to say: offered as a statement in the context of some situation -- and this can include an authored statement in a text, or anything else; come to think of it, it is also the case with a thought that a person has, even if not stated aloud -- it is still "stated" to the self, for some reason), I find that they have something I would call "meaning."
  11. Universals

    I guess I'll ask -- what exactly do we mean by "a concrete"?
  12. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Perhaps. Or perhaps there was a contradiction within their arguments that they did not recognize. We can further observe that my identification of your arguments as statist (or the results of your arguments as statism) are not the equivalent of my identifying you as a statist -- though this remains a possibility for the future; if I decided that Rand and Peikoff made some mistake with respect to subpoena, I would not necessarily decide that they were statists or arguing for statism, either. Though also, at some point, I might. If "in practical terms, it matters not at all," then I am uncertain about the value of trying to distinguish between all of these different constructions. You don't have a right to use violence, but it is morally proper to do so? You're not "in society," yet you're dealing with other people? I don't see the point to drawing such distinctions, even if I could agree that such distinctions are sensible, and thus I question the meaning/intention of doing so. If it is morally proper that I do something, if it is "legitimate" in any practical or earthly sense that we would endorse, if it is my means of securing my life, in reason, then yes, I affirm that I have the right to do it. If I am interacting with other people to any extent, that is society enough. (If I am truly isolated from others -- alone on a desert island -- then it's true that it would be unnecessary to talk about rights, in that context, as they would not be at issue; but I would still have rights, which would then apply in the event that I subsequently deal with other people.) Just to note, I think this takes a different approach than has thus far been taken in the thread, and one that I've been considering for a little while, as well. I've grown to suspect that if subpoena is appropriate in any manner, this may be the way to get there. This, however, reflects the approach you've taken (at times, at least), and I continue to disagree with it, for all of the reasons already given. And this I continue to find utterly ad hoc, and ultimately inconsistent with... well, the rest of the Objectivist Politics. It is interesting to consider how one precisely "signs up" for a particular government, and whether one may "opt out," and how... But as far as I'm concerned, this is indeed an argument for statism, whether Peikoff is aware of it or not; it is a concession of everything important -- the rest is just a matter of detail and time. I don't know how he reconciles this with Rand's position on voluntary taxation, or if he makes the attempt (or even sees the need), but if he believes that subpoena/jury duty ought to be compulsory* because "you pay the cost," then it seems to me like compulsory taxation ought not be far behind... or in front, actually, being a more literal incarnation of "the cost." (And, yes, the draft.) ______________________ * I'm basing my response solely on the quotes and commentary provided.
  13. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    I'm... reluctant to jump back in, so soon after considering myself "out." But I also want to pay respect to you and your questions... though I fear that to give them a full (i.e. meaningful) answer, I would have to write more than I really feel up to doing, at present. So rather than do that, I hope you'll accept this temporary non-answer... and take a rain check on my providing something more substantive (which I plan on doing, at some point in the near-ish future). With respect to your answers, what do you mean when you say that the use of violence is "legitimate" in the first situation? What "legitimates" this use of violence, and how is this different from acting with "right"? Edited to add: As an additional question (or two), when you say that "you do not have a right to use violence" in the first situation, what do you mean by this? In practical terms, what should "not having the right" to act in this manner matter to the people involved? Thank you for fleshing your meaning out.
  14. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    Ah, noted. Sorry for misunderstanding. However, it remains that there are people who have just such a preference -- and my comments may be taken in their direction. Right. So, in the first place, it absolutely is body modification. Is it also "sex change"? Not if we consider maleness to be related to the production of viable sperm, say -- at least, not until science makes that a real possibility. Still I'm proceeding under the assumption that some amount of "body modification" (or some particular body modification) can add up to a sex change, and then it remains for us to decide on a threshold. I've nothing against your stated threshold, as such, and if you're making the point that it cannot be a factual "sex change" (female to male) without body modification allowing for the production of sperm, then I'm fine with that, so far as it goes. My objection only remains that I don't think the issues you're discussing typically matter to the people involved in these decisions (or the majority of them, at least). I don't know whether they consider sperm production essential to being male, or that what they hope to accomplish through their surgery is related to satisfying your definition. Rather, they are appealing to some much wider view of male or female, which incorporates gender roles and so forth. So for their purposes, it may be "sex change enough."
  15. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    More power to you. (Seriously.) I only add here (with apologies for the repetition, but I repeat this sentiment only because I think it's important) that I don't think the goal of SRS, or whatever other form of "transition," is to satisfy the requirements of those who would define male as a "producer of viable human sperm." I don't think that speaks to what they're trying to accomplish, or to what they find important (with allowance, of course, for individuality). Agreed. But medicine is quite wonderful, already, and I expect it to improve. Perhaps it will one day outstrip even my capacity to imagine its advances. Yes, absolutely. But even those without a belief in God can make some... interesting arguments along these lines. I remember when I first debated these sorts of issues on this forum (which has provoked me to many of the positions I have subsequently taken), and someone argued that even if a woman could transition fully to a man in every ordinarily observable physical fashion, she would still be a woman on the inside... and he could still tell it (accounting to personality traits or mental habits that women have, by nature). I was, and remain... unconvinced. But again, being or not being a mammary gland is not necessarily the point. The woman (already possessed of mammary glands) who decides to get implants is doing so, perhaps, for the sake of presenting herself in a particular way, drawing certain kinds of reactions, and etc. And she might not be wrong to imagine that she will be treated differently, etc., with (for instance) C cups as opposed to A. Yet there are people who will react in strikingly different ways, knowing that a breast is "fake" versus "natural." Leave alone the potential for difference in "feel," or the potential for breast cancer, or the other observable -- and possibly meaningful -- differences; I just mean that knowledge of the origin, in and of itself, seems to matter to certain people. It's as though there's some conception of "breast essence," beyond its role as a gland, beyond its ability to nurse young, yet seemingly related to "size or shape," that is somehow affronted when it is saline providing the desired shape and not fat. I have known at least one Objectivist to describe it as "deception," and immoral. But what exactly is the nature of that deception, I'd like to know? I suspect that this has parallels and ties to the wider conversation about gender. I find it fascinating. I have no reason to criticize your preference, as such, though personally I don't know why I should prefer "metaphysical" to "man-made" in these sorts of respects. And isn't there an argument to be made that the "artificial" is yet more laudatory, in that it represents a will making itself manifest (or something like that); refusing to simply rest with the given, or what you're born with, but deciding instead to master the world and make things the way you want to be, for your own satisfaction? That's not really an argument I would make, myself, either -- "natural" versus "artificial" isn't really important to me, I don't think -- but I could imagine people making it.