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DonAthos

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  1. "It isn't about this at all"? All right, let's review then: The OP (along with the thread title) is not about "comparing governments," but dealing with the difficulties of living in a system where "the majority of people" support policies that -- in some cases -- make actual human life impossible. The first response that happiness received -- that "there is nowhere better than here" -- is not necessarily true. It may be true that there is nowhere better than here for DavidOdden, just as it may be true for me that "there is nothing better to eat than a peanut butter sandwich," but neither of these are universally true, and to say that they are (in the name of "objectivity") is to forget the role that context plays in objective thought. For instance, if happiness could secure the treatments he needs in some other country then it may well be better for him to move to that country to receive those treatments. Is "nowhere better than here"? Not necessarily for happiness, not necessarily in that case. (Note that I am here employing happiness in a completely hypothetical capacity; I've no idea about whether this is likely, or possible, and do not mean to comment on his actual situation.) Then JASKN wondered whether the US is truly evil (or "over-the-top evil") and he concluded that it is not, because he is still somewhat free (he "can still get on the internet and badmouth any branch of the government," and etc.). These comprise the two main responses. (Well... there is also Nicky's "response" of "most board members disagree" and "all the rational people I know can handle reading the news," which, in a better forum, would have been called out well before now; but I have already given him enough attention.) So if the response is, "but it is better here than elsewhere," that may be true (or it may not -- more in a second), but it doesn't actually speak to the matter at hand. If the response is, "things aren't so bad for me; therefore, things aren't so bad for you," then it is an utter failure. Yes, it is possible to evaluate two governments -- or to reason that X is better than Y -- but not without a context. Value requires a valuer, and Singapore (or the United States) may be the best option for some yet not for others. For the sake of further precision (albeit risking a touch of clarity), let me amend that slightly to say that it may be possible to evaluate two governments without a personal context, but not in any meaningful fashion. Evaluation is not some activity disconnected from life -- we evaluate things for a purpose, and that purpose guides and shapes our process of evaluation. If a person "evaluates" two countries from a standpoint outside of his own context, then he may well conclude that "this is the best/better country to live in" and be correct in all cases except for himself. This is pointless at best, and at worst lands the drug smuggler in a Singapore prison for life, and -- as I've imagined it -- spending his time singing the praises of the "relatively free" government there. Besides which, some "comparative" approach does not render the evil actions of any given government, Singapore or the US, less evil; and if we mean to speak to the OP or even simply the title of this thread, it does not necessarily help us to understand how to live in a country where such evil is tolerated or promulgated by our fellow citizens. What value is this comparative approach, then? It appears to be meant as a palliative, because "there is no such place as Galt’s Gulch." But some people are working towards the creation of Galt's Gulch, or something like it, because they do find the present situation intolerable. Those who are content with the status quo have no real reason to struggle against it -- and I mean that as no criticism. But let's not tell others that they must be content, as well, especially when their situation/context is potentially different from our own. For I maintain that those who say that the US is "not so bad" are able to do so, in part, because they have been fortunate in their experiences; there are other people for whom the US is so bad. (They are the people in "The Lottery" whose number has not been drawn... yet.) In point of fact, I do not expect that someone rotting in a Singapore prison for life, for "crimes" which ought not be crimes, will be constructing odes to the supposed relative merits of their system. He will be too intimately familiar with its failures -- and the personal consequences of those failures -- for that. And if you think that's what "objectivity" requires -- for the chained-and-whipped slave in the Antebellum US, say, to praise the US government because of the relative degree of freedom it allows for the people in the North -- then I fear that your approach to both "objectivity" and judgement are mistaken. It is not about assessing things according to some average, or some generic "everyman," or (ahem) "EVERYONE. Equally.", it is about assessing things according to whether they further your personal, individual life and happiness -- and then acting accordingly.
  2. This misses the purpose, and thus the proper means, of evaluation. You do not judge (i.e. evaluate morally) a system, or anything else, "based on how it does by EVERYONE. Equally." The purpose of evaluation is action, and insofar as your actions are meant to benefit the self, your evaluation must be according to the self as well. Is a peanut butter sandwich a healthy snack/meal? It depends. It depends on who you are -- your personal context. If you are deathly allergic to peanuts, then no, a peanut butter sandwich is not healthy. Not for you, not in your situation. The allergic may yet recognize that other people, in other contexts, may eat and enjoy peanuts and peanut butter; but his own evaluation of the healthfulness of eating a peanut butter sandwich is negative, as it must be if evaluation is to perform its role: which is a guide to action for the purpose of living, happiness, etc. An Objectivist sees no conflict between the fact that he is personally affected by a given subject (which is, per "Fact and Value," for instance, all of them) and his ability to assess that subject objectively. What I've described above is objective. What objectivity does not require is some "value of a peanut butter sandwich" for some abstract "everyman" who does not, in fact, even exist. This is why softwareNerd is correct, when he writes: This however... ...is bizarre and has nothing to do with the purpose of evaluation, etc. I imagine someone sitting in a Singapore prison for life (for something which ought not be a crime), singing the praises of their government, because of how it is supposedly better for "EVERYONE. Equally." (than what? Venezuela? is that the standard?) as opposed to the factual destroyer of his actual, one-time-only life on Earth. And yes, sometimes people need direct personal experience to give them perspective, particularly when lacking in any (or all) of information, imagination or empathy.
  3. Come on now. A few house slaves aside, most were denied use of their masters' internet. This has been a sticking point for me, in these kinds of conversations, for a while now. Of course the poster has a personal context relevant to this question. There doesn't exist a person without a personal context, and anyone's answer to this sort of question will necessarily reflect that context. The idea that a question like this can be meaningfully answered (or "interpreted") in some abstract "general 'average person' context" is suspect, at least, and in several discussions I've put to you that assessing the morality of the US legal system, or etc., depends greatly on who you happen to be. If you -- or a loved one -- is rotting in jail due to unjust drug laws, for instance, then it's probably not going to look like such a great system. An "average person" (by which we mean -- what, exactly? white? male? middle-aged?) needs to be able to take this sort of thing into account. It's as though saying that the society in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" wasn't so bad... so long as your number doesn't come up. And perhaps it's equally true that the person who feels the scourge of society should remember that things aren't so bad for many others in the community, but I guess it's sensible that we will all be biased towards our own experiences, for better or worse. The slave in a Roman mine won't be greatly heartened to know, I don't expect, that his forced labor furnishes someone else's villa. So if we're insisting on someone like happiness providing "personal context," then maybe the folks who constantly come in with "this country and its laws aren't so bad" also need to provide their personal reminder of "for me, in my situation." When we recognize that there yet remains institutionalized injustice, in our system or any other, that means that real evil is being visited upon some actual person. If you can live well enough with the tax laws, or whatever, then you can and more power to you, but let's not neglect the fact that not everyone emerges unscathed.
  4. 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...
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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?
  13. 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."
  14. Universals

    I guess I'll ask -- what exactly do we mean by "a concrete"?
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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."
  18. 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.
  19. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    I appreciate your saying so. Yes, that sounds right to me. I agree with the description of "an extreme form of genital modification," and that it is equivalent to breast augmentation, etc. Whether this is sufficient to describe it (truthfully) as "sex reassignment," again, depends upon what we judge male and female to be. You've related "being male" to sperm production, and whether or not that's the whole of your actual threshold, again: I imagine that some day the science will advance to the point that, yes, the technology will allow for that. (And then prepare yourself to argue with the people who say that sperm production is not sufficient to be male -- even if they had established that, previously, as their own threshold.) Facsimilies of penises or vaginas will improve, too, much in the manner of breast augmentation (which will also improve). At what point do we call it all "authentic"? At what point is a "fake breast" no longer "fake," but simply a breast? I don't know. There are people who are today satisfied by such things, even given the crude state of our technology, and I may count myself among them, because in my experience, for most intents and purposes, a breast is a breast is a breast. (I don't expect I would react likewise to an artificial vagina; but I also don't know that my gut reactions ought to be the plumb line for such things.) That's fine. This may be me "psychologizing," but I don't expect that most who pursue SRS care whether they're crossing your threshold (or mine; and I frankly don't know what my own threshold might be). I don't think they're looking to meet some definition of "manhood," for instance, where manhood has to do with "sperm production"; rather, like I've been trying to say, I think that they identify themselves more with how society (especially) sees men, and they want their visual appearance to reflect this inner identification. Part of it, I'm sure, has to do with how they're treated; if they constantly get dolls and would prefer trucks, they see appearance modification as a means to that end. In that, they may not even be wrong. I don't anticipate "man into supernatural god," because unlike robots, men, and women, I don't believe that the "supernatural" exists or can exist. (Could a man be powerful, however, to the degree of being virtually indistinguishable from many conceptions of deity? Yes -- I think that's possible, in some far future.) Robot into man is much trickier, and what a difficult conversation that always proves to be -- determining the threshold between an authentic consciousness, versus some program that only gives the appearance of consciousness. (I don't personally think the Turing test is adequate; there's an interesting work called The Most Human Human that pokes at some of these issues, and of course, Godel Escher Bach.) The factual emergence of consciousness, however, in that we exist and are conscious, leads me to believe that this is in no sense "impossible." And man into woman, unless we stipulate that a woman is only "that which is born a woman" (for whatever should motivate such an idea) should surely be possible, given sufficient technology and interest.
  20. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    No. I will also say that how I "define penis" has not ever been something I care about, to give any thought to it; I still don't. Though I am biologically male and also identify as male, this has never been a fact of any real importance to me. It just is. If some woman had a surgically extended urethra so as to approximate a penis, I wouldn't begrudge it to her, any more than people who get surgery to enhance their bosoms or reshape their noses. (Do we "define" breasts as lumps of silicone or saline? Not as such, I don't imagine.) If she identified herself as a man (on the basis of this or other characteristics she relates to being male), it would not particularly offend me, and if she asked me to refer to her as a "he" (or if social etiquette made this the norm, as I believe is currently the case) I would accommodate it without compunction. None of the reality of the situation changes. The "law of identity" has not somehow been violated (if the law of identity could be violated, then it wouldn't be the law of identity). What "he" is, is a person who was born female who has undergone surgery in an effort to either "become a man," or so that his outward appearance may better reflect his vision of himself. If we want to settle the question of whether he is now, or ever was, "truly" a man (to whatever extent we think answering this question matters to anyone... which is another question, in itself), then we have some more work to do, in defining what specifically makes a man, a man. If it is a sperm-producing penis, or whatever, in my opinion it's just a question of science catching up -- which I expect that, one day, it will. In the meantime, I'm satisfied that those who do all that they can, to the extent that the current science allows, have done all that they can, to express themselves, to be or become the person they want to be. I find the change morally neutral, as such (I see nothing superior about being male or female); I endorse the fact of taking action to make one's own life better, according to one's best judgement; and though I have deep reservations about the idea of "identifying as male" or female, according to gender roles, and etc., I have equal reservations for all of the "cis-gendered" folk who entertain their own ideas of what "being a man" or a woman means, including Ayn Rand. If the people who undergo the surgery don't expect the production of viable sperm, then I don't see why I should require it to, or hold it as "fraudulent" if it does not. I'm repeating the essence of something I've said a while ago, here, but I don't expect that most people looking to transition from woman to man care about things like the production of viable sperm. (Which is not to say that they would not avail themselves of it, if the science allowed for it; I imagine they just might.) I don't think it matters to them. Not centrally, at least. I know it doesn't matter to me, at all. Does it matter to the people who are typically hostile to things like SRS? I don't know, but I suspect not; when the science does catch up in this regard, the goalposts will have been moved, accordingly, and "the production of viable sperm" will no longer be sufficient. If this is the case*, then perhaps chasing the approval of such people isn't worthwhile. __________________________ * And I'm not saying this is necessarily the case for you, MisterSwig -- maybe you have an authentic threshold that can be crossed, given sufficiently advanced technology -- but if so, I don't expect that's typical. I think these battlelines are mostly drawn on emotional ground, on both sides.
  21. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    I think it's extraordinary only insofar as we identify "male" with "penis-having," and so forth; if we understand "male" in the more expansive sense ("truck-playing," etc.) -- the one where we construct all sorts of roles and expectations, tell people who may (in reason) run for the presidency and so forth -- then I think that it becomes a bit more mundane/understandable. I read it largely as "I am a person who enjoys playing with trucks, and I can see myself as President," and so on, despite the bits I have which lead you to tell me I ought not be/do any of those things. The penis-having bit may eventually seem to pale in comparison as against all of that stuff we throw into the gender box, and for those who set all of their store by penis-having, well, there's surgery for that. When you say "could potentially be alleviated by psychotherapy," and especially since this is offered in response to my comments (if indirectly), I'd like to offer a word or two of caution. There are two senses of "could," imo. This might be inadvisable of me for any number of reasons, but I'll submit that there is the "analytic could" and the "synthetic could." The "analytic could" embraces anything which is not a logical impossibility; the "synthetic could" speaks to those things that we may expect, in reason and in context. Could we live among the stars? I don't see why not. It isn't a logical impossibility, so far as I am aware. But could we -- you and I -- live among the stars, in our lifetime, given the current state of technology (and rate of technological advancement)? I wouldn't put money on it. Could the sort of dysphoria I'd described potentially be alleviated by psychotherapy? Perhaps it could... one day. (I do not claim to know that it could, in fact; I do not understand the mind sufficiently to say, and as the brain has a nature, the mind may not be capable of all things, as naturally constituted.) But based on my impression of gender dysphoria and associated, if I were afflicted with it today, I would not expect psychotherapy to "cure" me of it, not with a lifetime of therapy and medication, even if I decided that such a "cure" was the best option. Which leads me to my second caveat: Subjecting oneself to psychotherapy, for instance, takes time and energy and expense. Even if gender dysphoria is considered to be a disorder (which is an important element of the conversation, and potentially underexplored, imo*), I would want to know if, in a given individual's context, pursuing the "cure" afforded by whatever psychotherapy would be more valuable than learning to live with it, or pursuing some alternative form of "treatment," such as SRS. And SRS seems drastic and weighty, and I agree that it is, especially given the present state of the science (though again, I don't know whether it is more or less drastic than a lifetime of psychotherapy and the potential for suffering therein). But if we are allowing for "analytic" coulds, perhaps we could imagine a future where it is not such a drastic or irreversible change; and then I wonder what would become of our notions of gender or gender identity, and what we would recommend to someone suffering from such dysphoria. Imagine that, thanks to technological advancements, one's gender (in terms of phenotype, I suppose, at the very least) was as changeable as hair color: that someone could appear to all the world as man one day, woman the next, man the following. Would we tell a man who "feels" like a being a woman (for a day, or forever) not to pursue his inclination? __________________________ * It seems obvious to say that gender dysphoria is a disorder, especially given the great distress it can cause, and perhaps that is reason enough. But I do wonder sometimes about such things -- if society were more accepting, would it cause such great distress in the first place? Given the sort of technological advancement I've imagined, and the melting of social mores I might expect in the face of it, I don't know that we would continue to take "gender" so seriously as to consider it a disorder one way or another, to see oneself as male, female or other. I don't know that the experience of "dysphoria" itself would last, or be anything more substantial than the hunger pang that sends us out to the drive-thru to buy a cheeseburger. I'd like to be sensitive to 2046's point about not laying claim to things that we have no expertise in (and I have no expertise in... well, anything, really), but yes -- I think that post-op suicide rates probably have something to do with some people expecting surgery to produce internal outcomes which don't subsequently manifest; the problems lay deeper than that, in those cases. Though we should note, also, that modern society is hardly welcoming to such folk; being a political and social football, having one's sanity and morality subject to constant referendum, by seemingly everyone, can hardly be expected to help one through whatever other problems might exist (and may well cause problems of their own). This is to say that, even if 100% of SRS decisions were made correctly, we still might expect higher suicide rates from such a community, and possibly much higher. It would be for the best, perhaps, if everyone's self-esteem were hermetically sealed, and if we did not care a wit about the opinions of others, and could see through all of the false ideas about "what a person ought to be" at all times, and so forth, and just walk blithely forward, singing our own songs. That sounds lovely. Let's encourage that. But let's also recognize that the vast majority of humanity (and I include myself here) has not entirely worked out yet how to remain unaffected by the judgements of others. Could psychotherapy cure us all of that disorder one day? Perhaps it could...
  22. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    I fear we're reaching the point of repetition and consequently diminishing returns. Thus, this may be my last contribution -- at least, for a while... In any event, the context for rights? Is that what we're looking for? Yes, I think the intended context is human society, any society. I don't think it's any more "restrictive" than that. (And to search for societies in which individual rights are somehow held not to apply, I think, is to abandon the Objectivist Politics entirely.) "Individual rights is the only proper principle of human coexistence, because it rests on man’s nature, i.e., the nature and requirements of a conceptual consciousness." and "The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work." That's the context. If we're looking for "human coexistence" in such a society as you would devise, then individual rights apply: She spoke directly to the case of not finding a sufficient number of volunteers, and elsewhere that rights are not alienable in an "emergency." And while I think it's fine to disagree with all of that, can we at least acknowledge that you are doing so? I mean, earlier 2046 had quoted Rand asserting, "You cannot say that 'man has inalienable rights except in cold weather and on every second Tuesday,' just as you cannot say that 'man has inalienable rights except in an emergency,' or 'man's rights cannot be violated except for a good purpose.'" To that, it seems to me, you're saying the equivalent of, "but what about every second Wednesday?" You're both welcome and encouraged to figure things out for yourself, but in trying to determine what Rand meant with respect to the NAP, and individual rights, and her politics more generally, I do find her thoughts about the draft and taxation meaningful. This is also why I was interested in her reasoning for supporting a subpoena (granting that she did). It may yet be the case that there's an inconsistency between her support for subpoena and her theory of rights, generally; in such a case, I'm inclined to keep the latter over the former. "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." I think the way you're phrasing things (e.g "in the service of human life," etc.) serves to obscure Rand's meaning: she means to eliminate force so that men deal with one another as described above, via reason. Yes, there will still be criminals -- those who continue to initiate the use of force -- and the role of government is to respond to those criminals with retaliatory force. One of us seems to misunderstand, at least. "No right not to provide the government what it needs"*? Yes, I think this is your position, stated essentially. I continue to disagree. I know you don't care what Rand had to say about the draft, yet I do (and others reading this thread might as well), so: Yet I think you're saying, indeed, that "rights impose obligations." The existence of government -- which man needs for the protection of rights -- imposes obligations upon the individual, in terms of subpoena and taxation and conscription. You must give the government what it needs, and after all, you have "no right not to." You adopt this selfsame argument and imagine that it somehow only applies to subpoena, and not to the rest, but it is what it is. It is statism. ___________________________ * And I understand you've appended "to be objective," by which you mean information, and you hold this to be more fundamental to the role of a government than funding or manpower. Though later you say, "In the case of a population that won't supply sufficient funds or manpower...all bets are off," so...
  23. What Sonic The Hedgehog Shows Us About Evil

    I didn't really care for Sonic. I guess I would have been 13/14 when the game debuted, and I was an avid video game player, so I was right in the crosshairs as the target demographic. I think that's why I rejected him, honestly. I felt like his character (or more specifically, his characteristics) were designed to pander to me, or "kids like me," though I wouldn't have been able to put that into words at the time*. I felt this way about a lot of "rebel" characters, like Bart Simpson when the Simpsons debuted, or even Wolverine in the X-Men (especially his portrayal in various cartoon incarnations). It felt so obvious and lazy, and I resented how fabulously it worked on my contemporaries. If you made a character "rebellious," that character would be the most popular -- the bait worked; and I'm not going to pretend that this is a more sophisticated reaction, but I think I was "rebelling" against that. _______________________ * I've had some of this confirmed just recently, actually, reading Console Wars by Blake Harris. I don't know whether it ought to matter to me, but knowing that Sonic was essentially created by marketing people, his traits and appearance crafted to be "just so" for young teenage boys, remains a turn off.
  24. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    Generally, I agree with you. I only mean to examine these ideas of gender, "gender dysphoria" and the like, which is why I'm currently more interested in "playing with dolls" as opposed to the rest. If we were talking about people growing up with bizarre religious convictions, I'd think "going to church" would play a prominent role -- or if it were tooth rot, then yes, "brushing your teeth." These all may be more or less significant or damage-inflicting, in a given context, but I find this more significant (and potentially damage-inflicting) with respect to gender dysphoria/transgenderism. I also agree that part of growing up is realizing that it's possible for authority figures to be wrong, and daring to disagree with them, but with respect to "gender identity" specifically I do wonder how easy it is (if not in every case, at least in certain cases) to root out misconceptions that may have been smuggled into your thinking, about yourself and your own nature... perhaps on quite a deep level. It's like, the idea "only girls play with dolls" -- though I think it's been challenged somewhat over the last several years -- this is an idea that I think will still find a lot of backing and emphasis generally in society. And we get so many messages about gender, and gender role, and expectation -- from so many people, from such an early age. And these ideas are meant to form a part of our core identity, and as noted, we sometimes give them moral/value significance, such that "being good" is equated to "being male" or "being female" or (as I argue) "acting in ways that are stereotypically male" or female. Perhaps a person can, over time, think his way through all of this -- but imo, this may require a heroic effort, especially in a context (culture and/or family) where it is stressed, and who knows how long it might take, regardless, and what the opportunity costs might be. Certainly, I agree. Though if we're relying upon the child to see through his parents' mistakes, then perhaps we can also remember that the parents themselves have had that same opportunity to correct their own misconceptions prior to having/raising children. I'm not saying that parents ought to refrain from raising their children in the best manner they can (which is, as always, prone to error). I'm saying that these particular errors, in putting value significance on things like whether one conforms to some gender role/expectation, like playing or not playing with dolls -- for I think that they are errors -- may help to account for the emergence of phenomena like gender dysphoria, etc. Our mistakes, even when honest and understandable, are not consequence free. Yes, that's right. Some have it harder than others, and some much harder. And while I don't want to say that some (desired) outcome is impossible in a given circumstance -- I believe in the power of the individual mind and volition quite a lot -- I don't expect that, say, we would be having this same sort of conversation, had we been born and raised in the Dark Ages. In Carolingian France, I expect we would not have been Objectivists a thousand years before Rand, heroically seeing through all of the bullshit foisted upon us by our parents, our wider family, our community, our education (insofar as we would have received one), and (nigh) literally everyone in our lives. I frankly* expect we would have been Christian. ______________________ * Pun intended. I agree that there are similarities (although I am reticent to group "same-sex attraction," for instance, with an eating disorder, in other respects; I am unconvinced that same-sex attraction does a person any harm, of itself). And well a person may struggle if he sees himself as a "good student" -- or desires to be -- and fails to meet that expectation, etc. For some children, this is a crippling issue. Yet I would imagine religion, and the crisis of losing it, as taking place on a deeper level than one's identification as a "good student" (generally speaking; there are individuals for whom the opposite would be true, I'm sure); and gender, for most people, much more deeply than either of those. Actually, come to think of it, I suspect that may help to account as to why there's so much vehement pushback against transgenderism... Some of us identify ourselves so strongly with our gender that the idea that someone may identify themselves in a different way is received as a kind of blow against our own sense of identity. Oh, I quite agree that this is the ideal. It's fine. I don't know whether this counts as "raising kids gender neutral," or "laissez-faire," but what my wife and I have done is let our daughter know that she is a girl (and we've had some discussion as to genitalia, etc., though as I've said, I don't think this has meant a heck of a lot to her yet). Beyond that, as to what "being a girl" means, we are largely hands-off. We've done nothing in particular to encourage her to choose dolls over trucks, or vice-versa, but nothing to discourage her, either, from choosing whatever it is that interests her. She does love the color pink, and so we've made many of our aesthetic choices accordingly; but we also get her toys and sign her up for classes (like taekwondo, t-ball), etc., meant to give her a broad perspective and range of experience. Please let me know if you consider this to be "pathological"; I do try not to be pathological... That's all right. I've been assured recently that parents can't help having opinions. I'm not too well-versed in attachment theory. My wife has done some reading on the subject, and I think she's incorporated some aspects from it into our approach, but I couldn't tell you specifically what. I have no intention on withholding my soul from my child; you see how I share myself in this cold, impersonal forum -- in real life, let alone in a familial relation, I am utterly unbearable. No, I fully plan on dealing my daughter all of the psychological trauma that is the father's right (or even duty) to impart. But it is my thought, opinion and genuine reaction that "being a girl" imposes nothing with respect to dolls or trucks, and as I share that openly with her, I also share it with you.
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