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cmdownes

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  1. I think you stated most clearly what some other posters were driving at. Can you expand a bit on the distinction between internal causation and external causation? That is, how do we distinguish empirically between the two, identify processes as products of one or the other? The reason I'm interested in this is that given the way Peikoff articulates the nature of value in OPAR, these questions about life appear epistemically prior to ethical reasoning. Rand's ethics is grounded on some level in a philosophy of biology, in a series of propositions about the nature of life its relationship to agency.
  2. This is an area of confusion regarding Objectivist metaethics that has vexed me for some time. I'm going to refer a bit to OPAR to unpack it a little. Let me preface this by saying that I'm posting this in M&E because I think it is properly a question of metaethics or perhaps the epistemology of value, not a normative ethical question per se. My issue is that I don't have a clear understanding of what Rand/Peikoff mean by goal-directed action. The working definition given in the text is "Action toward an object" (209). But on its face, this isn't terribly illuminating. Falling objects seem to act in a way which is directed towards an object (namely the ground). Melting ice acts in accordance with its nature to transition into a liquid, given appropriate conditions. Even stars are born, go through various processes of growth and change, and then collapse into some final state. But presumably these aren't goal directed actions in a Randian sense. I tend to think Peikoff would put the entities I described in the same category as "desks and pebbles," entities that "we do not observe... pursuing goals" (209). Why is this important? Because for Rand the term, "value," is defined empirically on the basis of, "the fact of goal-directed action," as, "that which one acts to obtain or keep" (208). Rand writes that value "presupposes an entity capable of generating action towards an object" (209). So the answer to Rand's question of what kind of entity needs values - and what those values are for - is at least partially dependent on unpacking what we might call Rand's account of agency. Rand/Peikoff maintain that only living organisms are "capable of self-generated, goal directed action - because they are the conditional entities, which face the alternative of life or death". Importantly, Rand is not talking here about what she argues is the exclusively human property of volition. "Goal directed behavior is possible only because an entity's action, its pursuit of a certain end, can make a difference to the outcome. 'Alternative' does not imply choice; it means that the entity is confronted by two possible results: either it acts successfully, gaining the object it seeks, or it does not (and thus fails to gain the object)" (208). This confuses me more than it clarifies the issue. I don't understand how a non-volitional organism is ever confronted by two possible results. Like all entities in the Objectivist metaphysics, it can only act in accordance with its nature. For non-volitional entities, this means that it necessarily acts in a particular way given a particular set of circumstances. Where is the alternative? What does Peikoff mean by saying that there is an alternative without choice? For instance, let us say that I leave some algae in a petri dish with bright lights and some food. Overnight, the algae consumes the food and the number of organisms doubles. At least intuitively, this seems like it should be a decent example of goal-directed action. But what's the alternative confronted by the algae? They certainly can't choose not to consume the food. The alternative seems to just be the truth of the counterfactual hypothetical sounding something like: Well, if it had failed to eat the food, it wouldn't have doubled in number. But the algae could only have not consumed the food and doubled in number if its nature were different than it is. It seems unlikely that what Peikoff means by possessing an alternative, however, is that an entities nature could be other than it is. Without a clear notion of goal-directed action, we can't identify what kinds of entities need values and what those values are for. The upshot of the issue I'm outlining is that from an Objectivist perspective (1) I can't figure out a rigorous way to distinguish between inanimate objects and living beings in terms of the goal-directedness of their actions, which threatens to make the category of entities which possess values over-inclusive, and (2) I can't understand the criterion put forward by Peikoff to answer this concern in a way which does not contradict the Objectivist account of causation. I'd be interested in hearing clarifications from y'all.
  3. I certainly don't disagree with the point that the Kantian duty to see to one's happiness is mediated by one's obligation to do their duty as such. But Nicko was saying that a Kantian isn't permitted to do anything that benefits themselves. This isn't what the text bears out. But Kant doesn't think that if you are suffering, then you are doing your duty. He's making the epistemic point that we can't determine the moral worth of actions that comport with duty and with our inclinations. This is not a normative obligation to make oneself suffer. I have a lot of respect for you if you've studied Kant in the German. I'm told it's very difficult going. On the other hand - if you meant to impugn my intellectual honesty, I prefer that you do it directly.
  4. Nicko0301 "I don't see the distinction." Really? BogG's reading ("You receive no benefit at all from doing your duty. This includes even a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment. You will feel nothing.") entails that no action of a moral agent which is required by duty can be beneficial to that agent. But Kant isn't saying that doing your duty can't benefit you. In fact, in the Groundwork he explicitly mentions a case where one could act in a way that benefits oneself and be moral: a shopkeeper who offers inexperienced customers the same prices as experienced customers has two possible motivations - he may be acting out of duty to his fellow man or he may be worried about losing customers if he takes advantage of their ignorance. If the shopkeeper is fully motivated by his duty to his fellow man, then his actions express moral worth, regardless of the fact that he accrues some benefit by his actions. "Kant is still attacking the notion of self-interest." I'm making a point about the content of what Kant is saying, not about the truth of what Kant is saying. That Objectivists will disagree with Kant's view regardless of whether one accepts my reading or BobG's isn't really relevant. "I mean, can you imagine living a life wherein you did absolutely nothing for yourself?" Kant doesn't argue for this. It is entirely permissible in a Kantian framework to do things that are in your own interest. In fact, Kant writes in the Groundwork that "To secure one’s own happiness is a duty". It's just that such acts usually aren't expressions of moral worth because they generally aren't undertaken out of duty. That doesn't mean they're forbidden. Kant even writes that "we should praise and encourage" actions that comport with duty but which are undertaken for selfish reasons. BobG "If your purpose is to understand Kant a mainstream history does not necessarily give you an accurate view. Dr. Peikoff does give you an unadultrated view as close to Kant as is possible." If your purpose is to understand Kant as opposed to strawmanning him, the work of somebody who basically considers Kant a proto-Nazi is not the best place to begin. Even if Peikoff were somehow right about Kant, it would be better to begin with a more charitable reading. That's just a principle of good philosophical scholarship. "If I was talking about actions performed from your own motivation you would be right. Since I was referring to Kant's view of ethical actions you have misread my statement." I'm not quite sure I understand your counterclaim here. "Yet, I am quite sure that Kant explicitly said that a moral action should elicit no emotion in the actor." Kant does not say this. Kant says that to the extent that one acts on the basis of desires and preferences rather than out of respect for duty, one's actions are not expressions of moral worth. (http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdf/kantgw.pdf p10) You can have emotions, it's even permissible to act on the basis of them so long as you are also acting in accordance with duty. It's just that to the extent you act on the basis of those emotions, your actions don't have moral worth. "A moral action would be performed solely because it is moral and have no consequence for the actor." The first half of this sentence is true, that actions which express moral worth are those actions performed solely because of duty. But the not having any consequence stuff isn't in the Groundwork. Kant flatly doesn't care about the consequences of actions, and he repeats over and over again the Groundwork that they are irrelevant to determinations of the moral worth expressed by actions. What Kant cares about is the reasons for action.
  5. I'd suggest using a text somewhat closer to the philosophical mainstream as an introduction to the history of philosophy. You cite the right text to go to, but you grossly misread it. Kant doesn't thnk that "you receive no benefit at all from doing your duty" but rather that actions that you perform motivated by your own benefit don't express a good will or moral worth.
  6. I'm not going to argue that Kant was right, but you're being overly hasty in assuming that Kant assigns an ontological status to things in themselves. It's not like he's pointing to some set of purportedly noumenal entities and then telling us a fantastic story about them. Kant's point is that our perceptions and lived experience are pre-structured by a priori intuitions. To say that we never perceive a thing in itself is merely to say that we can't perceive things except in relation to our intuitions about space and time etc, the pre-structure of our consciousness. It's an entirely plausible reading of the Critique to say that when talk about things in themselves, we are employing a methodological abstraction of the object away from the epistemological conditions through which we come to know them (the pre-structure). This doesn't commit Kant to thinking that there are magical, unobservable entities hiding behind appearances. Henry Allison pursues this reading of Kant in "Kant's Transcendental Idealism" - which, to speak to the OP's topic, is a very comprehensive analysis of the first critique, albeit from a sympathetic perspective.
  7. Well, good. Now that we've divided the field into ersatz materialists and straw man "true materialists" who actually resemble your description, I think we're in agreement.
  8. That's two separate claims. Eliminative materialists might agree with #1, but are a distinct minority of materialists. Materialists broadly taken will agree with #2, but I don't understand how believing that consciousness is the product of material processes makes one "anti-consciousness". A sentence like: "This awareness, while made possible by our means of awareness (which are material) is not itself something that is material. Consciousness is not a thing but rather more like an ability -- the ability to be aware," is something a lot of materialists could get behind - note that you haven't actually proposed the existence of a non-material thing as such. Consciousness doesn't have to be a material thing for a materialist to talk about it coherently. An abstraction from the dispositional and relational properties of material things will do just fine.
  9. Huh? How is materialism "anti-consciousness"? What does that even mean?
  10. And I submit that your claim is unsubstantiated eurocentric nonsense. Want to trade more warrantless claims?
  11. Even if certain indigenous groups didn't have strong conceptions of land ownership, they definitely had an idea of joint, tribal ownership of hunting, fishing and rights in particular areas. Certain tribes even distributed these kinds of rights internally, so a certain family group would own exclusive rights to particular hunting grounds. Land itself may not have been carved up and owned privately by indigenous North American groups, but other kinds of rights to natural resources definitely were. And those rights were substantially infringed upon by the appearance of white settlers and their government backed claims of land ownership. The apologist claim that "the count" of the indigenous population was quite low actually feeds this argument. Clearly each indigenous inhabitant of North America didn't own hundreds of thousands of acres of land The low population meant that land simpliciter wasn't a scarce resource and explains WHY indigenous groups didn't have strong conceptions of land ownership. They didn't need them. But other resources - like animal populations and fishing areas - were scarce, and frequently property rights regimes were developed and enforced. These regimes were pretty much uniformly destroyed by European settlers.
  12. I'll give you the last word with regards to our discussion. I'm wary of making positive claims about the nature of objects, on account of them probably not comporting with Objectivism. The mods get unhappy with that.
  13. I think I'm quite finished here. These eight absurd implications of your view: 1. Proper nouns and definite descriptions never refer to actual entities unless those entities are objects of perception at the time of utterance. 2. The dots left on my eyes by staring at the sun are entities in a metaphysically strong sense. 3. There does not exist an entity such that it has parts. 4. Objects are incapable of changing shape. 5. Things don't have color, duration, mass, motion or texture when we look away from them. But they have shapes. 6. Shape is an objective property. All other properties are irreducibly subjective. 7. Entities have no properties other than shape. 8. Vast amounts of our everyday discourse are wholly meaningless. ...are in themselves sufficient reason to discard your epistemology. I don't think we'll get any closer to agreement by continuing to hammer back and forth.
  14. Stunning. So when I say "The current president of the United States", it doesn't actually refer to Barack Obama unless I'm in his physical presence. You can add this to the list of objections to your epistemology - it totally disconnects the referents of concepts from reality. Thank you for the substantive answer. One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, I guess. The question is which set of premises we should give up. You can refer to the discussion of illusions I had with Grames (and if you're reading this, I promise I'll return to our discussion after this business with altonhare winds down. I just can't keep up this volume of posts with my schedule right now). It seems manifestly true that we can doubt the existence of objects we perceive, for instance the illusory lake on the horizon in the desert. Your reply will probably be something like: since it has shape it's an object, I just happen to be misidentifying it conceptually as a lake instead of something else. But this just shows how wrongheaded this reduction of objecthood to shape is. If I close my eyes, I see shapes. Clearly defined shapes against my field of vision. But to say that I am perceiving existents/objects when I do is an absurdity. At best I'm perceiving objects whose existence I doubt. So simply perceiving a shape cannot be tantamount to directly perceiving an object's existence. Given that, we should endorse (1) and reject either (2) or (3). I don't see any reason to reject all dispositional properties as necessarily not common to all objects. "No object IS what it DOES" - that's a slogan, not an argument. Regardless, what an objects DOES is completely dependent on what it IS. Like Rand says, things act in accordance with their natures. Even if I only come to know some fact about an object's nature via the manifestation of dispositional properties, that doesn't somehow make that fact illegitimately derived. Admittedly, duration is the better counterexample. Which is probably why you don't address it. Of course I don't. But objects reflect light in different ways, and this is an objective feature of the world. This is the property which undergirds our phenomenal experience of color. The fact that we identify certain ranges of this difference with measurements and terminology doesn't mean that somehow color is all in our heads. CERTAINLY YOU DON'T PROPOSE THAT ONE SHAPE IDENTIFIES ANOTHER AS TRIANGULAR! I really just don't see how you're distinguishing between shape and other properties in a meaningful way. Existents would have properties - even properties other than shape - in the absence of human interaction with them. Without humans to measure mass, massive objects would still attract other objects through gravitation. Without humans to measure heat, stars would still incinerate anything that fell into them. And if a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is around to hear it, it still makes a sound. You're committing a deep error, that of thinking that our descriptions and conceptualizations of properties are somehow totally disconnected from reality. Admittedly, they are abstractions from reality. That this apple is red isn't some objective feature of the universe per se. But it does MAP ONTO objective features of the universe (in this case the particular way in which the object reflects light) which we identify via reason, which our conceptual faculties allow us to grasp and articulate. And shape is exactly the same. What I'm not getting from you is an argument for the special status of shape. You just keep asserting that it doesn't require conscious identification and every other property does. There should be a presumption in favor of the notion that people say meaningful, intelligible things most of the time. After all, communication happens. Obviously our ordinary ways of speaking about things can be flawed, but to show this you need to provide, you know, arguments. Honestly, looking back at our discussion, in every single dispute we're having you justify position via your fetishization of shape. The special metaphysical/epistemic status of shape is at the basis of your claims about groups, your account of the distinction between concepts and objects, and your description of perception. In order for something to be demarcated with a boundary, there must exist something that it is demarcated from or against. If the universe consisted of just a single shape, it would be without boundaries. (1) Either there is something outside of a bounded space/shape x, or there is nothing outside of a bounded shape x. (2) "There is no nothing." (3) There is some object y outside of any bounded shape x. (by 1 & 2) (4) Assumption: Object y is bounded shape x. (5) Bounded shape x is outside of bounded shape x. (an absurdity which follows from 4 & 1 and falsifies assumption (4)) (6) Object y is not bounded shape x. (5 & 4) Therefore if there exists one object, there must exist at least one other object. I said objects aren't identified as extended in space without a consciousness to do so because identification is by definition a conscious act. I'm not saying that an object has no shape when you're not looking at it - I'm saying that objects have color, tastes, textures etc even when we're NOT sensing them. YOU'RE the one who thinks that objects lose practically all of their properties when they aren't being perceived. Though I suppose that it's more accurate to say you don't think they have any of those properties even when they are being perceived, since those properties belong to concepts and not objects. It's not about the name. It's about it being the SAME OBJECT - despite the change in shape.
  15. Trust me, I get it. I understand your claim. But you aren't responding to my counter-argument, that there is a class of unique, particular objects - those identified via definite descriptions like "the keyboard on altonhare's desk" - which can't be captured by your account. If I go to your desk and see your keyboard, I've verified the existence of "the keyboard on altonhare's desk". Usually your answer is, no, you just had some set of properties that you threw together and found an object that resembles them, you didn't identify some particular object. But this object's particularity IS one of the properties it has by definition. If I find a single keyboard on your desk, then I've verified it's existence and it is "the keyboard on altonhare's desk", not something resembling a mental object I've been carting around. Just answer the argument as amended. OK, so you admit that there can be particular things which are not the objects of observation or conceptualization, yes? "My senses tell me that the object on the table has nothing in common with the object I put into the fire, but my reason tells me that it's the same one. Because I changed all my percepts of the object, but maintained my awareness of the same object's existence, I must not grasp the object's existence as a perceptual determination, but rather as a rational determination justified by percepts." Your theory about what's happening is totally non-responsive to this argument. Uncertainty argument. v.1.2 (1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2) One comes to know that an object exists directly via perception. (3) It is impossible to doubt that which one comes to know directly via perception. (4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1) The terminology here is really unimportant. I'm trying to find an expression that matches your notion that the observation of an object's existence isn't a rational or intellectual process. I invite you to respond to the content of the argument. That seems both arbitrary and plainly false. I might as well pick any other random property, say color or duration, and assert that it is REALLY what is primary about entities. How does color require the conceptualization of a conscious observer in a way which shape does not? Now you're just flagrantly contradicting yourself. You said before that an entity qua entity doesn't have parts. Earlier in discussion you said: "Groups of entities" do not consist of entities. I have no idea at this point what you're arguing for. And in the rest of this paragraph you answer my argument about the equivocations you generate in natural language by saying that you're distinguishing between different senses of the same word. But that's the problem. The distinction you're arguing for (or at least your articulation of it) creates an artificial distinction between objects qua things which have shapes and objects qua things which have all the other properties we care about which generates absurdities like my inability to kick pieces of furniture (since being a piece of furniture is a property of concepts and not entities). That's just question begging. As noted earlier, it actually makes everyday speech ridden with ambiguities and equivocations. Only by taking the nuclear option of saying that NO groups of objects are objects. Under your account "eiffel tower + my toe" is no more absurd than "table leg + table top". How are mass and the frequencies of light reflected by objects somehow less objective features of the universe than shape? These aren't things that require differences or human perceivers, and they are the physical characteristics of the universe that underlie color and heaviness. The hell it does. Things have shape because they have edges, boundaries. If there were only one object in the universe, there wouldn't be any boundaries between objects and hence, no shapes. You say that "An object is not identified as rough unless there is another object to compare it to that is not rough." But objects aren't identified as extended in space unless there's some consciousness to do the identifying. All of the qualities you discuss are equally dependent for their identification on the existence of a conscious mind. Shape isn't somehow special in this way. But they all also refer to objective features of the world around us. Objects REALLY ARE colored, rough etc. Now, they are are colored and rough with respect to human standards of these things, but that doesn't mean that these terms aren't referring to underlying objective physical properties - like frequencies of reflected light in the instance of color. No, it's substantially wierder than it sounds.
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