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DavidOdden last won the day on October 27 2018

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  1. DavidOdden

    Abortion Rights and Parental Obligations

    The first step in reasoning is that you must be able to perceive and identify facts of the world. “Identifying” implies discrimination – as Binswanger points out, concept formation depends on identification of similarities in two or more things excluding a third. The second step is assignment to a linguistic form. The third step towards reasoning is forming propositions, which involves developing the “subject/predicate” distinction (i.e. you have to have the rather high-order concepts of entity and attribute). Then you have to grasp some sophisticated laws of logic. Survival qua man is not possible if you only know how to discriminate cats, dogs, pigs, sheep and people. Children don’t clearly get to the third stage until they are over 2 years old, and it takes a few more years to get to that last stage. It is not clear when they get to the second stage, because infants know things that they can’t do. They have to have developed the motor control necessary to say “dog”, “cat” (even imperfectly). They also need to develop auditory and visual skills to the point that they can discover that this thing is a “dog” and that thing is a “cat”. Some while ago, it was realized among developmental scientists that we don’t have to wait for children to utter recognizable words in order to conclude that they have developed basic language skills, we can also test whether they can perceive language units. I would say that at present we don’t have much knowledge of what’s in their brains below 6 months, but the main impediment to them speaking is lack of motor control, and not a cognitive lack.
  2. DavidOdden

    Raising Standards of Education

    There is a huge amount to discuss here, and the first step is to understand the implication of “What would a modern alternative comprehensive online school look like?”. First, the question needs to be what a school should be, which makes more explicit that schools have a purpose and we must identify that purpose – the ultimate goal of education – before we can say how we will get there. The purpose of a school is primarily to develop a person’s skills in logic. The secondary purpose is to convey factual conclusions which a person needs, in order to survive (qua man, not just morgue-avoidance). The qualifications “modern, alternative, comprehensive” do not usefully delimit the thing that we seek. Bear in mind that contemporary educational practices are alternative practices, relative to the practices of the 50’s and 60’s. Being “alternative” is not an objective value, but following different practices could be valuable. We can drop those qualifiers, and ask simply “What is the best way to educate people online” (that is what I take to be the essential and reasonable goal behind the question). A corollary question is, how or why would online education (OE) differ from in-person education (IPE)? In favor of OE is that it largely eliminates transportation, scheduling and physical-facility problems faced by IPE. Speaking against OE is the fact that it makes student-teacher interaction more difficult (huge lag time between question and answer). A partial advantage of OE is that some aspects of the process can be automated; a partial disadvantage is that some aspects of the process cannot be automated, but they are anyway. I am very wary of claims about online instruction being less expensive. This may be technically true, but not necessarily a good thing. In some instances, this is accomplished through the selflessness of the instructor: I don’t need to tell you why that is not a good thing, though they have the right to self-sacrifice. In many cases, it is accomplished via the false premise “If we just set this up right, we can let the program run unattended”. You can certainly set up a system that doesn’t require significant human intervention (as teaching does), but they have not at all persuaded me that they are providing a satisfactory product. This, I would say, is the major discussion point regarding online education. IMO, the currently optimal approach is IPE with well-structured online supplementary material.
  3. DavidOdden

    Abortion Rights and Parental Obligations

    “Potential person” would have to refer to something at the embryo end of the developmental scale. “Man” a.k.a. “person” already expresses potential – man is the animal with the faculty of reason. A faculty is a potential, not an actual performance. The potential to integrate and identify already exist before birth, though clearly not through the whole of fetal development. A fertilized egg is a potential person, and probably a fetus at 26 weeks is still just a potential person (that is, those facts which enable man’s special identification and integration powers are still under construction: but they get constructed before birth). In other words, I think that appeal to “potential” is confusing, when speaking of a concept defined in terms of a potential.
  4. DavidOdden

    Abortion Rights and Parental Obligations

    Since all concepts (by definition) are abstractions, referring to “concepts involving some amount of abstraction” suggests that you mean “those concepts which involve some amount of abstraction”, as distinguished from “those first-order concepts drawn directly from experience”. I take it that you simply meant “when it understands concepts”, period. Now the next question would be, what do you mean by “understands concepts”, as opposed to “has concepts” or “forms concepts”? Frankly, before ITOE was written, I don’t think anyone really understood concepts but of course we have used them for eons. Why not simply say “has concepts”? The question of how plain the meaning of words is difficult. There are no intrinsic relations between words and referents, i.e. the relationship between “yellow” and what it refers to is not because those sounds necessarily convey the property of yellowness. The relationship between a word and its referents is conventional and defined only in the context of a particular language. I use the word “person” in this discussion because it refers to the same thing that “human” does, and the same thing that “man” does except when “man” is used to refer to “adult human male”. Do you agree that “person” and “human” refer to the same thing? Do you also agree that “person” and “man” when used in the sex- and maturational-neutral sense refer to the same thing? I would expect so, but perhaps you will surprise me. However you answer those question, how do you justify your answer? I base my conclusion on my knowledge of what things the word refers to. Perhaps my knowledge is wrong – at one time, I was wrong about the referent of “rafter”. Rand makes two essential identifications, which I agree with. A propos “man”, A propos “reason”: I’m not introducing a covert “heresy” argument; if you disagree with either of these identifications, that’s fine, but I’d like to see a reason to reject them, and also what you would replace them with. It looks to me like the disagreement has to do with what the referents of “man” are.
  5. DavidOdden

    Abortion Rights and Parental Obligations

    One problem is that this has to be tied to some burden-of-proof concepts. Can you legally destroy your new-born child because you have no evidence that he can reason? What kind of reasoning do we require, e.g. the ability to follow a coherent argument (many people fail that test), before we recognize that the being is a person? What is the nature of fetal cognition? Bear in mind that the womb is not an impenetrable stasis chamber, and there is evidence that aspects of the ambient language are learned in utero (the ability to tell “that’s mommy’s language” from “that’s another language”). The problem is that it is plain that a newborn or a 4-month old is a person, even if they are not capable of sophisticated reasoning, and redefining ‘man’ ignores the reality of what the word refers to – which I contend relates to the faculty of reason, and not the actual demonstration of reasoning. Denigrating first order concepts (“dog”) as insufficient proof of humanness (it’s not abstract, the unification of concepts into other concepts) ups the ante for what it means to be “man”, and I don’t see the argument for adding such a condition to the definition of “man”.
  6. I’m slightly puzzled about what the problem is, and it might help you if you would simplify and be a bit more explicit. Let’s say that the problem is that some employees steal from the company. They are behaving irrationally. You know that stealing from the company is irrational, and you do not steal. Is your concern that your grip on the irrationality of theft is not very firm, and you are concerned that you will adopt an irrational practice? That’s my primary guess as to what your issue is. That is, even though you intellectually know that certain behaviors are irrational, you cannot overcome the emotional reactions that you have to irrational situations. It may help you to intellectualize this situation a bit more. Your emotions result from other people betraying your values: you recognize the objective superiority of your system of values, compared to their “system” of values. Ideally, you’d like to not be confronted by that other non-system. So you have to make a choice, meaning you have to understand your own system of values well enough. I would not advocate rage-quitting (totally irrational), but what about value-based quitting? What value of yours is being destroyed by the existence of irrationality in others? You have to go beyond saying “I want all people to act rationally”. If indeed (as I am confident is not really the case) that working with these irrational people makes existence impossible for you, then you should seek employment elsewhere – anywhere else. If all elsewheres are equally intolerable for you, you will have discovered that you reject the primary choice (the choice to exist). We know where that leads. On reflection, you will probably then realize that you can actually take other employment e.g. at Galt’s Janitorial service, though there will be a pay cut. Or you may discover that you can make your choices based on reason (that’s what it means to be rational) and not based on emotion. So you can continue to work there and not steal. Setting aside non-trivial cost problems, it might help to seek a professional who can get you to embrace reason as a tool of cognition, rather than emotion (in discovering what choices to make). The rage reaction to irrationality is itself chosen, and it can be unchosen as well.
  7. DavidOdden

    Animals and Unit Identification

    Recall that a concept is not just the judgment that these things are similar in some way, compared to those things. It also crucially involves assigning that identification to a mental symbol, a “single, specific, perceptual concrete, which will differentiate it from all other concretes and from all other concepts”. And “This is the function performed by language. Language is a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psycho-epistemological function of converting concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes. Language is the exclusive domain and tool of concepts”. See page 10 of ITOE
  8. I think it would be useful to quote part of How we know, from the chapter on perception When you say that “there is no third dimension so therefore is follows that there should be no way to perceive it”, you’re speaking of a “perceive that” and not a bare “perceive”. You perceive the thing. Period. You do not perceive a dimension – a dimension is a high-level spatial concept, not an entity. You only perceive entities, and conceptually reason to conclusions about the nature of the entity.
  9. There is a terminological shift “out there”, where certain kinds of inferences based on perception are also labeled perception: but perception is non-inferrential, it is direct. In fact, it is well known that depth perception is very inferential, to the point that I suck at gauging distances and my brother is pretty good at it. The problem is that the term “perception” has been used to cover a wide range of cognitive actions which includes high level inferences. When Objectivism speaks of “perception”, we mean that part of cognition that is metaphysically given, not man-made. The metaphysically-given is unavoidable: if your eyes are open, you are conscious, and there is a ball in front of you, you must see the ball and cannot chose to not see it – perceiving it is metaphysically given. The inference that it is a ball as opposed to some other thing is man-made and optional. In concluding that perception is inerrant, that does not mean that inferences about the cause of an instance of perception are also inerrant: in other words, dept perception isn’t “perception” in the sense that Objectivism uses the term.
  10. DavidOdden

    Means and Ends - False Dichotomy or Just False?

    I have never understood the use of "justify" in that slogan. The ends determine the means, when a person is being rational. Why would I need to "justify" my means?
  11. DavidOdden

    Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    Mayhaps I should have specified which constitution: the constitutions of the various states. E.g. Art. II §6 and others in Washington.
  12. DavidOdden

    Using geometry to fight gerrymandering

    Under the Objectivist epistmology, it is a problem to propose a ‘definition’ for an anti-concept. But furthermore, this definition needs some correcting. First, the words is actually used without regard to which political level the redistricting applies to – it could be county, state or federal levels of government. Second, this isn’t a definition of gerrymandering, it is an empirical claim about a result of gerrymandering plus some other political facts. If the Republicans (qua majority party) were to redraw voting districts so that Democrats would most likely become the majority party, that too would in fact be gerrymandering, though it doesn’t satisfy the profferred definition of the word. I propose that gerrymandering should be simply defined as any redistricting action that serves a political goal other than equal apportionment. If a state has 100 districts and a population of 7,405,743 citizens, then each district shall contain 74,057 citizens (there shall be rounding to accommodate the fact that districts are based on physical residences which can contain various numbers of people, and you can’t have 43% of a person assigned to each district). Any non-random assignment of geographical areas to districts is thus gerrymandering. This covers choices that favor one party over another; it also covers choices intended to increase or decrease the percentage of voters in a district of a certain race, religion, age, occupation, etc. A computationally-heavy geometry-based approach could be used to choose between SN’s three graphs (but there might also just be three solutions, one of which is selected at random. Because of the population-remainder problem, it is virtually guaranteed that some districts will have 1 more citizen that others. Because (by assumption, open for discussion) the content of a district is a collection of physical addresses and an address can (usually does) contain more than 1 person, addresses need to be included in / excluded from a district in such a way to minimize differences in populations. However, this does presuppose the principle of geographical representation, largely because it is constitutionally mandated.
  13. DavidOdden

    lets build a Case for deflationary Money supply

    What do you mean by “money supply”, and what does building a case for it entail? What is the relationship between having a deflationary money supply and building a case for one. From the perspective of agricultural production, having appropriately timed rains in appropriate amounts is a good thing. Should we then build a case for appropriate rainfall, and how do we assure it? I propose that instead we should build a case for a particular form of government, which might have a certain economic consequence. That model of government does not see manipulating the economy as its primary purpose. For instance, it would not be good to confiscate money in order to increase the ratio of goods over money, as a way of incresing deflation.
  14. DavidOdden

    Just Shut Up and Think

    It’s not the quantity of agenda that matters, it’s the extent to which a subject knows or complies with the proponent’s agenda that is important. If the task were to construct one answer for each series, and the task were posed in a different context (for instance, were posted on “howsmartareyou.com” or “freeintelligencetest.com”), I would infer that the author’s intent was to provide some metric of intelligence, and they would at least (eventually) provide “correct” vs. “incorrect” scoring in response to answers. The present circumstances are so different that I have to dismiss the slight similarity to an intelligence test, and instead infer that the matter of interest is something about how Objectivists form concepts by identifying similarities and omitting measures. Asking for a second answer and a justification really puts this in a different domain. To the extent that cognitive tests work, they rely on well-established intent, where training starts (or started: I don’t know what the present state of affairs in education is) in elementary. As long as you at least passively have knowledge of that context, these tasks are not offensive, though I’m not persuaded that they measure what people think they measure. I don’t have any technical knowledge of research on “best answers”, just anecdotal knowledge coming from errors in ordinary-language quiz-composition. So I do not know for what classes of questions there is empirically verified overwhelming agreement on the “best answer” when there is more than one answer. I nominate “√4 = 2” as a probable best answer, better than “√4 = -2”, likewise “√3 = 1.7” as better than “√3 = 1”. The second answer is “more correct” in an obvious sense, because numeric precision is more valuable than brevity (in solving numeric puzzles), though “1” is infinitely more valuable if your life depends on a rapid ballpark computation (“2” might be even better). The first best answer probably wins (if it is actually believed to be the best answer) primarily because the second doesn’t occur to most people (i.e. it’s the only answer), and secondarily because most people will construct a decision-making principle that favors positive numbers (so, “negative numbers are not very good”, “there are no actual negative lengths”…). In other words, the key is correctly identifying context, to flesh out the unspoken rules of the game.
  15. DavidOdden

    Just Shut Up and Think

    One reasonable response to this is to dismiss the request, and my justification for doing that would be “this isn’t a serious information question”, “you’re just playing mind games”, or something like that. The first thing that needs justifying is responding at all. That means, I have to find some benefit to myself in giving this a moment’s thought. For me, the justification could reside an effect on the OP, or on “the rest of the world”, or some combination of the two. I know what I would want to say to the rest of the world, and it is not crucial to me whether the OP cares about / accepts my answer. A response by me would be justified, for me, just in case there is a reasonable chance that I could lay bare some fundamental epistemological and moral issues (you can see that I’m already onto that latter topic). I conclude that this is a teachable moment, which is sufficient moral justification. I don’t actually have any strong conclusions about the OPs agenda, and my response isn’t about understanding that agenda, in fact it is explicitly about rejecting probably assumptions by the OP (not because the assumptions are evil, but because in rejecting them, we can see their consequences). My tentative conclusion is that the purpose of the question is to reveal something about epistemological methods. This is not an information question about a naturally occurring phenomenon. I conjecture that the OP has in mind some set of “best answers” (I admit, I looked to see that there is supposedly a correct answer, which will not be revealed), and the issue of interest is, how do people judge the goodness of a response? There is no absolute standard of “goodness of an answer”. That question has to be answered relative to a goal. If we do not share goals and assumptions, we will obviously disagree on the evaluation of answers. My first answer is 14, 97, 32, 21. The assumed function maps from the integers {1…13} to {0,1,3,7,15,31,63,127,14,97,32,21,74}. There are uncountably many similar solutions. My second answer is 0,-1,-3,-7,-15. I assume the initial state is 8-bit binary 10000000, the operation is a version of shift-left where the low end bit is set to the opposite of the high end bit (in the input to shift). The result is interpreted as one’s complement (conventionally, +0 and -0 are not distinguished). The request to justify my reasoning is a red herring, and a nice distractor. Both answers are extensionally correct (as are some other possibilities such as 2n-1), and “justification” doesn’t enter into the computation of correctness. However, I might want to justify chosing one solution over the other. You can only do that if you have a purpose in mind: therefore, I have to articulate a purpose (as should the OP). Now I can reveal an assumption that I entertained (did not firmly commit to, but decided was more likely true than not), namely that the OP wanted there to be some general rule which yields these number sequences. My purpose behind the first answer was to reject that assumption (which I suspect was made by the OP). Answer 1 creates an opportunity to remind the rest of the world to check their assumptions and not buy a pig in a poke. If you specifically want a rule-based answer, that needs to be part of the question (request). Answer 2 accepts the assumption that there should be a rule. My guess (and here I am not even going to say “more likely than not”) is that this was not the OPs intended answer. So does that make answer 2 better, or worse? Better than what, answer 1? A justification for chosing answer 2 is that it illustrates the point that there can be rules whose outputs are the same in some cases but different in others, and you can’t “drop context” in rushing to an answer. Considering only my purely internal interests, I can’t decide between answer 1 and answer 2. I might prefer answer 2 over 1 on up-voting grounds, that is social media are more likely to approve of clever answer 2 over dumbass answer 1. Since in fact I don’t care about up-votes, it doesn’t matter. Answers 1 and 2 both have the merit of being assumption-denying responses. Because this is a man-made problem and it is contextually obvious that there is some hidden agenda (these are not literal information questions), assumption-denying is a good thing, if you want to use the full power of your rational mind.