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DavidOdden

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  1. How near are we to socialized medicine?

    There are many aspects to "socialized medicine", and while we might be a few years from certain of them, we are not that close to the worst of it. The worst being, that the practice of medicine is completely under the control of the government so that there is no such thing as "private practice", the government determines what level of medical care will be provided, and it is paid for by the government. The resistance to complete socialization of medicine would be enormous if presented as a political goal, so instead, things will change bit by bit. A first step has already been taken, which is that few people now pay for their own medical expenses, instead we pay for insurance and the insurance company pays the expenses. The cost of medical care becomes an abstraction, having no evident effect on one's own life. Facts that reduce medical costs are not rewarded, and those that increase expenses are not penalized. Instead, your personal costs are the net medical costs of Society As A Whole, divided by the size of society. There have been ways to relate individual facts to cost, whereby one could select less vs. more coverage and opt out of coverage for sex-reassignment etc. Or, pay your own expenses as long as it's below some figure like $8,000 (this is for people who know how to save money). Much of that is now illegal. Another first step that has been taken is the changing extent to which medical practitioners have any free choice in what they do. For example, for the past 40+ years, it has been illegal to deny emergency medical treatment to a person who cannot pay. Compare that to the situation that does not yet exist in other economic spheres: it is presently legal to deny a person a house if they can't afford it, it is presently legal to deny a person food if they can't afford it, and so on. Additionally, the cost of all medical care goes up because every cotton-pickin' device or substance is subject to onerous and expensive regulatory scrutiny, and somebody has to pay that cost. I am not at all sanguine about the chances for a roll-back of Obamacare. I doubt very much that it will become legal to charge more for more-expensive patients (analogous to home and car insurance). So the question is, what is likely to be the next step towards medical oblivion? That's hard to predict, but from a political perspective, the most obvious issue is the roughly 10% of uninsured adults. This number can be made near-zero in three ways. First, increase government subsidies to those who can't afford it. Second, stiffen the penalties for the uninsured who can afford it. Third, increase the burden on employers, so that all employers have to provide full medical coverage for any employee. A third possibility, of course, would be to slowly dial back the level of care (thus the cost). This would not be easy to do at present. The government could not just say "you have to limit the number of heart-bypass surgeries that you do in a year": it does not have that power. But the government could easily give itself that power, by passing a law mandating a restriction in the number of heart-bypass surgeries allowed. Obviously, it would not start with anything so politically charged. It would start by identifying kinds of medical treatment where there wouldn't be a huge outcry at rationing. Most people view political questions in terms of how it will affect them personally in the next year or two: "I'm not gay, I don't care about same-sex marriage", "I don't drive, I don't care about outlawing gas engines". Once the underlying statutory mechanism is installed and made general enough, it is relatively easy to expand the rationing list either by administrative fiat or by minor legislative list-changing (in the same way that Congress periodically adds new drugs to the various schedules of controlled substances). A fourth possibility, much more remote, is direct regulation of costs. For example, government-set rates for doctor's pay, government-set rates for pharmaceuticals, government-set rates for the sale of equipment. Price controls have not been popular in the US. Price controls are widespread for "basic rights" such as water, gas, electricity, internet and garbage, but this is because those goods are widely provided by a regulatory monopoly. The obvious way to bring prices under control, then, is to first create a regulatory monopoly: all doctors now work for the National Health Service. I believe that, coupled with some empty rhetoric about making medical care more "fair" and uniform, this is the last step necessary to bring about the total collapse of health care in the US.
  2. You may be confused about what formal logic is (a.k.a. symbolic logic), in a manner analogous to confusing “string theory” as interchangeable with “science”. Logic is much broader than formal logic. Four textbook exemplars of formal logic are Agler Symbolic Logic: Syntax, Semantics, and Proof; Simpson Essentials of Symbolic Logic; Jeffrey Formal Logic: Its Scope and Limits, and especially Kleene Mathematical Logic. Logic, in the broader sense, is exemplified by H.W.B. Joseph An Introduction to Logic, and more generally, most work in logic from Aristotle up to Frege. There are many other distinctions in logic, such as Boolean logic (which deals only in “true” and “false” but not quantifiers like “some” and “all”), or modal logic (which deals in notions like “possible” and “necessary”). Without getting into technical arcana about particular specializations of logic, logic is the study of correct methods of reasoning (creation of knowledge above the perceptual level), which at its core means correctly identifying the nature of things. Formal logic can be seen as one outgrowth of classical Platonic and Aristotelean logic. Aristotle especially identified many essential principles of reasoning and reduced them to a general form (e.g. his four types of propositions: the square of opposition), so formal logic got its start with Aristotle. Aristotle, in Metaphysics and Organon, articulates the basics, and people have been re-organizing things since. The problem with classical approaches to knowledge has been that the fundamental ideas are set forth as unorganized statements, supposedly comprehensible on their own right. The summary of Objectivism in Galt’s Speech breaks with this practice by starting with the basic axiomatic statements. “A is A”, which has been taken as axiomatic for millenia, but was not actually understood properly. “A is A” encapsulates the undeniables which underly all reasoning, and are the logical foundation of understanding the nature of government. There is no formal deductive chain that gets from the statement “A is A” to the statement “A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area” and “The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence”. Rather, you have to start with the most self-evident fact: that man exists, which implies that he has a nature. What is that nature? Does he automatically respond to his environment, or does he choose. If he chooses, how does he choose?
  3. The most direct yet intuitive connection is that the nature of government is to place the use of retributive force under the objective control of law. Actually, “A is A” has nothing to do with laws of formal logic (in fact “A is A” is not even an expression in formal logic, though an expression like “Ɐ(x) (P(x) ⸧ Q(x))” would be). This is a shorthand expression pointing to the law of identity. The full paragraph where this is introduced in Galt’s Speech sums that up: To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of non-existence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification. Then eventually you can narrow the context and ask about the nature of concepts like “rights”, and get to principles having to do with government. All of them have to do with identifying the nature of a thing.
  4. Let me start with a fundamental problem with your position: you claim actual knowledge of the effort that Rand put unto understanding various bad philosophies, and moreover you find it to be insufficient. I have an extremely hard time believing that you even met Rand, much less that you have the kind of personal knowledge that led to the development of her philosophy. I don’t know what facts you are relying on as evidence for your claim – not everything about the development of her intellect is summarized in the journals. In fact, I don’t understand what it would even mean to “make a real effort to engage with” the opposition. Let me amplify on what the problem is. Correct me if you can, but you made no real effort to engage with Rand’s philosophy. Your criticism hinges on the presupposition that to understand an idea, you must “visit” the people promulgating the ideas. That of course means that all prior knowledge is truly incomprehensible, thus you yourself cannot comprehend Rand because you cannot visit her, you do not understand Objectivism because you haven’t visited OCON and ARI, you cannot understand Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Kant, Frege because you haven’t visited them (they are dead). Hopefully you see how absurd a position that is. Understanding is about grasping ideas: understanding comes from identifying those ideas, because ideas are not laid out self-evidently in the words of an author. The trivial social act of “visiting” does nothing to clarify those ideas, and does not firm up a person’s grasp of ideas by magically allowing them to see consequences of ideas, and detect contradictions in them. Where you say that “the ‘skeptical’ camp is not making nearly enough of an effort to understand what they are trying to criticize”, I would conclude instead that you have not made nearly enough of an effort to understand that criticism. Now, I do in fact understand “the mystics” sufficiently, so I should by your lights have a privileged position to criticize them. I will claim to have a more nuanced understanding of classical Indian philosophy than Rand did: I don’t have any reason to think that she knows about Cārvāka philosophy, nor do I have any reason to think that she could read Sanskrit. Her “mystic muck” characterization does not mean “every Indian philosopher has been a hopeless mystic”, it is a correct generalization about a particular earlier intellectual export. You might want to investigate exactly what the nature of that export is, because it was influential, in a bad way, in the West for, mercy sake alive, two centuries, and even now we are not free of it. So actually, you don’t have to visit India to understand the muck, you just have to look around you (these days, more in antiquarian bookstores). The fact that she doesn’t burden Galt’s speech with a silly footnote granting some element of rationality to the Cārvāka doesn’t invalidate her characterization of Indian philosophy. Now then. What is necessary is not a visit, what is necessary is a study of the ideas, to see if they bear promise for being correct. Plainly, they do not. They are grounded in false and absurd ideas, such as that being whipped and burned is the same as not being whipped and burned – and that you cannot know if that idea is absurd. If you want to make this be about specific texts in Indian philosophy which you think are in fact compatible with Objectivism (and were not written by Br̩haspati or his followers), then make your case.
  5. Colleagues, I suggest that two radically different issues are raised here. One is the broader question of when would it be proper to exclude an individual for holding bad ideas – as discussed in this thread. The other pertains to what Trump actually ordered (not the speech part, but the law part). It's hard to tell what the order actually means – primarily it is an order to study the question. However, it does contain concrete prohibitions, one of which is a bit strange (it refers people from "such countries", which are not actually identified under the law, and the law refers to humanitarian waiver of the exclusion of aliens using fraudulent documents). The second concrete prohibition is that all Syrian nationals (including lawful permanent residents) are barred from entry into the US, meaning that if you are here, Syrian, and not a citizen, you may nor re-enter. A possible exception would be Kurds, because under Syrian law (and I can't verify if this is still the law in Syria, but it was a dozen years ago), Kurds residing in Syria are not Syrian citizens, thus would not be Syrian nationals. However, the administration probably will not apply Syria's interpretation of "Syrian national". The ban on Syrians is free of religious conditions; IMO Hurd missed the boat in implying that there is anything at all good about the order. The last time I checked, nationality, in Syria, is an unchosen fact of the race of one's parents.
  6. Employees obvious have the freedom to do whatever they want. If they don't like a particular WalMart, or any WalMart, they can seek employment at World Market, or Target, or any number of other places. Or they can be unemployed. Or they can start a business selling pink cat-ear hats online, or they can create a new operating system that will revolutionize business, or whatever it is that they can do to survive. Or they can decide that there are no more values left for them on this planet, and they can end their existence. They are free to do whatever they want, according to their values. I can't honestly say that more than two or three of them are actually working for their own sake. I do personally know of two who are working for their own sake. The rest of them may (in the imaginary sense of "may") have some bizarre self-sacrificial ethos whereby they irrationally feel that they should sacrifice their time and labor so that some another person will thrive, but that is just such an unimaginable and arbitrary idea that I really don't see that there is any basis for imputing such beliefs to those people. In the case of all of the people who I personally know and have discussed the matter of working retail, I can tell you that their reasons are entirely selfish: they want money and benefits, and indeed they do get that. I do know that there are a number of people who do live for the sake of others, especially those who are high on volunteering and giving back to The People. So I don't deny that there are such people, but honest employees of retail do not deserve to be castigated for their selfish choice to live for their own sake.
  7. A good starting point would be OPAR ch. 1, which says “Science is systematic knowledge gained by the use of reason based on observation.” Science thus includes “specialized science” and philosophy. It differs from mere observation, which is not systematic. It differs from religion and emotion, which are not based on reason or observation. Philosophy (actual philosophy, not purported philosophy) is a science: again, OPAR ch. 1 “philosophy is a system of ideas. By its nature as an integrating science…”, Peikoff in “The analytic-synthetic dichotomy”: “Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, the science that defines the rules by which man is to acquire knowledge of facts…”. Rand says (“Philosophy: who needs it?”) that “Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man’s relationship to existence. As against the special sciences, which deal only with particular aspects, philosophy deals with those aspects of the universe which pertain to everything that exists. In the realm of cognition, the special sciences are the trees, but philosophy is the soil which makes the forest possible”. In the broader context, “science” refers to systematic knowledge gained by the use of reason based on observation, but in the narrower context where philosophy is distinguished, we would contrast philosophy and special sciences. In the appendix to ITOE, “Philosophic vs. Scientific issues”, Rand begins by noting “Philosophy by its nature has to be based only on that which is available to the knowledge of any man with a normal mental equipment. Philosophy is not dependent on the discoveries of science; the reverse is true”. Philosophy is not “the art of just making crap up”. In this context (which presupposes the distinction between science and philosophy), the simple term “science” is used where elsewhere “special science” might be used. This second sense of “science” as special science, specialized knowledge, is what is ordinarily called “science” especially by people who haven’t read OPAR and ITOE. Philosophy is science, in the broader sense, but not in the narrower sense. “Evidence” is not, as far as I know, defined in Objectivism, but observation of how the word is used shows that it refers to knowledge in relation to a proposition – a fact supports a proposition, or it contradicts a proposition. A bit of knowledge can depend heavily on an immediate observation – “I just saw an eagle!” – or it can depend heavily on applying knowledge to previously gained knowledge (insert your favorite mathematical proof here). When people speak of “empirical evidence”, they mean knowledge that depends heavily on immediate observation. “Empirical evidence” brings us back to the axiomatic, because the distance from the axiomatic to the conclusion is shortened. All knowledge rests on observation, but some knowledge is separated by quite a distance from observation. It is true that some people treat philosophy as non-empirical, which allows patent nonsense to be promulgated as “philosophy”. You have to consider the concept “evidence” from two perspectives as well, depending on whether it has been evaluated. People often look at the observation as being the “evidence”, in which case since you can’t deny the axiomatic, you end up with a very goofy notion of “balancing” evidence, and seeing truth as scalar. Which, b.t.w., is poppycock. This notion that evidence is the raw observation is wrong. An observation has to be logically evaluated and integrated with all of your knowledge, before it becomes “evidence” for or against anything. “Uncontrolled observations” then are not evidence, because there has been no validation of the relation between the observation and the proposition that the observation stands in a supposed evidentiary relation to. How does that observation integrate with other observations (all other observations, not just the ones of interest to the advocate of the position)? The specific form of stupidity that you’ve identified is failing to consider alternative. There are alternative propositions that are consistent with the observation, and those alternatives are arbitrarily rejected. That means that the resulting emotion of “certainty” is achieved at the expense of acquiring knowledge.
  8. Philosophy of Language

    This thread was kindly pointed out to me, so I have a belated reply. As a prelude, it is mistaken to try to understand an Objectivist theory of language by comparing it to Frege’s. If one wants to understand what an Objectivist theory of language is, one can investigate that, and maybe at some point later one might even try to compare that to what you believe Frege claimed, but that comparison should not be your starting point. Second, discussions of language that focus on proper names and long-corrected factual errors (the Babylonians understood the nature of Venus) are likely to lead one up and down a twisted blind alley which ends nowhere. An Objectivist theory of language is centered around concepts. “The Evening Star” is not a concept, nor is “The Morning Star”. These are proper names (singular terms), and one can substitute “Superman” and “Clark Kent” just as well. One can believe that Superman can fly and not believe that Clark Kent can fly, even though Kent and Superman refer to the same thing. An Objectivist theory of language is about concepts, not factual errors pertaining to proper names. “Sense” and reference are not different things – “reference” basically described the relationship between consciousness and existence, and “sense” is interjected into the discussion to introduce a consequence of false inferences: or, to conflate two aspects of an existent yet recognizing those aspects, thereby sowing confusion. “Refers to” is a simple relation between something symbolic, and what is symbolizes, so nouns refer to things, verbs refer to places, adjectives refer to attributes. I don’t see that “sense” is at all a useful concept. I don’t know what it means to say that one thing boils down to another thing, but language is not just a system of names. Language is part of a general faculty of cognition, and Objectivism has had a lot to say about the “naming” aspect, via the theory of concepts. The “names” are specifically the labels (words) by which we access the cognitive folders that are concepts. Besides concepts, there are also propositions, where Objectivism has had less to say – until Harry Binswanger’s book How We Know. There is a huge amount to say about propositions and language. Words are not arbitrarily chosen. The relationship between a word and the units that it unifies is a social fact, one which is learned. It’s a fascinating but tangential matter how a particular phonetic sequence came to be the label for a given concept. One thing is for sure, it is not arbitrary. As far as I can tell, all things have multiple words attached to them. Oranges, for example, have the words “citrus; fruit; sweet; orange; carbohydrate; round; inexpensive; seasonal” attached to them. There is a peril to using expressions like “attached to” in a vague way. In a narrower sense, there are some things for which there are two or more referentially-interchangeable words, such as “penis” and “phallus”, and there are many other such words (a fact profitably exploited by Mike Myers) which have subtle social fact attached to them (you don’t use the word “wang” in the same contexts as you use the word “penis”). There is really nothing interesting to say about that fact. Language is not capable of misfiring when we speak nonsense. Language cannot act, and misfiring describes a kind of action. A being might misfire, or something like that, and might do so in a way somehow related to language, for example one might be incorrect in attempting to interpret a person’s intent as expressed by some piece of language. You can follow the rules of language, or not, just as you can follow the rules of logic, or not. Language is made up of structural units like sentences and clauses (and individual words), which can be used for many purposes (such as setting forth a proposition, but it also can be used to accomplish an end such as tricking an enemy into self-immolation). To say that a sentence “makes sense” is to say that it is possible to identify or express judgements that underly a linguistic expression. “That is a dog” classifies an entity as one of the units subsumed under the concept “dog” – in this case, the person is asserting a particular judgment. “The dog is running” presupposes such a classification of the subject entity, and classifies its action. I would like to especially address this question: Are any of you aware of any writings on Objectivist theories of language? If there aren't any, that confuses me because of the explosion in linguistics beginning before and lingering after the writings of Rand. There are a number of reasons why there aren't. First, the study of language is a very complex scientific matter, one vastly beyond the realm of philosophy (just as physics and chemistry are beyond the realm of philosophy). There has been virtually no progress on general philosophy of language for my entire lifetime, but there has been an explosion in scientific linguistics in that same period. As to why there aren’t a ton of linguists who are Objectivists, the ultimate explanation probably rests in the political problem that being a practicioner of an abjured non-communist philosophy is dangerous to one’s professional survival in an academic discipline. There is, additionally, a special reason, that the (formerly) reigning epistemology of professional linguistics is dimetrically opposed to the Objectivist epistemology. Linguistic theory has taken, for almost 50 years, a strong nativist position that man is born with a vast repertoire of factual knowledge about the world, whereas the Objectivist epistemology rejects this assumption. It has only been in the past 15 or so years that there has been some retreat on the nativist position in linguistics, whereby a theory of linguistics at least informed by Objectivism is possible. While the results of a half-century of linguistic research are in principle available to scrutiny by linguists, this requires an in-depth empirical understanding of the subject matter. There are relatively few linguists, and relatively few Objectivists, so the intersection of the two sets is even smaller. The hook into philosophy of language would be a tiny subset of linguists, namely formal semanticists.
  9. It was nice seeing you popup in the forum! How have you been?

  10. Politeness in Posting

    My personal view of how one should respond is cause-and-effect based: polite and rational conduct should be rewarded with polite and rational conduct, and irrational or impolite conduct should not be rewarded with politeness. However, it is true that there is a cultural expectation that one will turn the other cheek until some undetermined point, and it may be shocking to outsiders to observe someone not turning the other cheek. I firmly believe that clearly identifying purpose is mandatory, if one is to act morally. Here is the problem that I see which your premise. By looking at the matter in terms of a set of goals, and focusing on one of the goals, you ignore the remainder of the hierarchy. The reason why you have to consider goals hierarchically is that reality can sometimes present you with a mutual-exclusivity problem. If the actions required to achieve A are contrary to the actions required to achieve B, you must decide whether to work for A or B. In that vein, there is in my mind a real question whether the purpose of the forum is to facilitate trade, especially intellectual exchange, between Objectivists, or is it to serve as a center for spreading Objectivism to those unfamiliar with it. The two do not always conflict, but they do sometimes, and then the question is which should be primary. I have always understood the former to be the primary goal, but of course that is just my own understanding of the forum. Perhaps this is an assumption that I should check.
  11. Hiring Moderators

    This analogy is profoundly wrong. Government exists to protect the rights of individuals and prevent the initiation of force, through a system of narrowly prescribed laws. That is all that governments are supposed to do. Police are part of the means of protecting rights and, most importantly, as Rand points out in "The Nature of Government" p. 128, Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally free to take any action he pleases (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), while a government official is bound by law in his every official act. A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted. The concrete application of this to police is that while they are acting as police, i.e. on duty, in uniform, acting under color of law, they are severely limited in what they may do. They may not ask further questions when a suspect requests the presence of an attorney. They may not freely denounce Islam as a terrorist cult; they may not tell a man who is legally present and not disturbing the peace to go hang himself. A private individual may do these things. Furthermore, a police officer when he is acting as a private individual may do these things. Since "being a moderator" is not a job with specific hours, a moderator is always a moderator until they cease being a moderator entirely. Applying your "act like the police" rule, that would lead to the absurd result that moderators may not post on this forum. If this were HPO and we had a simple external moderator with no interest in (even an active distaste for) Objectivism like Tim Skirvin, then such a rule would be possible, but it would then inevitably lead to the mess that is HPO. There is always a conflict between the interest of the moderator and the interest of the party who is subject to moderation action. The interest of the moderator is the well-being of this forum, and the interest of the person being acted against is orthogonal to that interest. Your adoration of the concept "conflict of interest" ought to be replaced with reference to proper interests as they pertain to this forum. If there is a rule generally prohibiting intellectual dishonesty, there is no special "conflict of interest" if the intellectual dishonesty is directed at Objectivists (which would include moderators here -- under the current system of Objectivist moderators), moderators in general or a specific moderator.
  12. Hiring Moderators

    That is not a reason to adopt the proposal. If you cannot or will not present a logical argument in support of the conclusion, then you cannot or will not. I'm just saying that if you believe that this is a reasonable thing to do, then you can logically demonstrate why this is a reasonable thing.
  13. Hiring Moderators

    Although I disagree with this position, I suggest that if you believe this and care, you should make a separate proposal (separate thread) proposing a rule change that implements your idea.
  14. The Logical Leap by David Harriman

    I think that is correct, and I also think that is what it set out to do (although it is not initially clear that that was the goal). As for the issue of supposedly inductive means, I am not entirely happy with the extent to which he has demonstrated "This here is an instance of induction". If this were a normative essay in the philosophy of science or in epistemology, he would have to clearly identify what induction is and what it is not. Now, he says (p. 6) that "the primary process of gaining knowledge that goes beyond perceptual data is induction", which is not a clear identification of what induction is (and as be notes in the immediately following sentence also is not strictly true, since the primary process of gaining knowledge beyond perception is generalization, which includes but it not limited to induction; but then he seems to be claiming that generalization necessarily is an inference from some to all -- a claim I disagree with). His description of generalization -- "the inference from some members of a class to all" -- is a reasonable identification of induction, but at least from the formal perspective, it does not clearly distinguish induction from deduction. Classical deductive inference includes inferences with no quantification at all, and it is a significant error to attempt to devise a theory of induction and deduction where induction is rigorously separated from deduction. Just as modus tollens and universal instantiation are deductive rules of logic, there is no reason to consider a universal introduction rule to be an utterly different form of logic. Thus the requirement that the argument not be deductive can only be true if you insist that induction cannot be a species of deduction (i.e. inference). I don't see that as being a productive way of approaching the matter.Once you correctly characterize deduction, I claim that will include induction.
  15. Hiring Moderators

    Then it seems to me that the only issue, in terms of you, is your mistaken belief that a moderator may not take action when rudeness is aimed at him. You belief is belied by the facts -- it simply is not the case that there is a rule to the effect that you can attack moderators with special impunity. I am absolutely appalled that you would think that, so the appalleds cancel each other out. Sure, idealistically all actions by moderators would be subject to an extensive system of review and voting by a panel of experts with appropriate appeals and re-appeals. It's now more plausible that something like what you wish for can be realized given the addition of more moderators.
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