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DavidOdden

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. DavidOdden

    Red Cross

    The Red Cross does have a government "charter", see 36 USC 3001. It is "a Federally chartered instrumentality of the United States and a body corporate and politic in the District of Columbia", whose purpose is statutorily set out (giving "volunteer aid in time of war to the sick and wounded of the Armed Forces" and "to carry out a system of national and international relief in time of peace". Apart from organizational generalities, Red Cross operation is not statutorily controlled (though it is a federal crime to fraudulently pretend to be a member of the Red Cross, per 18 USC 706). It is one of a number of federally chartered organizations, see 36 USC Part B, which includes e.g. the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Chemical Society, the American Legion, Blinded Veterans Association and so on. The US signed on to the First Geneva Convention in 1882, which created the treaty obligation to have an American Red Cross. There are three potential objections to the Red Cross from the Objectivist perspective. The first is a possible connection between funding and force: but that is not a valid objection since the Red Cross is not funded by the government. The second is that it might gain improper power to indirectly use force, for example you could imagine a situation for they could force people to give blood. Again, this is not the case. They do not have a statutory or actual monopoly on the national blood supply. It is proper for the government to decide that the ARC has its relation to the military in terms of relief efforts. Finally there is the question of whether providing voluntary relief in case of disaster is morally skanky. Objectivism is not opposed to charity, and does not hold that all interactions between humans should be mediated by cash payments. Objectivism holds that your life is your highest value, and rejects the thesis that cash is the highest value. Objectivism also rejects the premise that you have an obligation to aid someone in need. The ARC clearly does not operate as a rational self-interest Objectivist organization, so we can assume that some morally skanky views are promulgated by individuals in the ARC. But that is not an essential fact about the ARC.
  10. DavidOdden

    Veganism under Objectivism

    Some of the stuff kids search for on Easter is not based on animals, so yes they could have milk-free chocolate, although it may be that a given vegan parent hates fun; or maybe they make special treats out of tofu. Breastfeeding yes, and that can be a problem since vegan breastmilk is defective unless the mother takes dietary supplements. It's all about cows and their free will: a cow cannot volunteer to give milk.
  11. It's not clear that this is a sufficiently significant distinction. The cases have in common that in the first instance you yourself accept an assertion without evidence, and in the latter case you present an assertion with the the intent that others accept it without evidence. You can always subdivide any concept into different types, for example "arbitrary, with respect to moral principles" versus "arbitrary, with respect to epistemological principles", but why would you? A hammer used to drive a nail is a hammer, as is one used to smash a window. Is there a useful reason to subdivide the concept "arbitrary" into "with respect to one's own knowledge" versus "with respect to the knowledge of others"?
  12. It may be useful to look at some more arbitrary statements which might actually be true: “Easy Truth has red hair”; “StrictlyLogical is 6 ft. tall”, “Invictus2017 owns a Ford Explorer”. Each of these statements does, on linguistic grounds, either describe a fact, or else it describes a non-fact – they are objectively true or false. But I personally have no basis in knowledge for making those statements, and they do not contitute the recognition of a fact of reality. They differ from Peikoff’s parrot or sand message examples where there is no proposition (the thing you see or hear merely physically resembles what could be speech or writing in another context). His savage math example needs to be modified since it is unclear what his point is, so I’ll rewrite that as an illiterate and innumerate person uttering the sentence “the fourth power of 3 is 81” (you can say this based on experience, without understanding what it means, since in English, you can put words like “second, fourth” before “power” and follow that with another number). This statement too is arbitrary, and in that context it is like the parrot utterance in that the person utters the word “power” without grasping what that term refers to. In fact, I would not even call the sand / parrot / savage math examples “statements”. So compare my examples to Peikoff’s “soul survives”, “fate determined by date of birth”, “sixth sense” and “convention of gremlins”. In those examples, the arbitrariness of the statement largely depends on the fact that the statements presuppose the existence of entities for which there is no evidence. In my examples, all of the concepts involved do unquestionably exist: I just made up relations between actual existents, without any factual basis for claiming those relationships. Arbitrary statements are not necessarily utterly devoid of relationship to reality, because they can refer to actual existents and invoke no mythical entities. In How we know, Binswanger has an extended analysis of “arbitrary”, which you may find clarifies the nature of the arbitrary. "Global warming" (which is nowadays not even a statement, it's just a noun phrase assumed to represent some statement), is an example of the arbitrary: it is asserted as self-evident, needing no evidence.
  13. It is pretty easy to distinguish an arbitrary statement from a non-arbitrary statement, so indeed you should be able to judge quickly. For instance, “Some trees commit murder” is arbitrary, and you can judge that it is arbitrary within seconds, once you know that I’m done talking. I’ve given you no evidence to support my claim. If I say “Some trees commit murder. For example the black walnut poisons its enemies with juglone”, my statement isn’t arbitrary (it is a bit whacky, but at least I give some support). In case you didn’t know about juglone, and as a polite rhetorical device, you can say “What evidence do you have that some trees commit murder?”, since the other guy may think that everybody knows about killer walnuts. You should cultivate the habit of identifying and challenging arbitrary claims. Arbitrariness is about the evidence for a claim, and evidence has to be given, it doesn't just present itself magically. Perhaps your concern is that someone makes a true statement without stating the evidence, because the evidence is so well-known that it needn't be stated. The global warming claim has two problems, first that it's meaningless (it's an expression, a meme, and not an actual proposition: it stands for many imaginable propositions), and second, it is arbitrary (99% of the time it is accepted on the basis of no evidence). If we take the claim to be that "human activity has changed the atmosphere to the point that average planetary temperatures have increased significantly", we would at least have a concrete proposition. Then there is the question of whether there is any evidence for the claim.
  14. DavidOdden

    Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    You should see the circularity of your theory of ownership: “to own a thing, it must be rare enough to own”. How rare is that? What do you count? Or do you determine whether is is rare enough by knowing whether you own it? This is where studying Rand’s theory of property rights would be useful. From ‘Man’s rights’: “Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object”. From ‘The property status of the airwaves’: “Any material element or resource which, in order to become of use or value to men, requires the application of human knowledge and effort, should be private property—by the right of those who apply the knowledge and effort”. The only hope I see for justifying subpoena power is via “proper function of government”. Your “if I were in their shoes” alternative is the alternative to subpoena power, and it is certainly the first thing that should be thought of. The “subpoena question” is, simply put, “under what circumstances may a person be compelled by the government to {produce evidence, appear in court}?”. If people provide document and testify voluntarily, that is the best outcome. But hoping that men will always act rationally is unrealistic, just as anarchy is unrealistic. So at some point, the government will have to use force against those who do not conduct themselves rationally. The question that needs addressing is about the contingency that not everybody acts rationally.
  15. DavidOdden

    Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    First, saying that “use of information implies a right to the information” is not an argument that you own the information. You can say all sorts of things: saying something doesn’t make it so. Let’s say that you meant “Does the fact that I can rightfully use information show that I own the information?”. You can rightfully use something if you own it, if you have permission of the owner to use it, or if it is unowned. You can look at the stars and breathe air (thus using them), because these things aren’t owned. I urge you to not proliferate rights beyond necessity: there is no “right to not talk back to someone that is talking to you”, nor a “right to eat yogurt that is past the pull date”. You have a right to do what you want, as long as you do not initiate force, and that is all you need to say about it. I also very strongly urge you not to think of government as a party to a contract. Contracts are voluntary arrangements, law and governments are not. Contracts presuppose government and law – without governments and laws whereby contracts can be interpreted and enforced, there are no contracts. Making government be a “kind of contract” inverts that relationship. If any government grabs you based on “might is right”, be it your government or someone else’s government, that is not a proper basis for government action. Your cooperation is essentially irrelevant. I would say that you have an obligation to yourself to live qua man, and that any other notion of obligation derives from that. One example would be the obligation to respect the rights of others. If a government makes a demand of you, you have to decide what your obligation is, based on all of the facts. Is the demand rightful? Is resistance to an unrightful demand more important to you than the penalty for resistance (the income tax question)? Thus we return to the fundamental question (which has no clear and official answer in Objectivism), whether one should follow an improper law. Objectivists are not anarchists. As for subpoenas, the propriety of subpoenas is an even more difficult question, and in my opinion, too broad to answer without more context (demand what or whom, based on what?).
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