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necrovore

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About necrovore

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  • Birthday 07/04/1975

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    I discovered Objectivism in 1997, read all I could about it, and promptly adopted it. However, I don't know if I'm very effective at advocating anything.
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  1. There is such a thing as subjecting people to greater-than-usual risks without their consent. It makes sense to illegalize that. This is why I cannot keep large amounts of plutonium in my garage. This is why I cannot play Russian Roulette with someone else's head instead of my own. DUI also subjects other people on the road to greater-than-usual risks, and so it is proper for the government to ban it on the same basis. Under a system of private road ownership, a private road owner could choose to allow DUI on his roads, but he would have to specifically inform drivers of the added risk so that they could consent to it. In today's government, DUI is a political football, and some modern-day prohibitionists are altering its definition beyond what is objectively defensible. For example: The BAL is continuously being decreased. The standard was 0.1% for a long time, now in some states 0.02% is sufficient to get you in trouble, even though there is very little impairment at such a low BAL. In some states you can be arrested for DUI just for leaving a bar with car keys in your pocket. In many states you cannot sleep it off in your car. Being in your car is a DUI, even if the engine isn't running. There was a case in Texas where a man tried to sleep it off in a car that wasn't even operable. He was still convicted of DUI. A lot of the government's non-objectivity is due to the precautionary principle, which Gus Van Horn has written about a few times. The "precautionary principle" advises deliberate over-reaction to risks. This is why people can be arrested for making ice bombs.
  2. A free system would rule out zoning laws. You do have the right to use your property as you see fit. However, there is such a thing as subjecting a person or his property to undue risk (i.e., without his informed consent), and that would probably make a good civil tort. They could sue you. An undue risk is a nuisance, just like playing your stereo really loud or filling the air with smoke. Therefore, if you were handling explosives in your garage that had the potential to explode and kill your neighbors, your neighbors could sue you for subjecting them to an undue risk of death or property damage without their consent, and then you'd have to show that you are doing what you can to prevent such explosions. You might be able to address some risk by buying an insurance policy that will pay your neighbors if their property is destroyed. The underwriters would probably either charge really high rates or else insist on the right to inspect your operation before they insure it. This might not be enough when lives are at stake, though. In order to win the suit you'd have to demonstrate that you were following safety procedures in order to minimize the risks, and that the newly minimized risks were about as low as if you weren't doing anything. The safety procedures would have to be based on the nature of the risk involved. If you cannot develop appropriate safety procedures, then you have to carry out the risky activity somewhere else. Industrial plants would be subject to the same kinds of requirements. That is one reason why they are usually located far away from homes.
  3. I'm with ToyoHabu on this one. (Edit: ToyoHabu posted about ten items back; I forgot things are in reverse order.) Unions would be able to exist in a capitalist system, but without coercion, they would have to be more like businesses. "Your business should buy our labor," they would advertise, "because it's high quality and consistent and we take administrative matters off your hands." They would then try to get contracts with companies that need a lot of laborers. If a business tried to break the contract, or if the business was unwilling to offer acceptable terms, the union would refuse to work for that business. To workers, they would have to say, "Join our union, be one of us, and we'll give you pay and benefits consistent with your performance, we'll work to ensure a more safe and pleasant work environment, and we'll help you build your skills." Some unions might be able to offer workers the chance to work at a variety of companies. Unions would then have to compete against individuals who went directly to companies and against companies that go straight to individuals. However, a company could easily hire both types of workers. Competition doesn't necessarily mean price competition. The union could charge a higher price but offer higher quality (or additional services). In a capitalist system, unions would be unable to violate the rights of businessmen, and businessmen would be unable to violate the rights of union or non-union workers. So all the bad aspects of unions would go away. John Galt never coerced anyone into dealing with his union. What his union did was offer value.
  4. The state does not use force to compel attorneys to represent you. The attorneys must volunteer, such as by becoming public defenders, by representing you pro bono, or by accepting payment from you in exchange for their services. Even a public defender can decline to represent you. There might be a valid reason; for example, if a company accuses you of stealing its property, and the public defender is a shareholder in that company, he might wish to avoid being accused of a conflict of interest. If the public defender declines, then the state has to find you another public defender (or hire you an attorney on the open market), even if this means delaying your trial. The state could also choose to drop the charges. Or, if you don't like the delay, you can choose to waive your right to an attorney. The reason you have a right to an attorney is so that there is a check against state action. If the state does not accuse you of any crime, you do not have the right to an attorney. Getting sick or hurt is not (properly speaking) a state action. So there is no need for the state to provide a check against it.
  5. I'm a longtime Jacksonville resident, and a UNF alumnus. (Graduated with a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering in 1997.) Welcome to the forum!
  6. I find myself getting into arguments more often than I want to. I hate arguments. But I suppose I suffer from an irresistible desire to defend my ideas and opinions from all attackers. It starts out simply enough. I'll state my opinion on something. Then someone else will come along and say, "Oh, no, that's wrong, because of these reasons!" And they'll state the reasons. Uh-oh. My reaction varies. Sometimes I think the other person is completely wrong. Sometimes I think that his position has merit and that I should investigate further. Sometimes I think my opponent is producing a brilliant, insightful debunking of a view that I do not actually hold. Sometimes I realize that he failed to see something because I accidentally failed to explain it. Sometimes he is right and I have to post a retraction. Sometimes I will then be accused of contradicting myself... I can post my reply but sometimes it seems like at this point I have already lost: if I "win" the argument I end up embarrassing the other person and this is not good for fostering friendship and open communication. If I am wrong, I have to endure a loss of face, but this is almost preferable because I have the power to "fix" things just by accepting that responsibility. But I can't let my opponent win if my argument is actually correct: I think it's wrong to cede the argument when I'm actually right, because then the truth itself is a casualty. At the same time I don't like embarrassing people who might be right about everything else and thus be valuable to me in other respects. I don't want to force (or to have the facts force) my opponent to accept a loss of face. I prefer win-win scenarios, but I am not sure how to create one in an argument, or how to prevent arguments before they occur. Galt's speech says that with reality as the standard in a dispute, "One of us will lose, but both will profit." That's true, but sometimes reality is distant enough that the argument can rage for quite a while without being resolved by reality. Or it can stop, but with both parties dissatisfied, because nothing has really been answered. Sometimes there is an uncontrolled variable that affects the answer. Whether the Bugatti Veyron is a good car to buy or not may depend a great deal on who is doing the buying, the shape of his finances, and so forth, but if this is ignored the argument can rage forever. "It's too expensive to be practical!" "Nonsense, it's worth every penny!" and so forth. (Of course as soon as someone proposes a solution to the problem of arguing, someone else will dispute it and an argument will start. I can hardly wait. )
  7. I can understand why a theory of everything must be deterministic and physical -- but why does it have to be local? Why can't some entities have a nature such that, when you do something to them, they cause something to happen somewhere else? The remote control for my TV has non-local effects. The TV is several feet away. My cell phone has non-local effects: if I dial the right numbers it can cause the ringing of any one of millions of phones all over the world. Of course this says something not only about the nature of my phone but about the nature of those other phones. Magnets affect each other well before they touch, and gravity as Isaac Newton discovered it is non-local. Therefore I deal every day with primary (i.e., self-evident) entities which can cause or receive non-local effects. Some of these non-local effects are caused by particles, but that seems like a mere detail of operation, not a philosophical requirement. One can always test for such particles, but I do not see why they would be philosophically required to exist. Why does non-locality have to become impossible at smaller scales? What part of reality gives rise to the requirement of locality?
  8. necrovore

    Do Your Best

    I don't think it's possible not to know. Did you forget on purpose? Self-knowledge is not really any different from any other kind of knowledge. If you fail to know something about yourself then you are no more morally guilty than the Wright Brothers would have been for failing to know something about flight. If on the other hand you refuse to know something about yourself, then you can say that you are wasting your own time and resources, and there is ground for moral condemnation. People often change majors for just this sort of reason. The question in deciding whether they should feel guilty is: did they choose the wrong major deliberately? Were they perhaps stacking the deck in favor of being a doctor, perhaps because they wanted to appease or impress someone? I don't think it's really possible to make a choice and not know about it. It's a contradiction in terms. I don't believe there are any "inherent intellectual limits." Even if you don't have enough time or you don't know the right way to approach the material, this isn't necessarily a moral fault. There is such a thing as wasting time, but you will know if you are skipping study in order to go to parties. Similarly, you will know if there is a book that you refuse to read. Maybe you should read it; it may contain an approach you haven't tried. You should only assign yourself guilt over your choices, not your characteristics. If you can honestly say that you made the best choice, given all the information you had at the time, then there is no grounds for guilt. Regret, maybe, which takes the form "If only I'd known!" but not guilt, which is more like "I should have done what I knew was right!"
  9. necrovore

    Do Your Best

    Misuse of your mind has to be deliberate in order to qualify as misuse. It is not the same thing as using your mind correctly and failing. The first planes built by the Wright brothers didn't fly. Should they have felt guilty over that? Should we blame them and say they were immoral, that they wasted time and money, perhaps because they failed to know their own limitations? I say "Hell no!" Your limitations have to be discovered in reality, not arbitrarily imposed. Sometimes the only way to find out what your limitations really are is to test them. On the other hand if the Wright brothers had decided to defy the scientific knowledge they had, and use witchcraft, the resulting failure would have been something blameworthy. Guilt over that would have been earned. That is a misuse of the mind because it can honestly be said that they knew better. A primitive tribe with no knowledge of science would not be morally blamed for trying to use witchcraft to make things fly; but if they are taught a more reality-oriented approach, and reject it in favor of witchcraft, then they can be blamed. The only reason for a rational man to feel guilty is that he made a choice that he knew to be wrong (or even potentially wrong) at the time he was making it. That's what constitutes misuse as opposed to merely a failed use (e.g., due to ignorance). This is the same reason we might forgive a teenager for being a Marxist more easily than a professor. A teenager, confronted with the truth, might realize he did not investigate thoroughly, and can plead ignorance. A professor who pleads ignorance is admitting that he hasn't done his job. But once his ignorance is corrected, one could expect him not to be a Marxist anymore. Most professors cannot plead ignorance, because they have done their jobs. They will not change their views no matter what evidence you present them with, because they already know what you are telling them, and they have chosen to ignore that evidence. You always know whether you are lying to yourself or not. Others discover it by seeing your reaction when confronted with the truth. If you "get" the truth and it makes you change your strategy, you were ignorant, and that is forgivable. If the truth does not make you change your strategy, because you already knew the truth, then you are evading, and that is wrong. I suppose there can be a case where someone shows a person the truth and the person doesn't understand it. That's forgivable but it may look like evasion to some people. This is one reason why it's important to present the truth many different ways; a person who fails to understand one presentation of it may understand another. However, there is really no difference in how you should treat an incurably ignorant person as compared to an evading one. They both present the same danger. As for yourself, you will never know if you are incurably ignorant, so the issue of guilt doesn't come up... but if you are evading, you will know it, and you should feel guilty.
  10. Objectivism would have enormous benefits for dummies. Historically, the poor have done better under capitalism (even though it has never been fully implemented) than under any other system. The false and pernicious notion that Objectivism is "just for Supermen" needs to be dispelled. However, there is probably no reason to fear that a real book like this will ever exist. The "For Dummies" series is trademarked by its publisher. Not just anyone can put out a "For Dummies" book. For similar reasons, you will probably not see "Objectivism in a Nutshell" with an extinct animal on the cover. At least not officially. (Edit: added parenthetical)
  11. I used to chat in #geekspeak but I didn't start going there until what were, unbeknownst to me, its later years... It is possible to run your own IRC server, in which case you can control all aspects of its operation. People have to get their IRC clients to log directly into your server. Your server is unlikely to have a wide variety of channels because no one will go there except people who are interested in its main channel. It is also possible to run a channel on an existing server or network of servers (e.g., DALNet, Undernet). In that case you only have as much property as the network lets you secure, according to its own policies. Back when I used to use IRC, it was also common for these networks to be abused, in violation of their own policies, which means in practice that you can have trouble securing things even though you technically have (as per policy) a right to possess them. #geekspeak was run on its own server, but a bot relayed things back and forth between it and I don't know which one of the major networks. IRC servers typically run on ports that are blocked by corporate firewalls, meaning that you might be unable to chat from work if this plan is implemented. Then again, the administrators could run IRC protocol on port 80 on a different IP address. Another common problem with IRC is that, unless you use a relay, you expose your IP address to everyone in the channel. (If you do use a relay you expose the IP address of the relay, so few service companies are willing to host one.) A malicious person can use this to launch a DDOS attack against you, and there will be no way for you to tell where it is coming from. (DDOS = distributed denial of service.) Many ISPs will then disconnect you as if the attack is your fault. Others will happily bill you for the bandwidth. Fear of DDOS attacks -- even though I was never hit by one -- is what caused me to stop using IRC.
  12. Black people are typically better runners. White people are typically better swimmers. This is not due to racism in running and swimming but due to slight variations in build which ultimately have a genetic basis. Mohawk Indians have been sought after for their ability to walk the high steel and not lose their balance. This ability of theirs could be genetic. Men are generally taller and stronger than women; women generally weigh less than men. In special situations where a person's height or strength or weight might make the difference between whether they can do a job successfully or not, the advantage may clearly go to one sex or the other. There are some cases where some people will have a natural advantage over others because of their genetic makeup, and I don't see anything wrong with allowing people who have that advantage to use it. A person can also have legitimate advantages because of birthplace or family. For example, if you were writing somebody's biography, you might have a natural advantage if you are his cousin -- or spouse -- that an unrelated New York professional might not have. If you are born in a certain place at a certain time, you might have a useful or interesting perspective (e.g., on a historic event that happened when you were young) that people born elsewhere would not have. This is not the same thing as punishing people who have a disadvantage. One boundary is drawn on the basis of individual rights. Rights do not vary according to race, sex, or genetics, but are the same for everyone. Among these rights are the right of voluntary association. If you're hiring, you can hire whomever you want. It would be a crime to prevent people from hiring whomever they want. Another boundary is drawn on the basis of reality. Failure to hire the best person is not a crime, but it is a vice. Reality will be on your side to the maximum extent if you hire the best person for the job without regard for irrelevant factors, even if these factors are, in general, statistically correlated. Disregarding genetics, birthplace, and so forth means not trying to fight people's natural advantages. It also means not assuming advantages exist when, in a particular instance, they don't. Statistical generalizations are observations about reality, not substitutes for it. Sometimes the tallest person available is a woman; some women are taller than some men. Sometimes the best swimmer available is black. Sometimes the person who was there at the time of the historical event is a poor observer or a poor writer and therefore would not write as good an article as the New York professional who relies on research instead of personal experience. It would be a denial of reality to deny the existence of these situations when they occur. Statistics and prejudice are not the same thing. Prejudice exists when a person refuses to look at reality on the alleged basis that he already knows everything he needs to. White people are generally better swimmers than black people, but that doesn't mean you can look at a black person and say, "well, he's black, therefore he can't swim as well as a white person." Some black people swim better than some white people. If you pass over the best person, you won't do as well. This is true even in the absence of competition. Prejudice is also a vice outside of hiring, in more personal relationships, such as friendships. If you turn down a friendship or a romance on the basis of some statistical generalization that does not apply in that specific instance -- because you figure it applies most of the time so you don't have to actually check -- then you are missing out. There is a cost in checking statistical generalizations but there is also a cost in acting on unchecked ones. The best policy is to look at reality -- at the particular instance that confronts you. Finally, it's important not to confuse statistical generalizations with inductive ones. Inductive generalizations, such as the law of gravity, are certain within the context in which they are formed. Statistical generalizations are by definition uncertain. That is why they are useless.
  13. A good plot story has to have conflict. The problem with perfectly rational characters is that they are unconflicted. That's a great way to live your life but, because it causes things to work out so well, it tends to make a poor story. The way Ayn Rand allowed her perfectly rational characters to have conflict was by having them be attracted to less rational people. As a result, they often had to choose between their own rationality and their friendships and romances. Howard Roark was attracted to Dominique Francon, but he could not give in to her ideas. John Galt's ideas led him along a course of action that would destroy Dagny Taggart's railroad even though he cared about her very much.
  14. Although it's true that you cannot write from floating abstractions, it is not true that you have to experience, yourself, personally, everything that you write about. Suppose you write a story about Thomas Jefferson; do you have to have personally met him? No, but you do have to know something about him, such as can be learned from his writings, and from writings he may have read, and from writings of others about him, and the general atmosphere of the time. Suppose you write a story about space travel. Do you have to have personally experienced space travel? No, but you might be able to learn a lot about it by studying the relevant laws of physics, and recent scientific discoveries (of NASA and other space agencies), and the writings of people who have experienced space travel. The same thing applies if you want to write about romance. It would certainly be helpful to have a romance of your own, if you can get one, but even if you do have one, you need to be able to consider other romances in order to prevent your fictitious ones from all being clones of your real one. (Also it will help to have some idea of what you are getting into when you start a real one!) You have to consider a large number of romances, so that you can see the possible variations, and that means almost all of them will not be your own. You can consider the romances of other people you know, people you don't know, historical figures, even fictional characters. When you have an abundance of that kind of information -- and only when you have it -- you can use your imagination. Imagination only rearranges, and it has to have something to rearrange. But you don't have to commit a murder to write a murder mystery...
  15. I suspect that depression starts as a feeling that "this situation is bad, and there's nothing I can do about it." If one has thoughts that lead to such a feeling, and one engages in those thoughts continuously, then one will eventually become depressed. I think the thoughts cause the brain chemical imbalance, and not the other way around. I suspect the brain has the ability to alter its own chemistry in order to do things such as thinking differently under stress. (If something startles you -- even a thought inside your own head -- you may feel a surge of adrenalin. There are other hormones besides adrenalin which serve other purposes but may be triggered by certain thoughts.) Stress is supposed to be a temporary situation. When stress becomes long-lasting, the altered chemistry can do damage. Brain chemistry is not supposed to be different for that long. Genes may make it easier for some people to produce the altered chemistry, or may make it more effective on some people, or may make it easier for some people to be damaged by it. However, genes only create potentialities. [Assume for the rest of this that "you" are the depressed person...] Sometimes depression can become a feedback loop where your own depression prevents you from seeing the solution to your bad situation or even prevents you from realizing, consciously, what is bad about the situation in the first place. Sometimes you can solve the situation and find the feeling persisting for a while afterward. It is also possible that you think the situation is bad but it really isn't, or that you think it's worse than it really is. If your brain chemistry is way off, then it may be necessary to use drugs to restore balance. However, only a doctor can make that determination, and in any case the drugs should be temporary. If your brain chemistry is only slightly off, then take a deep breath and try to think rationally. Do what you can to de-stress. Since I think depression is ultimately caused by thinking you are helpless and in bad situation, drugs are not a permanent solution. The best solution is to identify the bad situation, look at it objectively, and, if it is really bad, find a way to change it, if that is possible. If it is not really bad, then you have to understand why, and then the depression will go away. You may need the help of someone else who can see your situation and offer a perspective you may not have thought of. A friend may be able to do this, or a professional. Sometimes you have to do a lot of work to get out of a bad situation. It helps to know what kind of work is necessary and it helps to know that you are making progress, even if slowly. Doing that work will not end the depression right away, but it will change the situation eventually. Knowing that you are doing something can help you fight feelings of depression. ("Have you noticed that the imbecile always smiles? Man's first frown is the first touch of God on his forehead. The touch of thought..." -- Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead.)
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