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itsjames

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About itsjames

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  • Gender Male
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  • Interests Comic books (anything by Frank Miller), Nintendo 3DS, Music, Mathematics, Epistemology and Ethics, Jogging

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  • Biography/Intro I attended the University of Florida from 2004-2014 where I received a Bachelor's and Ph.D. in Mathematics. For the next 18 months, I will be doing postdoctoral work in Italy at a transportation scheduling company called MAIOR.
  • School or University University of Florida
  • Occupation Mathematics

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  1. Okay, I can agree, in the sense that "a particular man is alive before he starts to use reason". But, I do not believe this is the meaning of "life" when Rand says that life is the ultimate moral value (I don't remember exactly what she wrote, but I think it was something along those lines). Just as man's life -- qua man (ie. man as a being who uses reason to live) -- is the standard of moral value in Objectivism (am I wrong here?), a particular man's own life -- as a rational being -- is a value to him. So, I really think the values of reason and "life" are almost inseparable. The basic point I'm trying to make is that if a man can commit suicide without being irrational (ie. without rejecting the value of reason, or perhaps, "without evading"), then he is not immoral. I don't like your tone, but nevertheless, please see what I wrote above. I don't recall any time when you asked me this and I avoided answering. Nevertheless, my answer is above. Thanks to all for the discussion. This will be my last post on this topic.
  2. You conveniently omitted the very next sentence in my post, which gives it context .... Please fully read and digest my posts before replying. The full paragraph was: Morality isn't even a question in the mind of someone who is not focused conceptually. Being focused is a precondition of morality.
  3. Thanks, I actually didn't know some of this. However, this is why I wrote "the belief in God -- and the practice of this belief". If one is told when one is young that "God is everything", "God is what makes life possible", or things along these lines, and one then decides that one "believes" in God, I don't think this is necessarily irrational -- so long as the "belief" is more or less "hot air", in the sense of paying lip service to it. The irrationality begins, I think, when one tries to apply the "concept" of God to reality. For example, praying and thinking that your prayers will be answered by God and believing in miracles. No, I don't quite think this. A word which represents an invalid concept to me might not be an invalid concept in your mind (I don't think so, at least). The point is that the concepts one has should be applied in the context in which they were grasped/formed. In particular, if one forms a "concept" in a non-reality oriented way (such as just using their emotions) and then tries to apply it to reality, then you have a problem. No, I don't think so. I said that to be rational one has to grasp/form concepts in a reality oriented way and then to use them while treating them according to what they are. One can be reality oriented (basing their concepts off of perceptual evidence, differentiating/integrating, etc.) while still making errors.
  4. It sounds like you view reason as somehow being something that is learned later on in life, and that one can choose to hold it as a value if one see's its usefulness in preserving one's life. But in fact, what makes reason a fundamental value is that it is not learned later. It's always there: so long as an individual is acting on the conceptual level -- including deciding whether or not a particular action is good for his life -- and so long as he is treating concepts according to what they are, he is holding reason as a value. This is the sense in which reason sets the context for all values. Reason and the awareness of reality that it gives you is a very personal thing. It's not something outside of yourself. It is yourself in a sense. Well, if you read my posts earlier in this thread, it would be clear that I actually don't think suicide is necessarily immoral. My point is that the argument behind this has to ultimately come down to the value of reason in some way.
  5. The purpose of my question was actually just to point to the fact that reason is a fundamental value, according to Objectivism. I believe it is too. My larger point is that you can't defend a stance on the morality/immorality of a certain action without reference to reason in some way. Yes, we have values other than reason, but reason sets the context for all values. In order for an action to be fundamentally bad, it has to be irrational. By the way, I'm really more interested in what you think the fundamental values are. We can all read what Rand wrote and recite her arguments. I want to hear your arguments based on your own experiences and your own observations.
  6. It (reason) has to do with both. I think it's the starting point for ethics. In Objectivism, isn't reason one of the cardinal values? Again, we're talking about reason and rationality. According to Objectivism, all the major virtues are simply different angles on the virtue of rationality as it's applied in different settings. Okay, I agree. But what are the fundamental values?
  7. I'm not sure I agree that the belief in God -- and the practice of this belief -- can ever be honest, especially when the believer claims they are "certain". Sure, many believers can be honest in other areas of their lives, making them "basically" honest. But if honesty is the devotion to reality, I don't see how believing in God can be an honest thing. Please enlighten me, if you think I'm wrong. The standard which we are talking about (ie. treating things according to what they are) is reason. Of course its demanding. The extent to which someone has and uses "concepts" like God, which have no referent in reality, is the extent to which they are irrational. Rationality/irrationality is the starting point for any discussion of what one "should" do. I don't see how there can be any other standard.
  8. You seem to believe that for Objectivism, morality is fundamentally about preserving "life". I don't think this is quite right, at least not in the sense you seem to mean. In my view, the Objectivist morality is about being oriented towards reality mentally. It's about forming concepts in a reality oriented way and then using those concepts while treating them according to what they are. For example, you form the concept of a tree (using a reality oriented mental process involving integration, differentiation, etc.). Then, you walk outside, see a tree, and say, "That's a tree". This is, I believe, what Objectivism regards as the essence of morality. The essence of immorality, I believe, consists in forming a "concept" by a non-reality oriented process (using your feelings, not thinking, not differentiating clearly, etc.) and then attempting to apply that concept to something in reality, which means: treating your "concept" as something that it is not. (You didn't really form the "concept" in a reality oriented way, and now you are treating it as though it does refer to reality.) I could be wrong, but I think this is what Rand may have meant by "evasion". So the standard isn't exactly "life", as you mean it. Perhaps you could say the standard is existence, or maybe treating consciousness and existence according to what they are. Well, let's try to think about what mental process this guy may have gone through prior to pulling the trigger. He's in intense pain. He doesn't know how to stop it. He vaguely remembers that there is something in his holster that he could use to "make it go away". He doesn't know what that means exactly, but he knows that he needs to act immediately, since time is running short. So he quickly does the first thing that comes to mind and blows himself away. Where is the evasion here? Sure, he's thinking quickly. After all, he's on fire. But I don't see that he is necessarily not treating his consciousness or anything in existence according to what they are. So, I still don't regard his action as being immoral.
  9. I think the disagreement Eiuol and I (at least me) have with MisterSwig is not just a matter of the terminology. MisterSwig seems to believe that these "mental entities" are grasped initially as being independent things whose dependence and full nature is discovered later on. I think that these "mental entities" can only be grasped as dependent things, in a sense -- things that we have created, or maybe things that we have done. So, I think the issue lies in how these things are initially grasped.
  10. But the point is that this is not what happens. You are only aware of these "mental entities" so long as you are in the process of creating them. (If you are remembering some thought you had earlier, you are thinking it again, in a sense.) Hence, they are not entities, because they are not grasped as being independent things. You know that you are creating them in the same moment you are aware of them.
  11. Let me just add in advance (since I think someone will probably bring up the issue of dreams) that when you are dreaming (let's leave out lucid dreams for now, ::sigh::), you don't know you are creating the "world" around you. So you wouldn't identify any of the things you are "perceiving" as being mental entities in the first place. Of course, we will open up a whole new can of worms when we start to talk about what happens when you know you are dreaming. I am honestly not prepared to go there.
  12. This is a great thread, by the way. I can honestly say I have never given this thought until now. Thank you for the stimulating discussion. That being said, I think my issue with what you write above is the following. When you call something an "entity", or even when you say "content" (as in "mental content"), you're suggesting that the thing you are talking about is somehow being perceived first, and is identified afterwards. But the point is that the moment you "perceive" the memories, concepts, etc. in your mind, you know that you are creating them. There is no separation there. You don't wake up in the morning and start to observe the different thoughts in your mind, such as "Is it time to get up?". You are thinking these things. And in that sense you know what these "things" (thoughts) are as you are in the process of creating them. Calling them "entities" suggests that this is not so -- that you don't realize it's you who is in control, and that it is up to you to discover that the thoughts were your own later on. As I said above, the concept of "entity" means "independent" in a sense. But your thoughts are not independent things. You know fully their dependent nature, where they came from, and what they are (in a sense) the moment you create them.
  13. I agree with Eiuol overall here. MisterSwig, your position really sounds like Platonism. What is the evidence for mental entities? According to Google, an "entity" is "a thing with distinct and independent existence". In life, we perceive things, we do, and we remember what we do. That's it. Concepts are not independent things, they represent integrations of perceived concretes, ie. they are formed through action. They aren't "entities". Treating them as "things" is, I think, mostly a matter of convenience. They are just "what we have done" with the things we have perceived in reality. One strange consequence of taking this view that there are "entities" in our minds is that you are now starting to say that these entities "act": We are the ones who act, not the mental "entities" in our heads.
  14. In extreme cases, clear thinking might not be possible, even if you are still conscious. There is a scene from the movie "Fury" that comes to mind, where a soldier is burning alive, and without a second's thought he pulls out his pistol and shoots himself in the head. I'm not an expert on Objectivism's views on morality, but in my view, calling what that soldier did a "moral" issue is quite silly. There was no planning or thinking there, he just did it. Does that make him "immoral"? Does morality even apply in such a crazy situation? I don't see how it could.
  15. epistemologue, could you state your basic thesis in just a few sentences perhaps?