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ZSorenson

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ZSorenson last won the day on December 7 2010

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  1. ZSorenson

    What We're Up Against

    It's sex. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120202093836.htm (Men do good deeds when women are watching) I have long believed that most irrational human behavior exists in the social realm, and is primarily driven by women. If the above study is accurate, it raises two questions. 1) Is a liberal sexual attitude really more conducive to rational behavior than the alternative, or does it in fact encourage non-rational motives, creating an environment driven by irrational rules? 2) Does the fact that women are more consistent in their 'altruism' than men, who apparently reserve their best deeds for proving their worth as a mate, imply that the majority of women are inherently undeserving of rational affection? In other words, can we ever hope to live in a rational society while women retain the sexual influence they presently have over men? Is there an argument to suggest that civilization has previously been aided by robbing women of this power on both fronts of female liberality as well as overall suppression of sexual behavior?
  2. ZSorenson

    Economic Sanctions=Act of War

    I have been somewhat recently enamored of the Rothbardian perspective. I would like some clarification, and will also offer an argument which I hope to see discussed. It seems to me that Objectivist literature offers somewhat little explanation for the 'why' of a person's or nation's base epistemology. Jared Diamond, or Karl Marx, at least had this materialistic world view in which natural conditions provoke ideological responses from the people affected by them. It often seems that Objectivists assume that a person's philosophy is a given; perhaps some evolution of thought in their education brought them to this point, but there is no explicit correlation between their held philosophy and the conditions that provided it to them. Once a person possesses a given philosophy, they are then thought to inevitably act one way or another. This can be extrapolated out to explain the behavior of nations. (Some pseudo-objectivists trot around the 'free will' Platonic argument that our 'self-evident' free will is what determines whether we choose to think or not, and some have 'better' free wills than others) When two philosophies oppose, the parties holding them engage in a brute force battle of ideological conquest - winner takes all. There is no other recourse. The only option for an individual possessing objective morality is to wait out the mutual self-destruction of peoples possessing false ideologies. Is this an extreme mischaracterization? I note that The Objective Standard recently (as has been the position of ARI for some time) called for the elimination of the Iranian and Saudi regimes based on the notion that both possess ideological constructs which support and encourage islamic terrorism. As if ideology and flawed epistemological constructs are the sole source of the violent behavior, and eliminating the intellectual sources will make the ultimate difference - regardless of the broader consequences. Which leads me to argue that ideology is in fact much more a product of material and social conditions than a historical starting point. I don't suppose I can offer a specific reference for 'my point of view', so I will have to define it, and broadly. I do think that most human behavior is in fact genetic, and as a consequence social. People are first motivated to trigger phisiological reward mechanisms in the brain, and then more outwardly be appealing to the opposite sex via a competitive standing in the social hierarchy. Like I said, most human behavior, I think, is governed by these simple mechanisms. However, that behavior alone leaves man with little more than a hunting-gathering lifestyle can provide. Even then, his developed capacity for reason does require a basic set of conceptual tools to even survive. Ayn Rand goes on to make the next argument better than I ever could. Where I perhaps disagree is that I think that humans engage in an incessant rationalization of their genetic and animalistic impulses, integrating these behaviors into their broader conceptual understanding of the universe. Emotion, I think, is a concept that fits this category very well. With that qualification I can explain how I think humans can live as rational beings according to a conceptual framework, who are also primarily irrational regarding the majority of their behavior. This speaks to the importance of any given ideology - not as a pure epistemological guideline - but instead as means of qualifying man's inherent rationalization of his irrational behavior. I think that any man - across human history - is ultimately equal to any other in that all ultimately rely on rational thought to make gains, and all ultimately rely on non-rational genetic programming for basic behaviors and values. What does vary is: the social and material environment, and consequently the nature of the rationalization of reason vs. instinct. So what am I really saying? In the context of this thread, I'm saying that Imperial Japan and the US weren't in a situation where conflict was 'definitely inevitable' nor in one in which unconditional surrender was a necessary outcome. Instead of reviewing an endless list of historical counter-factuals, I'll just rely on two related examples. The first is that of WWI. This was a war, not so much about democracy or European bragging rights, but about Empire. Fundamentally, it was motivated not by ideology, but by the nature of the State. These entities had grown to exist for their own sake. They were concentrations of power against power, and their purpose was to accumulate more of it. It was much more of an organic political development than any response to the ideology of the people. The only consideration of the individual person was perhaps that of fear. Fear of attack from whomever might be the enemy State. Given the conditions of an individual European's life: the minimal influence he might have on political outcomes, the role of history in shaping territories and tongues, the leverage his rational pursuits had on real improvement in his life within the context of his local environment, the ease with which large groups of people can organize if they rely on shared basic instincts such as tribalism, and so forth, what could the European hope for with war except that it might one day exhaust the capacity of the nations to war, and that he would still be alive? It's not as if his personal, or even national, ideology had any bearing - in a conceptual sense - on the outcome of geopolitics. People rationally rallied around: all for the State. And the State was the only share ideology. One of the most important, but least recognized, resources in economics and social organization is information. It's extremely costly, and enormously valuable. The cost of information is why it's cheaper to respond to a disaster than to prepare for one. Consider, then, Iran. Although the youth have been raised on a radical ideology, just a generation ago the people of that country were not nearly as radical. It is easy to envision a near future where these youth grow tired of the failed promises of a false ideology. This happens all the time. In order for there to be a sustained commitment to a mad ideology, there must be some rational motivator that leads a person to continue to accept a poor rationalization of lunacy. America overthrew Iran's government in 1953, ostensibly to fight Communism, but nevertheless scored incredible oil contracts out of the coup. When the soviet's counter-coup failed a decade or two later, it was because the Iranian people - tired of foreign interference in their national politics - were willing to accept a mad ideology. I think there is a very good argument that a radical Shia cleric is more predictable and rational of a choice, from the Iranian perspective, than any number of constantly changing imposed foreign figureheads. In response the US overthrew Iraq's government, put Saddam in power, encouraged a devastating war in which chemical weapons were employed (and in some cases supplied by the US), only to later overthrow Saddam after sanctions which resulted in tens of thousands dead. With Saddam and Qaddafi dead, and Egypt overrun by radicals, what rational evidence is there - from the perspective of an informed and perhaps liberal minded Iranian - that the US wouldn't do the same thing in Iran? It's not so much that he favors the clerics, but the fate imposed by US action on Iran would be entirely unpredictable. As we see in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most direct of interventions have resulted in no clear or predictable futures. My overall point is that the actions of the Iranian regime, and the interplay between that regime, the people, and the ideological rationalizations employed by all, are in fact governed by an over-arching rationality more so than irrationality. If you include the concept of information scarcity into any hypothetical rational calculation of a typical Iranian, you find that their 'irrationality' is in fact a comparatively rational response to decades of American foreign policy. And that is why I have come to favor the Rothbardian perspective. I think ideology responds to acts of agression - favoring the irrational as a defensive reaction. I think the lack of aggression can in fact encourage the rational. When it comes to aggressive actors - if you can personally deter them from harming you, and proportionally respond to their aggression so as to disincentivize it, then they will direct their aggression elsewhere. Their aggression is the result of an inconsistency in their ideology - a 'kink' in their social and cultural rules. Inevitably, their aggression will wear them out. You can only steal from someone once. At this moment of desperation, an olive branch from a rational, trading, society is much more likely than stern counter-aggression to inspire ideological shifts in the majority of people invovled. I find it inaccurate and also foolish to see the world as a cut-throat battle between all-or-nothing ideology. This is the influence of Platonism that has crept into modern Objectivism - I perceive (I intend not to accuse, but to debate). I see Rothbard as influenced much more by economic thought - observation and conclusion - than ideology. Whereas modern Objectivism feels somewhat scholastic. The basic conclusion of Objectivism - morally and politically - is that reason should govern interactions within a society. When one interacts with a force of individuals acting according to non or irrational impulses, strict violent defeat is not the immediate rational conclusion. The rational conclusion is: "whatever preserves our liberty while most probably inspiring and rewarding rational thought on the other side." That can be violence, but not always. Sanctions are not equal to an act of war in a legal sense, but they probably shouldn't be included in a rational foreign policy that aims to avoid war. So sanctions=war in a causal sense, which makes the statement essentially true. If you engage in sanctions, you must be willing to possibly go to war. And that's the difference between sanctions and any generic act of diplomacy.
  3. ZSorenson

    Conflicting Rights?

    I don't think there is such a thing as conflicting rights. However, there can be conflicting enforcement of rights. Law is created and enforced to protect rights, but while rights are absolute and objective, the law must adapt to the situation. Public property, as a concept, is a big grey area for rights. Rights are individually held, and public property is collectively held. So, whose rights get protected and whose don't? Really, public property is merely 'state-owned' property which the state may use to benefit whichever factions it needs to. The question of conflicting rights is bigger than issues involving so-called 'public property', though. How property is defined within the law is the real issue. How would land originally be claimed? The first to stand there owns it? The person who bids highest in an auction, paying the state for unowned land? The first to use the land for some purpose? What if there is oil under the land discovered after it is initially acquired? Does the landowner own the oil underground? What happens if pumping the oil causes sinkholes? In reality, the law would protect rights differently depending on the situation. If drilling causes no sinkholes, the landowner has no real legitimate claim to the oil. If it causes substantial sinkholes, the landowner has very legitimate claims to the oil. If it has the potential to cause some sinkholes, then it would be proper for a legislature to lay out some rules concerning liability should the oil rights be owned by someone else. I'm getting at the idea that the issue you raised is a big concern that I think isn't addressed in out system of government. I really believe that a legislature should be required to prove harm before making law. That it should operate similar to a court in terms of process. Imagine that, every proposed law would have to provably address a real situation according to a given standard. Of course, with the leftist flair for lawyercraft, one can only imagine the mess this might be. But I've been intrigued by this idea.
  4. Imagine if you and your 50-odd farm animal neighbors decided to engage in a common goal that will be mutually beneficial. Let's imagine this would be the construction of a windmill that will increase the final yield on all crops (harvested individually). Given that everyone wants this and will contribute to it, what determines how much each animal should individually contribute to the construction of the mill? Ignoring the compulsory labor argument (there will be none), and assuming that all gains will be equal by proportion to the input (individual harvest), the only remaining moral question is 'how much should I contribute?' Perhaps if you are wealthy and anticipate using the mill more than others, you will contribute more. Perhaps you feel that your wealth is the product of your superior harvesting methods, and greater number of hours of personal labor. Perhaps you feel that the ultimate product of the mill will take most of its value in economic aggregate from your initial grain inputs: therefore, you perhaps feel that you should contibute least to the mill. The mill is a 'purchase' of your surplus. Perhaps your valuation of your labor, and others, concerning the mill varies from those of others. Perhaps this is because you are less intelligent than others, or maybe they are. If the mill construction was compulsory, there would be a central authority to 'judge' which valuations are more 'correct'. Surely, some people are better at math than others, but sometimes differing valuations are purely political: we tend have different values one from another. With no central authority, maybe game theory would take over. The mill construction would be substandard, initially underfunded, then plagued by cost overruns. In other words, it would be a disaster. I don't need to explain on this forum why compulsory collectivism would be a disaster. I also can say that my mill example as a critique of some interpretations of libertarianism is probably less necessary to this audience. In terms of economics, the 'correct' solution, politically and philosophically, to the mill problem is capitalism. Private individuals privately own the means of production, and are responsible for valuations and production decisions and planning. Easy answer. But this exposition on economic policy must be compared in parallel with military and criminal policy. Unlike economics, safety and law cannot be privately owned. Some functions of safety and law can certainly be fulfilled by the services of private enterprises, but the law - and the employment of force specifically - cannot. When private citizens exercise force there are two names for it: barbarism, or possibly, a dictatorship. The use of force in society represents, quite accurately, a 'tragedy of the commons' as safety and order can sort of be thought of as products just as any other service or good. But order and safety are purchased through the employment of force against human beings. Force, specifically (not the bureaucracy, the weapons manufacture, the investigative work), is not a private good. Period. For this reason, capitalistic solutions cannot be used to resolve the issue of the proper employment of force in society. Neither can 'libertarian' solutions work, with my mill metaphor serving as a good example. If society shares a common objective, or commonly values something, then these individuals must develop some means of collective agreement. With differing opinions, levels of knowledge, and values, all individuals cannot be expected to magically reach a consensus. This, incidentally, is why capitalism is the only proper economic system for man. Man has two alternatives, fundamentally, in his interaction with other men: the law of the jungle, or reason. The former is essentially might makes right, the latter recognizes that man needs both mutual agreement and shared understanding with other men. The absence of the latter implies automatically the conditions of the former. Force must be used against those who initiate force, but only according to proscribed laws, proper evidence, and the consent of - yes - the consensus of men in society. There is one reason for this: truth may be objective, but it must be discovered to be employed, and it is discovered by individual men. Yes, you are free to come to whatever decision about the justice of any given situation you choose, in spite of the opinion of others. You are not free from the responsibility of contending with those who disagree with you. And yes, you are free to choose at which point in this process you are willing to accept the laws of the jungle, or the laws of civilization. With invasion, and the military, society must decide to collectively and in a coordinated manner, employ force to counterattack the ivaders. Why? The enemy has identified your nation, a group of individuals, as a single unit worthy of attack. Sure, perhaps you can decide to be a breakaway province, but then might you be next? My point being that nations are formed as they are for a reason. People exist under the umbrella of governments that functionally serve to coordinate the actions of the people under them toward a common objective. Resources must be employed, weapons built, officers appointed, and men of the right caliber recruited, all working in coordination to defeat the enemy and protect the safety of the people, and preserve the laws of the nation. If you are truly a participant in this society, you would respect the consensus of the central authority on strategy and what part of your wealth you should donate, even if you disagreed. In this sense, though I have made the argument that war strategy is not up to individual decision making, I haven't yet closed the case on compulsion in these situations. Compulsion would me morally right because the individual expresses his valuation on the matter through whatever democratic, legal, constitutional process is used to create the war fighting consensus. Note that I do not apply this argument to safety as a public good. No, I am ONLY saying that the employment of force is subject to public consensus. Private decisions do not create this consensus, the public constitutional process does. This process itself is worth much deep discussion, definitely worth another topic. Nation states may be natural evolutions of history, but morally speaking, what is a proper nation? Understanding that answer will answer the OP question. With a military invasion, the nation attacked must understand that it is now following 'jungle rules'. What is the place of an individual within a nation in this situation? Any individual that does not comply with the strategy or taxation is in effect 'seceding' from the constitution. Would that be their right? Perhaps not post-facto, but suppose they said before "I will only pay what I want if we're attacked", this is a de facto pre-emptive secession. Should they actually contribute during the crisis, they are acting as a sovereign individual, essentially an allied nation. This provides a final metaphor for dealing with the question. Now, let's imagine three countries, A, B, C. If A attacks B, with C neutral, could B declare war on C to win the war? Let's say that C has a strategic pass that allows counterattacks on A. Let's also assume that B and C are 'morally clean' free-market countries. This is the question the OP is essentially asking. If compulsory taxation is okay, then for the same reasons it would be okay for B to invade C to counter A. So, is it okay? I say yes. B is not invading C for any economic gain or destructive purpose. B is only empowering itself to be in a position to defend its rights in the international arena - which IS the law of the jungle. In the 'jungle' environment, man has the right to employ whatever means he can to survive. Now, internationally, there are some laws and standards, and treaties. When these are in place and valid, might does not make right, and it is man's imperative to establish these, but in their absence, might does make right. The rules of morality that come into effect within a nation with established laws - those that lead to the 'initiation of force' priniciple and capitalism, do not apply. There are no laws, no means of objective justice, or place for rational agreement. "No initiation of force" is not a magical, universal principle, no matter what the J tells you, dude. It is the consequence of enough rational men banding together to agree on objective moral principles to govern their right and ability, as men, to exercise force against other men. Back to the analogy: B does not have the luxury of tolerating C's intransigence. Presumably, C believes they will survive the war if they stay neutral. Good for them, but B wants to defend itself. B is not violating C's rights, it isn't taking anything undeserved, it is simply expressing its disagreements with C over who should own that strategic pass to defend their fundamental existence. "No initiation of force" only applies when: 1) A group of individuals get together and communicate a shared understanding of objective morality (nation forming) 2) They establish a set of rules to govern the use of force according to that morality (constitution framing) 3) They enforce those rules according to their prescriptions (law and order) Then, no initiation of force applies. AND, non-initiation is incorporated into the rules as a GOAL, PRODUCT, AND FUNDAMENTAL PURPOSE of them. But, should the system fail, out the window goes the principle. And the system itself lives in the jungle so to speak. For the purpose of defending their constitution, a group of individuals is completely morally enabled to 'initiate force' all up over you.
  5. ZSorenson

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution

    Oh, fyi, the other endings kind of stink. But that speaks to what I like about the game. There is no required moral outlook. You just sort of act according to what you feel is the moral way to progress, without reward or punishment. Even the endings are volitional. You choose at the last minute, based on how you reacted to the game. It's not like choices earlier on force you to accept one ending or another. A neat way to handle narrative I think. Let the game speak to you, and then you can freely speak back. No pipelined consequences.
  6. ZSorenson

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution

    The Deus Ex series has always tried to be philosophical, and has had a particular focus on politics. The newest entry has really put the concept of transhumanism, and how it relates to political philosophy, at the forefront. Although the game's story features absurd (haha, I hope) conspiracies, these function fairly well as metaphors for the distribution of power in society. I have started this thread not to make a specific point, but rather to start a conversation about this game and how it relates to Objectivism. ASSUME SPOILERS This game, like the others in the series, have multiple possible ending narratives. One of them involves allowing society to continue down the path of human augmentation. It features a frankly beautiful exposition on progress. This beautfiul ending is contrasted with other alternatives by holding that with human augmentation many humans would simply get left behind, almost becoming a sub-race or sub-species. It is also implied that this reality would have to be covered-up so that the majority of humanity would accept transhumanism despite the inequal distribution of its benefits. I see this as a metaphor for capitalism in general. In order to explain, I must review my beliefs regarding transhumanism. For the most part, I find the concept of 'human augmentation' to be repulsive. Why? Well, I think that technology itself can serve man and allow him to become a 'transhuman' without him having to modify his body. Medical science, environmental control, computer science - these all allow man to render negligible the constraints of his biology. Nevertheless, man's identity as a rational animal provide him with the core moral alternative of life vs. death - and specifically, assuming death might be conquered, a moral 'pivot point', an identity as a decision making agent. Someday, man might become 'post-human'. He might exist as a disembodied intelligence. He might craft biological, or robotic entities entirely non-human. But mere 'augments' I see a little more than magical tokens. Integrating technology into the human body is just a way to give the illusion of some other identity, as if reaching for some alternate reality. This is different from technology that legitimately restores malfunctioning biology. My point is that technology and progress itself, even when man remains biologically identical to his nature form, is essentially 'human augmentation'. This, finally, begs the questions: who does Capitalism leave behind? How does this unravel? How is power and sociology affected. Essentially I am asking: how does a society transition from Lockean Republicanism to pure Objectivist Capitalism without or before destroying itself with Kantian Socialism? What might allow a society that has made room for some fantasy to embrace only reality? Of course, I also liked the combat system of ducking behind cover, and the hyper-dense Hengsha Island. Thoughts?
  7. ZSorenson

    Obama to Unveil New Plan to Deal with Economy

    Atlas Shrugged appeals to all of us not because it gives the impression of finally explaining the world, but because it does explain the world. This is why I can't stand progressivism. It is so transparently adolescent in its irrational idealism, the narcissism of its gurus, and in the fact that each new generation of progressives believes that it is the first to have ever discovered it. Here's the pressing question: will Obama pass Directive 10-289 before or after the election. If he gets desperate, he may do so beforehand. Then, if republicans win, there's a chance the plan could be exposed. Progressivism-gate if you will.
  8. ZSorenson

    The Answer

    The Answer is unfortunately out of political reach I fear. Our economic problems are deeply structural. That said, there are many regulations which, if repealed, would make room for significant economic growth. Many of these are deeply entrenched in the political economy. For one, we must repeal the Wagner Act and probably the minimum wage. We need cheap factory jobs in America. People talk of slapping tariffs on Chinese imports - as if. We also need to roll back entitlements to near nothing compared to what they are. This would free real capital. Speaking of that... We need to seriously restructure the central bank. It should only exist to bankroll the federal government. Thus the US Dollar should be a relatively strong, realtively common form of currency used to pay for necessary government. This currency would not be used to manipulate markets in any way. Period. There also needs to be liberalization of currency to allow competition. But this would require some amount of regulation to prevent catastrophic fraud (not that there's something wrong with simple habits such a food storage and self-sufficiency as cultural habits to protect against said occasional economic learning experiences). And speaking of that, we need to sort out financial regulation. It is unreasonable to deregulate the sector, unless there has been a reset already. For example, the only large banks I can store my money in prior to the 1990's must follow Glass-Steagle. I don't even get to choose a 'safer' vs a 'riskier' bank. I don't get a contract that says the bank won't take stupid risks. And yet, by repealing the act, Congress allowed banks to take risks that their customers had never agreed to because the regulation implied as much in the first place. So, you must allow banks to start taking risks, but not change an institutionalized rule overnight. We need financial reform that is nuanced enough to allow economic freedom, while conservative enough to enable people to actually grasp and agree to the changes. This level of nuance is not possible given the political economy's dependence on Wall Street. Nonetheless, even if you fix the currency, finance, and basic economic regulations that affect hiring and business creation you'll always end up with the problem of monopolies. A functional economy will produce monopolies. A functional finance system, and healthy commerce, will lead to new businesses with new ideas that will inevitably be the best at doing that which didn't exist until they did it. The future of the worlds' fairs? The future we were promised but never got - with space travel, flying cars, glowing cities, undersea complexes, robots, the medical breakthroughs - we were promised this because there was momentum that reasonably implied that this would happen by now. And it was stopped. The future we never got was stolen from us because of anti-trust, I think. Everything else since then has been a steady patchwork to cure the disease started by anti-trust. But the disease keeps getting worse. We can fix it all, but until we no longer have anti-trust, we have no future. Oh, and the real answer, the short answer, is to withdraw all public funding of higher education PERIOD! That, and disband public schools - at least set up a voucher program - but breaking the progressive education system that instill social dependency and narcissism in the entire nation's culture is critical as well. Thus intellectual capital will slowly and surely divert towards wealth creation - and true progress - and society will get off its butt and work to build that progress.
  9. ZSorenson

    Specific word to replace one common definition of 'selfish'

    Thinking about this topic some time, I have come to agree that 'narcissistic' is the appropriate word or concept here. There is a definition for narcissism which is self-love in the physical, almost sexual, sense. That's part of healthy self-esteem, but to be fair this is referred to as 'healthy narcissism'. There is another definition which refers to a different concept. This would be 'unhealthy narcissism'. That is the concept I will be discussing. From answers.com, secondary definition: "A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem." The problems with a narcissist begins with the quality on the left, and unravels to the right. The cause of narcissism is right to left. And so the core problem is a lack of self-esteem. This problem is compounded as the person constructs a false reality around that lack of self-esteem. This is the source of all trouble with people, I think. There are two types of narcissism that I have been reading about: narcissism and inverted narcissism (or co-dependency). I believe that the narcissists are the "Atillas" and the Co-dependents the "Mystics" of Ayn Rand's view of history. Let me explain that I am no expert, but I know that even the experts haven't developed a completely clear understanding of narcissistic personality disorders. That said, many of the characteristics of regular and inverted narcissists are the same. What unifies them is the constant construction of a false reality to compensate for an unapproachable lack of self-esteem. What distinguishes them is that regular narcissism involves constant efforts to control the social environment, while inverted narcissism involves constant efforts to establish victimhood in order to bring prestige to the narcissist. I will make no effort at psychohistory (the psychoanalysis of historical societies), I will not attempt to speculate on what causes all of this - people to be narcissists or inverted narcissists. I can say that the general cure is more easily obtained. 1) Accept reality, and carefully evaluate the evidence. Live by truth, and self-deny relative to the truth. That is, let rational self-interest be your guide. In other words, reject the irrational ego reject irrational pride. This would require "self-denial" until the narcissism is defeated and the irrational self is deconstructed and reduced to the core self-esteem issue. 2) Rebuild self-esteem. Having 'self-denied' and 'let-go' of the false self, one can construct a self-image based on reality. You might be pathetic, by certain standards - ugly, unintelligent, and so forth - but as a human being with a functional mind you will be capable of something and you have every right to take deep pride in that something. Thus self-esteem is built, reality is properly perceived, and one can live according to rational self-interest While this has been a fun exercise for me, my overall point is mainly that the problem with most people in the world IS their ego! But it is an irrational ego, that is the problem. The problem is narcissism.
  10. ZSorenson

    Tabula Rasa

    Having read some of the arguments in this thread against Tabula Rasa, I'm reminded of something I used to try and discuss here. I don't think I had conceptualized what I wanted to say very well at the time, and I'm hoping that someone might be able to help me out now that I have a better grasp of it. The formation of concepts is commonly understood to involve an integration of the evidence of the five senses. What I had at one time tried to argue was that there were additional, innate, senses that ought to be included in the understanding of concept formation. I should say that I thought that these were of the same quality as the five traditional senses, and treated the same by the mind - they are merely received differently. For example, I will consider homosexuality. One might be aware of their homosexuality via innate evidence, but such self-awareness would necessarily employ a concept of homosexuality that integrates concepts of sexuality, gender, self, others, etc. In other words, homosexual self-awareness is hardly innate. Instead, certain feelings and sensations contribute to the concept of homosexuality, and these might be innate. But are they? Is sexual desire not the integration of internally sensed 'touch (or feel)' with other notions of desire and wanting? This reduces the 'innateness' of homosexual self-awareness back down to the five senses. In the case of hunger, this is more easily true. Hunger is the direct sensation of phisiological changes in the body. Thus 'touch' must be defined more broadly as 'feel' - implying a physical sensation strictly. But what about mental sensations? That is, phisiological changes in the brain that affect its ability to think. Not being an expert I only speculate based on amateur knowledge, but can the brain force attention to concepts? I will give a rough example. The memory of taking a hit of heroine triggers a chemical reaction that focuses the mind on heroine. This is easily explained. It is not the concept that triggers the reaction, but the memory of the sensation specifically. By this understanding, even highly powerful, internal, seemingly-innate, and possibly highly emotional reactions in the mind can be tied to concepts via sensations. The only other category by which one might argue against Tabula Rasa would be that of layered consciousness. By having layered consciousness, you could have the pschyo-epistemological framework of the conscious mind be incompatible with that of the subconscious. Thus the subconscious could override the knowledge of the conscious mind and give the appearance of innate concepts. A perfect example is the 'murder' argument that was put forward. The conscious mind might deduce that in a given situation murder would be an appropriate action, but the subconcious (because of learned fear of punishment as a small child) overrides this deduction. Thus the mind appears to have innate knowledge that overrides objective knowledge. Yet again, at some level, knowledge depends on some sort of sensory input. Taking my scientific arguments as nothing more than philosophical experiments, would you say I am correct in my basic understanding of the validity of Tabula Rasa as it applies to man's conceptual knowledge? And further more, could Objectivism at large benefit by acknowledging the physiologically innate - or rather, does it acknowledge this? To give an example of the nuance of this, in my attempt to illustrate what I am describing, consider hunger. I am inclined to accept man's knowledge that he must eat as conceptual - yes - but nonetheless derived from an innate response. In other words, man can learn that not eating will kill him, and can objectively conclude that eating is moral, but that most to all men first learn that they must eat from the physiological response of the body that provides an uncomfortable sensation due to hunger. To qualify, this response is a sensation of the body that is integrated into a concept of hunger. Moreover, while the sensation cannot provoke an innate conceptual response it can provoke an innate physical response. An example would be a reflex, as in the kicking of the leg upon the receiving of hammer on knee. These reflexes can educate man - teach him concepts - of certain innate things. They can be powerful (pain, addiction, sexual desire) in overriding conscious decision making (I refer not to acts but to discrete actions). But man can also overcome them. That a person would become a suicide bomber is clear evidence that the most powerful of instincts - survival - is not conceptually innate, though it might be something-else-innate (often these bombers use drugs to overcome fear, but that only bolsters my point). Thus you have the phenomenon which commonly lead people to intuitively accept the reality of a 'mind-body' dichotomy. But what we really see is a 'concept-percept' dichotomy. What I am arguing, then, is that the body can produce internal percepts that can in some cases trick or override the conceptual. What it cannot do, however, is influence the concepts non-objectively. When the vestibular system is activated in a consistent manner over a period of time, often the sensations it produces (spinning) disappear. The body does not tell the mind that it should no longer conceptually believe it is spinning, rather, one mere sensation is removed. Pilots are often 'tricked' by this phenomenon, but instruments were invented to help solve this problem. The conceptual, therefore, is not influenced by anything 'innate' in the body. Thus Tabula Rasa cannot be discredited by all of these various arguements that paint nuanced or subtle percepts as magical fully-integrated concepts.
  11. ZSorenson

    Why do human babies have rights?

    Babies, despite not being rational, are humans. Humans, despite having stages of growth, are always human, and when they do work for their own survival, rational. It is logical to grant rights to humans, because of their nature. Criminals who act irrationally are punished accordingly. Humans in vegetative states are, in fact, euthanized if it can be reasonably proved that they are not, nor will ever again, possess consciousness (reason). Babies, then, by their nature, are rational beings in a state of incubation. On the one hand, there are the rights of their grown selves. On the other hand, all humans alive were necessarily once babies. Even if a baby was born with full rational capacity, it would still need time to learn how to survive before it could. It's just the most basic common sense to grant rights to babies, for exactly the same reasons why one would grant them to human adults. As for animals, this is a difficult question indeed. I have an answer though. Man lives morally so long as he does not demand of the world that which is beyond its nature. Thus a rational man may never improperly demand the compliance of another to his own will. Rational men do not live in such a world, nor do they or their actions permit or sustain it. This applies to animals in the sense that man may not attempt to impose on animals any sort of life that is contrary to that which is natural to the animal. Thus, man may kill animals for food, breed them, kill them young even. He may manipulate them genetically, or through breeding, an create new and different types of animals with different natures. What he may not do is that which is unnatural - torture, excessive exploitaton (force feeding an animal so depressed it would rather starve, or bizarre experimentation), and so forth. Again, the reason is for man's sake. That which is 'unnatural' is that which seeks some gain from the animal that defies its nature. Torture fulfills man's bloodlust, an arbitrary and abstract sickness, for which the nature of animalkind provides no given mode of fulfillment. I'd say that mammals generally require happiness to sustain a limited volitional capacity. So, in general, torture or abuse is forcing mammals to live against their nature. Torture is a negative gain for man, an easy example, but what if there is a positive gain like increased meat capacity from torturous barn conditions? Unfortunately, the best answer I can come up with is as ambiguous and vague as the provision of the bill of rights that bans 'cruel and unusual' punishment. If the cattle ranch conditions are 'unnatural' - not as in unlike nature, but rather, as in, denying the very fundamental nature of the cow, turning it completely from a living organism into a meat factory - then perhaps at that point it would be immoral. Even so, if it was immoral, there'd be only a limited claim for 'rights'. Government is limited, and governs intra-man. Extending its authority to animals is tricky, because doing so grants it too much authority philosophically. I suppose one man could claim an abused animal from another, claiming stewardship. Thus the government would arbitrate between men. That would work, and I could see the torture type situations being regulated like this. I could also see commercial rules, such as banning sale of dogs to dog fightes. But if a dog fighter had some secret stash of puppies that the animal rights advocate couldn't keep up with... well too bad really... As for the cows, I think it's a matter of consumption and choice. One would make the rather subjective decision about 'unnatural stewardship' and not purchase meat from factory farms if they could afford it. I don't mean to say that 'unnatural stewardship' is a subjective standard, only that it's complex. Being that it involves non-humans, the political process can only go so far in making conclusions by it. Hence, the personal choice. So, the 'rights' then, are limited, and ultimately retained by humans who love animals. In fact, that's one way to deal with babies - stewardship claims. If a child is abused or mistreated, stewards may claim it, and the arbitration is between rational adults, not an adult, the state, and the child. As for the state, it would have to assume responsibility for children of criminal adults whom it locks away. Although, if a child truly is not developed, can it not live in the prison with the parents? Or, basically something to that effect with an orphanage? Since the state must provide the needs of the incarcerated adult, as a steward of a child, the adult's imprisonment extends that entitlement to the child. Again, the adult's 'rights' are being met as a steward.
  12. ZSorenson

    Gold coins I made in photoshop

    I like this coin a lot actually. I'm not big on the whole Canadian/Political Correctness use nature instead of history approach to coinage. However, the owl in this case is not meant in any natural sense, but in a symbolic sense. And yet, it is natural, and therefore representative of life and also reality. The front (nature) represents a foundation (reality), the back (symbol) represents the temple if you will. The philsophy, by the light of man's mind, constructs upon reality a ... Well, that's the purpose of money. It exists to facilitate whatever comes next... As for the owl symbol, I think I'd like to live in a world without faces on coins. I'm a patriot and all, but recent shenanigans with our awful awful government, and the financial mess, and so forth, does make me long for a society whose common property is... ideas... rather than things like powers, or people, or General Motors. So, I'd like to think some more about the choice of the owl. The Eagle is a fine symbol of government, but not so much currency. Wisdom is noble, but we have the symbol on the back. A national bird represents a nation, whereas the currency applies to the market and the minds therein. What in nature is symbolic of a market of actors and minds coming together to produce value? The sun is a source of value, the primary source of value. But it does not represent the exchange; it represents value as such, not produced value. There's the human hand, but that represents grabbing, taking, beating, force. The eye, but that's covered by the flame of the torch, and often represents God. Pyramids represent the establishment lording over, and aren't quite natural. Okay, the owl's fine.
  13. ZSorenson

    The Mind is Impotent: 2010

    Really really advanced economists have demonstrated how even drug addicts act incredibly rationally. Granted, common sense tells us that's absurd, but in fact, understanding why it is absurd is a great feat! If you think about it, there are plenty of reasons why apparent 'irrationality' is completely rational. In drug use, the dopamine reward function is 'optimized' or 'maximized' according to highly rational decisions made by the drug user. Likewise, a lot of what we'd call irrational is quite rational. Economists like explaining the 2000's and the 2008 crisis by blaming 'systemic risk'. I.e.: it was incredibly rational to keep buying into the system why prices were rising. For a more average example, procrastination is technically very rational - leaving off the task at hand for the last possible moment. You technically don't need to complete a task until it needs completing, right? You'll be wasting time beforehand otherwise. What if you died in a car accident tomorrow? Your exam coming up in two weeks will never happen. So why not party instead of study? But that's the problem isn't it? I suppose the drinking might lead to the car crash, but, that's sort of the point. You have to look at the big picture. For procrastination, you have to evaluate risk. Okay, so let's say you do, and still 'optimize' your procrastination. Well, what if you didn't account for 'black swan' opportunities (risk being set aside)? And the financial firms of 2008 didn't do so well in the end (well, before the bailouts). And drug use has obvious 'holistic' negatives. I would contend that humans are very very very very rational. They say baby human will crawl out onto a glass surface that suspends them from a tall height, ignorant of the possible danger - whereas baby animals see the height and know instinctively to avoid it. I don't want to go into evolutionary psychology to far, but I suspect that a dumbing down of instinct corresponding to an increase in rational capacity most definitely occured in early man. Otherwise, I think man's intelligence would cause him to do dumb things like eat himself to death. Obviously, we still have some instincts to protect our species' survival (sex drive, hunger, etc.). Some people, unfortunately, seem to be managing very well in eating themselves to death as it is! Nevertheless, I do not think rationality would be possible without a corresponding 'conquest' of instinct. In looking at the big picture, we get some help from Ayn Rand. As creatures of reason, our lives are necessary objects of rational choice. Thus, there is a rational basis for moral choice independent of instinct. Humans, I think, are incredibly rational. The problem is that they learn bad concepts that obscure to them a rational basis for choice, leaving them with their instincts only. Instincts are based in reality, so are helpful guides that somewhat correspond to the rational. However, in the case of obesity, envy, lust, or drug use, we can see that man begins to apply his rational faculty to irrational objects. True rationality is a concept, then. And the extent to which a society's philosophy embraces it is a predictor of that society's propserity and success.
  14. ZSorenson

    The Mind is Impotent: 2010

    Yes, this is the idea, more or less. In reality, the mind is certainly not impotent. One reason, especially today, why people claim that it must be, is so that they can be granted permission to tinker. Tinkerers. And tinkerers like to tinker, because they are in fact on some metaphysical quest to defeat reality. This is why they both tinker, and are so quick to claim the mind is impotent. They hate a world that requires reason to gain prosperity. It means reality is real. They can't stand this. My speculative theory about one motive is that I think some people can't feel like they are real, unless they deny reality. They must be more real than reality. The supremecy of reality frightens them. "We are the world", Keynesian economics, vegetarianism, Avatar, the green movement, socialism, etc. are all merely manifestations of this one central fear. I think. And I think that fear is merely a learned behavior. Some people are forced to live according to their reason, including their own moral reasoning. Others live second-hand, and this includes spiritually/emotionally. The latter are frightened to give up altruism, because they hav no learned experience in a universe where they might not be the receivers of it. Just my theory.
  15. I've read the paper you have posted for good measure. The ultimate problem is a classic one for modern whim-worshippers. Causation vs. Correlation. What is the definition of ought? I would say: "To select the object of choice for an entity capable of choice". Does the rational entity choose the ought, or does the ought constrain the rational process of that entity? There are a thousand ways to do this, but: man's capacity to reason depends on his life, therefore its existence depends on it selecting those choices that sustain its own life. Therefore, a continuous rational process will necessarily make life an object of choice. Rational choice requires an object of choice. Is and Ought are correlated. But ought is a product of the rational entity - as a fundamental requirement for its very existence. Metaphysically, I would appeal to the law of identity - a thing must be something in order to exist. Thus, a rational process must have an object in order to exist. You know what I'm saying. This doesn't answer some broader question of 'why must things exist', but recall my earlier post. Existence is axiomatic, so we don't have to answer stupid questions like that in order to draw ethical conclusions. Likewise, if one entertains a discussion about ethics, one has already accepted or chosen to value their own life (curiousity is not a metaphysical virtue). Thus, I for one am pleased that Rand formulated her ethics as 'if man chooses to live' rather than 'man's nature causes him to value his own life'. The former way of stating it is an axiomatic trap. If a critic says "why must man choose to live?", Rand need only ask, "why would you ask that if you haven't already so chosen?" I suppose the whim-worshippers would contend that 'ought' drives reason. Uh? Existence exists, identity exists, consciousness exists. Hard to argue against, because this paper has failed to do so. ... God, I mean, Rand's argument is so obvious and plain and clear. These academics are obviously thoughtful and educated, but end up with these BS conclusions... WTF man? And people wonder why I have such a problem with academia. Any intellectual system that allows BS like this should be an object of contempt.
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