Objectivism Is The Everyman's Philosophy
In the universe, what you see is what you get,
figuring it out for yourself is the way to happiness,
and each person's independence is respected by all
Rand's Philosophy in Her Own Words
- "Metaphysics: Objective Reality" "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed/Wishing won’t make it so." "The universe exists independent of consciousness"
- "Epistemology: Reason" "You can’t eat your cake and have it, too." "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue"
- "Ethics: Self-interest" "Man is an end in himself." "Man must act for his own rational self-interest" "The purpose of morality is to teach you[...] to enjoy yourself and live"
- "Politics: Capitalism" "Give me liberty or give me death." "If life on earth is [a man's] purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being"
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I was working on an essay about immigration, and realized that I had to first deal with an error in Objectivism. So here is what I ran into. (All quotes are from Rand.) These statements are false. To explain why, I need to go back to first (political) principles. So, the determination of what constitutes a right requires an analysis of what actions the nature of a rational being require in a social context. From "The Nature of Government" (all further quotes are from there): This is not true. Fraud, for example, violates rights, but no physical force is used. Rand gets around this by asserting that fraud involves "indirect force", but this is silly — if there is any physical force involved in fraud, it is in the retrieval of that which was taken by the fraud, not in the fraud itself. Moreover, Rand nowhere explains how one determines what constitutes indirect force. What force, fraud, and certain other categories of action have in common is that, by their nature, they are incompatible with their object's actions to further his own life. Force necessarily deprives a person of the ability to act on his own will. Fraud necessarily deprives a person of the information needed to engage in voluntary trade. Rand observed that, "The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships — thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement." Rand's error here is not in her conclusion, but only in how she arrived at it. Fraud, e.g., must be banned, not because it is a species of "indirect force", but because it is inconsistent with "voluntary, uncoerced agreement" which, in turn, makes it inconsistent with a person's acting to further his own life in a social context. Why is my way better? Because it allows one to solve other problems that would otherwise have to be dealt with ad hoc, by asserting that they involve some species of "indirect force". So, for example, if I invite you into my property and then forbid you to use its exits, I may not be using any sort of physical force, but I am preventing you from furthering your own life. Such an action would therefore violate your rights. So what to make of the "nonaggression principle" I started out with? It must be taken as a mere approximation, to be clarified later. (It's not really germane here, but I should note that Rand's critique of libertarianism — that it takes the nonaggression principle as an axiom when it is anything but — misses the real problem, which is that the nonaggression principle is simply false.) So what is it an approximation to? The essential point Rand makes is that society is a value because it enables one to obtain knowledge from and to trade with others in the service of one's life. What must be banned is not force, or even the initiation of force, but whatever, by its nature, is inconsistent with those values (which includes the initiation of force). Such things necessarily violate rights and it is proper to use force (or fraud or any other species of otherwise rights-violating action) to protect against them or to vindicate rights violated by their use. There is no short phrase for these things, so I am going to use the phrase "violative force" — with scare quotes — from hereon to refer to these things. (If you will, my "violative force" comprises physical force plus what Rand called "indirect force", except that my definition allows one to use reason to determine what constitutes "violative force".) The proper formulation of the nonaggression principle is that no person may use "violative force" against another. But this principle is not sufficient to for the needs of society. There are situations where it is proper to take actions that would otherwise constitute "violative force" to defend or vindicate one's rights. Such actions, "defensive force" and "retaliatory "force" (again, I'll keep the scare quotes), are not only permissible, they are necessary to a proper society. As necessary as they may be, society cannot function if their use is left to the judgment of each person. There must be an organization, the government, that constrains the use of all three sorts of "force". This constraint operates in two ways. The use of "defensive force" in exigent situations cannot, by its nature, be delegated to the government. If you have a burglar in your home, it's too late to call the police — your rights are being violated and only you (or others right there) can put an end to the violation. The government's function is, first, to define such situations and what constitutes "defensive force" in those situations and, second, to review each use of "force" to see whether it is "defensive" or "violative". You get to shoot the burglar, if that is your chosen method of self-defense, but you will be required to show that his actions were "violative force", thereby permitting you the use of "defensive force". Non-exigent uses of "defensive force" and all uses of "retaliatory force" must be left to the government, but the government must be utterly rule-bound, constrained to act objectively, as Rand noted: Consider, however, what would happen if people could arbitrarily deprive the government of facts it needs to make proper use of "force". Its procedures would then necessarily lack the objectivity that a government must have, and would therefore be inconsistent with the rights of the governed. It follows then that no person may arbitrarily deprive the government of the information it needs to properly employ "force", that doing so is in itself a violation of the rights of the governed. Note here that, under Rand's formulation, a refusal to respond to a subpoena would have to be classified as indirect force, but it is anything but obvious that such a refusal is any kind of force, or even that it violates anyone's rights. It was this conclusion that led me to rethink the formulation of the nature of force. Under my formulation, such a refusal is clearly "violative force" because it is demonstrably inconsistent with the requirements of life in society, just as much as non-defensive physical force, fraud, etc., is. But, to return to the point with which I began this essay, it is simply not true that, "In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use." Only by twisting the word force into a hyperpretzel is it possible to consider, for example, a refusal to answer a subpoena as an initiation of force justifying retaliatory force. This proposition needs to simply be excised from Objectivism, replaced with a more accurate description of what sort of actions are forbidden and when an action that would ordinarily violate rights is legitimate.
Gravity Probe B A drag-free satellite equipped with exquisite monitoring of spin axis of superconducting gyroscopes brings confirmation of two effects of GR. More on final results of the experiment will be posted soon here at the Stanford site.
I recently watched Al Gore's environmentalist documentary called An Inconvenient Sequel. At no point did he address any serious objections to his position on global warming. The film is mostly about his travels around the world and focuses on advancing the latest narrative: that extreme weather events are evidence that we need climate balance in order to end the climate crisis. Since Gore primarily focused on easily dismissed emotion-based rhetoric, I just have some random notes taken while watching the film: 1. Gore churns out disciples through his Climate Leadership Training program. He begins each session by showing a picture of the Earth from outer space. This helps establish an emotional bond with our "shared home," since we can see the whole Earth in one image and thus conceptualize it as an object which needs our protection, like a little baby. Protect it from what? From whatever Gore declares as its enemy. 2. "Denial organizations" - Gore's term for his opposition. These are groups that argue that "even if everything Gore says is true, it's going to cost so much money it's going to cripple the economy." So, basically, Gore's harshest "deniers" just have a problem with the economics. Solve the money problem, and his critics will come around to his environmental position. How is he going to solve the money problem? Altruism, of course... 3. Gore attends the Paris Climate Change Conference. India is the thorn in his side. They argue that, as a poor, developing industrial nation, they still require cheap fossil fuels to flourish. They can't afford to develop more technologically advanced forms of energy. Gore's solution: convince SolarCity to give India its revolutionary solar cell technology for free. The haves must sacrifice for the have-nots in the name of climate balance. 4. Emotional Rhetoric: we use the atmosphere "as an open sewer"; warmer weather causes more mosquitoes that spread Zika; "rain bombs" in Tuscon and more intense storms in general; "every storm is different now because of the climate crisis"; "dirty" coal plants; climate change is a civil rights movement akin to "abolition, women's suffrage, anti-apartheid, gay rights"; "fight like your world depends on it." 5. Extreme Weather - Gore points to flooding in Miami Beach (Sept. 2015) and implies it's due to mere "high tide." I researched the incident. Gore failed to mention that it was a seasonal king tide during a super moon, and the flooding is a historical, expected issue. 6. Solar Power - Gore points to Chile as a great example of the potential of solar power as a means of "decarbonizing economies." But he fails to mention that solar power is more economical in Chile because the country has no (or few) fossil fuel resources, Argentina stopped supplying it with natural gas, it's going through a terrible drought (less hydro), and it has a giant desert (the Atacama) perfectly suited for massive solar farms. 7. Heat-trapping CO2 - Gore's belief in man-made global warming seems to hinge on the assertion that more CO2 traps more heat in the atmosphere, thus increasing global temperatures. He evades ice core data that suggests otherwise. So is there a way to prove via scientific experimentation that CO2 does not trap heat in the atmosphere? Or that there is a limit to how much heat it can trap?
One of the responses to Climate Change that has had increasing attention is the idea of "engineering" the climate. this is still peripheral to discussions of climate change but may become more important as time goes on as a "techno-fix" if we fail to reduce emissions quickly enough to avert catastrophic climate change. It could be argued that by emitting greenhouse gases we are already engaged in an uncontrolled experiment with the Climate, and that climate engineering is simply trying to take control of something we are already doing. Broadly, Climate Engineering technologies divide into two types; solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. it raises a lot of questions about the impacts of using the technology, how its use is governed internationally, the level of uncertainty in manipulating the earth's thermostat, if climate engineering creates a moral hazard so that we won't actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as we could and whether this is an emergency measure or is in fact the realisation of an ideal of man's mastery over nature. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_engineering I'm was wondering what people's thoughts are on Climate Engineering and if there are any strong opinions favouring or opposing it?