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Everything posted by Hal

  1. While this is correct, I wouldnt say that its directly relevant to theories of truth. We definitely need to define standards of justification for the purpose of doing epistemology, but I dont think it is relevant to the notion of truth, since I think that 'the truth' always transcends what we know or believe about it. To go back to the courtroom example, the standards which the jury use to decide my guilt have nothing to do with whether I'm actually innocent. It doesnt matter if the courtroom is a rational one which uses high standards of evidence and due process, or if its a kangaroo court in a dictatorship - I will still be innocent regardless. Using rational standards of justification means that the jury is more likely to arrive at the truth, but they are not constitutive of the concept of 'true'. Reality exists above and beyond what any person or group of people believes about it, whether they are justified or not. I disagree - I would claim that people were just as justified in believing Newtonian Mechanics as we are in believing any of modern science. The theory of evolution is almost certainly less well confirmed than Newton's laws, but I wouldnt say that we havent logically validated it. I think Objectivsts often apply unfair standards when assessing Newton's claims - they already know that he was wrong in believing his laws were universal, so they try to find reasons which show that this belief was unjustified. But we today believe our theories despite having far less evidence than the Newtonians did, so this sort of thing is fairly disingenous. If Newton's conclusions werent logically validated, then pretty much none of modern science is either. For example, it was invalid for Newtonians to extrapolate their claims beyond the context in which they where explicitly demonstrated valid (eg to believe that the laws applied on the subatomic scale, or when checked with very accurate methods of measurement), then there is no justification for us to believe that causality still applies on Neptune, or that the laws of physics will continue to hold true next year. edit: in fact, given that Objectivism rejects the notion of a priori truth, claiming that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics is invalid because subatomic reality 'must' be deterministic would be equivalent to saying that quantum physics is invalid because it 'must' obey Newton's laws. In both cases, youre taking a set of empirical laws which have bene formulated from our observations of the macroscopic world, and assuming without justification that they must apply in a new context. edit2: to clarify something, I've used the term "Newton" and "the Newtonians" interchangably in the above post. I dont know what Newton himself actually believed or claimed, but the universality of his laws was widely believed by most scientists up until the 20th century. And I think they were right in doing so.
  2. That sounds fantastic, the global warming debate is definitely in need of more populist media to help blur the distinction between science and partisan politics!
  3. We Are The Music Makers edit: that sample doesnt contain any of the parts with the words
  4. I still disagree with this. If I've been convincingly framed for a crime I did not commit, then the jury might be perfectly justified in finding me guilty.Within their context of knowledge, given all the available evidence which they had access to, they were correct to believe that I committed the crime. Yet despite this, I did not do it. It doesnt matter that I'm "guilty within their context of knowledge", because the objective truth here is that I am innocent and they are wrong. Newton's laws are the same. He was perfectly justified in believing them, just like we are perfectly justified in believing in special relativity and QM. But, they are not true. They do provide a good approximation to the truth and they are certainly useful within most normal contexts, but that is it. If I were to claim that pi is equal to 3.141592, then I would be wrong. This approximation of pi to 7 significant figures might be good enough for all practical purposes and we could probably use it to build bridges and put men on the moon. But, it is still an approximation and not the true value. In my highschool chemistry class we were taught that electrons were like little balls which oribitted the nucleus of an atom, and while this picture is not correct, it is still useful for understanding high level notions like valence and chemical bonding. A simplification can be good enough when our context doesnt require us to get bogged down in the fine details, but this does not make the simplification true. I think the main problem here is that if we accept the 'contextual theory', then truth becomes synonymous with 'justified belief'. To say that some statement p is true within the context of Smith's knowledge is just a slightly confusing way of saying that Smith is justified in believing p (what else could it mean?). But truth is meant to be a metaphyisical notion, not an epistemological one. We need a set of concepts to cover the case where Smith is justified in believing p even when p is not correct, and this is one of the roles which the notions of 'true' and 'false' play in our language. If we agree to redefine these terms, then we will lose the ability to make this important distinction. edit: I would also agree with David's claim that this issue is secondary to both the lack of a well-defined notion of 'correspondence' (especially one which covers statements like "unicorns have horns", and "if Hitler had not invaded the Soviet Union, Germany would have won WW2"), and that any abstract formulation of the 'essence' of truth is likely to ignore how language actually works in practice (in fact I'd go slightly further and claim that even asking for a 'theory' of truth is misguided. The Objectivist 'theory' of truth isnt really a theory, its a common-sense definition of what the word 'true' means).
  5. Aphex Twin uses the first 2 lines from this in of the songs on his Selected Ambient Works. Its a fairly minimalistic piece (those are the only lyrics, although they are repeated several times), and, like a lot of his stuff, it's something of an acquired taste. I could upload the first couple of minutes if you like, I assume such a short sample constitutes fair use.
  6. Huh? Godel's theorem applies to all sufficiently powerful axiomatic systems regardless of whether they are ''arbitrary', and it doesnt say that you can "come up with any possible answer" (I assume this is a way of saying that any statement would be provable within the system).
  7. I doubt they're significantly 'nuttier' than the Christians, but this is beside the point. Given that, as far as I know, these people constitute one of the most oppressed minorities on the planet, critisising their views rather than the actions of the Chinese government seems the wrong move (and before anyone says "you can do both", focusing on the condemnation somewhat legitimises the persecution).
  8. This applies to every relationship, ever. Its always going to possible that you end up meeting someone you prefer to your current partner, and you're always going to have to cross that bridge when you come to it.
  9. What is your understanding of Godel's Theorem? What do you think it's actually saying?
  10. In order to better explain what I mean by people not noticing user interface features, I'll give an example of something which I find quite important, but which most people will probably never even have thought about unless theyd actually studied interface design. Look at the top left of the window you are currently using - there will be a menubar ("File"/"edit" etc). Notice where this menu bar is placed - its actually about 1cm below the top of your screen (assuming youre in full screen mode). Now, try to click on a menu and see what happens when you move the mouse towards the bar from the middle of the screen - you jerk your hand to move the pointer in that direction, but unless you have very impressive dexterity, the pointer will almost never land exactly on the menu bar - normally it'll land a few cm's away, and you have to make further hand movements until the pointer is where you want it. Now, try the following - double click on the program title bar which is directly above the menubar (in windows, this toggles whether the program is full screen - double clicking it minimises the program). Notice that this is a _lot_ easier than clicking on the menubar - you dont actually have to aim the pointer - you just throw it up to the top of the screen and it always lands on the bar - you cant move it too far up. In GUI terminology, we say that the program bar 'bleeds' into the edge of the screen. The bar effectively has infinite height, since the mouse pointer will always stop on it no matter how far/fast you move it. In Windows, this bleeding also occurs at the bottom of the screen - try to click on the Start button, or any of the tabs for your minimised programs - youll find that no matter how far down you move the pointer, youll always land on them). Now, just think how annoying it would be if these bars never bled into the screen - if there was a small region of 'dead pixels' around the screen which wasnt part of the program bars, so you had to 'aim' your pointer just like you did for the menubar (in fact, some operating systems used to be like this - nothing bled into the screen on any of the edges). Now if you were designing an operating system for yourself, would you even have thought about something like this? You have no real reason to have ever noticed it, yet if you found yourself using an OS without bleeding, you'd probably notice straight away, and it would be quite irritating. I would claim that quite a lot of GUI faults are similar to this - there arent really any philosophical reasons why they occur, its just things that are so subtle that 90% of people wont notice them (unless they are missing). On a sidenote, in MS Windows applications, the menubar isnt part of the program bar, hence why its awkward to click on it (you have to aim the mouse). And this is just obvious bad design - in a perfectly designed operating system, the menu bar would always bleed into the top of the screen just like the program bar did (perhaps the left half of the program bar would contain the menus, and the right half would be for minimisation). Even better, programs should be able to choose what they want to put in the program bar - it annoys me in Opera that the bar for changing tabs is freefloating and doesnt bleed (this gets progressively more annoying as the screen resolution increases, as it becomes smaller and hence harder to click on). But the fault here lies with Windows. edit: 'mouse gestures' are another fantastic example. Until I started using Opera I would never have realised how useful these are, and now I wish that all programs came with them as standard. Its like having a mousewheel on your mouse - its not till youve actually got used to using one that you realise what a genius idea it is.
  11. I cant talk about commercial programmers, but I would suggest that for free (open source) software this is because graphical interface design is pretty boring (imo anyway, and this is shared by several other programmers I've spoken to). Compared with the 'real programming' parts of the project, making an interface is drudgery, hence its not really surprising that it often gets neglected. The 'lack of concern for users' is related - if the program is performing a fairly simple task (like unzipping files or playing a DVD), then using it from the command line is easy, probably moreso than using a GUI. Windows users have been led to expect a GUI for every minor task whether it is necessary or not, so its unsurprising that they start complaining when told to work from the command line. But why should any programmer bother going through the boredom of creating a GUI, just because users are too lazy to learn how to use command line? And if they are nice enough to provide a GUI, then it may well be half-hearted, since it isnt really needed in the first place. It's different with commercial software obviously, and with software where a GUI is actually necessary/useful (eg web-browsers, WYSIWYG word processors etc). And you are correct that there a lot of programs out there with terrible, terrible interfaces. There are probably lots of reasons for this, but I think the main one is that most programmers simply havent been taught the basic principles of GUI design. Perhaps this is because it seems like it should be obvious - I mean any idiot can throw together a few menus and buttons, right? Why bother studying something so trivial? But of course, this isnt the case - designing a good interface is nowhere near as easy as it sounds, and it is a skill in its own right. And since they dont bother making any effort to learn this skill, its unsurprising that most programmers lack it. edit: theres also the fact that good GUIs tend to be unnoticable - when a program is easy to use, you generally dont notice the interface; it only enters your consciousness when it is poorly designed and getting in your way. Therefore, it may be harder to learn GUI principles 'from examples', because the best parts of the GUI are 'hidden' despite being (literally) in front your face. I can tell you many reasons why Opera is a better web browser than Internet Explorer in terms of the features it has, but I would find it a lot harder to explicitly point out reasons why the user interface is better, even though it clearly is. Its even harder to explain why you prefer one program's GUI to anothers, when they are both actually well designed - I would find it very difficult to say why I prefer Opera to firefox (or KDE to GNOME, or winrar to winzip, or MS Word to openoffice/KDEword) - theres not much that I can explictly point to, its just that the interface somehow feels nicer to me. Perhaps if I'd actually studied more GUI design I would be able to explain why I prefer it, just like someone who has studied music theory might be in a better position to explain why he prefers one piece of music to another..
  12. I dont mean to be rude, but why does it matter? I can see why it would be interesting from a scientific perspective, but would the answer have any philosophical relevance either way?
  13. It depends what you mean by subjective. In the sense that different people find different things attractive, and that within some fairly wide boundaries you cant say anyone is more 'right' than anyone else, then yes, I think its subjective. However, I'd emphasise the point that beauty and attraction arent just about physical characteristics. There are more intangible things which often make me sexually attracted to people, which cant just be summed up as 'nice hair, great ass'. Once you start talking about whether (eg) intelligence and confidence increase a person's attractiveness, I think things will start to become less subjective, because we're moving into a realm where judgements start to make sense. For instance I think its possible to criticise someone who is attracted to women who he finds stupid, in a way which you cant do for someone who is attracted to people with short hair.
  14. Even if it were true that most/all humans found symmetry attractive, this wouldnt imply that it was right to find symmetry attractive, or that we should find symmetry attractive. For instance, most people prefer the taste of ice-cream to the taste of chicken, but it would be pointless to say that the taste of ice-cream was objectively better. You couldnt reasonably claim that someone who preferred chicken to ice-cream was wrong, even though his tastes differed from those of most people. Similarly you cant say that someone who is attracted to redheads over blondes, or who likes chubby girls rather than thin ones, is making some kind of mistake. Also, evenlthough there are probably some physical characteristics which most people in a society would agree are attractive, the sort of things which an individual goes for are likely to be heavily affected by (eg) childhood experiences and the like. By the time you get into things like 'symmetry', you are talking on a very very high level and I think its debateable how great a role this sort of thing really does play anyway. edit: I'm talking about purely physical characteristics here, not more abstract things like 'the way a girl carries herself', or that intangible aura of sexuality which some people have, which imo are more important for attraction anyway.
  15. Subjective/objective mean different things to different people. The Objectivist definition of these terms is very different from standard/academic usage - being subjective in the Objectivist sense basically mean 'being made up/imaginary' - its a term of disparagement. So in this sense, consciousness obviously isnt subjective. But outwith Objectivism, subjective means 'pertaining to the subject' - eg being a first person phenomena that isnt publically observable. And if we want to use the word this way, then conscious is subjective. An example of a viewpoint which treats consciousness objectively would be hard-line behaviorism - for instance, the hard-line behaviorist would say that consciousness is entirely objective, in the sense that it is a publically observable phenomena which can be studied scientifically in the same way we can study trees.
  16. Indeed. I think the reason why people often get this wrong is because they equate 'having definite identity' with 'falling under one of our concepts' . The lego brick example again works here - there are lots of things I could build out of lego that we have concepts for. The blocks could be a firestation, or a train, or a castle. And in these cases the question 'what is this object I have built?' is clear and answerable. But I could also build something that we dont have a word to describe - I could just join blocks together randomly and make some bizarre construction. And now, there is no good answer to the question 'what is this?'. But this doesnt mean that the thing, whatever it is, doesnt have identity - it just means that we havent bothered inventing a word for it. The mess of lego bricks still has properties - it weighs X pounds, its Y inches tall, and so on. To say that it was a 'pure unflavoured existent within the lego brick universe' would be baffling.
  17. It depends on precisely what youre asking. You could mean "what comes first conceptually?", ie which of the concepts 'existence' and 'identity' is more fundamental. I dont really like this sort of question because I dont think it gets us anywhere, but I suspect most Objectivists would say 'existence'. Or, you could mean "which comes first in the life of an actual object?" - eg, 'what did this plastic bottle in front of me have first, existence or identity'? In this case I would say that the question was incoherent and didnt make sense - what would it even mean for the bottle to 'exist without being a bottle', or to 'be a bottle without existing'? Note that we could say that the individual atoms in the bottle existed before they were part of the bottle (in the sense that the Lego bricks making up my lego brick fire station existed before they were part of it), but this is something different - when we talk in this way, 'being a bottle' is a high level strucutural property that arises from the arrangement of more basic entities. There are more subtle interpretations of the question which do make sense however, and in all cases they can be dealt with by first becoming very clear about what is being asked - we need to untangle the semantics. For instance, I could say that a butterfly existed before it had the identiy that it currently had, because it used to be a caterpillar (as the Zen Buddhists say, "where does my fist go after I flatten out my hand?"). Here we mean something like 'this object used to be something else, so its identity has changed'. But again theres no real problem here - all we are saying is that the properties of an object changed, to the point where it became different enough that we wanted to use a new word to describe it ('butterfly' rather than 'caterpillar'). After we have described the process of change scientifically and explained why we use different words to describe the 2 states, there isnt really anything left over that needs to be explained. edit: I think the way we talk about consciousness is very vague, probably because its exceedingly hard to define. I have doubts that the idea of 'non-self-conscious consciousness' is valid,, simply because there doesnt seem to be a convincing argument why a video camera doesnt possess it. Similarly I'm not sure what it would mean to have a 'non-volitional self-consciousness' - would you have self-awareness without being able to actually affect anything? What could this even be like? The problem is that we are trying to form the concept of consciousness by extrapolating from a single example (our own), and this makes it impossible to draw any kind of boundary around it.
  18. I dont really think it makes sense to compare metal to classical music - they represent not only different sty;es of music, but different approaches to listening to music. I think that Western classical music generally emphasises a more detached style of listening - the music becomes an object of contemplation, something to be analysed from a distance. Enjoyment ('appreciation') of the music often derived from close study and analysis, in the same way which you would study a painting in an art gallery. Metal is more immediate - the music isnt really something to be studied from outside, its something to be felt and lived from inside. Enjoying metal is largely about feeling the passion and raw energy which the music carries. It's not intended to be listened to while sitting in a dark room with your eyes closed, just like classical music isnt intended to be listened to while dancing about your bedroom in your underwear. To put it simplistically, the difference between classical and metal can be concretised as the difference between the concert hall and the mosh pit. Its not that one is 'better' than the other, its just two different things which I would claim are largely incommensurable. edit: there are different degrees of this. Some very technical metal can indeed be analysed like classical music due to the high amounts of complexity and instrumentation it has (Dream Theatre and The Mars Volta are good examples). And some types of music are even more involving that metal - trance and house for instance. I dont think classical music could ever have the sense of unity and full body/mind engagement, the feeling of being completely part of the music while the outside world disappears, which you can get from (eg) dancing to hard trance in a loud, busy club. A good moshpit may come close though (I wouldnt know, having never attended a metal concert). If you start out thinking that music should have one purpose, then its easy to say one type of music is 'better' than another based on how well it fufills that purpose. But different people listen to music for different reasons, hence they may well find your arguments irrelevant even while accepting they are true. edit2: Regarding the 'noise' comments, I dont really understand this. There are several bands I like which I would completely understand someone classifying as being 'just noise' and 'not music' , although I would obviously disagree (Animal Collective and Dillinger's Escape Plan come to mind, although the former arent metal). And I could also understand why someone would say the same about many hardcore punk and emo bands. But how perple can claim that Metallica are 'just noise' is beyond me - their music isnt really that heavy, and is sometimes quite melodic (especially the Black Album - listen to "The Unforgiven" or something like that). edit3: And as the above poster says, a lot of it can come down to mood. I'm not a big metal fan and it isnt the sort of music I normally listen to - there are times when I will listen to it and basically just hear noise. But there are other times I will listen to the same music and think it sounds great. It really just depends what youre in the mood for listening to. If I want to relax then I'm not going to put on hardcore punk, and likewise if I just want to sit quietly in a dark room for a while. Ok I think this post is finished now
  19. This is ridiculous but not even remotely surprising.
  20. Yeah I agree - the Iraq occupation hasnt been the only example of the current adminstration spending well beyond its means. But its unclear how a second war could be financed in the current situation, regardless of how we got here. I'd question the claim that the prescription drug plan has cost a great deal more though the estimated costs over 10 years are 724 billion. The Iraq war has cost about 270 billion already, and who knows what the eventual cost will be?
  21. Hal

    Iraq And Iran

    There might be a unicorn in my closet, but there probably isnt. Is there any serious reason to believe that Syria has WMD, aside from sourceless internet rumours? Well, we've discovered that the costs of being wrong about a country having WMD are around 300 billion dollars (possibly rising to 1 trillion in the long term). I'm not sure if 'embarassment' is the word I'd use to describe this, but it doesnt really seem like something you should be happy about. There seems to be a lack of realism in this thread, especially amongst the people who are voting to both stay in Iraq while bombing Iran (the Iraq occupation is currently costing around 5 billion a month).
  22. While a war with Iran may or may not be a good idea (it probably is), I would question Robert Tracinski's authority when it comes to assessing which states pose a threat to America. His hyperbole in the article you posted seems reminiscent of his hyperbole here where, in retrospect, he turned out to be wrong. It's interesting how the people who were mistaken about Iraq seem to be trying to pretend the rest of us never noticed, as they now produce rhetoric almost identical to that which they produced several years ago. On a sidenote, Im curious as to where Mr Tracinski (and the others advocating war) expects America to realistically find the money which would be required to finance action in Iran, given that the Iraq 'mishap' has left the economy in tatters, with a defecit which is now out of control. If a war in Iran costs even half as much as the Iraq war, I think bankruptcy could be a serious possibiility.
  23. Most people I know have used drugs or have downloaded music illegally, and with one exception, none have had legal problems. It seems obvious to me (and most other people I presume) that these laws arent being widely enforced,
  24. Ah ok, that makes sense then. I was assuming a context where the abuser actually regretted his crime and that was why he saved the person's life (to try and atone), but now I notice that the scenario says 'in the course of his work'.
  25. From that link: http://www.emporis.com/en/il/im/?id=329425 Wow.... I dont even know what to say, I hadnt even heard of this building before but thats one of the most impressive things I've seen for a while (the photography as much as the architecture). The building in the original post could be even nicer though, but I'm not sure. I think theres a certain point after which skyscrapers tend to look too thin relative to their height - I prefer buildings that look a bit more chunky. A half-mile tall building that looks like it could be snapped in half just looks... odd. I'll reserve judgement till its nearer completion though. (The Empire State Building is a good example of a 'chunky' skyscraper that I think looks amazing) edit: That North Korean hotel is a monstrosity.
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