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Everything posted by Hal

  1. It depends what you mean by 'heterosexuality'. If you mean being attracted to, and having sex with, women then I agree. But words like 'homosexual' and 'heterosexuality' are normally taken to mean something more than mere behavioristic description - they're used to describe some kind of underlying identiy/nature. And its in this sense that you can say that heterosexuality is an artificical construct. Its not that 'having sex with women' is unnatural, its that defining yourself in terms of this is unnatural. An analogy I like to use here would be a culture which had a term "redphile" for people who were attracted to redheads. If you liked having sex with red-haired women, then you would be a redphile. People would be prone to saying things like "I am a redphile by nature" and self-identifying as 'redphiles'. There would also be widespread argument over whether being a redphile was a matter of genetics, or volitional choice. Also, there would be a significant number of people in the society who claimed that you could only be attracted to either red-heads, or non-redheads (one or the other). If you were attracted to non-redheads you would be a 'redphobe'. A minority of people admittedly claimed to like both redheads and non-redheads, but these bicolorites were viewed with suspicion, as if they were merely confused and unable to make up their minds. In other words, the single most defining sexual preference a person had would be whether he was a redphile, a redphobe, or a bicolorite. Now, is the distinction being made here natural? Well, its true that some people like redheads and some dont, so in this sense we can say that it's recognising a fact of reality. But the unnatural part is the identity politics associated with the terms - the idea that it's even remotely important what a person thinks about redheads is nonsense. If you like redheads, great. If not, then thats also great. Who cares? Saying that a person's most important sexual outlook is his stance towards redheads is just as arbitrary as saying that the gender a person is attracted to is important. You dont need to self-identify as a 'redphile' just because youre attracted to redheads, just like you dont need to self-identify as a 'heterosexual' because youre attracted to woman. People should just be attracted to whoever they're attracted to, and stop inventing artifical identity terms to classify themselves with. I'm a 'heterosexual' in precisely the same sense that I'm a fattyphobe.
  2. Ancient Greece would be an example, although I doubt he's from there. I'm also curious where he's talking about though.
  3. Does this mean that if I copyright "John Smith" I get to sue anyone who uses that name for their child? And if I meet my friend in the street and say "hi Paul", would he be able to sue me if I had never asked for permission to use his name? edit: you cant trademark common language words anyway. Theres no difference between claiming ownership to "John Adams" and trying to create a company called "The" and demanding royalties for anyone who uses this word in their speech. Copyright/trademarks have to be original - maybe if you wanted to call yourself "Zikozklauxa" you'd have a chance of making an IP claim. edit: And if you did copyright your name, I assume most other people would just collectively agree to call you something else instead (and theyd probably decide on something fairly rude).
  4. I think several of your claims are wrong, but I'm going to single this one out because its less well known than the others. Before he started to focus on philosophy, Kant was extremely interested in physics and produced several original theories. To quote from a biography here Kant's interest in physics provides an important context for analysing his later work, because a lot of his thought is closely related to the Newtonian paradigm of physics (for instance, his passionate attempts to avoid accepting the determinism implied by a mechanical universe). Kant's metaphysics/epistemology is ultimately based on his theory of space and time, which he developed in opposition to the popular theories of space/time that had been put forwards by Newton and Leibniz. Even apart from this, its quite bizarre to claim that someone who wrote the CPR was 'unable to create'. Whether or not you agree with with Kant's philosophy, theres no denying that it was original and historically important.
  5. I dont agree with this. If, for example, Ayn Rand had renounced all her previous beliefs and embraced Marxism 5 years before she died, then I think it would make a lot more sense to say "Ayn Rand abandoned her system of Objectivism in her later years" than it would to say "Objectivism became Marxism". The best thing to do in this situation, I think, would be to identify "Objectivism" with the coherent body of work she produced between 1940 and <whenever>, and then use a different name for her later work. In other words, the reference of the term 'Objectivism' became fixed at the moment in time she used it to name her system, and any further work she produced which didnt cohere with this wouldnt have fallen under the term. Perhaps this is just a minor quibble though, since we're obviously talking about something that never happened. edit: to use an analogy, "The Fountainhead" refers to a specific book that Ayn Rand wrote. And after she wrote it, she may have been able to clarify minor issues of interpretation. But she couldnt have (for instance) turned round and said "actually, Howard Roark was a farmer rather than an architect". Similarly, once she had published her philosophy and named it "Objectivism", she wouldnt have been able to go back in time and revise major parts while keeping the same name - that isnt how language generally works. Naming something is like publishing a book - the act becomes fixed in time and you dont get to go back and make major changes; the fact that you were the first person to name something doesnt mean you get to alter its definition whenever you wish (similarly, Bob Dylan would not be able to revise the lyrics to one of his old songs, even though he owns the copyright - once something is a matter of public record, its fixed). Objectivism refers to a specifc set of ideas, and noone (not even AR) would have been able to change the essentials (obviously she would have been able to change her mind about key points or even renounce the whole thing, but her new beliefs wouldn't have been part of Objectivism). edit2: I was trying to think of a historical example of this actually happening, but I cant come up with anything. Most philosophers who made major changes to their beliefs didnt actually name them. There are a few vaguely related cases but theyre probably more different than they are similar :/
  6. What do you mean by 'literally own'? The ARI (through Peikoff) owns the copyrights to the works of Ayn Rand, in which she developed the system of Objectivism. I suppose whether they 'should' have these depends on whether you believe that intellectual property rights should be transferrable upon the death of the creator, rather than becoming public domain immediately.
  7. Regardless of your views on withdrawing troops from the Middle East, I dont see why this is relevant to the claim that "Law as such is an anathema to libertarians who reject all standards of behavior on principle. They abhor the law because it tells them in effect that they cannot do whatever they feel like doing". There are obvious problems with the Libertarian Party's stance on various issues, but inventing ridiculous strawmen doesnt really help anyone. Schwarz's articles tend to be filled with poor scholarship and outright lies, even when the general points he makes are correct. Also note that in their discussion of secession the, the LP explicitly state "exercise of this right, like the exercise of all other rights, does not remove legal and moral obligations not to violate the rights of others." (link) The secession issue is essentially a chioce to opt out of government programs or to get together with likeminded people and create a new state on land which you own, not a way to avoid action being taken against you if you procede to murder someone or whatever. There are no real Objectivist grounds for opposing secession as long as the new state is going to be rights-respecting. edit: and to repeat what has also been stated several times in this thread, not all libertarians support the american Libertarian party (and conversely, not all members of the Libertarian party are libertarians; a significant minority of them are anarcho-capitalists).
  8. This is absolute nonsense. Let me guess, he person who wrote this doesnt bother referencing any examples of prominent libertarian writers actually doing what he accuses them of, right?
  9. I intensely dislike the prison system and I'd like to see something else replace it, although I'm not entirely sure what. I realise this doesnt add much/anything to the thread, but meh.
  10. Its even worse than that. All the female subjects were actually undergraduate students at Santa Barbara university.
  11. sounds like it would be more useful if they divided their figures by population and gave you the ratio of people. They could limit results to cities over a certain population to avoid the top 10 returns being villages or whatever.
  12. Hal

    The German Cannibal

    A similar verdict would have occurred in an American court, since assissted suicide isnt legal there either. On a sidenote, Ayn Rand apparently wasnt convinced that euthanasia should be legal, so she may have supported this. From here: (for the record, I strongly disagree with this)
  13. I managed to find a copy of the paper (PM me if you want it). I’ve got math exams coming up over the next few days so don’t have time to go over it properly, but I read through it a couple of times. The most obvious problem I have with research like this is the lack of cultural controls. For example, if I perform a study involving American women and find that women tend to find 'masculine' looking men attractive (where masculinity is related to testosterone levels), I cannot necessarily conclude that there are genetic factors at play – it could be that there are specific cultural reasons why American women are attracted to ‘masculine’ men, and it cannot be assumed that these generalize to the whole human species without further evidence. Its possible for a culture to have its own local mythology which promotes ideas like ‘masculine men are good in bed’, or ‘masculine men have better jobs’ or whatever, and this would presumably have an effect on what women find attractive. I find these sort of problems recurring time and time again in evolutionary psychology – there seems to be an intransigent refusal to accept that culture can be just as important as genetics, and it makes a lot of the research extremely dubious. I’ll try to summarize what I took from the paper, since I feel its been misrepresented in this thread. Firstly, the authors don’t claim at any point that good parenting is linked to testesteoren levels – indeed one of the findings was that there was no correlation between testosterone and a man’s stated interest in children. Rather, the research is focused on the inferences women make from looking at a male face. The ultimate goal is to find a genetic basis for attraction, and the neo-darwinian framework the authors are working within is summed up in the initial paragraph Note the complete disinterest in culture, personal psychology, or anything else that isn’t entirely genetic. The research is based on the following premises, which are supported by previous research: 1) There is a relationship between facial masculinity and testosterone levels (see my above comments about masculinity and cultural subjectivism). 2) “High testestoerone levels are substainable only by healthy men”. In conjunction with 1), this would show that facial masculinity is correlated with genetic fitness. The authors then bring attractiveness into the discussion, by quoting 2 previous pieces of research, the first which I find extremely interesting 1) Women tend to be more attracted to 'masculine' faces when they are in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle than they are normally (!) 2) When asked to rate faces for attractiveness as both short term and long term partners, women show stronger preferences for masculinity when assessing men as short term mates than they when assessing them as long term mates. I find point 2) also interesting, but again, I don’t think theres any necessary connection with genetics. As I mentioned above, women preferring masculine men for short term relationships (flings/causal sex etc) could be linked to cultural mythology about masculine people being better in bed, or leading more exciting lives, or whatever. While this research certainly _could_ show something directly related to evolution, it doesn’t have to be interpreted this way. But evolutionary psychologists tend not to be interested in nurture/culture/volition Anyway, the study in question was concerned with the evaluation of several hypothesis: I don’t find the first claim particularly interesting, since I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t a link between perceived masculinity and testosterone. So the research is really about whether women can successfully predict a man’s interest in children just from looking at his face. The part about attractiveness is related to 2) above – evolutionary psychology would predict that women would be more likely to go for men who like children when choosing a long terrm mate (since it increases the likihood of offspring survival). I’ve not had time to properly go over the methodology, but the authors claim that the results support these hypothesis – the predictions a woman makes about a man liking children from seeing a photo of just his face is significantly correlated with whether the man actually does like children. And this is certainly an interesting finding, and in my opinion the only thing that the study can be said to have demonstrated. The researchers also asked the women to rate the male faces for ‘short term attractiveness’ and ‘long term attractiveness’. They found that their judgements about liking children were correlated with both of these, but that testosterone levels were only correlated with short term attractiveness. Again, I don’t think any conclusions about causal relationship can be drawn from this. An alternative hypothesis to the evolutionary one could be that (eg) women think a man likes children because he has a kind, safe face, and they are attracted to him because they think that someone kind will make them happy in the long term (in other words, the actual causality relation is “looking kind” causes you to be perceived as both liking children, and being a good long term mate. In this case, there would be no direct casual relationship between liking children and attractiveness – this would just be a correlation). One of the parts of the research I found most interesting involved one of the controls they used (it wasn’t reported in the conclusions, or any of the newspaper article summaries) – they found that when a man had talked to a woman just before having his photo taken, he was rated as being more likely to like children. In other words, talking to a woman made a noticeable difference to the man’s facial expression/posture – perhaps it made him loo happier or something, I’m not sure (there was a separate control for how 'positive' a person looked). I think this highlights how hard it is to actually perform research like this effectively – there are just so many different variables that you have to control. Who would have thought that something as unremarkable as who a person spoke to before having his photo taken would have a significant effect on the results?
  14. If the Daily Mail reported that scientists had proven that dogs have 4 legs, I'd want to see a citation of the actual research paper before I'd believe it. Seriously, the DM is a joke (like most British tabloids), and anything it prints should be ignored on principle until you can verify it in a more reputable source. I've been unable to find a copy of the actual research paper, but you can read the abstract here edit: It could be worse though, I read a report of the same survey in a scottish tabloid today, of even more dubious quality than the daily mail. The first paragraph begins "Women can tell if men will make good dads with just a glance. Reserachers have found women have a subconscious radar they use when seeking a mate", and they proceed by rating several celebrities out of 10 for attractiveness and speculating whether they would make good fathers. I'm not making this up. edit2: Although having said that, I agree that this 'research' does seem extremely dubious, and it reminds me of the more unsavoury aspects of evopsych (the apparent lack of cultural controls is perhaps the most glaring omission). I'll reserve judgement until I've seen the actual paper though.
  15. 1905-1982 according to wikipedia
  16. I think we need an argument to justify attributing intentional states to animals in the first place. I'm not sure that it even makes sense to talk about cows 'knowing' or 'valuing' things, unless we're speaking metaphorically (ie, in the same sense that my computer 'remembers' my desktop settings, or that my tamagotchi 'values' being played with). Animals just do what they do, and what they do is presumably fully determined by their genetic makeup and their environment. edit: I mean non-human animals obviously.
  17. Nah, this isnt how it works. If insurance isnt provided and the package is destroyed/lost, then its your tough luck. This is why you never ever order anything expensive online without paying extra for shipping insurance.
  18. I think an interesting question related to this is whether FIFA should ban them from participating in the World Cup. The case for doing so is obvious, but at the same time, I'm not really happy about international sporting organisations getting invovled in politics - it seems like a slippery slope waiting to happen. Although having said that, I recall Yugoslavia beind banned from the European Championships a few years back. In this particular case, I think a ban would be justified, since the political issues are directly related to football. An ultimatum along the lines of "stop discriminating against fans or face expulsion from the compeition" would be a nice thing to see, although I doubt FIFA has the bottle to take such a hardline stance.
  19. Is the term "Muslim apologist" not extremely loaded? I think that a lot of the arguments which are often used against Islam are appallingly bad, but I would not consider myself in any way sympathetic towards the religion. It seems at least as biased as using the term 'Islamophobe' to refer to those on the opposing side. edit: I'd question the claim that reading the Koran can tell you much about whether 'Islam' is violent, since any given passage will almost certainly have been interpreted different ways by different groups of Muslims. For example, I could provide Biblical evidence which showed that sacrificing animals was necessary to lead a pious life, but it would be ridiculous to use this as a basis for the claim that Christians believed in goat-sacrifice. When it comes down to it, the original text isnt very important - what matters is how the text has been interpreted. Perhaps it would make more sense to dismiss questions like "Is Islam X?" or "Is Christianity Y?" as being meaningless, and concentrate instead on what beliefs have been held by groups of Muslims/Christians at various points in history. I dont think theres any Platonic form of "Islam" which transcedends the beliefs and practices of individual Muslims, so looking for evidence anywhere else than in the behavior and speech of these people seems misguided. Also, your final paragraph does not seem to follow from anything that has come before it.
  20. Why do communists only drink herbal tea? because proper tea is theft.
  21. I cant find anything in the quotes youve provided which suggest AR thought one-night stands were immoral. And to be honest, I'd be very surprised if she did think that - unless by 'one night stand' you are exclusively referring to sleeping with a drunk girl youve picked up in a bar purely because you thought she looked hot (or something similar). I interpret these quotes to be saying that a rational person would only have sex with someone they valued on all levels - mentally and physically - as opposed to (eg) sleeping with a girl you think is an idiot but who has nice breasts. Shes not saying that one night stands are necessarily bad, or that monogamy is the Only True way of living - she's making a statement about the basis of attraction (more specifically, she is denying a currently popular model of attraction which holds that there is a fundamental split between purely 'physical' beauty and everything else that makes a person sexually attractive). If you met a girl who you thought was perfect in every way, but she was leaving the country the following day, of course a one-night stand in this situation wouldnt be immoral (although it might not be the best idea practically speaking, if you believed it would lead to you obsessing over her after she had gone). Similarly if you had a close female friend who you valued yet didnt believe could be the person you wanted to spend your life with, I wouldnt say there was anything immoral about having a relationship where you were essentially friends who slept together sometimes, and I doubt AR would have found this immoral either.
  22. Do you have a similar problem with Beethoven's use of Schiller's "Ode to Joy" in his 9th symphony for instance? Putting the words of poetry to music strikes me as being a fantastic act of creativity, even if they were originally written by someone else. Just because someone is good at writing music, it doesnt necessarily mean they are going to be good at writing lyrics/poetry, and I dont think there's any shame in borrowing words from someone else and concentrating your own attention on the musical accompaniment. edit: In fact I'd go further, and say that adapting someone else's work is probably just as good as creating something new, provided that your adaption is creative, individual, and well done. Works like Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Goethe's Faust part 1, and Sophocles' Antigone arent praised because of their originality in story-telling (they all 'borrowed' their plots from pre-existing stories) - they are praised because of what the artists have managed to do with the material they have taken over. They have started with something that already existed, yet adapted it and used it for their own ends. I think that putting lyrics to music is very similar to this, and I would tend to apply the same standard. Another good analogy would be a director who is adapting a novel into a film - should Peter Jackson's achivement with Lord of the Rings be diminished because he never wrote the original story?
  23. Its certainly a fact, I just dont get why it's relevant. My comment about time-lag was really meant to be more of a reductio ad absurdum than anything else - why would it make any difference if we were both listening to it at the same time? My friend loans me his CD, or I go to his house and listen to it with him in his bedroom, or I download it from his computer and delete it afterwards. I view all these things as being essentially the same - sure there are differences involving time-overlap and the like, but they seem minor and beside the point. In all these cases, I'm listening to the song without paying the artist anything, and I'm not getting permanent possession of it. Who cares whether my friend can listen to it at the same time - why is this even a remotely important thing to consider? Why? I'm sniffling I suppose. As long as I dont end up with a permanent copy, why does is the artist affected in any tangible way by whether my friend was listening to it at the same time I was sampling it? I'm still going to buy it iff I like, and not if I dont. Well I've been told multiple times on this forum that the free-rider problem isnt really a problem and deserves no consideration :/ But seriously, what youve described is what happens anyway, and what is almost certainly going to continue happening regardless of the law. Modern copyright laws are unenforcable - the government cannot, and will not, prosecute all X million people who download music illegally. At best, youre going to end up with a situation like we currently have with drugs - 90% of people ignore the law, with the occasional person getting a disproportionately harsh prison sentence when caught, in the deluded hope that this will act as a deterrant to others.
  24. According to wikiquote, the following passage is from the Apology. This is pretty much what I've always interpreted the 'i know nothing' quote to mean anyway.
  25. The reason why 'alternative' definitions like Ayn Rand's "selfish" are important is because there simply wasnt a word in the normal English language which corresponded to the concept she was using. When you want to introduce a new concept in philosophy, you have 2 options - you can either a) invent a brand new technical term, or adapt a word from ordinary language which has already has a similar meaning. Different philosophers go different ways on this - some will quite happily invent a whole new language for themselves (Heidegger/Husserl are paradigm examples), whereas others will avoid neologisms and speak in what looks on the surface to be ordinary language, but with meanings slightly changed. Ayn Rand belonged in the latter camp - she tended to avoid inventing new words (the only new term she introduced was 'pyscho-epistemology', as far as I know). But of course, this meant that she had to alter the meaning of existing words instead. You can say this is annoying because it means Objectivists end up talking a different language to everyone else, but this is unfortunately a necessary evil in philosophy - if you want a new conceptual framework, youre going to have to bring in a new language in which to talk about it. One of ARs most crucial contributions imo was to point out how the English langauge was missing several vitally important concepts ("selfish" being the most obvious example) and I would say that her reformed vocabulary was generally a positive aspect of Objectivism, rather than a negative. "Sex" is another example of this - the word 'sex' does already have a definition in the English language, but we can still ask whether this ordinary definition is useful - does it capture the most important distinctions here, or does it serve to obscure them like the ordinary language 'selfish' does? For instance, if someone pointed out that most people used the word 'sex' to mean the act of putting the penis into the vagina, we could ask what was so special about this act which made it warrant its own term. For example, most people will claim that sex is the ultimate form of intimacy. But it seems obvious to me that this mistaken, and is a result of being bewitched by language - there is no objective reason why vaginal intercourse is more intimate, or intense, than anal sex or oral sex. We just happen to have evolved a language which places 'sex' at the top of the hierarchy. This sort of thing does have practical effects - there are many anecdotal stories about religious girls who only engage in anal/oral sex, because they believe that this lets them retain their virginity. And here we have a clear example of the confusion which can arise from language - the ordinary definition of 'sex' causes people to think that there is something special about vaginal intercourse which makes it qualitively different from all other kinds of intimate acts. The same thing arises in the context of cheating on your partner. Some people might say they could forgive their girlfriend if they gave someone a drunken blowjob, but not if they slept with someone else. Why? "Well, because a blowjob isnt really sex". And this is more linguistic mysticism. We are free to investigate whether there is indeed anything special about vaginal sex which makes it deserving of being viewed differently from other intimate acts. And if we find that it isnt, we might agree that it makes sense to extend the definition of 'sex' to cover other things (oral/anal, perhaps even foreplay) in order to reduce confusion and help clarify our thinking. We could of course discover that the 'vaginal sex' distinction is important in certain specific contexts, such as that of biology and evolution, and not in others (such as deciding whether a partner has cheated on you). edit: "self-interest" in ordinary language suffers from the exact same problems that "selfish" does. It doesnt distinguish between the narrow, petty self-obsession displayed by George or Elaine from Seinfeld, and the rational selfishness of someone like Howard Roark. George Costanza displays a very high degree of self-interest in the literal sense of not caring about, or even noticing, those around him, but this is not what Ayn Rand meant by the term. There is also the issue of impact to consider - Ayn Rand was an artist, and seemed to like making pithy statement which were deliberately infammatory (much like Nietzsche). "The Virtue of Selfishness" has more immediate impact than "The Virtue of Rational Self-Interest", even if both mean the same thing, and is probably more likely to provoke someone into investigating further.
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