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Posts posted by Mnrchst

  1. There's probably already been a few threads on this. Anyway, I sent this to Peikoff, so I thought it'd be cool to start a thread. There might not be enough info in my question to know what the correct answer is, so there's also the question regarding the situation in the book itself (with any relevant context).

    "In the graphic novel, THE WATCHMEN, a character named Ozymandias fakes an extra-terrestrial invasion which kills millions in order unify governments around defeating extra-terrestrials as opposed to trying to destroy each other. He does this while the U.S. and the Soviet Union are on the brink of a full-scale nuclear war which appears all but certain to occur and result in billions of deaths.

    After Ozymandias accomplishes his goal and prevents the war, a character named Rorshach decides he will reveal the truth behind what happened, even though this may cause the war to occur. In order to prevent this, a character named Dr. Manhattan kills him.

    Who was right? Who was wrong?"

  2. I agree that this choice is not an ethical choice, as the choice to live is prior to ethics. Ethics tells one, given that a man wants to live, how he must live. But is there no reason to choose to live?

    I'm not too sure I'm convinced of this, but this is the best I can come up with:

    The only appropriate answer to this question is "Because I want to".

    "But why?"

    "Because I want to" (ad infinitum)

  3. I've just started reading David Kelley's 'Evidence of the Senses' (great so far!)

    I realize there's already a thread on this, but I didn't find one (semi-recent) with criticisms of the work. From what I've read on various threads and other sites, most of the posters here and Oists in general agree with the work (I think Peikoff does too?), so I'm curious:

    Are there any criticisms of the case he presents in this book which you agree with?

  4. "What Yang seems to be doing here is defending a place for uncaused knowledge, mysticism."

    Not uncaused, just not from sense perception. In other words, if someone "put an idea into your head" using a yet-uninvented machine or God/mysticism.

    "Our minds are not blank."

    How would you interpret Rand's 'tabula rasa' statements?

    "You did not write what Yang argued"

    Here's what is boils down to: how can children form a concept without a concept?

    "You don't give enough of what Yang writes to make sense of his objection."

    He basically reiterates the problem of induction. I think Peikoff solved it. I was hoping someone here would be familiar with Yang's critique (didn't want to write everything out, maybe I'll do that later).

    "Rand says the meaning of a concept is its referents, not that a concept is its referents."

    This means that we don't know (or can't be sure that we do) what the meaning of concepts are. This works because they're just observations with measurements omitted, yes?

  5. Another major criticism:

    "She write's, 'A concept subsumes all the characteristics of its referents, including the yet-to-be-discovered.' This is tantamount to saying that a concept is its referents. What Rand mean is this: The concept of a man includes all that has been discovered about man--man is a living thing that utilizes logic, moves, walks on two legs, possesses 1.2 million neurons in each of his optic nerves, etc.--but it also includes other characteristics yet to be discovered. That is, the concept of man is identical to existent man.

    There are several problems with Rand's claim. First, if the concept of man is identical with the real existent man and all his characteristics, then the concept cannot represent a condensation of knowledge as Rand has said. It would no longer be an abstraction...the characteristics yet to be discovered about the extramental entity man are not yet present in the mind...what evidence did Rand have for these yet-to-be-discovered qualities?"

  6. Perhaps my biggest criticism of Oism (among many) is that it does not have an (explicit) ontology, just a brag-bag of assertions "man is tabula rasa", "man has free will", etc, without any type of attempt at a systematic demonstration of these views (like in Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" or Merleau-Ponty's "Phenomenology of Perception").

    So what's the role of ontology in Oism?

    What is Oist ontology? How does it fit in with the rest of the philosophy?

  7. I just finished reading through all of these. Great stuff. I put them in a good reading order.


    1. Reformulation - living organisms and valuing. Rand's metaethics makes sense if we ditch the 'immortal robot' argument


    2. Criticism - Rand and is/ought problem. Rand doesn't bridge the gap.


    3. Criticism - role of consent in ethics. Rand's ethics are, by her own standard, reductionistically rationalistic and subjectivist.


    4. Criticism - choice to live. Rand's assessment of the choice to live is terribly vague.


    5. Criticism - rationality and survival. Rand's case for being rational repeatedly shifts back and forth between two different types of arguments.


    6. Defense (rejoinder to 5) - Despite a misstatement or two, Rand's case for rationality is sound.


    7. Defense (rejoinder to 4 and 5) - Rand's case for rationality is sound.


    8. Criticism (rejoinder to 6 and 7) - Rand's case for being rational repeatedly shifts back and forth between two different types of arguments.


    9. Reformulation (rejoinder to 7) - Rand's case for rationality doesn't quite work, but does if we make it more Aristotelian.

    10. Reformulation (rejoinder to 7, 8, & 9) - Rand's case for rationality works with a little tweaking.

    11/12 . (brief comments)




    I tend to agree with the criticisms here. What I've gotten out of this is that it's probably the case that:

    * The 'immortal robot' argument doesn't work

    * The fact that someone contradicts themselves alone doesn't bridge the is/ought gap

    * Rand's ethics are rationalistically reductionist (as opposed to taking a holistic approach)

    * Rand's ethics are subjectivist (in an effort to be absurdly anti-paternalism)

    * Immoral behavior won't necessarily hasten one's death

  8. http://mises.org/journals/jls/7_1/7_1_4.pdf

    In this essay, a guy named Patrick O'Neill argues that Rand failed to bridge the is/ought gap.

    There are some obviously weak points of reasoning/misrepresentations of Oism in the essay, but the essay basically boils down to a section near the end, which basically is this:

    So some criminal does contradictory action. Why is that necessarily bad? How do we get from 'it's contradictory' to 'one ought not do this'? One doesn't follow the other.

    I have to agree with him. Rand seems to be on the right track, but at this point, I'm not sure how we get from one to the other.

    Whadda y'all think?

  9. In "Reconsidering Ayn Rand", a guy named Michael Yang criticizes Oism.

    He's a Christian and sums up his case with "I heard God tell me Objectivism was false", but, still, compared to most criticisms of Oism, he does a relatively good job of choosing his arguments, arguing his points, and not misinterpreting/mischaracterizing Oism.

    I couldn't find a thread on him (via search) so I thought I'd summarize his points here. I hoping other people have read the book and/or can refer me to an essay/thread with counter-arguments.

    Some of these criticisms I think get taken care of in Kelley's essay on abstraction/concept formation and Peikoff's theory of induction, but anywho, here are the main criticisms about Oist epistemology itself (as opposed to some seemingly contradictory statements Rand has made about her philosophy):


    ***** Rand argues that her proof of the failure of skepticism therefore proves that all knowledge comes from sense perception, but that that doesn't follow. "Just because knowledge is possible, we cannot conclude that sensation is one of many pathways, much less the only pathway to knowledge...the refutation of skepticism is not a theory of knowledge".

    Basically, he's implying that someone could get knowledge without sense perception, i.e., someone puts information into your head (like God, or technologically advanced extra-terrestrials). I suppose the counter-argument/clarification would be that a person understanding the information would be depend on their having a brain capable of assimilating it, which is a capability that is formed via sense perception. However, someone could argue that this capability could be created without sense perception (i.e. with advanced technology). So, while Rand is arguing that humans, thus far, have always gotten all their knowledge via sense perception, at least to the best of our knowledge, and while this may be correct, we cannot therefore infer that it's the only way we can get knowledge.

    ***** A standard critique of the "tabula rasa" claim. 'How can we form concepts with a blank mind?'

    I think this depends on what Rand meant by tabula rasa (perhaps she didn't mean what most do when using the term), and has been misinterpreted. I'm sure this has been discussed a lot, so I'm interested in what people familiar with this criticism have to say about it.

    ***** A critique of the 'implicit concepts' argument about the development of children's minds.

    I think Kelley's abstraction essay addresses this criticism. From what I can remember, it basically argues that the development to concepts goes on a spectrum as opposed to a jump from non-conceptual to totally conceptual.

    ***** It doesn't make sense to say something is "contextually absolute"

    I think Peikoff's theory of induction addresses this criticism--it's makes sense to have X opinion based on the available context (subject to change/revision by an objective standard)

  10. Whatever value the matchbook may or may not have depends on the valuer (i.e. there is no free-floating "value" apart from some person doing the valuing). So to suggest that a person may appropriate or dispossess the value of some property without taking the property in fact seems... wrong to me. We do not own "value," we own things. Things which we may or may not find more or less valuable.

    It seems to me that you're saying something to the effect of "How does it make sense to appropriate the value of some thing someone owns?" thereby implying "A patent isn't legitimate property because it controls what someone else supposedly owns--they already owned it so why do they no longer own it because they reorganize it in a certain fashion (i.e. a new invention)."

    But where did the idea for that invention come from?

    Personally, I've reached the (tentative) conclusion that the vast majority of patents and copyrights that have ever existed, if not all of them, were immoral, more or less because of the problem I outlined at the beginning of this thread, but I'm not following your reasoning here.

  11. From: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ayn-rand/#TheCon

    Critics have objected that Rand offers no argument against the possibility that some concepts may have their referents determined by the definition (Browne 2000; Long 2005a, 2005b). Rand describes the meaning of “capitalism,” for example, as “full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire” (1964a, p. 33). Since Rand does not regard such as a system as ever having existed, it's hard to see how the concept of “capitalism” could have been formed on the basis of its referents (what referents?); if instead Rand's definition of “capitalism” serves as the criterion to determine what would count as a referent, then some statements will be “true by definition” after all, thereby potentially resurrecting the analytic-synthetic distinction.

    So the complaint in apparently this: Because capitalism has never existed, the only way we can figure out what counts as "capitalism" and what doesn't is by referring to the definition. Therefore, Rand's opposition to the analytic-synthetic distinction is inconsistent with her opinions on "capitalism"--she's embracing the notion of a referent being determined by a definition instead of other referents.

    So isn't the appropriate response to this as follows: "Well, how did Rand come up with this definition? By perceiving referents and then forming a concept based on those referents. Are you seriously arguing that if I've never been to Texas that I can't form the concept of 'me in Texas' without referring to the referents of 'me' and 'Texas', but only by forming a definition out of the blue?"

    Or is that not good enough? Is the here criticism more nuanced?

    Admittedly, I haven't read these critiques yet (I'm gonna go do that). Here's one (apparently) http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/archives/jars7-1/jars7_1rlong.pdf

  12. I basically made two points in this thread:

    1. the term of a patent should last for exactly as long as the invention is needed and available on the market.

    First, I'm really confused because it sounded like you were opposing patents in the previous post. Second, why is this a good standard? Also, don't you see the big problem with this: If I invent X, and X is very useful, and X there's a demand to use X for hundreds of years, then I have the ability to restrict the use of X for hundreds of years, which in turn restricts the ability of others to invent things, even if this invention would've been invented by someone else a few days later.

    2. I explained why it is irrelevant that "someone else would've eventually invented the thing", because that someone else now has the chance to invent something better, and, along with everyone else, have access to the original invention much earlier. Everyone who's rational wins, compared to that alternate universe in which the invention would've come along later. The only losers are the people who wanted something they couldn't invent themselves, for free.

    How is this irrelevant to the question of how long the patent should last?

    I honestly have no idea what you're trying to say here. Aren't the people who wanted something they couldn't invent themselves also winners?

    If you agree with what I'm saying, why are you concerned about the term of the patent?

    Because I want it to be moral.

    What I'm saying is that as long as it expires once the invention is no longer commercially available, everyone who isn't asking for a free ride wins.

    So we have to have a point where no one makes it for everyone else to be allowed to make it? Why is that a better standard than mine?

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