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Vox Rationis

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Vox Rationis last won the day on August 20 2011

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  1. If a man does not know the source of these virtues (and does not care to find it out), they are floating abstractions, no different from any religious dogma.
  2. And inflict them on another society? This is pure nationalism (your country is the only one that matters), not any form of justice.
  3. Speaking to Dairdo in particular: The idea that the military should only ever protect the rights of the citizens of that same country is ridiculous. It's no different from my saying, "Well, why should I pay to protect your rights? You live in the next city over, and you don't even pay taxes." It's a question of long-term self interest: it's better for me in the long run to have free people in Iran than to have enslaved ones. Furthermore, what about the right of Americans to move to Iran and open businesses free of restrictions while enjoying personal liberty? Now, there is a complex balance: clearly, one country cannot afford to free everyone else in the world, nor should it be asked to do so. It requires a case-by-case analysis of the degree of oppression, the cost to the liberators in money and in soldiers' lives, the likelihood of success, the wealth and level of civilization of the country, and, yes, the lives of that country's people. And when a country does decide to liberate another country, it should do the job right or not do it at all. It should annex that country or at least impose on it a rights-respecting constitution and strict oversight over its government (as we did after World War II). It should certainly not let them elect whoever they want and do whatever they want, as long as there is "democracy".
  4. And if it doesn't, will we get a John Galt or a Hugo Chavez? (I suspect numero dos.) However, I think America can survive much more misrule without collapsing. We're still pretty high up, which means we've got a long way to fall.
  5. The reason your first statement is a denial of consciousness and free will is that if you say, "This person with this particular nature will make this particular choice at this particular time in this particular context," there's no choice about it: it's only a choice if he can do both, i.e. his nature is such that he can do both, but he chooses to do one. The man-made is not metaphysical. For example, if I (to use a racist argument) say, "Blacks steal. It's just in their nature," I am implying that blacks do not possess consciousness or free will, that they are a lesser form of life than myself (which, needless to say, is false). For a man to have a choice whether or not to steal, his nature must be such that he can either steal or not, depending on the choice of his consciousness. Now, you can speak of a tendency to choose one type of thing over another, but this is simply an empirical observation based on prior actions. For example, it is true that blacks commit more crime in the U.S. on average than other races/ethnicities, and there are many non-racist reasons to explain why they would choose to do so. However, it is invalid to speak of such "tendencies" having on active role over human choice. If man has free will, he has free will (see here). The choice that occurs is not determined by nothing; it is determined by man's conscious faculty. The trap I believe you are falling into is the idea (in fact, supported by Aristotle) that consciousness, if it is to be objective and to perceive "reality as it really is", it must have no nature in itself. So if you believe man is conscious and has free will, according to this theory (widely accepted on all sides), you must deny that consciousness is anything in particular, that it works in any particular way, that it is dependent on any enabling factors (and such people usually hold that it is a divine miracle; in fact, this is a key component of the Catholic acceptance of evolution: lower animals can evolve, but consciousness is a "divine spark"). Thus, when scientists attempt to explain consciousness, it is viewed as a threat to free will because to explain something is to show that it has a nature and to define that nature. The assumed premise of this argument is false, as demonstrated by Objectivism, which is one of its greatest contributions to epistemology. Man's mind, his conscious faculty, is a real thing which, according to its nature, has the ability to choose among alternatives. Its nature does not determine what choice it will make. The act of choosing determines which choice it will make, not its nature, not "nothing". What sub-processes and rules does a man use to decide? That is precisely what psychology is supposed to discover.
  6. No, they are all logical fallacies. There are three kinds of logical fallacies: formal fallacies (having to do only with the form, not the content of the argument), such as affirming the consequent; informal fallacies (fallacies in the method of going from premises to conclusion), such as equivocation; and ignoratio elenchi (irrelevant conclusion, really a subtype of informal fallacies), such as argumentum ad hominem. Although some academics only consider formal fallacies "real" fallacies, that would not be the "colloquial" sense of the term.
  7. Logical mistakes are mental mistakes. Logic is simply the study of the rules of the processes of reason. When someone commits a logical fallacy, he is using the forms of reason to make an arbitrary assertion and is thus abandoning rationality. The logical fallacies which Ayn Rand identified are all fallacies of concept formation. The reason she, rather than someone else, was able to identify these fallacies first is because she was the first to formulate a correct theory of concept formation. I have copied a list of these from the Objectivism Wiki below, all of which except for "Rewriting Reality" are examples of conceptual fallacies ("Rewriting Reality" is not so much a logical error as a pre-logical metaphysical error).
  8. Instead of leaving the ballot box blank, you could do what I saw in one news story: vote "Revolution". Between those two, there's not really a better option. A vote for Obama will be interpreted as an endorsement of anti-capitalism, and a vote for Romney will encourage the Republicans to keep nominating such candidates.
  9. One cannot engage in a rational argument with someone who will not agree to go by reason (and asserting non-rational methods of knowledge is certainly not going by reason). All one can do is state the three inescapable axioms of reality (existence, consciousness, and identity), point out that reasoning from the basis of sense perception is the only actual way that man can gain knowledge, demonstrate that all supposed non-sensory methods of consciousness are by nature impossible (for they imply perception by no specific means), show that all supposed "sixth sense" claims are arbitrary assertions unsupported by evidence, and hope that the man will see that reason really is the way to operate. If, at that point, the man says, "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!" (or any secular equivalent, such as "I have a right to my opinion,") you're done. You cannot attempt to persuade him rationally. The only thing left is for him to observe the harmful effects of his irrationality, at which point you may point these out and possibly get him to reconsider. Also, on a related point, Leonard Peikoff gives a good analogy about so-called "sixth sense" claims in his Founders of Western Philosophy course, which I will paraphrase. The proponents of such claims always defend their viewpoint by stating that you can't judge them because you only have five senses. However, observe that there is no controversy among the blind that men with a "fifth sense" exist. Why? The reason there is no controversy is because the claims of sighted men support the sensory evidence that the blind receive through their four senses; there is never a contradiction between what the blind man perceives and what the sighted man perceives. Furthermore, the sighted man can make predictions which the blind man cannot, proving that he has special knowledge. For example, he can warn the blind man of a car approaching at 100 yards away, and the blind man will be able to feel and hear this car passing by at a certain time afterwards. Such predictions work every time. Contrast this with the claims of "sixth sense" advocates who claim to have received mystic revelations from God. Their claims do not support the evidence we receive from our five senses: they radically contradict them by saying that this world is only an illusion or shadow and that true reality is something else. Furthermore, these people cannot make any predictions that a normal person cannot. Therefore, we conclude that they are mentally disturbed or lying.
  10. Money is neither necessary nor sufficient as a sign of virtue. Money, in a capitalist society, is a measure of how useful others regard the products/services which you make/perform for a price. That's it. If large numbers of people are irrational in a capitalist society, there will be very wealthy people who do nothing which a rational person would find useful (e.g. Paris Hilton), and perhaps there will be a large number of poor people who are very useful to a rational person (e.g. Henry Cameron). However, according to the Objectivist ethics, such people are better off being poor while living by the integrity of their minds than by betraying their integrity for material gain. (Of course, the most desirable case is to be both rich and virtuous.) And if one's interests lie both in areas where there is not much money to be made and in areas where there is a great deal of money to be made, it is entirely moral to choose the field which makes more money (indeed, assuming one's levels of interest are equal, it would be immoral not to do so). You must also realize that one's rational usefulness or productivity in a market economy is a sufficient condition for virtue, but it is not necessary. Bill Gates is highly productive because he is highly virtuous (at least in the business sphere) and also very intelligent; however, a janitor working for Microsoft may be just as virtuous but not very productive at all because he is has a very low intelligence. As long as the janitor is using the full extent of his mental capacity, he is just as virtuous as anyone else could be, but because his service is not very valuable, he will be poor.
  11. I think I understand your question now. First of all, we need to be clear about the nature of the person, the "you" which is responsible for making choices, i.e. the "self". According to Ayn Rand, "A man’s self is his mind—the faculty that perceives reality, forms judgments, chooses values." One's concept of self is formed by abstraction from all mental experiences, by the recognition that they share a common subject. Philosophically, there is no way to answer your question without denying free will (i.e. implicitly denying the axiom of consciousness) but to state, unequivocally and irreducibly, that the self/mind chooses between available alternatives. The self chooses: that's it. However, the other part of your question is really scientific, not philosophical. How does a choice made by the mind in the spiritual realm cause actions of the body in the material realm? ("Spiritual" should not be understood in a mystic sense; however, Objectivism emphatically rejects materialism. It also rejects dualism because it leaves open the metaphysical possibility of more than two types of fundamental reality.) What material structure is necessary to allow a mind to exist? What rules do minds use to make choices and to what fallacies are they prone? These questions require the specialized knowledge of biology, physics, and psychology, not the general knowledge which is the province of philosophy. Philosophy of science can only rule out invalid interpretations of sensory data, such as the countless nonsensical claims by scientists that they have "disproved free will".
  12. I wouldn't say this thread is worthless. While the Iowa straw poll is certainly not the end-all, be-all of the election, I think this means that Paul has more of a chance than I had initially suspected. Although there are many, many things wrong with Paul, he is the best Republican in the field so far (apart, perhaps, from Gary Johnson, but he has seemingly even less chance of winning). Ayn Rand herself enthusiastically encouraged Objectivists to vote for Nixon in his second term as the much lesser of two evils (she called her movement the "Anti-Nixonites for Nixon"); Paul is a no-brainer by comparison.
  13. I did address this in my second post. Clearly, one does not to need to know the answer to every philosophical paradox or how to refute e.g. Kant in order to understand the basics of Objectivism. However, he does need to be able to grasp abstract ideas. I think we have established that someone of a truly, completely concrete-bound (which, in reflection is what I meant by "second-rate") mind could not live by Objectivism but that most people here think that such a state is not something men have from birth but rather something that is acquired through miseducation. Since that is a scientific question, I don't think it can be addressed without specific empirical evidence.
  14. I think, with regard to the shyness example Eiuol gives, the OP has the relationship of one's personality to one's choices backwards. It is not that a man does not talk in public because he is shy; rather, we call him shy because he repeatedly chooses (for whatever reason) not to talk in public. No choice is ever determined by a man's nature. A determined choice (i.e. determined by something other than the consciousness of the chooser) is a contradiction in terms. Choice is simply a fundamental feature of consciousness, a phenomenon whose physical requirements we do not fully understand. The fact that a man must choose is determined by his nature as a rational animal. The content of his choice is solely up to him. It is only on this basis that we can regard the choice as his responsibility. If a man's choice to murder were determined by his nature as a murderer, no one could blame him. A man is a murderer because he chooses to murder, not the other way around.
  15. The "somehow" would be: what sort of "resistance" (for lack of a better word) is being encountered in space which exerts a force on the processes inside the ship and causes them to slow down? If they are slowing down, something in reality must be responsible for slowing them down. Perhaps you are interpreting this in a more rational way than most proponents of this theory? Because the way I have typically heard it is that there is a time-for-one-twin and a time-for-the-other and that time itself slows down for the twin in the spaceship, causing the two times to come out of sync. That sort of interpretation makes no sense. I don't think anyone here is disputing the facts of the matter, simply the interpretations.
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