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Everything posted by bkildahl

  1. I've been wondering about this stuff too, and my wonder turned to confusion when I heard Peikoff's response to one of the questions in the fourth part of the recording of his "live Q&A on July 6, 2012". 09:20 Questioner: "In the vein of being a dog lover, which I am also, there are at least a couple of podcasts (including one of my favorites: podcast number 16) in which you indicate the possibility that animals might have some kind of primitive form of volition. And I think my own observation of dogs in particular indicates that they indeed make choices. They exert effort. It even looks like to me sometimes a bit of mental effort. You know, not conceptual. It's kind of a proto form. But what do you think about that? That they have proto volition." Peikoff: "Well, no, I would not disagree with you. I just don't think it's .. it's certainly not proven, and I don't know how it would be provable. But there is a lot of evidence for it. A dog hesitates, can't decide which stimulus to respond to. Or you call him and at first it's quick as though we're gonna go and then he changes his mind and decides not to. There's a lot of evidence of things like that. But you prove free will by the nature of a conceptual consciousness, so if you're gonna prove free will for a perceptual consciousness, you have to do it by some other means. I don't know how." I thought Objectivism held that humans are the only beings with free will. Did I misunderstand, or does Peikoff's response contradict that? And if he's saying that dogs (and, by implication I think, other non-humans) might have free will, what does that mean for Objectivism's view of rights? [Edited to add names to the quotes.]
  2. Yeah. It sounds like methodological naturalism is objective analysis of existence minus the willingness to reject the arbitrary.
  3. Also, that most people do something doesn't prove that they didn't choose to do it. I don't know a single person who has ever chosen to eat rocks, but I have no doubt that such a thing is possible. For little kids, the prospect of learning about this amazing world they find themselves in instead of ignoring it might be as appealing as the prospect of eating grilled cheese instead of rocks.
  4. I'm having some trouble even understanding some of the responses, so please bear with me. Maybe it would be easier for you guys to respond if I narrow my thoughts down some: How does one figure out whether a contract violates the rights of one of the parties and is therefore invalid? The best idea I can come up with is that it represents a violation of the rights of one of the parties if that party is forced to abide by the specific terms of the contract instead of just being monetarily penalized for backing out. Is that incorrect? [Edited for clarity]
  5. How does one figure out which human relationships are proper and can therefore be the subject of a contract? What if it's just killing you (as in assisted suicide)? Should I be able to pay a doctor to end my life? How about just mutilation, and how do you figure out whether or not something qualifies as mutilation? Are tattoos mutilation? How about if there's no ink on the needle? Why should I be able to get one of those in a contract, but not the other? Should a person be allowed to just sell his organs on ebay? And if I can do any of those things separately, why can't I combine them? What if I want a tribal shaman to give me a ritual tattoo before helping me end my life because I believe it will help me in some kind of afterlife (and to sell my organs on ebay afterwards to help pay for his service)? So is specificity the issue? If I can clearly outline what I mean by being treated like a piece of wood (having nails driven into me to attach me to other things, being set on fire for warmth), does it become okay to contractually obligate myself to those things? It seems to make more sense to say that I can create a contract in which I obligate myself to ridiculous things, but that I can also refuse to do the things I agreed to do (including allowing the other guy to make good on his obligations), and that the penalty can only be monetary and must represent actual damage to the other person (like the cost of the ink he had to buy to give me the tattoo). Otherwise, how do you figure out where to objectively draw the line?
  6. I think softwareNerd hit the nail on the head. If I can enter into a contract which will require me to work for one year for $50,000, why not one that says I have to work for 50,000 years for one dollar? I should be able to make a contract like that if I want to, but that doesn't mean that if I default on my responsibilities, the government's response will be to put me in chains and attach me to the house of the other party for the term of my life.
  7. A google search of Soviet projects turns up something called the White Sea - Baltic Canal, built from 1931 to 1933 by Gulag prisoners with basic hand tools (lol) at the cost of some 100,000 lives. Here's a paragraph from one of the websites I looked at: "The icing on the cake? The canal was completely useless when finished. For most of its length it was too shallow to admit anything larger than a small barge. Later a book of propaganda detailing the biographies of "heroic" workers and engineers, intended for distribution in capitalist countries, had to be recalled because in the downtime Stalin had ordered all the main characters shot."
  8. 6:00 - "An evolutionist can always come up with what we might call a rescuing device. He can come up with a conjecture designed to protect his world view from what appears to be contrary evidence." Headache achieved! Thanks, man.
  9. Yes, there were loopholes in this particular question, but exploiting them misses the point. Someone asking you this question will respond to every answer you give with: "Ok, but imagine that that's not possible in that situation for reason X." The goal of the question is to present you with a situation in which every action you can take is associated with something terrible, to get you to give one of those terrible answers as the correct one, and then to drop context and imply that Objectivism is bad because it supports the terrible action you chose, or that it's bad because you couldn't give an answer. The problem is not with Objectivism's answer to any question of this type, but with the expectation of the person who's asking it, which is that a good philosophy will be able to make a really bad hypothetical situation seem awesome.
  10. Question 1: Here's something that I think gets missed often by those who use these questions to test Objectivism: If you construct a hypothetical situation in which every option is a horrible one, and the philosophy the question is meant to test is a rational one, then that philosophy will tell you to do something horrible. This is not a mark against that philosophy, but a credit to it, as it represents adherence to reality. Challenge anyone who implies that philosophy should be able to turn dog poop into ice cream.
  11. I'm really surprised by some of the responses so far. The OP was using a fun example to point out that there are people who attempt to use the grey area created by failure to properly define terms to validate their beliefs, and that those people become frustrated when talking with him, as he does not allow them to get away with it. Good post!
  12. Contradiction, no? If not, what do you define as a capitalist society? How do you define "business men," and how are they separate from "workers of capitalists?" Are "business men" people who own companies, and "workers of capitalists" those who engage in productive work but don't own companies? See below. By money, do you mean anything of value? The relationship between employer and employee is similar to the relationship between any two traders: each is trading something of value (which he either produced or got in an earlier trade) for something of value from the other guy. So how does it follow that all of a non-businessman's (a group of which "workers of capitalists" are a part) stuff of value comes from businessmen?" This seems to be your attempt to address what I mentioned above, but shouldn't the minus sign be a plus sign? If customers have a set amount of money to spend, and this money is made up of what they got from businessmen and what they have apart from that, then the formula is: "customer" money = money from businessmen plus money from elsewhere I didn't read the rest of your argument because the terms are not clearly enough defined. As far as I can tell, though, you sneak in the idea that value can't be generated by assuming that a person's things of value can only have come from someone else, and use this to demonstrate that value can't be generated.
  13. This is an issue I had trouble with for awhile too, until I realized that I was confusing the words determinism and causality, and for that reason thinking that causality is incompatible with free will. It's not! Free will is a link in the causal chain. It's just a link whose nature is different from that of the nature of every other link (in that its effects are self-determined and therefore not perfectly predictable). We are dominos in a certain sense, but we're dominos who get to decide how to fall, and which other dominos to hit in doing so.
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