realityChemist reacted to Hairnet in Voluntary work hurts the poor
1) I think individual actions are being judged on the basis of aggregates. This isn't a correct way to analyze things. Most individual actions can't be judged as ethical or unethical based on GNP.
I have no responsibility to increase GNP as much as I possibly can.
Giving a man a sandwich he didn't earn isn't the harm that is being done. The circumstances that create that dependency in the first place is the problem.
2) I did a lot of charity work in my teenage years. It was awful. I "volunteered" at a nursing home that focused on dimentia patients, several soup kitchens, and even an impoverished minority neigborhood. I don't understand how anyone can work in a nursing home, maybe I was just sensitive at the time, but its depressing.
I have found that most of the really endangered people who recieve charity have mental illnesses that go beyond the helpfulness of ethical instruction. We aren't really talking about an unofrtunate vs immoral dichotomy, because we have to consider that many of those men and women's minds have been permantely damaged by a variety of life experiences that could have come from misfortune, flaws in our polticial economy, or just average immorality. Until psychotherapy becomes a meaninful science meant to help actually dysfunctional people, these people can only just be supported out of a good will.
3) Another issue that needs to be considered is the fact that poverty is extremely relative. Some of the people that are considered poor are at worse living a lifestyle that would have been considered futuristic in the 1970s and 1980s. I know people who are much wealthier than I am (I am a student and work at golf course, so I meet a lot of different people). Those people have afforded themselves lifestyles that allow them to do things that would neve be in my power to do, but in the future may be possible for any average citizen to do so.
I suppose it is some strange facet of human psychology that allows people to experience arbitrary rage and envy when they see someone with more wealthy than them. I have always questioned why people need to be equal. I don't care if there are people with floating palaces, it doesn't affect me at all if someone has more wealth or less wealt than I do if I have the same ammount of wealth I already did. Yet somehow people let it get into their head that the wealth of another is somehow realted to their own by default.
And hey, if you do envy something of someone elses, thats fine, just emulate what their virtues and get it yourself.
5) So my point is that the are usually bordering on insane or aren't really that unfortunate.
Unfortunate people should and will always be helped because rational people hate random tragedies.
realityChemist reacted to Grames in Criticism of O-ist theory of concepts
This brings up the hierarchical nature of knowledge. First level concepts are those whose referents are known by perception, or in alternate terms first level concepts do not require prior concepts to be known in order to form them. Higher level concepts are not known simply by perceiving their referents, and this is what creates the critical role for definitions and the selecting of essences.
Because higher level concepts are formed from prior concepts those prior concepts must be known well, meaning having explicit definitions with those defining essential traits determined from the broadest context of knowledge available. Thus to form the concept of capitalism ("Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned") it is necessary to have prerequisite concepts which comprise the definition: "social system" "individual rights" "property" (and of course the connecting prepositions and terms such as "recognition")
Concepts are always formed from their referents, but the referents need be only reducible to the perceived, not actually perceived (abstractions can be formed from abstractions).
realityChemist reacted to aequalsa in Objectivism and Modern Psychology
I would call it a gross over simplification, but really that whole page is. It was written in the context of a brief explanation of freewill so I would recommend thinking of it in that light. That said, I doubt many Objectivists would argue that freewill exists independently of existence. A man can not will himself to float into the air or make a cheeseburger materialize in front of him. Choices have to be made with regard to something and that something is reality. What(I assume) they mean is that if your given a choice to drink either a glass of water or a glass of cyanide, your choice isn't predetermined in any way by the facts of your existence. You bring your rational faculties to bare on the circumstance before you and make the best choice freely, within the context of those choices available to you. If those are your only choices then you can't choose orange juice, but that's not the same thing as being determined, philosophically. The relevent part is your freewill applied to the specific reality you happen to be in.
Same with the more complex issues of genes and upbringing. Those things massively shape the choices available to you, but they do not free you from the burden of being responsible for the choices you do make with regard to what is available to you.
Obviously you would hold those things as relevant in determining someone's moral worth. Making a million dollars from scratch is a world away from making a million dollars after inheriting a million first. Likewise in considering a disability or emotional disorder.
realityChemist got a reaction from aequalsa in Atheism 2.0 at TED
I found an interesting video on TED.com today, in which speaker Alain de Botton says that, while we need not agree with religions, we (meaning atheists in general, not specifically objectivists) may want to look into adopting some of their methods. I don't agree with everything that he says, but he made some interesting points. I especially liked what he had to say about art (his view seems rather O'ist). Below I've provided a link to the video (19:21 long), which includes a complete transcript on the webpage.
realityChemist got a reaction from Prometheus98876 in Peikoff on date rape
I really have better things to be doing right now (homework, anyone?), but since I've already spent two hours reading this I may as well reply:
I have to say, I'm sort of on the fence about this one. Or, rather, I'm on one side of the fence for one argument, and the other side for another. First of all, I think that Peikoff did likely make this comment off-the-cuff, and he shouldn't be personally attacked for it (unless and until such time as he chooses to clarify himself with a more carefully worded remark, at which point we should judge him one way or another, as he would be making explicit important ideas that he holds). So there's where I stand on that.
On the other hand, taking Peikoff's statement verbatim now, I think that the most legitimate defense of his statement -- that the verbal withdrawal of consent, if actions which imply consent are still being performed, does not amount to actual withdrawal of consent -- is flawed when referenced against reality. As one person has already brought up (I think it was sNerd, but I'm not sure), words are not empty abstractions without meaning*. That is to say there is no realistic scenario in which a woman would say, "No," and mean it, while still participating in the act. If you can think of a scenario in which a woman would not attempt to physically remove herself from the scenario after verbally removing consent, I am legitimately interested to hear it. Admittedly, there are times when women will say things without meaning them (as I'm sure we can agree; the concept of token resistance is an example of this), but this is not the sort of situation to which I am referring. Thus, continuing after only verbal cues cannot constitute rape, however a situation in which the woman gives sincere verbal cues but no accompanying non-verbal cues, such as attempting to remove herself from the situation or struggling against her aggressor, would not occur in reality. Because of this, there is no situation in reality that can be morally considered rape that does not involve the use of force in some way (unless, perhaps, the victim is a paralysis patient and has no way to physically resist, in which case verbal cues should be taken as absolute).
I would prefer not to discuss rape in a legal context, because I don't believe I am well informed enough on the current laws surrounding the issue to make a valid assessment of what would and would not constitute legal rape.
*As an aside, I was reading Aristotle's metaphysics about this earlier today, in which he demonstrates why words must have specific meanings.
realityChemist reacted to DavidV in Space Aliens Are Ignoring Us
This is not true. Radio waves fade in strength according to the inverse-square law. They are undedectable before they reach the nearest star. To communicate with our father-flung satellites (Voyager) requires massive antenna arrays that know exactly where to look - and they have not left the solar system. To communicate inter-solar distances would require massive concentrated EM bursts with energy draw on a Kardashev type 1+ scale.
realityChemist reacted to Nicky in Peikoff on date rape
Jesus Christ, stop already. Peikoff's comment was a throwaway line on the nature of consent, not the morality of sex. At worst, he's wrong about the Kobe Bryant case. Stop acting like you guys never said anything based on insufficient information.
He did not say it's moral to have sex with a woman even if "the parts don't fit", he didn't even say it's moral to have sex with her if she's doesn't like it. He didn't say it was OK to choke her even though she's not into that, he didn't say it was OK to twist her arm behind her back to cause pain, but making sure you leave no physical mark, he didn't say it's OK to anally rape a man.
And yet, all those lovely images somehow made it into people's arguments on how he is wrong. I guess what he actually said isn't all that egregious. Why else would you feel the need to spice it up like that?
I do not wish to continue this post. I want to stop. Hope that's clear, I want this to be the end of my post. I don't want to write this next part. I don't wanna. No. (this last No. should be read in a forceful tone, please)
Anyways: sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Obviously. If there is no fraud or force involved (which, incidentally, Peikoff made sure to specify), then that person is free to leave at any time. Their declarations really don't mean as much as their actions. The owner of this site has no reason to feel bad about me continuing this post despite my declaration that I don't want to. The declaration was pretty meaningless. They often are.
Rape means having sex with a woman against her will, not without her explicit consent. In Peikoff's example (though I have no idea if also in the actual case he cited, because, like I said, I don't keep up with celebrity news), the woman is clearly there by choice, and free to leave at any time. Unless next you guys are planning to also add kidnapping to the list of stuff Peikoff never said but somehow found their way into this thread anyway.
The book he wrote suggests he doesn't. You're gonna go with the pointless speculation off of the throwaway line in a podcast though, huh?
realityChemist reacted to GCS in On the question of free-will vs. determinism
I keep on regretting putting my two cents into these threads. I keep thinking that I can make a brief helpful comment, but inevitably I end up getting drawn into a debate. So this will be my last post here for a while.
All causality is an entity causing itself to do something, so it is not surprising that Isaac can reformulate causal statements to bring that point out.
However, some of his specific reformulations rest on confusions. The concept "nature" conceptualizes an entity from a certain perspective (viz. as a metaphysically-given cause of actions). It is not valid to simply substitute "my nature" for "me" in sentences, just as it is not valid to substitute "my existence" or "my identity" for "me" into sentences. You can't say, for example, "My nature gave my existence's girlfriend's being the actuality of a card that said 'Be my unity's valentine'". The problem with that isn't just that this sentence is cumbersome. It is a misuse of all the metaphysical jargon I threw in there. It is true that existence is identity and identity is nature. But that does not make the concepts equivalent. Each concept gives a different perspective. And that perspective is necessary and valid only in certain contexts.
(Incidentally, in 99 out of 100 cases, if you're tempted to write an equal sign between two concepts, there is something seriously wrong with your thinking.)
Now human beings cause actions in a special way that is not predetermined by past events. Not all aspects of all of our actions are metaphysically given. So it is wrong to say that, in a case where we have a choice, our nature determines the action. That would obliterate the concept "choice" altogether. If you want to use the language of "nature", the proper formulation would be that our nature determines *that* we will choose but not *what* we will choose. What we choose is caused by *us* in a *different way*. It is precisely this different type of causation that gives rise to the need for the concept "choice".
Now when I say what we choose is caused by *us* rather than our natures, what exactly does this mean? The nature of a thing is that thing *qua* necessitator of actions. But what we choose is caused by us *qua* *chooser* of actions.
Now, if this all seems convoluted, it's because, it's because it is designed to make a very simple point accessible from within a warped rationalistic context. The direct way to come at the issue is just to notice that we can choose and that causing something by choice is different from causing it in some other way. For example, choosing to blink is different from blinking automatically (e.g., when dust enters your eye), though both are caused by you. That difference is self-evident and, in the end, that is all that the issue of freewill vs. determinism turns on.
Isaac claims that the law of causality (or the concept of nature, or whatever) rules out the possibility of (non-predetermined) choice. But what's the basis for this claim? Where does he get his (overly narrow) conception of causality? Where does he get the concept "nature"? The argument is nothing but a string of words.
If we detach our concepts from the facts that give rise to the need for them and write them neatly on pieces of paper in strings with equal signs and arrows, we can create all sorts of very rigorous feeling proofs, but it's all meaningless and it just leads to confusion. Parmenides, for example, "proved" in this way that motion and plurality were impossible, inaugurating two centuries of vexed absurdity. All of this was solved when Aristotle simply (but brilliantly) turned his attention to the facts that gave rise to the relevant concepts, at which point all the tangled webs of pseudo-logic dissolved making progress possible. Let's follow his example in philosophy rather than tying our minds in knots by emptying his concepts of meaning and playing word-games with their carcasses.
realityChemist reacted to SapereAude in Objectivism and homosexuality?
Here's the problem with your argument, Jonathan13:
When she adjusted her views to state that it was immoral she qualified it with *why* it was immoral. Rand, like anyone, had to some extent to rely on what was "known" at the time. Most respected psychiatrists, psychologists and medical doctors at the time were in agreement that homosexuality was a mental disorder. When Rand made this statement homosexuality had recently, as a whole, been labelled as such by the DSM-II in 1968. (It was also listed as a deviation in DSM I). Rand, not being omnipotent was relying on the widely accepted science of her time. This science claimed (somewhat contradictory) that homosexuality was not only a mental disorder but also a choice.
From Atlas Shrugged " "a sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality" (938)".
Rand always maintained that morality presupposed choice. It was only reasonable and consistent for her to change her view to call homosexuality immoral given what data she had to work with.
That she viewed homosexuality as disgusting I take no issue with. Most people find something someone else does sexually offputting or disgusting. That is a matter of taste.
As to her finding it immoral based on what was known at the time I have no issue with either. We can only conjecture what she would have said if presented with what we know now about human sexuality. If one believes that Rand was most often internally consistent and rational one would tend to think that she would probably still find the idea offputting but- by her own definition of morality- change her mind on the morality issue. If one believes that Rand was often contradictory and inconsistent you'll probably choose to believe the worst.
Edited to add: that said, as far as "choice" comes in to play. One would have to also define what is being discussed. How do we know for sure if she was talking about homosexuality-as far as a person's innate tendencies or homosexuality-the physical acts? To me, the distinction would seem of some importance.
realityChemist reacted to Eiuol in How would you spend $1,000,000 to spread Objectivism?
I'm going to try to stick specifically to the question as much as possible: how to help people discover Objectivism on the web. More specifically, I'll take "discovery" to mean becoming interested in and exploring Objectivism thoroughly. There are a variety of effective non-web solutions that I'm fond of, in particular the free copies of Rand's fiction being given to schools, because that's actually what got me interested in Objectivism.
To begin with, I wouldn't go with building on top of anything existing. Facebook may be good for like-minded people to talk, but is not a medium good for getting people to expand ideas. It's primarily a segmenting force that won't really lead to someone coming across *any* idea will have some preconceived notions. Twitter is essentially the same in terms of disseminating ideas. Reddit isn't too bad actually, and I do know people who are trying to liven up the Objectivism page there, but because it's a casual medium, won't really bring about discovery. But it is useful for newbies. Even if these methods were good, they don't need much money to operate or develop.
I do think a goal of teaching people to think is admirable and a great cause to support. I truly do believe thinking skills are fantastically neglected in most schools these days, even in college. Still, that in itself won't lead to serious consideration of Objectivism. I took reason and logic very seriously from a young age, but something still had to nudge me to discover Objectivism. I have two good friends who are very intelligent, but they are types to either outright condemn Objectivism due to some legit bad experiences (experiences mentioned to me that I didn't cause), or are not quite so inclined to explore something that has one or two core principles fundamentally opposed to their current philosophy. So, even if you do teach people how to think, what would you do next? Thinking of a web solution to discovery would focus on a late high school/college age group, when people are considering their explicit life philosophies. I think there are *enough* intelligent and rational people to make it worth focusing on the steps after teaching effective though.
The survey idea would be useful as information and should be done anyway, but the answers to those questions are at least generally known enough to warrant acting now/soon. Some replies in the "impotent debate tactics" thread I think are quite accurate as to why some people are repelled by any mention of Objectivism in my observation. A survey in specific areas/demographics would be useful, though, before implementing a plan, and can be done with minimal cost. For other solutions (probably for the ideas in the paragraphs below), it might not make any difference.
A contest appeals to me. They tend to work for getting people to become involved with anything. I think of how the DARPA grand challege to have an autonomous car complete a very long course had a cash prize of two million dollars. It sure got people to care, and it got me to discover that autonomous cars exist. Contests seem to work because they bring out curiosity. ARI already does their essay contests, so it would be useful to find out how participation has increased over time for that. A contest involving some kind of art is getting at a great way to harness the use of a lot of money. I say art in particular, because when it comes to philosophical ideas, art conveys ideas quite well with all the subtleties involved. Personally, I'd want to make an actual *good* production of AS, but a million dollars is quite low for any such thing to be done. Contests, though, can bring out some high quality art creations that can be treated as an art exhibit.
Right now, what I have in mind is a contest that is very different than the one presented already. That still applies to "on the web" because it'd involve an online implementation. I would suggest a visual art contest that would result in an actual art gallery, but that's too "physical" so to speak. The context is a web-focused one, so I want to stick to that. A video contest may work. 1st/2nd/3rd place cash prizes for the best entries that present heroism defined as the effort for the best one strives to achieve in life. A length of 30 minutes minimum to assure that directors need to develop a notable message. That may need to be further narrowed, but so far in my thinking, that's sufficient to get people motivated. As large a cash prize as possible is best, but money would still need to be leftover for getting the contest known, especially where budding directors can be found. A website devoted to the contest would work great, and not directly associated with any other organization, and worth devoting money towards. Once the contest ends, judges will look at aesthetic quality about how well heroism is displayed. Then, all entries would be treated as an online art gallery. The issue is, how many entries, and how to decide on which entries? Lastly, that gallery would be promoted as a site with a variety of films that portray an ideal in common: heroism. That very last step is what I think is the most difficult. Not the most expensive, but the trickiest to pull off.
All throughout that contest, the site would explain how heroism is really a big part of what Objectivism is about. A heroism that isn't inborn or a matter of luck. If someone sees that and understands politics are a very secondary to Objectivism, then I think they'd be very inclined to exploring Objectivism in whatever way they prefer. Most people seem to see Objectivism in terms of politics (even most Ayn Rand fans), so bringing focus on aesthetics would bring focus to Objectivism as a *philosophy* of striving for a great life first and foremost.
Yup, that was a long-winded post! But I'm thinking big.