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  1. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from Boydstun in Objectivism in Academia   
    This is some very good news for a thinker like me who is outside the academic area.  Before I found this website, I was temporarily active on another general philosophy forum.  I was so shocked at the posts of university students on this other website.  It seemed like they got to the study of Hume, or Ayers, or Wittgenstein, etc. and could not get out of a hole created by an idea that was new to the student and seemed interesting on its face.  All of them seemed to be unaware of Ms. Rand beyond her fiction and were emotionally bitter or angry about the ethics they learned in that fiction.  The few who claimed to be familiar with Aristotelian metaphysics and Objectivist epistemology, couldn't see it thru their post-modern lens of logic and language having metaphysical standing instead of origin in human cognition.  Chomsky's, Neo-Kantian view of innate cognitive content - purely grammatical in Chomsky's view, not extending to Kant's categories - was a very popular idea.
    It seemed like many people found comfort in ideas in philosophy that allowed, forgave, or created an excuse for a lack of focus or clarity in cognition.
  2. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from RohinGupta in Objectivism in Academia   
    This is some very good news for a thinker like me who is outside the academic area.  Before I found this website, I was temporarily active on another general philosophy forum.  I was so shocked at the posts of university students on this other website.  It seemed like they got to the study of Hume, or Ayers, or Wittgenstein, etc. and could not get out of a hole created by an idea that was new to the student and seemed interesting on its face.  All of them seemed to be unaware of Ms. Rand beyond her fiction and were emotionally bitter or angry about the ethics they learned in that fiction.  The few who claimed to be familiar with Aristotelian metaphysics and Objectivist epistemology, couldn't see it thru their post-modern lens of logic and language having metaphysical standing instead of origin in human cognition.  Chomsky's, Neo-Kantian view of innate cognitive content - purely grammatical in Chomsky's view, not extending to Kant's categories - was a very popular idea.
    It seemed like many people found comfort in ideas in philosophy that allowed, forgave, or created an excuse for a lack of focus or clarity in cognition.
  3. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to StrictlyLogical in Ownership of Metaphysically Givens   
    Can I suggest we step back a little?  Let's not discuss anything about "rents" or "privilege" until we have some base or context regarding what you feel constitutes rightful property ownership, what property IS and what principles it is based on. 
    In other words, I am proposing to have the "positive" discussion first. 
    Then possibly we can investigate the boundaries?  See where and why you stop and see where and why Objectivists stop farther along?
    I think it will be more productive and intellectually honest/consistent if this approach is taken.
  4. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to Plasmatic in variation as a basis for applying concepts   
    Vik asked:
    Quantitative relationship of what? That is, it seems your question presupposes that there are entities with no qualities. That is, are you asking if the effect we experience called weight is an effect of the number of fundamental constituents in the substance and not the kind of entities the substance contains? The only difference being the number of entities?
    Think about the basis for both the conceptual and the mathematical.... All omitted measurements, the "more and less" that is the basis of class inclusion, are quantitative differences. The concept entity-1  is the base of both fields because it is the ontological bedrock metaphysically and epistemically. The "some but any" is a consequence of the irreducibility of the concept entity in terms of fundamental characteristics. 
    ITOE said:
    Posted too soon
    However, since entities are their attributes how could the ontological-qualitative differences not be relevant? Likewise, without the qualitative differences we would have no differentia, no foil epistemically.
  5. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to dream_weaver in DAWKINS IGNORANCE   
    Why wouldn't you attribute the advance of knowledge and technology to the inertia generated by the burst of energy released by the renaissance and the age of enlightenment, with the rediscovery of Aristotle? The remnants of Aristotelian influence still allows it to move forward while the notion that philosophy is just a game has businessmen and scientists just trying to get on with things best they can.
  6. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to tadmjones in What about plumbers, electricians and builders?   
    re second-handedness
    The idea of being second- handed, as I understand it,  is centered around how one values or picks values. A secondhanded person will look to others for the things to value. Right , wrong or indifferent they will value that which others do. They will not choose their own values but rely on what others think and adopt them seemingly unquestionably. Secondhanders lack discretion , they not only 'go with the flow' but actively pursue the flow and and mimic it. Secondhandedness is less than virtuous based on the idea of its lack of integrity, not from any socio-economic status.
  7. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to softwareNerd in What about plumbers, electricians and builders?   
    Well, others may value them that way, but that does not mean either electrician should value them that way. There is no concept of value outside the context of some valuer. So, one cannot say the electrician's contribution "is valued" because that does not clarify by whom. The point of Objectivist Ethics is that the value must be to the actor, not to some philosopher judging him from outside.
  8. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to Reidy in What about plumbers, electricians and builders?   
    Nobody should be surprised to see Atlas Shrugged recommended as a source for what Rand had to say. Anne Heller points out that the story, quite literally on the first page, salutes the skill of a bus driver. This scene leads straight into a dialog scene between a VP’s personal assistant and the company’s CEO in which the assistant clearly understands the company’s situation better than the CEO and cares about it more. Not long after that is a chapter entitled “The Top and the Bottom” which (unfavorably) contrasts a bunch of corporate higher-ups in a bar with the aforementioned assistant and an unskilled laborer in the company cafeteria. One could go on and on in this vein.

    Rand preferred as a novelist to write about people of extraordinary character, talent and accomplishment. In her novels, as in life, these qualities correlate imperfectly with money and status. The world would offer fewer storytelling possibilities (less conflict, less surprise) if the two matched up well.

  9. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to Craig24 in What about plumbers, electricians and builders?   
    There are no out of context shoulds in Objectivism.  You decide what you value as it relates to your life.  If you think electricians add as much (or more) value to your actual life than the businessman, then you will value the electrician as much or more than the businessman and none of us will criticize that or try to stop you.  
  10. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from softwareNerd in Studying the story of civilization   
    I have found that reading historical fiction, if written by an author obsessed with research and primary source information, can add a unique understanding to the knowledge already gained thru nonfiction sources.  It's time consuming, but enjoyable.  To test this method, pick a specific historic period (US Civil War or revolution, Europe during the Reformation, Decline of Roman imperialism, etc.), study the history through nonfiction sources until you have really internalized it, and then read period fiction from one of the authors described above.
    For me it revealed an interesting relationship between historic periods and modern times.  The players change, the technology advances, but except for the brief and flawed period during which real capitalism almost gained a foothold, very little has changed; the concretes are different, and so, hide the fact that the underlying principles (mysticism, bullying, failure to respect reason as the unique human evolutionary endowment, etc.) remain the same.
  11. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to softwareNerd in Introduction   
    Welcome to the forum.
    Objectivists are for small-government, but not primarily so, only as a consequence and only relative to what we see today. The primary focus is not size, but the nature and purpose of government. Objectivism says that the purpose of government is the protection of individual rights.
    I'm not sure what you mean when you say you're a neo-conservative, so the following may not be relevant to you. However, in contrast to Objectivists, the stereotypical neo-con sees government as having an important role in promoting the common welfare, but thinks it ought to be done via "markets". This makes the stereotypical neo-con is closer to a Trotsky-ite than to a libertarian or Objectivist. Historically, many neo-cons have started as liberals and even as communists and have morphed to neo-con-ism.
    As I say, this is not about you, but about the stereo-typical neo-con.
    See more here. http://www.cato-unbound.org/2011/03/07/c-bradley-thompson/neoconservatism-unmasked
  12. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to William O in Academia and Objectivism   
    Academic philosophy is mired in controversy and rarely arrives at a definite consensus. In addition, only a minority of philosophers, albeit a significant and growing minority, pay attention to Objectivism. Objectivists need a way of integrating these facts, since academic philosophy is often considered an authority on philosophy.
    One way of integrating these facts is to conclude that, since academic philosophers resist or are not aware of Rand's arguments, academic philosophy is not worth paying attention to. This conclusion requires nuancing, however, for several reasons.
    First, many academic philosophers produce work that is either true, as in the case of Boghossian's recent attack on relativism in his book Fear of Knowledge, or interesting, as in Bloomfield's recent collection of essays Morality and Self-Interest. It is true that these contributions almost never appeal to Ayn Rand in particular, but sometimes philosophers arrive at positions and arguments similar to Rand's or make points about ideas like hers that are worth thinking about.
    Second, academic philosophy is influential. In particular, it is the main source that philosophically inclined people outside of Objectivism will get their terminology from, and it will also shape the framing that such people use for philosophical debates. Having some understanding of how philosophical issues are discussed in academia will make it easier to find common ground with people who were introduced to philosophy through academic philosophy.
    Third, academic philosophy produces a lot of good work in history of philosophy. There are good companions to Aristotle, Hume, Mill, and many other philosophers that come from academic philosophy.
    As a result of these considerations, I think it is best to take a practical approach to academic philosophy. An Objectivist should not usually treat an academic philosopher as an authority on philosophy the same way they might treat a physicist as an authority on physics, but particular works produced by academic philosophers can be beneficial and useful, and these can be identified by careful discrimination.
  13. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to Repairman in How "open" are you about your Objectivism?   
     I have no reservations about telling people I am an Objectivist. Most people I encounter have no idea as to what that is. As the subject of metaphysical beliefs rarely comes up in casual conversation, this is merely one more thing that people don't know about me. In the event that God, Bible-based morality, or the limits of man's knowledge becomes a matter of discussion, I generally state that I believe in objective reality. No one so far has had a problem with that, with the exception of a few religious fanatics. Inasmuch as I'm not the most qualified expert on philosophy, I tend to keep explanations of metaphysics to a minimum. As for politics, I have had a life-long interest in history, and with thanks to Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, I've been able to argue in favor of capitalism and individual liberty much more easily. I noticed your first encounters with Objectivism are recent, that is, within the past eight years; this is coincidence, as I, too, only in the past eight years became aware of the writings of Ayn Rand. And a life-time of searching for the Truth is evermore reaching fulfillment. Most people would accept some aspects of Objectivism; most are unwilling to abandon the religious teachings of their youth. Either way, it is your life, and you have much greater advantages understanding Objectivism at an earlier age, as opposed to my personal case of learning of Objectivism at middle-age. People may reject labels they don't recognize or understand, but most people will respond well to reason.
  14. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to JASKN in How Can I Improve My Thinking?   
    For what purpose do you want to achieve this end? Writing eloquently isn't necessary if you just want to understand something for yourself, but it is necessary if you want to communicate effectively to a certain subset of people. As Jack mentioned, focusing on arguing, convincing, or communicating is hitting the gas before the starter, if you don't first have some end you're looking to achieve.
    That said, I, too, wanted to communicate better some years ago, half because I just wanted to win arguments. Eventually, I realized that winning arguments isn't possible unless you're interested and honest enough to consider many facts and viewpoints. That caused me to stop caring as much about winning the arguments, and to start caring more about knowing the truth for myself. Soon, I also began caring more about which truths I focused on, since I was now learning for myself rather than others.

    The single most helpful thing I did (biggest bang for the buck) was making myself stop and think (even when I was embarrassed and didn't want to), "Do I really believe this? Why?" It may amaze you how little you actually know about something, if you stop to think about it. But that thinking will become habit, and soon produces compounding positive results for any given thing on which you choose to focus.
  15. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from splitprimary in Movies Reflect Modern Ideas   
    Wow, is this site great, or what?  After reading my private response to Jonathan, the moderator re-published the errant post.  This site is interested in ideas, not opinions or emotions.  Kudows to the moderator for being cautious and also for re-thinking.
  16. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to Nicky in Religion for Psychological Reasons?   
    Plus, it only works on idiots. What the sick and dying really need is a steady supply of good music and illegal narcotics. I know that's how I'll be going out, if I get the chance.
  17. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to dream_weaver in What makes our definition of capitalism the correct one?   
    Prior to the industrial revolution, wealth was often bestowed on those who could offer protection, or often seized from those who could not protect themselves.
    After the industrial revolution those who do not understand its underlying cause came to proclaim themselves the defenders of the poor against the rich, while evading the fact that the businessman does not become rich by taking from the poor—and the defenders of the weak against the strong, while evading the fact that the strength involved was not the strength of brute muscles any longer, but the strength of man's mind. [partially paraphrased from FTNI, pg. 41]
    Capitalism, as an abstraction, projects an ideological integration of economic principles under a proper system of government based on the moral principle of individual rights—the right to act on the independent judgment of ones own mind—in a society where others respect each others right to do likewise as well; where the government is tasked with upholding and protecting individual rights from those who would initiate physical force and/or fraud against another.
  18. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from Reasoner in What is "Truth" and "Fact"...and aren't they subje   
    Truth and facts - Reasoner's OP laid out the path in it's first sentences.  He recognized that truth and facts (based in existence and identity) exist independent of the evaluation of consciousness.  So his question is worthy of evaluation and the silliness of "open" and "closed" issues between Rand and Branden become nonrelevent side issues.
    He then brings in the relationship between all existence and its notice by consciousness.  He suggests that the fact of consciousness (more specifically perception as a form of consciousness) may, by its identity, modify the perception of the object and that, therefore, the result is subjective. REASONER- Find a reference for Peikoff's analysis of sense organs.
    Reasoner's question is a really good version of a common argument.  I don't have time tonight to write a clear essay, but I can enumerate the metaphysical and epistemological issues needed for integration.  REASONER: 
    1. Do you agree that truth and facts of reality are based in existence and identity independent of perception?
    2. Do you agree that consciousness is an existent whose identity has a specific, eventually understandable nature?
    3. Do you agree that human consciousness is composed of varied sense based data evaluated by a reason function that works by recognizing attributes of things in reality and can create independent (from their referents), cognitive ideas that integrate these facts into concepts?
    4. Do the sense organs of conscious beings have a specific identity?
    5. NOW, stop and think.  The people who gave you the idea you proposed in this thread, are asking us to overcome skepticism by expecting A MYSTICAL PERCEPTION DEVOID OF IDENTITY.  Stop and consider. They propose that perception is skeptical BECAUSE it has a specific nature.  They propose that a perception that can be described and metaphysically identified, is subjective because of its identity.  Think of biological evolution as the engine, and then ask yourself if this position makes any sense at all?
    So, subjective or objective becomes a matter of volition not metaphysics or epistemology.  Did you get it right or not, based on the evidence of your senses and the evaluation of your reason?
    The objective value of Ayn Rand's thoughts are, curiously, wrapped up in the idea of human fallibility.  Knowledge is not automatic or mystical, it is hierarchical through time based on the nature of discovery in a sense based environment enhanced by concept formation thru abstraction in the faculty of reason.
    Whatever your question - you can't go wrong if you start with the facts that existence is primary to consciousness and human consciousness is composed of sense organs providing data for a mental capacity, called reason, that can integrate seemingly incongruent identities into new cognitive ideas. 
  19. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from dream_weaver in Movies Reflect Modern Ideas   
    I have almost no experience in evaluating movies as an art form in the context of their aesthetic value.  What is Romanticism, what is naturalistic - I can only judge the most obvious distinctions unless I decided to embark on a study of an area I choose to leave for entertainment only. 
    I spend my time on metaphysics and epistemology and my further philosophical interest on ethics and politics, but movies have become a more widely accessible reflection of the culture and I enjoy many of them.  I know they must reflect ideas in the culture.
    If I list some of the movies I especially enjoy, would those of you who have the knowledge of this art form analyze and comment on my choices?  And then recommend movies that might provide the same celebration?
    My movies are "Mr. Holland's Opus," "On Golden Pond," "Out of Africa," and "Lion in Winter."  I may be fooled by superlative examples of acting, editing, music, etc.  In my limited experience, these movies make me feel good vicariously or directly. 
    Thanks for your time and knowledge in this endeavor.  Jack
  20. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to DavidOdden in What is a floating abstraction?   
    Anyhow, what I was working on saying a few hours ago and sumpin' came up is that a floating abstraction is a consequence of “primacy of the word” epistemology, so as noted in OPAR p. 96 “A floating abstraction is not an integration of factual data; it is a memorized linguistic custom representing in the person's mind a hash made of random concretes, habits, and feelings that blend imperceptibly into other hashes which are the content of other, similarly floating abstractions”. They tend to predominate in academic circles (thus science and philosophy); ordinarily, people don’t talk that way unless they're trying to be deep. Some examples from lit-crit would be “text”, “voice”, “gender”, “hegemony”. Of course, this stuff infiltrates into philosophy. An ancient technical term of linguistics, “generative”, became meaningless non-referential syllable-soup when it was unleashed on the general public.

    I think, based on all of the examples of how e.g. Peikoff and Rand have used the expression, that it refers to the vagarification of words that did have referents. But "government" is often a floating abstraction to people who don't know what the government really is; the same is true of "law" -- what the heck is "the law"?
  21. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to DPW in What is a floating abstraction?   
    They are meaningful, but the referents are imaginary. Concepts of imaginations are derivative concepts - they pertain to a (mental) re-arrangement of reality.

    Then you are unsure. But you phrased the question in exactly the right form: not, does it have a referent? But, does the referent exist, or is the thing it refers to an imagination or an error?

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify those points.
  22. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to DPW in What is a floating abstraction?   
    Don't worry - you're asking the right questions, which means your confusion won't last very long if you remain honest and active minded. Let me take your questions one by one.

    First, let's be clear: the meaning of a concept is not its definition. The meaning of a concept is the things in reality it denotes, i.e., the meaning of a concept is its referents, including all their attributes. For example, your concept "book" means all books that have ever existed, that exist, and that will exist, including all their characteristics, even the one's you don't know and will never know. This is true even though you will only encounter a small number of books in your lifetime.
    You know the meaning of a concept if you can identify its referents.

    A definition is a condensation of all that information into a retainable "label" that enables you to hold your concepts by naming the essential distinctive attributes of the units they refer to. So, for example, I form the concept "book," and then retain that concept with a definition: "a written or printed work with pages bound along one side."

    Let me stress: the definition is not the meaning of the concept: the meaning of the concept is actual books. The definition is our way of retaining the concept.

    We can now answer your question: yes, even if we know the definition of a concept, we can still hold the concept as a floating abstraction. What, then, must one do to ensure that one's concepts aren't floating? Or, in your words:

    You have to re-trace the process of formulating the definition, as if you were the first one to formulate it. A definition we get from someone else, even a good one, is useless unless we go through the same steps the person who formed it did. A definition we get from someone else I like to call a "pointer" because all it does before we make it our own is point us toward its referents. It says, "By this concept, I mean those things." To grasp the concept, you have to actually look at "those things." Then you have to retrace the definition-formation process (see Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology if you have any questions on how to do that, particularly Chapter 5. Then, if you still have questions, raise them here.)

    There's nothing wrong with looking up definitions, but you make the point better than I ever could: if that is all you do, the concept can be nothing more than a memorized string of words. In order to make it a concept tag, i.e., in order for it to be a definition is the proper sense, you have to re-trace the process of formulating it.
  23. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to DPW in What is a floating abstraction?   
    Not quite. If it's a floating abstraction, you don't know it. To know something is to see its connection to reality and its relationship to the rest of your knowledge. A floating abstraction is a concept or idea which is, in your mind, cut off from reality, i.e., which you have not reduced to its referents. It stands in your mind as a string of words disconnected from concretes.

    So, for example, if you say, "A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members," and then I ask you for an example, and you shrug, the concept "unit" is - for you - a floating abstraction.

    But let's take a more difficult case. Suppose you do give a couple examples: "This rock is a unit, when regarded as a member of a group of similar existents, such as those rocks over there. And this camera is a unit, when regarded as a member of a group of similar existents, such as your camera, or your shoe (since they both are members of the group "existents")." Then I ask you, "So what?" and you say, "I don't know. Ayn Rand said that's what units were." I would say it's still a floating abstraction, at least to a large extent. An idea, even a true one, cut off from the rest of one's knowledge [that is, not integrated] is necessarily floating. Anyone disagree with that?
  24. Like
    jacassidy2 got a reaction from Repairman in Human Identity and Choosing a Political System   
    This short essay is not original ideas.  It is a restatement of Objectivist ideas in a language that may grab the interest of a person who has only limited familiarity with Objectivist ethics/politics.
    Ms. Rand called them the "Mystics of Spirit" and the "Mystics of Muscle" to describe the categories in history of irrational human beings attempting to dominate the people in their lives rather than producing wealth for themselves.  For my purposes in this OP, I would like to summarize these types of people into one easily understood category.  BULLIES.
    Bullies are people who find value in controlling others for any number of irrelevant reasons.  "Bullies of spirit and bullies of muscle" is a corollary to Ms. Rand's ideas.  I substitute "bullies" for "mystics" because while "mystics" is conceptually better for the arguments, "bullies" is the most common, concrete expression that people are familiar with in their everyday lives.
    Mystics/bullies are a fact in the range of human, sense-of-life,  identity and these people are drawn to governing in private associations and public government  The primary, natural, purpose of instituting a government is to insulate citizens from the effects of bullies, but bullies are attracted to the organization of a governing body because the governing body is given the power to control with sharply reduced requirements for justification.
    The above being the natural evolution of communities and nation states among reasoned individuals, it should be obvious, that giving a governing entity any function over and above protection of citizens from force and fraud, opens the governing entity (and the bullies attracted to it) to the misuse of the power they are given by the citizens.
    Ignore these clear facts and you end up with crony capitalism at best or Nazism/Stalinism at worst.
  25. Like
    jacassidy2 reacted to Dante in Accepted determinism   
    We certainly are governed strictly by the laws of cause and effect, and there are no loopholes in causality. However, accepting this view does not immediately lead to the acceptance of determinism, as is often supposed. The non sequitur is often accepted because many people have an incorrect conception of causality. For many people, determinism is part of the definition of causality; this viewpoint might be termed 'billiard-ball' causality, where all instances of causality are assumed to be instances of objects interacting deterministically like billiard balls. However, Objectivism supports a more general conceptualization of causality, which does not smuggle in determinism. Causality, properly conceptualized, is simply the statement that, "A thing acts in accordance with its nature." This formulation leaves open the question of whether or not that nature is deterministic or (as in the case of human consciousness) some ability of self-determination is part of that nature.

    Now, I would not dispute the fact that the particles which make up the human brain and form the physical basis for human consciousness act deterministically, but it does not follow from this that the system as a whole acts that way (see fallacy of composition). In fact, to claim that determinism is true is to engage in a contradiction. The existence of knowledge itself presupposes that volition exists; knowledge depends on our ability to volitionally weigh evidence and separate truth from falsehoods. To claim something as true which undercuts the basis for truth is clearly contradictory. For some further threads on determinism, see 1 2 3 4.

    The rest of your point, however, is well taken (replacing 'acting deterministically' with 'acting causally'). If we pretend that our free will can do more than it actually can, then we will be helpless to face many personal issues. Our minds have a certain, definite nature, and our will is limited in scope. We need to understand this nature and these limits in order to act effectively (this is just another example of "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed"). The example of kicking an addiction is a good one, where understanding how the human mind works will contribute greatly to one's success. Psychological issues in general depend on a good understanding of the nature of human consciousness. This thread on procrastination and how to beat it using an understanding of human consciousness also comes to mind.
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