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KyaryPamyu last won the day on May 6

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  1. Rawls brings up the argument that "'No one deserves his greater natural capacity" only in order to reject its conclusion, and to show that this argument is, in fact, irrelevant to justice. Apparently, this totally escaped Peikoff, a fact which does not reflect well on his professionalism, and is what the review is criticizing.
  2. I found something about that statement in a review of OPAR. It appears in the January 1992 issue of Liberty Magazine (page 68): "Peikoff's approach is slapdash. He hardly ever reports anyone else's position accurately. Here, for example, is his account of an argument by Rawls: It is perfectly just, Rawls maintains, for society to sacrifice the men of intelligence and creative ability - to seize their products and redistribute them to the world's losers - because, he says, nobody worked to achieve his own gray matter; nobody earned his brain, which is a mere gift from nature. (l08) Peikoff refutes "this monstrous theory" by arguing that the notion of earning one's brain is illegitimate. He gives no page citation, and nowhere in Rawls is there any discussion of working to earn one's brain, but I presume Peikoff is referring to II:17 of A Theory of Justice (l00-08). Here Rawls says: ''No one deserves his greater natural capacity nor merits a more favorable starting place in society" (Rawls, 102), which is obviousIy true for those of us who reject reincarnation. Rawls is here summarizing an argument whose conclusion he rejects, and he quickly goes on to say that the distribution of natural talents does not rule out the possibility of justice: "The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that people are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts" (ibid.). Rawls defends a just society in which there are differences in wealth and income due to birth and other causes. He does also favor some government redistribution, but not for reasons recognizably like those described by Peikoff. Peikoff cannot seem to cite anyone without misrepresenting them. He says that Spencer defended capitalism as survival of the fittest, and drew this idea from Darwin's theory of evolution (Peikoff, 356). He even misrepresents the Munich agreement of 1938 (110), saying that Hitler was demanding Czechoslovakia (instead of a German part of Czechoslovakia whose population wanted to join Germany). To commit one outrageous howler may be put down to misfortune. To cram so many into one book looks like undue carelessness."
  3. If I understand your post correctly, you want to learn Objectivism directly from observation, rather than from Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff. But alas, you doubt the inductive method, along with anything that comes out of it. Can induction be proved? Let's see. We could prove induction by means of an inductive proof; but that would beg the question. Maybe proving induction through logic is better. However, logic is merely the application of a certain fact extracted from observation, i.e. the observation that existential facts are in harmony (the principle of non-contradiction). We are then left with the bare fact of observation itself. Even here, we have options. One option is to step outside of observation, to see if there's any mind-independent objects to which my observation corresponds. But insofar as I observe those mind-independent objects, I have not stepped outside of observation at all. I cannot leave my own mind. Another option. Since I am conscious of myself, I am conscious of what I do. If I think a thought, that thought does not appear to me as "perceptually given", but rather as something I thought. But if I was not self-conscious, it would be the opposite: all of my thoughts (including the thought "I") would appear as "perceptually given", as merely an instance of "existence exists." (The former is called Realism, the latter Idealism.) In my opinion, just as you can't "cure" egoistic tendencies unless you're first convinced that egoism is bad, you can't "cure" rationalism unless you first believe that induction is valid. So I say, forget about "recovering", and focus on proving or disproving induction. The Rand-Peikoff theory might be perfectly correct, or horrendously short-sighted. It's up to you to figure out.
  4. I found some stuff about the spinal chord in Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869). "The independence of the spinal cord on the brain is likewise proved by many beautiful physiological experiments. A hen, from which Flourens had removed the entire cerebrum, sat indeed motionless as a rule; but on going to sleep it tucked its head under its wings; on waking, it shook itself and preened its feathers. When pushed, it ran forward in a straight line; when thrown into the air, it flew. It did not eat spontaneously, but only swallowed the food thrust into its bill. Voit repeated these experiments with pigeons. They first fell into a deep sleep, from which they only awoke after a few weeks; then, however, they flew and moved of their own accord, and comported themselves in such a manner as to leave no doubt of the existence of their sensations; only intelligence was lacking, and they did not spontaneously take food. Thus a pigeon, having thrust its beak against a suspended wooden pendulum, caused it to swing for upwards of an hour till Voit’s return, so that the pendent spool over and over again struck its beak. On the other hand, such a brainless pigeon endeavors to evade a hand trying to grasp it, to carefully avoid obstacles in its flight, and can settle cleverly on narrow supports. Rabbits and guinea-pigs, whose cerebrum has been removed, run freely about after the operation; the behavior of a decapitated frog has been already mentioned. All these movements, as the preening of its feathers by the hen the leaping of rabbits and frogs, take place without noticeable external stimulus, and are so like the same movements in uninjured animals that it is impossible to assume a difference in the underlying principle in the two cases: in the one case as in the other, there is a manifestation of will. Now we know that the higher animal consciousness is conditional on the integrity of the cerebrum (see Chap. ii. C.), and when this is destroyed, it is said these animals are without consciousness, and accordingly act and will unconsciously. But the cerebral consciousness is by no means the sole, but merely the highest consciousness of the animal, the only one which in higher animals and in man attains to self-consciousness, to the ego, therefore also the only one which I can call my consciousness. That, however, the subordinate nerve-centers must also have a consciousness, if of a vaguer description, plainly follows from the continuity of the animal series, and a comparison of the ganglionic consciousness of the Invertebrata with that of the independent ganglia and central parts of the spinal cord of the higher animals. It is beyond a doubt that a mammal deprived of its brain is always capable of clearer feeling than an uninjured insect, because the consciousness of its spinal cord stands in any case higher than that of the ganglia of the insect. Accordingly this will, which gives evidence of itself in the independent functions of the spinal cord and the ganglia, is by no means to be at once declared to be in itself unconscious; we must rather provisionally assume that for the nerve-centers from which it proceeds it certainly may become more or less clearly conscious. On the other hand, compared with the cerebral consciousness which a man exclusively recognizes as his consciousness, it is certainly unconscious, and it is accordingly shown that there exists in us an unconscious will, since these nerve-centers are all contained in our corporeal organism, therefore in us." (The Unconscious Will in the Independent Functions of the Spinal Cord and Ganglia)
  5. Not only that, but he seems to restrict contingency to humans, hence the Objectivist distinction between "metaphysical [i.e. necessary] facts" and "man-made facts", with nothing in-between. Supposedly, events brought about by cats and dogs etc. belong to the side of "metaphysical facts." I agree. I think Peikoff is unconsciously equating the Law of Identity with some version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), which states that for every fact F, there must be a sufficient reason why F is the case. For example, according to the PSR there must be some explanation for why an atom decayed precisely when it did, and not at some other point in time. But as per standard interpretations of quantum mechanics, radioactive decay is totally random: we can never determine ahead of time if an atom will decay in the next second or not. To this, an advocate of the PSR might say: "An event isn't random just because we can't predict it. If we knew all of the factors involved, we'd be able to predict radioactive decay with perfect accuracy". At first glance, human free will is compatible with the PSR. After all, volition does have a sufficient explanation. What that explanation is, we don't know yet, but it might be brain related. Either way, following OPAR, let's say that the identity of my brain and consciousness is such that I am forced to make a primary decision: to focus, or not to focus. What the choice will be is totally up to me, of course. And suppose that the choice I end up making is: to focus. Why did I make precisely that choice, and not the opposite choice? If I am to be consistent with the principle of human freedom, I have to reply: "I was forced to make a choice between focusing and not focusing, but I was not forced to choose that particular option. I chose it because I chose it", or "I picked that option simply because I picked it". Now, if we restate this in terms of the PSR, the fact to be explained is: "I chose X" and the explanation for that fact is: "because I chose X". That's like saying that atoms decay because atoms decay, or that trees grow because trees grow. We are no longer dealing with the PSR, because the ground of the event (choice) is you, yourself, not some externally-imposed law such as the PSR. You are your own law, so to speak. Plopping a PSR-free phenomenon (i.e. making an absolutely free choice) on top of a PSR-respecting explanation (the physico-psychical source of volition) does not suddenly make freedom compatible with the PSR. It's like asking "How is God able to read everyone's minds?" and someone replies "Through biochemical guplockin combustion". Free Will and the PSR are mutually-opposing frameworks. As humans, we are intimately acquainted with contingency, because we routinely bring about events into existence (e.g. the event of thinking, of choosing etc) simply through acts of will. There is something deeply spiritual about contingency, and I suspect this is why Peikoff "portrays contingency as only something with a consciousness giving rise to it." He denies contingency to Nature, but gladly grants it to man, the possessor of volitional consciousness.
  6. Peikoff's "refutation" is a bit weird, in that he doesn't seem to separate the two fundamental standpoints: 1.) that which applies to existence-as-a-whole, and 2.) that which applies to particular existents. From the standpoint of "existence-as-a-whole", it's indeed pointless to ask questions like "Why is matter made out of atoms, rather than [some imaginary could-have-been]?" However, from the standpoint of particular existents, non-deterministic and "contingent" events can be found throughout biological and non-biological nature. To use an example from the biosphere, it was certainly not "necessary" for Homo Sapiens to evolve, because there's a lot of chance involved in the process of biological evolution. "Contingent fact" is a perfectly valid category, unless one subscribes to hard determinism. Metaphysics aside, I don't think Rand's theory of concepts refutes the A-S distinction. It merely gives it a different flavor. If the concept "man" includes all attributes pertaining to man, then the proposition "Man has two eyes" would be analytic, since "binocular vision" is part of the attributes of Homo Sapiens. "Man is rich", "Man is unhappy" etc. would all be synthetic propositions, since unhappiness and wealth do not follow with necessity from the nature of Homo Sapiens. If the analytic-synthetic distinction is presented in terms of "facts which follow from the nature of a thing" and "facts which could have been otherwise", then I think it's a useful distinction.
  7. It makes absolutely no difference whether suffering is the statistical norm or not. Suppose that everyone on Earth was happy, except for one unfortunate fellow who suffered from fibromyalgia. What would that individual think if someone showed him the following quote? "Pain, suffering, failure do not have metaphysical significance—they do not reveal the nature of reality. Ayn Rand’s heroes, accordingly, refuse to take pain seriously, i.e., metaphysically." (Leonard Peikoff, The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture 8 ) I suspect he would not care, even in the slightest, about pain's "metaphysical significance", because his own daily fare is nothing but chronic widespread pain, constant fatigue, headaches, abdominal cramps and depression. I am of the opinion that it's up to individuals to determine the "proper" subjects for their contemplation. The fibromyalgia patient would have every right in the world to create or contemplate artworks that are focused exclusively on life's negatives. This is a very rich topic. Consider, for example, Schenk's Anguish (1878): If we only take the sheep into consideration, then perhaps this painting is tragic without any positive foil or contrast. But if we also factor in the crows, the painting seems to illustrate something deeper about Nature, namely that the tragedy of some individuals often coincides with the fortune of others. Whether man is king over creation or not, he is still product of Nature and lives in its bosom. Even if no humans are present in this painting, we cannot help but draw some metaphysical import from it. Now, consider Hebbel's Schlafen, Schlafen: To sleep, to sleep and only sleep And never wake and have no dreams! The bitter woes that made me weep but half-remembered fading gleams. So I, when echoes of life’s fullness Reverberate down where I lie, Deeper infold myself in stillness, Tighter shut the weary eye. (Translated by Sean Thompson) I'd argue that this poem's subject of contemplation is sleep's ability to "release" us from life's tribulations. Is that a "positive"? Yes, but only by the standard of the poem's own gloomy worldview. If a particular artist's worldview is geared toward a "positive" outlook, then of course he should only deal with negatives "as a means of stressing the positive". But for everyone else, that principle is invalid are irrelevant.
  8. According to Plato, known existents are actually shadows or copies of pure Ideas located in the Hyperuranion. Likewise, in a materialist framework, mental "existents" (percepts) are mere shadows or copies of pure Things located in the Physical™ world. The idea is that mind-stuff is unable to produce matter, because of the Law of Identity: mind-stuff has an identity that is toto genere different from the identity of matter. On the other hand, matter can easily produce mind-stuff because.. it just can, okay? Peikoff is constantly oscillating between different meanings of the word "consciousness", according to what is convenient for his purposes. At the beginning of the quoted part, he takes "consciousness" to mean passive awareness of objects; he then shifts to a broader meaning which encompasses volitional aspects, like fantasizing/desiring that the food disappears. It doesn't seem to occur to Peikoff that, as per the Law of Identity, even if a mind was able to productively create the entirety of the contents of consciousness, the creative process itself would not be "free", but constrained by certain laws. I'm free to draw a line in my mind, but I'm not free to do so without making use of point and space. The laws of geometry are the necessary "stage" for freely drawing the line, which is to say: the mind produces not just one kind of representation (drawing the line) but also the representation of the lawful backdrop (point and space). Metaphysics is not as simple as trying to make food disappear. Here is the original claim: And this cannot be stressed enough. Man can err, yet at the same time be completely convinced that he is merely "following reality". Try to challenge his assertions, and you're met with replies such as "Well.. is 2+2=4?!", implying that, since he was merely following "reality", his conclusion was pristine and perfect. The only "authority" is intellectual honesty when dealing with reality.
  9. "Consciousness" (a faculty) perceives "an idea or an emotion. . ." (an object). According to this formulation, the faculty (consciousness) and its objects (ideas, emotions) are distinct from each other. Or, more specifically, the identity of consciousness is to be consciousness-like, while the identity of objects is to be object-like. However, if we try to imagine: an idea/emotion existing outside of a consciousness, or a consciousness devoid of any content whatsoever we cannot do so. The separation exists in theory, but not in practice, so to speak. To get around this, some 19th century Romantics had an interesting concept called "productive perception" (or productive intuition): consciousness comes into existence through an action; without this action, there is no consciousness. We, contemporary thinkers, could associate this with the activity of a brain, or, if we're adventurous, with some primordial cosmic action. It doesn't matter for our intents and purposes. Now, from this action arises more than just consciousness alone. The content arises as well. To illustrate this from a materialistic framework, suppose that I hit my toe. As a consequence, I feel pain. But "pain" is not a mind-independent existent; on the contrary: my brain produced or created the pain-sensation in the aftermath of the stimulus. (For non-materialist readers, substitute whatever you want.) Hence, the "productive intuition/perception" moniker. Of course, from my perspective, my consciousness is not "productive" at all. This is because the productive operations of the brain/primordial-act cannot themselves enter consciousness. But if I wanted to observe how consciousness comes to be, I could for example: Observe the brain in a lab (according to physicalists) Freely perform a mental action, then observe any involuntary productive acts that my mind does as a result of the first act (according to idealists) Idealist systems like those of Fichte and Schelling employ the latter method, which is centered on observing your own mind in the process of generating the general categories and content of experience (Subject, Object, sensation, time, substance etc.) Now, the premise of those Romantics is that, although the "primordial action" lies outside of my awareness, I myself must have been the author of this act. Stated differently, I blindly strive for consciousness, and my striving results in attaining consciousness. So, to me it appears as if my brain acts "blindly" in order to give rise to my consciousness. But from a higher perspective, the brain is not separate from me; the brain is me in the process of striving for consciousness. Or, more clearly: in my awareness, the unconsciously-acting aspect of me looks like a brain, while the consciously-acting side of me looks like a "will" that controls my physical body from inside, as it were. ___ My sources: Fichte, Schelling
  10. Why Life Originated (And Why it Continues) --- [The Lord to Mephistopheles:] Man is too apt to sink into mere satisfaction, A total standstill is his constant wish: Therefore your company, busily devilish, Serves well to stimulate him into action. (Goethe - Faust)
  11. According to some Objectivists, "Identity" presupposes that the Universe is comprised of more than one single existent. That is, no doubt, an observation from experience. When we say that an object is "finite", we mean that it has a boundary; precisely where that object ends, another one begins. So we say, for example, that the US "ends" where Canada begins (in the north), or where Mexico begins (in the south), etc. People seem to intuitively grasp this concept. Suppose that someone is experiencing an existential crisis. His friend asks "What are you so anxious about?" to which the other replies "Nothing in particular". In other words, there's no particular offending "thing" or "object" to narrow down, because everything is the issue. By contrast, a determinate "thing" is a delimitation, a narrowing down from the "All". Keeping this metaphysical preamble in mind, we can now turn to the fate of humanity. In the beginning stages of humanity, the difference between man and beast was not very pronounced; it's almost impossible to imagine primitive people committing suicide over existential angst. On the contrary: the more difficult life was, the stronger people clung to it. Fast forward to our current times, and we've climbed to a stage where being eaten by animals or getting bashed in the head with a rock is a lot less common. By all metrics, life today is better than it used to be. But if Schopenhauer's observation is correct, then: When life is free of problems, our mind compensates by turning trifles into big issues. (*) So long as we are determinate beings (finite), there is always something external to us that can potentially cause trouble for ourselves. Therefore, there is no end to "progress". When we successfully solve a pressing problem, there is a brief period of celebration, after which we begin to notice another crack in the wall. In truth, that crack was always there, but we were too busy with other things to notice it: What real value is there for a man In all the gains he makes beneath the sun? (...) The eye never has enough of seeing, Nor the ear enough of hearing. Only that shall happen Which has happened, Only that occur Which has occurred; There is nothing new Beneath the sun! (Ecclesiastes) At our stage of history, most people do not have the luxury to ponder existential questions. But if at some point in the future, humanity at large becomes disappointed with the futility of problem-solving, people might change their strategy and pour all of their efforts into a new project: the mind. After all, happiness is in the brain, so to speak. If scientists discover a way to modify the human brain in such a way that unhappiness becomes physically impossible to experience, it's quite likely that many people will opt for this modification. At this hypothetical stage of history, we'd see a grim spectacle: billions of people standing still, in their synthetic bodies made of very resilient materials, enjoying continuous bliss for millions of years until the Sun finally swallows up the Earth. In essence, human progress might not be a "straight line" which extends into infinity, but rather an "arch" that begins with a rise to glory and ends with a descent into non-life. In the previous installment, we explored Fichte's claim that Nature fulfills a formal role: to make us aware of our freedom. We, speaking regulatively, can modify Fichte's theory, and say that futility fulfills a formal role in the human soul: Only in a world where "doing a good job" is not necessarily followed by a just reward, can we stop acting for "rewards" and instead, pursue excellence because it's enjoyable. "Those who [are] always looking ahead and impatiently anticipating what is coming, as something which will make them happy when they get it, are, in spite of their very clever airs, exactly like those donkeys one sees in Italy, whose pace may be hurried by fixing a stick on their heads with a wisp of hay at the end of it; this is always just in front of them, and they keep on trying to get it. Such people are in a constant state of illusion as to their whole existence; they go on living ad interim, until at last they die." (Arthur Schopenhauer, Counsels and Maxims, §5).
  12. Man's Craving for Nothingness According to Schopenhauer, pleasure does not come to us originally and of itself; instead, pleasure is only able to exist as a removal of a pre-existing pain or want, while pain (which signals a threat to survival) directly and immediately proclaims itself to our perception. This is mirrored in Objectivist theory: "Pleasure—using the term for a moment to designate any form of enjoyment—is an effect. Its cause is the gaining of a value, whether it be a meal when one is hungry, an invitation to a party, a diamond necklace, or a long-sought promotion at work. The root of values, in turn, is the requirements of survival. Self-preservation, in other words, entails goal-directed action, success at which leads (in conscious organisms) to pleasure." (OPAR, Happiness as the Normal Condition of Man) We could also state this idea as follows: the constant entropic pull, which wants to disintegrate our bodies, is the root of all pleasure. And we certainly like pleasure, so it's no surprise that the most desirable life for us is the one least troubled by debilitating sickness, distracting pain, mental over-strain, hunger, social conflict and the like. Thus, man's deepest desire, his most sought-after jewel, is Invincibility; he wants the ability to act purely for acquiring pleasure (motivation from love), without worrying that, in his pursuit of joy, he might mess something up and bring Nature's wrath upon his head (motivation from pain). To be invincible then, is to be worry-less, like a child that has not yet been acquainted with the realities of life. Like sleeping infants the gods breathe without plan or purpose; the spirit flowers continually within them, chastely cherished, as in a small bud, and their holy eyes look out in still eternal clearness. (Friedrich Hölderlin - Hyperion's Song of Fate) Yet this kind of Invincibility is impossible to man: But to us no resting place is given. As suffering humans we decline and blindly fall from one hour to the next, like water thrown from cliff to cliff, year after year, down into the Unknown. Before he decided that philosophy can't compete with poetry, the celebrated German poet Friedrich Hölderlin studied philosophy at the Tübinger Stift, where he was friends and roommates with two giants of philosophy, Hegel and Schelling. In his philosophical thought, Hölderlin was primarily reacting to the then-trending philosophy of Fichte. According to Fichte, "I act" literally means "I am disrupting the current state", and that current state is obviously inert matter. Regardless of whether Nature truly exists or not, human cognition needs it in order to make possible the consciousness of free agency. Apart from that, Nature has no other value, thought Fichte. Hölderlin was not a fan of this. After all, things like scientific and poetic talent are generously offered by Nature, and are not generated by us ex nihilo. Fichte's theory also worsens the rift between free beings and mechanistic "nature", by turning Nature into a mere instrument for human projects. Furthermore, since: no external inhibition = no possibility of freedom Fichte declared that "freedom from limitations" is an infinite goal of morality, an imaginary ideal we can only approach step by step, with no end in sight. This did not go well with the younger generation, which was just recovering from the failure of the French Revolution to deliver its promised utopia. Riffing on the same theme, Hölderlin held that the human condition is characterized by two opposing drives: 1) the desire to be Myself, as against "That"; 2) the desire to attain "That", precisely because it is separate from Myself, therefore threatening my autonomy and Invincibility As Hölderlin's preference for poetry over philosophy suggests, he locates the resolution of this conflict in the feeling of Beauty. In Aesthetic contemplation, we (spiritually) attain the end-goal of all moral striving, i.e. we feel both infinite and determinate (limited) at the same time. It is different for the real world. Here, "survival" and "life" are synonymous. The day this impossible Indestructibility is achieved is the day where "survival/life" is no longer a thing. Thus, the striving for our most sought-after jewel, for Invincibility, is paradoxically an open striving for destruction. ___ (My source for Hölderlin's metaphysics was Edward Kanterian's excellent recorded lecture delivered at the University of Kent, 23 November 2012.)
  13. Thanks to this "cognitive guardian", more and more people can now keep in mind that if a thing exists, then it exists 🤷‍♀️ IMO, the "axiom", if there is any, is this: Conscious experience of determinate objects. Notice that I didn't say "consciousness of determinate objects." I said "conscious experience of determinate objects". The difference is not insignificant: - The referent of "experience" is just that: experience (regardless of its type, origin etc.); no other assumptions are made. - The referent of "consciousness of" is: an existential relationship between a physical object and a faculty of consciousness. Objectivism starts with the latter, i.e. with an existential fact, rather than with the former. Quite a feat! If someone sees nothing wrong with this, then he should stick with whatever makes him happy.
  14. @Ogg_Vorbis, you might find the following of interest. "Results from the 2020 PhilPapers survey, with responses from nearly 1,800 philosophers (mainly from North America, Europe, and Australasia), to questions on a variety of philosophical subjects and problems, have now been published." (Source) As you can see from the results, on the question of an external world (i.e. the ground of appearances or phenomena), 79.5% of the surveyed philosophers align with non-skeptical realism. Personally, I couldn't care less whether the external world exists or not. What I want is a comprehensive view of reality that isn't argued for on the basis of some lame Subject-Object distinction. In my opinion, neither Kant nor Rand have succeeded in this endeavor.
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