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Evangelical Capitalist

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  1. I'm somewhat familiar with Dawkins: I read The Blind Watchmaker about a year ago when Intelligent Design was in the news. (It was enlighting insofar as it bore little to no resemblence to the manner in which I learned evolution in high school biology.) I've also seen his "Root of All Evil" documentary from the BBC, which I believe is based on The God Delusion. It's available on YouTube here: Root of All Evil: Part 1 and here: Root of All Evil: Part 2. My impression of him is somewhat like Sam Harris (without the Eastern mysticism, of course.) What he has to say about religion is absolutely correct and needs to be said, loudly and often, but I'm not sure he has much to offer in terms of positive ideas to fill the void that would be left. My biggest concern is his denial of rational certainty, though I think his position is hardly unusual in scientific circles. In "Root of All Evil" he several times gives the impression that certainty as such is a great a problem as faith. In fact, I'm not even sure he uses the "R"-word at all, prefering the term "evidence", as though a collection of concrete facts is the extent of knowledge available to us. That said, overall I generally like Dawkins, and will definitely consider reading The God Delusion.
  2. I haven't actually been confronted with this question, as I don't generally go around advertising my personal beliefs. That said, I have considered how I would answer the question if I were so confronted. "Selfishness", to my way of thinking, means two things: 1) that the values I pursue must necessarily be my own values, not anyone else's, and 2) that it is my life and happiness that determines what those values are. I would also add that what most people cite as being problems with "selfishness" are problems with what people regard as in their interest, not that they choose to act in their own interest. Of course, this second argument requires that they be able to get past a subjectivist view of what is in someone's "interest", and comprehend at least the possibility of an objective view. One point that I hadn't thought of, but which David Odden raised earlier in this thread, is to raise the question fo the basis by which "the good" is determined. Have to remember that one.
  3. I haven't seen this posted anywhere: The Fountainhead is scheduled for release on DVD the first week of November. The Fountainhead @ Warner Home Video (I hope this isn't considered unwelcome advertising.) I know that opinions of this have been mixed, to say the least, but I'll be picking this up, as I've never had the chance to see it for myself.
  4. I have a "Taggart Transcontinental" t-shirt and "Who is John Galt?" lapel pin. I've never actually had anyone ask about John Galt, but I favor the respone: "If I told you, then what would be the purpose of asking the question?" khaight: "Irredentism" means not going back to the dentist, right? jk.
  5. I think the problem then is moved to the first part of the sentence: "The only thing I know is that I don't know everything." In order to know that he doesn't know everything, Socrates would first have to know that there is an "everything" out there to be known, i.e. that existence exists, not to mention having a notion of what knowledge is, etc. This, clearly, is knowledge of something other than the finiteness of his own knowledge. I suppose one could argue, at this point, that all those other things are implied by "I don't know everything," and that his statement "The only thing I know..." clearly encompasses all the requisite underlying knowledge.
  6. Personally, I'm a big fan of unit-economy: if I can say what I want, and say it precisely, with one word as opposed to a half-dozen, so much the better. I can't say that I've ever run into problems with making myself understood due to vocabulary issues. (It's usually organizing my thoughts into a linear discourse that presents problems.) Generally, people can figure out one's meaning from the context, or if they don't understand, then one can make the effort to explain more simply. While I recognize the importance of considereing the cognitive context of one's audience, I don't know the extent of the vocabulary of each person I speak with, so trying to "dumb-down" my usage would mean targeting the lowest dommon denominator. That's not something I'm willing to do, besides which I consider it demeaning to one's audience. I'd much rather give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of them until they demonstrate otherwise. That said, there's no need to be splendiferously loquacious.
  7. I know there's another thread discussion the French action against Apple, so I'll confine my comments here to Dr. Brook's appearance. I must say I was unimpressed. I've missed most of Dr. Brook's other appearances on CNBC or other media outlets, generally because I read the notification from ARI after the fact. This appearence was later in the evening, so I was able to see it. Granted, the entire segment with Dr. Brook was only about 2 or 3 minutes, but he was the only interviewee, unlike most other segments where there might be 2 or even 3 guest commentators. One point I thought he should have made, and he had the opportunity to do so, was to point out that Apple has earned the market share it enjoys, that before iTunes the online music market was virtually non-existent. Instead, he asserted that this case is a "property rights issue" without attempting to explain how or why and bemoaned "French egalitarian philosophy," again without explanation of any kind. When he made the "egalitarian" point, pointing out that this is an effort to give other companies a share of Apple's market, he was tantalizingly close to making the point, but without introducing the notion of an earned position in a market vs. an unearned one, I think the argument lacked punch. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see advocates of Objectivism getting media exposure, I'm just not sure this did much to convice anyone who might have been on-the-fence of why the French law, and antitrust law in general, is wrong.
  8. But you repeat yourself. Sorry, coudn't resist.
  9. Your concept of "altruism" is clearly vastly different from that of the members of this board. (Perhaps you could provide a definition?) Those who own and operate this message board value it more than the alternative uses of their time and resources. It is a non-sacrifcial act. That others happen to benefit from their efforts does not make their activity "altruistic." Likewise with those who donate their financial support to ARI: they value the mission of ARI more highly than alternative uses for their money. The Objectivist morality is primarily about an individual's values, not those of others, and consequently benefits accruing to others do not make an action altruistic. Only the sacrifice of the values of the individual in question can do that. This is probably the most difficult thing to get past for someone who is new to Objectivism (at least it was for me): that its vision of morality doesn't consider the effects, positive or negative, of an individual's actions on others at a fundamental level. (This is not to say that one may disregard the effects of one's actions on others; if one expects to reap the benefits available in a civilized society, one must respect those with whom one chooses to deal.) See above explanation regarding alleged "dependence on altruism." Faith is precisely what we do not demand. We don't even demand that you agree with us, so long as you don't ask us to bear the burden of your error. What in the bleeding heck is a "reality-based religion?" I can only assume from your choice of terminology, both in this instance and the "faith" comment above, that you regard the acceptence of reason as itself an article of faith. Am I correct? It's also interesting that you deny the existence of agreement on the subject of altruism in the "reality-based community" (whatever that is) and in the same sentence attempt to imply that, apart from Objectivists, there is agreement, or least a more-or-less general consensus in favor of it. Even if everyone agrees on the wrong answer, it's still wrong.
  10. There are two things I find disturbing about the "Cartoon Affair." First is the obvious: the rioting muslims, and even those "peacefully" protesting, are making clear their view of what the world ought to be: We ought all to be bowing before Allahs commands, whether we believe in him (and his prophet) or not. This is not exactly news. That such a demonstration of intentions should be met with relatively little outrage and even appeasment on the part of Western political leaders is disgraceful, but not exactly a surprise. The second thing I find disturbing, and I haven't decided whether it shold be more-so than the first or not, is the attitude that a religion should be immune from criticism. This attitude is the basis on which the efforts at appeasement depend. What I find disturbing about it is that ideas based on faith are given a free-pass because they are based on faith. The notion that one's religion, no matter how blatantly evil, ought not to be a subject of critical discussion is being taken almost as a given. Ideas based on reason, by definition, require justification, and rightly so. If someone wants to criticize or even ridicule them, they are free to do so. To the extent that the ideas they criticize are true, they will only make themselves look ridiculous. On the other hand, ideas based on faith, which ought to be criticized and ridiculed for that reason alone, are given a free pass. I haven't been able to find the reference, but somewhere in one of Rand's books (The Virtue of Selfishness, I think) she says something about the image of a timid, self-effacing good and a virulently self-righteous evil. (I'm paraphrasing as best I can.) We're certainly seeing it.
  11. Hal: If this was simple protest over offensive material, you'd be right. But it's not. Criminal prosecution for "blasphemy" is precisely what is being demanded. There people want blood. Cox and Forkum: A Right to Blasphemy
  12. This is something that honestly hadn't occurred to me before, not explicitly anyway. It's not just taxes for directed toward education that would be at parents' disposal, but other money, currently spent on welfare programs or pork-barrel projects or whatever, that they could direct toward their child's education.
  13. I thought the same thing. And that might be one of C&F's best cartoons ever.
  14. The only cause I can see to vote for Hillary would be as a means of inducing gridlock. I think we've seen rather convincingly what happens to the federal budget when the same party controls both Congress and the White House. A Democrat in power in either of those places forces the Republicans back into their "small-government" stance. When the Republicans are in power, they become as statist as anyone else. The question is whether they will have any credibility as proponents of small government anymore.
  15. More spoilers ahead... Paul (Hanks' character) suspects John's inncocence relatively early on in the movie, long before he actually takes him out. First, he goes to see John's lawyer to ask about his history. Also, when he proposes the plan to take John out of the prison to his fellow guards he says something like, "I do not see God putting a power like that in the hands of a murderer." I think this was necessary to make taking John out of the prison seem believeable. An audience ought to have a difficult time accepting that a guard would take a chance like that with a prisoner he believed to be guilty. It is true that only after they take him out does John "share" with Paul Wild Bill's memories of the crime for which John will be executed. Near the end of the movie, shortly before John's execution, there's a scene where Paul asks John whether he wants to be let go. John refuses and explains that it woudl be "a kindness" to execute him, since his life is filled with pain, in part because of the psychic abilities that go along with his healing powers. Make of that what you will. I read the book after I saw the movie, one of the very few times I've actually done so, and I don't recall there being much difference: the movie was almost a literal filming of the book. A few elements were added: the song "Cheek to Cheek" and the character of Paul's friend in the retirement home, to whom he relates the story were added in the film. Of course there were some omissions as well, but they were minor.
  16. You're correct on the first point. Lincoln, and the Republican Party along with much of the North, was pro-tariff. At the time, England made better, cheaper manufactured goods than the industrial North. This was protectionism, pure and simple. At the same time the South relied on its cotten trade with Europe, and was strongly anti-tariff, pro-free trade. Slavery was not a "popular" pretense for war, except among the abolitionist movement and among the radicals of Lincoln's own party. Until the Emancipation Proclamation, and even after, Lincoln did everything he could to deny that the war was about slavery. The pretense for the war was simply "Union." (An even worse justification than ending slavery, in my mind.) The EP was intended to placate the radical Republicans and keep Europe from entering the war for the South and was defend as purely a "war measure." It's interesting to speculate what might have been different if the war hadn't happened, but difficult to say. What if Lincoln had simply let the South go its merry way? I think if Lincoln had been the sort of president who would do that, the South never would have left. Certainly the Civil War was the single event which did the greatest damage to the principles of federalism and republic that the government was stuctrured on.
  17. Couple of corrections: Takashi Shimura is the actor; "Kambei Shimada" is the character. Shimura was a character actor in many of Kurosawa's films, and I'd hate to see him not get the credit he deserves. And The Magnificent Seven, not The Magnificent Men, was a remake of Seven Samurai. On a related note, another of Kurosawa's samurai films, Yojimbo, was remade into a western in A Fistful of Dollars: a Japanese samurai movie, reset in the American west, by an Italian director (Sergio Leone) and filmed in Spain. What more could you ask for? With that out of the way, I'd like to add that this is a tremendous film, and it's been too long since I've sat down and watched it.
  18. Allow me to translate... I’m suspicious of anyone who speaks and acts with moral certainty. (Okay, I can’t translate this; it doesn’t make any sense.) Egoism is based on reality. Egoism is pragmatism. Self-interest is entirely subjective and has nothing to do with reality. In order to speak with moral certainty (of which, remember, we should be suspicious) our moral pronouncements must be completely unsubstantiated. Morality has nothing to do with reality. Since knowledge is necessarily knowledge “of reality,” which itself has nothing to do with morality, we can never have knowledge of morality. There's no reason to be moral; you just have to do it. However, when we remove our thought from reality… …we accept that there is good without purpose or beneficiary… …except for an arbitrary, unfathomable will. Theft and murder are practical, but don’t do it anyway.
  19. When a moderator/administrator splits a post or series of posts into a separate thread, could they include, as standard practice, a link back to the original thread? (Unless there already exists some method of tracing the thread of origin which as yet eludes me.) While I understand the desirability of separating a slightly OT fork in the discussion, often the posts being split are in response to something still in the original thread and thus lose their context when removed. For that matter, a "marker" of sorts might be placed in the original thread where the post(s) in question were removed. My concern here is to be able to reconstruct, mentally at least, the original flow of conversation and establish the proper context for some of the statements being made. Thanks.
  20. For the record, I thought the question was perfectly clear.
  21. I finished reading this book last night, and while my overall evaluation agrees entirely with that of jlew, I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own. Yes, it was a very frustrating read. Harris' primary thesis, that the problem is not Islam specifically, but faith as such, is sound and well-presented. He even takes to task the doctrine of religious toleration as enabling of such religious radicalism. His greatest beef with modern social discourse is that issues of people's faith are considered beyond the bounds of criticism. He provides a definition of faith, ostensively if not explicitly, as holding a belief without evidence. He does not, however, define reason as far as I can remember. He relies instead upon “intuition”. Intuition, he says, are those things which we “just know,” irreducibly. He concedes that our intuitions may be incorrect, but gives no suggestion of how we might distinguish true from false when one intuition, or the logical consequences thereof, contradicts another. In his view, these intuitions have axiomatic status, but unlike the axioms of Objectivism there is no indication of why they should be that way. To give you an idea of just to what extent he relies on intuition, he effectively lumps the entire scientific method, things like control groups and repeatability, into the category of mere intuition. With defenders like these, reason needs no enemies. Given his endorsement of the statement, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can as easily be dismissed without evidence,” one wonders why his intuitions are any more valid than someone else's faith. In his attempt to define a supposedly scientific morality, he begins with the assumption (or presumably his intuition) that ethics is a matter of happiness and suffering. Of whom? Well, others, of course! We incur a moral obligation whenever we have the capacity to influence the happiness or suffering of others, he says. Since he has already dismissed any notions of free will, as jlew has pointed out, one might be prompted to ask by what means we are to exert such influence. Blank-out. His solution to the problem of defining a scientific morality? Love and compassion! Never mind that these are effects of one's value-judgments. Values would require free will and as such have no place in his discussion. (Without free will, one might wonder, how are people expected to reject faith in favor of reason in the first place?) His last chapter, which seems largely tacked on to a book to which it otherwise bears little relevance, is an attempt to define some kind of rational “spirituality.” (He also uses the term “mysticism,” but I don't think he means the same thing an Objectivist would think of when hearing this term.) His answer to this question: Buddhism. He concedes that Buddhism has some unfounded, dogmatic elements, but he defends the Buddhist meditation techniques as a means of introspection. He devotes considerable space to arguing that the “self” does not in fact exist. Given his means of searching, i.e. of clearing one's mind of all external thoughts and focusing solely inward, I would consider his failure to find a self, if truly valid, as a spectacular vindication of Rand's statement that, “A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something.” Overall, I would agree that the first two-thirds of the book are extremely good, though not perfect. There were hints here and there that led me expect the utter “dropping the ball” that occurred in the last two chapters. Particularly, it was clear that Harris' idea of philosophy meant Immanuel Kant and linguistic analysis.
  22. "Dagny, you'll think I'm insane, but I think they're planning to kill Colorado."
  23. Or, for those of you with phones that can receive text messages, you can sign up without an invite by going here.
  24. If they are saying this, they must know it. To say "What is, is. But knowledge of 'what is' is impossible," is to claim knowledge of existence; it identifies a property of what is. It's self-refuting, as is any attempt to deny Objectivism's axioms.
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