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entripon

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  • Birthday 06/20/1987

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  1. That's awesome; I just hope the teachers are doing their jobs properly. I know how easily a bad teacher can ruin a great book.
  2. Leonard Peikoff discusses the value of statistics briefly in his Art of Thinking course (and possibly elsewhere). I don't recall his exact formulation, but he stated basically that statistics should be used when one is unavoidably ignorant about a certain situation and action needs to be taken immediately. Statistics do not identify causal connections, so they can't be the basis for generalizations (a true generalization is universal, since a certain cause always brings about a certain effect), and when one does gain actual knowledge of the situation, individual, or entity in question, statistics are no longer applicable. I think "racial profiling" at airports is a valid use of statistics, as airport security personnel do not have access to information concerning the specific individuals they are dealing with. If security resources are limited (i.e. personnel do not have the ability to search everyone thoroughly), then a decision must be made of where to direct the most intense focus. There is no possible way to decide such a thing except through the application of statistics. If, on the other hand, airport personnel did have specific knowledge of a given individual's background, it would be invalid to apply statistics. For example, if a certain Arabic person is known to be pro-freedom and pro-Western Civilization, it is absurd to direct extra attention to him just because "according to statistics" Arabs are more likely to be terrorists than whites.
  3. In my own experience, while having a proper philosophy will not on its own cure deep-seated psychological problems, it is an absolutely invaluable tool for working around said problems and living a non-impaired life. I personally suffer from moderate to severe social anxiety, which basically means that I am constantly bombarded with worries about what others think of me, and I have difficulty engaging in face-to-face or telephone conversations. My discovery of Objectivism and gradual integration of it into my life has done little to dispel the anxiety as such, but it has made an immense difference in how I respond to it and act in the face of it. Objectivism has allowed me to identify not only that acting on such emotions is irrational, but exactly why it is irrational, and to see clearly what the disastrous consequences of such action are for my life. I find that this often gives me the strength to act in the proper manner, regardless of my anxiety, and thus to accomplish things I otherwise likely would not have been able to do. Your mileage may vary, but I think a rational (or at least mostly rational) philosophy is a necessary, although not a sufficient condition for resolving psychological ills. On the other hand, I am pretty new to Objectivism, having been seriously trying to live it for only the past couple of years. Time will tell if over a longer span of time my deepest emotions evolve to conform more to my conscious philosophy.
  4. Chops: Not necessarily. The whole idea of a "lifeboat" scenario is that there is truly no way for both of the individuals in question to survive - i.e. due to the extraordinary circumstances there is a genuine conflict of interests between them. Such situations are extremely rare, something which probably 99.9999 percent of people will never face in their lifetimes, which is why hypotheticals like this aren't very useful. Also, as a side note, a great many of the lifeboat-style situations presented where there is supposedly a conflict between two individuals are in fact not the immediate emergency that is claimed. For example, in simonsays' scenario, if B had time to search out another lifeboat, this was most likely not a genuine emergency situation and A and B should have searched out the entire ship for said lifeboat or for something to use as a makeshift raft before turning on each other. Leaving that fact aside, however, I don't think A and B would be irrational for still feeling strong negative emotions for each other after the scenario was over. For the brief period of the lifeboat situation, B was actively working to destroy A's life, and vice versa. Under the circumstances, they were not morally wrong for doing so, since "regular" ethics does not apply in such a situation, but our emotions are tuned for ordinary life, not for a lifeboat. Emotions (assuming one is mentally healthy) are an automatic judgment of something as either beneficial or harmful to one's life, and since A and B's sole (or at least most intense and important) past experience with each other is a situation in which they were basically trying to kill each other, their emotions would be malfunctioning if they didn't feel animosity. EDIT: I should also say that since emotions are automatic and often very difficult to change, you can't consider someone irrational or worthy of condemnation solely for the content of his emotions. It's what a person does about his emotions, whether he acts on the incorrect ones or works to fix them that makes him moral or immoral, rational or irrational.
  5. I like a lot of Strangelove's picks. My top ten would be: 1. StarCraft 2. Magic: The Gathering Online 3. Planescape: Torment 4. Riven 5. Deus Ex 6. Fallout 7. Super Mario 64 8. Final Fantasy VII 9. Alpha Centauri 10. Sim City 2000
  6. BaseballGenius - Re: Mulholland Drive By the way, Mulholland Drive is one of my favorite movies; unlike most of Lynch's other films, its intention seems to be not to disturb or frighten the viewer but rather to challenge him to piece together the puzzle.
  7. I bet there are a lot of people who would love to join in one of these discussions but who don't see the posting until after the fact. You should post a date and time several days in advance, and perhaps set a general discussion topic so the conversation doesn't degenerate into random smalltalk. U.S. evening hours would probably garner the most participation.
  8. I'm not sure what you mean by "on a wider scale" - in my opinion (and by my understanding of Objectivism) there is no proper distinction between the life of "man qua man" and one's personal life. The term "man qua man" just picks out the essential attributes common to all men which determine our basic means of survival - namely reason. If by "on a wider scale" you mean "the survival of the species," then no, that is not a proper standard for ethics. The purpose of morality is to identify the basic principles which apply to all men (to "man qua man") in order to enable each individual man to live a long, happy personal life. I'm sure you don't mean this (explicitly), but the implication I read from this question is that it's proper to follow reason in some areas, namely those which are supposedly essential to your survival, but in other areas it's okay to discard reason and go by your feelings. I think the fundamental point to grasp is that ignoring reason in any area is damaging to your ability to survive - reason, for a human being, is everything - it's your method for determining what in reality is harmful to you and what is beneficial, it's your method for choosing values, it's your method for pursuing those values, it's your method for bringing new values into the world, etc, etc... Reason is your means of dealing with reality, and if you lose contact with reality at all, especially if you do so on purpose, you're damaging your life on the most fundamental level. All other values are subsidiary to the maintenance of a proper tie to reality, so any act which promises some subsidiary value (no matter how large you feel it to be) at the expense of cutting you off from some part of reality (no matter how small you feel it to be), is anti-life at the root, and thus should be removed from consideration. Period. For example, I recall a story (I think from Peikoff's "30 Years with Ayn Rand" talk) of some businessman who offered Rand a large sum of money if she would renounce atheism. She, obviously, refused, because the integrity of her philosophy and her ability to act according to her rational judgments was far more important to her than any sum of money. The principle is exactly the same on the smaller scale of watching a copyrighted video without its owner's permission. If you understand the principles of egoism and of private property - if you see that these principles applies to every man and that they flow directly from the facts of reality, then ignoring them to follow your emotional desires is a renunciation of rationality. And there is no middle ground: either you hold reason as your guide to action or you hold emotions as your guide to action. As I stated in my previous post, a policy of acting on reason "most of the time" really just places emotion at the root of your actions, although in some cases maybe you feel you ought to follow your rational judgments, so you do so. Of course, there are other derivative reasons why watching a copyrighted video is immoral - you can just run down the Objectivist virtues and look at the conflicts, some of which Seeker and others have already mentioned. In my opinion the most notable is that you're punishing "the good for being good", to use Rand's terminology. You see something which is a value to you, and instead of praising and supporting the creator you say essentially "screw you, you put in a load of effort to create this value and in reward I'm just going to take it from you." You're discouraging, rather than encouraging the creation of future works in the same vein. From my experience, I think the vast majority of commercial material put up on sites like YouTube is placed there illegally and without permission. My personal policy on such cases is to assume that the poster put it up illegally unless he explicitly states otherwise or there is direct evidence to the contrary.
  9. BrassDragon: If you're referring to Peikoff's Ford Hall Forum lecture (the free one at the ARI website), I don't think he addresses that issue directly, although he does discuss it in his Understanding Objectivism course. There are basically only two ways to judge the proper course of action in any given case - by emotion or by principle. Even if you were to sit down and analyze all the detailed complexity of a given concrete situation, putting all the percieved positives on one side and the perceived negatives on the other, the choice of which side to choose would eventually boil down to one of those two categories: either you feel that the positives outweigh the negatives (or vice versa) or you decide based on your earlier formed principles. Even the categorization of the consequences of a situation into "positives" and "negatives" must be made either by feeling or by principle. We know that emotions are not a source of knowledge - whatever we feel about a certain choice has no bearing on whether that choice is right or wrong (unless it's an optional choice, where one could rationally go either way). Therefore we have to commit to always acting on principle, because principles (if properly formed) are an identification of the root requirements for our long-term survival. Any time we violate a basic moral principle, however small the violation is, we not only are tossing out our sole rational means of decision-making, we are also undercutting our long-term survival in favor of perceived short-term gains. Taking the example of watching a copyrighted video, the principle violated would be: every man should be the beneficiary of his own actions, and he alone should be the one to decide how to dispose of the product of said actions (his property). By ignoring the principle even in this one case because we feel that we aren't really hurting him monetarily (which is debatable at best), we are throwing out the principle of egoism, as well as our commitment to living by principle as such. In effect, we are saying: "Men should be the beneficiaries of their own actions... usually... unless others feel that they should be the beneficiary," while simultaneously saying, "Men should act on principle... usually... unless they feel like doing otherwise." It's a rejection on principle of principles as a guide to action.
  10. If you don't already know about it, MIT OpenCourseWare offers a lot of free educational resources, including a number of full audio and video courses.
  11. If I understand your question correctly, you seem to be implying that magic in fantasy novels is an encouragement of mysticism. I think for most fantasy authors, that is obviously not the intention; magic is just a way to posit an imaginary world, to project a "what if" scenario, as in "what if wizards could shoot fireballs from their fingertips" or "what if the gods of ancient civilizations actually existed and interacted with men on a daily basis?" Of course, if the reason for including magic is to convey a message to the effect that man is powerless on his own and must derive his power from the supernatural, then obviously such work should be condemned. I personally am not a fan of the Fantasy genre, not for any philosophical reasons, but mainly because I find myself unable to relate to the characters and I dread the "fantasy" of living in a world perpetually stuck at the technology level of the middle ages. I do, however, love "soft" science fiction, which is essentially the same as fantasy, just with lasers and hyperdrives substituting for swords and sorcery. For the record, I would also consider myself a "student of Objectivism".
  12. TOC David Kelley is indeed involved with the film, so I assume the listing on IMDB refers to him, although they spelled his last name wrong.
  13. Given my very basic understanding of Marx, his "class struggle" is simply the supposed clash of interests between the hardworking, selfless proletariat who just want to make a living for their families and the greedy, exploitative capitalists who want to bleed them for all that they're worth. The "refutation" is simply to recognize that there is no such conflict of interests. The ultimate source of wealth and prosperity is not physical labor but innovation, discovery, proper business management, etc - i.e. mental labor. The capitalist can always find another worker, but the worker needs the capitalist to develop the infrastructure and promote the innovations that make physical labor valuable in the first place.
  14. In my opinion (and this is only my opinion), a lot of people spend way too much time worrying about what is and is not "immoral" and beating themselves up over the fact that their emotions don't yet correspond to their explicit philosophy. This is especially true in the realm of actions which bring about pleasure for the wrong reasons, i.e. actions which are not overtly self-destructive but which, to use Ayn Rand's term, a "rational man" would have no desire for. If, for example, you derive pleasure from going to strip clubs or sleeping with physically beautiful but brainless women (or, to branch out into other areas, doing small amounts of "safe" recreational drugs, or enjoying art with anti-Objectivist themes), I don't think you should deprive yourself of that pleasure. Pleasure as such is extremely valuable for motivation and keeping up one's sense of a benevolent universe, so don't force yourself to go without the things that bring you enjoyment just because they are "irrational" by Ayn Rand's standards. If you're anything like me, you'll find that as you continue to study Objectivism and internalize it in your own life, the women, movies, art, etc. you found so attractive before will gradually lose their appeal, and in their place you will begin to desire things more in line with the characters in Rand's novels. It just takes time for your emotions to catch up to your conscious convictions, and in the meantime, I'd say go ahead and pursue/date/sleep with the women you are attracted to now. You'll be surprised how quickly that desire will fade.
  15. I don't agree that the axioms of Objectivism are reached through induction, and neither does Leonard Peikoff, at least in the OTI course. By my understanding, axiomatic concepts are reached through induction - i.e. we reach the concept of existence, identity, etc. by observing countless concrete instances of such things and abstracting away the specific concretes. However, the axioms themselves consist of an identification in propositional form of the facts at the root of these concepts, facts which once identified are self-evidently true. So induction is integral in the process of coming to grasp the axioms and understanding their real meaning in the world, but the validation of the axioms is their self-evidency, not the fact that we see them expressed in reality over and over again. New experiences neither strengthen the axioms nor provide an opportunity to falsify them. As Ayn Rand states in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, "After the first discriminated sensation (or percept), man's subsequent knowledge adds nothing to the basic facts designated by the terms 'existence,' 'identity,' 'consciousness' -- these facts are contained in any single state of awareness..." (p. 55 in the 1990 edition).
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