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Everything posted by entripon

  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effect), and when one does gain actual knowledge of the situation, individual, or entity in question, statistics are no longer applicable.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).
  16. IAmMetaphysical: That is an interesting observation. My first inclination was to disagree with your point that causality is at the (hierarchical) base of all identification, but having thought it through a bit more I agree. The reason for my hesitance was that although it's true that our consciousness has a certain identity such that entities must interact with it in a certain way to be perceived, I think that is a relatively much later discovery, whereas the data given to us by perception is the lowest-level foundation on which all other knowledge is based. The directly given, the starting point in knowledge, is the entities we percieve, not the light or sound waves that compose our sensations. However, I see that implicit in grasping those entities is the fact that we grasp them through some means, which, obviously, must follow causal laws. So yes, although we may not explicitly grasp that fact until much later, the validation of perception definitely depends on the law of causality.
  17. Update: I found this short, anonymous post in the comments section of Diana Hsieh's NoodleFood blog. Can anyone confirm/deny, and if true, could you give a brief summary of what, exactly, Peikoff said?
  18. Hi, over winter break I've been listening (or re-listening, as in the present case) to some lecture courses, most recently Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism Through Induction. In the first lecture of the course Dr. Peikoff makes a point which, as I recall, I never really understood or agreed with when I originally listened to the course, and which I still find quite confusing. He essentially states that the law of causality does not follow deductively from the axiom of identity, but rather that it (causality) must be induced independently through the observation of a wide range of concretes. My understanding of Peikoff's argument is as follows: The validation for the law of cause and effect is not its connection to identity (which is only grasped later in the process of integration) but the fact that, time and time again, entities are observed to act in a lawful fashion. We look out into reality and observe that when dropped, balloons float into the sky and rocks fall to the ground. When shaken, rattles make noise and pillows remain silent. (These are some of the examples given in the lecture). Since there is no proper distinction between necessary and contingent facts, between "it is" and "it must be", to discover that entities do act lawfully is to discover that those entities must act lawfully. Hence after observing a huge number of entities across a broad spectrum of existence (enough to exhaust all of the signifiant kinds of entities known within our present context), all of which have in the past acted in certain specific ways, we are justified in forming an inductive principle: "Entities of a certain kind act in a certain fashion, and only in that fashion." My problem is that I do not understand how one can validate the inductive process itself (i.e. solve the so-called "problem of induction") without first assuming that causality is true. In other words, the law of causality seems to be at the base of induction, in the same way as existence, identity, and consciousness are at the base of the hierarchy of knowledge. Trying to validate something at the base of induction by using the process of induction would then be hopelessly circular. I found a few past threads dealing with the problem of induction, most notably this one, where several knowledgeable Objectivists take the position that a given induction is valid if and only if one can establish a causal link between an observed phenomenon and the identities of the entities involved, and from what thinking I've done on the issue so far, I agree. Take the rock versus balloon example again. Say we observe 1000 times that the rock falls and the balloon floats. Without already having grasped that an entity's action at a given moment is caused by its identity, how can we ever be sure that on the 1001st time the rock will not fly off into space and the balloon will not shoot down to the ground? Or, without identifying causality as a corollary of the law of identity, how can we be sure that cause and effect applies to previously undiscovered entities, such as quantum particles? I know that Dr. Peikoff has a second course on the topic of induction, Induction in Physics and Philosophy, where he may discuss these issues further, so if anyone has listened to this latter course, could you explain a bit further his theory and how the law of causality can be induced (or if this has been discussed before in these terms, which is probably the case, point me to some relevant past posts)? Thanks!
  19. Hello, I will try to post my own thoughts on Free Will later today or tomorrow, but I'd like to recommend to anyone interested in the subject Harry Binswanger's short pamphlet, Volition as Cognitive Self-Regulation, which can be purchased for $5.95 at the Ayn Rand Bookstore. It doesn't contain substantially more information on the subject than does OPAR, but in my opinion the presentation is somewhat clearer and more detailed, and it helped me to gain a better understanding of the Objectivist position (which I agree with). Just one small comment before I run off: the crux of the deterministic argument against the existence of volition is the idea that true choice is incompatible with causality. In this view, causality is (incorrectly) equated with necessity, and if at any given juncture an individual could have selected between two or more possible courses of action (i.e. if one somehow went back in time the content of his choice could possibly be different) this selection is equated with randomness, which is rightly seen as impossible (action can not arise "randomly", out of nowhere - the actions of an entity arise from and are caused by its identity). However, choice is *not* the same as randomness, nor is it the same as mechanistic determinism. The law of causality, properly formulated, does not establish a necessary connection between events, but between the nature of entities and the actions they perform. We can inductively discover that the "billiard ball" model of causality applies in the realm of inanimate matter, but we can even more easily see, through introspection, that the same model does not apply to the workings of the mind. The mind does not operate automatically; we have a constant choice about whether to activate our conscious mental processes and to what degree. The content of this choice - whether we choose to focus or not - is not determined by any antecedent event, but by the mind itself in the act of choosing. Choice as such is the action that is necessitated by our identity, and our choice to focus or not acts as the "first cause" in a long series of mental processes which eventually lead to our bodies taking physical action in the world. Thus every action is caused, but the term "causality" encompasses something broader than just mechanistic determinism. "Caused", in essence, means either determined or chosen, but not random. I will quote Binswanger:
  20. Rand's stance on suicide was something that bugged me for a while before I gained a good understanding of her ethics, but it's really quite simple; it's just stated in a somewhat unclear manner in most Objectivist literature. As human beings, our most fundamental motivation is not life as such, but rather happiness. We desire the feeling of joy, success, accomplishment, etc. Every action we take is driven by our search for this deep sense of well-being, so our purpose in life its attainment. Happiness is, as Ayn Rand stated, the feeling which derives from the achievement of one's values. Happiness, then, is not itself a value, but a gauge of how well one is doing at achieving values according to some outside standard. Objectivism identifies that standard as life, meaning survival to the maximum extent possible over the course of one's entire lifetime. Happiness arises from taking the actions required to sustain and improve your life. If such action becomes impossible (as, for example, with a person confined to a hospital bed) then happiness becomes impossible, and the motivation to go on living is no longer there. Essentially, life is only a value if you choose to pursue it, which is why the choice between life and death is "pre-moral." People who do not choose to pursue life are outside the realm of morality. However, those who do not make this choice are still motivated by their desire to achieve happiness, so individuals who choose suicide when they are not in a truly hopless situation are acting in an irrational manner, which is why Rand says suicide is only "justified" in certain, limited situations.
  21. I think the primary cause of failing to live up to your moral code (as well as feeling guilt for your failure) is implicitly accepting it as a duty ethic, rather than as a tool for bettering your life. A lot of people see morality as an end in itself, some standard to which you *have* to live up to, and otherwise you are a bad person. This mindset is completely false: morality is a means to an end, and that end is the achievement of your life and happiness. Speaking from personal experience, once you begin to understand (not just on paper or in your mind, but "deep in your soul") that there is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical, it becomes much easier to be ethical, because you see that following such a path will lead to a longer, happier life. It looks to me like you have a theoretical understanding of Objectivism, but not a practical one. In other words, you know that Ayn Rand said that so and so is good and so and so is evil, but you haven't seen the truth of those statements in your own life. For example, you may not see how illegally downloading music is destructive to your own well-being; you just know that according to Objectivism it is immoral. Then, when you do go download music, you feel a sense of guilt because you think that what you've done is "wrong", but you are unable to see exactly why. Ultimately, it's up to you to figure out what is right and wrong; if you don't see the practicality in following Objectivist principles, then don't follow them. (But keep studying, and eventually you will see that they are indeed practical.) I think you just need to realize that you have no one to please but yourself - that you don't have to live up to any standard not set by you, based on your own happiness as your ultimate goal. Your purpose in life should not be to live like Howard Roark, it should be to live like you, and once you do that the rest will follow. As an aside, trying to live up to some model of what a person is "supposed" to be, such as Roark or Galt, is itself quite Keating-esque. Keating was always trying to to please others, to be what others wanted him to be, neglecting his own goals and ambitions. Even if your role model is a good one, modeling yourself after that individual should only be a means to better enjoying your life, not an end in itself.
  22. Actually, that's not what he's saying. If you listen to the clip (if you can manage to stomach all of Hartmann's false "philosophical" points) Binswanger does indeed state that on a subatomic level there is no empty space. He's basically just saying that there is no such thing as "non-existence", that in the space between atoms there has to be *something* as opposed to *nothing*. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can make some more points on the subject, but that, in essence, is Binswanger's position as he briefly presented it. Here is the link: http://real.aynrand.org:8080/ramgen/ari/in...ion_20051117.rm
  23. Hey, I used to play NationStates. It was fun for a while until I started getting a repeat scenario every day. Perhaps the reason people over there are "mystics" is that the book the game is based on (Jennifer Government) is blatantly anti-capitalist. It's still a funny book though.
  24. I reject the fact that you used to prove your conclusion. As I posted in the Heisenberg thread: A similar fallacy is asserting that the properties of a whole must be completely explainable in terms of its constituent parts. That, too, is not self-evident. It is a hypothesis which must be tested, and it's the job of science to determine whether or not it is true in a particular case. The fact that it is true for most systems does not mean it is necessarily true for all; perhaps when a certain arrangement of particles comes together that arrangement as a whole gains new capacities which would have been unthinkable before. We cannot reject such a scheme a priori, as the determinists try to do. How could one accept determinism and reductionism, which rely on complex inductions, while rejecting volition, which is a self-evident axiom? The "closed system" argument is a total inversion: it is an attempt to make reality fit one's theories rather than the other way around.
  25. I'm not sure what Rand's views on the subject were, but I think States' Rights vs. Federal Rights is an utterly false dichotomy. Under a proper government whose only purpose was to prevent and punish the initiation of force, it would be irrelevant from a moral standpoint whether the governing body held jurisdiction over a single city or the entire world. If the government grew sufficiently large, it would likely be more efficient to split it up into several subordinate pieces, but those pieces (States, Territories, Provinces, or whatever) would have no more rights or authority than would the central government. As to the Civil War, to my knowledge the South broke away primarily for economic reasons, not because they were being oppressed in any way by the Federal government. In such a case the government (if it is a rights respecting one, which the Union was, for the most part) has every right to assert its authority and stop the secession.
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