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Everything posted by Korthor

  1. Doesn't it rely on hyperbolic geometry (i.e., curved space)? I'm not saying parallel lines don't exist, but rather that there are valid geometries that produce commonly accepted science (e.g., SEinstein's special theory of relatvity) that don't rely on Euclid's 5th postulate (which is the basis for "parallelness").So please put away your dictionaries and open up a math book if you want to continue the debate.
  2. While "parallelness" can describe some aspects of reality, it does a pretty poor job of describing others. Around 1850, Western science realized that the universe was not in fact constituted by intersecting planes (i.e., Euclidian reality), and so the denial of Euclid's 5th postulate did not violate the law of identity. This led to lots of new math and physics which I don't understand... but this proves my overall point. While you and I can trade verbal jabs back and forth about "parallelness" and non-Euclidian geometry, neither of us can produce the math to back it up. But I know people that can, and I don't think they're lying to me. Similarly, neither of us "really" understands the science behind climate change: we just read about the results. Judgements can be made about reality, but only if you have a rational basis for doing so. Making judgements about sophisticated scientific concepts requires a great deal of background knowedge, more than either you or I posses. I would certainly be interested to hear from a scientist, especially a climatologist, on the issue!
  3. Wow! I don't know what to say. You deny the validity of most post-1850 math? That would also imply that you deny twentieth century physics (especially Einstein's theory of relativity), which is based on this geometry? Do you also deny that the Earth is round? After all, the longtitudnal lines that are "parallel" and yet meet (consult your local globe) are an example of ellipical geometry. Wow! Whatever it is you're smoking over there in New Zealand, I definitely want to try it out!
  4. Here's Euclid's definition of parallel in his 5th postulate: For any given line A and point Z, there is exactly one line [we'll call it B] through Z that does not intersect A. We would describe line "A" as being parallel to line "B." Non-Euclidian geometries don't accept Euclid's 5th postulate. Rather than saying that they believe parallel lines intersect, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that they don't accept 'parallelness' (or that they believe in "ultraparallelness") but at any rate they have line A either curving away (hyperbolic geometry) or towards (eliptical geometry) line B. Is this illogical? It's certainly been good math for well over a century. I am also an "expert" on the English language, but I don't think this qualifies me to bash non-Euclidian geometry because it violates the axiom of identity. Instead, it is a case of language ("parallel") not adequately describing reality. Might this also be the case for QM?
  5. You claim that "logic" dictates that the sun is the primary if not sole cause of warming. Then why do the scientists who are doing the studies not make the same claim? Does your superior logic somehow give you insight into the universe not accessible to those who rigorously follow the scientific method? The question of the degree to which sun cycles are causing warming is an empirical question for the astronomy or physical sciences department, not the philosophy department. I don't really know much about quantum mechanics, but I find your statements about the matter simply astounding. If a scientific theory is internally consistent (follows law of identity), has explanatory value, and is empirically verifiable (i.e., there is identity between it and the world), then it's not for armchair philosopher kings to say "It can't be right because I interpret your valid scientific theory to violate some metaphysical premise!" If perceived reality and metaphysical axioms aren't matching up, then either: A. Your axioms are wrong or B. You misunderstand how your axioms interact with perceived reality or C. Perceived reality is wrong It is probably option B, and certainly we should be highly reluctant to deny perceived reality (i.e., what science tells us). "Logic" seemed to dictate that two parallel lines could never meet, but then nineteenth century mathemeticians discovered non-Euclidian gemoetries. If you had lived back then, you would have doubtlessly denounced this new, irrational science of math. After all, it is for sophmoric philosophers, not mathmeticians, physicists, and climatologists, to pronounce the truth on math, physics, and climate change. Once again, you have sidestepped my central claim: You don't have the expertise to even have an opinion on the subject, anymore than an amateur who has read a few books on biology can perform heart surgery.
  6. I think DavidOdden's comment gets at the heart of the matter. He says: "I hold that simply saying "this law is unconstititional, because it violates the rights of the individual" is sufficient, assuming that the rights-based reasoning is valid" There is nothing in the constitiution prohibiting the government from violating rights, although there are protections for particular rights. TI don't like textualists/strict constructionist/orignalists (like Scalia) because they only want to protect enumerated rights. That's why they object to Roe (and the whole post-Griswold privacy doctrine): there is no enumerated right to privacy or bodily integrity. When Guliani promises us strict constructionists, he's promising judges who will narrowly interpret rights protections. Like Rand, I think liberals make the best judges: they read rights protections expansively, even if their legal reasoning is sometimes sub par. I wrote the post because I'm trying to do my part to stamp out a pathological strain of conservatism in some of the posts on this forum. We shouldn't ignore the conservative judiciary's refusal to protect rights just because we like the original Constitution.
  7. You say my arguments are "flawed and irrational," but how? If anything, you're being "irrational" for ignoring the powerful helium, comet, and magnetic field arguments against evolution. Hah! But really, you haven't refuted my central claim, which is that non-scientists don't have the expertise to adjudicate scientific controversies. The fact that there is a very strong correlation between political affiliation and belief in global warming amongst the laity supports my theory that people's politics are determining their science. You can pretend you're being rational, but really you just enjoy hating on the environmentalists (not that they don't deserve it). Maybe not... maybe your reading of Rand has provided you with some magical insight into the climate models that have so far eluded me... Anyway, when you say things like... "Of course the sun isn't the only factor, but if you think about it logically a gigantic ball of fire the size of a million Earths is going to be the biggest temperature factor. Look at the fact that solar activity has increased and that Earth isn't the only planet in the solar system experiencing global warming. This points to one and only one thing: the sun is the cause of global warming."... I know you're full of it. How is it "logical" that the size of the sun makes it the primary cause of global warming? Is it also logical that you can tell if someone's a witch if they weigh the same as a duck because ducks float and so does wood and wood burns just like witches? Maybe we could also deploy sheep bladders to prevent earthquakes. Science isn't determined by what's "logical," but by the scientific method of theorization and empirical verification. In the case of climatology the tools of theorization and verification are beyond my (and I suspect your) comprehension. In conclusion, good science is often counter-intuitive, so stop pretending you can "reason out" the truth of difficult scientific controversies without a strong background in the relevant science.
  8. To satisfy my own curiosity, I looked up and found articles in popular science journals referring to several articles speculating that the sun could be a cause of warming. Every single one included a caveat by the scientists doing the study that the sun is only part of the explanation. Are there any scientists who claim that the sun is the only explanation for warming? Also, “basic chemistry” and my own observations tell me that salt will only melt ice if the temperature is sufficiently warm. This past winter, Chicago suburbs had problems with the roads because it got too cold for salt to melt the ice. How's that for a "reason filter"! To conclude, I did a little research and found some “facts” to put me in line with the 55% of Americans who don’t believe in Evolution. These are just the “facts” to prove the Earth is a few thousand years old; they’ve got a whole different page specific to evolution per se. For brevity’s sake, I’ve just included the bullet points. If you want, you can go to the page for the full scoop. Some of them were silly (i.e., I have enough scientific knowledge to know why there BS); some are less so (I don’t know why they’re wrong). I just thought you should read up on the thinking of your intellectual allies… http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c012.html 1. Comets disintegrate too quickly. 2. Not enough mud on the sea floor. 3. Not enough sodium in the sea. 4. Earth's magnetic field is decaying too fast. 5. Many strata are too tightly bent. 6. Injected sandstone shortens geologic 'ages'. 7. Fossil radioactivity shortens geologic 'ages' to a few years. 8. Helium in the wrong places. 9. Not enough Stone Age skeletons. 10. Agriculture is too recent. 11. History is too short. Bottom line: there will always be scientists who disagree with the majority view, and intelligent amateurs can always pick up on the reasoning of these "marginalized voices." Until someone admits to being a climatologist, stop pretending to know what you’re talking about!
  9. Actually I'm pretty sure all three terms are used, sometimes interchangeably. I agree that "words mean things," but I would inject two comments: 1. Words don't mean the same things they did 200 years ago. The Establishment Clause and Commerce Clause both mean a lot more than they used to. Why should we bound by what the Founders meant? 2. Is the supreme duty of the judiciary, especially the appealate courts and SCOTUS, to enforce what the words "mean"? Why shouldn't they use sophisticated (in both senses of the word) legal reasoning to avoid an "undesirable outcome." There was nothing in the original Constitution prohibiting slavery, but that doesn't mean the Dred Scott case shouldn't have been decided differently. The reasoning of Roe is a stretch, but I wouldn't favor its reversal by Scalia clones.
  10. I just wanted to jump on Dragonmaci's quote, which gets at the root of my problem with some on this forum: "So because I have no formal training I can't observe things around me such as weather, temperauture, and other things to see if they match the claims of the alarmists and the other side? The answer is, I can regardless of training. I can also attemp0t to integrate what they tell me with other things I know (while I am no expert I know more about science than most people). If no integration is possible I have good grounds to be skeptical or to at least wonder. Furthermore, as I have already said, the warmists ignore many simple fact, some of which I knew before hearing anything from either side. Such as the polar caps have always melted and always will. Their is large quantities of salt in the water. Basic chemistry teaches us that salt lowers the freezing temperature of water. This causes ice to melt. There are bigger facts that this that they omit." Really? Are you suggesting I should take the temperature outside and that will tell me if there is anthropogenic warming? Maybe after that, I'll rub two sticks together and produce the Internet. Science isn't about a "gut check": non-Euclidian geometry, modern physics, the idea that the Earth goes around the sun... they're all counter-intuitive. Can you "integrate" the computer models "with other things [you] know?" Can you understand the computer models? I know I can't. I doubt climatologists have ignored "basic chemistry," but I'll get back to you after I finish building a rocket to the moon with my erector set. After all, if Billy Bob Thorton can do it, anybody can! I will reiterate my query: Is there any evidence that climatologists who support anthropogenic warming theory are deliberately lying to us? When faced with a beached whale, a paniced bystander yelled out "Is anybody here a marine biologist?!" George Castanza answered the call and removed the obstruction from the blowhole of "the mighty fish." You can cite fun factoids to me all you want. I've seen the other sides factoids too. I'll repeat my call, "Is anybody here a climatologist?!"
  11. I would say that the caliphate had as little relation to modern Islamic fundamentalism as primitive socialism did to the Soviet Union. Islamic fundamentalism isn't dangerous because Islam is dangerous, but because of the way this ideology has been intertwined with an anti-imperialist (i.e., anti-Western) agenda. Besides Turkey, I could point to Egypt as a shining beacon of secular authoritarianism, which is as we speak weakining its democracy (such as it is) to fend off against Islamic fundamentalism. For the story, look here... http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews....ION-BOYCOTT.xml Could you point me to a single Islamic fundamentalist govenment besides Iran? My point is that the many mideast governments are scared of Islamic fundamentalism... that's why they were so eager to torture the people we "extraordinarily rendered" to them as part of the War on Terror. In the end, I think the root of our disagreement lies in your question, "If guiding ideologies don't drive geopolitical forces, what does?" Well, the oldest and most-respected school of international relations theory, "realism," would say that the intererts of nation states (especially the drive for military superiority) drives geopolitical forces. While cultural and ideological factors play a role in defining those interests, we shouldn't ignore the role of geopolitical "strategery"! Just because Islamic fundamentalism is hysterical about the Great Satan, it doesn't mean that we need be hysterical about Islamic fundamentalism. Only the neoconservative establishment (and their Objectivist admirers) would be irrational enough to assume that the actions of sophisticated and powerful nation-states can be explained by some pathology peculiar to the "Islamic" (or communist or Oriental or papist) mind. Iran is a threat, but the question of whether or not to attack them requires a more sophisticated geopolitical analysis than offered by our esteemed former UN Ambassador. After all, the goblins in my radiator have told me that such an attack would spark a really big, really bad war (certainly the biggest since WWII); such a war should not be entered into based on half-assed speculations about the "Islamic" mind and random quotes from the Quaran spruced up with some references to Hobbes and Clausewitz. Finally, Russia isn't communist: if anything it's sliding into soft fascism. And oh yeah! China will be a military rival in twenty years. Countering them might even require military alliances with an increasingly Islamist Indonesia. P.S. At the risk of being called a Libertarian, I've included a quote from Bill Maher that epitomizes my opinion of the neoconservative "intellectuals" "And finally, New Rule, in two parts: A) You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid. And , if you're someone from one of the think tanks that dreamed up the Iraq War, and who predicted that we'd be greeted as liberators, and that we wouldn't need a lot of troops, and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMD's would be found, that the looting wasn't problematic, and the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got his kids, after we got Zarqawi, and that the whole bloody mess wouldn't turn into a civil war...you have to stop making predictions! ... The think tanks that incubated the Iraq war have lofty names like the Heritage Foundation and the Project for a New American Century. Whatever. They've been wrong so often, I'm surprised they're not my broker. Richard Perle thought we could win Iraq with 40,000 troops. Paul Wolfowitz predicted, in 2003, that within a year, the grateful people of Baghdad would name some grand square in their fine city after President Bush. And he was right when he said they'd be waving American flags. They were on fire. William Kristol pooh-poohed the fears that Sunnis and Shiites would be at each others' throats, as "the stuff of pop psychology." Right. And having your head chopped off is just a quick way to drop 11 pounds. Kristol, of course, is revered by much of the right because he was Dan Quayle's chief of staff, and was known as "Quayle's Brain." Which sounded impressive until I remembered Dan Quayle didn't have a brain. And now, Mr. Kristol proposes immediate military action against Iran, predicting the Iranians will thank us for it. Hey, you know what, Nostrodamus? Why don't you sit this one out? "
  12. While glancing at a thread on Guliani, I noticed a couple of times people mentioning with indifference or approval his commitment to “strict constructionism.” Someone even mentioned that this was the “official” legal philosophy of Objectivism. While I have no problem with this theory per se, I find it strange that Objectivist would not seek an expansion of rights by any means necessary. If I were a judge faced with the question of whether to send to jail two men for engaging in consensual sodomy, I would most certainly strike down the law (even if my legal justifications were dubious). So what if the courts are anti-democratic? The “official” Objectivist position on democracy is that it is just a means to the end of protecting rights, not an end in itself. Does it violate the principle of “objective law”? I thought the Objectivist position was that the laws could only be “objective” if they were objectively justifiable. How would abortion restrictions be “objective”? Even if they were, how would a body of law with judicially enforced abortion rights be less “objective” than one without those restrictions. Finally, I don’t think an “activist” judiciary violates the Rule of Law. If anything, one of the remarkable aspects of the American legal system is the way we have made an activist judiciary part of the “rule of law” rather than fearing it as a threat. I didn’t just put this in the Elections forum (as opposed to Law) just so it would get more hits. In 2008, we should consider strongly the issue of judges, and certainly not give Guliani a pass because he says he support “strict constructionists”—as if a literal reading of the Constitution were more important than individual rights. On a side note, I would be really excited by a Guliani v. Obama contest. In the first time in my memory we would have two candidates who display conviction, genuine intellect, and charisma, even if some of those convictions are wrong. Moreover, it would be kind of interesting to see a secular Republican running against a religious Democrat.
  13. I agree one side is ultimately correct, but sometimes scientists disagree--this doesn't imply some fissure in the nature of reality, but rather the perhaps radical notion that humans sometimes disagree about what they see. How would "reason" and "observing reality" help me out? I've done a significant amount of reading on the subject. Both sides offer statistics to support their posiiton (since I don't have access to a weather satellite, I'll have to believe what they say to me). In addition, the predictive side of climate science relies on incredibly complex models beyond the means of laypeople to really understand. I went to your website; it was nothing I hadn't read before. If I wanted to, I could direct you to websites on the other side and maybe we could add up the total number of websites filled with rehashed facts on each side of the debate, and then we would know the truth! About this "filter of reason" thing... I don't mean to be insulting, but how much training in climate science do you have? The whole proposiiton of laypeople even having an opinion on scientific questions seems dubious to me: it takes years of training to really "understand" the science behind science. Until then, one is just parroting the results without understanding the reasons. Moreover, contemporary science is often counter-intuitive... would non-Euclidian geometry pass the "filter of reason"... Filters are great for coffee and cigarettes, but bad for reason and the internet I'm not really interested in debating warming science, but rather to question the line between reason and dogma for some on this forum... You know, the whole "Reality, to be commanded, must be obeyed" thing... if anthropogenic warming is happening, it is hardly rational to pretend it isn't just because your political opponents think it is. Finally, I"m not really interested in debating the science, but the standard response to "the earth has been warmer before so why is this warming bad; doesn't that mean we can grow more crops?" is... 1. This warming is faster, so its effect will be more drastic and species won't adapt. 2. Even if we eventually return to some kind of warmer "equilibrium," we'll have some wild fluctuations and bad weather in the interim. 3. Even if rich countries can adapt to shifting of grain belts, it will be hell for the Third World. 4. The sea-level rise will suck; even if we can move our farms, we can't exactly move Manhatten a few miles inland. 5. Even if increased temperatures mean longer growing seasons, it will also be much dryer to agricultue will suffer. I know you could probably produce counter-arguments and I could produce counter-arguments to your counter-arguments, but that's kind of the point. I'm not a scientist, much less a climatologist, so really I'm just whistling in the dark. If there was anyone here who could shed light (i.e., is a climatologists), I would be glad to listen...
  14. 1. Islamic fundamentalism might have been a motivating ideology prior to 1979, but it wasn't a geopolitical force. 2. The "moderate" Muslim autocracies and quasi-autocracies are de facto theocracies? Most of them explicitly repress Islamist parties. Turkey goes so far as to outlaw women's wearing of the veil in public buildings because of the practice's perceived connection to Islamic fundamentalism. Maybe you were thinking of Saudia Arabia? If so, attacking Saudia Arabia would be a strategic catastrophe (not to mention an economic one). 3. To clarify my point about Muslim autocracy, much of the support for Islamic fundamentalism derives from people being pissed at their governments. Fundamentalism provides a convenient vehicle for such discontent. 4. "Communism's quest for world supremacy still continues?" Really? Maybe Russia's just been pretending for the past seventeen years? No wonder you consider Keyes to be a reasonable, authoritative voice. Personally, I would rather listen to the goblins that live in my radiator. There are socialist economies out there, but they are hardly engaged in a global war against the US... If push came to shove, we could probably take on Sweden if we had to. If you're thinking of Chavez, Venezuela is hardly the new Soviet Union. Latin American populist autocracy is a perennial phenemon of little strategic consequence to the US. In addiiton, Latin America is predominantly democratic and capitalist; even if the people cheer Chavez, the governments have little use for him.
  15. I’ve never understood the hostility of Objectivists (and free marketers in general) to the theory of global warming. I’ve read science both supporting and attacking the theory, and honestly I just don’t have the scientific expertise to adjudicate between these conflicting claims. I’ve also read science both for and against evolution, and likewise I don’t have the expertise to conclude one way or the other purely based on my understanding of science. In fact, I doubt I have the expertise to even prove that the earth goes around the sun. While there are scientists on this board, most of us are probably in the position of having to believe what science tells us. I don’t think this is “faith,” since we have a rational basis for believing scientists: (Occham’s razor would militate against thinking science is just a global conspiracy and my computer is powered by invisible goblins). While there may not be a “consensus,” most climate scientists tend to think there is warming and it is at least somewhat anthropogenic. Why is there such hostility to this theory? Are there others on this forum equally puzzled? At the risk of "psychologizing," perhaps people are reasoning A. Many advocates the theory favor government regulation of the environment (and some are even “environmentalists”) B. Such regulation and “environmentalism” is evil Therefore C. The theory is wrong and propagated for evil reasons. One could also propose the following, more valid reasoning A. Government regulation of the environment is wrong B. Global warming is an “environmental” problem that will probably negatively effect humans C. Premise B is irrelevant to political debates because government regulation of the environment is wrong. D. Premise A is irrelevant to scientific debates about the existence of warming. In conclusion, I have two questions: 1. Is there credible evidence that climatologists, on the whole, distort their science because of their political beliefs? If anything, I would think that many are brought to their political convictions because of their science. I’m sure there are isolated examples of such distortion, but I’m asking for evidence of such distortion across the field. 2. Are there any climatologists on this forum who disagree with the theory of anthropogenic climate change? Or are we all just adopting second-hand the theories of those who reinforce our political beliefs.
  16. I think Thomas Kuhn's ideas about the sociology of science might provide some insight. He argued that in debates between radically different scientific "paradigms," it is as if they two sides were speaking different languages. It's not that one side disagrees with the other, as much as the very nature of the way each side approaches problems (and indeed the way they definte the nature of the problems) is radically different. Objectivism wasn't just a different "philosophy"; it was a different "paradigm." Right now North American academic philosophy is dominated by two paradigms: A) Anglo-American "analytic" philosophy (e.g., the logical positivists of Rand's day) Continental philosophy (Kantians, Marxists, poststructralists, etc.) Most philosophers wouldn't even care about the questions debated in the other camp. Objectivism didn't fit into either "paradigm," so it didn't really enter the philosophical debates that define American academic philosophy. I would like to echo the sentiment that theorizing about the psychological motivations of philosophers is dangerous. I doubt many philosophy professors fear Objectivism; more likely they don't even think about it.
  17. My understanding of physics is rudimentary, but I think the idea is that order requires the expenditure of energy. At the beginning, there was lots of energy but little order; now there is less energy and more order.
  18. I would disagree with the statement "Keyes’s credibility with this issue is unmatched if his background is considered..." I live in Illinois and remember seeing him in the 04 Senatorial debates and coming away with the impression that, for lack of a better term, he was "bat-shit crazy." Listening to him, one would conclude that American culture (Keyes believes American culture to be Christian at its root) is at heart intolerant and theocratic (he's very extreme religious right). I think this strain of "apocalyptic Christianity" distorts neoconservative thinking on foreign policy. How could people who base their thinking on radical Christianity not over-estimate the importance of religion in the thinking of others. When Keyes says jihadism " is the root of the perpetual war in the Middle East, and of the threat that it poses to the rest of the world. The dedication to holy war results in a permanent will to war that may change only when all enemies have been eliminated or reduced to submission," I can't help but chuckle. What about: a) Palestinian nationalism (historically the infitada was not motivated by Islamic extremism... many Palestinians are Christians) the importance of secular authoritarianism (Turkey, Egypt and the other "moderate" Mideast autocracies, the Baath party in Syria and Iraq, etc.): they oppress their own people, and Islamism is often more strongly motivated by and directed against our "allies" than by anything having to do with the US c) power politics: why is Iran friendly with Russia? Russia has been oppressing and colonizing Muslims since before there was a US. Moreover, Russia and Persia are historically bitter rivals for supremacy in the region. They are drawn together because both have an interest in countering the perceived hegemon, the US. I'm not saying Islamic ideology isn't important, but rather that other forces are operative. Moreover, Islamic fundamentalism didn't really exist as a force until thirty years ago. Communism lasted seven decades and then seemed to disappear overnight (for reasons that are clear only in hindsight). Sovietologists were certain of the unending enmity of communism until the enmity of communism suddenly ended. I would be equally skeptical of claims made by "Islamologists." Do jihadists have a "permanent will to war"? One could have said the same thing about communism and Irish republicanism... forces that were defeated by a policy of "strength + diplomacy," which is historically the American (and British) approach to foreign policy. Certainly, attempting to exploit diplomatically differences between our enemies and rivals (rather than unifying them by labeling them all as inherently evil) would be a sensible foreign policy. To go back to the communism example, the moment when Nixon went to China was probably the death-knell for communism's quest for world supremacy.
  19. My reading of FC is a bit different. Those who disliked the movie point primarily to its anti-capitalism and its nihilism. While it is true that Jack feels alienated by his consumerism and Tyler Durden’s philosophical viewpoint is nihilistic, such a reading neglects two other thematics at work in the film: 1. the need to rejuvenate what I would call “affect”: the nexus of emotion, ethics, perception, and sensation 2. the dangers of fascism Jack doesn’t create TD because capitalism is evil, and certainly Jack (and any reasonable viewer) realizes that the “destruction for destruction’s sake” ideology of Project Mayhem (i.e., fascism/nihilism) is not only futilely self-destructive: it is also just as alienating as the consumer lifestyle Jack tried to escape at the beginning of the film. That’s why I would emphasize a thematic of affect: Jack is dissatisfied with consumerism because it has crushed his ability to feel. Jack goes to support groups because they allow him to feel and cry again, and when those stop working, he creates the nihilistic persona of TD. TD’s “cure” consist primarily of two elements: 1. Destruction of the “things” that have alienated Jack from himself: TD starts by destroying his material things (blowing up the apartment), then escalating to his false psychic attachments such as his need for a perfect body image (first by fighting and then the scene with the chemical burn). 2. Repairing his capacity for affect by forcing him to “feel,” primarily through making Jack take risks: he risks his body in the fight clubs, he risks his career when he confronts his boss, he risks his life in the “near-life experience,” etc. TD’s “cure” is not, however, without its side-effects… Instead of constipation and dry mouth, TD’s prescription results in fascism. 1. On a very literal level Project Mayhem is a fascist collective with no other end than destruction. 2. One way of explaining fascism is that it is translates the desire to restore affect directly into political commitments. Writing in 1939, the literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin claimed: “Fascism attempts to organize the newly proletarianized masses while leaving intact the property relations which they strive to abolish. It sees its salvation in granting expression to the masses—but on no account granting them rights. The masses have a right to changed property relations; fascism seeks to give them expression in keeping these relations unchanged. The logical outcome of fascism is an aestheticizing of political life….[Humankind’s] self-alienation has reached the point where it can experience its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure. Such is the aestheticizing of politics, as practiced by fascism.” [forgive the Marxism] I would adopt an expansive formulation of “aesthetics” to include sensation, perception, and feeling: i.e., affect. One way of explaining fascism’s success was that it translated the Volk’s desire to feel into direct political action. Obviously, such a politics risks the most evil forms of collectivism (racism made the Germans feel good). I don’t think either the film or the novel does a very good job of reconciling the tension between 1. the legitimate desire to reverse the alienation of affect with 2. the fascist trajectory of such an attempt The best solution the film offers is good private attachments (i.e., the romance with Marla). The novel offers none at all: the narrator ends up a schizophrenic in a mental hospital. I think the film’s commitment to reversing alienation and restoring feeling is a benevolent one: I certainly felt uplifted by the film, and the closing scene (Jack and Marla holding hands while the world blows up around them and the Pixies blare in the background) is beautiful and moving. I certainly don’t take away from the film the message that I should blow up buildings or start fight clubs, although I could understand why some would read it that way. Three concluding points: 1. I can understand why some are put off by FC’s anti-capitalism. One could debate about whether the movie is saying all consumerism is evil, or if it’s saying that basing one’s whole life on material possessions risks unfulfillment, but I think it’s kind of beside the point. My reading would suggest that the debate about consumerism is epiphenomenal. 2. Any movie with the complexity of FC will have numerous readings. I’m not arguing for literary relativism, but rather the interaction between art and human psyche is extraordinarily complex. For any artwork, there will be numerous good readings, an even greater number of poor ones, and an infinitude of readings that are just plain wrong. FC is also about soap, but a reading centered on a material analysis of the soap industry would be wrong-headed. Moreover, a reading that claimed FC was “really” about the colonization of Mars would be just wrong. While I’m skeptical of using syllogism to critique art as demonstrated by Ifat’s post... “Some people try to fake their happiness and confidence by buying things which allow them to convince themselves that they are what they want to be: (Buying expensive clothes and designed furniture to appear important and successful), therefor, each case of buying stuff means that you make your happiness dependent on property, therefor, having property is always bad and always a fake, and should be avoided. "Real" people don't have property. In fact, property, and materialistic things are bad and should be destroyed. (<-- "money is the root of all evil").” … nonetheless, Ifat’s negative reading of FC is probably just as plausible as mine… 3. The movie is formally beautiful and emotionally uplifting. The fact that several people wrote that they like the movie but were disturbed by its message proves that I am not alone. I have argued elsewhere about the need to place greater emphasis on these factors than the “message” of the movie. If you want to debate me on this point, see my post here. http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=8877
  20. Wow! I strongly disagree. I have no doubt you could point to terrible contemporary SF, but with research I could no doubt come up with terrible SF from the 1950s. The real question is whether or not there's good post-1979 SF out there. Here are some examples 1. Stephen R. Donaldson "Gap Series." 2. Octavia Butler, especially the "Xenogenesis" seires 3. Tad Willaims's "Otherland" series 4. C.S. Friedman's "Coldfire" trilogy 5. That whole "Cyberpunk" thing from the 1980s, especially William Gibson 6. Samuel Delany And that's just with 3 minutes of thought... Two additional (no doubt controversial) points. 1. I think the genre has improved now that it is no longer limited to white males... not because white males are evil (after all, some of my best friends are white males), but because more people from more backgrounds> more diversity of perspective> a more interesting genre. 2. I've written elsewhere about the need for Objectivists to put away their "Romanticism-o-meters," or at least not rely exclusively on them when judging literature. Certainly "realism" shouldn't be a dirty word. If you want to debate me on this point, see my posts here http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=8877
  21. Evidently, there is an increasing trend for states to civilly confine sex offendrs. [see article at http://www.economist.com/world/na/displays...tory_id=8866809] Is there a justification for indefinitely confining criminals who are liikely to be recidivist after they have served their prison terms? I would be inclined to say NO. After all, the rates of recidivism amongst almost alll criminals is very high. Nonetheless, this really strikes at the heart of the purpose of the criminal justice system. There are generally three offered: 1) retribution (justice) 2) deterrence 3) incapacitation Arguably, the prison system fails on all three counts... but with the most disgustingly violent of offenders, are there any creative solutions beyond indefinite incarceration? Especially, solutions reconcilable with the 4th Amendment demand for "due process of law"?
  22. First of all, I think it’s important to clarify that there are two questions at issue: 1. What should be the government’s policy on immigration? 2. Is it moral for immigrants to break the law by immigrating illegally? I wanted to answer with a definite YES to the second question, and in particular talk about the “rule of law” argument that people who say NO offer. Objectivism doesn’t say we should be moral because it’s immoral to act immorally (i.e., the deontological argument), but rather because moral action expresses and reinforces life-affirming values. So when some people say illegal immigrants are acting immorally because it’s unfair to legal immigrants or because it supports some “principle” of anarchy, I can’t help but feel that they are being closet deontologists. Such a question can only be answered by reference to whether an action supports one’s values. If it’s a choice between A) dying of starvation or being murdered by an oppressive government or… fleeing to a free country illegally… How could one say that option A is the moral one? The rule of law is not a suicide pact! I think the “runaway slave” analogy is pretty devastating for those who think illegal immigrants are immoral, but I will talk about a couple of my opponent’s counter-arguments. 1. The US government is “on the whole” a moral agent (as opposed to southern slaveholders), so one should defer to its authority. How far should one take this argument? What if the government tried to kill you or enslave you for an unjust reason? This is not a hypothetical… Did a Japanese person have a right to flee internment during WWII? Does someone wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death have a right to try to break out of prison? Ultimately, one can not offer a bright line for either a) how moral the agent must be to be considered “one the whole” moral or how egregious an atrocity this “on the whole” moral agent can legitimately commit. 2. The illegal immigrant’s dilemma is not “as bad” as the slave’s. While I would say that this is not necessarily true (sometimes immigration is a matter of life and death), once again there is no bright line for how bad a situation one is in before one can ignore the rule of law. While I’m emphasizing this “bright line” argument, my point is NOT that moral evaluations are impossible. Instead, I think this discussion is a reminder of the superiority of teleological (e.g., Aristotelian or Objectivist) over deontological (e.g., Kantian) systems of morality. The morality of an action must be evaluated according to whether or not it supports one’s life-affirming goals, and I have not seen a good TELEOLOGICAL argument for the immorality of illegal immigration in this thread.
  23. First, I would like to clarify that the goal of my posts in not to prove that Rand was wrong: I would be intrigued if someone were to point me to a passage that anticipated the arguments that I’m making. Rather, I’m trying to discuss why “form” should have a more prominent role in a comprehensive aesthetic system. Yes Rand wrote about “style,” so why bring up “form”? Why this nifty new word? Primarily, I did so to highlight the insights of Russian Formalism. The word “style” is often understood in an instrumental fashion... as a means to achieving other literary values. In particular, this notion of style emphasizes the need for it to convey compelling characterization, a well-developed narrative, or a well-integrated work. Rand valued this kind of style, and it is a particularly good standard for evaluating the strength of a nineteenth century novel (e.g., Romantic Realism). I’m not saying that this notion of style is unimportant… just that it’s not all that there is. “Style” can be more than a road to get you to the Shang Ri La of good story-telling… for some writers (e.g., Chaucer, Shakespeare, Blake) it can also be the palace. Good art inspires admiration and awe…but how does it do so? I suggested the Russian Formalist notion of “defamiliarization” can provide one way of talking about this process. The idea isn’t to make the “everyday life” seem wonderful (to answer SoftwareNerd’s question), but rather to allow the reader to experience the “world” (e.g., language, morality, human character, Schlovsky’s “fear of war,” or indeed even “everyday life”) differently. Good art stays in your head, sometimes even screws with your head. I emphasized the distinction between epistemology and morality in an earlier post because I want to describe art as an epistemological process—i.e., about a transformation of perception/sensation. I find discussion of aesthetics among some Objectivists frustrating because they tend to pull out a Romanticism-o-meter when evaluating art. Is this art Romantic Realism or naturalism? Well, let’s look at the moral values reflected in the work and find out… The problem with this approach is that it that it is a crude instrument for evaluating artistic worth. In particular, it attempts to jump straight to questions of morality, while I would argue that aesthetics is primarily an epistemological discipline (although the epistemological transformation achieve has definite moral implications… i.e., it creates value). I think this distinction comes out in hunterrose’s comment “I don't think the purpose of art is necessarily to show us something unexperienced, but rather to show us something ideal. Big, big, big difference.” Is there? Showing the “unexperienced” and showing the “ideal” are hardly mutually exclusive (especially since seeing the “ideal” is a departure from normal experience… I don’t have my ceiling painted like the Sistine Chapel). More importantly, I would say that the demand that art show the ideal puts the cart before the horse. How do we know the “ideal”? It is easy to see why David is beautiful, but how do we evaluate the “ideal” in a novel? We can’t just look and see if it portrays the “ideal”… this leads to the fallacy of the Romanticism-o-meter. Rather, we must asks ourselves whether or not the work resonating with the ideals inside of us. I’m suggesting that the sense of (epistemological) wonder produced by “defamiliarization” is one way of evaluating whether or not art creates that (moral) resonance. P.S. I think the question of whether Joyce has artistic merit would deserve its own thread, and I certainly didn’t think that one quick passage would convince any skeptics. I brought him up because I thought he was a case where the concept of “defamiliarization” can be shown to have value. Rand had a preference for “clear” writing… hence the “realism” in Romantic Realism. In Romantic Realism, the formal strengths lie in characterization (e.g., Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights), plot (e.g., the complexity of the revenge scheme in The Count of Monte Cristo), or theme (the morally tortured souls of Dostoevsky’s protagonists). But those aren’t the only kinds of formal excellence… I find others in some modernist novels as well, even if hunterrose and Rand don’t. Why read an intentionally difficult novel? You could ask hunters why they spend days stalking and killing animals when they could just run to the supermarket for their meat. Why put together a jigsaw together when you can already see what the picture looks like on the box? The discipline required by hard art makes the aesthetic value one gets out of it all the more rewarding. Thanks for reading and responding!
  24. Thank you IamMetaphysical and Pianoman83 for your thoughtful responses. IamMetaphysical says “You fail to realize that including scenes of defecation and masturbation does say something "morally." Just as including a cold sore on the painting of the face of a figure representing beauty has moral connotations.” I agree that author who wrote in the “realist” fashion “Leopold Bloom took a shit” would be as ugly as a cold sore on the mouth of David. However, I would argue that this is NOT because defecation is ugly, but because his deliberate vulgarity confirmed our experience that defecation is ugly. It would be indulging an objectionable moral impulse because of the way it seemed to imply that “Man is at heart reducible to his ugliest bodily function.” Why is defecation ugly? Can a painter integrate a cold sore into his portrayal in such a way that it becomes beautiful? Although taking a quick passage out of “Ulysses” is risking charges of incomprehensibility, I will nevertheless give you an example of a “beautiful” portrayal of defecation “Asquat on the cuckstool he folded out his paper, turning its pages over on his bared knees. Something new an easy. No great hurry. Keep it a bit. Our prize titbit: Matcham’s Masterstroke. Written by Mr Phlip Beaufoy, Playgoer’s Club, London. Payment at the rate of one guinea a column has been made to the writer. Three and a half. Three pounds three. Three pounds, thirteen and six. Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, his last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone. Hope it’s not too big bring on piles again. No, just right. So Ah! Costive. One tabloid of cascara sagrada. Life must be so. It did not move or touch him but it was something quick and neat. Print anything now. Silly season. He read, seated calm above his own rising smell. Neat certainly. Matcham often think of the masterstroke by which he won the laughing witch who now. Begins and ends morally. Hand in hand. Smart. He glanced back through what he had read and, while feeling his water flow quietly, he envied kindly Mr Beaufoy who had written it and received payment of three pounds, thirteen and six.” (Ulysses 4: 500-517) Joyce’s “moral” message is NOT “Man is at heart reducible to his ugliest bodily function.” It is the opposite one: “Human experience is beautiful, even during it ugliest bodily function.” The very fact that you say, “I do not mean to imply any moral evaluation of defecation or masturbation per se” validates my argument: one cannot make a “moral evaluation of defecation of masturbation per se”: one can only make a moral evaluation of the way the artist treats his subject matter, which requires an evaluation of form. Additionally IamMetaphysical says: “Societal norms are man-made, the nature of human consciousness and how it perceives is metaphysically given. Being an individual does not mean attempting to do away with the identity of your consciousness. Good art will work along with the way man percieves, bad art will try to flout it.” This passage strikes at the heart of the matter. Should art “flout” the “metaphysically given” way we perceive the world? Imagine two people. First a busy advertising executive (such as the protagonist of North by Northwest). He is rushing through downtown New York, intent on his schedule and not on the beauty of the city around him. Second, imagine a twelve year old from Iowa on his first trip to Manhattan: he is awestruck by the beauty of the city around him. Whose experience would you rather have? Neither one is “metaphysically given”: they just reflect different conditioning. But since humans are volitional, we’ve created this wonderful thing called “art” which might allow us to recapture the wonder of the 12 year old by making the familiar strange to us again. If the words on a page are like the streets of New York to the advertising exec, then art is not doing all it can do. Skyscrapers are beautiful... so is human language… art should remind us of this fact. To Pianoman83, I think you’re right to suggest that a pure formalism would confuse the means and ends of art. I am trying to work out the “how” of the “means” of great art. Why is Shakespeare beautiful? I don’t think a moral evaluation of the message behind the work provides all of the answer, although it might be part of the answer. Why is Classicism ugly in “The Fountainhead”? It is NOT because Classic forms are ugly. Was the Parthenon ugly? Was Venus de Milo ugly? No, it is because Classicism refuses to allow Roark to innovate on the level of form. It turns form into a repetitive function as boring as a slab of concrete. Great art must make things strange again. When looking at Roark’s building, one is moved to say: “Wow! I didn’t realize we could make a building that way!”: that requires an excellence of form. Thanks for the debate! I value the thoughtful conversation available on this forum. Forgive the barrage of posts… I’m just excited about this debate. .
  25. You're right that she uses the word "form" (my off-hand remark wasn't literally true), but not in these sense that I am calling for, and her discussion of "style" in "The Art of Fiction" could do with some be supplemented with the insights of "formalism." If someone would give me a passage that confirms, refutes, of interacts with my argument in someway, I would find it thrilling: please don't just tell me take two Rand books and call me in the morning.
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