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1. ## Iraq announces they have developed nuclear weapons: Now what?

The essential problem is calculating the likelyhood of another country using nuclear weapons against the US on a first-strike basis. If we really know the country is going to nuke us, of course the risk in using military force against that country is zero. At worst the nuke will still be used, which they were going to do anyway. The problem is that trying to figure out this likelyhood in the real world is almost impossible. This is complicated because the countries with nukes who might threaten the US are usually non-transparent dictatorships, oligarchies, etc. And the stakes are incredibly high, because if you are wrong and you preemptively attack a nation to keep it from attacking us and it uses nukes in defense, and then we find out that our intel was wrong, we have essentially caused a nuclear attack against our own citizens which would not have otherwise happened.

Hmmm. Well, now you can say you at least have one comment in your comments section and I can say I know how the feature works!

3. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I am beginning to agree with Rationalbiker that this thread is going nowhere. I have stated my position, I am done.
4. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I think part of the problem here is that many seem to want the idea of possible/arbitrary to do all the work in evaluating claims. Possibility is just one element in determining the validity of any given proposition. Probability, or "likelyhood" is the logical second step and does the work many of you here seem to want possibility to do by inserting this new evidence requirement into it. Possibility is like the first, low, hurdle on the track. A claim doesn't have to have much to it to get past the hurdle of possibility. It simply cannot contradict known facts, the laws of physical reality, or be internally logically inconsistent. Because of this, the fact that something is possible doesn't tell you the kinds of things about it we as humans like to know. Primarily, we want to know not just if it is possible but if is is and failing that, at least what are the odds that it is. Probability is like the second, higher hurdle. When we want to determine if something is probable we of course need to know if it is possible, because if it is impossible it is not going to be probable. But once we know something is possible we want to know what is the likelyhood that it is or that it is not. This is where evidence comes into play and is important because evidence (facts) and also reasoning (inferences) are what is going to tell you how likely or probably the claim is of being true or false. This is where the vast majority of "possible" statements die because in the absence of evidence or logical inferences one way or the other, it is impossible to tell if they are probable. For instance, the existance of a pink elephant is possible. Nothing in the nature of pinkness or elephantness, biology, physics, etc. seems to prohibit such a combination from existing. But such a creature is not probable. We have no evidence of ever finding a pink elephant, and we don't have any likely inferences or trail of reasoning as to how such a thing will come into being anytime soon. Thus because it is not probable we are going to discard any assertions about there being pink elephants as being entirely speculative and irrelevant to our daily lives.
5. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

Saying "It's possible we are actually in the matrix" isn't making a claim that we are in the matrix. The question of how I know it is possible is a good one however. The way you know whether something is possible is by checking whether if true, the underlying statement conflicts with physical reality or known facts. In this case, would it be logically inconsistent were the Matrix to actually exist? Is a Matrix incompatible with the laws of physics/reality? If the answers to these kinds of questions are "no" then it is possible that we are actually in the Matrix. You seem to think the imaginatory aspect of possibility statements is somehow bad, yet that is exactly part of the purpose of such statements. Making a statement saying something is possible is essentially imagining a set of circumstances which might occur/exist in the world but which you do not yet have direct evidence of. I am still struggling to figure out why this is such a hard concept for many here to grasp, as not only is this the accepted philosophic use of the term "possible" but it is also exactly the manner the term is used in the English language. I stated three such dictionary definitions above, in fact.
6. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I have no interest in trying to prove the existance of a Matrix. I certainly don't have evidence that one exists, nor do I have evidence that one does not exist. The main point about the Matrix scenario is that it really doesn't matter to us whether a Matrix exists or not. We have to live with how we experience reality in whatever form it presents itself to us. That is why the Matrix scenario is largely a thought experiment. We have to live our lives in the exact same way regardless of whether a Matrix exists or not. Again, saying that the methods a major academic branch work with are a mockery is not a good way to get them to accept your philosophy. Not all philosophers in academia are useless. The department at my university contained Tara Smith, perhaps the most well known objectivist academic philosopher, as well as a highly-respected classics and classical philosophy section. These are people who have respect for what philosophy is supposed to be, and if you work within the accepted definitions then you have a chance of influencing these people and having them respect objectivism as a valid philosophy rather than a "cult" or the personal diatribe of a novelist as many seem to think. Read Inspector's post earlier where he defines "arbitrary" as that which cannot be proven false. What you just decribed is actually just the "possible," specifically the "nomological possible," which are things which might exist within physical laws and known reality but for which no positive evidence is required. As you can see, this whole "arbitrary" terminology serves only to muddy the waters and adds little to the understanding of the problem.
7. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

That is not my position at all. My position is simply that: 1.) I don't understand how the objectivist definition of "arbitrary" captures anything meaningful since it requires the underlying claim to never be able to be proven. The only such claims I can think of are ones which include the element of unprovability in their definition. (IE "An invisible, unprovable monster on the far side of Saturn.) Claims with a possiblily of proof, no matter how slim, don't seem to be included in the definition yet those are the main type we will be dealing with as philosophers. 2.) In this thread numerous people have mis-defined the word "possible" as to require any statement of possibility to be backed up with positive evidence of the underlying assertion. This is in direct contradiction to the accepted definitions of the word, both in everyday English and in philosophy. Coupled with the uselessness and ambiguity of the term "arbitrary" this mis-definition only increases the complexity and confusion of the issue. 3.) I don't see how using the accepted definition of "possible" in any way contradicts the goals of objectivist philosophy or philosophy in general. There seems to be a general confusion in this thread in equating the acceptance of claims of possibility with the acceptance of the underlying assertion. Odden apparently has grasped this partially be recognizing that you can often make the opposite underlying assertion in a statement of possibilty without changing the truth value of the statement. This is because a statement of possibility is not a statement that the underlying assertion is true. 4.) In short, I see this thread as yet another example of objectivist philosophy gone awry. After spending four years in the philosophy department of a major university, the most common resistance I found to objectivist philosophy being taken seriously was its redefinition of already well-accepted terms with a known meaning to philosophers. The second most common was in glossing over potential philosophic quagmires in order to reach a conclusion consistant with the writings of Ayn Rand. I would honestly like to see objectivism be a major school of thought at the academic level, but to do so it needs to be able to critically examine its own philosophic foundation as well as stick to accepted definitions in philosophy where possible.
8. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

Odden, in regards to the law, I don't think we are in disagreement at all. I agree that what we are talking about in this thread has nothing to do with the law. That was why I made the original response to KendallJ. In regards to "possibility" being a positive assertion which needs evidence, this is half true. When you make a statement saying something is possible you are only need to prove the proposition of possibility, not the truth of the underlying assertion. For example, if I state "It is possible it is raining outside right now" I only need to show that it is not impossible that it is raining outside, and this simply means that I need to show that if the underlying proposition were true it would not be internally conflicting or violate known laws or facts. This is different from proving the underlying assertion that it IS actually raining. To require positive evidence of the underlying assertion to make statements of possibility you essentially turn possibility into probablity.
9. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I was responding to KendallJ's post on the previous page.
10. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I had a long reply talking about the assertion made about the use of possibility in the law, but the forum died and it was lost. To sum it up, the law doesn't require possibility to be disproved. It only requires the elements of the offense or cause of action to be proved to the legal standard (beyond a reasonable doubt/preponderance of the evidence) any possible alternative explanations posited by the defense are relevant only to the extent they tend to show the offense was not committed and are important to the extent they are believed by the jury. Inspector, I don't see how I have mis-defined "possible." Here are several relevant definitions entirely consistant with mine from several different dictionaries: 1. That may or can be, exist, happen, be done, be used, etc. 2. That may be true or may be the case, as something concerning which one has no knowledge to the contrary 3. Capable of happening, existing, or being true without contradicting proven facts, laws, or circumstances. I have yet to find a definition of "possible" which states that something needs positive evidence of its probability to be "possible." Perhaps that is another new definition of Peikoff's?
11. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I don't really see the need to use a word such as "arbitrary" in the context of describing the "possible." As I said, "possible" already excludes hypotheticals which confict with known facts or reality. Peikoff's definition of "arbitrary" seems add nothing to what we want to capture by defining the possible with the added problem of complexity and a fuzzy redefinition of a word to a new context. For something to be "possible" it doesn't require ANY evidence to suggest it is true. Possibility only requires no evidence that it is false. It is an negative requirement, not a positive. Something is possible if it doesn't conflict with known facts or reality, in essense. Thus with my box analogy, there need be no evidence of what is inside the box to posit what could is possible to be inside. What possibility would exclude are things which would contradict known facts or reality, for example I couldn't say "It is possible that the Queen Mary is in the box." Such a statement is false not because I lack evidence of the Queen Mary being there, but because for the statement to be true our baseline knowledge about the relevant facts and physical laws would have to be wrong.
12. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

That's why I think that the Matrix scenario is of a special sort, as distinct from the God or unicorn examples. The Matrix problem is that the reliability of our faculties of perception depend on its answer. The thing that "arbitrary" seems to be trying to get are things like "invisible monsters" and such. Things which essentially could never be verified in any form regardless of any advance in knowledge, change in geographic location, etc. I would think that a list of such things is necessarily quite small. I would even be hesistant to include God in the list, due to the common theme in world religions of men experiencing or communicating with God in various forms. To say something is "arbitrary" then, it is something which is possible but which can never be proved to actually exist or occur. This results in the further question of having to determine what counts as something which never can be proved to exist. This is why I think the list is quite short. An arbitrary invisisible monster, for instance, would be something defined like "The invisible X monster lives on the far side of Saturn and can never be seen, sensed or measured in any way at any time." Simply saying that "There is an X monster living on the far side of Saturn" thus isn't making an arbitrary assertion about the realm of the possible, it seems. Again, I think the whole idea of "arbitrary" is confusing. I think it is must clearre to simply stick with the realm of the "possible" which includes in its definition the requirement of not running afoul of any known facts or laws. Thus to truly be possible, an invisible undetectible monster must conform to the laws of physics, something I doubt any such monster definition can do.
13. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

This is a truly bizarre new definition of the word "arbitrary." If the "arbitrary" is what could exist but there is no evidence to suggest that it does, then it is actually just defining a subset (or perhaps even all) of the "possible." Remember that the "possible" is simply that which may be; containing all assertions which don't contradict known facts, relations, physical laws, etc. You don't need evidence of something for it to be considered "possible." Likewise to prove something is not possible you have to show either the thing itself is untrue or else the possibility runs afoul of known facts, relations, physical laws, etc. This new definition of "arbitrary" also is confusing because of the requirement "cannot be proven false." This also seems to suggest that your definition of "arbitrary" merely captures what everybody else calls the "possible" because almost all statements of possibility have unknown truth values at the time they are made. Perhaps you meant to talk about statements which can NEVER be proven false. Even this is unclear as it is hard to say what can never be proven false at some point in the future. I am honestly not sure why Objectivism has such a love of redefining words with already well-accepted meanings. Because as in this case, it serves only to confuse. If "arbitrary" truly is just some new definition for what everybody else calls "possible" then it is totally bizarre why it is an "act of faith" to entertain the possible. Everybody entertains the possible.
14. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I am not saying that because it is a well-accepted problem it is true. My point is that many philosophers use the Matrix-type scenario as a tool to show the backwards-limit of possible human knowledge about metaphysics and to provoke further discussion on the point. I have never met a philosophy professor who seriously entertains the possibility of there actually being a Matrix. But I have met many who used the Matrix scenario to provoke critical thought and discussion on its importance and implications.
15. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

As a serious philosophical ponderance, the "brain in the jar" or Matrix scenario is actually rather well accepted. I can think of at least three times during my philosophical education where it came up. Again, the importance of the Matrix scenario is not that it is a possibility (as the book in the box is a possibility) but rather it is a possibility which our faculties of perception can neither prove NOR disprove. The Matrix scenario identifies the limit of potential human understanding of metaphysics. It identifies the line at which reality of a certain sort MUST be accepted as an axiom else it could not be proved at all.
16. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

I think this accusation that talk of discussion of the Matrix scenario is purely "arbitrary" is misleading however. It would indeed be arbitrary to state that "I believe that I am connected to the Matrix right now." It is not, however, arbitrary to state that "It is within the realm of possibility that I am connected to the Matrix right now." This is because the Matrix argument is essentially being used as a hypothetical. The essential problem is that the only means humans have of proof or disproof (the senses) are incapable of proving OR disproving the Matrix scenario were it indeed real. That is why it is important. Admitting the possibility of a Matrix scenario doesn't mean you admit that you are connected to the Matrix, or that reality doesn't exist, or that Ayn Rand was wrong, etc. All it means is that a Matrix scenario is within the bounds of possible alternative realities. The best example I can think of right now is of a sealed cardboard box sitting on a table which you are not allowed to open or touch. The contents of the box are bounded by the realm of the possible. Thus, I can say "It is possible a hardcopy of Atlas Shrugged is in the box." This again, is not the same as saying "There IS a copy of the book in the box" which would of course be unfounded. Defining the realm of the possible is something we do every day and it is one of the things essential to human existance. Why should we refuse to practice the principle when dealing with philosophic hypotheticals?
17. ## "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"

There really is no answer to the Matrix (aka "brain in a jar") question. There is no good way to discover that you are indeed connected to the Matrix even if you were. This is a great "leap of faith" if you want to call it that in philosophy. You have to accept that what you experience is "reality" and that the beings and objects you percieve are independant and not products of your own mind. This is mainly because without this first leap, nothing else is possible. All mental effort, philosophy, thought, etc would be a dead end.
18. ## The enjoyment of simulated torture

I am afraid I haven't seen the episode where Frylock is dying of cancer so I can't really comment on it. What is funny about ATHF is the interplay between the characters, some of which are stupid, others of which are more normal, etc. For instance check out this clip of Master Shake. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoQ6ngzMz1Y
19. ## The enjoyment of simulated torture

Because it is hillarious?
20. ## Zelda: Twilight Princess

I wish the devs and game companies would think that as well. The sad thing is that before the era of accessible internet multiplayer and the hardware for insane graphics, games with great single-player stories, characters and plots were relatively easy to find. Today it is much harder, even on the computer. The last real game I played like that was KOTOR. There are still games from way, way back I love to play to experience again what pulled me into the story and the game in a way many modern games do not.
21. ## National security

Not exactly. The Tripartite Pact to which Germany and Japan were parties did not even require Germany to declare war against the United States in the event of a Japanese declaration of war against the US. Even the reasons for the Japanese attack and German declaration were different. The big problem with analyzing the "morality" of US involvement in both world wars is the US was never an original combattant. Instead, in both wars, internal and external political forces in the US pushed the US towards non-combat support of one side at first, which in turn forced the enemies of that side (The Central and Axis Powers) to inevitable war with the United States not of their own choosing. In WWI Germany had no choice but to seek some method of removing US support of Britain and France and thus their attempts to court Japan and Mexico to invade the US, hence the Zimmermann telegram. Similarly efforts to stop transport of war material led to the "atrocity" of unrestricted submarine warfare and the sinking of the Lusitania. In WWII similar US support and ties to Britain forced Germany to the conclusion that war was inevitable in part because of US plans to send combat troops to England as well as strong British political pressure on Roosevelt both before and after Pearl Harbor to concentrate his efforts in Europe not the Pacific. This is the essential problem with trying to define when the "moral" level of national security threat has occurred and thus military action is justified. In international relations you have a complexity which tends to defy easy moral qualification.
22. ## Matt Stein, Attorney at Law

Congrats! I am not quite as far along as you, being only a 2L and envy you being past the finish line. I just got a summer job though, which is something. Do you know what sort of law you want to practice yet? Or what sort of firm you will be working for at least?
23. ## The enjoyment of simulated torture

All I can say is just that one of the common threads throughout human history, cutting across time and culture, is the fact that humans get enjoyment out of watching living things being tortured, injured and killed. I would think that the modern "horror movie" is just a legal and rather less reprehensible way for people to get this enjoyment than the old method of actually maiming and killing real people.
24. ## Dropping out of high school

I am currently in law school, but I was in your situation not too long ago for it to be forgotten. Here is my advice, for what it is worth. Don't think of school as any more than as the "stepping stone" that you wish it wasn't. When I was in high school, I figured that once I got to college the endless grade-grubbing and politics of trying to get into a good college would end and the real learning would begin. Only in college, the process starts all over again and if anything is even worse as you compact even brighter people together trying to figure out how to play the system to get out of college and into a job or grad school. Now that I am in law school, the process is ramped up yet again with more mindless tedium only this time in an attempt to get a good job after law school. The one lesson I have learned from the whole experience is having the necessary educational prerequisite will never hurt you, regardless of how it was obtained or how many boring or useless classes you had to sit through to get it. Once you get to my age you will never be thinking "I wish my grades were lower in high school" or "I wish I went to a worse college." You get stuck with whatever you did, and it will affect you for the rest of your life. Thus while it seems now that school is pointless it really is not. Stick with it, get your "ticket punched" and once you are older and have the opportunity to choose what you want to do then at least you have the freedom of that choice. Dropping out of high school, even if you are bright is likely only to limit your future opportunities.
25. ## Hypothetical o'ist government solution to US national debt

If taxation immediately stops, not only will the government grind to a halt but payment on govt. securities would as well. This would be a MAJOR economic problem, as well as likely causing some pretty severe foreign policy problems considering the amount of government debt held outside the US.
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