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Everything posted by DonAthos

  1. I have been endeavoring to provide it. Some topics are relatively straightforward, in my opinion, and some somewhat less so. There is plenty to discuss here, as I believe the thread stands testament, and it is in the discussing that I hope to help you to understand what I'm pointing at. This is, in part, why I ask for patience. All right. Here's a question in corollary: given transporter technology, which aims to "reintegrate" a person from constituent material according to some pattern, does the FPE come back into existence? Yes and no. This is what is so curious about the FPE and which makes these sorts of discussions rather tricky. We can infer the fact of the first person view of others', but we cannot observe it directly (meaning: not only the specific content of that view, but even that the view exists in the first place). This is why, for instance and with respect to "artificial intelligence," we fumble with things like the Turing Test -- it is an attempt to infer something that cannot, by its nature, be observed directly. So, I have a telescope. I know this for a fact, from my direct, first-hand experience of it. And I expect that every other human does, too, based on my observations (of behavior, of biology, etc.). I further expect, on this same basis, that someone who emerges from a transporter has a telescope. But -- is it the same telescope that the entity which first entered the transporter possessed? A difficult question to answer, given that none of us can see the telescope itself. And yet that's what my argument intends to show -- that it is not, in fact, the same telescope. If you follow along with my current conversation with Eiuol (and yes, I do rather expect thread participants to read the posts in the thread; or at least, I do not intend to retype the same arguments or information to the various participants), then I hope you will soon agree with me. Eiuol, I want to make sure you didn't miss it -- above I'd asked you a follow-up question about this stance (and to further clarify, you don't see this as different than being "completely frozen in a block of ice, then revived" OR waking up from a nap -- correct?): Given that what I need to "reassemble" Eiuol is a Eiuol-pattern and the requisite constituent elements, couldn't I then build a Eiuol without first deconstructing you?
  2. I understand your frustration. I often feel similarly and struggle in dealing with it appropriately. I hope that we are nonetheless committed to being polite to one another. And if you can maintain sufficient patience and composure, I hope eventually to explain my argument to you. Very good -- you can be reconstituted by the Eiuol-pattern and by the requisite constituent elements (which need not be the original elements). So far we have envisioned the transporter as taking place in two steps -- a "deconstruction" and a "reconstruction," if you will. But if, in order to build Eiuol, I only need the Eiuol-pattern and the requisite constituent elements, as above... Then couldn't I build a Eiuol without first deconstructing you? Or, if not, what would stop me from doing this successfully?
  3. You taught me a new term today. Thank you! I think your proposed resolution is fascinating. In truth, I do not understand quantum mechanics/entanglement sufficiently to comment past that -- and especially what consequences entanglement might have for mind and consciousness. So I'll offer some temporary agreement that this might approach one day solve the conundrum (which, as a Trekkie from a very tender age, would be awesome); but absent some quantum workaround, I believe that my criticisms of the transporter 1) stand as written, and 2) serve my central purpose in highlighting our sometimes varying approaches to the metaphysics of the FPE. I am grateful that you have understood me. I am currently agnostic as to quantum mechanics; my default approach is to trust scientific matters to scientists. I will stipulate that the person who emerges from the transporter experiences all of these, except that there would not necessarily be "the sort of feeling when you wake up." Rather, there need not be any residual effect from the transportation itself. Again, perfect. You're defending the ideal position against which I can demonstrate my own. Fair enough. We will initially concentrate on the transporter, then. Here's where I believe we are currently: you believe that you could step into the transporter (#1, living room) and emerge from the other (#2, garage) and be reconstituted from any material (meaning: not necessarily the original atoms) over any given time frame. I'd guess that we agree that transporter #2, then, reconstitutes you according to some pattern. It takes the atoms or molecules (or whatever) that Eiuol requires and puts them in proper position -- just so -- and the result is you, Eiuol. Do I have that correct? Perhaps. But at present I am not convinced that all of these questions are fundamentally scientific in nature; I suspect they may be philosophical instead. Yes. "Relics," I believe. Star Trek has had a few interesting explorations of transporter technology (as perhaps could be expected). We may run into another episode or two shortly. I agree that it is a trifle, somewhat. But the persistence and ubiquity of these sorts of fictional devices (not just transportation, but also continuation via clone, hologram, android, virtual presence, avatar, etc., etc., etc.) leads me to believe that the underlying matters are important to people generally, and also that in some future, near or far, people will attempt to implement them practically. But yes, I raised the example to draw attention to the underlying metaphysics -- and most specifically, that of the FPE. I don't know what you're addressing specifically, but I don't consider this conversation "sad." If people make errors, that's to be expected in this context, and those errors can be addressed. I'm glad that people are here, willing to participate, even if they should err along the way. I agree that "existence is identity" in the way Rand described: "To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of nonexistence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes." But this does not make any argument as to the nature or attribute(s) of any given entity. It does not tell us whether transportation is possible or not, or under what terms, and (if this is what you refer to, in part) it has no position with respect to quantum mechanics. So it is not true that "there is nothing more or less than existence = identity"; there is everything more, the whole of human scientific knowledge. So that my position is clear, I do not agree that there is any "brush with death," but simply death. When you are disassembled, you are dead. When someone else is reassembled according to your pattern? That person is alive. But you are not. You are still dead. I agree that this is the most fascinating question; it is the question I am pointing to; and it is not addressed, to my knowledge, in Star Trek (except perhaps tangentially), which implicitly takes Eiuol's position. What I argue is missing in the Star Trek conception of "what comprises a human being" is: the FPE and its metaphysical reality. If you were to re-create each atom in your body in the described fashion, yes you would produce a "functionally identical person who has exactly all your memories, hopes, dreams, spirit." But there is quite a devil in the detail of "functionally identical person" -- and that devil is, it would not be you.
  4. All right, perfect. StrictlyLogical? I'm going to focus my answer here, because Eiuol is arguing the exact opposite of my contention: that "the transported person is the same" and furthermore that the specific material does not matter. I hope that by discussing this, I can shed more light on the nature of my contention (though not necessarily on "emergence," which is a separate matter and would probably be more appropriate to its own thread). That's quite an offer. I will refrain from joking further with... great difficulty. But seriously, this is the ideal stance against which to test my own. I am curious as to whether there are any specific "tests of consciousness and self" you have in mind? Suffice it to say, in the meantime, that the Eiuol (or Kirk, or whomever you'd prefer) who emerges from the transporter satisfies every scientific test as to being the same person -- and that they believe themselves to be the same person who entered the transporter, with no discontinuity of memory (apart from the actual transportation, during which time there is no entity capable of memory, but some assembly of disintegrated material). If the fundamental, constituent material itself does not matter, I wonder whether there are any other restrictions or considerations? For instance, temporal: You enter the transporter and are broken down into constituents. Then you are reconstituted at a distance, yes? We envision this happening with practical simultaneity -- but does it have to be so? Could you be reconstituted a minute later? An hour? A year? Also, your responses lead me to suspect that you would support other sci-fi conventions I've mentioned before. For instance, do you suppose it to be possible that your consciousness could effectively be transported online? Or into another mechanism, like a robot/android? Or does it require a traditionally human-biological medium?
  5. All right. Well, then, suppose I do not ask you to go first -- suppose that I invite Eiuol, first, and he blithely agrees. You and I await him on the far end, in the garage, and... Sure enough. Eiuol materializes in the garage. He appears to be in full working order. We submit him to whatever tests you might imagine and he passes them all -- he is, with respect to every test we administer (meaning: any test you could hope to devise) -- the same person who stepped into the transporter in the living room, and in the same condition. He also certainly believes himself to be Eiuol, and to have transported successfully from the living room to the garage. He tells us that my fears were overblown, and that he is in fact the same individual, no different than if he'd just taken a little nap and woken up. Suppose we witness a hundred such demonstrations. A thousand. A million. Would you then be willing to do it yourself? Without understanding how the portal functions, I don't have any particular bias for or against; if it is reliant upon transporter technology, for instance, I would have to decline. I disagree on all counts -- that there is anything mystical or supernatural about emergence, or even that I am doing anything "vaguely": I invoked emergence directly and by name. But perhaps to discuss the subject would take us too far afield, for the moment. None of this is at issue. But I am desperate to get you to understand what is at issue. Again, suppose as perfect a transporter as you can imagine, though not magic; it disassembles you and then reconstitutes you at a distance, molecule for molecule, perfectly. I recognize the concern you've raised that "all computation is finite, granular, precise only to a certain degree," and yes, this is true -- but suppose that the transporter is sufficiently precise to allow transportation without error (or if we must call upon magic, that it is "magically precise" to an infinite degree). Your brain along with the rest of you will be reconstituted exactly -- it will not thereafter be a "frozen brain," but a brain fully and equally capable of thinking, consciousness, mind. Do you have any objections then? Yes, physically nothing is different. Yes, the FPE is different in some fundamental way. Here is the perspective of the person being transported: "Here I am, about to transport to the garage. Scotty, energize!" <PERMANENT VOID> Yes, the person who emerges from the transporter into the garage remembers being transported (well, at least until the moment of transport; I don't suppose there would be any capacity for memory during) and feels that everything was continuous. "Hey," he says. "It worked!" But that person up above? Here's his current POV: <PERMANENT VOID> Nope! My apologies, but I'm not going to extend myself to amnesia just now. Let us try to pin down the subject before us, first, which I believe concerns far more than mere memory. You say that your position "is that the transported person is the same." All right, fair enough. Are we agreed as to the terms of transportation? A person is disassembled (into whatever constituent elements) and then reconstituted at a distance. We have two scenarios I'd like you to consider, if you would? Scenario A is what I've agreed to before, to help satisfy SL: that the material used for reconstitution is exactly the same, molecule for molecule. Scenario B is the potentially more challenging one: use of new/different material in the reconstitution. For suppose, in reconstitution, that some other single atom or molecule is used -- one part out of what? A lot. (A cursory search reports that there are "over sixty trillion cells in the human body"; and possibly twenty-three trillion molecules per cell. A big number.) Probably there is far greater physical variation in you between writing a post and after, than a transportation which switches a single atom, or molecule, or cell. So I expect -- though correct me if I'm wrong -- that this does not pose any great problem to your position. But then, could we switch out two? Three? How many? In fact, I don't know why you should favor one group of oxygen atoms over another, do you? For the purpose of reconstitution, I mean. It would appear to me that one oxygen atom should be as good as any other, and that this same reasoning could be applied to you, atom for atom. Or is there anything characteristic or particular about a Eiuol-atom, such that to change it would make it no longer true that "the transported person is the same" (in the same sense as waking up from sleep)? I invite you to speak for yourself on the subject, but if you hold that "the transported person is the same," can you speak to whether it is important that the same atoms or molecules are used? If it is important, why? If it is not important, could we yet reconstitute you with an entirely different set of atoms/molecules?
  6. Forget sleep. In the sense you're talking about, "you are not literally the same person in every way" moment to moment. You are a "different person," Eiuol, from when you began reading this sentence. But in some crucial and fundamental respects, you are the same. It is still you reading this sentence, and the next. But if you were transported, it would be a different person who came here to record his experience. The difference between the kind of "difference" we're discussing (yikes), is akin to Heraclitus' possibly apocryphal observation that "you cannot stand in the same river twice," versus standing in the Amazon and Nile. Yes, the waters of the Mississippi are always flowing and changing, and yes, that difference may have some meaning, such that "you cannot stand in the same river twice" is true in a sense... but the Amazon and the Nile? Are two different rivers. Jim Kirk waking in the morning is different in some respects from the Kirk who went to sleep, it is true. But Jim Kirk post-transporter is a wholly different entity than Jim Kirk pre-transporter, with regards to the FPE. Because if I wake up from a coma, I would have waken up from the coma: I would be there. If I enter a transporter, then I will not come out of it. Something will (and it will be called, and call itself, DonAthos). But it will not be me. I will be gone. It isn't a matter of forgetfulness. It's not a matter of not experiencing transportation. It's a matter of not being present to be able to remember or forget. It's a matter of non-existence. Yes. From a third-person perspective, this is absolutely true. And even from a first-person perspective -- if we imagine the person who has used the transporter does not share my objection (as I expect Kirk does not) -- the person who has been transported will believe himself to be the very same entity. No (meaningful) discontinuity. No change, except in locality. No real difference. He's wrong. 1) You died. A new FPE was born (which is to say, fundamentally, a new person). 2) You did not die. You are still here, experiencing the world.
  7. The problem here is that we cannot assume either. To assume either is to "beg the question." We are instead trying to ascertain the nature of this copy -- whether it is "perfect," to what extent, and what that means. If I assume that the transporter cannot make a perfect copy of Kirk 1, then I agree that the question disappears; but I cannot assume it. Rather, I argue that the transporter cannot make a perfect copy of Kirk 1... in one -- and only one -- respect: FPE. But this cannot be established from a third-person/"scientific" point of view, because molecule for molecule, test for test, we suppose that the transporter can otherwise make a perfect copy, indeed. To put this another way... Suppose that the transporter works as advertised and makes a molecule-for-molecule copy of Kirk (and we can further suppose that it is utilizing the very same stuff, in the very same orientation). Is the resultant Kirk ("Kirk 2") a "perfect copy" in all respects? Or is it not? If it is different, in what way? I don't believe that there is any dichotomy between mind and brain. In many respects, to transport a brain is to transport a mind. But again -- and this reflects my argument, not an "assumption" -- with one crucial difference: FPE. A transported brain will have a mind and it will necessarily have an FPE -- but it will not be the same FPE. I don't believe in the "supernatural," but yes, something "funny" is going on here -- and it is due to the FPE, which is precisely why its metaphysical status can cause such consternation. It is funny because it is inaccessible to our usual "scientific" (i.e. third person) means of understanding the world. The device does not operate differently upon cars than on humans. We can allow the molecule-for-molecule reproduction (or "translation," or however you care to label it) takes place flawlessly and in the very same manner. And yet the results for me and the car are absolutely different, because (unlike the car), I am liable to die. If you're not differentiating between a man and a car in this respect, then we are not yet discussing the same matter. Yes, every hydrogen atom has its own identity. A human being is more than a pattern of elements, and also more than his constituent elements. A human being is emergent (which is an issue you and I have tussled over before, yet here it is again), "greater than the sum of his parts." But what is more, the Star Trek approach to the transporter problem supposes that you could break a man down into his constituent elements and then reassemble him -- with those exact same elements and into the very same pattern -- and that, when you do, you have the very same person. It argues that it is Kirk 1, both before and after. This "sameness" is inarguable from a third person point of view; If I brought Kirk to you today and tomorrow, and in between (perhaps unbeknownst to you) he was transported, you would be utterly incapable of detecting any difference. If Kirk were transported without his knowledge, he (Kirk 2) would also be incapable of detecting any difference. And yet, he would be different, in one and only one (yet imo a crucial) respect: Kirk 1 would be dead. Yes. You have merely moved the atom.* If I disassemble a bed for the purpose of moving the bed across town, and then reassemble it in my new home, I have moved the bed. It is the same bed. Not bed 1 and bed 2, but just bed 1. But people are different in this way: not supernaturally so, yet in a way that is not accessible to third person observation/"science." _______________________ * Not "merely," in truth, because you also have done all that you have done -- disassembled and reassembled the atom. But this does neither matter to the atom, nor to anything else, as such. Disassembling and reassembling a bed is "exact copy" enough for any conceivable purpose, in my opinion. We can allow this to be true of a brain as well. Rather, I argue that the FPE is utterly unique in this regard. LOL, well if we allow for magic, then sure, why not? Yes: if a transporter could pop you, all of you, here to there, through some "discontinuity in space," you would be the same person; which is to say, in the respect I care about, you would not die. Given this magic, being transported from one's living room to his garage would have the same metaphysical significance as opening the door and walking there. (As an aside, doubly rendered such through parenthesis to hopefully avoid stumbling down a tangential rabbit hole, I don't know that I've ever resolved Zeno's paradoxes to my own satisfaction, but it is possible that matter already moves through some sort of "discontinuity" on some level, or maybe the "quantum leap" is a kind of example of this.) *************************** Look, earlier I registered my distaste for "devil's advocate" style argumentation. And so it is. I am utterly and annoyingly earnest (by which I mean: I sometimes annoy myself). Yet maybe it could assist? Let us suppose that I have invented the Star Trek transporter! I will be rich, I tell you, rich beyond belief! But first... I need you, StrictlyLogical, to demonstrate the tech to the world. Can I convince you to try it out? I will pay you whatever money you might like (my investors stand ready, at least; or it is a claim against my future earnings, which we grant will come). Suppose that I can further guarantee you that the technology will work exactly as I promise. It is not "magic," but it will disassemble you bit by bit and then reassemble you (with the very same stuff in the very same pattern), moving you from living room to garage. It is as taking apart and moving a bed. Are you game? Why or why not?
  8. I don't mean to "dispense with details," exactly... so please, let us explore your disagreement with my analysis. We shall consider any details you consider relevant. If you mean to reference the fact that I call the feasibility of the technology a "separate consideration," it is only because it's representative of the kind of tangent that sometimes takes over these sorts of threads/thought experiments. So for the purpose of discussion, I intend merely to stipulate the Star Trek transporter as it is represented. But if you think some aspect of the technology is relevant to the question(s) we're trying to answer, by all means. Could you expand on this a little bit? I'm not sure what you mean by "sufficient" in either sentence. Sufficient to do what? It is an interesting and niggling detail, that you consider FPE to be beside the point; I consider it utterly to the point. It makes me suspect we still have something to discuss... I agree that Kirk 2 has bones, blood, brain, consciousness, FPE -- and that they are what they are. As to whether Kirk 2 is a "perfect copy" of Kirk 1, or whether Kirk 2 "is" Kirk 1, well... The scenario I'm considering (again, taking the transporter as represented) is that Kirk 2 is a molecule for molecule perfect re-implementation of Kirk 1. If there are any differences between them, physically, they are not more than the differences we would find in Kirk 1 between 9:00am and 9:01am as he takes his morning coffee, or between any moment to moment, generally. Assuming we use the very same "stuff" to construct Kirk 2... meaning, we have pulled apart Kirk 1 and then put him back together again, bit by bit, using the exact same material, then I don't know -- do you think it's right to say that Kirk 2 is a "perfect copy"? A "perfect recreation"? Or is Kirk 1? If we insist that this is not, in fact, Kirk 1 but Kirk 2 (because to refer to him now as "Kirk 2," though a useful convention, is in some sense begging the question), then it must be asked: what is the difference between Kirk 1 and Kirk 2, such that it is a different entity? If we took apart a car and reassembled it in like fashion (i.e. molecule for molecule), there would be no question that it was the same car -- or would there be? (If we took the car apart in larger pieces, like in a garage, and then reassembled it -- that would unquestionably be the same car, right?) If we wanted to explore such "Ship of Theseus" style questions, we could further ask whether using different molecules to reconstruct a car in that fashion would constitute the "same car," but that's not at all to my interest or to my point. I don't care whether we think of the car as being the same or not, and neither Jim Kirk in that regard. Instead, and to my point, Jim Kirk has something that a car does not have: he has a consciousness. And what is more, an FPE. You are right that Kirk 2 will also have a consciousness and an FPE. What is more, he will be convinced (absent my philosophical conviction on this issue) that he is Kirk 1, and that no change has taken place for him, as such. He will remember "his experience" of entering the transporter. Yet I deny that it was his experience, or at least that it was not originally so, if it is now, because though Kirk 2 has an FPE it is not the same as the FPE of Kirk 1. The FPE of Kirk 1 -- in short, the entity that he was -- has died, and does no longer exist. It is not merely a question of label or what we consider "sameness" to be in this respect. We can call the transported car the "same" or not, I don't care and it doesn't matter apart from abstruse philosophical consideration, like counting the angels on the head of a pin. The car is not alive, not conscious, has no FPE, and cannot decide whether to use a transporter. As owner of a car, I would not fret if my car was transported. But I would care very much if I was going to be transported. (It is a separate and interesting question, if I should care if one of my loved ones was going to be transported...) Right. This is exactly the same question, fundamentally, and it is explored in several sci-fi works without any apparent qualm (which suggests to me that there is... not yet underlying agreement on these sorts of issues, in larger society, or even a real understanding of "the problem"). In the other thread, I'd brought up Black Mirror, which routinely explores the idea of consciousness being downloaded/uploaded, transferred, restored, etc., as well as Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and Altered Carbon. But there are probably hundreds or thousands of other works which probe the same thing (e.g. a humorous treatment can be found in Red Dwarf and its holograms), and it further leads me to suspect that should technology evolve to a certain point (as it is perhaps reasonable to assume that it will), that people truly will begin to offer the service of "backup" in some fashion, or some other form of continuation. To answer your question, it might be "worth doing" for certain reasons... but if the purpose is for me to somehow extend my existence, to continue on in some real fashion, and live on in an android, or on the internet, or in a cloned body, or etc., then no, it would be utterly pointless. When the backup is activated, then somewhere in the world there would be a "DonAthos," but the person you're conversing with currently would be dead. (And having my understanding and etc., that DonAthos would be in the position of knowing that it was a "newborn" entity, despite extensive memory apparently to the contrary; an interesting position to be in, to be sure, and perhaps worthy of its own sci-fi exploration. Maybe I should write it.)
  9. In another recent thread, I was invited to make this one to explore what I'm calling "the transporter problem." In quick summary then, the "problem" considers the famous Star Trek transporter. It purports to disassemble a person (into whatever constituent elements) and then reassemble that person in identical fashion (and perhaps from the same constituent elements) at some distance. In Star Trek, people routinely utilize this technology; however (granting that this would someday be feasible; a separate consideration), I would not use such a thing, because I believe that it would be fatal. This speaks to the question of the "First Person Experience" (FPE) and its metaphysical status -- which is why I'd raised the problem initially; granting that the person who enters the transporter (e.g. James T. Kirk) is identical to the person who leaves it from a third person/scientific perspective, I yet argue that there is a fundamental metaphysical difference which cannot be assessed from "outside," i.e. it is a different person with respect to the FPE. The Kirk who leaves the transporter is not the same Kirk as the one who entered it; the Kirk who entered the transporter is dead. In response it was asked whether sleep was in some way analogous to this situation -- and whether we "die" when we go to sleep. But no, it is not the same thing at all. When I go to sleep at night, I wake up the next morning as the same person. Whatever interruption or discontinuity of consciousness that sleep provides (as well as being knocked unconscious, in a coma, or "legally dead" then revived) it is not the same as the death of the transporter, which I argue is utter obliteration. Then it was suggested that this is some rephrasing of the "Ship of Theseus." But no, it is not. It is not a question as to whether we continue to call the entity who emerges from the transporter "Jim Kirk," but: would we be willing to use the transporter? I argue that the answer to that question depends on whether we believe that a consciousness can be reconstituted such that the associated FPE remains the same, irrespective of what we call it, and whether we believe that the FPE (despite being immeasurable from a "scientific" perspective) has any reality to it. Which is to say that it depends upon our assessment of the FPE metaphysically. Accordingly, I would not be willing to use the transporter.
  10. Mmm, perhaps. I don't know yet. The reason why I brought up the transporter is because I think it speaks directly to the question of "the metaphysical status of First Person Experience." Whether there is anything "real" there. Those who tend to support transporter-like technology usually accord little or no weight to the FPE: that it doesn't exist, or to the extent that it exists, it is held not to matter. Jim Kirk goes in one end of the transporter, he comes out the other end. It's the same guy, right? All scientific (i.e. "third person") tests will tell you that. Hell, if you ask him, Kirk will tell you that he's the same guy. And, unless he's come to the same conclusions I have on the subject, he will believe it. But is he really? Is it the same person? I say that he is not. That he is a different person. Not in the Heraclitean way of the river's ever-changing waters, but in the much more profound (imo) way of: the First Person Experience that was Kirk died, literally died, upon being disassembled on the one end of the transporter, and some new First Person Experience came into being on the other end. No, of course not -- this consciousness I have today is fundamentally the same one I had last night. Sleep is not comparable to death. (And if we apply some stringent "special science" approach to death, not even death may be comparable to death: a person revived after being technically "dead" is still the same person, too.) But when your molecules are disassembled, you cease to be, and your first person experience -- the you that you are and always have been -- ceases to be, as well. If an identical pattern of molecules are assembled elsewhere, you will not somehow magically come back into existence. You will still be dead. The next case to consider is whether it matters if the exact same molecules are used for the "reconstruction," but I think it would not (and an argument to the contrary, I suspect, would of necessity sound somewhat mystical... though I am disposed to entertain it, still). Does this discussion need a separate thread? Advise if so, but I think it really does get at the heart of the question of the FPE and its metaphysical status, and I suspect that peoples' various responses to the transporter problem (and also to the "sleep problem," insofar as we regard it as problematic) speaks to what we think of the FPE itself, and whether it counts as anything at all.
  11. The question raised here (or at least, perhaps, the question it raises for me) is one that I've struggled with for a long time -- and from far before I read Rand. It's a sensitive and deep area, imo, and so I hope you'll understand if I decline to engage in "devil's advocate" style argument, etc., which is not something I care for generally, and instead try to be very earnest. My entry to this question, and still the basis on which I often consider it, comes from Star Trek and the transporter. I'm one of those people who would not use a transporter, as represented in Trek, because I do not think it would "transport" me at all. I think it would kill me and then create a clone of me in a different location. (This sort of thing is not unique to Trek, and forms the basis for many sci-fi conventions, including being "uploaded" to a computer or robot after death, as featured in several phenomenal episodes of Black Mirror, or having "back-ups" like Altered Carbon or Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.) And this has been the basis of many discussions I've had over the years with people who insist that this "clone" would still be "me," because, perhaps in the spirit of the OP's #1, the clone would be atom for atom, molecule for molecule, identical to me. To any outside observer (meaning: all science, and any outside observer), that clone would be indistinguishable from me. What's even more interesting, perhaps, is that the clone would have great reason to believe that it is me; it would have all of my memories and so forth, and would live its life from that moment on in a direct continuation from my own experience. Yet I insist that it would not be me. That I would have died, and that my own, particular and unique "first person experience" would be forever gone from the universe. I don't know what argument or conclusion to make on this basis, or how it intersects with the discussion, per se, but I wanted to contribute such as I'm able. One of the many things that Rand has taught me is that the bedrock of philosophy is reality, and so whatever our theories or arguments we must keep coming back to it. The "first person experience" is real and utterly meaningful, and it has a identity/nature (and if one day we develop some kind of "transporter" technology, or offer to "upload" people to the net, or etc., it will be important to remember this); our resultant theories, whatever they may be, must be made to accommodate the fact.
  12. I've been thinking on this topic since your post. I largely agree with your central thesis, but there are a couple of (possibly minor) aspects I'd like to address... I was thinking about why someone might say "ends do not justify the means"; I think it's potentially a mistake to address this statement by itself. Because here's the context I suspect gave rise to it: that someone, somewhere did some crappy/evil thing in the service of a supposedly noble goal. And when questioned about their crappy/evil actions, that person said, "Well, the ends justify the means." Meaning that, in the pursuit of some "end" of sufficient value (e.g. a noble goal), any or all other actions are morally justified for the sake of achieving it. I expect that in the first case, at least, saying "the ends do not justify the means" is meant as a negation of the above. Not that it is meant as some general disagreement to the sort of moral calculation you describe, just that the proposal -- that the value or goodness of one's goal renders moral any action taken in its service -- is faulty. It is equally a spiritual response to the idea of "by any means necessary," which is often a precursor to the initiation of force, etc., because one considers one's purpose to be so lofty that other moral considerations may be set aside (and often this means that other people may be sacrificed for the cause). As you say, all of the consequences of one's actions (insofar as a person can reasonably expect them, in context and to the best of one's ability) ought to be taken into account to assess the morality of that action, but I don't believe that "ends" in "the ends justify the means" is completely replaceable by "consequences." Rather, saying that "the ends justify the means" is an implicit recognition that there are undesirable consequences stemming from one's action; but it is a special plea that those undesirable consequences are immaterial or insubstantial when set against one's consciously held goal, which is the "end," and thus need not be considered for the purpose of the moral evaluation of the proposed action(s), which is/are the "means." I think it's not incorrect to say that's wrong, and I think that's what's often primarily intended by "the ends do not justify the means," and reflects Rand's intention, for instance, when she wrote (in C:TUI): "But there is no justification, in a civilized society, for the kind of mass civil disobedience that involves the violation of the rights of others—regardless of whether the demonstrators’ goal is good or evil. The end does not justify the means." That said, I agree with you that the antidote required is no mere negation, but a fuller examination of consequence (which, in this instance, Rand provides both in that essay and more generally among her writings).
  13. Jesus, this entire thing reads like the screed from the next Elliot Rodger. Hateful trash. I mean... I recognize that Objectivism has its own unresolved issues with "masculinity" and "femininity" -- and I believe that Rand made many missteps on this issue that have continued to mislead Objectivists (who, imo, often have a hard time disagreeing with Rand with respect to anything) -- so that's why we sometimes countenance these sorts of arguments. Still, I would love to have had her response to the idea that a woman "hero worships" due to her PMS, lol. Noble, self-made souls indeed! From what perspective is this written, and for what audience? Who needs to hear that "the only possible response is anger"? I'd guess the angry. But when I look back at my past relationships, I don't feel anger. And when I consider my present relationship, I feel great joy. How do I manage to do this without buying into the bullshit represented here? Has the person who wrote this ever met a woman? What was their experience, I wonder? And, taken at all seriously, how could a man ever respect a woman or feel anything other than contempt for the entire gender? No wonder there's such great anger associated with this perspective. Fortunately for me, I've met women (but I shudder to think what this might have done to me, if I had read and bought into it at a sufficiently tender age). Maybe my wife is some sort of unique creature in this regard? But I doubt it. The spelling of feelings here exemplifies the level of seriousness and also briskly conveys the underlying hatred and contempt (for, of all things, the feelings of the woman that you love and have married -- your "highest value"!). I'm done here -- I've given it too much attention already, perhaps. What must it be like, to see half the populace in this way, as some sort of inscrutable and irrational alien presence? How demeaning. How poisonous.
  14. As with "human nature," I sometimes hesitate before such sweeping declarations. I think that people are "blank" in some senses, but not others. Rather than debating "tabula rasa," it might be more helpful to discuss specific propositions. For instance... Yes, I believe that man has no preexisting knowledge. In that sense, he is a "blank slate." On the other hand, for instance, every individual comes with some specific biology, a genetic makeup, etc., that potentially has an impact on his development and so forth. We might sometimes speak of "propensities." (Some of these propensities are fairly universal, others are quite individual-specific.) For instance, imagine a person with abnormal hormonal production. Such a person might be more inclined towards aggressive behavior or something -- I really don't know -- but with respect to such things, it might not be right to describe such a person as a "blank slate" in the way that phrase is often used or invoked, to suggest perhaps that all people start from some equal/neutral internal point. For some people, reining in aggression might thus be easier or more difficult (and perhaps much more difficult), accounting to their physiology. I would forgive anyone who looks at such things and decides that we are not quite fully "blank," but it's more like we're born with certain architecture, certain grooving, that lends itself more readily to certain expressions than others. I have no idea whether reason can be used "to fully comprehend the laws of nature." In what I believe to be a necessary irony, I think I would have to fully comprehend the laws of nature in order to assess fairly whether reason can fully comprehend the laws of nature. (And perhaps you would have to fully comprehend them, to say that we never could.) What I will say is that, with respect to the laws of nature, human reason has shown itself to be remarkably potent. If you consider where we were as a species just a few thousand years ago, and now witness our power (to travel to the moon and to split the atom, just to pick a couple of handy things we've probably progressed well beyond by now), I think it's fair to say that reason can comprehend the laws of nature to a goodly extent (as pertains to life on earth, at least; as pertains to the matters which impact us directly). Who knows what man will be capable of in another two or three thousand years? I don't know what it would mean, to have the contents of a given man's mind be completely determined by reason. Maybe you could elaborate on that before I say whether I think it's possible? At initial blush, though, I'll say that it doesn't sound likely. Reason being neither automatic nor infallible and -- in my view -- developing over time sort of like a muscle, leads me to believe that any given person will be reasonable in some respects and... perhaps less reasonable in others. We probably all have unexamined or unchallenged beliefs or feelings, from time to time, and especially dating from our youth. For after all, it's not as though men are born in some state of perfect reason and thereafter make mistakes, wandering from the one true path -- and children are not known for being exemplars of reasoned analysis. The rules for successful thinking (i.e. logic) must be discovered and learned, and often re-learned, and re-learned across a sea of error... or at least this is so if my own experience is representative. Is this an "inherent limitation"? If so, how does it relate to either human nature or to reason? Human reason has a nature, it's true (and is thus part and parcel to "human nature"), but having or using reason does not limit us -- it empowers us. It's like... Imagine if we were discussing the car, and whether a car is useful for getting from some Point A or Point B. If you were to take a skeptical stance and ask whether cars run flawlessly, or if they can break down, I would answer you honestly and say that cars do not run flawlessly. They break down with regularity, and even accounting for all of our ingenuity in preventative maintenance. Some cars break down all the time. And yet, a car is useful for getting from A to B; cars do not "limit" our ability to travel -- they empower it. So I don't know whether the contents of man's mind can be "completely determined by reason," or whether reason can unlock every last secret of the universe, but I am convinced of the efficacy of reason for the purpose of understanding the world and living a better life, which is why I advocate for it. If men steal, kill and lie, they also produce, create and persuade. There's no good reason to take the first three as "inherent traits" over the latter three, or really to take any of it as "inherent" at all. Men have the ability to do either, to be either, and there are examples enough of "each kind" to realize that individuals have a choice in how they behave. (Calling one set of men "exceptions" is begging the question; I could just as easily pronounce those who steal, kill and lie the "exceptions," but I don't consider any of it exceptional, per se.) But if you propose deterrents against immoral action, you are making a number of claims as to morality and to what works as a deterrence, and what is effective, and etc., and in every case you are relying upon reason -- both in your reason to make these determinations, and in my reason to rightly agree or disagree. Raising the League of Nations here (as an example of "reason" failing) betrays some sort of core misunderstanding, and if we cannot rectify it, I don't think we'll be able to understand each other. "Reason" is not some particular strategy of deterrence (and reason was just as necessary to prosecute WWII; reason was not abandoned when the League of Nations dissolved). It is our fundamental ability to assess the facts of reality; it thus underlies all such strategies (to the extent that we can hope that they will succeed; it would also be possible to make choices on the basis of whim, and so forth, but this is not advisable). Rand argues, in reason, for the punishment of murderers. She also argues, in reason, that men ought not initiate the use of force -- for their own sake (and also for all of our sakes). I don't understand what you're arguing, or what kind of point you're trying to make here. I did not "blame slavery on tradition or longstanding institutions." I said that it's wrong to venerate or otherwise support tradition or some institution, because it is a tradition or institution. Because you were saying before that such institutions and traditions "contain far more knowledge and wisdom than a single person can rationally articulate." But this is not always true: the abolitionists were able to rationally articulate a stance with far greater wisdom than those who defended the longstanding traditions and institutions of slavery. And so, speaking to my overarching point, how do we know when an institution or tradition is on the right or wrong side of some given debate? Via reason. It's reason or nothing else. Well, Rand's answer to that is according to individual rights: political action which defends or upholds individual rights (leaving a person free from force, except in the case of retaliation) is good, and that political action which abrogates individual rights is bad. Are there devils in the details? You betcha. A brief perusal of the Politics forum here will make that clear enough. Nothing is simple. Objectivism -- and I'd say philosophy more broadly -- is an entree to thought, not a substitute for it, and I fear that headaches are sometimes part of the price of admission. That said, there are Objectivists who consider it all quite simple... but speaking frankly, I don't find much of value to come from that camp. As for your examples, each of them could provoke a thread or three, and I have personally argued each of the subjects you raise, on this very board. Once we have some agreement as to what we mean by "reason," we can ask what it would mean to not allow reason to be the "complete authority" in ethics. For consider, if I do not listen to my own best use of reason in deciding on ethical principles and their application, then to what greater or more complete authority would you have me submit? Social institutions and traditions? (Which, remember, might include such things as slavery.) Some political or religious leader? Majority rule? "Gut instinct"? Who or what do you propose to guide me in my choices? It's well and good for me to consider traditions and etc., to try to inform myself, investigate, understand -- but in the end, and subsequent to that investigation, how am I to know the rightness or wrongness of stealing, lying or killing, except through my own ability to reason right from wrong, good from bad? I would say, rather, that it [the special meaning of "blood"] apparently exists for some human beings. It's like, do UFOs clearly exist for human beings...? Eh, well, some people do claim to have seen them. For the record, a child is made from its father as well. But as for this bond -- and I know that there's a complex discussion here, including hormones and etc. -- I'll just say that I've personally known mothers who did not particularly "bond" with their child. And usually, in my experience, they suffer some kind of guilt for not experiencing the emotional/spiritual reaction that's expected of them. So that's fun. In no case would I be inclined to use the term "mysticism" to describe any part of this process. LOL, all right, well, in the first place, Objectivism makes no demands on me. It's a philosophy, a tool, and I use it for my own purposes; if anything, I demand of it. Anyways, let's forget my daughter as she is now, for the moment, and take her back to when she was a baby; I loved her then, too (though perhaps the quality of the emotion was not identical to the one I feel for her today). Was it based upon her "values and virtues"? Kind of a preposterous sentiment. A baby does not sensibly have anything of the kind. Yet what then was my love based upon? Anything real at all? It's complex -- and I don't expect this will exhaust the subject -- but I'd submit that much of what I felt for her, especially as a baby, was based upon my projections onto her, as a being of potential. That I held in my hands, not a creature who is anything really in particular, but who might one day be a great many things of perhaps extraordinary value. And there is also the recognition of my unique role in guiding and shaping the realization of that potential, as father. There's something in this about the investments I'd already made, in purposely designing an environment to accommodate the raising of a child, the actions of bringing that to life (literally), and also the foreknowledge of the investments I stood ready to make, and planned on making, over the rest of my life. Even treating a baby as a true tabula rasa, the act of bringing a child into the world is a heavy duty act and commitment. Or it can be, at least. It was for me. (Other people in other contexts can, and do, have very different emotional reactions to having a child.) And the emotion that I felt to some large extent, I think, was a reflection of all of that -- all of the things I put into having a child, the plans I'd made, the projections going forward. I still think this is in many senses a reflection on "values and virtues," just not those wholly to be found in the soul of a newborn. But then, it's also worth noting that Rand did not have children, I don't think she commented much on them in this regard, and likely did not have them in mind when making the comments to which you refer. It's possible that what applies to adult relationships in this regard is a poor fit for a parent/child relationship -- but that does not mean that our only alternative is "mysticism." Quickly, here, I think you're wrong. I think "because he's your brother," howsoever "classic" it might be, is not a good point (which helps to explain the child's continued reluctance to help) and that an intelligent child will chafe increasingly against that sort of supposed authority, leading perhaps eventually into outright rebellion. The ur-example of this sort of approach -- "because I said so" -- is famously bad, and I frankly consider it a hallmark of lazy parenting. (Which is not to say that I've never said it myself, in my laziest or most stressed-out moments.) I think there is an argument to be made for helping family members, generally speaking, but if it is meant to persuade, if it is meant to court assistance which is not reluctant but even perhaps enthusiastic, and re-enforce bonds of trust and mutual cooperation as opposed to eroding them, it must eventually appeal to reason and not some supposedly mystical obligation. Not exactly. Most people know the words "stealing is wrong," but they don't really believe it to be the case. They don't understand that sentence the way that an Objectivist would, at least; they don't see "wrong" in the same way. These questions, as to why an Objectivist might say that stealing or lying is wrong (in some and not necessarily all cases, mind) would take us far afield for the moment -- and our discussion is wide-ranging enough as it is. But suffice it to say that I disagree that most people really know that stealing is wrong. If they really knew it, the kinds of deterrents you mention would be far less important and far less frequently employed. You're drawing the wrong conclusions from the observations you've made. You already have the deterrents you imagine "work" to control stealing, lying, etc. You have God and social institutions and all the rest. They don't work and never have, or only in very limited fashion. What you don't have (yet) -- what we really haven't tried -- is a culture of reason. Whether we consider that a "society of Objectivists" or not, I am convinced that a culture that promoted reason more effectively would see less crime. (Which is not to say "zero crime," and an Objectivist society would still have a police force.) If you mean to say that creating a more rational culture would be impossible, I don't see why. I think it at least a superior plan to all the potential alternatives. And with that, I'll leave the discussion to others and thank you for your time. Maybe I'll pick it up again in the future.
  15. All right. To clarify, I don't know to what extent you and I are currently in conflict, or what the nature of that conflict might be. But with respect to "human nature," I don't tend to believe much in it. Not in the sense it's often employed, at least, pronouncing mankind to be "basically good" or "basically bad." Let me expound a bit on what I think "human nature" means in this sense, from my own perspective: Rand defined man as "a rational animal." She clarified, " 'Rational,' in this context, does not mean 'acting invariably in accordance with reason'; it means 'possessing the faculty of reason.' " Then, Rand holds reason to be "man’s only means of grasping reality and of acquiring knowledge," being "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses." If this is so, and if we believe that there is any such thing as "the good," then it seems to me that man's hope of achieving that good is through the use of reason. So men have the faculty of reason, which is the ability to grasp reality, to acquire knowledge, and through which we can do that which is good (and through our failures, innocent or otherwise, that which is bad). But this faculty does not guarantee that any individual will employ his ability to reason to any particular degree, or that he will be successful in his efforts at employing it. Is there, in this, any sweeping conclusion we can draw with respect to "human nature"? I don't want to totally dismiss what you're saying here, because I think that there's at least some sense to it. There are institutions and traditions that may provide beneficial aspects or elements which do not immediately betray themselves to a given individual's rational inquiry. As with all things, we don't want to lose the baby with the bathwater. But we also want to be leery of the veneration of tradition or institution for their own sake, supposing them to have some necessary-but-hidden virtue, let alone that this supposed virtue must itself justify any given tradition. Some utterly lousy things can have the stamp of tradition, or institutional backing. As an example, human chattel slavery evolved over a long, long time with the imprimatur of both tradition and copious institutional backing -- and it was, in my opinion, ruinous and rightly abolished. Not every institution or tradition is worth preserving, and among those which perhaps are, there are yet maybe elements that can and should be evolved (for instance, the liberalizing of marriage against miscegenation laws and more recently to include same-sex unions). What faculty would you propose employing to determine which institutions and traditions to preserve, which to change (and to what extent), and which to abolish? What better than reason? There's a lot to unpack here. For instance, the "special meaning of blood in the family." Is there a special meaning? Is it true (in the same sense and to the same extent) for all people? I find it difficult or impossible to discuss these sorts of issues without being deeply personal, so let me start by saying that I don't know that I've ever found any special meaning in my "blood." I don't mean "as an Objectivist," either, but just from my earliest memories, I was never taken by the idea that I had any special relationship with my blood ancestors. As for nearer relatives, I think I always judged people on a case-by-case basis -- some I loved, some I did not, and no two people to the same degree. Truly, there were (and remain) friends who are closer to me than any number of blood relations. And as I reflect on the nature of "blood," I wonder about its relationship to those other relatives we select, including spouse, in-law and via adoption. Without trying to unpack all of the rest, I wonder on this score about the affections that I do feel for those whom I do. Is it because I am convinced that I owe some "duty"? Is that why I love my wife, out of obligation? Is it ever why I loved my mother or father? And (perhaps most to our point) is it why I love my daughter? For no better reason than because I am supposed to? Why should I take it as granted that these feelings that I feel are not themselves rooted in some reason (whether yet fully articulated or not)? Why should I assume that I am not right to feel the way I do? (And if it were something so simple as familial fidelity, something rooted in blood and gene, why shouldn't I feel the same kind of affection for everyone in my family? Why should there be so much evidence in the world of people hating their close family, and sometimes quite rightly?) I do not believe that all loyalty is necessarily "irrational," whether to family, community or country... but sometimes such loyalty can be irrational, depending on the family, community or country. Loyalty to the wrong family, as the wrong country, can be self-destructive. Whatever our original impetus to such loyalty, if we are to have hope that we can sometimes cast off the loyalty a person might feel towards those who destroy us, I would ask again, what faculty ought we use to separate the beneficial or benign from the destructive? What better than reason? (If it is necessary to supply an example for the above, consider the abused daughter. What "special meaning" ought the blood relationship of the abusive father have for her? And if she decides that continued fidelity to her father "cannot pass the bar of reason," and so takes action by running away or renouncing her father or surrendering him to authorities, etc., is that a "devastating blow" against anything we would care to preserve? What if she should stay with him instead, in the name of duty, and subject herself to further abuse? Would we account that good?) I cannot argue against the general notion of constraints on any individual's improvement. There are always constraints in some given context, and always will be. But within these constraints, I contend that man's ability to improve himself relies upon his use of reason. So reason remains the key whether we are sensitive to constraint or other impediment, or not. And it is true that stealing, lying and killing will never cease without deterrents other than reason. In fact, they will never cease regardless of such deterrents as we might devise. And the deterrents that Rand would suggest against stealing, lying and killing (though mostly the first and last) are no mere use of reason, but self-defense. But because individuals may be flawed, and because there will always be flawed individuals to greater and lesser extents (and indeed, every individual is likely possessed of something we might consider a flaw), I do not draw the lesson that "mankind as a whole is inherently flawed." Because there are murderers, and always will be, that does not make every man a murderer, or give every man a share in the guilt of murder. It does not weigh upon my conscience that others steal, lie and kill. Yet I can and do make the case that (speaking broadly here) it is not right to steal, it is not right to lie, it is not right to kill -- that these choices will bring suffering to the person who performs the act -- and thereby appeal to reason so that men might better themselves, both for their sake and also for the sake of the society in which we all live. Not everyone will be swayed by reason, but someone might be -- and I believe he can live better for it. Rand did not set out, primarily, to look at the way humans are and have always behaved. Her ethics are not descriptive but prescriptive. Clearly man does not always abide by reason; if he did, Rand would hardly have needed to write so much about the subject. Instead, she intends to lay out the means by which man can live better, can live happier. If there is some real value in family, in community, in country, etc. -- and I expect we both believe there to be value in these things, or potentially so at least -- then we should not be afraid of submitting them to the scrutiny of reason. And if man mistakes (as we all sometimes do) and ascribes some greater power to family than it merits, or the opposite, the true remedy is a further application of reason, not to cast it aside altogether (and replace it with what? revelation? instinct? tradition? dictate?). Yes, many of the ways humans have behaved historically have been at odds with Rand's rational theories and reason in general. But as man has worked the better to align his behavior with reason, I'd say that we have generally progressed.
  16. I've been following the thread (somewhat), but I don't see what this has to do with either family or duty. In any event, what is your essential criticism with the notion that reason "helps you to see the light"? Set aside for a moment whether man is "perfectible" (which I think a tricky notion at best, and often unhelpful) but do you disagree that man is improvable (meaning: some given individual, in some set of circumstances, may improve himself) -- or that reason is his best means of so doing?
  17. I think it's even more simple, actually. I think that there are within Rand's corpus certain essential positions -- and agreement with those positions (which does not include a specific stand re: modern art) is what makes one an Objectivist. I agree. The need to keep Rand's work distinct from other contributors is, as I'd put it in my initial contribution to this thread, more "a matter of record keeping, or footnoting," or as you say, the province of a historian. I don't think such work is valueless, exactly, but it's not my first interest, or my second. Let me answer the last question first. I don't particularly care about the label, qua label. Indeed, in most contexts, describing myself as an Objectivist is quite more trouble than it seems to be worth. I would have been perfectly happy, if I could have discussed philosophy over the length of my life without having had to descend to discussions about William Hickman or who slept with whom. I've had to learn so much that I did not ever care to know. And what wouldn't I give, not to be associated with the many assholes who go around calling themselves Objectivist, and who routinely leave such a powerful negative impression on all and sundry. When I choose to describe myself as Objectivist to someone new, I always hope against hope that they have not yet encountered one in the wild -- because if they have, I am nauseatingly confident in the reaction I'm bound to receive, and all of the false assumptions I will have to strive to overcome. But I take on the label as I do because I think it accurate, and there are contexts in which that accuracy serves me: "mostly for the sake of communication or community," as I'd said earlier. In short, I identify as Objectivist for the same reason I identify as male or human: because I think it is apt. (Whether others agree or not is their own prerogative, as with every other matter.) The reason why I discuss labeling in this specific manner, in this thread, laying out the criteria I employ and my reasons for doing so, and especially with respect to the open/closed system debate, is because there is a history here to consider. A cultural context. In other circumstances, I might not care whether I was considered aristocrat or peasant, but if the guillotine is deployed, then I suppose I should give the matter a moment's thought, so that I know whether to send for the Pimpernel. And I was dragged into the open/closed debate, as with so many other petty controversies, initially as a (surprised and depressed) witness to bickering and ostracizations and denunciations and the like, and then charting the course of essay to counter-essay to counter-counter-essay, trying to sift the remains of a seemingly personal history. Over time, the conclusion that I've reached is that this is one of those things that has diluted the potential impact of Objectivism on the culture and world, more generally; an impediment towards the better tomorrow I'd ideally like to witness, but probably must resolve myself to bequeathing to my descendants. So as to why I care about the label (apart from the minor point, again, of simple accuracy), my answer is two-fold: 1) if it's true that one side is the Evil Empire and the other side the plucky Rebel Alliance -- as is sometimes suggested -- or if one side are the guardians of the pure and uncorrupted, and the other side are the poison, the cancer, the wolves in sheep's clothing -- as is sometimes suggested -- then in all cases, I should like to align myself with the forces of good, truth and right; and 2) I would like to work towards the restoration of the Objectivist community such that the meager resources it possesses can be devoted towards the improvement of the world, for the sake of myself, my daughter, and later generations. I'd like to find a way to put this silly business behind us all, because I think it does little good yet much harm, and I suspect that the only way eventually out is through. As for the rest, I have no particular position about modern art: I'm more questions than resolutions on that point, really. But Jonathan13 has a distinct and forceful position on modern art and it probably is quite opposed to KyaryPamyu's, but for my money, both are (or potentially might be, at least) Objectivists. Which of their positions represents the Objectivist position? More telling than one's answer to that question, imo, is the methodology employed to resolve it: I do not think it is, "Who agrees with Ayn Rand?" but "Which position best accords with the essential Objectivist principles?" and most centrally, with reason and reality. To say more than that would be to argue the subject of modern art, which, as I've said, I'm not interested in doing here and now. I did not say that it was a "primary," I said that it was philosophy. Insofar as it is philosophy, and (properly understood as) the "Objectivist solution" to a philosophical problem (even if you disagree that the "problem" is problematic; even if the purported "solution" avows that the "problem" is not a problem at all), it is a part of Objectivism. If Rand had written similarly, I don't expect you would disagree that Rand's writings on induction were properly considered a part of the philosophy: so I think it's not the source of the matter between us that you consider the subject "derivative," or outside the bounds of some metaphorical encyclopedia, but the authorship. Earlier, you'd set the terms of the "closed system" as excluding those ideas "not part of what Rand actually left in writing or publicly endorsed," but I think that's the wrong place to draw the line (and it has the potentially unfortunate consequence of leaving Peikoff's work out). It is not "that which Rand left in writing" that constitutes the body of philosophy which is Objectivism, but that philosophy which is consonant with the fundamental principles of Objectivism. And with that -- and because one of the great lessons this forum has taught me is to strictly control the extent of my participation, for the sake of my greater well-being -- I will thank you gentlemen for the discussion. Perhaps I'll pick it up again in the future.
  18. If Peikoff is "merely using the basic blocks in order to figure out what the solution might be," that sounds to me like original work in philosophy, and I don't see that there's anything "mere" about it. It further describes the process by which all philosophy happens, the "basic blocks" being the reality that we all use in order to find such solutions as we can. We are all expanding upon A=A, but again, it's not a "mere" act. If Rand did not substantively address induction in print -- and I suppose we are equally in agreement, and perhaps equally in ignorance, holding that she did not -- then this is Peikoff's work, no matter whether he was inspired by Rand or not (just as Rand's work is Rand's work, and not Aristotle's). Further, I'd guess that Rand would have liked to work out something on induction, had she been able. However "implicit" you might find Peikoff's conclusions in Rand's writing, it seems important to me that she did not herself make these matters explicit, nor to my knowledge make any claim that the solution to induction was hiding somewhere in her extant writings. Perhaps she did not herself understand what you would now say is implicit in her writing, despite the advantage of having written it herself? And where were the people before Peikoff made his own solution available, to find this in Rand's writing? Were they not listening to Rand carefully enough (did she not inspire that level of analysis or attention, in the philosophically minded who were drawn to read her)? Or did they not care to weigh in on an unimportant and trifling matter, like developing a theory of induction, and complete -- as Peikoff's website has it -- the "validation of reason"? In any event, are you saying that a theory of induction is not philosophy, per se? Surely you agree that this is a philosophical matter, and that philosophers addressing themselves to understanding and describing induction are philosophizing? I would say we call the resultant work of philosophizers philosophizing on a philosophical matter... philosophy. Philosophy is not an all-encompassing encyclopedia, no -- it does not hold to a particular theory of gravity, for instance -- but I would say that a comprehensive philosophy (such as I believe we hold Objectivism to be) would eventually address all those major areas of philosophy that a person needs for the purpose of living on earth, or growing out the encyclopedia such as you address, and by which a person might come to hold a theory of gravity. This seems to me to describe induction. Philosophy is not an all-encompassing encyclopedia, no -- but whatever sort of reference work you might imagine it to be, there is undoubtedly a chapter entitled "Induction." If Rand left those pages blank, it does not mean they must eternally remain so. The notion that Peikoff's theory of induction (granting for the sake of discussion that it is consonant with Rand's fundamentals; fully in accord with reason and reality) might be "an Objectivist solution" but not Objectivism seems to me to be abstruse at the very, very least, and the sort of thing I imagine Rand tearing down rather than proposing. A philosophical solution to a philosophical problem, made within the framework of a given philosophy, and fully consonant with that philosophy, is part and parcel to that philosophy. But who judges when a person has a "true understanding of the principles" as opposed to "acceptance based on how reasonable they sound"? There is yet no source higher than one's own use of reason -- and I'm not entirely sure that there's some magical moment where one progresses from "accepting" Rand's principles initially to "true understanding" of them. Rather, that seems to me to describe the journey Rand hints at when she writes, "to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought." Volumes of thought is a lot of thought. It happens in time and space. It requires energy and will. It is subject to error. I would argue that what we are talking about is no less than the role philosophy plays over the course of an entire lifetime -- that we never reach some point at which our personal work in philosophy, in understanding, defining, proving and applying our principles (and thereby thinking) is complete. Perhaps we can relate one's "understanding" of a given principle to the facility one has to applying it to various circumstances, and etc., but again, regardless of one's mastery, the work of applying that principle to fresh circumstances is never complete. There remains the possibility of error in every single case (innocent mistakes and evasions alike, if these exhaust the category). And in this way, even a master may find cause to refine his own understanding, even unto the end of his life. A neophyte Objectivist is bound to get many, many things wrong. While we may view this as some failure in his understanding -- and doubtless that's true -- it is more to the point that this represents the way in which he will grow in his understanding, and move from some more shallow level of acceptance, or even simple curiosity, towards a deeper and truer mastery of the subject. (Or perhaps an ultimate rejection of Objectivism.) I would agree that, at a minimum, no one should call himself Objectivist if he does not believe himself to understand the fundamentals of Objectivism. And I think most people wouldn't. Most people, I suspect, wouldn't read Rand's "philosophy on one foot" presentation and decide he was an Objectivist on that basis alone, and I would be immediately suspect of the man who claimed otherwise. But if the threshold is believing oneself to understand the fundamentals of Objectivism, and agreeing with these, and setting out to live one's life accordingly ("to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them" and the volumes of thought this necessarily entails), then I think that any person who believes himself to be so doing is entitled to the title Objectivist, up to and until he decides to do differently. Even if I think he errs across several applications, and even if I believe my own understanding of the fundamentals of Objectivism to be better or deeper or more nuanced than his. No doubt. (Though I'm not certain I've met many people, on this site or elsewhere, who have a particularly easy time either recognizing or correcting their own errors. Addressing oneself to error -- internal error as opposed to external error -- remains to me the crucial work Objectivists need to tackle moving forward.) To clarify, in not wanting to digress to a discussion of modern art, here and now, I don't mean to suggest that aesthetics are either "optional" or "irrelevant." (Though it is interesting to note that Rand's "one foot" presentation does not address itself to the subject at all, or even raise it as a category.) I know that aesthetics are of particular interest to you, and I'm sincere in that I would love to discuss modern art with you in the future -- but again, in a more appropriate thread. Regardless, I continue to maintain that two Objectivists can disagree about the subject of modern art and yet be two Objectivists. I haven't studied Kelley to the point where I could say whether I consider him to be an Objectivist or not. I looked into him briefly for the purpose of assessing "closed" versus "open systems," and found him generally misunderstood at the time, and I've subsequently looked into select parts of the Logical Structure of Objectivism to suss out questions about ethics which seem to me to continue to bedevil the Objectivist community -- and I certainly and profoundly disagree with him on that score. But in all events, I would myself hesitate before making too many pronouncements on his beliefs and his character, on the basis of a skim read of some portion of his work, lest I myself be careless.
  19. That's true, but that also shows their misunderstanding of what was always meant by the 'closed system' approach. I agree to an extent. When I initially looked into these matters, one of the conclusions I drew was that Peikoff seemed often misunderstood/misrepresented... and so did Kelley. I don't mean to try to explicate the opinions of two other men who aren't here to speak for themselves, but what I will say is that I don't think there's only one thing that was "always meant by the 'closed system' approach"; I believe I've seen a variety of opinions and arguments offered under the aegis of both "open system" and "closed system," by various people contributing to the discussion. If someone is arguing against something they believe to be "the closed system" -- or "the open system," for that matter -- but they misunderstand what Peikoff meant originally, or Kelley, that doesn't mean that they are incorrect with respect to the essentials of the argument(s) that they make or reject; though they may be mistaken in their use of terms, or their understanding of Peikoff, Kelley, etc. Previously, when discussing these things in depth, and to try to be a bit more careful, I often took pains to refer to "the open system... as it is commonly represented," and etc. Suffice it to say, that portion of Fact and Value you've quoted, I agree with. Agreed on all counts. And if the Objectivist theory of rights were in conflict with the Objectivist metaphysics, then we could say that Objectivism, as a philosophy, is not correct (though in such a case, perhaps the theory of rights would remain correct, or perhaps the metaphysics, or perhaps neither). A person who reached such a conclusion would be correct to reject Objectivism and adopt or develop some other, more true philosophy to take its place. I agree, only with the proviso that I don't know enough about Kant to speak to him or his philosophy. Yes. I mean, it's always been telling to me that she titled her monograph Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; it seems to suggest that there remains more epistemology (and perhaps much more) to be discovered and described. Now, it's a question that I believe directly pertains to this discussion as to whether or not someone, post- Rand, could contribute to specifically Objectivist epistemology. This is where I potentially diverge from the closed system (as is typically represented, etc.), so to present my own view, I'll state that I believe so. I think that someone other than Rand could today, or tomorrow, contribute to Objectivist epistemology. Allow me to try to demonstrate: It's my understanding that Rand herself did not do much work (that she published, at least) on induction. Or if she did, I'm not greatly aware of it. On Leonard Peikoff's website, he presents "Induction in Physics and Philosophy," which the site describes saying, "These historic lectures present, for the first time, the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction—and thereby complete, in every essential respect, the validation of reason." I don't know the provenance of these lectures. I don't know if they reflect conversations he might have had with Rand, or work she oversaw at some point, or etc. But let us suppose that Rand did not play any direct role in the salient content of these lectures -- that it represents original work on Peikoff's part. Would it still be appropriate for him to describe it as "the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction"? I think potentially so, yes. And if I were to imagine some student of Objectivism who reads all of Rand -- and let's say agrees with her to the letter -- and then listens to Peikoff's lectures on induction, and agrees with those, too, and integrates that knowledge with the rest (assuming that Peikoff is correct, and that his ideas on induction integrate seamlessly with Rand's philosophy)... well, what should that student call this resultant philosophy that he holds -- being the fundamentals of Objectivism along with the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction? Is there any title that makes sense apart from Objectivism? Any rejection of Objectivism's fundamentals is not Objectivism. An "addition" that contradicts the fundamentals either must eventually be eliminated, or result in a fundamental change (which would result in a new/different philosophy). However, we may also imagine an addition that does not contradict the fundamentals, but is consonant with them. And it is in this spirit that I allow Peikoff's work on induction may well be Objectivist, even if not personally supervised or endorsed by Ayn Rand. It's interesting, the idea that "those who deviate indirectly" from the fundamentals are not truly Objectivists, whether they are consciously aware of this or not. I would rather say that they are not correct, and that they have work to do (whether that work results in a reformulation of their "deviation," their fundamentals, or both -- and irrespective of what we title the result). If I imagine a person who agrees with the fundamentals of Objectivism, arrives at some addition (say an approach to induction) that contradicts the fundamentals, but is not aware of it -- I would say that this person should certainly call himself an Objectivist. He has no higher authority to consult on the topic, after all, apart from his own use of reason. Is he wrong (in some absolute, omniscient sense) to do so? I don't believe so. If he is made aware of the conflict between his fundamental beliefs and this addition, and seeks to rectify this contradiction (as he should, and as I would imagine a self-described Objectivist would), then he will eventually either have to reject his addition... or some fundamental Objectivist belief, or both. In the latter two cases, he is at that point no longer an Objectivist. But beforehand? He is an Objectivist. An Objectivist in error on a particular point, perhaps, but an Objectivist nonetheless. And this error may speak to a "poor understanding" of some fundamental, as such, but does not necessarily do so, I don't believe; the integration, relationship and application of philosophical fundamentals to other ideas and situations, is a fraught and self-directed process, frequently difficult, and potentially errant -- even if the fundamental itself is well understood. Or to put this another way, understanding some philosophical idea does not necessarily mean understanding that idea's application in every possible context and circumstance, let alone understanding every application effortlessly or without the capacity for error. One last note to make here: we've been speaking of an "addition" that contradicts the fundamentals, but everything we've said applies equally to some established Objectivist belief, should it contradict the fundamentals. The Objectivist who believes Rand wrong about modern art (more on which below) seeks to prevent the very destruction of the system that you describe; and in such a case -- if this person is correct re: modern art, and Rand wrong -- it is those who defend the established view that spawn more corrupted parts, in the effort to defend their view regarding modern art (a disheartening process I believe I have witnessed with respect to other topics, at least). Some of those who champion what they regard to be an "open system" are looking to thwart, address and correct this very potential for destruction. There is a ton of work to be done, both academically and popularly -- not only more than Rand accomplished in her lifetime, but more than any one person could accomplish in a lifetime -- and I am certain that Rand was aware of this, too. I don't mean to argue modern art with you just now. Actually, I chose that as my example in part because I'm a touch ambivalent on the subject -- I wanted to avoid being baited into the tangent, lol, and merely wanted to find a placeholder subject to explore the idea of disagreement itself, in this context -- but I know of at least one other Objectivist (by my reckoning, at least, lest I beg the question) who does feel quite strongly that Rand was incorrect about modern art. After arguing with him at length, over time, my own assessment as it stands is that I'm undecided on the point, and wish to investigate the matter further (so you see, I would be happy to argue modern art with you in the future, in a more appropriate thread). But I think it's fine that you consider her assessment of modern art to be fully consistent with her ideas (or more to the point, her fundamental ideas -- those fundamental, essential ideas that I believe describe Objectivism). With respect to the current discussion, I would make the following observations: Either it is true that Rand's assessment of modern art is fully consistent with the fundamentals of Objectivism, or it is true that her assessment of modern art is not fully consistent with the fundamentals of Objectivism. If you and I disagreed on this point -- though I don't honestly know whether we do, because I am not yet completely settled in my own views -- I hold that we could still both be Objectivists, with one of us (at minimum) in error. If Rand was mistaken regarding modern art, I would not take this to mean that Objectivism is a flawed philosophy that needs rejection -- because I associate Objectivism with its fundamentals. A would continue to be A, reason would continue to be reason, and it would actually be due to my holding fast to the fundamentals of Objectivism that I would reject the later, errant view regarding modern art, as being contradictory to reason and reality. If Rand's beliefs on modern art conflicted with her more fundamental philosophical views (whether Rand was consciously aware of this discrepancy or not), I would not say that Rand herself was not really an Objectivist. I'd say, rather, that Rand was an Objectivist who was mistaken on that issue.
  20. I've always thought this was a sort of strange approach. It's not that I disagree entirely with what I take you to be saying here. But it approaches the "closed system" debate as a matter of record keeping, or footnoting. I'm not certain that most "open system" advocates think that's the true matter of the discussion. And though I do not consider myself to be an advocate for either "closed" or "open" systems (because I believe that these do not exhaust the range of fundamental approaches), I don't believe that such record keeping is what truly animates most of this debate, either, on either side. There may be some value in knowing what was specifically endorsed or "created" by Ayn Rand (though I'm tempted to say that philosophy, insofar as it is true, is more a "discovery" than a "creation": Ayn Rand discovered that A = A, she did not make it so; she did not create it), or Leonard Peikoff, or Nathaniel Branden -- but speaking personally, I care much more what is true, rather than who first identified it (or wrote it down, or anthologized it), and in this pursuit I try to be guided by reason, to the best of my ability. That is the sole criterion (aspirationally, if nothing else) for those beliefs which I hold, and which collectively constitute "my philosophy." For many or most purposes, I don't think there's much call to give a name to the sum total of my philosophical belief. Insofar as I do, and mostly for the sake of communication or community, "Objectivism" makes the most sense for a variety of reasons (which I could discuss further if need be). It's funny to me, the idea that if I should disagree with Rand on some matter (let's say her assessment of modern art), then I need to reject the label altogether, and find some new moniker. Then, imagining a thousand "Objectivists" who each might harbor some similar difference of opinion on a thousand different issues, ought we have a thousand names for what we suppose is a thousand different philosophies? I don't see how that would serve any good purpose. When I say that I am an "Objectivist," what I mean is that I agree with Ayn Rand, fundamentally, when she wrote: She continued, "If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life." And I concur. If this "full philosophical system" she describes were given a name, I think "Objectivism" is just as good as any other, and more apropos than most since that is the name that Rand supplied to describe it. And so, as regards anyone else who agrees with me (and by extension, Rand) about these fundamentals, these essentials, and seeks to hold them with total consistency as the base of their convictions, I think that "Objectivist" is the fitting label to describe their philosophy, irrespective of their position on modern art.
  21. "It isn't about this at all"? All right, let's review then: The OP (along with the thread title) is not about "comparing governments," but dealing with the difficulties of living in a system where "the majority of people" support policies that -- in some cases -- make actual human life impossible. The first response that happiness received -- that "there is nowhere better than here" -- is not necessarily true. It may be true that there is nowhere better than here for DavidOdden, just as it may be true for me that "there is nothing better to eat than a peanut butter sandwich," but neither of these are universally true, and to say that they are (in the name of "objectivity") is to forget the role that context plays in objective thought. For instance, if happiness could secure the treatments he needs in some other country then it may well be better for him to move to that country to receive those treatments. Is "nowhere better than here"? Not necessarily for happiness, not necessarily in that case. (Note that I am here employing happiness in a completely hypothetical capacity; I've no idea about whether this is likely, or possible, and do not mean to comment on his actual situation.) Then JASKN wondered whether the US is truly evil (or "over-the-top evil") and he concluded that it is not, because he is still somewhat free (he "can still get on the internet and badmouth any branch of the government," and etc.). These comprise the two main responses. (Well... there is also Nicky's "response" of "most board members disagree" and "all the rational people I know can handle reading the news," which, in a better forum, would have been called out well before now; but I have already given him enough attention.) So if the response is, "but it is better here than elsewhere," that may be true (or it may not -- more in a second), but it doesn't actually speak to the matter at hand. If the response is, "things aren't so bad for me; therefore, things aren't so bad for you," then it is an utter failure. Yes, it is possible to evaluate two governments -- or to reason that X is better than Y -- but not without a context. Value requires a valuer, and Singapore (or the United States) may be the best option for some yet not for others. For the sake of further precision (albeit risking a touch of clarity), let me amend that slightly to say that it may be possible to evaluate two governments without a personal context, but not in any meaningful fashion. Evaluation is not some activity disconnected from life -- we evaluate things for a purpose, and that purpose guides and shapes our process of evaluation. If a person "evaluates" two countries from a standpoint outside of his own context, then he may well conclude that "this is the best/better country to live in" and be correct in all cases except for himself. This is pointless at best, and at worst lands the drug smuggler in a Singapore prison for life, and -- as I've imagined it -- spending his time singing the praises of the "relatively free" government there. Besides which, some "comparative" approach does not render the evil actions of any given government, Singapore or the US, less evil; and if we mean to speak to the OP or even simply the title of this thread, it does not necessarily help us to understand how to live in a country where such evil is tolerated or promulgated by our fellow citizens. What value is this comparative approach, then? It appears to be meant as a palliative, because "there is no such place as Galt’s Gulch." But some people are working towards the creation of Galt's Gulch, or something like it, because they do find the present situation intolerable. Those who are content with the status quo have no real reason to struggle against it -- and I mean that as no criticism. But let's not tell others that they must be content, as well, especially when their situation/context is potentially different from our own. For I maintain that those who say that the US is "not so bad" are able to do so, in part, because they have been fortunate in their experiences; there are other people for whom the US is so bad. (They are the people in "The Lottery" whose number has not been drawn... yet.) In point of fact, I do not expect that someone rotting in a Singapore prison for life, for "crimes" which ought not be crimes, will be constructing odes to the supposed relative merits of their system. He will be too intimately familiar with its failures -- and the personal consequences of those failures -- for that. And if you think that's what "objectivity" requires -- for the chained-and-whipped slave in the Antebellum US, say, to praise the US government because of the relative degree of freedom it allows for the people in the North -- then I fear that your approach to both "objectivity" and judgement are mistaken. It is not about assessing things according to some average, or some generic "everyman," or (ahem) "EVERYONE. Equally.", it is about assessing things according to whether they further your personal, individual life and happiness -- and then acting accordingly.
  22. This misses the purpose, and thus the proper means, of evaluation. You do not judge (i.e. evaluate morally) a system, or anything else, "based on how it does by EVERYONE. Equally." The purpose of evaluation is action, and insofar as your actions are meant to benefit the self, your evaluation must be according to the self as well. Is a peanut butter sandwich a healthy snack/meal? It depends. It depends on who you are -- your personal context. If you are deathly allergic to peanuts, then no, a peanut butter sandwich is not healthy. Not for you, not in your situation. The allergic may yet recognize that other people, in other contexts, may eat and enjoy peanuts and peanut butter; but his own evaluation of the healthfulness of eating a peanut butter sandwich is negative, as it must be if evaluation is to perform its role: which is a guide to action for the purpose of living, happiness, etc. An Objectivist sees no conflict between the fact that he is personally affected by a given subject (which is, per "Fact and Value," for instance, all of them) and his ability to assess that subject objectively. What I've described above is objective. What objectivity does not require is some "value of a peanut butter sandwich" for some abstract "everyman" who does not, in fact, even exist. This is why softwareNerd is correct, when he writes: This however... ...is bizarre and has nothing to do with the purpose of evaluation, etc. I imagine someone sitting in a Singapore prison for life (for something which ought not be a crime), singing the praises of their government, because of how it is supposedly better for "EVERYONE. Equally." (than what? Venezuela? is that the standard?) as opposed to the factual destroyer of his actual, one-time-only life on Earth. And yes, sometimes people need direct personal experience to give them perspective, particularly when lacking in any (or all) of information, imagination or empathy.
  23. Come on now. A few house slaves aside, most were denied use of their masters' internet. This has been a sticking point for me, in these kinds of conversations, for a while now. Of course the poster has a personal context relevant to this question. There doesn't exist a person without a personal context, and anyone's answer to this sort of question will necessarily reflect that context. The idea that a question like this can be meaningfully answered (or "interpreted") in some abstract "general 'average person' context" is suspect, at least, and in several discussions I've put to you that assessing the morality of the US legal system, or etc., depends greatly on who you happen to be. If you -- or a loved one -- is rotting in jail due to unjust drug laws, for instance, then it's probably not going to look like such a great system. An "average person" (by which we mean -- what, exactly? white? male? middle-aged?) needs to be able to take this sort of thing into account. It's as though saying that the society in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" wasn't so bad... so long as your number doesn't come up. And perhaps it's equally true that the person who feels the scourge of society should remember that things aren't so bad for many others in the community, but I guess it's sensible that we will all be biased towards our own experiences, for better or worse. The slave in a Roman mine won't be greatly heartened to know, I don't expect, that his forced labor furnishes someone else's villa. So if we're insisting on someone like happiness providing "personal context," then maybe the folks who constantly come in with "this country and its laws aren't so bad" also need to provide their personal reminder of "for me, in my situation." When we recognize that there yet remains institutionalized injustice, in our system or any other, that means that real evil is being visited upon some actual person. If you can live well enough with the tax laws, or whatever, then you can and more power to you, but let's not neglect the fact that not everyone emerges unscathed.
  24. At present, this is my position. I understood your humor, and I appreciate it. Humor is a good thing. But also... you know, as I continue to try to peel back the layers of things like evasion, and proper discussion, and so forth, I've become aware of some of the various ways we sometimes go wrong, or prevent ourselves from drawing some pertinent conclusion, or etc. One of the things we can hear, I am convinced, in an argument that "what you are saying is wrong (or here: 'statist')" is instead "there is something deficient about you (here: 'you are a statist' or even 'you are evil')." Sometimes that's no mistake in understanding; sometimes that's truly what's intended, and sometimes it is even stated explicitly. But in my continued opinion, this has the effect of setting up obstacles to understanding. If we hear our "opponent" saying "you are a statist," and we know that this is not true of ourselves, it may disincline us to give the nuance of their arguments much consideration. (Let alone "you are evil," which I frankly believe is a sentiment that no fundamentally rational person is going to take seriously. Consequently, I think that sort of rhetoric tends to shortcircuit debate altogether.) This is why I endeavor to be clear in what I'm contending -- and to either clarify or correct earlier statements, where necessary, in the process. Given the thrust of your humor, especially, I thought it necessary to state outright that I do not think that you are a statist, but the arguments that you've made with respect to rights throughout this thread -- yes, I believe that amounts to statism. I think that the arguments you've made, at least at times, leave individual rights to be a meaningless concept, and I have endeavored to demonstrate why (whether or not I have yet done so to your satisfaction). With respect, I'd earlier decided to try to step back from this conversation for a while. You'd then asked some questions about whether one has the right to respond to theft, outside of some established government, and I responded in some fashion (though not yet so fully or directly as I would otherwise like), and then, too, regarding some pertinent quotes by Rand and Peikoff... but I still don't know whether I wish to revisit, let alone recapitulate, the several arguments already made. At the moment -- whether this makes me a "purist" in any sense (though I doubt it) -- I do contend that force may only be used in response to the initiation of force; if that is inconsistent with your position, then we remain at issue, but I can be content with this impasse for the time being. Perhaps I will sometime be motivated to return to the breach. You always have the right to change your mind; it need not be reserved. And for the sake of further clarity, you should know that I do not consider myself as contending with you, so much, as with the arguments you've presented. When I take note of some change or inconsistency in your argument (as I see it), it is not for the sake of personal impeachment, but to highlight the discrepancy for the sake of further examination or elaboration. If you were to abandon your current arguments tomorrow and agree unreservedly with me, it would not satisfy me any more or less than my current ability to establish my point of view to my own satisfaction (or not much more, at least; I'm no saint). At that point, I would only hope that we were both now correct, and that you had not abandoned your case too quickly...
  25. Everything exists within some context. These posts, too. Presumably we compose them and post them for some purpose -- to achieve some effect in the world. And so I wonder, what do the people behind these posts intend to achieve, here and now? I'm gratified to have been raised as a positive example in the OP. I'm certain I don't always deserve praise, but I do honestly try my best to be a productive member of this community. I believe strongly in ideas, in truth, in reason -- and also in the potential value of debate, discussion, argument. I think that this community has the potential to foster such argument that leads the individuals who participate in it (and perhaps others, too) closer to truth, to right ideas, to a philosophy of reason. But to do this -- if it is our end -- we must take care to structure the community to that end. We must treat the community as a machine, designed according to the function we intend it to serve, and we must tailor our own contributions accordingly. "Judge, and prepare to be judged," yes. But the expression of such judgement (whether a particular judgement is expressed at all, and then its particular manner) is a separate question. If we mean to make this community the best it can be (according to the standard of fostering the sort of discussion that may lead individuals to truth), then we must give attention as well to how and when we express our judgements of one another, and we must continue to ask the question -- does this particular communication further the goals we've set for this community? Personally, when I look at a thread like this, I see something of a mistake... or perhaps it is better seen as an opportunity for further reflection and improvement. Discussing the manner by which we communicate with one another is important. I don't mean to dissuade such discussions, at all, and I have started more than one thread myself in an attempt to raise them (as, for example, here and here). Yet they are fraught and potentially explosive, especially (as is only natural/fitting) when drawing upon the examples of experiences with others on this very board. None of this is easy, and I don't mean to claim that I have it figured out. I still struggle with it, I'm still learning, and I make mistakes in this regard -- all the time. But I would like to try to aim us more towards trying to understand one another, than the kinds of insulting, shunning, blocking, banning, and so forth, that has characterized the still-young Objectivist community, and, imo, made it mostly impotent.
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