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Everything posted by DonAthos

  1. Indeed. If IP is a right, then force in defense of it is absolutely justified. And while I'm not claiming this to be an argument, per se, I simply want to report that there's something about the scenario I'd presented -- where Inventor assaults Patent Breaker's home to take the salt shaker that Patent Breaker had built -- which seems off to me. I feel differently here than I would if Patent Breaker had stolen Inventor's prototype. I don't mean to say that my feelings on the matter constitute proof for anything at all, other than an internal ambivalence I hope to solve through this discussion. If I'm ultimately to accept IP, I'd hope not. This, then, is the connection I seek to grasp. While there might not be any obligation to prevent others from using your ideas, I'd say that we generally do want to stop others from violating our rights. If Patent Breaker builds his own salt shaker, and if this is a violation of Inventor's rights (that is: if it is an initiation of force against Inventor's life), then surely Inventor would want to take action against Patent Breaker (so long as he could do so safely). But how exactly does it further Inventor's life to stop Patent Breaker from building his own salt shaker? Or to possibly put this another way, what damage does Patent Breaker do to Inventor by building this salt shaker? Is it possible to violate a person's rights and do them no harm? I wouldn't think so. So if IP are rights, then their violation must result in some sort of damage... yes? Given my scenario: Inventor builds a salt shaker and Patent Breaker copy-cats, what is the damage done? Since the violation of IP must be an initiation of force, then to understand the damage done, perhaps we should look again at "force." From Galt's Speech (via the Ayn Rand Lexicon): And so we must conclude that Patent Breaker has "interpose[d] the threat of physical destruction between [inventor] and his perception of reality" by building this salt shaker. But how? In what way is Inventor threatened by physical destruction here, at all? In what way is Inventor being forced to act against his own judgment? The same Lexicon page has this, from "The Objectivist Ethics": In order to establish IP, we must show that Patent Breaker's building a salt shaker, though in his own home, though with his own materials, though through his own labor and directed by his own mind, and without Inventor ever needing be aware of it, is Patent Breaker initiating the use of physical compulsion against Inventor. Can we do that? Absolutely agreed. I wonder, though: the salt shaker in Patent Breaker's home... is that the fruit of Inventor's labor more than the fruit of Patent Breaker's? We can say in this case that Inventor inspired Patent Breaker, and even that, without that inspiration, Patent Breaker would not have built the salt shaker. Patent Breaker obviously owes Inventor in some respect, according to justice. But we do not "control" the "fruits of our labor" in the sense of owning everything that results from that labor, do we? If I dress in such a way as to inspire those around me to happiness, I own my clothing, certainly, but I'm not given the right to decide that some have the right to be happy at my sight... and others do not. I don't get to decide that some may be inspired of me, and others can't. And if someone is inspired at my sight, and goes home and creates something wonderful through that inspiration, whatever they create is theirs and not mine. I get no general claim over anything they subsequently do, simply because they "couldn't have done it without me," right? How is this different than what Patent Breaker does in building the salt shaker? How does Inventor own the fruit of Patent Breaker's labor? Well, I grant distribution as certainly being a possibility, but I can also envision a person "inventing" simply for his own purposes. He still "profits" in that his life is better than it was before. Agreed -- technology is wonderful. I don't know that I'm supposing an irrational inventor. I'd rather my Inventor be rational, for the purposes of our discussion. And I certainly want rights to be protected, and if IP are rights indeed, then I'll be all in favor of their full protection. Does Patent Breaker's building the salt shaker prevent Inventor from pursuing his own ends? Since you've mentioned "distribution" and implied that Inventor must be irrational if that's not his end, perhaps we should suppose that Inventor wishes to build and take his salt shaker to market. Can we say that Inventor has potentially lost a sale in Patent Breaker, because Patent Breaker has built his own salt shaker? Is it in this way that Patent Breaker has initiated the use of force and done "harm" to Inventor? But at what point was Inventor ever entitled to sell anything to Patent Breaker? If Patent Breaker had simply refused to buy from Inventor for X given reason (Inventor charges too much? the market is too far to travel?), has he similarly done Inventor harm? If Competitor has developed a different product which serves Patent Breaker's needs better than Inventor's, has Competitor thus done Inventor harm? If that which dissuades Patent Breaker from buying Inventor's salt shaker is thus stopping Inventor from pursuing his own ends, then... but no, no, that's nonsensical. Inventor never had the right to sell to Patent Breaker. Inventor is free to bring his salt shakers to market, certainly. And if he and Patent Breaker agree on terms for a trade, then that's their right as well. In this way, Inventor is free to exchange values with Patent Breaker... if they agree to the exchange. But if Patent Breaker doesn't agree to such an exchange, then Inventor is entitled to nothing of Patent Breaker's. So to suggest* that Patent Breaker is doing harm to Inventor in building a salt shaker by robbing Inventor of the money he'd get in selling Patent Breaker that salt shaker does not seem to hold. You can't rob something from someone if they were never entitled to it in the first place. *(Not to say that you've suggested any such thing; I'm just trying to work things out here. ) If we are to say that Patent Breaker should want to reward that which "inspires" him, I agree. That inspiration doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from Inventor's mind and effort, and that's way, way valuable. I'd even go so far as to say that, in my example, Patent Breaker "owes" Inventor. But there are certain benefits we convey onto others where we don't get to set the terms, aren't there? For instance, if this post I'm writing now were to spark some sort of frenzied "Objectivist" reformulation of property rights, ultimately leading to bestselling monographs, and etc., I'd expect that those who've benefited from my probing and efforts would "owe" me in some sense. They'd likely be aware of that, and who knows but I might get an acknowledgement or two? But I wouldn't have legal recourse to dictate the terms of their efforts, would I? Should I? I wouldn't have any ownership stake in their creations. In building his salt shaker, in having Patent Breaker over for supper, Inventor clearly has provided a great benefit to Patent Breaker. This cannot be denied. But it similarly cannot be denied that Patent Breaker must use his own mind and labor to construct a salt shaker of his very own. And to this point, I still do not understand how Inventor acquired the "right" to tell Patent Breaker that he cannot use his mind and labor in this specific fashion. *** Note: I had intended, and wished, to also respond to Greebo here and now. Unfortunately it's past 3 in the morning, and tomorrow I set off for some on-the-road vacation and then an intrastate move. It'll be a while before I'm able to respond regularly, and I apologize for that, but I look forward to our future discussion(s)! -- DA
  2. All right, agreed. We'll start with something more fundamental. From Ayn Rand's "Man's Rights": Allow me, if you would, to now construct a stupid example in order to highlight my persistent (and annoying*) reservations with IP. Suppose we're in some frontier-ish society where there is no formal government upon which a man can rely. His rights are the same as those of men in any other society, are they not? This man must be free to grow food for his consumption on his land -- it is required by the nature of his life -- and the food so grown is his. It is his property. Should a robber come to steal his food, our man would be justified in defending his property against incursion. In doing that, he is acting to preserve and further his own life. Thus far, I'm sure we're agreed. Suppose our man invented and built... an automated salt shaker. This salt shaker would be his property as much as his crops. Again, I'm sure we're agreed on this point. And again, were a robber to come take the salt shaker, our man would be justified in using force to prevent the theft. Theft is an initiation of force, and it is just to use force in response. So far, so good? Now suppose our Inventor had his neighbor, Patent-Breaker, over for supper. Patent-Breaker sees the salt shaker in action and thinks it a good idea. The next day, Patent-Breaker takes it upon himself to build an automated salt shaker of his very own. It seems to me -- and maybe I'm confused on this point (or possibly many others!) -- that we would say that this action, Patent-Breaker's building of his own automated salt shaker, is violating the Inventor's rights of Intellectual Property and is therefore an initiation of force against the Inventor. That, because the Inventor hit upon the idea for the automated salt shaker prior to Patent-Breaker's having done so, the Inventor owns the very idea of an "automated salt shaker," and thus is justified in deciding who else could build it, and under what terms. But... would it follow, then, that the Inventor would be justified in using force to prevent Patent-Breaker from building and/or using that salt shaker? Would we support the Inventor busting down Patent-Breaker's door, seizing and disposing of Patent-Breaker's salt shaker? And why? Because the Inventor could claim (rightly) "I thought of it first!"...? How can that fact entitle him to limit what Patent-Breaker does in this context? I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it, but this just... doesn't seem right to me. It occurs to me that, given IP, it's possible that Patent-Breaker -- or a host of Patent-Breakers -- could all be violating Inventor's "rights" without Inventor ever being aware of it; they could all just be using salt shakers in the privacy of their own homes. Given that rights are those "actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life," I'm struggling to see how the Inventor's life, as such, or its furtherance, fulfillment, or enjoyment, requires him to hunt out Patent-Breaker and stop him from salting his food in a more efficient manner, regardless of whence Patent-Breaker's inspiration, or who struck upon the idea initially. But on the other hand, I could see how Patent-Breaker's life would be furthered by taking inspiration from the world around him -- such as in this salt shaker -- and then constructing something to make his life better in this fashion. This strikes me as "right" of him to do. When Inventor comes tearing through the door, ready to fight over the salt shaker, I'm not sure how I can see that as anything other than the actual initiation of force. *** * I say "annoying" for a couple of reasons: 1) IP is one of the few issues that have always remained unsettled for me -- one of the few bits of Rand's writings where I've thus far remained unconvinced. Given that she's so brilliant so consistently, I've always feared that I'm simply missing the boat here... and, as with all truth, I'd rather be on the right side. 2) Writing is one of my professional ambitions. I'd rather not feel ambivalent on issues of IP since I will (hopefully) need to deal with those issues professionally one day. And so, I'd be extremely grateful for an argument for IP that satisfies my concerns. I'm sorry if I just... don't get it. I'll continue to make effort.
  3. I'm glad to see this discussion. Intellectual property is an issue I've always had difficulty understanding fully. At the risk of pulling the thread in a different direction -- I don't intend to question whether children are property -- I'd like to try to formulate that difficulty here, in the hopes that others will understand my meaning and point me in the right direction. Early in the thread, FeatherFall said this: Allow me to stipulate that I completely agree. A farmer grows crops and deserves to "reap the rewards." But what are the "rewards" that he is to reap, and how are those determined? They are not determined by fiat or decree, but by the nature of what those crops are; as they are the farmer's property, he may consume his crops, or sell them, or dispose of them in any manner he sees fit, and in this way he is "reaping the rewards." Apart from the exercise of his rights, there are no additional rewards to be had. If an inventor invents a machine that improves the stability of his crops, then that inventor deserves to "reap the rewards" just as the farmer had. But what are the rewards in this case? He may use his machine, and thereby increase his crop production. He may sell his machine, as a unique item or as part of a mass production, and otherwise he may dispose of his property as he sees fit. Just as with the farmer, our inventor is reaping the rewards of his work in this manner. But where the inventor -- and intellectual property -- is concerned, it seems to me that we're arguing to give the inventor additional rights and rewards not available to the farmer. If the farmer takes his crops to market, he must compete with all those who do the same things that the farmer does. Yet the inventor, via patents, seeks to prevent any would-be competitors from crafting a machine like his own. Where does the inventor acquire the right to tell others what machines they can and cannot build? If another man (we'll call him patent-breaker) does the mental work necessary to understand the inventor's machine, and employs the physical labor to build it, then isn't he just as entitled to "reap the rewards" of his efforts as anyone else? If patent-breaker got the idea from observing the inventor's machine, what of that, so long as his initial observation was legal, and no agreed-upon contracts were broken? If we argue that the inventor's machine represents some special labor of the mind, aren't we short-changing what the farmer does? Isn't the wealth created by the farmer just as dependent on his mind? Why does the farmer only own the material results of his efforts, when the inventor can lay claim on entire ideas and processes? While I agree that the inventor is absolutely entitled to reap the rewards of the machine he's built, I'm finding it difficult to see how one of those rewards entails a political authority to ensure that no other man may employ his own property, liberty and labor to build a like machine. In this way, "intellectual property protection" seems more like the initiation of force to me than otherwise. Can anyone please help me to see my error?
  4. The ethics of ice cream? I love ice cream! Chocolate versus vanilla is a choice. As such, there is a right choice and a wrong choice, a good choice and an evil choice, a life-affirming choice and a life-destroying choice. Is that overstating the case? Yes and no. How do we actually choose what flavor of ice cream to buy? Suppose I go into Baskin Robbins. Prior to my visit, I have already reached one decision which may be evaluated morally: to have ice cream. This may or may not be a good decision for me, depending on a host of factors including diet, expense, and etc. But for our example, I have chosen to eat ice cream, and let us stipulate that it is good for me to do so. It could be that my desire for ice cream is desire for a certain kind of ice cream. But it also could be a more generalized want for "something sweet and cool"; perhaps I wish to examine alternatives before reaching a final conclusion. I enter the store and... Egads! There are 31 flavors! What's a man to do? In theory, I should be able to weigh each flavor against one another and come up with a list of all 31 flavors in order of preference from greatest to least. At the conclusion of this effort, the good would clearly be to order #1 on my list, and only a Death Worshiper would order #31. However, there's another consideration to keep in mind: the construction of this list is not automatic. It is a product of effort and thought, and that takes place over time. How long would I need to stand in the ice cream shop to generate my list? I don't know, but prohibitively long. The full context of my desire is not simply ice cream, but ice cream as part of a happy evening as a part of my happy existence. Spending hours to buy an ice cream cone would not make me happy. Rather, I'd like to be in and out in just a few minutes, if I can swing it. How to save time? Besides strategies that I may employ before entering the shop at all, such as a mental review of typical flavors and consulting of my "favorites," I can abandon the need for a list of #1 - #31. After all, I only actually need to determine #1 -- the rest of the order doesn't matter to my purpose. And so an initial rough sort into categories (such as "very desirable," "desirable," "undesirable," etc.) will help me narrow down the list considerably. But this method will still require a conscious processing of each of the 31 flavors individually (or, if I'm clever, by group, e.g. "coffee-based ice creams" and so on). If only there were a faster method of evaluation available to me... if only there were an immediate method of evaluation...? But there is! Emotion! Here's the implicit (never verbalized, nor even consciously formed) core of the real decision I make as I enter Baskin Robbins: I have decided that I would like ice cream, but that I would like to enjoy ice cream quickly. Because I know that to select any ice cream from within a rough range will satisfy me, I don't need to consciously differentiate beyond a certain point (such as strictly ruling out those which might kill me through allergy). While emotions are not tools of cognition, they do provide me instantaneous feedback based on my values that it would be cumbersome to sift through. Let me simply look at the available flavors, and when one "calls to me," I will short list it as a potential selection. Finally, I will apply what quick reason I can to determine the winner of the few remaining candidates. (If it's ultimately impossible to tell between two or so flavors, I might require additional evidence in the form of samples to reach my conclusion.) That's it. Nine times out of ten, chocolate versus vanilla (versus the multiplicity of other flavors) is largely abandoned to whim. Because 1) the consequences of choosing wrongly are judged to be very small in their destructive capacity; and 2) (and this is important) to do anything else would be to sacrifice a far greater value, my time. And what if I select wrongly? What if I choose chocolate when vanilla would have made me some measure happier? I am free to evade my responsibility in selecting that ice cream which would have made me happiest, but I'm not free to evade the consequences of my decision. When I'm eating that chocolate ice cream, I may well think to myself, "You know... I should've gotten vanilla." Why didn't I? Blank out. A lifetime of such experiences is bound to wreck a person's self-esteem. And this is why I advocate getting two scoops, minimum. The more interesting question to me is whether there's anything character-revealing in one's tastes among ice cream flavors. It's something of a cliche to associate certain personality traits with those who prefer vanilla to chocolate, or vice-versa, (or strawberry). Does this mean that the Neapolitan man is wishy-washy -- the agnostic of the ice cream world? Myself, I like the stuff from the green family: mint chocolate chip and pistachio (or green tea, if I'm out for Japanese). Is it because I associate the color with money? Does the brisk (almost shocking) taste of the mint contrasted against the slight bitterness of the chocolate say something foul about my sense of life? Or do I love pistachio as an unexamined relic of childhood trips to Thrifty's...? I guess that most would say that taste among food is something like metaphysically given... but I'm not sure this is really the case. I'm open to the idea that there may be some relation between taste/value/aesthetics.
  5. Sexual attraction is a response to value? I agree. Is there rational value in youth? A slender build? Facial symmetry? Absolutely. These suggest fertility and energy, a life-affirming approach to eating habits and exercise, and freedom from disease and genetic mishap, respectively. (Just as being "plump" once signified having money enough to eat well.) So, is it "reasonable" for a man to be sexually attracted to a young, slender, pretty woman? (I use man and woman for convenience; I'd prefer to keep homosexuality as a separate discussion.) It is, insofar as a person values energy, exercise, health, etc., which all appear to be sensible values. Scenario: a man meets a woman who is young, slender, and pretty, and consequently finds her sexually attractive. His initial attraction may suggest that there are values to be gained from an association with this woman, the physical act of sex being just one. After all, if her slenderness is as a result of a specific nutritional and exercise regimen, then it may be possible to infer a certain level of commitment to reason, and an integrity to act upon what she holds to be true, etc. Her hygiene does not exist in a vacuum; it is only made possible by her taking action, and those actions speak of her character. And beyond broad categories of dress, build, age, etc., there are a myriad of more-subtle physical details that may communicate themselves on a subconscious level: how a person's eyes move when they speak; how their body posture indicates attentiveness when they listen; whether their smile "reaches the eyes," and is genuine; so on, and so on, and so on. All of these data say something about a person, and all of it, in sum, may result in a greater or lesser attraction. However. We also know that "appearances can be deceiving," which here means that our attempts to infer character from appearance, both consciously and subconsciously, are fraught with difficulty and the potential for misstep. As a basic example, a slender woman's build may indicate her commitment to nutrition and exercise... or... it may be a quirk of her metabolic nature. Or, she might be engaged in a particular diet based on some strange mystical belief. In short, we know that her body type says something about her, but what...? Typically, we can only draw so many conclusions, and those only so strongly, based on physical appearance (though with practice and thought a person may increase in his skill), and to "truly" know a person, we must get to know him/her better through conversation -- not just once, but often over time. We recognize that our attraction signifies "things of value" that may be available for trade with a person. Is orgasm, itself, of value? I'd say that it is, in context. Masturbating in a burning building is a bad idea. But masturbation after a day's work, taking joy in one's own ability to relax, experience pleasure, etc.? Is a pleasant thing to do from time to time. Sex with another is much like masturbation -- or can be, at any rate -- but it is also intrinsically different. Apart from awareness of the other persons' experience of the activity, and the pleasures that one may take in providing pleasure to another, it is simply different to provide oneself pleasure versus having it provided by another. As one small example of this difference, another person is capable of surprising you -- touching you where you did not expect to be touched -- which results in a different, more intense, and often more pleasurable physical sensation. These differences together can amount to a significant difference overall in the pleasure taken between sex and masturbation, so that to crave sex with another is not necessarily the same as craving masturbation (which can be, itself, more than craving the simple release/pleasure of orgasm). As always, context is crucial. Sex in a burning building is as bad of an idea as masturbation, or worse in that two would die. Casual sex. So we have our man attracted to our young, slender, pretty woman. He recognizes that an association with her may result in all sorts of trades for things he values; his attraction, itself, signifies that there's good reason for optimism on this score. What kinds of things may be traded? Conversation, for instance? Sure -- her appearance is a good initial indication that she may be intelligent, and have worthwhile things to say, and provoke deeper and more exacting thought; this is one among the greatest things that men can trade with one another. What of sex? Yes. That's another value that can possibly be traded for: she is a potential source of great physical pleasure, which, so long as one's smoke detector is working, is a good thing to experience. If this man's attraction leads to conversation -- and coming to understand that this woman is as her appearance would suggest her to be; that is, she is attractive through-and-through -- it might lead to all sorts of possibilities in terms of relationships, including friendship or even a lifelong partnership. At what point in that journey is sex "permissible"? When would they be justified in trading physical pleasures to one another? I'd say, as soon as each is satisfied that the trade is worthwhile. This might be on the wedding night. It might be shortly after meeting. Depending on their ability to assess the other's character, depending on their satisfaction that certain risks of having sex (e.g. pregnancy, disease) have been minimized, depending on their personal convictions that there is nothing inherently wrong with taking pleasure, etc. At some point, there is no longer a reason to deny this exchange of pleasure. What might make the sex "casual"? As one example, they might be on different career paths. Perhaps there is value for them in sharing physical pleasure, and other beneficial aspects of companionship, together for a night (or a month, or what-have-you), but to commit to a permanent partnership would be to sacrifice a greater value. Perhaps even spending the time to get to know the other to the point whether one could say they'd be "marriage material" is too expensive, in a given context. Is there any reason here to withhold the trade of physical pleasure which both sides deem is for their individual benefit? There is not. "Casual" sex is not valueless sex, just as sex between evil people in a 20 years marriage is not a beautiful thing. As to "promiscuity," how many times may such a scenario occur? How many times may a person "reasonably" have sex with a truly (inside as well as out) attractive partner, despite a longer engagement being undesirable? More to the point, outside the particulars of an individual's life-as-it's-actually-lived, would there be any sense in trying to assign a number to such a thing? To summarize: Sex that is indiscriminate (without regard to the nature of the other participant), or sex predicated on evil values, is not a rationally desirable thing, just as sex in a burning building is a bad idea. But sex as a response to rational values is a good thing. There is nothing inherent to "casual" sex that necessitates it being anything other than that.
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