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  1. If we can see that an adult having sex with an 18-year-old woman is not rape, then we should have no trouble seeing that the adult having sex with that same woman five minutes before her 18th birthday is also not rape. Further if it's not rape to have sex with a 17.99 year old, then neither is it for a 17.98-year-old, or a 17.97 year old, and so forth. So is statutory rape is an invalid term and are paedophiles in prison victims of injustice? Clearly, a .000000001% blood-alcohol level does not impair a driver so neither does a .000000002% blood alcohol level...(skip a few)...and neither does a 0.2% blood alcohol level. To cross a room, I must first cross half the room, but then I must first move half that distance, then half that distance...do you see the flaw in this style of argument? (in fact, I think Ayn Rand called it the Fallacy of the Borderline Case: attempting to use incremental transitions to erase the distinction between two different things). Quoting a sentence for a review or a criticism is not the same as reproducing the book, and it is not a violation of IP rights because it does not deprive the author of income or benefit from his work, which is the whole point of protecting intellectual property in the first place. IP does not exist so the author may gag his critics or silence other people's discussions (even the title of Atlas Shrugged is copyrighted--ie, no one can use that name as a title of another book--so your argument essentially makes it a crime to even mention the book by name!) That is why financial harm is one of the main standards governing Fair Use, because it is irrational, immoral, and anyway impossible to publish and distribute a work yet bar people from quoting it, discussing it, or even mentioning(!) it. You're taking a concept meant to protect intellectual freedom and turning it into a noose. Copying and marketing a patented invention is a violation, the same as copying and marketing a copyrighted work. However, to get a patent the inventor must make the plans publically available, and anyone may copy, discuss, evaluate, and criticize the invention and those blueprints, even though they are prevented from harming the inventor by actually constructing or copying the item for sale, distribution, or personal use. Just the same, I can quote excertps from my friend's book but I may not copy it for sale, distribution, or personal use. And in fact there is a provision for keeping an invention out of the public eye: it is called Trade Secrets, and as long as an individual or company takes steps to keep his invention or process secret then it's a crime to even attempt to discover it. If an author wants a complete gag order on his works, then he must keep them to himself. To make ideas public and then demand complete control over them is a contradiction: it is, in effect, declaring the right to control the minds of others. The reason intellectual property is different from physical property in this regard is because there is only one instance of each item of physical property, and when someone else uses it it deprives the owner of some or all of the usefulness (and in fact, if he is not using it and makes no attempt to stop someone from say squatting on his land, eventually it can become the squatter's through adverse possession). Ideas are not solely incarnated in one physical instance and so others using them only damages the owner if it deprives him of the income or benefit due him. Further, controlling a piece of physical property only imposes the negative obligation on others to refrain from certain acts, but absolute control of ideas and words means controlling people's minds. Does this resolve your objections to Fair Use? Keep in mind that property rights are not a fundamental, unquestionable, all-encompassing axiom: they are derived from the nature of man, and are a tool to to enforce the moral principle that man be the beneficiary of his own work. Trying to apply them to cases that present no threat to the copyright owner means unrightfully restricting others and violating their intellectual freedom, thus obliterating the purpose of defining and defending rights in the first place.
  2. Alternatively, you could turn it around on him. I presume he's advocating altruism and thinks that sacrificing his life for the other man is the right thing to do, so ask him what happens if, after he nobly offers to lay down his own life, the other man says, "Oh good, that saves me the struggle of murdering you! Let's make it quick: you're wasting my oxygen." Is self-sacrifice still the virtuous choice? -If he says yes, you get to point out that altruism punishes the good (by its own standards), and rewards the evil (those who violate those standards). How is man to remain good, and what kind of world will result when evil is rewarded and virtue punished, when the noble have died so murderers may live? -If he says no, then his ethics apparently also lead to a duel to the death, so he cannot criticize rational self-interest for doing the same in this contrived scenario. -If he says altruism only applies when the other person is altruistic too, then you get to say that rational self-interest only applies in situations that don't rule out reason (you can't think your way out of it, you can't strike a deal, it's kill or be killed: what do you do?) So much for lifeboat scenarios.
  3. Oh yes, I read as many Niven short stories as I could find in high school, even if I've since forgotten the names. 'Patchwork Girl' was about the irreversibility of some punishments after convictions are overturned, and it was also insightful social commentary and a rather disturbing commentary on what it means to attermpt to benefit from death.
  4. As I explained in a previous post, the purpose of punishment for crimes is to protect the innocent, both by keeping the criminal away from society for a period of time, and by deterring would-be criminals from committing crimes. In each case, everyone in the rest of society gets what he is morally entitled to get: freedom from coercion (well, to the extent that the justice system actually works of course). No one is entitled to an unearned benefit because of a crime, so there is no justification for using criminals to 'benefit society' apart from whatever compensation to individual victims the court may decide to impose in a civil suit. The moral use of coercion in the justice system is of a specific, limited nature: retaliatory force, the coercion necessary to impose the sentence (or arrest the person with probable cause). Make no mistake though, he is still under coercion and an agreement he makes, post-sentencing, to commute his death sentence to play a game of Russian Roulette in a game show, be a crash test dummy, take drugs with unknown effects, etc are not valid. Note that plea bargains are done in advance of a trial, where the outcome is not certain and it is there that any sort of 'medical experiment' or 'community service' deal could properly be made. Waiting until after the trial, sentencing him to death, and then offering him some (possibly grisly in the case of experimentation) alternative is not a valid agreement. It is treating him like property. I don't want to de-rail the thread but one could make the argument that community service is the same thing. I would say that it is not, and is a proper use of sentencing for three reasons: (1) community service is the sentence, decided by the judge or pre-trial by a plea bargain so it is objective and knowable beforehand, (2) community service is a defined punishment, whereas "the outcome of an experiment" is not, and (3) the primary purpose of community service is punishment, not road beautification (or whatever); that is just an incidental benefit, and the same purpose could be served by having the prisoners stack and unstack blocks. There is no incentive to imprison more people in order to clean more highways (not least because hiring someone is cheaper and easier). In this thread's proposal, medical experimentation is the main purpose and prisoners are convenient subjects. If you want to say punishment is the purpose and medical knowledge is secondary, then that is both unpredictable and possibly cruel and unusual depending on the effects. Incidentally, the taser/arrest analogy is not really a valid comparison for a couple of reasons. The most obvious being, the suspect cannot choose the taser over arrest (if he resists, he is tasered and arrested, so there are not really two alternatives to choose from, barring escape). The arrest itself is not really a punishment; someone is only detained on probable cause and has a chance to prove his innocence and avoid punishment. Finally, by resisting arrest the suspect is defying the justice system and the taser is not meant as a punishment per se, but is merely a means to force compliance and is therefore retaliatory force (since the resistor is suspected of initiating force). Yeah D'Kian, I specifically had Known Space in mind when writing these replies: one of my favourite organ-bank stories involves a man about to be sentenced to death who escapes and destroys an organ bank before being caught. He is not charged, because the prosecutor knows the jury will find him guilty of minor traffic violations and sentence him to death, but at least when he hears his sentence, he can feel like he really did something deserving of death instead of just being a sacrificial goat. Edit: Yep it was long: you asked for it!
  5. There are a lot of things a death row inmate might agree to to avoid execution, but that doesn't make such agreement free from coercion. Forcing a criminal to endure a sentence is one thing, but using that as a bargaining chip for organs, test subjects, entertainment, or whatever would be immoral. Not to mention the danger of a government that has something to gain from imposing the death penalty...
  6. So if a prisoner is willing to agree to something if the alternative is death, then it becomes acceptable to do it to him? What if I offered a death row inmate a life sentence if he agreed to play a round of Russian Roulette on national television? This furthers a public good (entertainment), and it's only at the expense of one dirty murderer after all, and he'll certainly agree since a 5 in 6 chance of life is better than certain death. Maybe we could use him to test Kevlar vests, or the long-term effects of asbestos in a controlled setting. Or is there perhaps a principle of objective law that would forbid sentencing someone to "the outcome of a death game" or "the unknown results of a medical experiment"?
  7. Well, then there's nothing to worry about, since prison is not, and is not likely to become, a desirable alternative to the quality of life of the average American. David answered the original question well, but I thought I'd take a stab at it too. The confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the phrase "a murderer forfeits his own right to life." This phrase means that you may morally use lethal force if necessary to protect yourself or others from a murderer. It does not mean that you may shoot the criminal in the back as he is fleeing, nor that you may later hunt him down and cut his throat in his sleep (to protect the innocent, guilt and punishment must be determined objectively so the courts will, rightly, try you for murder if you do this). It certainly does not mean that the criminal becomes your property, a rightless serf that you may use for whatever purpose you wish. In the case of capital punishment or life imprisonment there is no rehabilitation, so the purpose of the punishment is to deter others from comitting the same crime, and to prevent anyone else from becoming a victim of the criminal. A just deterrent must fit the crime, and torture (which using someone for medical experimentation certainly is) does not fit any crime. Although there is nothing morally wrong with permitting someone sentenced to death to volunteer for experimentation, offering to commute his sentence to life imprisonment if he accepts can in no way be considered a free choice. Consent under threat of death is not valid, and just because a criminal might agree to be a medical experiment, be a bulletproof vest test dummy, play a round of Russian roulette on national TV, or any other macabre deal in exchange for life imprisonment should he survive, that does not mean that those programs are right. The death penalty or imprisonment are objective punishments that are defined and knowable. They are objective. Sentencing someone to "whatever effects this experimental drug may have on you" is not, and is not at all just. Finally this idea of extracting benefits from the criminal and conferring them unearned upon the general populace so "some good can come of them" is pure collectivism; it implies that men are interchangeable cogs with no individual moral import. The criminal did not harm "society"; he committed an injustice upon a unique, irreplaceable individual, and using him to test a cure for AIDS, or baldness, or heck just carving him up for transplant material (which would be a much more efficient way of using him to directly save lives) does not make up for it. Conferring these benefits on uninvolved third parties, as if one man's gain can balance another's loss, does not restore some great cosmic order. It merely piles one crime atop another. Not to mention the political danger of making voters or government officials expect benefits from each conviction...
  8. Wait, are you suggesting that the ideal prison should put prisoners in worse conditions than those suffered by anyone else anywhere?
  9. Well, I've not had much of an opportunity to return, because a school performance I'm in rehearses during the Athiest and Agnostic Society meetings. The only one I've had an opportunity to attend was a presentation of the scientific evidence for God, presented by one of the engineering faculty. I do appreciate your insight, MisterSwig, as they are formed specifically against an idea, and that does not require a positive view of the mind at all. There is a reason why it is the Athiest and Agnostics Society rather than the Philosophy Club or somesuch. I find it hard to blame their views on their environment as some of them are at least familiar with Ayn Rand's ideas, so lack of exposure is not an issue. Their positions are certainly chosen (well, not if you ask them, ha). I will try to find a copy of Ayn Rand's essay (I think that was also the title of a book of hers, no?) Thank you for your input, everyone, and sorry it took so long for me to acknowledge it.
  10. Moose: However, I suspect you just said that so we could all be impressed that you guessed the school. "ooooooooh" But now that you've named my school, I want to reassure everyone that it is not an official campus organisation, nor would they be allowed to post flyers on campus. However, the administration does not prevent us from meeting on campus and peaceably discussing whatever we like. I don't complain; I'm just happy they now allow Swing Dancing. Edit: Or maybe I just realised it's displayed in my profile. D'oh!
  11. As a quick introduction, I discovered the works of Ayn Rand about two and a half years ago (beginning with The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and have lurked on this forum since, well, shortly thereafter. I have always been impressed with the reason, clarity, and intellectual curiosity displayed on this site, although I never contributed to the discussions myself. I'll make a formal introduction in the appropriate thread soon. I was fascinated by her ideas, but her continual references to and tirades against the "mystics of muscle" bothered me. I wanted to read more about her ideas of reason, logic, ethics, concepts, virtue, and science, not these tirades against ideas that nobody really held. Sure, psychologists attribute certain disorders to environmental factors or somesuch, but the mere fact of helping the patient overcome them implies that with a will one can overcome those influences. Nobody really believes that all judgments are subjective and there's no way to tell what is true except by looking at what society says, and that different societies have different 'truths.' And certainly nobody could have the 'idea' that there are no ideas and that thought is just a convenient illusion. It seemed like she had set up this straw man and was attacking it, almost implying that to disagree with her was to be mystical. I understood her fight against religion (midwestern US raised, here), but I was only impatient once she started telling me that I make choices and that I see what I see. And then I attended a few meetings of my (Baptist) University's Athiests' and Agnostics' Society. I was absolutely shocked. I had met people before who had said "there are no absolutes" or "morality is relative" or somesuch, but it was usually the result of muddled (or lazy) thinking. But these students believe it: absolutely, truly believe it. They somehow do not believe in their own free will or ability to think, and yet they have weekly meetings devoted to discussing ideas. When I tried to make a case for morality, it took maybe 20 minutes to pin them down and get them to admit that human take actions in pursuit of some goal (happiness), and that this requires sustaining one's life. Even bringing it down to concretes took so much argument: I asked one why he goes to class instead of lying on the couch and drinking beer, and his response was a patient explanation (paraphrased): "Because the cultural values that I was raised with and the influences of my environment and my genetics and the attitudes of the society around me conditioned me to seek out an education..." I finally explained that the only possibility is that he expects some benefit, and they agreed that humans are selfish. Unfortunately, it was getting late before I could get an admission that man must be rational to survive, (As in, answers to the question "By what means does man acquire basic necessities" were "his hands," and when I say his mind, I get "You don't need technology to get food. There's food in nature and you don't need to be rational to pick a banana," and "All rationality gave us is more food and iPods," and "Well, how do monkeys survive without developing tools--we could live like that!" and "if you take a skinny man with a PhD and a big man and put them in the jungle the bigger one will survive"--if this last isn't mysticism of muscle then I don't know what is.) I honestly do not understand it. These are all very intelligent people though, well-spoken and informed on many topics (especially evolutionary theory, which is not surprising considering the rampant Creationism at this school). In fact, I was impressed and pleased earlier in the evening as they cogently argued evolution against their Creationist Christian member (I was amazed to find myself turning to her later as a beacon of (!) rationality and humanity when they began telling me that valuing reason is just an arbitrary human conceit, that the Earth's dominant life-form is bacteria, and that there is no moral difference between killing a man and bleaching the countertops. Yes, I tried that exact statement as a reductio ad absurdum of the claim that humans have no special moral worth, and yes they agreed wholeheartedly with it.) I've not had much training in philosophy aside from Objectivism (and Christian theology very early in my life). My studies are the sciences and engineering, so I must ask you what would make people think this way? It's like a joke or some bad satire, but they're not deadpanning, and I feel like Dagny "disarmed by the riddle of what makes this possible." I could see a thug or a priest hating the mind, but that cannot be the motive of a group of intelligent students who have formed a non-University-sanctioned group to meet weekly and discuss ideas. So if they're not stupid or hostile to intellectual discussion, then the problem must be some flaws in my arguments or in my presentation. Perhaps I was just unprepared for the denial that man has a mind and depends on it for survival, and that made me unconvincing, although how they think food gets to their plates I don't know. I'm not asking for advice on how to argue (I'd need more than a few sentences on a forum post for that anyway), but rather insight into why someone might believe this, and the only other people I have to talk to are Christians. Could it just be that they're well-off students at an expensive private school who just never bothered to think about who makes the things they take for granted and what that requires? Yet Ayn Rand's writings lead me to believe that even adults and serious philosophers think this way. Reading the wrong sorts of books, maybe, and not properly analysing the content? Is my group perhaps just an anomaly, a reaction to a Baptist upbringing and God-fearing school? Have you encountered anything like this? I apologise for the length for what looks now to be a simple question, but I thought it important that you understand exactly what I encountered (as best as I can boil down an hour-long discussion). I am pleased to meet you all.
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