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Everything posted by khaight

  1. LOL. Wow, that really is a good quote... everybody loves it.
  2. Rand defines justice as rationality in the evaluation of men. So yes, according to Objectivism, the standards used in judgment must be rationally grounded and therefore objective. Evaluating someone on the basis of a standard that is not rationally-grounded would not in principle be life-sustaining and therefore would not be considered a virtue by Objectivism. Yes. Legal justice is a special subcase in which the process and standards of evaluation are laid down in the law. Attempting to provide legal justice outside the context of a courtroom and the rule of law would be vigilantism. Rand has a really good quote on the objective base for justice in, of all places, ITOE:
  3. Ok, I stand corrected. It's interesting, given how active Hamilton was in supporting and opposing other Presidential candidates in the first few elections, that he seems not to have made a serious run for the office himself. I wonder why he didn't? Perhaps he would have had he not been killed in that duel with Burr.
  4. Indeed, my understanding is that the state cannot order you to buy auto insurance. If you own a large plot of private land, for example, such as a farm, I believe you can operate a car on it without registration or insurance. You just can't drive it on public roads. The insurance requirement is a condition imposed on the use of a public resource. The health insurance mandate imposed by ObamaCare is an entirely different sort of thing -- an unconditional mandate tied only to being alive. It's only analogous to the auto insurance case on the premise that your life is like the roads: a public resource.
  5. The concept of a musical adaptation of Rand's work isn't facially absurd. The most recent issue of ARI's "Impact" newsletter mentions a 3-act musical adaptation of Anthem put on by a theater company in Austin that apparently turned out quite well. The success of the Broadway adaptation of Les Miserables shows that it can be done to great and complex novels. The thing that makes Aglialoro's comments absurd is the idea of doing just one part out of a trilogy as a musical. A musical is a different genre from straight drama. Doing Atlas Shrugged as a trilogy in which two parts are drama and one part is a musical would be a glaring genre shift in the middle of what should be a tightly integrated work. Imagine how you would react if you sat down to watch a movie and it played as a regular drama for 75 minutes and then people broke into song during the last half-hour for no explained reason. You'd assume the movie had been cobbled together, badly, from parts created by two different people.
  6. My impression is that 'natural born citizen' at the time was taken to mean born in one of the 13 colonies which formed the union. Hamilton was born and raised in the Caribbean. Even if he had been eligible, though, he never held the office, so picking him as a least favorite President is just wrong.
  7. I'd put the point this way: the left is more hostile to Objectivism than the right because the left is more consistent in its adherence to ideas that conflict with Objectivism. But it's easy to find groups on the right that are hostile as well: the religionists and the neo-conservatives, in particular. And it's easy to find Objectivist commentary that is highly critical of the right, if you care to see it.
  8. Er, Hamilton was never elected President. Indeed, he was ineligible due to his place of birth.
  9. Convenient that you ignored my assessment. (And I never watch TV news at all, so you can also set aside that shibboleth.) Do you have a specific citation to back that up? The CBO deficit chart I'm looking at indicates the highest deficit under Bush at around $440 billion in 2008, with two other years (2003 and 2004) at close to the same level. The deficit under Bush was trending down from 2004-2007. By contrast, the deficit for 2009 was 3-4 times that level, and the most recent CBO report puts the deficit in 2010 at $1.5 trillion. The point at which the deficit starts spiking, incidentally, is with the first federal budget put together after the Democrats took control of the Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections. Given that "pay for spending" in the context of government means "take more money from people by force" -- yes, that's evil. I find Obama's political views noxious across the board. I think it likely that his policies, to the extent they are enacted and retained, will do great damage to the country. But it's too soon to form a judgment on how he will stand overall in the light of history, and I don't think it's likely he will dethrone TR from the top of my 'worst President' list. Obama is just playing out the long-term political trend whose dominance was established by TR.
  10. In theory, yes, I think it's possible. Consider the case of somebody who has read and fully understood Rand's philosophy and her arguments in support of it, but is honestly mistaken about some facts in the world -- say, about human nature or history or the like. Such a person would understand the philosophy but be in a position of saying, in effect "If X were true then Rand's philosophy would follow, but X isn't true, so it doesn't." I don't see how that implies dishonesty or immorality. I don't think I've ever encountered such a person, however. In my experience people critical of Objectivism are usually either ignorant of its actual positions and arguments, or they have automatized a method of thinking that makes grasping and/or accepting Rand's arguments difficult-to-impossible.
  11. I think it's too soon to be able to make such a judgment. (It's still too soon to pass a historical judgment on George W. Bush, for that matter.) It takes time for the effects of a presidency to play out, and things that look very bad at the time may turn out to do less harm than originally expected. Suppose, for example, that Obama's ultimate historical legacy is the sparking of a real Tea Party-driven reduction in the scope of government -- the last gasp of statism at the dawn of the New Renaissance. We'd evaluate that differently than we would if his administration marks the next leg down into the collectivist swamp -- and it's too early to tell which effects will be dominant. Similar questions can be raised about other recent Presidents. Which is more significant: Reagan's victory in the Cold War and his slowdown of government growth, or his injection of religion into the moral foundations of the conservative movement? If the nation collapses into a right-wing theocracy, Reagan would surely have to take some of the blame -- but if it doesn't, he wouldn't. More broadly, we have to ask what criteria should be used for judging political leaders. As Objectivists we should understand that fundamental ideas drive the course of history, not concrete policies. By that standard I think FDR is less significant than the early 20th century progressive presidents, particularly Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. TR is my pick for worst President to date: all of the statist presidents after him are just playing out the long-term implications of the political principles he elevated to the commanding heights of American political life.
  12. I think you somewhat misinterpreted my point. Switching to your context, I don't think there's a moral principle that prohibits you from accepting unemployment benefits. Does that mean you are obligated to do so? Of course not.
  13. In general I don't see a moral problem with taking advantage of any benefits you might have as a result of a freely-negotiated employment contract. Employers are aware of the possibility that employees who take extended leave will not return. Large employers probably have better statistics on that than you do, and they factor them into the compensation plans they offer to their employees. Even in the case of mandated leave I think you're OK as long as you oppose the existence of the mandate. (This is just another concrete application of the principle Rand discussed in her essay "The Question of Scholarships".) In such cases your interests and those of your employer have been forced into conflict by government action. The existence of the conflict is not your fault or your responsibility, so why should morality require you to sacrifice your interests in favor of your employers? There might be value to you in discussing the issue up-front with your employer. If they value you as an employee they might be willing to negotiate a compromise, such as letting you work part-time on a flex schedule after your leave is up. Just be clear about what your interests are, and what your employers interests are, and where they overlap.
  14. Be very careful here. Living a life like Roark or Galt means living in accordance with their philosophical principles. It does not require emulating concrete psychological or physical details of their lives and character. There is nothing non-objective in thinking about other people and caring about what they think of you. Rand herself was often very interested in what other people thought of her, and said so explicitly. If you repress parts of yourself in the name of fidelity to Objectivism you will wind up rejecting Objectivism in the name of self-expression. If you're young and struggling with how to properly apply Objectivist philosophical principles to the concretes of daily life I strongly recommend listening to Leonard Peikoff's podcasts. He spends a lot of time answering questions about exactly those kinds of issues and it's very illuminating. Diana Hsieh's "Rationally Selfish Radio" podcasts cover similar material and are also worthwhile. Above all, remember that Objectivism is a philosophy for living on Earth. If being an Objectivist isn't making your life better then you're doing something wrong.
  15. I think part of this is simple credentialism. Rand was an outsider claiming to have resolved a number of long-standing philosophical problems -- and her solutions were often radically different from the ideas held by the intellectual establishment. She constructed her philosophy using her own terminology, which can create a problem of translation. And some of her positions, taken on their own, just don't seem to make any sense when transplanted into a more mainstream philosophical context. Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Rand advocates egoism in ethics -- the view that each individual should pursue his own interests. But mainstream philosophy tends to equate interests with desires, and desires conflict. This means the advocacy of egoism is often taken by mainstream philosophers as the advocacy of doing whatever you want, and that isn't an ethics. It's an abdication of ethics. Rand has a different concept of what a person's interests are, and argues that interests properly understood do not conflict, but without that context her advocacy of egoism just doesn't seem to make sense. Someone who discovers Objectivism while holding a detailed foreign philosophical context is likely to misunderstand it in ways that make it look simplistic, wrongheaded or even absurd. It probably doesn't help that many college professors encounter Objectivism in the mouths of overconfident freshmen acting like disruptive know-it-alls in introductory philosophy courses. So what you have, from their point of view, is a hash of contradictory and absurd ideas written by an academic outsider, not peer-reviewed, not published in the 'accepted' journals, mouthed by the undereducated and not going away. From that mindset I'm almost surprised they aren't more hostile than they are. Social reinforcement plays a role here too. With such a poor first impression, why dig deeper when the only immediate reward will be your colleagues making fun of you for your interest in 'that Rand cult stuff'? Better to ignore it and write something you can get published in time for your tenure review. Objectivists hold some responsibility for this state of affairs too. Attempts to bridge the contextual gap between Objectivism and mainstream philosophy are a relatively recent phenomenon, being driven by the handful of Objectivists holding academic positions. Allan Gotthelf, Tara Smith, Ben Bayer and Greg Salmieri are good examples here. It's a learning process on both sides. Geoff Sayre-McCord, the chairman of the philosophy department at UNC Chapel Hill, is an example of a non-Objectivist philosopher who seems to take Objectivism as a serious intellectual phenomenon, so they do exist. Finally, from what I hear, things are getting better than they were. Time was that an interest in Ayn Rand was an absolute career-killer anywhere in academia. You had to hide it if you wanted to get a job. That's no longer true.
  16. While it is true that integration across philosophic branches is a strength of Rand's philosophy, and that such 'system-building' is viewed with suspicion by many modern philosophers, I have to take issue with your characterization of Hobbes. Hobbes staked out positions in all the major philosophical branches and tied them together. He is known for materialism (metaphysics), nominalism (epistemology), psychological egoism (ethics) and his support of absolute monarchy (politics).
  17. The standard distinction in contemporary political science is that a 'negative right' is one whose satisfaction requires that others refrain from some kind of action, whereas a positive right is one whose satisfaction requires that other take some kind of action. Your right to free speech is satisfied so long as I refrain from interfering forcibly with your speaking; your right to free health care is satisfied only if I pay for your medical bills. The former is a 'negative right', the latter a 'positive right'. On the Objectivist view, all rights are protections of the individual's freedom of action and would therefore be classified by mainstream political thought as negative rights. So-called positive rights are fundamentally different, and package-dealing them together with actual rights is epistemologically invalid. We should call them what they are: alleged entitlements. It depends on whether you are using the metaphysical or epistemological sense of "possible". Epistemological possibility requires the identification of some evidence in support, and if there is some evidence it needs to be integrated into whatever one's final conclusion is.
  18. As far as I'm concerned honest questions from interested non-Objectivists are one of the major purposes of the forum. Be aware that you'll likely get a plethora of answers -- not everybody here is an Objectivist, not everybody here fully understands Objectivism, and there is plenty of room for disagreement even among those who do. It sounds as though the only thing you have read so far is Atlas Shrugged. If you're planning to explore the philosophy more deeply you should probably start with a non-fictional overview. There are several of varying length, depth and format on the Ayn Rand Institute's website. Or if you have specific questions, toss them out and we'll be off to the races.
  19. No, without the individual mandate the private insurance industry collapses -- and since that collapse is the real point of the scheme, I'd say the scheme succeeds. The Democrats never intended ObamaCare to work. They intended it to fail, so they could replace it with full-on socialized medicine.
  20. The really funny thing is that Hartman gave a positive cover blurb to Thompson and Brook's book Neo-Conservatism: An Obituary for an Idea. (Glenn Beck also blurbed the book positively, which is probably the first and last time those two will ever appear together on a book cover blurb list.)
  21. This is the really interesting question, and I haven't yet found a clear discussion of it with respect to this ruling. Most laws contain something called a "severability clause", which states that should any portion of the law be struck down by the courts the other parts are 'severed' from it and must be assessed on their own merits. The ObamaCare bill, for whatever reason, was written without a severability clause, which means it is possible that finding any part of it unconstitutional would lead to the entire law being invalidated. This isn't a slam-dunk, though -- sometimes the courts defer to the perceived intent of the legislature even in the absence of a severability clause. What this means from a practical standpoint is that the anti-ObamaCare suits have a legal leg on which to stand, and the argument is going to continue until it reaches the Supreme Court. Beyond that it's very difficult to say. While striking down the individual mandate is good insofar as it establishes a limit on the reach of the commerce clause, it wouldn't do much to ObamaCare overall. It might even make it worse. The real purpose of ObamaCare is to destroy the private insurance industry so that the left can fully nationalize the medical system, creating the Canadian-style single-payer model they've been lusting after for so very long. Getting rid of the individual mandate while leaving the remainder of the law in place would simply accelerate that process.
  22. I can see the following obvious flaws. 1. The responsibility for mandatory attendance laws falls entirely on the government officials who enacted and enforce them. 2. Parents requiring their children to attend school -- public or private -- is not an initiation of force. 3. A student who refuses to carry out a school assignment is not subjected to force -- they merely receive a bad grade. And trust me, there's a big difference between a bad grade and being the victim of force. 4. ARI provides books to schools at the request of the teacher, not the other way around as you imply. If your argument were valid, any book publisher would be guilty of initiating force if they sold books to schools. The entire structure of your argument is a rationalistic deduction. It's almost too silly to warrant analysis.
  23. Perhaps I should ask a different question. In quantum mechanics, is the 'collapse of the wave function' an actual physical phenomenon? Is it the case that at time T there is a waveform, and at some later time T+n the wave has 'collapsed' into a fully determinate state? If so, then my question is what triggers or causes this event, out there in reality? It can't be triggered by any event that reduces to a choice or identification by consciousness for reasons I think we agree on. Hmm. I'll have to chew that one a bit -- it's after midnight here so Deep Thinking is, at the moment, Right Out. I haven't read it. I'm not a physicist; I'm a software engineer with a bunch of eclectic intellectual interests.
  24. This is something that's always bugged me, from my layman's perspective: what is a "measurement"? I see only two possibilities. Either a measurement is an interaction between existence and consciousness, or it's an interaction between one part of existence and another. The first model is the "people cause wave collapse" approach and would require building consciousness into the foundations of quantum mechanics -- something that is not the case as far as I know. The second model sounds like what you're describing, the "what you're trying to measure" and the "measuring apparatus" being the two parts of existence in question. But that raises the question of what makes the measuring apparatus a measuring apparatus? Is it something inherent in its nature? If so, what? Or is is just that when we're doing the calculations we decide to treat the measuring apparatus using the principles of classical physics and the "what you're trying to measure" using the principles of quantum mechanics? (A non-Objectivist former co-worker of mine, who had a Ph.D in theoretical physics from Cambridge, once described the measurement process to me in essentially those terms.) I find that explanation unsatisfying because it still ultimately reduces to consciousness -- in this case, a decision by consciousness to label part of existence as a measuring apparatus and to crank the mathematical formalisms accordingly. I don't know if I'm missing something obvious here or if this is a real lacuna in the theory, but I've asked a number of knowledgeable people this question, Objectivist and non, and have yet to receive an answer that makes any sense to me -- and this doesn't look like something you can ignore if your goal is to describe and explain what is actually physically happening in reality.
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