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Everything posted by khaight

  1. The Daily Caller website headlined its story about the end of the hostage situation "Gun-wielding ecoterrorist calls for reduction in human population, gets wish."
  2. President Clinton used him to discredit the political right and defuse much of the potential of the 1994 Republican Revolution; the media aided and abetted him in that process.
  3. I wonder how glaring the media double-standard will be here? When a guy spouting right-wing rhetoric does something like this -- as with Timothy McVeigh -- the media uses guilt-by-association to discredit anyone who has ever said anything even remotely resembling the ideas of the attacker. I would say that I wonder whether they'll do the same here, except I know perfectly well they won't.
  4. One could only hope that more Americans become aware of the great threat Islam poses to our way of life. Symbolic gestures like burning books, or physical assaults on peaceful believers are not useful or proper responses, of course -- but given Islam's explicitly stated goals and actions, the so-far pathetic resistance to them from the West and the ultimate outcome should these not be reversed, how is fear not a rational response?
  5. The term "emergency" has a very specific meaning in Objectivism: situations in which long-range survival is not possible. I think there are cases that are not emergencies in which it can be moral to lie -- for example, if you have reason to believe that an irrational person will punish you for your beliefs. If your professor will lower your grade if he finds out you like Ayn Rand, you're under no obligation to tell him even if he asks. It isn't any of his business. That doesn't mean you have to tell him you're a socialist, but you don't have to tell him you're an Objectivist either.
  6. Putting on my devil's advocate hat for a moment here. There is a provocative remark in Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals to the effect that instances of a universal vary "in the more and the less" -- an arguable precursor to the identification of measurement-omission as the essence of concept formation. The significance of this remark was largely overlooked until relatively recently, but it is there. Greg Salmieri has done some fascinating work on this, although it's very hard to follow in detail unless you're familiar with ancient Greek. Spinoza?
  7. I'm not entirely sure I see the relevance. Surely the question is whether one agrees with Rand's philosophical ideas, rather than whether one obtained one's philosophical ideas from her. These days I can imagine a person who got their knowledge of Rand's ideas entirely from secondary sources like Peikoff's book Objectivism or Smith's book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics. One's major concern should be over what one believes and why, not where one first encountered a given idea. For what it's worth I do have some knowledge of the history of philosophy from sources other than Rand. I find the choice of "A is A" as an example of an idea present in both Rand and Aristotle somewhat amusing, insofar as Aristotle did not explicitly formulate the Law of Identity. It's implied by his formulations of the Law of Non-Contradiction and the Law of Excluded Middle, but he doesn't quite come out and say it. If memory serves the Law of Identity wasn't explicitly stated until sometime in the medieval period.
  8. All but two of these points are not part of Objectivism. They're not philosophical principles, they're at most applications of philosophical principles to concretes, and more often they're matters of personal emotional or aesthetic response. The exceptions are the (implied) support of anarchism and the question of the 'is-ought' relation -- and the latter is so vaguely put that I'm not sure it's actually in conflict with Objectivism. In such an essentialized definition a lot of vitally important stuff is left out. As I recall in the same summary she describes the ethics as "self-interest" but never mentions virtue. Does that mean she thinks the virtues aren't part of Objectivism? Obviously not. She views the virtues as implied by self-interest -- they are the necessary means by which one's self-interest is defined and pursued. Similarly, defining politics in terms of capitalism implies government -- capitalism is the system of individual rights and government (in Rand's view) is a necessary means for protecting them. Does that connection require a defense? Obviously, just as the connection between self-interest and the virtues requires a defense. But the fact that she didn't include that defense while standing on one foot doesn't mean that she views government as unimportant or anarchism as compatible with Objectivism.
  9. I'm pretty sure Rand had a solid grasp of the actual, historical practice of Communism, insofar as she grew up during its rise to power in Russia. She saw what Communist ideologues with political power did with it, up close and personal. As for the 'colorful, non-rigorous' writing style complaint -- I think you have to be aware of the audience for which these people are writing. Most Objectivists write for what I call the intelligent layperson. For that audience a colorful, energetic and essentialized presentation works very well. Objectivists who are writing to a contemporary academic audience use a very different style -- drier, more detailed, different word choice -- because that's what that audience expects. Examples of the latter can be seen in the work of (for example) Tara Smith, Allan Gotthelf, Ben Bayer and Greg Salmieri. A few examples: Bayer's "A Role for Abstractionism in a Direct Realist Foundationalism" Bayer and Salmieri's "How We Choose Our Beliefs" Salmieri's "Aristotle and the Problem of Concepts" Salmieri's "Aristotle's Conception of Universality" Smith's "Why Originalism Won't Die -- Common Mistakes in Competing Theories of Judicial Interpretation" Smith's "Value-Neutrality and the Rule of Law"
  10. I'm always a bit baffled by why people seem to freight this sort of decision with such tremendous weight. Objectivism is a specific system of philosophical principles. If you understand and agree with them, then you're an Objectivist. If you don't, you aren't. That's simple enough. Whether you are rational and honest or irrational and dishonest depends entirely on the basis of your disagreement. If, to the best of your own ability and knowledge, you think you have identified an error or contradiction in the principles of Objectivism, then you should go by your own judgment and you are entirely rational and honest in doing so. If you're wrong, you'll figure it out on your own in due course, and reality will make you pay for the error. It's worth pondering the distinctions between the following cases: 1) Disagreement with the actual philosophical principles of Objectivism. 2) Disagreement with the way these principles are applied to specific concretes by other self-proclaimed Objectivists. 3) Disagreement with the way these principles are formulated and defended by other self-proclaimed Objectivists. 4) Disagreement about the tactics and strategy used to advance these principles in the culture by other self-proclaimed Objectivists. I think that (1) is the only thing that makes a person a non-Objectivist. (2), (3) and (4) may influence whether a person publicly describes themselves as one, or associates with the various organizations founded by Objectivists to advance the philosophy in various parts of the culture, but whether you are one is purely a matter of what you believe and why. There's no shame in disagreement, as long as it's done honestly. I know some prominent Objectivists, like Paul Hsieh, who spent years chewing over various disagreements with Rand's philosophical principles before ultimately deciding they were true. I don't hold that against him -- quite the contrary. I greatly admire his intellectual integrity.
  11. Someone -- I forget who -- had a famous line to the effect that when given a choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, most men get busy on the proof.
  12. Whenever Leonard Peikoff talks about the process of judging people he puts a tremendous emphasis on getting all the facts. Details matter.
  13. I call premise-check on this. I'm about as hard-line an Objectivist as you're likely to find, but I was one of the advocates of the more so-called 'human' approach. IMHO the people giving the 'run for the hills' answers were jumping to conclusions in advance of the evidence, i.e. they were not judging objectively. I don't particularly want to engage in a debate on this point, though, so I'll just note that it is not self-evident what the 'Objectivist approach' to any given concrete issue actually is.
  14. But this is precisely the distinction that must not be blurred if the nature of sense perception is to be correctly understood. It isn't a matter of 'semantics', it's a matter of proper conceptualization of a complex phenomenon. This is correct. In my terms, the perception is valid but in an unusual form, and you need to take account of the atypical nature of your perceptual system when forming judgments based on your tactile percepts. I would note the role of your other senses in identifying what is going on here. How do you know that you aren't being touched under the thumbnail? Because you can see that you aren't, and you know that your thumb was injured in the past, and that the injury had an effect on your thumb's tactile sensing capabilities. Perceptual judgments involve an integration of information across sense modalities and with other conceptual knowledge.
  15. How does your example demonstrate this? The brain is responding to the presence of the magnetic field. So what? The brain, though the optic system, also responds to the presence of light waves. Why is one kind of response privileged over the other? It isn't doing it "on it's own", it's doing it in response to something else in reality. Our senses and nervous systems are physical systems. They exist in reality. That means they are subject to causal interactions beyond those of the standard 'see, hear, touch, smell, taste' variety, and some of those causal interactions will give rise to forms of awareness that may be pretty weird. So what?
  16. More precisely it is confusing percepts with perceptual judgments -- the latter are conceptual identifications of what is given in perception. Since they're conceptual, they're volitional -- and therefore fallible. But what would it mean for a sense perception (as distinct from a perceptual judgment) to be invalid? It would have to be an awareness of something other than reality. But there isn't anything other than reality. There is nothing else to be an object of awareness. Typically when people say the senses 'may be in error' they are referring to various illusions like the infamous bent stick in water. It looks bent, but it really isn't, so our senses are in error. But this confuses the percept with the perceptual judgment. The percept is simply an awareness of a stick in water. The judgment is 'that stick looks bent'. The judgment is wrong; the percept isn't. In fact, I can prove that everyone's senses don't respond to stimuli in the same way. Hellen Keller lacked senses -- vision and hearing -- that I have. My visual system can distinguish between red and green; there are other people whose visual systems don't. My visual system is nearsighted and can't distinguish details beyond a certain distance which can be distinguished by my friend whose vision is 20/10. Dogs can hear pitches of sound that human beings cannot; bees can see wavelengths of light that humans cannot. Examples can be multiplied indefinitely. But, as JayR says, none of this matters, because all of these cases are still instances of awareness of reality in some form, and they're all valid. Some are more useful than others -- able to distinguish differences more precisely, or to pick up information in a more useful form -- but they're all equally valid in that they all have reality as their object.
  17. You're missing a proper understanding of the concept of 'proof'. Proof is a matter of the relationship between your mind and reality. Other people don't come into it. A man alone on a desert island would be perfectly capable of proving things. Why would you think otherwise?
  18. I wouldn't call it a 'false sensation'. It's an awareness of a magnetic field, in a very unusual form. One could imagine someone with sufficient knowledge of neurology and an awareness of the presence of an electromagnet though the standard senses concluding from his sense of 'other-worldly comfort' that the electromagnet has been turned on.
  19. Let me recast the question in a more concrete way. Someone claims to possess a sense mode that you do not have; on the basis of that new sense mode they claim to perceive things you do not. Should you believe them? The basic claim here is the possession of a new sense mode. What evidence do they present for its existence? Can they explain how it works? What physical basis does it have? Can the things they claim to perceive be integrated with the things you perceive with your senses, or do they contradict your perceptions? Etc. If I'm blind, and you come to me and say you possess a sense mode -- vision -- that I don't, why should I believe you? You can present lots of evidence in terms I can understand that vision exists. I can touch the sense organ from which vision arises. I can grasp the concept of ambient energy in the environment as similar to sound waves and heat, and vision can be explained as a response to a form of that ambient energy. You can use your vision to identify objects too far away to touch, describe them and I can validate some of their characteristics like shape using my own senses. That provides a solid basis for my accepting that vision is real, even though I don't have it myself. But if someone says they possess a new sense mode, but they can't or won't provide any evidence or explanation, then they're just asserting a claim arbitrarily. Demand the proof.
  20. As far as I know the novel does not indicate what Galt did or did not tell the 20th Century Motor Company as he left. Strictly we can't say that he did tell them the nature of the motor, or that he didn't -- the novel just doesn't say. If memory serves, the novel doesn't even say that the motor was finished and working at the time Galt quit -- it could easily have been a work-in-progress.
  21. And this shows that even inaccurate or partial portrayals of Objectivism in popular culture can spark curiosity in the active-minded. (And Bioshock is a really well-done game.) You might also want to check out the ARI Website. They've got a massive multimedia library there. One of the things that distinguishes Objectivists from so many other cultural commentators is that they have something to say and want it to be clearly understood -- and it is refreshing, and it's also sad that it's refreshing.
  22. This became much clearer with Bioshock 2. Taken in combination with the original, the overarching theme is that taking ideas seriously -- attempting to live by them consistently -- is a recipe for disaster. Both the egoistic individualism of Andrew Ryan and the altruistic collectivism of Sofia Lamb lead to nothing but destruction. What's frustrating about the Bioshock games is that they actually do have a significant intellectual component. They aren't oblivious to the issues at stake. But their only answer to the questions they raise is the standard pragmatism so typical of modern America. I expect this theme will continue with Bioshock Infinite, but with a different ideology taking its turn in the dock. That said, I'm confident that the game will be visually stunning and a hell of a lot of fun to play. The folks at Irrational know how to design a game; I'm a big fan of their work. (I even own Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich, which makes me a bit of an Irrational fanboi.)
  23. As I predicted months ago. Much as some here liked Schiff's policy positions, there was never any evidence to support the belief he had a chance of winning. Reality trumps wishful thinking once again. The country would be in better shape if voters were willing to elect candidates like Schiff, but it is still earlier than you think.
  24. What would you take as proof? Obviously this is an empirical question, not something to which an answer can be deduced from abstract principles. But there are some points to be made. First, it should be obvious that a government could not derive all of its revenue from a single business enterprise. Putting all of its eggs in a single basket like that would be irresponsible, given that any specific sector of the economy can falter or be rendered obsolete by technological advances. So a government that financed itself by running businesses competing with the private sector, to ensure that its revenues were resilient in the face of economic uncertainty, would need to diversify. It would need to own a variety of such enterprises, doing widely different things in different areas. Geographic diversification would also be needed. This causes a knowledge problem. If the government owns a bank, it needs to know how to run a financial institution well. If it owns a steel mill, it needs to know how to make steel efficiently. If it owns a coal mine, it needs to know how to prospect for and mine coal. If it owns a haberdashery it needs to know how to sell hats. Etc. And since the government would need diverse business enterprises it would need a similarly diverse range of knowledge and skills to be able to produce effectively in those diverse areas. How are the government's enterprises to acquire employees with the knowledge and skills they need to produce efficiently? Since ex hypothesi the economy is private, it will need to hire them. And because it is hiring from a competitive labor market, it will have to offer compensation sufficient to attract the talent it needs. Where is that compensation to come from? Again, ex hypothesi, the government's only source of revenue is the profit from the companies it runs. In this sense it is no different from any other business owner. But the kinds of men who are capable of leading large companies effectively, particularly in a free society, are far more likely to found their own companies than they are to agree to run someone elses'. Can anyone imagine Hank Rearden or Francisco D'Anconia choosing to manage a government-owned enterprise if they were free instead to compete against it? People with that kind of talent, even if you can hire them, usually demand significant equity stakes in the businesses they run, and that kind of equity is exactly what the government cannot grant them, lest they lose control of their businesses and the associated revenue on which their rights-protecting operations depend. Government enterprises would have to be run conservatively, because the government's first obligation is to protect the rights of its citizens. So government companies would be very unlikely to fund blue-sky research, risky ventures or start-ups. But conservatively-run businesses in mature industries have low profit margins as a consequence of their low risk. The need of the government to skim off the profits from its enterprises exacerbates this. It would be far more difficult for such enterprises to raise capital in the marketplace, because their expected rates of growth would be lower. The more one tries to concretize what a government financed by businesses it runs in competition with private citizens, the more apparent it becomes that the very factors that lead a business to success -- talented people passionately working for their own profit in pursuit of their own values -- are the ones the government enterprises will not be able to sustain over the long term. Conclusion: the idea isn't workable. Here's a different suggestion for a way to finance the government voluntarily: establish an endowment fund. Constitutionally restrict the endowment so that it can only be invested in a broad-based stock index fund, and prohibit the government from voting its shares to influence the policies of the corporations in which it owns shares. Run the government using the profits. The economic productivity of an unfettered economy should be sufficient that, once a sufficient endowment is obtained, the government could be run over the long term based purely on the investment income with no need for detailed knowledge of how to actually run the businesses in which it invests.
  25. I don't think you can deduce the principle "Government should never compete with private business" from the general principle of the separation of state and economics. But as a purely practical matter I think such government enterprises would tend to be systematically out-competed by their purely private rivals. They wouldn't be able to afford to hire the best employees, they wouldn't be able to reinvest profits in growth, etc. And in the face of such private-sector competition directed against their revenue sources the temptation to violate the separation of state and economics would be omnipresent and increasingly powerful. The incentive structures are all wrong.
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