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Posts posted by themadkat

  1. I think you completely missed the point. The negative is the absence of the positive, and it IS true that a thing cannot be said to exist in any meaningful way unless there is some conceivable alternative. How is it nihilistic to say that values presupppose an alternative to life, which is non-life or death? If there is no alternative to being alive then it would actually be true that it doesn't matter what you do. Why is this problematic?

    I cannot imagine a way to reconcile the sense of life indicated in that quote with the positions advocated by Smith in that section of her book (or by Rand, herself, with the robot analogy). The essence of both is the premise that the meaning and significance of life is contingent upon the possibility of death; that the meaning and significance of pleasure is contingent upon the possibility of pain. It is, in essence, the same form of argument (with the same nihilistic premises) as the argument which opened this thread concerning the omnipotence of God. Strength requires the possibility of weakness, life requires the possibility of death, pleasure requires the possibility of pain, the positive in the universe is dependent upon the existence of the negative. Think through what this means. It means that the degree to which one is incapable of dying, one is not really alive and therefore to really be alive, one must be teetering just on the edge of death. It means that the degree to which one is incapable of pain (sort of like Roark only having the "pain go so deep"), one is not really capable of pleasure- that one must be teetering just on the edge of pain to fully experience pleasure (Sadism). I cannot and will not EVER accept any such premise- and to the extent that Objectivists genuinely do, it will be the end of Objectivism (to MY great dismay).

    Pleasure is NOT the absence of pain. Life is NOT the absence of death. Reward is NOT the absence of punishment. The Positive is NOT the absence of the Negative. All incorporate the absence of their opposite- but all are SO MUCH MORE than the absence of their opposite- and therefore are abundantly possible, meaningful, and significant apart from their opposite.

  2. I think there are no state income taxes in Dallas, TX or something, not completely sure (my ex used to live there). Also, there was a short thread about good places to live here.

    Many states have no state income tax, though you will still have all of your federal liabilities. I currently live in Texas, which has no income tax. I previously lived in New Hampshire, which has no income or sales tax. However, be aware that many states with no tax of one kind will sting you with another. Texas has an 8% sales tax. New Hampshire has incredibly onerous property taxes, to the point that they tried to value a guy's hunting lodge, with no running water or electricity, at 100K because it had "a view".

  3. Okay. Well I really don't like reading through Atlas Shrugged but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that Objectivism is for a lot of things.

    Thank you for your response, though. It cleared things up for me a bit.

    You're welcome. You know that there's no law you have to read AS to understand Rand. Honestly, if you're interested in the philosophy, her copious amounts of non-fiction might be a better start and you could skip over her fiction entirely if it's not your cup of tea (some people don't care for her style).

  4. So I understand what you said thusly: It is morally okay to help a child who is disabled for the rest of their life. However, if there isn't enough voluntary donations to support the person they should be left to die.

    What if it's an adult that becomes disabled later in life? Is it morally okay to help someone who develops Alzheimers at age 50? How far does this adult/child distinction go?

    I think you have a real fundamental misunderstanding of Objectivism here. Of COURSE it is morally OK to help someone who develops Alzheimers - in fact, if it is someone like your mother or father (assuming they were good parents or even decent parents to you) it's pretty much immoral not to. What Objectivism is against is UNCHOSEN obligation, not freely chosen aid to people you value. It's absolutely moral for me to care for and assist, for example, my autistic sister because she may never be fully independent. I love my sister, I value her, and to fail to help her would be inconsistent with my values, thus harmful to my life. It is also moral for a stranger to help my sister IF that person chooses to do so (say, through a charity dedicated to autistic people). What is NOT moral is for me to force a stranger to care for my sister whether they want to or not, because I can't or won't, and using government as an intermediary vehicle for that force makes it even more immoral.

    It's been said before but you really, REALLY need to read Rand before you come in here and ask stuff like this. You would have a lot better sense of the philosophy. You are far too focused on what Objectivism is against and not at all focused enough on what it is FOR. Objectivism is pro-values. Other people are frequently values.

  5. This is true that Ayn Rand as a person didn't like gays. She didn't recognize the metaphysical nature of homosexuality and claimed that homosexuals hold "unfortunate premises".

    It's not true that Rand didn't like gay people (taken as individuals), although she was openly disgusted by whatever she conceived homosexuality to be (who knows?). Her best friend was actually a gay man (her brother-in-law, Nick O'Connor). He wasn't in-your-face about his sexuality but she must have known and not thought it was very important. She was also pretty much the ONLY person to publicly state that no sexual acts should be outlawed by the state so long as they occur between consenting adults, at a time when sodomy laws were rampant on the books in nearly every state. Yes, Rand was wrong on the issue of homosexuality, but I think she also deserves a little credit for some foresight. If she were better informed about queerness generally she might have changed her views. My general impression is that she just had no idea what she was talking about but was smart enough to recognize that it should be legal based on her other principles.

  6. There is absolutely no reason to accuse this guy of being a troll, especially given his subsequent responses in the thread. There's no need for this type of hostility to newcomers. I swear, this is how perfectly good people get turned off. Anyone who comes here, even with a disagreement, should not be assumed to have any ill intentions unless they really start to show that and this fellow did no such thing.

    Chill out, man. Seriously.

    You really need to figure out what an Objectivist is before you start making claims about the group. I suspect you are a troll.

  7. Firehammer is kind of a crazy nut who has a bone to pick with the Brandens and hence SOLO. Most "mainstream" (I guess?) Objectivists just sort of ignore/write off the Brandens by this point and don't worry too much about them. I definitely would not form your assessment of Objectivists based on Firehammer's work. I can think of one or two posters here on this board, tops, who take him seriously.

    Hello All,

    Thank you for all the kind words. I must say I am really glad that I was wrong.

    I am really relieved since I like my impressions on objectivism. I firt came to know about Ayn Rand through the work of Mike Mentzer. He is one amazing guy.

    I have already downloaded the podcasts that you have mentioned and cant wait to listen to it.

    Here is one of the articles (and there were some others) that I have looked at that made me think gave me my impression:


    I could look up others if they want.

    Thank you once again I am really excited about Ayn Rands work.


  8. The "evil plot" of this man, which the Incredible family must foil? Legally selling devices on the free market that would enable all people to obtain superpowers. The justification for their stopping him, which made me literally groan out loud, was "if everyone's super, then no one will be." The unanswered question, of course, is why it is important that there is a hierarchy of talents in society as long as no one is sacrificed. This seems to me like nothing short of crypto-racism.

    Did you forget the part where Syndrome was murdering superheroes more or less out of jealousy? Where he was willing to put an entire city's lives at risk in order to glorify himself and be worshipped as a hero? Syndrome is the picture of talent and ambition wasted on a miserable second-hander. He didn't get the love and attention he thought he deserved from Mr. Incredible - boo hoo. Thereafter he just showed his total lack of concern for the rights of others in the interest of self-aggrandizement. There is nothing sympathetic about Syndrome.

  9. Mastering a discipline, breaking its conceptual hierarchy down and explaining it, step by step, in a way appropriate to the ability levels present in a classroom, while all the time ensuring that students are not only developing content knowledge but also reasoning skills, are all elements of teaching. Perhaps this doesn't take much more than a piece of paper: no real mental rigor or discipline, no experience, no developed comfort with interactions with children or adolescents, no strength in communication, no constant battle to evaluate fairly and objectively, no weight on your shoulders of having the minds of tomorrow placed in your hands.

    As a future teacher, I'll ask you not to equate the ignorant thug-priests who do naught more than grunt at children about global warming and the evils of businessmen all day with those few of us who actually do give a damn.

    I'm going to second this. Being a GOOD teacher is exceptionally hard. The problem is that so many are not good. Is it easy to be a crappy teacher? Probably, just as it is easy to slack at anything else. To put real effort into teaching students, especially when you know most of them don't care and are only in it for a grade, if that even, takes all one's integrity and personal resources.

    I honestly think good teachers don't get paid enough but that bad teachers are too hard to get rid of.

  10. I love the psychologizing that goes on in sex threads. :)

    Probably related to the psychologizing that goes on when we evaluate potential partners.

    It is probably salient to add that there is unlikely to be ONE standard of sexual selectivity and that different individuals can be more or less selective depending on their individual context (with the standard of good being their psychological health/happiness).

  11. Aside from questions about promiscuity, another question to ask is how to even decide when there is sufficient valuing to justify having sex. Answering that question would mean that anyone having sex BELOW that level of valuing is being promiscuous.

    This. Picture a guy who's had only three lifetime sexual partners, but they've all been sloppy-drunk one-night stands. I don't know if I'd call it promiscuous, but it's pretty freakin' sad.

  12. I think this is the main issue. How low of a standard are we speaking before the standard is one of promiscuity? Does anything less than highest value qualify as promiscuous? I usually understand promiscuous to be sleeping around with whomever based on little more than physical appearance, lacking in judgments about character. Number of partners is not exactly relevant, what's essential here is what level of non-discrimination, in terms of level on a value hierarchy, is promiscuity?

    I also want to come out in favor of a person's standards given certain contexts as opposed to just numbers. I think four is a ridiculous cutoff for calling someone "promiscuous" or thinking of them as such, and this comes from someone who hasn't even reached four (or two for that matter). Some people end up having more partners just for the simple reason that they travel more, that they change life circumstances more often and thus don't get to stay near the people they either value highly or were coming to value. I'm thinking of a very common progression here: high school, college, graduate/professional school, career. I venture to say that people who go through this sequence are going to have more partners simply by virtue of having to move several times (assuming that most people rack up partners primarily in youth) and should not be assumed to be more promiscuous than someone who, say, stays in the same neighborhood their whole lives until marriage.

    For me it is really about whether someone is selecting partners they 1) greatly value for more than just physical reasons and 2) intend to have a serious relationship with. Later as one spends more time with the person, they might discover new information that lets them know it's not going to work out. Moving on from that and finding a new partner is not a moral failing - if anything, it's a moral virtue.

  13. I'm not sure why my beliefs should come into it at all. It should just be about the logic. Since you bring it up, I've read OPAR several times, as well as The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and a lot of Rand's nonfiction. I was really into Objectivism in high school and early college, but since then I think I've found some holes in the philosophy. I don't think most people would describe me as a Christian per se, but I've begun reading a Christian philosopher and theologian named Richard Swinburne, and I think I find his worldview more plausible than Ayn Rand's.

    In any case, I'm not here to convert people away from Objectivism. As you can see, I just started this thread because I thought the members of the forum would be interested to read a Christian's responses to Objectivist arguments in philosophy of religion. If the moderators think it looks like I'm trying to proselytize, obviously they can close the thread or move it to debates.

    Your beliefs are only relevant insofar as I see a lot of people telling you "If you read XYZ..." and I was trying to explain to them that you are pretty familiar with Objectivism already. I thought you had previously described yourself as a Christian. If that is not the case, my apologies.

    A slightly related question - what do you believe a universe in which there was no God would look like?

  14. Hey Paeter,

    I'm not going to comment on this thread too extensively because I have done so in other threads, but I just want to mention that if you are going to rely heavily on the "science" of evolutionary psych you may want to re-evaluate your argument. Much of it is garbage. I am making a career in evolutionary biology (among other things) and actually consider myself a sociobiologist, but a lot of the research that has been done in evolutionary psych is just sloppy crap and doesn't hold up in light of alternative explanations. For example, your claim that variation in sexual desire is limited is empirically false, as any anthropologist (or really any well-traveled, observant person) can verify. Again, I don't plan on rehashing a lot of my previous points. But if you do feel like getting into the science I don't mind. I am a giant nerd after all.

    Two final points - firstly, I do not believe that the sexual desires of a rational, well-adjusted man and a rational, well-adjusted woman picked at random will be substantially more different than two men or two women picked at random (unless you want to go super-broad and say, for instance, that both of the men are likely to be attracted to women, but I don't see that as your argument as everyone knows the majority is attracted to the opposite sex). And secondly, you seem to be treating sexual desire as something causeless or unexplainable, or driven by purely physical forces. I would check that premise. The mind is the first and foremost sexual organ.

  15. General note: if I recall correctly, ctrl y is a fellow who used to be an Objectivist and now considers himself Christian. The only reason I mention this is because some people seem to think he is not familiar with Oist principles and I believe it is the case that he is very familiar with them and disagrees anyway. I don't know if this affects how people choose to engage in this argument, but it might.

  16. The mistake you are making is to posit a dichotomy between self-interest and a free market. What everyone is trying to tell you in various different ways is that it is in NO ONE's self-interest to support legislation that initiates force in the markets. This is the Objectivist position (since you asked). The interests of rational individuals do not conflict.

    You are approaching this from the standpoint of a situation where there must be winners and losers in the marketplace (and life generally) and everybody better just hope they can get a big enough gang together to get the government to make them the winners. Objectivism rejects this point of view.

    I understand that at this point you probably won't accept this point of view but I'd hope you at least understand it better now. You must contend with the argument that it is in no rational person's self-interest to initiate force against their employer or anyone else.

  17. It appeared to me that this was not the author's interpretation of Rand's message but the one that found its way into the American Value Network's ad (which makes sense since they are fundie nutters). So that is the Christian take on Rand, not the POV of the article.

    While the overall point of the article may be correct this quote is a pretty hamfisted misrepresentation:

    Weak are beyond love and undeserving of it?

    What I take away from much of my reading of Rand is that not many people are so far lost as to be beyond self-redemption. Many sympathetic characters are portrayed in Rand's works as people with a mixture of weakness and potential- what matters is which eventually wins out. Mallory and Cameron for instance are characters that she portrays as being weak but not beyond love or undeserving of respect.

  18. NewEdit makes a lot of good points. I'm happy to say that many of them do not apply to my case, at least, although I know many other graduate students are not so fortunate.

    Research can be an unhealthy lifestyle, but my research involves tromping about in the mountains like some kind of special forces mission, except tracking monkeys instead of men. It may be physically dangerous but it would actually be beneficial to fitness, or at least wouldn't harm it.

    My mentor knows that I have been powerlifting and that I do other things such as sing and play bass. I think I may have also mentioned my fiction writing. She does not object to anything else I do as long as I meet all of my obligations.

    My research, I like to believe, does not rehash minutiae. I am incredibly fortunate to be doing some more or less new work. This is because I am working with an organism that is still fairly data-deficient or has mostly been observed in captivity/semi-wild conditions.

    And last but not least, my fellow graduate students are by and large supportive and awesome. They are not all my best friends in the world but we all get along and I'm happy to grab a drink with any of them. All of us under my advisor work on different organisms so we are really not competing with each other.

    Unfortunately, two of NewEdit's points do ring true for me. Both my advisor and I depend on external grants for our research. My advisor doesn't stress about it too much as she is quite good at pulling down big grants from both governmental and private sources but I am less fortunate. Due to the nature of our research we don't really get high-dollar grants, just a few thousand dollars, but it still kinda sucks to chase after the money. I find grant applications to be incredibly stressful and definitely my least-favorite part of the research process. It's not all bad - doing grant apps can force you to refine your research design and make sure that you actually do have a solid plan. That part is beneficial. However, it's the stress of knowing that someone else's say-so yay or nay can make or break you, someone far away that you'll never see (although I did meet a gentleman I applied to recently and, guess what, he gave me money - but NSF or Fulbright isn't like that). The whole thing just seems so arbitrary. You can have a perfectly good research design and not get funding, or not get enough funding.

    Peer review is also a mixed bag. Yes, it is a good way to make sure that sub-par research doesn't get published (although it's imperfect - plenty of papers I read still suck and it makes me wonder how the hell they ever saw print). So much career advancement depends on publication, and publication again like grants seems so arbitrary. That stuff about people possibly taking your research ideas after rejecting an article...that can really happen. I think it happened to my advisor, or at least, she believes it happened. She had a really off-the-wall idea which was rejected for publication, but surprise surprise, a little later on someone else published something VERY similar. It was a data analysis technique so it could have been pulled off quickly.

    Getting grants and depending on peer-review for publication are stressful, but that alone I could deal with. I think for me the biggest point of stress is the total lack of compensation and the huge risk involved in staying poor and working my ass off during half my young life for the mere possibility of a future payoff. Graduate students do a tremendous amount of work basically for nothing, no reward in either money or really even satisfaction since the results are so delayed. You might start a project and PERHAPS see some results in print three years later. Your dissertation research may or may not pan out. Meanwhile there are bills at home, other people to take care of...I have friends who are already making six figures. We went to the same college - I could be doing that stuff too. I'd be horribly unsatisfied with my life and wouldn't have any fun being, say, an i-banker or corporate consultant, but I'd have something to show for my work. So often now I feel like I have a never-ending list of things to do for absolutely no reward. There is never anything to show for one's work. I guess I feel a little bit like Hank Rearden - punished for my virtues. I've lost my funding now. At least before I didn't have to pay tuition and had a small salary. I was satisfied with that, but now that I've lost that and I don't have another job lined up I get to pay for the privilege of working on all this stuff for no compensation.

    There's something else, too. I work with the Chinese, and man you wanna talk about arbitrary! The guys I work with over there are great. I don't have a problem with them. But EVERYthing in that country is done by permission, not by right, unless you are very powerful. All it would take is one pissy bureaucrat to blacklist me and finish my research in that country forever. Now, I have no reason to think that would happen, but then again, things could change in the future. What if I found a fantastic research program only to have it arbitrarily shut down or, worse, stolen by the Chinese? Thank goodness I'm not in a high-dollar/high-profile field!

    These are some of the issues I've had so far in grad school. That plush tenure-track job I've always dreamed of, educating bright young kids so they learn how to think and how to use their minds, seems so far away. I won't quit, though. I love what I do. But sometimes I just feel like a total rube, you know? The anxiety level this crap causes is staggering, and I'm watching all my friends go into debt from this crap.

  19. Haven't posted a new topic in a long, long, time, and I don't know if this one will take off or not, but I thought it might be fun.

    Now, yes, this topic is a bit cheeky. On its face the answer to this question seems to be, "Well duh, yes." But there are so, so many graduate students who are not, including many people I care deeply about because they are my "comrades" in all this, so to speak. It's easy to say, "well, those people are just weak/can't hack it," and in many cases that might be true. But I know that I wrestled with a lot of very hard, painful motivational issues and hey, yeah, flat out depression last semester, and I am definitely not the only one who has these problems by a long shot. Instead of blaming the graduate students having problems, I wonder if perhaps there is something ABOUT graduate school that just makes it particularly hazardous for a person to do unless they are very, very strong and stable (not that I don't believe everyone should aspire to be strong and stable, certainly I do).

    So, discuss. Can a graduate student stay psychologically healthy? Is graduate school mentally "dangerous"? Obviously I am a grad student and I am primarily looking for input from people who either are graduate students or have been at some point (hey, if you are a tenured prof, I'd LOVE to hear from you!). However, if you believe you have something to contribute even if you have never been a grad student, that's fine too. No one is "disqualified" from weighing in as long as your input is rational and furthers the topic.


  20. Hey Ferris,

    It's great to have heroes, both real and fictional, people you recognize as exceptional and worthy of admiration. Roark is high on my list too. But you need to figure out how to be your (best) self, not how to be Roark or anyone else. I think I am echoing a lot of posters here in some regard but I really want to make the point that people are different. They are individuals. I think the fact is often lost, but even several supremely rational people will be very different from each other due to personal preferences, life experiences, optional values, etc. This is a GOOD THING. You will feel best in the end if you find your own unique road to rationality and happiness. It will be even better because you truly own it.

    That said, you can take advantage of well-established, successful mental techniques (such as unblinking rationality and a commitment to yourself not to evade anything) that we're all familiar with here to help yourself. You already have all the tools you need.

  21. Anything to avoid scenario 1.

    No, NOT anything to avoid scenario 1. You are making a mistake here. Where is your concept of justice? Why should anyone produce anything at all if it is subject to seizure by another with (supposedly) greater need who has done nothing? What do you think will happen to production over time? You equating scenario 2 and 3 is like saying it is equally good to hack off your leg or take antivenom if you have been bitten by a snake on your foot. Both solve the problem, so they are interchangeable, right?

    I'll use another animal example, since you seem to like them and since I think it is elegant. Certain macaques, such as Japanese macaques, can dig up certain foods such as tubers from the ground. However, this is a lot of work. If you do it, you better be able to keep the tuber. The problem is, when subordinate individuals (macaques live in a despotic society) dig up tubers, dominant individuals just come by and steal them. This happens when any subordinate individual obtains any kind of food cache. So, how often do you think macaques go to the work of digging up food? Just about never, because the subordinate individuals can't hang onto it and the dominant individuals always eat first and take what they want anyhow, thus being the last to lack for anything. So do you think a lot of food gets produced? No, only just enough for macaques to consume as fast as they can, lest someone else make off with it. Under a system like this, there will never be a surplus of any kind. Is that what you want? Everyone just having barely enough all the time? It sounds like you find that preferable to a situation where everyone does better but some people do way better, which is unconscionable to me. So much for being a humanitarian.

  22. In the context of humans, you should recognize that in scenario 1 A is acting completely immorally and that B has the right to stop A by any means up to and including killing him (I'm assuming we're talking a state-of-nature type thing here with no civil society). Scenario 2 is a false alternative. You're basically saying that it's acceptable for A to run a sort of protection racket to get access to B's resources. Then again I suppose you do believe that's all right because you want government to do this on behalf of people with less, under threat of force. What about Scenario 3: A has been unsuccessful in acquiring X, and B has X. A gives B something of value (could be anything) in exchange for some of his X. Both parties are now better off than they were before.

    But I guess that's unacceptable, because that would be free trade.

    I provide countless examples and facts through this thread. It is up to you if you want to ignore them.

    Scenario 1:

    Fact: All living beings need resources to survive

    A is a living being and needs resource X to survive but has been unsuccessful in acquiring X itself

    B has acquired the resource X and refuses to divide X equally

    Result: A kills B and obtains resource X

    Scenario 2:

    Fact: All living beings need resources to survive

    A is a living being and needs resource X to survive but has been unsuccessful in acquiring X itself

    B has acquired the resource X and shares X with A

    Result: Both A and B survive

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