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Everything posted by West

  1. Yes they still exist, but I contend that it isn't really an issue for HB or Norsen (where it is for me--just answering posts on oo.net recently has taken far more time than I had expected or wanted). HB has been duplicating the posts on HBL for some time too, so they are being channeled to more than just that specific context. It may be interesting to some to explore whether this is an effective use of HB's time, but I personally don't have much interest in questioning HB, Peikoff, and others' effective use of time. The individuals of that caliber that are professors already spend the bulk of their time lecturing and grading papers. Meanwhile, all of the rest are writing books, articles, running/participating in email discussion lists, attending academic conferences, Objectivist conferences, as well as running conferences specifically aimed at students (Clemson Summer Conference comes to mind). This list isn't exhaustive, it's just to give an idea that they are working pretty hard to saturate the culture (which was the theme of the last OCON). Consisting of a great number of units (as distinguished from not many, or few). For concretes, the exact conference or website traffic figures can be dug up, I just don't have them easily on hand. I'm sure they could answer the question more in depth to provide a more satisfactory answer, but from various responses I've heard (one venue being the academic panel at this last OCON, which had Tara Smith, Allan Gotthelf, John Allison, John McCaskey, Eric Daniels, and possibly a few others producing the responses), I get the sense that it's effective in some places, and not so effective in others. I think the idea is diversification, broadly. I think in the end this can best be answered by HB and others, but I still think that HB and Norsen aren't put out much by those posts, and the websites themselves have a lot of traffic. I think the particular concrete of the participation on the Maverick Philosopher blog is in principle the same as the point/counterpoint exchanges going on on websites such as this: http://www.opposingviews.com/questions/sho...ce-against-iran
  2. West


    Based on what evidence? (I'm asking for every sentence above)
  3. My assessment of the film is different, but my first question is what makes you think that his actions were self-sacrificial? I ask because my first reaction to the ending was a negative one, but after thinking about it, I didn't think as ill of it. Considering the fact that , and the fact that he's a very cognizant character (which is another plus for the film) it makes me see even more that his actions are in promotion of his (recently) identified values (which makes up the plot of the film). In addition, instead of having the Spaghetti-Western style of just taking out the bad guys (explicating the need for justice), there was something much more personal at stake, which was a bonus.
  4. Yes, there is more than one way to accomplish {A}, but to bring back the issue I raised before, who derives value from your approach? From a strictly psychological perspective, what kind of person will even respond (and not merely ejaculate insults in kind) to your kind of approach? After considering the question, I can only think that the answer is fellow Objectivists, since we share the proper context. Therefore this is a value only to the extent that there are Objectivists visiting the blog, weighed against the judgments and opinions of those unfamiliar with the Objectivist context (whom I think will have no interest upon coming into contact with the prevalent polemical approach). I would argue that the approach is more of a dis-value since the broader purpose is not accomplished by these means. edit: I wanted to add that HB and Norsen's approach has a blanket effect that covers your intended audience (the "open-minded") substantially. (I don't share the comment made earlier about longer posts being necessarily bad, if that was the message intended)
  5. Something I want to say at the outset is that I think it's important to consider the personal contexts involved in these exchanges. What may seem like a lot of time and mental effort to you or I might not be much to HB or Norsen. This is not merely to criticize you or I, but instead to say that everyone has their own values and time with which to achieve them. Engaging academic philosophers may not be the most palatable (or practical) thing for most people, and that's okay. Also, there isn't just one or two ways to change the philosophy of the culture. I don't think that anyone is suggesting that "getting a hearing in academia" is the only way to change the philosophy of the culture. We are instead suggesting that it is one of the many ways to change the philosophy of a culture, and it's most effective when done by professionals due to the context. To continue, I can't speak for what HB is aiming to accomplish specifically, so I tried to cover as many bases as I could think of. I went along with John Donohue's proposal for a purpose [".. to dethrone Kantianism and all forms of neo-Platonism from running the universities and intellectual establishment and replace it with Objectivism (by that name or any other)"], since it's broad enough that I don't particularly disagree, and I don't think it would be dishonest to say that HB wants this too. As for what HB and Norsen are actually accomplishing, I tried to detail that before, but I'll recapitulate the essentials as concisely as I can. The first thing that I think should be taken into consideration is something Atlas51184 stated before: these blogs have heavy traffic. They are widely read by not only other philosophers, but also by students of philosophy. The second thing to be considered is the fact that Rand is otherwise obscure within academia. It's not just that she's attacked, she's largely not even being discussed. Taking those into consideration, the fact that Rand is being discussed (albeit in a negative light) shows that there is some interest, which I think is better than no interest and no discussion. You'll notice that the academic types (Tara Smith, Allan Gotthelf, Eric Daniels, Amy Peikoff, etc.) have been engaging non-Objectivist academics more and more, whether it's at philosophy conferences, law conferences, and others, which helps bring Ayn Rand and her ideas to the forefront of the discussion. What this actually accomplishes is the facilitation of awareness and understanding of Objectivism, whether that be the main philosophers on the blog (doubtful), or the numerous viewers from wide backgrounds (which range from doubtful to very promising) Some smaller points that are worth mentioning: - HB got to put in a substantial plug for his Consciousness book he's in the process of writing, in addition to multiple plugs for the collaborative volume being assembled and edited by Gotthelf and Salmieri. - When the conversation began to derail into the realm of physics (when these philosophers had no business speaking on the subject), Norsen had an opportunity to provide a substantial account of not just the history of physics and QM (and the interpretations thereof), but the interfacing that occurs between physics and philosophy. Just on a personal level, this was highly stimulating. It opened my eyes to a lot I didn't know--I would not have been aware of it had the issues not been raised by those who were either dishonest/ignorant/mistaken about the subject. It would be nice to have someone like Norsen to bring with you into awful physics classes, but this acts as a good substitute for now. From responses I've seen both public and private, I see evidence of a similar spark in others (to varying degrees) regarding Norsen and Binswanger's excellent posts, on both sides.
  6. I disagree that scarcity is axiomatic within economics--we're only limited by our capacity for production (our mind, at root). I think Julian Simon addressed the topic of scarcity of resources pretty well in 'The Ultimate Resource', by pointing out that we have no shortage of inputs, but instead are only limited to the extent that our minds are able to translate those inputs into valuable outputs, as well as improve technology and efficiency to increase the yield of these outputs. It seems strange to start the science with what we don't have (infinity minus a few?). I think if we are to come up with a reasonable idea of "scarce" or a status of "scarcity," I think we have to treat it as derivative or emergent, like the status of "cold" or "warm," instead of as a starting point for economics. Starting with "we can't get everything we want" is deriving a concept based on our whims; it makes us sound like we are perpetually unsuccessful.
  7. You can reject the emotion of what I said all you want, but having inspected the reasons why I have those feelings, I've found those quick judgments to be correct. You did in fact have good intentions, but your actions do not support the purpose that you outlined, and I will point out why. It's true that she told it like it is, but you have to consider the various contexts with which she engaged, and how she presented her philosophy. When she was writing or speaking for an Objectivist audience, her tone and characterizations (and the terms she uses at times) are vastly different than when she engages a broader audience that is predominantly non-Objectivist. You'll see the same difference between Harry Binswanger's (HB from here on) posts on HBL and his posts on the Maverick Philosopher blog (or any other public forum, such as his comments on Time's website). You don't have to get people to yield on a fundamental level for an intellectual discussion to be productive. If you look at the posts in response to yours and others, you'll see that no real understanding occurred, and they only grew more rabid and insulting. Your actions actually emboldened them. In the end, they stuck to their guns and you guys ended up in a name-calling mire (to paraphrase, "You guys spout nothing but analytic mumbo jumbo and Kant informs you of everything you should think," with the other side saying "Objectivists have no skill for debate, cannot be taken seriously, are a joke, etc."). Contrast that with the responses to Travis Norsen and HB's posts. You see substantially more understanding, good will, and even agreement. This accomplishes a great deal--going from "all Objectivists are ridiculous and Ayn Rand is a complete joke" to "there are some respectable Objectivists out there and Ayn Rand may deserve more attention" is a good thing. Which result do you think does better in accomplishing {A}, yours or HB's, if your intended audience is the people running the blog? If your intended audience is instead the people reading the blog, is your method really that much more effective? I contend that the people who will understand your criticisms (or screaming) are only going to be well-read Objectivists. I don't think that the idea that Kant is evil and pervasive is common sense--it's a MASSIVE integration. This idea (and many others expressed) are completely alien to those outside of Objectivism. How does this sound to those who are unfamiliar with Objectivism (much more, those few within Objectivism who actually understand these ideas in their full contextl)? In short, it sounds crazy. To continue, HB/Travis Norsen take the time to not only address errors, while showing that they understand the philosophy that they are challenging (without resorting to question-begging and name-calling), but explicate Objectivism to a significant degree in the process. I think that a disagreement qua disagreement with some name-calling looks worse to the on-lookers than a substantive explication of Rand's philosophy with a respectful addressing of errors does. HB/Norsen address the blog in a way that's not only for Objectivists, but for any thinker, whereas you address the blog in a manner that I personally can understand (since I'm an Objectivist), but isn't fit for a non-Objectivist venue. I therefore think that HB's approach is far more effective at achieving {A}. For me, it boils down to the fact that Ayn Rand isn't just criticized in academia, she's hardly even mentioned. This is slowly starting to change, with the publishing of academic texts by Gotthelf, Smith, etc., but Rand is still widely unknown/unread within this context. If academic philosophers began to get the sense that Rand "had something to her" and began to discuss and criticize her, I would be happier than if she remained in obscurity. I'm reminded of Jean-Baptiste Say, who had faded into obscurity, but upon being vehemently attacked by John Maynard Keynes in the 20th century, came back into serious discussion. So, in a sense, I think that all publicity is good publicity. This leads me to consider how I would want the purveyors of Objectivism to come across in content and tone, if I weren't an Objectivist. Would I be more convinced and interested from coming into contact with someone who slings around terms that come from an esoteric context, or would I be more comfortable and receptive to someone who spoke my lingo and could show a significant exposition of what they mean and why? (Let's set aside disagreement for the time being and consider the approaches, which are prior to the disagreement) edit: Got rid of what could be misinterpreted as "scare quotes".
  8. I agree, though I'm somewhat confused about whether the discussion is on scarcity in the economic sense or the metaphysical sense. In the economic sense, the scarcity of goods is derivative of production (and therefore property), since property has to be in existence before it can be considered scarce. If the other usage of 'scarcity' is what's being discussed, then isn't it just a substitute for 'need'? In the sense that we aren't born with material values and have to produce them gives rise to the 'need' for production, and we're just calling this "scarcity"?
  9. You may not have been aware of this, but Binswanger sent out a message on the HBL that he didn't want non-academic Objectivists to engage them, because it wouldn't be productive for Objectivists who didn't speak their lingo to join in. I agree with this. The "inadequate potshots" (as Binswanger puts it) from the people who posted before Binswanger and Travis Norsen arrived are rather embarrassing. As good-intentioned as you and others may have been, in the end I don't think your posting contributed anything meaningful or productive. You have to understand that with these academic philosophers, they have read/understood very little of Objectivism, and generally take a small aspect (or article) of Rand's and run with it, using their particular methodological framework to critique it. Taking the fact that they will ultimately disagree on a fundamental level into consideration, you can choose two different purposes: to be polemical, or to attempt to create a bridge to foster understanding. The former isn't constructive per the context (it's not ObjectivismOnline.net), but the latter may be, since in the end, they may ultimately disagree, but may find that they understand and agree on more than they would on their own. I contend that this does more to service Objectivism than any screeching about "Kantians!, Primacy-of-Consciousness-ers!, Hegelians!," etc. does. Doing this only further solidifies the general notion that Objectivists can't engage in philosophical discussion properly and have to ultimately resort to name-calling.
  10. This is picking the nits, but the concept of 'property' is axiomatic within the context of the science of economics, since it has to be assumed before any discussion within economics can occur. It's the same with the concepts of 'production', 'good', 'consumption', 'time' and 'trade'. For another example, the concept of 'reason' is not axiomatic within metaphysics (it can be broken down further to the senses, percepts, and concept-formation), but it is axiomatic within the science of epistemology since it has to be assumed prior to any further discussion within epistemology.
  11. West

    Short selling

    I think there's some conflation between being 'productive' (and therefore being moral) and 'creating material goods' (or sharing in it by way of betting on it). Since we live in a society with an advanced division of labor, many opportunities open up for making a profit without resorting to farming or manufacturing. How do they create this profit? By means of information. In principle, there's no difference between investigative journalists, investors, traders, or even more broadly, teachers/professors (philosophers, historians, economists, etc.). All of these professions seek out knowledge about the world and make a profit on this knowledge, whether it's negative or positive. In the act of trading, value is created since it is to mutual benefit--both parties get something that they value more. It's true that short selling doesn't represent the material creation of goods, but the information that short sellers ferret out, upon which they trade, represents the creation/preservation of values in the objective sense of the term. He's producing in the sense that he is gaining knowledge that has a price. The profit that he gains from this knowledge constitutes his demand (and is where his consumption derives from). Philosophers do the same thing. This particular form of being productive is entirely moral. edit: for clarity.
  12. I was thinking more specifically of Ellsworth Toohey, but those are all excellent parallels as well. Sometimes I forget that these people really exist.
  13. From Robert Reich, economic advisor to Barack Obama: Remind you of someone? Full Article: http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.a...318554025794932
  14. In his lecture 'Understanding Objectivism', Peikoff answers a question about circularity, noting the difference between "bad circularity," which is fallacious, and "good circularity," which is merely an extension of the law of identity. This is just an example of the latter.
  15. If only there were an oversupply of great fiction!
  16. Where to start.. I'm assuming Cline sets the tone of the article as negative because Obama is something negative. If you disagree, I'd be really curious to know why. As far as celebrations go, it really depends just what someone is celebrating. People lining up in droves to usher in a president who does not have my rights in mind is not something that I think should be praised and acknowledged in a positive light. Hence the negative tone of the article, starting with the first sentence. I can't figure out what you are referring to that is rare and historic, unless you are referring to the fact that the new president is black (is that really an important point to make?). I'll give partial credit to another poster in this thread, and agree that Obama has a lot in common with Hoover, FDR, Carter and the two Bushes. It's not anything new, and it's not something that I think one should be excited about. If one chose instead to do something more important than show up in freezing weather to watch this particular president get sworn in, I wouldn't think that they "supported their country" any less. In all likelihood, they were probably more cognizant of the meaning behind his words than those who did show up. I think in order for me to understand your posts better, I need to understand why you think Obama is not as bad as I think most judge his words and actions to be. Otherwise it sounds like your argument is such: P1: Person A writes fiction as well as nonfiction. P2: Person A judges Person X to be evil. P3: Person X is therefore the villain of the "story". P4: Person X is not evil (does he really mean the things he says?) by Person B's standard. C1: Person A cannot discern fact from fiction and is living in a fantasy world. He quite obviously took offense at the words Obama did pronounce. Again, I need to understand why you think Obama deserves such a defense from the supposed fantasies of Ed Cline. I think Ed Cline is interpreting what Obama says just fine--if you came out with something good and positive, I'm not sure what to say, except that those ambiguities and populist parts really struck the intended note. For the things that were explicit and unambiguous, I have to know by what standard you judge them to be positive, worth of celebration, and unjustly criticized. Isn't that what you're doing? I have to ask: have you listened to Obama's speeches? It would make sense to make this point if what Ed Cline said wasn't actually true, but if you listen to what Obama says, it's not really a joke. It'd be like criticizing someone for saying, "All you have to do is listen to FDR's speeches; he's trampling our rights, pushing the welfare state, and ultimately reducing us to the status of incapable infants." I couldn't find you making any positive statements about Obama yet, and I think everything comes down to why you think Obama gaining a major post in the entity whose sole purpose is to protect individual rights warrants celebration. I want to hear you out.
  17. Don't forget how much of a role protein played in the whole scenario! Materialist/Intrinsicist/Determinists (what a mouthful!) could get pretty silly with this idea: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/uncateg...quer-the-world/ Still an interesting observation though.
  18. None of the examples above represent "goal-directed" actions, with the exception of flatulence, but only if you take it to mean the actual action of passing gas (which is both goal-directed and purposeful!).
  19. It's strange for me to hear about traders who have hard-ons for John Kenneth Galbraith and his ilk. For a profession that requires a solid understanding of economics and the markets, is it just a serious case of compartmentalization, or what?
  20. I read it a long time ago, but I'd love to read it again. I've had a streak of romantic historical fiction recently including Sabatini's Captain Blood as well as Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel, and I can always go for more. Let me know when you think you'd want to start Scaramouche (It might be a little while for me since I want to finish Economics and the Public Welfare first).
  21. Thanks for the Moliere translation recommendation! I've been told that Moliere has a savage wit; I look forward to picking up a copy of his works. I might have said it already, but I really enjoyed Scarlet Pimpernel and highly recommend it.
  22. I don't think this election shows that government is becoming irrelevant to the people. I think it shows that a certain number of people think that the government is that much more important, according to their standard of what the proper role of government should be. I think 'the people' are less concerned with qualifications qua qualifications, and more concerned with the policies of the elected president, and whether it furthers the goals of their supposed interests.
  23. Oops, you're both absolutely right about my misinterpretation. After reading it again, I'm clearly in error. This is ridiculous. Of course I give them credit for all of their accomplishments. However, I also acknowledge their errors while studying their actions/ideas in order to form my overall judgment of them. My conclusion is no different than yours. To draw a parallel, consider the status of Hank Rearden through most of Atlas Shrugged. Hank is a moral giant, in addition to being the most productive genius within the entire work. One could say that like the Founders, Rearden "inherited" many of the ideas from the culture that surrounded him, including his dichotomous acceptance of the looter's standard of morality (which he later corrects, mind you). Stating that this was clearly an error is not an attempt to destroy his image as the productive genius that he is. If anything, it shows how much of an accomplishment his overcoming it was (just as the abolishment of slavery was such an accomplishment), due to the prevalence and popularity of the ideas he rejects. I'm in complete agreement with your judgment of the Founders and the status of America as a country, I just don't think that mentioning a fact such as Powell did represents a complete repudiation of all that they ultimately stand for. In principle, absolutely. In terms of concretes, if there is to be a Second Renaissance during my lifetime, I will have contributed to it. To be just, I have benefited from the ideas and actions of Locke and the Founders, but there's one thing that we have that they didn't: Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.
  24. This is true, and I don't think that Powell would disagree. However, the abolishment of slavery came years after the founding of America (which is why I asked when you thought it came about, because your statement that slavery ended before America came into existence doesn't make any sense). How is he judging America from a Platonistic standard? I agree with Featherfall on the point that Powell is making an accurate observation about American history, which sticks out (and is repeatedly used as criticism against the Founders in that many personally owned slaves), particularly because it was the first nation to be based on the idea of individual rights. I don't think Powell or anyone else here would disagree with this, especially considering Powell's prior statement about the incomparably glorious history of individual rights. However, It is a stain because slavery persisted for so long. An error is an error and should be identified as such. I would think it would be Platonic to consider America as the ideal conception of individual rights. Objectively, it was the most moral and the most profoundly radical country in terms of the ideas it was based upon, which includes taking into consideration the errors and compromises that mark its history (commerce clause, slavery, etc.). I think you are misunderstanding the purpose of Powell's post. I have never seen Powell say anything that suggests America doesn't deserve this (in fact, he repeatedly refers to America as the "most important, most free country with a glorious history of individual rights in just this post. Elsewhere in his blog he's not even this modest.). Powell's point is that Obama represents a tremendous shift in the ideas held in the culture, on a number of levels. Politically, he's the antithesis of the constitutional republic that the Founders pushed for. Secondarily, he's black, which marks another historically significant event due to the views about race having changed as well. As Featherfall also noted, Powell was not attempting to denigrate the historical/moral status of the US.
  25. When, in your estimation, did America come into existence?
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