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Everything posted by eriatarka

  1. What about keeping up interest payments on the existing national debt (around $400 billion a year)? Defaulting on it is possible but it would pretty much ruin the economy. You have to decide whether youre just making up blueprints for some theoretical utopian society, or talking about the actual US today. If America was going to move towards a minarchist political system then the existing national debt would be a fairly serious problem and its not clear what could be done about it without causing a disasterous global recession.
  2. Structually simple yes. Theres obviously an extremely high amount of 'local' complexity due to the counterpoint but it doesnt have the complex large-scale forms that you find in (eg) Mahler or even Beethoven. Its not so much relativism as it is realising that different types of music need to be judged by different standards. Comparing Bach to (eg) Scarlatti is one thing, but comparing him to Wagner or Philip Glass makes little sense since they are making completely different types of music.
  3. It's not clear what rating the composers 'objectively' means here, and I think youre using a standard of value which is inherently biased towards Bach. Theres no question that Bach was a more technically gifted composer than Rachmaninov, and possibly the most gifted ever. However its not clear that technically brilliant music is inherently better than more simple music. Rachmaninov was a Romantic and the purpose of Romantic music was generally expression and the communication of emotion/inner states. Therefore by a Romantic standard, the 'best' composer is the one who's work communicates th
  4. The radicalness of Marx often gets underestimated - he didnt support really the sort of things which Obama is proposing. Obama's position is fairly straightforward social democracy, as implemented in pretty much every Western country. It has little to do with socialism/communism/Marx, all of whcih involve a radical transformation of society rather than just raising tax by another few percent and having a couple more social programs. Remember that Obama is still to the right economically of every European country including the UK, and none of them could reasonably be described socialist under i
  5. What caused the first child to be a better block builder than the second? Was he just genetically more intelligent, or was his increased creativity a result of his upbringing and social conditions? What about the child who was building a tower and then had his blocks taken away because his parents needed to sell them to buy food? Obviously children who are more talented (for whatever reason) shouldnt be handicapped to help those who are less talented, but I think that stories like this have the effect of portraying intelligence/creativity as something which is innate (or chosen/willed) rath
  6. Obama's public persona isnt remotely Marxist and anyone who thinks it is has a superficial understanding of Marx and probably hasnt read more than the Communist Manifesto (if even that). Regarding Obama's intelligence, you cant really judge him on his public persona because his speeches exist in a political climate which is geared towards soundbites and anti-intellectualism. No mainstream American politician is going to come across as being intelligent, because intelligence isnt a value which is currently respected in mainstream American politics. I remember reading some accounts of Obama w
  7. Criticizing a set of awards because they often go to people of a different political persuasion than yourself is about as ideological as it gets. Awards in semi-scientific fields like economics are always going to be more influenced by bias than those in pure sciences like physics where it's easier to evaluate theories in a value-free way, but the 'liberal conspiracy' accusations are rooted in far deeper bias than anything the Nobel committee has ever had. It's counter-intuitive but the fact it's went unrefuted for decades is decent evidence that it's correct. Noone has managed to conclusi
  8. what The Nobel peace prize (which Gore won) has nothing to do with any of the academic prizes and using it to discredit the awards as a whole is ridiculous. The efficient market hypothesis is not 'stupid', is largely correct, and had nothing to do with the collapse of LTCM Black-Scholes still has a central place in quantitative finance, and modern portfolio theory is still largely based around models like CAPM which assume efficiency.
  9. This may be heresy but I prefer Shostakovich's first book of preludes and fugues to anything Ive heard by Bach, and to me it carries more emotional range. (these are pretty horrible performances though, Keith Jarrett's interpretation is exceptional and the one I'd recommend. Why are so many composers so bad at performing/interpretating their own work? I'd say the same about Rachmaninov too!).
  10. Its just an applied ethics class as opposed to meta ethics
  11. How so? Ignore the Ayn Rand books and the Reader's list is hardly great - it overrates pop fiction (sci-fi, LoTR, etc) whereas the board's list is more concerned with artistic merit (Lolita, Portrait of an Artist, and so on). I'm not a huge fan of either list (it ignores pretty much all European literature) but if I had to be stuck on a desert island with all the books from one then it would be the board's. They arent that different though, once you remove the sci-fi nerdery. edit: both the non-fiction lists are weird and read like anything with academic merit in its field has been
  12. Just back up your important documents and reformat your computer...
  13. She's wrong about several things, particularly the part about 'sociological studies showing that group consensus is better than individual opinion'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_polarization http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink
  14. John told me that we'd be best buddies for life but now he has a new girlfriend and doesnt have time to see me very often, what moral recourse do I have against him for violating the implicit contract of our friendship?
  15. Isnt the Clarion Fund a branch of an Orthodox Jewish organization with strong ties to Israel? It hardly seems the most unbiased source of information on Islam or the Arab world.
  16. Well I doubt that most juries are going to give you a long sentence for stealing medicine to save a dying family member; youd probably get a couple of years in prison max and maybe not even that much if it was your first offence. But the deeper problem is that the same logic could be used to argue that its 'wrong' to break laws even if those laws are immoral. For example, suppose you lived in a non-free country where it was illegal to buy drug X, yet that drug was necessary to save the life of a family member. You find someone willing to sell you it, but you know that buying it will cause y
  17. The sense of moral righteousness that you'd get from just letting your wife die because you didnt want to steal something isnt going to keep you warm when youre alone in bed at night, nor will it prevent you from feeling any worse when you think about what youve lost and how you could have prevented it, so the argument that its 'in your best interest' to do so sounds like rationalization. I'd say beyond any shadow of a doubt that the person who relaxed his moral code to save the life of someone he loved is going to be a lot happier afterwards than the person who didnt. If you want to argue tha
  18. I wanted to dislike this because it seemed so gimmicky but I have to admit thats awesome. The curves of the figure are really visually appealing (and would be so even if the medium was marble), and the all-blue colour is very striking. I like it a lot.
  19. (Theres a huge risk of confusion here because the modern scientific use of the term altruism isnt the same as what Objectivists mean by it, so I'm going to use the term 'beneveolence' instead, by which I mean a sense of concern and love towards others that doesnt involve self-sacrifice) I'm not convinced that reductionist explainations are the best way of approaching these questions in humans. In many cases, benevolence is an expression of self-love and world-openness - when a person is in an extremely good mood and happy with his life, he'll often express this in terms of a positive attitu
  20. Thats awesome, congrats. Got before/after pics? Or arent you comfy posting them yet.
  21. I dont think its right to look for any particular character as being the main antagonist - the real enemy is the shapeless black beast that Stephen Mallory described in the Fountainhead, which stands for a whole bundle of interrelated cultural attitudes/institutations involving conformity, irrationality, selflessness, and bureaucracy. The 'bad' characters in Atlas Shrugged do portray different aspects of that beast, but the beast itself is something that permeates all of society to some degree rather than being any particular person. Thats why I think that the 'bad guys' in AS were much better
  22. Replace 'wearing a red ribbon' with 'having white skin' and its hardly much different to the social situation during the founding of the united states. Mass ostracisation by private individuals within a 'free' society can be a serious problem; look at America before the civil rights movement in the 60s for example, where large numbers of businesses either refused to serve people with black skin or segregated them from white customers.
  23. Its not scepticism towards induction, its a study of how rational decision-making changes when you introduce a high penalty for being wrong. In day-to-day life relying on inductive judgement is fine because even though theres always a possibility that youre wrong, this possibility is normally quite small and the costs for being incorret arent too high. If I'm a scientist studying swans and every swan I've ever seen is white then its logical for me to hypothesize that all swans are white - yeah, its possible that one day a black swan will turn up and disprove my theory but who cares? Scientifi
  24. Ive always lived in a big city and while I'm pretty adapted and would choose city-life over rural, theres a lot of problems with them (which to be fair may not be intrinsic to cities, and probably have more to do with modern Western 9-5 lifestyles). In particular, the dehumanizing effects of navigating the city in rush-hour (especially on public transport which is the only feasible way to get around anyway), and the isolation and total lack of any local community spirit that comes from not knowing your neighbours. In general I think that cities are better from the standpoint of economic pr
  25. personally I was referring to extreme things such as serious injury/death for sexual pleasure - lighter BDSM can be fun and I dont think its indicative of illness or anything like that.
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