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    Branden Lewiston
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  1. (I'm from Iowa) I was watching a historical show about China a few weeks ago, and they talked about how the Yellow and Yangtze rivers flooded constantly throughout the history of China. Because of this flooding, the narrator continued, China didn't have the luxury of "individualism" and instead had to focus on "collective education" and "sacrificing for the community." He claimed this was necessary because they had constant problems with flooding. This brought to my mind a similar comparison as you were talking about. In 1993, Iowa had horrible flooding that did a ton of damage. Parts of Des Moines went 2 weeks without fresh water. The experts said it was a flood that was so bad that it would only happen once every 500 years. Regardless, we decided to build levees throughout flood-prone areas, and within a few years, most of the big cities were nearly flood-proof (particularly Des Moines). Because of this, even though we didn't have much "collective education," large portions of the state now are experiencing much less flooding than they would have had if the flood had been as bad. In addition, we now have back-up water treatment plants, so that when one plant goes offline due to a flood (or other disaster) we will still have clean water. What was probably the most important safety aspect regarding the recent floods, though, is that over 2 weeks ago we started organizing entirely voluntary sand-bagging groups, and had voluntary evacuations in the most dangerous areas. Besides both of these efforts, many people had gotten flood insurance after the floods of '93, so they will have the money to rebuild even if their property is still flooded after the defense efforts. In contrast, the Chinese still, every few years, have massive flooding, and restart from scratch each time. The lesson they take away from it is the need for collective education and sacrifice; the lesson Iowans took away from floods is the need for preparation through insurance and better infrastructure.
  2. That was a really insightful movie. I particularly liked his discussion of correlation vs causation and appeals to political views to trump science. I wonder how much the speaker applies those principles consistently, though, to things like global warming. Thanks for posting it
  3. That can be a compelling reason to vote Republican, when Obama is the alternative
  4. My school has a partial ban on cell phones because, according to the administration, they could be used for terrorist activities.
  5. That is a difficulty in defending capitalism, I suppose. But like you said, the more capitalist a country is, the better off it is, so its only logical that a completely capitalist country would be even better. Besides, you can defend pure capitalism from a moral standpoint without having an empirical example of that pure capitalism. In my view, the German alliance was a greater threat than any others. I think we'll just have to agree to disagree here, as arguing this point would require specific research of the relative powers of the countries. Bailing out the British economy might well have been Wilson's justification for war (in fact it probably was). My only point was that, although that particular justification was wrong, there was a justification based on self-interest, although I don't know if any major figures back then advocated that justification. I agree with Nyronus regarding Nazi Germany and the USSR. Germany was a more immediate threat during WWII, and thus we were justified in fighting them first, although after WWII we should've done more to assure that the USSR didn't come to power. (In my history class we learned that the reason we didn't handle the USSR well was because FDR was sick and dying at the Yalta Conference, and he essentially single-handedly handed over post-war Eastern Europe to the USSR.)
  6. America in the 1800s was a mixed economy, but it was the closer to capitalism than most, if not all, other economies throughout history. So capitalism has never truly existed in the United States, but we got close. First of all, drafts aren't appropriate, as were other Wilsonian tactics. Second, my justification for America entering WWI would be to protect Americans from Germany warring us in the future, as they would likely have done if they beat France. The Americans being protected in the future would be the same Americans that engaged in war. I don't mean incredibly long-term future like 100s of years or something, just however long it would've taken Germany to regroup if it defeated France. That is different than warring to liberate France, warring to sacrifice to future generations, or warring to acquire markets.
  7. "It must be remembered that the political systems of the nineteenth century were not pure capitalism, but mixed economies." (Rand, Capitalism, pg 38) When did I say that? Of course I'm not certain that they would've won, but it would've been very bad if they did. I think that they might've had a good chance of winning, since their economic power surpassed Britain and France by that time, their population size was second only to Russia in Europe, and they had very well-trained officers in the military. Plus, Russia was leaving the war, which would've allowed Germany to redirect troops from the Eastern to the Western front, causing trouble for Britain and France.
  8. I hadn't really thought of it that way. At first though, I guess I wouldn't really know how to classify it. I will think it over though. All of that was exactly what I was looking for, David. Thank you very much. I think I understand the answer to my question.
  9. You were right: I was asking about the knowledge and theories about emotions. I agree with the rest of your statement. However, given that all of what you said is true, is it thus valid to make a philosophical statement about the theories and knowledge of emotions independent of biology and psychology? As an example, Rand's statement that "An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man’s value premises." That to me seems to be a philosophical approach to emotions instead of a biological or psychological approach, which is where I become confused. And if knowledge regarding emotions are primarily based in the fields of biology and psychology, could one accept the Objectivist philosophy while still rejecting Rand's theory of emotions? Or is that theory part of the Objectivist philosophy? (I don't meant to constraint this just to emotions, its just an example case of a lack of understanding that I have).
  10. I think I have a pretty decent grasp of Objectivism (I've read most of Rand's and Peikoff's works, and am starting on Tara Smith's) but there is one major thing I still don't understand: According to Objectivism, what is the brightline between science and philosophy? Rand defining philosophy: "Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man’s relationship to existence." (Ayn Rand Lexicon, "Philosophy") Peikoff defining science: "Science is systematic knowledge gained by the use of reason based on observation." (OPAR, pg 35) At first glance, I think these two definitions seem to be pretty sturdy (particularly the definition of science, which seems to lay the foundations for the solution the rationalist-empiricist debate). However, when I try to apply these two definitions to specific issues, I don't get a very clear result, with my understanding. It seems to me that given that definition of science, ethics could be defined as a science. It is based upon some observations and then reason is applied to gain systematic knowledge. However, Rand multiply times includes ethics as part of philosophy, and ethics would seem to also fall under her definition of philosophy, as it describes man's fundamental relationship to existence. Is it not a problem for ethics to fall under both? Or is ethics excluded as a science because it isn't "fundamental"? If so, then how does one determine what is fundamental? It seems an argument could be made for nearly anything to be termed fundamental, or anything to be non-fundamental (excluding metaphysics). This same problem, I think, applies to a lot of other science-related issues as well. Emotions seems to fit the requirements of a science, and I think many non-Objectivists would classify it as a sub-section of a science; however, Objectivists seem to offer a theory of emotions that is philosophical and not scientific. I agree with Rand that emotions aren't a valid means of gaining knowledge, and that is part of philosophy, but she goes on to make claims such as this: "An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man’s value premises." (“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964). That proposition seems to require scientific backing instead of just philosophical backing. Although the value in-and-of-itself might be decided philosophically, the reactions in man's brain seem to me to be scientifically based. Furthermore, Rand has two statements in the Ayn Rand Lexicon on "Philosophy" and "Science" that confuse me: "Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence." "Science was born as a result and consequence of philosophy..." Can anyone help me understand these subtleties? I feel like I'm nit-picking, but as I'm pretty interested in science and Objectivism (and how they interact), I think its important.
  11. I think you're right in that they would still have free will; however, I think that after a certain amount of indoctrination and a complete lack of exposure to any vaguely rationalist principles, most of their choices would err against civilization. I also think the point regarding Native Americans is correct. I would also point out that they might be just as likely to view you as a demon/threat than as a god. The uncontacted tribe that was spotted in Brazil in the news report that started this thread attempted to attack the helicopter that spotted them, if I recall correctly. Regardless, you're probably right that out of a large population, a very small minority would give civilization a chance. Most tribes have probably been contacted to some degree. However, there are exceptions, like I think this tribe that was recently found it. Moreover, we might just not have documentation on the minority of uncontacted tribes (by the fact that they are unconctacted), which would account for the difficulty of finding evidence of them (this is a bad argument in general, but I think it might apply here to some degree). Even if they weren't completely uncontacted though, the fact that they are contacted doesn't in-and-of itself really give them the understanding necessary to intentionally remain uncivilized. Contact as well as further efforts to communicate somewhat extensively would be necessary to allow them to really make the decision, and I think there are quite a few tribes that haven't been communicated with much. Wikipedia has an article listing some of them here. They refer to them as "uncontacted" although that term might not be completely applicable to some.
  12. In my understanding, the categorical imperative is more a method for implementing and evaluating ethical actions (in the case of Kant, it would be altruism) than it is an explanation of what a value is to be derived from. Its possible for subjectivist egoism to advocate a categorical imperative as well, although I don't specifically know of anyone who does. It probably wouldn't work in the case of moral agnosticism. So, although Kant might be in the altruist camp, the categorical imperative is to some degree separate from that.
  13. I think that Greece is undoubtedly the greatest ancient civilization. Of course, other empires had greater areas of land, existed earlier, existed longer, and so forth, but I don't think those factors are a primary determinate in identifying the "greatest" ancient civilization. Horvay summed it up well: Of course, other civilizations developed philosophy, math, logic, etc as well as Greece. However, Greece was unique in this regard. Not only did Aristotle make it explicit, as horvay again pointed out, but him and the other Greek thinkers were able to lay the foundations for modern Western civilization, which I think we will all recognize as being superior (despite its lingering imperfections). Other ancient civilizations might have had insightful thinkers as well, but they weren't insightful enough to lay the foundations for an Enlightenment. In this regard, Greek thinkers were uniquely superior, and thus Greece is the greatest ancient civilization.
  14. Rand critiqued ethical utilitarianism and ethical deontology as well. Combine those two with moral agnosticism (brought up by West), categorical imperative, and death-worship (both brought up by John McVey), and it becomes pretty obvious that Rand assumed much more than just egoism and altruism. Rand on middle grounds:
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