Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


New Intellectual
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by DavidOdden

  1. First, there is no “gun safety law” saying that you must always treat a gun as if it is loaded. That is a mind-deadening slogan that shortcuts reason. It does not reflect the metaphysically given as in the laws of physics, and it was not enacted by the legislature as a rule whose violation if a fine or imprisonment. The most generous label that can be assigned to it is “best practice”. It is like “the building code”, a set of locally-set rules that “must” be followed in building or repairing structures – let’s set aside the enforcement aspect (the legislature did pass a law mandating those practices). Those rules are generally sensible, and they encode knowledge that is not otherwise accessible to most people. For example, it is not practical for me to conduct the relevant research in order to be certain how deep I should dig, in order to build a solid retaining wall where I live. I live near a jurisdictional boundary, so I know that it is somewhere between 12” here and 18” 2 blocks away, even though the weather is the same. In Duluth, the government says 60”. But this is not arbitrary government meddling, this reflects a fundamental difference between Seattle and Duluth (Duluth is colder). The thing that I can and should do, as a rational person, is determine why there is such a concern (details of the freeze-thaw cycle omitted here). The premise behind the local rule of thumb is that the ground doesn’t freeze very deep, certainly not more than 6”. In considering alternatives (remember that certainty is based on there not being evidence to support alternatives, so you have to consider alternatives), I have to address questions like “what if the frost line changes to 12 inches?” (ergo a 24 inch trench). There is conceptual and empirical evidence showing that this is possible (in my lifetime), therefore I am not certain what the safe number is. My choice of action is thus not based on certainty, it is based on comparison of probability of propositions, and comparison of values. A deeper trench costs more in terms of material and labor, but there is potential benefit compared to the shallower trench. The consequences of being wrong about changing weather are less severe that being wrong about a gun still having a round in the chamber. Still, one can be certain that the gun is unloaded, although I personally cannot be certain, given my (limited) knowledge of guns. I’m not objecting to the premise that a person can have the knowledge that makes the proposition certain, I am objecting to the stipulation that “I am certain” – suggesting that the emotional feeling of “certainty” is evidence that the proposition has been logically validated. I’m just asking you to “check your premises”, which of course entails being aware of them. Why are you certain? One of my premises is that I am not omniscient. I know just enough physics and chemistry to know that Vladimir Putin could enshroud the planet in a thick blanket of particulate matter that would substantially lower the temperature. I don’t know exactly how significant this event would be, and I also don’t know just how crazy Putin is or whether anyone can stop him. My decision not to dig a 5 foot trench just in case Putin causes massive nuclear winter is based on my admittedly slap-dash estimation that this is a highly unlikely outcome (his recent conduct in Ukraine has caused me to reconsider the logic of my estimate). Since I am aware that I am not omniscient, I always have to evaluate conceptual reasons that might steer me away from an action that I favor. I rarely base choices of actions on certainty, I base them on comparative probability, focusing on things that I know that I don’t know. This includes a comparative view of value, such as whether another day’s worth of digging is a sufficient disvalue, compared to the increased probability that my wall will remain stable in case of an unlikely event being realized. Therefore, I may conclude that the added effort does not add sufficient value. The disvalue of blowing my brains out is infinitely high, so I must rely very heavily on my probability-of-outcome estimates.
  2. Omniscience is universally impossible in principle, insofar as the scope of “all” in all-knowing includes experiential knowledge of events that have not happened (you cannot experience a thing before it happens), or of events that preceded the existence of the particular consciousness. Infallibility on the other hand is meaningless (impossible for a different reason). I cannot hear microwave radiation, but that is not a failure, that is because of my nature (or, the nature of humans, or mammals). If you switch to omnipotence, that just leads to a different kind of incoherence. For example, humans can see light in a particular range, using their eyes, and can hear sound in a different range, with their ears. You can’t hear light or see sound, and you can’t digest light or sound either. Plants can “digest” light, but then we are metaphorically toying with the word digest. There are many things that humans are incapable of doing, including a whopping load of meaningless “things”. Omnipotence is also conceptually incoherent. Our solution to the problem of certainty is to understand what it is. Certainty is contextual – a proposition is certain if all actual evidence in a knowledge context points to the conclusion and alternatives are also disproven. Arbitrary uncertainty is a fiat declaration that “one can imagine”, that is, reifying imagination into being a “fact”.
  3. I disagree with the claim that a bet is by definition an uncertain game when entered into and therefore it is contradictory to bet on a proposition that is “already certainly true”. Certainty is a relationship between facts, logic, and a conclusion. If two people do not share the same facts and logic, they do not reach the same conclusion. We may assume that rational people always follow the “same logic”, provided that we narrow the scope of logic to the law of non-contradiction, but actually people impute to logic a lot of facts that have to be independently validated (and who actually does that?). Abstract hypotheticals have no epistemological value (they lack a relation to existence), so let’s concretize the question with invented “facts”. Jane saw “Bill’s wallet” on Jane’s kitchen counter. Bill claims that his wallet is in his car, because he remembers putting it under the driver’s seat. The bet in question (proffered by Bill) is that Bill’s wallet is in his car. Bill does not have prior access to Jane’s mind, and vice versa. Jane implicitly holds a contradictory proposition (the bet is not about the “counter” claim, it is about the car location: Jane could also be wrong in her beliefs and win the bet). Jane and Bill both have good reasons to hold their positions, and they do not share those reasons. A bet, from the rational perspective, is either about knowledge-context or differences in rationality. Either I am betting that I know something material that you don’t know, or I am betting that you use irrational methods to reach your position. We can refine the question, though, to say that an “almost certain bet” is one where both parties know that they have “almost identical knowledge contexts” and both adhere strictly to logic. I have spent my life looking for another person with a knowledge context that is almost identical to mine, and so far, I’ve come up empty. The threat of arbitrary uncertainty is ubiquitous, and applies to everything, not just bets. It is a problem with contracts, as well. With contracts, there is a method of deciding who is right – the lawsuit. Most contractual disagreements are not resolved by the courts – you re-negotiate the agreement after the fact. Not being a bettor, I don’t know how people resolve surprise claims like “I didn’t mean the wallet I usually carry, I means the other wallet that is my property”. Bets can in principle be submitted to a court of law, where there are well-defined procedures for dealing with the arbitrary. That is, you need an independent arbiter and not just the refusal of a party to perform. The rationality of entering into a bet should really be judged in terms of the benefit of being right and the detriment of being wrong. It’s not rational to induce a person to kill themselves if they foolishly bet that the second month is spelled “Febyuary”. I could cook up a scenatio where the other party might actual gain a better epistemological framework from some bet, but I doubt that betting is actually a rational way to teach somebody a lesson.
  4. I agree that that is what the Biden announcements say, although I disagree with your choice of verbs – “remind” rather than “announce”. This is an announcement of new law, which did not previously exist. There are zillions of micro-debates that Objectivists can engage in connection with Dobbs. For example, what about the rights of doctors who object to performing abortions, but what about the rights of the woman who wishes to terminate a pregnancy, but what about the rights of the taxpayer who objects to their money being taken by force and used for a purpose that they do not accept? There are exactly two essential concepts at stake here: the rule of law, and the rights of the individual. It appears that we either have to sacrifice the rule of law, or we have to sacrifice the rights of the individual. Of course, in an ideal utopia, law does nothing other than protect the rights of the individual, but in that same utopia, law is superfluous because the rights of the individual are well-known and always respected. In our pre-utopic existence, the question of what we (Objectivists, I suppose) are to do in response is, IMO, “try to do no harm”. The most important thing to do is step massively back from context-dropping micro-debates, instead, draw attention to the fundamental contradiction between the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. The single most significant fact about the US which creates this contradiction is the very foundational fact of the United States, that the existence and sanctity of autonomous states within is the primary desideratum, and is not a low-level administrative detail. The power of the federal government is constitutionally limited, in ways that states are not limited. The entire political structure of the US, as encoded in the Constitution, is based on “respect for the rights of states”, and that is the problem that is politically un-resolvable for the foreseeable future. Roe was fundamentally wrong, not because it recognized the rights of women, but because it blatantly ignored the identification which Objectivism makes: rights pertain to an individual person, and a fetus (or embryo) is not a person. Blackmun overtly evaded the fundamental question, Dobbs is the consequence of such evasion.
  5. There are two kinds of liability, intentional wrongs and negligence. Intentional wrongs are, for example, dumping garbage on someone else’s property, fraud, assault, trespass, defamation. There may also be criminal penalties associated with intentional torts, and they all involve initiation of force. Negligence involves a “duty of care”, which may be special and arising from a contractual relation (e.g. medical negligence, negligence in construction) or may be “everyone owes everyone else this level of care”. For example, if you store poison next to your bottled water supply and accidentally give some person poison thinking that it is water, that is (or could be) negligent. The crucial elements of negligence, as a wrong for which you may be forced to compensate a person are duty, breach, damage and causation. The first means that you have a duty to all others to exercise a certain level of care. The second simply means that you didn’t observe that duty: you were not careful enough. The third is that someone suffered an actual injury (to person or property) because of an act or the failure to act (the duty). Finally, the injury was a reasonably forseeable consequence of the act (omission). There are clear cases where passing a disease is a tort. Deliberately infecting a person is a clear case (and falls under initiation of force). Negligence can also exist. Negligence torts are the diciest under Objectivism, since it relies on an unspecified “duty of care”. If you catch ebola, MERS, smallpox and knowing that you have the disease nevertheless go to a football game, that would probably constitute negligence. A problem with the vague “duty” requirement is that we don’t know what our duties are. I can cause harm to a person by buying the last roll of toilet paper (you may recall those days). What we need is a better analysis of this duty, so that you are not liable for the consequences of buying the last toilet paper, over-using antibacterials thereby contributing to bacterial resistance, discontinuing sales of a product, planting particular flowers, eating food implicated in an allergy, and so on. My view is that foreseeability is really crucial, and extent of harm is also significant in reigning in over-zealous negligence claims. I also think that these are the two facts most applicable to covid. As far as covid transmission is concerned, the only form of behavior that I condemn is knowingly being out there spreading the disease when you know you have it. On the political front, I condemn the deliberate creation of a climate of fear and state-omniscience. The former is essential to creating the perpetual “emergency” which gives governors dictatorial power, and which is also used by Congress to expand the web of socialism. State-omniscience is the willful refusal to consider alternatives and to seriously and publicly engage the science. The level of public science in this pandemic is shockingly low. In Washington state, which was one of the first lack-down states, we got locked down theoretically until they “flattened the curve” at which point they might move to Phase 2. Didn’t happen, kept on not happening, and then when the number of diagnosed cases shot up by a factor of 100, but started to dip a bit in the last month, well it wasn’t until Trump was out of office and Biden was sworn in that it was safe for them to move to Phase 2, despite the still much higher infection rate. What conclusion should be drawn? That these are political actions, not based on actual science. If a person foreseeably infects another with a serious disease, there is a reasonable case that they should be liable. I grant that covid seems more serious than the annual flu (this is a separate science question). Simply existing in public does not establish causation under even the weakest standard of proof used in liability.
  6. My rights are infringed on all the time, when I take a flight. The moral responsibility rests on the terrorists who chose to turn airplanes into weapons of mass destruction: that is the immoral choice that was made. In the case of mask mandates, the immorality resides in the willful refusal to apply reason and even the most elementary moral philosophy in devising these restrictions. What these cases have in common is that the fundamental choice made was evil.
  7. Returning to that specific question, let us remember that there actually is no such law, there is a set of dictatorial emergency decrees. At present, mask-mandates are marginally authorized by open-ended emergency statutes giving governors authority to boss people around in an emergency. Rand has written about emergencies, and how dangerous a concept it is. There is no emergency: there is a new fact of existence. Emergencies last at most a week. Let’s see what it would take to justify such a law. First we have to say what such a law would demand: “A tight-fitting N95 mask must be worn at any time that a person is outside their own home. Violation will be punished with a month in prison”. To justify the law, there has to be a compelling government interest. The existing justification is “to prevent the spread of disease”. Now subtract covid from the scenario – would it have been justified to force the wearing of masks without covid (to prevent the spread of flu, colds, measles etc)? I have seen nobody anywhere claim that it would have been. It must first be establish that there is something massively different in the case of covid. A covid-specific mask law needs extraordinary justification, to override ordinary constitutional protections of your rights. Secondly, the restriction needs to be demonstrably effective. It is insufficient to say “There is this big problem”, you also have to prove “This actions sufficient eliminates the problem”. Mandatory vaccination is clearly much better justified than the mask mandate, because vaccination is based on infinitely better science and is much less conjectural. Finally, the restriction must be the least-restrictive means of reaching that end. The hypothesized mask law allows only one choice, but there are other alternatives (physical distance from others; being certified disease-free are two obvious ones, and bright, free minds may find others). The fatal weakness in the covid mask proposal is (a) necessity and (b) effectiveness.
  8. @DonAthos, my head is spinning from playing argumentative whack-a-mole in this thread. I really wanted someone to set forth a simple sentence, articulating their principle that guides discussion of a complicated problem. It’s a really big problem, in my opinion, when we can’t set forth general but simple philosophical principles that guide our choices using a few simple unloaded words (avoiding “fear” and vague terms like “threat” which refers to “possibility of negative outcome” – not initiation of force). In particular when we get proposals that being unknowingly diseased in public is the same kind of choice as committing murder, that’s when we need some clarification of fundamental principles. I will assert my position. First, the government has the right and obligation to establish and enforce laws which punish certain acts: those which constitute initiation of force, as characterized by Schwartz. If the government knows in advance that you are going to do such an act, they may rightfully stop you. That covers “crimes”. In addition, there are acts which, once committed, are wrongs which can be addressed by the law – compensation can be compelled. These are the “torts” and “breaches of contract”. Government involvement is always post-hoc, and the government’s only role is to serve as neutral arbitrator and enforcer of the final judgment (and author of the default rules, in case there is no prior agreement i.e. relevant contract term). Only a small set of torts involve initiation of force. “Intent” refers to a fact about the suspect’s mind, and inference of intent is about the officer’s mind, so yes, there is a difference, and not just a shade. Under the law, inference (by the actor) of the intent of another is crucial to defenses for otherwise-wrongful acts. A person may shoot another if he reasonably infers an intent (to harm) – based on certain facts. The law does not demand that a person be in possession of all of the facts, it only judges based on the facts that he (probably) knows. In your original scenario, I can’t even begin to imagine what the suspect intended, other than death by cop. Has anyone ever innocently pulled a toy gun and pointed it at a police officer? The vast majority of instances of toy gun shootings without criminal intent, the “mistaken encounters”, involve people lacking basic mental capacity (children and mentally-incapable adults). I assume that in your example, the person has the mental capacity of a child and doesn’t know that you may get shot if you point a toy gun at a police officer. Do you know of a real case like the one you described? Taking the shooter’s perspective, the probability that this is really a water pistol is so low and the alternatives are so much more likely and the consequences so much more severe that there is no reasonable alternative to shooting him. A person should infer that the gun is real and that the intent is to kill you, even when the facts turn out to be different. What follows is variations that make decent intents more likely, and decrease the reasonableness of the inference “he intends to kill me”. At the cell phone and wallet stage, that is the point where the shooter bears responsibility for the killing. (We can always add facts to change the conclusion, e.g. “after robbing the bank”. It’s all about the context, and your context was very simple). The law objectively states emergency guidelines where use of force is excused – in self defense. There is a relationship between those guidelines (the law) and the principle that one may not initiate force, but they are not the same thing. Initiation of force is exactly what I’ve said it is above, and “reaching for your wallet” is not initiation of force. But in a certain context, use of force may be excused because of the conceptual possibility that there is in fact initiation of force. When we are looking for moral responsibility, I would lay the blame not on the officer or the victim, but on the low-lives that make it reasonable to conclude that reaching for a wallet is actually an attempt to kill you. For the rather large and politically-prominent set of officer killings of unarmed people, there is a long list of things that one is not to do, which nevertheless people ignore, often to their extreme detriment. For the most part, this is not initiation of force, it is inferred initiation of force. Sometimes, the inference is unreasonable; but often the media reports “The victim’s gun wasn’t even loaded” as though that is a self-evident fact available to the arresting officer, ignoring the centrality of reasonable conclusions. What remains constant throughout contexts is, what is IOF? But the law can only deal in reasonable inferences about IOF.
  9. They are both relevant: if you include a requirement if intentthen we are on the same page. It's not just the effect.
  10. The so-what part is that Doug Morris’ argument suggests that the fact of fear is itself sufficient to say that a person has initiated force. I’ve invited him to reject that implication, and I’m inviting you to do likewise. It’s not the emotion, it’s the specific facts that tend to have some relation to fear which are relevant. However, I do agree that many, perhaps most people act on the basis of emotions and not facts. In fact, that is really the fundamental problem of popular politics, that people do not use reason to arrive at moral principles, instead they decide “I don’t like this: the government should do something about it”. This is a fact of the man-made, not the metaphysically given. I am not denying that corner of reality, I am denouncing it: it is a wrong choice. The problem with being too concrete-bound is that it’s impossible to hold all of the relevant concretes in your mind. What justifies the conclusion that you should not defend your life when Smith is apparently in the process of murdering you in your home, when you know that Smith is a law enforcement officer? How can you know whether you should not defend yourself? You always have to relate choices to abstract principles. Your specific shooting example should be compared to a some very similar cases: the man pulls out his toy gun and does not point it; he pulls it out and drops it; he pulls out his cell phone; his wallet; the man reaches for his wallet. In each case, the officer shoots and kills. In those cases, who bears responsibility for the death? Do all of these cases have the same evaluation (the man initiated force)? Does that mean that if I’m in some public place with people around me and I take out my cell phone, that is the initiation of force? If you analyze the facts in terms of reasonable inferences of intent, they are not the same. Remember that the position which I’m advocating holds intent to be a crucial determinant of “initiation of force”.
  11. Easy Truth, from your response I surmise that you understand “force” to be the intent to cause “damage” to another person: is that correct? If not, I’m looking for a single-sentence definition of force, so that I can see what your concept depends on. And as a corollary, I take it you reject “fear” as having any relevance to the question of rights and force. I do not understand your apparent claim that if another person convinces me to make a bad investment, that is the initiation of force – even if we limit this to investment professionals. Can you explain how persuasion becomes initiation of force?
  12. It seems that your threshold for detecting initiation of force is “reasonable fear”, which is a bit of a problem. Fear is an emotional reaction, and we know that emotions are not a source of cognition. The principle should be framed in terms of reasonable conclusions, about a proposition, such as “he intends to shoot me”. Not all fears are about initiation of force, so we have to have a way to identify those things that cause fear which are initiation of force as opposed to those that are not. I fear that such-and-such an investment may not be so wise, but that has nothing to do with initiation of force. Before we can properly regulate actions, we have to establish that they are initiation of force, which then may justify the regulation. Or, we have to establish a different basis for prior restraint: that in addition to initiation of force, some actions are so dangerous that they can rightly be prohibited by law. Is this your claim? Before zooming in on covid-politics, we need a clearer understanding of what constitutes force (first and foremost), and how the government may properly use force.
  13. The key identification that Schwartz makes about force is that it is a physical action to which we are subjected against our will, being taken by a volitional being to neutralize the choice of another volitional being. “Action to neutralize choice” distinguishes the case where a person pulls out a weapon in order to cause him to abandon his property (mission accomplished) from the case where a person pulls out a weapon to check it and accidentally scares another person into abandoning his property (neutralization of choice is not the purpose). I take it that you are not satisfied with this, and instead focus on the effect of an action, irrespective of intent. You seem to hold that creating a risk of harm to others can be initiation of force, or perhaps is by definition initiation of force. It’s not at all clear why you don’t make the stronger claim that it is force, unless you have some further condition that you want to add. A really significant difference between these views is that you seem to deny the relevance of a person’s intent.
  14. ARI and Rand also do not claim to have a monopoly on word meaning. Their use (in that video) is entirely consistent with an objective meaning of the word, and is not at all confusing. Hair-splitting is more confusing than under-differentiation, and making up nonexistent words is particularly confusing. Are you seriously disagreeing with them because they didn't say "G-censorship"? Confusion on their message is utterly impossible.
  15. The problem is, since when did Merlin Jetton gain a monopoly on the meaning of words? Tu quoque, dude! The question should be, what is the objective meaning of “censorship” or “censor” (qua verb) in the English language? And how do you establish an objective fact? Generally, we observe reality to determine what the facts are, for example I observe actual dogs to answer the question of whether dogs have eight legs or four. Likewise with spiders. There are two things that can be actually observed: dictionaries, and speakers of English. Dictionaries are based on observation of speakers, though (1) the observations (the actual research) are typically quite dated and (2) they are usually based on a select subset of speakers (from written form and not colloquial language). Personal observation of English speakers, on the other hand, is usually anecdotal and IMO scientifically unreliable, since most people are not engaged in the specialized science of discerning word meaning in the surrounding language. There are two competing views of “the meaning” of censor: one that it refers to restricting expression based on moral etc. considerations and the other that it refers to such actions when done by the government. We can study dictionary definitions extensively and see what they say; we can engage in population polling. Both methods have their problems. Inventing new terms is close to the last thing that should be done – an expression like P-censorship vs. G-censorship is communicatively dysfunctional because there are no such words. I agree that your definition of “censorship” is the one adopted most widely and that the “by government” limitation is not how most people currently understand the term. However, if we constantly cede word-meanings to the progressive movement (cf. equality, justice, rights) then we won’t even be able to communicate amongst ourselves, since all of the words will have been redefined underneath our feet. Their use of “censorship” is correct and not archaic to the point of being confusing. It is pointed, which is better than being pointless.
  16. If you knowingly harm a person or their property by an action, you should compensate the person for the harm. “Knowingly” does not refer to absolute certainty that harm will result, it refers to having reasonable knowledge that harm will result from an action. If A is allergic to shrimp, you know that fact, and bring unlabeled shrimp curry to a potluck at A’s house, that is an immoral choice given your knowledge. If you know nothing of A and don’t know that your chicken curry happens to contain some shrimp juice, your actions are innocent and you are not to be blamed for harm done to A. “Likely to do harm” is exactly the right way to look at the question. “Likely” is past the midway on the certainty scale – “probable”, not “possible”. If you adopt the principle that you should take no action if it is even conceptually possible that harm to another will result, then you should take no action, and life is impossible. Even then, the question of whether you should take an action to live must be answered in terms of the alternatives that you face and the consequences of those choices for your life. Being lost in the desert, if I find water and drink it to save my life, the consequence may be that another lost stranger may die of thirst because I drank that water. The alternative “my life” vs. “his life” is almost always answered with the choice “my life”. Applying this reasoning to the mask issue, I would focus strongly on “what we currently know”, because knowledge is individual and cognitive, and because there tend to be popular confusion over “claim” versus “know”.
  17. This discussion has been rather far removed from the fundamental principles regarding man’s rights, and has focused instead on notions of aggression, spreading (versus other means), sensory inputs, affecting a person, doing damage to body or property including creating a risk of same. It has included the idea that one can accidentally initiate physical force. The problem has been (for over a half century) that we (not exclusively Objectivists, referring to people who take the concept of “individual rights” to be an essential concept that must be understood) are constantly playing whack-a-mole by invoking a concept like “aggression”, then we get challenged as to what “aggression” is, then we refer “aggression” to something else. Rand has stated the fundamental principle, and in my opinion Schwartz has explicated it nicely. I quote a single sentence from his first page: “This concept of force applies exclusively to actions taken by human beings against human beings”. But it is not just “the unchosen” that we identify when talking about force. Second sentence bottom p. 1: “We thus identify the concept “force” to denote a physical action to which we are subjected against our will”. Finally, he makes the identification that “The concept of force pertains only to the volitional. It pertains only to physical actions taken by a volitional being to neutralize the choice of another volitional being” (emphasis added). Relating this to the mask-mandate, there is no question that the governmental requirement to wear a mask in the locally-mandated circumstances is the initiation of force. It is a particularly egregious initiation of force, since it is in all cases a use of special dictatorial power that is outside the rule of law – it is only justified because it is declared to be an “emergency”. There isn’t even a real law requiring you to wear a mask. Sweeping away the mask orders, the question then should be, what legal consequences should there be if you do not wear a mask? The same as if you walk your dog, drive your car, or grow a tree on your property. If you walk your dog and do not control it, and it eats the neighbor’s cat, you are liable for the damage. There is extensive legal background on this principle (it is millennia old). The government and legal system subsumes these concepts under the “duty of care”, which allows you to not care about another party’s interests up to a point, but you must care when your actions do “harm”. It is obvious that I am not talking about Objectivist theory here, I’m just stating what has always been a legal principle governing social interactions. There are two related challenges for Objectivists on this front. The first is to be able to sort actions which should have legal consequences versus one which should not. Dogs eating cats would be an example of the former. Using the pronoun “he” when the referent prefers to be identified as “she” is an example of the latter. The second is to find a system of reason that relates those identifications to general principles, consistent with Objectivism. Automatically labeling something as “initiation of force” is anti-reason. Presenting a clear line of reasoning from principles to conclusions is what it means to “reason”. So let us reason. The strongest claim that I find at all compatible with Objectivism is that one should not knowingly, willfully transmit a disease to another person without permission. The second strongest claim is that if you negligently cause harm to a person by your actions (or inactions), you bear responsibility for those choices. Masks are about the second kind of case, where the bar is being lowering for a claim of “negligence” (as well as corrupting the concept “cause”). It is always possible at any time that any person has some transmissible disease and does not know it. It cannot be a principle of civilized society that one must self-quarantine if it is possible that one has a transmissible disease (that virtually contradicts the notion of a “civilized society” – we must always self-quarantine; life is not possible). This discussion needs a better principle. What principle underlies the distinction between covid and the common cold? What scientific facts underlie claims about covid versus the cold or the flu? I don’t mean, what do the newspapers say, I mean what are the scientific questions and findings? Then how do those facts relate to a person’s proper choices? That is how I think this discussion should be framed.
  18. It seems to me that this sub-discussion would benefit from some discussion of Peter Schwartz's essay "Free minds and free markets", which I think would be helpful in conceptualizing the ethics of unknowingly having a disease.
  19. My main suggestion for the problem of market correction is long-term thinking, that is, don’t panic-sell every time the Dow drops by a thousand, even though it might take 5 years to recover. If you understand economics and politics really well (I sure don’t, and you don’t claim to) you may decide that “This is the big one, we will never recover” and you can make the TEOTWAKI move. Until it is clear that there is no future (your reasonable future), assume that things will return to normal and craziness will not prevail. I don’t know what the actual causal relationship is between inflation and market correction, but my eyeball estimate is that inflation is slow, market rise is slow, market collapse (correction) is more catastrophic and is followed by deflation. To me, the central question is, can I correctly detect irrational exuberance in the market and anticipate a collapse, thereby switching to gold. Alternatively, can I predict investments that are most resilient? E.g. investing in Kodak because people will always be taking pictures. I know that I’m missing an opportunity to invest in GameStop, but I can live with that. (Ooo, I’m watcing the GameStop share price crash in real time. Quick, sell!). What I did back they was have a conversation with a broker at an investment company where we have a small account, and I suppose I just got lucky ‘cuz he was right, but I communicated the point that I’m not looking for quick cash, I want a solution that will work for maybe 50 years. I was not looking for protection against craziness. I don’t deny that it exists, but that was and is not my motivating consideration.
  20. The best advice is to invest in food, fuel, tools, and weapons, plus supporting infrastructure. Then when the world as we know it ends, you have a better chance of surviving. End of the world movies were popular in the 50’s and 60’s, and provide many useful suggestions, though, grain of salt. The main concern, I think, would be avoiding detection. I advise against gold, because gold is useful only when there is civilization and commerce. If you are talking about something less severe than TEOTWAKI, then it depends on exactly what form of insanity you have in mind: what exactly do you want to protect against? I want to protect against the burden of hearing crazy leftist rants, so I avoid their club meetings. I also want to protect against economic collapse caused by exponential expansion of the tax-and-regulate state, but at this point I don’t see any reasonable new action that I can undertake, so I will just continue to teach the proper methods of human existence and hope that it has a positive effect on my life. So as a starter, I’d work on being more specific about your concern. As a practical matter, I would not buy property for rental income, not here, because the risks of government takings (direct and regulatory) are locally way too high. Things may be different in your town.
  21. You should elaborate on what makes "spreading" germs aggression (and why spreading ideas is not: spreading of bad ideas has resulted in massive physical harm, and will continue to do so for years to come). Initiation of force is a volitional, intentional act, and only rarely is "spreading germs" an intentional choice. I recommend not using shorthand expressions for concepts that would be well-understood in an Objectivist context. The Objectivist ethics is centered around the fact that man's actions are chosen, so how is it not more obvious that the intentional, deliberate and willful spreading of ideas is initiation of force but the unknowing accidental "transmission" of microbes, peanut-molecules, or perfume is not? (Neither is, in fact).
  22. I don't understand the meaning or relevance of "physical aggression" in your distinction between germs and ideas. What is aggression (what is physical aggression and what other types are there)? I don't see how to apply that concept to germs versus ideas.
  23. My objection to the extensional view of meaning is that people who speak a language know the meaning of words in the language, but they do not know the extension of a concept, or even what an extension is. They have the capacity to compute the extension (once you tell them what an extension is). But as we know, there are enough competing theories of “meaning” that you have to start with a more important question “What do you mean by ‘mean’?”. We have to exclude unrelated senses such as “arithmetic mean”, “cruel” (where, in fact, the word “meaning” is not applicable, only “mean” is). Being focused on the “meaning” sense of “mean”, it is or should be clear that “meaning” refers to a mental state, thus a tree in the forest has no “meaning” except insofar as a mind deals with that tree. Furthermore, meaning is about symbols, not e.g. raw experiences. Once you reduce experience to symbols, you can talk about meaning. In the course of eliminating words spelled “mean”, I did not get rid of a collection of senses more related to the linguistic concept of meaning, for example “What do you mean by that?”, i.e. what are you presupposing, why are you saying that, or the even more semantic idea that some sentences can strongly suggest a conclusion without actually asserting it. Unfortunately, work in philosophy of language did not crisply weed out such “suggestive” types of meaning. Reasonable inferences about a person’s intent can often be drawn from a simple statement like “I haven’t eaten since breakfast”, but that statement literally just means that the person hasn’t eaten since breakfast, and is not necessarily a request to be fed, even though you could conclude that from the fact of saying that he hasn’t eaten. There is a connection: you draw conclusions based on something. As for extensions, what (I ask rhetorically) is an “extension”? One theory is that it is a collection of actual things, like “all of the giraffes, past, present and future”. If that is correct and meanings are extensions, what does it “mean” (vide supra) to know the meaning of “giraffe”? We can kick the can down the road saying “Yes – if you accept my account of what it means to ‘know’.” It’s not that you have actual experience with all giraffes, it’s that you have some experience that creates a mental thing (name to be discovered), and with that mental thing and the faculty of reason, you can conclude, for all x, that x is or is not a giraffe. Then what is the mental fodder for reasoning which leads to this chain of conclusions? In one view, it is the intension: or, the definition – of a concept, whose symbol is a word. Now we can dispose of extensions and intensions. If you know the definition of a concept, you can use reason to categorize anything w.r.t. that concept. You don’t need extensions, or intensions, because you have definitions of concepts, symbols that label which concept it is, and what you can do with the faculty of reason is make identifications – say what a concept refers to. In short, a sensible theory of reference, intension and extension renders these concepts superfluous, given identity, definition and inference.
  24. At your leisure (and in a separate thread), I'd like to see what leads you to this conclusion: not that there is a difference, but the conclusion that it is worse.
  • Create New...