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DavidOdden

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  1. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from dream_weaver in How much education do we OWE our children?   
    By “obligation”, I presume you are referring to a moral obligation, one that rationally follows from your choice to create a human being. Some people end up creating a child by accident, or are tricked into it, and I’m not talking about those cases – I mean a conscious deliberate choice. Just to be explicit, I also assume when you say “our” children, I assume you mean your own children, not “society’s children”. What do I owe my child, what do you owe your child, what does he owe his child.
    Creating a person should not be done on a whim, one should have a clear understanding of why you are doing so, and not just buying a puppy. A puppy will never become a rational being, a child might. An infant will not actually develop into a rational being without some kind of guidance. It’s irrational to think that children are born with Galt’s Speech planted in their brains whereby they can magically discover how to become fully rational. This is what a parent has an obligation to do: to provide such guidance. It is probably a joint effort between the parents and the parent’s agents, so that mom and dad don’t have to actually devise lessons in reading and writing.
    Your question seems to be focused on specific technical content. The list of specific technical things that a child should learn is huge: reading, writing, rhetoric, literature, history, philosophy, physics, biology, economics, fishing, hunting, home economics (i.e. “how to wash your clothes; how to cook a meal”). Personally, I think one should try to explain the basic logic of numeric exponentiation, if you can. You don’t teach long lists of facts, you teach very small sets of facts in the course of teaching methods of reasoning. In other words, all you have to teach is the tools of reason, but you do have to go beyond just saying “A is A”.
  2. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from tadmjones in How much education do we OWE our children?   
    By “obligation”, I presume you are referring to a moral obligation, one that rationally follows from your choice to create a human being. Some people end up creating a child by accident, or are tricked into it, and I’m not talking about those cases – I mean a conscious deliberate choice. Just to be explicit, I also assume when you say “our” children, I assume you mean your own children, not “society’s children”. What do I owe my child, what do you owe your child, what does he owe his child.
    Creating a person should not be done on a whim, one should have a clear understanding of why you are doing so, and not just buying a puppy. A puppy will never become a rational being, a child might. An infant will not actually develop into a rational being without some kind of guidance. It’s irrational to think that children are born with Galt’s Speech planted in their brains whereby they can magically discover how to become fully rational. This is what a parent has an obligation to do: to provide such guidance. It is probably a joint effort between the parents and the parent’s agents, so that mom and dad don’t have to actually devise lessons in reading and writing.
    Your question seems to be focused on specific technical content. The list of specific technical things that a child should learn is huge: reading, writing, rhetoric, literature, history, philosophy, physics, biology, economics, fishing, hunting, home economics (i.e. “how to wash your clothes; how to cook a meal”). Personally, I think one should try to explain the basic logic of numeric exponentiation, if you can. You don’t teach long lists of facts, you teach very small sets of facts in the course of teaching methods of reasoning. In other words, all you have to teach is the tools of reason, but you do have to go beyond just saying “A is A”.
  3. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from happiness in Will AI teach us that Objectivism is correct?   
    Only indirectly, as a reaction to the horrors of AI “reasoning”. Of course I am using “can” in the standard Objectivist way, as “possible, based on evidence”, not “imaginable, where anything is possible” and one can “imagine” A and Not A being simultaneously true. I have wasted some time trying to understand the “epistemology” of ChatGPT, and conclude that its greatest weakness is that there is little if anything that passes for a relationship between evidence, and evaluation of evidence.
    I was puzzled about how something so fundamental could be missed, but then I realized that this is because the system doesn’t have anything like a conceptual system that constitutes its knowledge of the universe, it has a vast repository of sensory impressions – a gruel of “information”. But furthermore: it cannot actually observe the universe, it can only store raw experiences that a volitional consciousness of the genus homo hands it. If you ask about the basis for one of its statements (ordinary statements of observable fact, not high-level abstractions), it just gives templatic answers about “a wide variety of sources and experts”. It does react to a user rejecting one of its statements, apologizing for any confusion, embracing the contradiction, then saying that usually A and Not A are not both true. It is perfectly happy to just make up facts. Sometimes it says that there are many possible answers, it depends on context, then if you give it some context it will make up an answer.
    Human reasoning is centered around conceptual and propositional abstractions that subsume observations, where the notion of “prediction” is central to evaluation of knowledge. Competing theories are central to human knowledge, so when we encounter a fact that can be handled by one theory but not another, we have gained knowledge that affects our evaluation of the competing systems. These AIs do not seem to evaluate knowledge, or even data. Instead, they filter responses based on something – it seems to be centered around "the current conversation".
  4. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Boydstun in Will AI teach us that Objectivism is correct?   
    Only indirectly, as a reaction to the horrors of AI “reasoning”. Of course I am using “can” in the standard Objectivist way, as “possible, based on evidence”, not “imaginable, where anything is possible” and one can “imagine” A and Not A being simultaneously true. I have wasted some time trying to understand the “epistemology” of ChatGPT, and conclude that its greatest weakness is that there is little if anything that passes for a relationship between evidence, and evaluation of evidence.
    I was puzzled about how something so fundamental could be missed, but then I realized that this is because the system doesn’t have anything like a conceptual system that constitutes its knowledge of the universe, it has a vast repository of sensory impressions – a gruel of “information”. But furthermore: it cannot actually observe the universe, it can only store raw experiences that a volitional consciousness of the genus homo hands it. If you ask about the basis for one of its statements (ordinary statements of observable fact, not high-level abstractions), it just gives templatic answers about “a wide variety of sources and experts”. It does react to a user rejecting one of its statements, apologizing for any confusion, embracing the contradiction, then saying that usually A and Not A are not both true. It is perfectly happy to just make up facts. Sometimes it says that there are many possible answers, it depends on context, then if you give it some context it will make up an answer.
    Human reasoning is centered around conceptual and propositional abstractions that subsume observations, where the notion of “prediction” is central to evaluation of knowledge. Competing theories are central to human knowledge, so when we encounter a fact that can be handled by one theory but not another, we have gained knowledge that affects our evaluation of the competing systems. These AIs do not seem to evaluate knowledge, or even data. Instead, they filter responses based on something – it seems to be centered around "the current conversation".
  5. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from tadmjones in Was the JFK assassination a coup d'état?   
    I’m not persuaded that any culture needs to reconsider the concept of corporations, but rational discussion is always a good thing. The standard left-wing “argument” against corporations is that it encourages people to operate businesses at a profit and not for the benefit of the workers (what laborers receive is not called “profit”). I find it to be pointless to discuss the merits of corporations with communists. The only argument of merit against corporations that I have ever heard is exactly based on the problem of shielding individuals from the legal consequences of their actions. Hence the second quote is essential to this question.
    One problem with the claim is that it isn’t exactly true, indeed there is a name for it when you go after evil corporate miscreants – piercing the corporate veil. But don’t go there yet, the first question should be ‘what should happen if a business markets a product “known” to cause harm?’ (I said business, not corporation). Under the current regime, the business gets sued, and if found liable damages may be awarded. I should point out that under an Objectivist regime, a company will not be held liable for marketing a product that can be argued to have some detectable relation to “harm”. A company that sells cyanide capsules as cyanide capsules should not be held liable, even though the company should know of the potential for harm. Caveat emptor! When they sell cyanide as ibuprofen, that’s where true liability arises.
    Cyanide as ibuprofen is exactly the kind of case where the corporate veil will be pierced, and where criminal prosecution will arise. The question is, which persons should be held personally liable? Some candidates are “the CEO”, “the board of directors”, “the manager in charge of product development”, “the employees of the company” and “everybody with a direct or indirect interest in the company” (such as a bank which makes loans to the business, or your grandmother whose retirement plan invested in the company).
    In the case of criminal prosecution, the law already has an answer, because you don’t prosecute people for bad outcomes, you prosecute them for evil actions – knowingly violating the rights of another. Whether or not the CEO, board of directors, or guy on the assembly line is held criminally responsible, and sent to jail, depends on that person’s knowledge state and the nature of their actions. One does not gain immunity from prosecution from the fact that you work for a corporation.
    Unlike criminal law, civil liability for damages is not centered around a person’s mental state, and to the extent that mental state enters into the equation, it is often very subjective – was the person negligent in their actions? There is a venerable but questionable legal doctrine, respondeat superior, which says that an employee is not to be held responsible for their actions in the course of the job, responsibility shifts to the boss. Why in the world should an employee be sheltered from responsibility for their actions? The two main reasons are philosophically repugnant: that with great power comes create responsibility, and that inferiors in a business context are mindless drones, lacking free will. Rather than determining liability based on analysis in terms of power relations, liability should be based on individual knowledge and actions – one’s choices.
    Corporate structure is pretty much orthogonal to these notions of responsibility, except when it comes to determining whose pockets to pick in awarding damages. The corporate veil means that a plaintiff can only go after the assets of the corporation, and not the assets of the individuals who make up the corporation. Therefore, if Dow Corporation negligently harms a half million people, claims against the corporation are limited to the corporation but not the managers, supervisors, line-employees or shareholders who directly or indirectly bought an interest in the company.
    If the corporate entity is not recognized as a separate legal entity, your grandmother qua part-owner of the company would be held personally responsible for those actions. I conclude that whatever problem exists, it’s not about corporations, it’s about “responsibility”. Who should be held responsible for what choices? Why should an employee be relieved of responsibility, and why should a CEO be assigned all of the liability?

  6. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Jim Henderson in Greetings, and Making Things “Click”   
    IMO it is best to focus on an area that you understand reasonably well, but not well enough, that is, go for depth rather than breadth. But before pursuing that advice, you should also aim to say what fact of your existence Objectivism seems to solve, or whether your inerest is more ineffably “I like her writing style”. I came into Objectivism as an account of “rights” that is superior to religion- and tradition-based conservativism and stipulation-based libertarianism (the idea that initiation of force is an intrinsic bad, and that is leads to a contradiction without any clue what the contradiction is).
    I’m resisting the temptation to say “do everything right now!”. You cannot reasonably hope to grasp a foundational question by intensively studying an area that you know nothing about. When you focus no an area that you alread understand to some extent, you are bound to run into a foundational issue, which when better resolved will have a great impact on your life. I read what Rand had to say about “principles” a million times but it was still just words. Once I read ITOE (which didn’t exist when I got started), the theory of concepts changed everything for me. Galt’s speech suddenly made sense, all of that stuff about principles and “chosing” actions made sense. ITOE provided a fundamental tool that led to me having a better grasp not only of Objectivism, but the nature of the universe. But, as they say, YMMV.

     
  7. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Harrison Danneskjold in Intellectual Property   
    Maybe this is the root of the problem, in these discussions. Because copyright and patent infringement is widely talked about in social media as “theft” or “piracy”, people quite reasonably identify an important difference between theft and infringement – deprivation. A common retort is “but you are depriving them of their livelihood!”. I think instead the attention should be in what the fundamental claim of patent and copyright law is, it is a claim that a particular expression can be property.
    When a person trespasses on my tangible property, there is no theft (permanent deprivation). The discussion should look at the similarity between trespass to land or chattels, and trespass of intellectual property. I think the parallelism (identified by Rand) between claiming and maintaining a claim to lands and goods qua property that were not previously owned because the person recognizes their value applies equally to the concrete expression of an idea, and that’s where the discussion should be focused.

     
    The automatic output of a computer program is not protected by copyright law, only the creative – non-mechanical – creation of a human is protected by copyright. That’s a legal point, not a philosophical – I’d say that the law has it right. You don’t even need an AI, you just need to know what the vocabulary of music is (♯, ♪, A etc) and the most elementary system of rules about meaningful sequences of those letters, and you can easily generate all possible “pieces of music”, up to length n (the set is unbounded).

     
  8. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from RationalEgoist in Intellectual Property   
    It is true that all of the copyrights for Sherlock Holmes have expired, therefore those works are 'in the public domain'. It is not the case that the estate cannot garner further revenue – that depends on the terms of the license granted to a publisher. If e.g. Random House obtained a license to publish some work of Doyle’s in exchange for some per-copy royalty, that obligation still exists unless there is an explicit clause terminating the obligation to pay. You’d really have to read the agreement to see what it says. I read my agreements, and there is no clause to the effect that “We don’t have to pay for sales once copyright expires”.
    “Entering the public domain” is, pretty much defined as “copyright has expired”. People may declare that a work is “in the public domain”, but US copyright law does not define the concept “public domain”, and it’s just a common way of talking about expired copyright.
  9. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from dream_weaver in Ayn Rand was openly in favor of British colonialism, says Harry Binswanger   
    I can’t give you any examples of any large-scale social phenomenon that is characterised purely by reason. OCON really does not constitute large-scale. An example of primarily reason-based colonization, of the US, is being carried out right now by people from Asia, Africa and Latin America. You may not want to classify that as colonization, though I can point you to a number of African, Asian and Latin colonies in my town (the term “community” is of course more politically correct).
    If we turn the clock back to the late 1500’s and 1600’s, why exactly did Europeans come to America? It was not to wage war against Indians. It is true that some of them had a rational desire to engage in irrational religious conduct that was forbidden in the old country, so the choice to emigrate was influences by something other than strict reason, but as I said, the moral code developed by Rand was not available to them, so like all activities for the preceding innumerable millennia, there was a significant taint of irrationality involved in the mix. The problem is not the colonising, it is the orthogonal tendency of men to “go bad”. If we subtract the irrational component of Islamic jihad which played a major role in African history, the (indigenous) development and spread of civilizations in Africa is predominantly “colonization gone right” – moving into new areas, bringing new technologies and trade. Clearly they were still well behind their colleagues in Europe. There is also a similar colonization from Taiwan starting about 3,000 years ago, extending to Polynesia, Southeast Asia and all the way to Africa.
  10. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from tadmjones in Ayn Rand was openly in favor of British colonialism, says Harry Binswanger   
    A funny thing about “colonialism” is that when you contemplate human history, it is difficult to distinguish colonization from other forms of human movements. Many people mistakenly think that the various American Indian tribes came into territory never before occupied by humans, and have been living there since. That’s true at some remote point in history, but does not represent the reality that we know. In the Pacific Northwest, Salishan people moved into territory occupied by Athabascan tribes, and displaced / absorbed them almost without trace, and the Athabascan people had earlier displaced various other people like the Tsimshian and Chinook (using modern names of survivors). People don’t talk about that as colonization, actually we don’t talk about it at all. There are many similar examples throughout the world: the Bantu colonization of Africa, the Arab colonization of the Middle East and Northern Africa.
    It is generally held that “Europeans” colonized the New World, the English colonized much of South Asia and parts of Africa, the French and Belgians colonized most of Africa, the Russians colonized Siberia and the Caucasus. People do not typically talk of the Goths, Mongols and Third Reich as colonization, they talk of “invasion”. What sets colonization apart from invasion is the underlying method: reason versus force. What gives colonization a bad rep is the later replacement of reason by force. India as a colony under direct rule of the British Parliament was the final step in the transition from trade (which has existed for millennia) to force. The intermediate step is the fact that trade was not being being conducted in a civilized nation following the rule of law, when legitimate trade interests of the East India Company were infringed from various sides due to the decline of the Moghal Empire, and the chaos that ensued.
    Is colonization a good thing or a bad thing? The question makes as much sense as asking if it is a good thing for a nation to expand it territory. The idea that everybody has a proper place that they should remain in – “we have no business in ___” is just wrong. It’s easy to apologize for an evil by pointing out that at least they made the trains run on time; it’s also easy to condemn any good because somebody on the good side engages in evil. I find efforts to transport highly developed modern knowledge and moral codes back centuries ago and morally evaluate people before there was any rational moral code to be, well, evil. It is right to trade values with other people, it is wrong to use force to get people to act. It is pointless to try to micro-divide moral codes so that we can forgive suppression of political dissent in case we build 400 miles of paved roads.
  11. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Frank in How is this statement true? "A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something."   
    I can’t say that I understand what subjective idealism “really” says, because I don’t know how many brands of subjective idealism there are. It appear, for example, that there are competing claims that Advaita Vedānta is and is not an example of that approach, though I don’t think there is much controvery over there fact that it reduces the universe to the fundamental reality Brahman. Let’s assume that the claim is that “only minds and content of minds exists”. There would be “competing” claims – that there is only The Mind and Its Content (a single mind), also that there are only minds (no content), or that there is only The Mind. Your question about “refutation” presupposes “mental content”, insofar as it makes no sense to “refute” unless you have an arsenal of mental existents, such as logic (which itself is a very complex existent). The question presupposes that more than mind exists. I have never encountered anyone (past my undergraduate days) who posited that there exists only “mind” (singular or plural).
    My view is that Western attempts to devise a “minds and contents only” theory as promulgated by Berkeley has not been as intellectually successful, compared to Ādi Śaṅkara’s philosophizing (to the extent that this is one individual), which I think I understand slightly better. The difference between Śaṅkara and Berkeley, as I understand it, is that Śaṅkara does not deny the existence of the physical, instead he unifies the physical and the mental into a single reality: in essence, “there is a universe, there exists nothing outside the universe”. My mind, and my body, are aspects of that unified reality. An attack on Śaṅkara requires a fairly focused study of what Brahman is (I have better fish to fry). Berkeley seems to deny the existence of my foot or a rock, except insofar as they might be a mental construct in a mind. I suppose that Rand might refute that position the same way that Samuel Johnson did, with a mighty kick (though such an outburst would be out of character for her).
    The most important ingredient for a refutation of Berkeley is an understanding of “refutation”. A claim is refuted when it is shown that the claim does not describe (correspond to) reality. “Reality” is not the same thing as “the claim”. On the one hand, you must presuppose “reality” to engage in the act of refutation, on the other hand, the claim being subject to refutation denies that there is “reality”. The subjective idealist therefore has to lapse into the behavior of the 5 year old who answers every statement with “I know you are but what am I?”, or else has to assimilate realist aspects of Vedantic philosophizing and say that there are levels of awareness where “reality” is just a subjective mental construct and we aren’t even aware of the details of that construct, which soon leads to the “I know you are but what am I?” mode of “reasoning”. Ultimately, Berkleyan “consciousness” isn’t even the same kind of thing as normal-people consciousness.
    I recommend Stove’s award-winning argument (admittedly not made by Rand, who died 13 years earlier), if you have doubts about reality and the extent to which Berkeley’s argument was the world’s worst argument.
  12. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Frank in How is this statement true? "A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something."   
    I have just a few elementary suggestions, which might be useful. First, could you please divide the universe into two sets, thing that have consciousness and things that don’t? Easy cases are that rocks have no consciousness, men do. Find where you would draw the line, saying for example that ‘a leech is conscious; a sponge is not’. I expect that you will puzzle over tardigrades. The point of this exercise is to understand the definition of ‘consciousness’, and to make explicit what the alternative(s) is/are. There may be a tendency to focus on non-essential characteristics of live on earth, for example to bring in facts of earthly organisms (proteins, brain structure), so to correct for that you should spend some time in the world of (decent) science fiction, in order to strip your definition of consciousness down to the essentials that unify leeches, humans, and the cheela (Dragon’s Egg).
    Thought exercises with humans (for example “meditation where one experiences nothing but consciousness”) are not going to clarify the matter. I claim that it is not true that a human meditating experiences nothing but consciousness: instead, a meditating person experiences everything that a normal person experiences, but focuses on… well, I don’t know since I don’t meditate.  Human are axiomatically conscious, and even when deprived of external stimuli at a particular moment, there is a vast amount of ‘data’ already in the mind to work on. The two-cell version of a future human has no consciousness, and it develops a consciousness before it is born. At what point (in general conceptual terms, not days) does the embryo have consciousness?
    The Rand quote is a bit more complicated than is probably obvious, where she says “before it could identify itself as consciousness”. If a tardigrade is conscious, or a leech, does it also make identifications? Is “identifying” a defining property of a “consciousness”. Obviously, this question also calls for you to unpack the concept of “identifying” – is there a difference between “responding to external stimuli” and  “identifying”? Sodium “responds” to certain external stimuli by burning, and we cannot degrade the concept of consciousness to say that sodium has a kind of consciousness. Being explicit about what it means to be “conscious of” something is going to be difficult, since bugs have consciousness but not a conceptual consciousness.
  13. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from dream_weaver in How is this statement true? "A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something."   
    I have just a few elementary suggestions, which might be useful. First, could you please divide the universe into two sets, thing that have consciousness and things that don’t? Easy cases are that rocks have no consciousness, men do. Find where you would draw the line, saying for example that ‘a leech is conscious; a sponge is not’. I expect that you will puzzle over tardigrades. The point of this exercise is to understand the definition of ‘consciousness’, and to make explicit what the alternative(s) is/are. There may be a tendency to focus on non-essential characteristics of live on earth, for example to bring in facts of earthly organisms (proteins, brain structure), so to correct for that you should spend some time in the world of (decent) science fiction, in order to strip your definition of consciousness down to the essentials that unify leeches, humans, and the cheela (Dragon’s Egg).
    Thought exercises with humans (for example “meditation where one experiences nothing but consciousness”) are not going to clarify the matter. I claim that it is not true that a human meditating experiences nothing but consciousness: instead, a meditating person experiences everything that a normal person experiences, but focuses on… well, I don’t know since I don’t meditate.  Human are axiomatically conscious, and even when deprived of external stimuli at a particular moment, there is a vast amount of ‘data’ already in the mind to work on. The two-cell version of a future human has no consciousness, and it develops a consciousness before it is born. At what point (in general conceptual terms, not days) does the embryo have consciousness?
    The Rand quote is a bit more complicated than is probably obvious, where she says “before it could identify itself as consciousness”. If a tardigrade is conscious, or a leech, does it also make identifications? Is “identifying” a defining property of a “consciousness”. Obviously, this question also calls for you to unpack the concept of “identifying” – is there a difference between “responding to external stimuli” and  “identifying”? Sodium “responds” to certain external stimuli by burning, and we cannot degrade the concept of consciousness to say that sodium has a kind of consciousness. Being explicit about what it means to be “conscious of” something is going to be difficult, since bugs have consciousness but not a conceptual consciousness.
  14. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from ReasonFirst in Question About the Epistemology of "Betting" or "Gambling" on a Certainly True Proposition   
    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”.
  15. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from AlexL in Biden is our only hope, says Yaron Brook   
    Executive Order 13769, the Muslim travel ban, violated the McCarran–Walter Act, and the provision favoring immigration of members of minority religions in listed countries violated the First Amendment. Executive Order 13768, where the federal government illegally commanded local governments regarding enforcement of federal immigration policy, was in clear violation of 8 USC 1373 and well-established law regarding the 10th amendment. The matter of banning Acosta from press briefings, clearly contravened established First and Fifth amendment law. Termination of the DACA program violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Due Process Clause of the 5th amendment.
  16. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in How many masks do you wear?   
    @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.
  17. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.
  18. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.
  19. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.
     
  20. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Harrison Danneskjold in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.
     
  21. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from tadmjones in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.

  22. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.
     
  23. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from dream_weaver in How many masks do you wear?   
    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.
     
  24. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Tenderlysharp in How many masks do you wear?   
    One of the bizarrest forms of ovine behavior that I've seen is people driving all by themselves, wearing the diaper. I wonder if they are afraid of infecting themselves.
  25. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Boydstun in Ten Years of Necessary Facts   
    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.
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