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DavidOdden

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.
     
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from tadmjones in Tu Quoque   
    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.
  7. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in What is the best reply to this argument from anarchists?   
    The one error I have to point out in your comment is that anarchism does not ignore the concept of government, it misunderstands the concept. The anarchist position denies the validity of government, but has not resolved the problem of thieves under anarchy. One view is that anarchy is a utopian ideal, which can exist only when no person would ever use force – it’s a Platonic form towards which we might strive, but it is excruciatingly unlikely that it will ever exist. A closely related next-most surreal form of anarchism, sour grapes anarchism, declares that anyone using force has ipso facto become a government. If you steal my stuff, you have become a taxing government. The third circle of anarchism, more familiar to us because it is widely held in libertarian anarcho-capitalist circles, maintains that there is no special entity, government, which has a rightful monopoly on the use of force. Instead, anyone can rightfully use force, as long as they do not initiate use of force.
    The point about wielding force “autonomously” is obscured by the unmodified use of the word “force”. The problem is that if some jackass threatens me with a knife, I have to act autonomously right then and there, and will not roll over and get stabbed to death because I don’t have the right to use force on the premise that only the government can use force. It is very important that we not suggest that the Objectivist ethics requires you to roll over and die when attacked (Objectivism is not pacifism). Rather, the use of force is to be put under the control of objective law. Objective law mandates that force only be chosen by certain agents of the government who compare the facts and the law to see if force is justified, but it also provides an exception for life-threatening emergencies, where you can defend yourself if attacked.
    I know that interjecting law as an intermediary complicates the computation of rightful use of force, but it is an essential complication. Force is to be under the control of objective law. The government states what that law is. A proper philosophy is necessary for the government to devise proper laws.
  8. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from happiness in What is the best reply to this argument from anarchists?   
    The one error I have to point out in your comment is that anarchism does not ignore the concept of government, it misunderstands the concept. The anarchist position denies the validity of government, but has not resolved the problem of thieves under anarchy. One view is that anarchy is a utopian ideal, which can exist only when no person would ever use force – it’s a Platonic form towards which we might strive, but it is excruciatingly unlikely that it will ever exist. A closely related next-most surreal form of anarchism, sour grapes anarchism, declares that anyone using force has ipso facto become a government. If you steal my stuff, you have become a taxing government. The third circle of anarchism, more familiar to us because it is widely held in libertarian anarcho-capitalist circles, maintains that there is no special entity, government, which has a rightful monopoly on the use of force. Instead, anyone can rightfully use force, as long as they do not initiate use of force.
    The point about wielding force “autonomously” is obscured by the unmodified use of the word “force”. The problem is that if some jackass threatens me with a knife, I have to act autonomously right then and there, and will not roll over and get stabbed to death because I don’t have the right to use force on the premise that only the government can use force. It is very important that we not suggest that the Objectivist ethics requires you to roll over and die when attacked (Objectivism is not pacifism). Rather, the use of force is to be put under the control of objective law. Objective law mandates that force only be chosen by certain agents of the government who compare the facts and the law to see if force is justified, but it also provides an exception for life-threatening emergencies, where you can defend yourself if attacked.
    I know that interjecting law as an intermediary complicates the computation of rightful use of force, but it is an essential complication. Force is to be under the control of objective law. The government states what that law is. A proper philosophy is necessary for the government to devise proper laws.
  9. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from intrinsicist in The Presuppositionalist Argument for the Axioms of Objectivism   
    I’m not up on terminological arcana, so while I’ve vaguely heard of a “transcendental argument”, I wouldn’t know one if it bit me on the ass. However, the particular logical form that you identify is, IMO, one of the greatest contributions of Objectivism to my own philosophically-based work. It is particularly important in saying what “hierarchical knowledge” is, in rationally structuring knowledge, and I believe that a failure to identify the presuppositions of a concept are a significant source of logical error. There is a recent bit of related discussion here.
  10. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from AlexL in What is "Falsifiability" and O'ism's view of it?   
    The lip-service interest paid to "falsification" in popular accounts of scientific epistemology is unwarranted, and probably does more harm that good in shaping the conduct of scientific research. Since you've disavowed your earlier nihilism, I'd urge you to take a long, hard look at these Popperian tendencies, since Popperianism is just a variety of nihilism dressed up in a lab coat. The proper and rational understanding of the good part of "falsificationism" is in terms of the need to distinguish things that you know (as expressed in a theory) from things that you don't know. Rational scientific conduct is based on the premise that you don't know everything, and the purpose of science is to find out the things that you don't know. Sometimes, unfortunately, when theories are set up, they aren't expressed very well, which leads to implicit claims that we already 'know' the answers in some domain, when we don't (various social science 'theories' have this flaw, in that you cannot even imagine an observation which is inconsistent with those 'theories', meaning that they don't actually distinguish reality from imagination).
    Jennifer has correctly pointed out one of the fundamental flaws in Popper's emphasis on falsification, that "falsifiable" is being used by Popperians as a special term meaning something other than what it actually means. If theory is "unfalsifiable", that means it is not possible to show that the theory is false. If a theory is true, then it is impossible to show that it is false, and Popperian epistemology thus encourages evasion of truth rather than embracing of truth. The thing of value which Popperianism ostensibly embraces is that if you don't know the answer, you should try to find out.

    I think I have to disagree with an implication of Eran's statement about the relationship between "unfalsified" and Objectivist epistemology. In Popperian (anti-)epistemology, arbitrary statements and true statements are indistiguishable, since a Popperian cannot know the truth -- they can only know that something is false. It also turns out that they cannot know that something is false either, which is what makes the cult of falsification be plain and simple nihilism, but that's a separate issue. An arbitrary statement is one which has no evidence in opposition or in support. But an unfalsified statement is one that simply has no evidence in opposition it. Popperians reject the concept of verifying a theory, so for them there is no distinction between true statements and arbitrary ones. I would hope that you don't make the error of equating the true and the arbitrary as the Popperians do.

    The fundamental flaw of Popperian scientology is that it encourages embracing the arbitrary -- by refusing to distinguish between the true and the arbitrary, and by allowing unjustified arbitrary statements to have the same logical status as truths. Furthermore, a refutation requires that you posit a "known truth", namely the falsifier -- you have to say "this is a true fact, which shows that X is false". But Popperian logic does not allow you to assert that a statement is true, only that it is "unfalsified", that you don't know that it is false. Objectivist epistemology, OTOH, avoids the circularity of Popperianism by distinguishing the true, the false and the arbitrary (although for the purposes of scientific research, you also need to integrate these concepts with "certainty" and "plausibility").
  11. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Jonathan Weissberg in Conceptual Frequency List   
    The point that I have been focusing on is the subtle difference between concept formation (so-named in Objectivism) and concept-acquisition (what I’m saying is not part of ITOE or OPAR, and I’m not sure about secondary writings on the topic – there is no such thing as “concept-acquisition” in Objectivism). There are two big questions: “What is the proper means of forming concepts?”, and “What are the actual methods that men use to learn existing concepts?”. In our discussion, I pointed to the difference between the abstract nature of logic and knowledge, versus the practical methods of gaining knowledge; you asked, is it not the domain of philosophy to set out the fundamental practical methods for gaining knowledge? I would say “no” to that question, given a particular view of what “philosophy” is as distinguished from “science”. Philosophy provides the foundation for science: it defines the basic terms and questions that allow specialized scientific research to be conducted rationally. It says what it means to be a concept, to be a proposition, to be knowledge, what “identity” is and so on. Philosophy identifies the nature of “concepts” and “logic”. In ITOE p. 289, Rand presents the essence of the distinction between science and philosophy:
    Philosophy will tell you what “integration” and “logic” are, but it does not directly say how a child learns to integrate, it simply accepts the undeniable fact that children do so. Philosophy provides the conceptual foundation for science to conduct specialized research, calling on knowledge of statistics, specialized techniques for observing children, a framework for recording data, and so on – these are non-philosophical matters that depend on a philosophy. It is not a philosophical question whether a picture is worth a thousand words or the opposite, that is a practical, individual matter of what method of learning is most effective for a particular person. Philosophy is relevant to the enterprise because it focuses your attention on “asking the right questions”. It helps you understand the concept “proof”, by demanding that you ultimately be able to reduce “proof” to undeniable perceptions. If I ask my neighbor to reduce the concept “proof” to the axiomatic, I will get a blank stare, because for the neighbor, the idea of “reduction to axioms” is just a bunch of words.
    I have a suggestion: please reduce the concept “proof” to the axiomatic. As a prelude, please briefly state what it means to reduce a concept to the axiomatic. As a guiding procedural rule, don’t look anything up. A secondary rule: please report back within 48 hours (that is, you should limit how extensively contemplate the answer – my own scheduling problems explain why it took me so long to spend the hour needed to write this). I believe that this will make the contextual nature of knowledge very clear, since I predict that there will be some concept that you depend on, which you don’t yet understand. This is not a failure, this is a discovery: there’s something that you need to understand better. An example is that in the course of studying Objectivism, I expanded my knowledge of “logic”, which was originally just the standard Philosophy 150 formal method of deduction. I read the part that says “Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification”, which encapsulates the nature of logic, but does not magically give you full knowledge of logic when you have learned those essential words. I thus gained a better knowledge of the nature of “logic”, and can now better identify “logic”. If at the end of this you reflect on what you learned about “reduction”, “learning”, and “proof”, you should have a basic theory of the learning process that you asked about.
    I'm not too sanguine about my attempts to take a highly technical subject and make it comprehensible for the layman, when my goal is to do a highly technical logical analysis and reduction-to-experience for people whjo know the field. But perhaps...
  12. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Jonathan Weissberg in Conceptual Frequency List   
    I think it is important to remember two contextual factors regarding concepts. First, every concept is a mental integration… which means, it’s in your head. Second, proper concepts in your head arise by applying logic to valid conclusions, given some premises, so to the extent that the facts out there are the same, we all learn the same concept “dog”. Concepts are objective, not subjective. The science of psychology is concerned with the nature of a concept in the brain, whereas philosophy is concerned with the abstract nature of concepts which anyone can grasp using reason. Epistemologically primary concepts are those that can understood through direct experience, words with ostensive definitions (“That is a dog; this is yellow”). Philosophy is usually about very high-level concepts such as “cause”, “rights”, “logic” and so on, things that you can’t just point at. Because the connection between a word and what it refers to in philosophy is much more distant, explicit definition and deeper scrutiny of logic is necessary in order to establish that there exists a valid path. Ayn Rand engaged in that enterprise and thus had a valid logical connection between axiomatic propositions and conclusions about the concept “rights”. A number of others have also studied this and now grasp that same relationship. Pretty much everybody has some concept of “rights”, but the definition and what it integrates varies wildly in the English-speaking world (insert alternative words like droit and Recht to expand the range of definitions). Objectivism presents an integrates theory of existence under which we can say what a “right” is and show why that is a valid conclusion, but the same cannot be said for the theory that “a right is that which I want to have”. Even though that analysis has already been done (can be objectively presupposed), you should do it too. You too should discover the fundamentals and how logic and experience yield conclusions about “rights”. (Within limits: I don’t advocate that everybody should validate the concept “neutron”, “electron”, unless you’re a physicist, or have lots of spare time).
    Again, there is an essential difference between the abstract nature of logic and knowledge, which is the domain of philosophy, and the practical methods of gaining  knowledge, which is the domain of the science of psychology. It is not very common for a person to actually create a concept from the ground up, instead we are generally faced with the task of understanding a concept that was already created by someone else (hopefully, by induction). Infants start by first learning the label, words like “dog”, “ball” and so on, and then use contextual experience to arrive at conclusions about what “dog” refers to. The psychology of infant learning is a very difficult scientific subject, but we do know what they end up with – it’s just unclear how they got there. Infants do not induce the (adult) concept “rights”, “inference”, “elaboration”. The logic of concept formation, as set forth in ITOE, is that similarities and differences are perceived, leading to the conclusion “these things have something in common that distinguishes them from those things”, and eventually that concept is assigned a name. The overall point that I’m making here is that knowledge and concepts need to be studied from two perspectives, the logical and the psychological, that is, how do we actually learn this stuff.
    Regarding the words versus sounds question, you respond “So learn and master sounds first before proceeding because they are the fundamentals which everything presupposes, on which you build mastery of the language”. Yes and no, in a way that relates to the preceding. You cannot first learn the sounds and then learn the words, but that is a fair description of the existential nature of sounds and words (the logical relation between words and sounds). From the psychological perspective – how do I learn this – you have to start with some words. Not all of the words, some of the words. That is a basis for reaching initial conclusions about the sounds of the language. You then learn some more words and validate – or correct (elaborate) – your conclusions about the sounds, and the words. This is a cyclic process, where you continuously increase your knowledge by increasing your axiomatic experiences (hearing the language) and make non-contradictory identifications. So, not only is it impossible to learn all of the words and then draw higher order conclusions about the sounds, it is impossible to first learn the existential primitives (sounds) free of the context where they appear (words), and then learn the words. As an aside, I’m currently working on a paper that explicates the nature of the cyclic, integrated system of reasoning for discovering the sounds of a language.
    To summarize my points, there is a hierarchy of concepts and propositions that constitutes your knowledge. You do not learn the elements of that hierarchy by starting at the bottom and seeing how e.g. quarks lead to the concept of proton or neutron, which lead to atoms, which lead to molecules, then cells, dogs, mammals and living being. The entry point into this logical hierarchy, in Objectivism, is not the quark or the concept “living being”, it is the directly perceptible – the dog, and then dogs qua concept. Sounds are the atoms of words (and they are actually made up of smaller stuff, just as atoms are not indivisible existential primaries). Words are the epistemological primaries – the things that we directly experience.
  13. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from AlexL in Conceptual Frequency List   
    I think it is important to remember two contextual factors regarding concepts. First, every concept is a mental integration… which means, it’s in your head. Second, proper concepts in your head arise by applying logic to valid conclusions, given some premises, so to the extent that the facts out there are the same, we all learn the same concept “dog”. Concepts are objective, not subjective. The science of psychology is concerned with the nature of a concept in the brain, whereas philosophy is concerned with the abstract nature of concepts which anyone can grasp using reason. Epistemologically primary concepts are those that can understood through direct experience, words with ostensive definitions (“That is a dog; this is yellow”). Philosophy is usually about very high-level concepts such as “cause”, “rights”, “logic” and so on, things that you can’t just point at. Because the connection between a word and what it refers to in philosophy is much more distant, explicit definition and deeper scrutiny of logic is necessary in order to establish that there exists a valid path. Ayn Rand engaged in that enterprise and thus had a valid logical connection between axiomatic propositions and conclusions about the concept “rights”. A number of others have also studied this and now grasp that same relationship. Pretty much everybody has some concept of “rights”, but the definition and what it integrates varies wildly in the English-speaking world (insert alternative words like droit and Recht to expand the range of definitions). Objectivism presents an integrates theory of existence under which we can say what a “right” is and show why that is a valid conclusion, but the same cannot be said for the theory that “a right is that which I want to have”. Even though that analysis has already been done (can be objectively presupposed), you should do it too. You too should discover the fundamentals and how logic and experience yield conclusions about “rights”. (Within limits: I don’t advocate that everybody should validate the concept “neutron”, “electron”, unless you’re a physicist, or have lots of spare time).
    Again, there is an essential difference between the abstract nature of logic and knowledge, which is the domain of philosophy, and the practical methods of gaining  knowledge, which is the domain of the science of psychology. It is not very common for a person to actually create a concept from the ground up, instead we are generally faced with the task of understanding a concept that was already created by someone else (hopefully, by induction). Infants start by first learning the label, words like “dog”, “ball” and so on, and then use contextual experience to arrive at conclusions about what “dog” refers to. The psychology of infant learning is a very difficult scientific subject, but we do know what they end up with – it’s just unclear how they got there. Infants do not induce the (adult) concept “rights”, “inference”, “elaboration”. The logic of concept formation, as set forth in ITOE, is that similarities and differences are perceived, leading to the conclusion “these things have something in common that distinguishes them from those things”, and eventually that concept is assigned a name. The overall point that I’m making here is that knowledge and concepts need to be studied from two perspectives, the logical and the psychological, that is, how do we actually learn this stuff.
    Regarding the words versus sounds question, you respond “So learn and master sounds first before proceeding because they are the fundamentals which everything presupposes, on which you build mastery of the language”. Yes and no, in a way that relates to the preceding. You cannot first learn the sounds and then learn the words, but that is a fair description of the existential nature of sounds and words (the logical relation between words and sounds). From the psychological perspective – how do I learn this – you have to start with some words. Not all of the words, some of the words. That is a basis for reaching initial conclusions about the sounds of the language. You then learn some more words and validate – or correct (elaborate) – your conclusions about the sounds, and the words. This is a cyclic process, where you continuously increase your knowledge by increasing your axiomatic experiences (hearing the language) and make non-contradictory identifications. So, not only is it impossible to learn all of the words and then draw higher order conclusions about the sounds, it is impossible to first learn the existential primitives (sounds) free of the context where they appear (words), and then learn the words. As an aside, I’m currently working on a paper that explicates the nature of the cyclic, integrated system of reasoning for discovering the sounds of a language.
    To summarize my points, there is a hierarchy of concepts and propositions that constitutes your knowledge. You do not learn the elements of that hierarchy by starting at the bottom and seeing how e.g. quarks lead to the concept of proton or neutron, which lead to atoms, which lead to molecules, then cells, dogs, mammals and living being. The entry point into this logical hierarchy, in Objectivism, is not the quark or the concept “living being”, it is the directly perceptible – the dog, and then dogs qua concept. Sounds are the atoms of words (and they are actually made up of smaller stuff, just as atoms are not indivisible existential primaries). Words are the epistemological primaries – the things that we directly experience.
  14. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Jonathan Weissberg in Conceptual Frequency List   
    I dunno if this will be useful in your quest to better integrate Objectivism in your life, but I do have a perspective on language learning. I will start by saying that technique 1 doesn’t work for me, in fact it is logically impossible for any human, if taken seriously and literally. Technique 2 is somewhat defective because of the use of ‘then’, but that’s fixable.
    I am betting that you can’t learn the words ተኹላ, ጠለበዱ, ወዐግ, ድቢ, ምራኽ, ዳንጋ, ገመል, ድሙ, ጫቚት, ከልቢ, ኣድጊ, ሓርማዝ, ወኻርያ, ኣጋዚን, ጢል, ኡማሬ, ፈረስ, ገንሸር, ነብሪ, ኣንበሳ, ጋውና, ህበይ, በቕሊ, ብዕራይ, ቅንፍዝ, ማንቲለ, ደዕል, ኣንጭዋ, በጊዕ which are just the names of mammals, and it will only help a little if you get the English translations (African wild dog, antilope, ape, bear, calf, calf, camel, cat, chick, dog, donkey, elephant, fox, giraffe, goat, hippo, horse, lamb, leopard, lion, male baboon, monkey, mule, ox, porcupine, rabbit, ram, rat, sheep). I am betting (but it’s impractical and complicated to try to demonstrate this here) that you can learn the sounds composing the words, wich is the basis for learning the words. There are millions of words in the language, and dozens of sounds. The Objectivist epistemology is constructed so as to lead you to follow technique 2, because humans have a relatively small ኳኽ (the name of a bird). Technique 1 ignores the perceptual level and goes straight for the conceptual and propositional levels.
    I believe that there is a general tendency to not correctly grasp the two kinds of fundamentality, namely existential versus epistemological fundamentals. Quarks are existentially fundamental, dogs are epistemologically fundamental. On this point, I commend to you Binswanger’s How we know, because he has a good psychological perspective on epistemology (“good” doesn’t mean “infallible”). We do not take “animal” or “mammal” as a perceptual given and then reduce “animal” through an elaborate set of differentiations to “… and huskies, like this and that”. We don’t actually know what the acquisition process is (this is a scientific question, not a philosophical one), in fact I don’t think we even know how to find out. It might be that mice and motorized toys are initially indistinguishable to infants.
    Validating a concept by reducing it to (true) axiomatic knowledge is a very adult thing to do (not what children actually do), and presupposes that you actually grasp the concept. You cannot validate the concept ተኹላ if you don’t grasp it: what do they have in common, how they different from ከልቢ? Can you correctly integrate and differentiate ክ, ኮ, ኩ, ከ, ካ? My suggestion is to start by explaining one of these concepts – defining it, by saying what it refers to, and see which words you have to use to set forth that definition. You definition should make clear that “it’s these things, excluding those things. These things are similar in ___”. Start with “existence”, then move to “action”.
    My own “acquisition” experience regarding your word list is that even though I knew all of these words, I didn’t correctly grasp their role in (Objectivist) philosophy. My suggestion about “explaining” existence and action is intended to provoke a bit of widening of your list. While it is true that you are hosed if you ignore the meaning of “context” in Objectivism and just treat it as a floating abstraction, frequency of occurrence is not what make the term important. What I found most important is understanding the epistemological concept “presuppose” (probably because it is a fundamental concept in linguistic semantics). Galt’s Speech and specifically the “Existence exists” part ought to be in front of you as you take on this task.
    The only thing I would add to Eiuol's suggestions about language learning are (a) it is important to have cooperative conversation partners (dial it back, dude!), and (b) it actually takes a lot more than 2 similar examples and 1 dissimilar example to acquire a linguistic concept (e.g. "a sound").
  15. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in 2020 election   
    A difference between paying a bribe and paying a fine is that a bribe is conditioned on the recipient performing an action, and charity is not. If I charitably pay your fine, you are free to thank me or not, to vote or not… The term “bribe” is a specific legal term, though it is metaphorically used to describe giving any incentive. Bribery, which is illegal, requires an offer to a public servant, where the offer is not authrized by law, and the intent is to influence an act in the official discretion of the public servant. None of this describes paying a fine for a felon.

    A more apt description is vote-buying, which is a federal felony under 18 USC 597:

     
    That is why the offer has to be an unconditional act of charity. There’s no question that Bloomberg hopes that convicts will vote as a consequence of his charity, and maybe will vote a specific way, but as it stands, his efforts in this direction are legal. Gaetz’s implication is legally inept: “bribery” is in a different paragraph in the pertinent Florida statute from “anything of value”. Still, nothing wrong with a little criminal investigation just to be sure, and maybe even to expand the power of the government to restrict politically-motivated actions (not!).
     
  16. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Boydstun in 2020 election   
    A difference between paying a bribe and paying a fine is that a bribe is conditioned on the recipient performing an action, and charity is not. If I charitably pay your fine, you are free to thank me or not, to vote or not… The term “bribe” is a specific legal term, though it is metaphorically used to describe giving any incentive. Bribery, which is illegal, requires an offer to a public servant, where the offer is not authrized by law, and the intent is to influence an act in the official discretion of the public servant. None of this describes paying a fine for a felon.

    A more apt description is vote-buying, which is a federal felony under 18 USC 597:

     
    That is why the offer has to be an unconditional act of charity. There’s no question that Bloomberg hopes that convicts will vote as a consequence of his charity, and maybe will vote a specific way, but as it stands, his efforts in this direction are legal. Gaetz’s implication is legally inept: “bribery” is in a different paragraph in the pertinent Florida statute from “anything of value”. Still, nothing wrong with a little criminal investigation just to be sure, and maybe even to expand the power of the government to restrict politically-motivated actions (not!).
     
  17. Thanks
    DavidOdden reacted to Easy Truth in Man's Life as His Moral Standard   
    I think this is the hold up because purpose is a subspecies of standard (in a certain context). Standard and Purpose, both give guidance. (but with Rand the primary difference seems to be that one is abstract, the other concrete)
    The difference between “standard” and “purpose” in this context is as follows: a “standard” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose. “That which is required for the survival of man qua man” is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose—the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being—belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.
    Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.
  18. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Luke77 in My Objectivist Refutation of Anarchism   
    I take it this is a first draft, and you are looking for comments so that you can improve your argument. Here are my suggestions. First, simply asserting a contrary position is not making an argument, it just makes us aware of an alternative position. What more-perceptible facts support your claim over the contrary claim?
    My recommendation is to begin by clearly and accurately stating what the common premises are, and what the essential difference is between the two positions. The argument against anarchism then has to be based on that difference. The essential difference is that Anarchism holds that government is not necessary, in order to maintain a rights-respecting society, Objectivism holds that it is necessary. We know for certain that Objectivism allows and requires use of force by the government to prevent the initiation of force, and to retaliate against the initiation of force. We don’t actually know what Anarchism “says” about self-defense and retaliation, but at least certain strands of libertarian-anarchism such as Tannehill anarchism allow for non-governmental use of force. I have never encountered “roll over and die” anarchism that requires you to lay down and take the beating if someone initiates force against you, but maybe there is such a sub-belief. Since Anarchism is not a coherent philosophy, you are strategically doomed if you try to cover every belief that some person labeling himself as “anarchist” believes in or does. State your premises as to what Anarchism says.
    In Rand’s lecture on Objective law (it’s out there somewhere probably on the ARI website, maybe someone has a link), she states the essential property of objective law as being where every man knows what is forbidden, and what the consequences are for doing the forbidden. Anarchism denies the validity of this principle: what follows from that? A crazy theory is that therefore, nobody knows what’s forbidden, and most right-leaning anarchists deny that, they refer you back to the non-initiation of force principle. The alternative, which those Anarchists do tend to believe, is that man has innate knowledge that allows them to know right from wrong. As for consequences of initiating force, I can’t say that I’ve encountered a systematic Anarchist treatment of the proper consequences of theft, rape, or fraud. Since they deny the validity of objective law, either the consequences are arbitrary, or we have magical innate knowledge that spells out the consequence for violation of rights.
    Here is a practical domain that distinguishes the Anarchist view of protection of rights and the Objectivist view. I wrote a book, the book is my property, I make money from the sales of that book – it’s part of the means of my survival. In an Objectivist world (and the world we live in), my right to the book is codified in objective copyright law. You may not make and sell copies of my book without my permission. If you do, the government will force you to compensate me, and it will punish you in a specific way. What about Anarchism? I can hire an enforcement squad which will not only defend my actual rights w.r.t. the book, it can create new rights based on my “innate knowledge” and reasoning about my “true rights”. For example, I can declare that resale of my book requires payment of royalties to me. The squad can award to me compensation that is much greater than is recognized under law, therefore it could decide that death or at least torture is the propert penalty for copyright infringement. Naturally, the infringer has his own squad, which takes a different view.
    If you deny the validity of objective law, that means there is no control over the use of force. Now go back to the supposedly shared premise, the non-initiation of force principle. There is a direct contradiction, that Anarchism seeks to both not have initiation of force in society, and to say that there is no objective principle that governs the use of force. Although most Anarchists are not pacifists, I believe that roll-over and die is the only principle that is compatible with Anarchism. That is, Anarchism make a different choice for the most fundamental question, Life, versus Death.
  19. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Boydstun in Job Tired   
    I’d suggest starting by laying out what you mean by “better job”. I’ve never had a job that sucked intrinsically, it was always because of something bad about it. If you have an actual list, that may help you decide what job to pursue: maybe being a lion tamer, maybe a chartered accountant. Since you apparently haven’t lost your job, you can take a bit of time to do some long-term thinking. For example, what is your central purpose in life? How does your (current or dream) job relate to that purpose?
  20. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from merjet in The Assault on Expertise   
    I question the assertion that public skepticism about the role of scientific expertise has reached new levels. I grant that Bayer and Journo have some expertise on the beliefs of the masses. So how do we resolve this apparent paradox, w.r.t. my views?  First, questioning an expert opinion is not an assault on expertise, it is a valid demand to see the evidence (as a prelude to evaluating the claim). I really do not have any idea what the evidence is that there has been an increase in skepticism about scientific claims. Are they referring to some opinion surveys asking “Do you believe in science?” or some such question? How do you gauge public opinion if not by randomly sampling the population with well-constructed questions designed to test actual skepticism about the validity of science? Now maybe it is not important whether skepticism has actually reached new levels because the real question should be, who do you trust and why do you trust them, and maybe I should treat their statement as a slip of the tongue and not a hard factual claim, but it is kind of ironic that they make a factual claim without saying why we should believe them.
    I question the premise that the public is even exposed in any objective and significant way to scientific expertise. What form does such exposure take? For example, how many people have read Jayaweera et al. in Environmental research vol. 188 – can I get a show of hands? Or do we only get non-random sound bites from the news media? What exactly are the experts saying, and why should we believe them? The fundamental difference between believing peer-reviewed scientific articles, and believing a doctor or nurse who the news has decided to let express their opinion on a topic, is that scientific articles have been slowly vetted by sets of experts in the relevant area, whereas media medical experts are of unknown credibility, picked on an unknown basis by an unknown person, and their sound bites on the news are not vetted by scientific experts. Journal articles have been submitted to the Peikoff certainty test – the search for credible alternatives. Moreover, scientific articles present the facts and then the conclusions – in that order. News-science is remarkable in how it completely detaches conclusions from evidence. At most you will find a restatement of the claim that “We find that X is effective”, or “This was the subject of a big test”. Details please?
    Covid is an interesting case from the perspective of public science education, and I cannot say that I am impressed at how the experts convey their knowledge to the public. I think the main reason is that unlike physical sciences, cause-effect relations in medicine are slippery. The equation “You {smoke/get covid}, you die!” is an exaggeration. Fauci has done an okay job in not overstating the degree of certainty that can be assigned to covid conclusions. But you don’t hear any of the reasons why medical experts are not absolutely certain. You don’t hear any discussion of the methodology of reaching scientific conclusions. And this is a bad thing, IMO. So when one of those statistical report charts in the newspaper shows a massive 1-day spike or drop in cases, or when the nightly news reports sensationalist statistics like “the highest number of cases in a single day”, The Public is bound to get a warped perspective on the importance of such factoids, mostly because they don’t know anything about statistics, sampling, and categorization (how exactly do you determine that something is a covid death?).
    There is a vicious circle problem here, that most people are not intellectually equipped to handle the technical details, and in the overwhelming majority of cases when dealing with an expert, people fall back on the executive summary – just tell me what to do. The news is not going to waste time explaining how we know what we know, they are just going to report what the experts say – but they are not trying to get a balanced cross-section of experts with competing conclusions. Therefore, the experts are not going to waste their 30 second explaining how science is done, and they are definitely not going to touch the third rail of uncertainty.
    However, I do suspect that there has been a slow but steady increase in something related to public skepticism about the role of scientific expertise: an increase in the embrace of nihilism.
  21. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from EC in Observations on Politics   
    You have to distinguish “leader” from other related political concepts such as “ruler”, “elected official”, “politician”, “dictator”, “influencer”, “follower” and so on. People usually equivocate over who our leaders are for this reason. Emmanuel Kant, the scum of the Earth in philosophy, was one of three great leaders in that domain. The plain meaning of “leader” is once who gets people to follow him. There are many ways that a person can get others to follow them, for example they can threaten your life if you don’t follow (using force), or they can appeal to your emotions (following by free will but irrationally so), or they can appeal to reason. Reason is the good, force and faith are the bad. A force-based leader doesn’t have any necessary relation to issues. A faith-based leader needs to grasp “the issues” well enough to manipulate his victims. Only a reason-based leader needs objective knowledge – and a rational philosophy – to accomplish his ends (which by the way is not “leading”).
    The perfect leader is right here, the guy with two thumbs. But I’m not interested in holding political office. Xi Jinping forces many people to follow: he is effective. In other words, it depends on what you mean by “good”.
  22. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from AlexL in Observations on Politics   
    You have to distinguish “leader” from other related political concepts such as “ruler”, “elected official”, “politician”, “dictator”, “influencer”, “follower” and so on. People usually equivocate over who our leaders are for this reason. Emmanuel Kant, the scum of the Earth in philosophy, was one of three great leaders in that domain. The plain meaning of “leader” is once who gets people to follow him. There are many ways that a person can get others to follow them, for example they can threaten your life if you don’t follow (using force), or they can appeal to your emotions (following by free will but irrationally so), or they can appeal to reason. Reason is the good, force and faith are the bad. A force-based leader doesn’t have any necessary relation to issues. A faith-based leader needs to grasp “the issues” well enough to manipulate his victims. Only a reason-based leader needs objective knowledge – and a rational philosophy – to accomplish his ends (which by the way is not “leading”).
    The perfect leader is right here, the guy with two thumbs. But I’m not interested in holding political office. Xi Jinping forces many people to follow: he is effective. In other words, it depends on what you mean by “good”.
  23. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in Biden is our only hope, says Yaron Brook   
    I meant what I said. In the examples that I gave, his orders clearly violated well-established law, though perhaps you are not happy about with the law on these points. Your response is mostly part directed at a different question, namely whether it is reasonable to ignore the law. Given that the purpose of a president in our republican form of government is to implement the law, Trump is dysfunctional. This is a basic divide within the population of those calling themselves Objectivists: some consider law to be optional, others consider it to be fundamental to living in a civilized society. There’s a really simple explanation for lots of Trump’s behavior: he sees himself as being above the law; the law impedes him getting what he things we need.
  24. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in Biden is our only hope, says Yaron Brook   
    I meant what I said. In the examples that I gave, his orders clearly violated well-established law, though perhaps you are not happy about with the law on these points. Your response is mostly part directed at a different question, namely whether it is reasonable to ignore the law. Given that the purpose of a president in our republican form of government is to implement the law, Trump is dysfunctional. This is a basic divide within the population of those calling themselves Objectivists: some consider law to be optional, others consider it to be fundamental to living in a civilized society. There’s a really simple explanation for lots of Trump’s behavior: he sees himself as being above the law; the law impedes him getting what he things we need.
  25. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from StrictlyLogical in Biden is our only hope, says Yaron Brook   
    I am not assuming that Trump has any principled foundation whatsoever. He's not a capitalist or a socialist, he's a random behavior generator. He's an unprincipled statistical machine that tries something, sees if it works, then tries something else. I don't assume that he will veto the left's press for socialism on principled grounds. I do assume that the alternative candidate tends to support socialist legislation. So the difference could come down to a slightly higher chance of veto with Trump as POTUS.
    The primary threat, IMO, comes not from what Biden will do, but what his successor will do when the Presidential Succession Act is triggered and ?Kamala Harris is the next president.
     
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