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DavidOdden

New Intellectual
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  1. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in Government response to Covid is the best case against altruism.   
    It may be that the political rhetoric in Austria is more overtly based on the appeal “we must sacrifice ourselves for that group”, but that is not the rhetoric used in the US. Appeal to “the greatest common good” underlies the government’s response, but “sacrifice” in US political rhetoric refers to “something necessary for an end, but not an immediately desirable end itself”. When soldiers, police and firemen die in the line of duty, or doctors work long hours at personal risk to save lives, it is termed a “sacrifice”, because the immediate outcome is certainly not desirable (taking a risk, working long hours), but the end towards which these people are working is certainly a value. Instead, the covid-related government actions have been justified as being necessary: although “justified” is really a strong term, since the myriad executive declarations simply assert “it is necessary, and I have the power”.
    It is crucial for the covid-facists that issues of scientific fact be kept out of the discussion. Ignorance has been politically weaponized to a stunning level, instead we must trust our elected executive official (unless he’s a Republican), who we assume has sound scientific and economic reasons to believe that these actions are necessary and sufficient for reaching that end. The public perception of “what is necessary” with the further provision that it should be sufficient is totally divorced from science. The science of the problem is, very simply, we don’t know, there are a lot of plausible stories that can be told. It is also vital that we not delve deeply into the question of what that end is – it changes frequently. For a while it was “flattening the curve”. Now it is “masks stop covid”. If you closely watch the media, you can detect the next wave of restrictions, which will result in greater rigidity about the kind of masks and how they are worn. (This is a concern for me because I can’t breathe, and businesses are now prohibited from serving unmasked customers).
    My response to covid-facists is to criticize them for hypocrisy. They demand that I must sacrifice myself for their personal benefit – they are being selfish (we know that is not so, but we’re dealing with rhetorical contradictions). They have no right to restrict my life so that they can continue to enjoy theirs. This is an easy argument to make, because when you ask “Why do you support such-and-such governmental restriction”, 99 times out of 100 it reduces to the emotional assertion “I don’t want X” – I don’t care what you want, what about what I want? Or when the assertion is collectivist “We don’t want X”, I point out that there has been no determination of what “we” want.
  2. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from MisterSwig in Do You Think It Would Be More Helpful If BLM Worked to Intellectually Combat White Supremacist Ideas?   
    Returning to the initial question, I’m going to say “No, it would not be helpful”. It would be helpful to clearly articulate a real problem which in principle could be solved, but that has nothing to do with BLM. The problem is not that Richard Spencer has his ideas, and the propagation of his ideas cause some other problem.  The problem that BLM is addressing is the “rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state” (their words). As they say, “Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities”. Given these fundamentals as a raison d’être, there is no reasonable connection between their purpose, and intellectual engagement over wingnut ideas about race. You do not need to inform Blacks that Spencer is intellectually wrong: that is experientially self-evident. BLM is at its core an anti-intellectual “progressive” ideological movement, which has become the quasi-official spokesperson controlling discussion of a broader issue. Their success as a movement is, very simply, that they connected emotional reactions to poorly-understood problems in race relations in the US with an ideology that most people don’t bother to analyze, using a slogan as the glue.
  3. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from MisterSwig in Seeking advice: Friends with opposing political and philosophical values   
    I prefer not to associate with people who don’t agree with me. I am willing to do so when those people have some superior value for me. I prefer to not deal with any form of irrational behavior, but I don’t live by myself in an isolated cabin in the woods. What value system tells you how much time you have for friends (as opposed to anything else), and what specific value do you apply in sorting your acquaintances into a friend / non-friend grouping. E.g. is it “any form of irrationality”, “violent communism”, “communism”, “violent”? And why would it be rational to shun a person who you know has irrational beliefs. Is it something completely different, namely the “in-your-face” nature of SJW’s.
  4. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from StrictlyLogical in Seeking advice: Friends with opposing political and philosophical values   
    Given your description of the milieu, we are probably neighbors. There was one guy who I agreed with on numerous political topics so we were friends, but he felt that he had to bolt and left the state (politics and real-estate cash-in). 99% of the time, I avoid political talk with friends, unless I can steer the conversation to an area that can be rationally discussed, which is a matter that is as much about their level of ideological commitment to emotion as a tool of cognition as it is about the topic of conversation. Maybe I have a better quality of friends (they probably think so), but I don’t know any irrational ideological extremists (there are plenty of them in the area, I just don’t interact with them). I am on occasion faced with a provocative statement from a friend, which presents me with one of three main choices. One is to engage the friend with a counter-question or statement aimed at identifying an underlying premise that I know is wrong. An example might be anything of the form “We don’t want X”, which frames moral and political questions as the codification of personal emotion. The response might be, “I disagree, I do want X”. A semi-rational person would then pause and examine the reasons for this feeling, and might only respond “But it’s not right”, which leads to the obvious follow-up “Why isn’t it right?”, or maybe “The opposite of X is what’s right, don’t you agree?”. Obviously, you have to decide at what point you’re threatening the relationship. In a few cases, I have essentially had to post no-trespassing signs by saying that I don’t see sufficient common ground for civil discussion of the topic.


    My solution is that friendships are not entirely based on shared political values, and you should not get enraged at disagreement over politics any more than you should get enraged about religion or music.
  5. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from StrictlyLogical in Do You Think It Would Be More Helpful If BLM Worked to Intellectually Combat White Supremacist Ideas?   
    Returning to the initial question, I’m going to say “No, it would not be helpful”. It would be helpful to clearly articulate a real problem which in principle could be solved, but that has nothing to do with BLM. The problem is not that Richard Spencer has his ideas, and the propagation of his ideas cause some other problem.  The problem that BLM is addressing is the “rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state” (their words). As they say, “Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities”. Given these fundamentals as a raison d’être, there is no reasonable connection between their purpose, and intellectual engagement over wingnut ideas about race. You do not need to inform Blacks that Spencer is intellectually wrong: that is experientially self-evident. BLM is at its core an anti-intellectual “progressive” ideological movement, which has become the quasi-official spokesperson controlling discussion of a broader issue. Their success as a movement is, very simply, that they connected emotional reactions to poorly-understood problems in race relations in the US with an ideology that most people don’t bother to analyze, using a slogan as the glue.
  6. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in Do You Think It Would Be More Helpful If BLM Worked to Intellectually Combat White Supremacist Ideas?   
    Returning to the initial question, I’m going to say “No, it would not be helpful”. It would be helpful to clearly articulate a real problem which in principle could be solved, but that has nothing to do with BLM. The problem is not that Richard Spencer has his ideas, and the propagation of his ideas cause some other problem.  The problem that BLM is addressing is the “rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state” (their words). As they say, “Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities”. Given these fundamentals as a raison d’être, there is no reasonable connection between their purpose, and intellectual engagement over wingnut ideas about race. You do not need to inform Blacks that Spencer is intellectually wrong: that is experientially self-evident. BLM is at its core an anti-intellectual “progressive” ideological movement, which has become the quasi-official spokesperson controlling discussion of a broader issue. Their success as a movement is, very simply, that they connected emotional reactions to poorly-understood problems in race relations in the US with an ideology that most people don’t bother to analyze, using a slogan as the glue.
  7. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from 2046 in Did this “price gouger” do anything wrong?   
    @LER, I think you are missing the contextual nature of moral evaluation. If I have a choice between buying 5x toilet paper and having no toilet paper at all (returning to the sponge on a stick days), I will spend 5x on toilet paper. The proper question is not whether the law of supply and demand is overridden by some theory of non-governmental price controls, the question is why my supply (of money) is and what my demand (for TP) is, and how that relates to supply and demand of other people (stores and online sellers). Where the supply is very low and the demand is high, you expect the price to go up. If you actually have TP in your store, that changes the supply equation for you, so of course you would not spend 5x on online TP, you would only spend 1.5x to buy it at the store. The reality is that the shelves are still bare (ymmv).
    Your analysis of the situation is wrong, when you imply that the online seller is the creator of the shortage. This implies that there is some constant natural force which provides our needs without any effort on our parts, which the “speculator” has unnaturally interfered with. If you want to assign blame, you can blame the store for not getting more TP, or the manufacturers for not making more TP, or your neighbor for buying TP (whether it is in ordinary amounts or in horder amounts). It is morally inconceivable that blame should be assigned to a person simply because they recognized an opportunity to make a buck. This goes for TP as well as eclipse glasses. Temporary shortages exist all the time, and in a free market are generally solved when the producers increase production. That TP on the shelf is the property of the store owner. It becomes the property of the bulk-buyer when he puts it in his cart and pays for it. That TP is not your, until you actually buy it. It’s a risky business, reselling.
    There is no such a thing as a moral economy that predates modern capitalism: “moral economy” is the same as and came into existence as modern capitalism.
  8. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in C & C: Coronavirus #4   
    At the very beginning of the outbreak in the US, the death rate in Washington was very high, I believe around 20%. It is now substantially lower. The explanation is that the disease spread first through a specific elder care facility. There was a very strong correlation between “might be tested” and “was a patient at that facility”. This is a reminder that there are lots of unreported variables – facts about being tested, testing positive, and dying are not randomly distributed in the population. If you believe the statistics (my message is, don’t!), Italians recover better than Americans – US recovery rate is 2.5% and Italy’s is 12%. I suspect that it’s not that around 90,000 Americans still have the disease, instead there is a difference in reporting. The highest rates of infection are in Andorra, San Marino, Iceland and Luxembourg: basically, cities elevated to the status of country. The really low incidence of the disease in Africa is explained by the fact that people don’t move around much there. The one case where I think we can reasonably attribute something political to the number of cases is Iran, compared with Afghanistan and Turkey. I think they see this as an opportunity to get sanctions lifted.
  9. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Boydstun in Do Objectivists truly believe Objectivism will ever be more than a philosophy of the few?   
    We have two questions here: whether we believe people will ever behave like Objectivists on a mass scale, and whether it will ever be more than a philosophy of the few. The second question is easier to either answer or dismiss, since it’s unclear what you mean by this. There are a few people, such as Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff, who have a profound understanding of the philosophy. I do not believe that it will ever come to pass that the majority of the adult population in some society will have that level of understanding and acceptance of Objectivism. Or even 10%: I do not believe that more than 10% of the population will ever have a deep intellectual understanding of any philosophy. I allow that it could be true in a strange circumstance, where a ship full of Objectivists travel to uninhabited planet (asteroid) Galt’s World. Since there’s no mechanism for voting to determine “what Objectivists believe” especially w.r.t. such a specific and non-essential question, all I can do is apply Objectivist principles to the question and conclude that you should not believe that under normal circumstances, all humans will become advanced philosophers (of any kind). Even after they have invented robots to do all the plowing, laundry, and programming.
    It’s much more plausible that people will act like Objectivists on a mass scale, where “mass” is counted as at least 20% of the adult population. The problem is knowing whether that has happened. It’s easy to detect the signs that a person isn’t acting like an Objectivist, e.g. when they lie, cheat, steal, and vote for expanding the welfare state. Self-sacrificial ethics may in some cases be obvious, but I think it is actually difficult in most cases to tell whether a person is acting in a certain way because they feel it is their duty to subordinate their lives to others, versus whether they are acting benevolently and in a rationally self-interested way. But still, the question is whether it is reasonable to think that we will ever achieve that level of rationality in some society. I don’t expect that to happen in my lifetime, or my grandchild’s lifetime. Or in a millennium.
    However, Objectivism is not a political philosophy, it is an integrated philosophical system. Before asking your question, I suggest looking deeper into the question of what aspects of the philosophy relate to political predictions and actions. The hardest thing for people to “get” is that one should chose one’s actions based on a moral code that puts your living as your central purpose. I would then divide that into the more intellectual art of understanding the nature of reason, and the more emotional / psychological art of acting as you know you should. Objectivism does not say that either of these things can be accomplished trivially. Objectivism does not say how you cause yourself to understand what “reason” is, it just says what reason is. If Objectivism were wrong about what reason is, then indeed Objectivism would have “failed”: but it’s not wrong, and it hasn’t failed on that front. Objectivism doesn’t exactly have a philosophical principle that explains why people follow emotion rather than reason, though it does tell you that it has something to do with treating emotion as a source of knowledge.
    My own analysis, not a doctrine of Objectivism, is that people make a fundamental choice very early in life, regarding how they relate to society. Basically, you learn what you should do by analogy to what others do. If everybody says that recycling is good and you should recycle, then you don’t need to think about it, you just recycle. If everybody argues by saying “You wouldn’t want X” (pollution, death, slavery, unregulated economic exchange…), you can go with the crowd and impute to others your emotional reactions to facts, and tell people to trust my emotions.
  10. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Harrison Danneskjold in Life as a pattern   
    The relationship between brain or DNA and “pattern” is not “is a”. A brain is an organ composed primarily of neurons and secondarily of glial cells, and it has the potential to do certain things, at least when attached to a living being. DNA is a molecule with a particular structure, just as sucrose is a molecule with a particular structure. DNA likewise has the potential to do certain things, and that potential is less tied to the organism being alive.
    In comparing your definitions to Rand’s, I notice that Rand’s are very focused and minimalist: they concisely say what the essential characteristics of “life” are. Your definitions say much more, which is a disadvantage. The purpose of a definition is to reduce the difference between two sets of referents to be distinguished, and befitting its cognitive function, it should be a minimal statement of what makes life distinct from anything else. A definition is not a catalogue of all or most knowledge about an existent.
    You expand Rand’s definition of life to include having “the ultimate purpose of flourishment”. Why should this be part of the definition? What, indeed, is flourishment? What necessitates this complication of the definition of life? We can still reach conclusions about rational goals and flurishing even if we don’t complicate the definition of life – see various works of Tara Smith on the topic, who adheres to the classical definition of life.
  11. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in Life as a pattern   
    The relationship between brain or DNA and “pattern” is not “is a”. A brain is an organ composed primarily of neurons and secondarily of glial cells, and it has the potential to do certain things, at least when attached to a living being. DNA is a molecule with a particular structure, just as sucrose is a molecule with a particular structure. DNA likewise has the potential to do certain things, and that potential is less tied to the organism being alive.
    In comparing your definitions to Rand’s, I notice that Rand’s are very focused and minimalist: they concisely say what the essential characteristics of “life” are. Your definitions say much more, which is a disadvantage. The purpose of a definition is to reduce the difference between two sets of referents to be distinguished, and befitting its cognitive function, it should be a minimal statement of what makes life distinct from anything else. A definition is not a catalogue of all or most knowledge about an existent.
    You expand Rand’s definition of life to include having “the ultimate purpose of flourishment”. Why should this be part of the definition? What, indeed, is flourishment? What necessitates this complication of the definition of life? We can still reach conclusions about rational goals and flurishing even if we don’t complicate the definition of life – see various works of Tara Smith on the topic, who adheres to the classical definition of life.
  12. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in Private roads   
    I would start by focusing on this part of what he said: "This shows". What shows? If the question is "Why should we have private roads", the answer is "Individual rights". If the question is "How can you defend the notion of private roads in light of the well-known disasterous Crapleby Roads Ltd. system of roads in Durham County between 1957 and 1961", then your answer would be very different. (I made the example up, if it's not obvious). The primary argument is the moral argument, and it is up to your opponent to prove that private ownership of roads is impractical in order to tarnish the moral argument. You can't do that until you actually have that supposed proof, and I'm suggesting that you should not act as though it's well-known that there is a problem needing to be addressed by capitalism.
    Suppose for instance that your opponent had granted the moral principle of individual rights and then claims that individual rights must give way to The Needs of Society; the response is that individual rights are a need of society, and that violating human rights does not in any way better satisfy the Needs of Society. When they respond by saying "But poor people would not be able to afford the roads, and only rich people would be allowed to leave their homes", then you can ask for their evidence to support that outlandish conclusion.

    Just in general, I think it's best to put the burden of proof on you opponent.
  13. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Akilah in Of The "Best" Language.   
    The question of “best language” has plagued (pestered) linguists for decades, the question being a plague because there are so many different purposes that could be used as the standard for evaluating. Admirably, you specify a particular function – converting concepts into concretes (not e.g. “physical efficiency”, “popularity” and so on). I think it would be advisable to say what it means to evaluate a language as a means of concretizing concepts. However, I have to disagree with Rand’s statement that the function of language is expressing concepts: it is expressing concepts and propositions. We don’t just utter words – “horse”, “eat” – we utter propositions – “I need to borrow your horse so I can get something to eat at the store”. What would it mean for a language to be good for this purpose, or bad?
    If it were completely impossible in some language to express certain propositions (including contradictions), that would be a “bad language”. But every human language has that capacity. Differences between languages are not in terms of what can be somehow expressed, but in terms of computational efficiency. As an example, in North Saami, there is a word gabba which in a single word refers to “an all-white reindeer”. That language has a concept that is lacking in English: we can express the same thing, but it requires a more complex propositional arrangement (not just white, not entirely white; that color is then attributed to “reindeer”). So where Saami has more vocabulary in a certain domain, we can call on the resources of language rules (and can express “all-white pig; all-white house; all-white horse” and so on in an analogous fashion, where Saami does not have specific words for these other all-white things). Of course they can use the same rule-based mechanism as we do for expressing thoughts about all-white horses; they just have some additional concepts, befitting their particular circumstances.
    Languages do differ substantially in their systems of rules in a way that might seem to relate to “goodness”. In some languages, the rules for putting words together are very transparent, general and simple (Turkish is usually the example brought out to illustrate that point), and in other languages, the rules are very complex and item-specific – English is on that end of the spectrum of complexity. For example, you know what “up” means, but it doesn’t mean that in collocations like “look up”, “take up”, “mess up”, “give up”.
    While English is more chaotic in this respect, we still can convey all possible concepts and propositions using the resources of English. It’s just that we have to call on a larger set of more specific rules to do that. There is no real cognitive downside to having more rules that are more specific compared to some other language, as long as there are, in fact, rules in the language. If every proposition required its own rules, that would be a bad language, because you can express an unlimited number of propositions, but you can’t learn an unlimited set of rules.
    Back to my question: what does it mean for a language to be good or bad for the purpose of expressing propositions?
  14. Like
    DavidOdden reacted to Doug Morris in What is the Objectivist explanation of how we know modus ponens?   
    For a thorough answer here we need to begin by explaining how we form the concepts "if" and "then".
  15. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from JASKN in Studying at university and intellectual property   
    In my opinion, the problem of living a rational existence in an irrational social context is the most challenging ethical problem that an Objectivist will face. There is no question that you should not steal another person’s property. Should you receive stolen property? Is it okay if you associate with a thug who breaks into houses and distributes stolen goods to you, if you yourself don’t go into the house? Are you morally cleansed if you denounce (but still accept) the proceeds of such theft? Clearly not. And suppose you really need that stolen stuff to survive (for example, you have no job skills and there are no unskilled job opening in the town), does that make it okay to accept stolen goods? I gave you two options here: gain job skills, or move elsewhere. There is always a choice, and you should always frame your decisions in terms of alternative actions and their consequences.
    One option would be for you to refuse to do the assignment, which b.t.w. would be the worst choice given the alternatives. Assuming that you need a copy of the blueprint to do the assignment, why would you not instead acquire a legal copy? Possible answer: it costs money. Say it costs $1, is that an impossible burden for you to bear? Or $1,000 (and any point in between)? This is a way of quantifying your ethical values. Why should you be concerned with the losses suffered by another, when you are not directly the thief: isn’t that just self-sacrifice? What harm are you doing yourself by silently accepting stolen goods. Again, what else could you do? Privately compensate the rights-holder?
    Incidentally, I don’t entirely accept your claim that the material is being illegally distributed, though for rhetorical purposes here I do. How do you know that the material is being illegally distributed? Is this based on the instructor’s confession? I’m just saying, check your assumptions.
  16. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Julian Sanchez in Studying at university and intellectual property   
    In that case, apart from reporting it to the copyright holder, I would also report it to the university authorities. Every university that I know of aggressively swats instructors who violate copyright law, because otherwise the institution also becomes liable for an infringement suit, and such a suit is much more likely compared to a case against an infringing instructor (deeper pockets).
  17. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from SpookyKitty in Using geometry to fight gerrymandering   
    Under the Objectivist epistmology, it is a problem to propose a ‘definition’ for an anti-concept. But furthermore, this definition needs some correcting. First, the words is actually used without regard to which political level the redistricting applies to – it could be county, state or federal levels of government. Second, this isn’t a definition of gerrymandering, it is an empirical claim about a result of gerrymandering plus some other political facts. If the Republicans (qua majority party) were to redraw voting districts so that Democrats would most likely become the majority party, that too would in fact be gerrymandering, though it doesn’t satisfy the profferred definition of the word.
    I propose that gerrymandering should be simply defined as any redistricting action that serves a political goal other than equal apportionment. If a state has 100 districts and a population of 7,405,743 citizens, then each district shall contain 74,057 citizens (there shall be rounding to accommodate the fact that districts are based on physical residences which can contain various numbers of people, and you can’t have 43% of a person assigned to each district). Any non-random assignment of geographical areas to districts is thus gerrymandering. This covers choices that favor one party over another; it also covers choices intended to increase or decrease the percentage of voters in a district of a certain race, religion, age, occupation, etc.
    A computationally-heavy geometry-based approach could be used to choose between SN’s three graphs (but there might also just be three solutions, one of which is selected at random. Because of the population-remainder problem, it is virtually guaranteed that some districts will have 1 more citizen that others. Because (by assumption, open for discussion) the content of a district is a collection of physical addresses and an address can (usually does) contain more than 1 person, addresses need to be included in / excluded from a district in such a way to minimize differences in populations.
    However, this does presuppose the principle of geographical representation, largely because it is constitutionally mandated.
     
     
  18. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from AlexL in lets build a Case for deflationary Money supply   
    What do you mean by “money supply”, and what does building a case for it entail? What is the relationship between having a deflationary money supply and building a case for one. From the perspective of agricultural production, having appropriately timed rains in appropriate amounts is a good thing. Should we then build a case for appropriate rainfall, and how do we assure it? I propose that instead we should build a case for a particular form of government, which might have a certain economic consequence. That model of government does not see manipulating the economy as its primary purpose. For instance, it would not be good to confiscate money in order to increase the ratio of goods over money, as a way of incresing deflation.
  19. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from nakulanb in Roads   
    That's one way to look at it. Or, people pay for roads involuntarily, thruogh the government.It's totally sweet to be able to walk into a grocery store and take all the food you want without having to pay; to fly anywhere in the world without paying; to just walk into a doctor's occice and say "Treat me!" without paying; I just love going to the hardware store and picking up a load of 2-by-4's without having to go through a checkout lane.Privately and voluntarily. You may provide free access, if you wish, assuming you own a road. Try using the search function, to see more specific proposals regarding roads. GC has posts on the topic, for example.
  20. Thanks
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in "How do I know I'm not in the matrix?"   
    It may be useful to look at some more arbitrary statements which might actually be true: “Easy Truth has red hair”; “StrictlyLogical is 6 ft. tall”, “Invictus2017 owns a Ford Explorer”. Each of these statements does, on linguistic grounds, either describe a fact, or else it describes a non-fact – they are objectively true or false. But I personally have no basis in knowledge for making those statements, and they do not contitute the recognition of a fact of reality. They differ from Peikoff’s parrot or sand message examples where there is no proposition (the thing you see or hear merely physically resembles what could be speech or writing in another context). His savage math example needs to be modified since it is unclear what his point is, so I’ll rewrite that as an illiterate and innumerate person uttering the sentence “the fourth power of 3 is 81” (you can say this based on experience, without understanding what it means, since in English, you can put words like “second, fourth” before “power” and follow that with another number). This statement too is arbitrary, and in that context it is like the parrot utterance in that the person utters the word “power” without grasping what that term refers to. In fact, I would not even call the sand / parrot / savage math examples “statements”.

    So compare my examples to Peikoff’s “soul survives”, “fate determined by date of birth”, “sixth sense” and “convention of gremlins”. In those examples, the arbitrariness of the statement largely depends on the fact that the statements presuppose the existence of entities for which there is no evidence. In my examples, all of the concepts involved do unquestionably exist: I just made up relations between actual existents, without any factual basis for claiming those relationships. Arbitrary statements are not necessarily utterly devoid of relationship to reality, because they can refer to actual existents and invoke no mythical entities.

    In How we know, Binswanger has an extended analysis of “arbitrary”, which you may find clarifies the nature of the arbitrary.



    "Global warming" (which is nowadays not even a statement, it's just a noun phrase assumed to represent some statement), is an example of the arbitrary: it is asserted as self-evident, needing no evidence.
  21. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in Correcting the nonaggression "principle"   
    Permission is not required for a person to leave premises, not under an Objectivist view of rights or indeed anywhere in the world. It may be impolite to just walk out on a host, but that is a matter of civility and does not get entangled with issues of rights. Permission is required to enter, and once granted it can be withdrawn. This stems from the fact that the property owner has a right to his property, meaning he can do what he wants to with it: you need my permission to use my property. The owner controls the property, not the people on it, so permission cannot be required to depart.
    I don’t know what you mean by owning the information that you have, but under a fairly literal interpretation of the expression, this is simply false that societies may decide that you initially “own” all the information you have. If I know (am in possession of the information) that gas is $3.18 at the Quickymart, I do not have the exclusive and enforcible right to know that fact: the mind of others cannot be forced. Intellectual property laws do grant a person the exclusive right to certain intangible things that can be classified as a kind of information. It may be that some dictatorships will use force to get a person to divulge information, but this is not a matter of “owning information”, it is simply a reflection of the fact that dictatorships are not concerned with the concept of rights.
    It appears that you’re trying to resolve the matter of subpoenas by reference to “permission”, “contract” and “ownership of information”, and I think that is a serious mistake. First, information cannot be owned. Second, contracts are voluntary agreements, and force negates all contractual concepts: a subpoena is an in involuntary requirements imposed by force, and thus is entirely outside the domain of concepts of permission and contract. There is no contract or other agreement involved when you live in the US, or any other country. The concept of privacy is fundamentally about property (see A. Peikoff The right to privacy), and contracts become relevant only to the extent that once may negotiate away some of one’s “right to privacy” by contractually relinquishing some control over your property. Subpoenas do not involve contracts, so the concept of privacy is irrelevant to an analysis of the subpoena issue.
    In an Objectivist country, you will probably voluntarily pay for legal protection, but that is not a requirement; there is no agreement involved when it comes to the protection of your rights by the government. You do not enter into a contract with the government: that is the anarcho-capitalist view, that there would be no real governments, there would be competing vigilante squads that you would choose between to enforce your particular view of your “rights”. In the Objectivist view, you may lose your right to invoke the concept “rights” (and thus the claim to protection) if you have been living like a predatory animal, denying the concept of rights to others. Failing to comply with a subpoena is not a violation of anyone’s rights, and it is consistent with your right to act freely as long as you respect the rights of others.
  22. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from 2046 in Correcting the nonaggression "principle"   
    This thread has covered a lot of ground, which unfortunately makes it a bit incoherent. I suggest focusing on a specific issue of substance that is repeatedly raised, having to do with the government’s use of force to enforce proper law. I would set aside questions about social contracts, fraud, breach of contract, the nature of force and its relationship to consent, and inalienability of rights; I would also set aside the titular question of NAP qua primary principle in Objectivism (there is no denying that it is the fundamental principle of libertarianism). The issue requiring focus is this paraphrase of what Rand has said: “force in society may only be used in response to the initiation of physical force and only against the person who initiates the force”. Some version of this is said in nearly a dozen points in Rand’s writing, for example “Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use” (The Objectivist Ethics). She is consistent in saying “against those”. The question is, what are the practical consequences of this principle?
    In connection with a crime involving the police and courts, there are at least 8 ways in which force is actually used in response to the initiation of force. Assume that the act is a theft, and the police are not witnesses to the act.
    Questioning: The police may stop and detain a person because they have a reasonable suspicion that he committed a crime. Arrest: The police may take a person into custody because they have evidence that he probably he committed a crime. Appearance: A person will be required to appear in court, and be identified as the criminal actor. Search: A person’s property may be searched and seized, and used as evidence pertaining to whether he committed the crime. Testimony: A person may be compelled to appear in court and testify as to relevant knowledge. Truth: A person who testifies will be forced to tell the truth (perjury is a crime, punishable by imprisonment). Jury service: A person (not the accused: having no relationship to the case) will be compelled to serve on a panel of jurors who decide facts and determine guilt. Courtroom conduct: A person who testifies or argues on either side of the question will be compelled to follow the lawful instructions of the judge.

    The issue, as I see it, is whether any of these 8 forms of force would be prohibited under the principles of Objectivism. If all of these forms of force were prohibited, protection of rights by the government (thus, man’s survival qua man) would not be possible, and since Objectivism is all about man’s survival, there would be something amiss. The main lacuna that needs to be filled is the epistemological one. Although proper force is to be limited to those who initiate it, it is not self-evident who those people are. Some force must be available to the government prior to the lawful determination of guilt.  An arrest is predicated on the belief that a person has initiated force, but that belief may be mistaken. Moral responsibility for such uses of force rests with the person who did in fact initiate force. A system of objective law would allow use of force when, in a certain context, there is reason to believe that a person has initiated force. The nature of that reason relates to the legally allowed level of force. When there is just a reasonable suspicion, a limited degree of force is proper; when it is probable that the person committed the act, more force is proper; proof of the act results in the highest degree of force allowed under the law (the actual punishment). The possibility of error in the use of force does not mean that government cannot be allowed to fulfill its function. In short, and in the context of the legal determination of guilt, force is to be used against those whom the evidence indicates have initiated force (this is not limited to the officially indicted). Questioning, arrest, required appearance and search are all actions directed against persons whom we reasonably conclude initiated force: this includes all of the agents who acted to bring about force, including those not prosecuted.
    The use of force in connection with truthful testimony and enforcing courtroom conduct is not necessarily aimed against the rights-violator; it is, however, not improper initiation of force, rather it is a consequence which you accept to, when you appear in court. The one area of possible complication regards compelled testimony.


    As for compulsory jury duty, I see no possibility of reconciling that with Objectivism: see Rand’s position on taxation and the military draft. In discussing how a government based on Objectivist principles would operate, we must assume that some people will be irrational (will refuse to act in their own self-interest), but we cannot assume that most people are irrational – if they were, we’d have the kind of government we have now. Compulsion would not be necessary, and is hardly necessary now.
    This leaves the question of when it is permissible to seize property to be used as evidence, and to compel a person to testify (compelled action). In the case of a person with no culpability for the act, the choice to uphold the virtue of justice must remain the choice of the individual, to be made according to their hierarchy of values. “A right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice”. A man has the right to keep his property even when the government has a deep desire for it and perhaps a very compelling reason to want to take it, even just temporarily.
    It has been claimed above

    that a legal system cannot be objective if it is arbitrarily deprived of information: a person may not refuse to provide information arbitrarily. But contained within that argument, I find two very troubling suppositions. One is the premise that the government may rightly determine what a man’s hierarchy of values should be – if your hierarchy is not “right”, and you place your values above the interests of another, your values will be set aside. Second, the supposedly objective inquisition into a man’s motivations for a choice means that a man must be able to articulately argue for and thus defend his rights against government intrusion, in order to enjoy those rights. An objective legal system, in its procedural aspect, means that the rules which it uses are objectively stated, so that any man can know what is required of him. What that would entail, in evaluating the acceptability of a rationale for not testifying, is that the system must state which values of an individual can override the government’s interest in finding facts, and which values of an individual are found to be unimportant. I presume it is clear why this contradicts the basic political ideas of Objectivism.
  23. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from AlexL in Lewis Little's Theory of Elementary Waves: Book Review   
    There have been comments regarding the propriety of Professor Norsen's strong wording and the fact that he includes not just a judgment of the merits of the theory, but a judgment of the author. I have no position on the scientific merits of either side, but I do have a position on the propriety of passing moral judgment when someone betrays fundamental intellectual principles.

    In a scientific debate one ought to challenge the argument and not just the author; and the argument has been challenged. An author can be chastised but forgiven for not rigorously thinking through their assumptions, evidence and logic, but there are basic standards of intellectual integrity which must be met in scholarly research. Betrayal of those standards demands moral condemnation, especially when such betrayal threatens something of great value, namely the credibility of Objectivism in the academic context. Crackpot ideas aren't just quaint, they -- and their promulgaters -- are deserving of moral condemnation, because at best they depend on evasion, if not deliberate and knowing dishonesty. An author must take responsibility for their words, especially when they are published as a book (the fact that the book was not published by a reputable scientific publishing house does not relieve the author of his responsibilities). The words do not just magically appear on the page, the author must knowingly put them there. The act of putting particular words on the page says something about the author himself.

    In academic scientific writing, it is typically not necessary to express moral outrage at errors in a book since, thanks to the process of peer review, egregious errors have been caught and what remains is the realization that such-and-such assumption may not be well supported, a or particular method of reasoning does not actually produce what it is thought to produce. But we are dealing here with unvetted samizdat, the dissemination of arguments which would not, according to the review, have survived the rigors of critical scrutiny. Read through Professor Norsen's comments again and ask "Does TEW meet at least the minimum standards for publishing in theoretical physics". My understanding of what he is saying is that the book is well below that threshold, that TEW betrays basic intellectual standards.

    That is the context where condemnation of the author along with condemnation of the author's words is warranted.

    Ifat, would you please provide your expert first-hand judgment of altonhare's comments. Alternatively, will you please find someone who is a credible research scientist in theoretical physics to defend his statements here? Because physics is a science which I don't know, I must rely on the judgments of others who know the science. Yes, you must trust that the reviewer is himself credible -- you must judge the judge. Then if the judge is found credible, you should not evade the conclusion that he reaches simply because you yourself did not reach that conclusion. Doing that is the subjective approach to science. I seriously doubt that you refuse to believe any experimental results in neuroscience until you have personally replicated the experiment. Trust is essential to scientific progress, which is why a betrayal of trust is such a serious matter.
  24. Like
    DavidOdden got a reaction from Easy Truth in A theory of "theory"   
    I have a fairly simple problem / question / or need (let my need become a demand on your attention!): what is a theory? From experience, I know a number of specific theories, but I do not know what the proper definition of “theory” is, and what its properties are. My ultimate goal is to say something about a particular scientific theory (to identify flaws stemming from a misunderstanding of what a theory is). To show this, I need to say what the essence of a “theory” is. By analogy, I know what the concept “concept” is. Knowing the nature of a “concept”, I know that “1967 Dodges, black cats and the act of running” –excluding all other things – cannot be a concept, since those things have no similarity.
    I confess that I have a draft of a theory of “theory”, in the more literal scientific or philosophical sense (thus excluding uses where someone says that they “have a theory that X”, when they mean that they “feel that X is so” or they “have an idea that X may be true”). A theory is (defined as) a system of identifications which allow man to grasp the nature of a (conceptualized) subject. It presumes a definition of the subject concept, thus “theory of gravity” presumes a concept “gravity”, which implies a definition of “gravity”. Likewise “theory of mammals” presumes a concept “mammal” (and therefore a definition of “mammal”). A theory of a subject is a set of (highly) probable propositions which state the essential properties of that subject. The underlined parts here are my theory of “theory”.
    I need to clarify a few points. A “property” of a thing is a fact about its composition that determines what it does, which is not the same as “an observation” or “a correlation” true of the thing. For example, Android is the most popular OS for smartphones, but this is not a property of Android. Plutonium is used in reactors and making nuclear weapons, but this is not a property of plutonium. As for “essential”, I first want to disclaim any connection to discussions of essential vs. accidental properties in professional philosophy, which gets bogged down in proper names as opposed to concepts, and “possible worlds”. What I mean is those properties that characterize the subject, and which are not already implied by some other property. For example, being warm blooded is a property of man, but it is not an essential property of man, since man is a mammal (etc.), and “mammal” implies “warm-blooded”. An obvious essential property of man is having the faculty of reason, also having free will. I stop short of requiring that the identifications which constitute a theory have to be proven to the point of certainly; a fairly high standard of proof is necessary, to distinguish a theory from a hypothesis. And finally, an explanation about “subject”: this is basically shorthand for “the existents subsumed by a concept”.
    Here are a couple of corollaries of this meta-theory. Because of the defining nature of “theory” – it is cognitive (it is created for a cognitive purpose) – theories inherit the economy requirements of concepts and their definitions. This derives various Occamite principles such as Aristotle’s “We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses”, and so on. “Grasping the nature of” an existent summarizes the Objectivist epistemology: it is a proper and objective relationship between a consciousness and reality. As a form of knowledge, there must be proper evidence for the claim, and a theory cannot be arbitrarily stipulated.
    I would appreciate any criticism of this meta-theory directed at whether it does correctly describe what a theory is. It is irrelevant to me whether contemporary science teaching sees “theory” as a social construct. It is likewise irrelevant that most explanations of “theory” insist on adding stuff about repeated testing, standardized protocols or “testable”, since these are non-essential consequences of more basic concepts such as “knowledge”, “non-arbitrary”, or “probable” which the concept “theory” depends on. In other words, I’m trying to say what a theory is, and I am not trying to recapitulate what others have said about theories. I had hoped that How We Know would have a pre-packaged answer, but it does not seem to. Of course, alternative theories of theory important, since any claim has to be evaluated against reasonable alternatives.
  25. Like
    DavidOdden reacted to JASKN in Quick Question: What time period was America at it's Best?   
    NOW, obviously. Lifespans are the longest ever, people are more civilized, every single life is a zillion times wealthier, leisure time abounds, knowledge only goes up because all past knowledge is instant and free, ice cream only gets more popular so we have like 500 more choices than ever before, and humanity still has its built-in bullshit meter intact.
    Now, a lot of people just need to realize it's this good not because it always was.
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