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Posts posted by nimble

  1. I'm still curious as to why libertarianism is evil (with a lower case l), it is merely a word loosely associated with those who advocate free-will and its political implications--that is that freedom to act is a requirement of life, and thus all people should be free to act in so far as they don't impede someone else's freedom--because it is a requirement of all human life. Now that is not word for word what an Objectivist would consider the basis of political philosophy, but I don't see it as evil. And now that term is even more mainstream and merely means advocate of small government.

    It think it is like being opposed to atheism because some atheists have bad arguments for not believing in God.

    What am I really missing? Is this merely a practical stance, that some libertarians are nut jobs, therefore its best to stay away from the fanatics with bad logic?

  2. I just wanted to clarify that I am not addressing Nimble, but rather his hypothetical "I." I am calling his prudent predator empty-skulled, not insulting him. I apologize in advance if that was unclear to anyone, especially Nimble.

    Don't worry, I knew what you meant, and thank you for your answers, they have been more helpful than usual in clearing things up for me.


  3. Okay, I have one final question (I hope). I think you convinced me that Objectivism rejects categorical imperatives, but I still believe it is amoralism, and here is why.

    So we have established that morals are purely contextual and are all hypothetical imperatives with the basis of morality being "IF you want to live life as man qua man, then you ought act in your rational self interest as Objectivism defines it" (I use Objectivism just to avoid any conflicts about the actual moral code being used)

    What happens if you don't want to live life as man qua man? Does that give me free reign to act as I please? It may be a long road of self-destruction, but why couldn't I be a prudent predator? I think Nozick asks the question, I am asking. Is everything morally permissible when I opt not to hold life as man qua man as an ultimate end?

    In other moral systems, there is some objective moral code that says stealing is inherently wrong.

    I'm definitely not advocating those systems, but I am merely asking how a system of all hypothetical imperatives actually constitutes as morality in what people commonly mean by it.

  4. To amplify just a bit, remember that definitions are not primaries. What is primary is the existent -- for example, actual men, which can be seen as units (the mental representation of a concrete), and then those units can be integrated into a concept. Once these things are integrated, they have to be "tied together" with a symbolic representation, namely a word. The meaning of the word is the concept that it stands for, and the meaning of the concept is the units that the concept subsumes.

    A definition can be wrong because it in fact does not identify the intended concept or units; as in the mistaken identifcation of man and emu as "man". It is often very difficult to craft a correct verbal definition. For example, it is not essential to the definition of "man" that he have two legs, so in giving a definition, you have to look at the referents and ask, "what is the fundamental characteristic that these units have in common, which distinguishes them from those other units that are not subsumed by the concept?".

    I agree that what matters is identifying the correct concept given the choice of words. I disagree that it's fine to use "wise" to label the concept "not true or false, but has no evidence to support it": it is totally not fine. If, at some point in the future, the language changes so that the association between concepts and words is different, and this new concept of yours (it resembles "arbitrary" but is different) is now assigned to "wise", then fashizzle. The hard time that you're in for makes it be non-fine.

    The real question is, when academic philosophers usurp a word and give it a specific definition, ought we as Objectivists to accept that redefinition? I cannot see a rational basis for doing so.

    Thank you very much...that post cleared up a lot. I was kind of waiting for you to post anyway, aren't you in linguistics?

    Again, I never made the claim that you absolutely should not refine/redefine things. That's anyone's choice, however, if it causes confusion then it is the burden of the refiner to clear it up.

  5. I think the standard definition of possibility is adequate, maybe not for Objectivism's purpose, but I do think that "not inherently contradictory" is a concept that can exist and relate to the world. And that IS the standard definition of possible. I think one can say that X idea is "not inherently contradictory" and have it be a true statement. Thus it holds truth value and works as a concept that can have a word symbolize it in language (eg-the word "possible"). Whether that suffices for Objectivist explanation of epistemology becomes the problem of Objectivism. And I do grant anyone the right to redefine terms as they feel, however when others don't understand what they mean, the burden lies on them to explain what they mean, using some form of language that is commonly accepted. And it might just be entirely more practical to make a new word, but that's a separate issue, and I'd be interested in what Rand thought about making new words. But I can look that up on my own.

    Also, I have a question I understand how a word can be meaningless or self-contradictory, but how can a definition be inadequate? I mean couldn't you theoretically pack more meaning into every word? I could change the definition of the word "hello" to mean "greetings, how are you doing?" since I usually say "hello, how are you?" anyway. And that way I could make the word "hello" more adequate for my usage, but I don't think that would cause anything but confusion. If words are just auditory symbols, so long as the things they represent can relate to reality in some way I don't see how they can be inadequate. Whatever they don't explain can just be explained by another word, or am I mistaken?



  6. I think both of you are missing the point the word itself isn't that important its the concept and whether the word is recognized as matching the concept by others. If i want to use "wise" to label the concept "not true or false, but has no evidence to support it" then thats fine, however if no one recognizes that term as valid, then I'm in for a hard time. Also, I will run into problems with people who think the word "wise" means something entirely different than how I am saying it. So because I am creating a concept that isn't already in the dictionary, I ought create a new word for it.

    However, I do recognize that there are multiple definitions of words, like RationalBiker said...so I suppose it is okay to use possible in two different ways, however I think it is best to put an asterix (spelling?) near it and explain how its different from common usage, when using it.

  7. First let me express my general agreement that if a person intends to use a word in a manner that is not commonly defined, I do think it's best if the define how they are using the word before using it in an argument or discussion. Now, I know that that does not always happen here, but that is because of the nature of this forum, and it is frequently understood (and yes sometimes not) in what context a word it being used. This is an Objectivist forum after all.

    However, it is not wholly accurate to say "every word in the dictionary has a definition" since quite a few words in the dictionary have multiple definitions. I suspect this happened over the course of time as certain words began to be used to mean sometimes different and sometimes similar things. Are there any dictionary definitions that you take issue with because they have multiple definitions? Do you take issue with dictionary definition words in which two different words mean the same thing?

    For the sake of argument, would you oppose the Objectivist use of some word (for example "arbitrary") if it suddenly found it's way into a dictionary and now the word had one more definition (as it already has about 4-5 definitions as is) just as has happened many times in the past? By what process is a new definition accepted and placed into a dictionary? How long does it take a new word to make it into a dictionary? ...into common enough usage to prevent confusion? Would folks have less of a communication issue with Objectivists if Rand or Peikoff used the word "arbitary" as a new word for their use of the word "arbitrary"? (That last four questions can be rhetorical if you like but are also issues affecting clear communications)

    Also, I'm not sure you give a fair characterization (because the don't like the existing defintion) of Rand's or Peikoff's "definition changing". I think the intent (whether you agree or not with the result) was to provide essentialized, objective defintions to certain words.

    Okay, I accept that I wasn't fair in implying (not stating) that Rand changed what she didn't like, because I don't know that---I only suspect it.

    And you are also correct that things do have multiple meanings.

    However, I ask you--do you like how the word "liberal" was stolen and changed over time, to mean it's exact opposite? If you don't then you ought be with in saying that when one wants to make a new definition, they ought use a new word.

  8. First SoftwareNerd, you read correctly, I agreed.

    Second, words need be specific to the concepts they represent. They are auditory symbols for concepts. However, it is also true that words serve zero purpose if you use them in a fashion that others are not familiar with. I could arbitrarily move every word in the dictionary down a spot to represent the next definition in line, that way no words are lost, and no meanings are lost, just words would represent different meanings. The words would still serve as succinct auditory symbols, so they fulfill their first role, but then when I spoke them, no one would have a clue in hell what I meant. And thus they would fail the second role of communication.

    So, if no word previously existed that explained things as "neither true nor false, but has no evidence to support it," then why not create an entirely new word? Leave the old one with its old meaning, and create a new one for your (all you's and your's are in general--not specifically anyone)personal use. That way when the word is uttered, there is no confusion about what it means, instead the person you are talking to will not have a clue what the word means and will ask you, and then you can give him the definition.

    But when you redefine words to something other than the common definition and do not forewarn people before using it in an argument, that is a huge error in argument technique. And I would argue that it is best to stay away from redefinitions.

    Every word in the dictionary has a definition, and if you want to create a concept that isn't already in the dictionary--then you ought create a new word for it, not steal a word who's definition you don't like.

    And obviously I am not accusing you of this, because I doubt you've written any philosophical works that redefine things as you see fit. However, just in general--it is bad habit to have.

  9. While this is off-topic, to think "critically" is to question every aspect of a statement and its author - except its content and its tie to reality.

    I am sure nobody here really means to think "critically" - and that everyone actually means to think logically.

    Ummm...if you read the title of the thread, you will find that the last 3 pages have been off topic, so I wouldn't worry about posting off topic. Haha.

  10. I agree with you SoftwareNerd on what you said, however I think you are overestimating the post-modern movement. In my opinion, it is dead in every academic circle except language arts and anthropology. So I don't know how much of a fundamental threat Rand is. I would argue that for most intellectuals, pursuit of knowledge is a cultural status game, that no one takes that seriously. So I'm not sure that someone who has no experience with Rand would say "oh gosh, her certainty scares me to the point that I don't want to read her."

    But I do accept your stance as legitimate given your skepticism of anyone who went to college and studied philosophy. So, I thank you for your time.


  11. I will refer everyone back to my post, where I argued that academia isn't opposed to her core tenets because honestly, they aren't new in academia. People have been free marketists, materialists, inductive epistemology, and been selfish ethically. So if that's all you knew of Rand and had not read her to learn how she is a variation of those stances, I don't think you would hate her without having read her. Just like people don't hate Aristotle, Neitzche, Hume, Freidman, etc.

    And as for having more Objectivists in academia, I intend to be a prof of either Economics or Political theory, so hopefully I can change that a bit.



  12. Principles are neither means nor ends. Principles are rational identifications about reality and the nature of man, they are facts. They are not ends: the end is man's life. They are not means: they exist independent from anyone's purpose. Unless you classify the wavelength of orange light, the diameter of the electron and pi as "means", principles are not "means". They are aspects of reality.

    The trouble you are having is that all the classifications of academic philosophy, such as the "square holes" you are trying to fit Objectivism into, are based on improper epistemology. For instance: Objectivism seems to be "changing definitions" because they offer no proper definitions at all.

    I think it could be argued that knowledge of wavelengths, or diameters serve as a means to an end. There are reasons why anyone even inquired to know the diameter of an electron. If principles are facts, just like wavelengths and science is the study of facts/nature, then science is also broken up into two categories: applied (means based) and pure (knowledge as an end in itself).

    So I think JL made an error when he asked if principles are means or ends, but wanting to know principles is either a means or an end.

  13. I think you're miscalculating on two fronts:

    1) You're underestimating just how much contempt I have for mainstream academic philosophy (MAP). I do not think it is possible for someone to seriously study and believe that nonsense. It is so bad, so wrong, that I do not think it can be honestly believed. (I do still judge that on a case-by-case basis with the individuals I meet, however; don't get me wrong)

    2) You are incorrectly assigning blame for the flak you receive when mentioning Ayn Rand's name to Objectivists. I'm sorry, but no. There are a few bad eggs on forums and such but no way in the world is the widespread contempt in MAP and academia for Rand based on those individuals. It is clearly based on their philosophic hatred for her ideas, and the philosophic, existential, and psychological threat that those ideas represent to MAP's. The frustration that you have for the dismissive attitudes of MAP's is something you should be directing at them, not us.

    I suppose I did underestimate your contempt for MAP. However I completely disagree with number 2. They don't have contempt for Rand and her ideas (some do, I'll concede that), but Rand is not the most radical person I've ever read. There are complete hedonists who advocate doing anything your whim wants. There are philosophers who argue that agriculture is the cause of all troubles in the world and we should regress back into hunter-gatherer types. There are people who openly support facism, socialism and terrorism and still get more leeway academia than Rand, why? I honestly don't believe it is simply for her ideas. I mean someone who hasn't read Rand might think, that she has Aristotelian/Neitzchian mixed ethics, Lockean political theory, inductive epistemology, and materialist metaphysics....all of which are not scary ideas that one hates without even having read her. People do read Aristotle, Neitzche, Locke, Hume, and any materialist you can name without hatred, yet they have contempt for Rand.

    I don't mean to blame Objectivism for the mess MAP is in. I'd honestly like to study the history behind Objectivism in philosophy. I mean even if Rand had a bad reputation as a person, I'm not sure how that should affect her standing in academia. Neitzche was a crazy jerk, but people still read him.

    Lastly, I want to say that you don't have to reject Objectivism to persuade people. And you do so yourself, with your co-workers. Of course there are people which can't rationally speak, and obviously you can't deal with them. However I doubt that every person involved in MAP is evil by nature in believing say Kant. People believe in God, even if it's only because they have not challenged it yet. If you believe people can only learn through induction, then it stands to reason that they can't know what they haven't encountered yet (ie-those who haven't read Rand). That IS the reason people read lots of philosophy, to get ideas that took people lifetimes to think about, and take what they worked on, analyze it and go on from there...and they pick the best which fits reality. If I am not all that smart and can't derive a philosophy on my own and all I have read is Kant and the Bible as my only serious texts, and I choose to be a Kantian--I don't think that is evil. The person just hasn't challenged it yet, but he will when he reads a text or gets an idea that opposes some tenet that a Kantian holds. And hopefully he chooses the one that matches reality.

    Now, assuming this kid has limited time (as we all do) he doesn't want to read every work ever written, he wants to read those that will grow his understanding of the world exponentially, and if popular culture advises him that Rand is a waste of time then he may never read it. So having a culture adverse to Rand only creates problems of reaching potentially rational individuals.

    As I said before, lacking knowledge is not evil, but refusal to change when given the right info. is what is evil.

  14. J.L -

    Rational self-interest is neither an end nor some sort of sub-end toward higher ends. Rational self-interest is a principle - it is a standard against which you can evaluate and choose between the countless choices which confront you every single hour of every single day. The only "end in itself" in this context is an individual's own life.

    He said that rational self interest is either an end or a means to an end, which I think is a perfectly legitimate dichotomy. All things are either ends or non-ends. All things are either A or not-A, that is a basic tautology, which I think holds.

    If life qua man is your end, and rational self-interest is a principle that leads you to that, then it IS a means to an end.

  15. Sorry to post twice in a row, however I read this said by KendallJ (this is not a personal attack, I think highly of you as an intelligent person, but I think you handle discussion in the wrong way) "No actually, I think my post indicated that it is not necessary to get much past the table to contents of OPAR to see that your claim of "substantial" support is questionable. It takes less time to look at such structure than it does to find your single sentence on p. 337, so one wonders why you skipped it. My expectation is that when someone chooses a quote to base their argument on, they have examined the heirarchy of the arguments to know if their citation is relevant, and essential, and in proper context. It doesn't take that much time to verify this. It only took my about 5 minutes or so to locate your quotes and put them in context. This is sloppy at best, and dishonest at worst. How someone can skip over the chapters specifically dealing with the development of the key arguments and find his justification in a derivative chapter is beyond me, and not worth rebutting as argument. I can weaken your assertion just fine by calling into question your source for support, and since I don't have much time either, this is the easier course of action. I provide a higlight of the Objectivist argument here.

    In other words, we haven't even gotten to the substance of your assertion since your claim of substantial evidence is, on the bare surface of it, suspect. Wanna try again?"

    This to me smacks of arrogance. The last 4 or 5 sentences do nothing but cut the original poster down and question his integrity, intelligence and assert KendallJ as being a psuedo-victor. The original poster is studying Objectivism and partaking my questioning it. He isn't trying to undermine it's legitimacy, so why treat this as anything other than a discussion? Comments like "My expectation is that when someone chooses a quote to base their argument on, they have examined the heirarchy of the arguments to know if their citation is relevant, and essential, and in proper context." are unnecessary. This possible constructive criticism of the original poster is undermined by this unnecessary jab at his intelligence, and it puts KendallJ up on this pedestal of superiority.

    "This is sloppy at best, and dishonest at worst." That is just pure trash talk, and a fine example of why discussion is not possible with all these passive aggressive ad hominem attacks.



  16. ...and I'd just like to add that said contempt is not directed against you unless you insist on claiming that Objectivism is somehow anything other than totally legitimate and mainstream academic philosophy is somehow anything other than totally illegitimate. I reserve the right to believe that someone who has studied Objectivism for 3 years should know better.

    If that is not your position, then relax. I was speaking generally of the kinds of attacks we see on this forum, and I said as much.

    I am not taking personal offense, and I am sorry for seeming as if I did. Also, I really prefer talking to you and David on this forum, you both have always been helpful to me. So don't think I would accuse you of what I mentioned above.

    However, I still do feel that it is of poor choice to dismiss any philosopher or mode of communication modern philosophers might have, simply because they are theoretically wrong (please don't pick apart the word theoretically, I used that so that it doesn't become a debate about the rightness of any said philosophies). The rightness is irrelevant. My point is that, you have all these people who exist in society, who you have to interact with since man is a political/social animal of sorts (ie-he isn't ever in a "state of nature", where he must fend for himself all the time with no aid or interactions with humans)--it would be beneficial to have these people be rational.

    Let's suppose that the majority of these people if thoughtful at all, then they are in the mainstream of philosophy. So they have misconceptions and wrong definitions by your standards. How are you to get those people seeking understanding of the world to view it in the right way, so as to make yours and their life easier? Is it by attacking that which they hold as ideal? No, its by discussion. Calm, rational, unbadgering discussion that lacks arrogance. You may be in contempt of the philosophy they hold, but anyone who is familiar with persuasion or humans in general will know that badgering is not the way to seek truth or persuade. It will almost certainly create social barriers that prohibit communication.

    Everyone on this forum admits that for an Objectivist society to last, the majority of the people in the society have to uphold at least basic things like rights. Well as far as the market for ideas has spoken, Objectivism isn't winning, and rather than be resentful that others don't see it as you or I see it, it makes much more sense to improve its marketability. Everyone knows that in the long run a product sells itself, but the salesman matters, and if you do a poor job representing the philosophy, the philosophy looks bad. This is WHY Rand took great lengths to make sure only people approved by her spoke on behalf of the philosophy.

    It is in your interest to persuade rational beings to advocate rights, not by attacking them or viewing them as evil, despicable beings, but by showing them errors in logic or mistaken facts. This may take a while, maybe months to adequately convince someone to change their position, and you may not be willing to do that for an individual, but don't ruin it for those of us (me) who will try to persuade someone to be a free-marketist. I absolutely hate that I can't mention Rand without getting flak for using her as a source. Purposefully making a bad name for Objectivism in mainstream culture does nobody good (it makes your interactions with non-Objectivists harder, and it ruins a potential fount of knowledge for others who might have been interested but knows only bad things about Objectivism).



  17. Nimble,

    I think the latter part of your post is worth discussing but is material best handled in a different thread. I can either move your latest response (and responses to it) to a new thread, or you can start a new thread. Let me know which, but this line should not be continued in this thread.

    I have some of my own thoughts to add to that discussion as well. I'll be the first to admit that I can be curt at times, and I need to improve that, but for reasons other than you have suggested and they are best left for a separate thread.

    Go ahead and move it, because I'd like to discuss it.

    Thank you

  18. That's why I cringe whenever someone like Nimble (not to pick on you, Nimble) who studies formal philosophy tries to pidgeon-hole Objectivism into one of their terms, like "consequentialism" or "deontology." I have seen that most of those terms are package-deals that cannot be used to describe Objectivism.

    Also, there is the constant barrage of "Well, you don't expect me to believe that all academic philosophy is wrong, do you?"

    Yes, we do. Because it is wrong. Deal with it.

    This may be the start of an entirely different topic, so before I move on I will say thank you to those who have replied. I think the fact that there are emergency circumstances that allow you to violate rights, that answers my question. And I appreciate it.

    Now onto my other point. I considered myself an Objectivist for 3 years, but when I started having serious issues and questions as I read more outside of Rand, the people I talked to were condescending, snide and often very unhelpful. I don't think it is in any Objectivist's self interest to make the entire academic community hate Rand, if your goal is to create a society of rational egoists. I dislike that Objectivism redefines terms pivotal to philosophy and makes communication very hard. When you use the word morality (this is just a random and not necessarily true example) differently than any other person who studies philosophy, it makes finding any common ground of understanding difficult.

    I am assuming that when you argue you try to persuade people, by making communication difficult and by saying vague things like 'you aren't in tune with reality', when someone has a legitimate dispute. That does not help understanding or persuasion, and actually does nothing to add content to the discussion at hand.

    Now, I love Ayn Rand's novels, and I love the derivative works used to form her philosophy...but I think that given the context of many situations, it is not in one's interest to be arrogant, unclear, or antagonistic during a discussion. There are tons of trolls who come on here, and try to pick fights; also there are tons of Objectivists (or people who claim to be) who do the same thing. I hope that even though I often disagree or have questions, that I at least appear sincere in my wanting truth above all things, that I appear polite and respectful, and that I am not being prickish by merely seeking pride from defeating someone in debate.



  19. Okay Dismuke that cleared a bit up for me even though you weren't replying directly to me.

    I do remember a quote from Atlas Shrugged though that said errors in knowledge are okay, but refusal to correct them given the right information is evil. If someone has the exact quote I would appreciate it.

    Let's say this tax man merely doesn't realize he is acting against his best interest because he doesn't know any better. Is it then morally permissable for him to violate rights?

    If you see what I am getting at, is there any circumstance in which it is okay to violate rights, even be it complete ignorance of the certain facts of reality?

  20. Someone may offer you this info, but my suggestion is rather than ask us to do the work for you, why not read OPAR, p.310-324 "The Initiation of Physical Force as Evil", and tell us what is unsatisfying about the argument. For someone whos been studying objectivism for 5 years, I'd think 15 more pages wouldn't hurt.

    It is not a political argument against right violation, it is an ethical argument against initiation of force.

    I've read and own OPAR, Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, ITOE, Return of the Primative, We the Living, Anthem, Capitalism, and Philosophy Who Needs It--I've been in multiple Objectivist campus organizations, and no one has been able to adequately answer my question without referring to some odd psychological argument, which simply doesn't hold in a discussion about philosophy.

    We've established that Objectivism doesn't allow for categorical imperatives, but is instead consequentialist. Thank you for clearing that up. Now my question is, how do you go from saying anything is justified so long as it is in my RATIONAL self-interest long term (benefits outweigh the costs for the entirety of your life), to saying that it is never morally permissable to violate rights, please refer to my scenario.

    Thank you

  21. I don't particularly care about the label, I care about the point of substance. Which is that there is no such a thing as difference between a moral theory with an imperative which does not depend on a condition, and one that does. And I am morally certain that I have already answered your second question. If you do not understand a particular point, I can explain one more time.

    I don't feel that you have answered my second question. I find it to be absolutely absurd to say that every tax collector or statesman or monopoly lawyer is not seeking his self-interest given the context of his situation. Rather than changing my original example, let's stick with it and explain exactly how it is bad for the thief long run, assuming that the vendor won't pursue him, and the government doesn't adequately punish, thus actually giving long run incentive to steal for him. In that case I think society and the government and the vendor have failed morally in not adequately seeking their self-interest by making it wrong for this kid to steal the candy bar...rather than this kid being wrong in stealing the candy bar.



  22. My point, which I guess you didn't get, is that there are no non-hypothetical imperatives, to use your terminology. That is in the nature of "ought". As I said, all moral philosophies are "amoralist" in your terms. Perhaps you intended to say something different, but all you have done is point to a basic property of the concept "moral". So you need to rethink your question.

    Okay, let's concede you aren't amoralists, but what someone would call an amoralist. Now, how do you assert that it is NEVER in one's long term rational self interest to violate rights, regardless of societal, pyschological and government structures?

  23. Do all mainstream philsophers then understand that, by their definition, all ethical philosophies are "amoralistic"? That is, the class of pure moralisms is null. This seems to be a useless (non-referential) distinction.

    No, I think you might be missing the distinction, rather than the entirety of philosophy not understanding ethics. Hypothetical imperatives are what you ought do given a certain contextual goal. For instance Mill would say you ought support capitalism because it provides the greatest good to the greatest number of people. He does not say that you ought support capitalism because it is inherently good, but instead only because it provides the most good for the greatest number...if for some reason capitalism started to collapse and not bring about the greatest good to the greatest number, then he would say don't support capitalism. Thus he can make a claim to do and not do the same action based on different contexts. If every person and every situation is contextually different by definition, then there is nothing that always ought be done in all circumstances(categorical imperative-like do not violate rights EVER). This is by modern standards, or any standard I am aware of--amoralism.


    PS-This is off topic, if we'd like to get back to my question.

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