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Spearmint

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Everything posted by Spearmint

  1. David Odden: Upon which point you would immediately be faced with the traditional 'problem' of induction, namely how many observations are required before a universal truth can be taken from a series of particulars, which was the original point being discussed.
  2. This seems to be largely playing with words; if it were possible to travel at an arbitrarily fast speed in a single direction without ever reaching anything which would be called a boundary, then I think this would be what most people mean when they suggest the universe is infinite. It's like me saying that we could start at the number '1' and keep counting through 2, 3, 4 ... and never reach an end, but then claiming that this doesnt mean that there are infinite integers. The problem is that Alex doesn't actually give a definition of what it would mean for the universe to be infinite, so it's difficult to tell whether he has actually refuted the claim. What he describes certainly seems to me like an 'infinite' universe; are we simply arguing the semantics of what 'infinite' means in this context? I'm not sure that I can even make sense of this. If I were to ask the question "How many atoms exist at this present time", then the (metaphysical) answer has to be either X (where X is a finite number), or 'infinite'. To claim anything other would be an outright denial of the law of excluded middle - either there an are infinite number of atoms that exist, or there are a non-infinite number of atoms that exist.
  3. Spearmint

    Abortion

    But the point is that the qualifier 'rational' isnt needed - even if a foetus were fully conscious and rational, how would this affect the argument that: ? All of these points apply to the foetus purely as a result of its existential state (ie being inside and dependent on the mother), rather than as a result of its mental capabilities. If we accept the argument that the foetus is 'part of' the mother, then the relationship between a mother and a (hypothetical) conscious foetus would probably be closer to that of 2 siamese twins than it would be to that of a mother and a child in the conventional sense Not to mention that arguments such as this: fall prey to the standard counters that this implies that babies and significantly mentally disabled people should not be granted rights, since they are not rational.
  4. Knowledge that is independent of sense perception does not mean knowledge that is not acquired via sense-perception. 'A priori' has normally been used to mean the former, since Kant. Truths such as those of logic are certainly learned in a similar way to any other truths, but their method of validation is different. I can't claim complete familiarity with Kant, but I don't think he is using a priori here the same way he later uses it when discussing propositions. Kant held the categories of intuition such as space and time existed ('known' would be the wrong word here) prior to experience in the sense you claim, but this is a slightly difference usage from when he discusses things such as logic and geometry. As far as I know, Kant claimed that synthetic a priori judgements such as mathematical and logical truths were learned from experience (although not validated based upon experience) - certainly Kant wouldnt have held that a newly born baby knew or even understood the proposition that "47 * 3 = 141". The essential point is that there is a fundamental difference between knowing truths such as 'A is A' or '2 + 2 = 4', and truths such as ' water boils at 100 degrees', namely that there is no observation, no matter how theoretically or arbitrary, that could ever possible contradict the former. We are obviously justified in claiming both certainty and knowledge in both cases, but the nature of the certainty is slightly different. If the justification for identity were purely perceptual, then arguments based upon perception that claimed to invalidate identity (such as those put forth by certain proponents of quantum physics) would have to be taken seriously and considered as viable alternatives. This is not the case; science cannot 'disprove' identity, since the truth of identity does not rest purely upon empirical observations (even if this is how we first discovered it).
  5. According to the Encylopedia Britannica: It's perfectly acceptable for the same word to mean different things in different contexts.
  6. Minor point, but things like UFOs/ESP are slightly different, since there is actually evidence for these (namely the large number of eyewitness testimonies on their behalf). As such they should not merely be dimissed out of hand in the same way as arbitrary claims, but rather investigated - by their nature they provide the _possibility_ of investigation, which is something not provided by the claims of most theists. When it turns out that the evidence for them is invalid, they can be rejected not as arbitrary, but false.
  7. But can't we infer from the works which Rand did endorse, which other works she would have endorsed had they been published while she was alive? It seems like a perfectly valid use of induction
  8. What difference do you believe that sending your child to a Public school would make, in real terms? The syllabus taught is almost identical to that taught in state schools, isnt it? I mean the standard of teaching is likely to be higher, and they may pick up better personal/intellectual habits, but it's not like as if they're likely to get a classical education or anything. Homeschooling would be another option, but I doubt most universities would take a child that hadn't passed the standard exams. Something like the International Bacclaurette might be your best bet, but I don't know that much about it. edit: I suppose the case is stronger for lower school, ie between the age of 6-14 or whatever.
  9. But there are problems with your other 6 steps: What do you mean by 'possible' here? When I say that it is possible for the keyboard I am typing on to not have existed, I mean something definable - the person who designed it may have chosen not to, the microchip could have remained uninvented, etc etc. However, if you are claiming that the planet Mars could have not existed, what do you actually mean? How could it not have existed? What specific events could have been different in order to cause it's non-existence? Objectivism holds that all truths of nature, other than ones relating to conscious entities (such as humans), are necessary not contingent. "Existence exists" is taken to be a primary - things are the way they are because that is how they are - they could not have been any other way. Rand held that to assert their are other metaphysically 'possible worlds' begs the question, and assumes the existence of a creator - it's essentially claiming that God created the world THIS way, but he could have chosen to create it ANOTHER way. Without presupposing that existence was specifically 'created' like this, how could it have been any other way? It is impossible to prove that _anything_ does not exist, by the standards of proof you seem to be asking for. Shall we say that your belief that I am actually a human and not an intelligent computer is 'purely propositional'? How about your belief that _you_ are a human rather than an intelligent beetle dreaming he is a human? Or that unicorns don't exist in Antartica? Can any of these claims be 'proved' to the standards which you are demanding? The relevant concept here is burden of proof - those who deny that something exists based on lack of evidence are not the ones that _need_ to produce proof - that responsibility lies with those who are making the existential claim. If I told you that I had a pet dragon which breathes fire, you would rightly assume that I was talking nonsense, and ask me to provide proof of my claim. If I replied that it was not up to me to provide proof, but rather it was you who needed to prove that I was lying, how would you respond?
  10. Spearmint

    Abortion

    I'm not sure how Rand could argue about the later stages of pregnancy, other than to claim that not having an abortion in the first 3 months necessitates the acceptance of an implicit contract to carry the pregnancy out to its end (in the same way that actually giving birth is claimed to necessitate the acceptance of the responsibility to ensure the child is cared for until a certain age).
  11. Classifying knowledge as a priori is not a way of saying that it isn't learned from the observation of reality; the a priori/a posterior split concerns how knowledge is validated, not how it is obtained. Kant held that logical and mathematical truths were a priori, but this didn't commit him to the view that people were 'born' knowing them, rather than having to learn them. The following definition (from here) highlights how the term is normally used in contemporary philosophy: The laws of identity/casuality are not justified by experience, hence they are a priori by this definition. Again, this does not mean that people dont come to _learn_ them via experience. They are independent of experience in the sense that (as you noted) no possible experience can disconfirm them - there is nothing that science could ever produce that would convince an Objectivist that identity or casuality do not hold. Any theory which necessitates acasual events or actions would be ruled metaphysically invalid, despite its contents.
  12. I'd personally break down Rand's work into 3 categories: fundamentals, derivations from fundamentals, and personal opinions. The first 2 categories would be the Objectivist corpus, while the latter wouldn't technically be part of her philosophy (by personal opinions I include things like "homosexuals are disgusting" and "smoking is an expression of productive rationality"). If you disagree with any of Rand's fundamentals, then you obviously wouldn't be an Objectivist. However, if you disagreed with other aspects of her philosophy that weren't central (such as specific issues relating to concept-formation, or her aesthetic theory), I would say it would still be possible to call yourself an Objectivist, depending on the number and severity of the disagreements. As I mentioned in another thread, I don't think Rand had all the specific details of her epistemology worked out at the time she wrote the Fountainhead, but it would be absurd to claim that she wasnt an "Objectivist" at this time. I currently disagree with too many things to call myself an Objectivist, so I normally just say that I've been heavily influenced by Rand. From a purely academic standpoint however, I think it would be useful to have a seperate noun to collectively refer to the work being carried out "in the Randian tradition/school of thought" (as it were). It would probably also serve the benefit of reducing arguments relating to the proper use of the word 'Objectivist'.
  13. Spearmint

    Abortion

    It wasn't an attempt at intimidation, and I certainly didn't intend for you to take it as one. I was just pointing out the consequences of your position. The mother's right to choose argument would be the one outlined in this thread, and on abortionisprolife.com
  14. So does my communist neighbour, but that doesnt give me the right to smother him in a blanket containing smallpox germs and take possession of his house.
  15. Eddie: Induction is axiomatic in the same sense that the axioms of identity/non-contradiction/consciousness are - ie you cannot 'prove' it, only demonstrate it by highlighting how any attempt to deny it implicitly affirms it. It is impossible to deny induction without relying on it, since any attempt at human communication is automatically based on its validity. Consider this exchange: Me: Induction is valid You: Induction is invalid Me: Thanks for agreeing with me; valid and invalid are synonyms - they mean the exact same thing You: Of course they dont - they are opposite and mutually exclusive, any competant speaker of the English language knows this. Me: No you are mistaken - the word 'invalid' does not mean what you think it does. How can you be sure of its meaning? You: That is the way the word has always been used in my experience, besides we could appeal to a dictionary if you are not satisfied. Me: But the fact that the word has always been used this way does not mean that it is still being used in this way now, since induction is invalid. The same applies to dictionaries - they have been considered authoritative in the past, but this says nothing about how they are considered now. Can you give me a logical justification of why that word means what you claim? What recourse do you now have? To what standard can you now appeal in order to continue your argument? All you (and Hume) are claiming is that induction is not deduction. Induction cannot be justified via deductive logic, because it has nothing to do with deduction - it is not somehow a 'weaker form' of deduction, it is an entirely seperate form of reasoning. Asking me to justify induction deductively is like me asking you to justify deduction inductively - the request is complete nonsense. On a sidenote, what is your answer to the "problem of deduction", namely Carrol's Paradox? If your complaint is that inductive claims to knowledge aren't logically valid since induction itself cannot be verified, then surely deductive claims to knowledge are invalid for the same reason?
  16. Spearmint

    Abortion

    Give me some examples of a day old child using its faculty of reason as a means of survival. I'm not convinced that there _is_ any justification in the latter case, at least any justification whic hfollows from Rand's ethics.
  17. Spearmint

    Abortion

    If this is the case then the argument given for abortion in this thread (and the general one used by Objectivists) is completely invalid. The "mother's right to choose" argument logically entails that the mother has the right to choose regardless of whether the foetus is or isnt a rational/conscious/whatever being. If you arent prepared to accept this as a consequence, then I wouldnt say that you really believed the argument.
  18. Will be interesting to watch how/if this changes now that record labels have started to move towards more practical distribution mediums (iTunes music store being a prime example, as well as the relaunched Napster etc). Physical media such as CDs have been obsolete to many people for quite some time - there is simply no need to actually own a disc containing a song when all you need is 'the song itself'. Charging people for downloads seems like a far more feasible way to distribute music, and I suspect that a lot of people who stopped purchasing CDs will start paying for songs on services such as iTunes, especially since they often require a lot less time to locate what you're after than certain popular p2p networks.
  19. Spearmint

    Abortion

    Assume that medical technology evolves to the point where it is possible to extract the foetus and keep it alive (say on an incubator) during the abortion process. In this way, it would develop into a normal baby regardless of any input on the mother's part. Would the mother be allowed to choose to have it killed? If not, could she be morally forced to support it, or to have anything whatsoever to do with it?
  20. Spearmint

    Abortion

    A newly born baby does not survive via its "faculty of reason", nor is it a 'rational' animal by any generally accepted definiton of the word. aynfan It's not an issue of depedence per se (at least in the way you use the term). Even if the foetus were fully conscious, aware, and had all the reasoning powers of a healthy adult, the argument allowing its abortion would still hold, namely that there can be no justification for forcing the mother to incubate an organism against her will. The physical/mental status of the foetus is entirely irrelevant here.
  21. Spearmint

    Abortion

    The bit I have trouble with is how you establish the mother has a duty to the child after it is born. How is it not a violation of a woman's "right to life" to force her to care for a year old baby she no longer wants, but it is a violation when you are forcing her to actually give birth to it ?
  22. What does the seperation of economics from politics (right or wrong) have to do with the 'mind-body dichotomy'? You cant just say that anyone who thinks 2 related spheres should be seperate is a proponent of the mind-body split without engaging in gross psychologizing.
  23. Since the subject here has veered towards ethics, could someone tell me if there's ever been a comprehensive reply written to Robert Nozick's "On the Randian Argument'"? Ive been curious for a while, but didn't think it was worth starting a new thread over. Bear in mind that Epicurus originally wrote in Greek, rather than English. You cant claim that he chose to use the word 'pleasure' rather than 'happyness' and hold this against him, since he didn't. I think that what Epicurus meant by (what is normally translated as) 'pleasure' is different from 'pleasure' as taken in contemporary English, precisely because he recognised the long-term aspects involved. edit: I don't think I have ever read Epicurus.
  24. It depends on exactly what the person meant by 'economic and political systems'. If he is claiming that theres no relation between government and economics then that's nonsense, for the reasons he mentioned. However, he could mean either of the 2 following claims, which more accurate: a) The structure of government is unrelated to the economics of the society (for instance, the same laissez faire system could be governed by a democratically elected group, or by a 'benevolent dictator'). Economics as a science should be 'value-free' and studied with no reference to political philosophy.
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