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Everything posted by MinorityOfOne

  1. Consciousness as Identification - Harry Binswanger Integration and Human Life: Say's Law - John Ridpath The Philosophy of Romantic Fiction - Andrew Bernstein Eight miscellaneous Objectivism-related tapes I'll be keeping an eye on this thread, but I don't check my PMs on OO.net, so if you have any questions which aren't worth posting here for others to read, please just contact me through eBay. Thanks!
  2. Hey, I live in Portsmouth! (By the way, hi everyone, haven't posted or read in quite a while - rarely get online for more than a couple of minutes, since I don't have a connection at home. Probably 'bout time to take me off moderator status, I'd think.) Yes, Portsmouth is a great city. I think I'm actually kinda in love with this place. Portsmouthers have an attention to detail that blows most other towns out of the water. For instance, my favorite coffee shop (which roasts its own beans) actually puts a timer next to all the airpots to ensure that they're dumped in no more than an hour after brewing, to make sure that everyone gets the freshest cup possible. That's just one example, but the attitude is pervasive - it's the idea that even the little stuff should be treated as a luxury, because life is to be enjoyed. At the same time, it's not an anal-retentive, mechanical sort of care for details. People work hard, but they have fun doing it. It shows. I have to disagree in part with "overdeveloped and touristy". I'm not even really sure what overdeveloped means - if anything, Portsmouth is underdeveloped. The city disallows building anything taller than the North Church in the downtown area, which means that housing has to expand horizontally rather than vertically. Given the high demand for living downtown, that means living here is wildly expensive. (I live with six other people in a five-bedroom house a little way outside of downtown, and I'm paying more than I paid for a one-bedroom apartment on the main street a couple towns over only three years ago.) It makes it hard for those of us who live and work downtown. So if anything, we need more (and better - i.e., freer) development. As for touristy, sure - because we're so awesome! Luckily it's a seasonal thing, so we have summer tourists and fall leaf-peepers come in and spend all their money during those times of the year, and we have the rest of the year to relax and hang out with the locals. It's not bad. Back to the topic: is it the Best Town for Objectivists? No such thing, I'd think. It seems like the discussion here has focused on how few taxes & general economic restrictions one finds in one area as against another. Is that all there is to life? Hell no! (That said, it's true, there's no income or sales tax here, and it's pretty cool.) Some people like cities, some people like towns. Some people like to be left alone, others like to live in a place where random strangers will say hi to you when you walk down the street. Some people want to live by the beach, others want to live in the woods. Point is - when you ask what the best town is for an Objectivist, you should first ask "which Objectivist?" Even if there were a town in the U.S. with literally no taxes, it wouldn't make it the Best Town For Objectivists. Maybe for some - but the diversity of people's interests just about guarantees that it wouldn't be best for everyone.
  3. If you like Nightwish, pick up something by After Forever. They're just as great.
  4. The only potential you really need to worry about is your own.
  5. I can tell you what I did: I slept through all my classes and stayed up all night reading. Not sure that's generally the best policy though. ;-) (... but I don't regret it for a second.) I'd recommend granting school just as much of your attention as it merits. If you plan to go to college, you should try to get the best grades possible. Given how dumbed down high schools tend to be, that shouldn't take up a whole lot of time. If you have some good teachers or interesting classes, spend more time on those and get what you can out of them. Then spend the rest of your time pursuing your own values, whether they're intellectual, artistic, personal -- whatever. It's a tough situation, because you're forced to be in a building all day with a bunch of strange people who have a lot of power over you. There's no way to make it a great experience, I think, but you can still pursue worthwhile goals in what time you manage to keep for yourself. It won't be *that* long until you're out of there, so just try to think of it this way. What sort of position do you want to be in when you graduate? What kind of grades would you like to have, what kind of skills, what kind of plans? Then work to get yourself in that position so that when you're free, you'll be able to live the life you want. Also, as I think Betsy Speicher has mentioned on here in another context, it's helpful to have friends who dislike school for the same reasons you do. Then you can make fun of the teachers and bitch about the stupid homework assignments. It's really a necessary psychological relief. ;-)
  6. I plan to listen to the debate at some point (by the way, you can download it for free from audible.com). But something I thought of the other day: I'd be far more interested in a cabinet debate. Does anyone know of a particularly good reason why the challenging ticket doesn't pick a cabinet in advance? It would be fantastic to watch Rumsfeld or Rice roll over whomever Kerry would pick -- and in general, I think, being able to see who a potential President picks for his cabinet would be far more revealing than who he picks for VP.
  7. Harry Binswanger's work on psycho-epistemology has some interesting implications for memory improvement. Here's what I've gathered from it (off the top of my head, & just the basics). Memory is imprinted and accessed in a sort of web of connections. I think this is fairly easily established introspectively. Think about what happens when you daydream about past events: you might think of where you lived five years ago, then think of who you lived with, then think of a social event including the person you lived with, then think of another person who was there, then remember something funny they said which reminds you of some important news event from that time... etc. The basic elements in memory preservation & access, psycho-epistemologically (i.e., putting aside innate biological issues) are the number of connections, the method of ordering, and the strength of the connections. In practice, this means: the degree to which you integrate or fail to integrate, the degree to which you think in essentials or don't, and the extent of your cognitive value-connections. Integration helps by creating new connections between cognitive items; thinking in fundamentals helps by creating connections between the *right* cognitive items, i.e. those which are most relevant to each other; and of course, if you regard something as important, you're more likely to remember it than if you regard it as trivial.
  8. Well, hopefully, a cop. ;-) This is a very silly question on their part, which is probably why you got stumped trying to give it a serious answer. What would stop an irrational person from being irrational? Well... nothing, unless *he* decided to stop being irrational. Certainly it won't help to introduce further irrationality in the form of religion.
  9. Rand's principle of emergencies, as I understand it: end the emergency ASAP. Emergencies are rare, temporary situations that make value-seeking impossible. Because of that, the usual principles of ethics are inapplicable; all that one can do is try to end the emergency and get things back to normal. And yes, that might mean eating the orphan. ;-)
  10. More than that, even if Rand had taken positions on physics, they would be outside the scope of philosophy. In other words, they still wouldn't be an "official Objectivist position."
  11. Sure. James L. Halperin's The First Immortal is very good (as is his other novel, The Truth Machine). I think John Varley did some interesting stuff with nanotech, but I can't recall if it was in his Gaean trilogy or if it was in Steel Beach.
  12. Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to shoot down someone else's recommendation, but sometimes decency demands it... If you enjoy plot, characterization, style, depth, plausibility, or anything else that normally characterizes mediocre-or-better writing, I recommend not reading anything by L. Neil Smith. (Actually, I'm tempted to recommend burning anything by him, but I'll try to restrain myself.) He is quite possibly the worst science fiction writer I have read. His only claim to distinction is that the worlds he constructs are amalgams of Libertarian fetishes taken to their extremes: societies in which, for example, children of single-digit ages carry a knife on one hip and a gun on the other. As I recall, the plot of The Probability Broach consists of a guy transported into Smith's utopia, followed by a bunch of grindingly didactic scenes of "culture shock" -- picture a lobotomized Robert Heinlein expanding his most pedantic passages to the length of a novel. In Smith's alternate history, George Washington was lynched and hung as a traitor for imposing a tax, leading to Ayn Rand's later presidency and... well, 8 year old kids with guns, I suppose. Might as well end on a good note. Speaking of Heinlein, I recently read Podkayne of Mars... a nice quickie. I'm more & more in agreement with those who have said that his juveniles are his best works.
  13. Which movie is that? Have you seen The Game? (It's excellent.)
  14. Very few people are genuinely incapable of earning a living, and that would be even more true in a free market economy. Prices would be dramatically lower due to lack of taxes, greater efficiency of production, etc., and since there wouldn't be a minimum wage, there would be job openings even for people whose abilities were absolutely minimal. Welfare may to some extent contribute to high birth rates in certain demographics, but I suspect the threat of the "welfare mom" is greatly exaggerated. There is no "population problem." The US is not overpopulated, not even in NYC or Los Angeles. Japan's population density is immensely higher than ours, AND they hardly have any natural resources -- & they're doing just fine. There is no problem of "overpopulation", there's a problem of production and distribution in certain areas of the world. You might find it interesting to take a look at the political systems in effect in the places where people claim there is a "population problem." I think you'll find that in each case it's really a political problem.
  15. Could you give more details on what Rand supposedly took from Spinoza, and (if possible) where you heard about it? I've heard some aspects of Spinoza recommended (in part, anyway) by a few Objectivist intellectuals, but I hadn't heard that Rand was even particularly familiar with his work.
  16. "Come quietly to the camp... you'll look nice as a drawstring lamp..." Well, it's better than Biafra's spoken word, anyway.
  17. Wright looks very interesting. After reading L. Neil Smith's ham-handed hackery, I'm afraid I have a bit of an aversion to politically-oriented science fiction, but it'll pass. Wright has great taste in science fiction, and he's quite articulate in his interviews, so I'll definitely give him a read. From one of the interviews: "I am planning on filching from Zelazny in an upcoming novel entitled Orphans of Chaos, which portrays the Twelve Gods of Mount Olympus as involved in similar intrigues as his Nine Princes of Mount Kolvir in Amber. Since he filched from Jacobean playwrights, I hope he would not have minded." If he's going to do this, he had damned well better be good. Zelazny's Amber series is one of my favorites in SF, and I don't want to see it abused. (I was pleasantly surprised by John Gregory Betancourt, whose sequels to Zelazny's series were competent enough to be worth reading.)
  18. Just to add to the fiction list (which is off-topic, but worthwhile)... I've heard that James Hogan, the science fiction writer, is at least familiar with & friendly towards Objectivism. But you'd never know it from his books. Still, he's a good writer, worth picking up. I had read almost all his books before someone mentioned this to me. Probably the best Objectivist novelist other than Rand was Kay Nolte Smith. A couple of her books are pretty derivative of Rand stylistically, but she grew out of that fairly quickly. Her best book is "A Tale of The Wind." They're out of print, but used copies are not that hard to find online. Incidentally, I tend to think that the best Objectivist writers are the ones who you wouldn't know are Objectivists from reading their books. That's not set in stone -- Goodkind, for example, is fantastic, and he can be quite explicit at times -- but as a rule, that's what I've found. I'm sure Rand is a hard influence to write past, but a writer can't attempt to channel another writer without producing, at best, mediocrity. Unfortunately, I think fiction is *not* a field in which one should stand on the shoulders of giants.
  19. That's why I said the emphasis has to be on the commitment to principles. During an electoral season, the focus tends to be on a few particular issues. Even, as I said before, putting aside whether the candidates can be trusted re: their stated positions on those issues, those issues will not be the only ones which will come up during their period in office. In fact, often, they won't even be the major ones. New situations will arise, new proposals will be pushed forth, new issues will come to the forefront. If you look only at the concretes in a platform, you're missing out on a lot of important factors that should be taken into account. A candidate can't be expected to know every issue that could possibly arise, much less to set forth positions on them. Nor can you do some "cost/benefit analysis" on them, since you don't know what they are. That's why I think that evaluation of candidates has to be at the level of principles rather than particulars. Though I think Dr. Peikoff is wrong about Bush, his approach is right. Since Peikoff hasn't really publicly explained the DIM theory in detail, here's a more simplified way to look at it. There are two issues involved, in essence. How good are a candidate's principles, and how committed is he to them? What makes this election difficult to think about, for me, is that it's in many respects quite different from other elections. Generally, there's not that much difference in how committed to their principles the candidates are, and the issue really comes down to *what* their principles are. But in this election, we have a guy who is at least somewhat committed to a mixed bag of principles running against a guy who hardly has ANY principles. So there are two factors to weigh against each other: the quality of the principles, and the commitment to them. I'm not sure by what standard they ought to be weighed, which is why I do find Peikoff's argument interesting. (And I'm sure he has more ideas about this, since it'll be the topic of his book.) If anyone here took Peikoff's course and has any insights, or just has any insights, I'd love to hear them.
  20. When dealing with a presidential candidate, I don't think you can consider just the platform. Even putting aside the dishonesty which is often involved in campaign promises, you have to be more conceptual about it: you're electing the person for years, not weeks. Because of that, I think the commitment part is key, and that's part of why I think I'll be voting (very reluctantly) for Bush. Bush, at least, is committed to *some* aspects of individual freedom. Kerry isn't committed to anything.
  21. You want to see bad... look here. http://www.lewrockwell.com/wallace/wallace187.html
  22. If you're implying something like "once an Objectivist, always an Objectivist", I would disagree emphatically. You're forgetting that people have free will. If a person, once focused and rational, chooses to evade reality habitually, they may well end up dropping a good philosophy in favor of a bad one. No amount of Objectivism can eradicate volition.
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