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Everything posted by MinorityOfOne

  1. Sure, but one need not do that in order to hold a faulty philosophy. Say someone looked at reality and, by looking at the wrong cases or not looking deeply enough, decided that it's in one's best interest to trample over the rights of others. He then goes on to systematize all the ways you ought to go about trampling over other people. His philosophy could be fully internally consistent and still be wrong. Why? Because establishing that things have identity doesn't do all the philosophical work for you. You have to establish what the identity of things are, and that's not an easy task, especially when you're dealing with wide philosophical abstractions. This is an instance of the inductive nature of Objectivism as against the deductive model you have in mind, by the way. Well, there are two things going on here. Could you create it from scratch? Doubt it; Rand was a genius. Not many people could do what she did, even given the work already done by Aristotle, etc. But, having her writing as a guide, can you establish the principles based on your own observations? Put it this way: if you don't think you can, you shouldn't accept the principles. That's part of being intellectually independent: not accepting other people's proclamations on faith, but rather, using them as an indication of what to explore for yourself. Incidentally, if you're interested in understanding the roots of your errors in more detail, I highly recommend buying Leonard Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" set.
  2. I think you're taking the law of identity to be far broader than it actually is. When I think I see a friend down the street, but when I get closer it turns out to be a stranger, I haven't violated the law of identity. I've just made a mistake. Why should you fall back all the way to the axioms every time you want to prove somebody wrong? The axioms underlie and make possible all knowledge, but it's not the case that we deduce everything from them. If someone walks up to me and says "You don't have a pair of headphones in your room", I'll just point at the headphones. I won't say "not only are there headphones there, but more importantly, A is A." When you're validating a principle, the goal is not to bring it back to axioms. The goal is to bring it back to sense perception, because THAT is the basis of all knowledge -- including knowledge of those axioms. See, this is exactly what I mean: you still have a deductive model in mind. You've just decided to get a side order of induction with your deduction. But Objectivism is not "a lot of deduction and a pinch of induction"; it is fundamentally inductive. I challenge you to name a single principle in Objectivism, outside of metaphysics, that can be derived from the axioms alone. Name just *one*. (Hint: you can't.) And now we're back to the original issue. Why such an attachment to the name? If a person is afraid to think independently lest they lose a label, that's neurosis. No redefinitions will cure someone's psychological problems, and they certainly can't force people to think independently. That's a choice they have to make for themselves. EDIT: "I think you're taking the law of identity to be far broader than it actually is" was a pretty dumb way to put it. It doesn't get any broader than that. You're just taking it to imply something it doesn't.
  3. Ash & Oakes, you're welcome. Glad my posts were helpful. Oakes, people have pointed out a lot of good reasons not to take Objectivism to be just the axioms, and I won't repeat them. But if you're not convinced yet, here are a few other things to consider. 1. The axioms are self-evident, though their explicit formulation is not. If you take Objectivism to be just the explicit formulation of those axioms, you will be led to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a non-Objectivist; there are only more and less consistent Objectivists. That's pretty obviously absurd. 2. It would mean that, against anything Rand meant when she created the term, Objectivism only indirectly has to do with just about any of her philosophical writing. I've heard a few people try to define Objectivism as "the philosophy that follows from observation of reality," or "the philosophy that is true." But this is an epistemological inversion: you can't know that Objectivism is true until you know what Objectivism advocates, and that means that you have to have another way of differentiating it from other philosophical systems. Again, this same problem arises with taking it to be just the axioms: since they're self-evident, there would be no way to differentiate it from any philosophical systems except those which explicitly denied the axioms. And if it turned out that some aspect of Objectivism were wrong, you would simply claim it were not part of Objectivism... and once again, it would become mutable and subjective. The claim that it is just the axioms amounts to the claim that it's just what's true, and that's not true. It's narrower than that. 3. Can't somebody be wrong about what follows from the axioms? Rand herself said that she could not have developed her philosophy in full prior to the industrial revolution. Why? Because it's inductive, and that means that some conclusions could only be reached on the basis of certain information. If I have a limited set of observations, I might reach a faulty conclusion without violating any of the axioms. In fact, I'd argue that this is not only possible, but very common. So if you take Objectivism to be just the axioms, you're stuck with a choice: either anything that coheres with the axioms is Objectivism, even if that means that conflicting ideas are part of the same system, or that Objectivism demands omniscience. Both are clearly wrong. Ok, just a few more points, more random now. Aristotle's ethics were empatically NOT irrational. They were wrong in some respects, but in essence they were a monumental achievement. Irrational does not simply mean wrong: it means willfully wrong, it means a flouting of reason. It is a derogatory term that should never be applied to a giant like Aristotle. Last point: I think I agree with Betsy that Objectivism is a proper noun, and that one should not really be trying to define it. However, I think the description in this case should follow a similar pattern as a definition, so I've been using the term in order to avoid hassle. It's like what Rand talks about in, I think, the appendex to ITOE, where she talks about how in advanced civilizations there is a genus-differentia method of naming people: John (differentia) Smith (genus), for example. Here, the genus is "system of philosophical principles", and the differentia is "discovered or endorsed by Ayn Rand." (I'm not so sure about the last point as I used to be, by the way. But I think it's right.)
  4. Even filtered, Jersey water tastes like a used urinal. I'm convinced that New York tap water must be filtered through gold and roses. It was mindblowing.
  5. Thanks, Eran. It was a great day. Definitely looking forward to meeting you. Oh, and by the way: be careful where you sit in a comedy club. If you sit near the front, you run a big risk of getting picked on by the comedians. It's usually good-natured, and it might make it a better show for you. But it's not always so good-natured. Just be prepared.
  6. Three things I can recommend in NYC, since I did all of them today (celebrating my 1 year anniversary dating my girlfriend): 1. The Rose Center at the Museum of Natural History. The Museum itself is pretty cool, especally if you're like me in never having gotten over your awe at just how BIG dinosaurs are! But for me, the real treat was taking in two shows at the Rose Center planetarium. Admission, with two shows included, is a bit under $30, and marginally cheaper if you have a student ID. 2. I took up the earlier suggestion of Lombardi's, and I'm ready to second it now. The first thing I noticed was that they have the best water I've ever tasted. However, the waitress claimed it was just NYC tap water... I was ready to toss out the contents of my Poland Springs bottle and ask them to fill it from the tap. But then the pizza came, and it was a more than worthy companion to the water. It really is the best pizza I've had in town. ($14.50 for a large pizza, though.) Also, Don Giovanni's has great pasta. It's located somewhere around Times Square, don't remember exactly where. 3. If you like comedy clubs, NYC has a lot of them. We went to Dangerfield's, and it was well worth the $15 cover charge. (And, if you go to the website, you can get a coupon for 2-for-1 admission.) The set lasted from 10:30 to about 1:00. The best comic of the night was "Spanky". If he's there when you're in town, GO. My face still hurts from laughing so much. The downside of Dangerfield's is that they jack you for drinks. Beer was $6.50 to $7.50, mixed drinks were $12 each. Needless to say, I chugged water for hours (since I'm a cheapass). On the upside, though, most comedy clubs have a two drink minimum, and Dangerfield's doesn't. So if you want to make it a fairly inexpensive night, it's possible.
  7. Sure. I'd actually rather not spit out definitions for these, because I can't formulate anything off the top of my head that is .. well, definitive. And I don't want the discussion to get sidetracked with poking holes in definitions. So I'll give examples instead. In general, principles pertain to universals, whereas applications are particulars viewed in light of principles. One principle in Objectivism, for example, is that initiation of force is evil. An application of this is that Hitler is evil. This is another instance of an application which I consider to be so obvious that I would be certain that someone who rejected it either rejected Objectivist principles or didn't even begin to understand them; nonetheless, Hitler being evil is not part of Objectivism. Here's another example: the superiority (all other things being equal) of romantic literature to naturalistic literature is a principle in the Objectivist esthetics. In The Art of Fiction, Rand applied this to argue that Mickey Spillane is a better writer than Thomas Wolfe. The superiority of Spillane to Wolfe is not a principle of Objectivism, and I doubt that it falls into the category of "really, really obvious applications". I haven't read Wolfe, but it's quite possible that this is an application that Objectivists could disagree about. And it's not just because it's an esthetic point; as others have pointed out, there are plenty of instances from other fields of philosophy -- tricky situations in ethics, who to vote for, etc. So that's the difference between a principle and an application. The difference between a fundamental and a derivative is roughly this: a fundamental underlies and explains a number of other truths. In Peikoff's definition, it is "that upon which everything in a given context depends." Now, there's a clear connection between this and the preceding: a principle is always more fundamental than an application. But notice that there are some applications which are themselves principles, and some which are not. Those which are principles are derivative principles -- though I hasten to add, I don't mean derivative in a deductive sense. So you're right to note that there's a context issue here too, but it's not the same one. For example: the superiority of Spillane to Wolfe (if true) is an application of the principle that romanticism is superior to naturalism, which is itself an application of man's need for value-affirming and thematically essentialized art, which is an application of philosophical observations about man's nature. Now notice that in different contexts, you might identify any of those except the application to particulars as a fundamental. Why? Because it depends on what context you're dealing with -- if you're dealing with a more limited context, you have the option of identifying a more limited fundamental. (And that's why there can be multiple fundamentals.) To repeat my example from before: for the context of Objectivist political philosophy, rights are fundamental. But bring to mind the broader context of the entire philosophical system, and you find that they are derivative -- they depend on prior observations in ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. I've gone on so long now (and I've stopped to look for a reference, and failed) that I'm not sure if I answered your question. But I hope so. Moving on to your last statement: There's a lot to say about this. First, it's not that things become less certain when you move away from self-evident axioms. There's more chance of error, but the degree of certainty depends on the extent and quality of thought that you've given to the issue. There's nothing inherently less certain about the virtue of productiveness than causality. In fact, to be precise, certainty doesn't apply to self-evident axioms, because there's no progression through degrees of evidence. You evaluate something as certain when you have acquired and integrated enough evidence that you're in a position to say "Ok, that's the end of the line, I don't need any more -- I'm sure it's true." And there's nothing about more distant abstractions that makes this impossible, it's just harder. It's meaningless to call an axiom certain -- certain against what? When was it open to doubt? Back to the topic at hand: whether something is part of Objectivism or not is a separate issue from whether you're certain of it. Notice that, since certainty is an epistemological evaluation which each person makes for themselves about each item of knowledge they are evaluating, this would make the definition of Objectivism utterly subjective: since people are certain of different things, everybody would have to have their own concept of Objectivism, and we'd never be able to have a conversation about it. (And by the way, I've seen that happen.) I think part of the issue here might still be attaching the term "Objectivist", which is descriptive, to all sorts of normative issues: for instance, thinking that all and only Objectivists are honest. But there are plenty of honest non-Objectivists, and there are people who have thought about Objectivism and rejected it whom I would consider honest. It seems like what you want to do is subsume everything you think is certain within Objectivism, and kick out everything you think is uncertain, and thereby leave yourself room to reject things and still call yourself an Objectivist. I don't want to psychologize here, and I could well be wrong, but it seems like what you're driving at. But again, there's nothing inherently bad about disagreeing with Objectivism. Maybe you make an honest mistake and reject a true principle because you just don't understand it. That's no crime. I think most of us have done that at some point. So in the end, the issue is epistemological. The concept of Objectivism is not Heraclitean: to misparaphrase Peikoff, there is not a different Objectivism every time you step foot in it. Delimiting it on the basis of fundamentals or certainty will only end up making it a fairly random grouping of things, categorized on the basis of shifting or non-objective criteria, and it will make it useless as a term of identification. I'm convinced that Rand had the right idea when she said, roughly, that it is the system of philosophical principles espoused in her writings and those which she specifically endorsed.
  8. I think the big mistake here is in trying to address it as an issue of fundamentals vs. derivatives, rather than as principles vs. applications. Objectivism is a system of philosophical principles; whether fundamental or derivative, they're part of Objectivism. Objectivism does not exhaust all valid philosophical principles. Objectivists can, and often do, disagree about applications of those principles, and they may disagree about principles which do not fall within Objectivism (though they may be consistent with it, or follow from it). If you hold that the issue is fundamentals vs. derivatives, you will never be able to give a satisfactory answer to what is and what is not Objectivism, because fundamentality is relative to context. For example, rights are a political fundamental, but relative to the entire system they are far from fundamental. There's simply no way to draw the line, and so you'll end up pretty much picking some things you think are vaguely more important than others and claiming that those are fundamental. (This is pretty much what Kelley does.) I disagree with Eran that the right to abortion is, per se, part of Objectivism. Rather, I think it's such an obvious and basic application of Objectivist principles that a person who rejects it must either be rejecting or misunderstanding Objectivism -- in which case, the person is not an Objectivist. Again, this isn't an insult, but just an observation. There's a big learning curve for an entire philosophical system, and you can't even really grasp the basics overnight. Incidentally, Oakes, your response to DPW amounts to skepticism: you say arbitrarily that he might be wrong, and demand that he disprove your accusation. But possibility doesn't simply mean "not disproven", it means "some evidence." By your standard, you could never reach certainty about anything in particular, no matter how much evidence you accumulate, simply because mistakes are possible. But just as man's capacity to murder does not mean that each person must wonder constantly if he might be a murderer, man's capacity to err does not mean that one must constantly suspect that he is in error. So the burden is on you: show where you think DPW is making an error, or retract your claim.
  9. And nobody's going to stop you. Anyway, this whole issue has been discussed on this forum before, and I can't take the time to rehash it from the start. You might want to review some of those threads. A quick search turns up a bunch of threads with the term "closed system" in them. The following, as I recall, were the most relevant: http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...d%20system&st=0 http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ed+system" http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ed+system" http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ed+system" Needless to say, I disagree with a lot of what's said in those threads. So don't take my silence on any particular issue as agreement, even if I've expressed agreement with most of what any particular person says.
  10. I find this sort of attachment to the name "Objectivism" somewhat odd. Isn't the purpose of calling yourself an Objectivist to efficiently identify a set of philosophical beliefs you adhere to? If you were to find that something in Objectivism is wrong, wouldn't you want to drop the term, or at least qualify it: for example, by saying "I'm in agreement with most but not all of Objectivism"? As for "insisting on absolute agreement", nobody is out to denounce every non-Objectivist in the world. It's perfectly appropriate to communicate with many people who disagree with Objectivism, and so long as you're not certain that you agree with Objectivism, it's entirely proper to be open to having your mind changed. That's the difference between dogmatism and thought. Incidentally, I can attest to the value of that mind-set, with regard to beliefs you're not certain of, from personal experience. I first read Rand because I had heard she was one of the great exponents of everything I thought was evil -- capitalism, selfishness, etc. Boy, was I glad I picked up her books! The only thing I'd caution you about is getting into the mindset that truths are established through debate. The way to evaluate the principles of Objectivism is primarily to study them and connect them to facts of reality, not to bounce them off of contrasting systems and ideologies. The term "Objectivist" shouldn't be viewed as a badge of honor, in the sense of developing a psychological attachment to the term itself. It's a description. If you find yourself in disagreement with some part of it, drop it, and identify yourself more accurately. And don't feel bad about it if it's a conclusion you reach honestly. Objectivism is a philosophy, not a club, and there's no value in claiming to be something you're not.
  11. There's also a series of musical and theater (Shakespeare) events in Central Park. All the info is on their website. I haven't been to any of the events there, though I might on Friday, so I can't attest to their quality... but I've heard good things about it.
  12. Though ultimately I don't think he really does mean anything different by pleasure than we do, I'm not basing this on terminology. He gives a lot of examples of the sorts of things he has in mind, and his goal amounts to a long and unbroken string of pleasures. The best contrast is Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia, which is much more like what Objectivism advocates.
  13. The Objectivist ethics are egoistic. Objectivism doesn't need to be distinguished from egoism, but rather, from other types of egoism. Most historical egoists were, to one extent or another, hedonistic. They held pleasure as the standard of value, whereas Objectivism holds that life is the standard, and happiness (as against pleasure) is one's moral goal. Happiness, defined by Rand as "a state of non-contradictory joy" (and I would add, a LONG-TERM such state), is the concomitant of a life well lived. So while Epicureanism is one of the best of the historical egoistic ethical systems, it still falls prey to this error. Epicurus did recognize that pleasures couldn't be just momentary, because one pleasure can come in conflict with another, and he gave some useful (and some not-so-useful) advice about how to avoid such conflicts. But for him, the standard was still always pleasure. Intrinsicist egoism is more rare, since it tends to devolve into non-egoism eventually. But on one interpretation at least, the bromide "virtue is its own reward" can be seen as a statement of intrinsicist egoism: it claims that, somehow, what's good for you is something out there without regard to how it affects you. (To be clear about this, I don't think this is at all the prevailing interpretation of the phrase.) So the essential in distinguishing Objectivist egoism from other egoist systems is that Objectivism is, simply put, objective. It recognizes that the standard is neither something out there in reality apart from one's relation to it, nor is it one's feelings apart from any facts. It is one's relationship to reality, and the natural reward for creating a proper and healthy relationship with reality is happiness.
  14. Onkar Ghate did a course on Galt's Speech which did just that. It's available through Ayn Rand Bookstore.
  15. It's different because it claims to be a documentary, i.e. journalism, i.e. a report of the truth. But Moore's films are notorious for their misrepresentation of fact. A google search will turn up oodles of pages dedicated to showing how Moore twists things, using quotes out of context, making mountains out of molehills, and using a bunch of disintegrated facts to create conspiracy theories by coy implication. When backed into a corner, he has claimed that his movies don't have to tell the truth consistently because they're "comedy"; and yet, he was more than willing to accept an award for best documentary of the year for Bowling for Columbine. If Moore were merely on the level of Al Franken, who makes it fairly clear when he's bullshitting his reader, I don't think he'd be criticized as harshly on here as he has been. But he doesn't; he's duplicitous. So he deserves every insult which has been thrown at him and then some.
  16. Spearmint, You're implying that I'm taking a position which I'm not. The issue I raised isn't whether Beethoven and Rachmaninoff are "more deserving of the title 'art'" than other artists. I don't think that's a valid question, for the same reason that I wouldn't wonder whether Atlas Shrugged is more deserving of the title 'book' than Ulysses. The issue is of quality, not of kind. Maybe that was just a misstatement, and if so, just take the preceding as clarification. Speaking of clarification, I'm not clear on what you mean when you say "I'm not sure why I would be expected to accept these criteria as being somehow more objective than the ones I personally use, nor why it would be improper for me to deny that the music of Rachmaninoffis is 'art', whereas the music of Apocalyptica (for example) isn't." I'm sure there's a typo in there, but I won't presume to know where it is. So if you feel like rewriting that, I'll address it when you do. In any case, as for the gist of your post, I'll simply repeat what I said before: there is much in art that is optional. There's no Divine Edict demanding that you enjoy Rachmaninoff more than Guns'n'Roses. But it is worthwhile to attempt to distinguish between what you enjoy and what you consider objectively good -- and I admit, this is quite difficult for music, so I don't want to get too deep into the subject of what sorts of standards might be appropriate here. To give an example outside of music, I've recently started reading Robert Ludlum novels. I think they're great, I've enjoyed all three that I've read so far immensely. Do they compare to Dostoyevski in terms of art? I don't think so. Objectively, Dostoyevski is a much greater artist. He's much more thematically focused, he addresses more fundamental issues, he's an innovator in many ways, etc... but I still like Ludlum better. Contradiction? Nope, just personal preference, based on what I consider important and enjoyable. I'm probably not going to pursue this conversation much further, since I really don't think I have anything new or interesting to say about what should constitute a standard of evaluation for music. But if you want to try to clean up some of what you said, who knows, I might find something more to say about it.
  17. I think there's a better way to put this. Your life is your highest value, so there are very few situations in which you would even consider giving it up. Certainly not when it would be a sacrifice. And there's a good reason this seems puzzling: how could you give up your highest value without sacrificing? I see two types of situations in which it would be appropriate. First, there are situations in which you might risk your life in order to obtain some value. Think, for example, of a person who runs into a burning building to save his nephew. It's not guaranteed that he'll die, but it's possible; nonetheless, the risk may be worthwhile. The second type of situation is one in which there is guaranteed death. The only time this is worth it is when one faces a meaningless, joyless life if one were to do nothing. So if your lover is standing next to a grenade and you can hop on top of it, and you know that if she were to die your life would be worthless to you, you should do it: you would at least have achieved a value in those last moments, rather than never achieving anything of real meaning to you again. In neither case is it a sacrifice. The second case seems trickier if you're dealing in unconcretized principles, but it's really the first which I think needs more work. What sort of principles should guide risk evaluation?
  18. I just watched that again this week. Loved it. By the way, I also just watched "The Secret Window." Well acted, and well-done overall I suppose, but... Spoiler ahead (not that it matters much): Is anyone else sick of movies where it turns out that the main character is insane, and some other character in the movie was another of their personalities? Identity, Fight Club, Secret Window, and others... seems like half of the movies which have came out in the last few years use this gimmick. And, to me at least, it's getting really old.
  19. For what it's worth, I was thinking of taking an intro Greek class at Rutgers, and I noticed that they use the same book here. So it's not something he sells only to his own students. (And, from my limited experience with it, the Classics department at Rutgers seems to be composed of people who know what they're doing.)
  20. I listened to about half of his tape on that subject before my walkman decided to eat it. I rescued it, but I've been reluctant to try to play it again... what I heard of it was great, though.
  21. I just looked briefly, and I can't find anything. I had heard that he said something to Congress indicating that he thought returning to the gold standard was now a bad idea, since it would cause too much economic disruption or something. I don't recall the source, though, so perhaps I was wrong on that. However, I did find an interesting article relating to this. Apparently, until approximately 1997 Greenspan's shifts of the interest rate tracked the price of gold with remarkable accuracy, leading the author of the article to conclude that Greenspan was trying to enact a de facto gold standard. After 1997, and following his "irrational exuberance" comments, the interest rate moved dramatically away from changes in the price of gold. I'd have to research it more to be sure that he was actually tracking gold, rather than doing something else which happened to cause a correlation between the interest rates and the price of gold. But the graph in the article was fairly convincing. It's also interesting that it only shifted off at a time when Greenspan was articulating a new economic principle. So if it's true that he was trying to tie the dollar to gold as much as possible until 1997, but then stopped, then it sounds like he effectively dismissed the gold standard -- whether or not the claims that he did so openly were true. EDIT: The article is available at http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_comment...uskin013103.asp
  22. The Franciscio Theory, I think, is pretty silly. There have been no actual indications during Greenspan's career as Fed head that he's trying to make any significant changes in the system. He's been frank about his own views of economics, and at one point I believe he said publicly (this may have been quoted earlier) that he didn't think *anyone* should have his position. But he has also backed down from some of his earlier views, such as his support for the gold standard.
  23. Well, Plato is almost always worthwhile, and I particularly like Apology. He presents Socrates as a true hero, and his speech is quite inspiring in many ways. Take a close look at what Socrates does with in his defense against the second of the three accusations, though: I think there's a lot to be learned about his views from it. (Basically, he changes the subject and intentionally confuses his accuser in order not to have to really answer the charge.) Stone's book is interesting. He makes some good points, though you have to read him carefully. He also makes some fairly dubious ones. I've recommended it in the past, though, because I think it has a lot of useful background information about Socrates, and because it's quite well written and fun to read.
  24. That's not much of an argument. I mean, if you don't accept that sex without love is immoral, why would you feel guilty about it? Answer: you wouldn't. So the onus is on you to show how it is actually and always a disvalue.
  25. So did Frank O'Connor ghostwrite Galt's speech?
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