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Everything posted by JeffS

  1. I agree, but it's still evasion. If I was speeding, it doesn't matter what evidence the government has - the objective fact is that I was speeding. If asked, no, I don't need to respond, but that doesn't change the objective fact. I know I was speeding. If I avoid punishment simply by staying silent, should I rejoice that I live in a society so deficient that actual criminals go free?
  2. So, it's in your rational self-interests to act in such a way that perpetuates a society where criminals can avoid punishment simply by remaining silent?
  3. So, if the cop asks, "How fast were you going?" The proper response is to answer honestly?
  4. "Taking social action...." Read: getting a mob together to single out a particular person and prevent them from voluntarily trading with others. "Disagreeing with someone's ridiculous claims...." Actually, you're not advocating simple disagreement, are you? You're advocating using government guns to force someone to at least act like they agree with you. In other words, your statement would read: getting a mob together to single out a particular person and prevent them from voluntarily trading with others. Can you tell the difference between the two?
  5. In a thread on speeding tickets, someone implied that one shouldn't admit to the crime to the officer. Rather than posting there and hijacking the thread, I'll use this thread to ask a more general question: Should a criminal implicate himself, and if not, isn't this a form of evasion? Assume a real crime - a real initiation of force against another - not simply something deemed illegal.
  6. It's interesting that you should so clearly support boycotting a business, yet so vehemently condemn refusing service to someone based on their skin color. Both are forms of discrimination. You believe your form of discrimination is "right," yet the latter form is "wrong." I wonder, can you identify why?
  7. I've seen this before, though with "dinner" instead of beer. What both analyses leave out is the fact that the more each man pays, the less beer (or dinner) he gets. The first four men alone probably eat and drink enough to account for $75 of the $100 bill. The richest probably only had water and bread sticks.
  8. I'm surprised this wasn't on there. (Pranav Mistry's "Sixth Sense Technology")
  9. Clearly, he did not - he's in prison right now. How can that be rational? If your goal is to live as an animal in a cage, then you're not a rational being - you're an irrational animal. You're familiar with the Rand Lexicon, so I recommend you read through the entries on rationality and what "rational self-interest" means. And probably spent his life constantly looking over his shoulder wondering when the cops were going to catch him. Again, you must understand what type of animals we are - we are rational animals. We must use our rational capabilities in order to survive; nothing is given to us automatically. This includes knowledge. Which means we have no mechanism that provides us automatic knowledge. Which means emotions and intuition can't be mechanisms of automatic knowledge. They can give us insight into what perceptual data is reaching our brains, but they are not knowledge. If psychopathic killers are rational, then they would examine why they believe it is in their rational self-interests to act on their irrational desires to kill. They would examine any emotions which urge them to kill when they're getting the same perceptual data everyone else is getting yet the vast majority of rational animals are not killing each other.
  10. Then he's not thinking rationally and will neither find happiness nor likely have much time to seek it. Let me clarify something: Objectivism "works" for all people who choose to live as people - not perfect people, not flawless people, not as sensory complete (whatever that would mean) people - but as rational animals. If someone is incapable of rational thought, then Objectivism won't be of any use to them. At that point, it's as pointless discussing his emotional and intuitive faculties as it would be discussing my dog's emotional and intuitive faculties.
  11. Check your premises. The standard in Objectivism isn't "the un-flawed human being." The standard in Objectivism is the organism as it is, and since we're the only organisms philosophy pertains to, the standard in Objectivism is we as we are. A color-blind man judges what is good for him as a color-blind man. He might have a flaw in his visual sense receptors, his brain might be receiving "flawed" data, but he should still live his life rationally and with the goal of his own life and happiness. Would anyone who does not know your wife as well as you do recognize the signals? If not, why not? If our intuitions are innate, unlearned, then shouldn't everyone get the same signals from your wife? She's presenting the data, their senses (assuming they're not flawed) should receive that data, the only thing left is to interpret the data. If the knowledge is innate, anyone should interpret the data the same way. You seem to be in a "chicken or the egg" paradox here. Which is it? Do the emotions come first, or the intuitions?
  12. Are you contending that this is a point of intuition; that the "sensation" you get here is different from the feeling/sensation you felt when you saw your wife two hours ago, and different from the sensation (terror) that you feel when you realize what is wrong? If so, I say both are the same thing and originate in the same way. The "something is wrong" sensation is just another emotion. It's your brain telling you that a data point should elicit a response from you. I think why you believe I've diverged from my original position is because you asked if this was an innate feature of the brain. My answer meant to convey that we are what we are, and we're the product of millions of years of evolution. Clearly, brains which could collect and manage large quantities of percept data won the evolutionary race against brains which could not. In that sense, our ability to collect large quantities of percept data, and focus on those which we choose, is an innate feature of our brains; it is an ability which has helped us to survive. I believe it's a higher brain function in that it's not part of our so-called "reptilian" brains. Volition, including the ability to choose what percepts we focus on, requires a more complex brain. You don't know your wife is mad until you learn to recognize the signs that she is mad. You don't know you should feel terror that she's mad until you've had some experience with her being mad. Another person will get the same perceptual data, but feel no sensation that "something is wrong," and get no feeling of terror. This is learned behaviour, not something "pre-emotional." As another example, children have no fear of bears or other dangerous animals. If it's cute and cuddly, they'll want to hug it. They need to be taught to fear dangerous animals and not hug them. Their brains need to be taught to associate "cute, cuddly animal" with "could kill me." Then, when their senses deliver all the perceptual data of "cute, cuddly animal" the appropriate chemical cocktail can be mixed up to encourage them to run. Well, sure, there can be problems with the wetware. Not just in physically damaged individuals, but also in normally rational people. The chemical composition of the body is almost always in constant flux - you don't get the same feelings from looking at a nice, juicy steak when you're hungry as when you're stuffed. That's just one reason why emotions and intuition can't be relied upon as knowledge. They can be used for directing our search for knowledge, but they are not knowledge in and of themselves.
  13. I don't know. What does this have to do with emotions and intuition?
  14. I think LeGault just didn't read Gladwell very carefully. Gladwell doesn't argue that one can just go on their "gut instincts," but that seems to be the impression LeGualt got. Interestingly enough, I remember LeGault providing a bunch of unfounded conclusions himself. It's not a book I would recommend. Emotions are physiological responses to some percept. When I see my wife, I feel happy. Why do I feel happy? Because she is a great value to me. When I see her, my brain makes the instantaneous comparison between her and all things which are not her. It also, instantaneously, evaluates all my values and recognizes her at the top of my heirarchy. It then signals my lymbic system to dump various chemicals into my blood stream - dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine among them. It is these chemicals which are the percepts my brain reacts to and which I call the emotion "happy." Although these chemicals were released when I first met her, through twenty years of our relationship my interpretation of those chemicals has changed. I still feel the sexual attraction that these chemicals first brought about, but there are now far more data points integrated into the evaluation of those chemicals. I don't think intuition is any different. It is still a response to some chemical cocktail. Whatever that cocktail is, it is our perception of it that causes the "pit in the stomach." It is our perception of whatever causes the brain to demand this cocktail which causes the cocktail to be mixed up in the first place. Just as with my example above, over years of integrating multitudes of data points the brain comes to associate those data points with the cocktail. When those data points are perceived, the brain demands the cocktail. If those data points are not perceived, the brain has no reason to demand the cocktail. If an expert views a forged DaVinci, his brain is not getting the data points associated with a real DaVinci; therefore, he doesn't get the cocktail; therefore, he doesn't get a "good feeling" about the painting. At that point, the rational thing to do is try to determine which data point is missing, or which data point is incorrect. Conscious thoughts do take time, and emotions are instantaneous. However, emotions are not just a product of subconscious thought, they can also be a product of prior conscious thought. In either case, the time has already been spent in order to arrive at an instantaneous decision - or intuition. Over time, and after a multitude of experiences with a particular percept, the brain registers a percept as associated with certain actions, effects, causes, entities, whatever. It can make these percept/event connections without focus - as in someone who has an irrational phobia due to some experience in early childhood; or, the connection can be made with focus - as in someone who becomes an expert in a particular field through years of study. In short, emotion and intuition are the same thing. They are both products of perceptual data either integrated purposefully or not. They are both perceptions of physiological changes to the chemical make-up of the bloodstream. Since they are so dependent upon body chemistry, they can't be trusted to provide knowledge. The rational course of action is to consciously identify what percept (or confluence of percepts) caused the brain to demand the chemical change. When a bear is chasing you, the percept causing your brain to dump adrenaline into your body and make you feel fear is not so difficult to identify. But when you're trying to determine why you don't like someone upon first meeting them, or why you don't think a particular sculpture is a Michaelangelo, then identifying the particular data point(s) might be more difficult.
  15. I don't know. Both would seem to be products of higher brain functions; perhaps part of the evolution of a more complex brain. In that case, then yes, it is an innate survival tool of the brain. Exactly. We choose which percepts, out of the literally millions our senses provide us with, to focus on. We choose whether to focus on the forest or the trees. However, that doesn't mean our brains are ignoring the other perceptions. I'm sure everyone has had the experience of remembering some detail that wasn't obvious the moment the detail was presented. Another example would be when faced with a sudden and traumatic experience (a car wreck, perhaps), time seems to slow down. At these moments, the brain is hyper-aware and it's focusing on all the percepts it's presented with simultaneously. I contend time seems to slow down because we're just not used to processing so much information immediately. Right, it's not license to just say, "Well, it feels right (or wrong)," and then go with it. One must rationally analyze that feeling and attempt to identify what is causing it.
  16. And LeGault makes the same point I made above when he wrote, "... lying behind these 'snap judgments' are educated impressions formed by years of study, thought, and analysis." He was specifically referencing the example I gave above. (He was wrong, however, in asserting that Gladwell overlooked this.)
  17. Yes, it is. The experts could not identify the flaw because it was so minor, yet there was a flaw. Their senses did send the flaw to their brains and their brains did recognize the flaw. However, they could not bring the flaw to the immediate consciousness. To them, something was just "wrong" with what they were seeing, they just couldn't immediately identify it. I did not ascribe any value to "gut feelings," and none should be. As I wrote, the proper response to any emotional or psychological "feeling" is to identify the feeling and then use logic and rational thought to understand what is causing the feeling. Most of the experts Gladwell references either fail to take the time to do this, or do not have the time to do this, thus the name of the book - Blink in the sense that you gain far more information in the blink of an eye than you can possibly cognate. The experts I specifically wrote about had a limited amount of time to evaluate the sculpture. Had they more time, they would've found the flaw since the flaw was indeed found after the museum bought the sculpture. Experts in their field have trained their minds to such a degree that much of the data they base their conclusions upon is automatized in their subconscious (in the sense that they don't need to bring it to immediate cognition and dwell upon it in order to make the proper conclusion). It's like driving a car, or riding a bike, would be for you (I assume). You've spent enough time behind the wheel, or on the saddle that you don't have to evaluate every piece of data (there is one car 2 feet to my right and 5 feet off my front bumber, the car to my left is 3 feet to my left and 2 feet in front of my bumber, I'm doing 59.5 mph, my foot is exerting 3 pounds of pressure and the accelerator is pressed half-way down, I am in 5th gear, the car behind me is 10 feet behind me and speeding up, the song on the radio is "Highway to Hell," by AC/DC, my kids are in the back seat discussing "Medal of Honor," etc. ad infinitum). Now, you just drive. But when you started driving, you had to process most of this information individually. Now, one might argue that you're driving on instinct, but when you first started driving you were very much using your cognitive abilities just to get out of the driveway. Experts in their field are several steps above what we do when we're behind the wheel. Their "gut reactions" are no more instinctual, or innate, than our ability to drive and still give processing time to things other than driving. It is not an illustration of a flaw in logic because they've spent their entire professional lives honing their logic in that particular field.
  18. Malcolm Gladwell explores this in his book Blink. You should read it. The short story is that we actually take in a fantastic amount of information with our senses. Our higher brains are able to process this information even when we don't particularly focus on that information. He provides several examples of this, here is one: Several years ago, a sculpture was presented to a museum for purchase. The sculpture was reputed to be a Michaelangelo. The museum had numerous art specialists examine the sculpture for authenticity. To a one, each expert said they could find nothing to indicate the sculpture was not a Michealangelo, but they didn't feel right about it. None of them thought it was a Michaelangelo, but they could not point to any piece of data which led them to believe so. In other words, their "gut" told them it was a fake. The museum went ahead and bought the piece. It was later proved to be a fake. A very, very good fake with a minor flaw. These experts had trained themselves to recognize the genuine and the fake. They knew which data points to a fake or a genuine. Just because this data isn't glaring doesn't mean that it's not there. The brain, and the sense organs which provide it with data, are amazing organs - capable of doing far more than we give them credit for. When someone says, "My gut just doesn't feel right about this," they're really saying, "I have picked up a data point which I'm not quite able to process conciously right now." The appropriate response is to find out more about that data point and to analyze it rationally, not to simply go with it and pretend it's a form of knowledge.
  19. Clear the Hahvahd Yahd. We've got another Bullet-Catch contestant.
  20. Congrats, RB! I hope your new career is just as fulfilling as your old one.
  21. Obama: "Dear God, if I've lost Stewart, I've lost the country."
  22. JeffS

    Food Stamps?

    No one wants to answer my questions?
  23. JeffS

    Food Stamps?

    You're right. It doesn't follow. I should have written, "I've merely asked that you not be the impetus for another theft in order to make yourselves whole.../... The overarching question here is whether or not it's moral to instigate government theft from another party in order to make yourself whole." Thanks for helping me clarify that. There's a lot I would need to reply to in order to catch everyone, and most are contesting the same things, indicating that I haven't presented my position well enough. Perhaps a hypothetical will help (I'll keep it as simple as necessary, i.e. no borrowing from other nations, no inflation of the currency): Day 1: Mr. A, Mr. B, Ms. C, and Ms. D are the only citizens of the country. Mr. A and Mr. B believe the government should provide food stamps to all who want/need them, and should get money, by force if necessary, from the citizenry in order to pay for this benefit. Neither Ms. C nor Ms. D believe this, but they go along with it because Mr. A and Mr. B have guns and threaten to put the ladies in jail if they don't. Mr. A and Mr. B each willingly give $10 each in order to provide this service, Ms. C and Ms. D reluctantly part with $10 each to likewise fund this program. At the end of the day, there is $40 in the program. Day 2: Mr. A loses his job and can pay no taxes (as much as he'd like to, you just can't get blood from a stone), but he accepts $30 in benefits. Mr. B, Ms. C, and Ms. D each give, or have taken, $10 each. At the end of the day, there is $40 in the program. Day 3: Sadly, Mr. B loses his job and can pay no taxes, but he accepts $30 in benefits. Mr. A is still out of work, so he pays no taxes, but again accepts $30 in benefits. Ms. C and Ms. D each have $10 taken from them. At the end of the day, there is no money in the program. Day 4: Ms. C loses her job and debates whether or not she should accept benefits. "After all," she reasons, "I've been paying into the program for 3 days. If I get one day of benefits, I'm just getting the money previously stolen from me returned." Questions: Does her money still exist in the program? Given there is no money left in the program, what will have to occur in order for Ms. C to recoup her stolen property? If you agree the answer to the previous question is, "It must be taken from Ms. D," then is it moral for Ms. C to sanction the theft of Ms. D's property in order to make herself whole? You're offering a false dichotomy. Those certainly aren't the only options. However, do you believe Objectivist principles can be rejected if they are simply too difficult to adhere to?
  24. JeffS

    Food Stamps?

    Then we are dealing with different understandings of reality and will, therefore, never agree. I don't know what evidence would prove to you that the government is operating at a deficit - it spends more money than it takes in. I don't know what evidence would prove to you that the government has debt - it has spent more money than it has taken in for an extended period of time. If I spend more money than I take in, then I have to do something to rectify that - I'll have to take out a loan. That puts me in debt. I can't do that for an extended period of time; eventually, no one will want to lend to me and the people I borrowed money from are going to want their money back. In order to repay that debt, and/or maintain a higher level of spending, I really only have one option: earn more money. The government does not have this option. The only option the government has is to get money from people who have earned it; either voluntarily, through taking it by force, or by printing more money (inflation). The government is operating at a deficit and carries debt. Its only option in getting more money to maintain its level of spending and to pay off that debt is to get more money from others. Either you recognize this, or you do not. I really find it difficult to believe you don't recognize it. Which leaves that you recognize it and are rationalizing. Your argument seems to be, "Yes, money was stolen from me, but others gave it willingly. It is their money that is used to maintain the higher level of spending, not mine. It is their money that is used to pay the debt, not mine. Yes, the government will have to get more money to pay for my benefits, but it will get that money from people who willingly give it to them. It won't have to steal it from anyone to pay for my benefits." The problem with this argument is that it ignores reality. The government is operating at a deficit and maintains debt. All the money it takes in, from those who give voluntarily and those who must be forced, is spent to maintain that level of spending and that debt. When you go from not taking benefits to taking benefits, you add to the government's expenses. Therefore, the government will have to go out and get more money. Yes, it will get some of this money from those who willingly give it, but that will not be enough because the government is operating at a deficit and has debt. It will have to steal some money as well, and it still will not be enough because the government is operating at a deficit and has debt. Your money does not disappear - it is spent, or rather it was spent. Your money, everyone else's money, and more money was spent before you even began taking benefits. I have not argued that you should not, or must not, retaliate. I've merely asked that you not steal from a third party in order to make yourselves whole. I want you to keep your property and have not even remotely argued to the contrary. Clearly, it is the government which is violating your rights. I have never asked that you sacrifice yourselves to anything or anyone. Roads are built and paid for. To the extent that more money needs to be appropriated for their upkeep, then yes, you should refuse to drive on them. Since money needs to be appropriated to staff and maintain schools, you should also refuse to use them. Anything else would be sanction. To use RB's analogy, should I drive the guy who just robbed me to the next house on his list so he can steal some money to pay me back? Or, can I rationalize that the next house on his list is owned by someone who agrees with his method of getting funds? The overarching question here is whether or not it's moral to steal from a third party in order to make yourself whole. Is it? We can debate whether or not that is actually happening, but I would like an answer to that question.
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