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Bold Standard

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  1. Um, how about the law of causality? Why is this in this thread? If you don't want to talk about the Eternal Return specifically, why not start your own thread? (Is it futile for me to ask "why" to someone who doesn't believe in cause and effect?) So do you think I'm accurate in comparing him to Augustine on this point? Why should something that makes absolutely no consequential difference to anyone whatsoever be "horrifying"? This makes about as much sense to me as people who are extremely disturbed by the prediction that in some odd million years from now (I'm not sure what the estimated time is) the sun will go supernova and consume the earth. So what? None of us will be here then!
  2. That sounds much more Kantian than Objectivist. It would be a legitimate example against Statism--meaning a good argument against legalizing cheating, stealing, bribery, and other rights violations. Because that really would (and does) destroy productivity and make future products impossible. But it's a worthless argument against one man cheating, stealing, and bribing his way to obtaining possesions. The simplest way that I can think of to answer the question is to explain that man must live on principles, and they must be the right principles, if he wants to be truly successful, and lying, stealing, cheating, etc, are not proper prinicples by which to live. Such a person as this would be dependent always on other actually productive people--why not devote his energy towards being productive? For one thing, all of the things you mentioned are illegal. Why shouldn't he make his money legally, and not have to worry about getting caught? Luckily, there is still a very good lecture from Leonard Peikoff on "Why Should One Act On Principle?" available at the Ayn Rand Institute's registered users page (for free). In order to give someone who's not familiar with Objectivism a simple and concise argument for some specific subject dealt with by Objectivism, I think it's vital to understand it as well as possible, which means studying a lot more material than you would actually use in the arument. I think that lecture is a good place to start (Dr. Peikoff's arguments against Pragmatism in his History of Western Philosophy lecture course are also very helpful).
  3. Since there was absolutely nothing humorous in that lady's statement, I can't imagine that a person who responded with laughter would be confident or anything other than psychologically disturbed. I didn't percieve Ayn Rand's reaction as stilted, nervous, on edge, excessively angry, or self-conscious. She dismissed the person, and was courteous enough to provide a reason for why she was dismissing her. Perhaps Ayn Rand recognized a significance in that lady's remarks that you are overlooking, because AR took ideas seriously, and was aware of the disaterous consequences that bad ideas can have?
  4. How do you know she was nervous? How many 80 year olds do you know whose voices don't quiver? A great personality she was!
  5. What is "the dictionary"? Which dictionary? Published by whom, and when? What standards employed by those defining the words in this dictionary were superior to Ayn Rand's, and why?
  6. Why would these be mutually exclusive? Mustn't we be individual *and* human in order to have rights? But I think we call them "individual rights" because the delimit the proper relationship between the individual and the state. They are referred to as "individual rights" because they belong only to individual humans, rather than groups of humans, organizations, governments, corporations, etc.
  7. But there are exceptions to this. I've seen some interesting reports by John Stosell on the news show 20/20 debunking various claims from environmentalism (he includes statements by actual scientists, from my memory, but I don't know any specific names).
  8. Let's assume for a second that it's true that a majority of academic research and government scientists endorse environmentalism. I think it's bizarre, too. I also think it's bizarre that the majority of academic and government scientists endorced racism in Nazi Germany. I think the reasons are similar (and it's no coincidence that the Nazis were extreme, fanatical advocates of environmentalism themselves). It is an easily verifiable fact that environmentalism is being used, and always has been used since it began as a movement, to increase the scope of government. In other words, it has been used quite effectively to gain power. Why would a government scientist be motivated to endorse environmentalism? Well, think--who picks these scientists? Who pays them? Who desides which projects will be funded and which won't? In any political system in which there is such a thing as "a government scientist," such corruption should be expected--the system is designed specifically for that type of coersive influence to exist. But I don't think it's true that the majority of scientists embrace that view anyway. Most of the science I've seen debunking environmentalism is not even from Objectivist sources. The same type of people who debunk supposedly "scientific" claims of the paranormal, space aliens on Earth, voodoo, ghosts, Intelligent Design, etc, often debunk claims made by environmentalists as well. Environmentalism is on the same level as these others--it's only that it has more political muscle behind it, so its advocates are more visible in certain circles than the others. You don't have to be a scientist to debunk alleged experimental evidence for the efficacy of psychics, for another example--a philosopher can do that, because the contradictions are blatant logical fallacies. Similarly, you needn't be a scientist to debunk the typical position of those who support global warming--assuming by "global warming," you mean the full position, with all of its premises, conclusions, and consequences (rather than some specific scientific evidence of some actual change in climate that might occur in some delimited period of time, as a mere observation, without all the causal coorelations, implications, and everything else claimed in the actual "global warming" position). I think it's a little misleading to call it a "hoax," because that implies that its advocates don't actually believe that it's true. Although some of them might not believe it, and might be only using it as a Machievellian tool--many of them obviously believe it.
  9. Well, yes, but you said "'official' [O]bjectivist position," so I thought you wanted a quote from AR. The opinions of particular Objectivists on contemporary issues is not necessarily "officially" Objectivism, and strictly speaking, only the particular ideas advanced and condoned by Ayn Rand in her lifetime are "official" Objectivist positions, since Objectivism is "the philosophy of Ayn Rand." The top quote I gave was originally published in the January, 1971 issue of The Objectivist. The second was from the September 1974 issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.
  10. It might be more common for women than men, but I've known women who could get aroused from visual stimulation, and who liked to masterbate to pornography. I think you can know things about a person's mind just from seeing her naked.
  11. It's not that the science behind it is wrong, but that it is not science at all.
  12. I put Mill and Bentham in the Objectivism Research CD-ROM, and it pulled up mostly brief quips against Mill from AR, but there is a more substantial reference from The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff.
  13. Actually, the most recent research indicates that new brain cells are generated in adult humans, and that in fact this happens all the time--a process called neurogenesis. (Especially in the hippocampus, and there is evidence that new brain cells can migrate to other parts of the brain as well--at least, we know that happens in the brains of adult macaque monkeys). Neurogenesis article Wiki article
  14. I don't know that much about ID either, but based on my knowledge that ID is religious and claims to be scientific, it seems possible that ID would claim that scientific observation can lead to knowledge of reality. If so, a Kantian might say that Objectivism is similar in that it also holds scientific observation can lead to knowledge of reality, as opposed to Kant who said that observation only leads to knowledge about the functioning of the human mind as it appears to us, and that reality "as it is in itself" is unknowable. (A stretch too, I guess, but Kantians are used to stretching).
  15. Oohhh, I thought that the analogy was supposed to be a response to the question, "If there is no free will, what does it mean to 'act as if one has free will'?" Which confused me because I couldn't see how failing to predict the possible outcomes of a choice would mean that it wasn't really a choice. But I guess it was actually supposed to be a response to the first part of the quote, "If one one has no alternative (in a given situation) whether they accept the good argument or the bad one, how can it be said that reason exists?" Because the man tried to reason about which wire to cut, when there wasn't a consequentially significant alternative (although, in the context of his knowledge, there might have been). Now I see what you were saying (I think).
  16. Thank you for bringing this up. I'm not sure if it's been mentioned in this thread already, but even so it bears repeating: Dr. Peikoff doesn't define causality as a mechanistic chain of events, and many determinists do take this view. For him, causality is the behavior of entities acting according to their identities. Many determinists reject volition, because they hold that all of existence is a chain of events that are necessitated by previous events, and therefore volition is impossible because it would mean an event which is not necessitated by events which occured prior to consciousness. If it is understood that causality is the action of entities according to their nature, then it can be easily understood that entities of different natures will behave differently, and that a "mechanistic" view of causality is grossly insufficient to explain such diverse phenomena as actually exist. Then the position that conscious entities operate on a different type of causality than unconscious entities, or that living entities operate on a different type of causality than inanimate entities, and so on, becomes much less controversial. It's only on the premise that there is one type of mechanistic causality that all entities *must* conform to, all appearances and evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, that forbids people from accepting or even comprehending this view.
  17. But the outcome was different. He diffused the bomb by cutting the green wire, instead of diffusing it by cutting the red wire. Are you suggesting that since the consequence of either action was identical, the wires themselves were metaphysically identical? (There is a type of metaphysical position derived from Pragmatism that would claim this).
  18. There is so much involved in this question that is outside the scope of this thread, I almost think it deserves its own thread.. How could this even posibly be shown by evidence? Are you actually asserting that you have seen evidence of the nonexistence of will? There seems to be an immense equivocation between the mental and the physical throughout this post. Will is massless and shapeless because it is not a physical quality, but a mental one. Thoughts, emotions, and desires, while they might correspond to physical phenomena in the brain, are not descriptions of physical phenomena in the brain, but are mental phenomena, and thus do not have mass, shape, quantity, or any other attribute that applies only to physical entities. The exact mechanisms by which physical activity in the brain and mental activity in the mind interact is not known--but it is known that they both exist. Claiming that mental activity simply doesn't exist because it can't be explained by what we know of physical activity is not a solution. You could just as easily claim that physical activity doesn't exist because it can't be explained by what we know of mental activity. Yet, we know that both exist! And they must interact somehow. So don't use Ockham's razor to slit your throat--entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity, but physical reality, mental reality, and volition are all necessary. How do you know this? You've gone from positing a correlation to claiming knowledge of causality. How do you know that the physical changes aren't the result of the mental processes? How do you know that they are not reciprocal phenomena? How do you know anything besides that the two states are always observed to accompany one another in time? It's a contradiction to say that the mental is a "result" of the physical, and at the same time, "One cannot 'command' the other." To command means to be the result of something. You are claiming complete omniscience of the workings of the brain? I've had several conversations with professional neorologists who wouldn't claim anywhere near this degree of expertise regarding the mechanics of the brain. Maybe I should tell them to contact you with questions they might have. (Sorry, that was a little sarcastic : P). But sersiously.. Are you claiming omniscience of the workings of the brain? Because if not I'm totally misreading you. I agree that the brain does not contain anything "non-inanimate," but the mind does. Consequently, you can not judge the brain the same way you would judge any other physical object in existence--because it is the only physical object in existence which is directly connected to consciousness. It's analogous to this: although the laws of gravity are pretty much universal, you couldn't expect a bird to behave the same way that a rock of the same size and shape would behave if you threw it from a window. Because the bird is acted upon by *wings.* Similarly, the brain won't behave the same way as, let's say a computer (of the kind that actually exists), because the brain is acted upon by *consciousness.* But your brain is not "conscious." You are conscious.. Your brain is merely the metaphysical condition for consciousness. How are you defining will, and why would it have to "float between the neurons of your brain" in order to exist?
  19. I'm confused about what you mean.. Are you saying he will act as if he has free will, or that he will act as if he is determined but thinks he has free will? This is where I think you're using the terminology differently than Dr. Peikoff (and I think that his use of the terminology is much less misleading and more consistent with the traditional usagage). You seem to be using determinism in this section to be exactly equivolent to causality. Determinism means, and has always meant, the belief that human actions or behavior is necessitated by forces outside of consciousness. "Internal determinsim" is a contradiction in terms. Since the time of Democritus (at least), it has been the determinist position that the "internal" is merely an illusion fed to us by faulty sensory perception, or some such inadequacy of the mind. This has held true for every determinist that I've studied, from Materialistic determinists like Democritus, Skinner, and Hobbes, to Idealistic ones like Hegel (and contemporary determinists who are normally a mishmash of these, sometimes smuggeling in premises from the advocates of volition when the contradictions of determinism become too obvious). Well, not being a psychologist, I was using "anorexia" to mean merely a habitual psychological evasion of the fact that one's body needs sustenance, but that is probably not a proper or acurate use of the term. But even in the case of actual clinical anorexia, I don't think it's the case that the anorexic person must starve himself in all circumstances. (Except maybe in some extreme cases). But for the purpose of my example, just forget I said anorexia and pretend I said, you were evading the knowledge that you needed to eat for whatever reason. In order to have chosen differently, your reason would have to be different, but that's an internal, mental difference and therefore volitional not deterministic. But you're begging the question. The idea that all cognitive factors are directly dependant on a person's environment, history, personality, etc, (depending somewhat on what you mean by "personality" and "etc") and nothing else is exactly the proposition under criticism by the Objectivists. The question of whether there might be an ultimate necessary connection between physical and mental processes is a scientific one, and Dr. Peikoff explicitly says in his History of Western Philosophy course that there may be such a connection, but that the available evidence is insufficient to conclusively say one way or another. Philosophy says merely that both physical and mental processes necessarily exist (which is immediately validated through sense perception), and that the type of causality which governs the physical world is called "deterministic," whereas the type which governs the mental is called "volitional." I'm quite convinced at this point that "hard" determinism merely means "consistent" determinism, and that you only consider "soft" determinism to be more problematic because it attempts to find middle ground between determinism and volition, but that it's not in fact problematic, because the elements of determinism which are considered necessary by soft determinism are not necessary, and not true (or at least are stated in a way which is unecessarily confusing and misleading). When you say "humans don't have the knowledge of what deterministic factors influence their decision," do you mean that humans are incapable of knowing these factors? If the factors are unknowable, what possible evidence could we have that they exist? Hm.. So you're saying that the man didn't actually chose to cut the green wire, because if he had chosen the red wire instead, it would have disarmed the bomb? At this point, you've completely lost me.
  20. Do you mean inadequate in terms of style, comprehensiveness, consistency, or something else? And are you speaking primarily of her fiction, non-fiction, or both? Welcome to the forum.
  21. I do agree with you that it's not necessarily second handed if you love someone so much that life without them would be unbearable, in contexts besides the one in the example, though. There is the example of [censored--possible spoiler] telling Dagny he wouldn't want to live if she were killed by the villains. In that case, it wouldn't be because of guilt, and wouldn't be second handed for his life to be unbearable.
  22. I don't think it's necessarily proper to make claims about what specific intentions motivated her to chose the words she did, since there's no way to prove it either way (for the record, I never said she intended to say that, and I don't think she did). But I could speculate that maybe she worded it that way to emphasize that it's the loss of the value that would primarily be the source of misery in that situation, however in the context she clearly (clear to me, anway) identifies that the loss of self-esteem resulting from the failure to act would significantly contribute to the despair. In fact, if she worded the sentence to say "life without having acted to save the loved person could be unbearable," I think it would be a little circular. Why would failing to save the person be a disvalue unless the person was a value who's loss would be painful to begin with? I think she says "could be unbearable" to emphasize the fact that the loss of the person would not necessarily be unbearable, but only under certain circumstances--such as the one she describes, in which the husband could have saved her but chickens out. Also, if she'd said "life without having acted to save the loved person could be unbearable," it might confuse the reader into thinking she's suggesting that risking one's life for another is a moral duty on which self esteem intrinsically depends, which is actually part of the position she's arguing against in that paragraph.
  23. Hm, this might be a little off topic, but this strikes me as a strange position from someone with a degree in philosophy. I've not studied philosophy in school, but in my private studies of various philosophers--whenever I study a new philosophy or philosopher, I take it for granted that I will have to learn his specific terminology and definitions. Inherent in a definition are implicit philosophical premises. A dictionary definition merely reflects the philosophical ideas which are prominent in the time and place in which that dictionary is published. Academic definitions vary greatly over time, possibly even from one decade to the next or quicker (example: see how rapidly the meaning of "the verifiability principle" evolved over the first part of the 20th century). But at least Ayn Rand defined her terms.. Many philosophers use their terms in an ambiguous way, and let the reader interpret them however he wants, rendering their ideas unintelligible.
  24. Is this based on Ayn Rand's statement from "The Ethics of Emergencies"? If so, the issue in question is not merely whether life would be bearable without her, if you take the sentence in its full context, but whether life would be bearable without her, knowing that you could have saved her but chose to let her drown instead. [Edit: Also, notice that she says "could be unbearable" not "couldn't bare life without," which leaves open that it could be bearable, but suggests that it would at least be difficult.]
  25. I don't understand how this statement follows.. Why would a force not be a force unless a person was aware of it? Nobody said that man is his own cause, only that he is the cause of his actions. When you say "complete state of the universe prior to the human choice/action," are you including that person's premises, psychology, motives, etc in that state of the universe? If so, I think Dr. Peikoff would probably agree that he would choose the same. But, if you mean merely the state of the physical universe outside of the man and his mind prior to the action, then of course the person could choose differently--it's not the alignment of the planets or even genes that cause actions, but the cognitive process (the choice). I really don't think that's his position. He definitely doesn't use that kind of language in the quotes you provided. I'll read that part of OPAR tonight though. No, I don't think so-- "Man's actions do have causes; he does choose a course of behavior for a reason," (emphasis mine). If you turned back the clock, presumably you would still have the same reason for declining the sandwich that you did the first time. But if you don't mind getting hypothetical--let's say that although you declined the sandwich, you were really hungry for a sandwich but were evading those hunger pains because of anorexia. Then I think Peikoff would say, if you made the decision to think, and face the hunger pains, then you would have chosen the sandwich; you would have chosen differently. In that case, all of the environmental factors would be the same, but there would be a cognitive factor that was different. Well, Beyond Freedom and Dignity was published in 1971, about the same time Dr. Peikoff was working on OPAR. So when discussing the Objectivist position on issues, it might be a little unfair to assume the issues as they've been modified in their most recent manifestations (Ayn Rand, the only one who definitively stated the Objectitivist position on most issues, died in 1982). But, besides, determinism has existed in various forms for thousands of years, and explicitly since Ancient Greece, so why should the latest psuedo-determinism be considered the definitive determinist position, such that to use the term "determinism" to refer to the traditional argument is attacking a straw man?
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