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Bold Standard

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  1. [i typed this up as evidence that the position attributed in this discussion to determinists does exist, but while I typed it up I see Vladimir has responded, so I'll go ahead and post this and then respond to his new post (since I've already transcribed it).] Here is B F Skiner, arch-determinist, arguing that the idea of the mind is unnecessary and unscientific: I do not think Skinner would entertain the terms, "rational, thinking beings" as anything more than the lowest kind of misleading euphemism for determined, reacting objects.
  2. It's one thing to accuse someone of assuming a determinist position which is not yours, and another to accuse him of assuming a determinist position which doesn't exist. How many theories of determinism have you studied? How do you know there aren't determinists who profess exactly the type of ideas you are describing? In fact, I know that there are (and can give famous examples if you want).
  3. I agree that it's not a valid position, but what makes you say that it's not the (at least, traditional) determinist position? I'll need to read that section of OPAR more thoroughly, but I don't see from the parts you quoted where he ascribes awareness of deterministic forces to the determinist position, or why that would be essential to his argument. That you describe determinism as almost indistinguishable from volition makes me skeptical about whether what you are describing is really the determinist position. There are many variations on determinism, but most of the versions I've studied end up saying that choice is completely illusory, and then draw special conclusions from that, such as that people should not be held responsible for their actions, or that attempting to control one's own destiny is futile. Many of them also claim that thought and consciousness do not exist either, at least in the form of autonomous individual minds. What you describe seems to be more of a psuedo-determinism, with elements of free will, but with the components that lead to volition arising from "necessary" efficiently caused events. Essentially, if I'm reading you right, you're saying that we do make choices, but that we couldn't have made different choices than we did, assuming that all the conditions were the same. I'll need to find the part where he defines "necessity" to understand this. (OPAR is so broad in scope, I've found some of the definitions to be somewhat skimpy and breif, which is one reason I haven't spent as much time on OPAR as other works by Dr. Peikoff. I've found that the definitions are usually in there, but it's hard for me to keep track of what he's talking about sometimes). But this is certainly true. Inanimate matter is incapable of goal oriented behavior, and therefore doesn't "act" autonomously, but merely reacts to other forces acting on it. A conscious entity, on the other hand, is capable of acting with a future goal "in mind" (a consequence of having a mind), which is an autonomous decision, and a product of its own consciousness, rather than merely physical objects bumping into it and making it move in certain ways etc. I don't think you're interpreting Peikoff correctly. What do you mean by "starting conditions" here? Why do you think that it is his position that "nothing in the makeup of the universe before a human choice will predict [or] necessitate the governing reasons a man uses to make a choice"? He says, "man himself decides what are to be the governing reasons. Man chooses the causes that shape his actions." Is man not part of the makeup of the universe?
  4. Could this be viewed as an act of war, from England's perspective, assuming it's proven that Putin's regime is responsible?
  5. Oh, also, he's meant that the choice was intitiated according to final causation, which is a unique phenomenon of living organisms, as opposed to mere efficient causation, like billiard balls bumping each other around.
  6. It seems to me that it is the determinists who set up the straw man against free will. Objectivism has never claimed that choices exist in a vacuum or are uncaused, or that the brain is a quantum computer(? ..is that a reference to Heisenberg's quantum theory?). I also think there is a confusion about what an Objectivist would mean when he says a choice "could have been otherwise." He doesn't mean (as I understand it) that under the exact same conditions, in the exact same state of mind, by completely random chance or by some mystical power a particular person might have made a different choice than he made. I've only seen Objectivists make the claim that people might have chosen otherwise in the context of demonstrating that actions follow from choices. In the contexts I've encountered this statement, I believe that the speaker has meant merely--if the person had chosen differently, which would be metaphysically possible *under the proper conditions*, then he would have acted differently. If someone has an example where an Objectivist has claimed more than that--specifically, has claimed that, under the exact same conditions--with all the person's premises and psychology and everything being equal, the choice to think or not is completely random, arbitrary, or uncaused, which seems to be what the determinists are accusing Oists of saying, then I'd like to see an exact quote and reference for that.
  7. I'm currently reading The Biological Basis for Teleological Concepts by Dr. Harry Binswanger. So far, he's made some interesting arguments for why machines don't engage in goal oriented behavior, but I don't know if he'll adress the issue of "artificial intellegence" in computers. I think his arguments so far are at least applicable to the extent of substantially clarifying the issues involved. I disagree that Objectivism hasn't addressed this topic directly. It's just that, the common arguments in favor of determinism and against free will (as well as traditional but incorrect arguments in favor of "free will" that Objectivism rejects) are from diverse philosophical premises, so that the specific premise or premises which lead to that specific argument have to be identified and refuted before the argument can be refuted. So refuting specific arguments, and identifying each of the Objectivist principles which are necessary to validate free will in the context of an argument can get pretty complicated. There are several lecture courses available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore which are devoted to free will, though I haven't heard them. Dr. Peikoff gave some interesting arguments for it (and against several different variations on determinism, and against arguments that volition is or would be causeless) in his History of Western Philosophy courses. And Dr. Binswanger is adressing it in the book I'm reading now. Most of the more advanced Objectivist materials (especially on epistemology and sometimes metaphysics) at least adress the issue, and I almost always get a better understanding of it when they do. (As opposed to trying to discuss it out of context on message boards, which has usually temporarily confused me, until I can separate out the diversity of positions being stated and their significance, which is often more work than its worth, for me on this particular issue).
  8. I'm curious too.. When I open the page, it just says, "The chat is not currently working."
  9. If you want to notify someone, it would make more sense to notify the Estate of Ayn Rand (i.e., Dr. Peikoff) than ARI, since he has the copyrights.
  10. Which one did you pronounce wrong? The first would be funny, "God is goo'd." (Sorry, couldn't resist.) I liked Jesus at first for that, and also because I thought he was an individualist and a rebel. I didn't realize what he was rebelling against included justice and self esteem, though. (For the record, Christianity doesn't actually hold that it's possible to attain perfection even by mimicking God; only Jesus could do it, because he didn't have original sin because of his alleged virgin birth. Also, he wasn't really much of an individualist. But it's easy to understand how people could be mislead about these points who haven't studied the scriptures in detail). Yeah, thank God! : P
  11. I went to a Christian pre-school, too. But I don't remember much Christian stuff besides the prayers they made us say before we ate our snack, "God is great God is good let us thank him for this food." I just remember not thinking that good and food was a very good rhyme. And also, me being very much an ADHD kid and not knowing it (I wasn't diagnosed with it until 7th grade), i was the only one who was 100% unable to take a nap during nap time. When all the other kids went to take their nap, I got to stay up and play, because otherwise I'd just squirm around and make noise and keep all the other kids awake.
  12. Lol, that's awesome. Trying to improve the picture to make it look more like a fish, and not understanding why the teachers didn't like it better that way. I can totally picture it.
  13. A book with helpful suggestions about how to automate your subconscious actions is Ayn Rand's The Art of Fiction. Even though it's not obvious from the title, there are many philosophically/ethically interesting sections in that. I think what you're trying to describe is forming good habits. I think there are some principles necessary to form good habits besides merely forcing yourself to perform the action (for example, people force themselves to perform actions out of duty, and they never become habits, because there is a [possibly subconscious] contradiction between their values and the action). Other than that, your plan seems quite rational. You might consider adding a category of deducing from the principles you've induced, to make sure none of your conclusions contradict your firmly grounded premises. (On induction and deduction, I'll again recommend Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as a great resource).
  14. Isn't there such a thing as an open-faced sandwich that has only one slice of bread?
  15. I'm not using these terms in a nonstandard way. Here's the definition of "accurate" given by dictionary.com: 3 is the closest meaning to the way I meant it, but 1 and 2 could work. I can't imagine how "accurate" could be a valid concept the way you're using it. In order to be accurate something must have no limits? Isn't that the same as saying it must have no identity? But then nothing would be accurate and the concept would refer to nothing, so why would we even need it? Accuracy in no way implies omniscience.. Why should it? It would be helpful to clearly distinguish between sensation, perception, and conceptualization. There definitely seems to be some equivocation between the three here. So now the senses are capable of accuracy and reliability? Which position are you taking? hmm, I'm sorry, but this strikes me as a complete non-sequitur. Do you propose that if our eyes were a photon-meter, then they would give accurate knowledge about wavelengths? Do photon-meters not have ranges of error or limits? And who ever said that sense-perception gives accurate knowledge? I only ever said that it gives accurate information (data), but knowledge necessarily involves conceptualization, and that is where error can certainly occur.
  16. But Objectivism never claimed that sensory perception gives you direct information about the object; it gives you direct (infallible) information about the object's relationship to your sense organs. Take the example of the color blind man vs the man with normal vision. They might both look at the same object, and the color blind man will see it as grey, whereas the man with normal vision sees it as green. The intrinsicists or "naive realists" who thought perception gives direct knowledge of objects would have a difficult time explaining how this would be possible. But the Objectivist solution (as I understand it--Leonard Peikoff discusses this problem in his History of Western Philosophy lecture course) is that perception doesn't give you knowledge about whether the object is "green" or "grey" in itself, but rather, "the nature of the object is such that when light reflected from the object in certain conditions reaches my eyes, I experience green," or for the color blind person, the same but with grey. And both people will be correct in this assessment. I'm not sure what you mean when you say "[its] actual wavelength," because "wavelength" is not something that exists intrinsically in an object, but is the result of an interaction between the object and a light source, under certain conditions. If the conditions change, then the wavelength will change. I'm far from an expert on physics, but I'm pretty sure that the wavelength that reaches your eye when you perceive an object is the actual wavelength reflected from the object in the environment. Do you mean that the wavelength you actually perceive is not the same as the wavelength that reaches your eye? But people don't perceive wavelengths.. They perceive the effects of wavelengths on their sensory apparatuses.
  17. I disagree with your claim that there are Objectivists who do this. What you're describing is philosophical "rationalism," and since Objectivism explicitly rejects rationalism, someone who does this would not be an Objectivist, strictly speaking.
  18. Although that's not the totality of what Objectivism is, I would say it's fair to claim that Objectivism contains a description of man's relationship to the universe.. The "relationship" being found in epistemology (study of knowledge, which is gained from perceiving the universe) and ethics (codes of behavior, which is, in a certain sense, man's effects on the universe), and "the universe" and "man" being found in metaphysics (the study of the fundamental nature of the universe, "man" being part of the universe under consideration).
  19. I think this is largely an issue of context. There are some contexts in which it would be entirely appropriate to use "faith" as pretty much synonymous with "trust." For example, people often say, "I've got faith in you," to someone, when what they really mean is, "You've earned my trust," or something to that effect. But faith in the religious context usually means trusting someone else's judgment above your own. The classic example is the story of Abraham choosing to sacrifice his son Isaac on the alter (Genesis 22). In this myth, all of Abraham's reason and desires tell him not to sacrifice his son, but he chooses to do so anyway, (as it is normally interpreted) because of his faith in the superiority of God's commands over his own mind. This is the sort of context in which religious people will often say, "I don't know it, but I have faith." Which is different from trust, because if you trust someone, it should be because you know that they are trustworthy, not because you simply choose to believe it. Again, there could be contexts in which it would be appropriate to use the term "religion" in this sense. For example, someone might say of a great professional athlete, "Sports are his religion." This simply means that his fundamental orientation to life and the universe is centered around his passion for sports. But in most contexts, "religion" is meant to be a particular type philosophical approach, which relies on mysticism, dogma, and faith. Defining it as "how a man describes his relationship to the universe" would be too broad, because then how would one distinguish religion from philosophy, or from "central purpose," (as in career) etc. Not to mention, most religions denounce "This World," or "the material realm," so depending on how you define "the universe," (i.e., if you mean the physical universe) many religions might be seen to denounce any proper relationship between it and men altogether.
  20. Strictly speaking, that's right. But, Ayn Rand did sometimes use religious terminology figuratively to stand for things she believed in. One example is from a very interesting and inspiring letter that she wrote to an actor named Colin Clive, in 1934. If you ever get a chance to look at Letters of Ayn Rand, I suggest you read the whole thing sometime, because it's one of my favorites and it seems like you'd be interested. But here's an excerpt: She uses similar language in certain places in The Fountainhead. Here is an interesting excerpt from the introduction that Ayn Rand wrote to the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Fountainhead in 1968 in which she elaborates on her approach: She goes on to discuss religion, ethics, language, and her reasons for using words like "exaltation," "worship," "reverence," and "sacred" in a non-religious sense. It's a very interesting introduction that makes some important philosophical points, so I'd recommend that, too, for anyone interested in this topic. [edited to change "metaphorically" to "figuratively" in the second sentence.]
  21. Mmmm, tasty communion. The exact definition of faith is "belief in the absence of, or in contradiction to the evidence of the senses." So what Objectivism advocates is not faith in oneself, taken literally, but rather genuine self-esteem, which depends on reason and the evidence of a good reputation one has developed with oneself. Ayn Rand uses the term "religion" to mean "the primitive form of philosophy" (she discusses this in the first chapter of The Romantic Manifesto, and in other places). That means an early attempt for man to explain existence, but always with elements of mysticism, faith, and arbitrary dogmas. Any benefits that could be had from religion can be found in a more consistent and potent form in a rational philosophy. There are a few benefits to traditional religion.. Such as social interaction with like minded individuals. But there's no reason that can't be found in Objectivist clubs and organizations, and in fact, in my experience the quality of such groups is far superior to any church gatherings I've ever encountered. [Edit: and even that is not an essential element of "religion" as such, but merely a cultural consequence of the longstanding dominance and popularity of religious beliefs.]
  22. But Atlas Shrugged does prove points. To the extent that a story identifies true principles, it demonstrates valid points. If someone said to a person who was being wasteful with his finances and not saving any money for potential emergencies, "Aesop's grasshopper thought he could be extravagant all summer and not put anything away like the ants, and look where it got him," would you give him the same criticism? Sure, it's just an analogy. But do examples of moral principles have to abide in real life situations? Are fables and fiction invalid means of presenting principles, in general, or are you suggesting that Atlas Shrugged is specifically deficient in this respect? Sorry if that's off topic. Welcome to the forum, deviahah.
  23. Wow, did you publish this yourself? Well, congrats either way--I think you've got some great poems.
  24. I don't know that.. She says in this article what her ultimate literary goal is, but I'm not sure what her "ultimate goal in life" was. Atlas Shrugged was a remarkable achievement, but I don't think it would have had nearly the same impact as it has and will have, if not for the indispensable non-fiction works she produced afterwards. Also, I think she could have produced something even greater than Atlas with To Lorne Dieterling, but unfortunately she never wrote it. Still, I think I understand your sentiment.. After someone produces something like Atlas Shrugged, how do they ever top that? Well.. I would think the same thing about someone who had written The Fountainhead, which she did top. And, philosophically (though not literarily), I think she topped AS with ITOE, which was not a minor embellishment for her philosophy, but the rational foundation necessary to make her philosophy possible, in opposition to the philosophical trends of centuries. It seems to me (based on the biographical material I've seen) that Ayn Rand was an individual who fought to improve herself and achieve new remarkable things to the very end.. Although she was perhaps a little depressed after Frank O'Connor passed away.
  25. That might be true.. But could either Atlas Shrugged or ITOE or anything that Ayn Rand wrote have been produced without the lifetime of productive achievement she had achieved prior to writing them? (In which case, you might judge each consecutive project she undertook as the more "difficult" accomplishment).
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