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Everything posted by Dante

  1. Can you quickly define what exactly you mean by subjective, in this case? Under my understanding of the term, there is nothing subjective about the result that occurs when two physical objects interact. The event simply happens, and what results, results. The fact that, with the events we're talking about now (perception), these events produce information in our brain does not make perception an exception to the general rule, any more than computer programs which produce informational results are thus exempted from causality. It is the direct causal connections involved in the process of perception which makes the results reliable. The light currently hitting my eyes could not, in principle, produce any perception other than the one it is currently producing. Uh... I'm assuming that you don't mean physically reconstruct, but rather in our minds? The whole point of this conversation is that when we look at a sewing machine, the perception which results isn't one that we had to reconstruct; it happened automatically. Now, this is not to say that we observe even the "most absolute details" of the sewing machine. No one here is claiming that we have x-ray vision sufficient to perceive the inner workings of the machine just by looking at it, or that we can perceive each of the atoms exactly. This is not what we mean by perfect. When we say perfect, we do not mean that all information which could ever possibly be gleaned is immediately apparent. If this were true, we would not need microscopes, telescopes, or hearing aids. Rather, when we say perfect, we mean that none of the information that we actually do get is false. Perception cannot deceive any more than a scientific experiment can lie. There can of course be some unseen factor operating in a scientific experiment, which if we do not know, we can draw bad conclusions about. However, the outcome of the experiment itself cannot defy reality. There is no room for deviation in the automatic workings of our central nervous system. We can draw false conclusions and inferences from the information we get, but everything that perception gives us is connected to the object itself by inerrant laws. Again, I think we are operating under different definitions of imperfect. The information I get from perceiving a tree from 50 feet away is certainly not exhaustive; I could get much more information from perceiving it closer up, from different angles, perhaps by including different senses such as touch, sound, and taste. In this sense, it does not give us a perfect idea of everything that a tree is or possibly could be. However, to the extent that it does give us information, this information must be true. It is in this sense that it is perfect; how could mechanistic operations be otherwise, in this sense? I'm not convinced that this is a valid question to ask concerning the existence of free will. Moments in reality, after all, never do repeat themselves. How can our concept of free will thus be based on an impossible occurrence?
  2. Certainly I would acknowledge that a volitional being's actions are caused by previous events. What I would not concede is that they are necessitated by these events. My ability to choose differently than I do is directly observable to me.
  3. I must assume that the idea of our sensory perceptions working perfectly seems ridiculous to you indicates that at some level, you associate perception with a volitional process. However, there is no element of choice in immediate perception. Let me elaborate. Objectivism holds that the integration of single stimuli into perceptions happens automatically. Billions of photons hit my eye, and this causes a reaction and a flood of information. The initial stages of the transmission of this information is non-volitional; our will has no involvement in it, we cannot choose anything about it, and therefore it cannot err. Our nervous system automatically takes the matrix of photons that we take in and integrates it into information about a three-dimensional object, in much the same way that a computer runs a program. At this stage there is no choice. Everything is causally determined. Saying that there must inevitably be "error" in this process is like saying that there must inevitably be error during instances of a falling object. After all, it seems ridiculous that an object will fall to the ground every time I release it, right? Even if we can reliably depend on this to happen most of the time, holding that it happens inexorably, every time is ridiculous, right? The Objectivist would reply, "No." A falling object is acting in accordance with its nature; anything with mass that is this close in proximity to the earth will experience the tug of gravity. Every time. The concept of error simply does not apply. The same applies for the workings of our body over which we have no control. It's all just causal connections, just physics. Choice only enters in on the conceptual level; when we start to try to consciously integrate our perceptions. Thus, perceptual judgments are fallible, as are concepts. Perception, however, is not fallible. I can choose to look to my left and focus on my door, but I cannot choose what I see when I do that. You make the point that "My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons." This is true. Each person's physical composition is different. People have different ranges of what wavelengths of light are visible to them. Some people cannot perceive light at all. The same is true with all of the senses. This does not invalidate sense perception, however. The fact that machines (take sewing machines, for example) which are constructed slightly differently will act slightly differently and produce things of slightly different composition and quality does not mean that they are not all, always subject to the law of causality. One machine might stitch faster, or make longer stitches, or stitches that are crooked, but there is never any possibility of error from what goes into the machine to what comes out. What comes out, had to come out that way, because reality is always consistent. Similarly, each of our perceptual systems operates slightly differently, but they are all still bound by causality, and since there is no volition involved, there is only one outcome that is possible: the one produced inexorably by the identities of the objects involved.
  4. Objectivism holds that the claim that our sensory systems act "imperfectly" is not tenable. This can be seen by considering the causal connections that give rise to our perception and how our sense organs interact with outside stimuli. Let's (very briefly) examine some common objections to see if they hold up. Most objections to the reliability of our senses stem from instances in which our perception appears to be faulty. A common example put forth of this is the fact that a stick which is partially submerged in water will appear bent. This occurs because light passing through the water is refracted. Although we know the stick is straight, it clearly appears bent. Thus, our perception is imperfect. These contentions rest on faulty ideas about how information *should* present itself to us. The change in the stick's appearance is due to real phenomena. The presence of water actually changes what is happening with the light rays. Are we supposed to still see the stick as straight, when the light which is reaching our eyes is different than before? This would be wishing for our knowledge to appear in our minds by magic, independent of causality and reality. In fact, our perceptions are fully and consistently based on reality. This must be true, if causality always holds. The same light stimuli should always produce the same effect. This is ultimately the basis for the reliability of our senses: the axiom of identity. These apparent illusions are still instances of our senses working perfectly; we are simply observing the stick under abnormal conditions. We literally could not continue to perceive the stick as straight, when the light rays coming off of it are bent by water. In fact, the very reason that we can identify this as an "illusion" or as "abnormal" conditions is that we can compare this with our (reliable) perception of the stick when it's not in water. Other common objections to the reliability of our senses stem from people's concerns about dreams, hallucinations, etc giving false information. While it is certainly possible for someone to incorrectly conclude that these are instances of perception, the fact is, these are not perception. They are different phenomena. The unreliability of information "observed" while dreaming does not invalidate one's waking perceptions. These issues are discussed extensively in David Kelley's book The Evidence of the Senses, written in 1986 (although it should be noted that this forum generally holds that none of Kelley's work after his break with ARI in 1989 is truly in the Objectivist tradition). Objectivism holds that the concept of "value" is genetically dependent on the concept of "life." It is only in relation to life that things can have value. Additionally, my own life is the only end which I can *consistently* pursue. Furthermore, every action I take will have some effect on my life, either furthering it or obstructing it (however minutely). Only my own life can provide a consistent standard against which I can produce a consistent set of values to pursue. Other people's lives can become incorporated into my value system according to the value I see in their character (or in their potential, as is the case with children and strangers). It is indeed possible, according to Objectivism, that another person's happiness and well-being can become so enmeshed within my value structure that it is rational for me to give my life in order to save them (if I truly would prefer this to continuing on without them). Thus, my own life is the basis, the standard for the formation of my values, but those values can be formed in such a way that giving my life is in accordance with pursuing them. The point is, I cannot use another person's life as the standard in forming my values. By the very nature of a living organism, it must engage in some self-oriented action. Living a life fully and consistently committed to any other end then one's own life leads inexorably to death. The Objectivist notion of causality is quite distinct from the common perception of it. Causality is most commonly conceived as the idea that the occurrence of one event inexorably leads to another event. The collision of two billiard balls causes them to bounce off of each other. However, Objectivism recognizes that it is not events themselves that act. Rather, it is the entities involved which act. It is Billiard Ball A which causes a change in the direction of Billiard Ball B, not the collision itself. Events are completely dependent on the acting entities, and causality is based not on events, but on the *identity* of the entities. The effect with the billiard balls is produced by their identities (their masses, densities, hardness, etc), and what happens when two objects with those identities hit one another. Free will is not compatible with the first conception of causality. If one event inexorably causes another, there is no room for choice. However, the Objectivist notion of causality leaves room for free will. This is because free will is a fundamental characteristic of the identity of human beings. By our nature, we have free will. Because it is part of our nature to be able to choose, causality and free will go hand in hand. A person's exercise of choice, far from defying causality, is an instance of it. We can observe that free will is part of our natures in the immediate sense only through introspection (reflecting on the workings of your mind easily illustrates that you make choices all the time, and that you could have made different ones). We can infer free will in others through observations of their actions. Once we observe the existence of free will as part of human nature, we know that the exercise of human free will is an instance of a person acting like a person (in accordance with his nature), and thus acting in accordance with causality.
  5. Dante

    Virtue Ethics

    What is the deal with "virtue ethics"? After reading the Wiki page on it, it seems that Objectivism falls under it in a lot of respects, but obviously it's a lot broader of a philosophical position. Are there any scholarly Objectivist discussions of virtue ethics and its relation to Objectivism? (Other than Tara Smith's short commentary on a few virtue ethics theorists in the beginning of Viable Values) Are there any threads on OO.net already discussing virtue ethics? (I didn't find any in a preliminary search)
  6. Regulations such as those governing financial institutions in America become necessary only when there exists some possibility that companies can retain profits while socializing losses. The existence of both private institutions and government-sponsored enterprises with implicit government (i.e. taxpayer) guarantees creates the need for regulation of these companies. Regulations were required for entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only because they were allowed to play with other people's money. In a truly private financial system, one in which private property rights are enforced, everyone is responsible for investing and lending their own money responsibly, and any failure to do so hurts primarily themselves. Under this situation, regulations are not required. Also, whenever a structure exists that does make regulations necessary, these regulations inevitably lag behind the times and are unable to perform their function. For instance, the Basil accords referenced above originally classified mortgages as a very safe asset, and their risk classification did not change until 2006 despite a constant slackening of lending standards and increase in actual risk associated with mortgages. The lag of these capital regulations behind developments in the economy led financial institutions to invest much more in mortgages than they otherwise would have in order to exploit the loophole, and this greatly increased the severity of the housing boom and bust, and subsequent recession. Regulations inevitably fail and produce unintended consequences. I don't know anything about the situation in Canada, either in terms of the socialization of loan losses or the strength and kind of regulations, but simply saying "stronger regulations, less bad recession!" isn't exactly an argument. Precisely what incentives are created by the regulatory system affects what people will do; this is what needs to be looked at. I'm sure no one here claims that it is impossible to structure one set of regulations better than another. In response to your comments about regulatory agencies above (how they become increasingly more divorced from their purpose), one needs to look at the incentives regulatory bodies have to do what they're supposed to. Inevitably regulatory bodies are made up of appointees and other non-elected personnel, and thus retaliation for poor performance is even farther removed from them than it is for regular politicians. The longer they are in existence, the less attention is paid to what they are doing. For example, the three rating agencies for financial instruments in America, while private, enjoy government oligopoly protection. They are thus partially dependent for their profits on government power, and less so on the quality of their ratings. This was one major reason for their gross mistakes in rating mortgages leading up to the crisis, and they aren't even full-fledged government agencies. Their long history in America and good performance in the past is one reason that they were able to slack for so long. Entities like the EPA and the FDA do characteristically poor jobs and are often motivated by political considerations rather than those which they are supposed to respond to.
  7. The absence of "thou shalt" simply means that no moral imperatives can arise prior to a choice made by you. For Objectivism, this refers to the fundamental choice to live or die. However, once that choice is made, it is not the case that "anything goes," productivity and loafing alike. The reason for this is that reality is a certain way, and a bohemian lifestyle undermines your ability to sustain your life in the long term according to the standards of reality.
  8. By the nature of a force, it has to either be attractive or repulsive. An atom, the solar system, and a galaxy are allkept together by an attractive force, which is why they have similar forms. A cell is not similar to either; that observation is just silly. Same with an "organism;" I mean, really? What organism other than a single cell even remotely fits this description? Is he trying to argue that God designed the American government? Anyone who says that different religions all worship the same god is operating off of the wishful thinking that, "wouldn't it be nice if almost everyone was right about the basic life questions?" They are (willfully) ignorant of all those characteristics of different deities which make this impossible. The three Abramic religions are the only ones for which this argument can be made, and they all trace their religions back to the same god explicitly. Other religions have multiple gods, supernatural forces or entities which are not conscious or not benevolent or not all-knowing; they have differing views on mankind's place in god(s)' order, and mutually exclusive creation stories and commandments. Simply put, you have to walk around with your eyes shut to believe this. No part of the Big Bang theory ascribes consciousness to the universe, while nearly every religion ascribes it to their deity or deities.
  9. The Objectivist ethics holds that "good" and "evil" are concepts which arise out of the relation between external reality and the requirements of man's life. Man is a specific type of entity, with a specific nature. If any particular man chooses to live, then ethics tells him what course will be beneficial or harmful to him. Thus, what is "good" is neither an overriding moral absolute, true regardless of context, nor a social convention. The good does not consist of commandments or categorical imperatives because ethics originates in a choice: an individual's choice to live or die. However, the good is also not a social convention, because once that choice has been made, the specific actions which will further this goal is a matter of objective reality, not whim or social construction. Such rights violations as murder and genocide are "absolutes" in the sense that the facts which give rise to their moral status (as evil) are facts about man's nature in general, and thus as principles they apply to every man. However, Objectivism does not view morality as an imposition on man from some higher authority, so the principles which condemn murder and genocide are not artificially imposed. Morality arises from the choice to live, and those principles arise from man's nature. Murder and/or genocide are never good strategies for the long-run flourishing of any man.
  10. I would not state that. Everything that exists, exists, and thus is part of the universe. The concept of different "bubbles" of space and time is what seems to me to be what the idea of a multiverse is. I would certainly argue that there is no evidence and quite possibly can be no evidence of such objects, but if they existed, they would by definition be a part of the universe. Our knowledge of what exists has indeed grown, but the idea of our knowledge of stuff extending beyond that which exists is nonsense.
  11. The definition of "universe" as "everything that exists."
  12. This would seem to justify any act of theft that would be committed by the majority of people encountering the situation. Your basic argument seems to be that when someone uploads media to the Internet, they MUST expect that people are going to copy and share it, because that's what people do; thus, uploading content surrenders your rights to it. Let's say I drive my expensive car out into the ghetto, or any poor part of town. I leave the windows down and my iPod in plain view, and I just leave it there for a few days. Any rational person must expect that the iPod (perhaps even the car) won't be there when they get back. Does this mean that the act of leaving the car there NECESSARILY indicates a surrender of one's rights to it and its contents? Are the thieves justified? Obviously not. Behaving irrationally with your property is not the same as surrendering your ownership of it.
  13. According to my understanding of Objectivist epistemology, it squares. Every logical step in the formation and elucidation of concepts does not need to be related back to percepts (let alone sensory information); one must just be sure that the first step originates in sensory information and that logic is applied correctly from there. Thus, taking a higher-level concept (such as a power-seeking individual) and applying logic to it (what the possible motivations could be, and what the outcome of an individual acting on those motivations would be) is perfectly acceptable. If I've always only seen people eat food on tables, and then I wonder whether one could also play poker on a table, I can determine that directly from the concept of "table," without thinking about the specific tables I observed to form the concept.
  14. I’ve recently become very interested in the ideas of Objectivism. I have been reading this board for about a month or so, having posted very infrequently (as you may see), but I have a rather complicated question that I’d like help exploring. I’ve found Ayn Rand’s ideals and conclusions incredibly appealing, but per Objectivism I am attempting to derive/validate them for myself, step by step. Okay, so my question basically concerns the use of principles to guide moral action. As a particular example (the example that brought me to this question, in fact) let’s take the Objectivist principle that one should not seek to gain values through faking reality. As I understand Rand’s reasoning, this principle derives from the fact that when you gain, say, friendship by lying or deceiving others, you basically make yourself dependent on them. You must continuously keep up the deception so as not to allow the gap between their knowledge and reality to collapse (as illustrated quite passionately in the AS scene in Galt’s Gulch concerning Galt, Dagny, and D’Anconia). I concur that this is obviously contrary to long-range self-interest. However, let’s take a situation in which it is quite likely that the person with which you are dealing will never see you again, nor will they encounter anyone you know. In fact, if they are on their deathbed, this condition is almost certain (if no one else is around and they will not have any other visitors before their passing). It would seem to me that applying the principle “one should not seek to gain values by deceiving others” to this situation is an instance of context-dropping, in the same way that applying Newtonian physics (contextually true, within the context in which he experimented) to the subatomic level is context-dropping. The context of long-term contact with this person from which the principle was derived is fundamentally different from the given context. I would love it if people in this forum would give me your take on why the principle of refraining from deception applies to this situation, if you think it does. I don’t want to put words in people’s mouths, but I also would like responses to actually be helpful, so I will go through a few objections I’ve seen to similar questions that I haven’t been able to validate with my own reason. One common objection is that this would be destructive of one’s self esteem. One would be living as a “moocher” or “leecher” and the subsequent destruction of one’s values of independence and self-esteem would be destroyed. This seems to me to take one’s derivative values (never desiring an unearned benefit) as a primary over the ultimate value to which they serve as means (life). If one cannot validate that connection (i.e., if in this case the principle of never gaining values through deception does not connect to rational self interest, because the context is different) then one’s low self esteem would be the irrational part, not the action taken. I’ve also seen some objections to similar questions along this vein: principles are shortcuts that people use based on their previous knowledge, and if you don’t consistently act on the principle of non-deception (I’ll nickname it), it will get you in trouble eventually. This also doesn’t make sense to me. If people are using Newtonian physics, but then we discover that in some circumstances it gives us the wrong answer, we obviously should not ignore this because it’s still right the vast majority of the time. We don’t throw out Newtonian physics, but we DO revise the context in which we apply it. When that context doesn’t apply, we use the Theory of Relativity. Similarly, could not one be cognizant of context such that the original principle is not abandoned but is still not used in cases like the above deathbed scenario? I’d really appreciate some help and feedback as I explore these ideas. I’ve learned a lot already from reading these boards; I hope to get good value out of this thread as well.
  15. The first thing to understand is that there is no "optimal" supply of money. If there are a certain amount of goods moving around the economy at a certain velocity, both 1 trillion dollars and 10 trillion dollars are perfectly acceptable as a money supply (or, talking gold, either 1000 pounds or a million are perfectly acceptable). Prices will simply shift to clear the market. The relationship between the amount of value and the amount of money determines the overall price level, but the specific level is irrelevant. It makes no difference to me whether I pay a dime for a Coke when the CPI is 1 or a dollar for a Coke when the CPI is 10. Inflation understood as an expansion of the money supply would not exist (aside from gold being mined at a very slow rate). In terms of the price level, overall prices would actually fall over time, because innovations will make producers able to create more wealth, while the money supply would not change (but for mining). Thus, with more value and the same amount, the price level would fall, and you would see deflation. Yes, education most definitely has become specialized, and will become much more so. Every new programming language or technological innovation requires more specialization, and the laws of supply and demand for labor will draw people into education that will tend to make them productive in such a system. Education in terms of job preparation is not a long process to specialize at all; school does not equate with education. After learning the basics of math, science, and langeuage, I could learn a programming language on my own and be a valuable, very specialized individual. School is definitely slow to become specialized, but this is precisely why less and less knowledge used in one's job actually comes from school (more comes from specialized job training, independent learning, etc.)
  16. Nothing resulting from this scenario can have anything to say about Objectivism's application in this universe. Certainty about a future event is not possible in reality. In reality, the point at which we are CERTAIN someone will violate rights is the exact same point in time at which they BECOME guilty for doing so, because this is the instant they ACT in order to do it. One might find it interesting to contemplate the given scenario, but such lines of thought do not really say anything about practicable Objectivism.
  17. No, its premise is not nihilistic. It is evil, though, and that's why I'd list it here.
  18. No one has said anything about John Q yet? A desperate father who can't pay for his son's medical treatment takes a hospital hostage in an attempt to force the doctors to treat him? Ranks pretty high on my list.
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