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Everything posted by Dante

  1. I love really anything by Salman Rushdie. He's just an incredible storyteller; I can't help but be completely immersed in any world that he creates. My favorite is probably Midnight's Children, but everything I've read by him has been fantastic.
  2. This is not an accurate representation of the open system advocated by David Kelley. In his view, open Objectivism means defining Objectivism objectively, by reference to its essentials, and by its main differentiating factors from other philosophies. For an accurate statement of his views, I'd recommend listening to his own presentation of them given here in the audio presentation, especially starting at 13:00.
  3. Although this is apparently a tangent, it should be noted here that in the Objectivist view, essences are epistemological, not metaphysical. We need to identify essences in order to properly form abstractions, but on a purely metaphysical level all of an objects characteristics are on par with all others. See here. And that's all I'll contribute to the tangent.
  4. Yes, if by universe we mean "all that there is," then the term has been misused by the QM guy, because his explanation requires a superstructure of some kind in which quantum fluctuations happen. However, I'm not certain the physics world regularly uses 'universe' to denote all that there is. For example, when physicists theorize about multiple universes, they are obviously not using the term to mean all that exists (not to imply that they aren't way off the reservation, just illustrating usage of the term ). No problem.
  5. Yes, but this fact alone doesn't earn the government any revenue. Presumably, so long as the government was always in the background, private arbitration would have to actually go to the government very rarely. Thus, such agencies could conceivably cut into the government's profits, perhaps quite substantially.
  6. I don't mean anything like that by 'invalid.' The question does have a superficial plausibility and should be addressed head-on by philosophers. What I mean is that the proper way to address it is to point out the flaws in the conception of the question itself; in short, that it divorces causality from the causal agents themselves. The idea of causation simply does not apply to existence as a whole, as the question tries to apply it. Consider the question, "How should the social product of America's economy be divided among its citizens?" The proper response to this question is not to attempt to answer it, but to illustrate that it assumes the aggregate social product is unowned and can be divided any which way, when in actuality every material value comes into being already attached to a person (its creator). There is no 'social product' over and above the individual creations that are already owned. Thus, the question is invalid, or improperly conceived. This label is not an attempt to censor the question, rather it represents the only appropriate response to such a question.
  7. Because causal factors always operate through existents. Literal nonexistence, nothingness, has no causal efficacy. Take a Christian who holds that the universe as we know it today was created by a conscious God. God is the existent to which he appeals in order to explain the universe. Where did God come from? Well, he is eternal, uncaused. Or take a quantum mechanics researcher who posits that the universe as we know it popped out of a quantum fluctuation. In that case, the existent to which he is appealing is the quantum-mechanical nature and features of the 'wider universe', out of which popped this present universe. Where did that QM structure come from? Well, that's just the way it is. Maybe we can also explain that structure, but however we explain it, it will be through the causal processes of yet another existent. In any case, whatever it is that you appeal to to explain the creation of this universe, that thing is also part of existence as such. The relevant question re: supernatural is, are you proposing that the eternal existent has a definite nature, with definite capabilities, which works through definite causal processes to interact with and change (or in this case create) the world outside itself? If you are, then your deity is simply another existent with a definite nature. If not, if you're proposing literal magic, this deity can do things without any sort of causal process, then you're talking nonsense; hence, 'meaningless.'
  8. It is indeed invalid to ask where existence as such came from, or equivalently to ask the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" This is distinct from the question of where the universe as we know it today came from, or how it got to be the way that it is now (that is the scientific issue in question that you refer to). As is often pointed out, Christians and Objectivists alike accept the idea of existence as such not requiring a cause. For Christians, the eternal existent is God, while for Objectivists it is not specified beyond existence as such, although positing that the eternal existent is a consciousness is arbitrary, and positing that it is supernatural is meaningless.
  9. It is a mistake to attempt to interpret any Objectivist principles as acontextual, binding regardless of context. There are indeed contexts where the principles don't apply, or apply differently. Morality, conceived as a code of principles for guiding man's action through the whole span of his life, simply has nothing to say about some of the examples you've provided. For further on this, see Rand's essay on The Ethics of Emergencies in The Virtue of Selfishness.
  10. If you have an interest in economic thought, some free time this Friday at 6pm EST, and $20 to spend, you might be interested in watching this upcoming debate. The debate proposition: "Government spending can play an important role in boosting economic growth." Info here. Karl Smith waxes eloquent about the debate on his blog here. The history of the debate, in Smith's words (from his blog link above):
  11. That graph ends last year, and today's price is much closer to the 1980 peak at $1786, although there's still a difference of a few hundred dollars.
  12. Also, the first graph I linked is a few months out of date. The current one can be found by going here and scrolling down to the 'MULTI YEAR GOLD: 1975-2011' option. The upper limit on the axes for the current chart is a full $300/oz higher than the outdated one from a few months ago.
  13. People made this same mistake about housing during the housing bubble. You might remember the rationalizations of 'housing prices never fall' used to justify the outrageous spike in housing prices as sustainable. This is just a way to claim that housing prices cannot be subject to a speculative bubble. As we now know, all those people were wrong. The same goes for gold; whether or not it has been used as a speculative asset in the past, it can become one in the present day. Scroll down to the last graph on this web page, which charts gold prices over the last 35 years, and judge for yourself whether the current trend might represent an unprecedented, speculative break from gold's historic and fundamental value. (Does it remind you of these kinds of housing-price graphs before the crash?) With all the money the Fed has been pumping into the economy, I'd be surprised if there weren't a few bubbles being blown. Note: much of this is directed at the thread in general; I realize the person I replied to agrees with the possibility of gold as a speculative bubble.
  14. To add to this point, recall late in the book (p. 611 in the centennial edition) Roark admits to having made a mistake in doing Keating's architecture work for him, at their architecture school Stanton, with the Cosmo-Slotnick building, and with Cordlandt. Remember, he agreed to do Cordlandt very late in the book (p. 580, only 30 pages earlier). As late as that, he had failed to realize the destructive nature of allowing Keating to take credit for Roark's work. On the subject of clothing, and on one's outward presentation in general, there is always an element of others' expectations that must be factored in. The audience is inherent in the concept of presentation. No matter what you may think of the inherent geometry and utility of suits and ties, for example, that's the kind of clothing that's accepted as formal in our culture. It's a mistake to attempt to eliminate or ignore the role of the audience in any form of communication, including physical presentation. It's the same fallacy as attempting to ignore the subject in perception or objectivity. Acknowledging the existence and nature of the audience is not the same as second-handedness; in fact, it's a necessary step in accomplishing any goals which physical presentation bears upon.
  15. Yikes. Maybe because sex is the physical expression of romantic love, which is someone's response to his or her own highest values in the person of another, to paraphrase Ayn Rand (see here). And only people have the capacity to choose their own moral values, and thus be an object of romantic love and thus proper sexual desire. There is an essential difference between homosexuality and those other things you list, which is: other individuals are capable of rational thought, making moral choices, and building moral character, even if they are the same sex as I am. Plastic yard flamingos are not. This type of feeble 'slippery slope' argumentation might crop up often in religious fundamentalist circles, where sex is derided as base and animal... but one would hope that it wouldn't in Objectivist circles, where the nature of sex is properly understood and appreciated as a deeply spiritual response to another individual.
  16. "Give your life over to him now, while there is yet time." Uh oh, is somebody expecting the apocalypse soon? >.< On the bright side, you're right, she can't win.
  17. I doubt you would see many O'ists, or informed people in general, defending the activities of the rating agencies during the housing bubble. For an example, see one of John Allison's lectures on the roots of the financial crisis, in which he goes after the rating agencies for their ridiculous rating practices as well as the structure of the rating industry itself, which is limited to three agencies by government rubber-stamping. I think the support for S&P that we see now coming from the fiscally conservative side of the spectrum stems from extreme dissatisfaction with the policies pursued by the government in the past few years, both fiscally and monetarily, and the idea that these terrible policies will have equally bad consequences for the U.S. economy. Now, it may very well be the case that these consequences will have nothing to do with the riskiness of government bonds, and so S&P made a grave error in downgrading them. However, I think the disgust with America's monetary and fiscal policies being expressed through support for S&P is spot on.
  18. This is not correct. That is a description of intrinsicism in ethics, the idea that value can be found out in the world without reference to any valuers. Objectivism holds that values are a relationship between facts and the valuer. Nothing is inherently good; I judge something to be good for me by looking at whether it enhances my life and well-being or not. Some values are good for every human being because of human nature, like freedom. Our need for freedom derives from characteristics that every human shares, so that positive relationship between freedom and well-being holds for every person. However, some objects are only good for certain people, in certain contexts, like a career as an economist. For me, because of my personal characteristics and desires, that would be an immense value, but for someone who hates economics, that would not be a value at all. So the first thing to understand is that values always arise out of a relationship involving the valuer; they can never be divorced from that. The second comment I'd make is that knowledge is not automatic. Conceptual information is not 'impressed' on our consciousness from the outside world. It requires mental work and the correct methodology on our part. Thus, the positive relationship of freedom to human life can't simply be perceived directly. It requires active thought and logical reasoning, and if people don't undertake such thought or make an error in their reasoning, they will not see this relationship, and they will come to a different conclusion. As I said before, some abstract values are valuable to every human being, by virtue of being a human being. I used the example of freedom earlier; another example would be self-esteem. However, these kinds of values are limited in number and usually fairly abstract; when we get to talking about concrete things, they are not necessarily values to every person. Whether or not they are values depends on individual characteristics. The example I used for this was the career as an economist. For another example, ballet is a great value to many people, but not to me. It just doesn't appeal to me on an individual, personal level. Thus, individual identity often comes into play when judging objective values. In fact, for Objectivism, the individual valuer is an inseparable part of judging something as a value. We should never forget about the individual.
  19. I dunno about imposing my standards, but I would certainly argue for them, and the reason is that I think the project under discussion is an important and valuable one, and using the standards I have outlined would enhance rather than detract from that value. I understand that Mayhew disagrees and makes a competent argument in defense of his practice, and that he put a lot of work into the project. I'm simply saying that in my judgment such work would be more effective and valuable if he acknowledged changes in wording explicitly.
  20. Here, I'm referring specifically to works like her Journals and her Q&A, works that purport to be making her words available to mainstream audiences. Of course such works need an editor, to organize and annotate the material, and in many cases explain and clarify, but Rand's exact original words should always be able to be read from the text, at least in a work whose aim is fundamentally to publish her words that hitherto had been unavailable. Mayhew, for example, changes the wording several times without informing the reader at the point of the change. He says up front (in the Preface) that he has done this on occasion; I'm not trying to claim that he's concealing anything, but I strongly disagree with his choice not to inform the reader at each point where he changes Rand's wording. I should be able to open Ayn Rand's Q&A, or her Journals, and be able to know exactly what her original words are, in addition to having helpful clarifying comments pointing out where she probably misspoke. I agree that this has little to do with the open/closed issue, as Rand's philosophy can be found in her published works, but in an argument about who is more reliable when trying to determine what Rand wrote, I feel obliged to point out that ideally we shouldn't have to base anything on the reliability of other people.
  21. In many cases, we don't have to take anybody's word at all concerning the editing of Ayn Rand's journals and Q&A. Burns doesn't cite any examples, but Sciabarra in the third link gives an example using journal entries that were published in The Objectivist Forum. As for the Q&A edited by Mayhew, the audio of many of the Q&A sessions is available online, here for example, and the extent of the editing can be determined firsthand. The salient point is that no such editing should be occurring at all, by Ayn Rand scholars or otherwise.
  22. 'selfish and shortsighted'? Being selfish and being shortsighted are pretty much opposing orientations. Not surprising for someone who thinks that Rand advocated 'the narrowest conception of self interest' to make that mistake, I suppose...
  23. This is where I would disagree with you. Living is a process of working for and achieving values. That's part and parcel of what it means to sustain one's life. However, throughout our lives many of these values become an inherent part of our personal 'meaning of life.' Those values constitute our life, such that living without them would be inconceivable, intolerable for us. Our life is not some Platonic ideal value that we pursue in addition to our major values; living life consists of achieving and maintaining these values, and if you've done it right, they have massive personal, emotional importance to you. Risking or even sacrificing one's life to save or secure one of these values is consistent with, not contrary to, a morality with life as the central value, life properly understood as a process of achieving values and not just total time spent breathing.
  24. I asked the following question in the Objectivism Q&A section of TAS's website a few years back, and the answer I got was quite good and demonstrates why it is generally immoral to deal drugs like meth, even if the industry weren't illegal:
  25. It can't lead to knowledge, which is a justified true statement. It can lead to a true statement by sheer luck, but that true statement is not justified by the premise.
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