Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by necrovore

  1. I think Ayn Rand saw the details of the operation of Galt's motor as beside the point. The point of Galt's motor is that industrialists can invent new things, regardless of which particular things they are, or how they work. I am sure she made the best use she could of the knowledge that was available at the time she wrote Atlas Shrugged. But it would be too much to ask her to invent actual new working inventions herself and then ascribe them to her characters -- and it would also have been beside the point. The point of a novel is to present (some) things "as they might be and ought to be," not as they are, so she presented characters who had the virtues she thought were important, and who put those virtues into action in the novel. When she was asked if she thought Atlas Shrugged would be prophetic, she replied that she didn't want it to be prophetic. (I don't remember the exact words of either the question or the answer.) I think she wanted people to recognize the virtues of the characters and the reasons for those virtues, and then to adopt those virtues. If the virtues were widespread, and if they were understood, so that people would know why they needed to have those virtues, then they would provide a foundation for a freer and more prosperous society.
  2. I think John Galt's motor, which is described as being able to pull energy from static electricity in the air, is impossible in reality.
  3. Atlas Shrugged is a work of fiction. That's the "disconnect" right there. It uses many principles which are true, but the same principles could play out in any of a large number of different ways in reality, just as they could lead to many other fiction books.
  4. I think the rules are different when you have a small group where everybody knows everybody else. In such a case, people deal with each other based on their direct firsthand knowledge of each other, and specialization is much more difficult. Consider that if I were one person living by myself, I could not have a separation of state and economics, because by necessity I'd have to do both functions, since there's no one else to do them. And then, within the area of state, I wouldn't be able to separate executive, legislative, and judicial functions, because again, they're all me. If it were me and one or two other people, that's still not enough people to split them up properly. Even if there are four or five people, maintaining those distinctions would create all sorts of artificial barriers which would be costly and inefficient. (You're on an island with Bob and Carol and Dave, but Bob is handling the judicial branch today, so if a judicial question comes up between Carol and Dave, you can't work it out yourself; you have to go ask Bob...) I imagine that if a dispute breaks out, getting a "fair trial," the way you would want one in a large society, would be almost impossible, precisely because everybody knows everybody else, and there's no practical way to separate people's firsthand knowledge of each other from the issues at stake in the case. I mean, if you never liked Bob, you're more likely to convict him just because of that, and even if you could separate your dislike of Bob from your judgment in the case, you would have a hard time proving that you had done so. You could lay out your reasoning in writing, but people would still have grounds to suspect that what you wrote was different from what you were actually thinking. How does Bob get any right to an impartial judge or jury, when the community is that small? When you have thousands of people who don't all know each other, barriers between people exist anyway; they cannot all know each other anymore, so it becomes possible to use those barriers between people for separations of powers and other specializations. There have been small "communes" where people allegedly practice Communist principles, but in fact, since they all know each other, they can use their knowledge of each other to make everything sort-of work without genuinely relying on Communist principles at all. (Besides, since the principles are wrong, if they followed them strictly, their community would die out.) When you have a small group of people, such small groups are all very much the same, and any sort of political principles are premature. So a small group of Objectivist geniuses could well start their own little village or something, but they would have a hard time demonstrating to the rest of the world that it was really based on Objectivist principles, and not merely on the fact that they know each other well and work together well. Objectivist principles would probably help them work together well, up to a point, but if a dispute happened, they would probably fall apart. They are too small of a group. (Or else they might compromise their principles in order to stay together, but that introduces problems of its own.) (It is also a problem when you have a large society ruled by a small group of people, when each of the people in the ruling clique knows everybody else in the clique... and when they prevent anybody not in the clique from holding office... because they cannot police each other properly anymore, because they are not impartial... and they can collude across "separation of powers" barriers...) I think America came together because you had a large group of people who did not all know each other but had similar ideas, and they also had a blank canvas upon which to create a country. The blank canvas these days is hard to come by, but not impossible. But you also need the large group with the common ideas. I don't think a small group would be able to do the job. You might think that the Founding Fathers were a small group, but I think what they did was only possible because they were representative of a larger group from which they came.
  5. Sebastian, Next time you should combine all your posts into a single post. The value of the dollar comes from the illegality of counterfeiting. That's all. However, the government can legally print money, and if it does, and enters that money into circulation, then that diminishes the value of the dollar. Of course, the government doesn't want to be seen printing money directly, so there is some genius-level fraud at work. Somebody had the great idea that a central bank would print the money, and the government would then borrow it, and theoretically have to pay it back with interest, which is a great deal for the central bank. Prices go up during inflation when people receive the newly printed (borrowed) money and use it to bid up the price of supplies. Everybody else has to bid higher, too, or else they don't get the supplies. The effect is uneven because the newly printed money is not distributed to everyone evenly, and because the people who get the money first (usually the government and its beneficiaries) might want some supplies more than they want other supplies. It doesn't make any difference whether these trades cross international borders or not. I don't buy the idea that a "loss of confidence" causes hyperinflation. The loss of confidence is an effect, not a cause. Hyperinflation happens when there's a feedback loop: when inflation causes the government to have to pay higher prices, they print more money to cover the higher prices, and this causes more inflation, which causes even higher prices, and so forth. Technically this feedback loop happens with regular inflation, too, and is already happening now, but it is very slow at this point. It will speed up if the government decides to spend more. This will cause problems, the government will decide that even more spending is the answer, and so forth. The Federal Reserve is itself one of the biggest bond buyers. It buys the bonds with freshly-printed money. The Fed does accounting tricks to conceal this (I think it's actually illegal for the Fed to do it directly, so they do it indirectly.) The Fed encourages banks to buy bonds and then deposit the bonds in a reverse repo facility which temporarily (but repeatedly) exchanges them for cash. That way the banks are the nominal owners of the bonds but actually the banks are swapping the bonds right back to the Fed. If the repo facility were closed then the banks would not have enough cash for their operations, and bonds are too illiquid to serve as a substitute. Also, you seem to be contradicting yourself. "Legal tender" laws mean that the government forces creditors to accept dollars as payment for debt. The creditors cannot legally say, "No, we want you to pay in gold or something other than dollars." ---- My original post wasn't really about hyperinflation per se, it was about the idea that government money-printing can be used to influence the culture. If you have access to free freshly-printed money then you can buy up book publishers, record companies, movie studios, and so forth, and make them churn out propaganda, and buy huge ad campaigns for it. Even if audiences leave in disgust, the fountain of free money can keep the companies in business anyway (when normally they would go out of business). It can even create the illusion that the material is popular (because the ads are everywhere). Competing businesses, seeing the "popularity," may also try to cash in on it by imitation, and may refuse good work because it doesn't "follow the trend." I think this is happening now. I suppose what this boils down to is that, if you're worried by the way certain Leftist ideas seem to be taking over the culture, you shouldn't worry. When the money runs out, the illusion that this stuff is popular will vanish.
  6. I agree with this, but I'd generalize a bit further: "Who paid for that" is really just another kind of ad hominem. The evidence for and against a claim should be the only thing that matters for establishing its truth. The question is not who says it, but why they say it, and whether they have a good reason, rooted in facts. Too many people seem obsessed with asking "who says that," as if identifying the people saying something is enough, by itself, to determine whether it is true or false. "Who paid for that" is just another form of "who says that." Many of these people are tribalists. What they are saying boils down to, "everything my tribe says is true, while everything your tribe says is false." It's childish, really, and there's no way to reason with such people. I suppose such people find it easier to determine a claim's tribal affiliation than to actually try to assess the evidence. It's also far, far less accurate, but in my experience, a lot of people (in the general population) care more about fitting in with their group than about being accurate. Sigh...
  7. The evidence shows that, the closer we get to capitalism, the better the results are for a society. The evidence also shows that, the closer we get to pure communism, the worse things are. There is no evidence to suggest that these trends would change if capitalism or communism became any purer than they have ever actually been. There's no evidence that communism could become "so pure that it would begin to work," or that capitalism could become "so pure that it would begin to fail."
  8. Although my post was provoked by the Afghanistan debacle. it wasn't about the Afghanistan debacle... It was actually another perspective on whether the religious or the social variant of the primacy of consciousness is the more evil. (I debated whether to post again in that thread or start a new one; maybe I chose incorrectly...) In this case, I came to the conclusion that that there is less of a difference between them than I thought before.
  9. I'm talking about ideas, not people. Often people hold mutually contradictory ideas.
  10. Maybe I should just say that by the Left I mean the "American Left" and by the Right I mean the "American Right." True, but the pullout was done in an extremely careless, and even contemptuous, fashion.
  11. Earlier I wrote in the thread about whether collectivism or religion is the greater evil. Seeing Biden's disastrous pullout from Afghanistan has led me to wonder something again that I forgot about in that thread: why does the Left seem to get along so well with Islam? I've seen this cooperation before, because of the Left banning books critical of Islam, such as a bestselling book called Mohammed's Koran, by Peter McLoughlin and Tommy Robinson. (Amazon banned this book and I had to go to a lot of extra trouble to get a copy of it.) Leftist censorship has also targeted the cartoonist Bosch Fawstin on numerous occasions. The Left and Islam are both Primacy of Consciousness, but different consciousnesses. So why? It seems interesting to me that some on the Left are saying that the Right is "just like the Taliban" (and that's true, in the sense that both the Right and the Taliban believe in the primacy of God's consciousness), but the Leftists are saying it as if to excuse their cooperation with the Taliban -- while cooperation with the Right remains inexcusable. Why? I think I discovered the reason: all people who choose to believe any variant of the primacy of consciousness choose it because they want consciousness to have primacy over existence. A person who tries to believe that their own consciousness already has primary over existence soon finds that their consciousness is thwarted. What I said before was that they try to change ideas in their own mind, to see if some other ideas cause reality to conform. Maybe some of them do that, but begin to realize after a while that it is fruitless. But the idea of an existence that doesn't answer to consciousness at all is still abhorrent to them. So they might prefer to believe that existence answers to some other consciousness than their own -- some consciousness which might change its mind, or might be persuaded, or perhaps can be forced, or at least will assume the burden of doing all their thinking for them. That, they think they can deal with. If they can't be the ruling consciousness, then they can persuade, or force, or ride the coattails of, the ruling consciousness, and get the same results. So it's just plain second-handedness, of the Peter Keating variety. Everything in their minds comes down to persuading or forcing some other consciousness, or else, just letting another consciousness (even an imaginary one) do all the work. They won't dare try to deal with reality on their own. The problem that the Left and Islam have with the Right (and with America) is the same problem: "worldliness," i.e., the insistence that one should deal with reality firsthand, that people can actually do that, and that people can properly be expected to do that. The American Right tolerates a lot more "worldliness" than Islam. This is why the Enlightenment "sense of life," which is implicitly a primacy of existence perspective, still survives in the Right, whereas in the Left (and in Islam) it is almost completely gone. It is the fact that the Left and Islam both hate this sense of life, and the reality underlying it, that unites them. They both hate worldliness because they'd rather deal with a consciousness (whether society or Allah) than with reality, and they regard the ruling consciousness as more real than reality itself. (It should be noted that the Left's love of Islam is unrequited. The Left approves of Islam's hatred of "worldliness" but sort of laughs at their religiosity. Islam, on the other hand, though grateful for the help they get from the Left, is just as willing to kill the Left as the Right. So they probably plan to kill the Leftists last.) -- The Right still has some severe problems, and they have been worsening over the decades. Some Christians allow that it's okay to be "worldly" up to a point, because reality, they claim, was made by God. However, it's only up to a point: many of them are anti-conceptual mentalities, who are only willing to accept "worldliness" up to a certain level of abstraction, but no further. They reject whole fields of knowledge like calculus and science because they would rather believe in the book of Genesis than run the risk of obtaining knowledge that contradicts it. I've seen that firsthand. The result is that their knowledge of reality can't exceed the medieval level. Some Christians claim that reality has been corrupted by sin or Satan or the like, and they often use that excuse to declare war on various aspects of reality that they don't like. Both Islam and the Right's less-worldly Christians hate other religions in proportion to how different those religions are from their own. That's also a characteristic of the anti-conceptual mentality. The anti-conceptual mentality is also a form of second-handedness: it's the belief that thinking should go only so far and no further, because once you reach a certain point, another consciousness is supposed to take over for you. I think this is the product of not having confidence in one's own consciousness -- not having confidence in reason. I suppose some people who reason incorrectly, and find their incorrect reasoning thwarted by reality, decide to give up on reason altogether. (Some people might also give up on reason because their correct reasoning is rejected by other people, and they aren't sure of themselves.) They may not give up on reason after their first conflict, but they might do it after a few such conflicts. They learn the wrong lesson from their problems. They decide that thinking is dangerous or a fool's errand and that they will let "someone else" worry about it, so they embrace the primacy of consciousness. They're afraid of thinking for themselves. They're afraid of getting it wrong. (And they decide that, if they close their eyes, they don't have to see the problem!) Propaganda preys on this, of course. In the physical realm, the Right rejects the "something for nothing" mentality of the Left. They are aware that you have to work in order to eat. However, their mistake is that they still embrace "something for nothing" in the realm of cognition: they need to be taught that you have to do cognitive work to acquire knowledge, in the same way that you have to do physical work to acquire food or goods. Knowledge does not come from God. It has to be built up from reality by a process of reason, which has to be checked for correctness. Objectivism provides a complete picture of how to do that. Christianity not only doesn't provide such a picture, it rejects the idea that one is necessary.
  12. I think you can agree to surrender some of your rights in exchange for some other value. This is what happens in a boxing match where you might agree to get punched in exchange for a chance at some prize money or something. But if you surrender some of your rights, they aren't being violated. A rights violation requires that you didn't agree to it. It's an important characteristic of contracts that they are legally considered civil matters and people in contract disputes aren't in any danger of life and limb. Even if a contract is breached, the legal idea is that the breach can be compensated for by some amount of money. This is completely different from a matter of infringement of rights, which is a crime. Suppose we have Alice and Bob, and Bob declares that he can predict the weather, and is far too sure of himself. Alice is annoyed by his arrogance, so she challenges him to enter into a contract with her where he agrees to die if it rains in Memphis on Thursday. He does agree to it, and they sign it, and get it notarized, and advertise it in the newspapers and everything. Then, when Thursday rolls around, it rains in Memphis. As you might expect, Bob does not die as agreed, and makes a bunch of excuses, so Alice takes Bob to court and demands that the government execute Bob, since he agreed to die. I think a reasonable government would decline to execute Bob -- and if Alice decided to take matters into her own hands and kill Bob, she'd be charged with murder notwithstanding the existence of the contract or the witnesses or any of that. You can't really agree to give up your life in that way. (The judge might order Bob to pay Alice some money in lieu of dying and to teach him a lesson about engaging in frivolous contracts.) There's also the people who say, "By living in our country you agree to abide by our laws, and our laws require that you die just because of your ancestry, even though you personally didn't do anything. So you have already agreed to die and it isn't an infringement of your rights." That's the same sort of thing: it's a rights violation masquerading as a contract. So is the "social contract" nonsense that keeps floating around. So, no, you can't agree to a violation of your rights.
  13. If somebody punches you, that's a crime, unless it's part of a boxing match that you agreed to participate in. Even then, boxing has rules, and if your opponent breaks the rules, that can be "unsportsmanlike conduct," and there is a point beyond which it can be a crime, too, like if he shoots you with a gun. (Or maybe if he bites off your ear...) That is not part of boxing. Duels used to be legal, where people who got into a dispute could settle it in the streets, but those have since been banned, I suspect in part because they are dangerous to bystanders. Ayn Rand did say that the government cannot be compelled to enforce just any arbitrary contract. She said this in the context of marriage in Ayn Rand Answers, I think, but I take it to be more generally true. For example, how could the government enforce a self-contradictory contract? (If a contract requires a contradiction, the government has no means of providing it...) Also, the government might not enforce a contract if: one party was too young to understand it, one party was too drunk to understand it, one party was physically threatened concerning the signing of it, or other such things. A lot of it depends on, basically, whether it's an honest or a dishonest contract (including such issues as informed consent), and on whether it's an honest or a dishonest dispute, too. Whether and how to enforce a contract can be a complex issue. Contract enforcement can also be open to abuse, as when the government decides to base its decisions on some sort of agenda of its own.
  14. "Arbitrary" itself is one of those words that can have different meanings in different contexts. It helps to keep the contexts distinct. As Boydstun pointed out early in this thread, the word "arbitrary" can be validly used in statements of the form "Take an arbitrary triangle." A lot of our knowledge takes the form "For all X, Y follows." And in the latter case, if Y is true for all X (in a given context), then it doesn't matter which X you choose, Y will be true for it. So the choice of which X is "arbitrary" in the sense that the choice of X does not affect whether or not "For all X, Y follows" is true. A statement of the form, "If X then Y," may be true regardless of whether X is true. For example, if someone or something lights a stick of dynamite, it will (under normal conditions) explode. This "if-then" statement is true regardless of whether or not anyone or anything is currently lighting a stick of dynamite. (But proving the statement would require either lighting a stick of dynamite, or having a record of a previous lighting of a stick of dynamite, or having enough experience lighting dynamite, directly or indirectly, that you can infer principles that can then be applied to a hypothetical lighted stick of dynamite.) In all these kinds of cases, there's an X which we say "can be arbitrary" (e.g., pick any particular lighting of a stick of dynamite) but X is only part of the statement under consideration. That's different from saying that the entire statement is arbitrary. --- Consider two Objectivists, A and B. A says, "Hey B, what if we made a momentous philosophic discovery, and Dr. Peikoff or Dr. Binswanger thought it so valuable that we were invited to his house, and he would gesture to his bookshelf, and say, 'Pick an arbitrary book, and I'll autograph it for you!' Wouldn't that be great?" B says, "No, that would never happen, because an Objectivist like Dr. Peikoff or Dr. Binswanger wouldn't have any arbitrary books!"
  15. To put it another way, it has to be an assertion to be an arbitrary assertion. Gibberish isn't an assertion of anything.
  16. But if a claim is true it can't be disproven... [Edit] You might want to say "a claim that can't be proven or disproven..." There might also be a case where a claim can't be proven or disproven right now but can be later.
  17. This is a question of terminology. I'm trying to distinguish words and ideas from reality itself. If you hold that a "fact is a type of claim" then you lose (or at least muddy) that distinction. What is a fact a claim of? What do you call the thing out there in reality? (A statement is a complete sentence, not just a noun. So if a statement is "factual," i.e., true, the underlying fact, out there in reality, must be more than just a "thing" like a rock or whatever, it has to be a thing doing (or being) something, even if only existing.) As evidence that my distinction here is not mine alone, I offer this: if I say something, and someone replies, "Is that a fact?" they're asking about the state of things "out there" in reality; they aren't asking for a mere categorization of my utterance (which could be determined entirely from the utterance itself, and from a knowledge of how to categorize utterances, as opposed to looking at whatever I'm talking about). If a fact were a type of statement then asking, "Is that [statement] a fact?" would be the same sort of thing as asking, "Is that statement using an intransitive verb?" Another thing to consider is context. All statements are made in a context. The context can be used to resolve ambiguities and to specify meanings. If I say, "That book is on the shelf over there," it would have to be the context that would make it clear which book and which shelf. Some contexts are broader than others. The broadest context available is the context of "all human knowledge," but smaller contexts are frequently useful and necessary, so you can have your own personal context, e.g., concerning whatever is in your immediate vicinity, and distinguish that from other contexts. A statement has to be put into a context in order to be judged as true, false, or arbitrary (or "possible," "probable," etc.). Further, the same statement can be true in one context, false in another, and arbitrary in yet another, although this might hinge on certain words that have different meanings in different contexts. (I should also point out that in the case of a "word salad" which isn't even grammatical, there's no use trying to put it in a context, because context doesn't make any difference...) I did make a distinction between a statement which is "arbitrary in a particular context" and one which "would be arbitrary in any context." The latter, I think, is what most people here mean when they state that something is "arbitrary." The examples of arbitrary statements given by Peikoff seem to be of that latter type; they seem to be those where the claimant is deliberately trying to insulate a claim from evidence. I think such a statement, "detached from the realm of evidence" as Peikoff describes it, is very different from a claim that merely lacks evidence. A claim that lacks evidence is merely useless; a claim that's impervious to evidence is another sort of beast -- and the statements Peikoff makes about the arbitrary being "an affront to reason and to the science of epistemology" would make more sense applying to the latter.
  18. [Long post ahead...] Most of what I know about the arbitrary comes from Leonard Peikoff's OPAR. However, although I think his presentation is clear, I've noticed that my understanding of the concept seems to differ somewhat from that of some of the other people on this board, so I want to state what I think he means. So this post is my interpretation of OPAR, or perhaps it would be more apt to say I'm writing an elaboration on OPAR to establish how I'm interpreting it, and I'd like to think my interpretation is pretty straightforward, but we'll see. First I want to establish a difference between a fact and a claim. A fact (which can also be called a piece of evidence) is something out there in reality, and it is true by definition. A fact can never be false, and a fact can never be arbitrary. Some facts are available to direct perception, but others aren't. Some facts have to be discovered by inference, such as the existence of neutrinos. Other facts are man-made, such as two people being married. A claim, on the other hand (which can also be called a proposition, an assertion, a statement, a sentence, or a group of sentences) is something that somebody says (or writes). It might be true, or it might be false, or it might be arbitrary. If I say "There is a 4K monitor in front of me right now," then that is a claim. The existence of the 4K monitor itself, however, is a fact (unless I am mistaken or lying, in which case the claim would be false and the fact would be different from what I claimed. But we would never say that the fact is false.) When Peikoff identifies the arbitrary in OPAR, everything he says amounts to the idea that the status of "arbitrary" can only be given to a claim, and not a fact: This is why I claim that a fact can never be arbitrary. But a claim can be. Whenever people are arguing in a forum, all they can do is make claims. Strictly speaking, the facts are not on the forum (except for facts about what somebody previously wrote on the forum). Facts are "out there" in reality. So anything I can write on this forum, or even link to, is actually a claim. And because it's a claim, it could be true, false, or arbitrary, and it's up to you to figure out which. So how does one begin to do that? There are facts that are immediately available to you, possibly even in front of your own eyes, and in that case it's pretty easy. There are also facts that are not immediately available. For example, consider the claim that neutrinos exist. Do they? I have to admit that I have not personally verified that they do. I haven't done the experiments and I don't have the proper equipment to do them. Would it then be fair to claim, then, that maybe scientists made up neutrinos in order to get more grant money? In this case I think the claim that neutrinos exist is more credible than the claim that scientists made them up, mostly because when you ask people why they claim that neutrinos exist, you get led to lab results and to mathematical relationships between them. (And when you ask why the mathematical relationships exist, you get led back to more lab results.) In particular, when you measure radioactive decay, and you do the math about what goes in versus what comes out, you end up with something "missing" in what comes out. This was the theoretical basis for the idea of the neutrino -- that the neutrino was what was missing. It was also mathematically predicted that neutrinos interact with matter, albeit rarely, and then experiments were done and the interaction was actually observed. In principle, at least, I could make the same observations myself. It would be expensive and difficult for me to run such experiments, but the fact that the claimants are appealing, ultimately, to direct perception and to reasoning from that, is what gives this claim credibility. The idea that "neutrinos are a lie made up by scientists," on the other hand, actually clashes with all that evidence (just like the Christian claim that evolution is a big scientific fraud and that the truth is creationism and Noah's Ark and the like). Each time you claim that one of the scientists' conclusions is wrong, you also have to claim that something is wrong with the evidence or the reasoning that led them to that conclusion. So the idea that scientists made up neutrinos (or evolution) is just not tenable. Here I've actually pointed out that the claim that "scientists made up neutrinos" is false. (I can't say I've really proved it's false, but I've described what such a proof would look like.) But that doesn't demonstrate anything about the arbitrary. So how do you establish that something is arbitrary? Yes, it's necessary to establish that something is arbitrary, as opposed to simply claiming that it is arbitrary. A claim about a claim is a claim. So if you claim that "Claim X is arbitrary," that claim can itself be true or false -- or arbitrary! In particular, if you don't have a means of establishing that a claim is arbitrary, then the claim that "Claim X is arbitrary" has no relationship to reality and is therefore itself arbitrary. So there has to be a way to establish arbitrariness. To prove that a claim is arbitrary, you need to prove that it has no relationship to reality. The arbitrary is neither true nor false. That's its definition! Peikoff mentions a context, as well: To prove that a claim is arbitrary, a context is necessary, because all knowledge is contextual. A context is also necessary to prove that a claim is true or false. In a particular context, however, a claim will be one of these three things. If we could go back in time and talk to Aristotle, the statement that "neutrinos exist" would be arbitrary to him. He'd technically be entitled to dismiss it. He wouldn't have the context of scientific research to show why neutrinos might or might not exist. He also wouldn't have an immediate need to know whether they exist or not (and if he did need to know, that need, and the reasoning that led to that need, would establish a context). However, if a time traveler could walk up to him and tell him that such things as neutrinos exist (I don't know why the subject would even come up, but bear with me here), he might ask, "Why do you say that?" -- and it would be possible for the time traveler to answer (although the answer might require a book or two). In that case, the time traveler would be establishing the context that allows the claim to be shown to be true. (This establishment of context is also necessary when you're a kid going to school and your teachers teach you that neutrinos exist -- the teachers have to establish the context, in order to keep the statement from being arbitrary. Often they fail or refuse to do this... and then claim, sometimes implicitly, that students should simply believe what they're told...) So I propose that if somebody makes a statement that appears to be arbitrary, it's entirely rational to invite them to establish a context for it. This doesn't contradict the onus of proof principle, either -- it's an instance of it, it's telling the person making a statement that he must also establish the context for it. If such a context can be established, it becomes possible to debate whether the statement is true or false: it is no longer arbitrary. If someone refuses to establish such a context (and it has not already been established) then they're advocating the arbitrary as such, and that's invalid reasoning according to OPAR. It's also possible that someone simply fails to establish a context; in that case, they are not "advocating the arbitrary" per se, but you would still be entitled to consider that particular statement as arbitrary, and dismiss it from consideration, until a context is established. In a few cases, it's possible, and sometimes easy, to prove that a claim would be arbitrary in any context -- an example would be the skeptical claim that reason or evidence is itself invalid. How can you have evidence for a claim that evidence is invalid? Such a context cannot exist. Another example is circular reasoning, where a claim is only valid according to itself. Whole religions work that way. Another example occurs when someone works to maintain a falsehood, for example, the idea that scientists made up neutrinos. This would have to be a person who does not reject the arbitrary in principle, and who expects his audience not to reject it either. If an idea is proved false, the arguer may try to "promote" the idea to arbitrary status in order to "protect" it from evidence, and argue that it may nevertheless still be "true." However, the very protection from evidence, the fact that no evidence could ever prove the "promoted" statement false, is what marks the statement as arbitrary, and therefore dismissable. (Peikoff presents several examples of claims that are "promoted" to arbitrary, such as the skeptical "problem of error" where the skeptic flips the onus of proof and demands that someone with a true claim prove that non-detectable errors don't exist.) Once a context has been established, and a claim is shown not to be arbitrary, then the claim cannot be dismissed on the basis of "arbitrariness" anymore; it has to be dismissed on some factual basis (e.g., irrelevancy) or else dealt with. Making it "arbitrary" again would require deliberately setting aside the facts that establish the context -- and that's evasion! (I suppose there might be a case where someone could prove that the wrong context was being used...) On the broader Internet, there are various claims from news media and bloggers and such. Assessing whether those claims are true, false, or arbitrary, is a little harder, because with broadcast media you usually can't ask them anything. You can, however, look at whatever context they've already established. I do have rules of thumb. For one thing, somebody who points to evidence for their claim is more credible than somebody who just asserts a conclusion without evidence. This is true even though "pointing to evidence" means making more claims. People who say "see for yourself" run the risk that others will see for themselves, and the fact that they are willing to take that risk says something good. People can also point to evidence in the form of videos or documents. For another, claims that are consistent over time are more likely to be correct, whereas, over time, a lie becomes more and more likely to be discovered as such. A third important thing is that people can be credible in some matters but not others. Unfortunately the "conservative" news media is full of credible, documented claims of tyranny followed by the claim that "this is all in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, so Jesus is coming back!" Since the claims of tyranny are documented, they can be believed, but it is still possible and reasonable to dismiss the Biblical prophecy stuff. If someone says "Water boils at 100 C, therefore, God exists!" then we as atheists are not obligated to deny that water boils at 100 C.
  19. If all the molecules of gas in a room moved over to the left side, I'd say that there had to be a force of some kind at work, because that sort of thing doesn't happen otherwise. But others might point out that, since the motion of gas molecules is random, this situation could possibly occur entirely by chance. It seems like some people are maintaining that it is only chance, "and you can't prove it isn't because you don't have any evidence of the particular force that is being used, you can't even show that a single one of those molecules is being forced," etc., whereas I would say that the sheer unlikelihood of this happening by chance makes it necessary that there is a force at work, even if the particular force is unidentified. By this sort of argument, a Jew in early Nazi Germany, who is not personally being forced (yet) but who is unable to buy products or services anywhere, would be unable to determine whether the government is fascist or capitalist. Although it could be that the government is forcing companies not to deal with him, it could also be the case that the companies simply refuse to deal with him for their own freely-chosen reasons, such as maybe that Jews are simply universally unpopular. In order to prove fascism, this argument goes, he'd have to identify several specific examples of companies having their arms twisted by the government -- and even in that case, we're told, it wouldn't prove that the government was doing so everywhere. It would only prove those seven or eight cases. (And there's no way he could get the evidence to prove even those cases, because he's not the one who's having his arm twisted, so he's not a party to those cases; it's none of his business. Just like if Alice murders Bob, and Carol didn't witness it, it's none of Carol's business.) So this argument can be used on the one hand to claim that fascism doesn't really exist because you can't prove the existence of any of the mechanisms that would create or maintain it. On the other hand, if you define fascism in terms of its effects instead of its causes, you can use the same argument to imply that a pure capitalist system can become fascist entirely on its own, without the application of any force at all, just like the gas molecules in a room can all go to the left side of the room on their own. The people who make this argument then would state that there is a need to apply force to the molecules to keep them distributed evenly throughout the room, and for decades this has been the justification for anti-trust laws and other regulations against capitalism. This is also the argument used by Antifa; they describe themselves as "anti-fascist" because they believe that capitalism can (or has) become fascist on its own and that the only way to stop it is to use regulations and such. These arguments are wrong. If you follow them to their logical conclusion, you end up determining that cognition is impossible. (I call such arguments "anti-cognitive.") In science, if you see something unusual, you look for a cause, and you can give the cause a name and start to investigate it even if you don't fully understand it yet. The anti-cognitive arguments, though, state that if you can't identify the cause, you are obligated to deny that you are seeing anything unusual, that it would be "arbitrary" to continue to claim that there is anything unusual going on. But a fact can never be arbitrary. It demands to be integrated, not dismissed. Dismissing a fact is evasion. The molecules in a room could be said to "seek out vacuum." This is what evens out their distribution in a room. (Edit: It is not precisely accurate. Molecules don't "seek" anything. It's more accurate to say that when a molecule moves in a random direction, if there is any inequality in the distribution of other molecules around it, it will go further if it moves in a direction where there are fewer other molecules, and this will cause the distribution of the molecules to even out.) Similarly, under capitalism, entrepreneurs seek out "vacuums" in the sense of needs that people have. By meeting those needs, entrepreneurs can make money. An entrepreneur is free to refuse to meet a need, if he doesn't want to meet it -- but then this invites someone else to come along and meet it, if there is any money to be made that way. If this does not happen, then force is being used. -- The White House has now openly stated that it is coordinating with Facebook to ban certain people who are "spreading misinformation about Covid-19," so I suppose the presence of force has been more firmly established, now (although I suppose someone could still say, "oh, the White House is just providing some friendly advice, they aren't using force at all!") The White House has also alleged that Facebook is "killing people" by "spreading misinformation," the implication being that the First Amendment "kills people." Things like this have been litigated before, although perhaps never on this scale... there are already Supreme Court precedents to the effect that when the government "coordinates with" private entities in this manner, it is violating the First Amendment even if the private entity has the right to do the same thing on its own. However, I don't have a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court right now...
  20. Technically, yes -- but context is everything. If Coca-Cola does this of its own free will in a free market, that's one thing. Because in a free market people would probably switch to alternatives, and, more importantly, they'd be able to. (Even if Coca-Cola had the same bias as 99% of the population, in a free economy, a niche market would arise for the remaining 1%... because there is good money to be made serving niche markets... unless, like, that were prevented somehow...) A semi-free or non-free market changes things considerably, though, because the idea that Coca-Cola is somehow just a private company making its own decision is merely a cover. This is not an independent, uncoerced decision, and you can tell because all companies are leaning the same way, and any time somebody wants to start a competitor that leans the other way, the effort is stymied by legal and regulatory issues. The thing is, this is not about Coca-Cola at all. That's what I think DeSantis and Trump are missing when they target Twitter or Facebook. Yeah, the people who run these companies are jerks. But the government is pulling the strings here, and only that kind of jerk would be allowed to succeed under this government. (Edit: When a guy has a gun to his head, the solution is not to put another gun on the other side of the guy's head, with an opposite set of demands -- but that seems to be what the Republicans are proposing...) Permits which you're required to apply for will mysteriously take longer to get -- any inspections or audits that have to be done will take longer and will find more little problems, and they'll dispute you whenever you claim to have corrected them -- you might get constantly harassed by law enforcement over crimes you can't control that are associated with your product or service -- whether you qualify for liability protections will be disputed -- your suppliers, employees, customers, investors, etc. will have similar problems. On the other hand, a company that cooperates will get permits promptly, will breeze through inspections or audits (if there are any), will find that law enforcement doesn't blame them for the actions of miscreants who happen to use their property, will find that of course it qualifies for liability protections, and its business associates will have similar benefits. This is how political machines in big cities have always worked -- e.g., try getting a permit in NYC or Chicago -- and now it has moved to the Federal level. It can be many times more expensive to operate a company if it is disfavored by all these bureaucrats with discretionary powers. If the operating expense is too high, the company can't stay in business. Even if the company does stay in business, it is at a disadvantage. And yet, if a court asks the bureaucrats why they decided something the way they did, they can always come up with an answer that sounds "reasonable," and hey, the metal was rusty, so we did have to close the company until they had it replaced (never mind that the other company has metal that's about equally rusty but we decided it wasn't an issue there). All this is only possible because the government is in a position to do this sort of thing. This is basic cause and effect, although in this case you see the effect and have to infer the cause, just like seeing the effect of X-rays and having to infer that there are X-rays (because you can't see them directly). There are also many historical examples of this sort of thing, including "machine politics" cities like Chicago and Detroit, where this has been going on for decades, although Ayn Rand also saw it in Russia, and it also existed in Wiemar and Nazi Germany and in other authoritarian states throughout history. What more evidence do you require? Ayn Rand herself recommended a separation of state and economics. Why do you think she recommended that? Was she wrong?
  21. In The Prince, Machiavelli speaks of how a ruler who needs to do something unpopular can simply get one of his subordinates to do it for him, and then, if worst comes to worst, he can not only deny responsibility, but make a public spectacle of punishing the subordinate. A government can not only use that to wield "unpopular" powers, but also powers that it is not supposed to have in the first place. In the United States, censorship is one of these powers -- and the subordinate in this case is the "privately owned" corporations, who "volunteer" to be subordinates because they have to, because the government wields various carrots and sticks. The government has figured out a way to get the practical effects of censorship while not doing it itself, thus having plausible deniability. This depends on allowing a few big corporations to have their hands in almost all speech -- and then the government "delegates" the power of censorship to them. I think it's actually is proper to call this "censorship," because, when it comes down to it, it is the ruling regime doing it -- indirectly. The corporations aren't really doing it of their own free will. If somebody puts a gun to your head and makes demands, then whether you agree with the demands or not doesn't really make any difference -- although the gunman might tell you that things will go better for you if it seems that you do agree. But it's a little different when the gunman is the government: people who really do agree might not mind the gun at their heads, because they figure, "the bullets in that gun are for other people, people who disagree... but I agree, I co-operate, so I don't have to worry about it." When the corporations become unpopular, the government can make a big spectacle of "trust-busting," and the showmanship on this has actually already begun -- but you'll find in the end that, even if the government theatrically breaks these companies up, it won't make any practical difference. A few new rules will be announced, nobody will go to jail, and if you end up with two or three Facebooks or whatever, they will all toe the same line. In a free market, companies would compete for people's business, and a company that started banning people for their political views would simply drive those people into the arms of the competition. A company in a free market wouldn't ban people for political reasons, because it's suicidal.** So why are companies doing it? Because they're confident that there is no competition for those people to go to. Why are they so confident? Because the government is guaranteeing it. We don't have a free market. Trump has failed to grasp the nature of this problem and thus is proposing incorrect solutions. However, once again we see some people claiming that there isn't really a problem at all, and that if people are being kicked out of the public sphere for their political views, it's just "the free market at work." That isn't true either. (Some Republicans are doing one other thing wrong -- when they see the power being wielded, they don't want to eliminate that power, they want to take it over for their own use. That's not right, either: some powers cannot be used for good, at least, if good is defined as "promoting human survival.") Over the decades, there have been a lot of people complaining, rightly, about smaller "public-private partnerships" than these, and how such partnerships somehow manage to wield government powers while simultaneously not being subject to any constitutional restrictions because "they aren't part of the government, they're privately owned." Well, now we're coming to the culmination of the trend: companies and government are, for all practical purposes, just aspects of the same thing. To save the free market we need to separate these things: the only ultimate solution to this censorship problem is a separation of state and economics, which would include the elimination of all of these powerful regulatory agencies, so that the regime has no way of compelling compliance with its censorship desires. ** This sentence isn't correct as worded. A magazine publisher, for example, is not "suicidal" if he only accepts certain kinds of articles for his magazine. A phone company, on the other hand, would be "suicidal" if it tapped in on people's calls and cancelled their service over their views.
  22. You should read about "the arbitrary" in OPAR. First, you write "A casual inference, relying on the claim that there are casual structures, makes it very low probability that the farmer has not produced a green bowlingball-size sallad since there has not been any rain at all and other farmers have seen their fields turn into dry deserts. There are not enough ingredients for such a phenomenon to be produced." But the evidence you provide is actually enough to justify a probability of zero, not just "very low." Second, the claim "that you can't trust that there are reliable casual relationships in the world" is a claim that reasoning as such is impossible. As Peikoff puts it, "reason cannot be neutral in regard to such a claim." So that claim should be dismissed. I would therefore conclude that the eleven people are lying.
  23. So, what you're saying is, the show is an example of information falling into the "black hole" of bad philosophy.
  • Create New...