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Everything posted by necrovore

  1. This thread has been like that long fist fight in John Carpenter's They Live. -- "Put on the damn sunglasses!" -- "No!" Decades of dealing with religious people has taught me that some people get the facts correct but then draw incorrect and sometimes "rigged" conclusions from those facts. The correct solution to this is to throw out their "rigged" conclusions and draw one's own conclusions. It is not correct to say that, since their conclusions are wrong, the facts that led to them must also be wrong. That's not how reasoning works. You can't just say "well X is religious so his facts must be wrong; he is just making them up to support his religion." Often, such people are willing to accept the importance of having evidence, which is a point in their favor if you ask me. They will present correct evidence. But then they are using (some) bad abstractions to weigh that evidence, and they don't understand that it is necessary (and possible) to verify whether the abstractions are based on reality. They take their abstractions as givens. Lower than the people "drawing the wrong conclusions" are people like the "mainstream media," who frequently roll out conclusions -- and repeat them over and over -- but they never show any facts at all that allegedly lead to those conclusions. If you ask for such facts you get an argument from intimidation, like, "you couldn't possibly be one of those people who disbelieves us, could you?" For example, I don't know how many times I've heard the phrase "Trump's false claims about the election." That phrase is an evaluation, but they repeat it over and over, word for word. They repeat "ready-made" evaluations like that for a lot of subjects. Where is the evidence for their evaluations? Well, if you don't already know the evidence, you must be one of those people. They smear Ayn Rand in the same way. They echo a lot of ready-made conclusions about her, but they rarely have the quotes from her to back them up (and when they do they are quoting her out of context, which is enough to fool the kind of people who already wouldn't be caught dead reading one of her books because their minds are already made up.) They do the same thing with Trump's speeches. An unsupported "ready-made" evaluation is arbitrary in and of itself, and forces most thinking people to seek out alternative sources of information. It is possible that some of these alternative sources are lying, but if that were the case, it would be easy to show it, with more facts and context. However, the people presenting this information know this; they understand the importance of getting their facts right, even if their abstractions are wrong. The mainstream media is more like "trust us," which is suspicious. So put on the damn sunglasses. p.s. Mostly I stay out of this Russia stuff because I don't trust either side. I've already discussed the US side, which acts like the "mainstream media" above. However, the Russians, being at war, can lie boldly about facts, and then shoot anybody who threatens to expose the truth. That option is not available to the religious people in the US.
  2. Man is the "rational animal." An animal lives or dies on its own; it is not connected to other animals. So it is with Man. We don't extend the concept of "animal" into "unborn animals" and even a chicken's unhatched egg is not an "animal" yet. It's fine to have compassion and all, but emotions are not tools of cognition. If you choose to bring a child into the world, you have a responsibility to raise him (or her) to the point where he can fend for himself, and these days that includes a requirement for a good education, but you don't have a responsibility (e.g., toward all the millions of needy children all over the world) if you don't have a choice. Abortion makes a choice possible where it otherwise might not have been, and in that sense it is a good thing. Of course, whenever you make a choice possible, you make a wrong choice possible, but in a free country other people's wrong choices are not my problem, and even if they are a problem for "God" or for "society," I disagree with the notion of taking those choices away. That path leads to taking away all choices. -- p.s. if you think it's wrong to murder your children by having abortions, why is it okay to murder them by not having sex? ... ok, that was a joke... I guess it's interesting that in the religious mindset, giving birth is not important, having sex ("conception") is the important thing, and any time you have sex and it does not end in a childbirth, it's a sin, and, in their minds, a crime tantamount to murder... p.p.s. Using taxes to pay for someone else's abortion is a bad thing because it takes away their choice of what to do with their money.
  3. My "conspiracy theory" is that people wrote books hundreds or in some cases thousands of years ago, and then died of old age, but many people today are still following those books, and their actions come out to be coordinated even if they do not communicate with each other at all, because they are following the same books. That may not be true for much longer. The environmentalists are now banning nitrogen fertilizer in places. If this becomes widespread, billions of people will starve, and I think the environmentalists would welcome that as "less of a load on the Earth." (Of course Peikoff quoted one of them as saying "we can only hope that the right virus comes along," and along comes COVID-19...) The selfishness of self-defense is a virtue. (I use "selfishness" here in the Ayn Rand sense, which could be described with redundancy as "selfishness without victims.") There is something in Atlas Shrugged (probably from Ragnar Danneskjold) about the killed attacker achieving the only destruction he has any right to achieve -- his own. And I suppose it's okay to regard it as a sad thing if someone commits suicide, perhaps more so if they do it at your hands, as it were... Technically the Left is correct that they are "more Christian than the Christians," in the sense that they are more consistent about self-sacrifice than the Republicans. The Republicans support both freedom and Christianity, even though consistency would make it an either-or choice. A lot of Republicans are too anti-conceptual to see the contradictions, and they don't want to see them. (They sometimes argue that such inconsistencies prove that reason is inadequate by itself and that religion is necessary, but this argument is circular, because it is religion that creates the inconsistencies in the first place.) In the past I have interacted with atheist groups, but was disappointed that they wanted to be "Good without God" which suggests that if you take God out of the Bible you can get something good. Thomas Jefferson also tried that, writing his own Bible with the miracles edited out, or so I've read. But if you secularize Christianity and make it more consistent, you get Communism, as Ayn Rand observed. Thomas Paine ended up a Communist, if I remember correctly... (I don't recall the chronology around this.) Ayn Rand was right to call selfishness (as she defined it) a virtue. American intellectuals have been unwilling to embrace what she said (or even read it I think), but what is left of the originally American sense of life seems to understand it perfectly (without reading Rand or knowing that she provides a logical basis for it). It is this sense of life that the Left seeks to destroy, and they are trying to use Christianity as a tool with which to do it. I hope this is not successful; I would hope it undermines support for Christianity instead, but far too many people would rather give up consistency.
  4. Seems like the Left is running with "we're more Christian than the Christians" by claiming that self-defense is wrong because it's selfish. Apparently Jesus would have turned the other cheek. The DA in New York finally did drop charges against the bodega worker who defended himself (or so I read today), but probably due to public outcry.
  5. Yes, my mistake, I should have said some actions that altruists hold as "selfish."
  6. I think Ayn Rand's point was that, first, whether something is in your self-interest or not is a question of fact, not of one's desires, whims, or feelings, and second, that sacrificing others to oneself is never in one's self-interest -- not if one wants the life appropriate to a rational being. Therefore, there is no package deal to be teased apart here. Actions that altruists hold as "selfish" are actually self-sacrificial, while actions that are actually "selfish" don't hurt anybody else.
  7. Robert Frost used to say that writing poetry without rhyme and meter was like playing tennis without the net. However, I think a poem can succeed well without rhyme and meter -- if, on other measures, it excels enough to make up for it. I used to love poetry when I was in high school -- reading it and writing it -- and I liked some poems that had rhyme and meter, and some poems that did not have it. But I drifted away from it because I didn't really know where to find new poetry. There were only the textbooks, and you could find books by those authors in the library, but nothing else. I didn't know about Poetry magazine so thanks for that. Maybe I can rediscover poetry... Do they allow rhymed and metered poetry, or do they dismiss it without further consideration? ... I think it should be allowed, but I suppose there's also a possible dispute about whether a poem that has to bend grammar rules, and give up on the ideal choice of words, in order to achieve rhyme and meter, is still a good poem. I mean, should it get "points" for achieving rhyme and meter, or is there a judgment that the cost to meaning isn't "worth it"?
  8. I'm guessing that it sorts threads by date of last activity, descending, and then shows the first post in each thread.
  9. If a woman has a right to her own body, then an abortion can be self-defense, regardless of whether the embryo is a "human being" or not. The debate has never really been about whether the embryo is a human being or not. That is a sideshow. The religionists don't actually seem to believe that every miscarriage should be investigated as a possible manslaughter (which would be logically required if an embryo is considered a human being). They don't believe in celebrating every successful conception as if it were a birth, they don't believe in issuing "conception certificates" instead of birth certificates, they don't believe in signing up the unborn for Social Security numbers and such... or even giving every miscarriage a proper funeral and burial! Who owns your body is the real issue. Always has been. As far as religionists are concerned, your body belongs to God, and Congress shall have power to enforce this through appropriate legislation. This is also why religionists support things like drug prohibition (and many would even still support alcohol prohibition), and they want to ban tattoos and body piercing and such, because "your body is God's temple." This is also why they don't believe in investigating miscarriages as possible manslaughter -- because if a miscarriage occurs, it's "God's will." Whereas the Democrats believe your body should belong to the state. They only support abortion as a "women's right," i.e., a collective right -- if they can figure out what a woman is...
  10. I found out later that what I was getting at is called the Cantillon effect and has been known since the 18th century. (I had read descriptions of it before but I didn't know or didn't remember what it was called.) I have not seen anyone saying what I said, which was that the Cantillon effect can affect the culture, too. Actually it can get deeper than publishers by affecting universities...
  11. Maybe because this is a case of bad guys vs. bad guys, like two groups of gangsters in a gang war. Sure, one of them had to start it, and that one (Russia) was wrong for starting it, but that doesn't make the other group of gangsters "good guys." p.s. I do not know if my position here matches that of anybody else in this thread. I just saw that one statement and wanted to respond to it.
  12. I would say that your right to your own body is an unenumerated right, and such rights are protected by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution. Technically a right to production and trade could also be upheld in such a manner (although probably not by this Court.) More explicit amendments wouldn't necessarily do any harm, but I suppose the concern of the Founding Fathers was precisely that it's impossible to enumerate all rights. I think they preferred that the powers of the government be enumerated instead.
  13. Very true. It seems like Newspeak is on the rise. For example, do you have a "right" to a job? If you do, then the government is required to provide you with one, but according to Newspeak, if you do not have a right to a job, then the government can arbitrarily prevent you from having one, even if someone would have hired you voluntarily...
  14. The problem here is that failure to get vaccinated is not an initiation of force. The government exists to protect people from criminals (and invading foreign armies), but not to protect them from natural phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes -- or viruses. In a free country, people can organize to protect themselves against such things, and the government is only involved insofar as it prevents crime from occurring. In some circumstances it might be possible to sue someone for negligence if their failure to do something causes a natural phenomenon to be worse for someone else. Generally, however, I think you have to willingly assume a responsibility before you can be held liable for shirking it. Interestingly, the government has granted the manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines "immunity" from liability lawsuits.
  15. The purpose of government is (supposed to be) to protect individual rights. The only way to violate individual rights is by initiation or threat of force. Therefore, the government maintains a monopoly on force to ensure that it is only used in retaliation and only against those who initiate or threaten its use. As such, the only "mandates" from a proper government are negative obligations, e.g., don't murder people, don't defraud people, don't steal from people, don't extort stuff from people, etc. The government can enforce these without ever initiating force. Individual rights are not (supposed to be) subject to vote. Unlimited democracies usually end up tyrannical, as mob rule. As for vaccine mandates, the issue here is whether one has a right to one's own body. I would say so, and therefore I oppose vaccine mandates on the same grounds that I oppose the forced pregnancy and childbirth that result from abortion bans. A vaccine mandate is not the same thing as a vaccine itself, and it's possible to recommend a vaccine without supporting a mandate. I mean, I think everybody should read Atlas Shrugged to "inoculate" themselves against socialism and communism, but I absolutely don't believe that the reading of Atlas Shrugged should be mandated by law.
  16. The religionists always asserted that consciousness was supernatural, and that ideas were supernatural. The root of this assertion is Platonism. Aristotle (and a lot of his later students, including Thomas Aquinas) sort of inherited it without challenge. Objectivism asserts that it is an error. An idea is definitely a different kind of thing than a physical object. You can hold a solid object in your hand, or a gas in a tank, but only a mind can hold an idea. However, an idea is still a kind of thing and ideas have a nature. Consciousness is also a kind of thing with a nature, even though its nature is different from that of any physical object or substance. Materialists assume that the religionists are correct about consciousness and ideas being supernatural, and then reject the supernatural. The result is a philosophy that denies the axiom of consciousness. Objectivism denies the supernatural but asserts that consciousness is natural. This is more than saying consciousness is axiomatic (which it also is). Objectivist epistemology is defined under the premise that consciousness has a nature and that a proper epistemology has to work with that nature instead of against it. It is possible to discover the nature of consciousness through introspection. It is also possible to "compare notes" with other people (such as reading a scientist's account of how he became aware of some new scientific discovery). Although it's possible to ask questions about how consciousness arises in a brain, I think such questions are scientific rather than philosophical. The answers wouldn't invalidate anything, in much the same way that your knowledge about a table is not invalidated merely because you learn that the table is made of molecules.
  17. This looks like the mind-body dichotomy again, but in a different form. The ancient idea was that reason is a "spiritual" phenomenon which should not be "sullied" by connections to "the flesh." The modern, more "materialist" take would be what you are describing, that there is no spiritual phenomenon at all, that there is nothing but the flesh and that what we think is "reason" is actually nothing more than a phenomenon of the flesh and therefore subservient to it. Ayn Rand does not believe in the mind-body dichotomy. A man is an integrated being, and reason is the faculty that a man uses for living his life. Reason means applying logic (the art of non-contradictory identification) to reality, but reality of necessity includes the nature of a person's own body and its needs. (For example, you have to eat food and not poison, and reason is the most effective tool people have to identify what is food and how to find or produce it, and how to identify poison so that it can be avoided.) It is possible to deliberately put reason in the service of unreason, but that would be a lower level of evil than mere unreason. Criminals do that when they plot to rob a bank or to enslave a population. It is possible (but not sustainable over the long term) for men to prey on other men. The life proper to man is to deal with reality directly (rather than relying on victims to do it), and to deal with other people only as traders, offering value for value.
  18. Of course we have limits. What Ayn Rand referred to as "the crow epistemology" is an example of a limit -- you can only keep so many things in mind at a time. You can see | as one, || as two, ||| as three, but you'd have to count |||||||||||| because otherwise they just blur together. However, we can abstract over abstractions, and that sets us apart from the animals, even monkeys. Once you can abstract over abstractions, you can get to discoveries like those of Newton and Einstein (and Rand herself in her own field). Also, you seem to be referring to the reason-emotion dichotomy, which is related to the mind-body dichotomy. Christianity (and Plato) held that Man consists of an animal side (body) and a spiritual side (mind / soul) and that these sides are necessarily in opposition (which is not true). They would have put reason on the spiritual side and emotion (which all animals have) on the animal side. Aristotle probably followed Plato on this point, at least a little. The discovery of evolution did not come until much later, and merely provided a new way to describe this same dichotomy (reason being relatively new on the evolutionary scene, whereas emotion is much older). Ayn Rand found that reason is a volitional faculty. You have to choose whether to use it. If you choose not to use it then your mind "falls back" on emotions, but there is no way to validate those emotions, and they are not enough by themselves to allow a human being to live a successful life. (For animals, emotions and instincts are enough, but just barely -- they only need to breed more than they die.) For humans, trying to live without reason leads to failure and then to the emotions that come with that. Reason, on the other hand, can be validated (and must be, because reasoning errors are possible). Valid reasoning will lead to success and the emotions that come with that. I don't think it's possible (or "hubris") to "rely on reason too much." The only way to correct an error in reasoning is through reason.
  19. I suppose I was being too flippant so I'll try to be more straightforward this time. I don't think Ayn Rand's non-driving has any philosophical significance. If it did, I'm pretty sure she would have written something about it. Generally, Ayn Rand's written work has nothing bad to say about driving or operating any other machine. There are any number of non-philosophical reasons that someone might be unable or unwilling to drive a car, but I don't know which ones applied to Ayn Rand. Her philosophy is broader than her personal life. If she didn't know how to solve differential equations, that doesn't mean she was philosophically opposed to them. If she didn't learn FORTRAN that doesn't mean she was opposed to it. And so forth.
  20. Come to think of it, Ayn Rand didn't fly a helicopter, either. Is there philosophical significance to that fact?
  21. I want to reference the beginning of an article called "Lisp as the Maxwell's Equations of Software," where the professor of a class on electromagnetism (quoted by the author of the article) presents Maxwell's Equations, and then says: The article then quotes Alan Kay, saying that John McCarthy's Lisp interpreter, itself written in Lisp, is like "Maxwell's Equations of Software." Sometimes I've wondered if it's possible to create the "Maxwell's Equations of Objectivism," which would sum up everything about Objectivism in a very small space, like on an index card. I'm not sure it's possible. Even if it is possible to sum things up that way, the resulting situation is probably just like the one the electromagnetism professor described for electromagnetism: understanding the summary might be easy, but understanding all the consequences of the summary would be another matter. — Sometimes I think this one would be sufficient: "Existence is Identity; Consciousness is Identification." This statement sums up the proper relationship between existence and consciousness, and I suspect that if Objectivism were lost, this statement alone might be enough to enable it to be rediscovered. (Or maybe more is needed.) The consequences that need to be understood, however, are not merely the consequences of that statement alone, but also of all the facts in existence.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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