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Everything posted by necrovore

  1. To put it another way, it has to be an assertion to be an arbitrary assertion. Gibberish isn't an assertion of anything.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. [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.
  5. 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...
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. So, what you're saying is, the show is an example of information falling into the "black hole" of bad philosophy.
  10. I've been reading a lot about hyperinflation, and how it makes life more difficult for a lot of people, because it makes prices go up, and it makes cash lose its value, which punishes savers, and so forth. But there is one perspective I haven't read about lately, and it just occurred to me: hyperinflation isn't bad for everyone. It's not bad for you if you're the one printing the money. It's not bad if you're friends with the ones printing the money, or friends of those friends, or so forth. Many of the people running the banks, the Fed, and large parts of the government, graduated from the same Ivy League universities (there was an article to that effect a few years ago, maybe around the time of the 2008 financial crisis), and they're spreading the loot among themselves. They also have a decidedly Leftist slant. This is not really new. What's new is the scale of it. The money supply in 2020 increased by 30%, or so I've read. The Left is basically parasitic and can't survive without subsidies from somewhere. They used to try to rely on taxes for that, or their monopoly on unions, but now they are largely using the printing press, instead. Now taxation is not a means of raising revenue for them, it's just a means of control. Their main way of getting what they want is the printing press, either through government spending or through the banks. The reason they have all the power right now is because they have all the money. They're the ones printing it. They're distributing it among themselves and using it to buy up whatever they want. If you're not a Leftist, you don't get any free money. You have to work for it, or sell something, and then you're a sucker, because in order for you to get money, you have to give up something else in exchange. They don't. Even if your productivity amounted to millions of dollars per day, and even if you moved that money out of cash as quickly as possible and bought gold or land or something, there would still be people who can make at least as much money as you do, and they can buy all the same stuff as you, but they don't actually have to do anything, because they have a fountain of free freshly-printed money, and you don't. This is happening across international borders, too. There are gangs of Leftists using the printing press in many "free" countries, careful to proceed in lockstep so that the exchange rates don't move too much. I also think they are using the money to try to control the culture, such as by buying up media companies and so forth. This affects both news and entertainment. They can play the king-maker and choose which things will succeed by deciding which to promote and which to bury, which to produce and which not to produce. In a free economy, a king-maker would still have to listen to audiences in order to avoid going broke, and so would also have to be an innovator. But people who are getting free money from the printing press don't have to worry about going broke. They don't have to work for their money, whereas their competitors do. This gives them an advantage. They can claim that they're "succeeding in the marketplace," and it will look like they actually are succeeding in the marketplace. This influences others, who may be unaware that the game is rigged. The Leftists don't actually have to twist any arms in this. Nobody can tell the good money from the bad. All the Leftists have to do is buy whatever they want, and it's theirs. The more currency they print, the larger their advantage over everyone else. Lately they have been printing more money than ever before, and that explains their outsized influence right now. However, even though they have lots of money and can buy whatever they want, they aren't producing anything much of value (because they don't need to), and since the people who are producing things have to work harder and harder, eventually "supply problems" happen, and that drives prices up, and so the Leftists have to print even more money. That's about where we are now. There will be a crash eventually -- but even after the currencies collapse, the Leftists will still own whatever they managed to buy earlier with the money they printed, whether it be land, businesses, or whatever -- and that will give them an enormous advantage in whatever happens after the collapse. That worries me.
  11. When I say "Nobody has a right to someone else's body," I mean that in the same way as "Nobody has a right to an iPhone." Clearly you can buy an iPhone if you can find a willing seller, and when you do, you have a right to that iPhone, because you've bought it. (It might also be possible to rent, lease, or borrow an iPhone, and thus have the right to use that iPhone even though you don't own it.) However, I still think it's correct to say that "Nobody has a right to an iPhone." People, by consenting, can give you rights you wouldn't otherwise have.
  12. Abortion should be legal because nobody has a "right" to another person's body. I don't see how DNA makes any difference in that.
  13. necrovore


    Yes. Maybe instead of "in that" I should have said "in the respect that", which spells it out more clearly. I think an emotion about something is a recognition of the implications that thing has, or could have, for your own life, or the lives of people you care about. Intuition can be more "dryly intellectual," like recognizing that certain problems can be solved in certain ways.
  14. necrovore


    An intuition is the same as an emotion in that it cannot be assumed to be automatically correct. It has to be verified.
  15. I guess my argument for objective morality would go like this: First, establish objective reality. If your audience doesn't accept that, then there is no reason to continue. Then, I'd do the "argument from the hamster": If you want to keep a hamster alive and thriving, you have to follow certain rules. The same thing is true if it's a human instead of a hamster, although the rules are more complex. (Humans don't thrive in cages.) The same thing is true if the human you are trying to keep alive and thriving is yourself. That argument should be sufficient to demonstrate that an objective morality exists. It doesn't say what the rules are, but that can be the next step. p.s. I'm aware that this argument takes it for granted that the purpose of morality is to keep yourself alive and thriving. It's possible to explain why that is the proper purpose, but I'm not doing it in this post.
  16. That doesn't make sense to me. "Arguing specifically for Objectivist morality" is like proving that 31 is prime, whereas "arguing the more general, abstract point of whether an objective morality can exist" is like proving that there is such a thing as a prime number. Not only should the latter be easier, but it is a prerequisite for the former.
  17. I disagree with this: Objectivism is closed and nobody can add to it. Keeping it closed protects it from people who would misrepresent it. It means that if somebody wants to know about Objectivism there is only one place for them to go: Ayn Rand, because she wrote it. This doesn't mean reality is fake or should be ignored or anything like that: I can, and must, still add to my knowledge, and this may include adding to my own philosophical ideas, if appropriate. After all, Objectivism says to base your ideas on reality -- not merely on Objectivism itself, and not on Ayn Rand. If I find it necessary to add to Objectivism, the addition is not part of Objectivism; it's mine. My take is opposite there, too: anyone can say that someone is or is not an Objectivist. But nobody can compel anybody else to agree with such a pronouncement (which might be correct or might not). Perhaps surprisingly, I find that I don't often care whether or not somebody is an Objectivist. I do care if they are a liar, thief, murderer, etc., and it can also matter to me if they are mistaken, if the mistake affects me, regardless of whether the mistake is an honest one. As far as using one's own judgment and judging other people, there is a proper way and an improper way. (This is also true of reason in general.) It's proper to use your judgment to protect your life and all the things that go with it (your friends, your property, etc., and this includes protecting your ideas from misrepresentation), but I don't think it's proper to use judgment as a club to beat others with, or to use it as some sort of public display. I believe in self-defense, and I believe that criminals should have to give back what they have taken (to the extent possible), but I don't believe in "punishment" per se. If somebody makes a mistake, reality will "punish" them enough. Reality can be very unforgiving. Aside from self-defense (if appropriate), I don't have to do anything.
  18. There's an old parable about how, once upon a time, all the important banks put all their gold in a single vault, and they used a ledger to keep track of who owned what part of it, and to transfer ownership back and forth between people, so they ran the whole economy based on that ledger for many decades without even looking at the vault. Then one day they finally did look, and they discovered that, many years before, an earthquake had occurred, a fault line had opened up, the vault had broken, and all the gold had fallen into the fault and had been lost. But the economy at the time had proceeded without noticing, because it was all based on the ledger. Bitcoin is just a decentralized, cryptographic "ledger," just like that, except its designer(s) decided not to have any gold in the first place. Instead, there's only so much Bitcoin, and the blockchain keeps track of who owns what. The cryptography and "peer review" (mining) makes it impossible for people to double-spend, or create value out of thin air. (Mining pays because a part of the "ledger" was originally set aside to pay miners for verifying the ledger. As a result the pay slows down periodically and will eventually stop. After that miners are expected to charge "transaction fees.") As for what Bitcoin is worth, that totally depends on what people are willing to trade for it. That price is objective but it is a function of many variables and will vary from time to time, depending on who is in the market and what their priorities are. The same thing is true of gold. There is no such thing as "inherent value," there is only "of value to whom and for what." Bitcoin has no use unless you can trade it for something. Gold does have a few uses; you can make jewelry out of it, or you can electroplate electrical contacts so they don't corrode, there might be others. Most of gold's value, like Bitcoin's, comes from what you can trade it for. Even the dollar is only worth anything because you can trade it for stuff. Part of the reason physical gold and Bitcoin are interesting these days is that they are expected to withstand levels of government corruption that fiat currencies cannot withstand (because the government keeps printing more fiat currencies to finance its activities but nobody can print any more physical gold or Bitcoin). However, I suspect that people interested in them for that reason underestimate the depths to which government corruption can go. Also, government corruption tends toward the fall of civilization, and it's an open question how far civilization is going to fall. I feel like some Agent Smith is going to be saying to some Neo somewhere, "What good is your Bitcoin... if you have no... electricity..." Physical gold at least doesn't require electricity and would thus be useful even in a horse-and-buggy scenario. But neither one of them is of any use if there is nothing to buy. There's a part of Atlas Shrugged where somebody (I forgot who) offered John Galt "a cool, neat billion dollars," and John Galt's reply was, "What would it buy me?" ...
  19. As far as "defining Leftism," Peikoff gives a hint in The DIM Hypothesis. He provides a long passage in "Basic Consistency of the Big Three." It's a good lesson in thinking in essentials -- which is to say, identifying which facts are essential to a concept and which are non-essential. Of course, Peikoff here is concentrating on his specific purpose, which is to identify the greatest philosophers and the nature of their influence. But what he's doing here is the same thing anyone would have to do to integrate any concept, particularly concerning a concept that describes someone's ideas. First, when you're talking about Leftism, a Leftist is a sort of person, and that provides the "genus" of the definition, but also raises the problem where, when you're talking about people, they can embrace all sorts of ideas, some of which can be mutually contradictory. You can define Leftism as such-and-such set of ideas, and then you can identify somebody as a Leftist, as a person who has fundamentally embraced Leftist beliefs, and then you can often find a place where that particular Leftist has spoken out against some facet of Leftism. (Noam Chomsky was referenced previously as being a Leftist who opposes some Leftist views.) There are Democrats who have occasionally spoken out (and even ruled or voted) in favor of freedom instead of taking what you might think would be the more consistently Leftist course. However, this does not invalidate the definition of Leftism as such, just like Aristotle's own contradictions don't invalidate or weaken the real definition of Aristotelianism. So what is Leftism? What is distinctive about it? It's not as broad as a philosophy; it's more narrow; it pertains only to politics. By etymology, a "Leftist" is merely somebody whose party sits on the left side of the chamber. But what kinds of ideas typify the political beliefs of those people? I think what's distinctive about Leftism is its particular view of the role of government -- namely, that the government should maintain controls over people, in order to make sure that society is altruistic. (By that definition, a person can be a Leftist without supporting dictatorship, and that seems correct. However, dictatorship is the most consistent implementation of Leftism...) A related question is, what is Rightism? What is distinctive about that? (Here I'll look at "Rightists" meaning "Republicans.") Far too often, Rightists tend to embrace Leftist ideas and cave in to the demands of the Left, usually because of altruism. But in some ways that's like Aristotle's Platonic element. I'd say that, if you set that aside, Rightism believes that a free economy will make society more prosperous for everyone. However, Rightists also believe that government has a role in enforcing morality, and that morality cannot be justified by facts, but only by the supernatural. In fact, I think this is the deeper reason they cave to the Left: their supernaturally-justified morality is fundamentally altruistic and therefore in agreement with the Left -- but they oppose dictatorship as antithetical to a free economy. So they have an unresolved contradiction. One way out of this contradiction for the Rightists is to move to the Left. The other way would probably be to embrace Objectivism, but that requires tossing out the supernatural.
  20. To my mind, a platform is something different from, say, a magazine. If you have a set of ideas that you would like to promote, a magazine is more appropriate: you can solicit submissions (either from the general public or only from specific people), evaluate them, and publish only the ones you like. You can also write stuff yourself and publish it in your magazine. I suppose two examples would be Marc Da Cunha running Capitalism Magazine, and Craig Biddle running The Objective Standard. When you decide to create a platform instead, you are creating something different. It's the Internet equivalent of opening a bar or a speakeasy, where people can come and talk with other people, and all you do is provide the facility. While you might advertise an affiliation with certain ideas in the hope of attracting people who want to talk about those ideas, you can't really control the details of what they say. If you want that level of control, then you need to run a magazine instead. Sometimes when you run a bar or a speakeasy, some people can get rowdy and disruptive, or do inappropriate things, and it's proper in those cases to ask them to leave. If people are disruptive repeatedly, they can even be asked to leave permanently. However, I think it would be inappropriate for the owner of a bar to listen in to people's conversations and kick out well-behaved people merely because, as the owner, he doesn't like or agree with what they are taking about. The bar owner is within his rights -- it's his bar, after all -- but I wouldn't want to go to a bar like that. (What would you think of an auditorium owner inviting a bunch of people over for a "debate" with him, and then when they start to win the argument against him, using logic and evidence, he asks them to leave? ...) I also think it would be inappropriate for the phone company to listen in on people's calls and cancel their service if they say anything the phone company disapproves of. The company may be within their rights, but it's doesn't seem to be a good thing to do. I think the law should (and sometimes does) recognize that, by default, the person who visits a bar or a (legal) speakeasy, or who uses a telephone, has a right to expect that he or other people would not be kicked out or disconnected because of his or their expressed views -- and on the other hand, the bar or speakeasy owner, or phone company, wouldn't be liable for what his customers say. This is why such things as "common carrier status" are supposed to exist. It is common for laws to recognize that certain situations are commonly assumed by default. You are still free to run things in the non-default way, but you would have to inform people if you are doing so. (To do otherwise could be interpreted as fraud.) An example of such default assumptions is weights and measures: if two people enter into a contract, and the contract specifies "kilograms," they have to agree on what a kilogram is. If the contract doesn't specify otherwise, then it can be assumed that the standard kilogram is being used. There are other examples, though, including, for example, if someone buys food, it should be safe to assume that the food is safe to eat, or that if it's unsafe, both parties to the contract know about that characteristic and agree to it. If you run the sort of bar that kicks people out for enunciating certain views, then you'd probably have to post a sign so that people know that, and what the objectionable views are, before they come in. Ideally, if you choose to exercise editorial control over what people say, then you also assume liability for it, but if you don't exercise the control, you shouldn't have the liability. I think that's what Section 230 was supposed to do, but apparently it isn't working right, because there are now too many companies who are exercising editorial control while claiming that they are absolved from any liability for that control. So what standards should you use to ban someone or delete a post? Do it only if they are making the service unusable (the way rowdy people fighting in a bar would make it unusable for the regular customers). If you want editorial control, start a magazine.
  21. Moderation and censorship are not the same thing. Slashdot for example has an excellent moderation system; people moderate each other's posts, meta-moderation makes sure that moderation is fair, and trolls get voted down and hidden, but you can still see the downvoted troll posts if you want. Censorship, by contrast, is when a person deliberately tries to prevent someone else from obtaining information. That's my definition. This can be an infringement of rights in some cases (e.g., if you want to go to the bookstore to buy a book, but I stop you), but it can also not be (e.g., if I own the bookstore and decide not to carry the book or even order it -- or if I buy up all the copies of the book in town, and burn them, so that you can't get one.) Even in cases where censorship isn't an infringement of rights, I still think it's bad. I have the right to buy TVs and smash them to bits, too, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. I would also argue that even deliberate removal of information isn't necessarily censorship. Motive has to be considered. If I refuse to sell a book in my bookstore because I don't want you to read it, that's censorship, but if I receive death threats and decide to remove the book to stay alive, then I don't think that's censorship on my part, although in some cases it could be appeasement or cowardice. (I guess it depends on how much the police have been defunded.) The people issuing the threats are performing censorship, though. It also wouldn't be censorship if I decided not to carry a book in my bookstore because it wouldn't sell, or because it was four feet tall, heavy, or super-expensive, or something like that. However, there are also cases where you can argue about what someone's real motive is in not carrying a book.
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