Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by bbrown

  1. I think uranium-based nuclear reactors are good enough and have been in service full blast for fifty-plus years with a terrific safety record. Moreover, some of the new concepts use passive safety systems that make the things even safer. Thorium reactors have only existed at the testing and prototype levels, not as a full-scale commercial operation. While the benefits are true, they're not revolutionarily better than uranium reactors. I think by the time uranium reactors have run their course, fusion will be ready to take over. Bill
  2. I love the idea behind the 1950s Atoms for Peace slogan "Too Cheap to Meter" even though it was frustrated pretty quickly by the regulatory apparatus. Nuclear-wise, I just can't see the likelihood of the thorium reactors. Uranium is certainly much more finite, but reprocessing is currently prohibited in the US. If that changed, all of the spent fuel could be recycled for the foreseeable future without having to dig as much out of the earth. Plus there's the whole re-use of nuclear warheads going on--plenty more where that came from. I think the future of nuclear energy is in Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are being built by Westinghouse and NuScale for example, and fusion, which has seen some recent, intriguing work by Lockheed's SkunkWorks (compared to the ITER morass). Personally, I like the SMR notion because it seems the most likely to sidestep the current regulatory regime and change the perception of nuclear energy by putting them all over the place. We shall see. Bill
  3. This sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay is my favorite: When I too long have looked upon your face, Wherein for me a brightness unobscured Save by the mists of brightness has its place, And terrible beauty not to be endured, I turn away reluctant from your light, And stand irresolute, a mind undone, A silly, dazzled thing deprived of a sight From having looked too long upon the sun. Then is my daily life a narrow room In which a little while, uncertainly, Surrounded by impenetrable gloom, Among familiar things grown strange to me Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark, Till I become accustomed to the dark. Bill
  4. Excerpts are now available - http://www.how-we-know.com/Excerpts-list.htm Bill
  5. This was sent out to those who pre-ordered: (As a side note, the Amazon page was a mistake and a new one will be created by the publisher once the Amazon distribution is firmed up. Kindle might be a few months.) Bill
  6. There's also the book's site: http://www.how-we-know.com/ Bill
  7. There's now a page on Amazon for it. http://www.amazon.com/How-Know-Epistemology-Objectivist-Foundation/dp/0985640618/ He indicated before that there would be a Kindle edition but I went ahead and requested one through Amazon's channels anyway. Bill
  8. I emailed him asking whether the book would be available outside of OCON when ARI announced that he would be signing it at the conference. He said, yes that it would be widely distributed (read: Amazon.com) afterwards. Just before the conference, the book signing was cancelled and he posted to HBList that he wasn't able to get it to the printers on time. Since then, I have been checking Amazon and http://hblist.com/ every day. Bill
  9. The people behind Stack Overflow have opened up the engine (called Stack Exchange) to power any group. I think their setup would be ideal for the site you describe. You can suggest the project at http://area51.stack exchange.com/ and then get people to vote on the project. [EDIT: never mind, I didn't see the link in the post above.] Bill
  10. They are not baptized and my wife doesn't go to church. They're all 6 and under so it's not like religion comes up a whole lot. They know that my wife believes and that I don't. We intend to raise them that way--where they come to their own conclusions. Bill
  11. I've been married to a Christian for 17 years now and vie been an Objectivist for 21 years. I've got four children. So yes, it can work quite well. I think it mostly depends on what kind of a religious person she is. I couldn't imagine being married to a zealot or a fundamentalist. Sense of life is really important also. Bill
  12. I think you must figure out the nature of parenting if you want to determine the proper relationship of parent to child. For me, parenting is the process of preparing a child for adulthood. The parent, thus, helps a child to become self-aware, long-range, independent, and rational. The two are not on equal footing and so the parent necessarily must assume some sort of authority at least in early childhood. I've got a lot more to say about this and am presently preparing the outline for an essay on the subject. When the time comes, I'll post a link here. Bill
  13. No, this was a progression. Bill
  14. I've found several of the comments on this thread to be highly rationalistic and I suspect that there's a strong correlation between that issue and not having children. Deriving whether corporal punishment is moral or not from Ayn Rand's theory of individual rights is not helpful because they're wildly different issues. I can assure you that there is a great chasm of experience between what you think about raising a child prior to having any and after having some: it has been a real eye-opener for me. There's a credibility that comes from having some skin in the game, so to speak. I have spanked my four children at various times in their short lives (all are under 6). It generally occurred at the point of successive willful disobedience. For example, a daughter plays loudly at bedtime or goes wandering upstairs after a cat and is told to get back to bed. She repeats the behavior or a variant again and I tell her that next time she is going to have the cat taken away. She continues and I say that next time she will get a spanking. She continues again so I administer one to her rear. She cries and stops, falling to sleep shortly after that. She's only done that sequence once and every other time stops after the first reminder. The spank, as I see it, was an emphasis--letting her know that this was the end of the line for this set of behaviors. I didn't enjoy it and she knew the consequence in advance. She (and her siblings) has suffered no ill effects that I can see and is no door mat to authority. Where children lose respect is when this becomes the go-to move or is applied capriciously. When punishments aren't objectively applied, then a minor version of learned helplessness and associated resentment ensue. In the thick of heavy emotions or impulsive behavior, calm reasoning can fail--children lack the self-control that we adults can have. I view the parental role as imposing control, foresight, and empathy until they are able to exercise it on their own. I do this through objective rules, timeouts, and explanation. As the children age, they will internalize the rules and explanations and I can phase out the timeouts. Bill
  15. I haven't, but it was discussed quite a bit in over at NoodleFood a while ago. Bill
  16. 1. We don't know what the publisher would seek in return for the rights to Atlas Shrugged. With sales at all-time highs for a 1,200 page book 52 years after its original publication and the prospect of a movie looming, I would have to guess that its stock is looking pretty strong. 2. "... the publisher probably believes that the current spike is just a fad ..." Sorry, but how on earth would you arrive at this conclusion? Do you know someone at Dutton? Are you privy to something that you'd like to share? A publisher doesn't have to be owned by an Objectivist to stand behind the book; the fact that it's a classic that generates excellent sales is sufficient for a publisher to not throw the book in a dumpster if sales waver. 3. The rights around a bestselling book aren't a singular thing. There's rights to domestic, international (per market), audio, and digital publication at the very least. I would suspect that that's only scratching the surface as far as how complicated things might be. Bill
  17. If you're just looking to search it, use this version. Bill
  18. I think that now, with sales of Atlas Shrugged setting new records every quarter and every year, would be the very worst time to buy the rights. While ARI could sell the book cheaper (by taking less profit per unit) it doesn't appear that the book's price has hindered sales in any significant measure. (This seems like such an odd reason to buy the rights to a book and, I gather, self-print. When I saw the headline, I thought the rationale would be to largely self-fund the Institute.) If I had to speculate why the book is not read by every man, woman, and child in America, I'd say that its heft is more of a reason than its price. Bill
  19. I thought it was better than Temple of Doom, but I've regarded that as the worst of the bunch. Bill
  20. I've got three daughters, ages 4 1/2, 4 1/2, and 3. I'm also deep in the process of adopting a boy from Ethiopia between the ages of 0 and 18 months. My wife and I were married 10 years before we had kids and I think it was a great decision. Of course, it means that we'll be over 50 when the youngest is in high school but oh well. Kids are great. Bill
  21. For me, Indiana Jones movies were about accepting the crazy central premise (Ark, Grail, Thuggees) and mainly enjoying the action that led up to the resolution. Unfortunately, this one's action was just too preposterous: the ants, the vines, and the fencing were ludicrous. I can suspend disbelief to enjoy a good action flick (heck, my whole love for Jackie Chan movies is testament to that ability), but there has to be some sensibility to the thing. Don't get me wrong, it was enjoyable enough. But it didn't feel like an Indiana Jones movie for large amounts of time. The Spielberg and Lucas of today aren't the same people that made the original flicks. Oh well. Bill
  22. I apologize for not qualifying my earlier statement about his racist views. They are racist from our perspective, not his. I agree that we cannot judge the past with our present context except where the our context is wide enough that there is overlap. If your contetion is that Jefferson's (and his time's) biological knowledge was insufficient to understand that race is not a biological distinction, then I'll gladly concede. If your contention is that Jefferson's (and his time's) biological knowledge was insufficient to understand that humans of different races are still humans, then I will never concede that. I took great pains to avoid branding him a hypocrite and to avoid judging him from our historical context. Can you at least respect that and stop saying that I did so? It's very grating. Maybe you can't do that because then you would have to concede that my objective take on the man isn't really helping his detractors. If, after expounding on the complexity of the man, I were to come out and judge him a hypocrite, then I would be aiding them. Frankly, I think your position of wearing blinders to any negative elements of Jefferson's character is far more damaging. His attackers can point to your arguments and dismiss you out of hand. I certainly would if you were not an Objectivist and thus deserving of some attention. To wit, you argue that a slave deed is not an initiation of force because it requires a follow up action on the part of the slave deedholder. What, in your mind, would constitute "follow up" action? Would having the individuals whose liberty you hold in the form of this deed work your fields without pay suffice? Would requiring them to be escorted or ask permission when leaving your plantation be action enough? Or is the standard that the slave deedholder must whip his charges? What if he just hired someone to do the whipping? Is the action thus resident within the foreman? Do you see how convoluted this is? The slaveholder's treatment of his slaves is completely irrelevant; by the very nature of holding them against their will, he has completed the transaction. To fully restate my position, I don't condemn Jefferson for being a slaveholder. Lots of otherwise good people were at the time and in Virginia the gentry were expected to own slaves. He was probably quite respected among his peers for his good treatment of his chattel. I merely note that Jefferson must have been aware of the contradiction inherent in his public versus private (within his own consciousness) positions. Compartmentalization must have ensued. Occasionally, it broke through the mental barriers and gave him pangs of guilt and resolution—this we can discern from letters, public documents, and his Notes on Virginia. Jefferson was a conflicted man on this issue. The compartmentalization allowed him to be the incredible advocate of liberty that he was. Contradictions cannot exist, but they can be ignored temporarily. Noting such conflicts doesn't tear him down as a great man just like noting Ayn Rand's problems doesn't make her less important. I'm sorry that you think that you can't respect and admire someone without whitewashing their lives free of any blemishes. People have blemishes and people who have significant accomplishments have blemishes. Pretending they don't exist doesn't help anyone and neither does elevating their importance. The best way is to note them and place them in the larger context of a person's life and achievements. Such an approach does not assist those who would tear great men down: it heads them off at the pass.
  23. I would agree with you if he didn't also uphold the idea of the noble savage. The blacks were no less primitive than the Indians. A person of the intellectual caliber of Jefferson would have been aware that the blacks he saw were not in their preferred state of existence; I doubt that he would have known particularly much (and probably nothing firsthand) about how they lived in Africa. Further, Jefferson would have still regarded the slaves as humans. There's not a concrete-bound mentality around that couldn't look at a black person and see that he's of the same stock as a white person or an Asian. They're self-evidently units. Whether you choose to accept it or you rationalize it away as they're less human, that's irrelevant. I tend to think that Jefferson was aware of this contradiction in his thinking, but I believe that he was able to erect mental barriers around it so that I think you're not aware of the incipient abolitionist movement that existed at the time of Jefferson or the intolerance of slavery in the North. As I said, I think it doesn't take a modern context to be aware of their basic humanity. Most people hid behind the slaves status as property and the complacency inherent in living in a society where such behavior is common and upheld. For two analogies, the different races of man are visually and self-evidently akin to the different breeds of dog and the racism of segregation made people who would, in another context, deplore racism accept it and even perhaps engage in its more innocent guises. Wow, that's some mighty big context you're dropping. "It's just a piece of paper" is wrongheaded and exactly the sort of hairsplitting that contemporary Southerners reveled in. I think I painted a very nuanced picture of my problems with Jefferson. Never did I assert that he was evil because he was a slaveowner. I argued that of all the people in Virginia at the time, Jefferson was singular in that he should have known better. Moreover, he did know better and he wrestled with the issue throughout his entire life. I argued that he was a great man who didn't fully integrate the different areas of his life. Does he now have feet of clay? Should we turn a blind eye to the facts of a man's life so as to not interrupt the panegyric? I think such an objective evaluation is precisely the sort of thing a good biographer should address. Jefferson was not without his faults and he wasn't perfect. Recognizing that goes a long way towards establishing one's credibility as an objective historian. Emphasizing it is where the anti-hero historians go wrong. His compartmentalization was not the central fact of his life; it was an interesting misstep. One note: there is only proof that a male member of the Jefferson family fathered the children of Sally Hemings. Peter Randolph and several other of TJ's nephews had the opportunity and the inclination to employ the master's prerogative. I frankly bristle at the thought of Thomas Jefferson having coerced intercourse with one of his slaves: it would be the closest I would come to branding him as a hypocrite. You cannot be so fervent an opponent of miscegenation while you're getting some back home without being a hypocrite. I think it's safe to say that there is a plausible likelihood that one of his male relatives had sex with Hemings. I think that the treatment of the slaves is completely irrelevant to any discussion of slaves. The very fact that the slaves are deprived of their liberty is prima facie indication that they were treated bad. For a man like Jefferson who knew the value of liberty, what mental contortions would you have to engage in to avoid evaluations while strolling around Monticello? Oh, probably the same ones you did: "But I'm not like those whip-wielding good ol' boys. I treat my slaves with dignity." I don't think you could read anything I have said as a "blanket condemnation." I think, too, that "blanket approbations" are just as problematic and perilous. They make one appear unsophisticated and ignorant and they are even easier to make. I am all in favor of keeping context when evaluating historical actors, but you must keep all the context. If we were having this discussion about the Lees, then we could attribute their racism and slaveholding to being guided by the cultural momentum of their time. Jefferson's a lot different and we have to recognize that he had some contradictions that he never fully resolved.
  24. Let me first say that I am an admirer of Thomas Jefferson. I even wrote an essay entitled "Thomas Jefferson, Abolitionist" that treads the same ground as your post. In the years since I wrote that essay, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with Jefferson's compartmentalization of slavery. I am intimately familiar with his story, his writings, and his beliefs and all of things you attributed to him are correct. He was a profound thinker and a hero to be esteemed, but he was also a racist and a slaveholder. Those two characteristics undercut his message from posterity's perspective and make his profundity ring hollow. You have to remember the context he was living in. Sure, Virginia was a slaveholding state and nearly everyone he would have encountered there would have had slaves. He grew up around slaves and his wife brought even more slaves into his estate when they married. If he had lived out his life at Monticello and perhaps only founded the University of Virginia, we would have been at most a footnote to history. But he wasn't just some tidewater plantation owner. He was Thomas Jefferson. He said all those things you mentioned. He knew that slavery corrupted everyone it touched. He knew that liberty was inherent in all men. He *wrote* the Declaration of Independence and the clauses that were removed from the first draft. He couldn't have known all of that, written what he did, and not known that it all applied equally to the slaves (and perhaps even more so). Throughout his life, he wrestled with the issue. As a young adult, he wanted to get rid of slavery as an institution. Later in life, he sunk into a fatalistic perspective that there was nothing he could do about it. I believe that the change in tenor arose from his increasing reliance on the fruits of slavery to sustain his lifestyle. By the time he became a "Founding Father," his economic circumstances were tied inextricably with that of his slaves. He couldn't subsist without them and towards the end, he couldn't subsist even with them. Witness his need to sell his treasured library to Congress as the start of the grand Library. It wasn't solely his financial woes that informed his inner conflict: his Notes on Virginia has numerous passages on the evils of miscegenation. As you already mentioned, he considered blacks inferior though he also tempered that with the notion that their depressed state was largely the slave owner's doing. Were he living in today's times, he would have been reviled as a racist. So what's my judgement on the man that I used to admire so fervently? I do not label him a hypocrite: he never pretended to be an abolitionist. For his time, he was more outspoken than most of his Southern peers. The political philosophy he elaborated is the one that made the United States the bastion of freedom in the world. His declaration gave voice to the later abolitionists. He was a great man in many areas of his life. Like many great men, his personal life was frequently disconnected from his work life. This compartmentalization is all too common, but not necessarily immoral or blameworthy.
  25. I have encountered this pretty often, unfortunately. It seems like many people equate self-confidence with haughtiness. When you speak and you know what you are talking about, people who don't *feel* like you think you're better than them. Their insecurities project an attitude on to you that you may not have. I know that I intimidate many people in my life: I use big words, I think deep thoughts. Depending on the situation, I try to spiral around such things so that people can eventually catch on if they don't get it the first time. It's the only way that I've found where I can express myself the way I feel comfortable and still try to reach out to others.
  • Create New...