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Bob G

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  1. If anyone is planning to attend this seminar and is not familiar with downtown DC or the Mall or hasn't been there in the last few months, let me know. I am a resident of the area and have been a member of the Smithsonian Associates. There are some tidbits I can mention that will help you avoid problems and make the visit a little easier.


  2. This is accurate if you're talking about abstract "human life" (i.e. the fundamental requirements for ALL humans to live, not just you wherever you happen to be) vs. your personal concrete life, but that's not what SNerd was refuting: he was talking about taking "human life" to mean ALL HUMANS TOGETHER as though we all form one huge collective mega-organism vs. an individual life.

    It would be more *precise* to state that the requirements for an individual human life is the standard of morality and YOUR individual human life is its purpose when you're quoting that particular passage without the rest of the context of Galt's Speech.

    Not to divert the thread, but Ayn Rand, who is the standard for *precise* said "man's" life. She didn't mean a collective, and neither did I.

  3. When you do not uphold the value of reason, regard it as a virtue, strive to understand reason and the mental process it entails, you surrender to faith and force. Your mind does not function, cannot make differentiations between a good argument and nonsense.

    Few people, generally, even "intellectual", are basically able to tell the difference between an argument or a smear or a accusation or an emotional spew. It all seems the same to them.

    Nor do they know the difference between what they want and what is, accepting the primacy of consciousness with their religion, etc.

    Nor do they know the difference between knowledge and maybes, e.g., alien abduction. They do not know that they have to keep track of the sourse of their ideas and the reasons and justifications for accepting their ideas as knowledge.

    It is all a blur.

    So it should not be a surprise that they see nothing wrong about spewing at Ayn Rand because they feel threatened without actually having a real clue what she stands for or what her statements mean. We must keep in mind that there is a difference between thinking and what passes withing the U.S. culture.

    Adam Reed, in his blog "Born to Identify" argues that in our attempt to spread Objectivism we need to teach people how to think. We see why, don't we.

  4. This is an event from the Smithsonian Associates, see.

    The Instructor is Shoshana Milgram Knapp, who has made presentations at many Obj conferences.

    There is a cost for the ticket, but I hear a discount may be available for ARI contributors. Members of the Smithsonian Associates also receive discounts.

    This event was at least partly engineered by the ARC. I have heard that there will be other events during the same period so that if you make a trip here you may be able to attend more than one event.

    I am stealing the ARC thunder a little (forgive me Lin) but the more warning, the better. This event was just posted by Fred Seiler at DCOS.

    Discounts are now offered to supporters of ARI and members of DCOS.

  5. After reading about Voltaire in Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy," I would really like to learn more about the man's life and beliefs. Does anyone know a good biography on him, one that really describes in depth his philosophical beliefs and the events in his life?

    I wish I did. I hope that someone has a good suggestion.

    I can say, TLR, that Voltaire is not a hard read. There use to be books like The Pocket Voltaire or The Voltaire Reader that were easy to find. You could go through his stuff prety quickly and get your own understanding of his views. Just a suggestion. He does have some fun things to say.

  6. Sorry, I am not sure if this is the best place for this but I thought this was interesting.


    Benevolence is often taken as naiveté or gullibility. As Americans, we still have much to be proud of. Let's hope and work to retain that spirit.

    Ayn Rand often talked about the American People and their strength and openness.

    It takes an honest Brit to recognize what was happening.

  7. Fred Seiler is hosting a new Objectivist Discussion Group patterned after the very successful Front Range Objectivist Group in CO. Go to the DCOS Meetup Site for details. The first meeting will be on Feb. 21, 2010.

    Front Range Objectivism activity was the result of many years of work by Lin Zinser, who is now the Vice President of Public Outreach of ARI and oversees the activities of ARC in DC. Fortunately for us in the DC area she hangs out with us when she can. She has volunteered to lead one of the discussions of the first meeting of our new group. So this will be good.

    I am hoping that we will have people of various levels of knowledge of Objectivism. Knowing the people who have already signed up, I can say that there will be a lot of good background and understanding there. I can also say that these people will be very tolerant of ignorance and will encourage questions and concerns.

    There is also a dinner planned later that day. You don't have to go to both. I am looking forward to those events.


  8. I've thought about that as well, thanks for the link.

    DavidOdden has an excellent point about how if false defamation is punishable then false praise leading to damage or loss must be as well.

    Where I think the line is pretty solid is when the damage or praise is referring to objective facts.

    Lets say I review a restaurant...now I can say the food was awful or I can say the food was great. But that is mostly subjective. What I think is great you may think is awful and vise versa. Change that to claiming the restaurant gave me horrible food poisoning and I was out of work for three days now THAT I believe is a crime.

    What we are talking about in the second case is a false accusation which I think is clearly not permitted by law.

    I'm interested in the opinion of others on this point that Jake brought up as well, I think it is a good one.

    One problem with the internet (could apply to other media as well, actually) is that you have no way of gaging the reality of any of the posters. Good or bad reviews from basically anonymous sources are really meaningless. I know that generally, when there are a lot of reviews, probably most are authentic, but you don't know. Good reviews can just as easily be false as bad ones. Even if they are authentic, you don't know the standards of the reviewers.

    Of course, extortion should be prosecuted, and would be in a society that upheld individual rights.

    What is also an important issue, as you suggest, is the lack of personal responsibility we see nearly everywhere in our society. The internet just makes it more apparent. We see it on this forum. For example, some posters accuse others of being willing to steal and other morally wrong behavior, or at least having written about it, and then, when proved wrong, the accusor just walks away. If you are going to do things or say things, take responsibility. A person should take responsibility for their actions in any circumstance. To not do so on an Objectivist Forum is really missing the point.

  9. I was on Second Life today, and through a group I was a member of, heard about this "intellectual discussion" that was being held at some spot, I forget where. The speaker gave a presentation about how our brain distorts and deletes most of the information that it doesn't deem worthy of paying attention to or something like that. Etc etc.

    What really shocked me was that, on top of all this, the guy went on to shamelessly advocate what amounts to a primacy of consciousness view of reality, and that everyone there agreed with him. I was the only one there who believed that there really is an objective reality.

    But anyway, even though I didn't believe any of it, one of the points he made stuck with me. I am extremely curious what Objectivism has to say about it.

    Take a look at this picture. http://www.blifaloo.com/illusions/bumps.php

    The argument used by the primacy-of-consciousness advocate was that you could alter your perception of these bumps and holes by thinking of the light source as coming from either the top or the bottom. I know that this has no primacy-of-consciousness implications, but I do think it may have implications on Objectivist epistemology.

    Here's what I'm curious about.

    Our senses give us raw data that come to us as percepts, right? We don't have a choice about this, we perceive the entities that we perceive whether we want to or not. (That's the main reason why we can trust our senses.) But if you look at the above optical illusion, it appears that we do have a choice about the entities in that picture. We can see them as either hills or holes. Doesn't this mean that percepts aren't as unyielding to conscious will as we think?

    Since you know, in an entirely objective manner, what is happening and why, which you learned via your senses, it is a tribute to man's imagination, but has nothing to do with a test of reality or perception or objectivity. If anything, it is a support of the primacy of existence, as any perception is. The stolen concept is that the person who made up this image had to use their senses and imagination to create it, which they had to ignore or evade to make the assertion of the primacy of consciousness.

  10. Yes. I meant it was a good start because you'll be directed to some good sources and be able to discuss what you're learning. It's certainly no substitute for reading the actual literature so please do follow SNerd's advice!

    I agree with bluey (does that rhyme with phooy?) and sNerd. If you are interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy, read. Don't go for the most complex stuff first, like OPAR or TIOE. Galt's speach is a good start. Her published books are good. The Objectivist Newletter and The Objectivist are very important. But read a lot more because you will find that what you have said doesn't connect with her ideas. We'd love to talk to you then.


  11. I've been through a similar discussion before, but because of the clarity of some of the posts here, I think I've gained a better insight than what I had before.

    Would it be correct to say that - what affects man's volition is entirely the product of his nature - and therefore man has free will? Even if the physical construction of man's mind possibly operates 'deterministically' (as an assumption)?

    I think that you want to be careful how you use the word "deterministically". I know that you were being careful here, and that you were a little concerned. I don't think that I have heard an Objectivist intellectual use that word. It isn't necessary and it carries some baggage from philosophers who deny the existence of freewill.

    I'm not sure what to do with "what affects man's volition". Nothing affects man's volition. It just is. Man either thinks, raises the level of his consciousness, or he doesn't. Nothing affects it. The trouble that some run into is that they try to treat volition as some different type of causal category. It is merely one aspect of man, one which we recognize as essential from the standpoint of our knowledge. Every aspect of an entity interacts with the rest of reality according to what it is. There are different things, i.e., the inantimate and the living. Living things self-start and are goal directed. The activitis of living things are not externally initiated, but start within. Volition is one way in which man self-initiates.

    If by "determinstically" you mean that the physical construction of man's mind "operates" according to causality, then I agree. It isn't an assumption. It is reality, i.e., the truth. The same can be said for all aspects of man, including his volition and psychology. The same can be said for all of reality.

  12. This is an event from the Smithsonian Associates, see.

    The Instructor is Shoshana Milgram Knapp, who has made presentations at many Obj conferences.

    There is a cost for the ticket, but I hear a discount may be available for ARI contributors. Members of the Smithsonian Associates also receive discounts.

    This event was at least partly engineered by the ARC. I have heard that there will be other events during the same period so that if you make a trip here you may be able to attend more than one event.

    I am stealing the ARC thunder a little (forgive me Lin) but the more warning, the better. This event was just posted by Fred Seiler at DCOS.

  13. I would say that "praising" Dems is a little strong. We all recognize that their dedicaton to liberalism is irrational. They accept their dogma just as many of them accept other irrationalities. The question is, which of the two, the religious Republicans or generally, widely irrational Dems is the biggest threat. The Republicans are organized on two levels and have a common belief. At least the Dems vary and disagree in a lot of ways, and their political viewpoint is soundly discredited. Come to think of it, they also have environmentalism, which is a semi-organization. The Dems are certainly a threat. Who knows what will happen when Obama's promise is shown to be empty. They have their storm-troopers. The future is uncertain.

  14. Thanks for your recommendations. I have been meaning to read more from the Austrian school. I was going to start with Hayek, though.

    AR didn't care for Hayek, he was too much a pragmatist, I think. Von Mises is much clearer, consistent, and more of an economist. There is a reason that Hayek got the prize and not vM, and it isn't a good one. Consider the source.

  15. a must read is:

    "Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution", The Objectivist Newsletter, April, 1962. This issue of The Newsletter is the forth published, so she considered child labor as an important point to discuss.

    How Capitalism Saved America is good and has some references.

    I will take this opportunity to make my standard pitch that everyone read The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, and The Ayn Rand Letter. There is lots of basic material that has not been published elsewhere. All of the articles in the non-fiction books appeared in these publications first.

  16. I was on a website that said that the law of causation contradicts free will because it implies determinism. I know this is not true, because acting in accordance with one's nature doesn't necessarily mean one's actions are determined, but I still felt like this wasn't enough proof to prove that that person was wrong. I get why, but I just can't get the rationale behind it. Can you help?

    Along with these other excellent replies, do not ignore the underlying stolen concept.

    These people are saying that after their consideration of all the relevant information, they have concluded that there is no free will.

    However, if there is no free will, then their conclusion is not free or independent but the result of whatever factors they think determine human activity: atoms, stars, or potty training. Thus, their statement does not offer anything other than what the outside influences have made them conclude and has no meaning. They don't get to eat their cake and think, too.

    Few of these people have heard of Ayn Rand's formulation of free will. Many of them do not think people think (see), and would have trouble understanding AR. They believe that free will consists of arbitarily deciding to act in a certain way at a certain time, which we would view as a consequence of previous value decisions (or non-decisions). To build an argument that could get to one of the determinists you might have to go through many levels of translation and insanity.

  17. The Jocaxian Nothingness [Nada Jocaxiano]

    João Carlos Holland de Barcellos

    translated by Debora Policastro

    physical laws, but also of rules of any kind.

    is not the simpler possible nothingness, it has at least one restriction rule.

    2- Has no laws (no rules of any kind).

    If it was a rule it could not change (unless another rule eliminated the first one).

    Because JN is not limited by any laws, it may eventually also generate laws, to which its elements - now itself – would have to obey.

    “Why does the universe follow logical rules?”

    by logical consequence of this state, anything could be (or not) randomized, even our physical laws and elementary particles.

    Laws don't exist here either. Only things.

  18. While grasping that the universe is eternal, presupposing it was 'created' has a tendancy to bring in terms like 'beginning'. The universe is everything which exists, has existed, and/or will exist.

    Agreed. The "big-bang", whatever its merits as truth, is a scientific issue, not metaphysics. People use the word "universe" in a sloppy manner.

  19. DavidOdden alluded to this when he asked, "If you could get away with it, would you steal a government vehicle and sell it for cash on the grounds that you were taxed?"

    Would you consider that justified? I don't think I would, speaking only for myself.

    Personally, the moral dilemma to me here is that the money is the taxed productivity of anyone, not necessarily myself. In theory I would like to return it to the government to fund other legitimate purposes, such as the military, police, or courts, or to be refunded to tax-payers otherwise. In reality it won't be.

    This is interesting, and now it makes me question my current intent to call the VA on Monday and attempt to return the money, out of my deliberately misplaced good faith in the government to act legitimately. Thank you for the quote, it is a new idea for me from Ayn Rand. I had assumed the moral action was not to participate in the welfare state whatsoever, until it chokes you to death, but that sounds a little too close to self-sacrifice.

    If you could steal something from an innocent person and sell it and get away with it you would be immoral. If you could take something from someone you knew had stolen from you you would be taking the law into your own hands and it would be wrong in most situations. Respect for law is more important. Taking things back from the government has lots of risks of which you want to be very careful. The government wants you guilty. As I have said repeatedly, in this situation, act for self-protection. That is why I would suggest at least a minimal documented effort to talk to them about it. Self-protection if they should actually track it down.

    Another principle implicit in what AR argued is that the conflict is between you and the government. It has taken (or will soon) money from you. What the government is doing to other people is very important but does not alter what they are doing to you. There is no fairness issue. If someone has been able to safely avoid having their money taken, good for them. Notice how liberals attack corporations and "wealthy" people because they pay "less" taxes" and try to get people riled up. Don't fall into that trap. It is divide and conquer. Getting different groups to argue that the other should be taxes more. It is who should be eaten first or the most.

    There was a lot more in the article that I didn't include that is important. From what I can gather many people do not know that AR wrote or editied a lot that is not in the books that you can find in the book store. Get copies of The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist, hell, The Ayn Rand Letter as well, and read them front to back. It will give you much more material.

    Good Luck

  20. Dr. Leonard Peikoff's lecture series on Unity in Epistemology and Ethics mentions the principle of two definitions. I have found here at OO.net a very brief description:

    If anyone can expand on this, it would be greatly appreciated.

    I think I know how to approach this, but I am going to say up front that I am not certain. This was also written quickly and without much polish. Maybe this is a beginning point.

    Does James Taggart pursue values?

    Well, yes and no

    To James, the things he does are the pursuit of his values, that is, he does what he thinks is the right thing to do.

    Are they appropriate to man, no

    So, there are two definitions of values, one that covers the values a specific man has regardless of his rationality and one that identifies the values that are appropriate for man qua man. And James’ activities are anti-life and anti-value.

    To put it another way, a definition that recognizes that all men have values, of whatever kind, and a definition within the specific philosophy.

    Similarily, does Christianity have a code of morality

    Christianity's code of conduct requires sacrifice. You could say that by definition it has a code of morality because it preaches a purpose of man’s life and has a standard. It is what man should do.

    However, a definition of “code of morality” from a perspective of man qua man would require a standard that allows him to make choices to benefit his life in its entirety.

    Thus, in the general sense of philosophy as a history or general study, Christianity has a code of morality. From the stand point of a actual man-oriented philosophy, its doesn’t.

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