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Everything posted by itsjames

  1. Reidy and merjet, thanks for your replies. I know she was in her final years when home computers were still only on the cusp of becoming a thing. I was just hoping there might be some "nuggets" somewhere in the 1975 - 1982 interval on her thoughts on the technology, and the possibilities that it held.
  2. Hey guys, I've been an Ayn Rand fan for almost two decades now. I've recently developed an interest in the history of personal computers and computing, and I was wondering, are there any records of Ayn Rand speaking or writing about computers? Some questions I'm curious about are: Did she ever use a home computer? Was she curious about this new upcoming technology, or was it simply something she wasn't very interested in? If there are any posts, books, videos, etc. anyone could point me to, please do! Thanks! Cheers, James
  3. I can't comment on the accuracy of the tests, but I do think that they in general they shouldn't be taken too seriously. The point of life is to pursue values, not to be "intelligent". Intelligence (in the fully consistent sense) is essentially the ability to pursue and acquire abstract values via the conceptual method (this is my definition). So, it's really just another angle on valuing. And the purpose of life is not to be a valuer; it's to get the values. I'd recommend forgetting the tests, and just figuring out what you need to do and learn in order to make your life as good as it can be. You'll have to acquire intelligence along the way, but I think that if you're passionate enough about what you're going for, your "intelligence" will not be a limiting factor that you'll ever need to consider. In a sense, you can't pursue what you don't understand anyway; so if you know what you want and why you want it, then you probably already have the intelligence you need to pursue it successfully (assuming you put forth the necessary effort).
  4. Gio, I would recommend listening to Leonard Peikoff's lecture series entitled "Unity in Epistemology and Ethics". I think it was the third lecture where he discusses a topic which is, in my view, closely related to your question. Basically, he argues that there are certain concepts which, in order to be properly understood and applied, must have two distinct definitions. The main concept he considers in the lecture is "value", but his analysis (which is still somewhat unrefined at the time this lecture was given) applies to other concepts too and I think also applies to the concept "concept", which is why I'm bring this up. For "value", the two definitions would be (roughly): 1. That which one acts to gain and/or keep, and 2. Something which one acts to gain and/or keep which sustains one's life. The second definition is "pure" form of the first, and refers to values in the complete and consistent sense. The first definition subsumes "values" which may in fact be life destroying (eg. "valuing" Nazism). With "concept", I think the analagous definitions would be (very roughly): 1. An idea represented by a word, and 2. A mental integration of two or more concretes [insert rest of Ayn Rand's definition here]. Peikoff offers his best explanation (at the time the lecture was delivered at least, which was in 1996) for why this is so. I think he argues that this only applies to certain normative concepts, or concepts which directly or indirectly refer to something volitional. Another example he gives is egoism. I think the basic point is that one first grasps these concepts in one context, and then discovers later on what their fully consistent definition is. Yet, the original definition is still useful since these concepts are still used and held by others in a form which is not fully consistent. If, having grasped the fully consistent definition of "concept", we did not permit ourselves to call things like "altruism" anti-concepts (thus viewing them as a subcategory of concepts), we would not be able to evaluate these anti-concepts at all; we wouldn't even be able to talk about them (because, "what" are they?).
  5. Okay, I can agree, in the sense that "a particular man is alive before he starts to use reason". But, I do not believe this is the meaning of "life" when Rand says that life is the ultimate moral value (I don't remember exactly what she wrote, but I think it was something along those lines). Just as man's life -- qua man (ie. man as a being who uses reason to live) -- is the standard of moral value in Objectivism (am I wrong here?), a particular man's own life -- as a rational being -- is a value to him. So, I really think the values of reason and "life" are almost inseparable. The basic point I'm trying to make is that if a man can commit suicide without being irrational (ie. without rejecting the value of reason, or perhaps, "without evading"), then he is not immoral. I don't like your tone, but nevertheless, please see what I wrote above. I don't recall any time when you asked me this and I avoided answering. Nevertheless, my answer is above. Thanks to all for the discussion. This will be my last post on this topic.
  6. You conveniently omitted the very next sentence in my post, which gives it context .... Please fully read and digest my posts before replying. The full paragraph was: Morality isn't even a question in the mind of someone who is not focused conceptually. Being focused is a precondition of morality.
  7. Thanks, I actually didn't know some of this. However, this is why I wrote "the belief in God -- and the practice of this belief". If one is told when one is young that "God is everything", "God is what makes life possible", or things along these lines, and one then decides that one "believes" in God, I don't think this is necessarily irrational -- so long as the "belief" is more or less "hot air", in the sense of paying lip service to it. The irrationality begins, I think, when one tries to apply the "concept" of God to reality. For example, praying and thinking that your prayers will be answered by God and believing in miracles. No, I don't quite think this. A word which represents an invalid concept to me might not be an invalid concept in your mind (I don't think so, at least). The point is that the concepts one has should be applied in the context in which they were grasped/formed. In particular, if one forms a "concept" in a non-reality oriented way (such as just using their emotions) and then tries to apply it to reality, then you have a problem. No, I don't think so. I said that to be rational one has to grasp/form concepts in a reality oriented way and then to use them while treating them according to what they are. One can be reality oriented (basing their concepts off of perceptual evidence, differentiating/integrating, etc.) while still making errors.
  8. It sounds like you view reason as somehow being something that is learned later on in life, and that one can choose to hold it as a value if one see's its usefulness in preserving one's life. But in fact, what makes reason a fundamental value is that it is not learned later. It's always there: so long as an individual is acting on the conceptual level -- including deciding whether or not a particular action is good for his life -- and so long as he is treating concepts according to what they are, he is holding reason as a value. This is the sense in which reason sets the context for all values. Reason and the awareness of reality that it gives you is a very personal thing. It's not something outside of yourself. It is yourself in a sense. Well, if you read my posts earlier in this thread, it would be clear that I actually don't think suicide is necessarily immoral. My point is that the argument behind this has to ultimately come down to the value of reason in some way.
  9. The purpose of my question was actually just to point to the fact that reason is a fundamental value, according to Objectivism. I believe it is too. My larger point is that you can't defend a stance on the morality/immorality of a certain action without reference to reason in some way. Yes, we have values other than reason, but reason sets the context for all values. In order for an action to be fundamentally bad, it has to be irrational. By the way, I'm really more interested in what you think the fundamental values are. We can all read what Rand wrote and recite her arguments. I want to hear your arguments based on your own experiences and your own observations.
  10. It (reason) has to do with both. I think it's the starting point for ethics. In Objectivism, isn't reason one of the cardinal values? Again, we're talking about reason and rationality. According to Objectivism, all the major virtues are simply different angles on the virtue of rationality as it's applied in different settings. Okay, I agree. But what are the fundamental values?
  11. I'm not sure I agree that the belief in God -- and the practice of this belief -- can ever be honest, especially when the believer claims they are "certain". Sure, many believers can be honest in other areas of their lives, making them "basically" honest. But if honesty is the devotion to reality, I don't see how believing in God can be an honest thing. Please enlighten me, if you think I'm wrong. The standard which we are talking about (ie. treating things according to what they are) is reason. Of course its demanding. The extent to which someone has and uses "concepts" like God, which have no referent in reality, is the extent to which they are irrational. Rationality/irrationality is the starting point for any discussion of what one "should" do. I don't see how there can be any other standard.
  12. You seem to believe that for Objectivism, morality is fundamentally about preserving "life". I don't think this is quite right, at least not in the sense you seem to mean. In my view, the Objectivist morality is about being oriented towards reality mentally. It's about forming concepts in a reality oriented way and then using those concepts while treating them according to what they are. For example, you form the concept of a tree (using a reality oriented mental process involving integration, differentiation, etc.). Then, you walk outside, see a tree, and say, "That's a tree". This is, I believe, what Objectivism regards as the essence of morality. The essence of immorality, I believe, consists in forming a "concept" by a non-reality oriented process (using your feelings, not thinking, not differentiating clearly, etc.) and then attempting to apply that concept to something in reality, which means: treating your "concept" as something that it is not. (You didn't really form the "concept" in a reality oriented way, and now you are treating it as though it does refer to reality.) I could be wrong, but I think this is what Rand may have meant by "evasion". So the standard isn't exactly "life", as you mean it. Perhaps you could say the standard is existence, or maybe treating consciousness and existence according to what they are. Well, let's try to think about what mental process this guy may have gone through prior to pulling the trigger. He's in intense pain. He doesn't know how to stop it. He vaguely remembers that there is something in his holster that he could use to "make it go away". He doesn't know what that means exactly, but he knows that he needs to act immediately, since time is running short. So he quickly does the first thing that comes to mind and blows himself away. Where is the evasion here? Sure, he's thinking quickly. After all, he's on fire. But I don't see that he is necessarily not treating his consciousness or anything in existence according to what they are. So, I still don't regard his action as being immoral.
  13. I think the disagreement Eiuol and I (at least me) have with MisterSwig is not just a matter of the terminology. MisterSwig seems to believe that these "mental entities" are grasped initially as being independent things whose dependence and full nature is discovered later on. I think that these "mental entities" can only be grasped as dependent things, in a sense -- things that we have created, or maybe things that we have done. So, I think the issue lies in how these things are initially grasped.
  14. But the point is that this is not what happens. You are only aware of these "mental entities" so long as you are in the process of creating them. (If you are remembering some thought you had earlier, you are thinking it again, in a sense.) Hence, they are not entities, because they are not grasped as being independent things. You know that you are creating them in the same moment you are aware of them.
  15. Let me just add in advance (since I think someone will probably bring up the issue of dreams) that when you are dreaming (let's leave out lucid dreams for now, ::sigh::), you don't know you are creating the "world" around you. So you wouldn't identify any of the things you are "perceiving" as being mental entities in the first place. Of course, we will open up a whole new can of worms when we start to talk about what happens when you know you are dreaming. I am honestly not prepared to go there.
  16. This is a great thread, by the way. I can honestly say I have never given this thought until now. Thank you for the stimulating discussion. That being said, I think my issue with what you write above is the following. When you call something an "entity", or even when you say "content" (as in "mental content"), you're suggesting that the thing you are talking about is somehow being perceived first, and is identified afterwards. But the point is that the moment you "perceive" the memories, concepts, etc. in your mind, you know that you are creating them. There is no separation there. You don't wake up in the morning and start to observe the different thoughts in your mind, such as "Is it time to get up?". You are thinking these things. And in that sense you know what these "things" (thoughts) are as you are in the process of creating them. Calling them "entities" suggests that this is not so -- that you don't realize it's you who is in control, and that it is up to you to discover that the thoughts were your own later on. As I said above, the concept of "entity" means "independent" in a sense. But your thoughts are not independent things. You know fully their dependent nature, where they came from, and what they are (in a sense) the moment you create them.
  17. I agree with Eiuol overall here. MisterSwig, your position really sounds like Platonism. What is the evidence for mental entities? According to Google, an "entity" is "a thing with distinct and independent existence". In life, we perceive things, we do, and we remember what we do. That's it. Concepts are not independent things, they represent integrations of perceived concretes, ie. they are formed through action. They aren't "entities". Treating them as "things" is, I think, mostly a matter of convenience. They are just "what we have done" with the things we have perceived in reality. One strange consequence of taking this view that there are "entities" in our minds is that you are now starting to say that these entities "act": We are the ones who act, not the mental "entities" in our heads.
  18. In extreme cases, clear thinking might not be possible, even if you are still conscious. There is a scene from the movie "Fury" that comes to mind, where a soldier is burning alive, and without a second's thought he pulls out his pistol and shoots himself in the head. I'm not an expert on Objectivism's views on morality, but in my view, calling what that soldier did a "moral" issue is quite silly. There was no planning or thinking there, he just did it. Does that make him "immoral"? Does morality even apply in such a crazy situation? I don't see how it could.
  19. epistemologue, could you state your basic thesis in just a few sentences perhaps?
  20. I think you are conceding for the wrong reasons. Yes, the well ordering principle is equivalent to AoC, but your line of reasoning would then call for you to ask the question "How do you well order a given set? What is the mechanism?" Your argument seems to be that it is irrational to assert the existence of a "choice" function without giving a concrete example. (Or, it is irrational to assert the existence of a well ordering without giving an example). But the point here is that to assert the existence of a function (which may be considered as a type of set) is very different from asserting the existence of, say, a dragon. Sets and functions are not physical things, they are ways of regarding things. Three toys sitting on the floor in front of you don't constitute a set of toys unless you choose to regard them that way. To say that a set exists is merely to say that it doesn't lead to contradictions once you define it, ie. that everything is either in the set or not in the set, but not both at the same time.
  21. I took a course in Set Theory about 6 months ago. I admit that I started the course expecting to blow it all out of the water and find contradictions everywhere like you are trying to show aleph_1. However, the course totally changed my opinion of the subject, which in the beginning was pretty low. The bottom line is this. All mathematical concepts, sets included, are tools for solving problems. They don't exist in reality in the way physical objects do, nor in another dimension as platonists believe. I think that the peculiar thing about mathematical concepts, which has led to so much confusion about what their nature is, is that they are not only very abstract (removed from the perceptual level), but they are also extremely specific. "Circles" don't exist anywhere. What exist are things which take on the shape of a circle. Yet, a "circle" is a very precise thing. It can be defined solely by specifying a point and a radius. Most mathematical concepts are like this. The sets that come up in practice (solving math problems, proving theorems, etc.) are definable in very simple terms. The fact that mathematical concepts are so precise necessitates visual symbolic notation, as opposed to just using words, in order to deal with these concepts while we are solving problems, in order to hold them in our minds. When you do mathematics for long enough, there is a tendency to begin to believe that these symbols you are writing down on your paper are actual "things", like the physical objects we see around us. This is why so many mathematicians become platonists. They strongly feel that sets, numbers, shapes, LIVE somewhere, because they "see" them every day on their blackboards and papers. But the truth of the matter is that these concepts don't live anywhere -- they are just problem solving tools. Now apply this fact to set theory. Mathematicians deal with sets ALOT. They are EXTREMELY useful for proving theorems, solving problems, and understanding mathematics. And before the days of Bertrand Russell, mathematicians believed that, in the course of solving a problem, you could construct any old set you wanted to, just by using set builder notation. However, Bertrand Russell showed that you can construct a "set" using set builder notation which is actually meaningless; that is, there is an element which is both in the set and not in the set at the same time. Obviously, using such a set in proving a theorem would be disastrous, as it would allow you to prove something which is not true.... So mathematicians started to realize that a more rigorous definition of a set was needed. They needed to know that the tools they were using would not lead to contradictions in their proofs. When they asked the question, "What is a set?", what they meant was, "What sets can we construct validly, without introducing contradictions into our thought processes?" The answer to this question was axiomatic set theory: a list of basic truths about things that we know are valid sets, and how further valid sets can be constructed. For example, any set containing one element is a valid set, unions of sets are valid sets, the set of all subsets of a set is a valid set, etc. The point of laying down these axioms was to show that all the sets we would ever need in practice can be deduced from these axioms. Since the axioms were clearly based on facts of reality and valid, any set you could construct using the axioms would also have to be valid. However, they came to realize that there were certain sets which they needed to use in practice which could not be shown to be valid from these axioms; there was no way to construct them using the concepts of union, power set, etc. from more trivial sets; for instance, if you had a collection of sets, it made sense that you should be able to construct a set consisting of ordered pairs for which the first element in each ordered pair was a set in the collection, and the second element was some element in that set. In other words, the axiom of choice made sense to them intuitively--it was an obviously valid process of constructing a set out of more trivial sets. But since they could not prove that such a set was valid from the other axioms, they had to assert it, making the axiom of choice an axiom itself. (Unfortunately, since it has been half a year since I took the course, and this is not my specialty, I can't recall any good examples of AC being necessary right now, but the unmeasurable set example that you (aleph_1) gave seems okay.) Anyway, this, in my opinion, is the objective way of looking at set theory. The axiom of choice is not akin to an assertion of dragons. It is merely an observation that a certain type of tool (a set constructed via AC) is valid and does not lead to contradictions in one's thinking. Some famous mathematician (Cantor maybe?) once said that "Existence is freedom from contradiction." While this is obviously wrong if applied loosely to everything in reality...I think there is some truth to this in mathematics. To say that a mathematical concept "exists" in many cases means to say that it is a valid tool, ie. it does not lead to contradictions.
  22. The distinction is necessary because we have volition. This goes back to the basic fact that when you drop a ball, it has to fall. But you don't have to pick it back up. Some things have to be, other things don't. Mountains had to be. Skycrapers didn't have to be. I assume you've formed the concept of "have to" at some point in your childhood. Why did you? Why even bother making this distinction? If you think this distinction is unnecessary for living your life, then simply abandon it, refuse to ever differentiate between "having to" and "not having to" and see what happens.
  23. According to Google's dictionary: Natural: Existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind. I take it you don't believe in a necessary distinction between the metaphysical and the man-made then?
  24. With so much gloom and doom in the news lately, this article brought tears to my eyes. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--usain-bolt-s-legend-grows-after-he-breaks-olympic-record-in-epic-100-meter-final-.html
  25. "I was laughing at the way life works out. It gets pretty complicated sometimes, then all of a sudden it's as simple as hell..." -Mickey Spillane, Vengeance is Mine
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