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About BurgessLau

  • Birthday 07/04/1944

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    Portland, Oregon USA
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    I am an Objectivist, that is, I agree with every element of Ayn Rand's philosophy, as far as I have studied it, though not always with her views in the specialized sciences (such as the psychology of homosexuality) or in personal choices (such as favorite painters).<br /><br />My three highest personal values are:<br /><br />1. Central purpose in life: Writing success stories from the history of philosophy (www.aristotleadventure.com).<br /><br />2. Friendships with like-minded people -- e.g., through the Portland Area Objectivists, a network of about 15 people living in areas from Seattle to Portland. See: www.aristotleadventure.com/pao/<br /><br />3. Roving as leisure: mentally, by reading adventure stories (ranging from Westerns to murder mysteries); and physically by by walking and bicycling.

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  1. Dismuke, generally speaking, you have accurately portrayed the situation. You have done an excellent job of detection, working from that author's dishonest writing. I have read the Journals, as the subject of a six-month long study group that our local Objectivist Story Tellers conducted. The point to keep in mind is the purpose of the journals: to give Ayn Rand a place where she can put her thoughts -- mostly intended, once they were thoroughly examined, to appear in works of fiction -- down on paper, as an aid in her own development. Her journal entries make crystal clear that she thought the crime committed was terrible. But what she noticed, she says, is that a big part of the public reaction to the criminal was not his crime (others had done as bad) but his apparently forthright, standup manner. The mob, she observed, hated him more for his apparent independence than for his bestial behavior. It helps too to keep in mind Ayn Rand's definition of art: the recreation of the elements of reality according to the values of the artist. Ayn Rand picked an element -- one man's standup behavior -- and noticed a connection to another element -- a mindless mob reaction -- and began to think about that connection abstracted from its original, ghastly historical circumstances. She was not a naturalistic author, which perhaps is the fiction-writing style of the author of the diatribe against her. For many Objectivist intellectuals, The Journals of Ayn Rand is worth a slow, steady, thoughtful reading, perhaps a few pages a day over the course of a year or so. They are just what you said: a journal. They were not a diary or running sociological analysis of crime in Los Angeles or any other subject that fascinates others. Reading her journals, with full context retained, increased my admiration for Ayn Rand.
  2. How can a phrase be a "non-sequitur"? Usually, isn't the Latin non sequitur used to name an idea applying to whole propositions -- as conclusions of illogical arguments -- rather than to terms? Perhaps rather than "non-sequitur" you mean "misnomer" -- which is the term/idea you use below. Generally speaking, in my experience, dictionaries don't offer philosophical definitions, that is, definitions (of fundamental concepts) suitable for everyone, everywhere, at all times. Instead, don't most dictionaries merely record common usages -- indeed, a very wide range of usages -- from contemporary or historical culture? (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 74, briefly discusses the role of philosophers in formulating philosophical definitions.) Though dictionaries can be very helpful as an early step in thinking about a concept and what it means to the thinker, everyone has a right to rename concepts or reformulate definitions of concepts, where cognitive necessity requires it. Would you have advised Ayn Rand to confine herself to the conventional, common dictionary "definitions" of "selfishness" or "objectivity"? I wouldn't have. How can a concept be a misnomer? A concept is a mental integration of a certain sort (ITOE, p. 13). A term (word) names a concept (or a thing, in the case of proper names). A term thus is only a symbol for a concept, not the concept itself. A misnomer (which means, etymologically, "faulty name") is an inappropriate name (symbol, term) not an erroneously formed concept. The process of forming a concept is complete when a thinker names the concept. So, in this sense, a thinker could pick an inappropriate name (as a symbol) -- for example, saying "white" is "a rational animal." "White" would certainly be a misnomer because it is a term that usually names a certain color, which has nothing to do with the essential distinguishing characteristics of the object (man) being defined. Strictly speaking, except for proper names (words), it is concepts not words (terms, symbols) that need definition. So, do we -- those of us now living in Western Civilization -- have only two choices? (1) Always follow our ancestors in applying the same terms to the same concepts having the same definitions. OR (2) Abandon all guidelines for concept formation and naming, letting chaos reign in our thinking and communicating? Wouldn't that be a false dichotomy? Don't we have another choice -- changing terms or changing concepts to meet our changing cognitive needs, all while following objective rules? (In passing, Ayn Rand, ITOE, pp. 69-74, discusses cognitive necessity as a standard for concept formation.) In other words, the proper choice is neither traditionalism nor chaos, but objectivity. P. S. -- I am neither a philosopher nor a lawyer. Here I am only making suggestions about issues of nomenclature and concept formation. I have not done the long thinking that would be required to formulate a philosophically applicable definition of marriage, much less a technical, legal definition. I vaguely remember a lecture I once heard, in Virginia about 12 years ago, in which Dr. Peikoff mentioned that he had worked for several weeks on forming a definition of a certain concept -- something like "friendship.")
  3. This is an intriguing topic (and a very well organized method for approaching it). I have a question for clarification: Are you looking only for economic/political essential characteristics or also for deeper philosophical ones too?
  4. What evidence would lead you to consider a "get rich quick" premise as an essential characteristic of the U. S. economy in the years 1929-1934? (You said "primary" characteristic but the topic question asks about essential characteristics. Are they synonymous, for you as an anti-Objectivist?)
  5. So, your original statement, taken in the usual meaning (you specified no other), was false. I also asked: What evidence and argument proves that "most murders in this country are ... due to ... trade restrictions"? You answered: "I am speaking about organized crime related to drug smuggling. While exact statistics are hard to come by, the trend is very clear. For example, see the statistics here: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/crime.htm." In the first place, I would question whether statistics -- "exact" or not -- prove anything in accounting for crime. They certainly can raise questions, though. I examined the paragraphs of that site that appear to relate to murder. I saw no proof that "most murders in this country are ... due to ... trade restrictions." In fact, the trend to more murders seems to have started prior to the War on Drugs. I wouldn't be surprised that "trade restrictions" have increased the number of murders over what they would be without the trade restrictions. I just do not see any evidence that they caused most (at least 50% plus one) of the murders. Did I miss the evidence and the argument leading from that evidence to your conclusion? Could you point it out, specifically? P. S. -- I certainly agree that you are right in attacking those conservatives who are advocating increased immigration restrictions as a result of xenophobia (and, more specifically, racism). But I hold to making the issue explicit -- reason versus xenophobia, and individualism versus racism (or nativism).
  6. Your comments raise a lot of questions, for me: If "secure" means protected from threats of aggression, how can the U. S. border be "too secure"? What evidence and argument proves that "most murders in this country are ... due to ... trade restrictions"? If border "walls," figurative or actual, don't stop terrorists from entering this country, what would?
  7. So was Nazism. Nazism was "original" in its particular, unique combination of elements, and it was "important" in that it caused mass destruction. In terms of fundamentals, in what way do you -- as an anti-Objectivist -- think Kant's philosophy was "original"? - In his ontology of two worlds? - In his epistemology of proleptic subjectivism? - In his ethics of altruism?
  8. I agree, if their only motive is to reduce the influence of the movie. The question that arises for me, though, is whether the organizers of the protests have other items on their agenda. For example, are the organizers practicing for something bigger? Are they building a mailing list? Are they soliciting donations and want to prove how tough -- and therefore deserving of financial support -- they are? Or are they using their protest as a platform for spreading broader ideas -- indeed, Christianity itself? Only a thorough inquiry into the particular individuals involved can answer these questions.
  9. Here the words "tend to be" are weasel words. With those words dropped, your statement asserts that Peter Schwarz writes articles "filled with poor scholarship and outright lies." What is your evidence for this attack on a prominent Objectivist?
  10. "Cryptic" is a term that, in its primary usage, names an idea that means puzzling or obscure. I don't know why you think simply asking you for a definition of a key term/idea that you have used is cryptic. Perhaps you mean something else by "cryptic." I am asking what I asked: What do you mean by "objective"? In other words, what does the concept "objective" refer to in reality? The meaning of a concept is its referents, as known within a context. What is your definition of "objective" (or "objectivity," as a noun)? P. S. -- For anyone not familiar with Ayn Rand's theory of epistemology, in particular her ideas on definitions, see: Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, sec. edition, Ch. 5 ("Definitions") and many other pages listed in the index under "Definitions."
  11. For professional intellectuals and a few others, and in certain circumstances, your motivation makes a lot of sense to me. The only remaining question for me, if I were in that situation, would be whether I expected to gain enough from any particular "debate," to justify taking time away from my highest personal values (my work, my friends, and my favorite leisure activities). One of the defining characteristics of a debate (as distinct from a discussion, for example) is that one of the debaters will win a prize of some sort. I have found that asking myself what prize is at stake helps me decide whether a particular "debate" is worth pursuing. Further, as you indicated, irrationalists, by definition, cannot be reasoned with. They are out of touch with reality. So, if I did enter a debate with an irrationalist, I would never be upset. Why would a debater be upset if he knows he isn't going to change the other person's position or debating behavior?
  12. ggdwill, what is justice? In your philosophy, what does that concept mean?
  13. What do you gain from such debates? In particular, do they help you achieve any of your highest personal values?
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