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Posts posted by icosahedron

  1. I appreciate we're discussing aesthetics here - that is, pertaining to 'beauty' - and not ART, but your's is a view that affirms equal intrinsic value to natural and man-made.

    Ask yourself if you have ever seen an ugly mountain, and your answer is likely, no. Lacking a designer, nothing in nature is ugly - it just IS.

    Ask the same about a skyscraper, and I would say, definitely, some.

    So, if I were asked which was more beautiful, I'd reply Which mountain? which skyscraper?There is a distinction here I think, more to do with integration of rationality and emotion, and relevant to 'sense of life.'

    I agree, there is a distinction. I think it is a function of the relative comensurability of the items being compared. This is actually a more general problem of choosing consistent conceptual units, and applying them to produce a scale relating a set of observations/observables. And the question is begged: what could possibly be the unit of measuring beauty in general, across all types of entities? Is such a unit conceivable, or is it more genuine to have distinct scales/units of beauty depending on the classes of objects related? To make the idea of beauty general and rational would seem to require taking "beauty" to be a synonym for "value". And why not? How else to proceed, hierarchically?

    - ico

  2. Pascal's wager is horrible. The theist thinks he can fool God with a pretense of faith, which can't work by any Abrahamic account of an omniscient God. An Objectivist surrenders his certainty founded on perception for a lottery ticket, for no justification or benefit at all. Any middle of the road agnostic approaching either theism or Objectivism with Pascal's wager pre-emptively sabotages any possible benefit he could gotten from that system. The wager is actually subversive and must encourage through its explicit hypocrisy a growing skepticism and nihilism over time.

    edit: And from reading up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager Pascal's frame of mind in composing the wager was in fact that of a skeptic unhappy with himself.

    Oh, that's called Pascal's Wager? Hahahahaha! I thought that was just something that culturally judeo-christian sophomores came up with over bong hits at every university in the world.

    Anyhoo, Pascal's attempt at using optimization theory to justify belief in God is at least interesting on its face; and his logic is correct; but the premise that belief can be made more or less true by offering ex post facto rationalizations a priori to expiration has to have been known to be fallacious since Socrates at least, or so I would guess. On the other hand, the premise that knowledge can be made more or less true by offering evidence is an unshakable consequence of the nature of volition as applied to epistemological pursuits.

    More interesting to me is my observation that an individual's future choices will be substantially affected depending on whether he/she embraces free will as a constant, self-evident basis of action; or not -- and especially, inconsistently not, i.e., at most intermittent ignorance of free will is all that is practicably consistent with living, any volitional being that consistently ignored their power of will wouldn't last long.

    So can everyone just embrace the axiom of volition, so we can all stop wasting cycles trying to devise a workaround?

    - ico

  3. Pascal's wager is horrible. The theist thinks he can fool God with a pretense of faith, which can't work by any Abrahamic account of an omniscient God. An Objectivist surrenders his certainty founded on perception for a lottery ticket, for no justification or benefit at all. Any middle of the road agnostic approaching either theism or Objectivism with Pascal's wager pre-emptively sabotages any possible benefit he could gotten from that system. The wager is actually subversive and must encourage through its explicit hypocrisy a growing skepticism and nihilism over time.

    edit: And from reading up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager Pascal's frame of mind in composing the wager was in fact that of a skeptic unhappy with himself.

    Ok, now I have to at least skim wikipedia. Dang it!

    But but but! I wasn't trying to do any of that, I beg your pardon: simply, I meant to say that their is no other choice for a rational person than to embrace free will. I guess, that is my experience of the self-evidence of volition as an axiomatic corollary of the consciousness axiom. Sorry for the verbiage getting off track.

    I mean, if one attempts to imagine and operate as if free will does not exist, and is consistent in this behavior, then one's mind will presumably become an incestuous web of recursion with no exit back to reality -- "assuming" existence exists.

    - ico

  4. Does anyone recall any quotation from Ayn Rand or any Objectivist thinker regarding the beauty of nature?

    She made reference to the beauty of the bodies/faces of women (I don't remember she also refered to men)but I don't recall her including references to mountains, lakes, oceans, forests and the like.

    I believe that PASSIVE, ECSTASIC contemplation of Nature's beauty comes close to nature-worshipping.

    On the other hand, ACTIVE, RATIONAL contemplation of Nature's beauty places the observer (man) in the center of the experience.

    (By "rational" I mean to use the process of integration: to think in nature as something that could be understood and enjoyed by ME in all aspects relevant to me)

    Agree with your "belief". But, for my part, I consider human bodies part of nature, as much as mountains and lakes -- but much more beautiful!

    I like skyscrapers because of what they imply about the souls of the folk who built them. But, frankly, they are pretty clumsy compared to what can be modeled today with modern computers, so I am expecting better things and perhaps am a bit impatient. Gotta say, if Lando Calrissian's floating city-state is technically feasible, the meaning of beauty has yet to be explored past the edge of the forest.

    - ico

  5. I don't understand this. I mean, it was already acknowledged that non-natural things can be beautiful. I'm personally pretty indifferent to natural landscapes. I'd rather look at a city.

    Sorry, I should have said, to be wholly objective: To me, within the scope of my self-professed rational value system, the ACME of beauty is found in other people, and is very specifically centered on one other person in particular. In the absence of man-made consciousness, I can't see how this "soulular" beauty can be appreciated or created except by another human in the process of weaving their own soul. So, perhaps, that is the essence of my perspective, and thanks for helping me clarify!: The acme of beauty to me is the soul of another; since, according to Objectivism, I create my own soul and so do others, it is in fact a conjoining of a natural plus a man-made entity (another's body+soul as a whole, the body as substantially given, the soul as substantially created, to the more or less limited extent these intercomplementary aspects can be separately considered).

    Funny. As usual, experience produces objects that conjoin the given (the subject of one's focus, which is a given for the sake of observation, however it did originally come to be) with the made/maintained (the current state of one's mind). And beauty (or any other flavor of evaluative specification) must relate objects of experience, each of which is partially given and partially created by the consciousness doing the experiencing.

    - ico

  6. I know my original post got ignored but I'll try it again.

    Take the hypothetical scenario where it can be scientifically determined whether or not a person will CHOOSE to press a button in a controlled experiment. Let it also be assumed that the calculation includes the data that the person will be told in advance the outcome. (i.e. It is understood and assumed that the subject will have foreknowledge of what he is determined to do)

    The determinist is stuck here. He has to argue that either:

    A) The human will be unable to defy a scientifically determined result. (deny the self evident)

    B.) Forever explain away (unscientifically) the "margin of error". (deny determinism)

    Which is it?

    Given your premises as stated, only (A) can occur -- you stated that the person's choice was predetermined, so done.

    But of course, that is the whole problem with the original premise: "predetermined choice" is a contradiction in terms.

    - ico


    Sorry for being colloquial, what I meant by "assuming it exists" is taking it as an unshakable premise (i.e. use it as proper basis for induction), and then seeing how that affects future computations and uncertainties. I do realize the nature of axioms in Objectivism, and don't mean to be flip; but I also see, on operational grounds, the advantage of free will as a premise in explaining my observations. So, what I don't get is, if there is no good reason to suppose anything but free will, then why does anyone waste time debating whether it exists or not? Yet I take your point re axioms and will try to be more careful.

    Hadn't heard of Pascal's Wager, but it is kinda obvious, no? Volition as a modeling premise is what I take, meaning that, I ensure that EVERY mental model I concoct does concord with the volition axiom. If a model contradicts volition, it is wrong, period. That very quickly winnows out whole swaths of fantasy. In that sense, an axiom acts as a sort of razor against unreality, when used as a modeling assumption to make predictions.

    I still don't get why this is anything more than the old implementation versus appearance, i.e., mind/body, dichotomy. If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, etc., then it's a duck until I get contradictory evidence. Implementation isn't relevant per se; the functionality is what it is, the "user interface" is what it is, however the "guts" are implemented.

    Dang good illusion, eh? Makes the Matrix movie look like child's play.

    - ico

  8. In short, I was afraid that by answering "Nature wins hands down for me", as you candidly answered, I would be showing a mystical sense of life, or dwarfing man.

    But, as I have stated, one thing does not lead to the other.

    Admiring nature is not a man-dwarfening act, but a man-lifting act, inasmuch as man sees himself as an active observer, and a potential actor and transformer of the nature he contemplates.

    We don't like Plato, but I once read that it is atributted to Plato saying: "When a man sees a beautiful thing, what does he want? That the beautiful thing may be his"

    I like this definition of "beauty" from dictionary.com:

    "the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest)."

    It is likely that technological advancements will eventually lead to devices that seamlessly interface with human sensory organs, or even sensory pathways from those organs into the human brain. At that point, it may be possible to simulate an external experience to such a degree of accuracy that art forms rivaling reality in terms of intensity of pleasure may be creatable.

    However, the other side of the equation, deep satisfaction, is unlikely via a simulation -- the technical hacks will be invasive and compromise higher-order biologic proclivities, resulting in mental health issues at least, and likely reducing the long-term viability of human DNA (which is where we ought to be looking for improvements, rather than robotics attached to humans).

    So, unless AI becomes possible, beauty is likely to remain the province of natural humans experiencing natural phenomena -- not least of which, as Ayn likes to playfully remind us, is our own sexuality.


    - ico

  9. The question is not well posed, is it?

    If you mean, "Can an individual piece of art be rationally judged more beautiful than a given natural entity?", well of course the Mona Lisa is more beautiful than dogshiite.

    If you mean, "Can an artistic representation of a natural phenomenon ever be more beautiful than the real thing?", then I guess this is debatable but to my mind it is hard to see how, beyond sheer scale, nature's skies can best Michaelangelo's. And then, there's Avatar for a techy example.

    If you mean, "Is the most beautiful piece of art known to me more beautiful than the most beautiful natural phenomenon I have ever witnessed?", then my answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!! (edited here to clarify: nature wins hands down for me).

    If you mean, "Can there ever be a piece of art created, but heretofore unknown, that would be more beautiful than the most beautiful thing in nature, also probably heretofore unknown?", well, who the heck knows?

    So, I can dig the question if we are talking about the third version, otherwise it seems rudimentary.

    - ico

  10. And whatever you choose to focus on is perceptual justification of the axioms. Otherwise they wouldn't be axiomatic if it were possible to cock your head just so and see something that did not entail the axioms. This is an arena where volition is irrelevant.

    I'm not certain what you are taking exception to at this point.

    Free will is axiomatic, and assuming it exists cannot make you worse off, but will very likely make you better able to organize your thinking, especially in regard to social concerns (where you either believe that the folk you deal with are your mental avatars, or else you believe that there are others with free will out there to deal with).

    Perception is a process, the products of the process accrue over time, and the rate at which perceptual recognition occurs will vary as a function of the nature of the process, which also does receive feedback from the cognitive process both directly (e.g., in terms of where the time spent producing perceptual observations is spent) and indirectly via the emotional responses with their associated sensations materially induced in the body and hence altering perceptions (e.g., the heightened sensations under the influence of romantic love).

    The process of perception per se is not a matter of choice; but, how to use it, and how to develop it, and how to more harmonically integrate it within one's cognitive/emotional frame of reference -- all that and more is a matter of choice. Free will is naught without an underlying consciousness, i.e., without a "memetic carrier signal" that can choose how to use a direct-able power of focus/attention to detail/direction. That is what perception is all about.

    Finally, volition is ALWAYS relevant when discussing the invented, such as ideas. No?

    - ico

  11. There is no such thing as perceptual choice, which is precisely why perception is reliable as a source of knowledge. Axioms themselves are justified by perception. Your cover slipped and your rationalism is showing.

    My "cover"? My "rationalism"? Sir, you read a great deal into my writings, and quite incorrectly so, if you gleaned me "covering" or "rationalizing" or supporting any "-ism"'s masquerading as reasonable philosophies.

    Yes there is so such thing as "perceptual choice". I get to choose what to spend my conscious time observing. Get a grip -- the choice of what direction to point your head is exactly a "perceptual choice", i.e., you get to choose what to focus on! That is the whole point of OPAR chapter 2, after all, is it not?

    - ico

  12. Ah, I should clarify. It wasn't a musical as in "on stage school musical". It was a performance of songs that I and my friend had written ourselves. We both sang and played guitar among other things and had set up a two-man show together.

    The lyric in one of the songs that he'd written was "I'd never known true love's hand--something God alone can send." I was singing the line in harmony with him.

    I knew about the lyric the whole time, as we had practiced the song many times. What changed was that I read the Fountainhead a few weeks before the show came. Which was when I decided that 1. I was definitely an atheist and not just agnostic and 2. I couldn't "sanction" the idea that only God can send love.

    It's been nine years since then, and I don't remember if that was the only thing in the show I had a problem with. Obviously I still could've handled it in a much better fashion, but handling it better would've required not being "Toohey-paranoid".

    This is the extra bit of key info I need to jump into the pool at this juncture. IMHO, you were morally correct (I had to divorce my wife when I realized the truths in OPAR, and have no regrets), but the way you handled it maybe could have been more friendly (it remains to be seen whether my ex-wife and I will be long term friends), can't tell.

    The thing is, being intimate with (i.e., spending lots of time in close proximity to, interacting with) a second-hander once you've seen how awful such a one can be is hard to take. Funny, the intrinsicists are actually easier to deal with than the subjectivists, but its never good to reinforce the "black" in those you are intimate with. Your repugnance was tangible, and being young, you did not think to soften your response.

    - ico

  13. I think theft also includes the act of taking, so I'm not sure it's theft, but it is most certainly immoral and unjust for them to not even make an effort to return it. A found wallet is most certainly not fair game.

    I would probably open the wallet and find out who it belonged to, and then Google them. If they weren't an enemy of mine, sure, I'd try to contact them directly to return the wallet, and make sure not to take anything out of it. I wouldn't hand it in to the local precinct, tho' -- I wonder, who really did abscond with the $30?

    - ico

  14. Also need to have an editorial rant on this topic.

    You have a choice. You can embrace change, and your power to effect it; or you can refuse that power, and become a pawn of others, relinquishing your independence of thought along with your will to think.

    It is your choice. If you can't see the added value in choosing to exercise your will (versus assuming you have no free will to exercise), then you can still rationally choose free will, just in case I am right! Because, if you have no free will to exercise, then you aren't really choosing to exercise it; but if you DO have free will, then by gosh, you'd better get busy, eh?

    Point is, operationally, in terms of how you ought to behave to best further your interests, it matters not; logic shows that assuming free will exists (i.e., as an axiom) is no worse a strategy than ANY other; and it will actually turn out to be better in general, as the leverage effects of social interactions weigh in.


    - ico

  15. I think a review of OPAR Chapter 2, Sense Perception and Volition, will allow any rational individual to resolve this "illusion" in favor of the existence of free will, however it is implemented in the brain being irrelevant to the existential/empirical fact of volition in human beings.

    In a nutshell, volition is axiomatic in Objectivism; as such, there is nothing to illusory, because volition is not a matter of perceptual choice, but a fact of existence in the nature of volitional beings. It is an axiom.

    In particular, check out the section titled Volition as Axiomatic, on page 69 of OPAR. It is really beautiful logic!

    I love Ayn/Leonard.

    - ico

  16. ... and this all goes back to debate over whether life has intrinsic value. I submit that it does not. If a person is no longer able to pursue value, spiritual, or existential, what value can his life possibly have? The only question is: has he rationally weighed his options?

    Analyzing the phrase "intrinsic value", I find it to be meaningless, because "intrinsic" implies "given" i.e. "not chosen"; whereas "value" implies an evaluator making an evaluation, i.e., exercising the power of choice, which power is given, but the exercise of it is a choice -- not a given.

    That life is "intrinsic" is clear; so, does life have value? Well, if an evaluator judges life to have value, then it has value. Yup, life has value (to me!).

    - ico

  17. This may sound strange, but it does seem to work for me: try playing peikoff's book-on-tape (OPAR is available on itunes) in the background whilst you sleep. Read it in your spare time during the day, too.

    Try to apply the principles therein. Gradually, as you are successful at focusing your philosophy, you will find problems become more like opportunities, and your life will change. Eventually, with consistent embracement and application of Ayn's principles, ameliorated as necessary with your own experience and the principles of other good thinkers past and present, you WILL become enlightened.

    At that point, your sense of life will be HAPPY overall, and you won't be depressed anymore.

    Sound like paradise/unrealism? It's not!

    - ico

  18. I think you somewhat misinterpreted my point. Switching to your context, I don't think there's a moral principle that prohibits you from accepting unemployment benefits. Does that mean you are obligated to do so? Of course not.

    Exactly. It is a matter of one's personal value system, and accounting within it. But, I suspect that others may conclude as I do, that the pittance obtainable by accepting unemployment benefits is not worth the reputation risk. And rather than telling stories of the days when I took unemployment benefits I didn't need, instead I'll be able to talk about how I DIDN'T take them on good principle.

    - ico

  19. What if there was a tax rule saying that you could take a deductions tax because of some reason that you do not share with every other tax-payer: e.g. because you had a child, or because you were a certain age, or because you had adopted in that year, or because you spent a certain amount on home-mortgage interest. Would you equally not stomach that type of rule, and insist on not claiming that deduction? If you would take such deductions, what if there was a deduction for someone who has been unemployed?

    That is a tough spot I've painted myself into, logically, yup you are right. Hmmm, let's see if I can distinguish the two.

    I see two major differences:

    One, maybe the biggest, is the image that I present to others, as I said, I would find it inconsistent with my principles to accept assistance I had not earned, or with even a whiff/taint of the unearned -- I want to ensure that every value I own is truly mine. Whereas, with tax deductions, it is more about PREVENTING my values from being taken, rather than attempting to use the broken system to recover part of the value stolen at gunpoint, but at the expense of being given what I consider a scarlet letter. So it's not that the "assistance" is specific to a given group, but, what group? Everyone takes tax deductions, but only those incapable or unwilling to earn a living accept handouts (or suck blood).

    Two, with personal income taxes, at least the bureaucracy is contained a bit by being evenly distributed and granular. However, unemployment laws are a labyrinth for small businesses, and anyone who has run a small business in NYC will attest to the byzantine rules which appear designed to trap the unwary/new business owner, and lead to so much headaches that one MUST hire outside professionals even for a small business! So, as I see it, tax deductions don't have the same level of impact on the small business owner/entrepreneur as do entitlements (esp., earmarked ones with dedicated bureaucracy). Which is to say, tax deductions are not so specifically distortive of economic value and incentive.

    - ico

  20. Even in the case of mandated leave I think you're OK as long as you oppose the existence of the mandate. (This is just another concrete application of the principle Rand discussed in her essay "The Question of Scholarships".) In such cases your interests and those of your employer have been forced into conflict by government action. The existence of the conflict is not your fault or your responsibility, so why should morality require you to sacrifice your interests in favor of your employers?

    I agree with all the advices so far, makes sense if y'all can just be adults about it. Good test to see how they react. If they are dicks about it, then you have your answer vis a vis any fence sitting re THAT employer, eh? Works for you either way, I think.

    But, but, but: I do take exception to to calling the idea of going along with graft a "principle". The point here is not one of ethics, but of a strictly political nature: Does your behavior sanction the bad behavior of others? If so, then you must weigh the political cost, i.e., the long term cost of inculcating government interference in economic issues. If you, and all those like you, (continue to) choose to accept the bureaucracy as given, then you strengthen it by default because THE POPULATION IS GROWING!

    Bravo to all those who are entitled to "benefits", but realize that accepting them comes with a real cost. If it makes you feel yucky, it's likely because there is something yucky about it. What do you feel? Why do you feel it? Are your reasons rational? If so, then your feeling is valid, and you ought to consider what it is that you are trying to remind yourself of.

    For my part, I am entitled to unemployment benefits at this juncture, but will not take them. Can't stomach it. It makes me think of lying to my friends and family to hide the fact if I were to do it! Not because I need the money, and would be embarassed for folk to know; in that case, I'd happily and honestly accept the handout I had earned. No, it's because I can't look at myself in the mirror with pleasure whilst implicitly supporting a system that strangles economic pursuits.

    When Ayn Rand was asked why she paid taxes, she said, in effect: because people with guns force me to.

    - ico

  21. Funny thought: Arrange a line of detectors radially outward from the tree, spaced at equal intervals of 1 meter, so that detector 0 is as close as possible to the falling tree, detector 1 is 1 meter out from detector 0, and etc. Then, for some N, detector N-1 will note the sound from the tree, but detector N will not (assuming finite detector sensitivity, law of identity applied to the detector technology used).

    So, if detectors 0 thru N-1 happen to be off, the tree doesn't make a sound, eh?


    - ico

  22. Dante hit it on the rhetorical head, with more operatic grace than I could muster.

    The problem he points out: mistaking cognitive process (i.e. individual volitional consciousness), for that which is cognitively processed (i.e. identifiable perceptual entities).

    The question attempts to invert the relationship between Epistemology and Metaphysics, as do all such attempts to conflate process and data, i.e. to make Consciousness somehow prior to Existence. A process with nothing to process is nothing.

    I am a verb.

    Existence provides the nouns on which I operate, with respect to which I relate. That is why I must receive sensory signals in order to become aware of anything. Unity is plural, and at minimum Two.

    "If a tree falls in a forest" means "Assume that a tree (as you define the word "tree") falls in a forest (as you define the word "forest")".

    "Does it make a sound?" means "Does it create changes in its environment that would be observable by an entity equipped to observe them?", or perhaps more specifically, using the definition of sound popular in physics today, "Does it produce sound waves that propagate outward volumetrically such that, if there were a sensor capable of noting the vibrational frequencies, then a conscious being could use that sensor to record the sound-content of the event of the tree falling?"

    I think that is specific enough.

    The question is Metaphysical, and relates to the Law of Identity: Existence is Identity. It is in the identity of a tree, as I define the word-concept "tree", to have mass which must concuss any objects upon which it falls due to the gravitationally generated momentum accumulated via falling; I cannot imagine a tree not behaving this way, and every tree I know would have so behaved. The concussion is naturally propagated by the receiving entities. If a proper sound sensor is in the vicinity, and their is (at least) a gas forming a sound bridge, then as a consequence of the concussion, volumetric pressure changes will be detectable, i.e., sound will be detected by the listening device (which also follows its nature).

    The falling tree concusses whatever it lands on. This concussion causes volumetric distortions away from equilibrium, which lead to vibrational patterns of pressure in the concussed entities (there are at least two such entities, the tree and whatever it hits) -- i.e., sound. That is metaphysical fact, according to standard definitions of the words used, scientifically verifiable by any human who cares to expend the effort.

    Now, if no conscious being is affected by that sound in any way, then who cares? That is the epistemological value of the question: zero.

    Moving on?

    - ico

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