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Everything posted by gadfly

  1. As far as how Peikoff's view squares with other things he's said, the only person who can explain is him. However, Peikoff is simply advocating what, in practice, Objectivism has stood for all along: that philosophy moves the world. Which means: matters such as the current effects of economic policy A, B, C, or the personality and integrity of candidates D, E F, or the effects of defense policy G, H, I are secondary. What matters are ideas, the rest will follow from that. And basically, at this point in time, the Republican Party and its backing by the Religious Right is the biggest ideological threat to our country and they should be kicked out before they do any more damage. The GOP is ineffectual at enacting capitalism because they don't have the ideological basis with which to defend it. Meanwhile, the Administration IS waging half-hearted wars overseas that they are unable to carry through properly because of their altruism and religious fundamentalism, costing us lives, resources and credibility. This does not mean they are ineffectual, however. They are very organized, tend to be very favorable to religion, and seem to be power-lusters when they attempt to circumvent laws and/or give the President as much power as possible and/or take away various freedoms in the areas of privacy and free speech. This is exactly what Rand talked about with the "Mystics of Spirit" and the "Mystics of Muscle", as being 2 sides of the same irrational coin: the Republicans exhibit both tendencies. The Republicans are scary-religious, morally confident (regarding those religious ideas), politically potent, and power-hungry. By comparison, the Democrats and The Left (even by their own admission) are politically ineffective at this time, even though they are still a threat to freedom. The Left is anti-principle, morally timid, politically less effective, and can be dealt with later. The election has become a matter of neutralizing the threat of an intransigent, confident religious Right. And since the Republicans have been very organized and making a point of acting/voting as a block, it is going to be necessary to vote against them across the board, to deny them this possibility. I agree with Peikoff, and voted that way (early voting in CO). [edited to correct spelling of word "privacy"]
  2. Thank goodness I no longer have to decide what to wear on my feet. One less thing to worry about.
  3. Space exploration as a way of protecting space for free nations is a valid point. However, a giant laser gun costing every last penny in the US might also ensure our security. Should we do it? And if so, how? Should the government take the money? Should it be privately funded? If it can be shown that this is the only sensible defense strategy for our country, then that would warrant giving it the same status and funding that we give to defense in other areas. Tell me, how effective do you think it's going to be to question limited government on an Objectivist online forum? Not very. I would choose a different tack.
  4. Unless Bush plans on us firing missiles at Bin Laden from Olympus Mons, I don't see how a Mars program fits in with the concept of government aimed solely at protecting individual rights. What is the justification? The idea that this will lead to new technology is a Utilitarian defense (if the result is good, the action is good), and should be rejected on those grounds. On the other hand, if NASA came to my door asking for a donation for such a program, I'd provide one. I'd like to see it happen, just not funded by tax money.
  5. >When I saw that I would owe more in taxes for my equipment than I earned, I would close the business and not fill out the forms I sympathize completely. You have a tough situation. I have shyed away from self-employment for such reasons. My advice would be to leave taxes to an employer! But that's just me. I am also no Dr. Phil, but... if you are in danger of losing things of utmost value to you, it simply doesn't matter that you have difficulty with standard full-time employment. You HAVE to do it if you cannot make it on your own. You have to learn HOW (i.e. take a breath and JUST DO IT). To do otherwise would be to allow a lesser value (avoiding an unfulfilling 40-hour job) threaten things of higher value (house, family, etc.). In terms of practical suggestions: 1) move, 2) develop into a more satisfying and higher-paying job. 1) I was looking at housing in Colorado the other day, and was seeing taxes of $600/yr on a single-family home. I paid $5000 in upstate New York! Save up for a move and do it. States that think we live to pay taxes can go to ****. 2) Try to get an office job or something where you can pick up skills. If you are a problem-solver or creative, programming may work. I have an art degree (MFA) and I find programming to be very creative and it pays. In any case, try to get a job where you can do many things (aside from frying various foods) and your employer is open to letting you try them. This will give you an opportunity to learn on the job things you may not be able to learn on your own. Soon, you will have skills that you can use to find a better job. Forget about dead-end jobs such as anything in the service industry, unless your dream is to be a local retail manager. Good luck.
  6. #1 - Depending on the particular companies involved, there is probably a huge difference between a British firm owning ports and a UAE firm owning ports. Since so many terrorists come from that region of the world, since their governments are probably of questionable reliability, security, and morality (judged by the degree to which they protect individual rights) and since they are a largely muslim country, there is reason to question the deal. And IF, and only IF, national security is threatened due to any of these factors, in my opinon it should trump the free market. Defense of capitalism does not demand that we allow free trade with Bin Laden, to use an extreme example. #2 - I don't think any nation could objectively regard the US as a threat, so I would not, in general, be in favor of your scenario. Unless you can think of one in which the US would be a real threat to a free nation. It's not enough to simply consider that we might both repatriate. You have to consider why, and what the nature of each nation is, and their actions are. #3 - If it's national security, it does not matter what the economic implications are, except that if indeed it makes things more secure, it's likely that the impact would be net positive.
  7. It was nice to see. I was pretty damn surprised to see Kelley, and he did well. It's so shocking to see a non-apologetic defense of capitalism on national TV (especially a couple of days after watching the grilling of the oil company execs in front of the Senate -- I wanted to reach through the screen and slap our idiot legislators, like Boxer and Domenici. And for once I'd like to see one of the execs stand up and MORALLY defend themself). I was bracing myself for John to side with the loonies, but I guess I should have known better, he's always been good at detecting a fraud. I emailed him a thank you, and a plug for ARI's speakers also!
  8. I see your point about treating them in kind, but this rational "witnessing" would be a waste of your time. If you luck out and can find someone who takes a philosophical approach to religion (as opposed to a fundamentalist wacko) you might get some practice by debating them. In a fundamentalist forum, I'm sure you are just going to get Bible quotes and no thinking. It will be neither productive nor enjoyable.
  9. Obviously the hotel owner should be able to set the terms for whoever stays in his hotel. And just as obviously, most people nowadays are going to think they have the right to tell them not to do it. Business-wise, I hope they make it very clear in their advertisements and booking process what their policy is. I'd be pretty upset if I made plans and traveled a long way, and arrived tired at the end of a long day only to find that my kids could not stay. I have to say that I've never really been bothered by children in a hotel, but I guess it depends on the hotel and the kids. I'm more bothered by people who walk by in the hallway at 1 in the morning talking loudly as if a hotel weren't a place filled with people trying to sleep. It strikes me that next door in France (at least, at many places in Paris) dogs can go out to eat. A bit more permissive?
  10. These don't sound too promising. You need to get something useful out of the class, either via good content, good mental exercise, or at least learning more about why you DON'T agree with certain bad ideas. Here are my thoughts (based mostly on guesses, because I really don't that much info to go on): "ethics in engineering" - If it discusses issues of when society should prevent certain activities, it will probably be based on altruism as you say. Personally, I don't know if I could take that for an entire class term. "Philosophy and relegion"[sic] - If the class gets into the fundamentals of religion and philosophy, such as the basis of knowledge or of morality, it could be interesting, but it all depends on the readings and the professor. "environmental philosophy" - I wouldn't take this unless you want nonstop criticism of your viewpoint and to be frustrated by leftist loonies in class. If they are willing to devote an entire class to this, then I think it's likely that the human-centered viewpoint is not the one they will be presenting, for the most part. I would also think about whether you can get a good grade; personally I would not risk a bad grade to learn about bad philosophy that is ultimately of no use to you. Ask around about particular teachers to avoid the ones that may be irrational and unnecessarily difficult. If you decide to take a class, be careful to make your assignments relevant to the class and meet the standards required by the professor. I was typically able to present Objectivist views as long as I met the requirements of the assignment. Each disipline, and professor, is different about what they think represents a successful paper, and you will be graded more by these rules than by the correctness of your philosophy.
  11. I would agree with you IF we were talking about moral equals, with partners we respect and who respect us, but we aren't. Once it is determined that a government has no moral legitimacy (and the dictatorship in N Korea does not) all bets are off and we owe them nothing. Should I tell a murderer where his victim is because it is wrong to lie? Should we give a kidnapper $1 million because that's what we said we'd do, and then let him go? No. We shouldn't do this with countries either. They cannot be trusted and we should only have our own safety in mind in deciding how to deal with them. We also should not care what the bad guys think about us. They are in no position to judge us. Our only concern should be to keep them from harming us.
  12. Yes. Makes me ill. Appeasing a dictator and offering them gifts is not going to stop a war, it will only make them stronger when the war finally comes. We are talking about a country that launches missiles over other countries for NO REASON other than to threaten. It is a paranoid country that the world couldn't care less about throwing around its weight around to prop up its dictator's popular image and extort aid from the world because it is ruining itself with its policies. Tough. We don't have any moral obligation to keep agreements with a government of this kind. It's like negotiating with a kidnapper: say what you can to get the hostage out, then take them down. We should not be giving that government anything under any circumstances.
  13. Suspend disbelief, yes, but you lump together 2 examples of science fiction that are actually very different. 1) light speed travel -- this is a fantasy that projects an imaginary technological accomplishment, something beings must achieve with thought, i.e. reason, and 2) someone being able to see the future, which can be seen as a projection of a bad philosophical idea, i.e. the idea that the mind has powers over reality that somehow "get around" the senses. In real life, these are called "delusions". Light speed travel would be called a remarkable achievement. Since this is a forum for users with a certain philosophical orientation/interest, such judgements come with the territory.
  14. Having been through art school, I have had my fill of this, believe me. However, there is some truth in the idea that "anything can be art", although not anything can be good art. While I'm not quite ready to open it up to "anything", following the definition that Ayn Rand set forth leaves a lot of room for art that may be bad, but still follows the definition of a "selective re-creation of reality according to the artists's metaphysical value-judgements". This is because there are so many epistemologies, and the various strains of art follow right along with the artist's epistemology/psychology. For example, art such as Andy Warhol's soup cans, or other pop art which is basically a collage of images from pop culture, is similar to any philosophy that thinks our ideas are adopted arbitrarily from the culture around us. Impressionism is based on the various philosophies that downplay objective reality and reduce perception to unintegrated sense-data. Abstract Expressionism is derived from any philosophy that holds that there is no reality, or that reality is not absolute, and our perceptions are everything -- and are whatever we feel they should be. At the extreme end, "happenings" (a man crossing the street at 10:18 AM on Thursday is a work of art) and "found objects", which are as close to saying that "anything is art" as possible, are corrolaries of a "philosophy" that rejects systematic thought, or Zen Bhuddism, which more or less advocates existence without thought and action (!), such that any rock, any tree, any thought, any building or living thing, all have equal significance; they simply are. At the very least, to say that these things are not "art" denies that there is an underlying belief system behind them, and prevents us from properly analyzing them. It is certainly debatable whether or not some of the ideas behind these things are philosophy, namely: is a philosophy that is so bad that it ignores or undercuts truths that are critical to philosophy really a philosphy? However, inasmuch as a philosphy is a belief system, it is usually accepted as a philosphy, albeit a bad one. And similarly, many things may be accepted as art, but as bad art.
  15. My take on the art vs. craft issue is that art projects a world view and craft does not. Craft does not re-present reality and so it does not provide the mind the same benefit as art, which is a projection of epistemology, psychology and metaphysics, i.e. a belief system and a way of intefacing with the world from a mental standpoint. In many other regards, they are simlilar, and I've seen plenty of crafts and everyday designed objects that were extremely artistic and have been much more interesting and exciting to look at than many art works I've seen.
  16. I don't think it should. I don't believe it's the same thing to say that something is art and that something is artistic. To say something is artistic is to say that it shares some of the characteristics of art, but not necessarily all of them, or the essential ones. So, it could simply be beautiful, or well-crafted, etc. I have no problem with cars and furniture being in art museums for this reason. And also, the same people who go to view art are probably going to be inclined to apprececiate the other items as well, plus: what better place is there? For example, a history museum is a possibility, but some of the things might be new, and we are not viewing them principally as historical objects.
  17. What most impressed me about the band is that their amps go all the way up to "11".
  18. Overall I liked this movie in spite of its darkness. Kevin Spacey's character's reward for finally thinking/living independently is essentially death -- a very pessimistic -- and in my opinion unrealistic/ironic -- idea. But the acting was very good, the movie was well filmed/directed, and I thought the characters were intriguing, albeit non-heroic. I guess you have to be willing to appreciate the good parts of a rather depressing story: as you said, the father's and daughter's struggle for independence and the feeling of being alive.
  19. I find it hard to imagine the phrases "right to property" and "right to economic initiative" coming from the Catholic Church, but if they did I'd be interested to know about it. What is the evidence for this statement (i.e. quotes from official Church documents or transcription of a Church representative saying these things)? AlexL's examples are clear condemnations of capitalism as defined by Objectivism (based on individual rights and backed by rational selfishness). The other "forms" of capitalism are, in my experience, a confused mess of ideas that have little to do with capitalism (for example, the idea that a business being granted unfair favors by government is an example of capitalism at work). As far as I can see, AlexL's point stands.
  20. What a monster thread has grown here in a few days... GreedyCapitalist, for the record I think you've handled the situation effectively and even-handedly, both regarding the moderator and the requests for rules/features. Nice job. It seems that the crux of this issue is that stephen_speicher, as an academic who depends on his reputation "in print", is unwilling to tolerate that someone could masquerade as him/edit his posts without his knowledge. The fact that it was done calls into question the safety and integrity of all his previous posts. The first problem, then, would seem to be that a user is not automatically notified when there is a change to their post. Such notification is left to the discretion of the moderator. I have not seen any suggestion by GreedyCapitalist or anyone else that this notification can be made automatic, and since the forum software appears to be a commercial product, it's not going to be possible to just add this feature unless it's part of an upgrade by the the manufacturer. The second problem would seem be with the lack of an audit trail to follow in case posts are edited. Based on what I have read here, the forum software: 1) Saves deleted posts (really it's just "moving" them out of the live forum into a hidden area). 2) Does not make a copy of edited posts; i.e. it updates them in-place, so that the original contents are gone unless there's a backup of the database. Assuming my description is correct, can either of these issues be remedied? Can notification be made automatic and can copies be kept of edits?
  21. Redfarmer, I'm surprised to hear you say that anyone would say you are talking down to them, because based on your posts here, you seem to state things rationally and non-confrontationally. But since you asked... I'll assume here that "talking down" means that you are making a negative personal judgement of someone, and saying they are less than you in some way. There are legitimate and non-legitimate reasons for such a reaction. A legitimate reason would be that you really are doing it (leaving aside for the moment whether this is good or bad). A non-legitimate reason could be that someone is incorrectly interpreting your logical argument as a personal attack on them (assuming that it's not such an attack). Regarding the latter, there is little you can do; if someone is mistaken, more likely than not the problem is with them, not you. It may be based on past experiences, insecurities, whatever. As far as tactics go, I agree with erandror: "Don't give your evaluation of the ideas before examining them". Objectivism makes many judgements about ideas, morality, etc., and in a discussion/debate, this tends to make people defensive if it criticizes something they have a deep personal stake in. That's unavoidable. I would simply present logical arguments first, and show how they inevitably lead to the judgements, as appropriate. If someone is rational and open to good ideas, they will find the ideas compelling in their own right, and will then be more open to the judgements, because they will see that they are right. I probably don't need to tell you this, but I tend to give people a fair amount of slack on the assumption that they are basically good and open to reason, and if only they see the point of a rational argument, they will agree. Obviously this is not always the case, but this is my starting premise. Once I see they are not open, I don't waste my time, and end the discussion.
  22. That's a good - albeit scary - analogy. Another one I was thinking of came up recently on another site - that weight-lifter's forum (which I think you posted to) - and was the idea that Ayn Rand co-opted/warped the definition of "selfishness" into "rational self-interest" in order to sell more books. While I think that idea is vicious garbage, it did raise this same philosophical issue for me, namely, if selfishness is changed to mean "rational self-interest", what happens to all the truly bad people that were once referred to by this term - what do we call them? An example would be a husband who panics and abandons his wife and child on a sinking ship to take the last life boat, or (more mundane examples:) someone who cuts in the front of a line, or never pays for dinner even though others do, even though they are equally capable of doing so. These people used to be lumped together with, say, someone of integrity who stands up for their (rational) idea in the face of (irrational) criticism, and won't change their mind. Perhaps these are simply hedonists. Speaking of co-opt, I don't want to co-opt this thread, I just wanted to mention the similarity I saw. I need to think about it some more anyway.
  23. I do remember that discussion by her. When you posted your definition, I knew there was something she wrote about it, but could not remember what, or if I had, how to apply it to this situation. I was interested in your particular reasons as well, and that's pretty much what I thought was behind your definition. As to what might be missing, I would like to hear more specifics on this topic, since I don't remember there being much more than what you described. I think this topic would make an interesting subject for a longer essay. Objectivism has redefined many popular terms, and this issue is bound to come up again in the future the more widely the philosophy becomes discussed. Thanks.
  24. Good move - it's the right thing to do. And thank goodness some in the music industry finally got it through their incredibly thick skulls and started to partner with sombody to open legal download stores. Ever since Apple's site opened, I've been buying tunes one at a time and loving it.
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