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Conflicting Conclusions and therefore Conflict of Interest

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Disagreements are not conflicts of interests. A rational person understands that other rational individuals at any one time and in specialized spheres have less or more conceptual knowledge than he/she, since rationality is a dedicated process, isn't a fixed and final state. They will inform and listen and attempt to persuade, but respectfully let reality and outcomes be the judge. Mostly, all parties benefit, come out with better understanding. If one claims total knowledge -or, quite, omniscience, ET - that's where conflicts of interest may enter. A notorious incident of a lapse of rationality by rational men I think was the Kelly-Peikoff saga. Each certainly saw the same maximum goal in furthering the philosophy but allowed their differences over an intellectual point to - dogmatically - cause a conflict of interest, a breach, divisive of Objectivism at the time, which echoes still, imo.

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I mean, you've been asked a few times exactly why you have a different view. You began the discussion by suggesting that Rand didn't understand the "common meaning", and/or was really only talking abo

You keep giving different versions of the same scenario. I keep asking each time why you think it is a conflict of interest, or phrased differently, which interests conflict.  At this point it'

ET, Thanks for bringing up this issue. I think of the conflicts of interests that brought on the American Civil War. Slavery was a crucial economic factor of production and profit in the Sou

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5 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

There seems to be agreement that "conflict" will always exist no matter what.

The disagreement is about "conflict of interest" not "conflict". (problem is that any conflict is about wants, is that interest?) The question hinges on the definition of interest. Does interest mean wants, as in desires? If so, there will always be conflict of wants. But the definition must be "what is objectively good for you" not simply what you want. What is actually good for you is your interest. If so, then the precondition is rational thinking, meaning a "well thought through want".

 

But a rational person will have objective wants/needs/desires. They are not, or not necessarily, subjective. We have to broaden "interests" to cover every possible "interest" to the rational human - physical, materialist, spiritual, and so on - I was saying.

Else this gets narrowed down and quibbled over.

To highlight the point, I paraphrase the original quote:

*There are no conflicts of ¬happiness¬ between rational men*.

Otherwise, your post has good thoughts.

 

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On 10/3/2020 at 12:36 PM, merjet said:

I suggest that the main topic of Rand's essay is that there is a harmony of interests among rational men. If rational men's interests were harmonious, e.g.,  98% of the time, it would still sound fine to me to say there is generally a harmony of interests among rational men. Why the need to claim 100% instead of 98%? On the flip side, why the need to say 'no conflicts of interests' instead of 'rare conflicts of interests'  or 'there are conflicts only 2% of the time'?

Suppose one might get supper either by fishing or by hunting quail. Decide to go fishing, and one might or might not win supper. Decide to go hunting, and one might or might not win supper. In a scenario in which those are the only feasible ways of getting a supper today, staying on the porch in the rocking chair instead of undertaking either venture is not in one’s interest of having a supper.

Voluntary, rights-respecting exchanges of labor or property are ventures. In such an exchange, one may do poorly or succeed to various degrees. But I’d think all such wins or losses are not sensibly counted as affecting the interest one has in such venturing. There seems to be two sorts of one’s interest here at stake in the rocking chair.

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Yes, and in those exchanges with two or more people, there remains a difference in kind between one's interest in entering into such exchanges and one's interest in the outcome of a particular exchange. There are no conflicts of rational interests in the having of such a framework for such exchanges in which one party fares better than the other in a particular exchange

The context of Rand's claim is as follows:

"Just as there are no contradictions in my values and no conflicts among my desires---so there are no victims and conflicts of interest among rational men, men who do not desire the unearned and do not view one another with a cannibal's lust, men who neither make sacrifices nor accept them. / The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader." (1957, 1022)

(That first sentence reminds me of Plato in Republic concerning constitution of soul and city. Only Rand proposed a different constitution of the both of them.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS - I should like to add that this conception of Rand's receives excellent treatments by Darryl Wright in his contribution "Rand's Social Philosophy" in the Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand in his subsection "The Question of Conflicts of Interest" and by Gregory Salmieri in his contribution "Selfish Regard for the Rights of Others" in Foundations of a Free Society - Reflections on Ayn Rand's Political Philosophy in his subsection "The Selfishness of Trade and Self-Destructiveness of Force.)

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1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

I should like to add that this conception of Rand's receives excellent treatments by Darryl Wright in his contribution "Rand's Social Philosophy" in the Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand in his subsection "The Question of Conflicts of Interest" and by Gregory Salmieri in his contribution "Selfish Regard for the Rights of Others" in Foundations of a Free Society - Reflections on Ayn Rand's Political Philosophy in his subsection "The Selfishness of Trade and Self-Destructiveness of Force.)

I don’t have Companion to Ayn Rand on my bookshelf. However, based on what I can see with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, Darryl Wright does not address even once the kinds of situations addressed here.

I do have Foundations of a Free Society on my bookshelf. I looked at Gregory Salmieri’s subsection "The Question of Conflicts of Interest." He does not address even once the kinds of situations addressed here. He says nothing about co-workers (within the same company) either.

 

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Merjet, you do realize that you claimed there are rational conflicts of interest, but then when asked to give an example of such a thing, you said it was impossible. If it's impossible, that means there are no rational conflicts of interest. It seemed like you tried to give an example before, but when I asked you what made it a conflict of interest, you never answered, and you were even saying that what I thought was the conflict wasn't the conflict.

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5 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Merjet, you do realize that you claimed there are rational conflicts of interest, but then when asked to give an example of such a thing, you said it was impossible. If it's impossible, that means there are no rational conflicts of interest. 

Get your story straight. I said "impossible" to 2046, not you. It is impossible on 2046's premises, but it is not impossible on mine. 

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9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The disagreement is about "conflict of interest" not "conflict". (problem is that any conflict is about wants, is that interest?)

A conflict of wants is a conflict of interest. But it should be clear that when we are talking about conflicts of interest, Rand too, we are not talking about the mere momentary presence of a conflict. It's talking about what would happen in the long run. Consider the partial quote that merjet provided: “It is only among the irrational … that chance rivalries, accidental conflicts and blind choices prevail”. Notice the word prevail. That implies a future state of affairs. The focus isn't on momentary conflicts, it's on recognizing that there is a state of affairs separate from what you believe about them. The conflict only exists insofar as you believe it is there. Rational people according to Rand would understand that much, so rational people know that all they need to do is find the solution. Perhaps we can criticize how Rand has formulated the argument, but her position is consistent. Can a solution always be found? I think so, but I think it would be a reasonable argument to say that a solution cannot always be found. 

I think that covers everything you said, but if it doesn't, let me know.

Merjet, 2046 was saying the same thing as me, so it was a response to my position as well. His question to you uses your premises implicitly. At this point, I don't think you're helping to move along the discussion.

 

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50 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

A conflict of wants is a conflict of interest. But it should be clear that when we are talking about conflicts of interest, Rand too, we are not talking about the mere momentary presence of a conflict. It's talking about what would happen in the long run.

Even in the case of "long term conflict", the language is absolute, that conflict would not occur at all.

Again, the issue of percent comes up. At what percent is a conflict long term or short term.

The contention of "no conflict" eliminates variations in percent, likelihood, rareness, duration, and even severity. It eliminates "long term conflict". It means there is none. (This seems obvious)

Are we agreeing that she was using metaphoric language when saying "no conflict", that it was not precise language?

Because instead of conflict she could have used "long term conflict".

If she "actually" somehow said that there will be "some" conflict, then okay.

If we all understand, we should not take what she said literally, there would be no disagreement.

If we should "interpret it" differently from what we read, if her words mean different things than what she wrote, in the long run, it will cause immense conflict between all of us. So let's be rational about it. LOL

51 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Can a solution always be found? I think so, but I think it would be a reasonable argument to say that a solution cannot always be found.

I suspect she was not being precise (I also think that you will eventually agree with that conclusion because you already seem to).

There is no disagreement that rationality is in fact to the benefit of all when it comes to their relationships, the disagreement is about the claim of prevention ALL conflict.

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In evaluating a philosopher's conclusion or doctrine on something, you generally want to know what they mean when they say things. Otherwise it's a fallacy of equivocation. So if Merlin wants to say "well maybe on Rand's premises there aren't, but on my premises there are!" that is either completely uninteresting contribution to the discussion on Rand's philosophy, or it's a fallacy of equivocation. If Merlin is only playing around with his own premises, then he can do that without my participation. If he's making logical fallacies then he is unworthy of discourse. The question for everyone else is on Rand's premises, are there any conflicts of interest in the sense she means of conflicts, interests, and "among rational men" in the essay?

ET is correct to point out that a lot rides on what she means by those terms. And if you read the essay you see that she wants to say the "rational" understanding as she calls it takes more of the context (or sometimes she says "interrelated considerations") into consideration when considering their interest. ET asks does this require omniscience? Well gee if only there were some place where one could find out what she means. Perhaps she even lists out four kinds of context in the actual essay? Unfortunately we may never know.

Eiuol asks whether a conflict of wants is a conflict of interest. But specifically in the essay she states that to hold that one's interests are frustrated whenever a desire is thwarted is to hold a subjectivist view of interests, and this is something she doesn't hold. By this I take it she means in Euthyphroean terms, that something isn't an interest merely because it's wanted. So I don't know if she would countenance this "long term conflict vs short term conflict" distinction because she wouldn't say the mere wanting or something counts as a genuine interest. She does make a distinction between competition and conflict of interest, which does include some consideration of time.

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

By this I take it she means in Euthyphroean terms, that something isn't an interest merely because it's wanted. So I don't know if she would countenance this "long term conflict vs short term conflict" distinction because she wouldn't say the mere wanting or something counts as a genuine interest.

This is a better way to say what I was thinking. I was basically trying to say that initially there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest (the belief that there is a conflict of interest) but upon further reflection, we would recognize there is no actual conflict of interest (in which case the dispute between interests disappears). 

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Are we agreeing that she was using metaphoric language when saying "no conflict", that it was not precise language?

No we don't agree. I admit that I had a hard time saying what I was thinking, but the above paragraph should make things clear. When I say long-term or short-term, I should instead distinguish between the initial appearance of things (beliefs about the state of affairs that may or may not be objective) from the actual state of affairs (the objective facts of the matter). 

So that should be a reply to your last statement:

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

There is no disagreement that rationality is in fact to the benefit of all when it comes to their relationships, the disagreement is about the claim of prevention ALL conflict.

It's not really that rational thought prevents all conflict, but that rational thought tells us that "conflicts of interest" don't exist in any genuine sense. I'm just checking though, by all conflict, do you mean even preventing conflict with irrational people? I didn't think you did, but I'm not sure.

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59 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

This is a better way to say what I was thinking. I was basically trying to say that initially there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest (the belief that there is a conflict of interest) but upon further reflection, we would recognize there is no actual conflict of interest (in which case the dispute between interests disappears). 

The Stoics made a differentiation between what they called impressions and nature. The Sage (a hypothetical exemplar that is always perfectly rational and virtuous) never assents to impressions without using his intellect to assess the source of the impression. Giving assent to an impression without assessing it would open oneself up to living by misguided thoughts and appearances. Taking a wider point of view to nature is supposed to allow one to see how one is a part of the world and subject to cause and change, and living amongst other people, and thus not fall inadvertently into thinking the world revolves around you and being overtaken by the passions and irrational thoughts.

So they would say things like: remind yourself throughout your day, that you didn't just want to go to the market. You wanted to go to the market plus live according to nature. And part of that is knowing that it rains sometimes, and rain collects into puddles, and one might sometime step into one. And part of nature is that there are other people in the world and these people are potentially not paying attention or ignorant, and thus apt to splash mud onto you. That way, one could control one's anger or whatever the case could be.

In the essay Rand says (VOS ch. 4) in choosing your goals you don't treat the desire as an irreducible primary and so one could take this as not assenting to initial impressions (which can be passions or appearances) and trying to take a wider view of things. One revises one's thoughts and assents when one tries to assess the impressions by a given criteria.

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All of the above discussion applies only to the relationships among rational men and only to a free society. In a free society, one does not have to deal with those who are irrational. One is free to avoid them.

In a non-free society, no pursuit of any interests is possible to anyone; nothing is possible but gradual and general destruction.

(The "Conflicts" of Men's Interests, The Objectivist Newsletter, August 1962)

 

This is a curious conclusion to Rand's essay. Her entire argument appears to rest on the final claim that in a free society we don't have to deal with irrational people and in a non-free society it's impossible to pursue our interests. So does her position fall apart if it turns out that in a free society sometimes we do have to deal with irrational people, and in a non-free society it's possible to pursue our interests?

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that our society is a mixture of free and non-free aspects. So in any particular interaction, how do we determine if it's possible or impossible to pursue our interests? And if it's impossible, does that mean we live in a non-free society? If so, shouldn't it be time to pick up arms and revolt?

Another part of the problem is that we don't always know whether a person is rational or irrational. Making this determination sometimes requires much exposure to their thinking process, which they must share with us, since we are not mindreaders. So how do we know if a particular conflict of interests is due to a rational or irrational thought process? Should we simply assume that if there is a conflict, it's due to irrationality? Why? Because "there are no conflicts of interests among rational men"? That principle appears to be based on assuming the thinking processes of others.

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17 hours ago, 2046 said:

In evaluating a philosopher's conclusion or doctrine on something, you generally want to know what they mean when they say things. Otherwise it's a fallacy of equivocation. So if Merlin wants to say "well maybe on Rand's premises there aren't, but on my premises there are!" that is either completely uninteresting contribution to the discussion on Rand's philosophy, or it's a fallacy of equivocation. If Merlin is only playing around with his own premises, then he can do that without my participation. If he's making logical fallacies then he is unworthy of discourse. The question for everyone else is on Rand's premises, are there any conflicts of interest in the sense she means of conflicts, interests, and "among rational men" in the essay?

Your big ifs posit false alternatives. Rand’s premises ignore a lot. Reality isn’t just about John Galt vs Wesley Mouch, Orren Boyle, or James Taggart. Reality isn’t just about the individual vs. government, or the virtuous vs. the far from virtuous.

Is the following a bad premise? There is a general harmony of interests among rational men. Most interactions are cooperative and peaceful. It’s not perfect. Some conflicts rise, but they are rare and they tend to be mild. Rational men settle them with negotiation and persuasion rather than coercion.

In the business world, all producers aren’t self-employed who only trade with others. In fact, a minority are. Many workers in today’s world work in an organization of many other workers. They work as part of a team. They need to cooperate. They may think independently, but they may not act independently. They act not solely for themselves, but for the good of the organization or their part of it. One can ask, do conflicts of interest ever arise in such an environment? Or one can dismiss it as “completely uninteresting” or a “fallacy of equivocation.”

In the real world, there are many conflicts of interest as described here. One can ask, are there some questions worth asking about them? Or one can dismiss them because Ayn Rand had nothing to say about them.

 

14 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

This is a curious conclusion to Rand's essay. Her entire argument appears to rest on the final claim that in a free society we don't have to deal with irrational people and in a non-free society it's impossible to pursue our interests. So does her position fall apart if it turns out that in a free society sometimes we do have to deal with irrational people, and in a non-free society it's possible to pursue our interests?

Indeed, a theory built on a giant IF. In other words, a theory built on Ayn Rand’s ideally rational men, not real rational people.

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39 minutes ago, merjet said:

In the real world, there are many conflicts of interest as described here. One can ask, are there some questions worth asking about them? Or one can dismiss them because Ayn Rand had nothing to say about them.

Just scanning the highlights, this was found:

Related to the practice of law.

Conflict of interests have been described as the most pervasive issue facing modern lawyers. Legal conflicts rules are at their core corollaries to a lawyer's two basic fiduciary duties:

The lawyer's duty of loyalty is fundamental to the attorney-client relationship and has developed from the biblical maxim that no person can serve more than one master.

What if that master were reason?

A person who keeps reason forefront, and allows nothing higher than the judgement of their own mind is of Miss Rand's ideally rational man. Is this not an achievable attribute of real rational people?

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31 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

The lawyer's duty of loyalty is fundamental to the attorney-client relationship and has developed from the biblical maxim that no person can serve more than one master.

What if that master were reason?

A person who keeps reason forefront, and allows nothing higher than the judgement of their own mind is of Miss Rand's ideally rational man. Is this not an achievable attribute of real rational people?

For the context I submit that reason is not a person. "Master" seems to call for a person.

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41 minutes ago, merjet said:

For the context I submit that reason is not a person. "Master" seems to call for a person.

I think the biblical reference (Matthew 6:24) offers god or mammon, where mammon is wealth. While wealth is man-made, it is typically not regarded as a person.

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19 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

I think the biblical reference (Matthew 6:24) offers god or mammon, where mammon is wealth. While wealth is man-made, it is typically not regarded as a person.

Sorry. The context I meant was the attorney, client, and loyalty. "The lawyer's duty of loyalty is fundamental to the attorney-client relationship and has developed from the biblical maxim that no person can serve more than one master."

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55 minutes ago, merjet said:

Sorry. The context I meant was the attorney, client, and loyalty. "The lawyer's duty of loyalty is fundamental to the attorney-client relationship and has developed from the biblical maxim that no person can serve more than one master."

What of justice? It is not a person either, although it relates to the basis for evaluating people. Is the lawyer's loyalty to the client to disregard justice. Another basis for movies and books is where those viewed as serving the cause of justice come to know that their client is guilty and what they choose to do with that knowledge.

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

What of justice? It is not a person either, although it relates to the basis for evaluating people. Is the lawyer's loyalty to the client to disregard justice[?]

No. The lawyer's role in to do the best he/she can for his/her client. Justice is the primary responsibility of the judge(s) or jury if it gets that far, or an arbitrator.

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10 hours ago, merjet said:

No. The lawyer's role in to do the best he/she can for his/her client. Justice is the primary responsibility of the judge(s) or jury if it gets that far, or an arbitrator.

I get what you are saying. I don't like it. It seems that if a lawyer knows his client is guilty, it amounts to them trying to 'con' the legal system. 

While the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is due process, the proof in the case of a guilty client is actively being circumvented, suppressed, or etc., by his counselor. 

The onus of proof is being upheld and thrust where it belongs if the case isn't solid enough to see through a 'con' then.

There is still something I don't like about it, even though I can tease it out to this point.

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19 hours ago, merjet said:

In the real world, there are many conflicts of interest as described here. One can ask, are there some questions worth asking about them? Or one can dismiss them because Ayn Rand had nothing to say about them.

Let us take this opportunity to discuss the metaphilosophical issues confronting the way you are required to do philosophy, before I turn to my usual dismissiveness. And yes I am choosing my words purposefully, philosophy is normative and has requirements. You are required (in the sense that you can be held to it) to do (at minimum) alternatively 1-7 below in order to do philosophy well. If I turn in a paper that doesn't follow these methods (among others), I get a bad grade. (This list is not intended be exhaustive.)

In the OP, ET says he "can't integrate" the conflicts of interest idea. Weirdly, I presume he's talking about Rand's philosophy. Philosophy assignments generally ask you to consider some thesis, usually a thesis or argument that has been presented by another philosopher. Given the thesis or argument of the philosopher being presented, you may be asked to:

1. Explain what the thesis is, to include what the philosopher means by the relevant terms and concepts used by the philosopher in the text.

2. Offer an argument in support of the it.

3. Offer an objection to it.

4. Defend the argument against an objection.

5. Evaluate whether the thesis succeeds, or arguments and concepts employed make sense or are valid.

6. Discuss the consequences of accepting or rejection the thesis.

7. Determine what other positions or concepts might commit one to it, or be held consistent with it. 

Sometimes you may be asked to complete only some of these tasks. One could do 2 without doing 3-7. But no matter which of 2-7 one is attempting to do, one has to meet 1 as a structural requirement, because failing to understand a text, and reading into it one's own meaning is called the fallacy of equivocation. If I don't demonstrate 1, to include being precise with what the philosopher I'm analyzing's meaning is (and sharply differentiate it from what my own version or meaning of terms may be), my paper gets rejected and I have to redo it.

An example of good philosophy would be something like this:

You are tasked to evaluate Smith's argument in the Treatise on Free Will that people lack free will. At the beginning of your paper you state something like: In this paper, I will refute Smith's argument against the existence of free will. I will counter what I will call Smith's "argument from chance" by showing that indeterminism does not mean mental acts are random. I will analyze and clarify several concepts, including necessity and possibility, chance or randomness, and determinism and indeterminism.

All of this requires that you show that you understand what Smith means when Smith uses a term and don't substitute your own meaning and then judge Smith by that meaning. If you did that, your paper would be returned and you would have to redo it. You, of course, may disagree with Smith's usage of terms, or the way he conceptualizes things. But you have to demonstrate that you know, in the first place, what he means by the terms, and then in the second place you use arguments to show why your usage is better. You can't just assert things. If you do that, your paper is returned.

Now it is certainly true that one studies philosophy not merely to find out what philosophers have said, but to get to the truth of the matter. But one will not get to the truth of the matter through poor reasoning. Of course there are a vast number of questions one can ask about conflicts of interest, or about any one given aspect, say what our interests are, or in what sense conflict is meant. And Rand is just one philosopher talking about this and has a certain way of looking at it. I don't take anything she's saying as an exhaustive treatment either.

ET or others can clarify what his/their questions may be. But I take it we're discussing Rand's chapter 4 of VOS. And since she isn't talking about financial conflicts, principal-agent conflicts, conflicts of opinion or conclusion, then those things won't help us understand her thesis, and thus makes evaluating it impossible. She uses "interest" unequivocally to describe the scope of one's good or wellbeing in life. We know this because she uses the term "interest" in a specific way throughout her writing, especially in the introduction to that very same book. It may be, for example, that there could be "financial conflicts of interest" and not a conflict "amongst rational men" in Rand's sense. Or it may be that there are conflicts of good-interests, but not conflicts of opinion-interests. Merely raising the question will not do. You have to show your work. And obviously this is not a paper and no one is trying to write a dissertation on here. But just as a paper differs from a dissertation, yet still follows the requirements of good reasoning, so a forum post differs from a paper, but still must follow the requirements of good philosophy writing. So while one would not be expected to reproduce a paper, the form or structure of the method or approach should be the same.

Thing is, I don't think Merlin knows anything about 1-7, mainly because he's not that good or smart. Most of his posts are a smattering of isolated assertions without argument, or question begging framing. Most can resolve to "begging all of the relevant questions and adopting my entire framework, that's is not how X, Y, or Z works in the real world, bucko." Well, no shit.

I pointed this out too with his discussion of Rand's egoism. He basically says, I'm going to interpret statement P as X. Well what about all this preponderance of statements that seem to support not-X, but Y. Well I'm going to interpret it however I want, what are you some dogmatist not willing to look outside of Y? Unfortunately, this is the fallacy of equivocation and bad scholarship. 

So, to that, I will paraphrase a quotation from Thomas Reid: It is as useless to argue about some proposition in geometry with someone who rejects the axioms of geometry as it is with a man that believes he is made of glass. Such a person who will not grant the requirements of good reasoning is unfit to be reasoned with.

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On 10/6/2020 at 10:43 AM, Eiuol said:

It's not really that rational thought prevents all conflict, but that rational thought tells us that "conflicts of interest" don't exist in any genuine sense. I'm just checking though, by all conflict, do you mean even preventing conflict with irrational people? I didn't think you did, but I'm not sure.

Any conflict of interest between rational people would not exist.

Translates to "all" conflict of interest would be eliminated. (so not including irrational people except that ... irrationality is part of the most rational amongst us )

I'm trying to make your explanation convince me, but there is an immediate emotional reaction like: This is a dangerous idea, telling everyone to be rational so that we don't have any more conflicts (about what we should want) ... ever.

But as 2046 says, if we took all contexts into account, then yes, I would agree that we would eliminate conflict of interest.

But we won't always take all contexts in mind even if we took an oath to rationality (in any genuine sense). If we were Vulcan's, maybe. Or if Harry Potter gave us the right incantation to use, sure.

 

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