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konerko14
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Heres two more quotes from Atlas Shrugged(they are only a couple pages apart):

Lee Hunsaker, president of Amalgamated Service, during a conversation with Dagny, kept saying, "if anybody would ever give me a chance." He goes on to say: "..we were young men embarking on great careers... But do you think anybody gave us any encouragement? They did not. Not those greedy, entrenched vultures of priviledge..."

Eugene Lawson, president of bank who loaned a large amount to Twentieth Century because they "needed it". Talking to Dagny, about his lost fortune: "But I do not mind it. What I lost was mere material wealth. I am not the first man in history to suffer for an ideal. I was defeated by the selfish greed of those around me. I couldnt establish a system of brotherhood and love in just one small state, amidst a nation of profit-seekers and dollar-grubbers."

Same basic thing, here you have antagonists using the concept in its full meaning as an anti-concept. "Profit seeking" is greed? What happened to the quantity of profit seeking? Blank-out. Not giving encouragement is greed? hmmm.

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Does that mean there is no proper way to use the word 'greed', at least until there is a correct definition? And how does one go about defining it?
The proper logical sequence is to determine what you want to say, and then determine how to say it best. You can quite properly use an undefined word, in exactly the way that Rand used "greedy", to represent the reality of what people do actually say; and concretely you can use it to draw attention to the epistemological and moral chaos that ensues from having an undefined or contradictory basis for judging a person. Don't go about trying to define the word "greed", because it's hopeless. Instead, consider what existents you want to refer to, and then find the right word. In short, primacy of existence, not primacy of words.
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Why cant the word be properly defined? What makes it so different from any other word?
More specifically, I'm saying that you cannot do it. (You can't, I can't, one can't). You have to play the cards you're dealt. So given the (minimal) meaning that "greedy" has in English, you cannot declare "Henceforth, 'greedy' shall be used to refer to worthless people like Michael Moore". It's a cute idea, but unrealistic, because word meaning is not set by fiat. This is a fact about words in general, not just this one word. First we need a concept, and it should be defined; and this concept has to be mentally represented in the language as a word. But logically prior is the integration of two or more units sharing characteristics... if the concept has no referents, why are you worried about the word. Concepts first, words last.
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First we need a concept, and it should be defined; and this concept has to be mentally represented in the language as a word. But logically prior is the integration of two or more units sharing characteristics... if the concept has no referents, why are you worried about the word. Concepts first, words last.

Can you explain this again? Im not quite getting it. Give me an example if you can.

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Can you explain this again? Im not quite getting it. Give me an example if you can.
Well, suppose you discover some new rocks and in the course of fiddling with them, learn that they have remarkable properties. You analyze their structure and ultimately find that you have uncovered something general -- a new metal that is extremely strong yet lightweight. The units that you've integrated are "this piece of rock", "that piece of rock" and "yonder piece of rock", and any like it. Your metallurgical studies reveal the defining atomic / crystalline structure of the metal, which distinguishes it from e.g. iron and titanium. For a few years, you try to sell bars of this metal but sales are flat because you're calling it "This cool new metal that I discovered". One day, you name the concept "Konerkonium", and sales soar.

That is, you form the concept by identifying existents, isolating their distinguishing characteristics, and finally represent that concept economically with a name. You don't start with a name and then look for some concept to apply it to.

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And anyhow, "wanting more than one deserves" is not "the" meaning of the word, that is a spin put on the meaning by certain lexicographers. But let us just live with this definition for the moment. Then consider the typical wealthy tycoon, who is accused of greed, such as John D. Rockefeller or Bill Gates. But these gents deserve the wealth that they acquired, so the label doesn't refer to them. How about Rupert Murdoch, worth a mere $7.8 billion? No, he actually earned his wealth, so he deserved it, and he's not greedy either. So I'm having a hard time actually finding anyone who is greedy.

Oh, wait, I found one! Michael Moore apparently has multiple millions of dollars. And he does not deserve a dime. So he is our example of greed. Then I think I would agree that greed is evil.

David, I have a question for you on this. (despite my utter hatred for Michael Moore) How does Moore not deserve his money? Did he not create a product that others found of value and were willing to buy? (Or is it merely because his product is immoral to begin with?) Thanks for a clarification!

I still like my view of the petty thief as greedy, but I may just be silly.

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How does Moore not deserve his money? Did he not create a product that others found of value and were willing to buy? (Or is it merely because his product is immoral to begin with?)
Isn't it nice when you have an anti-concept like "greed" that depends on a notion like "what you deserve"? I've been doing my best to find any example of people who are "greedy", since if there were such a concept, then the concept should have a meaning -- so who are the referents?? Now of course if "greed" is an anti-concept with no meaning -- no referents -- then there doesn't have to exist any person who is "greedy". Well, I tried my best to find someone who got more that they deserved, and I guess my conception of "value for value" isn't the same as that of the Michael Moore fans.
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Isn't it nice when you have an anti-concept like "greed" that depends on a notion like "what you deserve"? I've been doing my best to find any example of people who are "greedy", since if there were such a concept, then the concept should have a meaning -- so who are the referents?? Now of course if "greed" is an anti-concept with no meaning -- no referents -- then there doesn't have to exist any person who is "greedy". Well, I tried my best to find someone who got more that they deserved, and I guess my conception of "value for value" isn't the same as that of the Michael Moore fans.

True. I haven't figured out why ANYONE could like anything he does...but, then, I never cared that much to begin with.

Out of curiousity, does my petty thief example work? Or were you merely trying to provide an emphasis to the "what's enough?" question?

I'm a bit lost on the "anti-concept" concept ( :lol: ) so I'm going to go back and read up on that some more...

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That is, you form the concept by identifying existents, isolating their distinguishing characteristics, and finally represent that concept economically with a name. You don't start with a name and then look for some concept to apply it to.

When a new term is created, how does it catch on so everyone knows the same meaning to it? Whats the process of a creation of new word?

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When a new term is created, how does it catch on so everyone knows the same meaning to it? Whats the process of a creation of new word?
I'm guessing there are mutiple reasons, but in the cases that come first to my mind, like "web", "bot", "podcasting", there is something that needs a concept. There is some new activity or entity... some identification of similarity among existents for which there is a need for a concept. Someone coins a word for the concept and people pick it up if there's a need for a concept and if the word seems to fit. [Here are Macmillan's 25 most popular new words of 2005. I don't know what half of them mean.]
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I didn't read every post in this thread, but on page 684 of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand says, "The pursuit of wealth is greed, the root of all evil?" I think "the pursuit of wealth" is a good definition for greed, and it is usually what people mean when they use the word (the negative connotations come from most people's negative evaluation of the pursuit of wealth).

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When a new term is created, how does it catch on so everyone knows the same meaning to it? Whats the process of a creation of new word?
As SN sez... the thing or activity becomes important enough to recognize as distinct from other things. so you form a concept, and part of that process is coming up with a name. The mechanics are highly variable -- basically, "whatever works". 10 years ago, new words would not be disseminated through blogs (first they had to invent the blog and come up with a name for it). The physical extent and speed of dissemination of new concepts and names via electronic media is vastly greater than the old method (print and word of mouth), and we can't compute the consequences for epistemology on the ground; but that's a separate issue.
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I think "the pursuit of wealth" is a good definition for greed, and it is usually what people mean when they use the word (the negative connotations come from most people's negative evaluation of the pursuit of wealth).
Right, and continuing that passage, "We do not seek to make fortunes any longer. It is evil to earn more than one's bare sustenance? We take nothing but the lowliest jobs and we produce, by the effort of our muscles, no more than we consume for our immediate needs—with not a penny nor an inventive thought left over to harm the world.". The term "wealth" also suffers from some vagueness, so I think to make clear what "greed" is (if we agree that this definition identifies what we are referring to when we talk of "greed"), the definition should be, more explicitly, "the pursuit of any value beyond that needed for one's bare sustenance". I don't think that actually corresponds to what people (generally) have in mind when they speak of a person being greedy. For instance, most people probably don't think that buying a car is an act of greed, but technically it would be, since one isn't necessary for bare sustenance. That is, it's not simple wealth, but excess wealth, that is, more than one deserves.

One way to address the issue is to state objectively the criteria for "excess". For example, you could define "excess" as "more than made by 98% of households in the country", That would mean that an annual household income of about $220,000 is defined as "greed" (correspondingly, "poverty" would be defined as making less that about $2,000).

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  • 1 month later...

I agree with the Petty criminal being greedy, but even more greedy is the bum in AS that demanded goods and services, not because he earned it; not because he paid for it, ,but because he suffers. that's the true definition of greedy. only there is a problem there...... If the definition is more than one needs or deserves, theres no doubt that the bum needs it....... so is he not greedy if he needs it but doesn't deserve it?

and then, what about that guy in the party who ate all the scones? would the right word to describe him be "greedy", or "pig"?

Edited by Marty McFly
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Ambition is what Ebenezer Scrooge was when he was young. He earned his money through productive achievement, and was generally happy with his life and his wealth.

Greed is Ebenezer Scrooge when he got older. Technically, he might have still been earning his money, but I don't think he was as productive, he did not get his employees to be as efficient as they could be because he treated them badly, and he did not enjoy his wealth. He made money just to make money, without even benefitting himself.

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