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Title:Objectivism Online: A Marketplace for Ayn Rand's Objectivism
Description:ObjectivismOnline.Net was founded in 2003 as an online community for the discussion and promotion of Objectivist ideas on the web. It contains one of the oldest and largest online Objectivism forums, a busy chat room, resources for student clubs, a meta-blog with contributions by the web's best Objectivism bloggers, and free services such as email and blog hosting.
Keywords:Reason Rights Reality ObjectivismOnline student activism ayn ann rand objectivism objectivist objectivist studies libertarians collectivism socialism statism epistemology metaphysics mysticism a sense of life individual rights individualism politics ethics art free market selfishness self-interest egoism egoist laissez-faire capitalism education university student activism
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Objectivism Online: A Marketplace for Ayn Rand #039;s Objectivism
Objectivism Online: A Marketplace for Ayn Rand #039;s Objectivism

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XKCD Waxes Philosophical
From Erosophia: JasonStotts, cross-posted by MetaBlogby Jason Stotts
I really like this.
(Alt text: Socrates could’ve saved himself a lot of trouble if he’d just bought a flashlight, tranquilizer gun, and a bunch of rescue harnesses.)
Originally posted on Erosophia, by JasonStotts, 2011-03-23T04:28:05Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog
America #39;s quot;Strategic Dementia quot;
From Gus Van Horn: Gus Van Horn, cross-posted by MetaBlogCaroline Glick's column about America's latest round of blunders in the Middle East demands a full read, and lives up to her apt description (in quotes, above) of our strategic posture. Most notably, Glick names the following essential problem our foreign policy:Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced US policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside. [emphasis added]This is not to say that Glick grasps the full philosophical implications of that statement, which Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute indicates in a Voices for Reason post on Libya:When our interests are at stake -- as they were and are in Iran -- we hold back and appease. When someone else's interests appear to be on the line (the rebels and civilians in Libya), we dutifully scramble jet-fighters and put American lives in harm's way, for the sake of serving others. Why? That double standard is rooted in the prevalent, and perverse, moral view that permeates our foreign policy -- a view requiring that we put the needs of others ahead of our own goals and interests. Acting in accordance with that view -- as I argue in my book -- has been enormously destructive to American security and freedom, across decades.Nevertheless, Glick's column, especially with a such a proper understanding in mind, indicates that the problem with American foreign policy in the Middle East is philosophical in nature, and that none of its major undercurrents backs a truly self-interested foreign policy because they all operate on an altruistic premise:The first side in the debate is the anti-imperialist camp, represented by President Barack Obama himself. Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the US as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama's foreign policy has been to end US global hegemony....Like Obama, the neoconservatives are not motivated to act by concern for the US's core regional interests. What motivates them is their belief that the US must always oppose tyranny....To an even greater degree than in Egypt, the debate [over what to do about Libya] was settled by the third US foreign policy camp - the opportunists. Led today by Clinton, the opportunist camp supports whoever they believe is going to make them most popular with the media and Europe.After reiterating that, "how events impact core US regional interests is completely absent from the discussion," Glick paints a dire picture of the consequences for America of not thinking about her interests, and therefore not standing up for herself:[B]y managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea....In anticipation of the Brotherhood's rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt's new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.The junta supports it for the same reason. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby has already called for the opening of Egypt's border with [Hamas-ruled] Gaza.There can be little doubt Hamas's massive rocket barrage against Israel on Saturday was the product of its sense that Egypt is now on its side.As for the Suez Canal, the junta's behavior so far is a cause for alarm. Binding UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from 2007 bars Iran from shipping arms. Yet last month the junta thumbed its nose at international law and permitted two Iranian naval ships to traverse the canal without being inspected. Glick continues with Egypt, noting that, "On every level, a post-Mubarak Egypt threatens the US core interests that Mubarak advanced." Glick then discusses the implications of the situation in Libya in the same vein. Finally, she warns that until and unless America starts acting on behalf of its own interests, its actions will harm itself.Again, read the whole thing.-- CAV----- In Other News -----At The New Clarion, Myrhaf states, "This piece in the New York Times about pharmaceutical companies is depressing. Government intervention is destroying the drug industry." [emphasis added] From the article itself: "The new law also contains a major threat to drug industry profits in a little-known section that would allow centralized price-setting."Meanwhile, here's another threat to American innovation: patent "reform." "The new system would award patents based on who filed an application first rather than who originally generated the idea."Paul Krugman warned us about himself at least nine years ago. As quoted by Rick Danker of Forbes:To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.The idea of attempting to ride economic bubbles to prosperity was a lot funnier when I first encountered it in The Onion. Originally posted on Gus Van Horn, by Gus Van Horn, 2011-03-23T10:21:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog
Brad Thompson on Neoconservatism
From NoodleFood: Diana Hsieh, cross-posted by MetaBlogBrad Thomson's critique of neoconservativism has been featured in an online roundtable on Cato Unbound. I've not yet had time to read the essays myself. However, I was very much impressed with Dr. Thompson's OCON lecture on neoconservatism some years ago. Based on the abstracts, I expect the responses to be of varying quality.Below are Dr. Thompson's article and the responses, with abstracts. More -- particularly Dr. Thompson's responses -- will be posted soon. You'll be able to find that at Cato Unbound.Neoconservatism Unmasked by C. Bradley Thompson.Neoconservative intellectuals often describe themselves as having a particular mode of thinking — maybe even just a “mood.” C. Bradley Thompson argues that neoconservatism is much more than that. Its key philosophical inspiration of comes from Irving Kristol, and particularly from Kristol’s engagement with the philosopher Leo Strauss. Thompson argues that, under Straussean influence, neoconservatives champion the rule of a philosophically cunning elite over a population that will never be able to understand their intellectual masters. Instead, the populace is steered toward self-sacrifice, war, and nationalism — as well as a set of religious and moral beliefs that the elites in no way share. Such a doctrine, Thompson charges, points disturbingly toward fascism.Neoconservatism, Leo Strauss, and the Foundations for Liberty by Douglas Rasmussen.Douglas Rasmussen argues that post-Lockean natural rights theory does not entail nihilism, as Strauss seems to have feared. A further error of Straussean neoconservatism, Rasmussen argues, is that it often conflates society with the state. Although the members of a civil society may rightly desire that society’s continuance, it does not follow that the state must coerce people into being good. Statecraft is not soulcraft; governing consists of setting ground rules that leave individuals free to seek the good.The American Roots of Neoconservatism by Patrick J. DeneenPatrick Deneen disagrees that neoconservatism is alien to the American political tradition. In particular, founders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton envisioned politics as a realm where men of extraordinary wisdom and talent would shape the course of the new nation. The idea that commerce may corrode the morals is certainly present at the founding, as are civic virtue, self-sacrifice, and concern for the public good, the latter to be divined by wise statesmen. The neoconservative claim to Americanism is as strong, if not stronger, than Thompson’s preferred libertarian ideologyStrauss and National Greatness by Damon LinkerDamon Linker argues that, although Thompson’s treatment of neoconservatism has considerable value, he errs in his characterization of Leo Strauss and his followers’ political theory. Strauss was an Aristotelian, Linker argues, and Aristotelian political thought is comparatively benign. Linker also argues that national greatness conservatism—a staple of today’s neoconservatives—is a 1990s addendum to the philosophy with little relation to Strauss, Irving Kristol, or the other early lights of neoconservatism.lililiEnjoy! Originally posted on NoodleFood, by Diana Hsieh, 2011-03-21T14:00:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Ayn Rand #39;s Message to the World
From NoodleFood: Diana Hsieh, cross-posted by MetaBlogHere's a very cool upcoming event -- please spread the word!In a first-of-its-kind event, The Undercurrent and OClubs, two independent Objectivist activist organizations, are joining forces to broadcast a lecture by Yaron Brook to an international audience on the internet and to live college audiences across North America. The lecture will be held on Thursday, March 31st, starting at 6:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 PM Eastern. We will be utilizing a service similar to Livestream (you may have seen a previous Yaron Brook talk there) and it will be available to the general public. The aim of the project is to raise awareness about Objectivism on college campuses by creating a simultaneous national buzz about the event among college students. Secondarily, the project aims to inject life into local campus Objectivist clubs by providing a forum (at local live events) to publicize information about their club's activities.For more information on the event, including links to where you can sign up to view it, visit the event website at: ideas.theundercurrent.info or contact Jared Seehafer at jared@seehafer.netThe lecture title is "Ideas Matter: Ayn Rand's Message to Today's World," and here's the abstract:Today's young people face an uncertain world. Unemployment among recent college graduates is at a record high, the United States is still bogged down in two foreign wars, and the wobbling American economy is in danger of deteriorating further once the Baby Boomers retire.Voters choose between Democrats in one landslide election and Republicans in another, expressing their discontent with each party, and seemingly, their own uncertainty about how America should move forward. Many people wonder: where are we headed? Will America continue to be the land of opportunity, or are our best days behind us?Dr. Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, will argue that the answer to that question depends on what ideas young people accept and fight for. Join Dr. Brook as he goes beyond the headlines, examining the basic ideas that have shaped today's events. And learn why the solution to today's problems lies in rethinking not just our political system, but in abandoning the worship of selflessness.Again, you can RSVP for the event here. Originally posted on NoodleFood, by Diana Hsieh, 2011-03-23T14:00:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

The Symbiosis Between Islam and Multiculturalism
From The Rule of Reason: noreply@blogger.com (Edward Cline), cross-posted by MetaBlogWe begin with a brief description of the origins of multiculturalism by Lewis Loffin, in his article, “The Nazi Roots of Multiculturalism,” about the deleterious effects of multiculturalism. He wrote:The origin of multiculturalism (a secular/leftist belief system) lies with two Nazis, Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man. National Socialism is also another leftist belief system. Their philosophy became the basis of Deconstructionism, an irrational belief system that rejects facts for feelings. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930 - 2004) introduced the term, but he was influenced by Heidegger.Mark Steyn, an irrepressible critic and opponent of Islam and champion of the West, noted during a panel discussion:“You can’t be ‘multicultural’ in Saudi Arabia.” He might have added: nor in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Somalia, the Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Gaza, the West Bank, and Turkey. What did he mean? He meant that Islam is a head-to-toe political/theological totalitarian ideology that commands universal submission and uniformity in all that it surveys, from one’s diet and personal relationships to one’s political views. Slowly the peril is sinking into the heads of policymakers and some politicians. German Chancellor Angela Merkel broke ranks last year and declared that multiculturalism was a failure. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s David Cameron soon after said, “Me, too.”Islam, however, is not a child of multiculturalism. It predates Heidegger and multiculturalism by 1,400 years. It is a monster sanctioned by multiculturalism, a nightmarish phenomenon coaxed back to life and into our lives from a chamber of historical horrors, on a par with the reputation of Vlad the Impaler, who, ironically, resisted Ottoman expansionist policies in the 15th century albeit with a barbarity that matched the Turks’ own and 20th and 21st century jihadist depredations. Without the “conditioning” of men’s minds to uncritically accept multiculturalism in the broader culture – in schools, in business, in art, in language, in advertising – Islam, for one, would never have had a chance to become the formidable enemy it has become. Multiculturalism is the progenitor of political correctness in speech, policy, and action. Political correctness is Orwellian goodthink. Standard English is badthink, if not plain thoughtcrime. Janet Levy, in her forceful article on the steady course of Western dhimmitude, noted that the phenomenon of self-censorship began, not on 9/11, but as a consequence of the violent reaction to the publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons in 2005:Cartoongate ushered in a new standard of behavior that has had a chilling effect on free speech and expression when it comes to all things Muslim. The aftermath of the Mohammed cartoons incident established Muslims as a uniquely protected group to be effectively shielded from all critique and ridicule. Noteworthy is that this new Muslims-only standard mirrors the Islamic doctrine of Shariah that confers superior legal and political status for Muslims in parallel with a subservient status -- dhimmitude -- for non-Muslims. Today, the West all too easily and habitually gives up freedom of speech by avoiding even the merest shadow of negativity when it comes to Muslims and, thus, imposing on itself dhimmitude and enabling our sworn enemies.I would differ with Janet Levy only on the point that the inaugural stage of American dhimmitude began with President George W. Bush proclaiming that Islam was a religion of “peace” hijacked by “extremists.” Although freedom of speech was in a tenuous state before 9/11 (e.g., the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law), the orchestrated and violent reaction to the Danish cartoons virtually guaranteed its demise. It has since existed in a kind of post-traumatic stupor of denial. Not criticizing Muslims or Islam serves as the garlic or crucifix intended to ward off the specter of violent recriminations from Islamists. It is a species of Pavlovian conditioning. If a Muslim commits a horrific crime, the first thing modern journalists and critics and policymakers do is not attempt to identify the culprit or his motive, but to evade the task and point fingers in other directions. Major Nidal Hassan perhaps had a glass of sour orange juice that morning, so he opened fire on American soldiers at Ft. Hood. A Muslim woman had a bad hair day, so she blew herself up in a bus full of Israeli schoolchildren. A mere marital disagreement between “moderate” Muslim Muzzammil Hassan and his wife Aasiya resulted inexplicably in his beheading her. Sure, the MSM will concede, all these instances of violence were gruesome. But they had nothing to do with Islam. And if they did, what business is it of ignorant Westerners? That would be imposing our moral standards on Muslims. In regards to Islam, multiculturalism fosters a kind of Star Trek–inspired “Prime Directive”: Thou shalt not criticize, look askance at, or mock Islam or Muslims, no matter how primitive, brutal, savage, or backward they may demonstrate themselves to be. Nor even think of interfering with the religious practices or of examining its Mafia-style legal system. It would be easier to comprehend the phenomenon of the West’s retreat from its once-cherished freedom of speech – in this instance, the freedom to criticize, ridicule, and even condemn Islam and that “silent majority” of Muslims here in the West or abroad who sanction by their muteness terrorism and the jihad – if one understood that the phenomenon is a consequence of the wider and more fundamental corrosive philosophy: multiculturalism. Multiculturalism has spawned such fashionable but insidious notions as “cultural diversity” and “cultural relativism” which merge into a bewildering kaleidoscope of trivialities, the great and the exceptional rendered equal to the base and the mediocre. “Enshrine mediocrity,” noted one of Ayn Rand’s most pernicious villains, “and the shrines are razed.” Multiculturalism is asserting that the Mexican Hat Dance or a Peruvian folk tune is just as enthralling a piece of music as a Beethoven symphony or the finale of Antonia Salieri’s Axur, re d’Ormus. Or that anything by The Grateful Dead is just as significant as any Rachmaninoff piano concerto. Comparisons that encourage value measurements are discouraged and deemed “elitist” or “judgmental.” “Cultural relativism” exploits subjectivism or indiscriminate whim-worshipping. Multiculturalism is the haven of those who do not wish their values to be questioned or judged. Multiculturalism says that you don’t have to aspire to be the best you can be, or even look for the best in anything; being best is optional. The stigma of mediocrity is unfair, hurtful, and insensitive, and ought to be abolished.One could even argue that Islam owes its advances in the West to a multiculturalist interpretation and application of a particular verse in the Bible, from Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, lest you be judged.” On the whole, and as a consequence, multiculturalism permits the mental excrement of contemporary “artists” and writers to contribute to the raw sewage that is modern culture.Multiculturalism is the great leveler of values and of the means to measure or gauge them. It is a conscious negation of values, claiming that no culture is superior to another, that no value could be superior to another. In the steady corrosion of actual values in the West, over a period of time, ever since the philosophy was first introduced decades ago, multiculturalism must logically default to the lowest common denominator of cultures. In this instance, it is Islam. That is the inevitable end of multiculturalism. Faced with the threat of Islam – an ideology insulated from criticism – multiculturalists must retreat and keep their minds and mouths shut. It is a monster they defended and touted and claimed as an ally in the name of “tolerance” and “religious freedom.”Multiculturalism behaves like a Komodo dragon that bites its prey, lets it wander off, and waits until it succumbs to its poisonous saliva and dies. Then it sniffs out the putrefying corpse to feed on it. Islam has been emulating the Komodo dragon’s methods for decades now.Islam is not “multicultural.” It is totalitarian and brooks no rivalry, competition or disagreement. Come the global caliphate, the first Westerners to be beheaded, censored, or enslaved will be multiculturalists. Then Islam’s putative “reformers.” Then the rest of us. It is only logical that such a systematic negation would culminate at the lowest common denominator, Islam, itself a system for destroying values. It is an omnibus system of nihilism that mirrors the nature of multiculturalism. And naturally, Islam claims to be superior to all other cultures and creeds, because it requires no thought, no values apart from ready-made ones, unalterable and mandatory. All Islam offers the individual is the “joy” of selflessness and the security of obedience, neither of which asks of the individual any degree of evaluation or intellectual independence. It offers the quietude of living death.As Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish observed, Islamists and even off-the-rack Muslims are well aware of the inferiority of their ideology – and, by implication, of themselves by choice – and of Islam’s inherent impotence to destroy its cultural and moral superiors without the sanction of the victim. Discussing the stupendous white elephants the Saudis and other embedded medievalists in the Gulf are building with their extorted petrodollars in “The Towers of Barbarism” (see my April 2008 column on the same subject), Greenfield writes:It is the combination of an inferiority complex and a hatred for non-Muslims, that same combination which causes the left and some on the far-right to urge us to feel ashamed of how badly we must be treating Muslims, for them to feel that way.He makes a key connection between Muslims’ awareness of their inferiority and their compulsion to prove their superiority by means of nihilistic policies:Where Western skyscrapers were the natural product of expanding economic and technological frontiers, Muslim skyscrapers are desperate attempts to buy superiority. A product of the same need to be superior to the infidels, that caused Islamic law to ban synagogues and churches from being taller than mosques. And now that they have the money, Muslim rulers are determined to build bigger buildings than the Empire State Building or the Sears Tower, or the World Trade Center, which they destroyed.But the power comes, not from Islam, but from the philosophy that sanctions its existence by exhorting men to deny its nihilistic nature in the name of tolerance, diversity, and non-judgmentalism. To concretize the corrosive process, note the tenacious opposition to nuclear power or offshore oil drilling by environmentalists and their ilk, who ultimately envision a savage rubbing two sticks together to make a fire as the preferred state of man (in order to “save the planet”). That is their unstated goal, to reduce man to dependence on the whims of nature. Islam, by the same token, reduces man to dependence on the whims of an unprovable and frankly psychotic deity, and demands that all men submit to that vision, so that no individual is superior or better than any other and so beyond Islam’s control.In that terrible scenario, only Muslims will be equal to each other in the egalitarian sense. All those who do not submit, must be enslaved or eliminated. Nothing may rise above the ideological minarets of Islam – not minds, not ideas – because anything above or apart from them would be a threat, a reproach, and a repudiation of Islam. Under the iron heel of totalitarianism, the symbiosis between multiculturalism and Islam would perish. The assertion that the inferior is superior by virtue of being inferior is the brazen premise shared by secular egalitarianism and Islam. Egalitarianism is just another manifestation of multiculturalism. So, when one sees Muslims demonstrating against the Danish cartoons or an infidel’s critical slip of the tongue and calling for retribution and death, one is witnessing manqués boasting of their unacknowledged but demonstrable inferiority. Theirs is a poignantly felt state of existence that cannot be confessed; it can be expressed only in ugly rage masquerading as victimhood. These are the creatures set free by the multiculturalists, “liberated” from reason, from independence, from pride, from self-esteem, from free will, from volition. From Western civilization. Muslims are not the only collectivists who have been “liberated” from the responsibilities of individualism and the non-negotiable demands of reason. But they are the most dangerous in terms of their being passive or active vessels of a totalitarian ideology that will destroy by exploiting the corruption instigated by multiculturalists, or by continuing naked violence whose cause the multiculturalists do not wish to examine, because that would be “judgmental.”Postscript: To briefly expand on the idea of Muslims knowing of their own inferiority, that they are superior by virtue of their inferiority – they claim superiority because their inferiority, in conformance with altruism, requires others to defer to their wishes, to make exceptions for them, and to exempt them from the normal suasions of moral measurement and treatment. They are the lowly, the base, and the degraded; ergo, in accordance with altruist ethics, they are special and their need for deference and exception-making is an automatic claim on others – according to the others’ moral code. This is in line with the whole altruist/collectivist philosophy that governs our culture. Of course, one should not ascribe to Islamists any kind of genius for exploiting that philosophy. It is merely their feral species of insight that makes it possible. Originally posted on The Rule of Reason, by noreply@blogger.com (Edward Cline), 2011-03-21T23:49:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

God as government
From John J McVey: John McVey, cross-posted by MetaBlogThis is fascinating - and telling... The cynical idea that religion and socialism are the only two alternatives.The fact is that one cannot establish a philosophic positive by demolishing a negative. Commentary like this shows that atheism alone is nowhere near enough to establish liberty - without reason and egoism being proudly promoted as essential parts of the secularisation of society the sense-of-life of religion - not to mention the false alternative of dogmatism versus skepticism - will continue to poison the ethical and political codes even even alleged athiests, and the consequences of the spectacle itself gives fuel back to the religious cause.The real enemy of man has always been religion, not socialism, for the latter feeds on the former and cannot survive long without its lasting influence. Religion must be despatched from this world - but the method of despatching it can only be by putting the greatness of "Reality, Reason, and Rights" in its place.JJM Originally posted on John J McVey, by John McVey, 2011-03-19T07:46:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Christians Killing Gays Again
From Erosophia: JasonStotts, cross-posted by MetaBlogby Jason Stotts
A 70 year old man was stoned to death in Philadelphia (city of brotherly love) because he was gay and made advances on a christian who knew his bible well.
70-year-old man was stoned to death with a rock stuffed in a sock by a younger friend who alleged the victim made unwanted sexual advances, authorities said.
According to the criminal complaint, John Thomas, 28, of Upper Darby, a Philadelphia suburb, told police he killed Murray Seidman of nearby Lansdowne because the Bible refers to stoning homosexuals.
According to the complaint, “John Thomas stated that he read in the Old Testament that homosexuals should be stoned in certain situations. The answer John Thomas received from his prayers was to put an end to the victim’s life. John Thomas stated that he struck the victim approximately 10 times in the head. After the final blow, John Thomas made sure the victim was dead.(SFGate)
This is why christians are so dangerous: faith is a form of self-imposed insanity (loss of touch with reality) and they, like animals, can become dangerous at any minute.
Originally posted on Erosophia, by JasonStotts, 2011-03-19T23:47:54Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Campus Media Response: In Celebration of Inequality
From The Undercurrent: Valery Publius, cross-posted by MetaBlog
In another hard-hitting piece in MIT’s The Tech, Keith Yost responds to the charge, much discussed of late in connection with the Wisconsin union protests, that our society faces a crisis of “inequality”:
Let’s begin with the obvious: the inequality of well-being has drastically fallen since 1967. Bill Gates may have a million times the income of the average man, but he cannot eat a million meals. Despite the enlarged access to medical care that his income enables, his life expectancy is not much higher than his fellow American. . . . Technology and economic growth have brought most significant technologies within buying reach of the masses; the real mean income of the bottom quintile may have only increased by 28.6 percent to the top quintile’s 70.7 over the past 42 years, but the utility that the bottom quintile got from each marginal dollar was much higher. . . .
Between Wal-Mart and globalization of production, low-end consumer goods have become cheaper at a much faster rate than high-end consumer goods. Adjusted for purchasing power, the growth disparity in consumption between the classes becomes miniscule.
This is all true, but Yost makes his argument by way of apologizing for economic inequality when he should be celebrating it. He emphasizes that Gates cannot actually consume much of what he earns. What he neglects to mention is that Gates earns so much more than the rest of us because he has produced so much more, by fostering innovation in technology and in business.
We can only benefit from such surplus production. Consider a separate point made by Yost, that the increasing degree of economic inequality we see today may be amplified by the networking effects of the internet age. As Yost puts it, “Is J.K. Rowling [any] better of an author than Charles Dickens, or is she merely the recipient of a windfall that the information economy has provided?”
This is an especially noteworthy point, because more than most people, it was Bill Gates who made it possible for more and more people to benefit from the economizing influence of information technology. Arguably, without Bill Gates, there may have been no J.K. Rowling. You may not have found your current school or job or boyfriend or wife without the availability of cheap, effective personal computers.
And this reminds us of a passage from the hero’s speech in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:
In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.
The old Marxist myth, that in a capitalist system workers bear the burden of the rich who live off the fruit of their labor, is the opposite of the truth. We should not apologize for economic inequality, but celebrate it and embrace it. If we are grateful for the benefits of the modern age, we should acknowledge our debt of gratitude to men like Gates, and the sizable income that is their due.
Creative Commons-licensed picture from Wikimedia Commons
Originally posted on The Undercurrent, by Valery Publius, 2011-03-17T03:29:14Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Bob Pasnau on Studying the History of Philosophy
From NoodleFood: Diana Hsieh, cross-posted by MetaBlogBob Pasnau -- noted medieval scholar in my own CU Boulder Philosophy Department and generally awesome guy -- makes a compelling case for young philosophers specializing in the history of philosophy. Here are a few choice quotes:The discipline of philosophy benefits from a serious, sustained engagement with its history. Most of the interesting, important work in philosophy is not being done right now, at this precise instant in time, but lies more or less hidden in the past, waiting to be uncovered. Philosophers who limit themselves to the present restrict their horizons to whatever happens to be the latest fashion, and deprive themselves of a vast sea of conceptual resources. ... Despite the above list of names, many philosophers today are presentists - they think that the only philosophy worth reading has been written in the last 100 years, if not the last 30 years. This attitude is hard to justify. The historical record shows that philosophy - unlike science and math - does not develop in steady, linear fashion. Perhaps the very best historical era ever came at the very start, in Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. If that was not it, then one has to wait some 1600 years, for the century from Aquinas to Oresme, (Who's Oresme?, you may ask. Exactly.) or wait 2000 years, for Descartes through Kant. I'm leaving out important figures, of course, but also many quite fallow periods, even in modern times. Maybe subsequent generations will judge 2011 and environs as the highpoint up until now of the whole history of philosophy, but I wouldn't bet on it. Every generation of philosophers has been equally prepossessed by its own ideas.Of course, I am no more capable than others of judging my own times, but certainly I am not alone in feeling some amount of dissatisfaction with the way philosophy looks today. Tyler Burge nicely expresses my own worries when he remarks, in the preface to his recent book, that "if philosophy is not to slide toward irrelevance and become a puzzle-game-playing discipline, good mainly for teaching the young to think clearly, some central parts of philosophy must broaden their horizons." Burge mainly has in mind science as a broadening influence; I think the history of philosophy can play a similar role. Although a background in the history of the subject is obviously not a prerequisite for doing deep and original work, it helps, and I fear the discipline's present collective neglect of its past contributes to its often insular character. Personally, I was always far more interested in the history of ethics than in contemporary ethics -- for many of the reasons that Pasnau discusses here. While the history of ethics is taught (somewhat), philosophy departments don't recognize a research specialty in the history of ethics, except for ancient ethics. The history of philosophy, with the exception of ancient philosophy, is focused on metaphysics and epistemology. So if you write a dissertation on the history of ethics, the standard result is that ethicists will regard you as a historian and historians will regard you as an ethicist, such that you'll have a devil of a time getting a job. (That happened to one of our sharpest and most talented professors at Boulder.)In academia, my two favorite areas of philosophy for study and teaching were philosophy of religion and the history of ethics. I just loved to dive into the ethical texts of the great figures in the history of philosophy -- Kant, Hume, Mill, Aquinas, the early Christians, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and of course, Aristotle -- so as to develop a clear view of their ethics. That's something that I hope to return to doing soon, in some form. Originally posted on NoodleFood, by Diana Hsieh, 2011-03-18T14:50:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Antinuclear Hysteria
From Gus Van Horn: Gus Van Horn, cross-posted by MetaBlogPerhaps the most bizarre aspect of the news reporting about Japan's horrendous earthquake and tsunami has been the inordinate emphasis on the situation at the nuclear power plants that suffered damage. Indeed, as jaded by environmentalist hysteria as I am, I have still been astounded by the anti-nuclear power commentary, protests, and political machinations that have followed this -- although I should not have been. As I noted after reading an article about some allegedly pro-nuclear greens some years ago:If they really cared about saving human lives and they really equated nuclear power with Chernobyl, they would not line up behind it now.Based on that, and what I've been seeing in the news media, most environmentalists (a) understand nuclear power so poorly that they really do think (incorrectly!) that any such power plant is a "Chernobyl waiting to happen," (b) they don't care how or why nuclear power is actually quite safe generally (and, in particular, Chernobyl isn't going to happen in Japan), or (c) both.To do my small part in injecting a rational perspective into this debate, I'll recommend a look at this situation from a couple of perspectives:Broad "A Meltdown Of Fearmongers" -- This article considers the safety of nuclear power within the context of the safety of other forms of energy and debunks a few of the more common ... misconceptions ... in the media. (Don't be put off by the superfluous references to global warming.)Technical (But Accessible to Laymen) "Why I Am Not Worried about Japan's Nuclear Reactors" -- Originally by Josef Oehmen of MIT, but edited by a group of nuclear power students from MIT. This group is also now tracking developments on a blog. Based on my past experience as a nuclear-trained submarine officer, the post is a good place to gain a grasp of what the potential hazards are, as well as how they are countered by an integration of plant design, normal and emergency operating procedures, and training practices. Here are a few other useful sources of information, recommended by a couple of regular commenters at an earlier post a couple of days ago:The protests are already starting, and Alex Epstein has already found some excellent rebuttals to the madness. -- kelleyn[B]ecause of the press of events it's hard to get good information even from people who know what's what. The best one I've found is this. [link added] -- Mike[There is] a good overview of the plant design here, though it turned out within a day to have been rather too sanguine about the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami. [link added] -- MikeThere is, doubtless, more out there that I simply haven't had the time to consider. If you've seen other good reporting or commentary out there, feel free to pass it along in the comments.-- CAVUpdates3-18-11: I forgot to add a good, intuitive presentation of how to think about radiation dosage, called, "Going Bananas over Radiation" (HT: Dismuke).3-22-11: (1) John Cook discusses radiation units and links to a graphic comparison of the relative safety levels of various energy sources in "deaths per Terawatt hour." (2) XKCD posts a great graphic on radiation doses. Originally posted on Gus Van Horn, by Gus Van Horn, 2011-03-17T11:29:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Four on Insight
From Gus Van Horn: Gus Van Horn, cross-posted by MetaBlogI always enjoy good examples of insightful thinking, and I came across several this week. I will present them here in no particular order.1. Reader Dismuke emails a link to a post at Watts up with That? describing an intuitive way to think about radiation doses.Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium-40 they contain. The banana equivalent dose is the radiation exposure received by eating a single banana. Radiation leaks from nuclear plants are often measured in extraordinarily small units (the picocurie, a millionth of a millionth of a curie, is typical). By comparing the exposure from these events to a banana equivalent dose, a more intuitive assessment of the actual risk can sometimes be obtained.It is interesting to note that this is the first time I've heard this useful analogy in years. It's easy to imagine why -- ignorance or worse -- you won't hear this analogy used by the fear mongers. The more interesting question is this: Why aren't those working to calm the hysteria bringing it up now? Speaking for myself, I simply hadn't thought of it. But I can also see someone used to thinking about nuclear power focusing too much on getting out technical details and too little on the problem of communicating them to a general audience.2. Over at the Endeavour, John Cook presented three good quotes about originality some time ago. I particularly like Paul Graham's (and Howard Aiken's):People like the idea of innovation in the abstract, but when you present them with any specific innovation, they tend to reject it because it doesn't fit with what they already know. … As Howard Aiken said, "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."I'll hasten to add my own codicil to Aiken: "The fact that someone is ramming his idea down your throat does not necessarily make it a good idea."That said, Graham and Aiken show insight about the processes of both innovation and communication here. The innovator makes a connection nobody else has ever made: But that very fact means he will have to figure out how to help people appreciate what he has seen before he will profit from that insight -- or he will have to find someone else who can sell it for him.3. And, speaking of Paul Graham and sales, the venture capitalist presents an interesting email exchange in which, as he puts it, "You can see [the investor's] mind at work as he circles the deal." The investor has to consider several difficult issues, among them: Is this a sound idea? If so, is there room in the existing marketplace for this idea? If so, who are these people, and do they have what it takes to make money off this idea?In other words, we have an example of part of the other side of the communications dilemma facing any innovator, mentioned above. For any potential supporter, evaluating an idea will occur in multiple steps in all of the areas concerning (for example): the merit of the idea, the market conditions, and the quality of the people. On top of that, such questions will often be interrelated. For example, "Is this a good idea?" can be asked at a broad, conceptual level, a brass-tacks practical level, and at the level of whether it hasn't already been implemented in some non-obvious way (for a few examples). Part of evaluating the idea hinges, for example, on questions as to the competence of the people putting it forward both within their fields and on evaluating things outside their fields.4. Back at the Endeavour again, we have a war story that shows an amusingly easy-to-explain insight that was made in a very counterintuitive way:During WWII, statistician Abraham Wald was asked to help the British decide where to add armor to their bombers. After analyzing the records, he recommended adding more armor to the places where there was no damage!Wald's insight came, not from myopically zeroing in only on the data he had, but by also making masterful use of the context from which his data arose.-- CAV Originally posted on Gus Van Horn, by Gus Van Horn, 2011-03-18T11:59:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

NoodleCast #64: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast
From NoodleFood: Diana Hsieh, cross-posted by MetaBlogOn Sunday, I hosted another live Rationally Selfish Webcast where I answered people's questions on practical ethics and the principles of living well. The live webcasts are held every Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. Usually, they consist of me broadcasting on video, Greg on audio, and the audience in a text chat. However, this week I broadcast before a live audience from SnowCon, which was definitely more fun for those of us live. (I've love to know what it was like for those of you on the webstream!) Ari Armstrong of Free Colorado kindly stood in for Greg Perkins.As usual, an audio recording of Sunday's live webcast is now available as a NoodleCast podcast. To get these podcasts automatically, you can subscribe to the feed in iTunes -- just choose either the enhanced M4A format or the standard MP3 format. They're the same content, but the M4A format breaks each question into its own "chapter."Whether you watch the live webcast or listen to the recorded podcast, you can submit and vote on questions on the widget on the page for the Rationally Selfish Webcast -- or via Idea Informer. Questions and votes are much appreciated!The Rationally Selfish Webcast (and Podcast) is available to anyone, free of charge. If you find value in it, I ask that you support our work by periodically contributing to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode, but any amount is appreciated.If you would prefer to send a check, please send it to "Diana Hsieh; P.O. Box 851; Sedalia, CO 80135." Please write "RS Webcast" in the memo field. Even if you're unable to contribute financially, we'd appreciate your helping us spread the word about this webcast to anyone you think might be interested. You can, for example, "like" the Rationally Selfish Webcast Page on Facebook. If you do that, you'll see the new questions submitted for the webcast in your news feed.Webcast SegmentsThese segments are marked as chapters in the M4A version of this podcast. Any included links are those referenced in the podcast. (Many thanks to Tammy Perkins for helping me compile these notes!)Introduction (0:00)Diana Hsieh: DianaHsieh.com: diana@rationallyselfish.comAri Armstrong: Free ColoradoDon't forget to submit and vote on questions for upcoming webcasts!Question 1: Concentration (1:53)What's the best way to mentally focus on one activity when I can't stop thinking about another? Sometimes I get overly focused on or worried about a problem I'm having at work, and then I have difficulty focusing in class. Similarly, sometimes I'll think about an issue I'm having with a close friend, and I know I should focus my energy elsewhere, but it's difficult to do so. I know that I should give my full attention to class during the actual class period, but it's difficult to stop thinking about the other issue I have. What kind of method can I used to stop worrying about work, and focus on class instead? What's a good way to switch my focus from one thing to another over the course of a day?My Answer, in Brief: You need to cultivate habits of concentration, largely via gentle but persistent reminders to focus on matters at hand.Question 2: Obligation to Engage in Activism (9:14)Is it morally obligatory to engage in activism? I want to fight for a better, more rational culture. But I know that I'm not a good writer or speaker. If I instead give my money to those who are, isn't that a good division of labor? Is it obligatory that I myself attempt to engage in such activism or can I pay others who are better at it (and would like to earn money doing so)?My Answer, in Brief: Activism is working to shape culture in image of own values, and it can take countless forms. It's not any kind of duty, but such should be part of your value hierarchy because your life and happiness depends on it. Question 3: Keeping Secrets from Spouse (21:12)Should you tell someone else's secret to a spouse? I know a lot of times when I share personal information with my best friend, I assume that she will (and am okay with) her sharing some or all of that information with her significant other. I think she makes the same assumption, that I will share some of what she tells me with my husband. If (hypothetically) there was something I didn't want her significant other to know about, would I be right in asking that she keep a secret from him? On one hand, the information I'm sharing is personal and I might like to keep it between us. On the other, is it right to ask her to keep something from him?My Answer, in Brief: Spouses ought not keep secrets from each other, and others ought to respect that. However, people can and should exercise discretion in what they tell a spouse.Question 4: “That’s So Gay” (29:56)Is it wrong to jokingly use the term "that's so gay" among friends? I have many friends who are homosexual, and they and I and anyone I use this term with know there's nothing wrong with homosexuality. But sometimes this term does feel natural to use, even though I am not thinking about any negative association with actual homosexuals. Is it better to just avoid saying, "That's so gay", or even joking about how gay something appears, given that we ought not to see it as anything shameful?My Answer, in Brief: The phrase is potentially offensive, and people ought not use it without recognizing that. Personally, I would only use it in a clearly joking way, likely to refer to some obviously gay behavior among my gay friends.Question 5: Overstating Character (40:55)Do you think people overstate their character? My personal experience is that many, but not all, people seem to overstate their positive character traits. The most stressed character traits seems to be the weakest. For example, a person who stresses their integrity often turns out to be anywhere from slightly less than totally dependable to absolutely worthless (in regards to keeping commitments). A person proclaiming to be good at introspection may end up actually being an emotionalist. Have you noticed this in people and, if so, what do you think explains this phenomenon?My Answer, in Brief: I don't think that's common, but some people are truly oblivious to their own personality and character.Question 6: Objectivist Answers: Acting Silly (47:45)Is it rational to do silly things? A friend of mine (non-Objectivist) quoted Ludwig Wittgenstein: "If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done." So she thinks it's alright and rational to do silly things once in a while. ... Would it be rational to do silly things consciously (in lab, for instance) in the hope that you might end up discovering / inventing something new?My Answer, in Brief: It's wonderful to be silly, in the proper context, such as in a social outing with friends. Silliness, however, is not a means to knowledge, and silliness in a laboratory seems like an excellent way to waste time or create problems.Conclusion (55:32)Diana Hsieh: DianaHsieh.com: diana@rationallyselfish.comAri Armstrong: Free ColoradoDon't forget to submit and vote on questions. And if you can, please contribute to our tip jar.The video for the webcast is only available for those attending live. After the webcast is completed, you can listen, download, or subscribe to the audio podcast.Podcast: Listen Now56:18 minutesPodcast: DownloadDownload the Enhanced M4A File (26.6 MB)Download the Standard MP3 File (25.8 MB)liPodcast: SubscribeSubscribe to the Enhanced M4A Feed in iTunesSubscribe to the Standard MP3 Feed in iTunesli Originally posted on NoodleFood, by Diana Hsieh, 2011-03-16T01:00:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Rights off the Rails
From Gus Van Horn: Gus Van Horn, cross-posted by MetaBlogThere is much I disagree with in Megan McArdle's Atlantic piece on "When Rail Becomes Ridiculous," but she makes an intriguing point about a couple of central planning proposals for bullet trains:[I]s it really a good demonstration project if the train doesn't have any passengers? Or if the people to whom you've demonstrated it finish their trip in Bakersfield, sans car? It seems to me that this is a very good way to demonstrate cost overruns, disappointing passenger figures, and a single-minded committment [sic] on the part of rail advocates that defies common sense.McArdle is right, but, alas, not as right as she fears. Have you ever heard of the "bridge to nowhere?" There are countless similar examples of blatant government waste right under our noses, not to mention ripple effects from central planning schemes. Indeed, Frederic Bastiat eloquently described such ripple effects in his parable of the "Broken Window" over 150 years ago.As an environmentalist who wants the government to build railroads, McArdle should take heart for the same reason I, a rail buff who wants rail built only by private enterprises seeking profits, should be alarmed: We have mountains of similar evidence that central planning makes no economic sense and economists have understood this for the better part of two centuries -- and yet such evidence and understanding have little sway over public policy today. Worse, even some professed advocates of capitalism still seem to think that all we need is ... more evidence!There are two broad problems here, the lesser of which is that the public is economically illiterate and used to the government planning practically everything to do with the infrastructure. The far greater problem is that most people (including many who think of themselves as pro-free-market) do not think in terms of principles.[A] pro-capitalist would know what capitalism is, what it requires (full government protection of individual rights), and why statism and anarchy are inferior, and dangerous to [his] survival... He would know these things because he would rely upon free market principles when thinking about the economy. And he would know that if he doesn't rely on such principles -- if he "abandons" -- them, he will have no way to decide what [policy] is best...To such an individual, the bridge to nowhere, bullet trains in the sticks, and, for that matter, any proposal to compel people to pay for anything (outside fines or restitution for criminal offenses) are simply examples of violations of property rights, and he will oppose them as such. To someone who doesn't think in terms of principles (even if he considers himself capitalist), they will merely be individual, unconnected examples of "inefficient" government, and he will forever spin his wheels fantasizing about making the government better at performing an impossible task: Having a comparatively few people attempting to run an entire economy. In the meantime, these same bureaucrats and do-gooders will succeed in trampling his property rights, and he will scratch his head (if he's lucky enough to be merely frustrated) about all the poor decisions they keep making.There is no bullet train to freedom in America. Voters have to begin to see again why any and all government interventions in the economy should be opposed, and they will not do so until there are more people making principled cases for capitalism.-- CAV Originally posted on Gus Van Horn, by Gus Van Horn, 2011-03-16T12:56:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

OTI post #1
From John J McVey: John McVey, cross-posted by MetaBlogThis is the inaugural post of my work on redoing my understanding of Objectivism, through induction, following on from my conclusions and resulution in January. The quantity of writing is probably overkill, at least early on, so be warned if you continue on. When I am satisfied with philosophy, at least in epistemology and ethics, sufficient to ground value theory, I will then tackle economics and economic method again.The 'prerequisites' of this are: Understanding Objectivism, Objectivism Through Induction, The Logical Leap, OPAR, ITOE, and The Art of Thinking. Knowledge of logic wouldn't go astray either, but I will be investigating that directly for myself in time, too.To start with, this is what I wrote as my own introduction.Reasons for doing thisI am here thinking about philosophy, from the beginnings on up.But why bother, given that this is obviously going to be an enormous effort? The answer is that there are questions to which I want good and detailed answers, especially value theory and ethics for investigation of economics, finance and business. This also requires an understanding of politics, and it also provides a basis for making headway in economic analysis and prediction. In addition, a good investigation of economics requires a good investigation of thinking and reasoning, especially induction. All these either are or depend on epistemology, metaphysics, and a solid understanding of the metaphysical nature of man.Foremost amongst this is the need to have the right epistemology. Ethics, Rand said, is effectively a corollary of epistemology. It is this latter field that determines the quality of any knowledge gained. Without the proper epistemology, one is largely doomed to make at least some serious errors. This I cannot afford, and so these are my goals. In addition, however, I also have general curiosity, and as noted above philosophy affects all aspects of life so I want to examine all of it to at least some degree of detail.Context A: to use wordsEvery single word used in here has been created by someone else. I’ve either been actually taught them or have read them and then looked up what they meant. Though the history of some is better known than the history of others, the ultimate origins of most words is unknown - but, of course, they have not existed forever, so someone somewhere had to create the roots from nothing at some point in history. No doubt, too, a great many people contributed over a very long period of time. Still, in any event, reality comes first in our experience, and the words to describe it are created by us or are taught to us on the basis of that experience of reality, however correct or mistaken the method might have been. Whoever came up with some words did so to label and describe a piece of reality they saw before there were words for that piece.Words should also not be taken for granted. There are many cases when the meaning that some word had turned out to be wrong, there are cases when someone knew a word but didn't have a clue about its actual meaning (inconceivable!), and there are cases when words have multiple meanings. That suggests that meanings etc are somehow just the creation of fallible beings. It isn’t saying that all meaning is unavoidably subjective, but it does say that we must be on our guard.Certainly, many meanings are valid, but it is foolish to consider all meanings as valid without question. The guide is reality itself, wherein the obvious is the basis for validating the not-so-obvious, and so the use of words is to help identify the connection. The point about using words is to express thoughts, and the point of thoughts is to guide actions. Proper use of words thus makes for successful action. Though it is not set in concrete, this suggests back-the-way that successful action that was guided in fine detail as a result of worded thoughts means that the use of words was right. This would be most patently right in the simple things, such as noting colours and temperatures and so on. This I think any normal adult understands directly, and it is so obvious at these beginning levels that it requires a conscious effort to turn away from it - that is, anyone who challenges the validity of using words while using words to make that challenge is dishonest: a truly honest believer in that would shun language altogether and reduce himself to pointing and grunting. This means that, at the outset, only non-philosophical and non-controversial words should be employed, and that the more advanced words should be validated before moving on with them. Thus the opening context must be ordinary language and knowledge held by a reasonably intelligent eighteen-year-old, now capable of independent existence and independent judgement, arising from having been taught the words necessary for that practical effect. Yet while even these should not be left permanently unquestioned, working from this shouldn’t be controversial among the honest - and I don’t care for the opinion of those who think it is questionable and that the words in the properly-held vocabulary of such an 18yo are incapable of referring to reality.(* Of course, the ability of the modern young adult to be in such a state is predicated on elders past and present having painstakingly obtained and implemented knowledge over time to form the culture of the civilisation this young adult finds himself in. Rand noted that she could not have come up with her philosophy has the Industrial Revolution not taken place. This makes sense, because it follows the inductive nature of the progress of knowledge, made the power of reason clear as opposed to it being a toy for the idly inquisitive or a tool for religious sophistry, and in practical terms made our livings secure enough to permit substantial effort into highly abstract thought. But that’s another topic.)Context B: to practice focussed awarenessThe context includes the rudiments of method: we now know enough to state that human consciousness is a faculty of discriminated awareness. It is capable of mentally isolating and focussing on entities (including expanses of materials etc) and aspects thereof. We’ve long been capable of forming concepts well before the formal identification of the method, at least for simpler concepts, and have been able to advance, albeit haphazardly, because of that ability. This is akin to Moliere’s discovery that he had been formulating prose all his life without realising it. We don’t need to know what prose is in under to speak and write in it. Thus is it also for the basic processes of consciousness - it is an active process consisting of two essentials: differentiation and integration.Those processes work automatically at the perceptual level, but not at the conceptual. There is something crucial, though, in their application to the conceptual level. Grasping that application for the very first time, and developing it from there, was a long trial and error effort. But once grasped by one man who teaches his discoveries to another, the validity of the principles at the basic levels at least is much easier to see on the part of that second man. Likewise, after yet more trial and effort, even a child soon figures out the merits of what we now know by the names of the method of difference and method of agreement, along with their derivatives such as method of residues and the method of concomitant variations. Our ancestors practiced these, without fully recognising that fact, though could not proceed very far until these specific methods were finally explicitly identified and refined.One of the tasks of philosophy, in epistemology, is to make that identification and refinement of what had already been used, to turn the haphazard trial and error into systematic examination and prescription of methodology, and in time integrates those fragments into a consistent whole. That is one of the things I will look at - though, that being said, their validity and use at the basic levels, such as admit of ordinary language and methodologies of an ordinary 18yo, are taken for granted at the outset. Again, he who would reject this throws himself back to a pre-historic mentality, and by such a confession is automatically unfit to utter a peep against me or anyone else who agrees with me.Context C: general methodologyI gleaned this from OTI, The Logical Leap, The Art of Thinking, and Rod Fitts’ blog, along with thoughts of my own. This is subject to change, as I continue to progress. At the moment it is how I am proceeding.ConceptsState the conceptIdentify the other concepts most closely related to it, to help guide reduction and then for the sake of contrast as necessary for later differentiation and integrationGive a flooding range of concretes of the concept being examined such that the concept is differentiable from allied concepts; at least six to eight examplesReduce the key concepts to either perceptual data or concepts already prior reduced to perceptual data. There are two elements to this reduction process. One is by using definitions as a guide. On this score, start by stating the most appropriate definition of the main concepts, and list other allied ones. Then state the most relevant definitions of the concepts traced back each level in the reduction. All these statements of definitions is only for use as a guide in further reduction, and also later reconstruction and then cross-integration, and NOT as a means linguistic triangulation. For the definitions, use a reputable dictionary, eg OED. The other is recognising that there are other facets of things than just the definitive characteristics. Look at the concretes themselves, both of the original concept and the allied concepts, and try to find other important characteristics and facets of the concepts being examined. This includes looking at fields other than those in which the concept came up, so that you may later integrate your concept to knowledge in those other fields.Begin reconstructing the concepts out of the results of the reductions, using the concretes as guides, and justifying their definitions or formulating your own as you proceedIntegrate the concept with other known knowledge across a variety of fields, showing the interconnections, parallels, ancestry in concepts and principles, and so onPrinciplesState the principleIdentify the other principles most closely related to this principle, to help guide reduction and then for the sake of contrast as necessary for later differentiation and integrationState the context in which the principle or issue comes up, (eg locate the philosophic point in the hierarchy of knowledge)Give a flooding range of concretes of the principle being examined such that the principle is differentiable from principles that together are part of a wider principle; at least six to eight examplesIdentify definitions of the key concepts and reduce them as above, for use as a guide in reduction, reconstruction, and later cross-integration of principlesReduce the principle to either perceptual observation or causal principles already prior reduced to perceptual observationsReconstruct the series of inductions from observations leading to lesser principlesReconstruct the meanings of those key concepts, following the process for concepts as aboveReconstruct the induction of the principle being examinedIn all reconstructions above, use more concretes of a range sufficient to engage in differentiation and integration, including methods of difference and agreement as required. Note also that the two processes - re-formation of the critical concepts and the re-induction of the subsidiary principles - are apt to be integrated with each other and must proceed in lock-step fashion.Integrate the principle with other known knowledge across a variety of fields, showing the interconnections, parallels, ancestry in concepts and principles, and so onJJM Originally posted on John J McVey, by John McVey, 2011-03-13T12:37:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

ATLOSCon or Bust
From Erosophia: JasonStotts, cross-posted by MetaBlogby Jason Stotts
As I announced when it happened, I will be one of the speakers at this Summer’s Atlanta Objectivist Society Conference (ATLOSCon).  I will, of course, be speaking on sexuality and it’s role in a human life.  The title of my talk, at least for now, is: “Sexual Ethics and Objectivism.”  The current abstract for my talk is:
In this lecture, I am going to elaborate the framework of the Objectivist position on sexual ethics and expand it into a richer theory.  I will start with the theory of emotions, continue through sexual attraction, and into relationships and love.  At each stage I will show the relevant principles, how they build upon one another into a full account of sexual ethics, and how this can handle questions and problems that Ayn Rand never addressed.  I will conclude the lecture by applying the theory to a number of topics, followed by a question and answer period.
The problem is, though, that ATLOSCon is a new conference and in order to keep their prices low, they don’t have a travel budget for the speakers.  This isn’t a problem for the speakers who are local or who have, say, money, but for me it’s something of an impediment.  Since I have family in the area, I don’t need to worry about lodging, but I do need to get a plane ticket from California to Atlanta, which is going to be $310.
So, I’d like to ask anyone who wants to help me out to donate to my travel fund.  If you donate at least $10, I’ll send you a PDF version of my talk after I give it (ATLOSCon is over the Memorial Day weekend).  If you donate at least $20, I’ll mail you a signed hard copy after the lecture.  Donations can be made through PayPal by sending money to my e-mail address Jason(at)JasonStotts.com or arrangements can be made to send a check if you e-mail me.  For obvious reasons, I won’t be posting my address online.  If you’re going to be at ATLOSCon, you can let me know and I’ll bring you a paper copy there, as long as you donate at least $10.
I know times are tight, but being a blogger and a writer whose first book hasn’t been published yet isn’t exactly lucrative.  So, if you’ve enjoyed the blog over these 5 years I’ve been blogging and you haven’t donated yet, please think about doing so to help me get to this conference.
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UPDATE:
$260 Remaining until the trip is funded.
A really big thanks to my donors:
T.O. – $50
Originally posted on Erosophia, by JasonStotts, 2011-03-16T16:16:17Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Induction of “the Initiation of Physical Force is Evil”
From Inductive Quest: Roderick Fitts, cross-posted by MetaBlogHaving gone through the reduction, it’s time to induce the Objectivist principle that “the initiation of physical force is evil.”The induction will consist of three steps:1. Directly observing physical force negating desires.2. Once the source of desires is grasped, observe force negating specific conclusions.3. Observe force negating the mind as such by halting the processes of thought and integration, paralyzing the mind.Force Opposes Your Desires (Values)The first examples of force we might confront are the broken promises of our parents, or physical force exerted by bullies or other kids at school. Whatever the precise nature of the force being used, the induction we want to reach is that force, whether direct or indirect (like a broken promise from a parent), makes you do that which you don’t want to do. In proportion to the use of force against me, I can’t possess or do or acquire or maintain what I want, what I desire, what I value.How does someone figure out that this is wrong? You would need to know that something else is good, which would set the context for determining what is wrong. Specifically, you would need to recognize in some basic form that egoism is right—you would have needed to induce the principle that “X, Y, and Z are my values, mine to choose and mine to enjoy/benefit from.” It’s good for me to choose the values that I want and to enjoy them for my sake. Once that is induced, you could later realize that “it’s wrong for someone to treat my values or me as a means of someone or something else.”After reaching the framework of a preliminary induction of egoism, you’d reach this induction along the way, that force is opposed to your selfish values, your desires.Peikoff speculates that Rand knew this by the age of six, because it isn’t too difficult to understand. “Force vs. desires” is pretty clear for most people. But the problem, like that in inducing “egoism” is that they hardly ever get past a preliminary stage like this one. Instead, they conflate and combine a set of unrelated topics and it turns into, “what I want vs. that.” “That” means a host of things blended together, things like “initiation of force,” “the laws of reality,” and things that are the property or business of other people. So many people think that what opposes their values are the cases of a bully (force), the laws of thermodynamics (reality, like someone upset about not being able to smoke near a gas station or in a highly oxygenated area), and the cases of the innocent who refuse to give you what you want, but the object of your desire is properly theirs to give or not. If this were a legitimate concept or idea, then we would have reached the limit of this induction, because we would eventually have “I can do anything, whenever I want, no matter what, and to the extent that I can’t, I’m under 'force.'” That would mean that life itself involves force, and thus that the concept is useless, and this topic becomes no longer worthy of discussion.We’ve all met people like this, who dismiss the issue of force in the way that Objectivists understand it. Here’s an excellent example from a forum:[Original poster] […]Power is often thought of, in the political sense, as having control over other humans. Freedom is often thought of, in the political sense, as a state of being in which one is not controlled by other humans.[One respondent says] Nobody is entirely free from the control or influence of others for any length of time. For brief periods, possibly- is this not why people rock climb or ride fast morbikes (sic, the commenter means “motorbikes”)?Ultimately the only permanent way to reject the control or influence of others is suicide, even if you are rich and powerful. But that's a zero sum game of a sort, too.[…][The original poster replies] […] I suppose I can also agree that no absolute political freedom exists, yet if we are all seeking political freedom, then it seems self-evident that we should seek to obtain as much as we can, other things being equal.[“Discussion of Power and Freedom,” posts # 1, 3, and 6 http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=173010 ]“There’s no such thing as absolute freedom”; “No one can really do whatever they want”; “Society limits our freedoms and rights,” etc. Such people are incapable of splitting up these different sources of that which prevents their ability to act on their desires.(Ayn Rand had a few words to say on this point. I’ll quote a few, and then move on:Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state—and nothing else.(From “Conservatism: An Obituary”)Foggy metaphors, sloppy images, unfocused poetry, and equivocations—such as “A hungry man is not free”—do not alter the fact that only political power is the power of physical coercion.(“America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business”)Do not be misled . . . by an old collectivist trick which goes like this: there is no absolute freedom anyway, since you are not free to murder; society limits your freedom when it does not permit you to kill; therefore, society holds the right to limit your freedom in any manner it sees fit; therefore, drop the delusion of freedom—freedom is whatever society decides it is.It is not society, nor any social right, that forbids you to kill—but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a “compromise” between two rights—but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not derived from an edict of society—but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society—but is implicit in the definition of your own right.Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute. (“Textbook of Americanism”)http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/freedom.html )By contrast, we’ll break up this heterogeneous understanding into three different, independent factors, each with their own examples:1. Reality as such is not a producer of force: it’s the setting and context of all volitional action. Force is a special type of reality, which only pertains to people; not even animals are forcers: if a bird or a cat attacks you, then it’s like the laws governing combustion in that our topic revolves around morality, which only appertains to people.2. A negating of your desires by others, in and of itself, is not force. People live their own lives and have their own possessions, so if they don’t want to give you something that you want then that isn’t force. This is where it’s important to remember that egoism is a principle which applies to all people, a principle reached by induction. It’s good for other people to pursue their own values and happiness too, and just because their desires or yours may be illegitimate or clash, doesn’t mean that they’re initiating force against you. There’s a difference between their refusing to comply with your desires when it’s their prerogative to make a decision about it, which isn’t force (even if they’re “in the wrong”), and those people using force to negate your desire, like physical violence. The difference comes down to: “we detest you (whether rightly or wrongly), so we won’t let you have X,” as against, “we hate you, so we’re going to dump you in the river with cement shoes”; this latter case is force.3. This is a point that a child has to figure out. Parents of children are a special case, because they can initiate physical force against their children—this is an exception to the principle that “the initiation of physical force is evil,” because philosophy pertains to adults. As opposed to adults, there are separate rules for the transition from birth in which the child is building up his rational faculty, and the parents have a moral responsibility to raise the child, including the times when it’s necessary to punish the child against his will. Giving a kid “time-out,” for instance, isn’t voluntary for the child, and it isn’t retaliatory force necessarily: he might be cranky or reckless, etc. Children have to reach this point before they can understand the issue of “force” due to their being under their parent’s jurisdiction, such that they have to realize that a parent forcing them to do something is different from other kids or strangers forcing them to do something. And even within this framework, they have to make the distinction between firm, strict parents and criminal parents. Eventually, they’ll come to distinguish between parental privileges as opposed to some bully pushing them around without any right.Independently grasping these three will provide the means for you to move above simply “force vs. my desire,” with its confused meaning that anything that frustrates your desires is force. Reaching these distinctions will allow you to come to Ayn Rand’s view of “the initiation of physical force against the innocent.” This view is made within the context or framework of human behavior, contrasting “justified force by adults (i.e. retaliatory force),” and “unjustified force (i.e. initiatory force) by criminals, government officials, etc.”As a sort of preliminary induction, we can say from the above that the initiation of physical force is evil because it negates and destroys a victim’s selfish values and their fulfillment, any victim’s values.Force Negates and Discards Specific Conclusions of Your MindTo understand this point, we’d have to realize that the desires we have and the values we choose have their source in conclusions we’ve previously reached. Having taken notice of force, and making the connection, one could further generalize and claim that force not only negates the desire or value in question, but also the thinking that one had to engage in to value or desire it. It’s a big step cognitively, and can only be reached by induction. Another induction we’d reach as an extension of the prior one is that all values above the automatic level of consciousness are products of the ideas that we hold.We don’t necessarily have to reach a full knowledge of this principle to know it’s relation to force, because some people have a better or poorer understanding of the relationship between thought to values. We’d have to at least know that values originate from something, whether it’s the effects of different objects, the alternatives available to us whenever we choose, or knowledge about the means needed to achieve a certain value. The guiding principle to keep in mind is that we had to raise certain questions or concerns, make a firm decision about it and choose a value or goal, and an agent of force confronts you and says, “I don’t care what you want, give it to me!” The forcer isn’t merely against what you want, but specifically he’s against whatever you had to think in order to want it.Even here, you don’t need a theoretical grasp of the relation between thought and emotion, as this level of understanding can be reached based on common-sense observation, simply perceptual data without extrapolating to the broader principle that “all emotions and desires come from thinking.” The best examples here can be taken from introspection. The more casual you’ve decided that someone is a value to you, the less apparent it will be that your thoughts and conclusions were connected with the thing becoming valuable to you. Extreme cases would be people blindly following impulses or what some “value authority” (e.g. a fashion magazine columnist, “the Jones’,” a movie critic) tells them to desire—these kind of people probably won’t be able to determine why they chose the way they did.A person like Ayn Rand would easily understand that force opposes her conclusions; someone who normally doesn’t pay attention to what it is that conclusions impact or influence wouldn’t reach this idea until a long time later, and might need someone to point it out for him.Here’s an example. Picking a mattress: you consider its thread count (the higher the count, the smoother the mattress feels), its color, cost, composite material, and other features. A rival mattress manufacturer says, “take our mattress instead, or else!” The rival is not simply making you go against your values in this case, but also the totality of conclusions you already reached regarding it, and as a result, you’ll be furious or upset with him. Effectively, the manufacturer has invaded your mind, saying in respect to this value of yours, “these considerations and concerns of yours are expendable and pointless, toss them aside.”Contrast that with: You amble along absent-mindedly, pick out the first mattress you see, and that same rival pulls you along to his mattress and says, “here, take this one, and hurry up because we have a lot of customers.” You shrug, and simply buy it. That kind of person won’t have any reason for what he does, and he won’t be upset or angry whenever his reasons are being negated by someone else, because his “reasons” simply don’t exist. He would have an incredibly challenging time reaching the induction that thoughts, conclusions, and knowledge lead to desires, values and emotions.So from these kinds of examples, we can induce that “force negates your conclusions and knowledge,” the force makes your knowledge and thought useless in relation to it. This is the meaning behind Rand’s statement in Atlas Shrugged that, “to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight.” We’d have to connect that with the point that force is opposed to eyesight as such. Say that you wanted to walk home, but a forcer says, “discard your eyes, what you see is beside the point, you’ll walk wherever I want you to walk.” If you see the point clearly, that what you see allows you to walk to a destination, then you can later reach the point that force attacks the eyes as such. (Or any sense organ. Take taste for instance, “I don’t care how bad it tastes, eat it or you’ll regret it!”) But if you just thought, “I want to walk there,” then you won’t connect it to the point that force is an attack on your eyes as such, and you won’t reach the ultimate conclusion we’re approaching.Certainly, force eliminates the incentive or motivation to think, but the Objectivist point here is that force negates your action and thought, and your motivation is beside-the-point because force simply bypasses it. Ayn Rand put the point this way in Atlas Shrugged, “When you force a man to act against his own choice and judgment, it's his thinking that you want him to suspend.”Force Assaults the Faculty of Thought as Such, Stopping and Paralyzing Thoughts about EverythingFor this final induction, we have to induce a relation between physical force and mental paralysis, and this can be done by actually observing the paralysis and bring in the knowledge we have about the mind, using it to analyze and explain the paralysis.Some preliminary things need to be said about paralysis. It is not unique to force: all bad ideas (and even true ones in an unfortunate context, like the news of a dying friend) lead to paralysis of some sort—force simply bypasses the victim’s choice and leads to paralysis directly. Fundamentally, force leads to mental paralysis, not inexorably physical paralysis, although that can be a consequence.A false theory of ethics will paralyze you if you try to be consistent. If you’re a utilitarian, and you act to serve the greatest good for the greatest number, tossing aside all of your previous values, how would you know how to function? That theory purportedly has a “utilitarian calculus” designed to allow you to know what to do, but how do you know that using it will actually serve the goal you’re working for? Should you be a “rule utilitarian” like John S. Mill, or an “act utilitarian” like Bentham? You might try to alleviate your problems by listening to and accepting what others instruct you to do, but how does the “calculus” allow you to make a decision as to who to listen to? Should it be the person with the loudest voice, or the voice that expresses the most erudite sentences, or just whoever tells you to do whatever? Will you become pragmatic and just try a version of utilitarianism to see how it works? Or will you just break down dejectedly and do nothing?It doesn’t matter pointing out that the utilitarian has free will, because he’s put blocks in his own mind that work against his ability to operate properly. Free will doesn’t make someone omnipotent—the mind has certain requirements for properly functioning, and when you fill it with material which is in opposition to its ability to carry out action, then it’s pointless to say: “well, why don’t you just use free will?”A second example: the arbitrary cannot be proved or refuted—you just become stuck. Like Jesus Christ’s alleged supernatural ability to walk on water. There’s no way to prove it, and there’s nothing to think about regarding it. The mind just simply ceases to function in regard to that issue.These were two cases where the paralysis is the victim’s fault, because he accepted the immobilizing agent of his own choice, and he can terminate the paralysis by abolishing that item of his mind. Such is not the case with physical force. Force used against you is carried out by someone else, so the consequent paralysis is not your fault, but that’s also the lethal aspect of force: you can’t just get rid of the paralyzing agent like the other cases above. It’s the one and only way that another person can shut off your reason and mind, halting you mentally, which is not caused by your own mistakes, conclusions, or your despair.Here we could draw a genus of paralysis:Paralysis is against life. Life involves action, and the cessation or prevention of action is against life.1. Paralysis of the body—polio, spinal injury, etc.2. Paralysis of the mindSelf-caused paralysis vs. externally caused paralysisExamples of self-caused paralysis: false moral codes, extreme depression, impossible goal that has to be achieved somehow, accepting the arbitrary, etc.Examples of externally caused paralysis: leaving aside some mind-crippling disease or virus, there’s only physical force.(This isn’t the basic distinction of this induction, because things like polio and arbitrary ideas aren’t the first things that are distinguished from force when one induces. The basic one is “force vs. persuasion”: Human interactions have consequences on the mind. This branches off into: interactions in which respect is given for the autonomy of the person (the method of persuasion), versus the interactions which negate or destroy the autonomy of the person (the method of force). But this isn’t helpful for noticing the specific evil of force, because it prevents us to paying attention to that fact that force paralyzes your mind, with no chance for you to remove the paralyzing agent just by rethinking something alone.)To reach this induction, you would have to observe the paralysis that force produces in its victims. To properly observe this, it would do us well to use a method of induction first introduced by Francis Bacon, and then later incorporated into the “induction” theories of the famous astronomer John Herschel and Utilitarian/logician John S. Mill: what Mill termed the method of “concomitant variations.” In this method, one element increases or expands, and when it does, another element increases as well, and they are related as cause to its effect: the more gas you blow into a balloon, for instance, the bigger the balloon swells, with all over relevant factors being equal. In the case of force and thought, however, this relationship in inversed: as the amount of force increases, the amount of thinking the victim does decreases. If force is restricted to a certain subject (like the mattress example), then the amount of thinking you do will be paralyzed only in that area. But soon it becomes the same general pattern as a bully initially taking your lunch money and then moving on to your coat, watch etc., and finally bullying you whenever he gets a chance, constantly using force against you. At first, you only experience force in this one area, but eventually, you observe that the force, and the resulting mental paralysis, keeps expanding and becoming worse. If the forcer isn’t stopped completely, then the force grows, and the amount of paralysis grows along with it, and if the force becomes total, such as in relentless torture, then so does the mental paralysis.It’s a matter of degrees. The point isn’t that every act of force totally negates and paralyzes the person’s ability to think. The issue is that a given act of force on an innocent man will inexorably lead to, if left unopposed, total, unmitigated paralysis for all the victims involved eventually (which could take a long time, even generations) and this all works gradually. You can’t shut off the mind without using total force, and restricting the force only restricts the paralysis on the victim’s mind, but this restriction is only operative for a definite amount of time, until staying on this course finally leads the victim to total force and total paralysis.A relationship example: A woman is feeling unhappy with staying at home, and comes to the conclusion that she needs a new job. She thinks about herself and previous jobs she’s had, and concludes that she’d make a good secretary for a business, or a public relations representative. When she tells her boyfriend about what she wants to do, he reacts violently and hits her several times, because he wants her to stay at home and sees her as somehow rebelling against him. As is, this is now a problem outside of the woman’s mind’s ability to deal with. The boyfriend’s use of force isn’t an ordinary new fact of reality, that could still be integrated with everything else, and that could lead her to some non-contradictory plan to get around it and thereby achieve her goal. His fists are no different from guns in this respect, because they simply negate whatever she’s thought about and decided. In this early stage of wife-beating, she’s still capable of an enormous range of thought—she could think about how to morally reform him, how to obey him and avoid being hurt any further, how to leave him and find someone else, how to charge him with assault and battery, or even how to take the law into her own hands. But to the extent that she thinks about the options she initially started with, namely to apply to be either a business secretary or a PR representative, she’ll simply be paralyzed. She’s still motivated to act, but she’s been stripped of the means required to actually think about her initial job concerns. She needs to observe the facts, including facts about herself, use logic, connect mental items, but in this job issue her boyfriend’s telling her, “don’t do that, because my (brutally-enforced) wants must have priority over your mind’s connection with the facts.” This is the standard case of force-induced paralysis: On one side, there’s, “I must think about this item because that’s the reality,” and on the other, “I can’t think about this, because the gun will go off, the fists will fly, etc.” And when you’re confronted with “I must” versus “I can’t,” you give up the “I must,” because there’s nothing you can do about the “I can’t.”The mind is an organ of cognition, it integrates and connects things and that is its function. Force interferes with this, making it necessary for the mind to ignore crucial knowledge, work hard not to connect mental items, accept revelations (like those of a gun-wielder) in the process of thinking, etc. In regard to things like this, it doesn’t matter if the person has free will or not, because these sorts of things cannot be done to the mind with impunity. It’s important to recognize how force makes thinking about some issue literally impossible, because you’re no longer a sovereign thinker on the issue that the force is negating, and to think about it will simply mean that you’re evading your knowledge about the force.Consider if the girlfriend ingeniously thinks of a third way, to work while at home, thus satisfying her need for purpose while seemingly complying with her boyfriend’s orders. Even so, she still, metaphorically, had to surgically remove and discard her earlier mental contents about the secretary and PR rep. positions. Some time passes, and the boyfriend finally decides that he doesn’t want her working at home, and beats on her some more, and eventually, he decides that he doesn’t want her to have a job at all, even if that’s how she can become happy, all the while still beating on her. Now, without addressing her abusive boyfriend in one way or another, she cannot think of how to work to become happy, because her ability to act on her decisions on this has been beaten out of her, literally. So, the issue isn’t the lack of motivation or of free will, but epistemological impossibility. The logical conclusion is his sadistically controlling all of her decisions, hitting her for any perceived wrong, work-related or not, and then eventually hurting her for no reason at all, with her fearfully submitting until he goes too far one day and kills her. What starts off as circumscribed force and the resulting paralysis in a circumscribed area or issue, becomes a progressive development leading to the total use of force and the total paralysis and suppression of thought.This is what Ayn Rand meant in Atlas Shrugged, when the hero John Galt says, “Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man's capacity to live.” From the inductions we’ve been covering until now, we’ve seen the role of reason in human life: we know that we need mental integration, thought, abstraction, concepts, objectivity, production, etc. Reason is our means of survival, but force bypasses it and opposes it. It negates and paralyzes our reason and makes us act in contradiction to what we know and value and desire. Rand elaborates on the effect of force on reason, while also describing the metaphysical position it puts its victim in:Reality demands of man that he act for his own rational interest; your gun demands of him that he act against it. Reality threatens man with death if he does not act on his rational judgment; you threaten him with death if he does. (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/physical_force.html)Force puts the victim in a position where he has to disintegrate and evade his own knowledge, defy the facts about himself and reality, and follow the orders of the forcer to avoid either himself or his values becoming damaged or destroyed. Peikoff put the point this way in Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, “When reality is decreed, at gunpoint, to be out of bounds, a rational mind has no way to proceed.” (p. 312)Now, we’ve reached the conclusion. The “initiation of physical force” is evil because it goes against the victim’s desires, the specific conclusions of his reason, and it negates and paralyzes the mind, suppressing the faculty of reason and leaving him helpless to deal with reality. Originally posted on Inductive Quest, by Roderick Fitts, 2011-03-12T20:14:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Looking at Social Security
From Thrutch: Amit Ghate, cross-posted by MetaBlogThis article presents some interesting facts about Social Security, including:Similarly, Congress has repeatedly altered benefits. From 1950 to 1972, it increased them nine times, including a doubling in the early 1950s. In 1972, it indexed benefits to inflation. People didn't complain when benefits rose, but possible cuts now trigger howls that a "contract" is being broken. Not so. In a 1960 decision (Flemming v. Nestor), the Supreme Court expressly rejected the argument that people have a contractual right to Social Security. It cited the 1935 Social Security Act: "The right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision of this Act is hereby reserved to Congress." Congress can change the program whenever it wants. Originally posted on Thrutch, by Amit Ghate, 2011-03-10T14:48:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

Campus Media Response: Traders, not Traitors
From The Undercurrent: Jonathan Akin, cross-posted by MetaBlog
Writing for The Harvard Crimson, Ms. Sandra Korn points to an interesting phenomenon. A large proportion of Harvard’s recent graduates have chosen to pursue careers in finance such as investment banking. This is no doubt due partly to the impressive salaries that such careers often provide.
The author proceeds to scold these graduates for disregarding Harvard’s imperative to “depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.” Financial careers, she says, are largely “socially useless” and even “socially destructive.” She concludes:
It is vital that students question the ubiquitous pre-finance culture that pervades Harvard and dedicate themselves to truly serving their fellow human beings—not creating more wrongs.
Still reeling from the economic crisis, many likely sympathize with the idea that financiers are socially useless. But are they? Even the author concedes that the financial industry provides companies with capital to enable hiring, expansion and innovation. In “The Morality of Moneylending,” Dr. Yaron Brook writes:
...[L]ent money is not “barren”; it is fruitful: It enables borrowers to improve their lives or produce new goods or services. Nor is moneylending a zero-sum game: Both the borrower and the lender benefit from the exchange (as ultimately does everyone involved in the economy). The lender makes a profit, and the borrower gets to use capital—whether for consumption or investment purposes—that he otherwise would not be able to use.
Although Dr. Brook refers specifically to the practice of moneylending, the principle applies to all financial practices. Finance is characterized by trade, which allows each party to exchange his time, money, or expertise for something of greater value to him. Financiers make a living by providing others with the means to achieve retirement, home ownership, a more comfortable lifestyle, and an education for their children, just to name a few. Are we to believe that a specialized service which enables people to improve their lives is socially useless?
And yet, there is a question much deeper than the benefits of the finance industry at stake here, a question of moral value. Is it true that Harvard graduates looking to turn their hard work into dollars are wrong to do so? Should one’s moral purpose be to dedicate oneself to serving one’s fellow human beings? Are we our brother’s keepers?
In the hero’s speech in Atlas ShruggedAyn Rand writes:
Why is it moral to serve the happiness of others, but not your own? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but immoral when experienced by you? If the sensation of eating a cake is a value, why is it an immoral indulgence in your stomach, but a moral goal for you to achieve in the stomach of others? Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for others to do so? Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it away?
Every value, from a slice of cake to a Wall-Street sized salary, requires an act of creation. Each individual must earn values through his own thought and action. For this reason, each needs a moral compass that acknowledges his need to benefit from the values he creates; a code that recognizes his life as the standard of moral value. From this perspective, a financier who produces abundant wealth for himself is pursuing his happiness. He is as moral in pursuing his happiness by creating wealth as he would be in teaching an elementary school or putting out fires. When it comes to a moral evaluation of careers, we should not apologize for creating and enjoying values but assert the pursuit of our own happiness as right.
Originally posted on The Undercurrent, by Jonathan Akin, 2011-03-10T04:29:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

The Self-Defenseless West
From The Rule of Reason: noreply@blogger.com (Edward Cline), cross-posted by MetaBlogTwo oddly varying March 8th versions of the same commentary, “Caliphate, Jihad, Sharia: Now What?” by Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum, appear on the Middle East Forum (MEF) and the Hudson-New York sites. In both he begins by quoting a Columbia University professor from a 2008 debate, “Clash of Civilizations.” The professor answered an “assertion that Islamists seek to resurrect the caliphate, and, according to the doctrine of offensive jihad, wage war – when and wherever expedient – to bring the world under Islamic rule.” "Suppose you prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Islam is constitutionally [inherently] violent, where do you go from there?" (Brackets mine)Ibrahim proceeds to describe a caliphate in two different ways. In the Hudson-New York version, he writes:A caliphate represents a permanent, ideological enemy, not a temporal enemy that can be bought or pacified through diplomacy or concessions -- economic or otherwise. In the MEF version, however, he writes:A jihad-waging, Sharia-enforcing caliphate represents a permanent, existentialist enemy—not a temporal foe that can be bought or pacified through diplomacy or concessions.Note the difference. The term ideological is used as synonymous with existentialist. One might wonder why Ibrahim treats ideology as existential, except perhaps because it is a system of thought that exists and which has a measurable potency or influence. But ideologies, or ideas, do not exist independently of their progenitors, advocates, or exponents. Ideologies or ideas cannot act on their own; they must have “temporal” actors or men who carry them out. Islam is an “enemy” only in the person of jihadists who perform actions of both the physical and stealth kinds.The jihad against the West is indeed temporal in nature, to either physically subjugate it, or destroy it. Ibrahim then notes in the Hudson version what the establishment of a multinational caliphate would mean to the West. The very existence of a caliphate would usher a state of constant hostility: Both historically and doctrinally, the caliphate is obligated to wage jihad, at least annually, to bring the "disbelieving" world under Islamic dominion and enforce Sharia law. Most of what is today called the "Muslim world"—from Morocco to Pakistan—was conquered, bit by bit, by a caliphate begun in Arabia in 632.And in the MEF version:Consider the caliphate: its very existence would usher in a state of constant hostility. Both historically and doctrinally, the caliphate's function is to wage jihad, whenever and wherever possible, to bring the infidel world under Islamic dominion and enforce Sharia. In fact, most of what is today called the "Muslim world"—from Morocco to Pakistan—was conquered, bit by bit, by a caliphate that began in Arabia in 632.In truth, the West did face an enemy that waged constant warfare against it: the Soviet Union. So, there is a precedent for what the West now faces in the form of a totalitarian ideology albeit which Ibrahim later in the MEF version describes as one dressed in “religious garb.” He speculates on what the West is or is not prepared to do about a caliphate. In his Hudson version, he asks:Yet, as Western people begin to understand what is at stake, what exactly are their governments prepared to do about it — now, before the caliphate becomes a reality? Would the West be willing to launch a preemptive offensive — politically, legally, educationally, and, if necessary, militarily — if these were the only solutions to the establishment of a jihad-waging, Sharia-enforcing caliphate? Would it go on the offensive without waiting until its enemies were strong so that by the time one realized what was happening it would be too late, or would political correctness and pacifist inertia allow the Islamists to have their way?And in the MEF version:In this context, what, exactly, is the Western world prepared to do about it—now, before the caliphate becomes a reality? Would it be willing to launch a preemptive offensive—politically, legally, educationally, and, if necessary, militarily—to prevent its resurrection? Could the West ever go on the offensive, openly and confidently—now, when it has the upper-hand—to incapacitate its enemies?It is noteworthy that Ibrahim substitutes political correctness and pacifist inertia with openly and confidently when he changes the thrust of his rhetorical question in the MEF version. It is also noteworthy that he leaves the military option until last. In the MEF version, he asserts that the West still has the “upper-hand.” On the contrary, that hand is palsied. The West’s “openness” and “confidence” have been disabled, if not completely amputated, by political correctness and pacifist inertia, not to mention by multiculturalism and unprincipled pragmatism of a succession of administrations. And, openness and confidence about what? That the West is superior? That it is secular in nature, not religious? That the Mideast depends on its survival on the West? That there is no such thing as “Islamic” culture or an “Islamic civilization”? Was the Mafia crime empire, which stretched from Sicily to Chicago, with its warped code of ethics and use of force, fear, and murder, a “civilization”? Ibrahim notes in the Hudson version:The West, alarmingly, does not have a political history or language to justify an offensive against an ideological foe. And in the MEF version:The fact is, the West does not have the political paradigms or language to justify an offensive against an ideological foe in religious garb.Actually, in the context of dealing with Islam, it does have such a “language” and a “political history” or “political paradigm,” ranging from the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century to the battles of Omdurman and Umm Diwaykarat in 1898-99, in all instances acting with military force against Islamist depredations and expansionist designs, and with the knowledge, implicit or explicit, that Islam was inherently hostile to Western values and dedicated to removing them from human existence. In the Hudson version, he notes:Worse, as Arab governments come crashing down, the Obama administration has made it clear that it is willing to engage the Islamists and permit the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in elections, even before institutions of democracy — such as rule of law, an independent judiciary, and above all, free speech and a free press — have developed.On the MEF version, he writes:Indeed, the Obama administration has already made it clear that it is willing to engage the Brotherhood, differentiating them from "radicals" like al-Quaeda—even as the Brotherhood's motto is "Allah is our objective, the prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah our highest hope." Likewise, a theocratic, eschatologically-driven Iran is on its way to possessing nuclear weapons—all while the international community stands by.It is unclear in Ibrahim’s article whether he is underscoring his own rhetorical question-begging and inability to provide answers, or the Columbia professor’s. But overall, Raymond Ibrahim’s articles reveal serious and fatal indecision about what action should be taken against regimes that conduct warfare against the West, and in particular against the U.S., with the aim of subjugating it and imposing the Islamic ideology. The West had the language and the resolve. And an important element in that resolve was that no Western nation was a top-to-bottom welfare state, was not “multicultural,” did not deprecate or suborn the things its citizens valued, such as individual rights, freedom from state interference in their personal lives and actions, and the rule of objective law. The West in the 19th century was riding on the mere momentum of an Aristotelian philosophy. But the rise of welfare states and the inculcation of statism undercut and finally arrested that momentum, and dissolved those things over decades of philosophical and moral bankruptcy. The United States reached a point where it elected a president who is actively anti-freedom, anti-reason, and unabashedly pro-statist, willing to apologize to the world for the U.S.’s greatness and working to see it diminished if not destroyed. One could possibly date the phenomenon to WWI and the rise of Progressivism early in the 20th century, and the steadfast implementation of policies of pragmatism and appeasement. The roots of that phenomenon can be traced clear back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when Immanuel Kant and his successors launched an attack on Aristotelian thought, that is, on reason. The West will remain helpless and impotent “in the face of an ideological foe dressed in religious garb” unless it adopts an ideology that will identify that foe and strip it of that garb for all to see. That is not going to happen when our policymakers refuse to identify Islam as the foe, but instead claim that Islam is fundamentally “peaceful” and that it was “hijacked” by “extremists.” One never heard FDR claim that Nazism and Shintoism were “hijacked” by “extremists” or say that these ideologies were somehow “radicalized.” Even left-wing FDR had a quantum of intellectual honesty that has put all of his successors to shame, including Eisenhower and Reagan. It is the West’s policies that have put it in the perilous position it is now in. I see no solution to the problem except a revolution in political thought and policy in this country. It is either that, or recognizing very quickly that only long-overdue retaliatory force will begin to solve the problem, such as eliminating states that sponsor terrorism before they eliminate us, of acknowledging that Islam is indeed an enemy in the persons of its subscribers. The same policy should apply to extinguishing Somali piracy, even at the risk of the lives of the captives of the pirates. Lancing that particular boil would be a good start. Without an honesty and confidence founded on reason and rational values, and faced with the prospect of another “evil empire” in the form of a caliphate, the only direction the West can go is down to its own destruction. The confusion and hesitancy on the part of “experts” like Raymond Ibrahim are not encouraging. Originally posted on The Rule of Reason, by noreply@blogger.com (Edward Cline), 2011-03-12T14:15:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog

A Crime Story
From Gus Van Horn: Gus Van Horn, cross-posted by MetaBlogIn part because my Dad was a cop and in part because such stories illustrate that reality is on the side of the good guys, I enjoy accounts detailing how notorious criminals are eventually caught. That said, it may come as a surprise to learn that I was unfamiliar with how Charles Ponzi, who lends his name to a type of fraudulent investment scheme, was finally exposed.I ran across a brief account of Ponzi and his scheme recently at Mental Floss and laughed out loud when I read about how a last-ditch effort of his to maintain credibility with "investors" backfired.Things were starting to look less rosy for the scammer, though. Although he'd largely placated his investors after Barron's report [Yes. That Barron --ed], Ponzi must have realized his window of opportunity was closing. He hired a publicist, William McMasters, but the PR man saw through Ponzi's lies and renounced his client in the press. James Walsh reprints part of McMasters' slam of Ponzi in his book, You Can't Cheat An Honest Man. Of Ponzi, McMasters said, "The man is a financial idiot. He can hardly add... He sits with his feet on the desk smoking expensive cigars in a diamond holder and talking complete gibberish about postal coupons." [emphasis in original, minor format edits]The gibberish -- which a New York Times blogger incorrectly implies is the essence of the scheme -- was about a perfectly legal (but highly impractical -- search "tape" and "overhead" here) arbitrage scheme Ponzi used to dupe people into handing over their money. Interestingly enough, some research and a little simple arithmetic could have shown anyone that this scheme was not the source of Ponzi's huge returns because it could not have been:While [Wall Street Journal owner Clarence] Barron conceded that there probably was a way for a person to make a small amount of quick cash on the postal reply coupon scheme, he figured that Ponzi would have to be moving 160 million coupons around to raise the cash he needed to support the business. Since there were only 27,000 postal reply coupons circulating in the world, Ponzi's story didn't check out.Indeed, Ponzi himself practically offered a public confession, via his actions, to the press once he started becoming famous:... Ponzi told newspapers he invested his own cash in real estate, stocks, and bonds like any normal investor. Barron pointed out the obvious question here: if Ponzi had this failsafe scheme in which he could make a 50% profit, why was he putting his own money into plain old investment instruments that would give him (maybe) a 5% return? [emphasis in original]As mentioned above, a 2008 book about Ponzi is titled You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. I am otherwise unfamiliar with the book and exactly why its author chose its title, but it certainly sounds apt: It is plain to me that many of Ponzi's victims could have spared themselves simply by looking into whether and how such an arbitrage scheme could be put into practice on the scale needed to provide a return on a large investment. (Or, failing that, they could have refrained from handing over large amounts of money for investment into something they did not really understand.)While it hardly makes what Ponzi did any better, many of his victims did, in fact, fail to ask him hard questions or compare notes with someone knowledgeable about international postage reply coupons. To the extent that this failure was due to evasion of the fact that they were risking lots of money, his victims got what they deserved.-- CAV Originally posted on Gus Van Horn, by Gus Van Horn, 2011-03-11T12:21:00Z ReBlogged by Meta Blog



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