18 comments on “Atlas Farted

  1. MichaelM writes:

    "… and now I know I can't point out any flaw in her logic if I'm in the same room as her fans/cultists."

    That goes for blogs as well, where your self-degradation gets seen by way more warm bodies than in just one little room. The bloglands are littered with the intellectual corpses of philosophical babes-in-the-woods who think, after reading one Rand novel, that they will be the one who will turn the rising Objectivist tide back to whence it came. They made the fatal mistake of ignoring the signposts that warned: a man's worst enemies are his own false assumptions!

    Here is a great way to stop looking like an idiot. Criticize Rand for the capitalism she actually did advocate, instead of the one that you wish she had advocated so that you could dismiss it with a few shallow remarks embellished with an ad hominem or two. Show everyone how terrible it would be if no one could use coercion to take stuff from each other and give it to someone else.

    Rand's radical capitalism has only one fundamental principle: no human may initiate the use of physical force to gain or withhold a value owned by another human. This principle applies to everyone, including the government. The government becomes the only agent of force and is constituted with checks and balances and specific mandates to guarantee that it may only use physical force defensively to prevent, stop, and punish the initiation of force for gain.

    So go to it. Show us your stuff. Here's a tip: be careful not to apply this in a context matching the status quo. Be sure you have correctly identified the nature of the rationality of the majority in any region that would put such a government in place. Read those warnings about false assumptions again and again. And unless you are 14 years old or younger, do not tell us that the small government that would ensue could not be financed without using force to collect taxes. It is particularly embarrassing when adults do that while using the internet wherefrom billions of poor people around the world get such monumental value for virtually nothing sans the benefit of the government's guns.

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  2. "Rand's radical capitalism has only one fundamental principle: no human may initiate the use of physical force to gain or withhold a value owned by another human. This principle applies to everyone, including the government."

    Well that's the principle I find most hilariously ideal. Are you telling me that if that principle permeated the core of human values, that no one could/would harm another? Are you telling me that when the elite abandon the looters, that there is never physical harm done to those dependent on the infrastructure? How hopelessly naive. And where is the line drawn for that slippery slope that allows the government to be the only "agent of force" to "punish the initiation of force for gain"? If the government (i.e. the people who elected it) could know such a line, then sure, everything would work. And that my friend is idealism.

    I don't think I've stated anywhere about small government not being able to finance itself without force. It stands to reason that the smaller it is the more capable it is of doing so in fact. So I'm not sure what you are arguing about. The nature of the rationality you ask for is simply expediency.

    Here's a tip: the internet is not the real world. Just because it doesn't need forceful enforcement doesn't mean a small government would be similar, it's simply not comparable. The internet does not regulate or mediate your livelihood, it's simply an organic respository for information, and therefore you can't really disobey it, and therefore it does not require force to achieve ends that it doesn't have.

    It is particularly embarrassing that a Randian objectivist would use the internet as an example for Randian capitalism when it epitomizes the usury of the providers for the benefits of the looters, where original ideas, work, and services are taken with little regard for "property" rights and shared with the "undeserving."

    When you think someone's assumptions are false, check your premises, including your so-called Randian objectivity. Or is that sacrosanct?

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  3. MichaelM writes:

    "Well that's the principle I find most hilariously ideal."

    And this is supposed to mean what to whom? In a discussion of philosophical principles, the significance of laughter is zero.

    ———-

    "Are you telling me that if that principle permeated the core of human values, that no one could/would harm another? "

    No. Once again, you have contrived an impossible meaning to suit your preconceived argument against it. No government is created with the expectation that it can make men perfect. This principle is defined with the assumption that some men will always try to initiate physical force for gain.

    It is necessitated by a more fundamental principle of ethics: that the success of each person's life depends on how well he defines reality and acts accordingly. Since all men are fallible, his primary need is the autonomy to make his own choices, including when and whether to rely on the choices of others. The only enemy of such freedom is physical force. Therefore, the only moral government is one that seeks to prevent interference by force in the exercise of that freedom.

    In respect to allowing the use of force, there are only three possible governing principles: no force, some force, or any force you want. Rand says the goal is no initiated force. Everyone else holds that it is moral for a majority to gang up on a minority to take by threat of force what they want or to coerce their non-violent behavior — i.e. the kind of government we have now. The problem with that is that there is no principle to define how much force is moral, so your complaints about the "elite" and the "slippery slope" apply to your principle of government, not mine.

    —————–

    "The internet does not regulate or mediate your livelihood,…"

    Nor does Rand's capitalism. It regulates only initiated force and nothing else, period. Furthermore there is nothing in the nature of the internet that fosters the looting of property rights. That happens because the government we presently have fails to protect property rights that are taken by force. A Randian government would be mandated to provide such protection, and for 50 years beyond the creator's lifetime.

    Under her form of government all men have the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of their own version of happiness. Those rights are absolute. Every human being under its jurisdiction would be free to do whatever he wants so long as he refrained from violating one of those rights by force. If you do not like her government, which of these rights do you think the people and/or the government should be enabled to violate?

    It goes without saying that the success of such a government still depends on the precision and accuracy of the definitions of those rights in the Constitution and the efficient enforcement of them, not to mention efficacious safeguards against the abuse of power by government. These are all the very things that present and past governments have failed to do. But none of them had a consistent objective philosophy as their foundation.

    —————–

    I did not accuse you of saying government could not be financed without resorting to the threat of force. I merely attempted to preempt it. I will apologize for making a false assumption of my own on that count if you will confirm that you too regard all forms of taxation as a violation of the right to property.

    —————–

    Finally, there is a hint in your first sentence that you think radical capitalism of this sort is an unreachable ideal. In Rand's world that cannot be, because that is a self-contradiction. An ideal that is unreachable is not ideal, because it is unreachable. Therefore only mystics nurture unreachable other-worldly ideals. In Rand's terms, ideal means perfect and all ideals are by definition reachable, however long it may or may not take.

    —————–

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  4. "And this is supposed to mean what to whom? In a discussion of philosophical principles, the significance of laughter is zero."

    And that is exactly the fatally sober self-righteousness that makes debate with most objectivists such an agonizing ordeal. We're peons debating world truths… lighten up, you just might gain a wider audience. And way to go on taking the word "hilariously" too literally, nice touch.

    ———–

    "Since all men are fallible, his primary need is the autonomy to make his own choices, including when and whether to rely on the choices of others. The only enemy of such freedom is physical force."

    Ah, but the devil's in the detail. If I start a fraud to seduce the time and money of men, have I resorted to any physical force to usurp my fellow man? And if results in greater financial, social, and emotional damage, how could your government hold me accountable? Perhaps I spread pornographic pictures of you and your wife across the internet, filled with carefully crafted lies and evidences, destroying your reputation and livelihood. What's the force?

    Perhaps through my negligence, I fail to enforce workplace safety and men die, it seems I should be blamed for lack of force. Perhaps I abandon my baby, leave a car in the middle of the freeway, gently teach a child the my virtues of underaged sex, leave toxic chemicals lying around without a care… what phsyical force has been made?

    The amazing thing about men is that the most evil ones do not need to perform the physical violence themselves. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. can not of the totality of their crimes measured by JUST the physical violence they committed themselves. These men did have the freedom to make choices, and they chose taking inalienable freedoms from others, and it didn't happen because they simply overpowered their way to the top. The physical force was only the symptom, not the source of their evil.

    ———–

    "Furthermore there is nothing in the nature of the internet that fosters the looting of property rights. That happens because the government we presently have fails to protect property rights that are taken by force. A Randian government would be mandated to provide such protection, and for 50 years beyond the creator's lifetime."

    I see, so apparently Ayn Rand has a definition of property that, unlike that which our forefathers created (or any other in existence), stays relevant despite the shifting paradigms and ambiguities of what people call property?

    Everything on the internet is "property" in the sense of having an original possessor. I created this blog, it's is my property. Or is it? Did I not assemble it from the works and images of others? Does every person in my photographs or links have claim in my stake? Is this product I call a blog really mine?

    And yet that is the very essence of the internet's power. The speed at which complete democratization of information has happened has left legislation and regulation in the dust. The problem with Randian capitalism is that it can't protect intellectual property since there is no physical force needed to steal it. Alan Greenspan, one of Rand's disciples, writes lucidly about the enforcement of property being the most important lifeline for capitalism. Yet even he has doubts over whether strict IP protection is a good thing.

    ———–

    "Under her form of government all men have the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of their own version of happiness. Those rights are absolute."

    If those right were absolute, as they are claimed to be in our Constitution, men would understand them and know their boundaries. It is because men don't that we have courts of law that protect even against the non-physical force by which their rights are violated.

    Not one objectivist has shown me how in a Randian capitalism, her men *would* know any better than men today. Unfortunately for you, my idea of liberty is the right to convince your supporters away, and my idea of happiness is your downfall by no physical hand of mine, which I shall pursue with glee. I'll trick your wife and children into affairs and knowningly leave them with AIDS, because sick people like me exist. I'll stand before you daring you to initiate force, because I can taunt you with the fact that I initiated a wrong that is right in my version of liberty.

    Arguing about what ideal means is just semantics. You know what I meant, and just because her ideals are perfect and reachable does not mean they are LIKELY to be, and what should man do in the meantime? I highly suggest you read research in biology, psychology, and anthropological history. You will discover that evolution has never favored nor created a brain for us that allowed non-competing "pursuits" of happiness. Her ideas are nothing new, they just can never reach critical mass.

    Nature itself is competition of the most violent sort. Studies show that success (even without the benefit of law) comes most often from the reciprocation of both gain and loss, physical or otherwise. I like when Greenspan gives it a Randian name of "creative destruction" as if it was innocuous and harms no one. Reality has a different tale to tell.

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  5. MichaelM writes:

    "We're peons debating world truths… lighten up"

    Speak for yourself. Instead of me lightening up you might try growing up. If, after Atlas, you feel inclined to tackle another Rand book, please read "Virtue of Selfishness" and start at the back of the book. The last chapter is on the 'argument from intimidation' — substituting an explicit or implicit moral judgment of the idea for intellectual argument. It is a bad habit that permeates the present culture down into the subtlest, almost imperceptible forms. It inevitably seeks to rally the support of non-thinkers who feed on connotations instead of denotations. To every intelligent debater, it signals that the person using it cannot find anything of substance to say. Ultimately, its use can reduce debate from a search for truth to a tactical battle of asserted damnations.

    Yes, "hilarious" was a minor infraction, but a tip of the proverbial iceberg nonetheless: a readiness to attack ideas with ridicule instead of opposing ideas to the contrary. It is there in the juvenile "Atlas Farted" title to your post. I'm not saying this to put you down. It is a gift from my own experience. If you start now, it will take many years to rid yourself of the habit. Until then, every time you do it, you will degrade yourself and your own arguments in the clear sight of honest minds.

    —————-

    "If I start a fraud to seduce the time and money of men, have I resorted to any physical force…"

    Now who's being too literal? Just as we have libel laws today to protect the reputation that you own, and just as we have laws against fraud, so would a capitalist government. These are age old recognitions of indirect force, i.e. the taking of values, withholding of values, or destroying of values that would necessitate physical force to retake them or repay them. [more below]

    "workplace safety": All business relations are contractual. All violations of contracts are inherently coercive and punishable as a crime.
    But if you voluntarily choose to work at a place that has no independent certification that its safety precautions are adequate (which would make them part of your contract), then you are taking your own chances. On the other hand, a capitalist government may not prevent you from taking those chances if you want to.

    "Perhaps I abandon my baby,…" As a product of your actions, it is your responsibility to raise your own children to self-sufficiency. This principle is operative in a capitalist society as it is today. Fetuses do not have rights. Infants have the right to life from birth forward subject to restrictions on their autonomy to the degree they are not yet able to fully grasp and sustain the reciprocity of rights vis a vis other human beings. Child abuse then is a violation of rights. Forcing your child to repay damage caused is not.

    "leave toxic chemicals lying around…" It would not be possible for the government to allow the dumping of toxic waste in lands, rivers, and streams as it does today, because there would be no public property. All property would be private and covered by property rights. Regulations would be effected through deed controls that would be sustained by the courts and enforced by the government. If rivers had been condominiums from the start, they never would have been polluted. If the whales had been owned by the Japanese and the Russians, there would be buoys in the oceans with signs saying "Caution: whale pods crossing!". Rare is the human who will destroy his own assets. If you want to protect the environment, you have to convert every part of it into assets.

    "The amazing thing about men is that the most evil ones do not need to perform the physical violence themselves. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. …" Why do you expect that conspirators and accomplices to crimes would be any less guilty of them than they are today. The guilt of initiating force falls on all parties to the act (including the driver of the getaway car).

    ————-

    "I see, so apparently Ayn Rand has a definition of property that, unlike that which our forefathers created (or any other in existence), stays relevant despite the shifting paradigms and ambiguities of what people call property?"

    Yes, absolutely and unambiguously: If you create it — i.e. it is the product of your ideas and actions — it is your property. If you exchange your property, that which you acquire in the exchange is your property. There are no restrictions on what you may do to or with your property other than the single mandate that you may not use it to take a value from someone else by force (direct or indirect).

    ————–

    "Everything on the internet is "property" in the sense of having an original possessor."

    There was always an original possessor, but some of it is no longer property. Some is in the public domain, either because the copyrights have expired, or because the creator or a subsequent owner have waived their rights.

    —————

    " I created this blog, it's is my property. Or is it? "

    How much of your blog content would belong to you under capitalism would depend entirely on the nature of your contractual relationships (explicit or implied) with all parties who are part of or contribute to it.

    —————

    "The problem with Randian capitalism is that it can't protect intellectual property since there is no physical force needed to steal it."

    Again, you did not see the indirect force. This is an important principle. It will help you to understand it if you focus on the violations of rights as the taking or destroying of "value" instead of as concrete acts on "things". In other words, all involuntary exchanges of value involve physical force, even when the actual act has not yet come to fruition or when it is only a threat of the act, or when it is only the enabling or causation of the act by others. The ramifications are far reaching. Here are just two:

    1). Protecting copyrights only until the death of the creator is a violation of the creator's property rights. In that case the value of the rights is reduced to near zero because no one would buy rights that would expire if the creator would die the day after signing the sale. If protected for 50 years after death, they have value even on the day he dies and he is able to pass that value to his heirs.

    2). The deaths of innocent children in the carpet bombing of a country that initiates a war are crimes of the aggressors, not the bombers. The aggressor created the necessity for the bombing.

    By the way #1: though Greenspan remained a friend of Rand until her death, most reports say he did not follow through with a full commitment to Objectivism as his philosophy.

    By the way #2: The failure of a government to recognize a right or to thoroughly enforce a right does not in any way diminish the right's validity. The beauty of Rand's capitalism is that rights must be fully and objectively defined – the government would only be allowed to do what is specified – and the government would not have anything else to do, so it would be infinitely more efficient at protecting rights.

    ——————

    "Not one objectivist has shown me how in a Randian capitalism, her men *would* know any better than men today." (which begs the question whether that is their fault or yours.)

    Governments do not make men good.

    But only good men can make a good government. Therefore, if you define a good government, it will not exist until there are enough good men to establish it over all others in a particular region. When and if some do, there will be ipso facto enough good men to sustain it. They will control the bad men be defensive force. A perfect government does not need everyone to be perfect.

    You shouldn't be waiting on us to show you. Rand's capitalism is currently the only challenge to the trio of Communism, Fascism, and Pragmatism. You should take it on yourself to understand it and variations of the lingering alternatives and judge them with all the disciplined application of your rational faculty you can muster. Then act accordingly. Your decision will be rewarded or punished by reality. On the other hand, I do try to show honest minds that I value the value of Rand's ideas. If a blogger shows a spark of brightness, I offer my assistance. If it is refused or ignored, I let go, and the bungee attached to my brain yanks me back to Google's overlook to search for other sparks.

    Right now, your knowledge of radical capitalism is shallow. And you've shown no signs of having a positive alternative. So you are backed into the momentarily safe corner of skepticism — firing knee-jerk rounds of negative responses at random against all unfamiliar aliens. This very discussion with me points to the danger of that position — the friendly fire syndrome. Your outreach to grasp an underlying principle of justice in disparate events and actions in the above post and your concern, as a creator, for the protection of intellectual property rights is so Objectivist, your opposition to Rand is, on the surface, dumbfounding. But I understand the possibility that represents, because I still have the copy of "The Virtue of Selfishness" that was the first Rand book I read when I was exactly the same kind of skeptic in my 20's, and it is marred throughout with 2B penciled protestations in the marginalia. Since then, the most consistent aspect of my life has been, in spite of all due diligence, my failure to prove her wrong on any significant issue.

    ——————–

    "Arguing about what ideal means is just semantics. You know what I meant, and just because her ideals are perfect and reachable does not mean they are LIKELY to be…"

    When you rid yourself of the "hilarious" thing, dump the "semantics" thing along with it. That sentence is a completely empty redundancy — another bad habit inherited from those who wish words did not have specific meanings in specific contexts. And no, I did not know what you meant. Mystical (unreachable) ideals and objective (reachable) ideals are vastly different positions. Each is at the base of completely opposed philosophies and hence are manifested by opposing conclusions in ethics, politics, and aesthetics. Knowing which side you take on the meaning of "ideal" is central to understanding your position.

    If you define the perfect human philosophy, it is not your own until you choose to live by it, and you actually achieve that. And if you and everyone else alive at any given time all fail to live by it, that philosophy is no less perfect. The operative principle is that the word "perfect" means consistent with the nature of reality — a nature that is independent from our thoughts, choices, and actions. It has an objective identity. Our job is to discover that identity and live according to it. And that is precisely the answer to the question, " what should man do in the meantime?"

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  6. "Speak for yourself. Instead of me lightening up you might try growing up."

    Well that's interesting, apparently objectivists are human after all, capable of hypocrisy. I have not made a single ad hominem attack, but so far you've called me an idiot and told me to grow up. You do realize that the "juvenile" title Atlas Farted is a wayward reference to natural gas since the post was about energy? It may not be your cup of tea, but most of the titles on this blog are synthetic idioms. Your understanding of others is not as complete as you think, and it was in no way an attack on Rand.

    ——————–
    "Just as we have libel laws today to protect the reputation that you own, and just as we have laws against fraud, so would a capitalist government. These are age old recognitions of indirect force, i.e. the taking of values, withholding of values, or destroying of values that would necessitate physical force to retake them or repay them."

    And here is where the philosophy fails. Age old recognitions of indirect force? Defined by whom? These are not values shared universally. That our country has laws with these values is a historical exception, not a mean.

    But I see you already start making a gray area for yourself. It's no longer regulating only initiated force, but an initiated requirement of force. Again, a slippery slope. But let's look at your arguments individually:

    ——————–
    "But if you voluntarily choose to work at a place that has no independent certification that its safety precautions are adequate… then you are taking your own chances."

    Who says the people who suffer are only the people with whom I have a working contract? If my bridge collapses due to negligence, were all the commuters on it supposed to have contracts that absolve my liability? That's great! Who says those who work for me can be so completely educated about workplace dangers? What if I were to discover a repository of asbestos that the independent certification missed and ignored it? What if my worker doesn't even know what asbestos does to a person? His ignorance is punishable I see. Then it's a good thing we all know everything about every substance that ever enters out body and is used in our lives.

    ——————–
    "As a product of your actions, it is your responsibility to raise your own children to self-sufficiency."

    I like your clear definition of where, when, and how we can define a child has become autonomous, in a way agreed upon universally. It's so simple why haven't we already figured it out today.

    ——————–
    "It would not be possible for the government to allow the dumping of toxic waste… because there would be no public property."

    Who said anything about pollution? I, as in myself, think it would be funny/useful to leave toxic chemical on private property I bought to encircle the town such that anyone passing is sickened to death. Isn't it their fault for crossing my land without foreknowledge of the dangers I haven't revealed?

    ——————–
    "Why do you expect that conspirators and accomplices to crimes would be any less guilty…"

    I don't, but you have no mechanism to punish them for more than their "initiated" crimes. Either you think Hitler was responsible for every atrocity committed under his name, or only the things he did with his own two hands. The vast space in-between is gray area that cannot be defined in one simple line about radical capitalism.

    ——————–
    "If you create it — i.e. it is the product of your ideas and actions — it is your property."

    This is hopelessly naive. If I need to explain why, then any explanation is worthless. I trust you are intelligent enough to why see for yourself.

    "There was always an original possessor, but some of it is no longer property."

    Right, I forgot that everything I've stolen from the internet had property rights on them, and they had conveniently expired because the owner must have died or waived his rights the second before I posted.

    I have no contractual relationships with any parties involved, much less their knowledge. I think you are saying it "would" be like that in a Randian capitalism, to which I again stress how productive it would be tie every single minute action I ever perform that involves property to a consensual contract. How can your "good men" reach their potentials under the constant fear of committing accidental indirect force?

    Greenspan saw this and that is why he was against excessive IP controls. I think it says alot that Greenspan, Rand's loyal disciple, did not follow-through with pure Objectivism after becoming one of the world's most powerful and influential men. He realized the impracticality of preemptively demanding consensual contracts for everything, and that even the attempt encumbers productivity.

    ——————–
    "The aggressor created the necessity for the bombing."

    Excellent, a blank check for incompetence and the military industrial complex of physical force, exactly what you wanted. Right, my objectivist friend? Oh it's not a blank check? Then I wonder who decides the limits. No matter, it is actually the fault of the people in the world trade towers anyways, since they should have known of the dangers posed by fanatical suicide jets. We're at fault for letting known aggressors harm us, right? That danger preeminent should have given us the right to stop it with our own force first! And the spiral continues!

    Where are your fully and objectively defined rights? The government would be allowed to do what we "objectively" define at a time of duress, so there is no objectivity. We are not robots; we decide based on our needs of the moment. And what happens when the government fails to follow our definitions? I'm so sure the "right's validity" is a huge consolation to those wronged.

    ——————–
    "But only good men can make a good government."

    In other words, this would all work if your ideal government consisted only of the kind of men who would enable it to work.

    "Your decision will be rewarded or punished by reality."

    Excellent, because reality seems to reward non-objectivists just fine.

    ——————–
    "So you are backed into the momentarily safe corner of skepticism — firing knee-jerk rounds of negative responses at random against all unfamiliar aliens."

    Good to know that the many issues I brought up, which may be life or death for some people, are just knee-jerk responses. They couldn't possibly happen without any moral gray area in your perfect society, right? Sorry, your personal conversion does not imply absolute correctness. My understanding of radical capitalism is shallow because I understand that it is not capitalism, it is a capitalist-government hybrid. Pure capitalism would create a market for Randian thought, and it hasn't. True capitalism has one constant: the right to private ownership. Enforcement is not in its definition.

    ——————–
    For your radical capitalism to survive, we need to have universal agreement on objectively defined laws, and though objectivists have the arrogance to assume that should be obvious to everyone, it isn't. The strawman you wield is that people aren't all objectivists. But that will likely always be the case, and until it surmounts the problem of there not being enough “good men” first, it will never reach critical mass.

    You say it best yourself, that "perfect" is consistence with the nature of reality independent of our thoughts. Look around you, despite your objectivist thoughts, is that reality? Or just the reality you want? Oh but I understand, you've already consoled yourself that you are never wrong:

    "And if you and everyone else alive at any given time all fail to live by it, that philosophy is no less perfect."

    This has been fun, but if you chose to see me as an enemy of your thought, and not a possible non-optimal member of your ideal society, then you can never reach that ideal. Because in your ideal, I don't exist.

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  7. MichaelM writes:

    Governments are defined by a set of principles that extend an ethic in the context of the individual human being's life into the context of many individuals living and interacting together in a particular region. The validity of any concept of government depends entirely on the validity of the ethical foundation and its consistency with it. You cannot define a government with an endless list of societal do's and don'ts. Nor can you invalidate a government by conjuring long lists of life threatening situations for which you see no solution under its jurisdiction.

    The principle that gives rise to laissez-faire capitalism is that un-breached autonomy is the pertinent prerequisite for the life of a rational, volitional (hence fallible), human being. Implicit in the fact that its basis is the essential nature of a human is the mandate for each human to grant that same autonomy to all other humans. Granting that implies in turn that the very act of a human to violate the autonomy of another, constitutes an automatic renunciation of his own right to that autonomy. If you disagree with this, please state your preferred alternative principle.

    Rand argues that the extension of that principle into the context of a society requires that all human interaction shall be voluntary — that no exchanges of value, both tangible and intangible, shall be coerced. If you disagree with this, what principle can you offer as a better alternative?

    Of all the differences from other governments that result from this set of principles, the most profound is that governments may not levy taxes for anything, because taxation inherently coerces some persons into an involuntary exchange of values.

    The inability to immediately specify how various complex problems that would arise under such a different government would be solved with only voluntary value-exchanges has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of the principles. So long as the principles are demonstrably valid, suggested solutions must conform to their requirements or be abandoned and others that do conform found. In the face of apparent contradictions, the principles must be revisited and revalidated or revised to correct any error found.

    So far, I have searched your lists of specific objections trying to decipher some underlying principle that could serve as an alternative to compare with Rand's at that level, but I have failed to find them. Do you have any concept of the nature of man that would support a set of principles around which you think that a just government should be constructed? If this discussion is to continue, it needs to go there first and return later to specifics.

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  8. I say this with no sarcasm whatsoever, EXCELLENT! You are now finally rational, coherent, and most importantly, right on every count. You may have thought that I was against your ideas, but I wasn't, I was simply against the absolutism in objectivism, yet which hypocritically doesn't apply its principles to itself.

    I am in complete agreement that the validity of a government is a function of its ethics.

    I am in complete agreement that un-breached autonomy is the pertinent prerequisite for the life of a rational human being, and that he should grant the same autonomy to others.

    I am in complete agreement that all interaction should be voluntary.

    I am in complete understanding that the lack of answers to complex specificities does not invalidate your idea, as the principle (just as the principles of our forefathers forged into the Constitution) will probably provide the tools when the time comes.

    However, I do not have a set of principles by which I think a just government should be constructed, because I do not believe a just government can BE constructed. Instead, I believe in the purest form of Darwinism. Expediency creates governments, expediency kills governments. A just government must be created from need.

    Rand believed that if the Atlas' shrugged long enough, the world would have that need. She contradicts herself, thinking the world would be willing to destroy itself, yet that's the only way to teach them that need and save them. The problem is that she only has looters, scabs, Eddie Willers, and Hank Reardens in her world, and the real world is hardly that black and white. But she knew that her Atlas' did not exist and that the fate of the world does not really depend these ultra-rational superhumans.

    Therefore, the demand for a perfectly rational application of beliefs and principles (even in her own life) has always been destined for failure. Of course we should strive for many of the objectivist principles. But we need to remember that objectivism wasn't objective- it was her weapon against her hated Russian socialism. And as a counter-ideal, its existence depended on the definition of its enemy.

    That enemy virtually does not exist anymore, and semi-rational capitalism has prospered greatly since then by all measures, excepting occasional (but historically commonplace) lapses. THAT is the objective reality.

    So what concept of the nature of man do I have? I believe that our need to survive and succeed will naturally determine how rational and just a world we will have. A just government will not be constructed, it will be evolved, patiently and subjectively.

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  9. MichaelM writes:

    "However, I do not have a set of principles by which I think a just government should be constructed, because I do not believe a just government can BE constructed. Instead, I believe in the purest form of Darwinism. Expediency creates governments, expediency kills governments. A just government must be created from need."

    Too late. You just agreed to a set of principles, and you grossly underestimate their efficacy in the construction and/or evolution of a government capable of prohibiting and inhibiting its own demise from the ravages of anti-principled expediency. Saying that expediency creates and destroys governments begs the question "powered by what motivation?"

    Actually, governments are produced and replaced by cultures, and those are the manifestations of collections of individuals' philosophies, each of which is a collection of ideas handed down via peers, parents, teachers, and intellectuals, from philosophers that preceded them all. In other words, history and its governments, are the products of philosophy. A lot of what you call expediency really consists of men acting on philosophical principles that are difficult to see, enumerate, and analyze because they are not explicitly held and because they are bundled with others in elaborate webs of self-contradiction.

    Therefore, the need from which a just government can be created is the need for a philosophy that accurately defines justice. The actual creation occurs through the slow process of persuading a substantial portion of a delimited populace to choose other ideas and different leaders that are like-minded. The evolution of governments is then an entirely volitional process. Consequently, I am not looking forward to your explanation of what part of the process can be said to be Darwinian.

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  10. "…you grossly underestimate their efficacy in the construction and/or evolution of a government capable of prohibiting and inhibiting its own demise from the ravages of anti-principled expediency."

    Wrong, in fact I believe greatly in the efficacy of my Darwinian principles to "construct" that kind of government. Your statement supports my principles, my friend. I think you are confused- I was using "constructed" to mean by the will and effort of man. The motivation that powers it all is the "needs" that the current reality of the world has, as expediency by itself is meaningless without a particular: man's needs. That much should have been obvious.

    "In other words, history and its governments, are the products of philosophy."

    So what are you arguing here? That governments are not created by the evolutionary forces of expediency, but by aggregate philosophy? And where does that philosophy come from? Expediency of course. The very fact that you point out their "webs of self-contradiction" proves that men do not agree because their needs are not universal, and therefore are expedient to the individual. It doesn't matter how inexplicit or self-contradicting their philosophies are, it doesn't explain their existence and inconsistence.

    "Therefore, the need from which a just government can be created is the need for a philosophy that accurately defines justice."

    Wow that's a huge non sequitur. That statement does not prove that philosophy (and consequently the need for justice) is not generated from evolved expediency. The evolution of governments is volitional because it *evolved* to be. There was a time when dictatorships and monarchies went relatively unchallenged. As the people's needs evolved, their acceptance of heavenly mandated government ended, and the self-appointed right to abdicate was created. It is not a concept that just existed in people inherently.

    So sure, if you believe the current need is for voluntary consensual trades and non-violating autonomy, go for it. Just don't tell me it's an objective, universal truth, because it isn't, it's only an evolved need in the environment of those who hold such beliefs.

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  11. MichaelM writes:

    "So sure, if you believe the current need is for voluntary consensual trades and non-violating autonomy, go for it. Just don't tell me it's an objective, universal truth, because it isn't, it's only an evolved need in the environment of those who hold such beliefs."

    The principles of politics and those of ethics on which they are based are philosophical principles. Philosophy defines man and the rest of existence only in universal terms. Philosophy does not deal with the specific needs of man that change over time. It only deals with those aspects of existence that are universal. Any statement about the essential nature of "man" or the nature of "human beings" in a philosophical context necessarily obtains for all men who are, were, or ever will be.

    Objectively and universally, man is a rational animal — a living entity that survives by choosing its actions according to its identifications of itself and the rest of existence. The process is not automatic nor predetermined by genetic makeup. It is volitional. The ability to choose actions to fulfill his nature is the ability to choose those that will detract from as well as those that will enhance the fulfillment of his nature. So all men are fallible.

    The above does not imply or necessitate any specific human choices nor tendencies toward specific choices. So none of the different sets of perceived needs or choices of actions in response to needs that men have ever made and that comprise the evolution of which you speak alter in any way the objective and universal definition of the nature of man. The premise that precedes any ethics is " given that the universal nature of man is X, …" and likewise for any politics.

    The need that ethics and politics are designed to satisfy is to survive and flourish qua man, i.e. in accordance with man's objective, universal nature. Volitional men will always differ in their willingness and ability to define their nature, in their perception of need, and their choices in response to these. Some who form principles will act in accordance with them, others will abandon them to expedience. History is the record of those variations. When we survey them and judge their relevance to our lives, the standard against which they must be measured is the objective, universal identity of man. By its universality, it is identical for all men. By its objectivity, it is independent of our minds and unalterable by our actions, i.e. the nature of man cannot be created by us, it must be discovered.

    Every human holds a version of that identity as his standard, even if it is only implicit and inconsistently comprising ideas adopted or absorbed from others. But the trail to the source of those ideas leads inevitably to the philosophers who originated them. Hence I am not reifying "aggregate philosophy." Rather I am pointing out that the evolution of changes in the choices of men have throughout history originated when one or more philosophers injected a new scheme of ideas into the culture. Many men may have arrived at and spread by communication similar conclusions simultaneously, but the philosophers consolidated them into the cogent format that spreads through centers of academia and power and subsequently down through the hierarchy of influential persons until they come to the simplest of minds scribbled on bathroom walls.

    Other than in a metaphorical sense, there is no evolutional force or force of expedience nor even force of philosophical ideas propelling these changes. The power of philosophical ideas to cause change is simply that man cannot survive without a philosophy. So when the flaws in one set of philosophical ideas ultimately and inevitably result in catastrophes, men turn to other ideas and change their ways. The change is motivated by their need to find principles that are more consistent with what they are — their objective, universal nature — than the previous ideas were, whether they grasp that to be their need and their task or not, because the only politics that can be successful in the long run is one that recognizes and accommodates that nature.

    So, yes I do claim that the need for autonomy is objective and universal, because it is consistent with man's nature. I am open to receive ideas to the contrary, but just saying it isn't so will not suffice. It also does not suffice to base your rejections of Rand's philosophy on first impressions of what you think she was saying in Atlas Shrugged. So far, your references to it are loaded with false assumptions.

    I asked for your definition of the nature of man, but only to see if you had one in place. That is a sizable task though, and it would be an unwarranted for me to expect you to stir one up on cue. Only if you are one of the few with a strong interest in rendering your philosophy in explicit and consistent terms would I be justified in taunting you into it.

    In the meantime, if you are ever in the future so inclined, there is a first-step shortcut to delving deeper into Rand at http://www.aynrandlexicon.com which has quotations on 200 or so topics alphabetically catalogued.

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  12. I admire your eloquence and philosophical clarity, and you write with a firmer grasp of logic than any objectivist I've talked to. However, a flawed philosophy will always back you into a corner, and I am going to have to rip your argument to shreds. Not without a lot of admiration though! You see, after all this debate, you've come at last to objectivism's single greatest fallacy, and since you insist on using logic and philosophy, so will I.

    ——————-
    "Any statement about the essential nature of "man" or the nature of "human beings" in a philosophical context necessarily obtains for all men who are, were, or ever will be."

    You are confusing sense and reference. The sense (nature of man) is not equivalent to the reference (all men who have, do, and will exist). Your sense is applied to what can be an infinite number of references. Therefore to say that it "necessarily obtains for all" you are saying that either:

    1. The nature of man is static, and will never be different from the "objective" definition we have.

    2. Our definition (and by extension, us too) is omniscient and already includes all the possible forms "nature of man" has, does, and will take.

    The first is demonstrably false and the second is rationally false. You say this is in a "philosophical context" but that by itself does not imply reality's truth. What's objective in philosophy is not necessarily objective in reality just because you think man's actions are based on philosophy. For it to be objective, you need proof, otherwise it is a priori.

    ——————-
    "Objectively and universally, man is a rational animal — a living entity that survives by choosing its actions according to its identifications of itself and the rest of existence."

    Except that man is not rational all the time by your own admission. He doesn't always choose actions for his existence (suicide, matyrdom). If the ability to choose actions to fulfill his nature includes the ability to choose detraction, then he can choose to be irrational. Not to mention you are assuming that his existence and not the perpetuation of his species is his objective nature. History's wars show otherwise.

    ——————-
    "So none of the different sets of perceived needs or choices of actions in response to needs that men have ever made and that comprise the evolution of which you speak alter in any way the objective and universal definition of the nature of man."

    Ah, so here you've already jumped to the assumption that the nature of man is objective and universal. Let's continue…

    "By its universality, it is identical for all men. By its objectivity, it is independent of our minds and unalterable by our actions, i.e. the nature of man cannot be created by us, it must be discovered."

    Again! Without proving that the nature of man is objective or universal, you've made your premise into fact. Your logic is horribly flawed here, you are saying that it's the standard all men must be judged by because all men are identical in those standards! A is true for all A because "A is true for all A" is true for all A!!! Also, how did we discover the nature of all men if not all men have to follow their nature? Think about it, we should logically conclude it's not universal all the time!

    "Every human holds a version of that identity as his standard, even if it is only implicit and inconsistently comprising ideas adopted or absorbed from others."

    In other words, humans hold variations of their "universal" identity? So you are saying that humans universally have the ability to choose to not have the universal nature of man at all times? Because that's the only logical conclusion you can make here. However you slice it, it’s not universal then.

    ——————-
    "The power of philosophical ideas to cause change is simply that man cannot survive without a philosophy… The change [in a set of philosophical ideas] is motivated by their need to find principles…"

    That begs the question what causes philosophers to inject those new ideas in the first place? You are avoiding admitting it is expedient need.

    "…man cannot survive without a philosophy."

    Yet another unproven absolutism. I'll let this slide cuz I think you meant a "functional" philosophy. Either way, you show no reasoning for why the evolutionary need for philosophy is just "metaphorical." Or rather, why their motivated need for change is NOT evolutionary. You say it's to find principles more consistent with what they are… which doesn't prove that those principles are objective and universal, nor that going for those principles doesn't evolve from need. In fact you are saying it's a need! And since you cannot prove that men can always identify the consistent principles they want, they chose expediently based on what they think they know or have.

    "…whether they grasp that to be their need and their task or not, because the only politics that can be successful in the long run is one that recognizes and accommodates that nature."

    Again, you make an unprovable absolutist claim, here about politics. It is demonstrably false unless you extend your definition of "in the long run" to exceed known history, never mention that “successful” is totally subjective. Plus, you are saying that men will do this even without knowledge of their nature, which means their motivation is expedient need, not rationalization, unless they simply act without free choice.

    ——————-
    So you see my friend, you cannot build a philosophical argument on a premise you haven't proven to be fact, and then use it as such. Non sequitur. Also, ethics is a priori anyways because it has no observable evidence, do you understand this important point? If I say "Autonomy does not violate another man's space. Therefore autonomy is good," this premise is built upon the premise that violations of other people's space is bad.

    Similarly, to say your philosophy is good because it leads to the survival and autonomy of a man assumes those premises are all good, as opposed to perpetuating the species and unlimited greed. Your premises are a priori, not irrevocable fact, and therefore were not formed from objective evidence. Clearly the latter two premises have been the rational good for some humans. That is why I used knee-jerk examples before, to show you that as long as there is evidence to the contrary, your premises are not objective AND universal simultaneously.

    ——————-
    "I asked for your definition of the nature of man, but only to see if you had one in place."

    My definition has no explicit and consistent terms because my philosophy does not pretend man is completely forever knowable, or that we (read: our knowledge of our nature) are omniscient. It only claims that men can seek to explain their changing natures with philosophy, or that their philosophy can change with their nature. It is driven by expedient need. This, historically, has been provable. This very discussion is proof.

    Where is your PROOF of an objective and universal reality? You can't answer. I will take either incontrovertible evidence, or an irrefutible chain of reasoning, please.

    Ayn Rand did not discover objectivism because her nature, she did it because she fled the horrors of socialist Russia. I don’t need to read her imperfect rationalizations to understand the flaws of her philosophy, I only need to know her own life and history. That tells me everything. It’s arrogance to think that somehow she was among the first to ever stumble upon the one constant truth to man’s nature, conveniently at a time when it mattered most, and say there was no expedient need involved, or evolved.

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  13. MichaelM writes:

    My logical abilities are strictly seat-of-the-pants. I managed to escape my university years without ever taking a course in it. At the time I picked up a book by Rand for the first time, I could not even define the word philosophy. So everything I now know I owe to her and my compulsion for testing my own ideas in never-ending intellectual combat. Of course, logic comes easy when you are working with valid ideas.

    That should explain why your use of "sense" and "reference" in analyzing the concept "man" is alien to me (and, so far, undecipherable). By that I mean I suspect but am not totally sure that we are trying to communicate with differing theories of concepts in place. And that could explain a sizable bunch of our disagreements.

    That said, I hope we can sneak by the necessity to wade into the deep waters of epistemology by finding some common ground on the status of the concept, "nature of man". To that end, try this:

    The extended definition of man I gave you contains a specific set of the essential characteristics of man as experienced now and in our knowledge of man over the thousands of years of recorded history. The set is comprised of those characteristics that are essential to the differentiation of man from all other animals. These do not preclude other characteristics of man. These are the distinguishing ones that confine the concept, "man". This concept is not created. It is discovered.

    The concept never changes. It will always refer to the existents from the experience of which it was abstracted and compiled. It will also apply to all other existents that are distinguished in the same way. If in ten million years men evolve into animals that function with different characteristics than these, they will not be men, they will be something else. The concept man will continue to be valid and refer to those animals who do or did function in that manner. If man evolved from apes, then in that long process there came a time when instinct was replaced by volition and the capacity of reason. Before then there were no men. Now there are. If creatures arrive from some distant galaxy and prove to be rational animals, albeit exotic ones, they too can become part of the "family of man" without prejudice — in the political context, at the very least.

    Objective reality is not subject to alteration by consciousness. A valid concept is one that accurately identifies existence. If you allow your abstractions to float and morph from meaning to meaning, you will sabotage your mind. If an entity changes and leaves its definition behind, it does not invalidate the original concept. It demands the addition of a new and different concept.

    So just as the concept "table" refers to every piece of furniture consisting of a level surface for elevating objects above the base grade that is, was, or ever will be, so too does the concept "man" similarly apply to all men. Both do so by definition. Similarly, the nature of man that is the reason man needs autonomy and capitalism to protect it is universal in the way and to the extent I have just described.

    ——————-

    " 'Objectively and universally, man is a rational animal — a living entity that survives by choosing its actions according to its identifications of itself and the rest of existence.'

    Except that man is not rational all the time by your own admission. He doesn't always choose actions for his existence (suicide, matyrdom). If the ability to choose actions to fulfill his nature includes the ability to choose detraction, then he can choose to be irrational. Not to mention you are assuming that his existence and not the perpetuation of his species is his objective nature. History's wars show otherwise."

    You are either too impetuous or just plain rude, take your pick! The last word of the paragraph you quote acknowledges that, as a corollary of his volition, man is fallible . You may not argue against that definition by citing instances in which man exercises that acknowledged fallibility by erring. The statement "man is a rational animal" means man is an animal equipped with the capacity of reason. The statement that man is volitional means he can be rational and can be irrational.

    (By the way, there most definitely are situations in which suicide would be the only rational choice to make – – such as total incapacity or or constant, excruciating, and untreatable pain with no prognosis for recovery.)

    Man is a living entity capable of extending and enhancing his life by choosing proper actions. His only goal is to fulfill that nature — to survive longer and flourish to the max. Existence per se and perpetuation of the species do not fulfill that goal, regardless of how many men choose or chose to act as if it would.

    ——————–

    " 'Every human holds a version of that identity as his standard, even if it is only implicit and inconsistently comprising ideas adopted or absorbed from others.'

    In other words, humans hold variations of their "universal" identity? So you are saying that humans universally have the ability to choose to not have the universal nature of man at all times? …"

    No. Every human sustains a composite philosophy — an unorganized and oft inconsistent set of ideas and principles about his identity — what he is and what he should or should not do. Some of it is consistent with his actual (universal) nature and some is not. Usually, only a small portion is held explicitly. But it can be recognized and identified by the standards that are implicit in a person's choices of ideas and actions.

    ——————–

    "Also, ethics is a priori anyways because it has no observable evidence, … If I say "Autonomy does not violate another man's space. Therefore autonomy is good," this premise is built upon the premise that violations of other people's space is bad."

    No.

    The observable fact: man is a rational, volitional, fallible animal that must think, choose, and act to live.

    The ethics per that evidence (in the words of John Galt):

    " To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride."

    The ethical value of autonomy (the virtue of independence) is built on the premise that, as a matter of fact, man survives and thrives in an existence independent of consciousness by his unerring exercise of reason and choice.

    ———————-

    Miscellaneous:

    1) I have yet to fully grasp what you mean by: "It is driven by expedient need." "Need" is to me the requirement, perceived or real, of an absent value. "expedient" means convenient though improper or even immoral. These meanings in that sentence leave me perplexed and begging some other context, so what is "expedient need" and how does it "drive" human choice.

    2) Politics did not stimulate Rand to develop objectivism, the task of writing a novel did. Her view of art as the concretization of ideals one cannot otherwise experience directly necessitated a clear understanding of her own ideals — her own philosophy. She only initiated the consolidation of her ideas into Objectivism long after leaving Russia.

    And whatever made you think that fleeing the horrors of Russia would subsequently preclude in any person the possibility of producing original philosophical thought?

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  14. You are right, our disagreements are firmly entrenched in our take on the sense and the reference of "nature of man." The sense is the idea, the reference is what object in reality to which we are applying that idea to independent of our intentions. If I ate an apple for today's lunch, my sense of today's lunch refers to that apple. If I mistakenly thought I ate a burrito for lunch, my sense of today's lunch still refers to that apple even if I don't know it, but the sense of today's lunch has changed. In my mind I see myself eating something else.

    Sense, idea, and concept are all interchangeable words. You say that the concept does not change. Therefore you said:

    concept of nature of man = {set of known nature traits} + {set of nature traits that will be known}

    Simplified:
    A = X + Y

    Let's pretend for now that the set of known nature traits (X) is perfect knowledge, as we knew precisely everything about man up til now. Over time though, the set of nature traits that will be known changes (unless you are omniscient). You are arguing that:

    A' = X + (Y + Y2 + …)
    A = A' because it is still A

    I say this because you are admitting that you are not omniscient, and that our knowledge can change. Yet you are saying that the changing knowledge does not change A, the concept of the nature of man, by which A is defined!

    You explain this by saying that our consciousness (or change in information) does not invalidate the basic formula of A = X + Y. That is correct, the STRUCTURE of the formula may not change, as in the sense is always the sum of known and unknown traits. But the sense itself changes! A cannot possibly be equal to A' because if it did, that means that

    A = A'
    X + Y = X + (Y + Y2 + …)

    thus,
    Y = Y + Y2 + …

    Do you see your mistake now? You have one sense for "concept of the nature of man" and one sense for "nature of man (as we understand it)" and they are NOT the same. What you are really saying, then, is that the CONCEPT of the concept of man does not change. I'm going to pretend that's been empirically proven, which it's not. You are trying to apply a sense with certain references to references that have not been included in the definition yet. You said it yourself:

    "If an entity changes and leaves its definition behind, it does not invalidate the original concept. It demands the addition of a new and different concept."

    Your concept of man needs to change to a new and different one since there is evidence that to the contrary, even though it does not violate your CONCEPT of the concept of man. Get it?

    ———–

    "No. Every human sustains a composite philosophy…"

    Blah blah blah, read your paragraph carefully. Nothing in it contradicts my assertion that man can hold variations of the "universal" nature by choice. If anything you've confirmed it. I think you've confused "variations" to mean other natures, when in fact I mean it as "unique derivations."

    ———–

    "The ethical value of autonomy (the virtue of independence) is built on the premise that, as a matter of fact, man survives and thrives in an existence independent of consciousness by his unerring exercise of reason and choice."

    Again, you've completely thrown logic out the window here. Ethics are a priori; they are not defined by evidence but by the EVALUATION of evidence. For example, if I make a sum of money by stealing, does that imply that stealing is good? By your definition of autonomy, no. But the evidence of a monetary gain and a loss of another's property in itself does not constitute a proof of good or evil.

    You've jumped to the conclusion that independence (and other traits) are virtues. I'm not saying I disagree with you, but you have to recognize it is subjective. It is subjective because you make a value judgement as to it's "good-ness" based on your evidences of acts and consequences. The problem is, there is evidence to the contrary as well that you can't ignore.

    There are those who have achieved off violent forms of your autonomy. There are those who have achieved and prospered from evil. You conveniently ignore these. The very fact that we continue to "survive and thrive" today in spite of these should tell you that good-ness is not absolutely dependent on ethical behaviour, but instead by a proportion of. That proportion is subjectively defined because we could not take a sum measurement of all money transfers and all violent acts and from that evidence measure the ethics involved. You can't quantify it objectively.

    ———–

    "Politics did not stimulate Rand to develop objectivism, the task of writing a novel did."

    Sigh… I just cannot get you to listen to your own words can I? Where did the motivation for the task of writing a novel come from? Where did the impetus to write down her philosophy come from? Where did that philosophy come from? You keep dancing around it, but sooner or later you have to stand still.

    If you are that rational, you should know what Occam's Razor is. So tell me then, are you saying the "consolidation of her ideas into Objectivism" happened independently of anything that happened to her in Russia? She herself denies that. Or is it more likely to believe that it did indeed influence and subjectify her philosophy as it does for everyone else in the world? I didn't say the horrors of Russia precludes original thought, but neither does original thought preclude past life-changing influences.

    You have an excellent mind my friend, but it is terribly inept at examining itself its own premises.

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  15. MichaelM writes:

    "The sense is the idea, the reference is what object in reality to which we are applying that idea to independent of our intentions. If I ate an apple for today's lunch, my sense of today's lunch refers to that apple. If I mistakenly thought I ate a burrito for lunch, my sense of today's lunch still refers to that apple even if I don't know it, but the sense of today's lunch has changed. In my mind I see myself eating something else.

    Sense, idea, and concept are all interchangeable words."

    You are using the word concept in an entirely different context. I am using the word concept in the context of its being the most basic form of human cognition, the mental unit with which we grasp identity.

    In the above example, you are using concept (sense) to refer to your understanding of an event involving two objects, each of which has a specific identity. Your description of the event would not be possible without the concepts (identities) of "apple" and "burrito" in the context in which I am using "concept". Your use of the concept "mistakenly" implicitly concedes the existence of identities independent of your "sense". It is only by means of comparing those independent identities to some evidence of your lunch other than your memory — someone reminding you of what you ate or finding an apple core in the trash instead of a burrito wrapper — that can support your contention that your impression of your lunch was "mistakenly" held.

    At the base level, a concept isolates a group of existents from the rest of reality by recognizing among them similarities not shared by other existents. Furthermore, we are able to grasp and hold those similarities not only as particular instances with similar kinds of measurements (size, shape, degree, intensity, content, etc.), but also as abstracted attributes separate from their specific measurements.

    It is the set of abstracted attributes that implies the potential of all possible specific instances while still distinguishing the group from all other existents that constitutes the fundamental unit of our knowledge of the group — their common identity. The potential of applicability extends infinitely in every direction — past, present, and future. Concepts are further integrated into wider concepts and narrowed by addition of qualifying attributes, but all concepts must be ultimately traceable to base level concepts abstracted directly from concrete existents. That requirement grounds our knowledge in objective reality by excluding all subjective concepts that are pseudo or floating abstractions.

    —————————-

    Now, with that as a base, let me take a shot at the problem. You said:

    "You explain this by saying that our consciousness (or change in information) does not invalidate the basic formula of A = X + Y. That is correct, the STRUCTURE of the formula may not change, as in the sense is always the sum of known and unknown traits. But the sense itself changes! A cannot possibly be equal to A' because if it did, that means that

    A = A'
    X + Y = X + (Y + Y2 + …)

    thus,
    Y = Y + Y2 + …"

    No mistake to see here. Y implies Y + Y2 + …, because the concept does not preclude the addition of new characteristics in the future as they become known. It anticipates them by incorporating the limitless potential for them in the manner by which concepts are formed and retained. The universality of a concept rests only on those characteristics that are the ones by which the group is isolated from all other existents — the distinguishing characteristics. They are the characteristics that an existent MUST HAVE in order to be included in the group, in the concept, and in the meaning of the word. Subsumed under each concept are many other traits that members of the group merely CAN HAVE and often or usually DO HAVE. In considering the various characteristics, your formulas (and your understanding) do not account for the hierarchy of their relevance to the concept.

    Example: In the year 1880 the concept pen referred only to a quill that would hold a staining liquid and release it slowly as one wrote with it leaving a continuous-line image of the writing on the paper. There was at the time no knowledge of plastics or hard, synthetic, felt-like materials. By 1980 those became known and fine versions of felt-tip markers were included in the concept "pen". In the ensuing span of time, everything of which a pen could consist changed (increased), except the distinguishing characteristics which separated a pen from a pencil and all other existents. Your "sense" may well have been changed by the addition of felt-tips, and by now it would have grown even larger. But that is all the more reason to regard it as too ponderous an intellectual tool to serve the task of identifying and retaining our knowledge of existence.

    ————————-

    "If an entity changes and leaves its definition behind, it does not invalidate the original concept. It demands the addition of a new and different concept."

    Your concept of man needs to change to a new and different one …"

    This is a simple misunderstanding of the statement. It does not demand a new concept of man. It demands a new and different concept for the new entity that no longer meets the criteria of the concept "man".

    ————————

    "'"The ethical value of autonomy (the virtue of independence) is built on the premise that, as a matter of fact, man survives and thrives in an existence independent of consciousness by his unerring exercise of reason and choice.'

    Again, you've completely thrown logic out the window here. Ethics are a priori; they are not defined by evidence but by the EVALUATION of evidence."

    Again, yourself. Ethics is not a priori. It is not some logical construct contrived without reference to empirical evidence. Ethics is a science like any other science. Its purpose is to define a code of values to guide the choices of man that are necessary to achieve the goal which is his life. Man defines an ethic in response to the evidence that 1) he is volitional, 2) the exercise of his volition is consequential to the quality of his life, 3) his volition is of necessity exercised spontaneously without time for deliberation, and 4) he therefore requires an installed code of values to guide his choices as spontaneously as they are made. Every value chosen must be defined, judged, and validated in respect to the goal, which is to survive and thrive.

    In Rand's words: "A moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value. The standard is the end, to which man’s actions are the means." (Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology, 42)

    ————————–

    "You've jumped to the conclusion that independence (and other traits) are virtues. I'm not saying I disagree with you, but you have to recognize it is subjective. It is subjective because you make a value judgement as to it's "good-ness" based on your evidences of acts and consequences."

    Why should a value judgment be different from any other judgment. If it is based on evidence of human acts and their consequences to the actors and other men and therefore necessarily in relation to man, how is this judgment not grounded in reality and therefore objective to the degree that it is accurate?

    Virtues are the actions required to achieve one's code of values, the ultimate standard and goal of which is the value of life in accordance with one's nature. The good is ipso facto that which contributes to the achievement of that life, the bad, that which frustrates it. The process of objectifying virtues and value judgments follows logically from an objective definition and understanding of the nature of man.

    Man is the concrete — the source of the empirical evidence to which we apply logic with our rational faculty to abstract and assemble the concepts that are our knowledge of the nature of man. Similarly we must strive to understand in the same way the rest of existence with which man must interact. The principles of action that are virtues must likewise be grounded to the concrete existents, man, by demonstrating that actions of that kind will actually produce results that will contribute to life in the above defined context, or, at the very least, are likely to.

    If I plant a tree, and I intend to make it the best exemplar possible, I must first identify its fundamental nature objectively. As in the case of man, implicit in that nature are particular objective requirements that must be fulfilled to maximize the quality of its life. Plants, animals, and men are all living entities, facing the same fundamental alternative — life or death — and with the same goal: to live and flourish as what they are. They differ in the means with which they are equipped to fulfill their goal. But, the process by which we gain our factual knowledge of their natures, their means, and their requirements as well as how we must act to implement that knowledge in the service of fulfilling the common goal is identical and objective in all cases. Why would it not be?

    —————————-

    "There are those who have achieved and prospered from evil."

    Only a subjectivist could use the number of cars in a person's garage to measure his achievement of the goal to survive and flourish qua man. Because a subjectivist denies any objective relationship between morality and reality, there is no way to grasp how inexorably reality punishes immorality in ways not always openly discernible. Nor can the subjectivist grasp the full impact and value of self-esteem, because he degrades a man's personal responsibility for his own ideas and actions down to the status of whims and random influences imposed by others he is unable to resist. Thus is the subjectivist prone to false assumptions of human "success" based on superficial trappings and the usual clichés. Until and unless we meet on the common grounds of an objective morality, let's postpone any further discussion of subjective success.

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  16. "You are using the word concept in an entirely different context. I am using the word concept in the context of its being the most basic form of human cognition, the mental unit with which we grasp identity."

    I am using it in its common philosophical application. In philosophy, a concept is an abstraction that integrates any entities into a common mental unit. It has nothing to do with identity because identity itself is a concept. You are confusing your "identities" with "entities." I never said there wasn't an objective reality (entities), I'm saying the concept we hold of them (the identities) is inherently subjective. Understand?

    —————————-
    "It anticipates them by incorporating the limitless potential for them in the manner by which concepts are formed and retained."

    In short, your concept is omniscient. This is why you don't think anyone can win an argument against you.

    —————————-
    "Your "sense" may well have been changed by the addition of felt-tips, and by now it would have grown even larger."

    Therefore it is no longer the same sense because it includes new references. Otherwise by your definition all our senses are likely to be exactly the same since civilization.

    —————————-
    "Every value chosen must be defined, judged, and validated in respect to the goal, which is to survive and thrive."

    Which implies innate a priori knowledge that surviving and thriving on the individual level is "good." Yet mother's still sacrifice themselves for their children. Clearly the "science" of your ethics should realize the contradiction here.

    —————————-
    "Thus is the subjectivist prone to false assumptions of human "success" based on superficial trappings and the usual clichés. Until and unless we meet on the common grounds of an objective morality, let's postpone any further discussion of subjective success."

    Excellent, now that you've defined my subjective definitions of success as false, and your "objective" one as true, you've effectively negated the fact that man HAS flourished and prospered long before objectivism was his creed, and long after men failed to adopt objectivism as his only creed.

    —————————-
    Look, we've reached an impasse where you've twisted the logic so that only your argument can be right. You concept is omniscient, your interpretation of evidence is pure and true, and your ethics are black and white. You've swallowed Ayn Rand's strawmen so well.

    So I can't really appeal to your rational mind because it already thinks it is wholly rational. What I can do is to show you evidence. This is not evidence to refute your philosophy, but evidence that should show you that even if you are right, there are degrees of right, and you are not correct absolutely. I hope your world is free of the autistics, the traumatized, the schizophrenics, the dyslexics, the bipolar, the manic-depressives, the obsessive compulsives, the aphasics, or the incapacitated, for whom rational absolutism is a luxury.

    Here's a taste of all the research out there, now it's your turn to put your evidence on the table:


    HUMAN VALUES
    http://dissertations.ub.rug.nl/FILES/faculties/ppsw/1996/d.l.h.m.debats/c5.pdf

    RECIPROCATION
    http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/1/1/review1.html

    EMOTION
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2006-08-06-brain-study_x.htm

    TRUST
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7042/abs/nature03701.html

    ALTRUISM
    http://www.physorg.com/news88610651.html

    MISC STUDIES
    http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/11/10-piercing-insights-into-human-nature.php

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  17. MichaelM writes:

    "In philosophy, a concept is an abstraction that integrates any entities into a common mental unit. It has nothing to do with identity because identity itself is a concept."

    Yes, an axiomatic concept presupposed by all concepts along with "existence" and "consciousness", because consciousness is the act of identifying existents. Concepts are the form in which we grasp, retain, and use the identifications.

    ———————–

    There are many kinds of subjectivity, so clue me in to your version. What is the inexorable relationship between your concepts and the entities they refer to, if any?

    What is the fundamental difference between an identification being subjective and one being objective?

    If all of your concepts have a subjective relationship to the entities they refer to, what means do you use to verify that there actually is an objective reality (entities).

    ————————

    I said:
    "It anticipates them by incorporating the limitless potential for them in the manner by which concepts are formed and retained."

    You said:
    "In short, your concept is omniscient."

    Anticipating the potential appearance at a later date of other entities with the same distinguishing characteristics is not in the remotest usage of the word, "omniscience." It neither asserts that they will appear nor asserts that they won't. It says only that if they do, they will meet the concept's criteria.

    ————————————–

    "Therefore it is no longer the same sense because it includes new references. Otherwise by your definition all our senses are likely to be exactly the same since civilization."

    Your word "sense" seems to refer to the changing collection of specific things subsumed under the concept. Yes, that changes, but the concept can accommodate those changes without itself changing. The concretes it refers to change quantitatively (formally). But the concept does not, because a concept inherently ignores all specific measurements its referents may have without denying that they will all have some specific measurements.

    —————————-

    "Which implies innate a priori knowledge that surviving and thriving on the individual level is "good."

    It only seems a priori to you because you did not start at the beginning. The life of any living entity is contingent on its self-sustaining actions. At the most basic level, the pleasure-pain mechanism innate in humans establishes life in accordance with our nature as the standard of value.

    Without life as a goal and mortality, values would be neither necessary nor even possible. If life is the standard of value, surviving is inherently the good. But life is not just the single action of raw physical survival alone. It is the sum of a multitude of complex actions with potentially infinite benefits to the end of maximizing the fulfillment of one's nature, the reward for which is self-esteem and happiness. The phrase "to survive and thrive (or flourish)" acknowledges our measurement of life from two integral aspects of our nature: physical quantity and spiritual(intellectual and emotional) intensity.

    And, since all such actions and lives are of individuals, it is only in that context that good has meaning. The good is identical for any and all collective groups as well, because they are all composed solely of individual human beings. Furthermore, one may not speak of good at the collective level, because a collective is not a living entity. Metaphysically speaking, there is no such thing as a collective action or a collective life or a collective good.

    —————————-

    "Yet mother's still sacrifice themselves for their children."

    A mother (and father) choosing to give birth to a child are responsible for the consequences of that action and have a responsibility to raise the child to self-sufficiency. Whatever values they must expend to achieve that are not sacrificed. They are the cost of a chosen responsibility. Furthermore, a parent can expend values on a child beyond their responsibility as a reciprocal return for the value the child is simply as another human being, as an extension of their selves, as a good person, for all reasonably assessed future potential…etc. In other words, for all the same reason one might value a spouse or a friend. Such expenditures are not sacrifices, they are all exchanges — voluntary payments for value received.

    While the child does have a moral claim on them to the extent of their ability to meet their obligation, that claim does not extend to their life itself. In catastrophic situations, they are under no moral obligation to give up their own life to save their child's life. The moral choice in such situations is to exert maximum effort even at maximum risk to save both the child and oneself. But that obtains only to the point where risk changes to certainty.

    —————————

    It would be too long and tedious to reply to all of your concluding rant with its potpourri of subjectivist self-contradictions. Like: "… twisted the logic so that only your argument can be right" (neat trick if it were even possible, which it is not). And "your concept is omniscient". And how can "pure and true" and "black and white" be "strawmen"? And, my favorite, "… you are not correct absolutely" which you are proferring as something that is absolutely correct!

    Also, I read all of your recommended evidence, but I have already read them long ago, by other authors on other subjects almost all assigned by professors so lucky to have snared a job teaching the overly trusting waifs we were. You are absolutely correct that "this is not evidence to refute your philosophy". It is part of the subjectivist continuum — the endless stream of meaningless intellectual concoctions, word games, and false assumptions, none connected in any way to each other — all utterly useless to understanding.

    Rand et al pack more intellectual value in their paragraphs than on any two pages in those 6 monographs. Here's my sampler for you:

    VALUES
    http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/values.html

    CONCEPTS
    http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/concepts.html

    EMOTIONS
    http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/emotions.html

    ALTRUISM:
    http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/altruism.html

    ARGUMENT FROM INTIMIDATION
    http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/argument.html

    AXIOMATIC CONCEPTS:
    http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/axiomaticconcepts.html

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  18. "It is part of the subjectivist continuum — the endless stream of meaningless intellectual concoctions, word games, and false assumptions, none connected in any way to each other — all utterly useless to understanding."

    Wow. I see, you choose to answer the empirical evidence I presented by dismissing it as being part of the "subjective continuum" as if it were some kind of new world conspiracy. Reality is staring in your face with the real way, physical and biological, that humans work, and you call it word games? Useless? I'm not even going to comment on your complete lack of understanding about what those findings mean for your stance, you just can't grasp it.

    Then you present "evidence" that comes from the very source from which your arguments are being made, that being scientifically unverified PHILOSOPHY, and expect that to change my mind?

    You are quite similar to those evangelists who try to convert my atheism by quoting from the very Bible that I am questioning. Then again, I expected as much, as I knew you had little real evidence other than the gospel of Rand. Good day sir, please come back when you have empirically, objectively obtained evidence, not more of your cult's rhetoric.

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