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    • Michael Stuart Kelly

      Major Update to OL (please click to open)   02/09/2016

      Sorry for the inconvenience, but we had to update OL and there have been some serious changes made by IPB. The real bad news is that they had to merge User Names and Display Names. This meant that I had to choose between bad and bad. I opted to keep the log-on information the same, so you can get on OL like you always did, but now your User Name is displayed. If your User Name and Display Name were the same, you will not feel the change. If they were different, you are probably irritated right now. I will figure out how you can change this so you can revert to the Display Name you used before if you like, however this may entail a change in how you log-on. The good news is that OL is now searchable from the very beginning. This means all the old posts from the A-Team in Objectivism (and everybody else) will finally show up when you search for something. I will keep changing this announcement as we adapt to these new changes. It's a pain, I know, but after looking around the backend for a bit, I believe the benefits will far, far outweigh the current irritation. They changed things in a hamhanded way and I don't like that, but I can't do anything about it. Benefit-wise, they actually did a good job, so please bear with us. In addition to this change, many good things are coming over time. You are the reason OL exists and I am sorry you have to go through this. Think of it like birth pangs... (All right, all right, that's forcing it.  ) Michael


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  1. Hi Paul, Thanks for the feedback. After a bit of Googling I found this, which seems to more or less sum up what you're saying?
  2. But that's not what Aquinas' argument says, and its purpose isn't to put a stop to any infinite regress. It might even mean something to ask "then what caused God?" if one of the premises in the argument was "everything has a cause", but it isn't. See here.
  3. Well, this is where I find O'ist metaphysics ambiguous. In OPAR (page 33) Peikoff says: "This does not mean that Objectivists are Materialists. ... Consciousness, in this view, is either a myth or a useless byproduct of brain or other functions". But then on the following page, he says: "There is no basis for the suggestion that consciousness is separable from matter...".
  4. Hi Dan, The Prime Mover argument entails monotheism. I won't go into details, but having got to that point, you can go on to deduce other things about what such a being would have to be like, and it turns out that it would have to be like the God of traditional Western religious belief. Regarding O'ist Metaphysics, it's not so much that I'm disputing anything, more that I find it a bit vague. I've no problem with the law of identitiy per se, it's the relation of it to cause and effect which I find fuzzy. Sorry, I know that's vague, I'm re-reading parts of OPAR and ITOE and I'll get back to you with something more concrete, hopefully.
  5. Cameras everywhere

    whYNOT, Fair enough. But it's not really "AND" connected to the internet. The idea only works IF the cameras are connected to the internet - that's the whole point. I don't have a problem with the privacy issue; if you're in a shopping centre, railway station or other public space, do you you think about privacy issues then? if you want privacy, stay at home! Actually, on reflection, I think Michael's point about the relative unimportance of street crime is making this idea less attractive for me. Something like 80% of that kind of crime is committed by people on drugs or alcohol; I wonder whether the presence of cameras would be much of deterrent for such people. Also, it seems that cameras aren't so useful for catching criminals either - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/06/ukcrime1
  6. Cameras everywhere

    Michael, The key difference is that what Hehner is proposing doesn't involve an "agency". There is no big brother in the Orwellian sense, rather, everyone is "big brother", but only in regard to public spaces. Private spaces are still private, but the Panopticon concept seems to remove the boundary between public and private.
  7. Xray, I would urge you to read The Last Superstition, which lays the necessary groundwork for understanding the "proofs" for the existence of God, otherwise, they're likely to seem not very impressive at all. As Feser says in TLS - The conflict, then, is not over any actual results or discoveries of science, but rather over the more fundamental philosophical question of what sort of results or discoveries will be allowed to count as "scientific" in the first place. In particular, it is a war between, on the one hand, what I have called the classical philosophical vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, and on the other hand, the naturalistic orthodoxy of contemporary secularism, whose premises derive from modern philosophers like the ones mentioned above [Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Locke and Kant]. As we shall see, the radical differences between these world views with respect to what at first glance might seem fairly abstruse questions of metaphysics - the relationship between the universal and the particular, form and matter, substance and attributes, the nature of cause and effect, and so forth - in fact have dramatic repercussions for religion, morality, and even politics. It is only when the results of modern science are interpreted in naturalistic metaphysical terms that they can be made to seem incompatible with traditional religious belief, and it is only when modern naturalistic metaphysical assumptions are taken for granted, and the classical alternatives neglected, that the philosophical arguments for the traditional religious worldview (e.g. for the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the natural law conception of morality) can be made to seem problematic. By ignoring the challenge posed by the classical philosophical worldview, and distorting its key ideas and arguments on those rare occasions when it is taken account of at all, secularism maintains its illusory status as the rational default position. Prominent naturalists like the New Atheists are sure to "win" the public debate with their traditional religious critics every time, with the general public unaware that the game is being played with metaphysically loaded dice. Of course, you may end up rejecting the classical philosophical worldview (and the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics), but it's not easy to reject because it so much accords with common sense. Materialism (which is the dominant "religion" in the world today), has earned its position largely because it's been so fruitful for science in the last few centuries. But as a philosophical worldview, it really sucks (by that I mean it's incoherent). Also, it's worth mentioning that Objectivism rejects materialism; it holds that the world and consciousness exist. One of the issues I have with O'ism is its woefully inadequate metaphysics. Rand rejected Aristotle's view that "essences" are metaphysical rather than epistemological, but it's not clear to me how, or whether, this view of essences (as epistemological) impacts Aristotle's argument for the existence of God (The so-called "Prime Mover"). The notion of a prime mover depends rather on Aristotle's "act and potency" and the four causes. Rand's contention was that Aristotle's metaphysics included a "mystical" element (namely the view of essences as metaphysical), but if this has no effect on the Prime Mover argument, then why should she have rejected God? Anyway, you can get summaries of Aquinas' "Five Ways" here, but IMO you should read TLS first.
  8. Studiodekadent is 26

    Playing Blackjack? I taught myself to count cards years ago, did pretty well too. Then the casinos brought in continuous shuffle machines.
  9. In the UK (where I live), there are reportedly more CCTV cameras than in any other country. Opponents are concerned about privacy and civil liberties, but here's an idea by computer scientist Eric Hehner, which would appear to solve the problem. I think it's a pretty cool idea. What do you think? Cameras Everywhere Eric Hehner University of Toronto I propose that we mount cameras everywhere, on all streets, in all parks, and in all public places. The cameras should be so numerous that every part of every public area is covered by at least one camera. And I propose that the scenes viewed by all these cameras be recorded. And finally, I propose that all these scenes, both live and recorded, be available on the internet for everyone who wishes to see them. You just visit the cameraseverywhere website, tell it a location and time, and it shows you the scene. Navigation arrows move the scene to the next camera in your chosen direction. That's the whole proposal. This essay is about the benefits of, and objections to, this proposal. The main benefit is an enormous reduction in crime, and the improvement in catching anyone who does commit a crime. After a crime has been reported, the police can see who left the crime scene, follow their recorded movements from camera to camera to camera, and find out where they went, right up to the present moment. And equally easily, the recorded movements of the people at a crime scene can be followed backward from the crime, leading up to it. The ease with which criminals will be caught and convicted is the reason that crime will be reduced. On the other side of that same coin, fewer innocent people will be wrongly charged and convicted. If you want to know the current state of road repair at some location, just look. If you want to know whether the public garden is open right now, just look. People will find surprising and wonderful uses for the ability to see any public space at their fingertips. One objection to the proposal might be cost. But the cost of cameras has been decreasing, and it is now or very soon will be low enough, especially if cameras are bought in the very large quantities proposed. And against this cost we must balance the current cost of crime, both to the victims, and to the community that pays for police investigations and court cases. Just the monetary costs of crime that will be saved may be more than enough to pay for the cameras. And of course the nonmonetary costs of crime (lives, agony) that will be saved are incalculable. To some civil liberties advocates, this proposal is their worst nightmare. They would remind us of George Orwell's warning in the novel 1984: “big brother is watching”. They would remind us of the very real crimes committed by police in societies where the police have too much power and not enough accountability. And they would say that letting everyone monitor everyone's movements is just too great a loss of precious personal privacy. These are serious concerns, and I want to address them seriously. In recent years, police brutality has been caught and punished when, by luck, someone happens to record it on their video-camera or phone-camera, and sends the video to the news media. According to the proposal in this essay, all crimes committed in a public place will be recorded, including those by police. And for those crimes committed in a private place and not recorded, the criminal can be tracked whenever they leave the private place and enter public space, even if they are police. That's because the images are available to everyone, not just the police. The ancient question “Who polices the police?” now has an answer: everyone. There are many reasons someone might not want their movements tracked; some of them are good legitimate reasons, and some are not. I'll talk about three examples: cheating on your spouse, being homosexual, and buying a surprise present. Cheating on your spouse is not illegal (in our society), but one could argue that it is immoral, or in some other way wrong. If your objection to cameras everywhere is just that you cannot get away with immoral or bad behavior, then I have no patience and no respect for your objection. Or, one could argue that an extramarital affair is not morally wrong, but if your spouse knew, they would be hurt, and if they could prove it, you could get hurt. To that particular argument one might reply that a relationship based on secrecy is shaky, and the cameras are not the real problem. But my argument is quite different; I won't presume to judge morality or relationships. In today's world, a rich person can hire a private detective to track their spouse's movements, and determine whether they are having an affair. Cameras everywhere just gives poor people the same right that rich people now have. And who would argue that the right to track someone should be reserved for rich people? Homosexuality was illegal in our society fifty years ago, and it still is today in some other societies. A homosexual had an excellent reason to keep an affair secret. There is no suggestion here that cameras should invade the private spaces where affairs take place, but just tracking someone's movements through public spaces could provide weak evidence and strong suspicion of a homosexual affair. When a homosexual affair was discovered, it could cost them their friends, their jobs, their freedom, and in extreme cases, their lives. A homosexual, or anyone sympathetic to the suffering they endured, might be tempted to say “Thank goodness there weren't cameras everywhere back then!”. There has been a great change in our society over the past fifty years. Homosexuality is no longer illegal, and most people do not consider it to be immoral. How did that change happen? It happened because homosexuals came out of the closet; they went public. Secrecy was not their protector; it was their prison. Those brave people who came out first did suffer, but they encouraged others to follow, and soon a parade of gays and lesbians shouted: we are here, we are doing nothing wrong, so get used to us! In an era when we didn't know who was homosexual (because they kept it secret), heterosexuals could believe that all the good people they knew were heterosexual, and that homosexuals were somehow evil. But today we see people we know are both homosexual and good people, so the misconception dissolves. If there are any similar issues today involving activities that are moral but stigmatized (atheist? socialist?), cameras everywhere can only hasten their acceptance. Suppose you are going to buy a surprise present for someone. It's not a crime, and you are not ashamed of it, but you still don't want them to know where you are going. How do you keep it a secret if there are cameras everywhere? Fortunately, most people will not spend much of their time watching the scene under the public cameras; unless you are looking for something specific, it will be very boring. So you're probably ok. But they could track you if they want to, and spoil the surprise. If that's the price for a substantial reduction in crime, it's well worth it. In this proposal, I have divided our world into public space and private space. I advocate putting cameras in all public spaces where anyone is entitled to be and see with their own eyes; I do not suggest putting cameras in private spaces and showing private scenes to people who are not entitled to see them. But the division between public and private is not always clear: there are spaces whose status is intermediate between public and private. For example, there are buildings whose lobby and hallways are shared among the occupants of the building, but not among the general public. It is quite common for such buildings to have cameras in these spaces, and to make the images available on a television channel just to the occupants of the building. So the general principle is this: the images from the cameras should be made available to all and only those people who are entitled to be there and to see in person what the camera sees. I do not advocate any invasion of privacy. Google Earth makes satellite images available to everyone on the internet. It therefore provides some of the same capability as cameras everywhere. At present, the resolution of Google Earth images is not quite good enough to recognize an individual. And the images show only the tops of people's heads, which is not the most advantageous angle. And there are public spaces that are covered over, and not seen by a satellite. And there are uncovered private spaces invaded by satellite images. Google Maps will show you street scenes, but not current scenes, and no-one is identifiable. For these reasons, Google Earth and Google Maps do not quite do what cameras everywhere can do. In some cities, especially in England, cameras already cover an area of the city center. Initially there was a lot of opposition from civil liberties groups and privacy advocates. But after a couple of years experience, the crime rate dropped so much that all skeptics were convinced. The people of those cities do not want to go back to the days before their cameras. But the images from these cameras are available only to the police, not to the general public. Without public access, the problem of crime by police is not solved, and there are no other benefits. There is already an amazing amount of information instantly accessible to everyone on the internet. Information can be used for good or ill. In most people's opinion, the good uses that flow from easy access to so much information outweigh the bad uses by a lot; we would never vote to abolish the internet. The proposal in this essay is just to use the internet to provide everyone with easy access to certain information, the scene in all public places, that they already have a right to see. I cannot guess what all the uses will be. I guess that some uses will be good and some bad. And I expect that the good will greatly outweigh the bad.
  10. Medieval Christendom has had a bad press for a long time, it's a myth that there was no science in the middle ages worth mentioning and that the church held back whatever advances were made. The idea that there is an inevitable conflict between faith and reason owes much to the work of 19th propagandists Thomas Huxley and John William Draper. Draper wrote the hugely influential History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, which cemented the conflict hypothesis in the public imagination (see Conflict Thesis). The denigration of the Middle Ages began as long ago as the 16th Century, when humanists (who were the intellectual trendsetters of the time), started to champion classical Greek and Roman literature. They cast aside medieval scholarship on the grounds that it was convuluted and written in "barbaric" Latin. The result was that people stopped reading and studying it. The cudgels were subsequently taken up by the philosophers Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke. These Protestant writers (and others later, such as Voltaire) were determined not to give any credit to Catholics, it suited them to maintain that nothing of value had been taught in the universities before the reformation. Futhermore, and contrary to popular belief, the Church never supported the idea that the earth is flat, never banned human dissection, never banned zero, and certainly never burnt anyone at the stake for scientific ideas. True, it was decided that philosophical speculation should not impinge on theology, and there were certain limits beyond which these speculations should not go, but most of the stories about how the Church held back science are myths that arose after the middle ages had ended. Actually, there was no "struggle against the church". The main scientific institution of the Middle Ages was the university, and although these were mainly intended to educate the higher clergy, they also provided a home for natural philosophers. Many theologians also wrote important works on natural philosophy and they considered the subject an essential part of their training. The starting point for all natural philosophy at that time was that nature had been created by God. This made it a legitimate area of study because through nature, man could learn about his creator. Medieval scholars thought that nature followed the rules that God had ordained for it, and because God was consistent and not capricious, these natural laws were constant and worth scrutinising. However, these scholars rejected Aristotle's contention that the laws of nature were bound by necessity - God was not constrained by what Aristotle thought, therefore the only way to find out what God had decided on was by experience and observation. This motivation and justification of the medievals was carried over almost unchanged by the pioneers of modern science. Newton explicitly stated that he was investigating God's creation, which was a religious duty because nature reflects the creativity of its maker. Before reading Feser's book, I pretty much had the same idea as you; I thought that there were no rational grounds for believing - it was a matter of blind faith (based on wishful thinking, perhaps). I discovered that there are in fact, good reasons for believing in a God (not necessarily the Christian God, but some kind of creator), and the premises of these arguments invoke no supernatural entities and no revelation is required, just a few almost self-evident propositions. I'm not about to convert, but I do see how rational, intelligent people could be convinced. The usual explanation you hear from atheists is that believers are deluding themselves; it's comforting and consoling to believe in a God who looks after us, an afterlife etc. The trouble is, an explanation isn't an argument, and a personal motive isn't a logical reason (the Genetic fallacy). But as Feser points out, atheists have their motives too: It is true that a fear of death, a craving for cosmic justice, and a desire to see our lives as meaningful can lead us to want to believe that we have immortal souls specially created by a God who will reward us or punish us for our deeds in this life. But it is no less true that a desire to be free of traditional moral standards, and fear of certain (real or imagined) political and social consequences of the truth of religious belief, can also lead us to want to believe that we are just clever animals with no purpose to our lives other than the purposes we choose to give them, and that there is no cosmic judge who will punish us for disobeying an objective moral law. Atheism, like religion, can often rest more on a will to believe than on dispassionate rational arguments. Indeed, as the philosopher C.F.J.Martin has pointed out, the element of divine punishment - traditionally understood in the monotheistic religions as a sentence of eternal damnation in Hell - shows that atheism is hardly less plausibly motivated by wishful thinking than theism is. For while it is hard to understand why someone would want to believe that he is in danger of everlasting hellfire, it is not at all hard to see why one would desperately not want to believe this.
  11. And that's their PURPOSE? Bob, this trend is absurd and self-refuting. I know you won't have any truck with it (word salad!), but I highly recommend reading Ed Feser's "The Last Superstition" The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that there has for several centuries been a war between science and religion, that religion has been steadily losing that war, and that at this point in human history a completely secular scientific account of the world has been worked out in such thorough and convincing detail that there is no longer any reason why a rational and educated person should find the claims of any religion the least bit worthy of attention. But as Edward Feser argues in The Last Superstition, in fact there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical conceptions of the natural order: on the one hand, the classical "teleological" vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the physical world as mass or electric charge; and the modern "mechanical" vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which the physical world is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion. The modern "mechanical" picture has never been established by science, and cannot be, for it is not a scientific theory in the first place but merely a philosophical interpretation of science. Not only is this modern philosophical picture rationally unfounded, it is demonstrably false. For the "mechanical" conception of the natural world, when worked out consistently, absurdly entails that rationality, and indeed the human mind itself, are illusory. The so-called "scientific worldview" championed by the New Atheists thus inevitably undermines its own rational foundations; and into the bargain it undermines the foundations of any possible morality as well. Feser is a Catholic, but even if you're an atheist (as I am) you can't fail to be impressed by the force of the arguments. Of all philosophers, Rand held only Aristotle and Aquinas in high regard, so her admirers should find the account of A-T metaphysics highly readable. A fascinating read IMO.
  12. Terence McKenna said: "Give us one free miracle and we'll explain everything else" ;-) Regarding dark matter and energy, I tend to agree. Seems like a fudge to make the equations balance.
  13. I was talking with some guys at my local astronomical society the other day, and the general consensus seemed to be that black holes, dark matter and energy and other hypothetical entitities are just fudges conjured up to fill gaps in the mathematical models. Modern cosmology doesn't do science the way it should be done; rather, it seems that the cosmologists have given themselves the licence to invent whatever mathematical abstractions they like in order the save the theory whenever the observations don't fit. In this book, electrical engineer Don Scott sets out the case for an "electric sky":
  14. Scientific Certainty?

    I agree with you about mathematicians being closet Platonists, the 'pure' ones anyway. Surely you have to be a Platonist to believe that infinite sets have any meaning in the real world? Alder has written a few popular articles for 'Philosophy Now', you'll probably enjoy the others which you can find on his home page (scroll down to 'Public Service Work'). Isn't the internet wonderful? there's some really cool stuff out there.