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#21 Brant Gaede

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 09:28 AM

Reading about "the trolley problem" I have to say that a problem for philosophers is not the problem for the trolley operator who is going to do what he is going to do uninstructed by any others' higher-learning. In choosing between disasters say one person goes "splat" instead of five you are going to be a victim too assuming your prior innocence. You are simply four less victims a victim. Let's say the trolley is operated by a programmed robot that "chooses" to hit five instead of one. Then the programmer is wrong. If one instead of five he can sleep at night for his right programming. The real problem is the psychological damage of actually being there and being at the controls seeing someone die because you aren't God.

 

--Brant

philosophers should study psychology and psychologists should study philosophy and mix up their two professions bringing reason and morality to psychology and real gravitas to philosophy, assuming any philosophy of reason not using reason as a "stolen concept" the way most philosophies do


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#22 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 10:42 AM

Brant,

 

Positive psychology integrates philosophy, especially ethics.

 

Michael


Know thyself...


#23 Brant Gaede

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 10:45 AM

Brant,

 

Positive psychology integrates philosophy, especially ethics.

 

Michael

 

A school of thought or just a statement of generic fact?

 

--Brant

positive philosophy?

edit: sort of a school of thought


Edited by Brant Gaede, 19 May 2013 - 10:49 AM.

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#24 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 04:03 PM

Brant,

 

Positive Psychology (Wikipedia).

 

I've read books (and articles and parts of books and heard audios and seen videos) by several of the people mentioned (not all yet), but also by several others whose names I did not see on skimming that article just now.

 

I first became aware of this school of psychology reading a book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I think you pronounce that Mee'-high Cheek'-sent-mee-high) called The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium that I picked up at a garage sale.

 

i have been a fan of Positive Psychology ever since.

 

Michael


Know thyself...


#25 Brant Gaede

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:34 AM

The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium that I picked up at a garage sale.

 

i have been a fan of Positive Psychology ever since.

 

And garage sales.

 

--Brant

give thanks where? when? thanks are due


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#26 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 07:56 PM

The Ayn Rand Society will have a session Saturday, December 28, at the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA in Baltimore.*

The topic is “Rand and Nozick: Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy.”

Lester Hunt and Onkar Ghate will deliver papers.

 

Related writings of mine are 1984 and 2007.

 

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

Robert Nozick (1938–2002)

2001 Interview

 

Reading Nozick – Essays on Anarchy, State, and Utopia

Jeffrey Paul, editor (1981)

This collection includes Nozick’s 1971 paper “On the Randian Argument” (which has been put online), and it includes the 1978 response “Nozick on the Randian Argument” by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen.

 

The Cambridge Companion to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia

Ralf Bader and John Meadowcroft, editors (2011)



#27 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 05 October 2013 - 08:31 AM

.

The papers delivered at the 2011 Pacific Division session of ARS on “Rand and Punishment” are available here. Scroll down to David Boonin and Irfan Khawaja.

 

Cf. Bidinotto*



#28 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 09:11 AM

At the ARS session of the APA Pacific Division Meeting in April 2012, Travis Norsen presented a paper “Scientific Cumulativity and Conceptual Change: The Case of ‘Tempurature’.” Dr. Norsen* is a visiting Professor at Smith College. Comments were delivered by James Lennox* and by Hasok Chang.* I shall discuss the Norsen paper and the comments on it shortly. In the present post, I’ll set out the pertinent Randian background.

 

Ayn Rand thought of concepts as designating items in kinds. A concept does not consist of only the essential characteristic(s) of the kind, which is objective, though a function of the present stage of human understanding of the kind. A concept includes all the characteristics of the kind, known or yet to be discovered (ITOE 27, 65–66; cf. App. 147). Right definition of a concept derives from right formation of the concept, and although the definition does not mention all the characteristics of instances falling under the concept, it implies them (42). The scientist’s grasp of complex abstractions is an integration of a long conceptual chain, and this is a contextual process (43). Discoveries can bring it about that an earlier definition no longer distinguishes the kind from others. A definition can then be expanded by acknowledging a different characteristic as essential in place of the earlier essential characteristic of the kind (47). (See also Peikoff 1967, 94–106* in ITOE, 2nd edition, and see OPAR 96–105.)

 

Berliner

It is easy to assume that when the definition changes, the concept changes.

 

Rand

No, the context of your knowledge changes. When you know more, you select a different essential characteristic by which to define the object, because you now have to differentiate it more precisely. Your knowledge has expanded, but the concept doesn’t change. / The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain. So you haven’t  changed your concept. Your old distinction remains the same; the concept refers to the same entity [existent]. Only now you know more, your field of knowledge is wider, and therefore you have to define your concept by a different essential characteristic.

 

Berliner

I was falling into the old trap of thinking that the concept refers to the—

 

Rand

To the definition only.

 

Gotthelf

Or only to the similarities and differences known at a given time.

 

Rand

Yes. But if you keep in mind that your concept refers to referents, to things, you will see that it doesn’t change, but your knowledge changes. (ITOE App. 233)

 

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

 

Gotthelf

The meaning isn’t just the essential characteristic.

 

Rand

The essential characteristic and lesser characteristics also. But . . . if one man has observed more characteristics than another, he knows more characteristics than another, he knows more about the referents of the concept, which doesn’t mean he understands the meaning of the concept better.

 

Gotthelf

The meaning of the concept is the entities which it integrates, and you know the meaning when you know which entities it integrates.

 

Rand

Exactly. (236)

 

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

 

Rand

If you discover why water boils, you will know something more and will be able to do more things with water than the primitive man who knows only that if he holds it over fire a certain length of time it will boil. By discovering such issues as temperature and molecular structure, you have made yourself infinitely more capable of dealing with water and using it for your purposes than the primitive man who only made the first observation. (301)

 

 

 

“It is perhaps clear already from what has been said about concepts and definitions . . . that [Rand] would reject both the traditional Fregean view that ‘meaning determines reference’ and the more recent ‘direct reference’ theories” (On Ayn Rand [2000] – A. Gotthelf).

 

See also:

 

“Reference and Necessity: A Rand-Kripke Synthesis” by R. T. Long (a review of G. M. Browne’s Necessary Factual Truth [2001] in JARS, Fall 2005).

 

“Concepts, Context, and the Advance of Science” by J. G. Lennox and the comments thereon in Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge – Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology (2013).



#29 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 07:51 AM

Travis Norsen’s paper connects development of the concept of temperature across advances in thermal physics to four of Rand’s ideas about the nature of concepts. Those four elements in Rand’s epistemology are not unique to hers. They are not original with her. So there is nothing distinctly Randian about Dr. Norsen’s view in this paper. Still, those four ideas are important parts of Rand’s theory of concepts, and applying them to the history of the concept temperature is a good trial for their correctness and an opportunity for their further specification and development.

 

The four elements of Rand’s epistemology Norsen attempts to support through this study in the history of physics are (i) that concepts are hierarchical upon perceptual-level concepts, (ii) that concepts are of indefinitely large potential instances, (iii) that concepts intend all the characteristics, known and unknown, of the members they include, and (iv) that essences are epistemological, not metaphysical.

 

Norsen errs seriously in his application of (i) to the case of the concept temperature. The elementary concept of temperature is degree of heat. One has an elementary concept of heat and its varying intensities in childhood, and that much was also understood by the earliest investigators seeking to quantify and exploit degrees of heat. This elementary concept is not, contra Norsen, only a concept of the feeling of heat. It is a concept also covering different intensities of heat in things in the world. This elementary concept, along with other perceptual-level concepts, is continually connected to all our constructions of better and better instruments (see most recently “The Perfect Kelvin” in Sci. Am., Oct. 2013, p. 19) for measuring temperatures, which accomplishments have been important for further development of the concept of temperature and further development of thermal physics. On the story of this development, both narrative and analysis, I recommend most highly Hasok Chang’s Inventing Temperature – Measurement and Scientific Progress, which happens to be acutely pertinent to what is distinctive and original in Rand’s theory of concepts.*

 

Development and reform of the concepts of temperature and heat, importantly informed by our efforts to quantify and control them, made possible present understanding that we have contact sensors of degree of heat directly measuring rate of heat transfer, which has its particular relations to temperature, or degrees of heat, in our bodies and in contacted bodies. Unlike Prof. Chang (and Rand in her treatment of perceptual similarity), Norsen neglects the conception of sensory systems as measurement systems. Chang’s book contains great ground for aid and amplification of Rand’s epistemology. I hope to draw forth that benefit in the future in a separate thread. I’ll try to include in that discussion some remarks on the balance of Norsen’s paper.



#30 Brant Gaede

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 08:18 AM

"That essences are epistemological, not metaphysical" superficially sounds like a contradiction, but I can see how it might swing the other way even to the illogical(?) point of the metaphysical not being metaphysical, but epistemological. Obviously, if you start with a thought you'll end with a thought; the moon doesn't care.

 

--Brant

of course, I could review ITOE


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#31 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 09:15 AM

Travis Norsen’s paper connects development of the concept of temperature across advances in thermal physics to four of Rand’s ideas about the nature of concepts. Those four elements in Rand’s epistemology are not unique to hers. They are not original with her. So there is nothing distinctly Randian about Dr. Norsen’s view in this paper. Still, those four ideas are important parts of Rand’s theory of concepts, and applying them to the history of the concept temperature is a good trial for their correctness and an opportunity for their further specification and development.

 

The four elements of Rand’s epistemology Norsen attempts to support through this study in the history of physics are (i) that concepts are hierarchical upon perceptual-level concepts, (ii) that concepts are of indefinitely large potential instances, (iii) that concepts intend all the characteristics, known and unknown, of the members they include, and (iv) that essences are epistemological, not metaphysical.

 

Norsen errs seriously in his application of (i) to the case of the concept temperature. The elementary concept of temperature is degree of heat. One has an elementary concept of heat and its varying intensities in childhood, and that much was also understood by the earliest investigators seeking to quantify and exploit degrees of heat. This elementary concept is not, contra Norsen, only a concept of the feeling of heat. It is a concept also covering different intensities of heat in things in the world. This elementary concept, along with other perceptual-level concepts, is continually connected to all our constructions of better and better instruments (see most recently “The Perfect Kelvin” in Sci. Am., Oct. 2013, p. 19) for measuring temperatures, which accomplishments have been important for further development of the concept of temperature and further development of thermal physics. On the story of this development, both narrative and analysis, I recommend most highly Hasok Chang’s Inventing Temperature – Measurement and Scientific Progress, which happens to be acutely pertinent to what is distinctive and original in Rand’s theory of concepts.*

 

Development and reform of the concepts of temperature and heat, importantly informed by our efforts to quantify and control them, made possible present understanding that we have contact sensors of degree of heat directly measuring rate of heat transfer, which has its particular relations to temperature, or degrees of heat, in our bodies and in contacted bodies. Unlike Prof. Chang (and Rand in her treatment of perceptual similarity), Norsen neglects the conception of sensory systems as measurement systems. Chang’s book contains great ground for aid and amplification of Rand’s epistemology. I hope to draw forth that benefit in the future in a separate thread. I’ll try to include in that discussion some remarks on the balance of Norsen’s paper.

The oceans of the world have  immeasurably more heat than a cup of coffee at temperature 160 degrees F.   But the coffee has a higher temperature.   Heat is NOT temperature.  In statistical thermodynamics  temperature is roughly proportional to the average kinetic energy of a molecule in an ensemble of molecules.  Heat is energy that flows spontaneously from a body of higher temperature to a body of lower temperature.  Consult any standard text on thermodynamics for the details.  Mechanical energy and Heat are quite different. 

 

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#32 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 09:31 AM

Good points, Brant. Rand shied away from talk of essences in her own theory and spoke instead of essential characteristics. That choice of terminology was more comfortable with her view that identification of such traits are dependent on the context of human knowledge at a given time. She stressed, however, that the story of what depends on what in the world, hence what traits should be designated as essential by way of explanatory power, depends fundamentally on the world, not our designation. Norsen is surely correct in the general view that such a conception of concepts and essences in this modern sense are very relevant to formation and reformation of scientific concepts.

 

Bob, I know what is temperature in our modern thermal physics; studied thermodynamics in view of statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics for my physics degree; studied classical thermodynamics for my engineering degree.* By “elementary concept,” I was speaking of what the child has learned by experience and by instruction for his level and of what guys like Galileo knew. I know about the development of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and later developments that have been part and parcel of our advanced concept of temperature. I know that physics. Norsen knows that physics. Chang knows that physics. That is our common presumed background knowledge. The exercise here is careful history of physics informing philosophy of science and epistemology more generally. The history in Chang’s book and in Norsen’s paper includes the marvelous advance in understanding of thermodynamics by the development of statistical mechanics. I recommend Chang’s book (chap. 4) for sophisticated tracking and analysis of the concept of temperature over that advance.



#33 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 07:01 AM

The Ayn Rand Society will have a session Saturday, December 28, at the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA in Baltimore.*

The topic is “Rand and Nozick: Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy.”

Lester Hunt and Onkar Ghate will deliver papers.

. . .

 

This session of ARS was truly fine. Our secretary Greg Salmeiri announced, for any who had not received the message, that James Lennox has been elected to be co-secretary with Greg. This was our first session since Allan’s death, the first without his presence or remote communication. The ARS had been one of his labors of love, I would say, and I miss him there and always, as one of our strong scholars.

 

Our presenter Lester Hunt has been working on a book, for Blackwell, on Robert Nozick’s Anarchy State and Utopia. Our other presenter Onkar Ghate also displayed thorough familiarity with ASU, especially in the Part of our focus, Part I, which concerns Nozick’s derivation of the state from prestate society by an invisible hand-process of hypothetically voluntary and moral steps. The argument shows that the state per se is not necessarily a rights-violating institution, even if every actual state is.

 

I read this book when it came out in 1974. A friend of mine in Chicago had taken a seminar from Nozick at Harvard, and we had many fine discussions of Nozick’s ideas as his various books appeared during his life. I read the early papers on ASU that appeared in The Journal of Libertarian Studies, to which I was a charter subscriber, and I read George Smith’s later paper too, which is titled “Justice Entrepreneurship.” I also read the books of Murray Rothbard and David Friedman on market anarchism, and years later Jan Narveson’s book from the same wing. At the present meeting of APA, I attended an Author-Meets-Critic session for a new book from the individualist anarchist wing of libertarianism authored by Michael Huemer titled The Problem of Political Authority. In 1976 I was a delegate to the Libertarian Party National Convention in New York. One morning there was a brunch in which the issue of market anarchism was briefly discussed by David Friedman, then by Robert Nozick. What a personality after my own heart was Nozick. The mind I had found on his pages matched the soul of the man in life.

 

The papers of Hunt and Ghate were fresh perspectives on ASU. Lester’s title is “Rand and Nozick on Individual Rights.” He delves deeply into Nozick’s conception of side-constraints versus goals and to its points of entry into Nozick’s hypothetical course to the just state. He spots a weak stretch of argument in Nozick that he thinks is better handled by Rand. Onkar’s paper is titled “Rand and Nozick on State of Nature and the Principle of Individual Rights.” He shows that on state-of-nature elements in their political philosophies, Rand’s is closer to Locke’s set of elements than Nozick’s is close to Locke’s set of elements. The elements missing from Nozick’s picture are serious ones in the Objectivist political philosophy. Onkar argued also that Rand should decline so much invisible-hand character concerning state formation, rather, look more to actual histories of their founding, which are deliberate and for specific reasons, and look to actual history of how people have gotten the idea of individual rights, so far as they have, and have deliberately instituted protection of individual rights under law.

 

The ensuing discussion was great and was especially enriched by questions Lester raised concerning Rand’s views. There was an economist present, and his was a needed input. David Kelley and I participated in the discussion. David had to leave early for a reception honoring the fourth and expanded edition, just issued, of The Art of Reasoning at the Norton booth at the book mart. As usual I bought about a dozen books at the mart. If they would stop writing such good books, I might save myself, but I’m doomed. Anyway, we talked on and on at the session, and we were surprised to learn our three hours had passed. These two papers will wind their way into a volume on Rand’s political philosophy in the series Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies.



#34 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 02:33 PM

Thanks for the summary. I am glad that you had a good time.  

 

I agree that derivation of government from the so-called "natural state" is of limited usefulness.  It was helpful to Locke and Aristotle perhaps in setting up thought experiments to explain government. However, we will get farther if we start from the right place; and that means looking at the actual anthropology of government.  That said, it remains one thing to ask why we have government and other to ask why we need it.  By analogy, I point to the creation and continuation of religion.  English orthography is another interesting excusion.  I believe that in a rational future, we would have some kind of hybrid between ideograms and alphabets.  The streets of Tokyo give good evidence of that.  So, exploring the history of English orthography might be nice, but would do little to help a linguist promote rational symbology.


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#35 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:34 AM

The Ayn Rand Society will have a session Friday, April 18, 7:00–10:00 p.m., at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA in San Diego.*

 

The topic is “Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights.” Darryl Wright will chair the session.

 

Fred Miller and Adam Mossoff will deliver papers. Matt Zwolinski will comment.

 

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

At another session, Prof. Zwolinski, together with John Tomasi, will speak on the topic “A Brief History of Libertarianism,” which is the title of their book currently under contract with Princeton University Press. That session has been organized by the Institute for Humane Studies. It will be Thursday, April 17, 8:00–10:00 p.m. Samuel Fleischacker will comment.



#36 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 07:47 AM

For the course of a modern disaster in which there was not separation of church and state in law, no deep freedom of religion from enlistment in state purposes, and no powerful independent church to counter the state propaganda and to fight the inception of a vicious police state, I would like to mention a study by my learned childhood pastor:

The Church Struggle in Nazi Germany, 1933–34
Resistance, Opposition or Compromise
Arthur A. Preisinger (1991)

 

My childhood pastor Arthur Preisinger has died.* He remains help in my distant future work* by the dissertation mentioned above. I was an acolyte for his very high-church installation at Midwest City when he was not long out of seminary. He was my catechism instructor, and he confirmed my class when we reached fourteen, after four years of instruction on Saturdays. Along with my parents, he was the most important influence on me in ethics and theology in my youth. From the pulpit, he was fantastically intelligent and connected to daily life and relationships. He could sing and do difficult liturgy beautifully. Sometimes our family would have Sunday lunch at the Officers Club at the Air Force Base, and Arthur would stop by our table a while along his way to other responsibilities. He made us smile.

 

He was a Republican, one of the very few we knew. Elections in Oklahoma at that time were decided in the Democratic primaries. In 1962 Republican Henry Bellmon won the Governorship in a stunning upset, campaigning on the motto “no new taxes.” I doubt Preisinger remained Republican, however, as the party evolved through the decades; certainly he would not agree with their predominate position on the immigration of Mexicans nor with their continual warmongering through these decades. A few years ago, I was delighted to read that while I was a child in the 1950’s Arthur’s wife Mitzi, who was then national head of the Lutheran Womens Missionary League, pulled a national convention of the organization slated for New Orleans because of hotel racial segregation policies in that city in those days.



#37 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:04 AM

Stephen,

 

Sorry to hear someone you cared about passed on.

 

I really like the way you honor those who made an impact on your life.

 

I have no doubt many will do the same about you when you have passed (many, many years from now).

 

This is a morally elegant habit to cultivate and the waves that emanate from it touch people you may not have even thought about at the time. Like me, just now.

 

Michael


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#38 Brant Gaede

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:51 AM

Stephen, now I'm beginning to understand your highly refined intellectual and moral existence and some of the pain you must feel at this loss.

 

--Brant

it's more than brains


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#39 Peter Taylor

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 01:41 PM

I remember the Episcopalian minister, Quay Rice from when I was learning the catechism. I was very upset over the concept of original sin. How can a little baby be wicked? About a week later, in his class, he said he agreed with me.
Semper cogitans fidele,
Independent Objectivist,
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#40 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 08:11 AM

.

The new issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies includes a review essay of the two books issued so far in the series Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies. The review author is Fred Seddon.






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