• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

1 Neutral

About syrakusos

  • Rank
    Rational Empiricist
  • Birthday 11/10/1949

Contact Methods

  • Website URL
  • ICQ

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Interests
    Numismatics, Physical Security and Computer Security, Aviation

Previous Fields

  • Full Name
    Michael E. Marotta
  • Description
    Senior technical writer for enterprise information systems serving complex organizations. Content strategist and knowledge presentationdesigner for projects serving electrical power, telecommunication, insurance, and manufacturing... Post and patrol for large crowd events, as well as for business, technology and retail customers. Responsible for greeting, clearing and directing visitors and employees. Inspection of premises and grounds via closed circuit television cameras.
  • Favorite Music, Artworks, Movies, Shows, etc.
    West Wing, Die Hard 1-4, Big Bang Theory
  • Looking or Not Looking
    not looking

Recent Profile Visitors

36,579 profile views
  1. The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis by Darryl Cunningham (Abrams, 2015) is a closely written and tightly integrated misinterpretation of Ayn Rand’s life, her works, her philosophy of Objectivism, and the causes of the market collapses of 2007-2010. This book is a graphic novel because Cunningham is a cartoonist. His drawings can be crude, but are often essentialist and representational. He does sublimely capture people, often through their coiffeur and stance. But his work is never fine, detailed, or realistic. This book is largely a running monologue that needed no illustrations. The author claims that the popularity of Ayn Rand’s ideas among American (and British) conservatives caused the mortgage meltdown and subsequent bailouts. Cunningham takes the time to make his case. The 231 pages begin with Ayn Rand’s life (Part One), explain the details of the financial contractions (Part Two), and then tie the first to the second (Part Three). His sources include biographies of Ayn Rand by her nominal admirers, Barbara Branden, Ann Heller, and Jennifer Burns. Ultimately, the thesis is not supported because the summary rests on omissions, flaws, and fallacies. Of necessity, the author contradicts himself. Cunningham does nod to the virtues of traditional conservatism, though he finds them not as powerful and promising as progressive liberalism. We need to be conservative in order to preserve the family, social order, and the freedoms we enjoy in our democracies. He presents World War II as an example of that. The error here is that Ayn Rand was not a traditional conservative. (And she was not alone in being less than sanguine about America's role in World War II.) She called herself a “radical for capitalism” explaining that capitalism rests on a foundation of reason in acknowledgement of reality. Cunningham admits that Rand was opposed to the war in Vietnam, the draft, and laws against abortion. He fails to identify Rand as having been as “liberal” as she was “conservative.” It would be possible to criticize Rand’s novels and her philosophy as an expression of unbridled liberalism. Her heroes are socially disruptive. In Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, the bad guys are the people in power who fear change. In the last two, the wealthy and powerful are mediocrities. The heroes also achieve wealth, but do not pursue power. (In The Fountainhead, the pursuit of power destroyed Gail Wynand who “was not born to be a second-hander.”) Her heroes famously stand on their own, especially in confronting adversity, a virtue that Cunningham identifies with children who grow up to be self-identified political liberals. Full review here:
  2. syrakusos

    Ted Keer, RIP

    I saw the notice over on RoR. Ted was always insightful. We disagreed on some points, but I do not remember what they were. We did agree on much and I remember those engagements better. He was a good scholar and a thoughtful writer. He directed me to the textbook on philosophy written by Cardinal Desire-Joseph Mercier.
  3. syrakusos

    religion, philosophy, science

    Religion continues out of tradition. It is that simple. As for the rest, jts's easy history might be OK for a high schooler, but if we are trying to be serious here, then it is just wrong on many points of fact. (1) Philosophy was not invented in Athens. Athenians were hostile to philosophy. They prosecuted Anaxagoras and Aspasia and Socrates. Those trials represent 80 years of popular ignorance in reaction to a foreign influence. Philosophy was invented in Ionia at the same time as hoplite mercenaries, coinage, and geometry, c 650-550 BCE. It was imported to Athens by Ionians and called "The Milesian Way." (2) Clever as the Greeks were, they had no scientists. Science as we know it was easiest to credit to Galileo, Gilbert, and others of the late Renaissance the early Age of Reason. But in any case, that early seedling was not the work of Sir Isaac Newton, even though he remains arguably, the greatest "scientist" in history. The word goes in "quotes" there because the word scientist was only invented on June 24, 1833, by William Whewell during an ad hoc debate with Samuel Taylor Colerdidge. It was from that moment only that "science" replaced "natural philosophy" over the next generation. See The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura J. Snyder. (3) Even though "evolution" was known empirically since the 1770s as a result of canal-building in England, it took another 100 years to become accepted. Even in Darwin's early days, the 1830s and 1840s, the men (and women) who were advancing their program of "science" had a hard time giving up God. One debate was whether God created each new set of species or whether he made a "clockwork universe" that ran evolution. Eventually, Darwin became an atheist. Others did as well, for instance the American Republican politician Robert Ingersoll. But not everyone could - or can- make the leap. For the story of early understandings of evolution see The Map that Changed the World (reviewed on my blog here) about William Smith who began charting the evolution of animals in the 1780s in order to predict the best paths to cut canals and the best places to find coal. Darwin's own Origin of Species opens by citing a dozen men who preceded him in the theory of evolution, but, again, few, if any, admitted to atheism.
  4. syrakusos

    Trump humor

    You guys really live in the echo chamber. I had to google O'Keefe, but I enjoyed reading... Do you actually regard James O'Keefe as credible?
  5. syrakusos

    Adam Selene (Reprise)

    We had an earlier thread when he stepped away in 2010. The "Allen Cappellazzi" connection was repeated there. Usernames and screen names are common online, and have been since the days of 8-character logins. Beyond that, we get to protect our identities, or did in an earlier time. You have to be pretty assertive these days to avoid being doxxed by anyone who wants to know who you are and then tell everyone else in the world. The other side of the coin is that we pretty much take people as we find them in whatever context. So, I post here as Syrakusos, but, as you can see, I attach that to my real name via the signature block. I think that the best spoof was "Jerry Biggers" who used a picture of Orson Welles from The Third Man.
  6. If one person can change the world, four might do 16 times as much. The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World by Laura J. Snyder (Broadway, 2011) is the story of Charles Babbage, William Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. They met at Cambridge about 1810. By 1860, through their hard work and consistent focus, modern science acquired the inductive method and public involvement (and government funding), that resulted in science evolving from a hobby to a profession. Snyder writes well. The book is engaging, compelling, sometimes challenging. We accept that science proceeds by paradigm shifts, but the advent of modern science was itself a radical redefinition. At the start of the 19th century, what we call “science” was “natural philosophy” and its practitioners were philosophers. It was at the first meeting of the British Association of the Advancement of Science on June 24, 1833, that William Whewell answered a challenge from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and spontaneously offered the word “scientist.” More to the point, natural philosophy was pursued by people of leisure, most often men, of course, but also the exceptional woman. No university offered a doctorate in science – only the doctor of philosophy. Though they demanded knowledge of mathematics, baccalaureate examinations did not test for science. By 1860, that changed. These four men made that happen. This is their story. They all endorsed the inductive method of Francis Bacon. This was not the so-called "strong induction" of Karl Popper and the problem of the black swan which holds that final truth is always elusive because some new discovery will invalidate all we know. Rather, they wrote books and articles about an objective scientific method that begins with observations. Observations become inductive generalities. Those broad descriptions must be fit to a natural law, a deductive truth. However, knowledge does not proceed from pure deduction independent of experience. Charles Babbage launched the first assault, making his work a personal crusade against the establishment. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830) severely criticized the Royal Society in general and its leaders in particular for creating a social environment inhospitable to professional science, Richard Jones began by addressing economics with An Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, and on the Source of Taxes (1831). It was necessary to begin there because economics in particular was mired in error through rationistic, deductive theories from Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. Jones demonstrated with statistics - also a new development - that life was getting better, not worse, even for the poorest. Whewell wrote History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840). Herschel's Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1840) was the introductory volume of Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopoedia. His 1859 work, Physical Geography, was part of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Only because The Philosophical Breakfast Club is praiseworthy do a couple of egregious errors stand out. Discussing the grief of William Whewell at the passing of his wife, Cordelia, Snyder identifies the elegiac as “a classical form of funereal verse famously employed by Ovid in the seventh century BCE.” (page 311) The elegiac may have its roots in archaic Greek culture, but Ovid (Publius Ovidius Nasso) lived some 600 years later. An editor should have caught that. An editor was probably responsible for the horrendous typographical error giving the speed of light as 310,740,000 miles per second rather than meters per second. (page 364) Less tractable as an oversight, Snyder accepts our capitalist society (and its abundance), but she does not tie capitalism to the rise of science. Taken at face value, these four savants could have brought science to almost any century, surely any period after the Renaissance. Snyder does point out that people limited the size of their families in order to be able to afford the many new consumer goods, the inexpensive luxuries of mass production. But any medieval fair offered such vanities. Snyder also does identify the fundamental errors in the dire predictions of Malthus and Ricardo. What she misses is that public lectures and demonstrations became commercial ventures (as did symphony concerts). It was no longer necessary to be wealthy (or to have a wealthy patron). Unlike “natural philosophy” science was delivered as a service to consumers by competing providers serving mass markets. Snyder proves her point first by telling of Darwin, who spent many hours in the company of Babbage. She reinforces the lesson with an introduction to the work of James Clerk Maxwell whose equations about electro-magnetism opened the door to the theory of relativity, which Einstein called “the electrodynamics of moving bodies.” Many other pleasant suprises are here as well, such as Babbage's attack on the Vigenere Cipher. And if you want to raise a toast to science, you can do it with Booth's gin.
  7. syrakusos

    Book Review: Scott Adams's "Win Bigly"

    Not everyone who drinks beer studies zymurgy. Ayn Rand's books will continue to sell as they always have, largely on personal recommendations. With the Internet now almost 40. years on, with the WWW 25 years plus, any kid - and it is mostly young people - who hears about the books find the ARI and can find the essay contests. Look to the winners lists and you see cabals of Randian teenagers at Catholic schools. They are not being given the books by their teachers, not matter what Rand said about Thomas Aquinas. Adults find out about Rand, also, usually from a friend, an acquaintance. Now, the movies are out, so people can watch them without the burden of reading. Rand will always sell -- as does Jane Austen. Very few people will find out about the internals of the ARI and fewer will care. All that really matters is the effect of Rand's ideas within the mind of an individual... multiplied by millions. That is why we are not really living through Atlas Shrugged... or We the Living or Anthem. I went to ARI Watch about a year ago. I knew about it some years back. But nothing there changed my mind about Objectivist epistemology. We talk about the Washington echo chamber, but there's lots of echo chambers.
  8. syrakusos

    Book Review: Scott Adams's "Win Bigly"

    Tell us that you know the Michael Moore video about Detroit Economic Club and the Brexit States and cannot imagine Donald Trump running on Bernie Sanders' platform. Trump only did not attempt to compete in a market with a strong provider, HIllary Clinton. He went to a different market. He sold many people what they said they wanted to buy. And he brought in new buyers (voters) who previously were not in any market. But he no more believes in anything he says any more than he believes in a golf course or a hotel. Not having read the Scott book, you are still attempting to explain this with ideas and ideologies. Those are irrelevant. Donald Trump made himself president by being a Master Persuader.
  9. syrakusos

    Book Review: Scott Adams's "Win Bigly"

    Promises promises... I accept that Donald Trump does not drive his car as if facts do not matter. But Adams's point and Trump's success are based on the truth that in the world of public opinion, facts do not matter. People respond from the heart and find "facts" that fit their needs. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias provide the "facts." Sometimes they are "alterntative facts" of some kind. As Kellyann Conway belatedly pointed out "2+2=4; 3+1=4; glass half full; glass half empty." Often the alleged facts are just inventions and fantasies. Generally, pilots are as easy-going and friendly folk as you can find. It is hard to rile them up. It is because aviation is a very consequential application of science and mathematics. Electoral politics is the opposite of that.
  10. syrakusos

    Book Review: Scott Adams's "Win Bigly"

    You seem not to understand the point. Donald Trump said those things because people felt them. He could have had almost the same message, maybe exactly the same just spun differently, and run as a Democrat. He is an entrepreneur. I believe that Donald Trump sized up the markets and the demands within them and chose to tap the buyers (voters) along the right wing populist spectrum. Toward the end of the campaign, Michael Moore gave a speech that identified this and seemed to support it right up until the close. So, I agree that Donald Trump could have said almost the very same things and won as a Democrat. But that market was already dominated by Hillary Clinton. So, he played to a market with weaker competition. He also brought in more votes by selling to consumers who otherwise would not have bought any of the existing products. But I believe that Donald Trump is no more emotionally tied to immigration or national defense or global warming than he is to a particular hotel or golf course.
  11. syrakusos

    Review of Stephen Hicks' postmodernism book.

    Thanks for the link to the review of the Hicks book. I heard about it a year or so ago from another Objectivist. Based on my experience at university 2005-2010, it seems correct. One of my last graduate classes was explicitly postmodernist: criminology; two postmodernist textbooks. Regarding this view from Uncouth Reflections, I did notice the nods to traditional conservatism by way of "pre-modernism" and the medieval world. From my understanding Hicks simply dismisses all of that and begins with the Enlightenment. But much in the Enlightenment still fails to win congruence from the right. Also, I think that Hicks over-estimates the importance and influence of university intellectuals outside of the campus. It is one of the defining aspects of capitalism that intellectuals did not need universities to support them. Ayn Rand is the paradigm, perhaps, but was not alone. Mark Twain did not teach at a university, either. The markets for ideas were perhaps most clearly shown by the composers who could rent concert halls, hire orchestras, and sell tickets. The explosion of online communication pretty much opened up a huge new marketplace. It is quite likely that the only subsidies for university education come from corporate employers who require diplomas as a substitute for the scary requirements of independent judgment.
  12. Searching the site, I see that MSK and others have been following Scott Adams's tweets for several years. Also, MSK and others know this book. However, no review has been put up here. Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams (Penguin, 2017) is a tribute to Donald Trump. It is also a tribute to Scott Adams. The author of Dilbert has been popular online for decades; and he had tens of thousands of readers when, back on August 13, 2015, he began predicting Donald Trump’s victory. Throughout the book, Adams gives himself a lot of credit for that. Adams calls Trump a Master Persuader (in capitals). Trump won because facts do not matter. People make up their minds based on emotion and then cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias provide them with “reasons” to justify their choices. Adams says that Trump could have run on any platform, even Bernie Sanders’. One of Trump’s most successful tactics as a Master Persuader is intentional wrongness. He makes a grandiose claim, such as building a wall along the border. People point out the errors. He might modify his position – he does that often – but it remains that he has framed the discussion, defined the terms, tilted the debate in his favor. Everyone talks about what he wants them to talk about. The border wall, banning Muslims, global warming, Syria, North Korea, whatever the issue of the moment, Trump made huge statements that grabbed headlines, then slowly shifted away from the hardline stance, often to no specific proposals at all. All the while, everyone talked about what Donald Trump told them to talk about. Another way that Trump achieves that control and neutralizes his opponents is by flooding the news. He issues so many statements in so many media and so often provocative that news agencies can only report them all and yet be unable to actually focus on any one or a few of them. He did this in the campaign and it made him the most newsworthy candidate in the race. Among the many failed strategies of the Democrats was their campaign called “imagine President Trump.” It was supposed to turn people against him, of course. People who consumed news were supposed to be shocked and disgusted by the picture and thereby vote for Hillary Clinton. In fact, all the Democrats achieved was to plant the vision of President Trump in millions of people. The Democrats did Trump’s selling for him. “Love Trumps hate” was another failed campaign slogan. All it said was “Love Trump…” And apparently, very many people do.
  13. syrakusos

    Merry Newtonmas 2017

    Celebrating Newtonmas off and on since 1984, this year I honored Sir Isaac by buying myself one of the commemorative 50p coins from the British Royal Mint.
  14. syrakusos

    How the Martians Discovered Algebra

    As the narrator said at the beginning, we have Pythagorean Triples on clay tablets. The Cartesian coordinate system was a logical leap from the meridians and longitudes used 2000 years earlier; it also can be laid to the checkerboard which is descended from the Roman abacus. We use, adapt, extend, invent... Some of us do, at any rate. (And, yes, a nice nod to you for having found that Pythagorean Formula on your own.) But you are stealing a concept here. Mathematics depends on deduction, of course. It also depends on natural language. But it is not solely any one mode to the exclusion of all others. And no one said it was. That is a straw man of your own construction. As for the number of great mathematicians who are Objectivists, the number may be zero, the same as the number who are Platonists, Humeans, or followers of DeLuze or Rorty. However, if you are counting great minds in order to decide what you should believe, then you should be a communist. As I understand it, of all the mathematicians of the 20th century and of all of the philosophies known at least to 1989, the only consistent correspondence was the great mathematicians of the USSR. On the other hand, it might also be said, more truthfully, that every mathematician, whatever their stature in your mind, is an Objectivist to the extent that they recognize reality, conform to reason, and place no one else's judgment above their own... which suggests that all of those communist mathematicians were lying to save their skins -- also a logical course of action based on the facts of reality. I think that just about covers it.