Daniel Barnes

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  1. Firstly, your claim "Obviously one word cannot designate two contradictory concepts" is demonstrably false. As an example, I offer the word "bad", which can mean, depending on context, both bad in the traditional sense, and good. So that alone is quite enough to completely destroy your argument. Secondly, even if in the spirit of charity, I bend over backwards and grant you that first false claim, your argument is still destroyed as both Dragonfly and I demonstrate, with particular attention to your cherished 1b. that even then none of the three definitions, 1a., 1b., or 2a. are necessarily contradictory, either internally or between each other. Finally, even if I was to bend over backwards completely and ignore the fact that your first and second arguments are false, your remaining justification for defining "sacrifice" as a nett loss turns out to be an appeal to a supposed "historical meaning", a claim for which you supply not a shred of evidence. In contrast, I will offer that the historical meaning is the exact opposite to what you claim: that, say, animal, human or other sacrifices were intended as exchanging a lesser value for a greater one - for example, human sacrifices to appease the gods' anger and avoid great natural disasters. So now that your claims are shown to be triple-false, as far as I can see there is little left to say. So I will try to invoke your rational faculty and get you to at least acknowledge that these counter-arguments have been put to you, even if you seem unable to comprehend them. Mindlessly repeating the same Randian fallacies long after they have been exploded is not argument, and will not do.
  2. Oh, if you are going to try to invoke a logical argument that the standard definitions of "sacrifice" in the dictionary are somehow false, then let's see it laid out. I will bet in advance it amounts to nothing more than yours or Ayn Rand's say-so. But feel free to prove me wrong.
  3. No, he does not. But on he goes, regardless. Yes, he is. 1. Because The Supreme Arbiter In Charge Of The Meaning Of Words says so. Anyone that disagrees is cognitively suspect. 2. Clearly only the Ayn Rand Lexicon can be the Holy Book. That would depend on whether your definition happened to agree with The Ayn Rand Lexicon;
  4. Rand seems to argue that this original, yet obscure version describing acts almost no-one has ever practiced somehow captures the "essence" of misc. general acts we normally consider altruistic. "Essence" is one word for it. "Strawman" is another.
  5. Leonid, for the nth time, any dictionary will tell you that "sacrifice" does not necessarily preclude making a gain, but is usually employed for precisely this result! But of course to you all dictionaries are wrong - full of "mere conventions", as Ayn Rand used to say. And anyone who has not had their language properly purified by Ayn Rand, who alone is the authority as to the true meanings of words, must be forced to live in "the state of cognitive contradictory ambiguity" or whatever other ThoughtCrime the Supreme Minister of Objective Language might care to trump up.
  6. Here you are effectively setting yourself up as an authority as to what the "right" and "wrong" usages of words are! Can I ask who made you ultimate arbiter of the English language? That you are attempting to do this is not surprising to me. In fact you are merely following in Rand's footsteps, where she held that the role of philosophers such as herself was to instruct lesser mortals - such as scientists - as to what words mean. That and saying "A=A" now and again. The Ayn Rand Lexicon is in effect a kind of Newspeak or Political Correctness - trying to control the language, and thus controlling debate. This sort of thing, i suggest, is the root of Objectivism's both pedantic and authoritarian tendencies. In his role as the The Supreme Minister of Objective Language, Leonid hereby declares the two main dictionary definitions of the word "sacrifice" to be "inappropriate"! Please ensure all future usages of the term rely on the "conceptually appropriate" meaning, as per the official Ayn Rand Lexicon!
  7. What, you mean like this? This is exactly the problem. As I have said many times before, the Objectivist project seems to rely on its own special language (as per the above link) and, less well known, what it purports to be its own logic. This denial of the principle of mutual standards, such as language and logic and insisting on their own version of each enables Objectivists to evade external criticism of their arguments. This is for the most part an unwitting evasion.
  8. You deliberately ignore what all the dictionaries say. So for example the first meaning of "sacrifice" in Collins English Dictionary: "A surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable" The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: "The surrender of something valued or desired, esp. one's life, for the sake of something regarded as more important or worthy" In The Free Dictionary: "Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim" The sacrifice in chess is perfectly in agreement with these definitions, so there isn't any contradiction in terms. Leonid's style of argument so far consists of three tactics. 1. He comes up with something blatantly false - for example, his assertion that the way "sacrifice" is used in chess, as a means to a gain, is somehow "technical" and only used in chess, when even the very dictionary definitions he cites show it is actually commonly used. 2. When confronted with such problems, he simply ignores them and doggedly continues his earlier false assertion. 3. Repeat 1. & 2. It is really very odd. And no, the sub-defintion 1.b Tony pointed out (and that I pointed out myself with a similar example in an earlier post)... ...does not necessarily contradict the definitions 1.a or 2.a! Why? This is because unlike definitions 1.a and 2.a, the motive for selling something below its supposed value is not stated. Hence, for a real example of 1.b, someone might be selling a $30,000 car for $1000 below its supposed value because they are moving overseas for a new job and in a hurry to leave. Hence the move and the job are greater value than the $1000. So once again one is giving up a lesser value to gain a greater value, thus 1.b can be perfectly consistent with 1.a and 2.a. So it is clear that there is nowhere a necessary self-contradiction - not in the individual definitions internally, nor even necessarily between them. Of course this will not stop Leonid from insisting that there is. But I am beginning to doubt anything can...;-)
  9. Oh really? This looks more like a contradiction in terms than your earlier attempt. Please demonstrate with an actual example of how this is supposed to work. Complete nonsense. "Sacrifice" does not preclude gain. On the contrary, it is usually done precisely for this purpose. You seem to be bizarrely clinging to the notion that sacrifice does preclude gain, even though the definition you yourself provided doesn't support it. Perhaps that is why you keep claiming, weirdly, that the ordinary meaning of the term is "self-contradictory" when it clearly isn't. More complete nonsense. A "technical term" indeed. Here's the definition of a chess sacrifice. Readers will note it is completely compatible with the definition Leonid cited! Leonid, I have to ask you: do you have English as a second language? Or are you just making this stuff up as you go along?
  10. Er, Leonid, (2) is not self-contradictory. It might, but by no means necessarily, be interpreted to contradict (3). Do you need the definition of "self-contradictory"?
  11. You sound like an interesting fellow.
  12. As words are always a little vague, it was an approximation - hopefully a reasonably precise one...;-) #2 if you mean generally and by "absolute" you mean "changeless." I was born in Illinois and attended Fairview grade school. Do you have any reasons to believe those truths will change? No. I'm an absolute truth guy myself. Hence my disagreement with Rand's 2). Further, I also dislike the fact that she seems to want to make out she is a 1) but is really a 2). That's what's really irritating.
  13. it was approximately correct, as close as I could get it. With luck it will have been absolutely correct. But I can never know for sure that it was...;-) Hence I am always open to a more #2 if you mean generally and by "absolute" you mean "changeless." I was born in Illinois and attended Fairview grade school. Do you have any reasons to believe those truths will change? No, I'm an absolute truth guy myself. But Rand's theory seems closer to 2) than 1). Hence my disagreement.
  14. Well it seems pretty close to what I'm saying, especially as according to Rand all human knowledge depends on definitions. And its still an oxymoron - "cannot be changelessly absolute" when of course that's what absolutes usually are. BTW, your search engine has missed at least one as I recall - she uses "contextual absolute" in her ethics too. So she does bandy "absolute" about all over the show. She uses it to describe physical objects, such as a speck of dust, as well as claiming to be able to produce "absolutely precise" measurement in the ITOE (a claim which turns out to be merely a word-game). And further, Peikoff uses contextual absolutes, but I suppose that is not good enough for you, as I called the idea Randian, although somehow I doubt Peikoff picked up the phrase by reading the ARCHNblog. And of course the phrase is used by students of Objectivism such as this fellow in precisely the way I have. So I fear you are being somewhat pedantic here - I think my usage accurately captures the intent. If not "contextually absolute truth" isn't right then what do you suggest? 1) Truth is absolute 2) Truth is contextual ?
  15. It's not just an "imbalance". Rand's theory is relativist. This is easily demonstrated. To wit, when everyone thought the sun orbited the earth this was the full extent of their knowledge at the time. This, according to Randian theory, this made it absolutely true. Now, according to the full extent of our knowledge at the time, we know the sun does not go round the earth. This, according to Randian theory, makes it also absolutely true. This is therefore clearly a relativist theory of truth ie truth is relative to the knower. I don't see how this can be avoided other than by mere word-games - which is in fact the method Rand attempted. It's Rand that bandies about the "absolutes" on this topic. She's the source of the confusion. BTW what you're saying boils down to claiming something is, in effect, "mutably immutable". Obviously a problem. "Contextual absolute" is a similar oxymoron. There's no real problem with this. Let's say I throw a bunch of matches down in front of you and ask you guess at the number. You take a wild guess at 27 - and sure enough, it turns out there are in fact 27 matches there. You have arrived at the truth, undeniably; but you have no justification for it. Thus there is no necessary connection between 1) having the truth, and 2) having a justification for it. Once again, this is not the problem you think it is. I will give my standard example of the theoretical physical state of "absolute zero." Now, if quantum mechanics is true, it may be that we can never attain a state of "absolute zero". But that doesn't mean such a proposed standard is useless or as Randians like to hyperventilate, Platonic and evil. In fact such a standard is of the greatest usefulness, as we may discover amazing things (eg superconductors) in attempting to attain such allegedly "evil" standards. Now consider that as an analogy for "absolute truth" - how the proposal of that as a standard to be sought leads to amazing unexpected discoveries, even if we never find the truth itself. There's no error there. There is another wrinkle, however, in that you may in fact have the truth in your possession - it is possible, even if highly unlikely. But you can never finally know that you have it - not even after a thousand years. This is the upshot of Hume's problem. This is what makes those thinkers so Randian!
  16. Me. The regrettable thing is that for centuries the idea has been put about that arguing over the meanings of terms, like "altruism" for example, constitutes High Philosophical Endeavour. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact such arguments cannot be resolved other than by mutual agreement. Hence "debating" their meaning is inherently pointless! Thus there are then two types of people who debate the meanings of terms. 1) Those who labour under this all too commonplace misapprehension, not realising it's a fallacy. 2) Those who enjoy inherently pointless debates. Fans of 2) are not so uncommon. For example, some people enjoy nipple clamps. There is no accounting for taste.
  17. I think the criticisms of Bertonneau's supposed pretensions are becoming a little overdone. Generally writers who want to wow us with their intellectual credentials don't open by citing someone as utterly unsnobbish as Colin Wilson. He also credits Rand, rightly, for nailing "much about late-twentieth century left-liberal piety, not least its addiction to righteous display." And his cataclysme a clef crack was both witty and accurate.
  18. So: When you point out the arbitrary nature of definitions you are providing a valuable perspective on Objectivist philosophy in the real world. When I do so, I'm beating a dead horse. I'm glad we've got that straightened out then....;-)
  19. There can be no "settling the debate" on the Objectivist meaning of altruism vs the common or garden meaning of the term. This is because Objectivists have chosen to use the arcane meaning of the term, which hardly anyone else uses, although it is the original meaning*. As there is no all-powerful authority that proclaims and enforces and thus settles the True Meanings of Words, it seems to me that they are perfectly able to do so - like Humpty Dumpty, they can use words to mean whatever they like. However in doing so it leaves them open to the criticism that they will simply confuse people, and end up talking at cross-purposes and/or indulging in a good deal of hairsplitting ("Oh no, X isn't really an example of altruism, X is really generosity..." etc). The only way of "settling" a debate over the meaning of terms is by mutual agreement, and Objectivists reject the mutually agreed version of the word as represented by the dictionary, so there you have it. I tend to agree with Robert Bass that this ends up as a version of bait-and-switch. (Bass did seriously blunder in that he overlooked Comte, as Robert Campbell points out, but AFAICS Bass has the wider point, as the net effect of confusing public debate is the same). However, I would say the much clearer example of Rand baiting-and-switching is over the term "selfishness", where she introduces what she claims is the "exact meaning and dictionary definition". Yet it appears her version is a fabrication, as typical dictionary definitions of the term make some reference to excessive or exclusive concern with one's own interests, a distinction Rand elides. AFAIK Rand was never able to produce an actual dictionary containing her version hence it seems reasonable to conclude she fabricated it to bolster her argument and hoped nobody would notice. *The fact that "altruism"'s original meaning, from Comte, is close to what Rand means is doesn't amount to much in and of itself. For example, if a someone recommended you go on a blind date with Susan because she's pretty, but they actually meant the archaic meaning of "pretty", which is cunning, you may find this date doesn't amount to much either.
  20. The Objectivist theory of concepts doesn't appear to say anything about our internal neural processes AFAICS. Nor does it have any empirical foundation, if by that you mean actual science, as opposed to what Objectivists like James Valliant like to call "empirical". As to its logical validity, well I've never seen it formally laid out, so it's hard to say.
  21. Hi Robert Yeah you could be right. This would be different from how Rand viewed it tho, natch. Two major heresies at least...;-): 1.True epistemology is not necessary to arrive at true ethics, politics, aesthetics etc and 2. Objectivism cannot be logically consistent as a system. But I guess her theories are either open to such criticism and revision, or they're not.
  22. Getting back to epistemology, I agree with this essay almost entirely, in that I don't quite understand the above passage. Are you proposing an alternative "contextual" theory to the Randian one? The only other thing is that if Randian epistemology is false, (or worse, relativist, or subjectivist), which I think it is, what are the consequences for the rest of her theories, given that they are all supposedly logically interlocking with epistemology as the foundation? It seems to be then her interlocking theories are either a. false or b. true but have false premises. Neither seems a very acceptable outcome from an Objectivist POV.
  23. Well, it's obvious the application of NOIF itself is unclear, as the level of Objectivist disagreement over say the invasion of Iraq showed. It seems the NOIF is not so much a strict moral code but more like So we can leave that aside for now. What is more clearcut is Rand's statement from The Ethics of Emergencies that endangering one's life for a stranger is immoral. In fact, she goes further, and says that doing so shows that you're psychologically damaged. How risking your life saving someone from drowning is supposed to differ morally - and psychologically - from risking your life saving someone from being axe-murdered I have no idea.
  24. AFAICS in Objectivism your son would be acting immorally on two counts. First, he's initiating force on someone who didn't attack him first. Second, he's be risking his life - his opponent is armed with a meat cleaver - for a stranger. This is immoral. Rand is very clear on this point. This is one of the more original points of her ethical theories. So even if he should save the girl's life, his schoolmates should then roundly condemn and shun him, as Rand is also very clear that immorality should not be tolerated. The only exception might be if the schoolgirl in question was the love of your son's life.