Michael Stuart Kelly

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Everything posted by Michael Stuart Kelly

  1. Jonathan, That's a very good question. I got the impression that the article was more of a rant against the USA bashing coming out of Hollywood these days (probably from the enormous income from foreign theater and DVD/Video distribution) as opposed to WWII days. Still, it should be stated clearly that the purpose of an art work is to be an art work, not propaganda. Michael
  2. I want to add a volume to the Hate-Rand-Only side that I am reading as of this writing (I'm on page 87): The Ayn Rand Cult by Jeff Walker. Outside of Ayn Rand the Russian Radical by Chris Matthew Sciabarra and The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden, I know of no other work on Objectivism that has this level of scholarship and research behind it. In addition to a vast bibliography, Walker produced a 2-hour radio broadcast for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired in 1992, Ideas: The Legacy of Ayn Rand. As research for that program, he personally interviewed: Michael Berliner, Allan Blumenthal, Joan Blumenthal, Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, Roy Childs, Albert Ellis, Antony Flew, Mary Gaitskill, Allan Gotthelf, Hank Holzer, Erika Holzer, John Hospers, David Kelley, Paul Kurtz, Ronald Merrill, William O'Neill, Leonard Peikoff, John Ridpath, Robert Sheaffer, Kay Nolte Smith, Philip Smith, and Joan Kennedy Taylor. He interviewed others by telephone: Edith Efron, Leisha Gullison, Virginia L. L. Hamel, Robert Hessen, Ralph Raico, and Murray Rothbard. These interviews were used as additional sources for documenting The Ayn Rand Cult. This book has been described as a work that joins all the dirt of the Objectivist movement in one place. From my read, it does far more than that - it is a fascinating overview of the history, for example, and a laundry list of cult aspects that need to be addressed and corrected in Objectivism. Unfortunately, it has the same defect as the works I mentioned in my essay - the anti-Rand bias is so striking at times that this is clearly a book addressed to Rand-haters and not the general public. There's way too much speculation as to whether Rand will be important in the future (Walker is sure she will not be, except marginally), etc. I believe that the book sales of this book could have gone through the roof if the bias had not been present. I just got a new copy. It was published in 1999. The copy I received is the third edition of 2002, so obviously the publisher has not sold out of that. Still, this book should be on a "required reading" list of any person who is serious about spreading Rand's ideas. The bibliography is worth the price many times over. For example, I was not aware that Rothbard had written a review of PAR (in American Libertarian, 1987). There is a fascinating person named Rosalie Nichols who wrote a little-known pamphlet that was sold declaring her love for Rand. This bibliography is an excellent shopping list of books and materials on the Objectivist movement. I am having a time putting blinders on when I read the anti-Rand parts, though, so I can enjoy the facts. Michael
  3. Paul, That was a wonderful post. It's late now, but I will comment on this tomorrow. (And, yes, I did like the part about the same eyes being the ones used to see inside and out - and if they are blind to a fact in one direction, they will be blind to the same fact in the other.) Michael
  4. Dan, I finally reread Dragonfly's article and read your post, but I did not yet reread Peikoff's essay. I came to the conclusion that we are all talking about the same thing, but using different words - or slightly different meanings for words. Here are some initial thoughts (slightly modified) that I included in an email to Roger just now. Dragonfly wrote this for example: You write about concepts being contextual. You are both saying the same thing here, but you use a different nuance for the word "concept." As I read it, you refer to "concept" as meaning some kind of plastic and flexible intellectual container that will exist for all time (so long as there are human beings and knowledge has not been destroyed), being able to be added to and changed by empirical evidence. Dragonfly refers to "concept" as meaning its current contextual form, and that once it is changed by empirical evidence, it becomes a slightly different concept. You would say that the concept was added to and that the context changed. Dragonfly would say that both the concept and the context changed. They both mean the same thing and all this is boiling down to is semantics. All Dragonfly wants to do is stress the need for hands-on experiments, not just armchair deductions. Deducting things from principles is a good way to set goals and postulate strong probabilities. I don't think Dragonfly disagrees with this. But then actual verification in reality also has to occur for this to become solid knowledge. I don't think you disagree with that. (Am I wrong about your thoughts?) If knowledge cannot bear up to the reality test, it is mere conjecture. That is pretty obvious to me. I will get to Peikoff at another time. Going to the phrase you had trouble with in my post, I stated clearly that concepts are open-ended. The part after the "but" meant that in one respect, the basic structure of a concept will remain the same with an alteration (even a drastic one that changes part of its basic structure). However, its form in a particular context does not include unknown knowledge. At that stage it only includes the possibility of knowledge being added to it - not the actual knowledge since that knowledge does not yet exist in human minds. The reality to be learned is still out there, but it is not knowldege yet. (However, we agree that a concept does include all referents with the same defining characteristics - with "all" meaning minus measurements as this is a fundamental part of a concept.) We should actually use two different terms for these things. Maybe "concept" (for the mental container only, being that it can change - even drastically - over time) and "knowledge" (for the container plus verification) or something like that. Some concepts have become so different over the years, though, that it is hard for us to imagine them in their primitive form. Lightening before the discovery of electricity would be a good example. Electricity became added and the gods were eliminated from the concept. The phenomenon didn't change, yet I would say that the concept of what it is suffered a drastic change over the centuries. Once you agree on what words you wish to use for "concept" and its nuances (like context and empirical verification) - and make the meaning of those words explicit, then it will be much easier to look at terms like analytic and synthetic and agree about them. That's all I have time for right now. I hope that made some of my own thinking clearer to you. Michael
  5. Here's a little riddle for ya': Q. What's the difference between Dizzy and the Gang and a flounder? A. They're both bottom suckers, but one's a fish. (tap dancing and looking nonchalant...) We now have: (drum roll) (drum roll) (drum roll) (drum roll) (drum roll) Total Bashin for the Total Parasite! The annual Total Parasite Bash of Dizzy and the Gang will be July 6 to July 8 in California - the LA area. The official announcement by Demon Banana reads as follows: Ya' see, this is cool marketing the capitalism way... (taking off hat and covering heart and striking a reverential pose) ... just like you can read in the inspiring works of our dear departed mentor, Ayn Rand, may she rest in peace. It so happens that by coincidence, the TOC 2006 Summer Seminar is being held July 1–8 near LA, too. So if ya' don't have the talent to get enough guests to make a successful Total Parasite Bash of your own, why not cash in on the audience of somebody who has both the talent and the audience? It's a free country, right? It's a free market, right? Ya' gotta' outmaneuver the competition. Demon Banana continued in a post to his announcement: (winking with shit-eating grin and giving thumbs up) Smaaaaaaaaaart thinkin' without blinkin', folks. Like Dizzy always says, \"We sure love that capitalism.\" Roger Bissell had announced a related book signing event elsewhere, but here it is for the convenience of all. Maybe they'll let you sign up for the Dizzy's full Total Parasite Bash at the TOC Seminar entrance. If you ask nice enough, who knows? Michael
  6. Ayn Rand's affair with Nathaniel Branden has been talked about so much recently in an environment of moral condemnation that you get the impression that Rand was an emotional cripple and a mediocre bed-partner at best. I especially do not like the way words like "sexuality" get sanitized in these discussions. So let's look at the woman through the eyes of the man who was there. Here is a wonderful passage on Rand's sexuality from Judgement Day (pp. 220-221). If you can transport yourself inside your mind back to a time way before the break, before NBI and near the end of the writing of Atlas Shrugged, you can get a feel of the grandeur of what they were doing and why they were doing it. These are magnificent words about a magnificent experience and a magnificent couple. This is an homage Rand richly deserves. When we look at her love life in homage, the triumph is what matters, not the defeat. We can see in this small passage why Nathaniel and Ayn were in love and feel some of the excitement. Michael
  7. Dan, I'm going to get into the meat of this by rereading everything first. I'm just taking a little time out right now to welcome you to my home. I'm glad to see you here. I have read your posts on Solo and Jenna's interpretation of my intention is correct. I probably wasn't as clear as I could have been. You are free to ask me anything you may doubt about my posts. (Incredibly, sometimes I write in haste and am unclear - and even more incredibly, sometimes I am even wrong. Now sit down for this one. Most incredibly of all, sometimes I am still grappling with an issue and don't have all the answers. Dayaamm! Ain't life a bitch? Life used to be simpler back when I knew everything.) I'm pretty sure we will be able to come an understanding as you appear to be coming in a spirit of reason and goodwill. I'll get back later on all this. Michael PS - I really don't want to do epistemology right now (my "sob stories" and an essay on the Brandens call), but I'll at least lay down some of my basic thoughts a little clearer for you. PPS - Thanks a lot for looking correctly at my thoughts, Jenna. On reading over some of your posts, it is clear that you are developing quite a healthy anti-cult mentality. That a REALLY GOOD thing.
  8. Roger, Working over these ideas is what we are all about. As with Dragonfly, you are one of my treasured friends whose mind I admire. I would like to mention a few items. On skimming over Dragonfly's essay again, I see that he refers to "Mike." That "Mike" is not me. It must be another member of the NB forum, so this could be a source of confusion. Dan Edge is a good kid, like I said. So I am making an exception to a general rule I have about not doing a back-and-forth thing with other forums, as this always leads to bickering. In this case, there is a promise of intelligent discussion. However, it also seems that there is an attempt to control what goes on at OL from over there. People are free or not to post whatever they like over there, but not one of them will dictate policy over here. Dragonfly's value is that he makes good arguments and he is my friend. OL is not in the business of trouncing strawmen or preaching to the Objectivist choir - or gratuitously insulting others. Frankly, we need intelligent challenges like Dragonfly poses. Of what use is a weak argument? That's for preachers, not intellectuals. We discuss ideas here and each person is free to accept or reject them. OL posters are all highly intelligent people of good faith. You are. I am. Dragonfly is. I am glad you intend to engage him on this. I also intend to one day, however, this subject is not on my priority list. I'm too busy writing my next "sob story." Still, in Dragonfly's defense, there is a viewpoint based on making an intellectual theoretical opening for artificial intelligence that I am beginning to discern in his arguments. The reason I am beginning to discern this is because I am leaving my mind open for now - without abandoning things like core Objectivist concepts - until I understand what he is talking about. The discussion of this is presently going on in the Science section. I know that his epistemological viewpoint is shared by many, many scientists - the ones who are actually building the marvels of our current technological wonders, especially through computing. Just as in Rand's fiction, here we sit, enjoying the fruits of the labors of such scientists and spitting in their faces. We damn the ideas in their heads without even giving them a decent hearing. Why? Because we are the Church of Rand. Ha! Scientists tend to look at Objectivist people - these Internet forums and some of the different Objectivist preachers who are trying to establish a religion out of a philosophy - then they merely blink their eyes and go back to their labs. I strongly believe that it is in our benefit to analyze the issue of epistemology from their angle thoroughly. If Objectivist ideas are strong, they will stand up - and I believe the core ones will. If they are weak, they will need to be supplemented - and I believe that there is some serious work that still needs to be done. Facts are facts, regardless who says them. But there is one thing scientists have going for them. They have practical results - and we are communicating on one of them right now - the Internet. They make a theory, test it, then turn it over to industry to build with it. What do we have on the Objectivist side? What practical results can we show? Who are the loudest among us? That bears repeating. Who are the loudest among us? Just a bunch of mediocre crummy little people - mostly underachievers, low-talent has-beens and BS artists - who like to bicker. That's who. I'm not even going to play that game. We have to build. One of ideas behind my efforts is to foster achievement, not bickering. (I refere to the loudmouths, not civil intelligent Objectivists.) How about at least a best-seller? Just one? Some kind of achievement that we can show scientists if we want to tell them that they are full of crap and that Peikoff is right? Hell, even the organization Peikoff founded is a charity firm living off donations. It's not even a profit-making business based on the capitalistic values it preaches. No wonder scientists don't pay attention. Regarding fundamental axioms, I have discerned from Dragonfly's arguments (with me at least) that he does not deny their truth. He merely places low intellectual value on them and is a bit heavy-handed in expressing this. I admit that all this is slow going because my priorities are other. (As an aside, for example, I need to do my thing on your microcosm article and I have been delaying it because that discussion must be done correctly, thus it requires a high amount of study. I simply have not finished my preparation. Also - I might as well say it - I have a nice "sob story" on your CD coming. It's already outlined.) I sincerely believe that Dragonfly's heavy-handed expression during discussion is a result of being cussed out and mocked at other places by nasty dogmatic Objectivists who use axioms to turn their minds off and preach instead of listening and trying to understand. You are my friend, Roger, and I have stated that you have the free run of this site. We disagree on a few fundamental things, but that does not impede the value I hold for you, nor will it ever interfere with my stated position. If that young man wishes to debate this issue with civility, nothing stops him from debating it here. To be clear, this is not an invitation. It is an observation. (But I also have no restriction against him or anyone who comes in peace and goodwill. I do have a restriction against people of ill will.) I am now closing down my own inter-forum comments on this issue and shall attend to my other projects. But first, let me thank you for such kind words over there. I have been working hard for us intelligent folks to have a decent place to hang out and it is good to see it recognized spontaneously. The only thing I ask is that you do not allow this young man or anybody to dictate policy on OL indirectly by telling you what and how to post here. (I know that this is not the case right now, but the seeds are there, so it needs saying.) We have something very special and we are all special here. There are people who do not have the ability to build something like what we have, so they wish to destroy it. Such people are free to make their own forums to their own taste or stay on the bicker forums. Michael
  9. Phil, If we are talking strictly about philosophy, I agree that there is a "category mistake" in trying to cover things more properly dealt with in psychology and law. However Objectivism came into being fully armed, like Athena, in art works, depicting how life should be. You get the impression that the whole thing was put together to favor high-achievers only (especially in terms of individual rights) and not all of humanity. The depictions and discussions of family, friendship, etc., is pretty sparse (and often negative), yet the depictions and discussions high-end and low-end abound. There is nothing wrong with focusing on the extreme ends, but it is not a complete picture. Michael
  10. Dennis, I added the title to the main body (I hope you don't mind). What a strikingly perceptive essay. I can't find anything in it for disagreement. I would only add that one fundamental mistake in the whole approach of official Objectivism is that it promises a world of glory, produced values, happiness, etc., and delivers that promise predominantly in a tone of contempt, hatred and mockery - or neutrality. There are blissful pronouncements, but they are very much in the minority. I recently read somewhere that David Kelley stated that over two-thirds of Galt's radio speech is devoted to denouncing bad ideas and only about one-third to positive ones. Thus the tone actually has been set in Atlas Shrugged. I agree that the cause of most of the bitterness is probably the increasing alienation of Objectivism cultists, but this also is hypocrisy. If you preach happiness, you're supposed to be happy. I'm going to check out that book mentioned, Intellectual Morons by Daniel J. Flynn. I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts. I hope a lot of people read this article. Michael
  11. Roger, Here is how his entry is signed: I am sending you the full post by email. For those interested, here is the full post by Merrill on Rober Bass's website. It is a pretty famous piece of valid Rand criticism. Also, here is a criticism by Robert Bass of Objectivist Epistemology. I need to stop everything to get into this, which I have not done yet, but it seems very reasonable on skimming. At least good questions are asked. Michael
  12. I went ahead and joined. Michael
  13. Charles, A few comments. You wrote: I agree, but I would only add the qualifier that this is only valid within a small parameter. It is a flexibility, not a possibility for metamorphosis. This is a nitpick, but it is important. The most obvious example is that a gay person will not change his biochemical sexual reactions merely with thinking. I read a word the other day that I liked. A human being can bend his nature with conscious thought. But he cannot reverse it. Like your daughters. Your first daughter can learn to put a lid on it as she grows up, but the pot always will be on the fire. I believe that she can turn the fire down to low with learning and decision, but she will never turn it off. Another point is that your article focused on differences, but obviously human beings have similarities. A huge misunderstanding of Objectivism and life in general is made by those who do not recognize the true nature of some of these similarities. For example, in general human beings like to herd (or flock). A person who denies this, thinking that he is completely individual (Atlas-style), will be attracted to a tribe where he can pay lip service to individuality, but where others make many of his decisions for him. A person of solid self-esteem recognizes this herding urge and develops a network of solid friendships based on appreciation of both similarities and differences. One example I can think of is Dragonfly. (Let me borrow you for a sec, bro.) He and I approach philosophy from different angles that sometimes clash, yet as I have learned to know him over time, I have gained a deep appreciation for his intelligence and good will (even when Rand-bashing - which I perceive as more of a reaction to the bombastic rhetoric - both from her and others - than actual contempt). He's also a wonderful painter. We are cyber-friends and I have no doubt that he would be a wonderful neighbor that I would be proud to have in my circle if we lived near each other. If you look at our exchanges on this forum, you will see that we are often at odds, yet there is a healthy mutual respect in place. If either of us were insecure or religious in our thinking, demanding total compliance to some arbitrary standard or other, we would both be the poorer for it and probably despise each other. What I most appreciate about Dragonfly is that he makes me check my premises all the time. He makes me think - and I have no fear or laziness when it comes to thinking. The interesting part about this is that the tribal element in missing from a friendship like ours. Thus there is no urge to dominate the other and exert power or leadership. It is just a friendly exchange of ideas because we both strongly feel that ideas are important. The quality level of the thinking is high and that makes it even more valuable. Trouncing a superficial thinker is a game for power-mongers. It is an attempt to get people to conform by intimidation, not thinking. I have little use in my life for people who value this. My love of ideas is motivated by the urge to understand, not compete with other people. You mentioned the differences in sexuality that the Internet releases because of anonymity. I have a strong criticism against conformity against normal society. One phase of my life was as an artist - music and motion pictures. In Brazilian society, artists are seen as promiscuous and depraved because they are outspoken about sexuality and their lives are lived out in the news. I see this kind of attitude here in the USA, but on a lower scale. I always told my Brazilian critics (especially the family members of my exes) that artists are not crazy for real. Normal people are. For instance, putting a gun in the roof of your mouth and pulling the trigger is crazy for real. How many artists do that? Precious few. How many businessmen and workers do that? Hmmmmmm... Also, how many artists will marry a woman, have children, then go out and pay for sex with a transvestite, then carry Aids back to their wife and not tell her? That's absolutely nuts. And how many businessmen and workers do that? (In Brazil, that is probably more of a problem than here in the USA.) How many artists have children who carry a gun into a school and start firing at teachers and students. Aren't these the children of businessmen and workers - those who have conformed to society? I could go on, but the point is that enforcing conformity is nothing more than a disrespectful way to control people. Most of these normal people go to churches and organizations (Rotary, Masons, etc.) where conformity is drilled into them. Objectivists have these organizations too, and some who are trying to become established. The problem happens when these people snap. True people of self-esteem are not afraid of who they are, nor are they afraid to tell others of goodwill. When a hostile crowd is large, maybe it is not a good idea to hang around. The best thing to do is stay away from large irrational crowds - and build places where both differences and similarities are celebrated (but within some parameters like respect for reason and goodwill). Incidentally, that's what we are doing here at OL. Michael
  14. Dragonfly, Your article is receiving attention elsewhere. I shall save our critic, a young man named Dan Edge who is basically a good kid, further embarrassment by stating here that (1) you originally wrote this article for another place (NB's list) and Ellen Stuttle asked you to post it here, and (2) you are not an OL writer from the standpoint of expressing the viewpoint of the whole site, but you most definitely are my friend, one of my valued house guests and I admire your intelligence and talent. As an implied criticism of you, he stated: He does not use this method when he talks about OL, though, preferring another more emotional and less reason-based one at a hostile venue (apparently based on some kind of "morbid fascination"). For example, he complained about me: Of course, if he had bothered to read the thread, he would have seen this from my post above: I also mentioned the criticism of Gary Merrill of Rand and Peikoff's low standards of scholarship and overly-broad statements of other philosophers (and I do agree with Merill's conclusions). Dan's got a good head, basically. The reason he makes this kind of mistake is from adopting the preconceptions of others - especially the "insult first, then check facts" policy. I know because I used to do it. Once I saw the errors I was making by using that method, I formally eschewed it and corrected myself. Also, should anyone who comes here do the basic reading, he will easily understand that the main purpose of OL is to foster the creation of works and hang out with creators and their friends, especially in the realm of creative and nonfiction endeavors. We humbly leave the task of preaching to the young to the new proprietors and gurus of Objectivism, the new intellectual heirs of Ayn Rand. Ah yes... OL is also a haven for the Brandens. (Proudly so.) //;-)) Michael
  15. There is a rather curious saga surrounding Durban House, the publisher of PARC. Durban House Publishing Company, Inc. 7502 Greenville Avenue, Suite 500 Dallas Texas 75231 http://www.durbanhouse.com/ It's reputation is that of a subsidy publisher, where authors subsidize part of the manufacture and promotion costs of their book. (A vanity press is one where authors subsidize all of the costs and, apparently, Durban House is not and never was a vanity press.) I researched Durban House a while back on the Internet and posted my findings on SoloHQ on September 9, 2005. (Repeated on SoloP.) This was because on the same day I had posted the following information on Durban being excluded from the 2006 Writer's Market. (Repeated on SoloP.) The Writer's Market excerpt is given below: When I looked up what "ED" meant at the head of the General Index (p. 1135), I found the following: Several other codes then are listed. The possible reasons for a publisher (or agent or other market) not being included in Writer's Market are given on page 3: When looking for a specific market, check the index. A market may not be listed for one of these reasons: [my emphasis] Remember the "other codes" I just mentioned above? Well there are codes in the General Index for every one of these reasons except the very last that I emphasized. There is no code for "fraudulent listing." But there is "ED (Editorial Decision)." I will not state outright that Durban House is engaging in fraudulent monkey-business, but it sure as hell did not satisfy the minimum requirements of a standard market reference tool like Writer's Market. They decided to take its listing out and simply stated that they decided to do so. Period. Michael Prescott also posted a very good discussion about this on his blog called Vanity, thy name is Durban. I included this link in my SoloHQ posts. Also, in answer to Mr. Ben F. Small, one of Durban House's authors who posted at the very end of the same SoloHQ thread, I gave the following answer. (Repeated on SoloP.) We also communicated by email, where he expressed doubts about the value of the subsidy practice for future works. What is curious about all this is that the links get broken over time. It is almost as if someone is going behind all the negative comments about Durban House on the Internet and trying to get site owners to take the links down. For that reason, I saved several in a Word file. I need to research all this again to discover which links are now broken and which are not. I will then expand the present post to include my findings. So expect to see this post updated in the future. The facts are being presented as they fall. I let the reader decide on what conclusion they wish to draw, if any, on using a subsidy publisher for previously unpublished writing by Ayn Rand. (For the record, my own opinion is not a favorable one, although I have nothing against Durban House and I do wish them success in general. Also, the quality of the graphic and printing production of PARC was good.) Michael
  16. LW, I'm almost finished with plots, so I might go through these rhetorical devices one by one and discuss them shortly. I can't think of a better way to improve my own style (and that of those who take this journey with me). Of course, this will also improve discussion skills. Michael
  17. Stephen (tqk), you wrote: I wrote about this experience. I didn't live under the bridge, but I literally looked at it one night with nowhere to go. (I ended up swallowing a whole lot of pride and knocking on the door of an ex that night. I almost didn't get in, too.) It is off-topic, but you can read about it here: Letter to Madalena ... An Homage to the Value of Valuing. On market considerations, when contemplating The Fountainhead, you have to keep in mind that (1) it is fiction and (2) the purpose of the book was to illustrate the role of ego in life and contrast first rate minds against second-handers. (btw - I wasn't offended at all. This is a good thing to talk about.) Howard Roark's attitude has led some people to believe that concern with market is somehow a second-hand idea - as if market competence were a dirty concept. I admit, there's a lot of hypocrisy involved in advertising and market studies, but there's a lot of integrity there too. Expecting the market simply to conform to an idea of merit is unrealistic and breaches the first commandment of building anything: learn the true nature of the materials and environments you employ. People buy what they want to buy, period. If you want them to buy integrity, you have to sell it on a market where many advertise merit and don't deliver. So it is a good idea to study what else people want and format your products to meet their desires and even add this concept to your packaging. All this can be done with integrity and there is nothing inherently second-hand about it. It is being competent. Let's see if I remember the steps: 1. Discover a need (through observation or market study - and this includes seeing how far that need is already being met). 2. Design or find a product that satisfies that need. 3. Set up a supply and payment system. 4. Set up an advertising and publicity system. 5. Put in the hours and make money. Just like anything, this also can done incorrectly and in bad faith. The Fountainhead stressed the advertising and market compliance of second-handers and simply did not deal with it from standpoint of first-rate minds. That was a literary device to highlight the theme and highlight the struggle, not a full account of how reality is. Michael
  18. Stephen (tqk), A hearty welcome to our home. I hope you join us for conversation sometimes. I like computer people. Michael
  19. I once wrote an essay about what I believe is one of the epistemological reasons for these cognitive blind spots. It dealt with cognitive and normative mental events. I had not studied this very deeply and I have since been doing a LOT more reading about it. The more I study, the more I see that I was absolutely right, but I didn't have all the words back then. Thus my former essay will become a larger work that I have already outlined. Basically, I took my lead from Rand's identification of cognitive and normative abstractions. Here is a quote from my essay, "Understanding Is and Ought - A Personal View": Where I was incorrect is that Rand never usd the term "cognitive concept" or "normative concept" but "cognitive abstraction" and "normative abstraction" instead. Still, it is so obvious that an abstractions leads to concept formation that it is logical that some concepts will be formed that way. As an example, when you look at a rock, you can see only the cognitive concept, when identifies what it is and nothing more. If you are building something, or need a weapon, or need to dig a hole, a normative component is added, since it starts to take on value. If you work at a rock quarry, the cognitive part can become so automated by looking only at what value rocks have to you that you can no longer look at any rock in a purely cognitive manner. I think this happens with true believers. The mentality is more complex, of course, because they put great value on hatred and contempt, they demonstrate a psychological need for belonging to a tribe and some other goodies. But I think cognitive-normative confusions is one of the doorways that allows the irrational to seep into the minds of these otherwise intelligent people. btw - Rand bounced back and forth at will in her cognitive and normative use of key terms like rights, altruism, morality and several other phrases. This has created a great deal of confusion over the years. I have an article outlined for this also. Michael
  20. I admit that my pastime that lets my mind wander while engaged is Freecell (a type of solitaire) from the old Windows version. Every time I get a new computer, I dig this game up on the Internet and install it. Many good ideas have floated into my mind while playing that. Michael
  21. Dragonfly, Let's try this from a different angle. What is your definition of life? Then what is your definition of awareness? I'll think about Deep Blue after we get some basics down. For example, before we get to artificial, how about dealing with the genuine? (btw - Validating consciousness with an axiom is not a platitude. It is simply validating consciousness. Why you despise this is beyond me. It is merely one of the tools humans use as a starting point.) Michael
  22. LW, I think many arguments that try to invalidate low-level animal volition postulate a higher level that maybe would need a conceptual level, say that the animal can't do it, thus the animal has no volition at all. Note that in my example, the choice was not against hunger, which would need a conceptual level. It merely was a choice between two perceivable values. Doggie chose according to his feeling at the time. He chose to be lazy. We love animals because of the choices they make. Can you imagine a dog loving his master because he has no choice at all? I grant you that he has a natural inclination to love humans, but he chooses within a small range. If he had no choice whatsoever and you are his master, then all you have is a robot and you are interchangeable. He will love the first person that comes along. Also, when he plays, he is choosing not to bite, but to pretend. I once had a cat who fell in love with the catnip I would give her. Without me knowing why, she stopped coming immediately when I would put it near the scratching pole. I later discovered that she was hiding and studying me until she discovered where I stored the catnip. She made a mess trying to get it several times, too. Since it was locked up on high and wrapped in plastic several times over, it took me a while to figure that one out. Then I made a test, observing her, and caught her studying me. There was lots of volition in that sneaky feline. Michael
  23. Dragonfly, You seem to want to extend to a common word the same all-inclusiveness you denigrate in axioms ("they don't tell you anything about the thing"). What could be more integrating than "existence exists"? It integrates the whole shebang, including time. What bothers me about redefining words like volition is that one fundamental characteristic gets left out. That is life. I don't see much value in the idea of "inanimate volition," except that it tries to pretend that life doesn't exist as a specific kind of existent (based on the fact that volition is traditionally identified as an attribute of living entities with a high level of awareness). If you invalidate the concept of life, the next step of pretending that awareness does not really exist at all is but a small one. Matrix anyone? Why do we think we think, anyway? btw - Do you have any particular word you like to use for what I asked in my previous post? Michael
  24. Dragonfly, Regardless of what word you wish to use, do you agree with the concept that there are higher forms of life who can make choices? If so, what word do you prefer to use to differentiate this concept from, say, the "intention" of the motion of an inanimate object? Marsha and LW, I see animals make choices all the time. They don't exercise conceptual volition, but they certainly exercise a perceptual level of volition. I once made an example of an obvious choice with doggie on another forum. It went something like this: Doggie is half-asleep. Master offers him a hotdog. Doggie's ears slowly pop up, he raises his head and his tail thumps a bit, but he prefers to go back to sleep. If that wasn't a choice based on values, I don't know what is. Doggie didn't choose to like the value per se (but human beings do not choose to like hotdogs or sleep either - those are "the given" - and don't tell me that there are people who exist who do not like hotdogs - that is a vicious despicable myth worthy of the "death premise" ). Doggie chose the more important at the moment between two values - just like any conceptual being would. Doggie made a value judgment. Michael
  25. I just received my copy of The New Individualist - Winter 2006 Issue. I have read the whole thing and it is one hell of a good read. Here is the Table of Contents: Michael